What the hell is going on with the NFL this season? It’s a broad question that applies in a lot of ways to professional football this season ... SO MANY WAYS. But since this is a column tasked with giving you questionable betting advice, I can narrow the answer to that question to what’s happening on the field itself.
Dominant teams that steamroll shitty ones every week? Gone.
The schedule gave us what looked like a whole bunch of lopsided matchups for the few weeks. The Dolphins at Falcons, ha ha, yeah. Heavily favored teams mean big spreads, which was something we saw a lot of last week, the week before that and the week before that.
You get the idea.
Instead we’ve got the schizophrenic Steelers, the Patriots without a defense, a Cowboys team that can’t run the ball well, a competent Saints defense, etc. We haven’t seen so many dynasties crippled since the Industrial Revolution swept across Europe.
The standings are a mess. And the inevitable result in the gambling prognostications is a logjam of 3-point spreads.
Of the 14 games this week left to play, six of them have 3-point spreads. Only one has a spread of 6 or more points. And it’s one you have to take a chance on.
Let’s try to walk through the picks.
Home teams are in all caps. Spreads come via OddsShark.
EAGLES (-4.5) over Washington
Philadelphia is the best team in the NFC. Period. That doesn’t mean they’re going to win every game from here on out or anything like that, but they have the talent, and they mostly seem to know what they’re doing.
Division games are always a little tougher in the NFC East. Washington is an impressive 6-1 against the spread in its last seven games against Philly. But this is the same Washington team that failed to cover an 11-point spread against the winless 49ers last week.
Panthers (-3) over BEARS
The Bears might have a claim to being the most exciting 2-4 team we’ve seen in a while.
Saints (-4.5) over PACKERS
The Saints’ newfound defensive competence versus a Packers team without Aaron Rodgers. Oh, and Drew Brees against a Dom Capers defense that’s banged up with injuries. We’re done here.
Titans (-5.5) over BROWNS
More than anything I’m just surprised that the spread’s not bigger.
Broncos (even) over CHARGERS
I hoped that the Broncos losing and the Chargers winning last week might get Philip Rivers and Co. a little more love from the books.
VIKINGS (-5.5) over Ravens
I would take Case Keenum over Joe Flacco at this point. Not even as a betting thing, but like in picking a QB I’d rather have on my roster. And Keenum is a career backup.
Jaguars (-3) over COLTS
Leonard Fournette hasn’t practiced all week. Even if he doesn’t play, the Jags should still be able to run all over the Colts.
STEELERS (-5) over Bengals
The real winner here is that the rest of us get to watch a game that will inevitably turn into a brawl of some sort.
PATRIOTS (-3) over Falcons
The Falcons don’t know who they are right now. But if they lose this game, in their heads, they’ll always be 28-3.
Jets (+3) over DOLPHINS
BILLS (-3) over Buccaneers
Underdog picks for the adventurous gambler
49ERS (+6) over Cowboys
The 49ers could be 5-1 as easily as they are 0-6. At least they’re 4-2 against the spread. Dallas is just 3-9 against the spread in their last 12.
GIANTS (+4) over Seahawks
Ben McAdoo gave up the play calling, and the Giants won. I don’t think that was a coincidence.
Cardinals (+3) over RAMS
Is Adrian Peterson reinvigorated with the Cardinals? Sure. I’ll accept it for now. This is a London game too.