Chicago Bears (1-2) at Green Bay Packers (2-1) Line: Packers by 7.5. Total: 44. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Packers -11.5.
Walt's Calculated Line: Packers -10.5.
Thursday, Sept 28, 8:25 PM
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The Game. Edge: Packers.
WEEK 3 RECAP: Week 3 was the opposite of Week 2. In Week 2, I lost both of my top picks, yet still finished with a winning record because I hit every other selection. In Week 3, I hit two of my top three picks (Chiefs -3, Bears +7) and nearly nailed my other one (Lions +3), yet I lost almost everything else. I finished a dreadful 5-11 (-$425), as Arizona's sloppy play made sure I finished in the red for the first time in the regular season.
I'm pretty disappointed with myself. I should've made big plays on the Jaguars, Saints and Bengals, but I'm just not seeing things clearly for some reason. I wouldn't say I'm handicapping poorly, but I'm not doing a good job either.
That said, I feel like I've been extremely unlucky thus far. The 49ers had a crazy comeback on Thursday night to cost me two units, and I was inches away from winning the Lions game. Detroit shouldn't have even lost on the 10-second run-off rule - I have visual evidence in my NFL Power Rankings - so that was four units down the drain. The week before, the Eagles committed a million mini-mistakes to ruin what should've been a cover. One was a missed 30-yard field goal by Jake Elliott, who drilled a 61-yarder in Week 3. How does that even happen? The one game I've lucked out in so far was Chargers +3 for five units in Week 1, but I didn't even win that one; it was a push.
To have a great year, you need to handicap well and have good luck. My handicapping has been mediocre at best, while my luck has been poor. I'll work to improve the former, so hopefully the latter changes as well.
GREEN BAY OFFENSE: The Packers have injury issues throughout their depth chart, including the tackle position. They've missed blind-side protector David Bakhtiari the past two weeks. Bryan Bulaga, meanwhile, returned for the first time all year against the Bengals, but didn't look like his usual self. Green Bay signed a tackle off the practice squad Monday, so that's not a good sign that Bakhtiari will be available. It wouldn't even surprise me if Bulaga sat out on such short rest, though he's more likely to play than not.
This is obviously going to be a problem against Chicago's pass rush. Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd and company should be able to pressure Aaron Rodgers frequently, just as the Bengals did with their edge rushers. Rodgers was able to make enough big plays to defeat the Bengals in overtime, and that should once again be the case.
The Bears have a struggling secondary, save for Prince Amukamara, who made his 2017 debut last week. Amukamara is excellent, but no one else in Chicago's secondary is particularly effective, so on the occasions in which Rodgers has time to throw, he should be able to dissect the Bears' defensive backfield. Perhaps Martellus Bennett will be useful for the first time as well; Chicago gave up some long plays to Austin Hooper in Week 1.
CHICAGO OFFENSE: The Packers also have lots of injury concerns on this side of the ball. Top edge rusher Nick Perry is out, while Mike Daniels, the team's star defensive lineman, is considered 50-50 for this game. The Packers said Daniels would've participated in practice Monday if the team had one, but I'm not sure what that means, as they also said the same of Bakhtiari and Randall Cobb. Daniels' presence would allow the Packers to dominate the trenches versus the Bears, who have an underwhelming offensive line, aside from Kyle Long.
The Bengals were able to move the chains against the Packers pretty consistently in the first half, as Andy Dalton didn't have much difficulty shredding a secondary that also has lots of flaws. Mike Glennon will have a tougher time doing this, as he's an inferior quarterback. Not only is it a concern if he'll have time in the pocket - Daniels' availability will be a huge determining factor - but he doesn't really have the weapons to expose Green Bay's poor corners.
The Bears, of course will attempt to establish Jordan Howard on the ground and Tarik Cohen as a threat catching balls out of the backfield. The Packer linebackers, including Morgan Burnett, should do a good job of containing Cohen. As for Howard, the Bears will open up some holes, thanks to Long, but once again, whether Daniels plays or not will determine how big of a night Howard has.
RECAP: My rule for Thursday night games is to pick the best team unless they are favored by a large number, as the superior squad will be able to play a higher level of football on short rest. This appeared to be the case last week when the Rams had a 15-point lead with six minutes remaining, but the 49ers had to mount a ridiculous comeback. Sigh.
I like the Packers at -7. I think this line is too low. I made the number -10.5, but that assumes that Daniels and Bulaga will play. If either is out, I would be less confident in Green Bay. For now, I'm going to put two units on the Packers, but I may add or subtract units based on who is ruled out or not.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: I'm wiping out my units on this game. In fact, I'm switching my pick to the Bears. Both of Green Bay's tackles are doubtful, while Mike Daniels is a game-time decision. This spread is too high, based on all the players Green Bay is missing. The best number for Chicago is +7.5 -105 at Bovada.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Good news for the Bears: Josh Sitton is back to join Kyle Long, as the Bears will have a healthy offensive line for the first time all year. Akiem Hicks is also in the lineup. Bad news for the Packers: Both tackles are out, while Mike Daniels, a game-time decision, is inactive. Given the massive injury disparity, I'm going to put a unit on the Bears. The best line is still +7.5 -105 at Bovada.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
No edge found.
The Vegas. Edge: Bears.
Heavy action on the Packers.
Percentage of money on Green Bay: 70% (64,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Packers.
History: Packers have won 6 of the last 7 meetings.
Packers are 35-21 ATS at home since 2010.
Packers are 43-21 ATS in divisional games since 2006.
Aaron Rodgers is 80-51 ATS since 2009 (9-6 ATS as a favorite of 12+).
New Orleans Saints (1-2) vs. Miami Dolphins (1-1) Line: Saints by 4. Total: 52. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Dolphins -1.
Walt's Calculated Line: Saints -2.
Sunday, Oct 1, 9:30 AM
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The Game. Edge: None.
You can now watch our NFL Picks podcast (my apologies for my awkward camera angle - I'll work on that next week!)
My overrated-underrated feature will return in this spot, and I'm going to emphasize injuries (particularly those on the offensive line)...
Underrated NFL Teams:
Green Bay Packers: The Packers nearly lost to the Bengals, and I think too many people noticed that. However, the victory wasn't completely unimpressive, as the Packers were missing countless starters, including their left tackle, top defensive lineman and best edge rusher. Once the Packers begin getting everyone back - and I have to believe they were conserving some energy for Thursday - they'll start playing on a higher level.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles won their season opener (against the Redskins, who haven't lost since) and battled the Chiefs extremely tough, yet they still aren't recognized as one of the better teams in the NFL despite having no weaknesses outside of the secondary. The defensive backfield is an issue because Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod have both suffered injuries. However, the Eagles could have beaten the Chiefs had a series of unfortunate events not have happened; Torrey Smith's dropped touchdown, Darren Sproles' fumbled punt return, Jake Elliott's missed 30-yard field goal, Carson Wentz's late interception off a deflection, Vinny Curry's missed sack of Alex Smith to force a punt in a tie game in the middle of the fourth quarter. I think if the Eagles and Chiefs battled each other 10 times, each team would win on five occasions. Philadelphia could be 3-0 right now, and the team would've blown out the Giants had Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks not left the game.
Overrated NFL Teams:
Cincinnati Bengals: I think people were a little too impressed by what the Bengals did at Lambeau. They were battling a skeleton-crew Packer team that basically was willing to accept a loss with a divisional game on Thursday coming up. Cincinnati's offense looked better than last week, but the team scored just three points in two quarters plus overtime after intermission. The blocking still sucks, which is the most important thing in this evaluation.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys were definitely legitimate in 2016, but I think they'll take a step backward this season. They lost two members of their fantastic offensive line, while three key players in their secondary have departed as well. Now, Orlando Scandrick is banged up. Things won't go as smoothly for the Cowboys in 2017.
Los Angeles Chargers: It might seem odd that I'd list multiple 0-3 teams as overrated, but people, for some reason, always expect the Chargers to win or at least be competitive. They've been blown out in two of three games thus far - they were trailing the Broncos by 17 in the fourth quarter - and their sole close call came against the Dolphins, who went on to get crushed by the Jets. The Chargers can't block or do anything impressive. Philip Rivers' record in his past 35 games is 9-26. Think about how bad that is. I don't know why, but everyone always makes excuses for the Chargers, but they are just losers. They're the guy who can't get a date and ends up being a 40-year-old virgin. They're the person who gets passed over for promotions. They're the girl who doesn't get asked to the prom. They are losers.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks continue to be large favorites, which I don't understand. They can't score at all because their blocking is atrocious. Also, no one seems to be talking about it, but Richard Sherman is playing like crap this season. He is banged up, so this isn't natural regression, but his poor play is still impacting the defense, which has some major issues at cornerback.
I'll be posting these NFL Picks all day Tuesday. Follow me at @walterfootball for updates.
NEW ORLEANS OFFENSE: The Saints sputtered on this side of the ball during the first two weeks, failing to average more than 20 points despite one of their games being against a defense that was just shredded by Deshaun Watson. However, New Orleans finally got on track versus Carolina, posting 34 on a solid stop unit. Now, the team will welcome back Willie Snead from suspension, so Drew Brees will have another weapon at his disposal.
However, I don't think the Saints' problems have been magically fixed because of one performance. The offensive line is still a huge concern, and it will continue to be until tackles Terron Armstead and Zach Strief return from injury. Ryan Ramczyk has improved from his early struggles, but I don't think he and Andrus Peat will have success blocking Cameron Wake and William Hayes. Meanwhile, Ndamukong Suh will dominate the trenches as well.
The good news for the Saints is that the Dolphins are extremely weak in the secondary, so Brees will have plenty of opportunities to torch Miami if he gets the chance. Both Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard have both struggled, though they do have the talent and potential to play better. Still, if the Saints can protect Brees, he could be absolutely lethal in this matchup.
MIAMI OFFENSE: I could copy-paste what I wrote for the Saints and replace the names because the Dolphins have similar issues on this side of the ball. Jay Cutler will have opportunities to expose a poor defensive backfield, but will have the time to do so?
New Orleans' defense obviously has its major flaws, but it can rush the passer pretty effectively. Cameron Jordan is obviously great, while Sheldon Rankins and Alex Okafor appear to be improving each week. This is bad news for the Dolphins, who struggle to block outside of Ja'Wuan James. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil has been a huge disappointment at his new position, while Mike Pouncey doesn't appear to be completely healthy. The Saints should be able to win in the trenches.
How well the Saints can cover will depend on whether or not Marshon Lattimore can play. Lattimore missed last week's game, as he couldn't clear concussion protocol, though the Saints didn't need him because Kelvin Benjamin suffered an injury. Lattimore's presence will be huge here, as the Saints will be charged with covering both DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry. Neither did much last week - until garbage time - but I expect a better effort from Cutler and company this time.
RECAP: This game had quite the spread movement in a week. Prior to Week 3, the Dolphins were one-point favorites on the advance line. Now, they're three-point underdogs because they lost to the Jets and the Saints crushed the Panthers.
I'm not sure how much stock we can put into those games. The Dolphins clearly weren't trying because they had an impending game in London. New Orleans, meanwhile, beat up on a team missing two of its three star offensive play-makers and starting center. I would have made this line Saints -2.5, so I like the very slight value with the +3 spread.
I'm taking the Dolphins. Not only are we getting good line value, but as Facebook friend Chris W. pointed out, Miami has experience playing in these stupid 9:30 a.m. London games. The Saints do not. I think the Dolphins are worth a small wager, but this pick will change if Armstead and/or Strief are available, as Brees having terrific protection would give New Orleans a huge advantage.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: This pick may also change as a result of tackle availability. Both Terron Armstead and Zach Strief are questionable, so they could both suit up. Their return would be a huge boon for the Saints, as they'll have to figure out how to block Cameron Wake and William Hayes otherwise.
SATURDAY NOTES: I'm canceling my bet on the Dolphins. The reason is because at least one of the New Orleans tackles will play, and it sounds like both could be in the lineup. This is huge for the Saints, who will be a better team with their blocking getting a huge upgrade. That said, this is still a tricky game for the Saints, as it's an 8:30 a.m. local start for them. Plus, you have to pay a lot of juice for -3.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Wow, look at all this line movement! The Dolphins were -1 a week ago, and now they're +4 because they put forth very little effort against the Dolphins. The Saints are getting one of their tackles back (Zach Strief), but I don't think this spread should have moved five points. I have the urge to put the one unit back on Miami now that this line is +4.
The Psychology. Edge: Dolphins.
The Dolphins have experience playing early London games, and because they've been there twice recently, they could have more fans.
The Vegas. Edge: Dolphins.
The public is on the Saints.
Percentage of money on New Orleans: 73% (27,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: None.
Underdog is 77-44 ATS in the Dolphins' last 121 games.
Jay Cutler is 44-75 ATS if you exclude Monday Night Football.
Carolina Panthers (2-1) at New England Patriots (2-1) Line: Patriots by 9. Total: 49.5. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Patriots -9.
Walt's Calculated Line: Patriots -9.
Sunday, Oct 1, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Patriots.
VEGAS UPDATE: I'll be posting how the Vegas sportsbooks have done the previous week in this spot. Here were last week's most-bet sides:
A 1-4 result was horrible for the public in Week 1, but they rebounded with a 3-2 record. Everything went to s**t in Week 3, as the public was 0-4 heading into Monday night before the Cowboys saved them. The public is now 5-10 on the year with these picks. As for this week, here are the five highest-bet sides, as of Tuesday morning:
I'm only listing four teams because there isn't lopsided action in any other game. Still, three very public squads getting lots of money should surprise no one. Meanwhile, everyone is very happy to bet against the Browns...
NEW ENGLAND OFFENSE: It's amazing that Tom Brady can still play at an extremely high level at 40. Battling a fierce Houston defense, Brady had major protection issues throughout the entire afternoon, but he was able to engineer one of his patented, last-minute comebacks to win the game.
However, I think Brady's final drive, which has been aired a billion times on ESPN and NFL Network, has overshadowed the issue the Patriots had in the previous 58 minutes in that contest, which was the offensive line. Marcus Cannon missed that contest, while left tackle Nate Solder clearly isn't healthy. Solder has played poorly this year, so I think that sets up well for the Panthers, as Mario Addison and Charles Johnson should do a good job of putting heat on Brady, just as the Texans did with their dynamic edge rushers. Meanwhile, Carolina's linebacking corps should be able to slow Rob Gronkowski down a bit.
Despite all of this, Brady is too good and has far too many dynamic weapons at his disposal to be shut out, or anything. I think the Patriots can score well into the 20s, but they won't be unstoppable on this side of the ball.
CAROLINA OFFENSE: The primary injured player the public is looking at leading up to this game is Kelvin Benjamin because of fantasy football and ESPN stupidity. Benjamin is third on my list behind center Ryan Kalil and guard Trai Turner. The Panthers nearly won a Super Bowl without Benjamin, but they don't stand a chance to score without Kalil, or Turner for that matter. Kalil is the primary worry, and if you don't believe me, take a look at these numbers:
Panthers with Ryan Kalil, 2016-17 (9 games): 26.3 points per game
Panthers without Ryan Kalil, 2016-17 (10 games): 17.7 points per game
This shouldn't surprise anyone, as Kalil is one of the top centers in the NFL, and center is one of the most important positions in football. Turner, meanwhile, is arguably Carolina's second-best offensive lineman behind Kalil. If both are out, the Panthers are going to have major problems blocking the Patriots even though New England doesn't have a very good pass rush.
That said, I don't want to trivialize Benjamin's injury, as Carolina not having a downfield threat will bring the Patriots closer to the line of scrimmage. However, I think Christian McCaffrey could have a big game if Dont'a Hightower is out again. Hightower is another important determining factor in how close this game will be, and I wonder if the Patriots would be willing to sit him because they have to play four days after this affair.
RECAP: I can't confidently post a pick yet because there are so many major injuries. I will take the Panthers if Kalil and Turner both return. If not, it'll be tough to side with this Carolina squad, even though the Patriots will have one eye on Thursday's affair at Tampa.
By the way, I thought it would be important to research how Bill Belichick has fared prior to Thursday night games. He's been hit or miss, owning a 4-4 spread record in such games. However, he has won all of them outright. I think this will be another win but non-cover if the Panthers have their blockers available.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Good news, bad news for the Panthers. The good news is that Kelvin Benjamin is practicing fully, while Trai Turner isn't even on the injury report. The bad news is that Ryan Kalil hasn't practiced. We still don't have an update on Dont'a Hightower or Marcus Cannon. With so much uncertainty, this will remain a non-bet on the Panthers.
SATURDAY NOTES: I'm changing my pick to the Patriots. Dont'a Hightower will be in the lineup, which is enormous. Meanwhile, the Panthers won't have their star center again, and starting cornerback Daryl Worley is also out, which sounds like trouble versus Tom Brady. I have to imagine that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels will come up with a great plan to exploit Worley's backup.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This spread has risen to -9.5 in most books (even -10 at Bovada), but it's still -9 at CRIS, if you want to wager on the Patriots. Dont'a Hightower is active, which is nice. The Panthers are missing Ryan Kalil and Daryl Worley, though they'll have Trai Turner and Thomas Davis in the lineup. This game could get ugly, but New England could be taking things easy with a game on Thursday.
The Psychology. Edge: Panthers.
The Patriots are coming off a last-second win and now have to prepare for a game in four days.
The Vegas. Edge: Panthers.
There is quite a bit of public action on the Patriots.
Percentage of money on New England: 77% (20,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Panthers.
Cam Newton is 20-15 ATS off a loss as long as he's not favored by 7+.
Tom Brady is 209-66 as a starter (153-109 ATS).
Tom Brady is 30-33 ATS as a home favorite of -9 or more (19-26 ATS since November 2007). ???
Los Angeles Rams (2-1) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1) Line: Cowboys by 6.5. Total: 49. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Cowboys -8.5.
Walt's Calculated Line: Cowboys -3.
Sunday, Oct 1, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: None.
HATE MAIL: I will be posting lots of hate mail this season. Here's something from the comments section on this page:
I love how everything "Red Butterfly" said was wrong. The Saints crushed the Panthers. Sorry, Red Butterfly.
What kind of a name is Red Butterfly, anyway? I mean, not that there's anything wrong with using a name like Red Butterfly, it doesn't happen to be the most manly name.
Seriously, what/who the hell is Zeri? And how do I ask Zeri stuff?
Meanwhile, this guy is still hung up on something I wrote years ago:
Time to let it go, bro. Time to let it go.
DALLAS OFFENSE: The Cowboys' scoring unit certainly made some explosive plays on Monday Night Football, from Ezekiel Elliott's 30-yard run, to Dak Prescott's dual bombs to Brice Butler, to Dez Bryant carrying the entire team into the end zone, to... uhh... I guess that's about it. Dallas didn't do much else, as the big plays were accompanied by lots of stalled drives.
This was not a surprise to me, as I've been skeptical of the Cowboys' offensive line since it lost Ronald Leary in free agency. Some TV analysts still refer to Dallas' blocking unit as the best in the NFL, but I don't think it's in the top 10 anymore. There are two holes up front at left guard and right tackle, and blind-side protector Tyron Smith isn't performing up to his ability. I think this will prove to be a huge factor, just as it did versus Denver and Arizona. The Rams have an extremely talented defensive front, and they should be able to clamp down on Elliott and put heavy pressure on Prescott.
Prescott will make some big plays, as usual, but they'll be few and far between like they've been all season. Some may point to Brian Hoyer's performance on Thursday Night Football as an indicator for how Dallas' offense will look, but star safety Lamarcus Joyner was knocked fairly early in that game. Joyner is considered day to day, so he should be able to suit up.
LOS ANGELES OFFENSE: I never would've imagined saying this a year ago, but I'm not even sure the Cowboys have the better offensive line in a matchup against the Rams. Andrew Whitworth's presence has been an enormous boon for Jared Goff. Right tackle Rob Havenstein is solid, as he's obviously much better than the suddenly inept Jared Veldheer, who couldn't block DeMarcus Lawrence on Monday night. Lawrence, the NFL's sack leader at 6.5, will once again get some pressures, but he'll do so less frequently versus Havenstein. Meanwhile, the Rams' interior will do a better job on Maliek Collins than the Cardinals did.
Carson Palmer was able to slice and dice Dallas' secondary with horrible protection, so I like Goff's chances of improving upon Palmer's performance with better line play. Sammy Watkins, who finally got on track Thursday night, should be able to pick up where Larry Fitzgerald left off, assuming he passes concussion protocol. Cooper Kupp figures to have some clutch catches as well.
I haven't gotten to Todd Gurley yet, and he has also benefited from the improved line play. The 49ers had no answer for Gurley, and the Cowboys have yet to battle a dynamic back like him yet this year. C.J. Anderson is the top runner they've gone up against thus far, and he rushed for 118 yards on 25 carries against them.
RECAP: This is my September NFL Pick of the Month. I know this game technically will be played in October, but I'm writing this in September, so I'll still make it count for that.
This spread is way too high. I made this line Cowboys -3. These teams are three spots away from each other in my NFL Power Rankings, which would make the Cowboys -3.5 if they were given the full three points for being at home. Their home-field advantage has been awful over the years, so I can't exactly justify giving them three. I think 2.5 might even be too much!
With that in mind, this spread is 4.5 points off where it should be, and there are a couple of reasons for this. First, ESPN and other networks dumb down the audience, so they haven't talked about how Dallas' offensive line has regressed. The Cowboys' blocking is very mediocre right now, and the Rams have a huge advantage in the trenches. Second, everyone still views the Rams as a horrible team. They're average now. They have improved coaching and a quarterback who is gaining more and more confidence each week. They've held double-digit leads in the fourth quarter against two of their three opponents thus far, and their one loss was to the Redskins, who went on to demolish the Raiders on Sunday Night Football.
Furthermore, there's a huge disparity between the amount of time these teams have had to prepare for this game. The Rams played last Thursday, so the extra days will definitely help. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have to get ready on a short week. This has not been good for them over the years, as Jason Garrett is 0-5 against the spread following Monday Night Football. I don't know how focused Dallas will be, especially with an impending matchup against the Packers.
I absolutely love the Rams, and I will be betting eight units on them. This spread is just way off, as these teams are pretty close in talent despite what the public and TV analysts may think.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Wow. This line dropped from +7.5 to +6, passing through one key number and landing on another. This movement, created by insane sharp money on the Rams, makes me think that this result won't land on seven, as the books would get middled otherwise. I still love the Rams, and they're available for +6 +101 at CRIS.
SATURDAY NOTES: This line has risen to +6.5 at Bovada, which is nice. It's interesting the line would move that way, as it looks like the Cowboys could be without Sean Lee, who hasn't practiced all week. Lee's absence will be huge, as he's the leader of Dallas' defense.
SUNDAY MORNING: A couple of +6.5s showed up Sunday morning, but the sharps quickly took them at +6. With Sean Lee out, I don't see this going up to +7 again. I'm going to lock this in at +6.5 -105, available at Bovada. The Westgate also has +6.5.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The sharps have pounded the Rams so much that this spread has fallen to +5. Sean Lee is officially out, so that's understandable. I don't love the Rams as much at +5.5, as six is such a key number with the new overtime rules.
The Psychology. Edge: Rams.
The Cowboys sounded a little too proud of themselves for beating the Cardinals on national TV. They play the Packers after this. The Rams, meanwhile, have had extra time to prepare.
The Vegas. Edge: None.
Sharp action on the Rams.
Percentage of money on Los Angeles: 58% (24,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Rams.
The underdog is 72-43 ATS in Cowboys games since 2010.
Cowboys are 17-26 ATS as home favorites in Cowboys Stadium (excluding Thanksgiving).
Cowboys are 12-24 ATS when favored after a win since 2010.
Jason Garrett is 0-5 ATS after Monday Night Football.
Opening Line: Cowboys -7.5.
Opening Total: 46.
Week 4 NFL Pick: Cowboys 20, Rams 19 Rams +6.5 -105 (8 Units - September NFL Pick of the Month) -- Correct; +$800 Under 49 (0 Units) -- Incorrect; $0 Rams 35, Cowboys 30
Detroit Lions (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (2-1) Line: Vikings by 3. Total: 42.5. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: No Line (Bradford).
Walt's Calculated Line: Vikings -3 (Bradford) or Lions -1 (Keenum).
Sunday, Oct 1, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: TBA.
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MINNESOTA OFFENSE: There's no line on this game because of Sam Bradford's questionable status. Bradford, who injured his knee when a gust of wind hit it, might miss his third consecutive start, though Mike Zimmer called him "day to day." It's pathetic that Bradford can't get healthy, but the good news is that it's sounding like Teddy Bridgewater might be able to suit up in the second half of the year.
That said, given how Case Keenum performed last week, you'd think Vegas would be able to post a spread on this game. Keenum torched the Buccaneers mercilessly, going 25-of-33 for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Granted, he was battling a defense missing numerous starters to the flu and various injuries, but he was still impressive. Besides, it's not like Keenum has a tough matchup in this contest. It won't be an especially easy one if Jarrad Davis returns from a concussion, but the Lions have enough holes in their back seven for Keenum to have a fairly decent performance.
I also think Dalvin Cook will play well once again. Cook has made teams look foolish for passing on him in the first round, and he should be able to punish the Lions, who struggled to defend the run last week. Minnesota's offensive line has improved tremendously, so the unit should be able to win most of the battles up front to create room for Cook in addition to protection for Keenum or Bradford.
DETROIT OFFENSE: The Vikings sputtered following their 5-0 start last year because of poor blocking. Now, the Lions are the team with offensive line woes. Greg Robinson is struggling after a strong preseason, and he's going to have major issues trying to keep Everson Griffen out of the backfield. Meanwhile, center Travis Swanson missed Week 3, and there's no telling how healthy he'll be if he returns this Sunday because he struggled with his injury against the Giants.
Matthew Stafford will have to overcome immense pressure, but he moves well enough in the pocket that he'll be able to keep some plays alive. The problem, however, is that his downfield options will be limited. Golden Tate should have a good game, but Marvin Jones will have to deal with Xavier Rhodes. Meanwhile, Eric Ebron can't stop dropping passes. Ebron has two horrible drops in the second half versus Atlanta that ruined drives. The Lions can definitely complain about the horrible 10-second run-off rule, but if Ebron didn't have those drops, they wouldn't have needed that last-second touchdown.
It's difficult to keep a great quarterback like Stafford down, but the Vikings have one of the better defenses in the NFL. They've limited three explosive offenses - Saints, Steelers, Buccaneers - to just 20.7 points per game. Thus, it'll be important for the Lions to have all hands on deck. They'll struggle to score unless Swanson can return and suddenly play up to his ability.
RECAP: There's no line on this game, so I can't give out a concrete pick just yet. I'm pretty sure I'll be on the Vikings, though. They have the better defense, rushing attack and offensive line, so they should be able to win this divisional matchup. I also worry about Detroit's psyche. The matter in which they lost the Atlanta game was devastating, so it might be difficult for them to bounce back from that defeat.
Check back later in the week for this pick, or follow me on Twitter @walterfootball for updates.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: I haven't heard anything regarding Sam Bradford, aside from him missing practices. Despite this, some books have posted a line of Vikings -2. I think I might be on the Lions, as T.J. Lang, Travis Swanson and Jarrad Davis are all practicing. I may bet this game, too, but I want to wait on Bradford's status.
SATURDAY NOTES: I'm still not completely sure what I want to do with this game, as T.J. Lang is trending in the wrong direction. He's probably Detroit's best offensive lineman, so his absence will be felt versus Minnesota's front. Jarrad Davis is also a question mark. I may change my pick Sunday morning, but I'm not sure.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Jarrad Davis is out, which is important. I guess that's why the line has moved to -3 in many books. There's a good chance the Vikings win by exactly three. I'm on Detroit, but I'm not going to bet this contest.
The Psychology. Edge: Vikings.
I worry about the Lions' psyche here, as they were screwed out of a loss.
The Vegas. Edge: None.
Percentage of money on Minnesota: 57% (12,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Vikings.
History: Vikings have won 26 of the last 35 meetings.
Lions are 7-17 ATS on the road vs. teams with winning records since 2011.
Mike Zimmer is 34-16 ATS as head coach of the Vikings.
Tennessee Titans (2-1) at Houston Texans (1-2) Line: Titans by 2.5. Total: 44. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Titans -2.5.
Walt's Calculated Line: Titans -1.5.
Sunday, Oct 1, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: .
I wouldn't say my weekly random NFL notes cluttered these picks pages, so I'll keep them here. What I'm also going to do is store all of them in a Random NFL Notes section so that you can go back and read previous entries in the future.
Some random NFL notes I can't put anywhere else:
1. NFL ratings are down again, this time by 14 percent. It was understandable last year, as everyone was focused on a highly contested election. This season, there isn't as much of an excuse - at least, not an obvious one. However, I think there are a number of possible reasons for decreased viewership. I'm not sure which one is most prevalent, so I thought I'd run a poll to see what everyone else thought:
2. I don't think football being in Los Angeles is as much of a factor, but it can't help. Los Angeles has never been able to support an NFL team, so I don't understand the logic of putting two teams there. What's that saying about not knowing your history makes you doomed to repeat it? That's exactly what the NFL just did, except every single person outside of the league office knew that it was a dumb idea.
There are reports that the NFL is considering moving the Chargers back to San Diego. While this would be an improvement over Los Angeles, it's still not an ideal situation. Southern California just isn't good for professional football, so the Chargers should move elsewhere. I recommended Oklahoma City, as the Thunder have been well received, and the state absolutely loves football. Facebook friend Jay B., however, argued otherwise:
"The Thunder came here during an oil boom and money was pouring in. The State government horribly mismanaged the money, and as soon as oil prices dropped all of a sudden all the surplus turned into debts. Now Oklahoma is hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole each year on their budget and can't even afford some basic services and teachers are the lowest paid in the country. While I agree with you the fans would support the team, the money just isn't there to finance the move right now."
If that's correct, perhaps Portland would be a great option. Others suggested London. It's Roger Goodell's wet dream to put a team in London, so why not the Chargers?
One thing that would need to be addressed is that the Chargers couldn't be in a western division if stationed in London. Perhaps the adjustment the NFL could make would be to move the Texans to the AFC West, the Dolphins to the AFC South and the London Chargers to the AFC East. The Dolphins would lose their rivalries with the Patriots, Jets and Bills, but they could build new ones with the Jaguars and Titans. Miami-Indianapolis used to be a rivalry when both teams were in the AFC East prior to 2002, so having them rekindle that would be cool.
3. Speaking of London, if they do manage to put a team there, I hope they don't have any stupid 9:30 a.m. Eastern games. I hope they don't have any, period! The early London games are awful. They make the day so much longer, which over-saturates the product, and the people on the West Coast who have to wake up at 6 a.m. to set their fantasy lineups are completely screwed. As dumb as moving two teams to Los Angeles was, continuing these abysmal 9:30 a.m. London games is an even worse decision.
HOUSTON OFFENSE: Outside of a couple of plays, Deshaun Watson was brilliant in his second career start. He went into Foxboro, where no rookie quarterback has ever won against Bill Belichick, and nearly pulled off an upset as a two-touchdown favorite. He went 22-of-33 for 301 yards, two touchdowns, one real interception to go along with 41 rushing yards.
I think Watson will be a very good starter in the NFL, and perhaps he'll even become a perennial Pro Bowler. However, expecting him to continue with these type of performances on a weekly basis is unreasonable right now, given his inexperience and poor pass protection. Duane Brown's absence wasn't quite felt in New England because the Patriots have a lackluster pass rush. The same can't be said about the Titans, who have Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan and Jurrell Casey all to bring lots of heat on the quarterback. Orakpo and Casey had struggled prior to the Seattle game, but both had huge performances. Sure, they had easy matchups, but it's not like that won't be the case here. Houston's offensive line is a complete train wreck, save for center Nick Martin.
There will definitely be instances in which Watson will be able to escape pressure and connect with DeAndre Hopkins, who doesn't have a particularly difficult matchup in this affair. However, the immense amount of heat Watson will see could also lead to some turnovers.
TENNESSEE OFFENSE: The main disparity between these teams is the offensive line play. Whereas the Texans block poorly, the Titans have one of the best fronts in all of football. They have just one weakness in center Ben Jones, but Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan will do a much better job of keeping Jadeveon Clowney out of the backfield than an injured Nate Solder did last week. I'm not sure about Jack Conklin doing the same with Whitney Mercilus, but I don't think that's a lopsided matchup. Meanwhile, Josh Kline, who is performing on a Pro Bowl level, won't be completely overwhelmed by J.J. Watt like most guards are.
Marcus Mariota will have more time in the pocket than Tom Brady enjoyed, and he'll take advantage of it by finding open targets going up Houston's secondary. The Texans have some shaky defensive backs starting for them, including Kareem Jackson, who is playing atrocious football right now. Meanwhile, Delanie Walker should pick up where Rob Gronkowski left off. Houston's linebackers are pretty underwhelming, as Benardrick McKinney has struggled immensely. I've been impressed with Zach Cunningham thus far, but McKinney needs to step up his game.
Meanwhile, the Titans should be able to run on the Texans with some success. The only potent ground game Houston has faced thus far was Jacksonville's in Week 1, and Leonard Fournette gained 100 yards on the ground behind an offensive line that is far worse than Tennessee's.
RECAP: I wish the advance spread moved more than a point. It shifted because the Texans nearly knocked off the Patriots, but New England was dealing with tons of injuries and doesn't happen to be quite itself right now.
The Titans, on the other hand, have played exceptional football in the past six quarters. They held a big lead on the Seahawks late in the game, and I think they should be able to win yet another divisional road affair.
I'm picking Tennessee, but this will not be any sort of wager. I don't love this number, as it's the exact one I came up with.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: I got an interesting email from reader Mike M. regarding this game:
You seem to never want to bet a game unless in your mind there's a clear handicapping advantage. I get that's what professional bettors want to put their money on, but to me, just because a spread may be right doesn't mean there's not a clear advantage. My example this week is Tennessee vs. Houston. If you read through your analysis which I agree with, we're getting possibly one of the best teams in the league, certainly a top team right now, against a fringe playoff contender with a rookie QB, in what's basically a pick em. But you're not making a play because you feel the spread's right. To the same point I think you miss out on betting many top teams because you rarely get line value with them. I see it this way, if Houston wins at home it's not a huge shocker, but it's a legitimate upset. If Tennessee wins by 2 touchdowns would that be surprising at all? That to me seems like great value. I may be wrong but just something to think about.
I think Mike might be right, so I may consider putting some units on the Titans.
SATURDAY NOTES: Jurrell Casey showed up on the injury report after a setback in practice. He's questionable, which is a big deal because he's Tennessee's best defensive player. I was considering throwing a unit or two on the Titans, but I can't if Casey will be out or limited.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Jurrell Casey is playing, but there's no guarantee that he's 100 percent. With this line either -3 -105 or -2.5 -120, as a result of sharp action, there's not much value on the Titans anymore.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
No edge found.
The Vegas. Edge: None.
Percentage of money on Tennessee: 53% (15,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: None.
History: Texans have won 8 of the last 10 meetings.
Dick LeBeau is 21-2 SU vs. rookie quarterbacks.
Favorites after playing the Seahawks are 14-30 ATS.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2) Line: Jaguars by 4. Total: 38.5. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Jaguars -4.5.
Walt's Calculated Line: Jaguars -4.5.
Sunday, Oct 1, 1:00 PM
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1. I just updated my 2019 NFL Mock Draft, and I have to say that it's insane to see THREE Clemson players atop the mock. I think the third choice could've been Ohio State's Nick Bosa, but still, the program Dabo Swinney has built in Clemson is pretty damn impressive.
2. The Texas A&M-Arkansas game had some hideous officiating. The Aggies won in overtime, thanks to an awful pass interference flag. However, it may not have even gone to an extra session had the refs not blown a call where A&M appeared to score a touchdown, but the player was ruled out of bounds incorrectly.
ESPN color analyst Brock Huard made an excuse for the officials, citing that "they are not robots." That got me thinking: Why not? Why can't we have robot officials? College football programs have so much money that I think they can all band together and build robot officials so that no games are screwed up. Of course, some conspiracy theorists might think that the Russians could hack the robots to help an orange team win, so they would need to have the best security and firewall possible.
By the way, Brock Huard might be a robot himself. I'm serious. I've been watching this guy call college games for what seems like 20 years now, and he looks exactly the same as when he started. He hasn't aged a day. Did Huard bring up officials not being robots as an insult to them instead of an excuse? Does he consider them inferior because they're humans and not intelligent cybernetic beings like himself?
3. Sam Darnold has been a bit of a disappointment this year, but I'd still project him to go first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft (as seen in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.) Part of the problem is the worse supporting cast. I argued for USC being in the playoffs over Washington last year, but the Trojans have been so underwhelming thus far that I wouldn't put them in the top 10. They've almost lost to Western Michigan, Texas and Cal. Sure, the victory over the Bears was a 10-point margin, but Cal self-destructed in that game. It was close otherwise.
Speaking of that game, the play-by-play guy said the following:
"You have to give credit to Cal for bouncing back."
Cal was "bouncing back" with a touchdown with 1:53 remaining that drew the margin to within 30-20. Oh yeah, great job bouncing back! I don't understand how that constitutes bouncing back at all, unless this guy was just overjoyed because he had Cal +17 like I did on my College Football Picks page.
JACKSONVILLE OFFENSE: I thought the Jaguars would be able to beat the Ravens in London without Blake Bortles having to do much, but he was pretty precise on most of his throws versus Baltimore. This was surprising, though Bortles has played well in London before. Perhaps this phenomenon occurs because Bortles doesn't know where the good party spots are in England, as he would otherwise spend all of his time clubbing instead of preparing for a football game.
Bortles will be in New York this week, which sounds like trouble. The Jets don't have a good defense, but they do some things well. Jamal Adams, primarily, has been tremendous thus far. He had a lackluster opener versus Buffalo, but has since played at a high level. I could see Adams coming away with a turnover or two if Bortles is unprepared. Also, Kony Ealy has been a major surprise. The Patriots cut him after he struggled in the preseason, but he has inexplicably been an effective edge rusher for the Jets. I like his chances of getting by struggling rookie left tackle Cam Robinson.
That said, there will be opportunities for the Jaguars to score. The Jets might have the worst cornerbacks in the NFL, and their linebacking corps isn't much better. Jacksonville's wideouts should be able to get open, while the Jaguar running backs will do well catching balls out of the backfield. Leonard Fournette may not have as much success on the ground, however, as Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams should be able to win against the Jaguars' pedestrian interior line.
NEW YORK OFFENSE: The Jets will also have trouble scoring. Like the Jaguars, they have issues on their offensive line. No one up front is playing particularly well, which spells trouble against a dynamic defensive front. Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue have both been playing at a Pro Bowl level this year, while Dante Fowler hasn't been too far behind. All three of them have tremendously easy matchups in this game.
Meanwhile, I can't see any of Josh McCown's receivers winning downfield. Jalen Ramsey has emerged as one of the NFL's top cornerbacks, and while A.J. Bouye is overpaid, he'll be able to cover whichever wideout he's matched up against. Bilal Powell will also struggle to find opportunities against a stout linebacking corps. If the Jaguars are focused, they could pitch a shutout.
RECAP: Focus, of course, is the primary factor here. The Jaguars are coming back from London without a bye. The Colts did this last year and nearly lost to the Bears as home favorites. The Jaguars are not in a good spot whatsoever, and I could see them being sluggish. However, I could say the same thing about the Jets! New York just had an impressive win versus the Dolphins, and horrible teams have a difficult time maintaining success.
This is the toughest game to call this week, but I'm taking the Jaguars. I hate the idea of laying points with Bortles, but siding with the Jets is even less appealing. I do like the under though, as both teams will have trouble scoring.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: I still have no interest in this game, and I don't have any updates of note. Pass.
SATURDAY NOTES: Don't want to pick Blake Bortles as a favorite. Don't want to pick the Jets at all.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This spread has risen to -4 as a result of lots of public bets coming in on the Jaguars. The sharps are not taking the Jets.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
This seems like a bad spot for both teams.
The Vegas. Edge: Jets.
The public loves the Jaguars for once!
Percentage of money on Jacksonville: 73% (16,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Jets.
Jaguars are 30-61 ATS against non-divisional opponents since 2008.
Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-3) Line: Bengals by 3.5. Total: 42. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Bengals -1.5.
Walt's Calculated Line: Browns -1.
Sunday, Oct 1, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Bengals.
If you've followed this site for a while, you might remember that I like to respond to my spam mails. It all started six years ago, when a man named Jon Wire from the "United Bank of Africoan" promised me an ATM card of some sort, so I responded as a man named Mister Compassion Chuck Norris, who was raised by wolves. The following season, I received e-mails from Richard Held and Loon Bruce, who told me I won a Facebook Award, which comes with a "lump sum pay out of (750,000.00 GBP)." Pretending to be Matthew Millen Kim, I sent out my application and fake money.
I've been messing around with spammers ever since, pretending to be Aaron Hernandez, Tom Brady and Walter White. I'll have new answers to Spam Mails here, so check them out if you want to see me screw with spammers!
CINCINNATI OFFENSE: Myles Garrett just might make his debut this week. Garrett, who did some agility drills prior to the Indianapolis game, is no longer wearing a walking boot, and he's been telling people that he will suit up against the Bengals. This would be enormous for a Cleveland team that is getting absolutely no pass rush outside of defensive tackle Danny Shelton. They're applying no heat from the edge, which would obviously change if Garrett is able to return to the field.
Even if Garrett doesn't play, the Browns won't exactly be challenged by Cincinnati's offensive line, which features no viable starters, aside from guard Clint Boling. Tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher are atrocious, and I think they could even have trouble blocking Nate Orchard, Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah.
Andy Dalton will once again find it difficult to move the chains. He had some success in the early going against a skeleton-crew Green Bay defense, but managed just three points in the second half and overtime. A.J. Green should have a big game, picking up where T.Y. Hilton left off, but he's the only weapon Dalton has at his disposal with Tyler Eifert out.
CLEVELAND OFFENSE: This unit has been a major disappointment. I know that DeShone Kizer is merely a rookie, and the Browns are missing Corey Coleman, but given how good Cleveland's offensive line is, I thought the team would be able to move the chains at least somewhat consistently this year. Instead, the Browns sputtered against the Ravens and then managed just 14 points until garbage time in Indianapolis.
Those games were on the road, however, so I think Kizer could have more success in a comfortable environment. The Bengals have a great pass rush with some of their young defensive linemen, but Cleveland's blockers should be able to keep them at bay, unlike Green Bay's banged-up offensive line. Geno Atkins is obviously a problem for anyone, but I don't know if the Bengals will have much success otherwise getting to Kizer.
With that in mind, it's a good thing for Cincinnati that Vontaze Burfict is returning from suspension. He'll help contain Duke Johnson's receptions, meaning Kizer will have to focus on getting the ball to his receivers, which proved to be disastrous in Indianapolis. The Cleveland wideouts dropped eight passes, as they've all clearly learned how to play from lethargic bum Kenny Britt.
RECAP: Both teams figure to have trouble scoring in this defensive grinder. It'll be a low-scoring affair, which would have me look at the underdog by default. That's a good thing, as I loved the Browns anyway.
Who the hell is Cincinnati to be laying three points on the road? I made the Browns a one-point home favorite, as there isn't much of a disparity between these teams. Whereas the Bengals have a much better No. 1 receiver and front seven than the Browns, Cleveland has the superior offensive line.
I love the spread value we're getting with the Browns, and I also love the spot they're in. The Bengals put everything they had on the line against the Packers, and they came up short. This seems like an obvious letdown spot against Cleveland.
I considered making this a five-unit wager, but betting that much money on Cleveland seems awfully risky. I'm going to wager four units instead (though I'll consider moving to five if Garrett is in the lineup). Maybe that still seems like a lot, but I think it's ridiculous that the Bengals are field-goal road favorites over anyone.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: I'm concerned about a calf injury Danny Shelton suffered in practice. Shelton is Cleveland's best defensive lineman until Myles Garrett takes the field. I'd still like the Browns if he's out, but I may drop this to two or three units. Hopefully Shelton is OK.
SATURDAY NOTES: Myles Garrett and Danny Shelton are both questionable, so their statuses are up in the air. If it's worth anything, Shelton has never missed a game in his pro career. I still love the Browns, and it's great that they are available at +100 juice at almost every book. By the way, I hate trends, but I found this interesting: How do you think 0-3 favorites have fared over the years? You'd think they'd do well, as they're expected to win while being desperate. Instead, they're just 10-20-1 against the spread in the past 25 years.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Myles Garrett, Danny Shelton and Jamie Collins are all out. This is not good news, so I'm going to drop this wager to four units. The best number is +3.5 -105 at Bovada, though +3 +110 at 5Dimes is good as well.
The Psychology. Edge: Browns.
The Bengals put everything they had into the Green Bay game and lost. Now, they have to summon the energy to play the lowly Browns.
The Vegas. Edge: Browns.
No surprise that the public is on the Bengals. The sharps are taking the Browns.
Percentage of money on Cincinnati: 71% (14,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Bengals.
History: Bengals have won 19 of the last 25 meetings.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (2-1) Line: Steelers by 3. Total: 42. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Pick.
Walt's Calculated Line: Steelers -2.5.
Sunday, Oct 1, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Steelers.
Video of the Week: Have you ever wondered what would happen if a team with all speed and no skill battled a team with no speed and all skill? Wonder no more, because someone played out the results!
I imagine you're thinking what a team with no speed and no skill would look like. I'm not sure why you'd be wondering that. They're called the Cleveland Browns.
BALTIMORE OFFENSE: Many were quite confused by the result of the Baltimore-Jacksonville London affair. The Ravens were completely sluggish against the Jaguars, leaving many wondering what happened. I thought this was one of the most-predictable events of Week 3, as the Ravens couldn't block Jacksonville at all because of Marshal Yanda's absence.
Yanda is "just" a guard, but he's arguably the best player at his position, and he's been responsible for keeping Joe Flacco upright. Flacco had no chance without Yanda, and he could face similar problems against the Steelers. Pittsburgh could be getting Stephon Tuitt and T.J. Watt back from injury, meaning it'll have a much better pass rush than the one it brought to Chicago. I don't think the Ravens will be able to block the Steelers if both defenders are in the lineup.
I can't see Baltimore having much success in any regard, for that matter, on the side of the ball. Perhaps Ben Watson will be a decent option, but that's about it. The Ravens' running game is poor, and only Jeremy Maclin poses any sort of downfield threat with Mike Wallace playing atrociously.
PITTSBURGH OFFENSE: The Steelers' offensive line has a chance to be in much better shape this week, but it really depends on who happens to be in the lineup for both teams. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert was out last week, and now there's some issue with left guard Ramon Foster, who is dealing with a hand issue. The Ravens will be able to take advantage of this, but only if Brandon Williams is on the field. Williams is a massive defensive tackle who was missed against Jacksonville.
It's difficult to assess what will happen on this side of the ball right now, given the numerous injury questions. Le'Veon Bell's effectiveness will be determined by Williams' availability, for instance, though Bell should still be an effective weapon out of the backfield. What we do know is that Antonio Brown should have an opportunity to have a big game. Marqise Lee went off on the Ravens, and so did Rashard Higgins the previous week.
However, how often will Ben Roethlisberger get him the ball? I spoke about this last week, but Roethlisberger just doesn't seem like himself. Roethlisberger thought about retirement entering the season, so can we be surprised that he's not playing his best football? Perhaps Roethlisberger will improve as the season progresses, but he's playing on a very average level right now.
RECAP: If the Ravens had Yanda in the lineup, I would absolutely love them in this spot. These games are always close - the past five meetings have been decided by one score - so the prospect of getting Baltimore as a home underdog would seem extremely appealing, especially if the Steelers are missing some offensive linemen.
Unfortunately, the Ravens without Yanda just aren't the Ravens. They'll struggle to do anything offensively, especially if Watt and Tuitt return to the field. Their defense will keep them in the game, but Baltimore +3 doesn't seem all that great.
That said, I still think the Ravens at +3 are the way to go. The Steelers are not the same on the road, and as mentioned, Roethlisberger isn't particularly sharp right now. I actually think the most likely result is Pittsburgh winning this game by exactly three, so I'm definitely not placing any sort of wager.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: There are lots of injury question marks here, with Steelers guard Ramon Foster missing practice and tackle Marcus Gilbert being limited. The Ravens, meanwhile, might have Brandon Williams back, but he missed practice Thursday. Stay tuned for more updates, but this is a non-bet on the Ravens for now.
SATURDAY NOTES: There's some uncertainty for the Steelers, as Marcus Gilbert and Ramon Foster are both questionable. However, Foster told reporters he'll play because "it's Baltimore week." Meanwhile, there's certainty for the Ravens, and it's not good news. We already knew Marshal Yanda would be out, but Brandon Williams will be missing as well. Thus, the Ravens won't have their top lineman on both sides of the ball. I still would take them if I had to, but I'm even less motivated to bet on this game.
FINAL THOUGHTS: There's a bit of sharp action on the Steelers, as the juice on them has risen in recent hours. Perhaps this is because most of their players, save for Marcus Gilbert, are healthy. I could see this game going either way, so I'm not as confident as the pros.
The Psychology. Edge: Ravens.
The Ravens were humiliated on national TV.
The Vegas. Edge: None.
Percentage of money on Pittsburgh: 55% (17,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: None.
History: Home Team has won 23 of the last 32 meetings.
Ben Roethlisberger is 45-26 ATS vs. the AFC North.
Steelers are 22-33 ATS as road favorites since 2007.
Mike Tomlin is 18-12 ATS after losing as a favorite.
Ravens are 25-17 ATS at home as an underdog or favorite of 1-7 points with Joe Flacco.
John Harbaugh is 10-4 ATS following a loss of 10+.
Buffalo Bills (2-1) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0) Line: Falcons by 8. Total: 48. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Falcons -9.
Walt's Calculated Line: Falcons -9.
Sunday, Oct 1, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Falcons.
Last year, on the Adventures of Tom Brady's Haircuts, Tom Brady was elected as the President of the United States, as it was revealed that he was the only candidate running because both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were figments of his imagination. In doing so, Tom Brady saved his organization, the Two-Handed Gang, from the Latin Kings. Everything was going swimmingly for Brady while in the White House, until he received a telegram from Bill Belichick, requiring his presence in Foxboro...
ATLANTA OFFENSE: One of the reasons I picked against the Falcons last week was because they wouldn't have Ryan Schraeder. They had a huge downgrade at right tackle, but it didn't matter much because they were still able to score 30 points. They didn't even punt until the fourth quarter!
The Falcons were going up against an undermanned defense missing starting linebacker Jarrad Davis, so having Schraeder available this week will be very important versus Buffalo's potent edge rush. There was plenty of pessimism surrounding Schraeder's availability early last week, but Dan Quinn said he thinks his right tackle will suit up. If so, Matt Ryan will have tremendous pass protection, and he'll be able to throw against a secondary that hasn't been tested yet. The Buffalo defensive backfield has performed well up to date, but it has gone up against Josh McCown, Cam Newton without Ryan Kalil, and Trevor Siemian. Battling Ryan on his home turf will be a completely different animal.
The Bills will also have to worry about Devonta Freeman going nuts like he did versus Detroit. Buffalo will need Marcell Dareus to keep Freeman in check, but it's unclear if the star defensive tackle will be able to take the field after missing last week. Freeman should do plenty of damage as a receiver out of the backfield versus the Bills linebackers.
BUFFALO OFFENSE: The Bills have an offensive line concern of their own, as Cordy Glenn missed last week's game. Glenn could return, but he hasn't been particularly effective because he's not completely healthy.
Both an injured/absent Glenn and inept right tackle Jordan Mills are going to have a major problem shielding Tyrod Taylor from Atlanta's pass rush. The Falcons won't have Vic Beasley, but that won't matter because Takk McKinley will get more snaps. McKinley was very impressive last week, and he should have another terrific performance. He, Adrian Clayborn and Brooks Reed will be difficult for the Buffalo tackles to block, while Grady Jarrett will continue to win his matchups in the interior. He should be able to dominate guard John Miller.
With pass protection and run-blocking issues, it's hard to see the Bills doing much on this side of the ball, aside from involving LeSean McCoy in the aerial attack. The Falcons haven't defended pass-catching running backs well this year, though I expect them to clamp down on McCoy whenever he tries to carry the ball.
RECAP: The Falcons are the best team in the NFL, and they'll be fully focused for this game. They have a bye coming up, so they have nothing to look ahead to. They should be able to dominate the Bills in the trenches on both sides of the ball and win quite easily.
This spread was short of my projection of Falcons -9.5. While we're not getting much value with Atlanta, I do like the spot the team happens to be in. I'm going to take the Falcons for a couple of units.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Julio Jones said there are no issues with his back, so that's the green light to bet on the Falcons. Meanwhile, Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn continues to miss practice, though Marcell Dareus figures to be back. Shaq Lawson is also hurt, but he's not a factor because Eddie Yarbrough is not a downgrade.
SATURDAY NOTES: Ugh. Ryan Schraeder has been ruled out. I'm less confident on the Falcons, as Schraeder's presence was a big reason why I expected them to demolish the Bills. Without Schraeder, I'm dropping this to a unit. I also considered switching my Survivor Pick to the Seahawks, but I'm even more concerned about their blocking!
FINAL THOUGHTS: There's no indication of sharp action on the Bills, which is a bit surprising in the wake of Ryan Schraeder's absence. I still like the Falcons, but only for a small wager.
The Psychology. Edge: Falcons.
The Falcons have a bye coming up, so they'll be fully focused for this game.
The Vegas. Edge: Bills.
A decent amount of action on the Falcons.
Percentage of money on Atlanta: 72% (18,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: None.
Bills are 11-18 ATS since November 2011 as a road underdog.
True home teams are 36-26 ATS in the last 62 Bills games.
Prop/Teaser/Parlay Picks A list of some of my favorite team/player prop picks this week (Offense & defensive ROY picks to be counted
whenever winners are announced.) Picks carried over on a week-to-week basis will be in black.
Note: For legality purposes, this Web site does not promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only.
Last Week's NFL Picks Against The Spread (Week 21, 2017): 0-1 (-$330)
Last Week's 2-3 Unit NFL Picks (Week 21, 2017): 0-1 (-$330)
Last Week's 4-5 Unit NFL Picks (Week 21, 2017): 0-0 ($0)
Last Week Over-Under (Week 21, 2017): 1-0 ($0)
Last Week's Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks (Week 21 and seasonal, 2017): -$720
2017 NFL Picks of the Month: 4-2, 66.7% (+$1,040)
2017 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 137-140-8, 49.5% (-$3,790) 2017 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 32-40-3, 43.8% (-$2,395) 2017 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 20-22-1, 47.6% (-$1,595) 2017 Season Over-Under: 136-139-2, 49.5% (+$640) 2017 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$510
1999 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 27-41-3 (39.7%) 2000 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 128-123-8 (51.0%) 2001 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 127-122-7 (51.0%) 2002 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 123-136-7 (47.5%) 2003 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 146-126-8 (53.7%) 2004 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 157-123-8 (56.1%) 2005 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 156-126-11 (55.3%) 2006 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 151-135-9 (52.8%) 2007 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 162-135-10, 54.5% (+$2,550) 2008 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 148-140-7, 51.4% (+$2,620) 2009 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 151-124-9, 54.9% (+$3,370) 2010 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 144-131-8, 52.4% (+$6,080) 2011 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 137-133-12, 50.7% (-$1,925) 2012 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 130-145-8, 47.3% (-$5,760) 2013 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 144-131-8, 52.4% (+$5,580) 2014 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 143-133-7, 51.8% (-$1,885) 2015 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 134-138-12, 49.3% (-$2,360) 2016 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 148-127-10, 53.8% (+$1,055)
2002 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 41-49-2 (45.6%) 2003 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 52-51-2 (50.5%) 2004 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 65-44-3 (59.6%) 2005 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 77-61-1 (55.8%) 2006 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 65-61-4 (51.6%) 2007 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 83-59-5, 58.5% (+$4,110) 2008 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 44-57-3, 43.6% (-$3,510) 2009 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 49-35-3, 58.3% (+$2,260) 2010 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 51-38-4, 57.3% (+$3,180) 2011 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 44-51-3, 46.3% (-$2,715) 2012 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 45-50-2, 47.4% (-$2,130) 2013 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 38-42, 47.5% (-$2,890) 2015 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 47-44-1, 51.6% (-$820) 2016 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 42-35-3, 54.5% (+$475)
2002 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 11-12 (47.8%) 2003 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 16-13-1 (55.2%) 2004 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 18-11 (62.1%) 2005 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 25-22-1 (53.2%) 2006 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 21-29-1 (42.0%) 2007 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 35-30-2, 53.8% (+$420) 2008 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 39-26-2, 60.0% (+$4,055) 2009 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 29-26, 52.7% (+$330) 2010 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 32-22, 59.3% (+$4,790) 2011 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 14-14, 50.0% (-$1,260) 2012 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 14-21, 40.0% (-$3,650) 2013 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 17-9-3, 65.4% (+$2,970) 2015 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 17-16-2, 51.5% (-$1,120) 2016 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 21-22-5, 48.8% (-$1,465)
2001 Season Over-Under: 3-2 (60.0%) 2002 Season Over-Under: 121-91-3 (57.1%) 2003 Season Over-Under: 126-132-2 (48.8%) 2004 Season Over-Under: 139-124-4 (52.9%) 2005 Season Over-Under: 117-145-4 (44.7%) 2006 Season Over-Under: 129-132-5 (49.4%) 2007 Season Over-Under: 136-145-3, 48.4% (-$1,900) 2008 Season Over-Under: 137-125-6, 52.3% (+$860) 2009 Season Over-Under: 128-135-4, 48.7% (-$3,195) 2010 Season Over-Under: 128-135-5, 48.7% (-$5) 2011 Season Over-Under: 131-131-5, 50.0% (+$135) 2012 Season Over-Under: 125-121-5, 50.8% (+$30) 2013 Season Over-Under: 132-130-5, 50.4% (-$340) 2015 Season Over-Under: 143-119-5, 54.6% ($0) 2016 Season Over-Under: 123-141-1, 46.6% (+$95)
2007 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$1,035 2008 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$1,775 2009 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$865 2010 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$200 2011 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$590 2012 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$1,685 2013 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$2,245 2015 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$855 2016 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$275
2006 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-3 (50%) 2007 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-3, 50.0% (-$400) 2008 NFL Picks of the Month: 6-1, 85.7% (+$3,720) 2009 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-2, 60.0% (+$640) 2010 NFL Picks of the Month: 2-4, 33.3% (-$1,810) 2011 NFL Picks of the Month: 5-2, 71.4% (+$1,870) 2012 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-2, 60.0% (+$560) 2013 NFL Picks of the Month: 6-0, 100% (+$3,900) 2014 NFL Picks of the Month: 2-4, 33.3% (-$1,350) 2015 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-3, 50.0% (-$100) 2016 NFL Picks of the Month: 5-1, 83.3% (+$2,780)
Career NFL Picks Against The Spread: 2,574-2,383-151, 51.9% (+$5,125) Career 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 817-743-41 (52.3%) Career 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 349-314-19 (52.6%) Career Over-Under: 2,080-2,031-56 (50.5%) Career Second-Half NFL Picks: 22-15-1 (61.1%) Career NFL Picks of the Month: 39-24 (61.9%)
My Team-by-Team ATS Record This section shows how well I do when picking each team this year. The purpose is to see how well I read each team. Pushes are not
displayed. Winning/losing streak in parentheses.