|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|02-03-19||Patriots v. Rams +3||Top||13-3||Loss||-110||100 h 7 m||Show|
10* LA Rams (6:30 ET): I view these teams as pretty much even. One can only assume that the early line movement we saw on the Patriots was a byproduct of their vaunted reputation. The Rams, by comparison, are "new kids on the block" in this situation. For what it's worth, however, the Rams have produced a better point differential than the Patriots each of the last two seasons. Neither team had been an underdog all season before the respective Conference Championship Games when the Rams upset the Saints and the Pats did the same to the Chiefs. I only played one of those two games and it was against New England. That doesn't necessarily have a direct correlation to how I'm playing the Super Bowl, but it bears mentioning. I will be taking the points come Super Sunday w/ the Rams.
Obviously, a great deal of attention has been paid to just how the Rams got here. They were an obvious beneficiary of a terrible blown call (should have been pass interference) vs. the Saints. But let's not use that singular play to discredit an entire body of work. They did end up outgaining the Saints 378-290 for the game and outscored 26-10 after the 1st quarter. The win over Dallas in the Divisional Round also was not as close as the final score indicates. The Rams led that game virtually the entire way (by as many as 16) and outgained the Cowboys 459-308. Not only does LA have a better point differential than New England, they have a better yardage differential - both on a per game and per play basis.
Remember what I wrote about two weeks ago regarding the Patriots taking their act out on the road. Their offensive numbers go way down outside of Foxboro. Now obviously things didn't play out the way I had hoped vs. KC, but the Rams also have a better defense than the Chiefs. New England still has a losing record (4-5 SU) away from home. There is an irony here in that the Patriots' Super Bowl run under Belichick & Brady began w/ an upset of the Rams back in 2002. But remember that they have lost three Super Bowls, including last year (Philly special) and should have probably lost the last two. I think experience and reputation is somewhat overrated in this spot and will go w/ what I believe is the better team getting points. 10* LA Rams
|01-20-19||Patriots v. Chiefs -2.5||Top||37-31||Loss||-135||74 h 57 m||Show|
10* Kansas City (6:40 ET): At long last, the Chiefs are finally back in an AFC Championship Game. It's their first appearance in one since 1993. Though the winner of this annual game gets the Lamar Hunt Trophy, named for the franchise's founder and long-time owner, this will be the first time EVER that Arrowhead Stadium has actually hosted an AFC Championship! The Chiefs had gone just 1-10 SU in playoff games since that '93 AFC Champ Game appearance (lost to Buffalo) and were a heinous 4-16 SU, 3-17 ATS in the playoffs since winning Super Bowl IV. But that was before they exorcised a lot of demons last week w/ a completely dominant performance here at home vs. what was a red-hot Colts team. I said last week that "this year would be different (for KC)" and I still feel that way now.
Compared to the Chiefs, the Patriots' playoff resume is obviously a lot more impressive. They've won 10 straight division (AFC East) titles and five Super Bowls. This will be their 8th straight AFC Championship Game appearance, which is incredible when you think about it, and they're going for an 11th all-time Super Bowl appearance (their 10 prev appearances is the NFL record). They've gone 4-3 SU the L7 years in the AFC Champ Game, winning it each of the last two years. No team has won the AFC three straight years since the Bills of the mid-90's. The only other team to do it was the Dolphins in the early 70's.
So enough w/ the history lesson, let's get down to the game. These teams did meet in the regular season w/ New England prevailing in a wild 43-40 game. But that was in Foxboro where the Patriots went undefeated this year (only team in the league to go unbeaten at home). Last week in Foxboro, everything that could go right for the Pats did as they routed the Chargers 41-28 (wasn't even that close). But this game is in Arrowhead and that presents a problem for Brady, Belichick and co. Kansas City's somewhat maligned defense is A LOT better at home, giving up just 17.4 PPG here. New England's offense, which averages 33.8 PPG at home, averages just 21.6 PPG on the road. That's a sizable dropoff, especially when having to compete w/ Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense, which averages 35.1 PPG. Kansas City, clearly, is the better offensive team in this matchup. New England has lost road games this year to Detroit, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Miami. I think homefield and revenge play a big factor here and Kansas City goes on to the Super Bowl. Lay the points! 10* Kansas City
|01-13-19||Chargers +4 v. Patriots||Top||28-41||Loss||-103||117 h 32 m||Show|
8* LA Chargers (1:05 ET): At some point before kickoff, you are likely to hear that Philip Rivers has never beaten Tom Brady. The lifetime record is 0-7 SU and the Chargers have covered the spread in only one of the games, which happened to be the 2007 AFC Championship when the Patriots were undefeated and Rivers was playing on a torn ACL. (Rivers referenced that game in his post-game interview last week). For the record, Rivers has beaten the Patriots once (in 2008), but that was the year Matt Cassel had to fill in for an injured Brady. It also should be noted that the majority of the head-to-head matchups between Rivers and Brady have been close games. This might be Rivers best shot ever at beating Brady. I'm taking the points.
At first glance, the timing and circumstance of this matchup do not seem most ideal from the Chargers' perspective. It's the second straight week where kickoff will be at 10 AM PST and the Patriots are off a bye. Nevertheless, there is a lot to like about this Chargers team. The defense is much better than in years' past. They held the Ravens to just three points and less than 100 total yds (including a negative in net passing!) through three quarters in the Wild Card game. Obviously, it will not be that easy here against Brady & the Patriots. But fortunately for the Chargers, their offense should also be a lot better this week. They average more yards per play this year than every team besides the Chiefs and Rams. Also, they won't have to face a Ravens' defense that is #1 in the league.
The Patriots, like the Chargers, rank in the top 10 in the league in scoring defense. But there's a bit of a gap when it comes to the number of yards allowed. The Chargers are #9 in yards allowed while the Patriots rank 21st. New England was the only team in the league not to lose at home during the regular season, but the Chargers were arguably the league's toughest road team as they are now 8-1 SU and that one loss wasn't a true road trip as it came in LA against the Rams. I'm not convinced that the better team isn't the one getting points here. The Chargers are also 5-1 ATS as underdogs this season, also winning all five of those games outright. In terms of points allowed vs. scored and yards allowed vs. gained, these teams are relatively even on a per game basis. But the Chargers are significantly better on a per play basis. 8* LA Chargers
|01-12-19||Colts v. Chiefs -5||Top||13-31||Win||100||96 h 2 m||Show|
10* Kansas City (4:35 ET): Incredibly, underdogs have now cashed in 14 of the last 15 NFL playoff games. That included a 4-0 ATS sweep last weekend. Another trend Chiefs' fans won't want to hear is that their team is an absolutely woeful 4-16 SU, 3-17 ATS in the postseason since winning Super Bowl IV! That includes just ONE win since '93 (when Joe Montana was the QB!) and that sole victory came in 2016 against a 9-7 Texans team that was quarterbacked by the immortal duo of Brian Hoyer and Brandon Weeden! Since '93, there have been an incredible NINE "one and done's" by the Chiefs in the playoffs, four of those coming when they were at home and off the bye in this very Divisional Round. But never fear KC, I'm hear to tell you that things are going to be "all right" this year. Lay the points!
Since '03, there's been only one time that the Chiefs lost at home in the Divisional Round. That was two years ago to the Steelers. This team is much better than any Chiefs team that has preceded it. Let's start w/ QB Patrick Mahomes and that record-setting offense, which led the league in both yardage and scoring. In Mahomes, HC Andy Reid finally has a QB capable of carrying his team to a SuperBowl. The problem for the Chiefs' in recent playoff appearances has been a lack of scoring. In the L11 playoff games, they've topped 21 pts just three times (including the 30-0 win over the Texans). That certainly should not be a problem here w/ an offense that comes in averaging 35.3 PPG. The Chiefs scored at least 26 pts in every regular season game.
I think it's fair to say that no one expected Indianapolis to still be playing at this point of the season. Especially when they were 1-5 SU. But over the last three months, Frank Reich's team has been as good as anybody, going 10-1 SU the L11 games. They used a fast start (touchdowns on first two drives) to eliminate Houston last weekend, winning 21-7. But the Chiefs are a whole lot better than the Texans and anybody else the Colts have faced this year. The only playoff team that Indy beat this year besides Houston was Dallas and that game was at home. I just cannot see any way that KC loses this game as they have to be feeling "this is our year" after leading the AFC in point differential (+144) by a wide margin in the regular season. 10* Kansas City
|01-07-19||Alabama v. Clemson +6.5||Top||16-44||Win||100||202 h 18 m||Show|
10* Clemson (8:00 ET): This is the 4th year in a row that Alabama and Clemson are meeting in the College Football Playoff and third time in those four years to determine the National Champion. The schools split the two prior Championship Games w/ Bama winning 45-40 in 2016 and then Clemson returning the favor 35-31 one year later. The Tigers covered the spread (as underdogs) both times before the Crimson Tide largely dominated LY's CFP semifinal matchup, winning 24-6 as 3.5-pt chalk. But the starting QB for each team will be different this time around with Tua starting for Alabama and Trevor Lawrence starting for Clemson. To me, Clemson has proven itself to be Alabama's equal over the past several seasons and should be priced as such. I'm taking the points.
Clemson had an even easier time than I anticipated w/ Notre Dame in the semifinals, rolling to a 30-3 win. I felt they deserved to be DD favorites in the game, but it was clear that ND didn't even belong on the same field. They outgained the Fighting Irish 538-248 and consider it was a 23-3 game at halftime, so the final score easily could have been even more lopsided. Clemson ended the game by kneeling inside the red zone and earlier fumbled at the ND 12-yard line. Lawrence completed 27 of 39 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns as the offense has clearly become more dynamic w/ him as the starter. He left his 1st start (vs. Syracuse) due to injury, but has since played every game. Clemson has won those games by 60, 34, 49, 61, 20, 29, 21, 31 & 27 pts! My goodness!
That's an average margin of victory of 36.8 PPG w/ no final score closer than 20 points. And this team is an underdog? It's a role they are rarely in Perhaps most shocking of all from the Notre Dame game is that the defense didn't even skip a beat despite playing w/o All-American Dexter Lawrence. I know everyone is going to want to talk Tua and the Bama offense, which has earned the right to be called the best ever of the Saban era in Tuscaloosa. But Clemson will be the best defense they have seen all year and is the only defense better than their own. Over the last four seasons, Clemson has lost only four times, three of those coming by five points or less. I know that Alabama is responsible for two of those four losses, including the one that was by more than five points, but these teams are basically equals coming into this game. 10* Clemson
|01-06-19||Eagles v. Bears -6||Top||16-15||Loss||-110||57 h 25 m||Show|
10* Chicago (4:40 ET): I played the Bears in the very 1st game of the NFL season, the Hall Of Fame Game in August. In my analysis for that matchup, I said "I view the Bears as a potential darkhorse in the NFC North this season" and that you shouldn't be surprised if they end up making the playoffs. Well, that was one heck of a premonition and it turns out the team was even better than I thought they would be, rolling to the NFC North crown w/ a 12-4 SU record. I'm still not sure I'm sold on second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky, but Matt Nagy was a homerun hire as the head coach and the defense is one of the best in the league. Something else to keep in mind is that I fashioned Chicago as a potential darkhorse BEFORE they acquired Khalil Mack, which happened right before the start of the reg season and obviously made the stop unit even more formidable.
Coming off its Super Bowl run last year, I think most were anticipating somewhat of a modest "step back" for the Eagles in 2018. Virtually everything went right for them a season ago, save for the Carson Wentz injury, but even then Nick Foles came in and played the best football of his career. Fast forward to one year later and Foles is again the starter heading into the postseason as Wentz is hurt again. Though Foles did win the Super Bowl LY, I don't think this is the scenario anyone in Philly wanted coming into the year. Quite frankly, the Eagles are pretty lucky to have even made the playoffs as they looked pretty much "left for dead" following a second loss to Dallas in Week 14. But they rattled off three straight victories w/ Foles starting at QB and that was enough to make it in a weak NFC.
I realize that Philly fans have convinced themselves that they're better w/ Foles at QB than w/ Wentz, but at the end of the day this Eagles team is simply not as good as LY nor are they as good as the Bears. Recall that last season, the Eagles entered the playoffs as the #1 seed in the NFC and thus had homefield advantage. Now, they're the 6-seed and on the road. At this time last year, people were writing them off w/ Foles as the starter. Now they seem to be getting too much credit. Chicago is the much better team defensively in this matchup and the gap on offense isn't particularly great. Even last season, this Eagles' defense struggled on the road. The Bears are 7-1 SU at home this year and covered 12 of their 16 regular season games overall. They also led the league in takeaways. 10* Chicago
|01-05-19||Seahawks +2.5 v. Cowboys||Top||22-24||Win||100||37 h 0 m||Show|
8* Seattle (8:15 ET): Reports of the Seahawks' demise this year turned out to be greatly exaggerated as here we are in January and another Russell Wilson-led team is in the playoffs. Make no mistake about it, this clearly is a Wilson-led outfit. Part of the reason, many (myself included) were so skeptical of Seattle coming into the season was that the famed "Legion of Boom" (secondary) had been disassembled and then to make matters even worse, the one holdover (Earl Thomas) got injured early in the year. The team started 0-2, but then went onto win 10 of its last 14 games, a streak which began in Week 3 w/ a win over ... the Cowboys. Two of their four losses were to the Rams (by a total of 7 pts) and another was to a 12-4 Chargers team.
Dallas is another somewhat surprising playoff entrant. America's Team also got off to a slow start as they were just 3-5 at the midway point of the regular season. But in their case, it's easy to see what led to the turnaround, that being the acquisition of WR Amari Cooper from Oakland. Coming into the year, it was thought the Cowboys had the worst receiving corps in the league. But Cooper quickly changed that, giving QB Dak Prescott a viable weapon on the outside. Ezekiel Elliott also led the league in rushing yards. Credit should also be given to a Cowboys defense, which is legit one of the best in the league as it ranks seventh in yards and sixth in points allowed. Another key factor is that Dallas went a league-best 8-2 SU in close games (7 pts or less). Over the 2nd half of the season, they were 7-1 SU and every win was by 8 pts or fewer.
While Elliott may have the individual lead in rushing yardage, no TEAM ran for more yards this year than Seattle. The Seahawks' offense ran for 160 YPG during the regular season, nearly 38 more than Dallas did. Both of these teams finished w/ 10-6 SU records, but Seattle had a +81 point differential while Dallas was only +15. The regular season meeting was in Seattle, but a change in homefield isn't enough to flip the result in my view. This will be the 4th meeting between the two teams since 2015. In the previous three, Dallas has failed to score more than 13 points and they've lost them all, one at home just last year. The Cowboys have never won a playoff game under HC Jason Garrett (0-2) and Seattle has covered five straight times as an underdog, winning three of those games outright. I also happen to trust Wilson more than Prescott in this situation. The better team is getting points. 8* Seattle
|01-05-19||Colts v. Texans||Top||21-7||Loss||-125||73 h 32 m||Show|
10* Houston (4:35 ET): The AFC South rivals have never met before in the postseason, but one thing they do have in common is that each rallied back from a poor start to the regular season. Houston won the division despite starting 0-3 while Indianapolis was pretty much left for dead at 1-5 SU. The Texans have won 11 of their last 13 games and the Colts have won 9 of 10, so we've got two red hot teams here. Being that they are division rivals, they met twice in the regular season. Each was victorious on the other's field w/ Houston's 37-34 OT win in Indy actually being its first win of the season and the Colts' 24-21 win in Week 14 being one of the two times the Texans have lost since then. The Colts have had the edge historically over the Texans, including a 9-4 SU, 9-3-1 ATS mark the L13 meetings. But I just don't see how Houston isn't getting more credit for being the home team here. I'll take the points.
Let's look back at the two regular season meetings, shall we? The first meeting in Indy actually saw the Texans race out to an 18-point lead early in the 2nd half before letting the Colts back in. The Colts tied the game w/ a TD + 2-pt conversion in the final minute of regulation, capping off an 85-yard drive. Andrew Luck actually wound up throwing the ball 62 times for a career-high 464 yards as he was forced to play "catch up." That was the most points given up by the Texans' defense all season. This is a group that allows only 19.7 PPG for the season, including 17.0 at home.
The second meeting in Houston saw the Colts largely control from start to finish. They again put up over 430+ yards against JJ Watt and company, but I think the third time will be the charm for this Texans' defense. I just don't see the road team winning on the field for a third straight time in a division rivalry. In their 9-1 run to end the regular season, the Colts were pretty fortunate to play a lot of bad teams and remember they were shutout (at Jacksonville) in their only loss. The last two weeks saw them have to rally back from a double digit deficit to beat the 5-11 Giants at home, then they were the beneficiaries of getting to face Tennessee having to start Blaine Gabbert at QB in a "play-in game." Houston is the better team and at home, thus they should be priced accordingly. 10* Houston
|01-01-19||Washington +7 v. Ohio State||Top||23-28||Win||100||25 h 51 m||Show|
8* Washington (5:00 ET): Ohio State is a very popular side in this year's edition of the Rose Bowl, not only based on name recognition, but also due to the fact that this is Urban Meyer's final game on the sidelines. Conventional wisdom says the Buckeyes "will" send Meyer out a winner, but let's not forget that Georgia Tech (admittedly not as strong a team as OSU) failed to do the same for Paul Johnson earlier this week. Washington is a really strong defensive team and it's not like Ohio State didn't underachieve this year (despite losing only one game). I'll take the points here.
The Huskies give up only 15.5 PPG. Like Ohio State, they came into 2018 w/ CFP aspirations, only to fall short. But they still won the Pac 12 Championship, winning at Washington State in the regular season finale and then holding Utah to only three points in the Conference Title Game. Oregon was the only team this year to score more than 24 pts on the Huskies. Granted, Ohio State will be the best offense they have faced this year. But the Huskies' three losses this year have been by a combined 10 points. They have not been blown out and I don't expect them to be here. For those pointing to the Michigan game as a sign Ohio State may put up a ton of points here, note that Washington plays a different style of defense.
The Buckeyes had three wins by five points or less in the regular season and two of those were against Maryland and Nebraska, non-bowl teams. Defensively, this team had issues all season, giving up at least 26 points in all but five games. The Washington offense was far from consistent this year, but they have a senior QB in Jake Browning that will want to go out a winner just as much as Meyer. Browning and the seniors have not won a bowl game since the 2015 Heart of Dallas Bowl against Southern Miss. They are a great value as a contrarian dog here. 8* Washington
|12-31-18||Michigan State +3 v. Oregon||Top||6-7||Win||100||168 h 22 m||Show|
10* Michigan State (3:00 ET): My favorite side of the Bowls is Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl as I think the wrong team is favored here. I'll concede that Sparty's offense isn't always pretty, but I trust their defense and coaching staff to get the job done here against an overrated Oregon team. They may have underperformed in the regular season, but took on a much tougher schedule than did the Ducks. In their past six bowl games, MSU is 5-1 SU and ATS, the only loss coming to Alabama in a CFP semifinal matchup. Mark Dantonio has been involved in seven bowl games where the spread has been less than a touchdown and his teams are 7-0 SU and 6-1 ATS in those games, including 5-0 ATS as a dog w/ four outright upsets. They are the better team here.
Oregon has to be relieved that QB Justin Herbert will be returning to school next season. It was thought he would be the 1st QB chosen in the NFL Draft had he chosen to declare. But as good as Herbert was, the Ducks kind of faltered down the stretch, going just 3-3 SU the L6 games w/ two of those wins coming at the expense of the Pac 12's two last place teams, UCLA and Oregon State. They were 0-3 SU outside of Eugene, losing by double digits to Wazzu and Arizona. They also allowed 32 points to a Utah team that was w/o its starting QB AND RB. The Ducks did beat a couple of good defenses this year in Cal and Washington, but Michigan State will be the best they've gone up against in 2018.
Michigan State allows only 4.62 yards per play, which is 12th best in the country. They allow just 81 YPG (#1) on the ground and 2.7 yards per carry. This is a defense that held Ohio State's vaunted offense in relative check. Other than the Buckeyes, no Spartans opponent scored more than 13 points against them the L5 games. CB Justin Layne won't play here (will instead prepare for the NFL Draft), but w/ Dantonio's coaching, I think this unit will be fine. Three of MSU's four losses this year were to Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State, all of whom I rate as top 10 teams. As alluded to earlier, the offense does have its issues, but a lot that had to do w/ missing RB L.J. Scott for much of the year. Scott (who is NFL bound) will play here and that makes Sparty's offense a lot more effective. Oregon has lost three straight bowl games and I see Michigan State keeping Herbert and their offense in check. 10* Michigan State
|12-31-18||Pittsburgh +5 v. Stanford||Top||13-14||Win||100||24 h 32 m||Show|
8* Pittsburgh (2:00 ET): I think Pitt is a live dog here in the Sun Bowl. Though the regular season did not end well (B2B losses incl ACC Champ Game), Pat Narduzzi's team was improved this year after a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2017. They won the ACC Coastal Division, going 6-2 in league play. Four of their losses were to top 10 teams - Penn State, UCF, Notre Dame and Clemson - three of those finished the regular season unbeaten! So even though the ACC was "down" this year (outside of Clemson), the Panthers won't be intimidated here by a middling Pac 12 squad as their non-conference schedule was quite the undertaking. I also imagine Pitt will be pretty motivated here as they've never won a bowl game under HC Narduzzi (last bowl win was 2013). Take the points.
Relative to expectations, Stanford has been disappointing each of last two years. Were they to lose here, that would make it B2B 5-loss seasons. From 2010-16, they won 10+ games six times. Nothing was more emblematic of said disappointment this year than RB Bryce Love, who was hampered by both his own injuries and injuries to his offensive line. Love won't even play here in the Sun Bowl, citing the need to prepare for the NFL Draft. As disappointing as Love's numbers were this year (739 yds, 6 TDs), he'll certainly be missed Monday. In their seven Pac 12 games that weren't against UCLA and Oregon State, the Cardinal were held to 23 pts or less five times.
Even had Love opted to play here, Pitt may very well have had the better rushing attack anyway. For the first time in school history, the Panthers boast TWO 1,000+ yard rushers, Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall. For the year, the offense averages 5.6 yards per rush attempt and 230 YPG. (For comparison, Stanford averaged just 3.7 YPC and 108 YPG w/ Love). Yes, Pitt is in off B2B blowout losses, one to Miami and the other to Clemson in the ACC Champ Game. But I still point to the fact half of their losses this year came to teams that were unbeaten in the regular season. The drought w/o a bowl victory should have them as the more motivated side while this is just a disappointing end to a disappointing season for a Stanford team playing w/o its best player. 8* Pittsburgh
|12-30-18||Colts -3 v. Titans||Top||33-17||Win||100||11 h 15 m||Show|
8* Indianapolis (8:20 ET): This game will determine who gets the final playoff spot in the AFC. It could also be for first place in the AFC South if Houston were to somehow lose to Jacksonville earlier in the day (not likely). So the bottom line is the stakes could not be much higher for the final game of the NFL's regular season as the 9-6 Titans host the 9-6 Colts. You might be a bit surprised to see Indy favored on the road in this spot, but don't be as they've been the vastly superior team for the last two months, plus QB Andrew Luck has absolutely owned Tennessee in his pro career (10-0 SU against them!). The Titans are also dealing w/ uncertainty at QB as Marcus Mariota was injured last week and may not be able to play in the team's most important game of the season. Lay the points.
Last season was a disaster for the Colts as they dipped to 4-12 SU and Andrew Luck didn't take a single snap. With Luck returning this year, the team was optimistic for a turnaround. But the season got off to an ugly 1-5 SU start and I have to admit that (like a lot of people), I essentially wrote this team off. But the Colts have put together a shocking run, winning 8 of their last 9 games, including a 38-10 beatdown of these Titans back in Week 11. Luck completed 23 of 29 passes in that blowout win for 297 yards. The Colts scored the game's first 24 pts and never looked back. Again, Luck has NEVER lost to Tennessee in his career.
Tennessee made the playoffs last year and regardless of the result here will have put together three straight winning seasons. They've been the definition of "average" during that time, going 27-20 SU and outscoring their opponents by a total of four points. Speaking of point differential, a substantial gap exists between these two teams as the Colts are +73 this year compared to just +23 for the Titans. But the bigger deal is clearly the Mariota injury. He's reported as having a "stinger" which puts his long-term prognosis in some doubt. If the reports are true and Mariota can't go, then the Titans are left w/ Blaine Gabbert, who has NEVER played for a team w/ a winning record before this season. Compounding matters is that Tennessee is also beat up on the defensive side of the ball w/ Jurrell Casey, Brian Orakpo and Logan Ryan all out. The Colts are simply the better team here. 8* Indianapolis
|12-30-18||Browns v. Ravens -6||Top||24-26||Loss||-110||100 h 48 m||Show|
10* Baltimore (4:25 ET): The Browns have been quite the exciting team since they made the correct move to dump HC Hue Jackson in the middle of the season. Led by rookie QB Baker Mayfield, the team is 5-1 SU in its last 6 six games, quintupling the number of wins the franchise had the previous two seasons combined. There is now a real sense of optimism in Cleveland for the first time in forever, though we'll have to see how the coaching situation plays out. It's also worth mentioning that none of the five teams Cleveland has beaten currently have winning records. Two of the five came against a Cincinnati team that is playing as poorly as anyone in the league right now. Wins over Carolina and Denver were basically "coinflip" type games.
Baltimore is looking to win the AFC North here. To do so, all they need to do is win. While the Browns have made a leap from "laughingstock" to "respectable," the Ravens have gone from "mediocre" to "team no one wants to face in the playoffs." Last Saturday, they went out and turned in a very impressive performance, beating the previously red-hot Chargers 22-10 in LA. The Ravens' top-ranked defense snapped Philip Rivers' streak of 27 consecutive games w/ a TD pass and held the Chargers under 200 total yds, something that had happened only three other times in the Rivers era. The Chargers offense, which averages 6.6 yards per play (3rd highest in the league), never had a play longer than 17 yds the entire game and had just 10 pts on 12 drives. The lone LA touchdown came on a 17-yard drive after a fumble.
The Ravens also have legit revenge here for a 12-9 loss suffered in Cleveland back in Week 5. That was a pretty even game that went to overtime and almost ended in a 9-9 tie. Both teams were also pretty different back then w/ Jackson still coaching the Browns and Lamar Jackson not yet starting at QB for the Ravens. Since Jackson replaced Joe Flacco, Baltimore has gone 5-1 SU w/ the only loss coming in OT at Kansas City. The offense has averaged a preposterous 218.8 yards rushing per game w/ Jackson as the starter. But the defense is still the bread and butter of this team as it ranks #1 in the league in both points and yards allowed. Look for them to keep Mayfield in check. With their season on the line, I look for the Ravens to win big here. 10* Baltimore
|12-30-18||Falcons v. Bucs||Top||34-32||Loss||-125||96 h 23 m||Show|
10* Tampa Bay (1:00 ET): A pair of disappointing seasons will be capped off Sunday in Tampa Bay where the Bucs host the Falcons. The season started so well for TB as they were 2-0 w/ QB Fitzpatrick setting records. But "Fitzmagic" quickly ran out of tricks and Jameis Winston doesn't seem like the guy to right this sinking ship either. HC Dirk Koetter may be coaching his final game this week. For Atlanta, their defense was decimated by injuries and the offense decimated by inefficiencies, particularly in the red zone. They're probably a better overall team compared to TB, but I don't think that means they're capable of winning on the road where their record this year is just 2-5 SU and ATS. I'll look for the home team to come through in this one as jobs are on the line.
It's pretty shocking that the Bucs are only 5-10. As I said earlier, they were 2-0, but things quickly fell apart. Still though, they are outgaining opponents both on a per play and per game basis. They are actually third in the league in yards per game despite ranking 13th in scoring. Now the defense has largely been a disaster as it ranks 30th in scoring. But the team certainly deserved a better fate LW in Dallas when it outgained the Cowboys 382-232 (w/ 27-16 FD advantage), only to come up short on the scoreboard, 27-20. Not only did they give up a defensive TD in the game, but they were also stopped on downs inside the Dallas 10-yd line despite having it 2nd & 1 at the 2-yd line. It's been that kind of season for the Bucs, but that doesn't mean they can't win here.
Being at home should have the Bucs as the more fired up side for this Wk 17 matchup. Both Winston and Koetter's jobs are likely on the line. Adding to the motivation is the fact the Bucs have lost to the Falcons four straight times, including a tough 34-29 setback in Atlanta back in Week 6. That's one of six losses the team has by eight points or less. The offense rolled up 500+ yards on the Falcons' D in that first meeting, but was -2 in TO's (like last week). As for the TB defense, it is MUCH better at home, giving up just 18.6 PPG as opposed to the 35.1 PPG it allows on the road. Atlanta has won each of the last two weeks, but has nothing to play for and could rest some offensive stars. 10* Tampa Bay
|12-26-18||TCU +1 v. California||Top||10-7||Win||100||75 h 48 m||Show|
10* TCU (9:00 ET): This is the Cheez-It Bowl (formerly the Arizona Bowl), which is being held at Chase Field in Phoenix, home of MLB's Diamondbacks. It has the lowest total of any bowl game this year (or in recent memory) as TCU takes on Cal. TCU had a very disappointing regular season (as is evident by a 3-8-1 ATS record). But they proved they belong here by winning their final two games, over Baylor and Oklahoma State, both in pretty convincing fashion. So the Horned Frogs definitely want to "be here" Wednesday night against a Cal team that's going bowling for the 1st time since 2015 (just 2nd since '11). That'll have the Bears motivated as well, but I question their offense as well as the lasting effect losing to rival Stanford (final reg season game) may have had.
TCU's offense wasn't exactly pretty either. Playing in a league (Big XII) not known for defense, the Horned Frogs still averaged only 24.7 PPG and that number is obviously lower when taking out the non-conference games. But, as per usual, Gary Patterson's team can play some defense. They give up just 24.4 PPG and that's an impressive number after running the Big XII slate. Look at who some of TCU's losses were to (Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, WVU) and you'll gain a better appreciation for this team. They were in every game besides the one vs. Oklahoma. They outgained opponents on a yard per play/game basis and should be improved next year as well. My number indicate they should be about a field goal favorite here.
Cal's "Big Game" vs. Stanford had to be moved to the end of the regular season this year due to wildfires that were ravaging the area at the time. For Cal, it was two additional weeks to think about ending an eight-year losing streak in the rivalry. They ended up losing to the Cardinal, 23-13, and that final score is somewhat misleading in the sense that the Bears scored their only TD w/ 10 seconds to go. Cal, statistically, has a better defense than TCU. But I have tremendous concerns about an offense that averages less than 200 yards passing and was held to 15 pts or fewer in five of its final seven regular season games. The Bears went just 4-5 SU against a mediocre Pac 12 and were 4-2 SU overall in one-score games. I like TCU here. 10* TCU
|12-23-18||Chiefs v. Seahawks +3||Top||31-38||Win||100||50 h 2 m||Show|
10* Seattle (8:20 ET): While the Seahawks' secondary appears beaten up at the absolute worst time, they can still lean on the fact they have QB Russell Wilson and are a ridiculous 16-2 SU at home in primetime games under HC Pete Carroll. This is a huge game for both sides as Kansas City is trying to maintain the top spot in the AFC (could be one-half game back of the Chargers by kickoff) and Seattle is trying to lock down a Wild Card spot over in the NFC. I've taken Seattle a couple of times already in primetime games this year, citing short lines, and now I can grab them as a dog! Take the points.
The two previous times I've taken Seattle in primetime games this year were a Thursday nighter vs. Green Bay (pushed as 3-pt favorites) and a Monday nighter vs. Minnesota (covered easily in a 21-7 win). In my analysis for both games, I cited the cheap price on them at home. Well, now they're a home dog, which you simply do not see very often. They were once earlier this year and I took them in that spot as well, getting almost a full TD against the Rams. They covered in a game they led much of the way (but eventually lost 33-31). They are now a perfect 5-0 ATS in the Russell Wilson "era" (2012-) as a home dog, winning four of those games outright.
The health of Seattle's secondary will probably be a major focus going into Sunday night and it should be. But, for what it's worth, Carroll believes two of the questionable players are going to see the field. Remember this is a group that still has been able to find its way despite the loss of Earl Thomas early in the year. To me, the bigger question is Kansas City's defense, which is one of the worst in the entire league. In their last road game, the Chiefs gave up 33 points to a horrible Raiders team. They are 31st in the league in yards allowed per game. The poor defense has certainly contributed to the team's 0-4-1 ATS record its L5 games. Seattle's offense is ninth in the league in scoring. 10* Seattle
|12-23-18||Jaguars +4 v. Dolphins||Top||17-7||Win||100||43 h 44 m||Show|
8* Jacksonville (1:00 ET): Fair warning - we're going w/ some "ugly" teams in this week's 3-pack. But this being late in the year, oddsmakers are starting to make you pay a "premium" for teams in "must win" situations. Case in point, Miami. Somehow, someway, the Dolphins have managed to stay in playoff contention despite a horrible YTD point differential (-79) that is actually 4th WORST in all of the league. This trend goes back even further. Over the last three seasons, Miami has a 23-23 SU record, but has been outscored by a stunning 208 points during that time. This is no legit playoff contender and I don't think they should be laying this many points to anyone, even a down-on-its luck Jacksonville team.
Last week, I played against the Dolphins as an underdog. It was a big play of Minnesota, my 10* Game of the Month in fact. The game was never really close as the Vikings jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead and wound up winning 41-17. It was quite emblematic of the Dolphins' season. While their seven wins have all been by eight points or less, six of their seven losses have been by double digits. Three of their last four wins have been by four points or less, one coming in overtime and another coming on the miracle play against the Patriots. Now they have to go w/o RB Frank Gore, their top offensive player. Gore averaged 4.6 yards per carry and his production will be tough to replace.
This has been a disastrous season for Jacksonville, one that will in all likelihood lead to the franchise moving on from coach Doug Marrone and QB Blake Bortles. No team will have a bigger drop in wins from last season. But as bad as things have gotten, the Jags typically lose close. Like last week, when they gave the game away against Washington and lost 16-13. It was their fourth loss by four points or less since November 11th. They still have a defense that allows just 20.6 PPG. While out of it, I still rate Jacksonville slightly better than Miami. Note the Dolphins have been favored only three times all year and never by more than 3.5 points. 8* Jacksonville
|12-23-18||Giants +10.5 v. Colts||Top||27-28||Win||100||43 h 44 m||Show|
8* NY Giants (1:00 ET): These teams were on opposite ends of shutouts last week. The G-Men were blanked, at home, by Tennessee. Indianapolis turned in perhaps its finest performance of the season w/ a 23-0 blanking of the Cowboys. Remember what I said about this 3-game report containing some "ugly" picks? Well, this is another one. As hot as the Colts have been (won 7 of 8), I'm unconvinced that they should be laying this many points against anyone. While they've been favored six times during the win streak, never have they been asked to lay more than a touchdown and in that instance it was against Buffalo. Again, we have an instance where oddsmakers are asking you to pay a premium on a team in a "must win" spot for playoff contention. I'll take the points.
The G-Men couldn't score w/o Odell Beckham last week, but I think they'll find an easier time here against the Colts' defense. I say that knowing full well the Colts have allowed 6 pts or fewer in two of the last three games. They may no longer have Beckham, but they do have Saquon Barkley (1800 total yds) to lean on. Also, remember that two weeks ago the Giants scored 40 points w/o OBJ and that was against what is still a pretty good Redskins' defense. This is a Giants team that also beat Chicago three weeks ago. Three of the Colts last five victories have been by a field goal. Also, the Giants are 6-1 ATS on the road this season w/ three outright upsets.
My raw numbers have this line closer to six points. That's a lot of value. This is similar to the other two games in this report where the team facing a "must win" is being overvalued. The Colts have a huge showdown w/ the Titans next week that could very well determine the last seed in the AFC playoffs. They'll be a better value in that matchup. 8* NY Giants
|12-23-18||Vikings v. Lions +7||Top||27-9||Loss||-140||43 h 42 m||Show|
8* Detroit (1:00 ET): We look to hit the trifecta here w/ yet another team getting serious value. Detroit cashed for me last week, even in a loss to lowly Buffalo. I said the Bills shouldn't be favored and while they won, the price was too high. Don't be surprised to see a similar result transpire this week. The Vikings, in desperate need of a win here, are laying about a field goal more than they should. At 7-6-1, they currently occupy the final playoff spot in the NFC. But it's a precarious lead. As motivating as that situation may be, I don't see them winning by more than a touchdown here. Take the points.
Minnesota was my *10* Game of the Month last week. But they were at home and facing a Miami team I have little to no regard for (see Jacksonville writeup!). You may ask why I'd have more regard for a 5-9 Lions team. Well, they're at home this week and getting roughly the same number Miami did LW in Minnesota. This despite a YTD point differential that's significantly better. A decimated Lions offense has had its trouble scoring in recent weeks, but be aware that they've lost by more than a TD only one time in the last five games and that was to a Rams team that scored late.
The Vikings put up 41 last week, but that was after scoring a total of just 17 pts the two weeks prior. When it comes to winning big games, QB Kirk Cousins does not exactly have the finest resume. Minnesota has been favored twice on the road this year (1-1 ATS), but never by more than a field goal. Consider that they were asked to lay only three against the Jets, who are certainly a worse team that Detroit. This is a division game and the final home game for the Lions, so they should "show up." They have revenge for a poor showing in Minnesota back in Week 9 and aren't often a dog in this price range in their own stadium. 8* Detroit
|12-22-18||Redskins +12 v. Titans||Top||16-25||Win||100||22 h 14 m||Show|
10* Washington (4:30 ET): I admit that this is a bit of an "ugly" play, but I'm going to stick with my numbers here. The numbers say Tennessee is way overvalued here and that's likely due to the combination of the "must-win" nature of the game for them (to stay viable in the playoff hunt) and the fact the Redskins are starting third-string QB Josh Johnson. But Johnson did lead the 'Skins to a victory last week, 16-13 over the Jaguars, in his first NFL start in seven seasons. Also, just because Tennessee "must win" here, doesn't mean they will cover. Washington, believe it or not, is also still alive in the playoff hunt. Take the points.
Tennessee is not built to cover a spread this large. They average only 19.1 PPG and while it was shutout win last week (17-0 over the Giants), we usually don't see them win by that kind of margin. The Titans have only been favored in 4 of 13 games this season. Three of those instances are the last three weeks! While they beat the Giants and Jags by a combined 47-9 margin the L2 wks, remember they were also "tooth and nail" w/ the Jets here at home three weeks ago. Five of their eight wins this season have been by four points or less. This figures to be a low-scoring game and that makes taking the points an attractive option.
Obviously, the focus for the Redskins defense here will be stopping RB Derrick Henry, who ran over both the Giants and Jags. But consider that the number of rushing yards Henry has the L2 wks (408) accounts for nearly half his season total. Titans QB Marcus Mariota did not thrown a TD pass in either game. Johnson actually looked fairly competent for Washington LW, completing 16 of 25 passes in a come from behind effort to beat Jacksonville. The Redskins have a good defense that can keep them in this one. Meanwhile, Tennessee's defense just lost a key piece w/ CB Logan Ryan suffering a broken leg. The only time the Titans have been favored by more than a TD this year was the Jets game when they won by only four. Oddsmakers are making you pay a premium on them here. 10* Washington
|12-21-18||BYU v. Western Michigan +13||Top||49-18||Loss||-113||10 h 38 m||Show|
8* Western Michigan (4:00 ET): The big story here is WMU lost its starting QB (Jon Wassnick) late in the regular season. They went 1-2 SU w/ backup Kaleb Eleby (true frosh) as the starter, but that one win came in the regular season finale, as 6.5-pt underdogs, against MAC Champ Northern Illinois. With all the added prep time that comes w/ a bowl game, I'm not worried at all about Eleby coming in as the starter as he's posted solid numbers (917 yds passing, 6 TDs and 64.5 completion percentage). The Broncos should be highly motivated here by being such big underdogs and I think the oddsmakers have overadjusted as BYU is a pretty mediocre team this year. Take the points.
BYU experienced a much different finish to its regular season as it lost to rival Utah in the latest installment of the "Holy War." It was their eighth consecutive loss to the Utes and perhaps the most painful one yet. That's because the Cougars blew a 20-0 halftime lead in Salt Lake City. Despite that game taking place weeks ago, my guess is that BYU still isn't over what happened. So, emotionally, the two teams in this year's Idaho Potato Bowl come in w/ very different mindsets. Western Michigan is off a big upset that gave them plenty of confidence while BYU is off the most deflating loss possible.
BYU also starts a true freshman at QB, so it's not like they enjoy tremendous experience at that position either. I simply can't envision them covering this double digit spread, which seems to be based on name recognition only. The Cougars did have that big win at Wisconsin early in the year, but otherwise did not perform well against bowl teams and finished the regular season just 6-6 SU. I just don't see them being worthy of laying double digits on a neutral field. While it's true they have plenty of experience playing on the blue turf (game is in Boise), none of that experience is good as they're 0-5 SU all-time here. Last year saw a 6-6 Western Michigan team get snubbed from playing in a bowl, so the players should be highly motivated Friday afternoon. 8* Western Michigan
|12-19-18||Ohio -2.5 v. San Diego State||Top||27-0||Win||100||30 h 3 m||Show|
10* Ohio (8:00 ET): San Diego State really hit the skids late in the season, losing four of its last five games and the lone win was a come from behind effort against a bad New Mexico team. This is simply not the same Aztecs team that we're used to seeing under HC Rocky Long. I played against them a couple of times down the stretch, once when they failed to cover at New Mexico (were -12.5) and then again the following week when they lost outright (as 24-pt favorites) at home to UNLV. The Aztecs' biggest problem is they simply don't score. Even when they put 30 on the board in the regular season finale vs. Hawaii, they still lost. For the year, they're averaging just 19.6 PPG away from home! They finished the year 7-5 SU, but 3-9 ATS. To me, they are one of the easiest fades this entire bowl season. I'll be laying the points here.
Ohio was probably the best team in the MAC this year, even though they did not get a chance to play for a Conference Championship. This was also the case last season and the Bobcats went out and crushed UAB 41-6 in the Bahamas Bowl. Now they are in position to win B2B bowls for just the second time in program history, which woud be a nice treat for HC Frank Solich, who is now the oldest active coach in the country after the retirement of Kansas State's Bill Snyder. Unlike SDSU, the Bobcats can score. They average 41.2 PPG (10th in FBS) and are led by QB O'Rourke, who accounted for over 3,000 total yds (passing + rushing) and 35 touchdowns in the regular season.
Ohio finished strong down the stretch. They come in having won five of six, scoring 49 or more pts in all five victories. The one loss, 30-28 at rival Miami, is what cost them the MAC East. Three of their four losses this year were by four points or less. After losing to Miami, the Bobcats then destroyed division champ Buffalo 52-17. Their strength of schedule was very comparable to San Diego State this season, so there's no edge there. I put little stock in the fact the Aztecs are 13-0-1 all-time against the MAC as Long has struggled in bowl games. Ohio is 6-2 ATS in its last eight games where the spread is three points or less (either way) and I like them to roll in the Frisco Bowl. 10* Ohio
|12-17-18||Saints v. Panthers +7||Top||12-9||Win||100||23 h 5 m||Show|
10* Carolina (8:20 ET): This is essentially a "do-or-die" spot for the Panthers. Not only in terms of their current playoff standing, but also w/ their poor history against the Saints. Carolina comes into Monday night having dropped five in a row. That's the longest losing skid in the league right now. If there is one silver lining, they've generally been losing close games. Their last four losses have all been by a TD or less (been favored in every game). But there's no sugarcoating the rivalry w/ the Saints, which has seen the Panthers fail to cover six of the last seven meetings. They say "it's hard to beat the same time THREE times in the same season," but don't tell that to Carolina as they lost three times to New Orleans last year. They did cover in the playoff loss after going 0-2 ATS in the regular season.
I think everyone considers the Saints to be the best team in the league right now, or they at least ought to. They've got the best record (11-2 SU), the best point differential (+164) and are 10-3 vs. the number. But there have been some signs that their dominance has waned. Two weeks ago, they went to Dallas and played - easily - their worst game of the season, getting beat 13-10. Then last week saw them have to rally back from a 14-3 second half hole against Tampa Bay. Total yardage was basically even in that game and the key was a blocked punt that swung the game. It was the second straight week that the Saints' vaunted offense was held below 300 total yards.
This is a tricky spot for New Orleans as they're playing on the road for a third straight week. The sense of urgency is no longer there for them w/ the Rams losing last night. That Rams loss gives the Saints a very good chance of earning homefield advantage in the NFC half of the playoff draw. Meanwhile, Carolina should come out very inspired here. They're a much better team at home (5-1 SU) and this is just the second time all year they'll be a home dog (1st was a 36-21 win over Baltimore). They also have triple revenge against the Saints. The underdog has cashed seven of the past eight times in this NFC South rivarly. The Panthers are also 3-0 ATS their L3x as a home dog. 10* Carolina
|12-16-18||Patriots v. Steelers +2.5||Top||10-17||Win||100||90 h 7 m||Show|
8* Pittsburgh (4:25 ET): We all know the story here. New England has been a real nemesis for the Steelers through the year. The Patriots have won and covered the L5 meetings, which includes an AFC Championship Game (2016). All-time against Tom Brady, the Black & Gold are a horrible 2-11 SU and ATS. All but two of those games have come w/ Ben Roethlisberger at QB. Of course, the poor history vs. the Pats is only secondary to what's going on presently in Pittsburgh. After a 7-2-1 start, the Steelers have lost three in a row, putting their playoff status in precarious position.
Another Big Ben nemesis, Oakland, stunned the Steelers last week. Roethlisberger was injured and missed most of the 2nd half, but did come back to lead a TD drive late. But the defense couldn't hold and Pittsburgh has still never won in Oakland during Big Ben's career. That followed a pair of frustrating, one-score losses to the Chargers (blew 23-7 halftime lead) and Broncos (had 527-308 edge in total yds, but were -4 in turnovers). Though the postseason is no longer guaranteed, this is still a good team. They average 34.5 PPG at home and IMO, still deserve to be favored here.
New England is off its own stunning loss. Their came in the most improbable fashion possible as they gave up a multi-lateral TD on the final play at Miami last week. I'm sure you've seen it by this point. Laying a short number and off a SU loss, one can only assume the Patriots will be an attractive wager this week. But the reality of the matter is this team is only 3-4 SU on the road this year w/ losses to Jacksonville, Detroit, Tennessee and Miami. No doubt, head to head history played a role in where the oddsmakers set this line, but the Patriots are no longer what they once were. Putting pressure on Brady is key to beating him and the Steelers' D leads the league in sacks w/ 45. 8* Pittsburgh
|12-16-18||Dolphins v. Vikings -6.5||Top||17-41||Win||100||87 h 43 m||Show|
10* Minnesota (1:00 ET): Fresh off the heels off a Monday night loss to Seattle, the Vikings decided to fire OC John DeFilippo. Anyone who watched the telecast probably wasn't surprised. The offense looked impotent as the announcers buried DeFilippo to no end. But truthfully, Minnesota didn't play nearly as poorly as the 21-7 final suggests. They actually had a slight edge in total yards in a game they trailed only 3-0 heading into the fourth quarter. When it was a 6-0 game, the Vikings had two chances to score, but were stopped on downs at the goal line, then later had a FG blocked in controversial fashion (Seattle's Bobby Wagner should have been called for "leaping.") To make matters worse, the Seahawks got a late defensive TD to ice the game. After the coordinator change, I expect the Vikings to respond well and deliver one of their best games of the year, at home, this week.
Miami is 7-6 SU and anyone that has a TV knows how their game last week ended. Down 33-27 to the Patriots, they pulled off an all-time miracle on the final play of the game. My congrats to them for a season highlight worth celebrating. But here's the reality: the Dolphins are not a very good football team and extremely lucky to have a winning record. They've been outscored by 55 pts this year, a differential that's slightly worse than the Jaguars & Falcons, both of whom are 4-9 SU. This kind of overachieving has gone on throughout Adam Gase's tenure here. Over the last three seasons, Miami has been outscored by 184 points despite a 23-22 SU record. Every Dolphins win this year has been by eight points or less. Five of their six losses have come by double digits. The overachieving ends Sunday.
Both teams desperately need to win here to stay in playoff hunt in their respective conferences. But Minnesota is at home, where they're 4-2 SU/ATS, including a perfect 3-0 as chalk in the -3.5 to -7 range. QB Kirk Cousins really is better than he's given credit for; he's just operating behind a questionable offensive line. With this line hovering around a TD, the Vikings are a great value (were -9.5 on the lookahead line). Not only did it take a miracle to win last week, but the previous week saw Miami outgained 415-175, yet come away w/ a 21-17 victory @ Buffalo when Bills QB Allen missed a wide open WR on the game's final play. What this play boils down to is my lack of respect for the Dolphins and their phony record. They've lost five in a row on the road. 10* Minnesota
|12-16-18||Lions +3 v. Bills||Top||13-14||Win||100||87 h 42 m||Show|
|12-15-18||Browns v. Broncos -3||Top||17-16||Loss||-103||99 h 8 m||Show|
10* Denver (8:20 ET): The lookahead line for this Saturday night matchup was Denver laying six points. So last week's respective results certainly had a significant impact on the oddsmakers. Cleveland beat Carolina, 26-20, at home while Denver went out and lost to lowly San Francisco, 20-14 as three-point chalk. The oddsmakers are now saying these teams are basically even, giving Denver the token number for homefield advantage. But I still believe that a gap does exist between these two teams. Lest we forget that the Broncos had won and covered three straight before taking the "L" last week. They've been hit hard by some injuries, but should still be able to defeat a team that is just 1-26 SU its last 27 road games. Lay the short number here.
Let us also not forget the last time Cleveland was off a win. They'd just beaten the Bengals (snapping a 25-game road losing streak) and headed to Houston where they were completely outclassed by the Texans in a 29-13 loss (shutout in the 1H). Last week saw the Browns bounce back, at home, over a slumping Carolina team. Rookie QB Baker Mayfield has brought alot of excitement to this downtrodden organization, but I can't help but think expectations are a little TOO high right now w/ actual talk of running the table and making the playoffs. It'll be interesting to see how Mayfield operates, on the road (and in primetime) against a defense that has allowed 22 pts or fewer in five straight games. The Browns' defense remains pretty poor as it ranks 31st in yards allowed.
These teams have a history against one another that goes back to the late 1980's when they were the top two teams in the AFC. But that was long ago. Since returning to the league in 1999, the Browns are 0-7 SU vs. the Broncos. I think Denver's stock was a little too high going into last week's game vs. San Francisco, but now it's a "buy low" situation off the loss. This is a team that holds recent wins over both the Chargers and Steelers. Granted that was before losing CB Chris Harris and WR Emmanuel Sanders. Those injuries definitely played a role in losing to the 49ers, but I think the team was also overconfident heading into last week. That will no longer be the case here. The Broncos are still the better team here and getting a home game on a short week is always an advantage. 10* Denver
|12-15-18||Arizona State v. Fresno State -4.5||Top||20-31||Win||100||236 h 21 m||Show|
10* Fresno State (3:30 ET): Even though Fresno State (#23) is ranked, I think that a lot of people are going to do a double take when they seem them favored here over a Pac 12 team w/ a "name" head coach, Herm Edwards' Arizona State Sun Devils. But the Bulldogs deserve to be favored here and I believe will handle their business. To me, they are the BEST non-P5 team in America. (Yes, I'm including UCF in that discussion). FSU went 11-2 SU in the regular season and plays tremendous defense. They allow just 13.7 points per game, which was tied w/ Clemson for the second fewest in the entire country. Though bowl games aren't typically noted for their defense, I believe this Bulldogs team has enough pride to pack its D for Vegas as it looks to win its 22nd game in the L2 seasons. Lay the short number.
Herm Edwards proved all the critics wrong in his 1st season in Tempe. He led the Sun Devils to a 7-5 SU record and they were never blown out. All five losses were by 7 points or less, four of them coming exactly by a seven-point margin, plus they lost by only two at Oregon. But they also won four games by a field goal or less. Having played so many close games, you might think playing ASU as an underdog would be ideal. After all, they did go 5-2 ATS when taking points in the regular season. But playing this game w/o WR N'keal Harry (skipping it to prepare for the NFL Draft) is not only the harsh reality of College Football, but just plain problematic. Harry had 73 catches for 1,000+ yards and nine touchdowns this year. That's a ton of production that ASU simply won't be able to replace in this game and going against one of the top defenses in the country makes things even tougher.
Fresno State has been one of the top ATS teams in the country the L2 seasons under Jeff Tedford, going 19-6-2 ATS overall. So having to lay such a short number w/ them is pretty nice. Yes, they're facing a Pac 12 school, but the Bulldogs just beat Boise State in the Mt West Champ Game (on the blue turf!) and won't be intimidated. This game is being played at MWC venue, the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl, home of UNLV. So that's another advantage for Fresno State. They won here just last month. Granted, it won't be as easy as 48-3 (destroyed UNLV), but it's still an edge. These teams had one common opponent during the regular season, San Diego State, and while Fresno State dominated the Aztecs (won 24-13), Arizona State lost to them 28-21. 10* Fresno State
|12-13-18||Chargers v. Chiefs -3||Top||29-28||Loss||-126||54 h 6 m||Show|
10* Kansas City (8:20 ET): This one is for "all the marbles" in the AFC West. Well, perhaps that statement is a bit premature. After Thursday night, both the Chargers and Chiefs have two games to go. If Los Angeles were to win Thursday night, then they'd be tied w/ KC atop the division at 11-3 and we'd have to see how things play out. But if the Chiefs win here, they clinch the division as they'll have a two-game lead on the Bolts and own the tiebreaker. One of the major stories going into this showdown is how KC has absolutely OWNED the rivalry. Head to head, they've beaten the Chargers NINE consecutive times (last loss was 2013). The most recent win was Week 1, 38-28, as a 3-point dog. The Chiefs are 7-2 ATS during that nine-game SU win streak.
When the Chiefs beat the Chargers back in Week 1, little did any of us know the kind of trans-formative season that QB Patrick Mahomes was set to have. Mahomes is rewriting the record books, becoming just the third 1st or 2nd year QB to throw for over 4,000 yds and 40 TD passes in the same season. Dan Marino and Kurt Warner are the two others. Mahomes, now the betting favorite to win NFL MVP, has thrown for 4,300 yds and 43 touchdowns. Both Marino and Warner made it to the Super Bowl in their 4000+ yard, 40+ TD seasons. Under Mahomes direction, the Chiefs have the top offense in the league, averaging 36.2 PPG. They are unbeaten at home and getting this game on a short week is a huge advantage.
You might recall that I played against KC last week as they squeaked by Baltimore, 27-24 in overtime. I was a winner as the Ravens were +7. Why the quick switch to the Chiefs, especially in light of how critical I was of their defense in last week's analysis? Well, I don't think LA is going to be able to replicate the kind of pressure Baltimore's top ranked defense got on Mahomes. Also, the Chargers have a major injury concern at RB w/ Melvin Gordon and possibly Austin Eckler both out. Without Gordon, they were able to beat both the Steelers and Bengals. But remember they were down 23-7 at the half in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati is a bad team they only beat by five points. While I'm a fan of what the Chargers have done this season, they've really beaten up on a lot of bad teams. They are just 3-7 SU the L10 times they've been an underdog of a field goal or more. 10* Kansas City
|12-09-18||Ravens +7 v. Chiefs||Top||24-27||Win||100||90 h 53 m||Show|
10* Baltimore (1:00 ET): While all the talk in Baltimore right now centers around the QB position, the Ravens have a significant edge defensively in this matchup and that will be what carries them this week in Kansas City. Currently, the Ravens stop unit is #1 in the league in both scoring and total defense, giving up just 17.8 points and 281.7 yards per game. That makes them extremely attractive to me as an underdog, especially one of this size. Compare those defensive numbers to Kansas City, who 31st in yards allowed (417.0 per game) and 27th in points allowed (27.3). I feel the road dog easily stays within the number here and I give them a great shot at the outright upset.
Now the Chiefs do have the league's top scoring offense (ridiculous 37.0 PPG) and are #3 in yards (437.2). But they did give up 33 points to a hideous Raiders team last week (ATS win for me!). That's an Oakland offense that averages only 18.3 PPG. The Chiefs' defensive numbers have been significantly better at home, but that's because they've also drawn some of the weaker opponents on the schedule here. It also remains to be seen how this offense performs w/o RB Kareem Hunt. You know the story there. Hunt's services certainly weren't needed to get by the lowly Raiders. But the ferocious Ravens defense will be a different story altogether.
Baltimore is 3-0 since Lamar Jackson took over as the starting QB for an injured Joe Flacco. To me, it would be crazy to go back to Flacco. The offense has been able to run the ball far more effectively w/ Jackson in the game (239 YPG) due to Jackson being a threat to run himself (265 yds). The Ravens do have a greater sense of urgency than the Chiefs, whose inclusion in the playoffs is all but assured at this point. Baltimore is fighting for its playoff life, trying to get in either as a Wild Card or the AFC North winner. Only two offenses have topped 24 points against the Ravens defense this year. In his three starts so far, Jackson has benefited from that defense allowing an average of just 211 YPG. They'll keep this one close. 10* Baltimore
|12-09-18||Falcons +6 v. Packers||Top||20-34||Loss||-120||90 h 53 m||Show|
10* Atlanta (1:00 ET): Green Bay is a total mess right now. They've lost five of their six last games, including at home to Arizona last week, which cost Mike McCarthy his job. I think the notion that they'll receive some sort of "boost" in the wake of the firing of their head coach is "wishful thinking" on the part of the Cheeseheads. Of course, the Falcons have been every bit as disappointing as the Packers this year as they're 4-8 SU (GB is 4-7-1) and have lost four in a row (also 0-4 ATS). But they at least have a stable coaching staff, plus they're getting nearly a touchdown this week at Lambeau Field. I had this line closer to a field goal. Take the points.
Now four of Green Bay's last five losses have come by seven points or less. It would be unfair to pin the whole demise on McCarthy, but it was probably time for him to go, especially if he wasn't getting along w/ Aaron Rodgers. Joe Philbin takes over on an interim basis. You may remember him from the non-descript job he did in three-plus seasons as the HC down in Miami. (He had previously served as OC in GB during the Super Bowl season). Philbin is a lame-duck coach as the Packers are simply playing out the string. Despite having Rodgers, this team simply isn't very good. The offense has only managed 17 pts in B2B games and the defense has totally fallen off a cliff.
It's a somewhat similar story w/ the Falcons, who haven't even scored 20 points in a game since Week 9 when they were coming out of their bye. Last week was a new low as they were held to 131 total yards - at home - in a 26-16 loss to Baltimore. Now it should be pointed out that the Ravens have the #1 defense in football. So it should be easier sledding for Matt Ryan and company this week, even though they are on the road. Pretty clearly, there's enough disappointment to go around in this matchup, but I just don't see the Packers as being seven points better than the Falcons right now, even at home. 10* Atlanta
|12-09-18||Saints v. Bucs +9.5||Top||28-14||Loss||-125||74 h 19 m||Show|
8* Tampa Bay (1:00 ET): Here's the other game where I was a winner in the first meeting. Like Colts-Texans, boy, has a lot changed since then. In this case, New Orleans was a 10-pt favorite at home against Tampa Bay. That doesn't sound out of the ordinary, but the fact that the Bucs won 48-40 sure was shocking at the time. It's even more shocking in retrospect considering the kind of season the Saints have had. They didn't lose again until last week, another time I happened to play against them. Obviously, with the revenge angle in full effect, the Saints are going to be a popular choice this week. But for a second time this season, they are overvalued against the Bucs. Take the points.
Not only did the Saints win 10 in a row after losing to the Bucs, they were a covering machine too. A nine-game ATS win streak was also snapped last week in Dallas. The Cowboys' defense shockingly shut down Drew Brees and company to the tune of just 10 points and 176 total yards. That was easily a season-low in total yardage, but also the fewest points scored by the Saints in any game in three years. Now they're going up against a significantly worse defense here in Tampa. But they'll have to contend w/ an offense that has the ability to trade points w/ them. This is also another road game and outdoors to boot.
The Bucs, not the Saints or Chiefs, lead the league in total yardage. Now some of that has to do w/ always being in shootouts because of the defense. But whether its been Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston at QB, this offense has moved the ball. It was Fitzpatrick at the helm in the Week 1 upset of the Saints, but Winston hardly represents a downrgrade from the ultimately turnover-prone Fitzpatrick. Winston has guided the team to wins the L2 weeks, over the 49ers and Panthers, both here at home. The defense also showed up in both wins, giving up just 26 points total. Will they possibly give up that many (or more) in this game? There's a good chance. But the Bucs are getting a lot of points at home and I'll take 'em. Something I mentioned in last week's analysis is that the Saints had not been favored by more than a TD on the road since 2013 (didn't cover). Now it's happening in B2B weeks. Tampa Bay has not been a home dog of a TD or more since 2014. 8* Tampa Bay
|12-09-18||Jets +3.5 v. Bills||Top||27-23||Win||100||74 h 19 m||Show|
8* NY Jets (1:00 ET): The Jets are a better team than Buffalo. That may not be saying much, but it's true. I know the Flyboys have one fewer win than the Bills (3 vs. 4) and were destroyed 41-10 at home by the Bills just a few weeks ago. However, despite the respective records and the destruction that occurred in the first meeting, the Jets still have a far better YTD point differential (-64 vs. -115). In fact, the Bills have the third worst point differential in all of football. For that first meeting, the Jets were seven-point favorites. Now they're getting about a field goal. I know it was a blowout, but the line shift has been too significant. Take the points.
This is the first time Buffalo will be favored this year. Every other team in the league has been favored at least twice. You've got a Bills' offense averaging an AFC-low 14.8 PPG. Expect them to win by a comfortable margin - against anyone - seems to be wishful thinking from my vantage point. I realize that they've played a little bit better of late. But they're coming in off a crushing defeat LW in Miami where rookie QB Josh Allen failed to hit a wide open receiver (who was in the end zone) on the final play. I still have serious doubts about Allen as a potential leader of this franchise. Also, might the recent uptick in performance lead to a - gasp - sense of overconfidence w/ the Bills (along w/ being favored for the first time).
The Jets are also off a crushing loss, theirs coming at Tennessee. They led 16-0, but lost 26-22, giving up the GW TD in the final minute of a game they'd never trailed in previously. It was their sixth loss in a row overall and HC Todd Bowles is definitely coaching for his job at this point. It looks like rookie QB Sam Darnold will return this week, which is good. Josh McCown just didn't have it anymore. The Jets have lost 7 out of the last 10 meetings vs. the Bills, so the players and coaching staff should be out for revenge. I just don't think I could ever endorse Buffalo as a favorite. 8* NY Jets
|12-08-18||Navy v. Army -7||Top||10-17||Push||0||67 h 29 m||Show|
10* Army (3:00 ET): For the first time since 2001, Army is favored to win this game. They should be. The Knights are 9-2 SU, reigning C-in-C Trophy winners and simply a much better team than Navy this season. Pardon the terrible pun, but the Midshipmen have been somewhat "lost at sea" in 2018. They won't be going to a bowl game this year, the first time that's been the case since 2002, which was the year they started their historic 14-year win streak over Army. That came to an end two years ago in Baltimore. I was on Army that day, as 5.5-pt underdogs, as they won 21-17. Last year was another Army win, this time 14-13 as 2.5 pt dogs. Lay the points as the Knight deserve to be double-digit favorites in this one.
Navy enters this game w/ a 3-9 record, their worst SU mark in any season since ... 2002. That was Paul Johnson's first year in Annapolis and he just retired from the Georgia Tech job. This particular Navy team is very bad defensively. They allow almost 35 points per game while also giving up 6.65 yards per play, the 11th worst mark in the entire country. While any matchup of two service academies (including Air Force) is typically low-scoring, I believe Army will still be able to do plenty of scoring in this one. Since winning a game in a driving rainstorm vs. Memphis in Week 2, only one FBS opponent (Temple) has failed to score more than 29 points against the Midshipmen. Navy has regularly blown out this season w/ six of its nine losses coming by double digits. The Memphis win was fortunate (weather). Since beating FCS Lehigh the following week, the Middies are just 1-8 SU the L9 games w/ that one win coming against a 3-9 Tulsa team, at home.
Army gives up only 18.7 PPG (17th in FBS) and 15.5 first downs per game (6th), giving them a huge edge on the defensive side of the ball. Their only two losses this year were to Oklahoma and Duke, both on the road, and they took the Sooners into overtime! Since that OT loss in Norman, the Black Knights are 7-0 SU, winning five of those games by at least two touchdowns. We know these teams run similar, if not identical, offenses. But Navy has posted its worst rushing season in a decade, averaging just 5.0 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Army can actually turn to the pass as they average 10.5 yards per attempt through the air. Third downs are also key here w/ Army leading the country at a 57% conversion rate. Navy is only 39%. 10* Army
|12-03-18||Redskins +6 v. Eagles||Top||13-28||Loss||-105||34 h 37 m||Show|
10* Washington (8:20 ET): Just a little over a week ago, the Eagles seemed to be dead and buried. They were coming off a humiliating 48-7 loss to the Saints (biggest lost EVER for reigning SB champ!) and down 19-3 at home to the last place Giants. But then, they "woke up," rallying for a 25-22 win despite getting outgained by the G-Men. Now, things appear to be looking up in Philly. Sure, the team is only 5-6 SU, a far cry from LY's record. But they're favored Monday night and a win would keep them within just one game of first place Dallas, who they'll play next week. At the very worst, the second Wild Card in the NFC is still in play as only five teams in the conference currently have more than six victories. But are we THAT sure the Eagles are back?
Washington's season seems to be trending in the opposite direction as Philly. They were in first place just two weeks ago, at 6-3 SU. But two losses later and there are more questions than answers. The biggest one is at the quarterback position where the team is still trying to get over the shock of losing Alex Smith for the rest of the season. I think veteran Colt McCoy has come in and played admirably though despite little time to prepare. He led two scoring drives in a 23-21 loss to Houston, then last week (on a very short turnaround) he completed 24 of 38 passes for 268 yards against Dallas (did have 3 INT's). I'm not convinced that this team is more than marginally worse w/ McCoy at QB than they were with Smith. Remember that Dallas defense just held Drew Brees in check!
Though it gave up 31 pts to a surging Cowboys team on Thanksgiving, the Redskins still have a pretty good defense. That defense seems to travel well too as it gives up just 19.2 PPG on the road. I would not be surprised if this is a low-scoring game, which obviously then favors the underdog. The Eagles have not been good in the favorite role this season, going just 2-7 ATS w/ five outright losses. They have also failed to cover five straight home games. The Redskins are 6-2 ATS as underdogs this year w/ five outright wins. So the respective roles seem to suit Washington much better. The Eagles did sweep the season series LY, but it's pretty clear they aren't as strong a team in 2018. Remember they are decimated by injuries in the secondary. The defense is also allowing a league worst 6.03 yards per rush the L6 wks. McCoy and Washington have also had plenty of time to prepare here, having not played since Thanksgiving. Take the points. 10* Washington
|12-02-18||Chargers v. Steelers -3||Top||33-30||Loss||-130||123 h 22 m||Show|
8* Pittsburgh (8:20 ET): Though slightly favored and at home, I get the sense that in the minds of the public, the Steelers are almost "underdogs" here. They lost last week, 24-17 at Denver. That loss came on the heels of what should be considered a very fortunate win at Jacksonville the week prior. However, investigating the box score from last week shows that the Steelers actually played well. They outgained the Broncos 527-308. The problem was they - specifically QB Ben Roethlisberger - could not protect the football and finished -4 in turnovers. It was a similar story w/ the escape in Jacksonville where they had a clear edge in total yds nearly undone by three TO's. Back at home Sunday night, I suspect the giveaways will cease. I'm going to lay the short number.
Looking at the Chargers season, a pretty clear pattern emerges. They've beaten up on a lot of bad teams: Wins have come against the Cardinals, Raiders twice, Titans, Browns, 49ers and Bills. They did win at Seattle, but also lost at home to Denver. Their other two losses were to the Rams and Chiefs, two of the best teams in the league. The Steelers are stronger on paper than any team LA has beaten all year. Here, the Chargers will be going into a hostile environment w/o their top running back, Melvin Gordon. This is a big deal. The Steelers defense has been very good this year, the last six games in particular. The 24 pts allowed LW were the most since September. But they barely allowed over 300 total yds. They allowed fewer than 300 total yds each of the previous five games!
For the year, the Steelers rank 6th in total defense. The Chargers are 9th, but have given up slightly less points (and done so against a far less challenging schedule). The Steelers give up slightly less yardage on a per play basis. The offenses are basically dead even in this matchup, but the Chargers take a major hit w/o RB Gordon. Remember that the last time the Steelers played at home, they absolutely destroyed Carolina, 52-21, and Big Ben had a near perfect passer rating. My call is that Roethlisberger cuts way down on the turnovers Sunday night and leads his team to a comfortable victory. Don't be surprised if he and fellow '04 Draft class alum Philip Rivers see each other again in the playoffs. 8* Pittsburgh
|12-02-18||Chiefs v. Raiders +15.5||Top||40-33||Win||100||119 h 0 m||Show|
8* Oakland (4:05 ET): This is obviously a real "hold your nose" and take the points kind of situation. Because of that, my analysis will be a little more brief than usual. That doesn't mean I like the play any less compared to any other normal selection, because I do like it quite a bit. It's just that there's little the Raiders or Chiefs have done this year that would convince rational minds that the former is the right side here. But this one is all about the number; testing the limits of how many points the public is willing to lay w/ a good team against a bad one, even if it is on the road. For me, this is an overlay. Take the points.
Over the last 30 seasons, Kansas City has been a double-digit road favorite just twice. Once was back in 1992 against a historically bad Seahawks team. The other time was LY against the Giants (who finished 3-13). They did not cover either game. In fact, they lost outright to the Giants, 12-9 in overtime! The spread for this matchup against the Raiders is almost unprecedented in nature, at least for the Chiefs. They've never been favored by two touchdowns on the road as far back as I have data (1989). Oakland has been a double digit home dog six times in the last 10 seasons. The last time was just three weeks ago and they lost to the Chargers 20-6. They were only 10-pt dogs then and even got out to an early lead. Total yardage was basically even in that game, the difference was the Raiders turning it over twice in the red zone.
The Raiders have never been a home dog of more than two touchdowns, so again, this line is somewhat unprecedented. Note ALL double digit home dogs have gone 82-65-5 ATS over the L30 seasons. There have only been 25 instances of a home team getting 14 or more points the L30 seasons and only one of those came since 2012. Kansas City is not w/o issue heading into this game. They will be w/o WR Sammy Watkins and RB Kareem Hunt finds himself embroiled in controversy after TMZ released video of him kicking and shoving a woman. Thus, his status for this game could be in doubt. Then you have a Chiefs defense that is surrendering 34.3 points and 457 yards per game on the road. They are allowing 6.7 yards per play. All those numbers rank near the bottom of the league. Oakland did win a game two weeks ago. So much for "brief analysis" ... I like this one! 8* Oakland
|12-02-18||Rams v. Lions +11||Top||30-16||Loss||-128||116 h 2 m||Show|
10* Detroit (1:00 ET): The Rams are one of the top teams in the league and coming off their bye. Those two factors alone guarantee a large spread. But remember that the last time we saw them, they were winning perhaps the greatest NFL regular season game ever played, 54-51 over the Chiefs. So it's really not a surprise to see them so heavily favored this week in Detroit. But, to me, the oddsmakers know what the public likes and this looks like a classic overlay. Just two weeks ago, Detroit was my *10* Game of the Week and upset a Carolina team that had won five of its previous seven games. The Lions are also off a bit of a "mini-bye" here having last played a game on Thanksgiving. They're too good to be getting double digits at home. Take the points.
Somewhat lost in the Rams' impressive 10-1 start to the season is that their heavily-hyped defense has been a clear disappointment. Twice in the last three weeks they've given up 45 or more points. Now those games were against the Saints & Chiefs, the two top offenses in the league. But they've also allowed 27 or more points in six of the last eight games. They allow a frightening 6.5 yards per play for the year and that number gets even higher when you factor out the first two teams they faced, Oakland and Arizona. So my point is that Detroit is going to be able to score plenty of points in this game. Add in what the oddsmakers are giving them & the Rams' offense will have to be at its best to cover this spread.
The Lions had to withstand a failed two-point attempt to beat Carolina two weeks ago, 20-19. Well, they also could have easily upset Chicago Thanksgiving. But Matt Stafford threw a pick-six in the 4Q to lose the game, 23-16. Now that was against an offense led by backup QB Chase Daniel. I realize the Lions offense is no longer the same w/o WR Golden Tate (traded) and RB Kerryon Johnson (questionable to play here). But Matt Patricia's defense turned in multiple strong efforts in November and I think will be highly motivated here. The Rams have been favored by double digits only one other time this year - Week 2 at home vs. Arizona. The last time they closed as DD road favorites was the "Greatest Show on Turf" days. Detroit has not been a DD home dog since '09, Matt Stafford's rookie season (year after they went 0-16 SU). 10* Detroit
|12-01-18||Georgia +13.5 v. Alabama||Top||28-35||Win||100||120 h 27 m||Show|
10* Georgia (4:00 ET): Alabama is in a bit of a unique position as they go for a 4th SEC Championship Game victory in the last five seasons (remember, they didn't play in LY's game despite going onto win the CFP). They really don't need to win this game to ensure a spot in the top four of the CFP rankings. Now, obviously they'll WANT to win the game (especially after not being involved last year) and Nick Saban doesn't allow for lookaheads, letdowns or anything else of that nature. But Georgia, easily the best team Bama has faced this year, does have to win Saturday to make the CFP. This is obviously a rematch of last year's National Title Game, which was won by Bama 26-23 in overtime. Now UGA will have to face QB Tua Tagovailoa for a full game and not just a half. The Tide are better this year, but I'm not sure they're 13 pts better than Georgia in what should be a very hostile environment (game played in Atlanta). I'll take the points!
Alabama is a perfect 4-0 SU vs. Georgia over the last decade, despite none of those games taking place in Tuscaloosa. Last year's win was obviously the most memorable of the quartet, given what was at stake. The game saw Bama spot UGA a 13-0 halftime led, but then came Tua and the rest is history. This Alabama team is probably Saban's best (which is saying something), but Georgia will also be its toughest opponent. I'm a contrarian by nature, but have stepped in front of this Bama train only once this season. It was w/ Mississippi State, who covered despite not scoring a single point.
Since suffering its only loss of the season (36-16 at LSU), Georgia has won all of its games by at least 17 points. The big story in that LSU loss was them being -4 in turnovers. This Georgia team isn't quite as strong as last year, but that's been accounted for by the oddsmakers. Last year's National Title Game had a 3.5-point spread. A 10-pt adjustment just seems like too much even after factoring in Bama being better and UGA being slightly worse. The key here is - unlike most of Bama's opponents this year - Georgia actually has an offense. The Dawgs average more than 40 PPG and while it's highly unlikely they'll get to that number Saturday afternoon, I believe they are certainly capable of scoring enough to cover this generous spread, which I did NOT expect to be in the double digits. If Bama was able to get up by more than the spread, I could certainly envision a "backdoor" scenario for the underdog. Either way, Georgia covers. 10* Georgia
|12-01-18||Texas v. Oklahoma -7.5||Top||27-39||Win||100||118 h 40 m||Show|
10* Oklahoma (12:00 ET): In the build for this game, you're likely to hear two trends spouted quite a bit. One, Texas has covered six straight times against Oklahoma, including a 48-45 upset as 7-pt underdogs earlier this year. Two, Longhorns HC Tom Herman is 12-1 ATS as a dog in his coaching career (including at Houston) w/ NINE outright upsets. So I expect UT to be quite the popular underdog this week. But it is Oklahoma w/ more to play for here as a win could (and should!) send the Sooners to the College Football Playoff. Then there is the revenge angle as they have a shot at avenging their lone regular season defeat. If they do so, that should impress the committee enough to ensure their place in the top four. I'll take it a step further and say that if OU wins big here (and I obviously think they can), then they deserve to jump Notre Dame for the #3 spot (won't happen though).
There is no doubt that Texas will enter this game w/ plenty of confidence. It is again at a neutral field and the L5 RRR's have all been decided by seven points or less. Instead of the traditional meeting place of the Cotton Bowl in Dallas (1st Saturday of every October), this time the rivals will play in nearby Arlington, in Cowboys Stadium. Given the stakes, a case can be made for this being one of the most important OU-Texas games EVER. It's a spot I'm not sure the Longhorns are ready for. Sure, they almost always play close games (9 of their 12 reg season games decided by less than 7 pts, went 6-3 SU). But this is a team that lost to both Oklahoma State and Maryland. Though they did score a season-high 48 pts in the upset of OU back in October, I'm just not convinced that the Longhorns can must up the type of offensive performance necessary to keep pace here. The fast track of "Jerry World" will definitely favor Oklahoma.
Oklahoma leads the country w/ 50.3 points and 584 yards per game. They've scored at least 45 pts in every game but two, one of which was Army basically playing "keep away." They've scored more than 50 five of the last six weeks. Both teams had close calls last week w/ OU outlasting WVU 59-56 and Texas only beating Kansas 24-17. In the regular season meeting, note that while the Sooners did fall behind by as many as 21 points, they were -3 in turnovers and still rallied to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Led by sensational QB Kyler Murray, they are definitely the better team here and actually undervalued. "Boomer Sooner" should pull off a "statement win" for the committee. Lay the points. 10* Oklahoma
|12-01-18||UL-Lafayette v. Appalachian State -17.5||Top||19-30||Loss||-107||117 h 27 m||Show|
8* Appalachian State (12:00 ET): App State is one of the larger favorites on Conference Championship Saturday, but the spread was actually higher when they face Louisiana in the regular season. A lot higher. In fact, the Mountaineers were bet all the way up to -26 against the Ragin Cajuns, a game they only won by 10 points (27-17). This rematch also takes place in Boone w/ the Sun Belt title now on the line. To me, App State has clearly been the class of the SBC all season long, losing only one conference game and it was Thursday night, on the road. I can't help but think that the oddsmakers have overadjusted their line for this Title Game as I don't think Louisiana is eight points better now than they were a month ago nor is App State eight points worse. The spread shouldn't have been near four touchdowns again, but three (meaning a 21-pt spread) certainly would have been appropriate. The value is on the favorite here.
This is the first ever Sun Belt Conference Championship Game as the league split into two divisions for the 1st time this year. Appalachian State was expected to be here and largely handled its business during the regular season. They went 9-2 SU and 8-3 ATS. Besides the Thursday night loss at Georgia Southern, the only other SU loss was an overtime game against Penn State all the way back in the season opener. Louisiana is a bit of a surprise entrant, having won the more wide open West Division w/ a 5-3 SU conference record (went 7-5 SU overall). They clinched their spot here w/ a 31-28 upset of LA Monroe last Saturday. While App State outscored Sun Belt teams by 147 points this year, Louisiana was only +24. In fact, the Ragin Cajuns were actually outscored over the course of their entire 2018 season. They are - pretty easily - the worst team playing in a Conference Title Game this weekend.
Both of these offenses can score and certainly run the ball effectively. App State paces only slightly ahead of Louisiana in both metrics, averaging 37.3 points and 242 rush yds per contest (compared to Louisana's 33.7 and 230). But the key to this game lies on the defensive side of the ball. In eight conference games, ASU surrendered only 108 total points. They've allowed an average of just 15.4 PPG this year and didn't allow more than 17 in any of their nine wins. Louisiana allows 34.0 PPG for the season. When it comes to stopping the run (will be very important in this game!), ASU has allowed only 11 rushing TD's this year compared to 30 for Louisiana. Then there is the homefield advantage. ASU is 5-0 SU in Boone, winning by an average of 31.8 PPG! It should be noted that they led the Ragin Cajuns 27-10 in the regular season meeting before giving up a TD w/ just over a minute to go. This one won't be nearly as close. 8* Appalachian State
|11-30-18||Northern Illinois v. Buffalo -3.5||Top||30-29||Loss||-100||28 h 15 m||Show|
10* Northern Illinois (7:00 ET): Northern Illinois is no stranger to the MAC Title Game. This will be their seventh appearance in the last nine years and they've won three of the previous six times here. It didn't always look like a clear path for the Huskies to arrive again in 2018 and a poor finish to the regular season (upset in each of last two games) undeniably affected their stock heading into this game. But this is a team that took on a challenging non-conference sked w/ games against Utah, Florida State, Iowa and BYU. So that helps explain the difference in overall records with them and MAC East Champ Buffalo. The NIU offense is by no means pretty, but the defense is the MAC's best and allows only 2.6 yards per carry. In what shapes up as a low-scoring Championship Game, taking the points only seems logical.
While Northern Illinois went 7-5 SU and 6-6 ATS in the regular season, Buffalo was 10-2 SU and 9-3 ATS. HC Lance Leipold has engineered a tremendous turnaround here with a team that won only two games two years ago. While improvement was expected here '18, few expected the Bulls to get this far. Most of their games this season were not close affairs w/ only two (both wins) decided by 7 pts or fewer. Both times Buffalo lost this year, they were beaten badly. Once was to Army, 42-13 as a seven-point home favorite. The other was one of my favorite plays of the season - when I took Ohio as a 2-pt dog to beat them and beat them the Bobcats did, 52-17. Buffalo is making just its second MAC Title Game appearance ever, the last one coming in 2008.
Both teams sport outstanding defenses and while UB looks to have a decided edge on offense, I still give the dog an excellent job at pulling off the outright upset. Northern Illinois played - by far - the tougher schedule. Other than Toledo, Buffalo's resume contains little to no "quality" wins. While these teams didn't meet in the regular season, NIU did win at Buffalo last year. When looking at NIU's two game losing streak, be aware that they had nothing to play for in either game, having already sewn up the MAC West. I think Buffalo's two losses were more telling as the offense was contained both games, something I believe NIU can do here. The Huskies allowed 17 pts or fewer in half their games. One final thing to watch out for: no team has had more field goals (7) or punts (3) blocked than Buffalo. Northern Illinois is one of the top teams in the country at blocking kicks. 8* Northern Illinois
|11-29-18||Saints v. Cowboys +8||Top||10-13||Win||100||51 h 22 m||Show|
10* Dallas (8:20 ET): Anyone who has chosen to step in front of this Saints' train has been unsuccessful at the end of the day. Well, that's technically not true. I successfully played against them back in Week 1 when they lost outright, as 10-pt home favorites, 48-40 to Tampa Bay. But since then, they're a perfect 10-0 SU and ATS, ascending to the top of everyone's power rankings. If we're being honest, I've played against them the L2 wks, thinking they were laying too many points. Last week against Atlanta, they covered by a single point in a 31-17 victory. It should be pointed out that the Falcons lost THREE fumbles inside the red zone, which was basically the difference in the game. A game where they actually outgained the Saints, 366-312. At the very least, the -3 turnover margin cost Atlanta the cover.
All of a sudden, Dallas appears to be in the drivers seat in the NFC East. They are 6-5 SU, tied w/ Washington (who they just beat) and one game up on Philadelphia (who they beat three weeks ago). They are my favorite to win the division as of now. Three straight wins have totally turned this team's season around. You have to be careful about too much stock into a relatively small sample size, but there is no denying that the Cowboys are peaking at the right time. Two of the team's three best offensive performances (in terms of points scored) have come in the last three games. Key has been the addition of WR Amari Cooper, who had 180 yds receiving last week. QB Dak Prescott has completed 70% of his passes during the win streak w/ no interceptions.
It's a big break for Dallas getting the Saints outside of New Orleans. Yes, the Saints are unbeaten on the road, but the Cowboys are 4-1 SU at home, outscoring opponents by more than a TD per game. The Dallas defense has actually played well all season, giving up just 19.4 PPG. They'll obviously be tested severely by the Saints' offense here, but I think the 'Boys can limit them as the most pts they've allowed all season is 28. Just like the last couple weeks, I believe this is an overlay w/ New Orleans, who is due to play a close game. Expect a steady dose of Ezekiel Elliott from Dallas to control the clock. The Cowboys have not been a home dog of more than seven points since facing the Patriots in 2015. Meanwhile, New Orleans has actually not been favored on the road by more than a TD since 2013 (did not cover). 10* Dallas
|11-26-18||Titans v. Texans -3.5||Top||17-34||Win||100||11 h 8 m||Show|
8* Houston (8:20 ET): Back in Week 2, these teams met and the Titans won 20-17 in Nashville. But a lot has changed since then. Houston actually started 0-3, but is now 7-3 SU and leads the division. I've got them favored in all but one of their remaining games (Week 16 at Philadelphia), so there's a pretty clear path for them to win the AFC South. But the first order of business is exacting some revenge on Tennessee. The Texans actually outgained the Titans 437-238 in that first meeting, so a case could be made that they were the better team that day. The game was decided by a Ryan Succop 31-yard field goal w/ one minute remaining. I don't see the Texans' seven-game win streak getting snapped Monday night. Lay the short number.
It was two weeks ago that the Titans treated me quite nicely. They upset the Patriots, 34-10 as 6.5-pt underdogs. But that was at home. It was also the third straight Titans game I'd cashed a winning ticket. I had them plus the points in a cover vs. the Chargers (over in London) and also the Over when they appeared on MNF vs. Dallas two weeks ago. They beat the Cowboys 28-14 and then came another upset (over the Patriots). But just as the team seemed to be hitting its stride under 1st year HC Mike Vrabel, they laid a complete egg last week in a 38-10 loss at Indianapolis. This offense hasn't been particularly effective this year (28th in scoring) and only averages 16.3 PPG on the road. For me, the status of QB Marcus Mariota (elbow) is largely irrelevant to this play. (Though it would be nice to go against Blaine Gabbert.
Houston hasn't exactly beaten a "murderer's row" during this 7-game win streak of theirs and all but two wins have been by 7 pts or less. But I think this has the potential to be one of their bigger wins - in terms of margin of victory - all year. This Titans offense really shouldn't scare anyone (check numbers above), but especially a Texans defense which is giving up just 19.7 PPG at home and has a top 10 pass rush. While both of these defenses are top six in yards per game allowed, Houston has a huge edge offensively. I realize that the Titans beat the Texans w/o Mariota back in Week 2, but with or w/o him here, I can't see them pulling off what would be their first season sweep of the Texans in a decade. 8* Houston
|11-25-18||Patriots v. Jets +10||Top||27-13||Loss||-105||38 h 49 m||Show|
10* NY Jets (1:00 ET): With the Patriots off both a loss (a bad one to the Titans) and a bye, the expection here will be for them to win in a blowout. The 3-7 Jets have little to play for, though they too are off their bye and a bad loss before it. Their offense is averaging less than 11 PPG during a four game losing streak. Before the bye, they were crushed 41-10 by a Bills team starting Matt Barkley at QB, as a 7-pt home favorite no less. Then again, the Patriots certainly didn't look the part of a 6.5-pt road favorite when they were soundly beaten by Tennessee, 34-10, two weeks ago. This line has all the makings of an overlay as New England has struggled away from home this year and this rivalry has a history of close games. Take the points.
The past five meetings here at MetLife Stadium have all been decided by seven points or less w/ the Jets winning outright twice. Despite winning only two of the past 10 meetings overall, the Jets have managed to go 8-2 ATS, so the Patriots are consistently overvalued in this rivalry. New England is 0-5 ATS the L5 visits here and has certainly struggled on the road this year w/ bad losses to Jacksonville, Detroit and Tennessee. The only road win this year that came by more than seven points was against the hapless Bills and even that game saw the offense get held to just four field goals through three quarters. Down 18-6, Buffalo was driving late in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game. But the Patriots got a fortunate pick-six from Derek Anderson to seal the game.
The Titans provided a nice blueprint for how to beat New England. Clearly, it involves forcing Tom Brady out of the pocket and making him uncomfortable. This Jets defense should be able to do that, although it hasn't forced a single turnover the L4 weeks. The key will be whether or not the Jets can score enough points. It looks like Josh McCown may start at QB as rookie Sam Darnold is still hurt. I wouldn't mind the move anyway considering Darnold's stuggles so far. But what I most lean on is the fact that my power rankings have this spread at 7.5, making the Jets the biggest value bet on the board this season. 10* NY Jets
|11-25-18||49ers v. Bucs -2.5||Top||9-27||Win||100||38 h 48 m||Show|
8* Tampa Bay (1:00 ET): The Bucs' offense has managed to gain more than 1,000 yds the last two weeks, yet somehow managed to lose both games. That "somehow" can be directly traced to eight turnovers and a QB carousel that has reached almost preposterous proportions. For those keeping score at home, it will be Jameis Winston starting this week. Winston was suspended for the first four games this season and Ryan Fitzpatrick did pretty well in his place. Well, at least for two games. Then Fitzmagic ran out of tricks, which happened to be the first game Winston was eligible to return. Unfortunately, "Famous Jameis" was no better than a struggling Fitzpatrick so Dirk Koetter (a desperate HC, if there ever was one) went back to Fitzpatrick. That didn't last long as Fitzpatrick was bad last week and was removed for Winston, who ALMOST led a big comeback against the Giants.
As sad as this all sounds, I expect the Winston-led Bucs to play well this week. We know the offense can move the ball (and even sometimes score). Two weeks ago, TB had one of the more confounding box scores in recent memory as they outgained Washington 501-286, yet lost 16-3. (They were -4 in turnovers). Last week, they outgained the Giants 510-359, yet were again -4 in TO's and lost 38-35 (at one point, trailed by 17). But with Winston under center, the offense scored touchdowns on four consecutive drives. Winston completed 12 of 16 passes for 199 yards. He did throw one INT, but w/ 23 seconds remaining. Bottom line is that Winston is going to be the more consistent option for the Bucs QB, at least for the rest of 2018.
I think San Francisco, specifically QB Nick Mullens, is still getting too much residual credit for one performance against the terrible Raiders. The follow-up act wasn't very good as the Niners lost at home to the Giants, 27-23. Mullens wasn't nearly as good the second time around, throwing a couple of picks. Mullens is of course the third different starting QB for San Fran after both Garoppolo and Beatherd were lost to season-ending injuries. The Niners have yet to win a road game this year, largely due to giving up over 28 PPG. Two things really work in Tampa Bay's favor here. One is the game is at home where they're a more respectable 2-2 SU this year. Number two is while the Bucs have the most TO's in the league, San Fran has the fewest takeaways. 8* Tampa Bay
|11-24-18||Kansas State +13.5 v. Iowa State||Top||38-42||Win||100||30 h 19 m||Show|
10* Kansas State (7:00 ET): I think it might shock a lot of people to find out that Kansas State has beaten Iowa State 10 straight times. However, during that win streak it's been the Cyclones covering the majority of the games. The team from Ames has covered each of the last four meetings, which have been decided by a total of 13 points. With the setup here being so contradictory to past history, I suspect the result will be too. The most likely result here is an Iowa State win, but failure to cover. Both of these teams are better suited when in the underdog role. For Iowa State, they are in an emotional letdown spot after losing at home to Texas last week. That defeat ended any hope of the Cyclones playing for a Big XII Championship.
Even last season when Iowa State was overachieving to get to 8-5 SU, they lost in Manhattan, 20-19 as a 2-pt dog. Now, they did lose RB Montgomery to an injury and gave up the game-winning TD w/ no time remaining on the clock. Certainly, they'll be out for revenge, but it's tough to like this team as such an overwhelming favorite. They are just 1-2 ATS so far when laying points in Ames and that one cover was a bit of a lucky one as they got a garbage-time TD against Texas Tech. The 26-14 loss to Texas last Saturday night could certainly have put a "damper" on the Cyclones' collective spirits as I think playing for a Big XII Championship was far more important to this group than getting revenge against Kansas State.
Another reason to like the points here is that the game figures to be so low-scoring. Just look at the O/U line. Both teams come in w/ top 25 defenses. Kansas State has been blown out three times this year, but only by top 15 teams (Miss St, WVU, Oklahoma). They are 5-0 ATS as a dog otherwise, including two outright wins, one of them coming last week against Texas Tech. The Wildcats have done a good job getting to the cusp of bowl eligibility and need a win here to get to the postseason. So they won't go down w/o a fight for HC Snyder. The last three games have seen this Wildcats' defense allow an average of just 12.3 PPG. Iowa State is only outscoring its opponents by 4.5 PPG this season. The dog should be the more motivated side and has history on its side, knowing that it has dominated this rivalry. 10* Kansas State
|11-24-18||Pittsburgh v. Miami-FL -5.5||Top||3-24||Win||100||91 h 53 m||Show|
10* Miami FL (3:30 ET): All signs point towards "the U" getting the job done here. Sure, they'd lost four in a row before last week's convincing 38-14 over Virginia Tech. And they were on a 5-game ATS losing streak as well. Opponent Pitt arrives in the Coral Gables finale riding a four-game (SU) win streak and has covered five in a row. But let's look at the situation as opposed to recent form. The situation will call for some major revenge to be exacted as the Canes, ranked #2 in the entire country at the time, were upended 24-14 LY at Heinz Field (at Pittsburgh), ending their own 10-game unbeaten run (it was their 1st loss of the season and the start of a three-game slide to end the year). Just like Pitt here, Miami knew it was already ACC Championship Game bound. They were also severely beat up and down multiple key offensive playmakers. Miami gets its revenge (and them some) Saturday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
So Pitt has the disadvantage of coming into this game knowing full well it has a huge date set w/ #2 (and unbeaten) Clemson (sound familiar?) next week in the ACC Championship Game. They clinched that spot by going on the road last Saturday and beating Wake Forest, 34-13 as 5.5-pt chalk. They were down at the half, 10-6, but outscored the Demon Deacons 28-3 after that w/ QB Kenny Pickett throwing three touchdowns and a career-best 316 yards. It was just the second road win of the year for the Panthers as this is still the only FBS team to lose to North Carolina this season. That loss seems like its "eons ago" as Pat Narduzzi's team has "circled the wagons" to win 5 of its last 6 games.
Just to illustrate how no one saw Pitt coming; last week was just the second time they'd been favored since September. They're back to the more customary role of dog here, as they should be. Miami has been favored in every game this season, so they've been a disappointment. But it doesn't mean that the Hurricanes still aren't the better team here. I have them, not Pitt, ranked as the top team in the Coastal and the 2nd best team in the ACC overall. In fact, I don't have Pitt ranked in my top 40 teams in the country! After four straight tough losses, we finally saw what Miami was capable of last week in a 38-14 destruction of Va Tech, in Blacksburg no less. The defense shut the Hokies out completely in the 2nd half and QB Perry was responsible for 3 TDs. Remembering what Pitt did to them in 2017, Miami will be ready this year, particularly their defense which is giving up only 14.8 PPG at home. 10* Miami
|11-24-18||SMU v. Tulsa +3||Top||24-27||Win||100||27 h 49 m||Show|
8* Tulsa (3:30 ET): This line absolutely reeks and it's almost as if the oddsmakers are begging you to lay the points w/ SMU. The Ponies were kind to us a few weeks ago when - as a two touchdown UNDERDOG - they beat Houston by 14 points. At the time, I noted in the analysis that this was a team on the rise and sure enough they followed that win up w/ a 62-point effort against hapless UConn. But things didn't go nearly as well when I packed them last week as they lost at home to Memphis, 28-18. That leaves SMU needing a win here against 2-win Tulsa to become bowl eligible. Laying a field goal or less sounds like an ideal situation, but this has all the makings of a trap game and I'm going to call for the Golden Hurricane to pull the upset! Take the points.
Tulsa's only conference win came against UConn. It's also their only win against a FBS opponent all year. But it's not as if the Golden Hurricane haven't been competitive at times this year. They lost at Texas by only a touchdown. I've played them only once and it was an easy cover on a Friday night vs. USF, a game they led most of the way and probably should have won. Since losing that game, it's been a downhill slide, but believe it or not, Tulsa has actually been outscored by fewer points per game than SMU has this season. Last week against Navy, they had trouble stopping the triple option, but it's a very different type of offense that they'll be going up against this week. At home, Tulsa has been far more competitive this year, having both the edge in scoring and total yardage over the opposition.
I believe the Golden Hurricane will be able to run the ball effectively in this matchup. They already run for over 200 yards per game and as we saw last week, the SMU defense is very shaky against the run. They're giving up over 200 YPG on the ground, which is 102nd in the country. Tulsa's run defense is actually worse, but SMU doesn't like to run the ball that much, so that won't be that big of an issue Saturday afternoon. SMU's defense gives up 36.0 PPG for the year and 42.4 PPG on the road. The home team has won three straight in this conference rivalry and SMU has not covered either time it was a favorite this year. Look for Tulsa to treat this is as "their bowl game" and shock a lot of people. 8* Tulsa
|11-24-18||Wyoming v. New Mexico +7||Top||31-3||Loss||-115||26 h 50 m||Show|
8* New Mexico (2:30 ET): Wyoming pulled off an improbable cover last Saturday, scoring three late touchdowns (all in the final 4:32) to win 35-27 as 2.5-point home favorites. As far as the betting window was concerned, the decisive TD came with 45 seconds left after an Air Forxe turnover. Full disclosure: I had Air Force. So there's obviously an emotional component to me wanting to fade Wyoming a second straight week. But there's also a lot of numbers-based logic as this is still a bad team, one that has problems scoring (19.7 PPG) and they are barely inside my top 100 teams in the country. I realize that they need this game to become bowl eligible, but so do the oddsmakers and as a result we have an inflated number. Take the points w/ New Mexico here.
The Lobos are only playing for pride in this final regular season game. Bob Davie's team comes into Saturday's last home game as losers of six in a row and at 4-7 SU overall. But if you recall, earlier this month, I cashed them plus the points here in Albuquerque against San Diego State. They actually led the Aztecs much of the way before wilting late in the fourth quarter. This is a much weaker foe that they're getting this week and there should be some level of motivation based on it being the final home game for the outgoing Senior Class. Over the L6 games, New Mexico has had to play the top four teams in the Mountain West - Utah State, Fresno State, San Diego State and last week, Boise State. So the losing skid doesn't really bother me. I still believe this line ought to be closer to a pick 'em.
Wyoming was a much better team last year when they beat New Mexico 42-3. That game was also in Laramie and they had Josh Allen at QB. The last time they visited New Mexico, their defense allowed a school-record 568 yards rushing. This is a defense that still doesn't have suspended DT Youhanna Ghaifan and gave up 362 yards rushing to Air Force. The offense's inability to score will catch up with it here. The late flurry against Air Force is not indicative of Wyoming's season. They also lost their starting QB and RB to injury last week! The Cowboys' three-game win streak has come exclusively against teams w/ losing records and while New Mexico fits that same bill, they should be competitive in this spot and cover the spread in a low-scoring affair. 8* New Mexico
|11-23-18||East Carolina v. Cincinnati -19||Top||6-56||Win||100||72 h 2 m||Show|
8* Cincinnati (3:30 ET): Each team here experienced a result last week that they're not very used to. For East Carolina, it was a win and a definitive one at that, 55-21 over sorry UConn (Pirates were -17.5). Consider ECU had been favored only one other time against a FBS foe this season and they didn't cover, beating Old Dominion by just two points. Cincinnati, meanwhile, is off a humbling setback at the hands of unbeaten UCF. Luke Fickell's Bearcats were in the wrong place at the wrong time Saturday night as ESPN College Gameday was in Orlando and it was a raucous atmosphere, leading to a 38-13 defeat. Still, it was just Cincy's second loss of the season and for East Carolina, last week was only their third win of the season. So that's the backdrop heading into this regular season finale.
East Carolina has nothing left to play for as bowl eligibilty is out the window. They did give the Seniors a nice win in the final home game, so I can just assume that this game will carry little priority for the Pirates, who have played better than the record shows, but that's of little consequence as they head to a third straight three-win season under HC Scottie Montgomery. The road has been unkind to the Pirates as they're 0-3 SU away from Greenville, averaging only 12.3 PPG. This looks like a total mismatch facing a Bearcats team that is 5-0 SU at home, winning by an average margin of 26 PPG. Cincy has a very good defense (they allow only 17.0 PPG) and I just don't see how East Carolina is going to score very much in this game.
Though they lost by 25 pts on the scoreboard, I thought Cincinnati played a lot better against UCF than the final score showed. Total yardage was relatively even and while one of the Bearcats two scores came from the defense, it was their own three turnovers that killed any chance of winning. While it might sound tough to recoup from a loss like that, playing for a 10-win season is certainly a big enough deal. The Bearcats also have some payback on the mind after they suffered a humiliating defeat LY in Greenville, 48-20 as three-point favorites. But that was when the Pirates had Gardner Minshew at QB and he's now plying his trade in greener pastures for Wazzu. Minshew threw for 444 yds in LY's meeting, at the time a career-high for him. He's not around anymore to save ECU. 8* Cincinnati
|11-23-18||Nebraska v. Iowa -9.5||Top||28-31||Loss||-110||69 h 33 m||Show|
10* Iowa (12:00 ET): The Scott Frost era obviously got off to a dubious beginning w/ the first ever 0-6 start in Lincoln. Tip your cap for the way Frost has been able to right the Nebraska ship over the last month w/ the Cornhuskers winning four of their last five games, the only loss coming at Ohio State. They are also now on a seven-game ATS win streak. Truthfully, things were never as bad as they looked w/ four of the team's seven losses this year coming by five points or less. Next year, Nebraska will be able to make waves in the Big 10 West. But it's still 2018 and my power rankings aren't quite that impressed with this Cornhuskers team. Meanwhile, they (meaning power rankings) love Iowa, who also happens to be far better than its record shows. I have zero hesitation about laying the points Friday afternoon in Iowa City in what is my favorite spot of the year!
Outside the top 6-7 teams in the country, it's a real "crapshoot" ranking who the best teams are in College Football this year. I think there are a number of 4-loss teams deserving of being called one of the top 15 in the country and I happen to count Iowa among them. Three of the Hawkeyes' four losses have been in one-score games, the exception being a Sat night home game vs. Wisconsin where they actually led going into the 4th quarter and gave up a "meaningless" TD in the final 30 seconds to lose by 11. Last weekend, the Hawkeyes snapped a three-game losing streak in resounding fashion by handing Illinois its worst defeat in program history, 63-0. That was on the road, mind you.
While Iowa was busy winning 63-0, Nebraska squeaked out a very ugly 9-6 win over Michigan State. All three field goals came in the 4th quarter on drives that never exceeded 36 yards or seven plays. Thus, it's pretty difficult to imagine this Cornhuskers' offense doing much of anything against an even stingier Iowa defense. (More on that in a second).
This game is in Iowa City and the home folk should be fired up. The Hawkeyes have beaten the Cornhuskers three straight years, the last two wins both coming by double digits. Nebraska has not won a road game all season, going 0-4 and allowing 41.7 PPG. While Iowa has somehow lost twice this year in Kinnick Stadium, they're giving up an average of just 11.0 points in six games here. Take away that late Wisconsin TD and no visitor has scored more than 21 pts here with five being held to 14 points or less. An impressive win here could land the Hawkeyes in a more marquee bowl game next month. As a favorite this year, Iowa is 7-1 SU and ATS. Plus they have covered six of the last eight times they've been a 3.5 to 10 pt favorite. To me, Iowa is definitely the best team in the Big 10 West this year. 10* Iowa
|11-22-18||Falcons +13.5 v. Saints||Top||17-31||Loss||-115||53 h 35 m||Show|
8* Atlanta (8:20 ET): Playing against the Saints can be hazardous to one's health these days and I found that out the hard way on Sunday as I made the big-time mistake of taking the Eagles. New Orleans beat the Super Bowl Champs 48-7 (game did stay Under!) as seven-point favorites to improve to 9-1 SU/8-2 ATS on the season. They've covered eight in a row, a streak that probably has them on top of everyone's power rankings (I know they're #1 in mine). But as great as the Saints are, this is a pretty insane number for them to be laying against the division rival Falcons. Obviously an adjustment had to be made by the oddsmakers after last week's result, but I don't think for a second that Atlanta is six points worse than Philly. In fact, they're a better team at the stage of the game.
I can say the Falcons are better than the Eagles, but the reality is both teams are 4-6 SU. That said, the Falcons are better and have the benefit of already playing the Saints earlier in the year. Now they lost, 43-37, but were actually 1.5-pt favorites in that game and it went to overtime. Atlanta even had the lead late before Drew Brees tied the game up w/ a 7-yd TD run w/ just over a minute to go in regulation, capping an 81-yard drive. That was in Week 3 and the Saints haven't lost or failed to cover a game since. But I don't think the Falcons should be considered a full touchdown worse now than they were in September. Sure, they've lost six games, but four of those were by six points or fewer.
Sunday's 22-19 home loss to Dallas was pretty brutal for the Falcons as they now probably have to win out to have any shot at making the playoffs. I certainly don't think the team is just going to roll over and quit, not after coming back from a 19-9 deficit to tie the game against the Cowboys and not against their biggest division rival in a national TV game. Losing each of the last two weeks (as favorites) has definitely inflated this number along w/ the Saints winning ways. But this Falcons team is rarely an underdog (happened only twice this season) and they've never been getting more than 3.5 pts against any other opponent. There have been only four times in the Matt Ryan era (2008-) where they've been a double digit dog and they've covered every time. 8* Atlanta
|11-22-18||Redskins +7.5 v. Cowboys||Top||23-31||Loss||-115||49 h 2 m||Show|
10* Washington (4:30 ET): In the span of roughly one hour last Sunday, the entire landscape of the NFC East changed. The Redskins, who came into the day w/ a 6-3 SU record and in first place, lost starting QB Alex Smith for the rest of the season due to a gruesome leg injury. That's not all they lost on Sunday though as they also dropped a game to the Houston Texans, 23-21 at home. While that was taking place, the Cowboys came from behind to beat the Falcons (in Atlanta), 22-19, for a second straight HUGE road win (won at Philly the week prior). Now the perception is that the division is Dallas' to lose and because of the Smith injury, they're big favorites on Thanksgiving Day. I think this line is a classic overreaction to an injury and will grab the points w/ Washington.
My own power rankings indicate this should be about a 4-point spread. I don't think that going from Smith to Colt McCoy at QB should move the line much, if at all, and certainly not by more than a field goal. I thought McCoy came in and played well against the Texans, considering the circumstances. TE Jordan Reed became a bigger part of the passing game w/ McCoy under center. McCoy entered when Washington was down 10 and engineered two scoring drives to get his team the lead for a brief time. You also have to remember that Washington has a pretty good defense, one that allows just 19.8 PPG. The only teams to score more than 23 pts against the Redskins this year are the Saints & Falcons.
Dallas lost the first meeting w/ Washington, 20-17, thanks to the usual Jason Garrett ineptitude and a missed FG on the final play. I am very interested to see how the Cowboys perform here on the heels of two big upset wins on the road. They've failed to cover each of the last three times they've been favored, losing two of the games outright. This will be the most points they've been asked to lay in any game so far this season and it comes against a division rival that's already beaten them once before. The Cowboys offense is only averaging 20.3 PPG, so in what should be a low-scoring division game, taking the points sure seems like the way to go. The Redskins are a money-making 6-1 ATS as underdogs already this season. 10* Washington
|11-22-18||Colorado State v. Air Force -14||Top||19-27||Loss||-110||48 h 3 m||Show|
10* Air Force (3:30 ET): The Flyboys fell victim to one of the worst beats of the year Saturday in Laramie. Since I was on them, allow me to recount the tale of woe. Up 27-14 on Wyoming (w/ just under five minutes remaining), the Falcons were getting 2.5 and managed to blow the cover. They allowed three touchdowns to a Wyoming offense that had lost BOTH its starting QB and RB early in the game. The final score (27 yard run) came with less than a minute to go in a situation where a simple tackle would have ended the game (and there should have been holding called on Wyoming anyway). That loss cost the AFA any shot of being bowl eligible, putting them in a pretty tough spot Thanksgiving afternoon. But fortunately for them, the opponent is in just as bad a situation, if not worse.
Colorado State almost pulled off what would have been a shocking upset of #23 Utah State Saturday night. At home, they came from behind and scored what appeared to be the game-winning TD w/ no time left on a 34-yard throw from QB Collin Hill to WR Preston Williams. Unfortuantely, upon further review, the touchdown was negated when it was ruled Williams had stepped out of bounds before catching the ball. For the Rams, playing their final home game, a win would have been the highlight of a lost season. Instead, it just became their fourth straight loss and eighth defeat of this season. This was a team I played against multiple times early in the year as I felt this would be a down year in Ft. Collins. Now I'll look to conclude by fading them in the final regular season game.
To me, this spread needs to be closer to three touchdowns rather than two. Air Force has won the L2 battles for the Ram-Falcon Trophy, including a 45-28 upset (as 10-pt dogs) in Ft. Collins LY. As you can tell from the spread, Colo State is a significantly weaker team in 2018. While the Rams did outgain Utah State LW, 506-310, that was at home. On the road, CSU has been a disaster, giving up 45.6 PPG and I'm just going to assume their defense will want no part of the AFA rushing attack in a meaningless game. Air Force has run for over 800 yds in the L2 games and is +14.2 PPG in Colorado Springs this year. While bowl eligibility is off the table, at least they can send the Seniors out w/ a win in the final home game. 10* Air Force
|11-20-18||Ball State +17.5 v. Miami-OH||Top||21-42||Loss||-110||11 h 54 m||Show|
8* Ball State (7:00 ET): Miami, Ohio has done a nice job working its way not only to the cusp of bowl eligibility, but also into the race for the MAC East. When the RedHawks were 3-6 SU, their postseason hopes looked bleak. But a couple of upsets later, they're now in the discussion for the MAC Championship Game. Granted, it's unlikely they can get to Detroit (would require not only a win Tuesday, but a Buffalo loss to Bowling Green on Friday). But the RedHawks certainly have "everything to play for" this week, namely bowl eligibility. They're at home facing a bad Ball State team, but I think this number is inflated. Take the points.
Ball State pulled an upset of its own last Wednesday, theirs coming over Western Michigan on Senior Night, an emotional game in Muncie that went to overtime. The final score was 42-41 and the Cardinals were a 9.5-point underdog. They won by stopping what would have been a game-winning 2-pt conversion. In addition to it being Senior Night, the Cardinals were also off a bye last week, so the situation was definitely favorable. It's obviously less so here, but I was very impressed w/ the job done by QB Drew Plitt against Western Michigan as he threw three touchdowns and only five incompletions in just his second career start (but sixth appearance this year).
Miami might have everything to play for here, but let's see how they perform as a favorite and a large one at that. The RedHawks are 7-1 ATS the L8 games, the lone non-cover coming by a single point against Buffalo. But they've been a favorite only twice during that stretch and never by anywhere close to this many points. Then you have the fact they were a bit of a lucky winner last week, pulling the 13-7 upset at Northern Illinois despite just 201 total yds of offense. The winning score was a pick-six. The RedHawks averaged just 2.3 yards per carry on offense while NIU averaged 5.7. It was a game Miami should feel lucky to have won. In yet another game where points should be at a premium, backing the big underdog seems logical. 8* Ball State
|11-19-18||Chiefs v. Rams -3||Top||51-54||Push||0||11 h 4 m||Show|
10* LA Rams (8:20 ET): I have to say that I'm kind of shocked to see how "trendy" an underdog Kansas City is in this spot. I understand that the Chiefs are one of the league's top teams and they are a perfect 3-0 ATS as underdogs this year. Overall, they've covered 8 of 10 games this season, giving them the best ATS record in the league. But have we forgotten how good the Rams are? The Rams have been favored in every game this season and while they've shown some "cracks" defensively in recent weeks, that's nothing compared to the issues on that side of the ball for Kansas City. The Chiefs rank 30th in the league in yards per game and eventually that's going to catch up with them. Facing a top three scoring offense seems like a likely place. Lay the points.
The Rams also get a break here in that this game was originally set to take place in Mexico City, but had to be moved to LA due to poor field conditions. So the Rams now get an added game at home where they are already 5-0 and outscoring opponents by 12 PPG. Unlike most Chiefs' opponents, the Rams have an offense that can trade points here. The respective scoring averages from the two offenses here are very similar. Remember that the only team to beat the Rams was insanely hot New Orleans and that was a 45-35 game in the Superdome. The Rams have played a much tougher slate of games than the Chiefs recently and the one loss, coupled with some close calls, have contributed to the public perception that they're not as "hot" right now. While they're 1-5 ATS the L6 games, I think that's nonsense.
Since losing to the Patriots, Kansas City has played: Cincinnati, Denver, Cleveland and Arizona - all teams w/ losing records and only the Cleveland game was on the road. The Chiefs' offense was surprisingly held to a season-low 26 points last week, by the Cardinals of all teams. While Kansas City has been pretty lethal as an underdog (8-2 ATS w/ seven outright wins L10 times), this is their toughest game of the season. The Rams played theirs two weeks ago and while they came up short, I still have them rated as the better team here. Thus, now at home, I'll gladly lay a short number. Kansas City's defensive issues will catch up with them here. 10* LA Rams
|11-18-18||Vikings v. Bears -1||Top||20-25||Win||100||26 h 57 m||Show|
8* Chicago (8:20 ET): I think it would be fair to say that there's a sense a skepticism concerning the pro football team from the Windy City. The Bears are 6-3 SU and lead the NFC North, but they've gotten to three games above .500 by beating the Jets, Bills and Lions. Still, all three wins did come in pretty convincing fashion (all by 12 or more pts) and the Bears now own a point differential (+94) that's better than all but three other teams in the league (Chiefs, Rams and Saints). Sunday night will most certainly be labeled as a "prove it" game to the national audience and I think they pass the test at home. They've got revenge for a pair of losses to the Vikings last season and have generally been just the better team here in 2018. I'm going to lay the short number.
Minnesota also has a top five defense and beat Detroit in their last game. Their win over the Lions, 24-9, came two weeks ago as they're coming off a bye here. So a lot of people are going to love the situation from their perspective. But under Mike Zimmer, the team is just 1-3 ATS off a bye, including playoffs. The Vikings would be ahead of the Bears in the division if not for that embarrassing loss to Buffalo (at home) back in Week 3. Their only other two defeats came against the Rams and Saints. The only reason that people might seem "down" on this team is because they went 13-3 SU a year ago and added Kirk Cousins. They're a good team, but when it comes to the division, I just think this is going to be the Bears' year.
Remember that early in the season, I called for Chicago to be a sleeper playoff team. The key was finally firing John Fox and replacing him w/ an offensive mind like Matt Nagy. A relatively soft schedule has helped. But since Week 4, this Bears offense has led the league in points per game at 34.3. QB Mitchell Trubisky has 19 TD passes during that time and is coming off a career-best performance LW vs. the Lions. While both defenses here are top five in yards allowed, the Bears are allowing fewer points per game and overall have been the better unit. This is the biggest game for the Bears in years and its at home on a Sunday night. Doubted on a national level, they'll show up and deliver. 8* Chicago
|11-18-18||Eagles +9.5 v. Saints||Top||7-48||Loss||-120||90 h 45 m||Show|
10* Philadelphia (4:25 ET): Needless to say, less than one year removed from winning the Super Bowl, the Eagles did not bank on being in this position. That position being more than a touchdown underdog to an opponent. Now this is opponent is New Orleans, who is at home and historically lethal in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. The Saints also come into this one on an eight-game SU and ATS win streak. Since losing Week 1 (here at home) to Tampa Bay, they've outscored opponents by almost two touchdowns per game. Most, including myself, have them as the top team in the league right now. In their last home game, Drew Brees and company beat the Rams (pretty handily) to take over that honor. Last week, they obliterated Cincinnati on the road, 51-14.
So the Eagles, only 4-5 SU and off a primetime loss to Dallas, definitely are "up against it" a bit here. Even though the NFC East is weak overall, with Washington currently 6-3, Philly's season is very much hanging in the balance here (although they still play the Redskins twice). I do have to say that this spread did require a bit of a double take. And in handicapping the matchup, I uncovered a key trend that only confirmed my belief that the road dog is the correct play here. The last five times the previous year's Super Bowl winner was a dog of seven or more in a game (and this is obviously a rare spot), that team has covered the spread four times. I think the Eagles are being undervalued here.
You have to remember that on their run to the SB last season, they were an underdog in every playoff game. Last week's outright loss to Dallas dropped the Eagles to 2-8 ATS the L10 times they have been favored (w/ 5 outright losses). But as an underdog, they have covered six straight times (this excludes Wk 17 LY when they rested starters). They've been favored in every game this year with one exception, Week 1 vs. Atlanta (a game they won 18-12). This team still has Carson Wentz at QB, a relatively strong defense (20.3 PPG allowed) and all five losses have been by seven points or less. Another good trend here is that teams off a SU loss by 14+ pts on Sunday or Monday Night Football this year have gone 8-2 ATS the following week. Yes, I'll jump in front of the New Orleans' train. Take the points. 10* Philadelphia
|11-18-18||Panthers v. Lions +4||Top||19-20||Win||100||115 h 11 m||Show|
10* Detroit (1:00 ET): Both of these teams would just as soon burn the Week 10 film as Carolina got hammered 52-21 in Pittsburgh Thursday night while the Lions lost in Chicago, 34-22. For the Lions that final score was actually a bit misleading considering they were down 26-0 midway through the second quarter. Either way, it was still a third straight double digit loss for Matt Patricia's team, whose season is basically on the brink this week as the team is 3-6 SU overall. Even after losing by 31, the Panthers are still in okay shape at 6-3 SU, but I've had my doubts about just how good this team is. On the road, they're now just 1-3 SU/ATS and averaging 20.7 PPG. That one win was a come from behind effort in Philadelphia, a game where they trailed 17-0 in the 4Q.
It wasn't the Carolina offense that had the problem in Pittsburgh, though their 21 pts scored were the lowest in a game since the last time they played on the road. In fact, they haven't scored more than 24 all season on the road. Rather, it was the defense getting torched for 52 points and 457 total yards. Excluding the Steelers running out the clock to end the 1st half, they scored on each of their first seven drives. Now, whether or not the Detroit offense can have a big day remains to be seen. But one thing that would certainly help the Lions here is protecting the football. Twice in the last three weeks, they've finished w/ a -3 TO ratio.
Keep in mind that the Lions have been a home dog to only one other team all season. That would be New England back in Week 3, a Sunday night game where they pulled a massive 26-10 upset as seven-point chalk. Few saw that one coming. The Lions' last two road games have been on the road. The last time they were at home, I actually played against them and they lost 28-14 to Seattle. But that game saw them turn the ball over TWICE in the end zone. Again, protecting the football is paramount here (as it is for any NFL game). Carolina has won a lot of close games the L2 seasons and has only outscored their opponents by seven points for the year. Take the points. 10* Detroit.
|11-18-18||Steelers v. Jaguars +7||Top||20-16||Win||100||115 h 11 m||Show|
8* Jacksonville (1:00 ET): What is heaven's name has gone wrong with the Jaguars? After Week 2, this team was perceived as a legit threat to win the AFC as they'd just avenged LY's Championship Game loss to New England, beating the Patriots pretty handily, 31-20. But as you know, Week 2 was a LONG time ago. Since then, the Jags have lost six of seven, including five straight. Their only win during that time was against the lowly Jets. Last week saw them get knocked off by the division rival Colts, 29-26, a game where the once-proud defense was torched for all 29 pts in the first half. The task gets no tougher this week as the Jags play Pittsburgh. But the game is at home and the number is inflated. I'm going to take a "flier" on the dog here as they look to salvage their season.
Salvaging the season is still a possibility for Jacksonville, mind you. Their next two games are: at Buffalo and a rematch w/ Indy at home. So if they were to win here, they could easily be back at .500 after 12 games. I have no idea what went wrong w/ the defense in the 1H last week, though it isn't exactly refreshing to hear the personnel refer to the mistakes as "brain farts". What I do know is they shut the Colts out in the 2H. Maybe this defense isn't what it was a year ago, but it's a prideful bunch and I think they'll bounce back. Of course, we also need the offense to get back on track as well with QB Blake Bortles being the biggest offender. The good news is RB Leonard Fournette is back in the lineup and prior to last week's loss, the team was 2-0 SU w/ him on the field and 1-5 SU without.
For Pittsburgh, this is obviously a double revenge game. They lost twice to the Jaguars last year, including at home in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. If you recall, I had a sizable play on Jacksonville in that playoff meeting. Pittsburgh is definitely hot right now and with the double revenge angle, figures to be a popular side this week. They've won and covered five straight games following a 1-2-1 SU start. But, as noted earlier, this line is inflated. The Steelers have not won a road game this year by more than seven points and under HC Tomlin they are just 7-18 ATS all-time as a road favorite of six or more points. Take the points here with a desperate dog. 8* Jacksonville
|11-17-18||Arizona State v. Oregon -3.5||Top||29-31||Loss||-100||25 h 38 m||Show|
8* Oregon (10:30 ET): The Ducks are off a bad loss last week as they lost to Utah. It's not like a seven-point loss in Salt Lake City is bad on face value. But when you consider the Utes were w/o their starting QB AND RB, then it's pretty shocking Oregon came up short. It was the third loss in four games for UO, although all three losses took place away from Eugene. This is the final game of the year at Autzen and the home team should be highly motivated. Last year, their 10-game win streak over Arizona State got snapped when the Sun Devils kicked a last second field goal. So that's even more motivation. The Ducks are 11-2 SU at home the L2 years, have a NFL QB and this is a really good price on them. Lay the short number.
No one is laughing at the Herm Edwards hire anymore. He has Arizona State in position to win the Pac 12 South! If the Sun Devils win out, which would require victories here and in the Territorial Cup (at Arizona), they are going to Los Angeles. All four losses this year have come by exactly a touchdown. But three of six wins have also come by a field goal. So that's a lot of close games. Last week, they outlasted UCLA 31-28 as 12.5-pt chalk. It was only the second Pac 12 game where ASU was favored, so clearly they've beaten expectations. But the road has been a bit of a challenge for them. They're 1-3 SU away from Tempe w/ the only win coming by a field goal over USC. They've lost at San Diego State, Washington and Colorado. This may be the toughest trip of the season.
Making this game even more difficult than it needed to be for Arizona State is the fact that Merlin Robertson will miss the 1st half due to an ejection for targeting last week. That makes stopping Justin Herbert and the rest of the Oregon offense even more daunting. I'd also worry about this Sun Devils offense being able to keep pace. Sure, they average 29.9 PPG for the year. But that number comes slightly down on the road and Oregon also averages 43.0 PPG at home. The ASU defense has allowed a 70% completion percentage to four of their last five opponents. Herbert has thrown only one interception his L6 games. One final key trend worth mentioning is that Arizona State is 1-6 ATS when off B2B wins the L3 seasons. They've overachieved already this season, but won't here. 8* Oregon
|11-17-18||Air Force +2.5 v. Wyoming||Top||27-35||Loss||-105||94 h 12 m||Show|
10* Air Force (4:00 ET): I think there are a lot of people (myself included) that think proud Wyoming alum Josh Allen is going to be a bust in the NFL (he was a 1st rd draft choice of the Bills). But don't tell that to the alma mater, who misses its old QB dearly. Coming into the season, I thought Wyoming was as likely to regress (in terms of record) as any team in the entire country. They only went 8-5 SU w/ Allen at the helm last year and that came w/ a +24 turnover margin (easily tops in the country). Points off turnovers accounted for roughly 40% of all Cowboys' scoring last year. The team was actually outgained by 52 YPG in MWC play. So what I'm saying is that it was a minor miracle that team won eight games even w/ Allen. Without him, they have indeed nosedived down to 4-6 SU. I don't think they should be favored here and will fade them instead.
When Wyoming's schedule came out, it was known that five opponents would be looking for revenge against them. They've played three of the five so far and only Colorado State (who has fallen even harder that the Cowboys have) failed to exact that revenge. Both Hawaii and Utah State did and now it's Air Force's turn. The Flyboys lost to the Pokes last year in Colorado Springs, 28-14. despite being three-point home favorites and having a +149 edge in total yards. Now its time for payback. Both of these teams need to win out in order to become bowl eligible, but obviously only one can. I'll side w/ the 4-6 SU team that has both outscored and outgained opponents this season as opposed to the one that's done neither.
Wyoming has won B2B weeks, but those wins were against two of the MWC's weaker teams: Colorado State and San Jose State. The offense in Laramie is downright putrid as it averages only 18.2 PPG. The defense is still missing standout Youhanna Ghaifan, a key cog in the defensive line. His absence is especially problematic when facing an AFA offense that goes for 265 yards rushing per game and just went for a season-high 478 in a 42-24 win over New Mexico last week. The Pokes do have the benefit of being off a bye, but I just don't see their offense being able to score enough to get the job done. Air Force is better than its record as four of its six losses have been by six points or less. I expect them to win a relatively close game Saturday afternoon, but take the points anyway. 10* Air Force
|11-17-18||Bowling Green v. Akron -7||Top||21-6||Loss||-100||94 h 42 m||Show|
10* Akron (3:30 ET): On their way to an eventual MAC Title Game appearance, the Zips ended an eight-game SU/ATS losing streak to Bowling Green last season. They beat them 34-23 as 2-pt road chalk, which was also their 1st win @ BG since '05. Given the current state of the Bowling Green program, you would think that Akron is perhaps about to start their own win streak in this MAC East rivalry. BG is just dreadful, having already fired HC Mike Jinks midseason. They've got zero to play for moving forward as their record is 2-8 SU. I do think it helps Akron that BG won last week (24-13 @ Centgral Michigan), meaning the Falcons now won't go winless in conference play. Avoiding that distinction was the only real thing they had left to play for. I believe this spread should be closer to two touchdowns. Lay the points.
Akron wasn't the best team in the MAC East last year, but won the division anyway thanks to pulling a couple upsets. Neither the MAC Championship nor the Boca Raton Bowl went well for them, but right now the Zips are looking at a situation where they need to win two of their final three games to get back to the postseason. Winning this game is a must as the two final regular season games are at Ohio and South Carolina and they'll be a big dog in each. Last week's game @ Eastern Michigan could not possibly have gone worse as QB Kato Nelson was out w/ an ankle injury. They turned it over four times, including three straight possessions w/ an INT, and gained less than 100 total yds. They should be eager to atone for that performance in this final home game.
Thankfully, BG should more than oblige to Akron's need for victory. The Falcons remain a bottom 10 team in the country as they've been outscored by more than 17 PPG over the course of the season. I was truly shocked to see them win last week as 7.5-pt road dogs as they were down 13-0 at the half to Central Michigan (who ended up gaining only 166 yds for the game). How shocking was that defensive performance by BG? Consider that they still allow 469.2 YPG. Prior to last week, they had not beaten a single FBS team all season w/ the lone win coming at home over Eastern Kentucky where they had to rally late. Remember that this Akron team holds a win over Northwestern, who will be playing in the Big 10 Championship Game! This is - on paper - the Zips' easiest FBS game of the season. I'll keep my fingers crossed that QB Nelson returns, but even if he doesn't, this is still a play w/ the backup Ramart under center. 10* Akron
|11-17-18||Pittsburgh v. Wake Forest +6||Top||34-13||Loss||-108||90 h 12 m||Show|
8* Wake Forest (12:00 ET): The Demon Deacons treated me nicely last week as they rallied back from a 13-3 halftime deficit and beat #14 NC State 27-23 as 17.5-pt road dogs. Perhaps you may recall my analysis for that Thursday night matchup. A lot of it was based on the notion that NC State being called the 14th best team in the country was utter nonsense. But I've always been impressed w/ how Wake "shows up" for HC Dave Clawson. While the Demon Deacons are a little bit "down" this year, bowl eligibility is still on the table for a team that's 5-5 SU overall. This is also the final home game in Winston-Salem and it comes w/ two extra days to prepare. With the regular season finale being at Duke, I think a motivated Demon Deacons squad comes up big here. Take the points.
Pitt also has something to play for, that being the ACC Coastal, a race for which they are in the driver's seat. A win here would send them to Charlotte to face Clemson for the Conference Championship. So the Panthers shouldn't be lacking for motivation themselves. But they are road favorites for just the second time all year. The first time, I played against them and they lost outright to a North Carolina team that hasn't beaten anybody else all season. Overall, the Panthers are just 1-3 SU on the road this season. After a 1-3 overall start to the season, they've kind of come from nowhere to win four of their last five, the only loss coming at Notre Dame. But of note is the fact they've been favored only once in those L5 games, that coming in LW's 52-22 demolition of Va Tech.
Believe it or not, despite being in the same conference, these teams have NEVER met. So Winston-Salem is foreign territory for the favorites. I think the sense of urgency is far greater for the home dog, which is seeking to go bowling for a third straight year, something that has only happened ONE time in the history of the program! Pitt doesn't even need a win here to clinch the division; they can have Virginia lose at Ga Tech as well. Or just beat struggling Miami next week. The big question here surrounds Wake Forest's ability to stop a Pitt run game that has gone for 484+ yds twice in the last three weeks. I think they can as this Demon Deacons' stop unit has improved ever since a midseason change at defensive coordinator. Last week, they allowed only 47 yds rushing to NC State. To me, the biggest mismatch in this game is Wake Forest's receivers going against a Pitt pass defense that is shaky at best. The Panthers' dream of being the 6th difference school to represent the ACC Coastal in the Conf Champ Game may have to be put on hold for another week. 8* Wake Forest
|11-16-18||Memphis v. SMU +7.5||Top||28-18||Loss||-105||27 h 20 m||Show|
8* SMU (9:00 ET) - SMU was a tremendous winner for me two weeks ago. As 14-point underdogs, they WON by two touchdowns, beating a red-hot Houston team 45-31. At the time, the Mustangs were just 3-5 SU overall, but I wrote that they were improving and am not about to back off that assessment. Last Saturday's win wasn't nearly as impressive as they failed to cover against UConn despite scoring 62 points. But then again, it was the 1st time all year that the Ponies were favored to beat a FBS opponent. This week, they're back in their more customary role of underdog and looking to gain a "leg up" in what is currently a three-way tie atop the West Division of the American Conference. I like them plus the points and also give them an excellent shot at pulling another outright upset.
Memphis is 3-3 SU in conference play and thus NOT one of the three teams atop the division (Tulane and Houston are). The Tigers still have a chance to win the West, but a ton of things would have to go their way. Many consider them to be the best team in the division, though I would still give a slight nod to Houston (who Memphis hosts next Friday). The Tigers should have probably beaten undefeated UCF earlier in the year, but instead ended up blowing a double-digit lead in the Liberty Bowl. It's one of two 1-pt losses they've taken this year. Memphis did win the division LY (lost to UCF in 2 OT's in the Conf Champ Game) and comes into this week having scored 100 pts the L2 wks. But SMU has done the same, making this too many points to lay for the Tigers.
I think homefield matters a lot here. Memphis is just 1-3 SU on the road w/ the lone victory coming two weeks ago against East Carolina (who has zero conference wins), but that was a close game until the very end. Earlier in the year, the Tigers dropped a game (as two-touchdown chalk) at Tulane. I think the biggest reason for this large spread is that Memphis has beaten SMU four straight times, by an average of 41 PPG! But this SMU team is a lot better than years' past. Not only are they playing for a division crown here, but they still need one more win for bowl eligibility. Their offense is averaging 38.5 PPG since junior QB Ben Hicks became the permanent starter. That makes this number extremely attractive at home. 8* SMU
|11-15-18||Florida Atlantic v. North Texas -3||Top||38-41||Push||0||77 h 46 m||Show|
10* North Texas (9:30 ET): Last year, these two teams played in the C-USA Title Game w/ a red-hot FAU prevailing at home 41-17 as 11-pt chalk. Getting the Title Game at home, the Owls jumped out to a 34-0 lead after 33 minutes and cruised from there. It was actually their second victory of the year over the Mean Green as they'd won 69-31 in the regular season, also in Boca Raton. This year, North Texas gets the game in Denton w/ some good old fashioned double revenge on its mind. Neither team will be making it to this year's C-USA Title Game, so the double revenge angle is pretty key in handicapping this matchup. So too is the homefield advantage as UNT is 4-1 SU in Apogee Stadium, outscoring teams by 22 PPG. I'm laying the short number here.
Florida Atlantic was one of the darlings of College Football last season as Lane Kiffin came in and let a tremendous turnaround. His predecessor (Charlie Partridge) had delivered three seasons of just three wins each, but left Kiffin w/ the most experienced team in the country. Kiffin took full advantage, leading the Owls to an 11-win season, including a 50-3 rout of Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl. The Owls swept the C-USA schedule, winning all nine games by a total of 201 points. Still, there were obvious signs that this season would not go as well and those were confirmed early on as FAU lost its first game 63-14 to Oklahoma. After going 10-3-1 ATS last season, the Owls are just 3-7 at the betting window so far this season. Some of the regression boils down to being a less experienced team (not having QB Jason Driskell hurt), the rest was probably just inevitable.
The Owls are just 3-3 in C-USA this year and playing on the road has been a major problem for them both in and out of league play. They are 1-4 SU/ATS outside of Boca Raton w/ three of those losses coming by at least 20 points. The defense is allowing 37.8 PPG on the road and the number would look even worse were it not for winning the "Shula Bowl" against rival FIU two weeks ago, 49-14. Perhaps North Texas got caught looking ahead to this game as they were upset Saturday by Old Dominion, blowing a 28-point lead (were favored by 15.5). The Mean Green were looking quite good this year before losing two of the last three games. Their three losses have been by a total of 13 points. All 10 UNT games have stayed Under this year, thanks to a defense that allows only 20.3 PPG (18.4 at home). Superior defense, homefield advantage and a case of double revenge have me on the home fave here. 10* North Texas
|11-15-18||Packers v. Seahawks -2.5||Top||24-27||Win||100||22 h 40 m||Show|
8* Seattle (8:20 ET): This could prove to be an incredibly important game for two teams on the fringes of playoff contention. Seattle has played better than its 4-5 SU record indicates. They've actually outscored teams by 27 points. The issue is they've gone only 1-4 SU in games decided by seven points or less. The other loss was by eight to a very talented Chargers team, here in the last home game. Last week, for a second time this year, they lost to the mighty Rams in a close affair despite putting up 31 points. While I feel the Seahawks may very well be "underrated," I'm not so sure I can say the same for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. In fact, I think quite the opposite. Their four wins feature two miracle come from behind efforts (against Chicago & San Fran), both at home. Their other two wins are against Buffalo & Miami, two terrible teams. I think you can tell which way I'm leaning here. Seattle is deserving of far more respect here at home, especially considering Green Bay's 0-4 SU road record. Lay the short number.
With five home games left, Seattle is definitely still capable of making some noise. They're only 1-2 SU at home so far, but the two losses were to the Rams & Chargers, two of the league's best. It seems like eons ago, but their only home win this year came in Week 3 against Dallas. Despite this, the Seahawks remain a team to be feared at Century Link Field where they've won 27 of their last 37 games, particularly in primetime. Another reason to like them is they simply do not lose three games in a row very often. The last time it happened was 2011, the year before Russell Wilson arrived. Since then, they've gone 6-0 SU/ATS when off B2B losses, including that home win over Dallas back in Wk 3.
Seattle has the league's top ranked rushing attack at 152.2 YPG. Expect them to exploit a Packers' run defense that ranks in the bottom third of the league, giving up 4.5 yards per carry. That YPC average is what's huge because no team runs the ball more than Seattle. Last week against Miami, even though they won 31-12, Green Bay surrendered 131 yds on just 23 carries (Dolphins had to abandon the run when they fell behind). Over the last four weeks, they've given up 141.5 yards per game on the ground. Again, the Pack have not won a road game this year. They've allowed 30.5 PPG in the four losses. West Coast teams usually have an edge facing non-West Coast teams in primetime games (look up Circadian Advantage). 8* Seattle
|11-14-18||Buffalo v. Ohio -1.5||Top||17-52||Win||100||50 h 22 m||Show|
10* Ohio (7:00 ET): This is a big revenge game for Ohio, who lost last year in Buffalo as six-point favorites, 31-24. It was an absolutely horrendous spot for Frank Solich's Bobcats as they'd just been upset the week prior, at Akron, basically costing them a shot at the MAC Title Game. The situation is alarmingly similar Wednesday w/ Ohio having been upset by rival Miami last week, a result that severely hurt their chances of getting to this year's MAC Title Game. Had they won in Oxford, then this game basically would have been a de facto MAC East Championship. As it stands now, Ohio is now two games back in the division and would need to win out plus have Buffalo lose next week at Bowling Green (which is highly unlikely to happen).
Still, there are some notable differences between this matchup and the one that took place last year. For starters, the game will be played in Athens where OU is 4-0 SU and averaging a whopping 49.2 points per game. Their average margin of victory in those four contests is 23.7 points. The home team has won eight straight times in this MAC East rivalry. The Bobcats are probably better than their overall record as three of their four losses this year have been by 4 points or less (9 pts total). While I would have loved to get them as a dog here, the bottom line is that this team is 47-13 SU its L60 home games and laying the shortest of numbers.
With the division now all but wrapped up, I believe that it's UB that's more likely to overlook this week's matchup. When these teams met last year, Ohio was in the dumps and Buffalo was looking to become bowl eligible (it was the regular season finale). The two teams came out and played like you'd think, based on the respective emotions, with the Bulls taking an early 24-7 lead before holding on for the seven-point victory. The job that Lance Leipold has done here at UB is quite remarkable and I give his Bulls an excellent shot at beating Northern Illinois next month in Detroit (MAC Champ Game). But Wednesday should belong to a revenge-minded Ohio team fighting to keep its own dreams alive. Remember, I played AGAINST Ohio last week in Miami, another game where they fell into a huge early hole (down 28-7) before fighting back and ultimately coming up short. Ohio is still the (slightly) better team here though and at home. 10* Ohio
|11-12-18||Giants +3.5 v. 49ers||Top||27-23||Win||100||12 h 27 m||Show|
10* NY Giants (8:15 ET): For a second straight week, the 49ers find themselves involved in a less than stellar primetime matchup. Only this time QB Nick Mullens is more of a "selling point." Making his 1st career start last Thursday vs. Oakland, Mullens stunned just about everyone by throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns in 34-3 win, just the Niners' second victory of the year. Statistically speaking, it was considered the finest debut by any QB in league history. That's made all the more impressive by the fact Mullens is an undrafted free agent that spent time on the practice squad. But he won't be sneaking up on anybody this time, even if "anybody" means the lowly 1-7 Giants, who are about as desperate for a win as a team could possibly be. They're off a bye and I'll take the points.
No matter what Odell Beckham Jr says, the Giants aren't going to make the playoffs. But with this game and hosting Tampa Bay next week, they at least have some winnable games on the horizon. Eli Manning's days as a viable starter in this league are over, but it's inexcusable how poorly this offense has performed given the talent at the skill positions, whether you're talking Beckham or Saquon Barkley. It's not all Manning's fault mind you; the offensive line is bad as well. However, something to keep in mind here is that the Giants are a better team than the Raiders, who basically laid down last Thursday vs. the 49ers. I expect effort from the G-Men coming off the bye.
Another important point when handicapping this game is the line itself. The 49ers actually closed as a slight dog vs. the Raiders for the Thurs night home game. But off the shockingly great performance from Mullens, they are now favorites this week. That's critical to note because the Niners are money-burning 1-12 ATS as chalk w/ eight outright losses. Again, the Giants have had plenty of time to prepare for Mullens, a luxury the Raiders did not have. The Giants have lost a number of one score games this season while SF had not won a game by more than three points in 2018 before facing the Raiders. The Giants are the play here. 10* NY Giants
|11-11-18||Chargers v. Raiders +11||Top||20-6||Loss||-135||119 h 59 m||Show|
10* Oakland (4:05 ET): Ok, so I KNOW what you're already saying. "Not the Raiders!" This team has certainly become somewhat of a "dumpster fire" here in 2018 w/ HC Jon Gruden totally dismantling the roster and the results (1-7 SU record) speak for themselves. But I have tremendous faith in my own personal power rankings and they say that - getting double digits at home - the Raiders are a tremendous value this week. Consider for a moment that when they played the Chargers out in LA last month, they were "only" a six-point dog. Now they lost the game 26-10 and have certainly not played much better since. But this is a ton of points at home. Take 'em.
The Chargers are a hot team right now as they've won five straight to get to 6-2 SU on the year. They are off perhaps their most impressive victory to date, 25-17 at Seattle. Before that, the list of teams that Los Angeles had beaten - Bills, 49ers, Raiders, Browns, Titans - wasn't all that impressive. Note that LW's game in Seattle hinged on an INT return for a TD early in the 4Q. But total yds were relatively even in that game (375-356 in favor of the Chargers). To me, this sets up to be the classic "trap game" for the Lightning Bolts, who have not been DD road favorites since 2009. Three of their last five victories have been by eight points or less.
Oakland was humiliated on national TV in its last game, a 34-3 loss to a 49ers team starting a 3rd string QB. That was on a Thursday, so at least they've had extra time to prepare here. As bad as things look right now for the Raiders, this is a division game coming on the heels of being mocked by everyone for a terrible effort. If they can't "get up" for this game, then you might as well just move them to Vegas on Monday. Too many points, not to take here. 10* Oakland
|11-11-18||Falcons v. Browns +7||Top||16-28||Win||100||29 h 47 m||Show|
8* Cleveland (1:00 ET): There was a brief glimmer of hope early in the season (started 2-2-1), but it's back to the "same old Browns" as Cleveland has lost four in a row coming into this week. They fired both their HC (Hue Jackson) and OC (Todd Haley) two weeks ago, but that hardly mattered as the defense couldn't stop Kansas CIty in a 37-21 loss on Sunday. But few teams have been able to stop the Chiefs' offense this season. What's interesting here is that the lookahead line for this game had Cleveland getting only two points from the oddsmakers. After another blowout loss and Atlanta crushing Washington last week, the spread has moved substantially. To the point where now I believe we're getting some nice value w/ the Browns. Take the points.
The Falcons have fought their way back to 4-4 SU, winning three in a row. I don't think there's any denying that they are off their best game of the season, a 38-14 win over the Redskins where they rolled up nearly 500 total yds on a pretty good defense. But it was also the first time all season that Atlanta won a game by more than seven points. This is the second of back to back road games for the team, a situation they have not yet faced in 2018 and won't be in again for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Cleveland is getting to play a second straight home game. The knock on Atlanta for years is that they aren't as good outdoors and Cleveland should be pretty chilly on Sunday.
Incredibly, the Browns are on a 13-game ATS losing streak in the month of November. They have a banged up secondary coming into this game, which isn't good when facing a QB like Matt Ryan. But, despite the lack of success, the Browns have been largely competitive this season. They've gone to overtime FOUR times (1-2-1) and only three of their nine games have been decided by more than four points. All three have been in the last four weeks. I like the spot here and expect them to be competitive as QB Baker Mayfield actually played well last week, throwing for almost 300 yards. The Browns' defense is better than what it showed last week and has forced 23 turnovers on the year, a league-high. Meanwhile, the Atlanta defense is still 4th worst in the league in efficiency due to a combo of injuries and a tough schedule. The Falcons were 1-3 ATS as road favorites of a FG or more last season. 8* Cleveland
|11-11-18||Lions +7.5 v. Bears||Top||22-34||Loss||-135||29 h 47 m||Show|
8* Detroit (1:00 ET): Another game where the line has shifted somewhat significantly from the lookahead. In this instance, the Bears are now favored over the Lions by about a touchdown, rather than a field goal. The shift has a lot to do w/ last week as the Bears routed Buffalo (41-9) while the Lions lost at Minnesota, 24-9. But sometimes looks can be deceiving as Chicago was actually outgained by the Bills (264-190) only to feast on Nathan Peterman turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Meanwhile, Detroit wasn't as bad as the final score showed last week. They had more first downs than the Vikings, but unfortunately allowed QB Matt Stafford to be sacked 10 times. The Lions have beaten the Bears 9 of the last 10 meetings. Take the points.
With Chicago now "expected" to win, let's see how they perform. At the start of the year, this was a team that I said could surprise and get to 9-7 SU and the playoffs. That's precisely the trajectory that we're looking at right now. Perhaps their 5-3 SU record should not come as any shock seeing as they've been favored in six of their eight games. It's impressive that they are 5-3 ATS, but now the spreads are starting to get bigger. While they did cover last week as big road favorites, as I mentioned there were extenuating circumstances there. Before the last two weeks, only one of their games (a 48-10 win over Tampa Bay) had been decided by more than seven points. I'm just not convinced this team is ready to cover a third straight game as a big favorite.
Detroit should have the edge at QB in this game. The Bears' Mitchell Trubisky threw for only 355 yards (total) the last two weeks. For Chicago, this could be a lookahead spot as they have a huge home game vs. Minnesota next week (for 1st place in the NFC North). Meanwhile, Matt Patricia's Lions are fighting for relevancy. Another loss for them and the season would basically be over at 3-6 SU. We should be getting their best shot. I just feel this number is an overreaction to the final scores we've seen from both sides the L2 wks. Detroit isn't as bad and Chicago isn't as good as we've seen during that time. 8* Detroit
|11-11-18||Patriots v. Titans +7.5||Top||10-34||Win||100||29 h 47 m||Show|
8* Tennessee (1:00 ET): The Titans picked up a much needed win on MNF, going to Dallas and beating the Cowboys 28-14 as 4-pt underdogs. Now they're on a short week against the Patriots, who are off a primetime win themselves, theirs coming Sunday night at home against Green Bay. While facing Bill Belichick on a short week is hardly ideal, at least the Titans have a former player for Belichick on their sidelines in the form of HC Mike Vrabel. So that helps. So too does getting this game in Nashville where they've won 12 of their last 15 games. New England hasn't been nearly as impressive on the road this year, losing at both Detroit and Jacksonville and needing a tackle on the 1-yd line to win in Chicago. Their lone road win this year by more than seven points was in Buffalo and even then they needed a late "pick-six" to cover. Take the points.
Two of Tennessee's four losses this year have been by a single point. They have just one loss by more than seven points and that was the last time they played a home game, three weeks ago vs. Baltimore (lost 21-0). That game saw them get completely overwhelmed by the Ravens' top-ranked defense, but I don't see that happening again here. Also, in four road games, the Patriots offense has only scored seven touchdowns, three of those in one game (Chicago). The Titans have a really good defense having not allowed more than 20 pts in regulation since Week 1. Another key factor in handicapping this game is Tennessee had its bye two weeks ago, so they are relatively "fresh." New England has yet to have its bye (comes next week) and is playing a 10th consecutive week.
Both teams won by two touchdowns last week, but for the Patriots, things were actually much closer than they ended up. The game was tied 17-17 and Green Bay was marching down for the go-ahead score when they fumbled the ball away. Meanwhile, the Titans largely dominated the Cowboys, outgaining them 340-297 and holding them scoreless in the second half. The Titans' offensive numbers for the year may not seem that impressive, but few teams have faced a tougher slate of defenses and they just scored their season high in points. The New England defense isn't that great as they have given up over six yards per play on the road. I'm actually expecting this to be a pretty low-scoring game, which will give the Titans a chance at the upset. 8* Tennessee
|11-10-18||UNLV +23 v. San Diego State||Top||27-24||Win||100||29 h 1 m||Show|
8* UNLV (10:30 ET): Second week in a row I'm playing against San Diego State in the late Saturday timeslot. Last week was a pretty easy win w/ New Mexico getting double digits at home. The Lobos scored a defensive touchdown early and led almost the whole way. Eventually, the Aztecs pulled out the win - and they should have, given a massive 401-142 edge in total yards - but it took three late scores to do so. Despite this, and all the team's deficiencies we discussed last week, we again find SDSU laying a big number, only this time at home. And again, I'll grab the points.
UNLV comes into this game off a 48-3 loss at home (to Fresno State) and w/ an uncertain QB situation. The team desperately is hoping for Armani Rogers to be healthy enough to play here, but he probably won't start. Out since September 22nd, Rogers' absence has played a significant role in the Rebels' disappointing season. They haven't won since the injury, losing six straight, many of the blowout variety. No longer do the Rebels have a shot at being bowl eligible, but knocking off a team like San Diego State could be a season highlight. Now an outright win here would surprise me, but I do think the Rebels can certainly keep it close, especially with Rogers back.
If Rogers were to play, it would create a situation where San Diego State would have to prepare for two very different QB's, the more mobile Rogers and the traditional passer Max Gilliam. Last week was not indicative of where this UNLV program is really at right now. They were up against the best team in the Mountain West and were w/o their best offensive player (Rogers). With Rogers back, the Rebels become a much more effective offense when it comes to running the ball. As discussed last week, San Diego State has not been able to blow teams out this year. This is due to a combination of committing too many penalties and an offense that averages only 22.2 PPG (less than the spread here!). Last week was actually the Aztecs' highest scoring effort of the year! They're 0-6 ATS as favorites in 2018 and have not won a game by more than eight points. Their six wins over FBS schools have come by a total of 31 points. 8* UNLV
|11-10-18||Mississippi State +26 v. Alabama||Top||0-24||Win||100||94 h 25 m||Show|
8* Mississippi State (3:30 ET): Yep. I'm willing to step in front of the Alabama train here. This may very well go down as Nick Saban's best team EVER in Tuscaloosa (think about that for a second), but the situation this week is hardly favorable. The Crimson Tide are coming off the quintessential "statement" game, having shutout rival LSU 29-0 last week. This would be the proverbial letdown spot. Not that I expect Bama to lose mind you, but look for the game to be closer than the experts think. As is the case for most Bama opponents, Mississippi State will treat this as their biggest regular season game. The Bulldogs are starting to gain traction offensively (scored 45 pts last week) and have gone 6-3 ATS this year despite being an underdog only twice. Take the points.
Here's a "dirty little secret." Mississippi State is actually giving up fewer points per game than Alabama this season. The Bulldogs allow just 12.3 PPG (2nd nationally) while Bama is allowing 14.1 (7th). MSU has not given up more than 19 pts in any game since a 28-7 loss at Kentucky back on September 22nd. Now they have been held to 7 pts or less in all three losses. But I don't expect that to be the case here.This will be the first time this year that Alabama is facing a defense allowing fewer points per game than they do. I expect a little bit of a good old fashioned SEC "slugfest" here. Mississippi State has lost 10 straight to Alabama, but it was a 7-point game LY in Starkville, also the week after the Crimson Tide faced LSU.
A big key (at least to me) in handicapping this game is that while Alabama was busy facing LSU last week, Mississippi State enjoyed a virtual "bye" in a 45-3 thrashing of Louisiana Tech. Don't forget that Alabama still has the Iron Bowl left (after they face The Citadel next week). Mississippi State is 8-5 ATS as an underdog the L3 seasons w/ five outright wins. Again, I'm not expecting an outright win here, I just think the situation lends itself to taking a big number and I'd also like to point out that I have MSU ranked in the top 10 of my own personal power rankings. Look for them to keep this game within three touchdowns. 8* Mississippi State
|11-10-18||Troy v. Georgia Southern||Top||35-21||Loss||-110||92 h 56 m||Show|
10* Georgia Southern (1:00 ET): Though my own personal numbers indicated they should have been a much bigger favorite, I stayed away from Georgia Southern last Saturday, feeling that it was an absolutely horrible spot for them to lay points, on the road no less, coming off the huge win over Appalachian State. Turns out that feeling was correct as the Eagles went down at the hands of LA Monroe, 44-25, in what was easily their worst performance of the season. They found themselves down 27-3 before halftime and were outgained 573-216 for the game. But you have to keep in mind that the only other team to beat Ga Southern this year was #2 Clemson. In what shapes up as their most important game of the year, I'll call for the Eagles to bounce back in Statesboro.
Troy is the only team w/o a conference loss in the Sun Belt. They are 5-0 SU, meaning they're up by one game over both Ga Southern and Appalachian State. Earlier in the year, the Trojans treated me to a nice upset over Nebraska, although we didn't know just how bad the Cornhuskers were yet and the Troy was actually held to only 243 total yards in that game. Still, the Trojans are 7-2 SU at this point in the season (same as Ga Southern) w/ their only losses coming to Boise State and Liberty. They have not yet faced Appalachian State as that game is the regular season finale, in Boone. Troy has hardly faced the most challenging schedule so far in conference play and wasn't all that impressive in a 26-16 win over Louisiana last week as seven-point home favorites.
If Ga Southern were to win here, then they control their own destiny in the Sun Belt East Division and would have the tiebreaker over both Troy and Appalachian State. So you can see just how important this game truly is. A loss and the division likely goes to the winner of Troy-App State at the end of the year. The good news is this game being in Statesboro where the Eagles are a perfect 5-0 SU this year and outscoring opponents by nearly 23 PPG. They'd also beaten Troy six straight times prior to LY's 38-16 loss. But Ga Southern was not a good team last year (went just 2-10 SU). This year, they're back up to 7th in the country in rushing offense. They steamrolled a very good App State team on this field two weeks ago. They are the better team and should be favored here. 10* Georgia Southern
|11-10-18||North Carolina v. Duke -10.5||Top||35-42||Loss||-108||91 h 16 m||Show|
8* Duke (12:20 ET): Every season, for certain teams, there comes a time when one must reconcile expectations w/ reality. For North Carolina, that time has long since passed. Coming off a 3-9 SU season, the Tar Heels were widely expected to be a lock to improve in 2018. That simply has not happened. It was a bit of an auspicious offseason w/ HC Larry Fedora having questionable takes on CTE. There was the early season disruption of Hurricane Florence. But the bottom line is that this team simply hasn't been any good this year. I did take them back in Game 3, against Pitt, when they were off an unexpected bye due to the Hurricane (and, for UNC's sake, thank goodness that game vs. UCF was cancelled!). They won that game, but that's their ONLY win this year. With nothing left to play for, I expect these last couple weeks to go very poorly for the Tar Heels.
Expect Duke to have no sympathy for their rival this weekend in Durham. The Blue Devils are coming off their first road win over Miami FL since 1976. They were outgained 411-290, yet still pulled the 20-12 upset as nine-point dogs. Though its unlikely that they'll win the ACC Coastal, I expect Duke to play well down the stretch. They'd dropped B2B games before beating Miami. Here, they'll be looking for their first home win since Sept 22. They'll also be looking for a fifth win in seven years over UNC. Though that's the case, they've won only 5 of the past 28 meetings. So there's still a sense of "payback" for the program.
Expect the Duke offense to have little difficulty scoring on a UNC defense that is allowing 34.7 PPG. In five of its last six games, the Tar Heels have allowed at least 31 points. The Blue Devils are just two weeks removed from a 45-point, 600+ yard performance against Pitt. Last week, they were forced to play in the slop at Miami. Conditions should be a lot more conducive to a big offensive day here and that includes facing this porous UNC defense. The Tar Heels have been outscored by nearly 16 PPG on the road. My power rankings indicate a similar, if not slightly larger, margin of victory for the favorite here. 8* Duke
|11-09-18||Fresno State v. Boise State +3||Top||17-24||Win||100||59 h 59 m||Show|
10* Boise State (10:15 ET): A home underdog on the blue turf? That's virtually unheard of. In fact, it has not happened in more than a decade! The last time they were a home dog to a conference opponent was 1999. So enter Fresno State, ranked #23 in the country and an incredible 18-3-2 ATS in 23 games under HC Jeff Tedford. This is a rubber match of sorts with the teams splitting a pair of meetings last season, each winning at home. Boise State's win turned out to be more important as it came in the Mt West Champ Game. They were also nine-point favorites in the 17-14 win. While FSU is - without question - improved this year, I do not believe they deserve to be the favorite here. Boise State is still outscoring its visitors by almost three touchdowns per game this year.
Fresno State has been blowing out the competition. They are 5-0 SU/ATS in conference games w/ an average margin of victory of almost 30 PPG. In four of the five games, they've given up seven points or less! But it's been "competition" in name only as the Bulldogs haven't exactly been taking on the best that the Mountain West has to offer. They're coming off games against Nevada, Hawaii, Wyoming, New Mexico and UNLV. They also play San Jose State (at home) in the season finale. I don't have any of those teams rated higher than 86th in my power rankings. Remember that Fresno State lost to Minnesota earlier this year. The next two weeks, this game and San Diego State, will be the true referendum on their season.
It won't be easy for Boise State to move the ball against this Fresno State defense, however, QB Brett Rypien will be the best that FSU has seen all season. Rypien has a 24-6 TD-INT ratio and the Broncos are 20th in FBS in total offense. Fresno State has lost nine straight trips here and I just can't get over Boise State as a home dog. They are 2-0 ATS as dogs in this, their 5th year under HC Bryan Harsin. Both times came last year and one resulted in an outright upset of San Diego State. The Broncos have a pretty good defense as well, having allowed 20 pts or fewer five times. As impressive as Fresno State has been so far, it's come at the expense of a pretty weak schedule. This is - easily - their toughest test to date. 10* Boise State
|11-08-18||Wake Forest +17 v. NC State||Top||27-23||Win||100||32 h 4 m||Show|
8* Wake Forest (7:30 ET): I don't believe for a second that North Carolina State is the 14th best team in the country entering this weekend. In fact, I don't even count the Wolfpack among my top 40 teams in the country! That rationale is the basis for this Thursday night ACC play as Wake Forest comes calling to Raleigh. Now I'm not particularly high on the Demon Deacons either. But this is a generous pointspread for a team that generally competes hard for HC Dave Clawson. NC State is likely still reveling in last week's 47-28 beatdown of Florida State, which isn't all that impressive (the Seminoles are BAD), but still meant a lot to the program. Wake is only 1-5 ATS as a dog TY, but had previously gone 11-2 in that role. They also beat NC State last year, 30-24 in Winston-Salem.
I have to say that I'm a bit surprised to see NC State at 6-2 on the year. Granted, the West Virginia game getting cancelled (Hurricane Florence) probably helped considering that would have been a likely loss to the Mountaineers. My regulars will recall the Wolfpack were an easy fade (for me) when they squared off against #2 Clemson in a battle of unbeatens. The market "tipped its hand" by installing NC State as large underdogs in that one (closed +18.5), but it still wasn't enough in an embarrassing 41-7 loss. Now, this isn't Clemson that they're facing this week. But be aware that last week was the team's first win by more than 17 points since beating a terrible Georgia State team 41-7 back in Week 2. This will be their 1st time as DD chalk since that game.
NC State came in ranked (#25) for LY's meeting w/ Wake as well. The upset marked the third straight year the Demon Deacons beat a ranked team. They're 0-3 SU in such situations in 2018 and this is probably their last time facing a Top 25 team. They also need to win two of the final three games in order to be bowl eligible. Clawson is faced w/ a QB dilemma here as starter Sam Hartman is out for the rest of the regular season w/ a leg injury. So it will either be Kendall Hinton (who has previous starting experience) or redshirt soph Jamie Newman under center for this game. Maybe that doesn't sound ideal, but recall that the Demon Deacons were w/o their best offensive player (WR Greg Dortsch) when they upset the Wolfpack. I just don't like the idea of laying so many points w/ NC State. 8* Wake Forest
|11-07-18||Toledo +3 v. Northern Illinois||Top||15-38||Loss||-100||27 h 56 m||Show|
8* Toledo (8:00 ET): Last week, I was on Toledo while also playing against Northern Illinois, so I suppose I have a bit of a built-in "predilection" towards the Rockets here. But this play is certainly based on more than just the results of one week. Toledo appears to be peaking at the right time as they ended October w/ B2B blowout wins over Western Michigan and Ball State coming by a combined 59 points. As per usual, this matchup w/ NIU is likely to determine the MAC West Champion. The Huskies lead the division as they are the only MAC team - besides Buffalo - w/o a conference loss. But they've been living dangerously much of this season, winning close and not scoring a ton of points. I believe Toledo is set to come into DeKalb and pull the upset.
The Toledo offense definitely seems to be back on track. They've scored 96 points and gone over 1,000 total yards the L2 games and run for at least 200 yards in four of the last five contests. Despite five turnovers LW (also had five takeaways), they had little difficulty vs. Ball State, jumping out to a 21-0 halftime lead. As mentioned in last week's analysis, 2018 is the 1st time in eight years that the Rockets suffered four losses in their first eight games. They've produced a winning ATS record seven of the last eight years, but currently stand at just 4-5 vs. the number. The QB carousel has not mattered as this offense is now averaging over 40 PPG and 6.0 yards per play. Eli Peters will get the start at QB Wednesday, his 3rd of '18. He has thrown for nearly 1,000 yds on the season.
Northern Illinois does not have an offense that can compare to Toledo's. In fact, the Huskies had not topped 26 pts in a game prior to LW's 36-26 win at Akron. Note that was a three-point game until NIU had a key "pick-six" in the 4Q. The offense is averaging less than 20 PPG, so laying points w/ them is less than ideal. The Huskies have actually been held to seven points or less in three of their nine games! All but one win this year (last week!) has been by one score w/ three coming by a FG or less. In the win over Ohio three weeks ago, the Huskies were able to rally from a double digit deficit. Then came the ugliest of victories, 7-6 over BYU, where they barely gained 200 yards total offense. I believe Toledo is the better team here and thus I'll take the points. 8* Toledo
|11-07-18||Ohio v. Miami-OH +3.5||Top||28-30||Win||100||26 h 56 m||Show|
10* Miami OH (7:00 ET): This is a rivalry game. "The Battle of the Bricks" takes place every year between Ohio and Miami, two schools separated by 189 miles (on opposite sides of Columbus). This is the 95th all-time meeting and Ohio has had the edge under HC Frank Solich, going 11-2 SU w/ five consecutive victories. There have been some real "lean" years for Miami during that time, but there's no reason this year's team shouldn't compete, if not finally break the losing skid. The RedHawks are also in a situation where they must win out to become bowl eligible. The last two years have been relatively disappointing in Oxford, but a win over their rival would go a long way in changing that. This spread seems too heavily influenced by last week's results. Take the points.
In 2016, Miami became the 1st team in NCAA history to open 0-6 and then win its final six regular season games. After that, there was some real optimism surrounding the program after it had made just one postseason appearance (2010) since the Ben Roethlisberger era. But the last two years have been disappointing. They finished just 5-7 SU a year ago and enter this game 3-6 SU after a loss to MAC East leader Buffalo last week. However, two of the RedHawks' last three losses have been by one point and LW's game was back & forth, tied 42-42 entering the 4Q. My view is that this team is better than its record. They have a very capable QB in Gus Ragland, who threw for 313 yards last week on 20 of 35 passing.
Ohio controls its own destiny in the MAC East w/ a potentially huge first place showdown looming next week against Buffalo. Though this is a rivalry game, I can see the Bobcats looking past it. There is no doubt in my mind that this game would have been closer to a pick 'em if not for Ohio absolutely destroying Western Michigan last week (in Kalamazoo!) 59-14. That game saw the Bobcats take an astonishing 45-0 halftime lead. Note that they were +6 in turnover differential, had three scoring drives of less than 20 yards plus a blocked punt returned for touchdown. I know Ohio has covered four straight and averaged 53.3 PPG in the last three. But they were just 1-3 SU away from Athens prior to last week and their rival will be more than ready, having had two extra days to prepare. 10* Miami OH
|11-04-18||Chargers v. Seahawks +1||Top||25-17||Loss||-108||42 h 41 m||Show|
8* Seattle (4:05 ET): This is a good matchup of two teams that appear to be playoff caliber. Seattle won big for me last week as my *10* Game of the Week, going into Detroit and winning outright (were three point dogs) 28-14. After an 0-2 start, the Seahawks have won four of five and what's most impressive about that is only one of their last four games was played here at Century Link Field. Ironically, that happens to be the last loss they suffered, but it was by only two against the still unbeaten Rams. So much for the breakup of the "Legion of Boom" as this defense is giving up just 18.7 points and 327.3 yards per game, both top five marks in the league. QB Russell Wilson continues to make plays for an offense averaging 28.3 PPG the last three weeks.
LA is 5-2. Their only losses have been to the Chiefs and Rams. Somewhat uncharacteristic, but the Chargers are 2-0 in games decided by three points or less. (For years, they have had one of the worst records in close games). But while there's no shame in losing to teams like the Chiefs and Rams, let's take a look at those five teams the Chargers have defeated: Buffalo, San Francisco, Oakland, Cleveland and Tennessee. Those are all teams with losing records and four of them (sans Tennessee) just might be bottom five teams in the league. They barely survived Tennessee over in London two weeks ago, needing to stop a 2-pt conversion attempt on the game's final play (won 20-19). Despite being off a bye, RB Melvin Gordon is questionable to play this week.
Seattle enjoys one of the league's strongest homefield advantages, so I'm surprised they're not favored here. Through the years, it's been exceedingly rare to get the Seahawks laying three points or less at home. They were underdogs to the Rams, easily covering the spread there. Their only other home game was a 24-13 win over Dallas. The offense has run for 155+ yards in four straight games. The Chargers' run defense did allow 164 yards on 33 carries to the Titans, so they might be susceptible. The Chargers have not beaten a good team yet this year, so I give the Seahawks a significant edge at home. 8* Seattle
|11-04-18||Steelers v. Ravens -2.5||Top||23-16||Loss||-118||112 h 57 m||Show|
10* Baltimore (1:00 ET): Pittsburgh won big for me last week, as expected, beating Cleveland 33-18 as 8-pt favorites. I thought it was an ideal spot to play the Steelers as they were coming off a bye, at home, and the Browns had just played their fourth overtime game of the season. Plus, they'd actually drastically outplayed Cleveland in a tie earlier in the season. As it turns out, the Browns wound up firing BOTH their head coach and offensive coordinator after the game. This week is a far less ideal spot for the Black & Gold as they head to Baltimore to face the rival Ravens. Baltimore has dropped B2B games to fall to 4-4 SU, but they did win in Pittsburgh earlier in the year. I took the Ravens in that first meeting as they rolled to a 26-14 win and cover. I expect the rematch to go pretty similarly.
After that win in Pittsburgh, the Ravens looked like one of the best teams in the AFC as they were 3-1. But they've since dropped three of four, two of the losses coming in brutal fashion. One was in overtime at Cleveland, a 12-9 final. The other was at home vs. New Orleans where usually sure-footed kicker Justin Tucker missed what would have been the game-tying XP in the final minute of regulation. Last week was the team's weakest effort of the year as they went down in Carolina 36-21. Being -3 in turnovers did them no favors there. The Ravens defense continues to lead the league in scoring (17.1 PPG allowed) and is the ONLY one in the league allowing fewer than 300 YPG. That will come in quite handy this week for their biggest game of the year.
The Ravens haven't lost B2B games very often under HC John Harbaugh. They did so twice last year, but both times they came back w/ a double digit victory the next game. Only having to lay a short number w/ them at home here is quite ideal as they're 5-2 SU and ATS the L7 times as a home favorite of three points or less. They really dominated that first meeting in Pittsburgh, outgaining the Steelers 451-284 w/ a 24-14 edge in first downs. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger fractured his index finger last week and while he's going to be on the field, don't think it won't negatively impact his play. 10* Baltimore
|11-04-18||Chiefs v. Browns +9||Top||37-21||Loss||-105||38 h 60 m||Show|
8* Cleveland (1:00 ET): The Browns were my top go against last week as I was on the Steelers. I thought it was a horrible spot for the Browns as Pittsburgh was off a bye and they were off their fourth OT game of the year w/ the defense having played a season-high 95 snaps. The Browns couldn't beat the Steelers at home in Week 1 despite a torrential downpour and being +5 in turnovers. Turns out, I was right. Cleveland lost 33-18 (scored a garbage-time TD) and subsequently fired its head coach (Hue Jackson) and OC (Todd Haley). DC Gregg Williams now takes over as the interim, trying desperately to provide a spark for a team that has lost three in a row. The Browns have an exciting rookie QB in Baker Mayfield, but let's face it: this has been the most miserable franchise in the entire NFL for two decades.
Meanwhile, things couldn't be any more different for Kansas City. They are one of top teams in the league, led by QB Patrick Mahomes, who has thrown 4 TD passes in three straight games. The Chiefs lead the league in offense, averaging 36.2 points per game. There has been only one game where they didn't score at least 30 points and their only loss was by a field goal at New England. But if there is one albatross, it's a defense that is permitting 432.4 yards per game. Despite that great offense, the Chiefs have actually been outgained on the year as the defense ranks 31st. They've been outgained in six of eight games overall!
Cleveland has struggled to close games, but they've lost only twice by more than a field goal, one of those last week. The Browns' defense has been quite opportunistic, leading the league w/ 22 forced turnovers. The pass defense has been one of the best in the league, particularly at home where visiting QB's are posting the lowest QBR in the league. Really, the team should have a better record than 2-5-1. I mentioned last week that it looked as if Mayfield had been regressing, well now he's freed from the Jackson-Haley power struggle. This is simply too many points for KC to lay on the road as I expect the Browns to play inspired after the coaching change. 8* Cleveland
|11-03-18||San Diego State v. New Mexico +10.5||Top||31-23||Win||100||57 h 32 m||Show|
8* New Mexico (10:15 ET): Needless to say, HC Rocky Long has enjoyed an unparalleled amount of success in the long standing rivalry between San Diego State and New Mexico. When Long was the HC at New Mexico, his Lobos won eight straight over the Aztecs from 2001-08. Now as the HC at San Diego State, it's the Aztecs that currently enjoy a six-game win streak in this Mt West rivalry! So I realize it's risky to try and fade Long in this matchup late Saturday night, especially considering San Diego State is 12-0 SU against teams w/ losing records the L3 seasons. But this is a pretty big number to lay in Albuquerque for an Aztecs team that only averages 21.1 points per game.
San Diego State lost as favorites last week on the road, falling to Nevada 28-24. They were just a two-point choice there. Despite outgaining the Wolf Pack 456-297 (24-14 in first downs), the Aztecs were shutout in the second half. This has simply not been a good ATS team in 2018 as their only win by more than a touchdown came against FCS school, Sacramento State. Their other five wins have been by a total of 23 points. So I don't see how they can be asked to lay this number on the road. They only beat a terrible San Jose State team by three at home and have not scored more than 24 points in any conference game. They are 0-5 ATS when favored this season.
Now New Mexico is off a 61-19 drubbing at the hands of Utah State last week and a 38-7 loss to Fresno State the game before. But those just might be the two best teams in the MWC this year. Having never beaten Long, UNM HC Bob Davie is going to be particularly motivated here, especially w/ his Lobos needing to win three of the final four games to be bowl eligible. Not that it would have changed the final outcome, but five turnovers killed this team last week. Davie's future is very much up in the air, so he badly needs a big win and to get the Lobos to the postseason. Davie has made another change at QB for this game as it will Colton Gerhart taking snaps, bringing a run-pass mix option to the table. The change makes the underdog a little tougher to prepare for and I think they keep it close. 8* New Mexico
|11-03-18||Houston v. SMU +14.5||Top||31-45||Win||100||53 h 17 m||Show|
8* SMU (7:00 ET): Houston treated me very well last week as my top American Conference Game of the Year. They routed USF 57-36, gaining nearly 700 total yards of offense in the process. Not surprisingly then, the Cougars are the quintessential "public side" this week at SMU, a team w/ a losing record. Houston has scored at least 41 points in every game this season and outside of still unbeaten UCF, should be viewed as the top team in this conference. But this shapes up to be the proverbial letdown game, a situation where they're off the biggest win of the year and have another big home game on deck, vs. Temple, next week. Meanwhile, this could be viewed as SMU's biggest home game of the year outside of TCU. The Mustangs have played a fairly challenging schedule to this point and generally been competitive. I'll take the points.
Earlier this year, I took SMU as a home dog and came out w/ a winning ticket. It was against Navy, a game they won outright 31-30. It was at a time when the team was coming off B2B losses to TCU and Michigan. Last week was another OT game, only this time the Ponies lost on a pick-six to Cincinnati. There was only overtime because Cincinnati drove for a game-tying FG at the end of regulation. Still, SMU covered as 8.5-pt dogs, so they're 4-1 ATS the last five times they have taken points. The only ATS loss during that time came at unbeaten UCF. Note that the Mustangs were within two scores of Michigan in the Big House in the 4th quarter earlier in the year. They also upset Tulane on the road two weeks ago.
Houston was only a six-point favorite at home when it beat SMU 35-22 last season. They certainly haven't forgotten their last trip here to Gerald J. Ford Stadium either as two years ago saw SMU record its first win over a ranked opponent at home in five years w/ a resounding 38-16 triumph. A key here w/ UH laying so many points is that they have a defense that gives up 480 yards per game and who knows if DE Ed Oliver will be held out again. Look for the Mustangs to score enough to hang around and stay inside the number. 8* SMU
|11-03-18||Tulane +7.5 v. South Florida||Top||41-15||Win||100||50 h 52 m||Show|
10* Tulane (3:30 ET): I will continue to play against South Florida as they may have the most misleading record in the entire country right now. I've been saying it for weeks (months?) now and it finally came to fruition last week as the Bulls were blown out at Houston, losing 57-36. It was USF's first loss of the year, but by no means their first shaky - or even poor - performance. In my analysis last week, I noted that I didn't even have USF ranked among my top 80 teams in the country! So the fact they were Top 25 was quite laughable to me. Despite taking the loss, this is still a team overvalued in the marketplace because of its record. This will be the fourth consecutive game I play against the Bulls - and fifth time overall this season. I expect to be 5-0 ATS by the time Saturday night rolls around.
The first time I played against USF this year was when they hosted East Carolina on Sept 24th. They were on the heels of two narrow, come from behind victories over Georgia Tech and Illinois the previous two weeks. Somehow - despite ECU having a 24-9 edge in first downs - USF was able to sneak by the Pirates, 20-13. But they did not cover as 22-pt chalk. Nor did they cover the second time I faded them, a weeknight game at Tulsa, which required another late comeback. Tulsa and Illinois are a combined 4-12 SU, yet USF trailed both by two scores in the 4th quarter. The next week, I took a big number w/ UConn (+33) and USF never even came close to covering that, winning only 38-30 against one of the worst teams in the entire country. Then came last week's loss to Houston where the defense surrendered 57 pts and nearly 700 total yards. It was the 3rd game this year that USF has been outgained by at least 150 total yards. They've been down at the end of the 1st quarter in six of their eight games.
Tulane comes in at 3-5 SU overall and will need to win three of its final four games to be bowl eligible. Considering a road date w/ Houston looms, the Green Wave probably need to win this game. They've won 4 and 5 games in two years under HC Willie Fritz, last year getting denied a sixth win in the final regular season game when they were stopped at the goal line on the final play. The key here for them is a change at QB where LSU transfer Justin McMillan has replaced senior Jonathan Banks. McMillan averaged nearly 10.0 yards per carry last week in a 24-17 win at Tulsa where the offense gained 312 yards on the ground. They also gained 300+ yards rushing earlier in the year in an upset of Memphis. Over the L3 wks, USF's defense has allowed 220, 322 (to UConn!) and 263 yds rushing. 10* Tulane
|11-03-18||Kansas State v. TCU -8||Top||13-14||Loss||-106||50 h 47 m||Show|
10* TCU (3:30 ET): The Horned Frogs are off one of the more embarrassing defeats of the Gary Patterson era as they fell to Kansas last week, 27-26 as 13.5-pt favorites. They "should have" won; note a near +200 edge in total yards and the fact they fumbled on the KU six-yard line in the final minute. But still, that's no excuse to lose to a team that had dropped its previous 38 October games! Shockingly, TCU has won just one of its last six games, but two of the last three losses coming by a field goal or less. They've also had to take on both Ohio State and Oklahoma this year and they played the former very tough in what was a neutral site game. Last week "should have" been the Horned Frogs' easiest game of the year, instead it was their most embarrassing. I'll now call for their "best" performance to date as they're back home to face Kansas State. Lay the points.
Kansas State did pull an upset a few weeks ago over Oklahoma State, but did so at home. This is simply not one of Bill Snyder's better teams. Coming off the upset of OSU and a bye, the Wildcats were trounced last week down in Oklahoma, 51-14. Certainly, no one gave them a real shot of beating the Sooners, but they were completely dominated. OU outgained them 702-245 for the game and led 48-7 heading into the fourth quarter. Kansas State is 0-3 on the road this season w/ two of the losses coming by at least 29 points. Next week, they host rival Kansas, which may be what the coaching staff is more focused on right now. TCU has been upset three times already this year, so their coaching staff isn't looking past anybody at this point.
Facing a backup QB last year, the TCU defense held Kansas State to a season-low 216 yards and won 26-6. Now neither team is as good as they were in 2017, but I think it's instructive to note the Horned Frogs were six-point chalk LY in Manhattan and now barely more than that here in Ft. Worth. The Frogs have performed shockingly poor at home ATS the L3 seasons (just 2-15!), but this line is a bargain. Despite the three-game losing skid, TCU is still 38-15 SU off a loss under HC Patterson and has NEVER dropped four in a row during his tenure. Last week saw them average 7.0 yards per play while allowing only 4.6. Had they not lost that game to Kansas, we're probably looking at a double digit line here. Good value. QB Michael Collins, only starting because of an injury to Shawn Robinson, threw for 351 yards last week and Kansas State's secondary is suspect to say the least. 10* TCU
|11-02-18||Colorado +3.5 v. Arizona||Top||34-42||Loss||-115||31 h 46 m||Show|
8* Colorado (10:30 ET): When "unpacking" this College Football season, you may not find a more shocking result than what happened last week between Colorado and Oregon State. It's not that the Buffs lost per se, although losing to team that was 0-22 its previous 22 road games is pretty embarrassing. It's HOW they lost. They actually led 31-3 midway through the third quarter, which is when the wheels began to come off. Oregon State put together a 24-point fourth quarter to send the game into OT and won 41-38 as 26-pt underdogs. Colorado had more total yards, but failed to put the game away by missing field goals and turning it over on downs. Needless to say, a Buffaloes team that was once 5-0 SU (now 5-3) should be plenty motivated in the desert Friday night.
Meanwhile, Arizona is off its biggest win of the season. I'm proud to say that I was on it as the Wildcats treated me to a 44-15 upset of #19 Oregon late last Saturday night. Key was not just the return of QB Khalil Tate, but also three Oregon turnovers. I have to say that, even as someone who was holding a ticket on the Wildcats, it was pretty shocking how easily dominated the Ducks. After all, this is a team that had been blown out twice this year (at Houston, at Utah) and also had lost twice at home (BYU, USC). They entered that Oregon game off B2B losses, having even dropped a one-point game to lowly 2-6 UCLA. I think it's important we don't overreact too much to one great performance from the Wildcats.
This game is very important for both teams' bowl eligibility. Being bowl eligible once seemed like a formality for Colorado, but not anymore as they've dropped three straight. Make no mistake about it; they "should have" won last week. Arizona has won five of the previous six meetings, including 45-42 LY in Boulder, which is when Tate came onto the scene and set a FBS rushing record for QB's w/ 327 (!) yards. The road team has won three straight in this Pac 12 rivalry and I can't help but think Colorado is the value play here coming off a loss while Arizona simply is not as good as it looked last week. 8* Colorado
|11-02-18||Pittsburgh +7.5 v. Virginia||Top||23-13||Win||100||7 h 53 m||Show|
8* Pittsburgh (7:30 ET): So I decided to take a "second look" at this game this morning and have come to the conclusion that I can't see Virginia winning by more than one score. We have two hot ACC teams here, both on three-game ATS win streaks. Pitt did lose once SU during that span, but that was by only five points at Notre Dame. It feels like the Panthers are still being unfairly weighed down by a bit of a rough start to the season. Similarly, it feels as if Virginia is being overvalued on the heels of a three-game win streak. I'm taking the points here in what feels like an even matchup.
The biggest concern I have w/ Pitt here is they are 0-3 on the road. Their offense simply hasn't performed as well as it has at home, but let's be fair and note two of their road games came against teams that are still unbeaten, UCF and Notre Dame. The other was a three-point loss (to North Carolina) where they scored 35 points. Last week saw them roll up a season-high 634 yards (484 on the ground) and 54 points in a win over a very good Duke team. Note the final score of 54-45 is a little misleading as the Panthers scored the go-ahead TD and a safety in the final five seconds. Still, it's going to be very difficult for Virginia to outscore this team, especially by the margin the oddsmakers are calling for here.
UVA has lost only two games this year, both on the road (Indiana, NC State). They're a perfect 4-0 SU/ATS here in Charlottesville, but that record has clearly inflated this line. It's interesting to see Pitt basically getting the same number as UNC did last week. Yes, UNC beat Pitt, but the Panthers were still favored to win that game in Chapel Hill. Virginia is now ranked, another influence on the line. I don't think for one second that the Cavaliers are one of the top 25 teams in the country. They've lost to Pitt three straight times, including 31-14 last year. Whomever wins this game will be in first place in the ACC Coastal, so it's not like Pitt won't be highly motivated. The Panthers are 4-2 ATS as underdogs this year, winning three of those games outright. 8* Pittsburgh
|11-01-18||Raiders +3 v. 49ers||Top||3-34||Loss||-125||29 h 5 m||Show|
8* Oakland (8:20 ET): What a terrible Thursday night matchup this is. We have the 1-6 Raiders, clearly going through an .. ahem .. "transitional" phase under HC Jon Gruden. Then there's 1-7 49ers, who are as decimated by injury as any team in the league. While they're by no means playing "well," my view is that Oakland is the better team here and their issues are more correctable. San Francisco's season basically ended when QB Jimmy Garoppolo went down w/ an ACL injury. Backup CJ Beathard certainly wasn't capable of saving things, especially w/ an injury riddled supporting cast. Now Beathard is hurt too and may not be able to play Thursday. That means it could be third string QB Nick Mullens making his first career start. Yikes.
The Raiders actually led at the half in each of the first three games, only to lose every time, before finally picking up a win (in overtime) at the Browns' expense. Since that win, things have not gone well w/ three straight double digit losses, another Gruden trade and reports of malcontent in the locker room. The fact of the matter is that the Khalil Mack trade (right before the start of the reg season) set an ominous tone. But the team has actually played well in spots for Gruden. Not against the Chargers or the Seahawks in London, mind you, but last week they led Indianapolis into the fourth quarter. QB Derek Carr certainly played well, accounting for 4 TD passes. Carr is completing 72% of his passes this season.
Carr will certainly be better than whomever the 49ers trot out at the QB position. Beathard injured his thumb in Sunday's 18-15 loss to Arizona. Note that Cardinals team has two wins in 2018 and both were at the 49ers' expense. Mullens has never taken a NFL regular season snap and things are so dire here that the team has signed Tom Savage to be a backup! Right now, San Francisco is as talent bereft as any team in the league. As bad as things have been for the Raiders, they've actually only been favored in one game and that was the one they won against Cleveland. So it's not like they're falling short of oddsmakers' expectations. They're underdogs again this week, but the 49ers are simply not a team that deserves to be favored at this point. 8* Oakland
|11-01-18||Northern Illinois v. Akron +6.5||Top||36-26||Loss||-125||29 h 38 m||Show|
10* Akron (7:00 ET): Northern Illinois enters the week at 5-3 overall. They are the only MAC West team w/o a loss (4-0) in conference play and they've won four in a row overall. So they are your current leaders in the division and on pace to play in the Conference Title Game. However, looks can be deceiving. This is not the normal dominant team out of DeKalb; in fact they've been outgained and outscored on the year despite the winning record. Last week was an all-time ugly 7-6 win over BYU where they gained only 204 total yds and 11 first downs. They had just 84 total yds in the second half, 65 of those coming on their one TD drive that saw them convert three third downs, one via penalty. I'll get more into it later, but I want no part of laying pts w/ this Huskies team on the road.
Akron has won B2B games, keeping its hopes of bowl eligibility alive. The Zips did win the MAC East a year ago, though they were pretty clearly NOT the division's best team. However, the key was beating both Buffalo and Ohio here at Infocision Stadium. The Zips are 7-2 SU overall at home the L2 years, one of those losses coming this year in a game where they turned it over five times. The other was to an Iowa State team that won 8 games LY. On Saturday, they beat Central Michigan here, 17-10 as four-point chalk. They did so despite losing the turnover battle by three (led 17-0 at halftime). Assuming they can take better care of the football here, Akron is more than capable of pulling the outright upset. This will be the 1st time they've been a home dog in 2018. This is a team that won at Northwestern earlier in the year and also covered against Iowa State in Ames.
All three Northern Illinois losses this year have come by double digits. All five wins have been by eight points or less, including three by three points or less. So that plays a significant role in me wanting to fade them in the role of road favorite. The Huskies have not had to make the trip to Akron since 2012. Akron's last win over NIU was 2005 so they'll be motivated. The Northern Illinois offense is averaging just 17.1 PPG and 4.0 yards per play. They have yet to score more than 26 pts in any game. In what is projected to be a very low scoring game (check that total!), I'll gladly take the points w/ the home team in this Thursday night matchup. 10* Akron
|10-31-18||Ball State v. Toledo -17||Top||13-45||Win||100||51 h 53 m||Show|
10* Toledo (7:30 ET): It looks as if I may have been a week early on the Toledo resurgence. Two weeks ago, I took the Rockets (as they were a rare home dog) and unfortunately, they came up short for me in a 31-17 loss to Buffalo (who has been the MAC's best team this year). But last week finally saw the Rockets blast off w/ a dominant 51-24 win at Western Michigan. They totaled over 500 yards of offense in the contest and did not commit a single turnover, a far cry from four giveaways they had vs. Buffalo. This is the first time in eight years that Toledo has four losses in its first eight games and lost two out of its first four conference games. An ATS resurgence should also be on the way as they've produced a winning record for bettors seven of the last eight years as well. Back at the Glass Bowl, I expect them to win big Wednesday night.
Ball State is not a very good team. Let's use that statement as our starting point. The Cardinals are just 3-6 SU w/ one win coming against a FCS school and another by one point at Central Michigan. Last week saw their defense get run over to the tune of 411 yards rushing by Ohio in a 52-14 beatdown. It was a 52-7 game heading into the fourth quarter w/ BSU giving up all those points in just two quarters of play! As you might expect, the Cardinals' defensive numbers are pretty horrific overall as they've allowed 94 pts total the L2 games. They're not too much better on offense where they are averaging just 16.0 PPG on the road. Even worse is that they're now going to be w/o starting QB Riley Neal after he suffered a knee injury in the loss to Ohio.
Toledo is also dealing with an injury at the QB position as starter Mitchell Guadagni is questionable to play after exiting the Western Michigan game w/ a shoulder injury. But there are two reasons as to why the Rockets are far better equipped to deal w/ their QB injury than is Ball State. One is that backup Eli Peters has already started two games this season and he also threw three second half TD passes last week. The other is no matter who the QB is, they can rely on a run game that has gone for 225+ yards three of the last four games. Toledo should move the ball at ease in this game (again, regardless of who is playing QB) and, by the way, Ball State will probably be w/o its leading tackler (Jacob White, who was also injured in the Ohio game) and leading rusher James Gilbert is questionable as well. 10* Toledo
|10-30-18||Kent State +1 v. Bowling Green||Top||35-28||Win||100||27 h 23 m||Show|
8* Kent State (8:00 ET): Bluntly speaking, there are many matchups of terrible teams on this week's CFB slate (UTEP-Rice definitely taking the cake). This one is definitely the first. Kent State and Bowling Green are both 0-4 in MAC play and 1-7 overall. Both can also be counted among my bottom 10 teams in the entire country. That said, Kent State is obviously the better team here, a fact that should be obvious by the fact Bowling Green isn't even laying the standard three points here at home. Further illustrating the Falcons' futility is the fact that they have been outscored by 22.1 points per game this season. Kent State is by no means a "good team," but they are only -12.0 PPG. This is easily the best chance for both teams to pick up a conference win this year and I think the Golden Flashes get it.
Kent State has actually had a couple of close losses in the L3 wks, both times outgaining their opponent. One came 10 days ago, their last game, against rival Akron. It was a very minor edge they had in total yards (371-362) and the game went into overtime. In OT, the Golden Flashes elected to go for two and the win after scoring a touchdown. They obviously failed. Two weeks prior, they led Ohio virtually the entire way (by as many as 14 pts), but gave up the lead with just under 90 seconds remaining. So they've at least come close to winning a couple of MAC games. They also played Illinois tough in the season opener, losing by just a touchdown on the road. I had them in a cover at Ole Miss earlier in the year as well.
Like Kent State, BG's only win came against a FCS team. Kent State beat Howard while Bowling Green beat Eastern Kentucky. But let's now focus on the clear differences. Kent State blew out their FCS opponent, 54-14. Bowling Green barely beat theirs, only winning by a touchdown. They were even down by two touchdowns early and outgained for the game! Another difference is the Falcons have never come close to beating a MAC opponent. The closest they came was a touchdown. The other three losses have all been by 15+ or more. They have already fired their coach (Mike Jinks), making this a "lost season." Neither team has a very good defense, but the Golden Flashes have been slightly better on that side of the ball, particularly in the red zone. That's pretty much the story of these two teams as Kent State is simply slightly better in all facets. They also have revenge for five straight losses in the series. 8* Kent State
|10-29-18||Patriots v. Bills +14||Top||25-6||Loss||-105||24 h 10 m||Show|
10* Buffalo (8:20 ET): This is a real "hold your nose and take the points" type situation. But before you go and write off this Bills chances here, be aware that they weren't as bad as the final score showed last week vs. Indianapolis. Total yardage was only -73 and the offense gained a strong 5.51 yards per play. The problem was five turnovers. As long of a season as it's been in upstate NY, the Bills still are fielding the fourth best defense in the league. This would be just the 4th time in the history of MNF that a home team is an underdog of 14 points. The three previous teams have gone a perfect 3-0 ATS. I think that defense can keep them in this one, even w/ Derek Anderson back at QB.
New England seems to be humming along again after a 1-2 SU start. They've won four straight. But they've also given up a total of 71 pts the last two weeks. Now those games came against two quality foes, including Kansas City. But note that LW's game at Chicago was somewhat of a struggle. They needed TWO special teams TDs and a Hail Mary stop at the goal line on the game's final play. The road hasn't been that kind to the Patriots this season as LW was their 1st win after a pair of double digit losses. Something else to note is that they've committed at least one turnover in every game this season.
Buffalo hasn't won a MNF game since 1999. They haven't won a MNF home game since '94! So, despite being seemingly outgunned and outmanned, expect a spirited atmosphere and motivated underdog. As ugly a season debut as it was last week, Derek Anderson's 175 yards passing were actually the team's most in four weeks. I think the potential loss of LeSean McCoy is somewhat overblown considering the tandem of Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy combined to average 6.1 yards per carry last week. Since 2012, as a double digit road favorite, the Patriots are just 1-4-1 ATS w/ two outright losses. The Bills have been a DD home dog only three times in the last 30 years and have covered twice. No matter the teams, my view will almost always be that this is too many points to lay on the road. 10* Buffalo
|10-28-18||Colts v. Raiders +3||Top||42-28||Loss||-100||90 h 37 m||Show|
8* Oakland (4:05 ET): Needless to say, the Raiders are officially at "rock bottom." Reports of discontent are rampant with anonymous players questioning the leadership of both HC Jon Gruden and QB Derek Carr. The team is 1-5 SU w/ its only win coming in overtime against Cleveland, a game in which they trailed by two touchdowns in the second half. Two weeks ago, they were humiliated over in London in a 27-3 loss to the Seahawks (just 185 total yds). The Khalil Mack trade was obviously highly questionable in retrospect and now Gruden has chosen to deal top receiver Amari Cooper. But the Silver and Black are off a bye, which came at an opportune time I think. As bad as things have been, I don't think Oakland should be a home dog to the Colts. Take the points.
Indianapolis is off a win, a rarity, and it was easily their most impressive showing to date. Of course, it helped playing Buffalo, who was starting its third QB of the year (Derek Anderson), just signed off the street. Going inside the numbers reveals the Colts may not have been as dominant as you think. They only had a +73 edge in total yards, enough to justify a win, but certainly not indicative of the final margin of victory. The key was being +5 in turnovers, which is a margin that will almost always guarantee victory. The Colts' often leaky defense still permitted 5.5 yards per play. Of course, they entered the game ranked 30th in total defense.
As bleak as things may look in Oakland right now (no Marshawn Lynch!), things can't get any worse. Indianapolis being a road favorite seems like a case of putting the "cart before the horse" as it's a role they haven't found themselves but one time since 2015. My numbers still indicate the Raiders should be favored here. One player that could still make a difference is TE Jared Cook. The Colts defense is giving up 8.4 yards per attempt to tight ends this year. This is one of those times you just have to "hold your nose" and take advantage of the public's poor perception of the Raiders right now. The numbers say we're getting a good value. 8* Oakland
|10-28-18||Seahawks +3 v. Lions||Top||28-14||Win||100||122 h 7 m||Show|
10* Seattle (1:00 ET): I see the better team getting points in this one AND the Seahawks are off a bye. Sounds like a good play to me. Early on in the season, it appeared as if Seattle could be headed toward a rebuilding year as they started out w/ road losses to Denver and Chicago. But both of those were one-score games and ever since, they've won three of four w/ the only loss coming by two points to the undefeated Rams. Interestingly enough, it's been a somewhat similar story for the Lions, who also opened 0-2, including that embarrassing performance on MNF against the Jets. But they too have won three of four, not to mention covered five straight. They had the benefit of the bye last week, but this week the tables will be turned. Take the points.
The last time we saw Seattle, they turned in their most impressive performance of the year, blowing out Oakland over in London by a score of 27-3. It was a total blowout from start to finish w/ the defense holding the Raiders to 185 total yards. So much for this group taking a step back in the post Legion of Boom era. In each win, they've allowed 17 pts or fewer. Now, off the bye, LB K.J. Wright is set to make a season debut. On the offensive side of the ball, so too is tight end Ed Dickson, who will be a nice target for Russell Wilson. But the real key to this game probably resides at the line of scrimmage. Whichever team runs the ball better is probably going to win. Obviously, you've figured out by now that I think that's going to be Seattle.
Detroit's defense is simply not very good, against the run or the pass. They are allowing 5.7 yards per carry, which should mean a big day for the Seahawks RB group of Chris Carson, Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny. As for the passing game, the Lions were shredded three weeks ago by Aaron Rodgers. That was actually a very lucky win as the Packers outgained them 521-264, but were -3 in turnovers. When coming off back to back wins, the Lions are just 5-5 SU and 3-6-1 ATS the L3 seasons. I look for their SU - and ATS - win streaks to come to an end here. 10* Seattle
|10-28-18||Browns v. Steelers -8||Top||18-33||Win||100||122 h 7 m||Show|
10* Pittsburgh (1:00 ET): The Browns have not fared well against the Steelers returning to the league back in 1999, which honestly is par for the course for this franchise's miserable second existence. Just six times they've beaten their rival and two of those wins came in the 1999 and 2000 seasons. So that means they are 4-31-1 their L36 meetings. Note the "1" at the end of that record. These teams tied back in Week 1 and I was on Cleveland, plus the points, which wound up being a relatively easy cover all things considered. But look at the value we're getting on the rested Steelers for this rematch. Whereas they were four-point favorites in Cleveland (and that line opened much higher), now they're only laying a little more than a touchdown at home.
If Cleveland couldn't beat Pittsburgh at home back in Week 1, then I'm not sure when they'll beat them. Weather was terrible and the Browns were +5 in turnover margin in that 21-21 tie. If you can't win at home w/ a +5 TO margin, there's something seriously wrong. According to a widely circulated tweet after that game, "Since the Browns returned to the NFL, teams with a turnover margin of +5 or better in a game are 132-4-1. The Browns are responsible for two of those losses and the tie." The Browns should be thankful that they were +5 in TO's in that game, however, as they were outgained 472-327. It's very unlikely that they will benefit from such a TO margin again this week. It might rain again, but it'll take more than Mother Nature to stop the Steelers this time.
Browns' fans will want to point to the fact that #1 overall DC Baker Mayfield was not yet the starting QB back in Week 1 (Tyrod Taylor). Again, Mayfield's presence alone is not enough to change the result. In fact, since leading his team to a win over the Jets in Week 3, I feel that Mayfield's play has gotten progressively WORSE. Something to keep in mind here is that rookie QB's are just 4-20 SU vs. the Steelers since 2004 and the Browns have not won at Heinz Field since '03. The Steelers are coming off a bye and ready to roll. Meanwhile, the Browns defense just played a season-high 95 snaps in last week's OT loss at Tampa Bay, which was already their FOURTH OT game of the season. 10* Pittsburgh
|10-28-18||Ravens -1 v. Panthers||Top||21-36||Loss||-120||86 h 28 m||Show|
8* Baltimore (1:00 ET): Many might be, but I am not surprised that the Ravens come in as a slight favorite here in Carolina. My numbers agree as despite the Panthers winning 16 of their last 23 games, they still grade out as a fairly average team. Last year, they were an extremely fortunate 7-2 SU in one-score games. They were 11-5 SU overall, but only outscored opponents by a meager 36 points, which is more indicative of a 9-win team. This year, the team is 4-2, but only +11 in point differential. They have two wins by four points or less and their only game decided by more than eight points was a win over Cincinnati where they finished +4 in turnovers. The Panthers have consistently proven to be more "lucky" than "good" and that was again the case last week as they made a stunning comeback (trailed 17-0 in 4Q) to beat the Super Bowl Champion Eagles on the road.
Baltimore is 4-3 SU, but has only played one bad game all year, that being a Thursday night road game in Cincinnati. Last week was a brutal 1-pt home loss to New Orleans when usually sure-footed kicker Justin Tucker missed the potential game-tying XP. They also allowed 17 fourth quarter points last week to the Saints, highly irregular for them. I've said it before, but in a league where offense rules, the Ravens have attempted to be the exception to the rule. They've allowed 14 pts or less in five of seven games, the exceptions being the Thurs night game and last week vs. the high-powered Saints. This defense is #1 in the league in both scoring and yards allowed as well as sacks.
I like the Ravens' chances of bouncing back from last week's tough defeat as they are a perfect 5-0 ATS off their previous five losses. Their previous loss was in overtime at Cleveland, a game their defense only allowed 12 points. They bounced back from that w/ a 21-0 shutout over the Titans. While the running the ball may be difficult against Carolina, expect QB Joe Flacco to find plenty of success through the air as the Panthers have already allowed 13 completions of 20+ yards, third most in the league. On the flip side, Carolina's run-heavy offense figures to have a lack of success against this Ravens' defense and that will be a problem. The Panthers are actually being outgained this year on a per play basis while Baltimore is +0.6, not to mention +106.4 YPG. 8* Baltimore