With apologies to Mars Blackmon, it’s gotta be the McRibs!
We went 4-1 ATS on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page in last week’s Point Spread Weekly and 3-0 ATS with our top plays (Broncos, Vikings and Titans) posted here and in the “Tuley’s Takes Today” daily columns at VSiN.com. The loss was Thursday night on the Jets, so we swept Sunday’s plays as well as winning with every teaser combination we listed — the Chiefs (teasing down to -1.5 after the line went to -7.5), Browns, Giants, Eagles and Cardinals. Disclaimer: The fourth “win” on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page and in the regular Tuley’s Takes column in PSW was on the Chiefs at pick-’em. That was the line when we published last week right before it was announced that Aaron Rodgers had tested positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, I subbed in the Falcons for the Chiefs in my Vegas contests at Circa and Westgate to go 4-1 in those as well.
As I tried to explain last week, it’s just coincidental that I usually have a lot of success around the time of year the McRib returns at McDonald’s (just like Michael Jordan’s skills weren’t really because he wore Nikes). I believe the true reason is this just happens to be the time of the football season when the betting public mistakenly believes it knows more than it does and overbets certain teams, giving us a lot of line value.
We’ve crushed it the last two weeks, and the scary thing is it could have been even better. I teased the Cardinals but should have bet them ATS and on the moneyline against the 49ers when the whole world jumped on the 49ers, betting them to favoritism and making them the No. 1 play in the Circa Sports Million, the SuperContest and SuperContest Gold. And even though I also won with teasers using the Chiefs, in retrospect, I really should have also bet the Packers + 7.5 as that line was also overinflated.
But, hey, no complaints or regrets. We just hope the barbecue train (aka gravy train, but trying to keep the McRib theme) continues.
Let’s look for where we think the oddsmakers and betting public have this week’s lines wrong. Per usual, I’ll give my recommendations from my dog-or-pass point of view but will also give my pool-play strategy for those in contests in which they have to pick every game. (My Takes on college football and other sports appear in “Tuley’s Takes Today,” the daily version of this column, at VSiN.com. Also, we update our best bets during the week depending on how the market is moving, so please check out those columns each morning.)
Baltimore Ravens (-7.5) at Miami Dolphins
I usually jump on any NFL home underdog of more than a touchdown, but I’ve become more choosy in recent years as they’ve cooled off. In this case, I wasn’t too impressed with the Dolphins’ 17-9 win over the Texans. In fact, the Dolphins have been competitive only against teams with them at the bottom of the league (Falcons, Jaguars, Texans), but when they step up in class, they usually get rolled (35-0 by the Bills, 45-17 by the Buccaneers and 26-11 again by the Bills). Now, the Ravens do have a tendency to let teams stick around and you know I’m not going to lay 7.5 points, but I’ll start this week’s teaser portfolio as we can move the line down from Ravens -7.5 to -1.5. Other advantage teaser combinations (that capture both the key numbers of 3 and 7) I’m considering for NFL Week 10 include Browns from + 1.5 to + 7.5 at Patriots, Vikings from + 3 (or + 2.5) to + 9 (or + 8.5), Eagles from + 2.5 to + 8.5 at Broncos and Raiders + 2.5 to + 8.5 vs. the Chiefs.
Best Bet: Ravens in teasers (pool play: Ravens in all my rare SU & ATS contests that include “Thursday Night Football”).
Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-10.5)
This is an interesting case study of a double-digit spread. Unfortunately, I didn’t trust the Colts to cover double digits against the Jets last Thursday night and lost (though the Jets nearly pulled a miracle backdoor cover). Now, the Jaguars are coming off a shocking upset of the Bills (note: it was such a surprise that not even yours truly was on that home dog getting more than two TDs!). So, while it’s tempting to take all those points with a team that showed it can do it, I consider the Colts more likely to repeat their performance and roll like they did against the Jets.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Colts 55/45 in ATS contests and at least 90/10 in SU pools).
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots (-1.5)
This is one of Sunday’s more intriguing matchups. Both teams are 5-4 and tied for the AFC’s last wild-card spot, while also still in their divisional races as the Patriots trail the Bills by just a half-game and the Browns are 1.5 games behind the Ravens. As I was writing this early Tuesday, it was announced that Nick Chubb and some other players might be out due to positive COVID-19 tests. The fear is that there could be more in the coming days, so I’m not willing to bet the Browns to win, but as mentioned above I like them to cover the teaser in a close game.
Best Bet: Pass, except for Browns in teasers (pool play: Browns 55/45 in all SU & ATS contests).
Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys (-9.5)
I loved the Broncos + 10 against the Cowboys in Week 9, though I certainly wasn’t expecting them to thoroughly dominate and lead 30-0 before the Cowboys added some garage-time TDs to make the final score look reasonably competitive at 30-16. The Falcons aren’t as strong as the Broncos on defense, but the Cowboys offense hasn’t been that sharp lately (Cooper Rush’s surprising win over the Vikings was only 20-16, and then there was the debacle in Dak Prescott’s return), so they should be able to match the Cowboys score for score with Matt Ryan spreading the ball around to Russell Gage, Kyle Pitts and Swiss-Army knife Cordarrelle Patterson.
Best Bet: Falcons + 9.5, though waiting to see if we get + 10 (pool play: Falcons 60/40 in ATS contests — more if line is higher, slightly less if line is lower — but Cowboys still around 70/30 in SU pools).
Buffalo Bills (-13) at New York Jets
OK, here’s another double-digit home underdog, and this one I can’t resist. I don’t expect the Bills to play as badly as they did at Jacksonville, but there’s a lot of reasons to think the Jets can hang with them. For one, the Bills don’t have the running game the Colts do, plus the Jets have a good pass rush to put pressure on Josh Allen and force him into mistakes. Meanwhile, the Jets offense somehow has stepped up with Mike White (hey, I didn’t see it coming either). In addition, as bad as the Jets were last year and how good the Bills were, the Bills won only 27-17 and 18-10 in their 2020 meetings, so I envision similar results with the Bills winning by 10 points or fewer.
Best Bet: Jets + 13 (pool play: Jets 67/33 in ATS contests, though Bills still 90/10 in SU pools — so, yes, gonna take a few fliers on the Jets).
New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans (-3)
The Titans have really turned it on lately, beating the Bills, Chiefs, Colts and Rams in succession, which makes their loss to the Jets that much more shocking. Anyway, the Saints lost to the Falcons and are even more of a Jekyll-and-Hyde team. This line is too short for me to consider the Saints here as road underdogs. I have this as closer to Titans -4.5. The Saints are just outside the “teaser zone,” though I wouldn’t talk anyone out of teasing them up to + 9 or so.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Titans 55/45 in ATS contest and closer to 75/25 in SU pools).
Buccaneers (-9.5) at Washington Football Team
I guess we should be grateful that oddsmakers are still giving us a decent amount of points, but I still have this line as too short to take the home dog. Washington should have covered against the Packers a few weeks ago, but when this team stepped up in class against other top offenses, it came up flat (43-21 loss at the Bills, 31-13 loss at the Chiefs). For me, it was more troubling that the Washington offense managed only 13 points against the Chiefs defense. Both teams are both off a bye, so I certainly trust the Bucs’ coaching staff to be fully prepared to take care of business.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Buccaneers 55/45 in ATS contests and at least 90/10 in SU pools).
Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers (-9)
The Lions were on a bye last week, which was good as they looked awful in their 44-6 loss to the Eagles on Halloween. Even though they’re the NFL’s lone winless team at 0-8, they’re 4-4 ATS and have been competitive at times. They should have beaten the Ravens, the Steelers’ AFC North rival, and also covered against the 49ers, Vikings and Rams. The fact that the Steelers couldn’t put away the Bears, the Lions’ NFC North rival, bodes well for the Lions here. I’m not worried about the Steelers scoring a ton of points as they still average just 20.1 points per game, so the Lions should be able to stick around and get the cover like in those other games.
Best Bet: Lions + 9 (pool play: Lions 67/33 in ATS contests, but Steelers still 80/20 in SU pools).
Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers (-3)
These teams are at a crossroads as we head into the second half of the season. The Chargers are 5-3 and tied with the Raiders atop the AFC West with the Chiefs and Broncos both just a half-game behind. The Vikings have a bunch of tough losses and are 3-5 and 3.5 games behind the Packers, but they’re only one game out of the last NFC wild-card spot. This should be another close game — as the Chargers tend to also play close games — but the line’s a little short for me to take the Vikes. I think this line should be Chargers -4 or -4.5. However, since the Vikings should stay within one score, I’ll use them in teasers.
Best Bet: Pass, except Vikings in teasers (pool play: Vikings 55/45 in ATS contests, but flip to Chargers 60/40 in SU pools).
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals (-10)
The Cardinals showed how solid of a team they really are by routing the 49ers even without Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green and with Chase Edmonds going down early. Meanwhile, the Panthers and especially Sam Darnold have looked terrible after their hot start. Even Christian McCaffrey’s return didn’t help in Sunday’s 24-6 loss to the Patriots. Having said all that, this is a case where the whole world is jumping to these same conclusions and we have a double-digit favorite when the Cardinals don’t need to win by that much. Their goal is to get out with a win, and I expect this to be closer than most people do. I’m not going to go as far as to call for the outright upset as I doubt I’ll have even a small moneyline wager, but the play is to take the inflated points.
Best Bet: Panthers + 10 (pool play: Panthers 75/25 in ATS contest, though Cardinals at least 90/10 in SU pools).
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-4)
It’s expected that we’ll get Russell Wilson vs. Aaron Rodgers for this matchup. Everyone is expecting both offenses to get a boost, but I believe we’ll see more from the Seahawks. They’ve found a running attack during Wilson’s absence, so whether Chris Carson returns or Alex Collins continues to carry the load, I expect the Seahawks to have a more balanced attack. I’ll gladly take the points here with the Seahawks at anything over a field goal as it certainly could come down to a late FG (and I’d also add that Mason Crosby has been becoming less reliable).
Best Bet: Seahawks + 4 (pool play: Seahawks 67/33 in ATS contests and I’ll even take them in slightly more than 50/50 in SU pools).
Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos (-2.5/-3)
The Eagles are an enigma as I believe they’re better than their 3-6 record. I guess oddsmakers have them rated closer to the 5-4 Broncos with this line at or just below a field goal in Denver. The Broncos looked even better than I expected in their rout of the Cowboys, so I’m surprised this line isn’t a little higher. As in similar games this week, we’ll use the oddsmakers’ tight line against them by teasing the Eagles up over a touchdown.
Best Bet: Pass, except for Eagles in teasers (pool play: Eagles 55/45 in ATS contest but Broncos 60/40 in SU pools).
Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5) at Las Vegas Raiders
Here we have another short number. I’ve already heard several handicappers touting the Raiders as home underdogs because of the Chiefs’ continued problems on both sides of the ball. Besides, I was on the Raiders both times last year when they beat the Chiefs once and covered in the other meeting. This is really looking like the case of a public underdog, which is a huge warning sign. So, again, we’ll pass on the Raiders plus the short number and instead tease up over a touchdown.
Best Bet: Pass, except for Raiders in teasers (pool play: Chiefs 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 70/30 in SU pools).
Los Angeles Rams (-4) at San Francisco 49ers
The Rams’ bandwagon was overflowing during their four-game winning streak that was snapped Sunday night by the Titans. I was actually surprised last week when the advance line for this game was only Rams -3 — and even more surprised when it actually rose to -4 after the Rams’ loss. I guess oddsmakers (and/or the public) are seeing that game as an aberration. In addition, many downgraded the 49ers after they lost to a depleted Cardinals team. Anyway, I like the 49ers to keep this close, though I wasn’t confident enough to use it as one of my five picks on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page, so take that for what it’s worth.
Best Bet: 49ers + 4 (pool play: 49ers 60/40 in ATS contests, but Rams still around 55/45 in SU pools).