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Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. It is with great pleasure that I begin my third season writing this column. As someone who has won and lost their fair share of money on the NFL (and many other sports), this is bound to be a fun and unpredictable ride. Join me, won’t you?
As with the format in previous years, this article will help those of you who compete in confidence pools and in ranking selections, which may come in handy on those Las Vegas trips. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as totals or over/unders) with 1-3 “Stars”, which basically highlight the best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars are not preferred one way or the other, but will still be covered, discussed and a winner will be predicted for those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools.
Week 2 produced a feast of dramatic football – and it was another day for the dogs. The underdogs went 9-6 against the spread in Sunday’s action, a sign that the Vegas sharps haven’t quite found their feet yet. The standout covers were the Titans (+6.5) and Raiders (+5.5), the former responding to an embarrassing defeat with a thrilling road win; the latter turning heads by knocking off the Steelers at Heinz Field.
Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com
(Thursday Night) CAROLINA (-7.5) at HOUSTON (Over/Under 43.5)
The Texans are down to Davis Mills at quarterback for this match-up on a short week against the red-hot Panthers. That fact alone has prompted a three-point line move; the sharps are giving Houston zero chance, in other words. That may be a little harsh considering how well David Culley’s men have performed through two weeks. The spot is not great for Mills, however, with just a handful of days to prepare for a defensive unit that has bamboozled quarterbacks through two weeks.
The Panthers are one of those "yeah, but" 2-0 teams; the experts will be reticent to give them credit, but the win against the Saints should attract the league’s attention. Injury-riddled though the Saints were, Carolina’s front seven walloped Jameis Winston all game long, turning him into their personal punching bag. Sam Darnold played one of his best, if not his best, career game to boot. And Christian McCaffrey? Well, say no more. The Texans will have no answers for him. The extra half-point gives pause, so take the home dogs to keep it close.
CINCINNATI at PITTSBURGH (-4.5) (Over/Under 44.5)
The Bengals offense was utterly listless for long periods of the game on Sunday in Chicago, with Joe Burrow looking flustered often. Credit has to go to the Bears defense for flummoxing the young quarterback, but even so, Cincinnati managed to keep it close. And that, perhaps, is where the Bengals will settle this year: the team that keeps it interesting, keeps us watching, and then ultimately disappoints. Both of their games so far have been tight affairs; we could see a repeat here.
A trip to Heinz Field used to be a daunting task, a mission completed only by the most daring and steadfast teams. Now, it seems the Steelers have lost their aura. Early reports are indicating that T.J. Watt, who left the game on Sunday due to a groin injury, could suit up on Sunday. Pittsburgh needs him to, as a win against a division rival here would suddenly silence some doubters and would leave the team at 2-1. Ben Roethlisberger has a bit to do to convince us that he is anything but a declining player with little to offer.
CHICAGO at CLEVELAND (-7.5) (Over/Under 46.5)
Bears head coach Matt Nagy is adamant on one thing: Andy Dalton ain’t going anywhere and will remain the starting quarterback. Prior to the season, many questioned his stubbornness. Now, it is perhaps more understandable given the struggles of rookie Justin Fields in relief of the Red Rifle last week. Fields was mistake-prone and looked cold coming off the bench. If the rookie is forced to start here, the reception from the revitalized Browns defense could be nasty.
Cleveland’s defense came to play in fits and starts against Houston, ultimately getting the job done. It helped that they played against Davis Mills for long periods, though. Alarm bells should be ringing for the Browns on that side of the ball, but the Bears offense is not the most intimidating. For that reason, this looks like a ‘get well’ game for the home team. Vegas has them as 7.5-point favorites, putting them just outside the comfortable range.
INDIANAPOLIS at TENNESSEE (-5.5) (Over/Under 48)
The Carson Wentz injury dropped the total in this game by almost a full touchdown, but the line has remained the same. The question is whether Wentz, who injured his ankles against the Rams, has any chance of playing. Backup Jacob Eason had an inauspicious spell when he entered the game, so Colts fans can be forgiven for gulping upon hearing the young passer’s name. Overall, despite being 0-2, the Colts should be encouraged by their performance against a superior Los Angeles Rams team.
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