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NFL picks against the spread, Week 6: Betting on the big underdogs

This week, we’re going down the list of mismatches, games with 7-point spreads or more.

Six of this week’s games have a 7-point spread or greater. None of them have an especially large spread, though, like 10 points or more, but a touchdown difference is still something that catches your attention, especially in a league that prides itself on parity.

When you look at NFL betting in total, more people end up picking the favorite team. But picking the underdogs are where the opportunity lies. Usually.

Sometimes the deck is just too stacked against the underdog, like last week’s Patriots-Browns game. Even a 10-point spread proved to be way too small for that one. Just picking the underdog as a rule isn’t necessarily a wiser strategy. You have to read between the lines (betting term) and know when to plunk down your hard earned pay on the team least likely to win.

You know what I say, “big spreads, big opportunities!” Gambling picks with a used car salesman’s slogan, what could possibly go wrong.

The home team is in all caps. Odds are provided via OddsShark (lines updated as of Sunday morning 8:45 a.m. ET).

49ers (+8) over BILLS

Colin Kaepernick is making his first start in almost a year and his first under head coach Chip Kelly. It sounds like a perfect match, but Kelly has a history of choosing quarterbacks like Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, and Blaine Gabbert. So who knows what’s going to happen.

The Bills haven’t won four games in a row since 2008. Rex Ryan hasn’t done it since 2010, with the Jets. Success has a way of slipping from his grasp, usually by his own doing. More unknowns!

I think it will be fun to watch, but even that’s up in the air.

This is the biggest spread of any game this week, and it’s the least predictable. Take the Niners to cover.

PATRIOTS (-7.5) over Bengals

Any spread bigger than a touchdown usually makes me look twice. Not this one. No spread offered this season will be too large for the Patriots to beat.

It’s not just that Tom Brady’s back. It’s the playmakers around him. Think about it from a defensive coordinator’s perspective. Are you going to commit to stop the tight ends, Gronk and Martellus Bennett? Fine, but what are you going to do about Chris Hogan on the outside? Or Julian Edelman, LeGarrette Blount, etc.?

Probably a good idea to bet the over, too.

Steelers (-7) over DOLPHINS

The Dolphins are not without talent, on both sides of the ball. Ryan Tannehill isn’t a very good quarterback (surprise!) but there’s enough to work with here that most teams with underwhelming quarterbacks could at least pull out the nose dive just before bottoming out. None of those teams are the Miami Dolphins.

Browns (+7) over TITANS

I actually picked the Browns to win this week. They’re close to snapping their winless streak ... or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Maybe I’m just taken in by players like Terrelle Pryor or Hue Jackson’s coaching, both of which have embraced a willingness to do anything to win.

A win might still be a stretch. Covering a 7-point spread doesn’t feel like it.


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JETS (+7) over Cardinals

Most of the action is on the Jets to cover. Of all the big spreads this week, this one is the most inexplicable. Yes, the Jets are bad, but these aren’t the same Cardinals everyone was picking to win the NFC crown this year. Well, it is the same team; it’s just not a very good one.

More than this being about the Cardinals’ level of play, I see a Jets team that has consistently underperformed this season. It’s worth noting that in last week’s thrashing by the Steelers, Gang Green at least didn’t commit any turnovers. That’s something!

Falcons (+7) over SEAHAWKS

I think it’s safe to say that the Falcons are indeed for real. That just means they’re not going to do what they did last year after a 5-0 start to the season. Atlanta is also 4-1 against the spread. But I wouldn’t expect a ton of points in this one. Seattle’s defense is outstanding, and the weather is going to be windy and stormy.

Cowboys (+4.5) over PACKERS

Green Bay’s run defense has been pretty good this season. Teams are averaging just 42.8 yards per game against them. Just how much will that change against Dallas’ mauling offensive line and a back like Ezekiel Elliott?

GIANTS (-4) over Ravens

LIONS (-3) over Rams

Eagles (-3) over WASHINGTON

TEXANS (-3) over Colts

SAINTS (+2.5) over Panthers

RAIDERS (+2) over Chiefs

Jaguars (+1.5) over BEARS