Tuley’s Takes on pro and college football

By Dave Tuley  (VSiN senior reporter) 

My friend, Roger, says I can always find the silver lining even after a losing day or week. That was going to a be a challenge after going 0-5 ATS with my NFL “best bets” here in Point Spread Weekly as well as the Westgate SuperContest (ouch!) and also 1-2 with my NCAA best bets on the way to a 1-6 mark in William Hill’s College Pick’Em (double ouch!).

On “The Opening Lines Show” (8-9 p.m. ET/5-6 p.m. PT Sundays on VSiN and replayed through the night), I even bemoaned the fact that I usually love double-digit underdogs in the NFL yet passed on the Bills +17 at the Vikings and didn’t use the Titans +9.5 at the Jaguars (which closed +10). I also have long extolled the virtues of home underdogs, but didn’t take the Redskins +3 vs. the Packers or the Cardinals +6 vs. the Bears.

Matt Youmans and John Murray were supportive, but the true silver lining came when I checked my emails and DMs after the show. I had twice as many “thank you” messages than I received in the previous two weeks combined when I was posting winning records. Readers were saying how they bet the Bills and Titans only because of my articles over the years about parity still existing in the NFL and double-digit dogs being gold (3-1 ATS so far this season) -- and others thanking me for pointing out that home underdogs were 5-1 ATS in Week 2 (and now 10-3 ATS overall) and how they jumped on the Redskins and Cardinals even though I didn’t bet either this week. A lot of teams say their fans are the best, but I’ll take my followers/fans any day.

It also validated what I’ve said for years that you shouldn’t follow anyone blindly (not even yours truly when I’m on a “hot” run) but instead use what I’ve written to help in handicapping the games (using the statistical and other handicapping tools in PSW) and make your own decisions. I’m obviously trying to pick winners here, but sometimes it’s a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” Different people get different things from my “Takes” – I have followers who tell me that they respect my “dog-or-pass” approach, but that when they see me unable to make a case for an underdog, they see that as a “buy” sign on the favorite.

As for the records, the 0-5 drops my NFL record to 8-10-1 ATS on the young season though I’m at least happy to report that I went 2-0 with over/under best bets last week with the Raiders-Dolphins Over and the Bears-Cardinals Under, so those plays are a strong 5-1 for 13-11-1 overall in the pros (though, admittedly, I bet less on those so I’m still personally on the losing side of the ledger overall). My NCAA best bets are 6-6 ATS.

So, it could be worse. With that, let’s get back to what we’re doing and give our “Takes” on the NFL Week 4 card and then close with a few NCAA best bets and hopefully we’re all winners this week. Even if I don’t have a best bet, I’ll give a “pool play” for those who have contests where they pick every game. Oh, and another word on contests and another silver lining: I inexplicably won a pool last weekend despite my horrible overall results – it’s a contest that includes an NCAA Friday night game, 5 NCAA games throughout the Saturday card and then one in each NFL time slot of 1 p.m. ET/4 p.m. ET/Sunday night/Monday night. I somehow went 8-2 to win the weekly prize. That validates what I’ve also said for years that contests are a great way to maximize your winning weeks (which certainly wasn’t the case for yours truly) but can also bail you out sometimes.

Lines are from the South Point as of Tuesday afternoon unless otherwise noted.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 27

Vikings (o/u 49) at Rams (-6.5)

Tuley’s Take: The Rams keep looking like the most complete team in the league while the Vikings somehow got blown out by the Bills. The advance line at the Westgate last week was Rams -5, so I was hoping we could get a full touchdown (which was shortly available on Sunday at the Westgate and William Hill but snapped up quickly). But I’m still going to be on the Vikings here as they have the defense to contain the Rams (again, don’t just rely on the Buffalo game) in what is a pretty important statement game and could be a tiebreaker for playoff seeding. The Rams have some injury concerns, especially on the short week, while the Vikings might be getting back RB Dalvin Cook, who won’t affect the line much but certainly upgrades the Vikings’ chances. Also note that since I’m picking this against the Tuesday line, I’m taking +6.5; however, I’m not betting it yet as I’m fairly confident it’s going to get bet back up to 7 (several books are already at -6.5 -120 as of this writing and the public should push it higher as we near game day with all the Rams hype). Best Bet: Vikings +6.5 (pool play: also using Vikings in all ATS pools and 50/50 in SU pools that include the Thursday game).

SUNDAY, SEPT. 30

Dolphins (o/u 47.5) at Patriots (-7)

Tuley’s Take: The AFC East-leading Dolphins – wait, what? Yep, the Dolphins are 3-0 with the Patriots at 1-2 and tied for second (through fourth) with the Jets and Bills. The advance line on this was Patriots -9.5 but was adjusted down to 7 after their 26-10 loss to the Lions on Sunday night. We’ve already lost some value on the Fish and I would normally say to wait for the public to bet the Patriots back over a TD, but in this case we’ve seen a lot of books go to +7 -120 on the Dolphins so we’re more likely to see 6.5 as opposed to 7.5 While I love underdogs, the ones I try to avoid are popular public pups. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Patriots at -7 in ATS pools, and especially if offered -6.5 but flip to Dolphins at +7.5; Patriots around 80/20 in SU pools).

Texans (o/u 47.5) at Colts (-1.5)

Tuley’s Take: One of the most disappointing teams so far (especially for yours truly, who is holding 22-1 and 25-1 Super Bowl future on the Texans) visits one of the biggest overachievers so far (Colts are 1-2 SU but 2-1 ATS). I really have no statistics to back this up, but I still regard the Texans as the better team and don’t see the Colts with much of a home-field advantage from their loss to the Bengals in the opener. Deshaun Watson has bruised ribs but should be ready to go (check status) while Andrew Luck should have his hands full with the Houston pass rush. Best Bet: Texans +1.5 (pool play: Texans around 75/25 in all SU & ATS pools, just enough lack of confidence in how they’ve been playing so far).

Bengals (o/u 51) at Falcons (-5.5)

Tuley’s Take: The Bengals let me down last week vs. the Panthers, but I think I figured out why. They had problems with the mobile Cam Newton, but now they get back to pocket-passer Matt Ryan (see Games 1 and 2 vs. Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco). This line also seems to be set a little high in light of the Falcons’ accumulating injuries on the defensive side of the ball, which certainly helps the Bengals’ prospects on offense, not that they’re having problems in that regard at 29.7 points per game. Best Bet: Bengals +5.5 (pool play: Bengals in nearly all ATS pools and about 50/50 in SU contests.

Bills (o/u 45) at Packers (-10)

Tuley’s Take: Yes, I’m taking the double digits, but this isn’t about having faith in the Bills to repeat their performance against the Vikings. Instead, it’s more of a bet against the Packers being favored by this many points. They should have lost to the Bears, they did tie the Vikings (and both those are a credit to Aaron Rodgers), but Rodgers was hobbling badly in the loss at Washington and this team is average at best when he’s less than 100%, which he clearly is. Rodgers probably wills them to victory, but I’ll take the generous points. Best Bet: Bills +10 (pool play: Bills about 80/20 in ATS pools, though probably still Packers by 80/20 margin in SU contests).

Lions (o/u 44) at Cowboys (-3)

Tuley’s Take: I liked the advanced line of Lions +4.5 and the “opening” line of +3.5, but the Lions’ upset of the Patriots on Sunday night took away the value. It’s tempting to still back the Lions, but they did fail to take their show in the road in their lone away game at San Francisco while the Cowboys played their best game at home (20-13 over the Giants in Week 2, sandwiched between two lackluster road efforts). Instead of betting a side, I’ll look to the Over as the Cowboys’ could benefit from the return home as well as facing a Lions’ defense that’s allowing an average of 29.3 points per game and without the added incentive of facing coach Matt Patricia’s former team). The Lions should also get their share of points and go Over this relatively low total. Best Bets: Over 44 (pool play: lean to Lions but probably landing close to 50/50 in all SU & ATS pools, though definitely taking Lions if offered +3.5).

Jets (o/u 38.5) at Jaguars (-7.5)

Tuley’s Take: Fair warning for those looking to take the Lions in above game (note how Jaguars beat Patriots and then had big letdown against Titans the following week). The initial thought it to take the TD plus the hook with the Jets, but I expect the Jaguars to bounce back in a big way. Sam Darnold will certainly have problems with the Sacksonville defense and this could get ugly if the Jaguars’ offense shows up at all. The lean would be to the Under, but the books obviously figured a lot of people would be thinking the same way and set it low. Best Bet: Pass (Jaguars in nearly all SU pools, pretty close to 50/5 in ATS contests).

Buccaneers (o/u 46.5) at Bears (-3)

Tuley’s Take: A lot of people are saying the Bucs came back to earth in their Monday night loss to the Steelers, but I was more discouraged by the Bears’ non-covering 16-14 victory over the Cardinals. Maybe it was a letdown spot after their Monday night home win over the Seahawks, but they did not look like a first-place team (which they are at 2-1 in the NFC North). Ryan Fitzpatrick had his problems against the Steelers on Sunday night and could have trouble against the Bears’ pass rush, but he should still make enough plays to overcome whatever the Bears’ offense is able to produce. Best Bet: Buccaneers +3 (pool play: Buccaneers in majority of ATS pools, especially if shaded to +3.5, and about 60/40 in SU pools).

Eagles (-3.5) at Titans (o/u 41.5)

Tuley’s Take: With my declaration to trust more home underdogs again, you would think I’d be all over the Titans who are coming off outright upsets of the Texans and Jaguars, but as discussed on “The Opening Lines Show,” this line is still too short for me. This is the defending champion Eagles after all, plus Carson Wentz should be expected to improve off his season debut. In addition, while the QB carousel with Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert has worked the past two weeks, I think it’ll be tougher to get past the Eagles (and I don’t think the 20 or 9 points the Titans scored in their last two wins will be enough either). Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Eagles in all SU pool and still around 60/40 in ATS pools).

Seahawks (-3.5) at Cardinals (o/u 38)

Tuley’s Take: When asked on “The Opening Lines Show” which home underdog I preferred between Titans and Cardinals, I clearly stated the Cardinals. For one thing, it’s easier to be fading the Seahawks than the Eagles. In addition, while the Seahawks were given new life by the 12th man in Seattle, they’re back on the road in Glendale, Ariz., where the Cardinals played better last week in almost beating the Bears (a team that dominated the Seahawks if you want to look at common opponents). Josh Rosen gets the start for Arizona, which would be a concern against the Legion of Doom, but not against the current Seattle D. Best Bet: Cardinals +3.5 (pool play: Cards in all ATS pools and probably stepping up to 60/40 in SU pools).

Browns (o/u 45) at Raiders (-2.5)

Tuley’s Take: With the Browns’ long losing streak over, the Texans now have the longest drought at nine straight losses with the Raiders next at seven. If I’m correct on my earlier Texans pick, the Raiders should know by kickoff that they hold the longest losing streak, but they’re in a good spot to end it against the Browns. Yes, the Browns are suddenly everyone’s darling, especially with Baker Mayfield taking over, but the Raiders are still the better team and should prevail at home. The Raiders’ defense has certainly had its problem since losing Khalil Mack but should still be able to hold Mayfield in check. Meanwhile, I expect the Cleveland D to keep playing well and keep this Under the total. Best Bet: Under 45 (pool play: Raiders in nearly all SU & ATS pools with the exception of any ATS contests that go with 3.5).

49ers (o/u 47) at Chargers (-10.5)

Tuley’s Take: OK, I took the Bills as double-digit dogs, but explained how I actually liked them off their win over the Vikings plus most of the bet was against the Packers. This is a harder argument to make with C.J Beathard having to take over for Jimmy Garoppolo, but it’s still a case of the Chargers being asked to lay too many points when they don’t do as well in the role of home faves. It’s likely to be an ugly game, but that’s probably what we need for the 49ers to keep it close. Best Bet: 49ers +10.5 (pool play: 49ers in nearly all ATS contests unless the line is shaded to 9.5, but Chargers 90/10 or more in SU contests).

Saints (-3.5) at Giants (o/u 50)

Tuley’s Take: The Giants got off the schneid with their 27-22 win over the Texans and I’m expecting them to carry that momentum into their return home. The Saints are coming off a 43-37 shootout in Atlanta, but that was in a dome while Drew Brees & Co. usually don’t perform as well outdoors (we’re hoping for a replay of the 16-13 win by the Giants in these two teams’ last meeting on Sept. 23, 2016). Eli Manning looked much more comfortable in the offense last week and I like his chances against a New Orleans defense allowing 34.3 points per game so far. Best Bet: Giants +3.5 (pool play: Giants at least 80/20 in ATS contests and around 60/40 in SU contests as well).

Ravens (o/u 51) at Steelers (-3.5)

Tuley’s Take: From 2008-2015, these teams had 11 of those 16 regular-season games decided by exactly 3 points (and another by 2), so even though that trend has slowed down, I still can’t resist taking the +3.5 as these rivals are still pretty evenly matched. The Steelers are coming off their Monday night win at Tampa Bay to get back to .500 at 1-1-1 while the Ravens have been playing better overall and stand at 2-1. Baltimore clearly has the better defense while its offense has closed the gap on its rival. I’m not so sure that oddsmakers have the correct team favored, but I’ll gladly take the points (especially with the hook). Best Bet: Ravens +3.5 (pool play: Ravens in all ATS contests unless I have one with a line of 2.5, though taking a stand with Ravens in nearly all SU contests).

MONDAY, Oct. 1

Chiefs (-4.5) at Broncos (o/u 55.5)

Tuley’s Take: I was ahead of the curve on the Chiefs, winning with them as underdogs in Games 1 and 2; however, I tried to fade them in Week 3 with disastrous results. That was at home, now let’s see if they can do it on the road at Denver (with the added mile-high elevation and added pressure of Monday Night Football). The Broncos let me down at Baltimore last Sunday, but they now return home where they pulled out wins in Weeks 1 and 2 and should prove a tougher test for Patrick Mahomes than his earlier road trips to San Diego and Pittsburgh. Case Keenum had his worst game of the young season at Baltimore and should have more success against a KC defense allowing 30.7 points per game. Best Bet: Broncos +4.5 (pool play: Broncos 80/20 in ATS pools and around 50/50 in SU contests).

Tuley’s Takes on College Football

We took a step back last week at 1-2 ATS with the college plays to stand at 6-6 ATS here with PSW best bets; I recall a similar losing week last year right before I joined VSiN, so hoping to bounce back for the rest of the year like I also did last season:

BYU (+17.5) at Washington

BYU has already pulled off two upsets on the road – at Arizona and then an even more impressive performance at Wisconsin – so the Cougars certainly aren’t going to be intimidated going into Washington. But this is just as much a bet against the Huskies, who didn’t really impress me in their win over Utah and especially against Arizona St. Washington is still the better team and should win this game and continue its march to the Pac-12 title, however, I have this line a full touchdown lower at 10 points. Gimme that every time.

Florida (+7.5) at Mississippi St.

I love looking at common opponents, which doesn’t always present itself this early in the season, but both these teams are 3-1 with the losses both coming to Kentucky. Florida has the “better” loss, falling 26-17 compared to MSU’s 28-7 loss last week. That’s not a huge difference, but it certainly makes it more puzzling that Florida is more than a TD underdog when I have it closer to a field goal. That’s enough for me, especially considering how much better Florida QB Feleipe Franks (12 TDs/2 INTs) has looked than Nick Fitzgerald (4 TDs/2 INTs).

Stanford (+5.5) at Notre Dame

Like a lot of supposed sharps, I tried fading Notre Dame last week with Wake Forest and lost, but I feel more confident doing it with this Stanford team with a defense that can contain the Irish offense and a balanced offense of its own with QB K.J. Costello and RB Bryce Love. Granted, Stanford should have lost at Oregon last Saturday night but there wouldn’t have been any shame in that – besides, the Cardinal didn’t, and that brings them into this matchup looking like a team of destiny. This should come down to the wire again (in which case, Stanford benefits from that win over Oregon) as I have it at pick ‘em, so I’ll take the bonus points just in case.

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