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NFL forecast: Betting on Cutler is risky business

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

September 17, 2017 08:25 AM
The line has dropped from 4½ early in the week, but Jay Cutler and the Dolphins are still worth playing as 3½-point underdogs against the Chargers in L.A.
© USA Today Sports Images

Poor quarterback play has plagued the NFL early in the season. Believe it or not, Jay Cutler is not yet culpable.

Cutler was supposed to be retired to a broadcast booth, where he could call a game and not get intercepted or sacked. Of course, Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury forced Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase to call for help, and the best out-of-work quarterback he could find was Cutler. Believe it or not, it makes sense. In Chicago, Gase made Cutler shine at times, which is difficult to do.

After an impromptu bye week, the Dolphins open the season against the Los Angeles Chargers at a 27,000-seat soccer stadium today. It’s a bizarre setting, and what’s also strange is this seems like a good spot to back Cutler, a guy we usually prefer to bet against.

The Dolphins spent more than a week on the West Coast preparing for the Chargers, who dropped their Monday night opener at Denver and returned to work on a short week. The situation should be an advantage for Miami, which set its focus on this game while Philip Rivers was busy falling to a division opponent on the road.

Miami’s weakness might be its offensive line, but Cutler should be able to shake off any rust and get comfortable in Gase’s system. Jay Ajayi, who rushed for 1,272 yards last season, is a legit running threat who can balance the offense, and Cutler will be working with an array of talented receivers.

The line has dropped from 4½ early in the week, but the Dolphins are still worth playing as 3½-point underdogs. It’s risky business to back Cutler, but the same can be said of the Chargers, who are better when Rivers is in the road ‘dog role.

Now that it appears Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford will not start today’s game at Pittsburgh, the Vikings have been eliminated from this play list. Here are four more picks for Week 2 (home team in CAPS):

* Titans (-1) over JAGUARS: A solid handicapping angle in Week 2 is to go against teams that were surprisingly impressive in Week 1. Jacksonville’s defense was dominant in a 29-7 win at Houston. However, that showing was somewhat deceiving because the Texans’ offensive line and quarterbacks were a mess. The Jaguars’ Blake Bortles did not light the world on fire while completing 11 of 21 passes for 125 yards. Tennessee, still the favorite to win the lousy AFC South, should get a bounce-back performance from quarterback Marcus Mariota. The discouraging news is the Titans are this week’s top consensus pick in the Westgate SuperContest.

* Eagles (plus-5½) over CHIEFS: No quarterback was better in the opening week than Alex Smith, who torched the New England defense for 368 yards passing and four touchdowns. A reality check is due against a strong Philadelphia defense. Kansas City went 5-11 against the spread at home the past two years. Carson Wentz, who passed for 307 yards in a win at Washington, faces a Chiefs defense that will miss injured safety Eric Berry.

* Cowboys (-2½) over BRONCOS: If Denver is on the decline, it was not obvious Monday night. The Broncos were typically tough on defense, yielding only 249 yards to the Chargers. The Dallas offense is far more dangerous, with an elite line protecting Dak Prescott and paving running lanes for Ezekiel Elliott. Prescott does not make mistakes, and Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian is more inclined to hurt his team with turnovers. The Cowboys opened 6-0 on the road last year, and while it’s never easy to win in Denver, it has not been profitable or sharp to bet against Prescott.

* Packers (plus-3) over FALCONS: Early in the week, the perceived line value was with Atlanta at minus-2½. Sharp money has surfaced on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers getting a field goal. This play is mostly about value in the number. Also, the Green Bay defense appears vastly improved on the back end since getting ripped apart by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in the NFC Championship Game.

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