We love football season here at the Tuley’s Takes home office in North Las Vegas, especially after a weekend like we just had.
Our college football best bets went 4-0 ATS on Saturday to raise the overall record to 22-15-1 ATS (59.5%) in this column. We also hope readers have been following the VSiN CFB Consensus page in “Point Spread Weekly,” as we went 8-2 ATS last week to stand at 65-46-1 (58.5%). We’ll get back to college football at the end of this column.
In the NFL, fortunately I passed on the Chargers flipping to favorites on Thursday night. Saving money by passing is just as important as picking winners. On Sunday, I split the early games 1-1-1 ATS with a win on the Cardinals 4.5 at the Buccaneers, a loss on the Bengals 10 vs. the Ravens and a push on the Bills 3 at the Browns. In the late afternoon games, I lost with the Panthers 5 at the Packers to go 0-2 ATS with my picks that run in the New York Post each Friday, dropping my record there to a disappointing 8-12 ATS. But my same method of handicapping got me winners on the Dolphins 10.5 at the Colts, the Vikings 3 at the Cowboys and the Seahawks 6.5 at the 49ers. So that 4-2-1 ATS mark for NFL Week 10 puts our overall record here at 38-31-1 ATS (55.1%). It’s not good enough to have me in contention in the big NFL handicapping contests here in Vegas, though I’m tied for 28th in the Ultimate Football Challenge at the Golden Nugget, which includes NCAA sides. I’m right around that respectable mark on the VSiN NFL Consensus page (54-43-3 ATS, 55.7%) and the VSiN NFL Best Bets page (27-22-1 ATS, 55.1%). It’s no small coincidence that NFL underdogs are 83-61-3 ATS (57.6%) on the season, so even if you don’t always play my picks, hopefully I’m fulfilling the main goal of this column to help readers adopt the “dog-or-pass” philosophy or at least recognize and avoid overpriced favorites.
With that in mind, let’s look at this week’s NFL card. For newbies, I give my “take” on each NFL game and — since I’m a huge proponent of contest play, as you could see in the intro — I’ll at least give my contest strategy for those looking for input for contests in which they have to play the whole card. Lines are from VSiN’s host hotel at the South Point as of Tuesday afternoon except where noted, especially for line-shopping purposes.
Takes on NFL
Steelers (O/U 40) at Browns (-3)
Tuley’s Take: As mentioned on VSiN’s “The Opening Lines Show,” I bet the Steelers 3. It’s still that line
at the South Point as of Wednesday morning, though several books have juiced it to 3 -120, with others going to 2.5 with added juice on the Browns. I never bought into the offseason hype on the Browns and thought the Steelers would win the AFC North. I’ve been successful fading the Browns so far, though getting only the push with the Bills last week, but
I still wasn’t too impressed with Cleveland’s win. Meanwhile, the Steelers started slowly and lost Ben Roethlisberger, but they’re back in the wild-card race with four straight wins thanks to great play from the defense and Mason Rudolph (64.5%, 11 TDs, just
4 INTs). I still have the Steelers as the better team and will also take them on the money line. Best Bet: Steelers 3 (contest strategy: Steelers in all my rare ATS contests that include TNF).
Cowboys (OTB) at Lions (OTB)
Tuley’s Take: This game was off the board at most sportsbooks Tuesday because Matthew Stafford’s status with broken bones in his back was still undecided. Circa had the Cowboys -4.5 after last week’s advance line at the Westgate was Cowboys -2.5, so that tells me they expect Jeff Driskel to start again. After watching the Lions’ 20-13 loss to the Bears (much weaker than the Cowboys), I’m not interested in the Lions/Driskel even if they were getting 7. And if Stafford does play? I’d probably still pass, as I’d be afraid he could easily be knocked out of the game by the Cowboys’ pass rush. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Cowboys in all SU & ATS contests, but guess I’d flip to Lions if offered 7.5).
Saints (-5.5) at Buccaneers (O/U 50.5) Tuley’s Take: Regular readers will recall that last week I lamented that the plays I drop from the VSiN NFL Best Bets page (Page 11) or the SuperContest often perform better than those “Best Bets.” Sure enough, I cited the Cardinals 4.5 and the Dolphins 10.5 as my Nos. 6 and 7 choices, and both won. So, in full disclosure, this was the last game
I dropped when doing the NFL Best Bets page Tuesday, but I’m certainly betting it myself. The whole world was on the Saints to rout the Falcons last week as 13-point favorites, yet they inexplicably were blown out 26-9 at home. This week everyone will be on the Saints to bounce back and rout the Bucs, but I’m not so sure. Maybe the Falcons, certainly not a defensive juggernaut, exposed some things the Bucs can take advantage of. The Bucs are similar to the Falcons in a lot of ways, with a porous defense but an offense that can put points on the board (28.9 ppg). The Saints won this year’s first meeting 31-24, but that was in the Superdome, so I don’t see why the Bucs can’t stay within a field goal
at home and cover this number. Best Bet: Buccaneers
5.5 (contest strategy: Buccaneers around 67/33 in ATS contests, but Saints around 70-30 in SU pools).
Falcons (O/U 50.5) at Panthers (-5.5)
Tuley’s Take: Speaking of the Falcons, they travel to Carolina for the other battle of NFC South teams. While the Falcons certainly showed they can play with anyone on their best day, this line is too short to take them. The Panthers are in the wild-card hunt, and I expect them to bounce back from their loss at Green Bay. I haven’t whined about the officiating in that game on air or in print, but let’s just say the Panthers were outnumbered — of course, you kind of have to include in your handicapping that you might not get many calls at Lambeau Field — and still nearly covered and had a chance to force OT. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Panthers around 60/40 in ATS contests and closer to 80/20 in SU pools).
Jaguars (O/U 44) at Colts (-3)
Tuley’s Take: Again, as mentioned on “The Opening Lines Show,” I bet the Jaguars 3 and would advise anyone to grab the 3 -120s that are still out there. But even with the South Point line at
2.5 on Tuesday, I feel strongly enough about this play that I’ll recommend the 2.5, as I expect the Jaguars to pull the minor upset. Nick Foles returns as the Jaguars’ QB, and we’ve all seen how well he can handle playing off the bench and off a layoff. It’s undetermined if Jacoby Brissett will return, but whether it’s him or Brian Hoyer, I expect the Colts to have problems with the Jacksonville defense. Best Bet: Jaguars 2.5 or better (contest strategy: Jaguars in all SU & ATS contests, going all in with this pick).
Broncos (O/U 40) at Vikings (-10.5) Tuley’s Take: This was another play I gave out on “The Opening Lines Show” as I was sure we were going to get double digits after Minnesota’s upset of Dallas on Sunday night. While the Vikings are certainly capable of a blowout win, I’m confident enough in the way Brandon Allen (60%, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) game-managed the Broncos’ 24-19 upset of the Browns and how well the defense played the last five games before the bye (4-1 ATS with only the Chiefs scoring more than 20 points, and no shame in that). Best Bet: Broncos 10.5 (contest strategy: Broncos in nearly all ATS contests and even around 50/50 in SU pools, as I’ll take a bunch of shots on the potential biggest upset of the week).
Jets (O/U 38) at Redskins (-1.5)
Tuley’s Take: With the way the Jets bounced back last week in routing the Giants 34-27 and with Dwayne Haskins starting for Washington, I really want to make a case for the short underdog here, but I just can’t pull the trigger. Last week I messed up as I took the Jets-Giants Under 43 even though it went against one of my favorite angles of taking the Over in games between also-rans since the defenses have no incentive to step up and they often turn into playground-type shootouts. So I’m going Over the very low number of 38 because, even though both teams have weak offenses, the Jets’ and Redskins’ defenses allow 26.4 and 24.3 points, respectively, and I see no reason for that to change. Best Bet: Over 38 (contest strategy: Jets around 55/45 in all SU & ATS pools).
Bills (-5.5) at Dolphins (O/U 39.5) Tuley’s Take: OK, here’s sure to be a popular underdog — and we often warn about staying away from those, as we prefer to be contrarian with our dogs. The Dolphins, who everyone assumed were tanking and might go 0-16, have suddenly pulled upsets of the Jets and Colts and have covered five straight games. So of course the public will start thinking they’re a great bet as home underdogs against a Buffalo team that has come back to Earth, right? But this price is too short for me. Remember that the Dolphins covered the first meeting, which I had and would normally love to bet again getting points at home, but that was 17 in Buffalo. Yes, that line was inflated and we took advantage of it, but an 11.5-point swing even with home-field advantage is too much. Let the lemmings take the underpriced dog and we’ll keep looking for better plays. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Bills around 60/40 in ATS contests and 90/10 in SU pools).
Texans (O/U 50) at Ravens (-4.5)
Tuley’s Take: Along with the Bucs, this was the other “Best Bet” here that I dropped from my five on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page, but I still love this play. The Texans are coming off their bye week after routing the Jaguars in London. They’ve also won road games against the Chargers and Chiefs, and I’m sure they can do the same in Baltimore, though I know chalk bettors will point to the Ravens’ home win over the Patriots. Still, this should be a hard-fought battle between division leaders. The winner gets the inside track on the AFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye or at least home field if they meet again. Best Bet: Texans 4.5 (contest play: Texans around 75/25 in ATS contests and at least 50/50 in SU pools).
Cardinals (O/U 46) at 49ers (-11.5) Tuley’s Take: The 49ers fell as the NFL’s last undefeated team in the 27-24 Monday night thriller to the Seahawks. The public will be all over the 49ers to bounce back, but they’re just as likely to have a letdown, so getting double digits with an Arizona team that continues to be competitive (7-3 ATS, including a cover as a 10.5-point underdog against this same San Fran team on Halloween) looks great to me. Best Bet: Cardinals 11.5 (contest strategy: Cardinals around 80/20 in ATS contests, but 49ers still around 75/25 in SU pools, though I will take some shots).
Patriots (-3.5) at Eagles (O/U 44.5)
Tuley’s Take: Here’s another underdog that I’m sure my reputation will lead many readers to assume I’m taking, but the line is just too short for me.
Both teams are coming off byes, and while I don’t discount Doug Pederson’s ability to game-plan vs. Bill Belichick with two weeks to prepare (see Super Bowl LII), I just can’t fade the Patriots/Belichick/ Brady coming off their 37-20 loss to the Ravens two weeks ago. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Patriots around 60/40 in ATS contests and closer to 80/20 in SU pools).
Bengals (O/U 48.5) at Raiders (-10.5) Tuley’s Take: OK, so our play on the Bengals 10 looked terrible in their 49-13 loss to the Ravens. But as alluded to in the intro, I won’t be deterred as the same handicapping concepts also put me on the Dolphins 10.5 vs. the Colts. Ryan Finley certainly looked overmatched, but he shouldn’t have the same problems against the Oakland secondary. The Raiders have overachieved at 5-4 SU and 6-3 ATS, but they still shouldn’t be favored by double digits even against the winless Bengals, who have covered at Seattle, Buffalo and Baltimore. Besides, the Raiders haven’t won by more than eight points all season. Best Bet: Bengals 10.5 (contest strategy: Bengals in all ATS contests, and Raiders only around 80/20 in SU pools).
Bears (O/U 41.5) at Rams (-7)
Tuley’s Take: This certainly looked like a marquee Sunday night matchup before the season, but now both teams might miss the playoffs. The Bears still look lost on offense, so I’m not interested in them even getting a full touchdown. Meanwhile, I expect the Rams’ offense to struggle against the Bears’ still-strong defense with Brandin Cooks out and injuries on the offensive line, so I’m on the Under. Best Bet: Under 41.5 (contest strategy: Rams in slightly more ATS contests and all that use -6.5, while Rams closer to 90/10 in SU pools).
Chiefs (-4) vs. Chargers (O/U 53) in Mexico City Tuley’s Take: This Monday nighter will have a tough time living up the excitement of the Seahawks-49ers thriller, but the Chiefs and Chargers will give it a go in Mexico City. The Chiefs are coming off the upset loss to the Titans in Patrick Mahomes’ return, and I’d love to fade them again, but the Chargers disappointed in a key AFC West game against the Raiders last week. I just think the line is too short to take the Chargers, especially as it will be hard to defend the whole field. I could see Mahomes throwing 80-yard bombs to Tyreek Hill in the high altitude. Best Bet: Pass, lean to Over 53 if you must have a bet on MNF (contest strategy: Chiefs around 75/25 in ATS contests and nearly all SU pools).
Takes on College Football
As mentioned in the intro, we were 4-0 ATS last week with Illinois 15 at Michigan State, Western Kentucky 1.5 at Arkansas (both outright upsets), Kansas State 7 at Texas and Iowa 9.5 at Wisconsin to get to 22-15-1 ATS (59.5%). That’s closer to where we were early in the season before a few tough weeks in October. As I wrote in PSW last week, I liked a lot of games on the card and also went 2-2 ATS with my strong leans and 8-2 ATS on the VSiN CFB Consensus page. Unfortunately, there is literally only one play I think is strong enough to call a best bet and worthy of an actual cash wager this whole college football weekend. I believe in not forcing plays, unlike in contests or on the Consensus page, so I’m just going with that one play.
Wyoming ( 6.5) at Utah State
I also gave this out on “The Opening Lines Show,” as it opened Utah State -3 at Circa on Sunday morning but went to -6 after an offshore giant opened that number. However, I have Wyoming as the better team and will gladly take any more points the oddsmakers/bettors end up giving us. I’m assuming this line is climbing due to Utah State having the edge at QB with Jordan Love, while Wyoming lost starting QB Sean Chambers, though I don’t expect much of a dropoff with backup Tyler Vander Waal. Besides, the Cowboys still have leading rusher Xazavian Valladay (755 yards, 5 TDs), while the Aggies’ defense is allowing more than 180 rushing yards per game. Wyoming also has the better defense, plus I think a lot of people are overlooking the fact the Cowboys took No. 22 Boise State to overtime last week before losing 20-17. If they can cover at Boise, they can certainly cover or win at Utah State.
Louisiana Tech 2.5 at Marshall (Friday), Minnesota 3 at Iowa, Texas 7 at Iowa State.