Early leans & analysis Wk 10
Early leans & analysis

NFL 2021

Week 10

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

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Week 10

N.Y. JETS +12 -105 over Buffalo

1:00 PM EST. So much for the Mike White era in New York, eh? Sure, White will get a third straight start here, but much, if not all, of the shine he built up in a Week 8 win over the Bengals was wiped away in prime time. A Thursday night drubbing in Indianapolis in Week 9 was a rude awakening for the Jets, or perhaps a return to form.

After the Bills were embarrassed in Jacksonville, the expectation is that a bounce-back is all but guaranteed. We’re not going to be quite so eager. While White’s sample size is small, dude can fling the rock. The Jets are also seeing two of their offensive rookies come into their own, with running back Michael Carter and wide receiver Elijah Moore posting breakout games in recent weeks. It’s going to be tempting to highlight what the Jets can’t do well while showcasing what the Bills can do well. But, we’re going to look at it another way.

Quick, what is the identity of these 2021 Bills? With high expectations and a potential two-headed monster at running back, the reinforcements were supposed to be here to help Josh Allen lead the Bills Mafia back to the promised land. Instead, the Bills are the most one-dimensional “contender” in the field. While a running quarterback is a bonus when that quarterback is the best rusher on your team, it’s not a long-term recipe for success. Take away Allen’s 319 rushing yards, and you’ve got a backfield duo of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss that scares nobody. And what of Allen? For all the fuss made about the change in his throwing mechanics, dude hasn’t been reigning sweet terror from above. Instead, the Bills passing attack is not where it was a year ago. Why?

For all the hype, the Bills are just 5-3, and that’s after playing the weakest schedule through nine weeks, according to Football Outsiders. A big reason for that is the decimation of their offensive line. Teams have also made a point to take away the deep ball to make Allen and the Bills beat them in any other way. Guess what? The Bills haven’t been able to answer the challenge. The Jaguars forced the Bills to dink and doink their way down the field to little success. It’s not just that game either; the Bills looked like shit in Miami in Week 8 before breaking out in the second half. As far as résumé goes, Buffalo’s is not that impressive. Wins over Miami (twice), Washington, Houston, and Kansas City, don’t look all that impressive at the moment. Losses to Pittsburgh and Tennessee may be forgivable, but under the hood, neither of those teams pass the smell test. However, we’ll save that for another write-up. Spotting significant road points in the division is not a scenario that we can usually get down with. Such is the case here. Recommendation: N.Y. JETS +12 -105

Cleveland +2½ -105 over NEW ENGLAND

1:00 PM EST. Often, the number dictates the play, which is most certainly the case here, as we have a pair of teams coming off big blowout wins in Week 9.

At 5-4, both the Browns and Patriots are in the thick of things, with the Pats sitting just one game back of the presumed AFC East champion Bills. Meanwhile, the Browns might be locked in the toughest division battle we’ve seen in quite some time. There is no filler in the AFC North, with all four clubs sporting winning records.

As for strength of schedule, the Pats have built their reputation in 2021 on a house of cards. They‘ve played the second easiest slate of games so far this season, according to Football Outsiders, with only Buffalo having an easier time. That is certainly nothing to moan on about. The Patriots have seen their stock increase after wins in four of five, including three straight, but again, they’ve been feasting off the dregs. New England has defeated the Jets (twice), Texans (barely), Chargers, and Panthers. That 24-6 win at Carolina last week combined with a 27-24 squeaker at Los Angeles have resonated, but the Pats are a commodity that we aren’t buying.

The Browns ghosted Odell Beckham Jr. and proceeded to have their best outing of the season. Coincidence? We think not. A guy like OBJ can infect an entire franchise with his bullshit and bring them down to his level. Beckham Jr. did nothing in Cleveland other than pout and crap all over Baker Mayfield. Good Riddance. With that huge cancer out of the clubhouse, the Browns are now free to play football and not worry about force-feeding a petulant child. We’ve got to figure that Mayfield and company are chomping at the bit to get back on the field after beating a pretty damn good Cincinnati squad 41-16. We don’t want to overreact to a Cleveland big win but this is not a letdown spot and until we see the Patriots take down a big dog, we’re not buying. Recommendation: Cleveland +2½ -105

Jacksonville +10½ -105 over INDIANAPOLIS

1:00 PM EST. Hey! Do you have $1999 we can borrow? Trust us, it’s for a good cause. You see, there is a new tout over at Covers, and we just have to get down with Lana Lane and her top-notch analysis. After all, where can you get gems like this for free?

“Indy has been able to handle the bottom feeding teams, 4-0 ATS vs teams with a losing record, but has struggled 2-3 ATS vs teams with a winning record.”

And… “Jacksonville is coming off possibly the upset of the decade, knocking off the Bills straight up but are 0-4 coming off an ATS win.”

Need more? “Indy has the edge in Pts per game, Yards gained and allowed, time of possession, and Red zone %, they are heads and shoulders the better team.”

Not to mention... “Indy leads the league in turnover differential, at +10 and 20 takeaways on the year, their D has been nasty to play against and should feast on a Jax O that has coughed up the ball 14 times this season, 25th in the league?”

Finally… “With blowout wins over the Jets, Texans and Dolphins, we will side with the home side and take the chalk.”

THAT. SHIT. IS. BRILLIANT! Why do we even bother when it’s so easy? Thanks to Lana for opening our eyes and our hearts to her handicapping prowess. Seriously, we’ve done a ton of soul searching—wondering why we spend so much time looking for good fodder when there is so much superior superficial shit to choose from.

In closing, we’d once again like to thank Lana Lane for her insight and analysis. Without her, we could not have completed this write-up. We doubt this will be the last time we showcase Ms. Lane either, as one cannot live without such hot takes. By the way, are we good for that $2000? Recommendation: Jacksonville +10½ -105

New Orleans +3 over TENNESSEE

1:00 PM EST. After the Bills’ loss to the Jaguars and the Ravens dropped a Thursday Night Football shocker to the Dolphins, the Titans have been elevated to the top of the AFC power rankings. Enjoy it while it lasts, fellas. The view from the top isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

The Titans have overcome much to sit at 7-2 and atop the AFC South, but we’re still not buying in when there is a premium to be paid. To the uninclined, this might look like a small number for Tennessee to cover on its home turf against the Trevor Siemian-led Saints, but we are here to tell you that the wrong team is favored, regardless of who suits up at quarterback for New Orleans.

Wins are valued greatly in this market, but they do not tell the whole story. For the Titans, this is a middle-of-the-road squad—at best—posing as a contender. The Titans are ranked just 14th in overall team DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) over at Football Outsiders. A further look shows Tennessee is 16th in offense—AND THAT WAS WITH DERRICK HENRY FOR MOST OF THE YEAR! Remember the talking heads spouting off every week about how Henry was the most valuable offensive player in the league? He couldn’t be replaced—was better than Patrick Mahomes—hear that? Crickets. A resounding prime-time win on Sunday night over the mighty Rams will do that, but it will also inflate a team’s stock that is totally smoke and mirrors.

Estimated Wins (EW) is a stat that we see more value in as the year goes along. For the Titans, they sit at 4.6, which suggests they are living a charmed life. Meanwhile, the Saints’ EW total is 6, one game off their pace to the good. The Saints are eighth in team DVOA—with Crab Legs Jameis Winston at the helm for much of that—and should only improve as Siemian gets more looks. Despite the loss to the Falcons, from our perch, the Saints might be better off with Siemian the rest of the way. The Titans are the de facto hottest team in football heading into Sunday and, therefore, have to be worthy fade fodder. This is one of those games that checks all the boxes and is likely to make our board. Recommendation: New Orleans +3 over -105

WASHINGTON +9½ over Tampa Bay

1:00 PM EST. IT’S BRADY/HEINICKE II. The Rematch! PEW—PEW—PEW! KA-BOOM!

CUE THE PYRO AND BALLYHOO!

Can’t you feel the excitement? Just 10 months after their first meeting, these two quarterbacking juggernauts will collide for the second time! If there is a hotter mano-a-mano matchup in Week 10, we don’t know what it is. This might be the QB fight of the decade!

Still not buying it, eh? It’s ok, there is not a lot to get excited about when it comes to Taylor Heinicke and the Football Team, but that’s OK because the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. The Football team is coming off a pretty quiet bye week, especially for a franchise that is as scandal-ridden as the Dan Snyder-owned outfit.

Washington was supposed to take the next step this season—lead by a stout defense and an aged magician (Ryan Fitzpatrick) at the pivot. Instead, it’s business as usual in the nations’ capital. WFT is 2-6, going nowhere, and the highly touted defense, nor “FitzMagic'' are anywhere to be found. That’s OK because Heinicke is pretty damn good. In the Wild Card round last January, the Bucs got a scare in Heinike’s first start, but still overcame in a 31-23 win and eventual Super Bowl championship. Since then, the Brady’s have missed few beats—sporting a 6-2 record in 2021. Quite the polar opposite to the “WTFs?”.

Rarely are we in favor of spotting a significant price on the road, and that rings true here. While it can be hard to bet against Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Junior—he’s going to get every call from the Footlocker employees—dude hasn’t covered road points yet this season. The Football Team has had two weeks to prepare for what is one of their biggest games of the season; meanwhile, the Bucs host Monday Night Football next week. Did the Bucs spend their off time in Week 10 prepping as hard as WFT? Perhaps, but we doubt it. After a bit of rest and a hosting gig on Monday Night Football on deck against the Giants in Week 11, this trip to D.C. might be nothing more than an inconvenience. At best, it’s just another stop on the road. Recommendation: WASHINGTON +9½-105

Carolina +10½ -105 over ARIZONA 

4:05 PM EST. The injury chasers were out in full force in Week 9, as the Cardinals were without MVP candidate Kyler Murray and All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Enter Colt McCoy and James Connor, who went up and down the field on the 49ers in a 31-17 rout. Arizona went from a small road favorite to a field goal pooch—who the hell will make that mistake again?

With Murray back at the helm, the Cards need little introduction. They are 8-1, having only lost to Aaron “Yes, I’m Immunized” Rodgers and the 7-2 Packers. Coach Kliff Kingsbury went from the firing line to the front runner for Coach of the Year; both AJ Green and Connor have been revitalized in the desert. It’s all coming up, Red Birds.

Meanwhile, what of the Panthers? They got smacked around at home by the Patriots. Any goodwill Sam Darnold had built up in his redemption tour was flushed down the crapper in that 24-6 waffling. As bad as it looked on the surface, the reality is, the Panthers were their own worst enemies. All was pretty equal in that game—that is, until a J.C. Jackson pick-six put the Panthers on their asses. The Panthers are not an elite team, but there are few that can overcome a defensive touchdown and still cover a spread.

The Cardinals were a pooch without their big gun last week and now are spotting double digits just a week later with him back in the lineup. Is Murray 100%? Who knows? It’s Week 10—is ANYONE 100%? That’s a big swing. On the other side, you have the Panthers going from a 3½-point home pooch to the inflated price we see now. Again—too much. Also, consider this game for Arizona is sandwiched with a trip to Seattle next week to face Russel Wilson and the Seahawks. We’ve seen lately what can happen when big favorites in this league do not come out 100% to play. Proceed with caution. Recommendation: Carolina +10½ -105

Minnesota +3 -105 over L.A. CHARGERS

4:05 PM EST. Here is your weekly reminder that wins and losses are all that matter in this world. You see, the Vikings were unlucky in losing last week while the Chargers were lucky to win. That’s not the narrative, though. All you heard out of the Ravens/Vikings game was the heroics of Lamar Jackson. How’d that work out Thursday night in Miami?

Meanwhile, the Chargers 27-24 win in Philadelphia looked more like a screening of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with Justin Herbert in the title role. Full credit to the seven doofuses in stripes, Blindy, Dumb Dumb, Four-Eyes, Fuckface, Witless, Brainless, and Flag Happy—all of whom were let off the hook by the utter gong show of a performance by the Tony Corrente-led officiating crew on Monday Night Football. Next convention, the beers better be on Jerome Boger’s boys.

A breakdown of Xs and Os is not necessary here, but we are going to lean on our friends over at Football Outsiders to help us make our point. Pop quiz—through 10 Weeks, of the Super Chargers and Vikings, who ranks higher in overall team DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average)? If we’re asking the question, we usually know the answer, but in this case, you are right! The Vikings are five slots higher than the Chargers, sitting just outside the top 10 (11). It’s not everything, but it’s not nothing. Keep your ears open this week and get back to us with how many talking heads put the Vikings ahead of the Chargers in the power rankings. Oh, and for all you X’s and O’s aficionado’s out there, the Chargers are horrible at stopping the run and Minnesota…….well, you know the rest. Recommendation: Minnesota +3 -105

VEGAS +2½ over Kansas City -105

8:20 PM EST. The 5-4 Chiefs won their last two games and bring their 2-2 road record to face the 5-3 Raiders that are 3-1 at home. These divisional rivals traded road wins in 2020. The Chiefs won 35-31 in Las Vegas during Week 11, and the Raiders won 40-32 in Kansas City in Week 5. While the fantasy football community would love nothing better than a shootout, the Chiefs offense shifted into low gear about three weeks ago and show no signs of gear up soon. Meanwhile, the Raiders are busy spinning through a constant stream of PR nightmares and team disruptions and just lost to the Giants.

The Raiders are shedding staff and employees like a downtown Burger King. Losing to the Giants when the entire gambling world thought they couldn’t is not a good look. The Chiefs did not cover against the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers last night but anyone that watched that game knows that K.C. probably should have put up 35 and covered easy. The Chiefs are still considered to possess the NFL's most prolific offense but we’re going to suggest that they look worse each week and we’re not going to ignore it.

What we have here is a great case of recency bias working against the Raiders and for the Chiefs. The decline in scoring is partially related to a rebuilt offensive line that hasn't met expectations, but that doesn't explain the dropped passes or errant throws. Mahomes threw for 206 passing yards at the Titans and 166 yards last week versus the visiting Packers. Even more telling is his 17 sacks this year and 10 interceptions. Mahomes has lost five fumbles. He is more hurried this year, but the pinpoint passes and jaw-dropping completions just haven't been there for weeks.

We prefer the Chiefs here but we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the plight of the Raiders. Yes indeed, the hits keep coming. First, there was the Jon Gruden situation, then the senseless and tragic car crash of Henry Ruggs. Now they cut their other first-round pick of 2020, CB Damon Arnette after his unsavory video. The Raiders fell to the Bears in Week 5 in some part due to their head coach. They beat the Broncos and Eagles but then just succumbed to the Giants. All the distractions will have an effect. The Raiders can become stronger, or they'll start to fall into dysfunction. These are all intangibles that cannot be measured and it’s for that reason that we’ll probably lay off this one. Hold a gun to our head and we are 100% leaning Raiders because Kansas City is not even average these days. Recommendation: Vegas +2½

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