So I followed up my great week 9 with a clunker in week 10. I went from 10-3 against the spread to 4-9-1 in a matter of a week. But that shouldn’t be any surprise — the NFL prides itself on parity and that carries over in Vegas.
And as the season goes on, expect the playing field to level out more and more (and that’s not a shot at Mexico City). The Action Network put out a really well done article and I won’t try to re-hash it, but basically teams all meet in the middle for the most part. The teams doing well ATS regress to the median and, conversely, those struggling end up finding their way closer to .500. One example would be the Cardinals against the Raiders this weekend — who would have thought we’d be talking about this match-up. Arizona is 5-3-1 ATS while Gruden’s bunch is 2-7 — neither team is very good so I wouldn’t expect the Cardinals to keep up that pace. I feel sick even thinking about taking the Raiders this weekend, but the trends are trends for a reason.
That said, I wouldn’t expect the dominant teams to completely fall off a cliff — like the Chiefs, for example. They’re a league-best 8-1 against the spread. Don’t look for them to go 0-7 the rest of the way so they wind up 8-8 for the year. That’s extreme. But don’t be shocked if the Chiefs were to go 4-3 over their final 7 games — according to The Action Network, teams that win 6 or more games in the first half of the year win only at a 50.7% clip in the second half.
Let’s get to this week’s picks. My struggles last week brought my overall ATS record to 64-62-6. Picking games straight up, I’m at 91-40.
Kansas City at Rams (-3.5)
Call me crazy, but I’m not completely in love with the Rams. Listen, I think the world of Sean McVay. But defensively, this team has issues in the secondary and in run defense. Will these deficiencies stop them from winning the division? No. What about he NFC and the Super Bowl? Depends on the opponents. In most games, the Rams can get away with having sub-par defensive performances — I’ve said it all year: defenses simply need to make the right play at the right time. Defenses do not have to take over games like the Ravens in the 2000s or the ’85 Bears. This particular match-up against the Chiefs will require something out of Wade Phillips’s crew. Pat Mahomes will likely collect yards and touchdowns — and the Rams can live with that. But they must be able to stop Kareem Hunt. After allowing 273 yards of rushing against the Seahawks last week, I have my doubts. Chiefs, 38-35
Philadelphia (+9) at New Orleans
Maybe I’m wrong on this one, but it’s still the defending champs against the team who most looks the part this season. The Eagles offensive line has been inconsistent and their secondary has been terrible, thanks to multiple injuries. The Saints have the defensive front to get after Carson Wentz and Drew Brees knows how to attack secondaries. This is exactly the worst match-up for Philly — but nine is still a lot of points. Saints, 31-24
Very Worth Match-ups
Minnesota (+3) at Chicago
So Mitchell Trubisky has had a few games where he’s gone off this year, but if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll find that most of these games come when the team gets off to a great start — see the Tampa Bay and Detroit games. The question is can he do it against the Vikings defense? Which leads to the bigger question, is this Vikings defense as good as we all seem to think? The Bears offense is 12th in explosive passing plays (again, which tends to happen when the team gets up by multiple scores) and they’ll be facing a Minnesota defense that ranks 28th in that category — the linebackers have struggled immensely overall, Xavier Rhodes has been hurt, and Trae Waynes is giving up 9 yards per catch. Still, are the Bears able to take advantage? Minnesota makes up for the defensive woes by generating an effective pass rush — they lead the NFL in sacks. And if they can make Trubisky uncomfortable and mess with his timing, we won’t see many explosive plays. Vikings, 24-17
Dallas at Atlanta (-3)
This is an underrated game. Dallas isn’t super fun to watch, but the offense will have chances against the Falcons defense. This is simple, though: can Dallas win two straight on the road in tough environments? A little home cookin’ for the Falcons won’t hurt here. Falcons, 24-20
Green Bay (+3) at Seattle
Another Thursday night affair that isn’t awful. Green Bay’s newfound running attack with rookie Aaron Jones has the potential of changing the Packers season. Can they be successful though in Seattle? And can the Packers defense stop the the ground game that the Seahawks have been so good at this season? Is a match-up between Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson really going to be decided by Aaron Jones and Rashad Penny? Seahawks, 23-21
Pittsburgh at Jacksonville (+6)
The Steelers are rolling and the Jags are a mess. But this game has a lot of exciting elements to it. Can Pittsburgh re-pay Jacksonville for last January’s divisional round game? Will Jacksonville play inspired because of the opponent? One thing about the Jaguars is that they often play to the level of the team they’re playing against. I’m not taking them to win, but it’ll be a good game. Steelers, 34-30
Tennessee at Indianapolis (-1.5)
Both these teams are, amazingly, in the hunt for the sixth seed in the AFC. The winner here will have a leg up and a realistic shot at snagging that final playoff spot. Is this the dreaded “let-down” game for Tennessee after they smacked the Patriots a week ago? Colts, 24-20
Don’t Be Fooled
Houston (-3) at Washington
The craziest stat through ten weeks of football might be that the Redskins have not been involved in any sort of lead change in any game. They get the lead and keep it or fall behind and never climb back — that’s their M.O. So, let’s ask one question: who scores first? It might take a minute for us to find out — both these defenses can get after it and it’s not like either offense it lighting the world on fire. I see a low scoring game, but the injuries on the Washington offensive line could be critical against a Texans front seven that’s athletic and fast. Texans, 20-16
Cincinnati (+3.5) at Baltimore
Not sure what’s going on at QB for Baltimore right now. Once it becomes clear who’s starting, I’ll make the pick. What I can say is that Cincy’s defense is about as bad as it gets — three straight games giving up 500 yards. Might be the perfect game to get Lamar Jackson’s feet wet at quarterback. Definitely leaning Ravens. Probably taking them no matter what the spread is. UPDATE: The line is Cincy getting 3.5 points. Not loving that. Neither team is far and away better than the other. Ravens, 24-21
Carolina (-4) at Detroit
Carolina’s offense will give Detroit’s defense all it can handle. The Lions let the Bears throw all over them a week ago — and the Panthers have more playmakers. Lions are a different team at home, but they will need their ‘A’ game to pull this one out. Panthers, 30-17
Denver (+7) at Chargers
The Chargers weren’t great in their week 10 over Oakland. In this one, they likely won’t need to be perfect either. Will the Broncos play inspired after their bye? Or will Vance Joseph’s seat grow hotter? Chargers, 27-21
Toilet Bowl Games
Tampa Bay at Giants (-2)
Good Fitzpatrick is due, right? Plus the Giants aren’t the type of team that strings together back-to-back wins. Bucs, 24-20
Oakland (+5.5) at Arizona
I like Josh Rosen better than any of the other rookie signal callers. I also like Arizona’s defensive pass rush against a Raider O-line that has been severely underperforming. My head says this one’s close. My gut says don’t pick the Raiders. Cardinals, 26-23
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