“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness…”
With a nod to Charles Dickens, that pretty much alternately sums up college football Saturdays and NFL Sundays so far this season here in the Tuley’s Takes home office. You would think I’d be on Cloud 9 as NFL underdogs are off to an 18-13-1 ATS start (and we keep hearing from readers who thank me as they’re having great success with my “dog or pass” philosophy), yet my best bets in this column went 2-3 ATS (1-1 on totals) in Week 2 and stand at just 7-7 ATS overall. I’m also a disappointing 4-6 ATS on the NFL Best Bets page elsewhere in Point Spread Weekly as well as in the SuperContest, plus 10- 10 on the NFL Consensus Page.
At least the colleges are treating us better as we went 3-1 ATS last week to improve to a very respectable 8-4 ATS (66.7%) overall; that has also helped our ViewFromVegas entry to a 9-5 ATS start in the Ultimate Football Challenge at the Golden Nugget (uses both NCAA & NFL lines).
In objectively grading my own performance, I need to do a better job of weeding out my weaker plays as we go through the process of previewing the weekly NFL card here in PSW (and making the right decisions when further narrowing my plays for the major Vegas contests). So, let’s get to this week’s NFL card. For the uninitiated newbies, I give my “take” on each game. But as you can tell from the above paragraphs, I’m a huge proponent of contests as they can maximize your great days/weeks/ seasons while also sometimes bailing you out from an otherwise bad season with just one lucky weekly score! So, even if I’m passing on a game, I’ll still at least give my contest strategy for those looking for input for contests where they have to play the whole card. Lines will be from VSiN’s host hotel at the South Point as of Tuesday afternoon (expect where noted, especially for line-shopping purposes).
Titans (-1.5) at Jaguars (O/U 39.5)
Tuley’s Take: After their 43-13 rout of the Browns in the season-opener, the Titans came back to Earth in their 19-17 loss vs. the Colts last week. The Jaguars certainly looked better in their narrow 13-12 loss at the Texans and I lean to the Jaguars but not enough to make them a best bet. The Under is also the way to go, but obviously oddsmakers see the same thing as this is the lowest Over/Under of the week. If needing TNF action, I’d do a 2-team, 6-point teaser with the Jaguars 7.5/Under 45.5 I don’t usually like teasing totals, but make exceptions in standalone prime-time games. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Jaguars in all of my rare SU & ATS contests that include TNF.
Broncos (O/U 42.5) at Packers (-8)
Tuley’s Take: I gave out the Broncos 7.5 on “The Opening Lines” show Sunday night on VSiN and I like it even more at 8 (in general, bet favorites early and underdogs late, though be willing to react if you see a line moving toward the team you like). I believe the Packers are getting a little overrated with their 2-0 start (the Westgate’s advance line on this game last week was GB -6.5) as Aaron Rodgers & the offense hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard while the success of the Packers’ D (allowing just 9.5 point per game) has had more to do with the ineptness of the Bears’ offense in Week 1 and the Vikings’ (particularly Kirk Cousins’) miscues in Week 2. Also last week, the Broncos went toe-to-toe with the Bears, who I put on even footing with the Packers, so getting more than a touchdown looks like a bargain. Best Bet: Broncos 8 (contest strategy: Broncos in all ATS contests, even close to 50/50 in SU pools).
Lions (O/U 47) at Eagles (-7)
Tuley’s Take: The Lions are 1-0-1 SU after upsetting the Chargers 13-10 as 1-point home underdogs (that’s the home dog I should have landed on instead of just using in teasers!). They should be 2-0 as they dominated the Cardinals in Week 1 before settling for the 27-27 tie.
Standing up to the Chargers’ potent offense should set the Lions up well against the Eagles, which hasn’t been clicking as well as expected on offense and is dealing with a lot of injuries, including WR Sean Jackson. We’re getting a fair price here. Best Bet: Lions 7 (contest strategy: Lions 75/25 in ATS contests, even more if getting 7.5, though around 50/50 in SU contest pools).
Ravens (O/U 54.5) at Chiefs (-6.5)
Tuley’s Take: This is the marquee matchup of the early Sunday games, but I’m not sure I’ll have anything on it. The Ravens have the better defense, but I don’t think a defense has been designed yet to slow down Patrick Mahomes & his multiple weapons (especially under today’s offensive-friendly NFL rules).
This total is set so high that I’m tempted to go Under, but if Lamar Jackson keeps playing the way he has the first two weeks, the Ravens could be lighting up the scoreboard as well. I’ll be watching this one for purely entertainment purposes (though, as I’ve written before, I do have Mahomes on my lone fantasy team). Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Chiefs slightly more than 50/50 in ATS contests & 90/10 in SU contests).
Bengals (O/U 43.5) at Bills (-6)
Tuley’s Take: The Bills are the kings of New York State, but let’s not get too carried away with their wins over the Jets and Giants. I still have this line as being closer to a field goal, so I’m loving the 6. Granted, the Bengals got run over by the 49ers 41-17 last week as they fell behind and were unable to recover, but if they play like they did in Seattle in their road opener, they can certainly stay with the Bills. Best Bet: Bengals 6 (contest strategy: Bengals in nearly all ATS contests and close to 60/40 in SU pools).
Falcons (O/U 46.5) at Colts (-2)
Tuley’s Take: The Falcons have frustrated me so far as I lost with them in the opener at the Vikings and then didn’t land on them as home underdogs vs. the Eagles. I want to jump back on them here, but the number is too short for my liking. Instead, let’s go with the Over as Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones, etc. should have success again vs. the Colts’ defense (without star LB Darius Leonard) while I’m still not thrilled with the Falcons’ defense (another reason I’m passing on the side). We might tease the Falcons 8 with the Over 40.5 or other teaser candidates. Best Bet: Over 46.5 (contest strategy: Falcons around 55/45 in both SU & ATS contests).
Raiders (O/U 43) at Vikings (-8)
Tuley’s Take: This didn’t make my cut on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page, but I’m 99% sure I’m going to bet the Raiders, especially as it was up to 8.5 and even 9 at other books at deadline. The Vikings haven’t lived up to expectations as they fell short in a game they should have won in Green Bay and their Week 1 win over Atlanta was mostly due to the Falcons’ self-inflicted wounds. I’m not downgrading the Raiders for their 28-10 loss to the Chiefs; in fact, except for the second quarter, they played them pretty tough. Best Bet: Raiders 8, but personally waiting for line to peak (contest strategy: Raiders in nearly all ATS contest and around 50/50 in SU pools as well).
Jets (O/U 44) at Patriots (-23)
Tuley’s Take: Out of the next two games with point spreads in excess of three touchdowns, I like this one the best. Despite QB Sam Darnold being sidelined with mono and Trevor Siemian also knocked out for the season, this is still an NFL team that’s still trying and I don’t think the line should be this inflated even with thirdstringer Luke Falk looking like a deer caught in the headlights. RB Le’Veon Bell looked like he was trying to carry the team on his back in Monday night’s loss to the Browns and WR Robby Anderson was also giving top effort. Based on the side & total, the projected score is around 33-11, which sounds about right. The main fear is that the Patriots’ defense (which gets overshadowed) will probably be motivated to keeps its No. 1 ranking in yards allowed (246 ypg) and scoring defense (1.5 ppg). Still, I’m counting on Bill Belichick & Co. just trying to get out of this game healthy with a division. Best Bet: Jets 23 or better (contest strategy: Jets in all ATS pools and even in a SU contest or two where it’s worth the risk in case the impossible happens).
Dolphins (O/U 47.5) at Cowboys (-21)
Tuley’s Take: Yes, Virginia, there’s even a 21-point underdog I’m not willing to bet. I know the Patriots are a machine, but I still expected the Dolphins to put up more of a fight in their 43-0 loss last week. But maybe they were trying and just aren’t that talented. It doesn’t help that they traded away CB Minkah Fitzpatrick (and will there be even more taking their skills out of South Beach?). The Cowboys can name the score and I’m staying out of the way. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Cowboys in all SU contests and even around 60/40 in ATS pools, siding with Dolphins at 21.5 on principle).
Giants (O/U 47) at Buccaneers (-6.5)
Tuley’s Take: At first glance, I don’t think the Buccaneers should be favored by this many points over anyone, even the Giants, but I’m not willing to fade the Bucs with the 0-2 G-men. And it has nothing to do with Daniel Jones replacing Eli Manning. It’s because of New York’s porous defense that’s allowing 31.5 points per game (only the Dolphins are worse). Best Bet: Pass (contest play: Giants in slightly more ATS contest, though Buccaneers around 67/33 in SU pools).
Panthers (-2.5) at Cardinals (O/U 46.5)
Tuley’s Take: The Cardinals are 2-0 ATS with their 27-27 tie vs. the Lions as 3-point road dogs in Week 1 and covering as 13-point road dogs in their gutty 23-17 loss at the Ravens last week. I wish we were still getting last week’s advance line of 3.5, but it’s crossed the key number of 3 with Cam Newton being questionable and could move to pick ‘em or even the Cardinals favored if Kyle Allen gets the start for Carolina. For that and other reasons (Carolina has a decent defense & Arizona QB Kyler Murray is still getting comfortable), the preferred play is on the total which seems at least a FG too high. Best Bet: Under 46.5 (contest strategy: Cardinals around 55/45 in all SU & ATS pools).
Saints (O/U 44.5) at Seahawks (-4.5)
Tuley’s Take: The injury to Drew Brees is devastating for the Saints, though I think they should go with Taysom Hill over Teddy Bridgewater. Even so, even though this line has been jacked up with Brees out, it’s not enough for me to fade the Seahawks at home. I know they didn’t cover their home opener vs. the Bengals, but they certainly got back on track with the upset win at Pittsburgh. I lean to the Under, but I’ll pass. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Seahawks in slightly more ATS contests and around 75/25 in SU pools).
Texans (O/U 47.5) at Chargers (-3)
Tuley’s Take: The Chargers have underachieved so far this season, needing overtime to beat the Colts 30-24 in the opener and then losing outright, 13-10, last week at Detroit. The Texans lost a 30-28 shootout in their opener at New Orleans and grinded out a 13-12 home win vs. Jacksonville. The Texans can do it either way against the Chargers in a low-scoring smashmouth game or in a high-scoring affair. Just in case, try to find them at 3.5. Best Bet: Texans 3 for these purposes at South Point line at deadline, but looking for the hook at 3.5 (contest strategy: Texans 80/20 in ATS pools, all of them at 3.5 but more like 60/40 at 2.5, while also around 75/25 in SU contests).
Steelers (O/U 44) at 49ers (-6.5)
Tuley’s Take: The 49ers are 2-0 SU & ATS, though like the Bills it’s not that much of an accomplishment as they beat the Buccaneers and Bengals. Of course, the Steelers are 0-2 SU & ATS with losses to the Patriots and Seahawks and lost QB Ben Roethlisberger for the season. Still, I’m tempting to take the Steelers here as Mason Rudolph played pretty well in relief last week and this line looks a little overinflated (Westgate’s advance line last week – albeit with a healthy Big Ben – was Steelers -1.5). There have been some 7s available so wait around for those. Best Bet: Pass at 6.5, but add Steelers at 7 (contest play: Steelers in slightly more ATS contests at 6.5 and all of them if getting the 7.5, while around 50/50 in SU pools).
Rams (-3) at Browns (O/U 49.5)
Tuley’s Take: This is an intriguing matchup with the Rams now established as one of the best teams in the league and the Browns trying to break through. The home dawg is tempting, but this line is just too short for me to jump on the Browns as I still don’t think their best matches up with the Rams. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Rams around 55/45 in ATS pools, all of them at -2.5, and around 70/30 in SU contests).
Bears (-4) at Redskins (O/U 41.5)
Tuley’s Take: When this line opened Bears -6 at the Westgate on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m. Vegas Time), I wish I had jumped on the Redskins 6 but it quickly disappeared and we’ll probably never going to see that price again. The Bears are lucky to be 1-1 after escaping with their controversial, miracle win in Denver while the Redskins have been better than expected despite losing to the Eagles and Cowboys. I just feel we missed out on the betting value unless this steams back up by kickoff, which is unlikely as 4 looking like a solid number. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Redskins in slightly more ATS contests, moreso at 4.5, though Bears around 90/10 in SU pools, mostly due to hedging/middling opportunities if in position to win a weekly prize).
Takes on College Football
As mentioned in the intro, I went 3-1 ATS with last week’s best bets as Arizona State & Eastern Michigan pulled outright upsets as 14-point & 8-point road underdogs at Michigan State & Illinois, respectively, and Ohio 5.5 covered in loss at Marshall. My only loser was Georgia State 9.5 at Western Michigan; it was a stinker at 51-17, but counts as just one loss as I improved to 8-4 ATS on the young season. I also went 3-7 ATS on the NCAA Consensus Page elsewhere in PSW, but as I wrote last week, I only really liked ASU from that list. This week, I went with six underdogs on that page but none of them make my best bet list. Hopefully my selectivity keeps paying off in the colleges.
California ( 2) at Mississippi
This is an SEC team hosting a Pac-12 team, so I understand why the early money has been coming in on Ole Miss, but I agree with the Pinnacle opener that Cal should actually be favored (Circa opened this game pick ‘em). The Golden Bears went into Pullman, Wash., two weeks ago and pulled off a 20-19 upset of No. 14 Washington, so I don’t see them being intimidated about traveling to SEC country. I’m waiting to get the best number as I wouldn’t be surprised to see the public push this to a field goal or higher.
Georgia State ( 3) at Texas State
Last week, I stayed with Ohio after losing on the Bobcats the week prior as they took a step down in class and covered at Marshall. I’m doing the same here as I lost with Georgia State last week but now it’s stepping down in class against Texas State, which is 0-3 and I’m not sure why these Bobcats are favored as I’ll take the team with the much stronger running game and better QB in Dan Ellington (627 yards passing, 8 TDs, just 1 INT). I also wouldn’t mind if this line continued climbing to 3.5.
Wyoming ( 3.5) at Tulsa
Make this three games where I’m getting points with what I feel is the better team that should be favored. Tulsa obviously has the better passing attack, but don’t forget that Wyoming stood up to Kelly Bryant and the SEC’s Missouri team and beat them as 16.5-point underdogs & 600 on the money line. Even though the Cowboys’ 23-14 win over Texas State as 7.5-point favorites and a non-covering 21-16 win vs Idaho as 27.5-point faves aren’t overly impressive, their resume is still better than Tulsa’s 28-7 loss at Michigan State (which looks even less impressive after the Spartans’ loss to ASU), 34- 16 win over San Jose State and 40-21 loss vs. Oklahoma State.