Today's Free Picks for
Posted Saturday, October 17
NFL Week 6
Atlanta +4 -102 over MINNESOTA
1:00 PM EST. The Dan Quinn era is over in Atlanta after an 0-5 start. The cherry on top of the shit sundae that has been the Falcons season was a 23-16 home loss to division rival Carolina. This dismissal was a long time coming for Quinn, who felt like he'd been on borrowed time from right around the time the Dirty Birds blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl. One could argue that Quinn should have been let go after the Falcons miserable start to last season, but instead, they let him coach the team to six wins in their final seven games to finish a mediocre 7-9 and out of contention in the Joe Burrow sweepstakes. Now, Atlanta is very much in the Trevor Lawerence conversation, which means that the clock could be ticking on Matt Ryan's time as this team's quarterback.
The Falcons' curb appeal is nearly non-existent, as they are not only winless but also just 1-4 against the spread this season. They've been outgained in every game but one, which happened to be the season opener against Seattle. Seriously, if you were down to your last dollar, would you put it all on the line with Atlanta?
The Vikings are coming off a strong showing on Sunday Night Football and although they did not get the win, everyone saw them go toe-to-toe with the mighty Seahawks. While Minnesota is only 1-4, that performance is going to carry some weight, as there are way more eyes on the isolated prime time games than the buffet of action we get on Sunday afternoons. The Vikes have cashed tickets for their backers in three straight weeks, including an outright win on the road against the Texans in Week 5. Situationally, this looks like a tough spot for Minnesota, as it is not only coming off a prime time game, but the Vikes are set to go into their bye in Week 7. If Minnesota is 1-5, there could be questions around the job security of head coach Mike Zimmer. It used to be a sign of organizational dysfunction to can a coach in the middle of a season, but this is not your grandpappy's NFL. This fact is not likely lost on the Vikings players either. Maybe they'll show up and win on for coach Zimmer or maybe they'll send him packing. Play Atlanta +4
PHILADELPHIA +9½ -101 over Baltimore
1:00 PM EST. To say the Ravens have been feeding at the cupcake buffet might be an understatement. Through five weeks, Baltimore has wins over Houston, Cincinnati and Washington. Combined, that trio have three wins in 15 games. Their two other games came against respectable competition, Cleveland and Kansas City respectively. The game against Cleveland was in Week 1 when the Brownies were still working out the kinks. The second was a 34-20 loss on Monday Night Football at home to the Chiefs. We’re not going to take anything away from the champs, but they did just get beat at home by the Raiders as double-digit chalk, not to mention a somewhat fortunate OT win over the Chargers, thus putting to rest any talk that Kansas City is invincible.
We have been critical of Lamar Jackson since day one and the tape backs up the claims that he’s a glorified running back, except this year, he isn’t running, at least when it matters most and extending the drive. Jackson has taken off and cashed in just 10 first down runs in 41 rushing attempts for a 24.39% 1st Down%. Last season he was moving the chains at a 40.34% clip. Jackson consistently misses throws to open receivers he often has one read and then checks down to tight end Mark Andrews. Unless you’re the Bengals, this is a very beatable team that has no business spotting points like this on the road.
What little market credibility the Eagles gained with Week 4’s Sunday night win over San Francisco is surely lost one after both of those teams got whacked in Week 5. The Eagles lost 38-29 to the Steelers, while the 49ers were embarrassed 43-17 at home against the Dolphins. However, despite the unfavorable result, the Eagles were not outclassed by the Steelers. Believe it or not, but Philly was down just two points with 11:27 to go in the fourth quarter. If you backed the Steelers spotting 7½, as we did, you were sweating bullets until a 35-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Chase Claypool with three minutes to go sealed the deal and luckily sent us to the pay window. Now, the Eagles are taking back a similar price here, at home, against a team that is not as good as the Steelers. That is not right and we plan to take full advantage. Play PHILADELPHIA +9½ -101
CAROLINA -1 -107 over Chicago
1:00 PM EST. The last time we saw the Bears was in prime time when they somehow found a way to beat the Buccaneers despite Matt Nagy’s best efforts to give the game away. The Bears switching to Nick Foles paid off when he led them on a final minute drive for the winning field goal but pretty it was not. Foles does not look the part. His throws are awkward and Chicago’s playbook consists of checkdowns to the closest person that Noles can find. Chicago is 4-1 because their defense keeps them in games but that’s a dangerous game to play in this era of totals being in the 50’s. Chicago is not going to win many more games if they’re scoring in the 16-21 range, we promise you that. Let’s rewind back two weeks before the Bears beat Tampa on Thursday Night Football. Without looking, who did they play? Chicago lost 19-11 to the Colts and could not move five yards. The Bears have scored 17, 11 and 20 points in three of the last four weeks and were down 26-10 to Atlanta after three quarters in between those games. A lucky 20-0 fourth quarter allowed the Bears to pull a rabbit out of their ass. If we’re going to bet the Bears on the road against any team with a pulse, we sure as hell want more than the number of points being offered here.
As long as the media and market keep throwing the “exceeding expectations without Christian McCaffrey” narrative at us, we’ll continue to play the Panthers at these reduced rates. The Panthers under new HC Matt Ruhle have been tremendous. The defense gets better as the season progresses and the offense hasn't missed a beat with Mike Davis supplying a masterful impression of McCaffrey. Maybe it’s about time we give credit to the Panthers offensive line for opening holes for their backs to thrive in.
Teddy Bridgewater improves almost weekly and comes off a season-best 313 yards and two scores. His last home game was Week 4 when he threw for 276 yards and two scores on the Cardinals and ran in a score as well. He's thrown just one interception over the last three games and wasn't sacked in the last two. The Panthers are a legit squad that has a better chance of stopping Chicago’s pathetic offense than Chicago has of stopping theirs. By the time the 4th quarter rolls around, it’s a pretty good bet that Chicago’s defense will be gassed from being on the field too long. This is the bargain of the day. Play Carolina -1
INDIANAPOLIS -7½ -103 over Cincinnati
1:00 PM EST. On the surface, the Bengals are just 1-3-1, but where it matters most, at the pay window, they have a winning record at 3-2. Factor that success with the rising star of Joe Burrow and you have the recipe for what appears to be a live pooch. However, a closer look under the hood shows that these Bengals are very much overachieving when it comes to keeping the game closer than it should be. Cincinnati ranks just 27th in the league in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), which Football Outsiders uses to measure a team’s overall efficiency. It analyzes every play and compares a team's performance to a league baseline based on situation. It can be used to rate individual players as well and to that point, Burrow is just the 29th ranked quarterback. Those in front of him include Mitch Trubisky (benched) and Nick Mullens (benched), right behind him is Dwayne Haskins (benched). Now we don’t expect Burrow to get the hook anytime soon, but he is not performing at his current hype level. Not only that, but the Bengals are in a terrible situational spot here with a huge prime time game against the Browns next Thursday night.
The Colts will welcome 12,500 fans to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday after having their three game winning streak broken by the Browns in Week 5. While we have been pretty high on Indianapolis this season, we have also been hard on quarterback Philip “Brett Favre” Rivers. Rivers has killed his team this season with turnovers. Last Sunday, it was a pair of interceptions, including one that was returned for a Cleveland major. The NEW ‘Ol Gunslinger has now thrown more picks (5) than he has touchdowns (4). There are calls for Rivers to be replaced by last year’s starter, Jacoby Brissett, but coach Frank Reich stood by his man on Monday. Whether or not that’s his call or the man who writes the checks remains to be seen. The point is, that there is much negativity surrounding Rivers to start this season and with good reason. However, with his stock down, so, too, is Indy’s.
Let’s take Rivers out of the equation for a minute and focus on the strength of these Colts --the defense. Both on the surface and under the hood, this is an elite unit. Indy is tops in the league in total defense allowing just 266 yards per game. There is just one other squad that allows less than 300 yards per game and that is Tampa (298). We’re willing to chalk up last week to a bad day at the office and expect a full bounceback here. Under the hood, the Colts still sport the best defense in the NFL according to Football Outsiders’ team efficiency rankings or DVOA. If Indy can hold onto the ball, this game is not going to be close. Even if Rivers feeds Cincinnati with a couple of free possessions, we're not sure the toothless Bengals can do much about it. Play: Colts -7½
N.Y. Jets +9 -109 over MIAMI
4:05 PM EST. What a win. The Dolphins crushed the already-hobbled 49ers and did so in every facet of the game. While the win is just one game against an opponent that has major problems, it does signal that the Dolphins are improved from their 2019 disaster and on a better track. It also says that Tua Tagovailoa gets to chill on the bench and take in the NFL experience a bit longer. This is the final game before their Week 7 bye. A win here and the Dolphins will head into their bye with a respectable 3-3 record. Outside of a rusty Week 1 performance in New England, Miami has looked very good in losses to Seattle and Buffalo and wins against Jacksonville and San Francisco. Miami could easily be 4-1.
What the f**k are we supposed to say about the Jets? When you bet the Jets, you want 18½-points and not 8½. The Jets are 0-5 straight up. Worse yet, they’re 0-5 against the spread (ATS). Last week it looked like the books were giving away money when they made the Cardinals a -7-point favorite in New York and you know what, they were giving away money. Anyone that didn’t bet the Jets last week didn’t do so because they likely felt like we did….that it was ‘too easy”. Two weeks ago, the Jets held a 3-0 turnover margin and still lost by nine points to the Broncos. In that game, Denver turned the ball over three times and still put up 37 points on the Jets. The turnover margin of +3 probably has a 40-1 win ratio since the beginning of time and this garbage team can’t even keep the game within a TD. Last week on a 3rd and goal from the Cardinals 2-yard line, Adam Gase handed the ball off to the tight end up the middle. Of course it went nowhere and the Jets were also stopped on 4th down.
Just to recap, two weeks ago, the Jets got frog-stomped 37-28 by a Broncos’ team quarterbacked by backup Brett Rypien, which is somehow even more humiliating than losing their other four games all by double digits and includes a 29-point loss to Indy, an 18-point loss to San Francisco and a 20-point loss to the Cardinals and now the books are offering us +8½?
Times are tough and then your starting running back starts talking smack on social media. Said running back subsequently was sent packing and the Jets 27 million dollar investment went down the tubes. The Jets' dysfunctional and bumbling season is like a bowling ball picking up steam down the basement stairs. The Jets just played the easy part of their schedule. The tough part is one deck. After the Dolphins this week, they face the Bills, Chiefs, and Patriots. There isn’t a person in the gambling community that is sick enough to take back 8½-points with the Jets. If this line was +13½, you would still be hard-pressed to find a single individual interested in investing in the Jets and their coach, Adam Gase. Who doesn’t love to have a coach that stews over mistakes like he just shanked an approach at the pitch-and-putt? Nobody is betting the Jets, including us (although tha can change) but PLEASE don’t bet the Dolphins either because an 0-5 team ATS has the books’ full attention and they are NOT giving away money here again, right?! Right?!!?!!!! Play: N.Y. Jets +9
Washington +2½ +103 over N.Y. GIANTS
1:00 PM EST. Here's a messy matchup. The 1-4 Washington Whatevers have lost their last four games. They head to New York to face the 0-5 Giants that swept the Redskins in 2019. The G-Men won 24-3 when the Redskins visited in Week 4 then again 41-35 at Washington in Week 16. On top of that, the Giants probably should’ve beaten Dallas last week in Dallas as a +7½-point pup. The Week prior, the Giants greened up again when they easily covered as a double-digit dog in L.A. against the Rams. The Giants are trending up with two straight covers and three covers in their last four games. That makes us sellers this week.
By contrast, Washington is not covering. The Whatevers failed to get the money last week as a +7 point home dog to the Rams. The week prior they played Baltimore and as a 14-point underdog, they lost by 14. Previously, they had not covered in two straight so let’s call it no covers in four straight weeks, thus the Football Teams’ stock is dropping.
New HC Ron Rivera already had to deal with a distracting and tumultuous offseason. Now he can't seem to find a viable option at quarterback. One thing the market doesn’t trust more than anything is a team without a QB. The Whatevers have already spun through the three QB’s on the active roster in just five games. The rushing effort has marginal impact since none of the backs can get more than 13 carries. The passing offense boils down to Terry McLaurin and nothing else. When you bet the Football Team, don’t you want more than three points on the road?
That said, the books obviously like Kyle Allen and so do we. Rivera liked how Allen ran the offense in his nearly two quarters of play vs. the Rams. Allen led them on one touchdown drive, capping it with an element the others can't bring right now: mobility. But Rivera also liked his patience on a pivot route by Terry McLaurin, waiting for the receiver to cut inside and then back outside where he could lead him into a 17-yard catch and run. The Rams absolutely looked like a live underdog until Allen went down and Rivera was forced to bring in a rusty Alex Smith. Smith’s story is an inspiring one that gave Scott Hanson (host of the Red Zone) goosebumps but at the end of the day, it meant the Football team wasn’t going to cover.
We don’t break down X’s and O’s. We’re looking for a situational edge, a value play or anything else that tips the scale in our favor. In the case of the Football Team v the Giants in East Rutherford, it is near impossible to make a rational case for taking the small points being offered based on home field advantage, current form, and market perception and credibility. However, the point-spread strongly suggests to us that the oddsmakers absolutely love the underdog and expect Kyle Allen to have a big game. In the spirit of sticking with a team after they burned you, that’s enough to push us towards the points. Play: Washington +2½
TENNESSEE -3½ -106 over Houston
1:00 PM EST. Frankly, we hate this game. We don’t hate it because it’s a tough matchup or difficult to choose a side but because the Titans look like the steal of the century, which likely means we’re going to back off. The 1-4 Texans finally got their win thanks to the visiting Jaguars. The 4-0 Titans are the lone undefeated team in the AFC after beating the Bills on Monday night. Actually, we should rephrase that -- the Titans steamrolled the Bills by almost four TD’s in a rare Tuesday Night game. The man on the street is not walking down Las Vegas Boulevard looking for a sportsbook to get down on the Texans. We often suggest that the biggest over and underreactions are to teams coming off prime time games and in the case of the Titans, they had a big and impressive win over the Bills.
We’re not sure why the Titans are so underpriced here other than the fact that they played on Tuesday and will now play again on Sunday. Perhaps when you combine that fact with Houston winning its first game under the new regime, it has caused a short price...or it’s the sucker bet of the week. What we know for sure is that the first week without Bill O'Brien calling plays, the Texans won their first game and had their most success rushing and passing. At least for one glorious week, the offense executed as planned and all the parts worked together but we’re not buyers based on that. We’d be buyers if the Texans stock was low and we thought Tennessee was truly a sucker play but with the short rest, we’re wondering if the books have short sold the Titans to a high degree. Whatever the case may be, we don’t want to be holding a bad ticket on Tennessee in case we assessed it wrong so we’ll probably be sitting it out. If we were in the prediction business, we’d be calling Tennessee by at least two TD’s. Play: TENNESSEE -3½
Cleveland +3½ -112 over PITTSBURGH
1:00 PM EST. The role of big brother can be a complicated one. Some brothers might show you how to fish or slip you your first Playboy, but others? They dish out the pain. Enter the Pittsburgh Steelers. We could get into the very ugly history between these two teams, but we respect your time, so we’ll keep it short and sweet. The Steelers have not lost at home to the Browns in 16 years. Period.
The market eats this crap up like it’s a fine cut of BBQ baby back ribs. The more we hear about the Steelers owning this team, the more we know the Brownies are hearing about it too but the gig is near its end.
The Eagles' skeleton crew put up 29 points against Pittsburgh last week and probably should have beat them but it’s not just that. Pittsburgh is 4-0, but whom has it played? The Giants, Broncos, Texans and Eagles. Combined that quartet has three wins and 13 losses and the Steelers barely got by all four. The Browns will field the best offensive line the Steelers will have faced this season. Cleveland is first in rushing offense and fourth in scoring. Odell Beckham Jr figures to do damage against a Steelers’ defense that gives up a lot of explosive plays.
Instead of looking ahead to this game last week, Cleveland beat the Colts by nine. The “same ol’ Brownies would have been caught in a sandwich game last week after a thrilling win over Dallas the week prior. Cleveland has played a much tougher schedule than the Steelers, they have a vastly superior defense and everything points to this being the year they get this proverbial monkey off its back. Play: Cleveland +3
JACKSONVILLE +3 -102 over Detroit
1:00 PM EST. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, which is about the only reason we can think that these Lions are getting so much market love here. Not playing is apparently more attractive a recent result than getting thumped like the Jaguars did in Houston last Sunday. That 30-14 drubbing of the Jags looked bad, but the final score was very much in doubt with Jacksonville trailing just 20-14 with 10:18 to go in the fourth quarter. However, the Jags could not make a stop when they needed it and gave up 10 points in those final 10 minutes. In that game, Jacksonville had just two less first downs (24-to-22) and it actually won the time of possession by nearly four minutes. Two Jags turnovers that resulted in Houston majors was the primary reason they lost that game. Had a bounce or two gone the other way, Jacksonville would likely be the favorite in this spot. As it stands, the Jaguars have little to no market appeal, which is why they are a pooch at home to a one-win football team.
The Lions last played in Week 4, which in 2020 might as well have been months ago, not two weeks. In that game, Detroit was beat by New Orleans 35-29. Adding salt to that wound, the Lions were up 14-0 before you could get your popcorn. They were then outscored 35-15 the rest of the way. That six-point margin flatters Detroit, as New Orleans dominated in all facets of that game. The Saints outgained the Lions by 111 yards, had 11 more first downs and owned the rock with a +13:32 time of possession advantage. The Lions are being touted in this spot because they are 4-0 against teams with a losing record, but to that useless trend we offer you this, Detroit is 0-4 in their last four as the betting chalk. While we put no stock in meaningless trends, you would not catch us spotting road points with a putrid excuse for a coach like Matt Patricia. It’s also worth noting that Gardner Minshew passed for over 300 yards in three of the last four games while Matt Stafford has yet to throw for over 300 yards. Maybe that changes here but it is usually not a good strategy to spot road points with a bad football team that cannot shake its losing culture. Play: Jacksonville +3
Denver +9½ -113 over NEW ENGLAND
1:00 PM EST. COVID-19 infiltrated the Patriots with both Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore testing positive ahead of their Week 5 matchup with the Broncos, which forced that contest to be rescheduled to this Sunday. The 2-2 Patriots also leave their bye having last been whipped in Kansas City. The chance that the rested and reeling Patriots will overlook this game is very small. That said, winning and covering are two very different beasts. In that game against the Chiefs, the Patriots appeared to have the template to smother Mahomes and company, but they were eventually undone by turnovers much to Coach Belichick’s chagrin. There is a perception in the market that the Patriots are in a “must win” situation and that they are superior to their .500 record. That might be true and perhaps New England kicks Denver’s ass but that’s not for us to predict. We’re in the market to buy low and in that regard, Denver’s market appeal is sinking progressively more each week.
The 1-3 Broncos come off their bye having last beaten the Jets to get that first win of the season. It’s hard not to feel bad for Denver, as it has had some bad luck this season. Injuries have been the biggest setbacks for the Broncs with starting quarterback Drew Lock going down, as well as star wideout Courtland Sutton and favorite target Noah Fant. Both running backs, Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay have also been banged up. As of this writing, the Broncos have not said if Gordon, Lock or Fant will play this weekend, but it doesn’t look like the books are concerned and neither do we. For what it is worth, Lock did practice this week and said he’s ready to go. Denver notably lost defensive leader Von Miller before the season began, but that unit has done its job allowing 24.5 points per game. A closer look shows that the Broncos are 10th in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) over at Football Outsiders. If you can play defense in this league, you can stay in football games. Nobody likes to bet on a team that relies on defense more than offense. Those days are long gone but because offense is so much more playable, we get inflated points with offensively challenged teams. Play:Denver +9½
Tampa Bay +1 -106 over Green Bay
4:25 PM EST. The Packers headed into their scheduled bye as one of the hottest teams in the league with Aaron Rodges leading the way. In April’s draft, the Packers traded up to draft Rodgers’ potential replacement rather than selecting a player that would help the future Hall of Famer in his waning years. That no doubt pissed off Rodgers and now he’s on an absolute tear. He leads the league in QBR and sports a 13-0 touchdown to interception ratio with 1,214 passing yards through four games . That’s pretty good. He’s done it without a healthy Devante Adams to boot, as the market found out the hard way on Monday Night Football in Week 4. You may recall that Adams tweeted that he would not play that night and the market pounced, driving that line down from Packers -7 to -5. Do you think any of those people are going to be so eager to fade Green Bay again? This sets up for a classic “zig-zag” where the market backs a team one week, gets burned and then fades them the next.
Speaking of which, enter the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s been an up and down year for Tom Brady, as he was called “washed up” after a Week 1 loss to the Saints. Then Brady led the Bucs to three straight wins and all seemed to be well and good. That was until last Thursday night when Brady had his biggest gaff. On a normal Sunday, Brady would have taken his licks for not remembering what down it was and costing his team their comeback chance, but that it happened in front of a national audience, that blunder has been magnified tenfold. Guess who’s washed up again? The Bucs have now struggled for two straight weeks, as they also had to overcome a 24-7 deficit against the Chargers in Week 3. If not for one of the great coaching mistakes of the season, the Bucs would have had a tough swim back, but L.A. gifted them a touchdown with an ill advised run to end the first half. Had the Chargers just kneeled, they would still have had all the momentum. Tampa was an overwhelming choice on that Thursday night against the Bears, which also sets up a “zig-zag” situation. This double “zig zag” means that the Packers are an overwhelming choice here in the market. While not the be all and end all, Sports Interaction suggests that the Packers are receiving 88% of the “betting action”. Even if that number isn’t totally accurate, it gives you a pretty good representation of the market’s take on this game. The line movement backs up that information somewhat, as the Bucs opened as a -2½ point choice, but they are now a pooch at home. Perhaps the oddsmakers put up a bad number and the market “corrected” it, but we’re willing to bet that the books got it right when they made Tampa the chalk. Play: Buccaneers +101
SAN FRANCISCO +2½ +100 over L.A. Rams
8:20 PM EST. The 4-1 Rams are on a two-game winning streak and are scoring 30 points in each game that they care about. The 2-3 49ers are on a two-game losing stretch and were just humbled by the visiting Dolphins. You might want to read that last sentence again. The 49ers were steamrolled at home by the Miami Dolphins. The 49ers injury problems have become more than they can handle.
Injuries have hit all over the 49ers roster hard. Jimmy Garoppolo's return was hardly triumphant. He completed only 7-of-17 for 77 yards and two interceptions before getting the hook. C.J. Beathard threw for 94 yards and a score in the beatdown delivered by the Dolphins. There is a lack of clarity about the starter this week and as we just saw, that can change during the game anyway. As it stands now, it sure looks like Jimmy G is starting. Meanwhile Rams quarterback Jared Goff has a 70% completion rate in three consecutive road games, the second-longest streak in Rams history. It gets even better still. If the Dolphins scoring 43 in Santa Clara wasn't evidence enough of the 49ers' struggling and depleted defense, we don't know what is. Now they face a Rams offense that ranks third in the NFL in success rate and fourth in DVOA. San Francisco is 0-3 ATS and straight up at home this season. The Niners' only two wins have come at MetLife Stadium (defeating the Giants and Jets). Everything points to a Rams blowout win. There is neither an X nor an O that indicates San Fran even belongs on the same field as the Rams and now L.A is spotting a mere porkchop in a game the books know is going to get bet hard. Damn, they must be giving away money unless this is the sucker bet of the month. You decide. Play: SAN FRANCISCO +2½
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