After two weeks filling in for Brian Packey, we (the royal we) are sitting 15-10, still a winning record. Hubris is about to set in, errors are bound to be made. If you were me at Vegas right now, you’d probably cash out. I’d do the same. However, Jeremy tells me I still have articles to write and picks to make.
This is not wise. The house gets its claws into you the longer you sit at the table. The only time a casino wants you to leave is if you win too much too quickly. No; if you win slow, they can bleed you, the goddamn vampires. They’ll make you feel cozy, welcome in their little den, and before you know it they’ve got the blade sliding between your ribs. Right out on your ass before you know it.
Speaking of that, you ever wonder what a Thanksgiving dinner is like at a Vegas sports book? Maybe I’ll go see one day.
Anyway, here’s the football games.
ARIZONA +5 at Atlanta
Snake-bitten as the Cardinals are (they’ve been out-gaining many of their opponents in yardage while still losing), the Falcons defense is worse for wear. I never really bought into the idea of west coast teams traveling east (I don’t even remember what the overarching narrative is now, to be quite honest) but a 28th ranked DVOA rushing defense meeting David Johnson should relieve some of the pressures that Arizona has been facing.
GIANTS -7 at Cleveland
Oh good, look at this stupid game. I don’t like it, I don’t want to bet on it. The Giants have now burned me by a single point twice, while the Browns are so pitiful that trying to spot them points is a fool’s errand. Anyway maybe the Giants will cover for once in their miserable lives. What a boring football game. Burn this.
CAROLINA +3.5 at Oakland
It’s hard to tell when one might safely buy into Oakland. I was confident in picking them for last week’s “Monday Night Football” on down in Mexico City, but it was a bit of a nail-biter and required some officiating shenanigans. The backlash from the wiseguys has been telling in that aftermath, with the line opening a full point above its current spot and even dropping to 3 in a few places. I’ll join them here and take the Panthers.
CINCINNATI +4 at Baltimore
I’m a little surprised the line’s as high as it is; Cincinnati’s played in a couple close games and is an above-average team in terms of line-making. Baltimore is certainly no world-beater either. I still have doubts about Baltimore’s recent surge into competitiveness, and the value at four points for the Bengals is enough to keep me interested.
NEW ORLEANS -7 vs. Los Angeles
When the line opened at under a touchdown, the sharps jumped on the Saints. Now we’re still sitting on the fence, and the half-point to push this to 7.5 could make it a dangerous play. I like having the push as an option here, but in general New Orleans has been a shaky team lately.
JETS +8 vs. New England
Home dog time. Are the Jets very good? Hell naw, but they’ve taken a loss to the Pats already and this is looking fine on the side of a touchdown-plus. The under is probably a better play here than the spread (in general totals tend to be better plays in the NFL) but if you feel froggy you can ride the Jets, who are probably better than their record (Fitzpatrick interceptions may change that perception mid-game).
SAN FRANCISCO +7.5 at Miami
I feel very unconfident about this pick; another one of these stupid games. The 49ers have burned me a few times as I try to figure out where they land each week. Much like the Browns, there’s just no winning on buying in or fading San Francisco. Most of the opinions and numbers I respect are talking San Francisco though, so I’ll echo them. Once again we got the other side of a touchdown to cushion us, and while the 49ers are a tough nut to figure I don’t see the Dolphins running up the score.
HOUSTON +2.5 vs. San Diego
Houston actually opened as a -1 favorite and has since fallen to a home dog. In general, this line is why I bet on college games for so long; I just can’t see how I’m supposed to play a line that’s beneath a field goal and find any respectable value. Still, my rule on home dogs applies, and I like the Texans defense to keep the Chargers quiet.
TENNESSEE -6 at Chicago
I got burned by the Titans last week when I took their chances against a resurgent Colts team and I looked like a total idiot in doing so; the only real acceptable solution to this conundrum, if I had a working brain, is to double down on my idiocy. I mean, Christ, Matt Barkley is going to be quarterbacking the Bears. But I keep thinking about this line. It opened at pick’em, but that was also before the Cutler news; still, it’s some harsh movement. It’s been spinning farther away from the Titans, and we’re getting out of value territory here for Tennessee and into some deep waters. I expect this to be a low-scoring affair but I can’t go the other way. I’ll lay the six and pray.
JACKSONVILLE +7.5 at Buffalo
So close. I was so happy for the Detroit win against Jacksonville but I wish Prater could have missed. No. Forget the bad beats. Focus on the future. I would have probably taken the Bills if this line was still at its open of 6.5, but there were mayflies who lasted longer than that line. Now that we’re north of a touchdown, any value taking the Bills is lost. I’ll ride with the Jaguars again.
TAMPA BAY +6 vs. Seattle
Another home dog, but at best a lean. Still, I’ve been riding Tampa both weeks in my picks so far and have yet to be let down, so I’ll keep riding. Seattle isn’t necessarily the best team away from home and Jameis Winston is playing alright so I’ll see how long this takes me (I’m definitely getting burned).
DENVER -3.5 vs. Kansas City
This is your Sunday night game thanks to the magic of flex. The fact that the league and the networks thought that the Jets wouldn’t be a smoldering wreck at this time of the year just shows you how incompetent and useless they are, sucking at the marrow of the Northeast Atlantic television markets. Denver is their fallback, always. Grab the rubes in every last flyover state who still light candles at the shrines of John Elway and Peyton Manning and Orange Crush (like the Broncos, a very respectable fall-back pop). I’ve talked before about Kansas City getting lucky and I’m going to gamble against their luck here. I don’t like that this line is forcing more than a field goal, but I’ll take the risk.
PHILADELPHIA -3.5 vs. Green Bay
We could see a push soon towards a line of 4, but even then I feel somewhat confident taking the Eagles. While I remain wary of a Green Bay return to form, I can’t muster confidence in taking them with a handicap right now; not to mention Philadelphia is going to be pressed to keep pace in the NFC East race.