It looks like a potentially weird week in the NFL. First we had the 49ers decline a safety, and now it looks like we have three games sharing the closest win probabilities I’ve ever seen from the gambling lines. Let’s see if the games should actually be that close.
Let’s get the over/under out of the way first. Here are your predicted game totals with a money-back guarantee. If you get any money back using these picks, I guarantee you’ll lose it next week.
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The first close game this week is Indianapolis hosting Cleveland. The Colts are favored by a point, and the moneyline is -110/+100, which is essentially a 50/50 pick and the tightest numbers I’ve seen on a moneyline. Luigi has the Colts as a half-point favorite, so it’s probably a reasonable number. If you look to the power rankings, both teams are below average with Cleveland being a little better overall (which they’d have to be to cancel out the Colts being at home). The Browns have actually been running an ok offense but are bad at defense, while the Colts are below average at both. In any close match-up you can expect the game to come down to special teams and turnovers, and the Colts have the edge there. They’ve only fumbled four times and lost one of them but thrown 10 interceptions; the Colts have only fumbled once (and lost it) and thrown 7 interceptions. In general, expect a boring game, but if the Colts who beat the Packers show up, maybe they’ll generate some excitement.
Here are the moneyline picks.
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Tampa Bay hosting New Orleans is similarly a one point spread (favoring the Saints) with a +100/-110 moneyline. I actually have the Bucs as a decent favorite here. Despite their record, New Orleans is essentially average with a good offense balancing a bad defense. The Bucs, on the other hand, are a bit above average at both. Somewhat surprisingly, Tampa even has a better passing game so far, averaging about 7.3 yards per dropback to the Saints’ 6.9. However, the Saints potentially make up for it by throwing more often (or, maybe they’ve thrown more often because they’ve been losing?). I like the Bucs by about a field goal. Let’s see what the rest of the spread picks are.
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The last close game this week is Cincinnati hosting Pittsburgh. The Bengals are 1 point favorites but actually +100/-110 underdogs on the moneyline. However, like the Bucs, I have them as more of a field goal favorite. The Steelers have been essentially exactly average but played a weak-ish schedule so far (only Denver is above average by my rankings) while the Bengals are above average on offense but a bit below on defense, having played three crappy teams (including the Browns twice) and three good teams. Both teams are essentially inconsistent, although Pittsburgh can probably get away with blaming injuries. We’ll see who looks like more of a quality team after today.
We’ve got Bill Simmons’ picks next. A number of ESPN people recently have been writing about how the top four sports leagues have been raking fans over the coals recently with all the lockouts and work stoppages. In the Magazine, one wrote that the only power the fans have in the situation is to stop buying the product. Sadly, he’s right. As long as people keep watching the games and buying merchandise, money keeps coming in and the league will fight the players for it. Unfortunately, there’s no sign at all that fans are willing to make a sacrifice by not showing up to show the leagues that they’re unhappy with what’s happening. It would take a solid few weeks of nearly empty stadiums, I think, to convince owners that we were willing to just quit if they keep quitting us. I don’t think fans have it in them, honestly.
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Finally we have the SuperContest picks. Luigi takes Tampa +2.5, Cincy +2.5, Rams +5.5, Jets +10.5, and Carolina +2.5. Yoshi 1 takes Arizona +6.5, Carolina +2.5, Rams +5.5, and then has a number of similarly-ranked games. The top two of five are Detroit +6.5 (makes me nervous) and Baltimore +6.5. Finally, Yoshi 2 takes Rams +5.5, Tampa +2.5, Cincy +2.5, Carolina +2.5, and Jets +10.5 (the same as Luigi, but in a different order of confidence). The models agree on 9 spreads this week, which is a fair number, and those picks have been doing alright. Let’s see if it’s a good week.