I'm beginning to wish I wasn't so hooked on picking teams against the spread. Having been sitting pretty with a 10-3 record as Week 4 came to a close, I'm now 10-7, on a four game skid, including 0-3 last week. Last week...hmmm.
Cleveland decided to go against type against the Giants in New Jersey. They were 3-0 ATS this season when available with at least a seven point start. The ten points on offer last week looked too good to be true. Turns out it was.
After what amounted to quite an impressive road win (ATS, too) in Jacksonville two weeks ago, the Bengals went bust at home to the Dolphins, despite holding Reggie Bush to just 48 rushing yards. They led 6-0 at the end of the first quarter and were covering the spread right there. I remembered afterwards that Cincinnati were too unreliable to bet on last year so I'm wary for the rest of the season unless I see a ridiculous chink in the Vegas armour.
Houston's never just six points the better team over the Jets, even on the road, but that's what happened last week and with Arian Foster rushing for 152 yards, no less. The Texans were never going to lose that game and I thought the line of -7.5 was amazing value; it crept up to ten towards kickoff. In hindsight, I failed to look ahead to their Week 6 matchup...the Packers at home on primetime on Sunday night, a possible Super Bowl preview. I should've known better.
One crumb is that Week 6 can't go as bad as last week. Let's take a look. (The acronym BAL below each team denotes Best Available Line, for those new to this).
Before we do, however, for those that care for these posts (and I thank you both), this week will be a little different as I'll just be commenting on the games I see ripe for betting on. My apologies for the truncated post.
OAKLAND RAIDERS at ATLANTA FALCONS
Atlanta will remain unbeaten after this one, at 6-0. Will they be 5-1 ATS? It should happen. Oakland's given up 103 points over its past three games and they face a Falcons team averaging 29.6 points per game. In addition, as mentioned above with regards looking ahead at a team's schedule, if we do that with Atlanta, they enter their bye week after this one so no problematic road test coming up. Not, that is, until they travel to Philly in two weeks time.
I look at this matchup with the Raiders possibly being afforded a 12 point start. In fact, I may even be happy laying 14. They're coming off a 37-6 hammering from the Broncos and yes, they had their bye last week, which obviously gives a team time to pore over every mistake (where do you begin in Oakland?), but there's other factors at play.
The bye week can have a positive effect, from regrouping to re-organising to giving players extra time to recover from injury, but it can also disrupt rhythm and this is something the Raiders didn't have in Denver. On the road in Atlanta against a home team with enough rhythm to make even Victor Cruz envious makes this a nightmare matchup for Oakland.
The Raiders are truly horrible away from the Coliseum this season, losing 35-13 in Miami before the aforementioned debacle in Denver two weeks ago. In addition, this game takes place at 10 a.m. PT for the Silver and Black. Basically, I'm struggling to find any reason why this game shouldn't be a blowout.
Oakland rank 12th overall defensively so that's a positive, right? Wrong. It's a misleading stat due to them having played one game less than most of the teams in the league. They're giving up 411.5 yards per game and ‘boast' a pass defense that ranks 27th in the league and a run defense that ranks 24th. Oh my, this is getting uglier.
It's likely that the Raiders will be playing catch up, which means it's even more likely that their 32nd ranked run offense (60.8 YPG...ouch) will remain in that position once the game has finished. The Falcons don't defend the run at all well (28th), but Oakland will need to find yards through the air to stay on pace, something that Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer can certainly do.
Without being prolific (5 TDs, 2 INTs), Palmer's averaging 258 yards per game directing a passing offense that ranks 12th in the NFL. However, Atlanta's stout against the pass, yielding 203 yards per game through the air. I have to think that if the Falcons don't cover a nine point spread here, then they never will. Ever.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS at NEW YORK JETS
BAL Colts +3.5...BAL Jets -3
Indianapolis loses SU and ATS at home to Jacksonville in Week 3, having led 14-3 at halftime. After their bye week, they trail (the still mighty?) Green Bay Packers 21-3 at half time, only to turn it around in the second half and win both SU and ATS. Wow. Wow is great, but never trust this team with your hard earned at the moment.
I wouldn't be one bit shocked if they lost by ten this week, as ridiculous as that sounds. Much like the Seahawks were when travelling to St. Louis the week after the ‘Fail Mary' against the Packers on MNF, the Colts are coming off one of the most emotional victories in franchise history, if not the most emotional.
That makes them extremely dangerous to bet on this week and I take the Jets to cover the spread and then some. The oddity about two of the most talked about games this season is that the Packers were the team on the receiving end both times.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS at WASHINGTON REDSKINS
This is an interesting line when looking back at the Redskins' form ATS this season. They've been favoured by three points, as they are here, on two previous occasions, against the Rams and Bengals, games they proceeded to lose, both SU and ATS. If you fancy Washington to buck that trend here, caveat emptor.
Minnesota, on the other hand, are a covering machine right now, winning games handsomely and covering the spread with aplomb. They're rightly the underdog this week, but to think they're able to lose a close one by a point or two and we're still able to collect represents tremendous value for a hot team. Before the season began, I didn't once envision labeling the Vikings a hot team through seventeen weeks, but they are and we'd better get used to the idea before they travel to Seattle on November 4.
Defensively, Minnesota rank in the top 10 overall (9th) and 6th against the run, the latter being a particularly salient statistic as they're up against a rampant Redskins rookie running game that has Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III averaging 4.9 and 5.7 yards per carry respectively. Speaking of RG3, I do wonder whether he'll have last week's concussion in the back of his mind. Ordinarily, he's fearless, but the hit he took last Sunday looked nasty and I'm intrigued as to how he plays when flushed out of the pocket this week. His injury is playing a major part in me liking the Vikings even more than I already did.
Christian Ponder is getting it done at quarterback for Minnesota and his 69% completion percentage is impressive. He's fortunate to have the almost indomitable Percy Harvin to throw the ball to, who ranks joint second in the league with 38 receptions. Washington's pass defense is there to be picked on, giving up as it does a whopping 328 yards per game and Harvin can be expected to be targeted often. This particular facet of the matchup works ridiculously well in the Vikings' favour and I like the start they're receiving the more I delve into the figures.
The surprise team in the NFC North (in the entire NFL?) this season will undoubtedly see a couple of the wheels fall off before too long, but there are no warning signs as yet and there certainly wasn't over the past three weeks. Over confidence may be their downfall, but nobody gave them a chance at the beginning of the season so they're entitled to feel a little good about themselves.
GREEN BAY PACKERS at HOUSTON TEXANS
BAL Packers +3.5...BAL Texans -3
I do have to mention here that, while I wouldn't advocate betting on this one, doesn't Green Bay represent amazing value due to the simple fact that they can't possibly begin the season 2-4? Just a thought.
Please gamble responsibly.
In addition to contributing here, Rob runs his own blog, Rob's NFL Yard and contributes at The NFL Injury Report so make sure you head over to those sites and check out more of his work. He'll be with us all season to give all you degenerate gamblers a better look at the ever-changing NFL odds, with a focus on the Seahawks, but attention to the NFL as a whole.