The Masters was anticlimactic here in the Tuley’s Takes home office. Thursday was great, with Tiger Woods (had tickets on him at 45-1 and 50-1) in contention early as well as Patrick Cantlay (33-1). But then Dustin Johnson took over. At least we were able to just concentrate on the NFL by the time Sunday rolled around.
NFL Week 10 was a little disappointing. We went 2-2 ATS with our best bets here to stand at 39-31 (55.7%) on the season and 3-2 or 2-3 in most of my contests (2-2-1 in the Westgate SuperContest as the line there was Texans + 3). Full disclosure: I used Texans + 3.5 on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page, but since the line was wavering between + 3 and + 3.5 when I was filing this column, I passed on making it a pick here, though I meant to play the Texans. Since I had the consensus line at that time as Browns -3 -120, my pick would have been graded a push for these purposes, so no harm, no foul.
However, this is a great time to again write that if there’s one thing I hope I’ve taught my readers over the years, it’s the importance of shopping around and timing your bets correctly. If you agreed with me on the Texans, I trust you were able to get + 3.5 or better. It’s very common for my underdog picks to get better lines later in the week and at kickoff — in this case, the Texans closed + 4.5. If you disagreed, I sure hope you were able to get Browns -3. A lot of people who bet the Browns are crying “bad beat” because Nick Chubb stepped out of bounds at the Houston 1-yard line instead of scoring the potential covering TD. But if you lost on that because you laid -3.5 or higher, that’s a “bad bet.” Besides, if Chubb had gone to the ground after getting the first down, this wouldn’t even be a discussion.
Picking winners is the No. 1 goal of handicappers and bettors, but right behind that is the need to get the best number. I’m convinced that if you’ve been betting my 55% picks here, you should be closer to 60% by getting the best numbers. If you’re a 50-50 picker, you can improve that to profitability around 55%. And if you’re below 50%, you can get close to break-even.
So let’s get to Week 11, hopefully with more clear-cut winners. Per usual, I’ll give my takes on each game. Even if I don’t have an opinion that I think warrants a bet, I’ll include my “pool plays” in which I give my level of confidence for SU and ATS contests, especially for those who have to pick every game.
Cardinals at Seahawks (-3 -120)
We have another Thursday nighter between legitimate playoff contenders, but hopefully this one ends up being more competitive than the Colts’ 34-17 win over the Titans last week. If the Cardinals’ 37-34 win in the first meeting is any indication, it should come down to the wire again. I still think the Cardinals are the right side, based partly on that first meeting, plus the fact Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense isn’t as sharp as it was earlier in the season. But I didn’t include it on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page, and it probably won’t prompt me to put in my contest picks early at Westgate or Circa. My 2-2 record last week didn’t include my recommended teaser portfolio. Those plays went 7-1 with the Colts, Steelers, Texans, Bills, Seahawks, Chargers and Bears covering with six-point teasers. If you followed along and mixed and matched as suggested, you would have hit any teasers not including the Ravens.
My teasers have kept me winning every week, even when I’m trading money with my ATS picks. So I’ll start some tickets this week with the Cardinals teased up to + 9 (+ 8.5 is acceptable if the line dips to + 2.5 by the time you bet these) and use with the Lions teased up to + 7.5 (monitor that situation with a lot of books still off the board for their game at Carolina), Texans teased up to + 8, Packers teased up to + 8.5, Bengals teased up to + 7.5, Vikings teased down to -1.5 and Chargers teased down to -2.5 (though I like the Jets + 8.5, so maybe we’ll hit a middle).
Best Bet: Cardinals + 3 or better, plus Cardinals in teaser (pool play: Cardinals in all my rare SU and ATS contests).
Eagles at Browns (-3.5)
I know the NFC Least is a joke and the Eagles’ record says they’re a 3-5-1 team, but I still have them even with the Browns in my power ratings and don’t think the Browns should be favored by more than a field goal, even at home. Home-field advantage has been negligible this season, and road teams are 76-69-2 ATS (52.4%). Best Bet: Eagles + 3.5 (pool play: Eagles in all my ATS contests if getting + 3.5 and still in slightly more SU pools around 60/40).
Falcons at Saints (-4.5)
Drew Brees is out with broken ribs and a collapsed lung, which has caused this line to go from Saints -7.5 on the advance line to Saints -4.5 now. The Falcons were playing better before their bye week, but this number is too short for me to play them now even with Jameis Winston taking over for the Saints. Actually, the offense might open up a little more in New Orleans, notwithstanding Winston’s propensity to throw picks. But that leads to me liking the Over here better than the side as I expect the Falcons to score their share too. Best Bet: Over 51 (pool play: Falcons around 55/45 in ATS contests, but Saints still 75/25 in SU pools).
Lions at Panthers (-1.5)
This game was off the board at most books as of Tuesday afternoon (the Panthers -1.5 was at Circa). I’m assuming it’ll be too short for me to back the Lions, though I’m hoping to include them in my teaser portfolio as I don’t expect the Panthers to blow them out even if Teddy Bridgewater plays. Best Bet: Pass, except for Lions in teasers (pool play: Panthers around 60/40 in SU and ATS pools, though closer to 50/50 if the line is higher).
Patriots (-2) at Texans
Here’s another game with a line too short for me to take the underdog since I’m not confident enough in the Texans (like the Lions) to win outright. Even though the Texans should be helped by playing in better conditions than they faced in Cleveland in Week 10, it’s hard to fade the Pats after their 23-17 win vs. the Ravens on Sunday night. However, again, it fits right in with my teaser portfolio. Best Bet: Pass, except for Texans teasers (pool play: Patriots 55/45 in ATS contests and around 60/40 in SU pools).
Steelers (-10) at Jaguars
It looks like Gardner Minshew isn’t ready to return, which is fine with us as Jake Luton has been good enough to cover the last two weeks in losses to the Texans and Packers. Getting 10 full points at home is the way to go. The Steelers are fully capable of blowing out the Jaguars like they did the Bengals last week, but that was just their second win all season of more than 10 points, so I’ll take the double-digit head start. Best Bet: Jaguars + 10 (pool play: Jaguars 80/20 in ATS contests — all of them if offered + 10.5, lower if offered only + 9.5 — but Steelers still 75/25 in SU pools).
Packers at Colts (-2.5)
I know everyone is assuming “Dave Tuley has to love the Packers as underdogs,” but I have to pass at + 2.5. For one thing, it’s too obvious with Aaron Rodgers getting any points. I mean, this is going to be the most public dog of the week, and I’m already seeing signs that this line is going to drop. While the Packers obviously have a potent offense, the Colts’ defense has continued to impress. Having said all that, I still feel comfortable using Green Bay in teasers. Best Bet: Pass, except for Packers in teasers (pool play: Packers in slightly more ATS contests, around 55/45, while flipping slightly to Colts 55/45 in SU pools).
Bengals at Washington (-1.5)
Here’s yet another underdog getting too few points for me to back. Both teams are playing better than expected this season. The Bengals are 6-3 ATS despite a 2-6-1 SU record, while Washington is 4-5 ATS despite being 2-7. Joe Burrow has come through for us several times, but the Washington defense is good enough to keep me from taking the Bengals here, well, except ... Best Bet: Pass, except Bengals in teasers (pool play: 50/50 in all SU and ATS contests, with slight lean to Bengals).
Titans at Ravens (-6.5)
Both contenders are coming off losses, and the Ravens are 1-2 in their last three while the Titans are 1-3 in their last four. But I’m counting on the Titans to keep this close. I liked them better at + 7 on the advance line and when it reopened, but I think those early bettors have the right side. All those reports of teams calling out Baltimore’s plays show how much defensive coordinators have adapted to contain Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ offense, and I expect Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel to have a solid game plan in place. Best Bet: Titans + 6.5 (pool play: Titans around 75/25 in ATS contests, and Ravens just 60/40 in SU pools).
Cowboys at Vikings (-7.5)
We have a quandary here. The last time we saw the Cowboys before their bye, they nearly upset the Steelers with Garrett Gilbert at QB and now might get Andy Dalton back. This line seems too high as the Vikings could very likely just grind out a victory like they did 19-13 over the Bears on Monday night. The only thing scaring me off is that I’m not sure I want to trust the Cowboys’ defense to play a second straight solid game. I might end up betting the Cowboys + 7.5 on principle, but I think the better play is to just tease the Vikings. Best Bet: Pass, except Vikings in teasers (pool play: Cowboys around 55/45 in ATS contests, but Vikings 80/20 in SU pools).
Dolphins (-3.5) at Broncos
Although I’m a dog-or-pass bettor, I stress that I don’t take every dog. Last week I was proudest that I didn’t jump on the Broncos + 5.5 against the Raiders when they were a very popular public dog. And I’m not taking them here even though they’re getting more than a field goal at home. Their defense hasn’t been playing as well in recent weeks, and Drew Lock has a rib injury and is day to day. Besides, the Dolphins are 3-0 with Tua Tagovailoa after being an already respectable 3-3 with Ryan Fitzpatrick and are very hard to fade right now. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Dolphins 55/45 in ATS contests and around 80/20 in SU pools).
Jets at Chargers (-8.5)
OK, which Jets team is going to show up on this trip to the Left Coast? The one that was blown out in Kansas City, or the one that lost only 30-27 to the Patriots on Monday night in Week 9 before their bye? I’ll go with the latter as Joe Flacco played better than expected and should keep the Jets in this game. Besides, as much as Justin Herbert has impressed in his rookie season, the 2-7 Chargers shouldn’t be favored by more than a touchdown. Best Bet: Jets + 8.5 (pool play: Jets around 67/33 in ATS contests, but Chargers 70/30 in SU pools).
Chiefs (-7 EVEN) at Raiders
The Sunday nighter is a rematch of the Raiders’ 40-32 upset of the Chiefs in Week 5 as 12-point underdogs and + 400 on the moneyline. And now they get them at home. If you missed the Raiders + 7 on the advance line or earlier this week, it looks like we’re getting it again. The public is all over the Chiefs, and we assume it’s because of Andy Reid’s well-established track record of covering off a bye and not the silly revenge angle of the Raiders’ buses taking a victory lap around Arrowhead Stadium. Either way, the Raiders showed they could match the Chiefs score for score, and I expect this to come down to the final gun as well with the + 7 coming in handy, just in case. Best Bet: Raiders + 7 (pool play: Raiders 70/30 in ATS contests — higher if getting + 7.5 and lower if only + 6.5 — though Chiefs around 60/40 in SU pools).
Rams at Buccaneers (-3.5)
I’m glad we’re not getting shorted on the number as I love the Rams as underdogs but love even more that we’re getting the hook in case they lose by a field goal. The Buccaneers have lived up to the preseason hype with Tom Brady & Co. at 7-3, though only 5-5 ATS. But the Rams match up well with the Bucs on both sides of the ball, and I have this game closer to pick-’em. I’m not sold on the Buccaneers’ defense and expect the Rams’ balanced attack to have more success than the Bucs’ offense against the Rams’ defense. In fact, I just talked myself into calling the outright upset. Best Bet: Rams + 3.5 (pool play: Rams in all SU and ATS contests, as I’ve written before that I like to go all in on “Monday Night Football” in my pools in case I connect the dots for weekly prizes and want my strongest opinion going for me).