Sunday, October 11, 2009

You Betcha!

Good morning, and welcome back to You Betcha! This is my weekly segment in which I pick NFL games against the spread and then either crow about how brilliant and highly skilled I am, or kvetch about how it's all luck and how 90% of the time it comes down to whether the team in the lead decides to kick that pointless field goal in the waning seconds of a game, or whether they just run it out (we like long sentences around here). Let's just say that last week's fourth quarters were not for the faint of heart as more than a few of my picks turned into late losses. What I did get right, however, was the prediction that my brilliant start to picking games this season would finally ease. Even so, an 8-6 week is above .500 and still nothing to sneeze at. Let's go to the numbers:

Last Week:

Against the Spread: 8-6
Mortal Locks: 1-2
Net profit: -$45.46

Overall Totals:

Against the Spread: 32-14 (.696)
Mortal Locks: 6-3
Net profit: $163.24

Week 5 (road teams are always listed first):

1) Minnesota (-11) vs. St. Louis

Taking an 11-point underdog at home is always a tempting choice, but these Rams are far and away the worst team in football right now (lost 35-0 to the Niners last week), and the Vikings defense should have no trouble getting to Kyle Boller behind center. There's a slim possibility of a post-Monday night letdown following Brett Favre's triumphant victory over Green Bay, but it's a good thing they can then just hand off to Adrian Peterson 30 times. On any given Sunday...just not this one. Take the Vikes easily.

2) Dallas (-8) vs. Kansas City
The Cowboys have given me fits all season long, but this is the week they pay me back. Yes, they're banged up and playing without Roy Williams and Felix Jones this week, and yes, the Chiefs are primed for a breakout game at some point...but not this week. I expect a wide open shootout with both teams landing some long-distance body blows. In the end, however, after the dust clears, look for Tony Romo to have regained some of his swagger with a three-TD performance. Dallas will cover.

3) Washington (+5) vs. Carolina

The oddsmakers continue to give Washington far too much credit, and each week that makes their game a veritable bargain. The Panthers aren't a great team by any means, but they do have an excellent ground game and the option to go vertical with Steve Smith. Both of these teams are cut from the never-know-who-is-showing-up cloth, but this week Carolina comes to play and the Redskins don't. If this game is a blowout, I wouldn't count on Jim Zorn surviving the week. Take Carolina.

4) Tampa Bay (+16) vs. Philadelphia
Wow, that's a lot of points to be giving. And you know what? I'm taking them. Philly is clearly the superior team here, and they return from a bye week healthier than they've been all season, but I still believe the Bucs just aren't as miserable as their 0-4 record suggests. They showed a lot of life against Washington last week, and they're not simply playing out a lost season. I admit this could go entirely the other way, but I like the Bucs if they're getting that many points.

5) Oakland (+16) vs. NY Giants
Speaking of 16-point spreads. Here's the difference, however---I hate Oakland with a passion that burns hotter than Tom Cable's face-breaking fist. Oakland can't throw, which means they can't run. Their defense is adequate enough, but the Giants are one of the most well-rounded teams in the league. Even if Eli Manning doesn't play, and it looks like he will, I'd still take a David Carr-led Giants to cover this spread. The Raiders will never turn around so long as Al Davis is breathing. Take the Giants to run, throw, and sack their way to a huge spread-covering victory.

6) Cleveland (+6) vs. Buffalo

The Browns found a spark last week with Derek Anderson, James Harrison, and Mohamed Mossaquoi effectively replacing the awful triumvirate of Brady Quinn, Jamal Lewis, and Braylon Edwards. The Browns offense is now officially upgraded to partly crappy with a 30% chance of score. Even so, how do you not take the Bills at home when they only need to win by a TD? Yes, they're a bit of a mess right now, but they're loaded with talent and there's few teams better to "get right" against than the Browns. Take the Bills and give the points.

7) Cincinnati (+9) vs. Baltimore
The Bengals at 3-1 are one of the early surprises of the season (they should be 4-0), and that's why this spread is closer than it should be. Look, I like the Bengals, but the Ravens may very well be the best team in football. They suffered a tough loss to the Patriots this week and now they return home to face a good, but overrated teams. This is a no-brainer. Baltimore is going to roll to victory EASILY in this one. I'd give the Bengals an extra five points if I could.

8) Pittsburgh (-11) vs. Detroit

It's unclear who will be starting at QB for Detroit today, but it won't matter. Whether it's Culpepper or Stafford, the Steelers should cover the 11 points on the road. Detroit is constantly improving and no longer can be considered the league's punchline (and punching bag), but the Steelers are the Super Bowl Champs and are finally starting to play like it. Rashard Mendenhall breathed some life into their already potent ground game last week, and Big Ben continued to be the quintessential pocket QB-leader. Take the Steelers and give the points.

9) Atlanta (+1.5) vs. San Fran
The Falcons have had a bye week to prepare themselves, and I actually think that's going to be the difference. Although they're 2-1, Atlanta hasn't really looked all that great and Matt Ryan has struggled to recapture last season's magical connection with Roddy White. Still, while the 49'ers are a true up and coming team, especially now that they've manged to get Michael Crabtree under contract, these Falcons are a Super Bowl contender if they stay healthy and mature. I like the Falcons to win, so I'm definitely taking those points, too.

10) New England (-3.5) vs. Denver
It's hard to believe Denver is 4-0, but that's what a good defense will do for you. And while their offense has struggled, it's been efficient. Kyle Orton has avoided mistakes as he attempts to develop chemistry with Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. But so what. These are the Patriots. They're getting better week in and week out and they're exactly the sort of offense which could expose Denver's defensive weaknesses. I know these aren't the Patriots from 2007, but anytime they're only a 3.5 favorite I'm going to pick them.

11) Houston (+5.5) vs. Arizona
If I could avoid picking this game, I would. Arizona is the more balanced team here and they're coming off a bye week, but Houston is one of those teams that seems possible of rising up and throwing 40 points on the board in any given week. They might give up 50 points in the process, but they can score. Be that as it may, I don't trust Houston. Or Arizona. But since I have to pick someone, give me the Cardinals at home.

12) Jacksonville (+1.5) vs. Seattle (-1.5)

Did I miss something? I know Matt Hasselbeck is expected back from his rib injury this week, but how are the Jaguars not favored here? They've scored more points in each successive week of the season, have won two in a row, and David Garrard is stepping up and taking the load off of Maurice Jones-Drew's shoulders. Seattle is a tough place to play, and the Jags are beatable in the passing game, but it's the Jaguars who should be favored here...not the Seahawks.

13) Indianapolis (-4.5) vs. Tennessee
What??? The undefeated Colts are just a 4.5 point favorite against the one-dimensional 0-4 Titans??? Bet the farm. No commentary needed...this is a mortal lock and a bizarre point spread.

14) NY Jets (-2.5) vs. Miami
I haven't a clue. Miami stunned me with their dominating curb-stomp of Buffalo last week, so I literally have no idea how this is going down. Two rookie QBs at the helm, but it's the Jets defense which should cause more problems. I have no feel for this game whatsoever, but take the Jets to blitz the hell out of Chad Henne.

Mortal Lock #1: Indianapolis (-4.5)
Mortal Lock #2: Baltimore (-9)
Mortal Lock #3: Buffalo (-6)

I've got a good feeling this week and I'm putting my money where my mouth is:

1) Dallas (-8): $20 to win $18.18
2) Carolina (-5): $20 to win $18.18
3) Buffalo (-6): $35 to win $30.43
4) Baltimore (-9): $30 to win $26.09
5) Jacksonville (+1.5): $20 to win $18.18
6) Indianapolis (-4.5): $45 to win $42.86
7) Minnesota (-11): $20 to win $17.39
8) 5-game parlay picking Minnesota, Carolina, Buffalo, Baltimore and Indy: $5 to win $119.36
9) 7-game parlay picking Minnesota, Buffalo, Baltimore, Atlanta, New England, Jacksonville and Indy: $5 to win $458.51

Happy betting.


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