The busy season has finally arrived! Last week, sports bettors got a little taste of the best season of the year, when college football began. This week, the NFL is in full swing, and we can all rejoice.
My picks last week were a mixed bag – bad if you took my advice in baseball, good if you took it in college football. Another baseball loss dropped me to 5-11-1 on the season, but I began the college football season 2-1.
Enough reflecting; let’s get on to this week’s games.
The Background: I’m starting with the Eagles this week because I’m tired of baseball. The gridiron game is back! Philly takes to Cleveland for a 1 pm Week 1 game against the lowly Browns. Quarterback Michael Vick hardly played in the preseason, thanks to two injuries, but he has looked healthy in practice and is ready to go. How long he lasts this season is anyone’s guess. On Cleveland’s side, one of their first-round picks, running back Trent Richardson, missed much of preseason with a knee injury. As of this writing, it looks like he will play Sunday, but he’s sure to be limited.
The Line: Eagles -9.5; O/U 43
My Take: The Browns are pretty bad, for sure. They lack depth and overall talent. They have reason for hope with young players like Richardson and fellow first-round pick Brandon Weeden, who will start at quarterback on Sunday, but a 4 or 5 win season is likely in the cards. That being said, this still looks like a potential tricky game for the Eagles, at least from a betting perspective. I hate laying big points in the NFL, especially on the road. At the same time, I can’t justify taking the points with the Browns who are starting a rookie quarterback and whose best offensive weapon, another rookie, probably won’t be 100% for Sunday’s game. So I’m jumping on this line now at -9.5 before it climbs.
NFL QUICK HITTERS
• Buffalo Bills +3 @ New York Jets: The Bills are a much improved team from last season, especially on the defensive side of the ball, thanks to the addition of pass-rushing defensive end Mario Williams. Running back Fred Jackson is healthy and should provide a dynamic backfield with speedster C.J. Spiller. The Jets have a solid defense, but their offense is anemic. I could see them losing this game outright.
• Minnesota Vikings -3.5 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s never a great idea to lay points with a team that is mediocre at best. But Minnesota is still a tough place to play, and the Vikings are just the better team here, especially on defense. A limited Maurice Jones-Drew in the Jaguars’ backfield should spell trouble for the already struggling Jacksonville offense.
• Florida -1 @ Texas A&M: This is the one game on the schedule that I love. Pundits aren’t giving Florida much attention this year, thanks to the other big boys in the SEC. The Gators’ defense, however, is worthy of a lot of attention. Texas A&M has a new coach, a new quarterback and a new conference. They struggled last season with future first-round NFL pick Ryan Tannehill at quarterback while they played in the Big 12. Without Tannehill, they’re in for a rude awakening in the SEC, for this year at least. If you like this game like I do, jump on it now; the line keeps moving.
• Georgia -2 @ Missouri: The theme for this week is “pick on the new teams in the SEC.” The Tigers made the trek east with Texas A&M, leaving the Big 12 for the “greener pastures” of the SEC. Unlike A&M, though, this Missouri team is solid, especially on offense. But I doubt they’ll be able to throw all over one of the country’s best defenses. I hate laying points on the road within the SEC, but until they prove their value, I don’t consider Missouri (or A&M for that matter) SEC teams yet.
• Vanderbilt -3.5 @ Northwestern: While we’re here, let’s stick in the SEC. Vanderbilt almost pulled off a huge upset over #9 South Carolina last week, eventually losing 17-13. Northwestern, meanwhile, needed a last minute touchdown drive to beat Syracuse, 42-41. In the Big East, and maybe even the Big 10, Vanderbilt might have a chance to contend, but not in the SEC. That often results in more losses for them, and shorter lines than should be. So, again, I’m laying the points.
The Background: And here we are – closing with the Phillies. Only three more weeks of the season (thankfully). This weekend, they host the Colorado Rockies for three games. The Phillies are 66-71 overall and 6-4 in their last 10 games. The Rockies are 56-80 overall and 5-5 in their last 10. The projected pitching matchups are Cliff Lee vs. Jeff Francis tonight, Cole Hamels vs. Tyler Chatwood tomorrow, and Tyler Cloyd vs. Drew Pomeranz on Sunday.
The Line: Phillies -210; Rockies +175; O/U 7.5
My Take: This game looks like a total betting “no-go” for me. There’s no way I’m laying -210 with anyone, let alone a team like the Phillies. There’s also no way I’m taking the Rockies just because the line on them is an enticing +175.
The Over/Under line? I don’t particularly like that, either, but it’s at least worth analyzing. There have been an average of 8 runs scored per game over the Phillies’ last 10 games, and 9.6 runs per game in the Rockies’ last 10. Not bad. Cliff Lee has been real good as of late, registering a 2.91 ERA in 6 starts since the start of August. Jeff Francis – not so much. He’s got a 6.25 ERA in 7 starts during that stretch.
The result of all this? I’m taking the over, since I don’t like anything else.