You don’t need crypto. You don’t need NFTs. You just need The Vigorish.
Matt: The gambling gods are ruthless. I spent a chunk of last week’s post explaining my strategy for betting NFL games and, like clockwork, I went a very bad, not at all close 0-2 on the weekend. The lesson, as always: we are but tiny vessels in a vast cosmos of luck and chance, and fie upon any who would claim otherwise.
Sufficiently humbled, I hope to mix things up this week by picking a Friday game rather than the usual Saturday. I couldn’t tell you why Houston is hosting Memphis on a Friday this week but I have to assume it’s part of the exceptionally poor TV deal the AAC has with ESPN. Anyway, within the G5 landscape, Houston is a good football team that is deserving of its top-25 ranking. They’ve got a solid win against SMU, dominant score lines against lousy teams they should dominate, and 9 straight wins since dropping their opener against Texas Tech. This is a worthy #2 in the AAC behind perennial national outcast Cincinnati.
Memphis, on the other hand, has had a disappointing season. They had every opportunity to be in the position Houston’s in now (and to tell you the truth that’s where I expected them to be) but they’ve had a lot of trouble putting complete games together and their 5-5 record accurately reflects the simple fact that they aren’t very good. Accordingly, picking Houston to win this one at home is easy.
Laying 8.5, though? Well, I really do think Houston is two scores better than Memphis, but what put it over the top for me was when I learned that Memphis has beaten Houston five straight times. I look for Houston to exact revenge, and then some.
Matt’s FRIDAY pick: HOUSTON (-8.5) over Memphis
Andy: What the hell? I’ll take South Carolina.
Sure, they’re not good and their coach is answering questions about a vacancy at his alma mater, never a good sign. They’ve played three QBs this year and none has looked particularly good.
But Auburn’s season has fallen apart as it dropped back-to-back games, and now its QB and kicker are both out for the season. Sure, the backup T.J. Finley, led LSU to a 52-24 drubbing of the Gamecocks a year ago, but there’s a reason he was forced to transfer and a reason he was playing behind Bo Nix in the first place (he’s inaccurate and doesn’t take care of the ball).
So after finally getting on the right side on a Saturday last week by riding with a great team and dealing with laying a lot of points, I’m ready to zag. A bad team getting 7.5 at home? Mmmm. That sounds good. I’ll have that.
Andy’s Saturday pick: SOUTH CAROLINA (+7.5) over Auburn
Matt: Ah, finally, an underdog for your ol’ pal Matt. Dallas is getting 2.5 at Kansas City, a line that doesn’t make much sense to me. When a line doesn’t make sense, the first thing I do is look at the injury report. Cowboys starting left tackle Tyron Smith is listed as questionable, but he practiced Wednesday and I’m optimistic he’ll play, so no great concern there. Short of a home letdown at the hands of the Broncos two weeks ago, America’s Team (ugh) has looked like a Super Bowl contender all season and it’s hard to believe that they should be getting points against anyone but the most elite teams in the league. The 2021 iteration of Kansas City has decidedly not been one of those. So what gives?
I think the answer is that the Chiefs are still fooling people. I’ve written in this space before about how bad the Chiefs defense has been and I won’t rehash it. The offense hasn’t been great either, but the thing is, every few weeks they’ve been able to post a final score that lulls people back into thinking they’re fine. Take last week: they dropped 41 on the Raiders—a gaudy number to be sure—but that game was very much in doubt until a costly DeSean Jackson fumble late in the third quarter and Kansas City doesn’t get to 41 without a pair of 4th-quarter TDs against a completely deflated Vegas defense. Prior to that game? Totals of 13, 20, and 3. They may have the same personnel and coaching, but these are not your 2019 or 2020 Kansas City Chiefs.
Another flashing-red warning sign here is that the Chiefs are 3-7 against the spread this season (in contrast Dallas is 8-1). Something is broken in KC but the betting public hasn’t fully caught on yet. Catch these generous lines while you still can.
Matt’s Sunday pick: Cowboys (+2.5) over CHIEFS
Andy: I’m glad people are excited about Justin Fields. He’s been exciting on an otherwise unexciting team and Bears fans can dream on him without seeming crazy.
But the excitement has gotten a bit out of hand, relative to his performance. He led a fun comeback bid against the Steelers in a game marred by horrible officiating, but here’s how the Bears offense opened that game: punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, field goal. Things opened up in the second half – especially in the fourth quarter, but the reaction hardly seems to match a team that’s lost four straight, led by a rookie QB who has thrown twice as many picks as touchdowns.
So the Bears are getting four and a half, at home, coming off a bye. But the bye is mitigated by the Ravens coming off a mini-bye, after their perplexing trip to Miami last Thursday. And home field advantage has never been worth less in the NFL.
I’m deciding not to make much of the Ravens inability to solve the Dolphins’ perpetual zero blitz last week, writing it off instead as one of those weird games that comes about during a season (especially on Thursdays). The Ravens’ passing game is still as explosive as we thought, and Rashod Bateman is taking on a bigger role every week. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s the featured wideout for the rest of the season, with Marquise Brown settling into the deep threat role for which he’s better suited. Le’Veon Bell’s departure is the biggest boost the running game has seen this year.
The 4.5 points is a little heavy, leaving me susceptible to a loss if the Ravens once again sleepwalk through three quarters and rally for a win that never should have been so hard. It’s fine.
Andy’s Sunday pick: Ravens (-4.5) over BEARS
What do you think of the picks? Leave a comment.