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Early leans & analysis Wk 11
Early leans & analysis

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Posted Sunday, November 21

NFL Week 11

What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criteria we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday.

We’re intent on providing our readers with the best possible selections and doing so on Sunday instead of Friday just makes more sense. We made that change two years ago and ended up going 81-57 (+64 units) in 2018 and 65-59 in 2019 (+16 units). Again, we’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on the weekend but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST

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NFL Week 11

Philadelphia +3½ -110 over CLEVELAND

1:00 PM EST. The Eagles were just one of two teams, the other being Baltimore, that failed to rack up a win as the chalk last week. The Eagles were especially putrid and had no chance to win, let alone cover in the swamps of Jersey. Philadelphia was down 14-0 before you could get your pretzels and showed no signs of life for nearly the entire 60 minutes, save for a 14-point third quarter when they were already down double-digits. Any momentum that a 56-TD run by Bart Scott built up was given right back when the Giants scored less than three minutes later. The Eagles would score one more major with 5:20 to go in the third to pull within four but they would not score again, losing 27-17. With that setback, the Eagles are now 3-5-1 overall and just 3-6 against the spread, which suggests they are not only losing, but rarely competing. In retrospect, that the Eagles were -5 against the Giants looks ridiculous after the result is in.

The Browns fared better in the win column in Week 10, but they, too, did not cover. However, those that backed them will blame running back Nick Chubb for that. Yes, it can be frustrating when players do the “right” thing but in no way was that a bad beat. By going out of bounds at the one-yard line, Chubb ensured his team’s victory. Chubb’s unselfishness was best for the Brownies even if it torched a pile of tickets but c’mon man. If you think that was a bad beat, you have been living a very charmed life. A bad beat would have been to all Houston backers if Chubb. Those that bet the Brownies would have sold their tickets for 5 cents on the dollar with two minutes to go in regulation.

Unlike the Eagles, Cleveland has more wins than losses (6-3), but they too are just 3-6 ATS. With these two teams struggling to cash tickets, this one might just come down to who the market trusts more and we suspect that would be the Browns, as Philadelphia resides in the NFC East and that division continues to get raked over the coals by the market and media. Recommendation: Philadelphia +3½

New England -2 -103

1:00 PM EST. There might not be a more frustrating group to get behind than the Texans. They have a quality player at the league’s most important position in Deshaun Watson and he is surrounded by some pretty damn good receivers with Will Fuller and Brandon Cooks among others. You don’t think Aaron Rodgers was salivating at the prospect of Will Fuller in Green and Gold as was rumored at the trade deadline? While not superstars, Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills are also quality options. Hell, Rodgers would probably settle for his former teammate in Cobb if given the option. So why are the Texans so fucking bad? Let us explain.

The problem with the Texans is not the players on the field. The organization is messed up from the top down. Just look at their handling of the dismissal of former V.P. of communications Amy Palcic. Palcic, by all accounts, is one of, if not the most respected public relations people in the league. Her firing came with dropped jaws from around the league. The Texans cited a lack of “cultural fit” which was probably true, because by all accounts, Palcic is a decent person or at the very least a professional.

While he was alive, deceased owner Bob McNair was the kind of guy that defended accused serial sexual harassers like Jerry Richardson, who was pretty much forced to sell the Panthers after the allegations piled up against him. Sure he was never convicted of anything (what rich guy is?), but he did pay at least four former employees “significant” monetary settlements due to inappropriate workplace comments including a particular fondness for “jean Friday” where he asked one former female staffer to “show me how you wiggle to get those jeans up. I bet you had to lay down on your bed to fit into those jeans. Did you step into those jeans or did you have to jump into them?” Richardson, who is now 83, was also accused of requesting foot massages, giving back rubs that “lingered too long” and utilizing the “seatbelt” maneuver, which is exactly what you think it is. He insisted on bucking a woman’s seatbelt and then copped a feel in the process. Dude is a creep and Bob McNair (RIP) was his buddy. McNair (RIP) also infamously said that “we can’t have the inmates running the prison” when referring to the players at a league meeting. Anyway, his son Cal now runs the Texans, so whatever “culture” that organization was built on is embedded into the franchise.

The organized is f**ked from the top down and their players do not play with conviction because of it. They don’t want to lay it on the line for a bunch of buffoons. Let’s not forget that the Texans traded arguably the best wide receiver in the league for a broken down running back that is now broken down. For f**ksake, Fuller was tweeting sad face emoji’s when he didn’t get traded to a contender. You think these guys want to risk their health for a team that is going nowhere and for management they do not respect?

We’ll keep our take on the Patriots short mand sweet. If Bill Belichik can’t out-coach a lame duck former assistant like Romeo Crennel and this two win Texans team, then he might as well pack it in now because everything he’s done in this business up to this point will mean nothing. If you needed more reason to fade the Texans, they play in Detroit on Thanksgiving so what limited brain power the Texans coaching staff has will be stretched further as these teams always get a head start on gameplanning when they play on a Thursday. You can shave another half a day or better off that prep because that game kicks off early at 12:30 PM EST. This one has blowout written all over it and we’re not going to miss the boat. Recommendation: New England -2 -103

DENVER +3½ -105 over Miami

4:05 PM EST. The 6-2 Dolphins are on a five-game winning streak and clawing their way near the top of the AFC East. The Dolphins machine chugs along, having last beaten the Rams, Cardinals and Chargers. Miami hasn’t made this much noise in the regular season since the days of Dan Marino. The Fins are just a half game behind the Bills who are on their bye. A win here means the Dolphins share the AFC lead with a Week 17 meeting in Buffalo that could be for all the divisional marbles. The next three games are against opponents with losing records - Broncos, Jets and Bengals. After their 29-21 win over the Chargers last week, Miami has been the flavour of the week in the neverending, 24-hour NFL news wire. To say Miami’s stock is moving up would be an understatement. The Dolphins have covered five in a row and six of their last seven games. Not only have the Dolphins covered but they crushed the number by margins of 24, 14, 14½, 9 and 6½ points respectively over their five-game winning streak both straight up and against the spread.

The 3-6 Broncos lost their last two games and are just 1-3 at home. The venue helps the Broncos, but the market in no way trusts them enough at home to make up for a mediocre offense. There are questions this week about whether or not Drew Lock is going to play but does it really matter? The books think not, otherwise this game would be off the board. Whether it’s Lock or Brett Rypien, our position is not going to change.

Lock returned to practice in a limited fashion Thursday, which represented a positive step toward starting Sunday. Lock threw four interceptions at Las Vegas, giving him 10 (all in the five games since his return from a shoulder injury) for the year, tied for third most in the NFL.

Rypien played the final series of the Week 3 loss to Tampa Bay when Jeff Driskel was benched. Four nights later, Rypien was 19-of-31 passing for 242 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in the Broncos’ 37-28 win over the New York Jets. He has served as the Broncos’ No. 2 quarterback since Lock’s return.

Look, the Broncs lose to every good team they play. Their three wins this year have come against the Jets, Patriots and hard-luck Bolts. The win over the Chargers was a miracle, their win over New England consisted of six FG’s and in their win over the Jets, the Broncos needed at least 29 points to win. Now the flavour of the week is spotting a lousy -3½-points? Incidentally, the game opened at -2½ but no matter how you break it down, it’s one of the biggest buy-low/sell high scenarios of the year. Recommendation: Denver +3½

NEW ORLEANS -3½ +104 over Atlanta

1:00 PM EST. We’re not going to discuss the Falcons too much because this really isn’t about them, although we’re thrilled that Atlanta happens to be playing the Saints this week. You see, Atlanta’s market credibility is trending up after winning three of its last four games. The Dirty Birds’ only loss over that span was a bizarre one against the Lions by a single point.

Had Todd Gurley taken a knee against the Lions late the fourth quarter rather than scored a major, the Falcons could be on a four-game winning streak. What that doesn’t reveal is that all opponents had losing records. Long forgotten is that Atlanta started the year handing out 30-point games to everyone on their schedule.

The Drew Brees injury has the market running to the windows to bet on Atlanta. This game opened at -5 with Brees out and was very early bet down to -4. Early money is often referred to as sharp money but we’re not so sure in this case. Besides, what the f**k is sharp money anyway? Educated gamblers? Big wagers? Early bettors? Sharp money is probably one of the most overused terms from people trying to sound like they know what the fuck is going on. Are we sharp money? No, we’re just like you, that being, trying to find the best way to bet the NFL with a strategy that has proven to be effective over an extended period of time. We bet Chicago on Monday night and they racked up about 50 yards of offense so how fucking sharp were we?

In any case, the market is buying into the narrative that the Brees injury threatens to undo the Saints season. Taysom Hill plays each week, but only as a runner. He's thrown just five passes this year. The Saints signed Jameis Winston in the offseason hoping that he can flash the talent that saw him pass for 5,359 yards last year and yet not the bad-decision making that led him to throw a league-leading 30 interceptions in 2019. Somewhat surprisingly, the Saints named Hill as the starter on Thursday, which has further pushed the market toward the Falcon. Hill has a wide range of talents but has never started a game. That’s OK with us.

Backup QB’s often get the teams’ best performance. Every player in the locker room understands how difficult it is to sit on the bench every week and to practice every week but not play. Backup QB’s earn great respect from the rest of the team for showing up every week, practicing hard and getting ready should the starter go down. Taysom Hill now has an opportunity and it would surprise us not if he is able to step up to the plate and play well. He’s likely learned a lot from sitting on the sidelines watching a true pro in Brees for a couple of years, while also playing a role in this offense this season. Facing the No. 30 defense against quarterbacks in your own stadium is a great place for Hill to dive into the deep end and to spot the Falcons a deflated number. If you bet one favorite this week, this should be it. Recommendation: New Orleans -3½ +104

Tennessee +6 -103 over BALTIMORE

1:00 PM EST. Both of these teams were losers in prime time in Week 10 with the Titans dropping the opener on Thursday Night Football 34-17 and the Ravens going down to the Patriots on Sunday night, 28-24. The similarities between the two clubs doesn’t end with joint defeats last week, as they both sport 6-3 records and have similar marks against the spread with the Titans going 3-6 and the Ravens 4-5.

It’s also time to disregard what we know about home field advantage. This season, the away teams are winning more than they are losing and they are scoring more points than the home side. The perception of a home field edge works to our advantage here because the Ravens are getting credit for being at home in the number when they shouldn’t be. You also have the perception that this is a “revenge” game for the Ravens after the Titans went into Baltimore, stomped a mud hole and walked it dry, sending the Nevermores packing in a 28-10 romp. To all the above, it’s all just fodder. The Ravens are a fade target this week and we’re on it.

You see, this week appears to be a week of great situational spots and this is another one where we find the Titans catching the Ravens in a rather vulnerable spot. It was just three weeks ago that the Ravens hosted the Steelers and although Baltimore outplayed them, they still lost. Now the revenge minded Ravens get another crack at the team they desperately want to beat and it just so happens that the game is scheduled on Thanksgiving Thursday in the prime time spot at 8:20 PM EST. We cannot overstate how badly the Ravens want another crack at the Steelers. Anything that takes even a small percentage of the focus away from the task at hand works against them, thus, at the very least, the chance for revenge in front of the entire country in one of the biggest holiday traditions in the United States has to have the Ravens’ focus this week less than 100%. The Ravens hate the Steelers as much as they hate the Patriots.

After having played on Sunday night, this is also the perfect sandwich spot for Tennessee to catch the Ravens licking their wounds. The Titans had ample time to prepare, they are rested and even likely overprepared and chomping at the bit to get back on the field. Finally, we have the Titans priced in a range that is dog friendly. Situationally speaking, this is also about as good as it gets to be taking back significant points. Recommendation: Tennessee +6 -103

INDIANAPOLIS -1½ -105 over Green Bay

1:00 PM EST. The Packers laid an egg last week against the Jaguars, but in the end, they pulled out the 24-20 win. As a 13½-point favorite, Green Bay was never in a position to cash a ticket. For many teams, recent results can play a role in market perception, but Aaron Rodgers is like teflon. One bad showing does not stick to #12. In fact, the expectation is that he will not chase one mediocre outing with another. Such was the case after an early season stinker in Tampa that was followed by a flawless effort in a romp over the Texans. A poor showing against the Vikings in Week 8 was followed by a prime time showcase where Rodgers did whatever he wanted against the 49ers, his hometown team and the one passed over him way back in 2005. So as far as recent history goes, that’s two stellar outings after a pair of piss poor performances and if we were to follow the pattern, Rodgers is due for another big game. The problem is, this shit isn’t predetermined.

The narrative this season is that Rogers is playing with a chip on his shoulder because the Packers passed up on wide receivers like Tee Higgins and Chase Claypool, which was Rogers preference, and instead traded up to draft quarterback Jordan Love. Rodgers has long had a reputation as a quarterback who does not turn the ball over, quite the contrast from his predecessor in Brett Favre. Rodgers has thrown so few interceptions this season that we can name them. Two against the Bucs in week 6 and one against the Jags last week. While Rodgers and Devante Adams have made magic when Adams has been healthy and in the lineup, the WR depth chart falls off a cliff after #17. For a while it was tight end Robert Tonyan that was getting the love, last week it was Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and this week it could be Alan Lazard, who is set to return from injury reserve.

The point is, when you have more than one second option, you have no second options. The Packers slept walked through a mostly meaningless interconference matchup and there's a chance they might phone this one in too with a high profile prime time matchup with the Bears on deck at home in Lambeau next Sunday night. Meanwhile, for the Colts, it’s a big deal when a team like Green Bay comes to town. These teams play about once a decade so, so it would be a shock if the home side was flat for this one.

The Colts kicked off Week 10 with a 34-17 win over the Titans. It was an impressive showing as Indianapolis shut out Tennessee in the second half. The defense limited Ryan Tannehill to just 147 passing yards, while Philip Rivers posted over 300. Rivers' lifetime record against the Packers has got some play this week, but he’s spent an entire career in the AFC so we put very little stock in his 1-3 mark. Whether or not Indy wins this game will come down to one thing. Did Rivers channel his inner “Ol’ Gunslinger” and start chunking balls to the guys in the other jerseys? When Philip keeps it on the rails and doesn’t turn the ball over, the Blue Horse Shoe is 4-0. When he’s handing out INT like candy, the Colts are just 2-3. If we knew who was going to win the turnover battle, we could give you the winner just about every time. Because we can’t, must let the chips fall where they may. There is a damn good reason the Colts are the chalk here, we trust the oddsmakers got it right because taking back points with Rodgers and the Packers is going to be an appealing proposition in this market. So much so, it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Packers could be favored by kickoff. Recommendation: Indianapolis -1½ -105

Cincinnati +1 -105 over WASHINGTON

1:00 PM EST. The 2-6-1 Bengals were just plowed over by the Steelers and bring their 0-4-1 road record to face the 2-7 Football Team that is on a two-game losing stretch and are 2-3 at home. The Football Team would have lost their last eight games if the Cowboys had not thankfully shown up in Week 7 with only half of their roster. Their last three losses were all by a field goal or less but only faced the Lions and Giants (twice). In the wake of losing Kyle Allen, Alex Smith has twice thrown for more than 320 yards though against weaker secondaries. Against the Eagles, Smith was forced to pass 55 times and completed 38 for 390 yards. His two performances were both the highest yardage by a Washington quarterback this year. With two games under his belt and back at home, Smith is in the most advantageous situation he'll find for the rest of the year. From our viewpoint, Alex Smith’s stock is up while the Bengals blowout loss to Pittsburgh last week has left a very sour impression in the market.

When a team loses by four TD’s, like Cinci did last week, they are usually a good candidate for a strong rebound. We’re willing to put that to the test here. Although the Bengals record is horrible, their performances have not been. Four of the six Bengals losses have been by five points or less, thus, what we have here is a team that is a bounce away in each game from being 7-2 and not 2-6-1. A blowout loss resonates.

What has tipped us towards the Bengals this week is purely situational. Next week are the annual Thanksgiving Day games and one of those games is always played in Dallas. The NFC East is up for grabs regardless of what any of the teams do this week. We have to trust that Washington is in a more difficult spot than the Bengals with that huge game on Thanksgiving Day coming right up. Any edge against a bad team is a good edge and in this case, we’re probably getting the better team too, off an embarrassing loss. Recommendation: Cincinnati +1

JACKSONVILLE +10½ -105 over Pittsburgh

1:00 PM EST. This seriously might be the biggest overlay on the board this week. The market was not fond of getting behind the Steelers last week as a -7 or -7½-point favorite over the Bengals. Money was pouring in on the upset-minded Bengals all Sunday morning and we all know what happened next. The Steelers frog-stomped the Bengals and easily covered in a 36-10 victory. That same market is not going to be anxious to test fading the Steelers spotting significant points against an inferior opponent again after it didn’t work out well last week.

This isn’t about the Jags. We all know they suck. Ever since they blew the AFC title game to the Pats in 2018, the Jags have modeled themselves after Major League Baseball in having a never-ending reservoir of contempt toward the idea of self-improvement. This isn’t a tank job, because tanking implies purposeful failure as a means to future success. There’s no success in what the Jags are planning. There is only garbage so there is nothing we are going to say that hasn’t already been said. Why the Jags then?

Pittsburgh has a game with Baltimnore on deck on Thanksgiving Thursday in the prime-time 8:20 PM time slot. Nothing more needs to be said. To the Steelers, a team that often plays down to their opponents, this situational spot could not be worse. Although a trip to Florida is usually nice, during this pandemic it’s no different than a trip to Milwaukee. In other words, this trip is nothing more than a massive inconvenience for the Steelers. Pittsburgh is now being asked to win by double digits with a massive game on deck just four days away. The Steelers undefeated mark is in jeopardy here. Best situational spot on the board. Recommendation: Jacksonville +10½

Dallas +7 over MINNESOTA

4:25 PM EST. This week, we cannot help but pick on our boy Teddy Covers. When a dude sells picks for a living, there is bound to be some bullshit spewed from time to time but this analysis of the Vikings/Cowboys game might take the cake. First, did you hear any reasons from anybody that gets paid to talk about the NFL making a case for the Cowboys in this game? We hear crickets. The pundits couldn’t back a pooch if their lives depended on it and if they ever do it’s usually a one or two point pup at best. From our perch, it appears that the market is going to look at a number like this, with the Vikings coming off a win and cover Monday night (their third in a row by the way) and eat it up. Minny has actually cashed tickets in six of its last seven games. When you payout at a high clip, the market takes notice.

Are we to believe that the return of Andrew Gregory Dalton is going to inspire the masses to get back on board with America’s Team? Teddy makes the point right there at the end, Dalton has been terrible this year. That 38-10 drubbing by the Cardinals was on Monday Night Football in a game the Cowboys were favored in by the way. Against the Football team, the ‘Boys were a small fav too, and also got smashed 25-3. That was the game Dalton was injured in but he wasn’t going to make the difference, Dallas was DOA in D.C. With Dalton on the sidelines, the Cowboys were a 10½ pooch in Philadelphia, again in prime time, and lost 23-9. In their last game, the Cowboys were +14 to the Steelers with Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. Sure, the Cowboys had their chances and covered that number, but as it turned out half (slight exaggeration) the Steelers may have had COVID-19. If anything, the market may see the return of Dalton as easy pickings, just as Teddy suggests he’ll be.

We’ve not seen anyone but Covers suggest that this is a “letdown” spot for the four win Vikes and we can assure you that there is no “hype” around the Cowboys either. We don’t know what the f**k Teddy is smoking, but we want some. Might take a bit of the edge off as we try to stay alive in this crazy world. If anything, it is now time to sell on the Vikings like there is no tomorrow. Their stock has never been higher this season and their apparent 11-5 record ATS against non-division foes at home in the Mike Zimmer era is about as useful a trend as Dallas’ record when the wind is blowing at 15MPH from the southeast on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving in a leap year during a three quarter moon. RE: its f**king useless, just like nearly all shit that these touts spew to justify their existence. We don't want to bet Dalton but we’re not in the business of playing favorites. We’re in the business of playing the value. Hold your nose and take the points. Recommendation: Dallas +7 -105

Kansas City -8 -110 over LAS VEGAS

8:20 PM EST. We’ve written time and again that it is Chiefs or nothing and we are not coming off that position. We know that Kansas City has “revenge” on it’s mind after losing to the Raiders earlier this season and that the pundits are going to slobber all over that point during the pregame festivities. We know that the Chiefs are a popular team in the market, which likely means they are spotting inflated points every time they take the field. It doesn’t matter. The books could make the line in this game 10, 14, 17. Name a number, it wouldn’t be high enough. Because when you bet Patrick Mahomes, you’re never out of it as long as the clock is still ticking.

Are Gruden’s Raiders finally ready for prime time? We’re not so sure about that. Yes, the move to Las Vegas has been kind to the Raiders. They are 6-3 and have won four of their last five games, while also hitting paydirt at the window in all of those victories, including that 40-32 road win as an 11-point pooch in the Show Me State. As impressive as that win was, the Raiders also got whacked by the Buccaneers, the only other “elite” team they’ve played. Wins against the Chargers and Broncos don’t carry much weight with us and neither does a 16-10 snoozer over the Browns. The total in this game is in the mid 50s; it's the highest on the board this week. We are pretty sure the Chiefs are going to get theirs, we cannot say the same about the Raiders. We’re not going to touch this one, despite it’s prime time appeal. You might be better off to pass as well. Recommendation: Kansas City -8

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