While we are all big NFL fans here, let’s be honest: One of the most fun things about following the NFL is attempting to overcome its unpredictability and predict the future. Whether you’re trying to make a buck, will your team to victory, or simply looking for bragging rights, NFL betting is extremely exciting. I’ve always enjoyed analyzing potential NFL outcomes, and I’d like to put my recommendations out there. I’ll do my best to touch upon all factors I find important, but if you feel I’ve left something out, feel free to leave a comment. So without further ado, I present to all of you the first of what will be a weekly column for this blog.
Eagles @ Bucs, 1pm
Recommended line: Bucs +1 to +2.5
This is an interesting game to start off with, as I’m going with an offense in disarray. Mike Glennon pretty much gave away the game in his first start against the Cardinals, and Doug Martin has yet to have a breakout game. However they are at home coming off a bye, and facing one of the worst defenses in the league. The Bucs have talent on offense, and if Glennon can avoid mistakes, there is no reason they shouldn’t put up at least 20 points. The real reason I feel confident though, is the other matchup. Say what you want about Greg Schiano, but the guy has built a very nice defense. I like Chip Kelly and what he’s brought to the Eagles, but this is a bad matchup for them. Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson should limit the damage caused by DeSean Jackson, and the rest of the Bucs defense should stuff the run fairly handily. LeSean McCoy might break a run here or there due to sheer talent, but running room should be pretty limited overall. Gerald McCoy should cause plenty of disruption in the middle of the Eagles OL, leaving it up to Vick or Foles to raise the play of their teammates. All in all, I expect the Bucs to come away with their first win of the season in a low-scoring affair. Under 46 isn’t a bad lean if things go perfectly, but this game has potential for a handful of turnovers so I would be cautious about that.
Packers @ Ravens, 1pm
Recommended line: Ravens +3
This is my favorite line of the week. Clay Matthews, by far the best player on an already very bad defense, will be out for the next month. The Ravens offense doesn’t scare too many defenses, but with a solid OL and decent QB play, they shouldn’t have too much trouble racking up first downs against this extremely soft Packers defense. Without Clay Matthews, there really isn’t a single scary matchup for the Ravens offense to be concerned about. On the other side, the most favorable matchup for the Ravens comes in the trenches; Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Elvis Dumervil are all playing well enough that they should cause plenty of trouble for a Packers offensive line that’s pretty weak across the board. Aaron Rodgers is going to make some incredible throws, because he’s Aaron Rodgers, and that’s what he does. However, the Ravens secondary matches up well with the Packers receivers. Lardarius Webb and Corey Graham will likely spend the most time shadowing Cobb, both very capable slot defenders. James Jones and Jordy Nelson will get looks against Jimmy Smith who is not very polished, but very physically capable. James Ihedigbo who is having a breakout season at safety should be good enough to keep a handle on Finley. So while Rodgers will generally have one receiver with a decent matchup on most plays, he’s also going to be getting pressured quite a bit, certainly enough to limit the huge damaging plays we are accustomed to. Both sides of the ball look good for the Ravens, especially the offense, and they’re at home with no serious injuries.
Lions @ Browns, 1pm
Recommended line: Under 44
Brandon Weeden against the Lions defense? Not a good look from any perspective. The Lions defense has given up a lot of points when granted a big lead, but otherwise has played fairly well. Considering this is easily the weakest offense they will have played so far, I don’t expect the Browns to exceed 20 points, and a figure lower than that seems pretty likely. As for the Lions offense, Calvin Johnson is dinged up and facing off against Joe Haden, so it’s hard to see him causing too much trouble. The rest of the Lions receivers are extremely weak, and against the Browns very tough pass rush, it’s hard to see them passing the ball with too much success in this game. Their best bet is to try and grind out some yards on the ground, but even those won’t come easy. This game should showcase the defenses, and I’d expect it to be a one possession game down to the wire.
Rams @ Texans, 1pm
Recommended line: Texans -7.5
I’m cautiously optimistic here. All signs, aside from Gary Kubiak’s extremely conservative coaching when playing with a lead, point to a crushing Texans win. That aside, this is a terrible matchup for the Rams. J.J. Watt will have a field day against the Rams’ subpar interior offensive line, and the Texans should have no problem defending the weak Rams receivers. The Rams running game has been non-existent this year, putting the offense all on the shoulders of Sam Bradford, one of the most conservative passers in the league. With pressure up the middle most of the day, you can expect him to dump the ball off even quicker than usual. I would be surprised to see the Rams score even one touchdown on offense. The Texans offense is pretty boring to watch most of the time, but they might run it up here on a fairly soft defense. The Rams best corner, Cortland Finnegan, is out, so the Texans’ passing game should be able to do just enough to support a strong rushing attack. Both sides of the ball look bad for the Rams; Houston should win pretty comfortably.
Cardinals @ 49ers, 4 pm
Recommended line: Cardinals +10.5
Daryl Washington is back and instantly makes the Cardinals defense a lot better, especially against the run. With Patrick Peterson matching up against Anquan Boldin, the Niners offense should struggle to pass the ball as they really have no other receiving threats. You ask: What about Vernon Davis? The return of Daryl Washington will mitigate most of his contribution. The 49ers’ defense is good but not as scary without Aldon Smith, so Carson Palmer should be able to find some open receivers throughout the day. Even though the 49ers should win this game, this line is vastly overestimating the gap between these two teams. I feel confident it will be a one-possession game most of the way, with the Cardinals at the very least closing the gap and covering in garbage time.
Solid Leans: The rest of these lines are picks that I don’t feel as confident about, but would still label as winning plays in the long run. Some are dependent on key players who are injured but might still play based on game time decisions.
Titans @ Seahawks 4pm, Under 40.5: The Titans defense has been very solid this year, and the Seahawks have some OL injuries. This is a pretty low total, but barring some defensive scores, I still like this line.
Bengals -6 @ Bills, 1pm: I’m only tentative on this because Andy Dalton isn’t that great and the Bills defense is vastly improved this year under Mike Pettine. However the Bengals defense has also played very well, and they are facing a QB, Thad Lewis, who was just promoted from the Bills’ practice squad this week. This should be an easy road victory for the Bengals.
Saints +1 @ Patriots, Under 50.5: If I had more information on Amendola and Gronk, I would have more confidence in these two bets. If Gronk doesn’t play, I have a hard time seeing the Patriots racking up many points against the improved Saints defense. Amendola will probably play, but he’s still dinged up. so I’m not sure he will have much of an effect. The Patriots defense has played well this year, but Brees and the Saints should still outpace the Patriots. If Gronk plays, both of these plays become tossups that I would not have much confidence in one way or the other.
Colts @ Chargers +1: There’s no way the Colts should be favored here on the road; the Chargers are a very comparable team. Laron Landry and Bjoern Werner are already out, so this seems like a questionable line that’s giving up at least 1-2 points.
I think that’ll do it for this week. I’ll try to do a recap after Monday to give you all the chance to laugh at me, but if not, see you guys on Saturday. Enjoy the games!