Raise your hand if this feels like the midway point of the season. I don’t see any hands. Yeah, me neither. Every season seems to fly by faster and faster, and while I realize I am old, it still amazes me.
What I try to do each year at this time (besides begin to dream about my Thanksgiving dinner) is to reflect and see if there are trends to keep pounding, what we have gotten right and what we have done wrong we can improve on.
While we have made bettors plenty of money with our best bets this season (70-percent win rate) and our over/under totals (59 percent), we haven’t done as well with our non-bet, against-the-spread picks, and that’s something we look to improve on with an overall 51.2-percent win rate.
Interestingly, as we’ll get into a bit later, the public bets have done better than in usual seasons to this point. So the question is: Will Vegas adjust, or will Aunt Mabel lose some of her winnings from the first half? My guess is a bit of both.
Last week at Caesars, as an example, 84 percent of the money was on the Patriots to cover over the Jets, and they did. It was 75 percent for the 49ers, 78 percent for the Saints, 71 percent for the Panthers, 82 percent for the Broncos and 78 percent for the Titans.
In other words, it was a tough week for the books (and some of the sharps, as well).
We have done a better job identifying when to go with the public, and when to fade them with a value line. Can we continue that trend? Let’s keep on rolling and find out with our Week 9 picks.
Any comments, questions, gratitude or hate mail is welcome at [email protected].
NOTES: All spreads, money lines and over/under totals (as of Wednesday) are provided by Caesars Sportsbook. We started the season with a mythical bankroll of $1,000. Our totals for the past week and the season are at the bottom of this column.
THE WEEK 9 BEST BETS
HOME TEAM in CAPS
Byes: Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, NY Giants, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
1 / Teaser, CINCINNATI -1 over Carolina and Seattle +8 over ARIZONA
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.
WHEN: Both Sunday. Bengals-Panthers at 1 p.m. ET; Seahawks-Cardinals at 4:05 p.m. ET THE BET: $36 to win $30.
A keystone of our early success in our best bets has been the teaser, as we are 4-1 in that department. It seems easier than it is, but we have stuck to the importance of going through key numbers, such as getting past a 2.5, 3, 3.5, 6 and 6.5. It’s also imperative to get past those numbers with two picks in which we like both spreads.
Such is the case here. Both legs of this teaser get through the numbers, and we think there’s value on both of these spreads.
As bad as Cincinnati looked this past Monday night, we told you it wasn’t a good matchup for them. Even without Ja’Marr Chase again this week, it could be a huge bounce-back spot for the Bengals against a Panthers team that gave one away against Atlanta.
In fact, being two games out in the awful NFC South might as well be eight games for Carolina, as they have to know putting together a 6-3 finish to even get to 8-9 and have a chance seems unlikely. That means the Bengals simply have to win here at home to cover their end of this bet.
Meanwhile, it is time to stop dismissing Seattle. (Really, it was time a few weeks ago, but I clearly am stubborn.)
In the “even his mother couldn’t have seen this coming” department, Geno Smith is in the top 10 of quarterback rankings in just about any metric one would want to find him. Here we are at the midway point of the season, and while I would still be shocked if he finishes that high, Smith almost certainly will end up as one of the 2022 NFL season’s feel-good stories.
He was nothing special in the first meeting this season between the two teams, but he didn’t need to be, as the Seahawks’ defense began their run of solid defensive play in a 19-9 victory in Seattle three weeks ago. This one likely will be much more higher scoring.
On the other side, Kyler Murray has lost three consecutive games to this team, including two last year during the Cardinals’ playoff run. Through his career, he has thrown for fewer than 270 yards in all but one of six matchups against Seattle and thrown seven touchdown passes to three interceptions.
It wouldn’t surprise us if the Seahawks lost, but it would surprise us if they got blown out – something that has happened just once – way back in Week 2 on the road at San Francisco.
SCORE PREDICTION: Bengals (-7) 31, Panthers 7. (Under 42.5.)
SCORE PREDICTION: Seahawks (+2) 29, Cardinals 26. (Over 49.5.)
2 / Green Bay -3 (at -130) over DETROIT
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. ET THE BET: $26 to win $20.
So in Week 8, I said it was “last-chance” week for the Packers, who barely passed their test by a lousy point and a half at Buffalo on Sunday night. Why do we think they’ll be much better against a team that clearly knows them as well as any other in the league?
Because somewhere through the lopsided score last week, there seemed to be some life found in the Packers. Aaron Rodgers was smiling on the sideline, and a couple of players he didn’t seem to want to use prior to this one he went to with AJ Dillon getting 10 carries and a reception and rookie Romeo Doubs having seven targets with four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Conversely, while the Lions seemed to find their offense back at home against the Dolphins, they still have no semblance of a defense. And what could Rodgers use more than anything to get well? To play against a defense just like this one.
(That being said, I have been burned by that hook on the 3 way too many times, so I’ll spend an extra few bucks to have it removed.)
SCORE PREDICTION: Packers 34, Lions 21. (Over 49.5.)
3 / Money-line parlay (+142), Minnesota over WASHINGTON and LA Chargers over ATLANTA
WHEN: Both games Sunday at 1 p.m. ET THE BET: $20 to win $28.40.
One would think through half of an NFL season, linesmakers and sharps would lose some of the bias they entered with. Here’s a parlay of teams we think aren’t getting enough love.
For example, while I keep hearing stats that tell me I should fade the Vikings, they just keep on winning and covering.
This week, they get the Commanders, who needed a miracle to defeat the Indianapolis Colts and Sam Ehlinger by one point in his first-ever professional start. Both Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota running game has been a bit disappointing, no doubt, but how good do they need to be to defeat Washington?
Meanwhile, the Chargers have been all over the map in their 4-3 start, but this matchup should favor them greatly. Atlanta has the second-worst defense in the league, which should be exactly what the Bolts are looking for following their bye week. (And the Falcons have been just a little lucky to get to 4-4.)
SCORE PREDICTION: Vikings 23, Commanders (+3.5) 20. (Under 43.5.)
SCORE PREDICTION: Chargers (-3) 33, Falcons 27. (Over 49.5.)
4 / HOUSTON +13.5 over Philadelphia
WHEN: Thursday at 8:15 p.m. ET THE BET: $11 to win $10.
Clearly, the Eagles are one of the top teams in the league, and the Texans are one of the worst. But 13½ points in an NFL game on the road? That is an awful lot. In fact, it is only the second time this season a team has been favored by 13½ or more points.
This is the first time in 13 years Philly has been as much as a double-digit favorite in back-to-back weeks, and it’s the first time they have been favored by 13½ or more in any one game since they lost straight up as a 14½-point fave against Minnesota in December 2010.
Meanwhile, Houston has covered four of the past six times they were double-digit dogs, including an outright win vs. the Chargers on Dec. 26, 2021. And while Davis Mills hasn’t been great the past few weeks, rookie running back Dameon Pierce has been good enough to keep the Texans in it for a few quarters.
One last fact: No road favorite of 13½ or more has covered since the final week of the 2020 season when the Ravens defeated the Joe Burrow-less Bengals, 38-3.
SCORE PREDICTION: Eagles 23, Texans 13. (Under 45.)
5 / Tennessee +12.5 over KANSAS CITY
WHEN: Sunday at 8:20 p.m. ET THE BET: $11 to win $10.
Tennessee is no stranger to being an underdog against Kansas City, having entered the past six games in that spot against the Chiefs. Here’s the thing, though: The Titans not only have covered four in a row but have won all four outright.
This is the largest spread between the two teams since the Titans were the Oilers and resided in Houston in 1984 in another game they won outright as a 13½-point dog.
It’s understandable Vegas doesn’t quite know what to do with the Titans, as Ryan Tannehill is questionable as I write this on Wednesday night. One has to think the uncertainty is baked in a bit, but if Malik Willis gets another start, this line likely will jump to 14 or so.
No matter who plays, it’s too many points to give a Mike Vrabel-coached team, especially if Derrick Henry runs the ball anything like he did last week against the Texans.
SCORE PREDICTION: Chiefs 26, Titans 17. (Under 46.5.)
6 / Baltimore -2.5 over NEW ORLEANS
WHEN: Monday at 8:15 p.m. ET THE BET: $0.
First off, Who Dats can save the hate mail, as this is the first time all season I have picked the Saints to lose, and I am doing so by using logic against my gut feeling.
Rather, my gut says the rocking Caesars Superdome will be at peak loudness, which will make it rough on Lamar Jackson and the semi-depleted Ravens’ offense, as the status of running back Gus Edwards and All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews are in question as I type this.
Logic, however, says the Saints simply don’t match up well against dual-threat (aka running) quarterbacks, and there isn’t a QB alive who can do more damage with his feet than Jackson. In fact, New Orleans has faced five of the top 10 rushing quarterbacks since the start of the 2021 season, and over that timeframe, they are 1-4, having only escaped past Marcus Mariota and the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1.
In fact, against the combination of Mariota (No. 9), Jalen Hurts (No. 2), Josh Allen (No. 3), Kyler Murray (No. 6) and Daniel Jones (No. 7), the Saints have been outscored by an average of 33-23, and this includes three of those games last season when Dennis Allen’s defense was ranked seventh in the NFL in yards against and fourth in points allowed.
This game just missed my best bets because I am uncertain of how Jackson will handle the crowd noise, but logic says I simply can’t take the Saints here until they prove they not only can beat a real running quarterback, but can string together consecutive solid performances.
SCORE PREDICTION: Ravens (-2.5) 27, Saints 23. (Over 48.)
(No bets for the following)
Sunday at 1 p.m. ET
CHICAGO (+5) 22, Miami 20: As we said in our open, Aunt Mabel has had a much better season thus far than any she has had in a while, as the public has done better than the sharps in many cases. But even a dummy like me knows that can’t last.
Logic says the Dolphins should make easy work of a Bears team that traded away two key defensive players the past 10 days. However, I am not sold on Tua and that he is anywhere near his Week 1 self. All that being said, I am anything but sold Justin Fields is a real quarterback, and I wouldn’t touch this game with a stick if you’re talking about real money. You shouldn’t either. (Under 45.5.)
Buffalo 19, NY JETS (+12.5) 16: Here’s my once or twice-per-year game that gives me the heebie-jeebies and makes absolutely no sense. Spidey sense tells me this could be one of the biggest upsets of the season, and before you tell me how absolutely insane I am, remember you likely would have said something similar had I predicted the Bills’ loss to the Jaguars in this same Week 9 last season.
I know I should be sold Buffalo is not only the best team in the league this season, but maybe in the past few seasons. I am not convinced, and I still think they have a hard fall waiting for them. We’ll see if the millennials in love with Josh Allen will soon be sending me all those laughing emojis or if they’ll disappear off the face of the planet. And I will see whether I wish I had the intestinal fortitude to actually pick the Jets outright. (I just can’t.) (Under 47.)
NEW ENGLAND (-5.5) 21, Indianapolis 15: Another game I wouldn’t bet with free money. Although it is well known Bill Belichick has dominated rookie quarterbacks, there simply isn’t enough film of Sam Ehlinger to decipher whether he’s going to take off and run or make the correct reads.
Also, for the love of Pete, isn’t Jonathan Taylor due (although he is questionable as of late Wednesday)? I hate betting with Drunk Joe and his friends on this one, but I can’t even begin to pick the Colts right now unless they are in the perfect spot. This ain’t it. (Under 40.)
Las Vegas (-1.5) 28, JACKSONVILLE 24: There isn’t a whole lot of data on the Raiders playing back-to-backs in recent history, especially cross country. That being said, in their only instance of playing consecutive road games last season, they lost 48-9 to Kansas City in Week 14 then won at Cleveland, 16-14, the next week.
The sharps are still loving too much on the Jaguars, and I am still hating on them. So far, I have been right. Looking for a big bounce-back game from Derek Carr and Vegas, which should be healthy and ready to roll once more. (Over 48.)
Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET
TAMPA BAY (-3) 26, LA Rams 21: In a rematch of last year’s NFC divisional game, it’s hard to believe how far removed these two teams are from that January matchup. And while I promised I would back off the Bucs, this is a good spot for them against a team that could either be without Cooper Kupp or – more likely – be with a very limited Kupp – and either is bad news for the Rams. (Over 42.5.)
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 8 best bets: 4-1 (+$69). Season-best bets: 28-12 (.700; +$202.10 on season). Week 8 all picks against the spread: 9-6. Season all picks ATS: 62-59 (.512)
STRAIGHT UP (no spread)
Week 8: 13-2. (That’s more like it!) Season: 68-54 (.557).
Week 8: 6-9. Season: 71-49 (.592).
(click on week to view)
Week 8: 4-1 best bets (+$69); 9-6 ATS; 13-2 straight up; 6-9 over/unders.
Week 7: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-9 ATS; 6-8 straight up; 9-5 over/unders.
Week 6: 4-1 best bets (+$62.60); 9-5 ATS; 8-6 straight up; 6-8 over/unders.
Week 5: 3-2 best bets (+$2); 10-5 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
Week 4: 4-1 best bets (+$37); 9-6 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
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