Bettors like me who backed the Philadelphia Eagles last week were about the only local football fans who were happy following the team’s two-point loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s because, despite losing the game on a last-minute field goal, the Eagles still covered the 3.5-point spread. That’s what I call a bittersweet victory.
My results last week were just so-so, that Eagles victory being my only correct pick in the NFL out of three. I did, however, get two of my three college football picks correct again. My season tally in the NFL is now 5-10, while in college it’s 12-6.
The Background: The Eagles were handily outplayed by the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, and it showed in the stats sheet. For the first time all season, the Eagles were outgained by an opponent (343-246). QB Michael Vick turned the ball over two more times last Sunday, both fumbles, including a devastating turnover near the Steelers’ goal line. This week, Philly returns home to face the 1-3 Detroit Lions who are off their Bye week.
The Line: Eagles -3.5; O/U 47.5
My Take: Over the last few days, this game has become harder for me to pick. Initially, it was an easy one for me: The Lions opened as a 6-point underdog, and that was just way too many points, in my mind. Apparently, there are plenty of other bettors who felt the same way. The money came in hard on Detroit, which pushed the line down to its current place at Eagles -3.5.
For the second straight week, the Eagles have to face a team that is coming off their Bye week. Teams traditionally perform very well following that week of rest. In addition, the Eagles have their own Bye week pending after this game, so their players could be looking ahead to some R&R.
The Lions have had a rough start to the season, going 1-3 in the first quarter of their schedule, including three straight losses. In Week 1, they needed a last-minute touchdown to beat the St. Louis Rams, too. Even still, Detroit doesn’t look nearly as bad in the stats sheet as they do in the standings. Their rushing offense is plain awful (ranking 24th with 90.3 yards per game), but their passing offense is terrific (2nd – 322). They have a solid unit on the other side of the line, too, with the 10th ranked defense against the pass (213 yards allowed per game) and the 13th ranked unit against the run (102.8). The Eagles units rank 13th in passing offense (251.2), 10th in rushing offense (132.2), 9th in passing defense (209.4) and 12th in rushing defense (97.8).
In the turnover game, the Eagles rank dead last in the NFC with a -7 turnover differential. They have turned the ball over 14 times (a conference high). The Lions, though, are -3, thanks in large part to the fact that they’ve taken the ball away from offenses only 3 times in 4 games.
There doesn’t seem to be a huge discrepancy between these two teams on paper, despite their win-loss records. And since the Lions are coming off their Bye week, and the Eagles are about to go on theirs, I’ll take the points with Detroit on Sunday. It might be a different story if this game was played on any other week.
NFL QUICK HITTERS
• New York Giants +6.5 @ San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers may be one of the best teams in the NFL, but the Giants are not so far behind them that they should be 6.5-point underdogs. New York plays much better on the road than they do at home, and they can hang with this 49ers team. The Giants come off a throttling of the Cleveland Browns, a game in which their offense broke out, especially on the ground. QB Eli Manning could also be reunited with WR Hakeem Nicks, who has missed the last three games with injury.
• Oakland Raiders +9 @ Atlanta Falcons: The Raiders are not very good – let’s just get that out of the way. The Falcons are also in the same realm as the 49ers, as one of the best teams in the league. So why in the world would I pick the Raiders, a team that has to travel across the country to play an early game on Sunday? Because the Falcons could care less about blowing Oakland out, and they have their Bye week on tap next week. Despite being 5-0, Atlanta hasn’t really blown anyone out. They would have covered this 9-point spread against only the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, and both of those games were away from home. I expect the Falcons to get a lead early, and then just sit on it to ride out the win.
• Louisville -3 @ Pittsburgh: This game looks too easy to me, which usually means I’m missing something, but I’m sticking with the Cardinals anyway. Louisville (5-0) hasn’t played great football lately, eking out wins over Southern Mississippi, Florida International and North Carolina in their last three games. But Pittsburgh just isn’t that good. Despite performing better on the stat sheet lately, the Panthers are 2-3 on the season, including losses to Youngstown State in the opener and Syracuse last week. They beat Virginia Tech in their third game of the year, but the Hokies look like a joke now, too. Lay the points on the road.
• West Virginia -4 @ Texas Tech: Laying the points on the road in a conference game isn’t always advisable, but I’m doing it here again with West Virginia. The Mountaineers take to a long road trip for the second consecutive week (they beat Texas 48-45 last week). Texas Tech, meanwhile, was manhandled by Oklahoma, 41-20, at home last week. Still, though, the oddsmakers think the Red Raiders can hang with West Virginia. I couldn’t disagree more. Texas Tech won’t be able to stop West Virginia’s offense, and they don’t have the offense to put up enough points.
• Miami +8 vs. North Carolina: UNC burned me last week when they took down Virginia Tech 48-34, but I’m going against them again this week. This is not even close to the same Hurricanes’ teams of the past, but they’re not bad enough to be 8-point conference home dogs, either. Yes, they did lose to Notre Dame 41-3 last week, and they were also blown out by Kansas State 52-13 in week 2, but those are two of the top teams in the land. UNC does not fit into that category. They’re closer to NC State (who Miami beat 44-37), Georgia Tech (who Miami beat 42-36) and Boston College (who Miami beat 41-32).