The New York Jets have done it again.
In the inaugural season of Circa Survivor, the Jets laid waste to hundreds of participants in Week 15 by beating the Los Angeles Rams, in L.A., 23-20 as 17.5 point underdogs.
The flyboys did it again in Week 8 of NFL 2021. This time to 871 Circa Survivor participants, who had the Cincinnati Bengals on the road at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. As 11.5-point underdogs, the Jets beat the Bengals outright 34-31 and with it, took out more than 40 percent of the Circa Survivor field.
The sportsbooks finally punched back at the betting public after having lost, for the most part, over the last three weeks in the NFL. The top 5 consensus plays went 1-4 in Circa Millions and 2-3 in the Westgate SuperContest. The Bengals were the second-most popular pick in the Millions and the sixth-most popular pick in the SuperContest.
Week 9 marks the second week of the three- and six-week mini contests at Westgate, and it’s the final week of the Circa Millions quarterly contest, so prizes are on the line at Circa this week.
In last week's column, I pointed out two teams coming off bye weeks in the Bills and the Chargers. I did end up playing the Bills in contest play for a winner, but I'm glad I stayed away from the Chargers. It certainly looked like an opportunity to back them, but when I dived deeper into the numbers, New England really surfaced as the side to play. I stayed away from it altogether, however, as I felt a strong case could be made for either side. Something to note in your handicapping and in contest play: Oftentimes our first reactions or initial impressions can be the most successful bets, but contest play is slightly different from a standard bet on a game. Of course, you are dealing with a stale line that comes out on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning and injuries, COVID-19, etc. developments do often come up as the week goes on. So in contest play, waiting until the last possible moment to submit one's selections is the way to go. One's earliest impressions typically remain strong plays even late into the week, but just something to consider as there are nuances to contest play versus a non-contest, traditional play off the betting board.
Two games I am looking at early this week are the Ravens hosting the Vikings and the Packers visiting Kansas City to face the Chiefs. Actually, I had my eye on Vikings-Ravens two weeks ago after Baltimore's loss to the Bengals. It was a historic win for Cincinnati and the final leg of a brutal, emotional run of games for the Ravens. Look at how the season has begun for Baltimore — exhausting loss in overtime to the Raiders, exhausting win over the Chiefs in Week 2, relatively easy win over Denver in what was the Ravens’ fifth road game in six weeks if you count preseason games, followed by the inexplicable Justin Tucker field goal winner in Detroit. The Ravens followed that up with their second overtime game of the season, on “Monday Night Football,” with a win over the Colts. Baltimore crushed the Chargers and then, likely running on fumes, got hammered by the Bengals, 41-17. If ever a team needed a bye, it was the Ravens in Week 8. I expect them to come back recharged and get back to their winning ways against a Minnesota team that is likely still wondering what the heck happened in a loss to a Dak Prescott-less Cowboys team on “Sunday Night Football.”
The Packers are simply the better team versus the Chiefs at this point. Last week we talked about how few average teams there are in the league right now, and I think Monday night's performance against the Giants firmly plants Kansas City in that average category. I made the Packers a 2.5-point favorite in this game, so I don't mind taking this side at pick-'em. While Green Bay comes in on extra rest and likely will have back all of the players who missed last Thursday night’s game in COVID-19 protocol, the Chiefs begin a very tough stretch of schedule. They face the Packers on a short week, coming off the Monday night game, followed by the Raiders on the road, then back home to host the Cowboys. Aaron Rodgers continues to find ways to win games — in the final seconds against the 49ers and again last week against the Cardinals. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs continue to commit penalties and turn the ball over as they now have 19 giveaways in eight games. I’m not ready to put my faith in Kansas City getting out of this funk. And, for me, Green Bay qualifies as an early first impression in Week 9.