New Orleans Saints (4-5) at Carolina Panthers (3-6) Line: Panthers by 3.5. Total: 53. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Panthers -5.
Walt's Calculated Line: Panthers -2.
Thursday, Nov 17, 8:25 PM
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The Game. Edge: Saints.
WEEK 10 RECAP: I got off to a horrible start in Week 10, losing four units on the Browns. For those of you who took Cleveland like I did and feel stupid about it, here's something to make you feel better: The scuttlebutt I've heard is that Billy Walters lost upwards of $5 million on the Browns. If the top handicapper in the world can sustain a loss like that, it definitely makes me feel better about myself.
Sunday was a solid day, so I finished 9-4-1 (+$80). The Seattle victory was big, as was Kansas City's comeback. I lost two multi-unit selections on Sunday: Vikings +3 and Steelers -2. I don't think the picks themselves were horrible, but the unit counts certainly were. It was dumb of me to bet big on such tight spreads. I also should've had more than two units on the Eagles, as that line was off by about three points.
CAROLINA OFFENSE: The two halves of Carolina's loss to Kansas City were emblematic of the dichotomy between their 2015 and 2016 campaigns. In the first half, Cam Newton was leading touchdown drives and dabbing confidently, even though dabbing is quite possibly one of the dumbest things that humans have done in the past 50 years, right next to this new mannequin challenge fad. The Panthers were up 17-0, and it seemed like they would crawl back to 4-5. However, their bubble burst following halftime. Newton threw a horrible interception and took bad sacks, while Kelvin Benjamin literally fumbled the game away. That's been the story of 2016.
A major issue for the Panthers, offensively, has been the blocking. This was always a problem, but the tackles weren't exposed last year because the team didn't battle a team with a strong edge rush until the Super Bowl. The Chiefs were able to expose this, as well as Ryan Kalil's absence. It's unknown if Kalil will be able to suit up on a short work week, but the Panthers will certainly need him against an improving pass rush. Sheldon Rankins' return has been huge for the Saints, as Rankins, Nick Fairley and Cameron Jordan have formed a potent pass-rushing trio. Jordan should be able to overwhelm fill-in left tackle Mike Remmers, as Michael Oher continues to miss action.
Throwing downfield on the Saints is more difficult now, especially with Delvin Breaux back. However, Greg Olsen will have a huge game against the pedestrian linebackers. Also, the Panthers should be able to establish a strong rushing attack with both Newton and Jonathan Stewart.
NEW ORLEANS OFFENSE: One of the reasons I made a late change to my Saints-Broncos pick was the injury to Terron Armstead. With Armstead out, New Orleans didn't have much of a chance to block both DeMarcus Ware and Ambassador Von Miller, though that didn't end up affecting New Orleans' scoring unit too much, given that the Saints still averaged 7.3 yards per play. The real reason New Orleans lost was because Michael Thomas goofed, fumbling twice and being responsible for a Drew Brees interception.
Considering how great Thomas has been all year, he should be able to rebound, especially against a defense that doesn't force nearly as many turnovers. On the contrary, the Panthers have putrid in their secondary, thanks to Josh Norman's offseason departure. Thomas, Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead provide way too much firepower for the Panthers to handle, and Brees will pick Carolina apart as a consequence.
Pressure will be an issue with Armstead likely out, but as I mentioned last week, Brees hates pressure up the middle much more than an edge rush. Kawann Short is definitely capable of providing inside heat, but the Saints' interior line blocks fairly well. Don't expect the line to blow open holes for Mark Ingram, however, as the Panthers are still terrific versus the run.
RECAP: Posting picks on Tuesday has been much better for me than doing so on Wednesday. However, part of me is sad that I don't write up picks on Monday, as we've missed out on some great lines as a result. This is a perfect example; the Saints were four-point underdogs Monday before the sharps pounded them and dropped the line to +3 +105 or +3.5 -120 (Bovada).
It's unfortunate that we lost some great line value we were getting with the Saints. This spread was on the wrong side of three, as the Panthers were once again being mispriced. The books have been listing spreads for them as if they were the 2015 versions of themselves, which would explain why Carolina is just 2-6-1 against the number this year. This line is closer to where it should be, though it's still slightly too high. I made this line Panthers -2. So, as you can imagine, I loved the Saints at +4. I liked them a lot at +3.5. At +3, I'm still willing to wager two units on New Orleans, but I'm going to hold out hope for +3.5 -115 (or less juice), and if I can get that, I may bump this up to three units.
I'll be posting NFL Picks all day Tuesday. Follow me at @walterfootball for updates.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Well, I got the +3.5 I was looking for. I considered moving to three units, but Terron Armstead being out and Ryan Kalil returning is obviously not ideal. At this point, I'd move to three units if I can get +4. I'll have my final thoughts around 8 p.m., as always.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This line didn't move to +4, unfortunately. In fact, it's difficult to find -110 juice on +3.5 right now, with BetUS being the only book I see offering such a price. I wanted +4 because of the injury implications; as mentioned earlier Armstead is out, while Kalil is in. Also, Delvin Breaux is out for the Saints. This definitely hurts, but I still don't think the Panthers should be above -3, as they're still slightly overpriced by the books.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
No edge found.
The Vegas. Edge: None.
Percentage of money on New Orleans: 55% (17,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Saints.
History: Panthers have won 6 of the last 9 meetings.
Drew Brees is 46-28 ATS as an underdog.
Drew Brees is 37-24 ATS after a loss with the Saints (13-5 ATS as an underdog).
Sean Payton is 8-3 ATS as an underdog following a loss as a favorite.
Cam Newton is 18-13 ATS off a loss as long as he's not favored by 7+.
Tennessee Titans (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (4-5) Line: Colts by 3. Total: 53. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Colts -4.
Walt's Calculated Line: Colts -2.5.
Sunday, Nov 20, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Titans.
I posted betting trends and such in this spot over the past couple of years, but I won't be doing that as much because I'll be moving away from trends. Instead, I'll list some underrated observations that the media either isn't discussing or is misinforming the public about. I think I'll do this in conjunction with overrated and underrated teams, which I should definitely put more effort into...
Underrated NFL Teams:
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have lost so much recently that they've entered underrated territory. Much is being made about the fact that they've dropped four in a row, but they definitely could've won their past two games. A 58-yard field goal forced overtime in the Detroit game, while the Vikings were up in the second half against the Redskins, but ultimately lost because Sam Bradford made a terrible decision in Washington territory. It needs to be noted that the Vikings lost Eric Kendricks (hip) and Xavier Rhodes (concussion) to injury versus the Redskins. The Vikings will be better with both back on the field. Plus, Sharrif Floyd has to be returning at some point in the near future. Right...?
San Diego Chargers: In the wake of their latest loss to the Dolphins, I can go back to calling the Chargers underrated. They've endured some horrible luck this year and could easily be 7-3, 8-2 or even 9-1 right now. That misfortune continued at Denver a couple of weeks ago, where a couple of tipped passes and bad goal-line play-calling decided the game. The Miami contest was weird; the Chargers looked like they were going to win, but Philip Rivers uncharacteristically self-destructed in the fourth quarter. San Diego's defense is much better now with Joey Bosa on the field, as he has been absolutely dominant.
Los Angeles Rams: Casual bettors miss injuries to significant role players. Part of the reason for that is ESPN focusing on stars and not spending enough time talking about actual substance. Thus, most people may have missed the fact that the Rams were without two of their defensive studs, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers, against the Bills and Lions. Despite this, Los Angeles and Buffalo were tied at 16 late in the game when Case Keenum lofted a horrible pick-six. Keenum is obviously not any good, but the Rams weren't themselves because they were missing half of their awesome defensive line. The same thing occurred against the Lions. Los Angeles was the better team against the Giants, but just killed itself with dumb mistakes. The same thing occurred versus the Panthers, whom they outgained in terms of yards per play, 5.1-3.9. For that reason, I believe the Rams will provide quality betting opportunities going forward.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have played better than their recent 2-4 record indicates. They've endured some horrible luck, though Doug Pederson's awful play-calling on fourth down against the Giants didn't help. Philadelphia outgained the Giants by more than one yard per play two weeks ago. Before that, the Eagles had a 10-point lead versus Dallas in the fourth quarter, which was pretty impressive. Philadelphia also should've beaten the Lions, but Ryan Mathews' fumble set up a game-winning Detroit field goal. The Eagles could easily be 7-2 or maybe even 8-1 right now.
Tennessee Titans: I think we can say that the Titans are slightly underrated. It's pretty remarkable that they've been in every single game this year. They led the Vikings in the opener. They had a chance to beat the Raiders at the end of the game in Week 3. They lost in Houston because of a punt return the following Sunday. They made some mental errors in their loss to the Colts. They played evenly with the Chargers even though they lost by eight. Thus, it was no surprise that they crushed the Packers. Tennessee has either won or lost by single digits in every contest this year, and unlike all of the other teams in the AFC South, it actually has an identity. The Titans run the ball well and get to the quarterback effectively with their front seven. They have some glaring issues - sub-par receivers, struggling secondary - but they do a number of things extremely well.
Overrated NFL Teams:
New York Giants: When an overrated team keeps winning, they become more overrated. Or, the person generating the list is stupid. But I think it's the former in this case. The Giants definitely do not deserve to have a winning record. They trailed for most of the second half against the Bengals at home. They were outgained by a whole yard per play against the Eagles, but were able to win because of Doug Pederson stupidity. They only won in London because the Rams wrecked themselves with dumb mistakes, and they probably wouldn't have prevailed against Baltimore had the Ravens not lost Jimmy Smith and Terrell Suggs in the second half. Prior to that, the Giants were not competitive against the Vikings or Packers. It would make more sense to me if they were 3-6 or 4-5 right now, as they can't block or run the ball.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos became known as a great team because of two marquee victories to begin the season. The first was against the Panthers, who started 1-5. Graham Gano whiffed on a kick, which would've given Carolina the victory. The second was at Cincinnati, a team that has been a disappointment this year as well. Plus, the Bengals had to play in four days. Since then, the Broncos won at Tampa (everyone does that), beat the Texans in a game that was 14-9 late in the third quarter prior to a Houston fumble deep in Denver territory, avenged a loss to the Chargers with the help of numerous tipped interceptions and bad goal-line play-calling, and beat the Saints in a game in which they were dominated because of fluky Michael Thomas fumbles and a blocked extra point. The Broncos are a good team because of their defense, but they were never great.
Arizona Cardinals: Arizona's four victories this year have been against the 49ers (twice; one of which was nearly a loss), Jets and Buccaneers. Combined record (counting the 49ers twice): 9-28. Not good. Not good at all. The Cardinals have some major blocking issues, while Carson Palmer, as I've been saying since August, doesn't appear to be the same. I won't completely write them off yet, especially in a very thin NFC, but I'm getting close to doing so.
Houston Texans: The Texans are definitely not a 6-3 team. Not even close. Their victories have all been unimpressive wins against middling or horrid opponents. They trailed the Bears in the third quarter. They struggled to put away the Chiefs and Lions. They needed a punt return touchdown to defeat the Titans, whom they were tied at 20 with at the end of the third quarter. On a Sunday night, the Colts led by two touchdowns, but blew the lead because of injuries and abysmal decision-making by Chuck Pagano. They needed Blake Bortles to self-destruct to beat the Jaguars. The Texans could easily be 3-6 or worse right now, which is saying a lot considering how easy their strength of schedule has been.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens were lucky to get a Steeler team that was quarterbacked by a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger, and yet they averaged the same yards per play as Pittsburgh - and that includes a fluky 95-yard touchdown in the early going! The Ravens are tied for the AFC North lead, but they don't really deserve it. Their victory over the Browns was very unimpressive, considering it was just a 13-7 affair when Hue Jackson began drunkenly playing musical chairs with his quarterbacks.
TENNESSEE OFFENSE: Marcus Mariota has been praised for his improved play this season, and rightfully so. The difference between what he's done in Weeks 3-4 and what he's accomplished the past several games has been astonishing. He's been tremendous, and it's safe to say that he's taken the lead over Jameis Winston, at least temporarily. That said, Mariota has made some mistakes, including his two turnovers at San Diego. He also screwed up against the Colts back in Week 7, fumbling at the end of the game and throwing an interception earlier that he was fortunate was wiped out by penalty.
Still, Mariota finished 22-of-37 for 232 yards and two touchdowns, so it's not like he was horrible or anything. He did this in a game in which stud safety Mike Adams was on the field for the Colts. Adams will be out once again, which will make Mariota's life easier. There's no reason for Mariota not to excel; there are tons of holes in Indianapolis' secondary and linebacking corps that can be exploited, so I expect Delanie Walker to have another huge performance.
The Titans will also be able to do what they do best, which is establishing the run with DeMarco Murray. The Colts have been weak versus the rush all year, so it wasn't any sort of surprise that Murray was able to eclipse the century mark in the previous meeting against the Colts.
INDIANAPOLIS OFFENSE: Everyone discusses Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott as MVP candidates. If the Colts somehow reach the playoffs, Andrew Luck will have to be in consideration, as he would definitely be the most valuable to his team, given that he barely has anything around him. He has a pair of nice receivers, and that's it. His blocking sucks, while his 33-year-old running back has begun to slow down.
Luck was on fire in the first matchup, going 27-of-39 for 353 yards and three touchdowns. The Titans have a fantastic defensive line capable of putting heavy pressure on the quarterback, but their secondary has plenty of holes for an elite quarterback to exploit. In particular, cornerback Perrish Cox has been anemic. Luck should have plenty of successful drives going, as he constantly connects with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Jack Doyle.
Running the ball will be an issue, however. Whereas the Titans figure to gash the Colts with Murray in an attempt to control the clock, the Colts won't be able to establish Gore. As mentioned, Gore has been declining lately, and it's not like he'd have much of a chance versus Tennessee's stout front.
RECAP: Despite Indianapolis' victory over Tennessee in Week 7, I believe that the Titans are better than the Colts. That's why I made Indianapolis -2.5 as my line. We can grab a key number with the Titans, which I think I might do for one unit, but there's not enough line value to make a larger play.
One other thing should be considered, especially if you plan on betting the host: The Colts are coming off a big win at Lambeau and have had two weeks to hear about how great they were in that game. Now, they have to play a team they've beaten already before taking the field in four days to battle the Steelers on Thanksgiving. I don't know how they're going to be completely focused for this matchup.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Nothing here is very appealing, as you have to pay juice to get the Titans +3. By the way, I wanted to make note that my Saturday Notes will be posted a few hours later than usual this Saturday because I'll be at my best friend's wedding.
SATURDAY NOTES: The sharps have dropped this off +3, though they haven't taken +2.5. I'm moving my one unit off this game, as I really wanted +3. A line of +2.5 is more dangerous, especially with the Colts getting back some reinforcements like Mike Adams and Jack Mewhort. I still like Tennessee, but for zero units. As for the wedding, it was a great time. I'll have to write about it in Jerks of the Week.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I'm going to put a unit back on this game because +3 is available once again, albeit at -115 at BetUS. I would actually add more to that if the Colts weren't getting some key players back from injury.
The Psychology. Edge: Titans.
The Colts were hearing how great they were for two weeks after winning in Lambeau. Following a game against an opponent they've beaten already, they have to play in four days against the Steelers on Thanksgiving.
The Vegas. Edge: None.
Percentage of money on Tennessee: 54% (22,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Colts.
History: Colts have won 23 of the last 27 meetings.
Andrew Luck is 23-10 ATS at home.
Andrew Luck is 15-5 ATS against divisional opponents.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7) at Detroit Lions (5-4) Line: Lions by 6. Total: 47. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Lions -6.
Walt's Calculated Line: Lions -6.
Sunday, Nov 20, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Lions.
VEGAS UPDATE: I'll be posting how the Vegas sportsbooks have done the previous week in this spot in coming weeks. Here were the four highest-bet sides, as of Tuesday morning last week:
Those teams went 1-3 ATS, bringing the overall record this season to 17-24-1. The books were absolutely hammered in Week 9, but they rebounded nicely this past Sunday. Hope you followed my warning and stayed away from publicly backed teams!
Here are the highest-bet teams in Week 11, as of Tuesday morning:
Nothing here is a surprise. The Patriots and Steelers are public teams, while casual bettors have fallen in love with the Raiders. The Giants, meanwhile, have a 6-3 record that looks great, I guess.
JACKSONVILLE OFFENSE: It's pretty astonishing how bad the Jaguars' offense has become. Sure, Blake Bortles posts pretty stats, and Jacksonville scored 21 points against Houston last week, but the team has literally done nothing but turn the ball over in the early stages of their games recently. I've joked about opponents being able to win via the Bobby Boucher offense, but it's true. The Jaguars have killed themselves by self-destructing, as Bortles' mechanics continue to deteriorate. This is not a surprise, as the Jaguars were foolish to fire the best coach on their staff, Greg Olson.
Bortles, as I've been discussing, simply doesn't have the drive to be an NFL quarterback. He doesn't care enough to put work into his craft, as he'd rather party all night instead. His awful mechanics and indifference toward opposing defenses has cost him in first halves this year, and I can't imagine this game being any different. Cornerback Darius Slay is expected to return for the Lions, which is huge. Detroit will once again have a competent secondary with Slay on the field, so I wouldn't expect Allen Robinson to go nuts until the fourth quarter.
The Lions figure to be able to control the line of scrimmage as well. Ezekiel Ansah has a nice matchup against Kelvin Beachum, while Haloti Ngata's presence will help prevent the Jaguars from doing much on the ground.
DETROIT OFFENSE: The Jaguars have surrendered 43 points over the past two games to a pair of pedestrian offenses in the Nick Foles-led Chiefs and Texans. However, don't blame the defense for this; Kansas City and Houston were able to score off Bortles turnovers. Jacksonville's defense has actually played quite well.
The best aspect of the defense is the secondary. Cornerbacks Prince Amukamara, Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Colvin are all performing on a high level, while safety John Cyprien has finally become the dominant safety the Jaguars thought they were getting when they selected him in the second round a few years ago. It's going to be difficult for Matthew Stafford to find open receivers, though he won't have to worry about Jacksonville's pass rush, which is pretty weak.
The Jaguars can also be beaten on the ground. They used to have a strong run defense, but that's no longer the case with Roy Miller lost for the year. The problem, however, is the Lions don't run the ball very effectively. Dwayne Washington is the team's best pure runner, but he's not that great, and he doesn't get enough carries anyway.
RECAP: I considered wagering a couple of units on the Jaguars when this spread was +7 on Monday night. My thinking was that the line was a bit high. Jacksonville's defense has been performing on a high level, while the Lions, who have had two weeks to hear about how great they are following their victory over the Vikings, could be distracted with a Thanksgiving game in just four days. Plus, this game seems like it has "Bortles back-door touchdown" written all over it, right?
Before placing two or even three units on Jacksonville, I decided to contact the world's foremost detractor of the Jaguars, Matvei, who has been betting against them each week. I asked him if he could talk me out of wagering on Jacksonville, and here's what he said:
"To me, the Jaguars are only bettable if they're playing a Ravens/Steelers-type veteran team that's taking the week off. Their average away game the last three years is a 12-point loss, and they've only lost by less than a touchdown *four* times outside of the division (Jets, Ravens, Bears, Chiefs, none of whom had much offensive firepower). Also, in the Bortles era, home or away, if the opponent manages 24 points, the Jaguars are 2-21 straight up, 5-18 against the spread, with an average loss of 13.14."
Wow. OK. Never mind. I'm not betting the Jaguars, as they could decide to lay an egg with another zero-effort performance like they were guilty of at Tennessee. That said, I'm not sure the Lions get to 24; Jacksonville's defense has been better lately, while Detroit hasn't scored more than 22 since Week 6. I'm going to take the Jaguars, but only for picking-pool purposes.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Every time I consider betting this game, I think back to the numbers Matvei mentioned. I just can't do it. It's interesting, however, that despite all the public money coming in on the Lions, this spread hasn't moved at all. It seems like the books are afraid of the sharps pouncing on +7.
SATURDAY NOTES: The sharps are pounding the Jaguars. I saw a crazy stat today, by the way: The Lions have trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this year. The Jaguars should be able to keep this contest close, but betting on them is very risky, per the stats I posted earlier.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The sharps continue to bet the Jaguars. The line has dropped to +5.5 at some books, so if you like Jacksonville and haven't bet them yet, make sure you lock in +6.
The Psychology. Edge: Jaguars.
The Lions have been hearing about how great they are for two weeks following the victory at Minnesota. Following this game, the Lions have to play in just four days on Thanksgiving.
The Vegas. Edge: Jaguars.
Everyone loves the Lions.
Percentage of money on Detroit: 67% (17,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: None.
Jim Caldwell is 5-1 ATS off a bye.
Jaguars are 28-58 ATS against non-divisional opponents since 2008.
Jaguars are 11-27 ATS vs. NFC opponents since 2007.
Lions are 19-34 ATS against losing teams the previous 53 instances.
Lions are 2-9 ATS before their Thanksgiving game since 2005.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) Line: Chiefs by 7. Total: 45. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Chiefs -8.5.
Walt's Calculated Line: Chiefs -6.
Sunday, Nov 20, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Chiefs.
If you haven't seen this yet, we have a brand new weekly fantasy football contest. It's like DFS, but weekly and free, and there are cash prizes! There's no reason not to enter, and you can submit up to five lineups per week! Click the link here for our new Weekly Fantasy Football Contest - the Week 7 contest has already been posted, so good luck!
HATE MAIL: I managed to rebound with a slightly winning week, but I managed to lose big Thursday night, which prompted some hate mail:
Those of you who think that's a sick burn of Waltsson, you're right, it was. For those of you who believing that was childish, you need to start thinking second level. He called himself "Waltsson" as in "Walt's son." That means his mom is the one I banged to produce him. Thus, I'm telling the truth, and his mom does really miss me!
Here's a long exchange with some dude named Callahan and some others who jumped in:
This "WalterFootball is bad" guy has promised to create a site better than this one, so that's what I'm referring to. I've been patiently waiting for it for some time now. I can't wait until he launches it so that he can get some hate mail. Unfortunately, he seems to be taking a long time. Hell, I'm still waiting to find out what "wasting my team" means.
Here's one more:
There's no chance someone is that much of a dick, right? That's why I think he's joking. I'm sure he absolutely loves the site and e-mails links to all of his friends!
KANSAS CITY OFFENSE: Everyone knows by now that the Buccaneers have an extreme weakness in the secondary, as their safeties have been atrocious all year. There are some teams that won't be able to take advantage of that liability, however, and Kansas City is one of them.
The Chiefs simply don't throw downfield very much, and when they do, Alex Smith usually isn't precise with his throws. He failed to exploit Carolina's poor secondary last week, as he either overshot his targets for potential touchdowns, or he simply didn't see them being open in the end zone. Smith, instead, dinked and dunked to his heart's desire, which I'm sure he'll do versus the Buccaneers as well. The Chiefs will move the chains as a result, but will do so inconsistently.
Kansas City will, of course, attempt to establish Spencer Ware, who has been great this year. However, Ware didn't do much against the Panthers outside of his final run to set up the game-winning field goal because Carolina's great rush defense wouldn't allow him to get going. The Buccaneers have posted the same sort of numbers in the ground game, as they've sold out against the run this year.
TAMPA BAY OFFENSE: The Chiefs are going to struggle to score, and you could say the same thing about the Buccaneers. Kansas City does three things extremely well on this side of the ball, and all three conflict with what Tampa tries to do offensively.
The first is covering No. 1 receivers. The Chiefs miss Sean Smith, but Marcus Peters can take away opposing No. 1 wideouts. Mike Evans was silenced by Tracy Porter last week, so Peters will be able to keep him from producing too much. The second is blanketing tight ends. Opposing tight ends have done very little against the Chiefs, so that should put an end to any sort of momentum Cameron Brate had going for him, though I do like Brate going forward in easier matchups.
The third is that Kansas City gets to the quarterback extremely well with its edge rush. Tamba Hali and Dee Ford hounded Cam Newton, helping to win the game by sacking him twice to move the Panthers out of field-goal range in the fourth quarter. Ford could be stymied by right tackle Demar Dotson, but Hali figures to beat beleaguered left tackle Donovan Smith. Jameis Winston, who has endured an inconsistent sophomore campaign, could be forced into some turnovers, mirroring his poor Week 2 effort against the Cardinals.
RECAP: I was on the Chiefs last week, as they were in a rare situation in which the line was not inflated in their favor. However, we're back to the books setting too high of a spread in their favor.
The line I made for this game is Chiefs -6. Kansas City is a very good team, but struggles to put opponents away because of its stagnant offense. With Ware having a tough matchup, the onus will be on Alex Smith to post a ton of points, and he couldn't even do that against the Saints before Sheldon Rankins and Delvin Breaux came back for New Orleans. The Chiefs really mustered just 24 points on the Saints (actually 27, but a late field goal was the result of a Nick Fairley personal-foul penalty), and the same sort of output could occur versus the Buccaneers. If so, Tampa needs just 17 points to cover, and I think it can get there, especially in garbage time.
Something else to consider is that the Chiefs could be distracted. I doubt the Buccaneers are on their radar, as they could be looking ahead to some difficult matchups against the Broncos, Falcons and Raiders.
I'm taking the Buccaneers, who have been better on the road, for three units. I may throw a fourth unit on Tampa if this line ever reaches +8.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Marcus Peters continues to miss practice for the Chiefs, so if he's out again Friday, I may lock this pick in tomorrow afternoon because the sharps could hop on the Buccaneers +7.5. The pros have not touched this game yet.
SATURDAY NOTES: It was a crazy Saturday and I was barely at my computer, so I didn't get a chance to lock in +7.5. The sharps bet this line in Tampa's favor, so that's no longer the case. Oh well. I still like +7 for three units. It sounds like Marcus Peters will be out, so Mike Evans should have a big game.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Justin Houston is back in the lineup, but that's not too much of a concern because he may not play a lot of snaps in his first action. Marcus Peters is out for sure, so that'll definitely be a big boost for Tampa's offense. I still like the Buccaneers for three units.
The Psychology. Edge: Buccaneers.
The Chiefs have to battle the Broncos, Falcons and Raiders following this non-conference matchup against a 4-5 team.
The Vegas. Edge: None.
Percentage of money on Kansas City: 55% (14,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Buccaneers.
Road Team is 71-42 ATS in Buccaneers games since 2009.
Chicago Bears (2-7) at New York Giants (6-3) Line: Giants by 7. Total: 41.5. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Giants -5.5.
Walt's Calculated Line: Giants -4.
Sunday, Nov 20, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Giants.
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. If you haven't heard, the NFL is considering fewer commercials to help improve ratings. I can't really find an argument to oppose this - outside of perhaps the added pressure of having to go to the bathroom quicker. Maybe I'm different, but I like to take my time. Some of my s***s last an hour!
That said, I don't see how this will help ratings. If people were shying away from the NFL or simply streaming games, I don't think they are thinking, Oh man, I'm going to come back because there are three fewer commercials in every quarter!
We've already discussed why NFL TV ratings are down. It's a combination of a number of things, ranging from oversaturation, to horrible officiating, to poor play as a result of the dumb CBA rules, to millennials streaming games, to the election to Colin Kaepernick pissing people off.
If long commercials really are at fault, that's way, way down the list. Nevertheless, it's nice that the NFL is trying new things. I actually think all shows can do without commercials if they incorporate products into the actual programs. For example, when Rick from the Walking Dead is fending off zombies, he could perhaps do so in front of a Coke machine. And once he slaughters them all, he can bang his hatchet on the machine, watch a can drop out and then chug it. He could then say, "Ahh, after a hard day's work of killing zombies, I prefer Coke over Pepsi. Caaaaarrrrlll!" Wouldn't that make for great TV?
The same thing could apply in the NFL. When Walt Anderson is about to bungle another call, he could announce, "Holding, on the offense, that's a 10-yard penalty. This holding penalty is brought to you by McDonald's. I'm loving it!"
No? Bad idea?
2. Speaking of Anderson, I suppose I should comment about the Richard Sherman controversy. Sherman was criticized for what appeared to be a dirty play when he hit Buffalo's kicker just prior to intermission last Monday night.
There's no question that Anderson and his crew got the call wrong, and the NFL admitted as much. It should've been a late hit. Sherman argued that he tipped the ball, but he wouldn't have been flagged for roughing the kicker, so that is completely irrelevant. He would've been penalized for an unsportsmanlike on a late hit. Everyone had stopped, save for him, so it should've been clear to him that he was doing something wrong.
But was it dirty? It looked dirty from a viewer's perspective, but I don't know, honestly. It could've been, but then again, maybe there's a chance that Sherman didn't hear the whistle. The Seattle stadium is super loud, so he at least has that as an excuse. Either way, that's not the major story. Anderson's horrific officiating should be, and the NFL's reluctance to do anything about it needs to be discussed as well. I thought Anderson would be reprimanded for sure. I suggested that he and his crew should attend officials' conferences to learn the basic rules of football. At the very least, they should be punished publicly. Perhaps they should've been walked naked through the town square so that people could throw tomatoes at them, as some ugly woman constantly chants "shame" behind them.
3. Earlier, I mentioned oversaturation and unnecessary games. The Thursday night contests are horrible, but it's not the worst thing on the schedule. I learned this when my fiancee asked what our plans were for Christmas. If you didn't know, Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, so the games will be on Saturday that weekend. That's perfectly fine. What I'm taking issue with is what's happening on Christmas.
I suspected that there might be a Christmas night game. That would have been fine by itself. Unfortunately, there are two contests on Christmas, one of which starts at 4:30.
See, this is exactly what I'm talking about regarding oversaturation. This is ridiculous. The NFL doesn't need to be on Christmas afternoon. People will want to eat dinner with their families around that time. No one outside of the people of Pittsburgh and Baltimore is going to watch that game. And once the ratings suck, the NFL is going to try other stupid things that won't change anything either.
You know what? NFL referee advertisements may not be so far away after all.
NEW YORK OFFENSE: The Giants appeared to be ready for an offensive explosion Monday night when Eli Manning opened the game without throwing an incompletion on an initial touchown drive. Manning and the rest of the offense cooled off after that, however, scoring just 14 points the rest of the night, all while averaging a disappointing 4.9 yards per play against a middling defense.
The problem with New York's scoring attack is twofold. The first issue is that the Giants can't run the ball whatsoever, so opposing teams can focus on the pass. The second is that the Giants can't pass protect. The tackles have struggled this year, and if that wasn't bad enough, Justin Pugh is also missing. The Giants now have three liabilities on the offensive line, which may not sound that bad in this matchup for those who haven't been paying attention to the Bears. Those who have, however, know that blocking is going to be a huge dilemma because Chicago has generated a better pass rush with Pernell McPhee back in the lineup. New York will struggle to block McPhee, Akiem Hicks and Willie Young.
The Giants will still produce some big plays, thanks to Odell Beckham Jr. However, it's worth noting that the Bears have done a good job of limiting No. 1 receivers lately. I don't know how he managed it, but Tracy Porter blanketed both Jordy Nelson and Mike Evans in recent weeks. Beckham is a different animal, but the Bears at least have hope that they can limit the Giants' dynamic wideout at least somewhat.
CHICAGO OFFENSE: Save for a few plays, the Bears played evenly with the Buccaneers last week. That may sound strange, given that Chicago lost 36-10. However, the teams were pretty much even in terms of yards per play. The difference, however, happened to be the turnovers. Jay Cutler was guilty of four of them, and he took four sacks as well. After looking like a changed man in a Monday night victory against the Vikings, Cutler was woeful, and we were all reminded of how much of an abomination he can be.
I expect Cutler to be more careful in this game. The Bears, by all accounts, went into Tampa Bay extremely overconfident. Now that they've been humbled, I imagine that they'll put forth a better effort. That said, it still wouldn't surprise me if Cutler were intercepted at least once by Landon Collins. Cutler also figures to be sacked on some occasions, as the Giants' edge rushers hold a big advantage over the Chicago tackles. Kyle Long being out doesn't help matters either.
So, how can the Bears score? I think they can abuse the poor New York linebackers. Jordan Howard has been a dynamic threat out of the backfield, while Zach Miller is a pretty solid tight end. In addition to being careful, Cutler will need to get the ball to those two play-makers.
RECAP: This spread is way off. I made it Giants -4, as I refused to give them the full three points for being at home. I figured they'd open -6, or something, but to my utter shock, the sportsbooks posted a line of -7.
What in the world have the Giants done to earn that much respect? They easily could've lost to the Bengals on Monday night, and if they don't block a field goal, the Eagles probably would've beaten them the preceding Sunday. New York was outplayed by the Rams in London, while the Ravens held a lead against them before losing some key defenders in the second half, allowing Beckham to hit some big plays and win the game.
The Giants are not a good team. In fact, they're in the mid-20s of my NFL Power Rankings. Their offense is way too stagnant for them to be laying seven against anyone, save for perhaps the 49ers and Browns. The Bears, on the other hand, won't be as sloppy this week, so they'll be in position to pull the upset. At the very least, they'll keep the game close, thanks to their strong defense.
It's worth noting that following Week 3, the Bears have lost by more than six just twice. Once was with Matt Barkley on a Thursday night, while the other occasion was this past Sunday. Chicago plays games very closely, so with this spread being so off, I will bet the team for five units. The Giants are extremely overrated, as they easily could be 3-6 instead of 6-3, so let's take advantage of this horrible point spread.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: This spread has risen to -7.5 because of public money. I'm definitely happy about that, as the Bears seem even more appealing. The Giants have won nothing but close games this year, so I don't see why they'd suddenly win in a blowout against a team with a very good defense.
SATURDAY NOTES: I still love the Bears, as this line is way too high. The sharps have been taking the Bears at +7.5. It makes sense, too, as the Giants have played close games all year, so I don't get why they'd suddenly blow out a team with a very good defense. I'm worried about Jay Cutler, but 7.5 points allows for a good margin of error.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The sharps have taken the Bears at +7.5, as this line is now +7 all across the board. It must be noted that there are heavy winds expected for this game, which should keep the scoring down. I'm actually going to put half of a unit on the under.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
No edge found.
The Vegas. Edge: Bears.
Most people have no interest in betting on Chicago.
Percentage of money on New York: 65% (21,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: None.
Jay Cutler is 42-73 ATS if you exclude Monday Night Football.
Giants are 20-29 ATS as favorites of 6.5 or more the previous 49 instances.
Opening Line: Giants -7.
Opening Total: 45.5.
Weather: CLOUDY/CHANCE OF LIGHT SNOW, 43 degrees. HEAVY WINDS, 25 mph.
Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1) at Minnesota Vikings (5-4) Line: Vikings by 1.5. Total: 40. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Vikings -1.
Walt's Calculated Line: Vikings -3.
Sunday, Nov 20, 1:00 PM
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1. The only downside to posting picks on Tuesday, aside from not having as much injury information, is that it's hard to analyze the college football playoff rankings. I have no idea what the committee was thinking by putting Texas A&M over Washington a couple of weeks ago. Had the Aggies been competitive with Alabama, that would've been fine, but the game was a blowout.
I guess the upside is that I can predict the top four prior to the announcement. I suppose it'll be...
3. Ohio State
Whoops, I mean...
I don't feel good about No. 4. The Tigers lost at home and have been shaky all year. I suppose Michigan will pass the Tigers if they win out, but then again, Penn State has to factor in somehow. Then again, I still can't get that blowout loss to the Wolverines out of my head, even though I'm a Penn State alumnus! I actually had something prepared about how the Nittany Lions shouldn't be No. 10, but after Saturday's games, I just don't know anymore.
2. That was a prediction of what I think will happen. Here's what I think should happen:
3. Ohio State
Whoops, I mean...
Yes, the three-loss Trojans! Look, if the goal of the committee is to have the top four teams in the playoffs, USC has to be part of that mix. The Trojans began the year slowly but have been absolutely on fire ever since Sam Darnold became the starter. They've blown out the competition and even went into Washington and won by double digits. And it felt so much different than the other upsets. Pitt over Clemson and Iowa over Michigan felt fluky. USC over Washington did not. The Trojans were legitimately the superior team. Their defense is amazing, while Darnold is the real deal.
3. The announcers of the USC-Washington game made a huge deal about the Trojans going to the Rose Bowl.
"OMG OMG THEY MIGHT BE GOING TO TEH ROSE BOWLS OMG OMG!!!" one of the announcers exclaimed.
The announcers pointed out that the Trojans have been to the Rose Bowl in every single presidential term since the Roman Empire fell - save for the Barack Obama administration. Oh man, my palms are sweating at the prospect of keeping that streak alive. In fact, there's water cascading down my brow right now. What if they don't make it before Obama leaves office!?!??!??!
In case you couldn't tell, I was being a bit sarcastic. Seriously, who cares about the Rose Bowl? Why does it matter? The playoffs exist now, right? If a major program fails to make it to the playoffs, it's a failed season. Period. No one cares about a game billed as the "Granddaddy of them all." Most granddaddies are old and irrelevant, unless it's your birthday, and then they give you money. So, I guess that's the one positive. Then again, the USC players are probably getting money no matter what.
ARIZONA OFFENSE: Much has been made about the Vikings struggling offensively, but the Cardinals haven't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard either. Their scoring attack has been stagnant for the most part, failing to post more than 23 points since their Monday night affair against the Jets in Week 6. The offensive line definitely deserves part of the blame. Jared Veldheer and Evan Mathis being out of the lineup has killed that unit, as they happened to be the team's top two blockers. John Wetzel and Earl Watford have not done a good job as replacements, to put it nicely, so Everson Griffen has to be licking his chops at the matchup against the former.
Carson Palmer has to shoulder responsibility for the team's offensive woes as well. Palmer, as pointed out way back in the preseason, has not been himself. The zip on his passes is gone, and he's just not as potent. He also has a tough matchup in this contest against a strong back seven, provided Eric Kendricks and Xavier Rhodes return to the lineup. Both dynamic defenders were lost against the Redskins, as Kendricks hurt his hip on the opening drive, while Rhodes got knocked out with a concussion in the second half. The Vikings still have the personnel to limit Arizona's decaying aerial attack without them.
Kendricks' presence against the run is desperately needed, however. David Johnson inexplicably struggled on the ground versus the 49ers, but I expect him to rebound against a defense that couldn't contain Robert Kelley. As someone who bet the Vikings, it really pissed me off how R. Kelly trampled Minnesota, but Kendricks' absence definitely had something to do with that.
MINNESOTA OFFENSE: The Vikings, of course, have been worse on this side of the ball, and much like the Cardinals, they've had big problems blocking. Things might be even worse now, as Jake Long was lost for the year with a torn Achilles. Long wasn't playing well, but his absence will force the Vikings to kick guard Alex Boone to the blind side. Boone may not do a poor job there, but he's much more effective in the interior, and now that'll make the inside blocking even worse.
Arizona's pass-rushers will be able to tee off on Sam Bradford, as Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell and Markus Golden all have promising matchups. Meanwhile, Patrick Peterson figures to handle Stefon Diggs. However, I'm sure Diggs will still get some receptions because he's so talented. I also like Adam Thielen going against Arizona's other cornerbacks, who aren't any good.
It'd be nice if the Vikings could establish the run to ease some pressure off Bradford, but I don't see how they can possibly do that. All Matt Asiata is capable of doing is plunging forward and falling down for 2-yard gains - unless, of course, he needs to convert a third-and-1, and then he loses two yards. It's a complete mess.
RECAP: Both of these teams have some major offensive issues right now. They're in same situation, and I would rank them pretty evenly. With that in mind, I don't understand how the Cardinals are favored by one on the road.
What has Arizona done to earn that sort of respect? The Cardinals barely beat the worst team in the NFL last week, and before that, they were absolutely obliterated at Carolina. They're still being priced as if they're the 2015 Cardinals, which they most certainly are not. The Vikings, on the other hand, are definitely in a funk, but think about it this way: They were a 58-yard made field goal away from beating the Lions two weeks ago, and they led the Redskins in the second half this past Sunday. What if they had prevailed in one of those games and were 6-3 right now? Wouldn't the public be looking at them differently? I imagine the 6-3 Vikings would actually be favored over the struggling Cardinals.
With that in mind, I'm making a big play on the Vikings. This line is way off. My spread is Vikings -3. Again, these teams are about even, and I'm willing to give Minnesota three points for being at home.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: The sharps jumped on the Vikings on Thursday afternoon, raising this line to -2. It's even -2.5 at Pinnacle! I'm hoping this drops back down to -1, but if there are signs that this is going to increase to -3, I'll lock it in. I'll keep you updated, so follow me @walterfootball for any announcements.
SATURDAY NOTES: This spread hasn't fallen really, as the public hasn't liked Arizona enough to counter the sharp action on Minnesota. The Vikings seem like the obvious right side - they've gotten the second-most picks amongst the top players in the Supercontest - as the Cardinals have looked like crap on the road. Arizona's three road games have been a win over the 49ers (means nothing) and two blowout losses at Buffalo and Carolina. The Vikings will be getting back Eric Kendricks, Captain Munnerlyn and Xavier Rhoes and should be able to force Carson Palmer into numerous turnovers, as Palmer is one of the league leaders in should-be interceptions.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I was hoping that this line would drop to -1, but the sharp money is on Minnesota. The Vikings should be the right play, as they're getting most of their defensive players back from injury, while Arizona has been a mess this year. The Cardinals have been awful on the road, and they've tied/lost to/barely beat backup and injured quarterbacks at home.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
No edge found.
The Vegas. Edge: Vikings.
Slight lean on the Cardinals.
Percentage of money on Arizona: 65% (19,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: None.
Bruce Arians is 34-25 ATS as head coach of the Cardinals.
Mike Zimmer is 29-13 ATS as head coach of the Vikings.
Buffalo Bills (4-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1) Line: Bengals by 2. Total: 47. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Bengals -4.5.
Walt's Calculated Line: Bengals -3.
Sunday, Nov 20, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Bills.
If you've followed this site for a while, you might remember that I like to respond to my spam mails. Five years ago, 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.
Last year, Tom Brady and his deflated footballs were involved. You can see those Spam Mails here with my responses to avoid clutter. I'll have brand new spam mail responses every week!
BUFFALO OFFENSE: The Bills put together a terrific offensive performance at Seattle just prior to their bye. It was very evident just how much LeSean McCoy meant to them. They struggled to score in the two games without McCoy, but they went up and down the field on the Seahawks, albeit without Kam Chancellor on the other side.
Tyrod Taylor was excellent, and I have to believe he'll be just as magnificent in this contest. There are a number of reasons why the Bengals have struggled this year, and one happens to be their secondary. Reggie Nelson is missed, while Pacman Jones has regressed so much that Marvin Lewis should consider benching him. Cincinnati will have to counter this with a strong pass rush, and I like the matchups Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins have, but Tyrod Taylor can use his mobility to escape pressure once again.
Meanwhile, McCoy figures to have another strong outing. The Bengals haven't been very good against the run this year, as evidenced by their inability to stop Rashad Jennings when it mattered most.
CINCINNATI OFFENSE: Another reason why the Bengals have disappointed is their offensive line. Cedric Ogbuehi has been a huge liability at right tackle. This bodes extremely well for Jerry Hughes, who combines with Lorenzo Alexander for an extremely potent one-two pass-rushing punch. Andy Dalton took some sacks at the end of the New York game, and the Bills will pick up where the Giants left off.
That said, I still expect Dalton to have some success. Buffalo's secondary has been very weak this year, as Stephon Gilmore has inexplicably been atrocious, while the safety play has been just as bad. I imagine that the Bills will have problems containing A.J. Green, though most teams can say that.
Meanwhile, the Bengals struggled to run the ball with Jeremy Hill for the most part Monday night, and I suspect that will once again be the case in this contest. Hill has once again been very sluggish this year, averaging just 3.57 yards per carry if the Cleveland game is excluded, and yet the Bengals won't give Giovani Bernard more touches. The whole thing is absurd to me, and it really feels like a wasted down every time Hill gets his hands on the ball.
RECAP: The advance spread on this game was Bills +4.5, which I anticipated betting for a couple of units. Alas, in the wake of the Monday night result, the line opened +3, which is where the spread probably should be.
These teams are pretty close to even, but I'm going to pick the Bills. The Bengals seem to find creative ways to lose games every week, as they seem to be in some sort of a weird mental funk. The Bills, on the other hand, are 4-1 with McCoy following the first two weeks of the season, with their only defeat being against Seattle in that thrilling shootout. If they could play extremely well in Seattle, they should be able to do the same at Cincinnati.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: This spread is right where it should be, as far as I'm concerned, though it's worth noting that some sharp action has brought this down to +2.5 plus money, though it's still +3 -125 at Bovada and BetUS.
SATURDAY NOTES: I considered switching my pick to the Bengals at -2.5, but then I recalled that aside from Week 1, Cincinnati has lost (or tied) every close game this year. There's just something wrong with them. I trust the Bills a bit more.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This line continues to fall, as the sharps keep pounding the Bills. All of our line value is gone, unfortunately.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
No edge found.
The Vegas. Edge: Bills.
Who wants any part of Cincinnati right now?
Percentage of money on Buffalo: 62% (16,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Bengals.
Bills are 9-17 ATS since November 2011 as a road underdog.
Rex Ryan is 2-5 ATS off a bye.
True home teams are 31-21 ATS in the last 52 Bills games.
Baltimore Ravens (5-4) at Dallas Cowboys (8-1) Line: Cowboys by 7.5. Total: 44.5. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Cowboys -6.
Walt's Calculated Line: Cowboys -7.
Sunday, Nov 20, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Cowboys.
Video of the Week: As you may know, I do a Game of Thrones podcast during the summer. I've always wondered what the show would have looked like had it aired 20 years ago. Now, I finally have my answer (thanks, Ben S.):
At first, I thanked the seven that Game of Thrones was aired this decade, but then I thought about it and I realized that I would totally watch the 1995 version.
DALLAS OFFENSE: Ezekiel Elliott is getting MVP talk right now, and based on what he's done thus far, it's difficult to argue that he doesn't deserve it. He ripped right through what should've been a terrific Pittsburgh run defense, icing the game with a powerful burst up the middle to reach the end zone.
The Steelers, however, lost Cameron Heyward late in the contest. Heyward is Pittsburgh's best defender, so his absence allowed Elliott to reach the end zone for the decisive touchdown. Elliott will have an even tougher matchup on paper in this game, as Baltimore is better versus the rush than Pittsburgh. However, I still believe that Dallas' excellent offensive line will open enough running room for Elliott. The dynamic rookie won't have his best performance, but he'll still be a major factor.
Meanwhile, Baltimore's secondary has been better lately ever since some key players returned to the lineup. Jimmy Smith being back is important, and he should be able to do a decent job on Dez Bryant. As for Cole Beasley, he'll have a difficult matchup against slot corner Tavon Young, who has been excellent as a rookie. It'll also be difficult for Dak Prescott to find Jason Witten in the middle of the field, as the Ravens are excellent versus tight ends as long as C.J. Mosley is in the lineup.
BALTIMORE OFFENSE: Joe Flacco hadn't been playing very well prior to the team's bye, and it's difficult to say if that changed in the wake of the Thursday night result. Flacco had a very strong second half against the Browns, but everyone throws on Cleveland's hapless secondary. The Cowboys will provide a tougher challenge by default, but not having Morris Claiborne and Barry Church will likely hurt, as a healthier Steve Smith should be able to get open versus a banged-up secondary.
Protecting Flacco is a different issue, and the Ravens still have injury concerns on the offensive line. Stud guard Marshal Yanda is out, as is Alex Lewis. Thus, the Ravens have to start Vladimir Ducasse at one of the guard spots. Meanwhile, rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley has struggled in his first year. Fortunately for the Ravens, Dallas' pass rush isn't very consistent.
The bad news, however, is that the Cowboys will be able to focus on pressuring Flacco, given that the Ravens don't have much of a rushing attack. Terrance West is pretty lackluster, and I think it would be in Baltimore's best interest to begin utilizing Kenneth Dixon more frequently. Dallas has an above-average run defense, but Dixon is talented enough to do some damage.
RECAP: I made this line -7, and the spread opened at -7. There's no line value here, unfortunately, even though the Westgate advance spread was -6.
The public, as you might imagine, has been pretty eager to bet the Cowboys. That makes me want to side with the Ravens, especially considering that they keep all of their games close. Baltimore has not lost a single contest by more than eight points this year. Dallas, on the other hand, may not be very focused. The Cowboys are coming off a colossal victory at Pittsburgh, and they have to prepare for the rival Redskins in just four days.
Will the Cowboys be unfocused for a non-conference foe like the Ravens? In the past, I would've said yes, absolutely. However, they're a young, enthusiastic team that won't take many games off. If they were a veteran squad, I may have placed a unit or two on Baltimore, but I'm not sure how viable the look-ahead angle is in this situation.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: I'm going to mention this on the podcast when it gets posted, but I may bet a unit on the Ravens at +7.5 if I can get it at -110 juice. I think +7 is the right number, but going through a key number is worth a small wager. The sharps haven't touched this game yet.
SATURDAY NOTES: As promised, I'll be betting a unit on +7.5, and I'll lock it in just in case. The Ravens have a strong defense and have played every game tightly as a result. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have to worry about playing in four days, so I'm not completely sure they'll be focused.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I'm glad I locked in +7.5 because this spread dropped back down to +7, as the sharps took the Ravens at +7.5. It's hard to even find +7 -110 right now, but you can get that at Bovada.
The Psychology. Edge: Ravens.
The Cowboys are coming off a big win at Pittsburgh, and they have to battle the rival Redskins in just four days on national TV following this contest against the Ravens.
The Vegas. Edge: None.
Percentage of money on Dallas: 57% (20,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Ravens.
The underdog is 66-38 ATS in Cowboys games since 2010.
Cowboys are 14-24 ATS as home favorites in Cowboys Stadium (excluding Thanksgiving).
Cowboys are 10-20 ATS when favored after a win since 2010.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5) at Cleveland Browns (0-10) Line: Steelers by 9.5. Total: 44.5. Las Vegas Hilton Advance Point Spread: Steelers -8.5.
Walt's Calculated Line: Steelers -8.
Sunday, Nov 20, 1:00 PM
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The Game. Edge: Steelers.
THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BRADY'S HAIRCUTS
I've been citing that Tom Brady has lost his "clutch" ability over the past few years, but I guess I can't do that any longer because he recently won his fourth Super Bowl. Or, can I...? Brady, after all, reached the "Big Game" with the help of his deflated footballs.
Brady was stuck on three Super Bowls for a long time before he resorted to cheating. So, what happened? The obvious answer is his wife. But more specifically, it's the haircuts that his wife forces him into getting. It's unknown to the media, but Brady's haircuts are much more than just silly fashion statements; each haircut gives Brady a new persona or tells a new story. Including this one...
Tom Brady was given a new mission from Donald Trump. He was told to visit the neighboring country and convince them to build a wall in case Trump loses to Hillary Clinton. Tom needs to do this to keep the Latin Kings out of the country. To see the story behind this one, check out the new Adventures of Tom Brady's Haircuts!
CLEVELAND OFFENSE: I'm beginning with the Browns' scoring unit to express my utter displeasure with Hue Jackson and his horrific coaching Thursday night. The Browns came out with 12 men on the field on the first play of the game and had to burn a timeout. Then, they had two punt returners on the field. And following halftime, Jackson opted to bench Cody Kessler even though he was WINNING THE GAME on his final snap of the evening. Sure, Kessler wasn't performing well, but he wasn't having a bad night either. The Browns need to find out what they have in their young quarterback; not waste time on a 37-year-old turnover machine.
I assume Jackson has learned his lesson and will stick with Kessler in this contest. If so, Kessler could have a decent performance. The Steelers, as I mentioned in the previous capsule, lost their best defensive player, Cameron Heyward, to a season-ending injury. Their pass rush won't be as potent as a result, so Kessler may not be under heavy siege for once. I expect him to frequently locate Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman, who won't exactly be going against the league's best secondary.
Meanwhile, the Browns should be able to establish the run pretty well. Heyward's absence will be felt here as well. The Steelers couldn't stop the run whatsoever when Heywad was out of the lineup, so Isaiah Crowell figures to have some success.
PITTSBURGH OFFENSE: It's hard to imagine the Steelers not scoring almost every time they have the ball in this game. The Cowboys punted only once against Cleveland until very late in the game, and that one occasion happened when the Browns pinned Dallas down at the 1-yard line.
Ben Roethlisberger appeared to be completely healthy this past Sunday, and I expect him to torch Cleveland's abysmal secondary. Joe Haden is the only quality player in the defensive backfield, and he won't be able to cover Antonio Brown very well. Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates could both have strong outings.
It'll only get worse for the Browns in terms of their chances of containing Le'Veon Bell. The dynamic back was overshadowed by Ezekiel Elliott this past Sunday, but he had a great game. He figures to have another one against Cleveland's woeful run defense.
RECAP: I imagine you're expecting me to wager on the Browns. I've been betting them frequently this year, as they've been competitive in most of their games. The Steelers, meanwhile, are usually a great fade as a road favorite.
Well, prepare to be surprised: Not only am I not wagering on Cleveland, I'm actually picking Pittsburgh to cover. Why? Well, for starters, the Browns, while competitive in most contests, have been blown out whenever they've played elite competition. The Patriots and Cowboys both destroyed them, and the Steelers, who are 4-2 with a healthy Roethlisberger, are certainly in that tier, or just perhaps a slight notch below it.
The Steelers are usually pretty lackadaisical as road favorites, but they can't afford to treat this game like that. They're coming off a loss, which dropped them to 4-5. Another defeat would bring them to 4-6, so I expect Pittsburgh to be completely focused.
THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Here's a pick change. I made this selection before it was announced that Cameron Heyward would be out for the year. That's a big deal, as Heyward is Pittsburgh's best defensive player. The Browns will now be facing a weaker pass rush and a softer run defense, so they should be able to score on Pittsburgh. Also, as I'm going to mention on the podcast, I think Cleveland in the first half is worth a bet, as the Browns have been winning or tied at halftime in FIVE of their games this year.
SATURDAY NOTES: I'm not betting this game, but I wanted to point out that the Browns are available at +9 at Bovada. The Steelers will be without their top defensive player going forward, so I like Cleveland. I'd need +10 to consider any sort of wager, however.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The Browns are now listed at +9.5. I'm not betting that, but I am taking the first-half line (+5.5), which I posted on the late-games page. I'm going to also add a half unit on the under because the wind is going to be pretty heavy.
The Psychology. Edge: None.
No edge found.
The Vegas. Edge: Browns.
Everyone is betting the Steelers.
Percentage of money on Pittsburgh: 82% (22,000 bets)
The Trends. Edge: Browns.
History: Steelers have won 28 of the last 32 meetings.
Ben Roethlisberger is 43-24 ATS vs. the AFC North.
Steelers are 18-31 ATS as road favorites since 2007.
Steelers are 2-14 ATS on the road as favorites of -8 or more since 1990.
Week 11 NFL Picks - Late Games
Miami at Los Angeles,
Philadelphia at Seattle,
New England at San Francisco,
Green Bay at Washington,
Houston at Oakland
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 18, 2020): 1-5 (-$1,430)
Last Week's 2-3 Unit NFL Picks (Week 18, 2020): 0-2 (-$575)
Last Week's 4-5 Unit NFL Picks (Week 18, 2020): 0-2 (-$855)
Last Week Over-Under (Week 18, 2020): 2-3-1 ($0)
Last Week's Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks (Week 18, 2020): $0
2020 NFL Picks of the Month: 2-2, 50.0% (-$135)
2020 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 132-123-6, 52.6% (+$3,280) 2020 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 43-42-3, 50.6% (-$2,650) 2020 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 37-22-1, 62.7% (+$5,515) 2020 Season Over-Under: 137-119-6, 53.5% ($0) 2020 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$375
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% (+$3,585) 2008 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 148-140-7, 51.4% (+$6,105) 2009 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 151-124-9, 54.9% (+$4,235) 2010 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 144-131-8, 52.4% (+$5,880) 2011 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 137-133-12, 50.7% (-$1,335) 2012 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 130-145-8, 47.3% (-$7,445) 2013 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 144-131-8, 52.4% (+$7,825) 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% (-$3,215) 2016 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 148-127-10, 53.8% (+$780) 2017 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 137-140-8, 49.5% (-$4,300) 2018 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 140-134-14, 51.3% (+$845) 2019 Season NFL Picks Against The Spread: 149-128-9, 53.6% (+$1,200)
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) 2017 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 32-40-3, 43.8% (-$2,395) 2018 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 52-41-2, 55.9% (+$2,670) 2019 Season 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 44-36-2, 55.0% (+$655)
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) 2017 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 20-22-1, 47.6% (-$1,595) 2018 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 27-32-1, 45.8% (-$4,735) 2019 Season 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 37-27-2, 57.8% (+$2,185)
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) 2017 Season Over-Under: 136-139-2, 49.5% (+$640) 2018 Season Over-Under: 118-128-3, 48.0% (-$225) 2019 Season Over-Under: 126-133-4, 48.6% (-$50)
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 2017 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$510 2018 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: +$1,495 2019 Season Prop/ML/Teaser/Parlay Picks: -$1,715
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) 2017 NFL Picks of the Month: 4-2, 66.7% (+$1,040) 2018 NFL Picks of the Month: 4-3, 57.1% (-$640) 2019 NFL Picks of the Month: 3-3-1, 50.0% (-$625)
Career NFL Picks Against The Spread: 2,989-2,760-179, 52.0% (+$13,585) Career 2-3 Unit NFL Picks: 953-858-49 (52.6%) Career 4-5 Unit NFL Picks: 452-396-23 (53.3%) Career Over-Under: 2,459-2,413-66 (50.5%) Career Second-Half NFL Picks: 22-15-1 (61.1%) Career NFL Picks of the Month: 44-29-1 (60.3%)
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.