If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the first three weeks of the NFL season, it’s that it’s very foolish to try to be smarter than Las Vegas, Football Outsiders, and other smart guys around football. That’s why I’m not going to do my own NFL team ranking anymore – because Football Outsiders does it better.
Eating humble pie has led me to remember how I was successful picking NFL games against the spread the last two years. I always kept in mind the following phrase: “Las Vegas knows something I don’t.” If there’s a point spread or an over/under that just seems strange or “off,” there’s a very good reason for it.
With that in mind, here are my picks against the spread this week. My picks are going to be counter-intuitive because that’s the only way I’ve been successful making picks in the past. I’m 17-28-3 against the spread this year trying to be smart, so now it’s time to pull a George Costanza and do the opposite of what makes sense.
St. Louis (+3) vs. San Francisco
The Rams were blown out by Dallas and now face last year’s NFC champion – but what we might be seeing is a 49ers team that is this year’s “shock” bad team.
Minnesota (+1.5) vs. Pittsburgh (in London)
The Vikings defense has looked horrible all year and they just lost a home game to the Cleveland Browns with Brian Hoyer. Now they travel to London to play an outdoors game against Pittsburgh. I thought the Steelers would be favored by at least a field goal, but again, Las Vegas knows something I don’t.
Buffalo (+3.5) vs. Baltimore
The Bills are coming off a loss to the Jets (in which they made Geno Smith look like a Pro Bowl QB) and the Ravens are coming off a blowout win over Houston. Time to take Buffalo.
Cleveland (+4.5) vs. Cincinnati
Don’t let the Browns game last week fool you – Brian Hoyer did not have a good performance. It makes sense that Hoyer would be shut down by the Bengals defense, which is why the Browns will probably cover the spread.
Indianapolis (-8) at Jacksonville
The Colts are not an elite NFL team but they’re being favored by more than a touchdown on the road because they’re playing the Jaguars. Jacksonville might be historically bad this year.
Houston (+3) vs. Seattle
The Seahawks are a Super Bowl contender coming off two blowout wins. The Texans are a defensively oriented team whose defense has suddenly been average or worse in three games in a row. It doesn’t make sense that the Texans would pull everything together against the best team in the NFC, so that’s why they’ll probably cover the spread.
Arizona (+3) at Tampa Bay
I got this line before Tampa Bay substituted Mike Glennon for Josh Freeman. Glennon is probably the better QB long-term, but I doubt he’s better than Freeman right now.
Detroit (-2.5) vs. Chicago
The Bears are 3-0 and running up the score for the most part. Time to pick against them.
NY Giants (+4) at Kansas City
The Giants just got utterly humiliated in Carolina and have the worst offensive line in the NFL. Now they’re going on the road to face one of the most improved teams/defenses in the league. Time for the Giants to cover the spread.
NY Jets (+3.5) at Tennessee
The Jets are the one team I’ve been right about this season. Everybody thought they would crash and burn but forgot that their defense is still pretty good. The betting public doesn’t believe in the Jets yet but they’re 3-0 against the spread and likely about to be 4-0.
San Diego (+2) vs. Dallas
I can’t bring myself to be counter-intuitive in this game. The Chargers are at home and GETTING points against Dallas? It’s said the Cowboys line is always inflated because of Cowboys fans betting on their team. I’m banking on that being the case.
Philadelphia (+10.5) at Denver
The Broncos have looked completely unstoppable in two home games this season. Philadelphia has one of the worst defenses in the league. Time for Denver’s offense to suddenly run into some speed bumps out of nowhere.
Oakland (+3) vs. Washington
The Redskins aren’t so bad that they would lose to Oakland, right? Time for Washington to hit rock bottom. I’m just full of sunshine today.
New England (+1.5) at Atlanta
Tom Brady is still good but suddenly looks human this year. He’s going into a dome to face the Falcons. But Gronk is back, and that means it’s time to channel 2007 Tom Brady in a 48-21 type win that leaves everybody wondering if Atlanta is a fraud.
Miami (+6.5) at New Orleans
An outdoors team is going into the Saints’ dome and playing a high-octane offense that’s suddenly paired with an above-average defense. It doesn’t make any sense for Miami to cover the spread here. They really should get blown out.
I feel horrible about most of these picks. That’s why I’ll probably end up 9-6 against the spread this week. We’ll see.