For me, though, this is a good day. With the Phillies’ season over, my betting focus can finally turn full-steam ahead to football – as if it already hadn’t! I closed out the baseball betting season on a down note, not surprisingly, losing my pick on the Phillies last week. My season-long record in that sport was a pathetic 6-13-1.
Overall, last week was successful, though. I went 3-0 with my NFL picks, pushing my season total to 4-8, and once again I went 2-1 in college football, improving my record there to 10-5.
Let’s keep it rolling this week.
The Background: The Eagles pulled out a thrilling victory last Sunday night against the hated New York Giants. Only a last second missed field goal attempt (actually, two missed attempts), allowed the Eagles to hold onto the 19-17 victory, which improved their season record to 3-1. This week, the Eagles travel to Pittsburgh to take on the 1-2 Steelers who are off their Bye week.
The Line: Steelers -3.5; O/U 43
My Take: The more I look at this game from a betting perspective, the more uncertain I become. At first glance, I look at the records and early-season performances of these two teams and think it’s absurd that the Eagles are getting 3.5 points. On paper, the Eagles offense is much better (ranking 5th with 417.8 yards per game) than the Steelers (18th – 349.3), and the two defenses are very similar – Pittsburgh ranks 5th (291.3 yards allowed) and Philadelphia ranks 6th (298.3).
The big difference between these two teams is the offensive balance. The Steelers are no longer the bruising rushing team that they used to be; they rank 31st in the league in rushing yards per game with only 65. They now sling the ball all over the field with QB Ben Roethlisberger. As the Eagles often find out when they employ an unbalanced attack, this often leads to inconsistent results. All signs, at this point, lead to a solid play on the Eagles plus the 3.5 points.
I am worried about a few items, though. First, the Steelers play very well at home, where this game will be played. Second, they are coming off a Bye week, which gives the coaching staff and players an extra week to prepare. And third, that Bye week has allowed the players to heal. It looks as if RB Rashard Mendenhall, LB James Harrison and S Troy Polamalu will all play this weekend.
These concerns make me hesitate a bit on this game, but the betting value here still lies with the Eagles +3.5 points.
NFL QUICK HITTERS
• Tennessee Titans +5.5 @ Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have been a surprising cash cow for me in the first four weeks of this season. They didn’t get any respect early on, which led to them getting more points than they should have been on the betting line. Now, though, after winning three of their first four games, the Vikings are no longer a forgotten team. The Titans, meanwhile, are off to a horrid 1-3 start, and they just lost their starting QB Jake Locker to injury. However, I think this is actually better for Tennessee in the short term. Veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck is a better game manager than the young Locker right now, and I think he gives the Titans a better shot to win…now. Take the points here.
• Denver Broncos +7 @ New England Patriots: This line seems like a monster over-adjustment to me, based on the Patriots’ high-flying second half performance on offense against the Buffalo Bills last week. But the Patriots benefitted from Bills’ turnovers that gave the Patriots’ offense a short field possession after possession. Denver won’t do that this week. The Broncos have beat up on the Steelers and Oakland Raiders, while they hung in there with the 4-0 Houston Texans (31-25) and the 4-0 Atlanta Falcons (27-21). I expect them to do the same against the 2-2 Patriots.
• Oklahoma -6 @ Texas Tech: This line keeps climbing, so if you like the Sooners like I do, be sure to jump on it soon. People are down on Oklahoma following their 24-19 home loss to Kansas State two weeks ago, and they’re high on the Red Raiders after a 4-0 start. This game is in Lubbock, Texas, too, so some might think there is line value on the home underdog who is undefeated. But I don’t agree. Texas Tech is a much improving team, but they don’t match up, talent wise, with Oklahoma. The Sooners are off a Bye week, which should help them re-group following the loss, plus they are out for revenge following a demoralizing home loss to Texas Tech last season.
• West Virginia +6.5 @ Texas: Mountaineers QB Geno Smith is starting to get a lot of attention, thanks in large part to his 656-yard, 8-touchdown performance against Baylor last week. Both of these teams come in with 4-0 records, with Texas’ being more impressive (wins over Oklahoma State and Ole Miss). The Longhorns’ defense is the much better unit here, and will probably be the difference in the final score of this game, but I expect a shootout that West Virginia can keep close.
• Virginia Tech +6 @ North Carolina: This is one line that has baffled me all week. It opened around 3.5, moved to 4.5 quickly, and is now all the way up to 6. Virginia Tech obviously isn’t the team many thought it was in the preseason, mainly due to poor play by QB Logan Thomas. The Hokies lost to Cincinnati last week, and they’re 3-2 on the season. North Carolina is 3-2 as well, and their losses are similar to Virginia Tech’s – the Tarheels lost to a good Louisville team but also were defeated by a poor Wake Forest squad. So why is North Carolina favored by 6 points? I’m honestly not sure. Maybe I’m way wrong on this one, but I think Tech getting 6 is a solid play.