Before anything else is written, Happy Thanksgiving to everybody.
I advised against betting on Tampa Bay last week despite them looking like a tremendous value -1 in Carolina. No Seahawks fan could willingly wish them any success at all right now, but please forgive me fellas because I have sinned. As kickoff approached, I decided to revisit a state of mind that involves seeing a return on a small investment when a result goes against the team closest to you. Yes, I backed the Bucs and it came in for a few quid.
I frequently employ this tactic (for wont of a better word) when my English soccer team, Tottenham Hotspur, play in big games. They've been on the periphery for far too long to mention and years of seeing them come up second best on the occasions that really matter has caused me to bet against them when these days or nights arrive. It ain't big or clever, but if the only way to soften the blow of defeat is to line the pockets, then you do what you gotta do sometimes.
Should Tottenham win and I'm ten or twenty pounds down for the pleasure, then what's wrong with that? The heart's happy and that's all that matters; where sport is concerned, the heart is king. Always.
I do realise I ought to be careful here as you don't want to read about the English Premier League. I'll be careful.
Tampa aside, Jacksonville came up big for me last week (+15.5 in Houston). One of the most ordinary lines of the season is that the Jaguars are 5-5 ATS. One of the most astonishing lines is that the Jaguars are 0-5 ATS at home, but 5-0 ATS on the road. Jacksonville the covering machine away from EverBank Field in 2012 sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous.
As a link to the next piece of this piece goes, Houston struggled mightily to contain Chad Henne, who replaced Blaine Gabbert under center, and he alone finally decided to unleash Justin Blackmon on the NFL. If Henne and a rookie wide receiver can wreak that much havoc on a pass defense that still ranks seventh in the league, then you have to believe that Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson and their number one ranked passing offense are licking their chops in anticipation at entertaining the Texans on Thursday. At least one of their teammates is and he comes in the unlikely form of center Dominic Raiola, who's encouraged defensive end J. J. Watt to "bring it". Maybe he has no idea who Watt is.
The Lions can be backed receiving 3.5 points while Houston does appear to be the attractive bet -3. However, caveat emptor.
Part of the reason for me liking Jacksonville so much last week was the Texans' upcoming schedule. The Jaguars were nothing compared to what lay ahead, including playing in Detroit on a short week, the shortest week there possibly can be in the NFL and while the Lions are an abject 4-6 when next to Houston's 9-1 record, this is last chance saloon for the hosts playoff aspirations. Lose here and their season's over and that makes this particular big cat a dangerous animal.
It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest should this become something of a shootout and may even come down to last team scores wins. The obvious choice is Houston, backed up by them being the favourite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, but I side with the Lions and the points.
The Jets winning in St. Louis last week ruined my three timer, but on a week of slim pickings, a 2-1 record is better than nothing. That said, why I looked past the Saints dominating the Raiders in Oakland sticks in the craw. It wasn't even close and was it ever really likely to be?
So, the Jets. Hapless in Seattle and sure to get rammed in St. Louis last week, wouldn't you think? Nope, none of it. They demolished the spread and made your correspondent look like a fool, not that that's too difficult on the best of days, if I'm honest. Then come the Patriots this week, to tie up the triumvirate of Thanksgiving Day games. The Patriots, the love of the Jets' life.
But what seems like just five short weeks ago, the Jets lost 29-26 in overtime at Gillette Stadium, but they won ATS (+10.5) as easily as they did last week. New England gubbed the Colts last Sunday, bringing down Andrew Luck a peg or two in the process, not that it'll rock him that much and they're on a scoring roll right now. However, that may come to something of a shuddering halt with the absence of Rob Gronkowski. Really? Step forward Aaron Hernandez. It's a big step, but he can do it.
The Jets are exactly a touchdown (and PAT) underdog, but I can't escape the Patriots -6.5. How can you possibly trust the Jets? They need the W as badly as the Lions do, but how can you possibly trust the Jets? They were abject against the Dolphins and Seahawks before hitting their stride against the Rams, but how can you possibly trust the Jets?
I don't trust the Jets and take Belichick and Brady to knock them into 2013.
The second of Thursday's slate conjures up memories of watching highlights of Redskins/Cowboys games in the 1980's, when Madden and Summerall ruled the (air)waves. When I say watching highlights, this was as a 14 or 15 year old kid in London when Channel 4 brought their production to our screens on a Sunday evening...exactly a week after the games actually took place in their home across the pond. Yes, those were dark days if you took time to consider we were 168 hours behind real time, but the headiest of days to us Limey kids grasping all we could from what we saw unfolding before us.
Being fascinated since the age of 12 with both the game and the Seahawks, those NFC highlights on CBS seemed more than a million miles away, but it made it all the more alluring. Unlike being able to go to a multitude of soccer games over here, I knew I wouldn't make it to an NFL game for more years than I could consider living when you sit on the verge of your teens, but I could wait. I realised quickly that watching a live game would take patience as a kid so what would 15 to 20 years waiting to attend an actual game feel like? Like I say, I could wait, because I had to. It was worth it.
Seattle aside, I love the Bears/Packers rivalry, the Ohio derby, Ravens/Steelers and all that is the AFC West (obviously), but nothing is more nostalgic to me than Redskins/Cowboys. It's one of the first images I ever saw of the sport and simply because we didn't possess anything remotely as cool sounding as Madden/Summerall, their commentaries still ring in my head to this day.
I could go on here, but doubt it's a good idea. Back to the game in Dallas. Leave it well alone. The Redskins look to be huge value +3.5 after the Cowboys barely scraped past the Browns at home last week, but perhaps Dallas had their eye on this prize. You can back them -3 and they'll have their takers, but it's not a matchup I'm looking to lay down the hard earned on.
It's been difficult work putting together a 23-14 record ATS so far, but I'll add the Lions +3.5 and the Patriots -6.5 on Thanksgiving. There's more to come on the weekend games plus my look at the Seahawks in Miami.
In the meantime, enjoy your day and 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.
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