By Sunday night, it’s already time to search for next week’s lines. The point of this exercise is to spot one or two spreads that make you stop and say, “Really?”
This week’s lineup provides more than one option.
Oakland an underdog at Jacksonville?
Red-hot Buffalo laying only a field goal at Miami?
But the one that “really” stands out is the Sunday night tilt in Arizona. How in the world is Seattle an underdog? Arizona gets to 3-3 after beating the 49ers and Jets, two of the worst teams in football, and now it’s back just like that? Don’t think so. Let’s see how they fare against one of the NFL’s elite, a team that’s had their number lately (more on that later).
Moral of the story: When looking at the slate of games, try to find one or two lines that you think you have a strong read on.
Underdogs went 8-5-2 last week (with six of them winning to improve to 51-36-4. This looks as if it’s going to be another big underdog week against the spread.
GIANTS (3-3) VS. RAMS (3-3), 9:30 a.m.
at Twickenham Stadium, London
TV: Ch. 2, NFL; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)
Giants by 3; O/U: 43.5
You hear the one about a football game breaking out at a rugby stadium? For the first time since the NFL started holding games in London, two teams will square off at Twickenham. These teams have some recent bad blood. Long before Odell Beckham Jr. became the face of unsportsmanlike conduct and “NetLife” Stadium, he was tangled up in a wild scrum with the Rams two seasons ago. Don’t think Beckham has forgotten about that. He finally had a breakout game this season, and that could very well carry over in London. The Rams have lost two in a row, and the Giants can build on the momentum of last week’s wild win. Eli Manning & Co. make enough big plays to win and cover. Friendly reminder: Don’t forget to set those alarms, and if you want to complain about the early start, be thankful you don’t live in L.A. and have to wake up at 6:30.
The pick: Giants
RAVENS (3-3) AT JETS (1-5), 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 2; Radio: ESPN (98.7)
Jets by 2; O/U: 40
A weird scheduling wrinkle has the Ravens playing back-to-back games at MetLife Stadium. The Jets have played only two games at home, and return after being on the road in four of their last five. Both these teams are trending down, with the Ravens on a three-game losing streak and the Jets on a four-game skid. Can Geno Smith provide a spark? It’s doubtful, but when something seems impossible in the NFL, it usually means it’s going to happen. The Ravens allow the fewest rushing yards per game at 69.7, so they’ll let Smith try and beat them. This is the definition of a stay-away game, but if you have to make a pick, go with the better quarterback (as long as Joe Flacco plays) and the better coach.
The pick: Ravens
1 P.M. GAMES
BILLS (4-2) AT DOLPHINS (2-4)
Bills by 3; O/U: 44
Since firing its offensive coordinator, Buffalo has won four in a row by a 124-53 margin. The Bills have the No. 1 rushing attack in the league at 166.5 yards per game, and even if LeSean McCoy doesn’t play, they should find plenty of running room against the Dolphins’ second-to-last run defense (147 yards). Buffalo finds itself in the same scenario as Pittsburgh last week: At Miami with a home game against New England on deck. Buffalo won’t fall for the “trap game” against a divisional foe, and will again run up the score. If we had to make two best bets per week, this would be my second.
The pick: Bills
SAINTS (2-3) AT CHIEFS (3-2)
Chiefs by 6.5; O/U: 50.5
Kansas City should win, but this is a lot of points for a Saints team that has scored 34, 32, 35 and 41 points in four of its five games. New Orleans has won two in a row and is playing with some confidence. Drew Brees keeps this one close enough for the cover.
The pick: Saints
VIKINGS (5-0) AT EAGLES (3-2)
Vikings by 3; O/U: 40
Minnesota is the only undefeated team, both in the NFL and ATS standings. The Vikings are off a bye, and their defense is allowing a league-low 12.6 points per game. They should have no trouble handing Philadelphia its third straight loss, right? Wrong. This is the NFL, and there are so many more variables that go into picking games. For instance: The Eagles are playing their first home game since Week 3, a 34-3 win over the Steelers. Coincidentally, the Vikings haven’t played a road game since Week 3. The Eagles’ defense allows the second fewest points per game at 15.6, and will be pumped to face former teammate Sam Bradford. Give me the Eagles to win outright and hand the Vikings their first loss.
The pick: Eagles
REDSKINS (4-2) AT LIONS (3-3)
Lions by 1; O/U: 50
After an 0-2 start that included reports of teammates questioning Kirk Cousins’ play, the Redskins have won four straight. How do “you like that?” This should be a back-and-forth game with Cousins and Matthew Stafford making big throws downfield. First to 30 wins.
The pick: Redskins
RAIDERS (4-2) AT JAGUARS (2-3)
Jaguars by 1; O/U: 47.5
Jacksonville shouldn’t be favored in this game. Two wins against the Colts and Bears don’t warrant that, and this feels like a total overreaction after the Raiders’ lackluster effort last week. Oakland is 3-0 on the road with all three of those wins being 1 p.m. starts, so don’t be scared off by the early start for a West Coast team. Derek Carr has a big day.
The pick: Raiders
BROWNS (0-6) AT BENGALS (2-4)
Bengals by 10; O/U: 45.5
If the NFL awarded wins based on effort, the Browns might be 6-0 instead of the only winless team. The Bengals, meanwhile, have shown that they’re not the same team from recent years, and can’t be trusted with this big of a spread. Browns coach Hue Jackson was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator the previous two seasons. His knowledge of Andy Dalton’s tendencies should benefit the Browns defense. Cleveland improves to 4-3 against the spread . . . and don’t be surprised if they pull off the upset.
The pick: Browns
COLTS (2-4) AT TITANS (3-3)
Titans by 3; O/U: 48
Andrew Luck is 7-0 vs. the Titans, but as last Sunday night’s meltdown in Houston showed, luck isn’t on the Colts’ side this season. Their defense can’t stop anyone. Tennessee has scored 30 and 28 points to win its last two games, and Marcus Mariota and the Titans’ run-heavy offense will have a big day. Bet the over.
The pick: Titans
4 P.M. GAMES
PATRIOTS (5-1) AT STEELERS (4-2)
Patriots by 7; O/U: 47.5?
This matchup would’ve been billed as the Game of the Year. Then, Ben Roethlisberger got hurt and now it’s Landry Jones against Bill Belichick’s defense and Tom Brady. Pittsburgh has enough talented playmakers on offense to keep this close for a while, but its defense won’t be able to stop Brady, LeGarrette Blount and Rob Gronkowski. (Note: The guess here is that we’ll get that Game of the Year in a few months when these two teams meet in the AFC Championship Game, as long as Roethlisberger is healthy, of course).
The pick: Patriots
CHARGERS (2-4) AT FALCONS (4-2)
Falcons by 6.5; O/U: 53.5
This has the potential to be the most exciting game of the week. Did you see Dan Quinn’s fiery reaction on the sideline when the refs missed that obvious pass interference call in Seattle last week? A flag there, and the Falcons are en route to a game-winning field goal and a 5-1 start. They’ll rebound at home, but it won’t be easy. Philip Rivers and the Chargers, who will have had more than a week off after its big Thursday night win against Denver, just don’t get blown out. San Diego’s four losses are by 6, 4, 1 and 3 points. Falcons win, but Chargers cover.
The pick: Chargers
BUCS (2-3) AT 49ERS (1-5)
Bucs by 1; O/U: 46.5
The Bucs are off a bye, and have more talent than the 49ers, but that doesn’t always result in a win. Especially on the road. The 49ers haven’t won — or covered — - since Week 1, but it’s worth taking a shot with the home underdog. Colin Kaepernick’s home debut could provide a spark.
The pick: 49ers
LOCK OF THE WEEK
SEAHAWKS (4-1) AT CARDINALS (3-3)
Cardinals by 2; O/U: 43
36-6. 35-6. 34-22. Those are the scores of Seattle’s wins in Arizona the last three seasons. Russell Wilson threw eight touchdown passes with no interceptions in those wins. The Seahawks quarterback likes playing in prime time, going 12-3 for his career. That trend should continue in the desert against a Cardinals team that doesn’t look as strong as in recent seasons. Arizona is a favorite because it’s home, and just had a big win on Monday night. But if the Cards can fall to the Rams at home, what makes you think the Seahawks won’t win, too? Carson Palmer didn’t have to do anything last week as David Johnson ran all over the Jets. The Seahawks can stack the box and make Palmer beat them. He won’t. Getting two points with the better team is a rare gift, so scoop it up and count your winnings by midnight.
The pick: Seahawks
TEXANS (4-2) AT BRONCOS (4-2)
Broncos by 9; O/U: 40.5
Brock Osweiler probably wished he added a “No Broncos game” clause to his Texans contract. It’s going to be a long night against his former team. As Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said, “We want to beat him bad.” Osweiler has struggled in two road losses as Houston has been outscored 58-13 by the Patriots and Vikings. They won’t fare well at Denver, either. Nine points is a lot, but the Broncos have lost two in a row, and will have had 10 days to prepare.
The pick: Broncos
Staff picks and standings (best bets in bold)
Joe Manniello: 42-46-4 overall, 4-2 best bets (Last week: 7-6-2)
Giants Ravens Bills Saints Eagles Redskins Raiders Browns Titans Patriots Chargers 49ers Seahawks Broncos
Bob Glauber: 39-49-4 overall, 3-3 best bets (Last week: 6-7-2)
Giants Jets Dolphins Chiefs Vikings Lions Raiders Bengals Titans Patriots Falcons Bucs Seahawks Broncos
Tom Rock: 47-41-4 overall, 2-4 best bets (Last week: 9-4-2)
Giants Ravens Bills Chiefs Vikings Lions Raiders Bengals Colts Patriots Falcons 49ers Seahawks Texans
Kimberley A. Martin: 36-52-4 overall, 2-4 best bets (Last week: 5-8-2)
Giants Jets Dolphins Saints Eagles Redskins Raiders Browns Titans Patriots Chargers 49ers Seahawks Broncos