Page Last Updated Aug. 23, 2007.

As far as I know, there are five things to look at when attempting to handicap or pick football games:

  • Matchups
  • Trends
  • Psychology
  • Vegas
  • Overrated/Underrated Teams

    Matchups are least important because they are already factored into the spread. If handicapping games was as easy as figuring out matchups, Ron Jaworski would be hitting 80 percent. As we've seen on his stints on PTI, that's clearly not the case.

    Trends may be fun, but a lot of them aren't really meaningful. Vegas also factors in the well-known ones into the spread. Only a select few work.

    Psychology is extremely important and seldom factored into the spread because the average bettor doesn't look for it. I cover the psychology in my weekly NFL regular season picks.

    Vegas, also covered in my weekly picks, is very crucial. For example, the public was pounding the Jets, who were playing the lowly Browns in a Week 8 matchup in 2006. Yet, New York was favored by just 3. Something was wrong. I even told some of the members of the Forum that I was thinking the game might be rigged. In the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal, that's become a stronger possibility.

    I have yet to discuss the fifth and final factor, which is figuring out which teams are overrated and which ones are underrated. Sounds hard, but all you have to do is listen to whom some of the talking heads on TV are salivating over, and whom they are completely ignoring.

    Let's look at some of the overrated squads that will be good fades until the public realizes how much they suck:

  • New York Giants
    Everyone knows Tiki Barber is gone, and I think Eli Manning will struggle without his best weapon. However, I don't think people are aware of how much New York's defense sucks. The defensive tackles are garbage, Mathias Kiwanuka is struggling at outside linebacker and the secondary is an abomination. I have the Giants winning five or six games this year. They definitely won't hit Vegas' Over-Under of eight.

  • Detroit Lions
    I can't believe there are idiots out there who actually believe Jon Kitna will throw for 5,000 yards this year. Look, I'll eat crow if he does, but thinking that Kitna can come close to Dan Marino's record of 5,084 yards is ridiculous.

    Kitna's one of my favorite players because of some of the comments he makes, but he's just not that talented to eclipse five grand. Plus, Mike Martz has no clue how to run the ball or pass protect. Furthermore, Detroit's defense is garbage. Again, Kitna's not skilled enough to engage in 42-38 shootouts every single week.

  • Miami Dolphins
    I've already dissed the Dolphins too many times this offseason. A quick recap: Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas are too old; Joey Porter is overrated (and hurt); the offensive line can't block and Trent Green really sucks. I think Miami is one of the worst teams in the league this year.

  • Kansas City Chiefs
    The last running back to carry the ball 380 or more times in a single season and rank in the top 10 in rushing the following year was Earl Campbell. Guys who have recently carried too much of the load in a single campaign - Shaun Alexander, Jamal Lewis, Terrell Davis, Jammal Anderson, Eddie George, Bananas Foster - all failed. Larry Johnson, who missed training camp and could be out of shape, ran 416 times last year. There's no way he lasts the entire season.

    Even if Johnson stays healthy, there are issues at quarterback, the receivers still suck, the offensive line keeps losing personnel and the defense is, for the most part, a joke. Oh, and while Herman Edwards is a great motivator, he can't coach to save his life. Kansas City could be a great fade early on.

  • Pittsburgh Panthers
    Let's do some overrated college teams. Tyler Palko's gone, but that's not the reason the Panthers will be a good fade. Their top receiver, Derek Kinder tore his ACL in practice. Top cornerback Elijah Fields is suspended for the season. Quarterback Pat Bostick, expected to win the quarterbacking job in Palko's absence, left the team for personal reasons. The 'Stache (Dave Wannstedt) will lead the Panthers to a 5- or 6-win campaign.

  • Purde Boilermakers
    Wide receiver Selwyn Lymon was stabbed in the chest this spring, a player was arrested for DUI and other team members were caught fighting outside of a bar. Oh, this all happened the same night. Purdue is a squad laden with distractions, and it appears as though Joe Tiller has lost all control.

  • Ohio State Buckeyes
    How many college teams can lose their starting quarterback, running back and top two receivers, and compete for a conference championship? Not many. I know Chris Wells is a stud, but the Buckeyes have a lot of unproven players slated to start in key positions this season. I'm not sure if they deserve to be ranked 10th.

  • Georgia Bulldogs
    I don't think Georgia is a bad team, but I don't believe it should be ranked 13th. I'm not a big believer in Matt Stafford. At least not yet - call me crazy, but putting a lot of stock into a signal caller who throws way more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (7), no matter how young he is, seems pretty nuts to me.

    Now that we've discussed some of the overrated squads you should fade early on, let's look at some underrated teams that you can profit off of:

  • Dallas Cowboys
    ESPN's annual fantasy football magazine called Tony Romo "overrated." That's just dumb. Even when Romo was struggling last year - which was understandable because he was essentially a rookie - Dallas' offense still put up more than 23 points per game the final month of the season. The Cowboys' secondary was also blamed, when it was the front seven that couldn't pressure the quarterback in the wake of Greg Ellis' injury. Dallas drafted Anthony Spencer to resolve that issue.

  • Washington Redskins
    I never anticipated flip-flopping my views of a team before the season started, but that's what happened when I watched the Redskins battle the Steelers in the second week of preseason. Washington has done a great job stopping the run thus far, and Rocky McIntosh and LaRon Landry are, without a doubt, the real deal. Jason Campbell suffered a knee injury, but he was solid before going down. He should be fine for the season opener against Miami. If the Redskins' defensive line holds up, they could have a campaign similar to the one they had in 2005; and not 2006.

  • Atlanta Falcons
    Everyone is expecting the Falcons to collapse because Michael Vick is going to jail for slaughtering innocent animals. That's why they're underrated. Their defense and ground attack are still pretty potent. As for Joey Harrington, the same thing happens every year. He starts off well and eventually has a great game that has everyone talking about him in a positive manner (the Thanksgiving Day contest last season). Then, when expectations are high, he folds like an internet poker player going against Daniel Negreanu. I'd take the Falcons for the first half of the year and fade them after Week 9 or 10.

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    The Buccaneers, unlike the Dolphins, added some young players to their defense - Gaines Adams, Cato June - and a quality veteran quarterback. Jeff Garcia will be very comfortable in Jon Gruden's West Coast offense. Also, the young offensive line has gained more experience and Cadillac Williams is healthy again.

    That said, I expect the Buccaneers to start 0-2, which will create strong betting opportunities after that.

  • Buffalo Bills
    Everyone trashed the Bills for not re-signing any of their players this offseason. What people fail to realize is that the only valuable commodity the team lost was Nate Clements; Takeo Spikes and London Fletcher are past their prime, while Willis McGahee was a locker-room toad. Buffalo has young talent that can replace Spikes, Fletcher and McGahee. The Clements departure is a problem, but maybe J.P. Losman's progression will offset that.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers
    The Steelers are back. It's amazing how much better a quarterback can look without going through a motorcycle accident, an appendectomy and a concussion within a span of a few months. Ben Roethlisberger will reemerge as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, proving all of his doubters wrong. Joey Porter's gone, but does that really matter? He was a product of Dick LeBeau's system.

  • Oakland Raiders
    The Raiders? Underrated? Have I lost my mind? Maybe... but from what I've seen, Lane Kiffin has done a great job improving the worst offensive line in football. And as bad as Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper have been in the past, anyone's an upgrade over Andrew Walter. If Oakland's offense can improve just a bit, the defense will carry the team to more victories (and covers).

  • Kentucky Wildcats
    One stinking vote? That's all Kentucky got? Maybe people aren't aware, but the Wildcats have one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, Andre' Woodson. Woodson threw for 31 touchdowns and just seven picks last year, upsetting Georgia and Clemson, and going toe-to-toe with Florida and Tennessee. With a solid supporting cast, including receiver Keenan Burton, running back Rafael Little and defensive tackle Myron Pryor, Kentucky has a shot to go 9-3 or even 10-2 in the regular season.

  • Southern Miss Golden Eagles
    Fifteen starters return from a squad that went 8-5 last year, including quarterback Jeremy Young, running back Damion Fletcher (1,388 yards, 11 touchdowns) and eight men on defense. With Kevin Kolb gone, Southern Miss will win Conference USA. Furthermore, if Tennessee pulls an upset over California, I guarantee Southern Miss will take down the Vols the following week.

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