We're back for another week of picks and predictions. Another week reading the standings, beating the odds, and making Vegas look stupid. Err... That's the idea, anyway. But here's why gambling is completely evil.
Last week's column should have been perfect. If Mason Crosby nails that field goal as time expires in D.C., the Packers would have covered the spread, beaten the Redskins, and it would have been a 4-0 Sunday. If Brett Favre just throws the ball out of bounds on that final drive in New York--really, any outcome except a PICK SIX would have been acceptable--we would have moved to 5-0.
Everybody else took care of business, right on schedule. The Lions hammered St. Louis. The Buffalo Bills played like the Buffalo Bills and rolled over against the Jaguars. And even the Colts, who were in a dogfight with the Chiefs and weren't nearly as impressive as expected, managed to cover. If anything, that's the game I deserved to lose.
But Green Bay and Minnesota? Come on! How did they botch those games? It's pure evil.
I know this is pretty much the same thing as telling someone about your fantasy team, so we'll halt the rambling there. But it's proof that gambling on sports isn't that different from putting money on red or black in a casino. We like to think there's some grand logic governing our decisions, but in the end, even on a weekend where an undefeated record seems realistic, we're still swimming in a sea of coincidence. You can't outsmart chaos.
Finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I hope Brett Favre spends an eternity in someplace resembling hell. Doesn't have to be purgatory, necessarily, but... A fiery pit of flames designed especially for the gunslinger. Not even because he cost me money on Monday night, but because rooting for him was one of the most infuriating experiences I've ever had as a football fan. One minute you're convinced he's completely given up, then he reels you back in with some reckless throw off his back foot, then he stabs you in the effing heart. I should have known better. Last week's column was titled, "Do we bet ON Randy Moss or AGAINST Brett Favre?"
Now we know the answer. God he's awful.
Anyway, courtesy of our friends at Odds Shark, the lines for Week 6:
Seattle at Chicago (-7)
Kansas City at Houston (-4)
Detroit at New York Giants (-10)
Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-13.5)
New Orleans (-4) at Tampa Bay
Miami at Green Bay (OFF)
Baltimore at New England (-3)
Atlanta at Philadelphia (-3)
San Diego (-8.5) at St. Louis
New York Jets (-3) at Denver
Oakland at San Francisco (-7)
Dallas at Minnesota (-1)
Indianapolis (-3) at Washington
Tennessee (-3) at Jacksonville
Over at Odds Shark they point out that underdogs have been kicking ass so far this year. Which is true, but at this point, I feel like that's true every single week of every single NFL season. The favorites in this league aren't as dominant as they used to be, home field advantage doesn't mean as much as it used to, and the level of parity these days basically guarantees a fixed number of upsets every Sunday. I have no statistics to point out any of this, but that's okay, because you probably aren't paying attention.
As Odds Shark explains, all the underdog success hasn't dissuaded anyone from going with the favorites:
Betting favorites this season has been like putting money in the shredding machine, but bettors aren’t shying away from some heavy favorites to create significant Week 6 NFL line moves. Underdogs have dominated the board for three straight weeks, but is this be the week that NFL favorites finally come to play?
Two favorites have had their line move by a full point this week and remain steady; the San Diego Chargers starting at -7.5 and moving to -8.5 on the road against the St. Louis Rams, and the New York Giants starting at -8.0 and moving a full two points to -10.0 at home against Detroit.
So, is this the week for favorites? Let's start with the two games mentioned above.
1. San Diego (-8.5) at St. Louis. The thing with the Chargers is, they're not as good as their reputation suggests. The thing with the Rams is, they're freaking terrible. If you're choosing between two teams, it's always more comfortable to go with the "Good team that might not be great" than "maybe the worst team in the NFL." So, not to go all mainstream here and pick a favorite, but there's no way I'm picking the Rams.
Phillip Rivers is good enough to shred the St. Louis defense, and the Rams offense isn't good enough to take advantage of the Chargers' injuries on D. So don't make the mistake of overthinking this one. Bad NFL teams get killed by good teams. Really bad NFL teams get killed by the Lions. That's what happened to the Rams last week, and I don't think it was a fluke. Take the Chargers, and try to forget you just bet on Norv Turner.
2. Detroit (+10) at New York Giants How did this line start at eight (about three points too high) and then move another two points to 10? Is this like, a New York City effect? Because the Giants shouldn't be favored by 10 over anyone, just because that's how inconsistent they've been so far.
And how does America keep disrespecting the Lions! They may not win seven games this year, but damnit, that's one hell of a 6-10 football team they've got out there in Detroit. In gambling terms, they're 4-1 against the spread this year. In football terms, they're much better than they're record indicates. Sort of like how the Redskins are the worst 3-2 football team ever, the Lions really aren't that bad. They're 1-4 is soooo much better than the Cowboys' 1-4.
So with this one, the underdog's the obvious play. Almost too obvious, which has me nervous. But still, betting on two straight lights out performances from that Giants offense is just too much to ask. If the line were 5, maybe we could talk, but it's double that. Take Detroit, and follow KatieBakes on twitter, because watching her Giants freakouts never gets old. Left-handed interception!
3. Baltimore (+3) at New England It's our first chance to bet against the new-look Patriots!
I don't care that they traded for Deion Branch. This one's about a reality check for Belichick and all the Patriots fans that thought Randy Moss was somehow holding them back. Also, don't look now, but the Ravens might be the best team in football. Take Baltimore, and prepare for Ray Lewis to tear Danny Woodhead in half.
4. Oakland (+7) at San Francisco. Again, I'm not sure whether the guys in Vegas have actually watched the 49ers the first five weeks of the season, but that's a team that shouldn't be favored by seven points over anyone, ever. Especially as the season unravels, and their owner goes out and makes outlandish predictions about the playoffs. From ESPN:
"We're going to win the division," York predicted Monday morning in a text to ESPN.
Clearly, there's a bit of a disconnect with reality in the Bay Area. And Vegas, apparently. You don't hear Al Davis predicting a playoff run for Oakland; with that team, I'm pretty sure they're only goal this week is to ruin the season for the crosstown 49ers. That's what the Raiders are good at--ruining the success of others. As far as excelling, themselves, they can't quite put it together. But that team can play spoiler with the best of them.
Plus, I'm not from the Bay Area, but the battle between the Raiders and 49ers seems like a cultural metaphor. Are you a 49ers person, or an Oakland Raiders person? I'm riding with the Raiders.
5. New York Jets (-3) at Denver. Has everyone noticed that Mark Sanchez looks suspiciously capable as the Jets quarterback? The Vikings shut him down in the second half on Monday night, but even if he can be decent for a half of each game the Jets play this year, that'll probably be enough, right?
Their defense can handle the rest. Even against a juggernaut like the Vikings, who can beat you all over the field. You know what's the opposite of that Vikings juggernaut? The Denver Broncos. I feel like Josh McDaniels is adopting the Patriots model of roster management out there. Doesn't swapping Brandon Marshall for Brandon Lloyd sound a lot like swapping Randy Moss for Deion Branch? One problem, though: Kyle Orton's not Tom Brady.
That alone is enough to bet against Denver in every game they play this year--the defense isn't very good, and their offense is like New England's, except with Kyle Orton instead of Tom Brady. It's not hard to make a case against the Broncos. Against a team like the Jets, with a suddenly dynamic offense and a reliably kickass defense, it's even easier.
Take New York, because Rex Ryan is the NFL's Bluto, and Josh McDaniels is like Nierdermeyer.