It’s hard to believe we are already to the halfway point of the NFL regular season. As the great Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while…you might miss it.” You would think with the season progressing the way it is (and not to toot my own horn but also me notching two straight winning seasons, including an 11-4 showing last week) that things would finally seem clear, but Vegas is also getting smarter. This is as tough a gambling week to predict as I’ve seen, so much so that I only have one Tier 1 game for the week.
Tier 1: The Safe(r) Bet (Season Record: 12-11-1)
Seahawks +2 over Cardinals
This is the one line that made me say, “Huh?” There is nothing about the last eight weeks that makes me remotely feel like Arizona should be favored over Seattle, even if they are the home team. Geno Smith has been playing better than Kyler Murray, and Kenneth Walker III has been the breakout player of the season. Furthermore, Pete Carroll, even with the famous Super Bowl goal line pass call, is a much better game manager than Kliff Kingsbury. This one seems simple. I just hope it’s not the “looked too obvious” line in retrospect.
Tier 2: High Lines…Too High? (Season Record: 6-18)
Patriots -5.5 over Colts
Eagles -14 over Texans
Bills -12.5 over Jets
This tier has been my Achilles’ heel all year, but here’s to hoping I can turn that around this week. These three lines are all a little on the high side, but I just can’t bring myself to pick the underdog in any of them. Sam Ehlinger against Bill Belichick? No way, even if it is a “Vegas zone” line. Thursday games can always be a little weird with the short week of preparation, but Philadelphia is rolling, and this Houston team is bad with little sign of turning things around. If you want a fun special bet, try: AJ Brown to score 1+ TD in each half at 13/1 odds (just sprinkle some on it). Buffalo only beat the Packers by 10 last week, but against a Breece Hall-less Jets team I like the Bills by two-plus touchdowns.
Tier 3: Earning Trust (Season Record: 13-13)
Vikings -3.5 over Commanders
Panthers +7.5 over Bengals
Lions +3.5 over Packers
Minnesota is 6-1. Why are we still treating them like a middle of the road team and not an NFC contender? Is it because of “Prime Time” Kirk? Is it because their last five wins have all been one-score victories? And because four of those five teams have losing records? Those are all valid concerns. Regardless, they should be able to beat this (admittedly) newly frisky Commanders team, especially considering it’s not a prime-time game. The Panthers and Lions are both frisky too. The Ja’Marr Chase-less Bengals probably don’t deserve more than a touchdown over anybody right now and ever since Matt Rhule was let go, Carolina has made a habit of hanging around in game. Detroit is getting ready to beat someone and Green Bay is in freefall. They shouldn’t be home favorites over anyone…except maybe Houston.
Tier 4: Some Things are Inevitable…Right? (Season Record: 13-11)
Rams +3 over Bucs
Jaguars +1.5 over Raiders
Chargers -3 over Falcons
These three bets are all based on assumptions that some things we believe eventually have to be true, if only for one week. The Rams eventually have to look like last year’s version. The Jaguars eventually have to win a one-score game (I think?). The Chargers eventually have to play well east of the Mississippi. Then again, maybe I’m a fool clinging to beliefs that were never going to be true. Maybe Thanos is truly the only inevitability…him and taxes.
Tier 5: Coin Flips (Season Record: 15-8-1)
Bears +5 over Dolphins
Ravens -2.5 over Saints
Titans +12.5 over Chiefs
It’s a testament to how bad I am at this that my final tier, the one that should be the least certain, has the best record for the season. That being said, these picks all seem dubious to me, and I will likely stay away from all of them. Most people would probably like Miami to beat this bad Bears team, but here’s a few reasons why I’m wary: 1) playing outdoors in cooler weather may slow the Dolphins offense down 2) Chicago has shown signs of improvement even if they did just get rid of Roquan Smith (but mitigated by adding Chase Claypool) and 3) I just have a feeling this is going to be the “WTF?” box score of the weekend. Tennessee has actually been playing fairly well and I love the idea of Derrick Henry running on this Chiefs defense and keeping Pat Mahomes on the sideline for long enough to make it a game. You can double down on it with this beautiful special: Derrick Henry 200+ scrimmage yards and 2+ touchdowns at 25/1 (again just sprinkle some on it). As for the Ravens-Saints Monday night tilt, I just have a feeling Baltimore is on the verge of a breakthrough. They just acquire Roquan Smith and they have had a long week to prepare playing on Thursday and not playing again until the following Monday. With that amount of time, I like Lamar and co. by a field goal-plus.
Last Week’s Record: 11-4
Season Record: 58-62-2 (Last week I had a typo that said 48-48-2 instead of the correct 48-58-2)
Prop Record: 3-4
Cover Photo Courtesy of Steph Chambers/Getty Images