This Sunday’s game between the New York Giants and the Washington Football Team offers a comparison between two different styles of NFL handicapping.
The first is more of an eye test. Though the Giants come in winless at 0-5 and the WFT is 1-4, Big Blue appears to be in much better form right now. They have covered the spread in three of their past four — all tough road assignments at the Bears, Rams and Cowboys — and could have won two of those games outright.
There are many who believe all Daniel Jones and Joe Judge need to put them into the winners’ circle, finally, is a nice home date against a terrible opponent. The WFT would seem to fit the bill, having lost four in a row by margins of 15, 14, 14 and 20. Kyle Allen is expected to return under center after missing the second half last week against the Rams with an arm injury.
So what’s getting in the way of a Giants selection — perhaps even a Best Bet or a Lock of the Week? Well, it’s that pesky “other style” of handicapping, the one in which you follow the money. This line opened at Giants -3.5, and despite an even ticket split, according to VSiN, the line moved though the key number of 3 all the way to 2.5. That signals there was sharp action on the WFT at +3.5 and +3.
Over the long haul, the best practice is to stay on the side of the sharp bettors (aka the smart money). But timing is also critical. WFT +3.5 was a sharp play, but we’re too late to bet that number. If the line goes back to 3, we’ll know Giants -2.5 was sharp, as well.
So, what to do? The play here is the Giants, favored for the first time this season, at this suspiciously low number. They couldn’t hold a 17-3 lead against the Cowboys, but if they get up on Washington, I figure they’ll show some killer instinct this time.
The pick: Giants, -2.5.
(Home team in CAPS)
MIAMI DOLPHINS (-9.5) over New York Jets
The Dolphins have been underdogs for 22 games in a row entering Sunday. That’s all five games this season, all 16 in 2019 and the final game of 2018. Suddenly, after last week’s impressive road destruction of the 49ers, the Dolphins not only are favored, but by nearly double digits. I’m expecting a respectable performance from Joe Flacco, who should add a weapon in rookie Denzel Mims. But it’s not a stretch to envision 33-16 or so on the scoreboard.
Houston Texans (+3.5) over TENNESSEE TITANS
Romeo Crennel gave the Texans a big boost in his first game in place of fired coach Bill O’Brien. They beat the Jaguars, 30-14, after not having scored more than 23 or allowed fewer than 28 points in four losses. The Titans have an extra short week and could be believing their press clippings after a 42-16 destruction of the Bills.
Cincinnati Bengals (+7.5) over INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Joe Burrow couldn’t get anything going in a tough road spot at Baltimore as the Bengals fell, 27-3. This spot isn’t much easier, as the Colts, in their two home games, have allowed 9.0 ppg. An opening line of 9.5 has moved in the Bengals’ direction, though. Unlike in the Giants game, we’ll follow the money and give Burrow another shot.
Atlanta Falcons (+4.5) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS
A Falcons assistant coach tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday morning, but this game, for now, is on. Raheem Morris takes over for the fired Dan Quinn. This could give the Falcons a temporarily lift. Vikings are 1-4, without Dalvin Cook and coming off a soul-crushing loss at Seattle.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-10) over Denver Broncos
Hefty number, but not a deterrent to backing the Patriots with two weeks to prepare after their loss to the Chiefs — and with Cam Newton and possibly Stephon Gilmore returning. Broncos benefit from the week delay as QB Drew Lock is expected to return. But I’m in no mood to mess with Bill Belichick here.
Baltimore Ravens (-7.5) over PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
The Ravens have responded to their loss to the Chiefs with wins by 14 at Washington and 24 versus Cincinnati. This is a bit of a step up in class against the Eagles, who hung in before losing a cover late in Pittsburgh. It’s their first time up against Lamar Jackson, so the lean is his way in a tough one to call.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-3.5) over Cleveland Browns
Hard to make this selection without knowing the status of Odell Beckham Jr.’s “illness.” The Browns already are down Nick Chubb. Mike Tomlin won’t let the Steelers get too immersed in the Myles Garrett revenge angle, and Chase Claypool’s four TDs last week game opposing defensive coordinators something new to think about.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (-1) over Chicago Bears
The Brady of the Year so far is not Tom Brady in Tampa, but Joe Brady in Charlotte. The former LSU genius has the Panthers’ offense humming behind QB Teddy Bridgewater, who has found a connection with former Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson, and has done it even without Christian McCaffrey.
Detroit Lions (-3.5) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
The Lions are off a bye following a close home loss to the Saints, which was preceded by a nice victory at Arizona. Liking Matthew Stafford-to-Kenny Golladay against this Jaguars defense.
Green Bay Packers (-1) over TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Green Bay is hard to bet against at 4-0 SU and ATS and coming off a bye. The Bucs have been more up and down, even if there’s something appealing about the idea of Tom Brady wearing the home-underdog label.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (+3) over Los Angeles Rams
This one’s all about pride. After getting their heads handed to them by the Dolphins, 43-17, figuring the 49ers will be all there in prime time.
Kansas City Chiefs (-4) over BUFFALO BILLS
Both teams are coming off losses in which their secondaries were torched. Still, Kansas City has given up more than 20 points just that one time. Buffalo has yielded 23 or more four times. Plus Bills on extra-short week off Tuesday loss.
DALLAS COWBOYS (+1.5) over Arizona Cardinals
Third road game in a row for the Cardinals, which could hinder Kyler Murray from reaching the numbers Dallas usually gives up. Cowboys will circle the wagons around capable Andy Dalton, who is loaded with weapons.
Best bets: Panthers, Giants, Steelers.
Lock of the week: Panthers (Locks 1-3-1 in 2020).
Last week: 8-6 overall, 2-1 Best Bets.
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