What’s up is down. What’s sideways falls in a black hole. What’s happy turns sad … insanely quickly.
That is the story thus far through three weeks of handicapping the NFL.
Although our best bets have been outstanding at 10-5 and we have been nearly as good with over/unders at 30-17, the rest of our picks against the spread have been something I’d want to hang on the door for Halloween. That being said, things seem to stabilize in Week 4 as the weather gets cooler and the cream begins to rise in football.
Remember last year at this time the Carolina Panthers were 3-0. Similarly, we’ll be saying in a couple of months, “Remember when the Chicago Bears were 2-1? And remember when our NFL picks were under .500? Yeah, that seems like a long time ago.”
Dare I say, I love our picks this week and not just our best bets. Maybe it’s because we are more favorite-heavy, maybe it’s because there are some easy matchups to exploit and maybe it’s because we’re certain Aunt Mabel and Drunk Joe can’t continue to win.
Whatever it is, let’s get that winning train back on the track and rolling. Hope you come along for the ride.
THE WEEK 4 BEST BETS
HOME TEAM in CAPS
1 / Cleveland -1.5 over ATLANTA
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m.. THE BET: $33 to win $30.
There are many sharp bettors I respect who have found a new darling in football. First, it was the Indianapolis Colts. Now, they seem to be jumping on the train of the Atlanta Falcons. And I don’t get it. Not even kind of get it.
I understand these Falcons might not be as bad as we thought they would be, but that wouldn’t be tough, as I thought they would be the worst team in football. However, are we really considering Atlanta to be a near-average team? Are we considering Marcus Mariota is a decent quarterback?
That’s what this line is saying against a Cleveland team that is just slightly below even money to make the playoffs. This line was Browns -4.5 over the summer, -3 last week and is now down a point and a half following their 12-point victory over Pittsburgh. Makes no sense. (And people are still betting on Atlanta!)
Meanwhile, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt likely are licking their chops in preparing for this Falcons defense. As am I in heading to my app to bet on the Browns.
SCORE PREDICTION: Browns 27, Falcons 16. (Under 49.5.)
2 / NY GIANTS -3 (-115) over Chicago
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m.. THE BET: $23.50 to win $20.
One of the five best bets we have missed this season was last Monday night’s debacle for the G-Men against Dallas, and I take full responsibility for missing how bad Daniel Jones is in prime time. Now safely back in the early window on a Sunday, Jones and company can get back to winning.
Or, rather, I should say Saquon Barkley can get the Giants back to winning, as the Bears are ranked 30th in the NFL against the run through three games this season.
And if anyone needs more proof the Bears’ 2-1 record is a complete façade, take as evidence their 1-11 record in their last 12 games against the spread and the passing “attack” averaging an incredibly low 78.3 yards when you factor in sacks.
SCORE PREDICTION: Giants 26, Bears 10. (Under 39.5.)
3 / Teaser, Tennessee +9.5 over INDIANAPOLIS and LA Chargers +1 over HOUSTON
WHEN: Both games Sunday at 1 p.m.. THE BET: $24 to win $20.
Teaser explanation: At most books, a bettor can parlay two teams in a “teaser” and get 6 points of cushion for each bet. However, it costs -120 to play and – like a parlay – both legs must hit to cash the ticket.
First when it comes to Tennessee, this game to me is a huge marker on which team will eventually win the AFC South. (No, it’s not going to be Jacksonville. Let me guess, you like Atlanta and Chicago, too.) And in that, it would be a surprise if this game isn’t incredibly close.
With the way Indy expended so much energy in their very unlikely win over Kansas City last week, it would be tough to think they can replicate that. On the other side, Tennessee has covered four of the past five games in the series and past three at Indianapolis.
(We also love the over in this one, as at least 48 combined points have been scored in their past four meetings with an aggregate total of 135 in the past two.)
As far as the Chargers, we get how banged up they are, but how desperate will they be this week after getting bombed by the Jaguars? Also with Keenan Allen back to help give this offense a kickstart, they should win this one fairly easily. (In other words, giving us a point in a teaser seems like great way to get October going.)
SCORE PREDICTION: Titans 31 (+3.5), Colts 26. (Over 42.5.)
SCORE PREDICTION: Chargers (-5) 33, Texans 17. (Over 44.)
4 / CINCINNATI -3.5 over Miami
WHEN: Thursday at 8:15 p.m. THE BET: $22 to win $20.
Can one imagine a more perfect spot for the Bengals and anything worse for the Dolphins? The defending AFC champion finally figures things out in a full-game effort (even though it was against the Jets), while Miami wins a game it had no business winning against Buffalo and now has to leave home just before a hurricane with their starting quarterback banged up.
(Whew, that was a long sentence. Breathe. OK, back to football.)
Well, if this were a game show, it would be Sharp Bettor vs. Aunt Mabel, and I am taking Sharp Bettor every single time.
This line opened at -3 this week and climbed to as much as -4.5 as the sharps pounded the Bengals. Meanwhile, the public’s $20 and $100 tickets added up enough to lower it back to -3.5 by Wednesday night.
This one seems too easy, and it got me to back off from it as my overall No. 1 best bet, but I’ll be adding to the action on this one beyond what I already have.
SCORE PREDICTION: Bengals 27, Dolphins 17. (Under 47.)
5 / Arizona at CAROLINA under 42.5
WHEN: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. THE BET: $11 to win $10.
Looks like ugly weather in Charlotte on Sunday afternoon with the remnants of Hurricane Ian hanging around. Sounds like it will pair just perfectly with the ugly offenses of the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals.
Both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray have been abysmal (except for Murray in one quarter vs. Las Vegas), and with the excellent Panthers’ defense in the rain, we could have more of the same. In other words, this game’s final result likely will come down to Christian McCaffrey vs. James Conner.
We choose McCaffrey in that battle, but we like the total much more. Enough to make it our fifth best bet.
SCORE PREDICTION: Panthers (-1.5) 18, Cardinals 16.
6 / New Orleans +2.5 (-105) over Minnesota
WHEN: Sunday at 9:30 a.m. THE BET: $10.50 to win $10.
I haven’t changed my mind: Saints coach Dennis Allen needs to take charge a bit more and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael seems to be in WAY over his head. However, a long plane ride with 53 players cooped up together for several hours could be exactly what this team needs.
The deal with New Orleans is either they are going to muscle up Sunday, each player will take personal responsibility and give a damn, or they’re going to fold like a poker player one away from the money in the big tournament. I guess I am not willing to believe a team this talented is ready to phone it in, because if they have one more “no-show” performance, it really is all over.
I have no idea at the time of this writing whether Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton will start for New Orleans, and no idea of which wide receivers will or won’t play. Still, I am putting faith in the fact I think this will be the team’s best effort of the season to date, no matter who starts. (Enough to make it a sixth best bet for the week.)
Meanwhile, I may have had a bit too much faith placed in the Vikings, who needed a gift to come back at home vs. Detroit last week.
SCORE PREDICTION: Saints 30, Vikings 24. (Over 43.5.)
TOP KNOCKOUT PICKS
1 / Philadelphia; 2 / NY Giants; 3 / LA Chargers; 4 / Green Bay. (Minnesota, Cincinnati and Chicago advanced last week. The Chargers were eliminated.)
OTHER PICKS (No bets for the following)
Sunday at 1 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA (-6.5) 23, Jacksonville 13: I get it: Everyone loves an underdog, and that makes the Jaguars a darling of the betting world right now. That doesn’t make them good.
They simply caught the Chargers at the perfect time, while for some unknown reason they have the Colts figured out. What about that loss to Washington?
Meanwhile, I am ready to relent and admit that people smarter than me were right about the Eagles. Not so much because Jalen Hurts is better than I thought, but because this defense is much better than I thought. And that will be the deciding factor in this one. (Under 47.)
DETROIT 23, Seattle 20 (+4.5): Big money has dropped on the Seahawks, forcing a line drop from 6 to 4.5, and a lot of it has to do with the fact D’Andre Swift likely won’t play for the Lions. (No. 1 wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown also may miss the game.)
It’s not just that for me; it’s the fact I’m left wondering how the Lions have gone from the underdog who covers every week to the more-than-a-field-goal favorite. Against anyone. Anywhere.
Seems like we’re overreacting to improvement in the Motor City. In fact, I am not even sure Detroit wins this one outright. I’m certainly not giving 4.5 points with Jared Goff at quarterback even if Geno Smith is on the other side. (Under 48.)
Washington (+3.5) 23, DALLAS 20: Sorry, I am still not buying stock in Cooper Rush. Oh, and something tells me Carson Wentz will bounce back after last week’s horrific performance vs. Philly.
Side note: The Cowboys have covered in five of the past seven matchups against Washington. The two they didn’t? Dak Prescott didn’t play. I like this one as the upset of the week. (Over 41.5.)
PITTSBURGH (-3) 19, NY Jets 14: Here’s my big question: When’s the last time the Jets were fifth – at any point of any season – in passing offense? That’s where they are now with Joe Flacco leading the way. Here’s question No. 2: So what if Zach Wilson is healthy?!?
Forcing Wilson back into the offense plays right into the hands of the Steelers, and so does the fact Mike Tomlin simply doesn’t lose games like this. (Under 41.5.)
Buffalo (-3) 38, BALTIMORE 28: It is incredible how fickle the betting public can become after one weird week. Suddenly, the Bills, who were the greatest team who ever played heading into Week 3, can lose by complete fluke, and now a spread that might have been 5 or 6 just six days ago suddenly is only 3. Do we forget how bad this Ravens defense has played so far (statistically worst in the NFL)? Seems easy to me.
P.S. This has potential to be the highest-scoring game of the season thus far. (Over 51.5.)
Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
LAS VEGAS (-2.5) 27, Denver 24: The Raiders have now won eight of the past nine against the spread in this series, and the play of Russell Wilson hasn’t led me to believe this one will be any different.
Although Wilson could have a mini-breakout game against a Vegas pass defense that is ranked 26th through three games, the only thing that tells me is to take the over. I don’t love this pick, and I hate going with the public, but I simply can’t put any faith in the Broncos here. (Over 45.5.)
GREEN BAY 24, New England (+9.5) 17: I wouldn’t put a dime on this game if I found one on Poydras Street a block away from Harrahs. But since I have to pick every game, I will take Bill Belichick to find a way to keep it close – even without Mac Jones – against a Packers team that easily could let their guard down a little bit after two big victories.
I would stay away from this in a knockout pool unless you don’t trust taking some of the marginal favorites we listed above. (Over 40.5.)
Sunday at 8:20 p.m.
TAMPA BAY (+1) 31, Kansas City 27: As I type this, there is no guarantee this game will be played in Tampa, although judging the fact the line has come down from Tampa Bay +3 to +1 leads me to think the sharps have inside info they think the game will be played at The Pirate Ship.
The Bucs have their backs against the wall, and although they have spent the week practicing in Miami, they should be inspired to win one for the community. Also, they get all their receivers back except Chris Godwin, and that’s bad news for Kansas City, which has been only average against the pass. (Over 45.)
Monday at 8:15 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO (-1.5) 16, LA Rams 12: At first glance, it looks like the Rams should dominate, especially the way Jimmy G played last week against Denver. However, I certainly am not impressed by LA at all, and the Niners have been the much better team as of late in this series. (Yeah, except that fluke of an NFC championship game.)
Even without Trent Williams blocking for Garoppolo, somehow San Francisco will find a way to win – most likely with their defense. (Under 42.)
HOW WE DOIN’?
Note: TIES ARE NOT COUNTED IN MY RECORD, which could result in a different total of games in the “straight up” and “against the spread” categories, as well as with totals.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Week 3 best bets: 3-2 (-$5). Season best bets: 10-5 (.667; $1,037 balance – started with $1,000 prior to Week 1). Week 3 all picks: 5-11. (Gulp.) Season all picks: 20-28 (.417) (Double gulp.)
STRAIGHT UP (no spread)
Week 3: 8-8. Season: 23-24 (.489).
Week 3: 8-7. Season: 30-17 (.638).
PREVIOUS WEEK’S RESULTS
Week 3: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-11 ATS; 8-8 straight up; 8-7 over/unders
Week 2: 4-1 best bets (+$57); 7-9 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 12-4 over/unders
Week 1: 3-2 best bets (-$15); 8-8 ATS; 6-9 straight up; 10-6 over/unders