College football has been very, very good to me. For the third straight column, I turned in a 2-1 performance in the collegiate gridiron game, pushing my season record to date to 6-3. That’s a solid money-making record.
Unfortunately, I have been unable to follow suit in baseball (0-1 last week; 5-12-1 overall) or the NFL (0-3 last week; 0-6 overall). Let’s take a look at what this week has on tap.
The Background: Another week, another by-the-skin-of-their-teeth win for the Eagles. This time, a late-game touchdown drive resulted in a one-point win for the Eagles over the Baltimore Ravens. That was great for Philly, which pushed its record to 2-0, but they didn’t cover the 2-point spread. This week, the Eagles travel to Arizona to take on the surprising 2-0 Cardinals.
The Line: Eagles -3.5; O/U 42
My Take: The game line has come down a bit from the -4 opener, in part because bettors love home underdogs in the NFL, and with good reason – just take a look at what the Seattle Seahawks did to the Dallas Cowboys last week. The Cardinals come off a shocking win over the New England Patriots away from home last week, so they’re getting a lot of pub as a legit team.
The stats tell a slightly different story, though. On offense, the Cardinals rank 30th in passing yards per game (175) and 28th in rushing yards per game (74). On defense, they’re middle of the road – 11th in passing yards (218) and 14th in rushing yards (102.5). The Eagles, meanwhile, look great on paper, even if their total margin of victory is 2 points in 2 games. Philly ranks 1st in passing offense (331.5), 8th in rushing offense (139.5), 4th in passing defense (162.5) and 16th in rushing defense (105). If it weren’t for those pesky turnovers (9), the Eagles would have blown out both opponents.
As such, I like the Eagles in this one – a lot. I think the -3.5 point spread is too low, based on an overreaction to the Cardinals’ win last week over the Patriots.
NFL QUICK HITTERS
• Cleveland Browns +3 vs. Buffalo Bills: The Browns are 0-2, but have played two tough teams (the Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals) close. The Bills are 1-1, but were blown out by a good team (48-28 to the New York Jets) and crushed a bad team (35-17 over the Kansas City Chiefs). The Browns have a solid running game now that it looks like rookie RB Trent Richardson is 100%, and their run defense isn’t bad either. Plus, who doesn’t love a live home dog?
• Houston Texans -2 @ Denver Broncos: The Texans are probably the best team in the league right now, and the Broncos are living on the backs of QB Peyton Manning, at least from a perspective of the betting line. Houston is a much better team than Denver, and even though they have to face Manning in a hostile environment, they should be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball with ease.
• Oregon -21.5 vs. Arizona: I hate laying a lot of points in any game, but I especially don’t like doing it for a conference game between two Top 25-ranked teams. So why do it here? Because I think that #22 ranked Arizona is vastly overrated while #3 Oregon is somehow underrated. Under new head coach Rich Rodriguez, the Wildcats have gone up and down the field on offense – but that was against teams like Toledo, Oklahoma State and South Carolina State. Oregon hasn’t played much tougher competition (Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech), but they simply can’t be stopped. I don’t think Arizona can hang with Oregon, especially under the lights in Eugene.
• Florida State -14 vs. Clemson: Here I go again, laying big points between two ranked conference foes. Once again, though, I think this one will be a blow out. Florida State may be the best team in the country – with the nation’s top ranked defense and second ranked offense. Clemson can score, but they’ll have trouble on defense, especially on the ground. Expect the Seminoles to roll here.
• Fresno State +6.5 @ Tulsa: Two weeks ago, Fresno State was able to hang with Oregon – well, relatively speaking at least; they lost 42-25. The Bulldogs sport a solid offense, ranking 16th in points scored (43.7 per game). Tulsa is slightly ahead of Fresno State in offense (14th – 44.7 per game), but their points have come against inferior completion (Iowa State, Tulane and Nicholls State). I like Fresno a lot in this one. I think they could end up winning outright.
The Background: Time has all but run out on the Philadelphia Phillies 2012 season and their chances to make the playoffs. They’re not technically eliminated yet, but it’s all but certain they’ll come up just short. With 12 games left in the season, they’re 4 games back of a Wild Card spot with three teams to pass in the standings. They’re playing great baseball as of late – it’s just too bad they played so poorly early in the season.
This weekend, they host the division-rival Atlanta Braves for three games. The projected pitching matchups are Kyle Kendrick vs. Tommy Hanson tonight, Roy Halladay vs. Mike Minor tomorrow and Cliff Lee vs. Tim Hudson on Sunday.
The Line: Phillies -114; Braves +104; O/U 8
My Take: For the first time in a few weeks, I can actually analyze the game line instead of just the Over/Under. And you know what? I like the Phillies in this one. They have much more to play for than the Braves, who have all but locked up a Wild Card spot.
Kendick has pitched exceptionally well lately, even considering he had a tough outing his last time on the mound against the Houston Astros. In his last 7 starts, he’s thrown 47.1 innings, allowed 11 earned runs (2.09 ERA), 7 walks, 34 hits and 37 strikeouts. Tommy Hanson has been just so-so since he returned from injury in mid-August. In 6 starts since that time, he’s gone 32 innings, allowed 16 earned runs (4.50 ERA), 36 hits, 11 walks and 32 strikeouts.
Because of this, I’m going with the hometown Phillies tonight.