Today's Free Picks for
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, 65-59 in 2019 (+16 units) and 55-62 in last year's unusual pandemic season. Again, we’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST
Carolina +3 -105 over ATLANTA
1:00 PM EST. The Falcons were idle two weeks ago after defeating the Jets in London. Upon returning to American soil, the Dirty Birds beat Miami. The Atlanta Falcons have won three of their last four games and are certainly trending in the right direction so let’s have a closer look at their 3-1 record over the past month. To kick it off, they beat the Giants by three, 17-14. They then lost to Washington followed by those two aforementioned victories over the Jets and Dolphins.
It might look clearer this way:
Defeating those three teams by 3, 7 and 2 points respectively is equivalent to defeating John Goodman, Billy Gardell and William Shatner in a one-mile race. In between all that, Atlanta lost to the Football Team. When the Falcons played anything resembling an NFL team, they lost to Philadelphia (32-6) and to Tampa (48-25). We often discuss that spotting points with bad football teams is almost always a bad strategy.
The Carolina Panthers market credibility took a massive hit last week, which is why they’re on our radar this week. In fact, the Panthers have dropped four in a row, which means it’s time to start buying up some of this garbage stock. Here’s the difference between the Dirty Birds and the Panthers last month. While Atlanta barely escaped three of those four dregs they played, Carolina was fighting against Dallas, Philadelphia and the Vikes before being overvalued against the Giants last week and losing by an unforgivable margin. The Panthers also have a win over the Saints on their résumé.
Atlanta’s Strength of Schedule (SOS) ranks 31st out of 32 teams. They are now favored over a more battle tested team but that battle tested team’s stock has bottomed out after the entire betting world took them to beat the G-Men last week. The market has been feasting on games like this all season long but charmed lives don’t last forever. If you bet Carolina last week, don’t zig zag off them. Stick with it. Recommendation: Carolina +3.
N.Y. JETS +10½ over Cincinnati
1:00 PM EST. Cincinnati fucking rolled Superman and the Ravens last week by a final score of 41-17. The week before that, the Bengals fucking toyed with the Lions. Now it’s the Jets turn. The Jets. The fucking Jets. What, do you think we’re a bunch of fucking idiots over here? Do you not think we know what the fuck is going on? Point is, it’s near impossible, no check that, with 9000 games on the board every week, one would have to be total fucking idiot to have their sights set on the Jets. Who the fuck is betting the Jets. They could be getting 21 points and nobody would go near this hapless bunch. We took the Jets last week and our ticket was dead four minutes into the game. Anyone going back in for more abuse? Anyone?
The Jets are the most pathetic routine in all of sports. Even their most die-hard fans couldn’t name five players on the team and now to make matters worse, the Jets went out and signed Joe Flacco. Yeah, that Joe Flacco. He is Andy Dalton with a ring. Flacco will still be out there losing games, taking sacks and struggling for a basic yard. We can see it as clearly as the emails that roll in after the game is final that say, “How the fuck do you take the Jets”?
Flacco, as of this writing, has had a disc injury in his back since 2015. The Jets don’t think the injury is serious but, as any 40-year-old man can tell you, EVERY disc injury is serious. That shit doesn’t just go away, my friends. Joe Namath is busy during commercials, otherwise he was the next phone call and Ryan Mallett is a beanstalk truant with atrocious career numbers so he was ruled out. Yes, we also wonder how the fuck the Jets are going to cover 10½-points against a team that just rolled Superman in Superman’s own backyard.
What we also know is this information isn’t privileged so instead of waiting until the game is over and then asking why we recommended the Jets, do yourself a favor and walk into several sportsbooks in Las Vegas and bet Cincinnati. At about 4:15 PM EST go collect as much as you want. It’s easy money and anyone on this planet can bet it. After you collect, send us a message and let us know how you’ll be spending it. Unfortunately, we’re not that smart so we’ll have to get behind Joe (gulp) Flacco. Recommendation: NY Jets +10½
San Francisco -4 -105 over CHICAGO
1:00 PM EST. The perception here is that these are two struggling offenses that should produce a low-scoring affair that will not be conducive to the 49ers spotting road points. While that situation is not one that we are often eager to step into, there are exceptions to every rule.
Both the 49ers and Bears were whacked last Sunday, but there is one notable difference between those two lopsided results; one was expected, the other was not. With that in mind, let’s start with Chicago. The Bears were waffled 38-3 and might as well not have gotten off the team bus in Tampa. There is little to dissect in that game, as it was as ugly as the score suggests, maybe more so. The fallout of that contest now has the Bears 3-4, but they may once again be behind the eight ball this week. Head coach Matt Nagy is in COVID protocols after testing positive and is working away from the team. Not ideal when you are trying to bring along a rookie quarterback in Justin Fields who has barely mustered a positive offensive drive in five humble starts.
The 49ers were supposed to bounce back after an injury-plagued 2020, but so much for that, San Francisco is once again looking up at most of the NFC West. The Russell Wilson-less Seahawks also only have two wins, but that is far more excusable considering the circumstances. The four straight games the Niners have dropped are undoubtedly disappointing, but one could argue that had a bounce or two gone the other way, those four losses could easily have been 2-2 or even 3-1. San Fran went toe-to-toe with the Packers in Week 3, outgained the Seahawks by 223 yards in Week 4, and did the same (+34) against the Cardinals with a rookie pivot at the helm. As for last week, we can forgive a rain-soaked fumble fuck fest that saw plenty of weird shit. That horrible performance (and result) by San Fran in prime time allows us to get the 49ers at a true discount here.
You also have a Bears defense that has to be exhausted because the offense can’t move five yards. Furthermore, Chicago’s two outside linebackers, Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn might not play. Even good defenses play poorly when they tire, and being worn out renders bad ones hopeless. Seven weeks in and the Bears defense hardly gets a chance to catch their breath because the offense has more three and outs than any team in the NFL.
Failure has many fathers. Coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor have crafted the worst passing attack in the NFL. General manager Ryan Pace cut left tackle Charles Leno in favor of a rookie — and then when that rookie got hurt, he signed a 39-year-old — and, for some reason, brought back tight end Jimmy Graham. He has one catch this season — and a $5.3 million cap hit. The Bears’ blockers have struggled, and the receivers aren’t in sync with Fields.
To consult with doctors and trainers this week before deciding on the next step for his injured left foot. It’s becoming more likely that he won’t face the 49ers. He was the only Bear to miss practice because of an injury. Fields has been awful when pressured, taking sacks on 14.4% of his drop-backs. No other NFL quarterback is above 10%. Fields has been pressured within three seconds of the snap on 20.9% of his drop-backs, the highest percentage in the league, according to NFL NextGen Stats. He has been bad with a clean pocket, too. His passer rating when he’s not under pressure is 75.3, the lowest in the NFL. Fields’ net yards per pass attempt, which deducts sack yardage, is 4.16, which ranks last among the 33 qualified quarterbacks. We repeat, the best thing about last week is that the 49ers looked awful on Monday Night. In summary, the 49ers’ stock is low, but the talent is there. The pieces are in place for the 49ers to cover this modest number. Swallow the points. Recommendation: San Francisco -4 -105
HOUSTON +14½ -105 over L.A. Rams
1:00 PM EST. There are multiple game scripts that see the Rams totally obliterate poor Davis Mills, the Texans, and this significant number. However, the same could be said for last week’s home effort against the winless Lions that saw. L.A. trailing going into the fourth quarter. Do we think that a repeat is on deck based on that recent unexpected struggle? Not necessarily, but situationally speaking, this appears to be a bit of a lookahead spot for the Rams, as they go from playing a dreg last week to playing another dreg this week before they get the spotlight on them next week when they host the 5-2 Titans next Sunday night at home on NBC.
Look, the Texans have scored five points in the last two weeks. We get it. They may just get their doors blown off here, too. However, there just isn’t something right about this line. At Arizona, the Texans were a 20½-point pooch and they lost by 26. Could oddsmakers not have tacked on a point or two in this spot and not swayed a bet? Think about it for a second.
We’re not going to pour over Mills and his college exploits, and we’ll barely touch on the decent game he had against the Patriots in Week 6 (that’s it) because we doubt there is much we could write that would inspire one to head to the window to drop their hard-earned dollars on these Texans. Hell, we’d have a hard time, too. However, strip the logos and name bars from the jerseys, and what you are left with is one side spotting a big pile of points, on the road, in a relatively meaningless game to the other. That could be just enough to make this one more interesting than it should be. Recommendation: Houston +14½ -105
Miami +14 -105 over BUFFALO
1:00 PM EST. Good Lord, where does one even start here? How about Buffalo? Sound good? The Bills are 4-2 and are now the class of the AFC East after Brady’s beach exploits left New England and took the dynasty with him. The Bills made it to the AFC Championship game last season, and prior to their bye, they were on a 4-1 tear that saw that loss come on a win or go home play on Monday Night Football against the Titans. No shame in that. In Week 5, the Bills blasted the Chiefs (38-20) in primetime on Sunday night, shutout the Texans (40-0) in Week 4, frog stomped the Football Team (43-21) in Week 3, and in Week 2, they got their first win of the year in a 35-0 blanking of these Dolphins in Miami.
There is so much drama surrounding Miami that it’s almost overwhelming. First, the Dolphins flirtation with an alleged serial sexual abuser in Deshaun Watson is particularly disturbing, especially when a team is willing to sweep under the rug in the name of success is so top of the mind in the sports world in light of the Chicago Blackhawks scandal.
Is it fair to blame all the Dolphins’ problems on Tua Tagovailoa? No, it is not. In the Week 2 meeting, Tua Tagovailoa was injured and Jacoby Brissett played nearly the entire game, and finished with 169 passing yards and one interception. Tagovailoa has been back for two weeks, and while the Dolphins lost both games, he was very productive. He passed for 329 yards and two scores in the London meeting with the Jaguars and then 291 yards and four touchdowns last week versus the Falcons. Granted, they lost, and he faced two below-average defenses, but the passing offense isn't to blame for recent losses while Tagovailoa started.
For almost the last two decades, the Fish have been an embarrassment reaching the playoffs just twice and both were Wild Card appearances. In fact, Miami had far more sub .500 seasons (11) than it did playoff runs. Now those past results do not have any bearing here other than to depress the Dolphins’ value, which is usually our prompt to move in. Tagovailoa's return from injury has not resulted in wins but it has resulted in the Fish losing games by a much smaller margin. And that’s all we are asking of them here. Of course the points are inflated. Recommendation: Miami +14 -105
CLEVELAND -3½ -105 over Pittsburgh
1:00 PM EST. It might be hard to back the Brownies without knowing the status of their primary offensive players, but this line suggests that one or both Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb are going to play come Sunday morning. Mayfield said as much this week, "I'm completely confident in. If you go out there and you're scared, you're timid, that's how you really get hurt seriously, so I can't do that.” Mayfield took all of the starter’s reps in practice this week, so barring a major setback, dude is playing. Chubb’s status wasn’t quite as clear, but to be honest, it doesn’t really matter who the Browns suit up in the backfield to run behind that offensive line, as D’Ernest Johnson proved last week in a 146-yard outburst against the stingy Broncos. Many other Browns are walking wounded, but really, the quarterback is the most important position in sports. In Baker, we trust.
The Steelers are 3-3, but despite their modest success so far in 2021, this is a team that we were and still are down on. From a strictly scheduling standpoint, the rest of the way does not look good for Pittsburgh, especially when you consider the road they have left to travel, as Football Outsiders ranks the Steelers remaining strength of schedule as the #7 toughest the rest of the way. Of course, much of that has to do with Pittsburgh’s division, the uber tough AFC North. With a pair of new contenders in the Bengals and Browns emerging, the Steelers’ and Ravens’ grip on the top is loosening. As for the Steelers, at .500, they are dead last and looking up at those three previously mentioned division foes. That’s a tough swim.
While we have our heads under the hood, you might be surprised to know that even without Baker last week, the Browns still rank sixth overall in team DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). That places them ahead of teams like the Packers (7-1), (Bengals (5-2), Baltimore (5-2), Raiders (5-2), Chargers (4-2), and Titans (4-2). Do you think the Packers would be spotting such a small price to the Steelers in this spot? We doubt it. Recommendation: Cleveland -3½ -105
SEATTLE -3½ -105 over Jacksonville
4:05 PM EST. If you’ve specifically sought out this game on the Sunday slate, please, get help. We say this because we care and only want what’s best for you. As for this game, what do you want to read about a Trevor Lawrence versus Geno Smith (whose teams combine for three wins) clash in what is supposed to be an unseasonably sunny day in Seattle?
We could start with the ‘lil bit of sizzle on this one by way of Urban Meyer hiring six former members of Pete Carroll’s staff. Sure, they hate Meyer, but it’s always nice to go home, and you have to think that former offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and company might have a little something special for their former boss. That’s about the only case we could make for the Jags to keep this one close. Think of the Lions last week in L.A. pulling out all the stops early.
The reality here is that the Seahawks are undervalued because of their record and being without Russell Wilson. We’re not going to slobber over Russ, and what he means to this team, that’s been going on non-stop since he went down and will continue until he comes back. However, like we said last week, the Geno Smith-led Seachickens aren’t as bad as their 0-3 mark with him as the starter would have you believe. To discover where the value lies in this game is pretty straightforward. What would this number be if “Hussy” Russy and runner Chris Carson were in the lineup? Double-digits? Exactly. Recommendation: SEATTLE -3½ -105 over Jacksonville
L.A. CHARGERS -4½ -105 over New England
4:05 PM EST. Fickle, fickle, fickle. That is about the nicest thing we can say about much of this market, at least those that consider themselves to be “efficient,” i.e., purveyors of “closing line value” or CLV. If you are holding a ticket on New England getting 6-points, as they were at open, congratulations, we guess. To be honest, we wouldn’t take a ticket with the Patriots taking back 10-points in this spot. Before you start begging for our action, take a breath and back away from the spreadsheet.
While it might not be fair to boil this contest down to something as simple as Justin Herbert versus Mac Jones, we’re going to do it anyway. First, do not think that Herbert forgot last season’s 45-0 shutout loss to these Patriots. Forget the blown leads and growing pains one goes through as a rookie; that’s the kind of embarrassing shit that keeps a football-slinging Adonis-like Herbert up at night. Why do you think the kid is on such a tear this season? Dude is angry, talented, and he's also 6’6” and owns many rookie passing records (total touchdowns, passing touchdowns, completions, and 300-yard games).
Enter Mac Jones and his 70.5% completion percentage. There, that’s the only talking point those lining up to drool on Jones have to make. These are the guys that say, “If the draft were today, Mac would go #1.” But, no, he fucking would not. The Patriots’ offense is middle of the pack (#15) in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) at Football Outsiders. The defense that was so highly touted coming into the season ranks just #14. This is not elite.
We’ll bring this back right to where we started. The efficient market has taken a stand in this game, and they side with Mac Jones and the Patriots. Sorry, a team with two blowout wins over the Jets (including the 50 burger N.E. put up last Sunday) and another win by the narrowest of margins over Houston does not deserve this kind of respect. With all due respect to the oddsmakers, this was a bad number at open, and it’s a bad number now. Hop on board friends as we try and take advantage of such a market inefficiency. Recommendation: L.A. Chargers -4½ -105
Tampa Bay -4½ over NEW ORLEANS
4:25 PM EST. The Bradys have been favored by 12½ (Bears), 7 (at Eagles), 11 (Dolphins), 6 (at Patriots) the last four weeks, and they won all four of those games to pad their season record at 6-1. No offense to the squads mentioned above, but murderers row they are not. What’s most prudent to us is the fact that the Buccaneers only cashed tickets in two of those games (Bears and Dolphins). When facing “good” teams like the Eagles and Patriots, the Bradys were lucky to survive the game and were not in a position to cover those spreads. That will gain one a reputation that it cannot be relied on when it matters most. Also, consider both of those squeaker wins were played in the bright lights of prime time, with Tommy Boy’s Week 4 homecoming being the most-watched regular season game in a generation.
On the surface, the Saints have everything needed to be a “good” or even “great” team. They have a tenured championship-winning head coach, a former first overall pick at the league’s most important position, a world-class dual-threat running back, and a defense that is actually pretty damn good (for whatever that is worth in this flag happy fuck fest we call the NFL). Unfortunately for Sean Peyton, Jameis Winston, and Alvin Kamara, their names have this team miscast as contenders.
The sample size is large enough now that we will lean a little more on the analytics because they are still a grey area for many in football. You’ll see the doofuses on the pregame shows make fun of the “stat geeks” nearly every week. Enjoy your brain damage, my dudes, because the times they are a-changin’ and the offensive discrepancy between the Bradys and Saints is so off the charts that it isn’t even funny (#1 by DVOA, Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, compared to #20). Oh, you want to compare defense? Ok, we’ll take anyone wearing the same colored jersey as #12. If a Saint so much as sneezes in Brady or any of his receivers’ directions, six fucking flags are coming out. Good luck with that, boy.
Is there something we’re forgetting? What could it be? Oh, that’s right, “Crab Legs” gets a shot at the team that drafted him #1 and then cut him after five seasons, including a 33 touchdown campaign in 2019. Don’t forget the 30 interceptions though, nice ratio, dude. So what of the “revenge” angle? Well, there’s a reason we left it until the end, as that is the attention it deserves. You are going to be force-fed all of the Brady, Winston, Bucs, Saints QB carousel drama you could possibly want to guzzle. Those familiar with this space know we despise the “revenge” angle. It’s moldy low-hanging fruit that any intern could slap together. You fine readers deserve better.
To wrap, this game has big brother bitch slap written all over it. The Saints are coming in off a short week, traveling from West Coast to East, and are now expected to keep up with the Bucs? That is not a situation that we want to be involved in. It’s Bradys or nothing. Recommendation: Tampa Bay -4½ -105
Dallas versus MINNESOTA
8:20 PM EST. The Cowboys may be without Dak Prescott, but that the game is on the board says that the books don't really give a fuck either way, neither do we. However, we'll monitor this situation and may have a more definite take when Prescott's status is confirmed. The injury chasers will be out if he is.
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Early leans & analysis Wk 8 (Risking 0 units - To Win: 0.00)