Well, that could have gone better.
ATLANTA (+7 at Baltimore)
Result: Baltimore 29, Atlanta 7
What went right: Nothing.
What went wrong: Everything. I learned a valuable lesson in not taking a team I think is significantly worse without an enormous line. “If all goes well, they could be in position to make a backdoor cover” is a reason to stay away from a bet, not to make it.
BUFFALO (-4.5 vs. Minnesota)
Result: Buffalo 17, Minnesota 16
What went right: Buffalo’s defense held Minnesota to 16 points, and Sammy Watkins was every bit as incredible as I hoped, finishing with nine catches for 122 yards and two TDs, including the game winner.
What went wrong: Well, the Bills only scored three other points. They lost the turnover battle 4-2 (including losing all three of their fumbles); they probably could have covered if the turnover margin was even. That said, perhaps I shouldn’t have so much faith in the Buffalo Bills to do things like avoid turnovers.
CAROLINA (+7 at Green Bay)
Result: Green Bay 38, Carolina 17
What went right: See the Atlanta pick.
What went wrong: I should have known this was not a safe bet by virtue of the fact that the line was the same as Carolina’s against Cincinnati. I should have remembered that Green Bay is quite a bit better than Cincinnati, and that stopping an A.J. Green-less offense isn’t the same thing as stopping Aaron Rodgers. I also should have made some adjustments for fatigue, given that the Panthers played five full quarters the week before and were back on the road. I did a poor job estimating the skill difference between teams on these first three bets.
HOUSTON (+3.5 at Pittsburgh)
Result: Pittsburgh 30, Houston 23
What went right: Everything up until 3:06 left in the first half, during which Houston outscored Pittsburgh 13-0 and was winning by taking advantage of the very things I thought they would: Namely, using the running game to move the ball and control the clock, and allowing J.J. Watt to disrupt Pittsburgh’s offense.
What went wrong: The final three minutes of the half were a complete disaster the kind of which is rarely seen at the NFL level. Suddenly down 24-13, the Texans had to start relying on Ryan Fitzpatrick and the passing game. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a good QB. It did not go well. I’m not sure where I should just chalk this up to a bizarre fluke, or whether I should have some built-in expectation that the Texans will blow games in egregious fashion (I certainly had it built in to my season bet on their win total).
INDIANAPOLIS (-3 vs. Cincinnati)
Result: Indianapolis 27, Cincinnati 0
What went right: Literally everything that possibly could have. Don’t bet against Andrew Luck– in the end, top-flight quarterback play cures a lot of ills and a lot of other roster holes.
What went wrong: Nothing, as far as my bet goes. Even Giovani Bernard, who I thought would be key if the Bengals were going to score an upset, was barely a factor, with only 9 carries for 17 yards.
You know the worst part? I named three picks I considered but passed up (Dallas, Denver, New Orleans), and all three ultimately won. In the future, I may scale my picks a little more toward teams I actually feel are genuinely better than the lines, rather than basing the entirety of my decision on a half-point swing. No more “Well, the line moved from 7 to 6.5 so I have to take the underdog” if I still don’t think the underdog is a reasonable favorite to cover.
Week Results: 1-4
Season Results: 19-16