If there’s one thing we learned Halloween night — other than realizing that eating two pounds of candy is never a good idea — it’s that you have to treat every NFL game as its own entity. That Vikings-Bears game is the perfect example of how a far superior team can lose on any given Sunday, or in that case, Monday. It all depends on the situation. The Bears, having had more than a week to prepare and at home, were also getting Jay Cutler back. The Vikings were the pick here, but hours before that game, the feeling was that the Bears would most likely cover and maybe even pull off an October surprise.
Moral of the story: Don’t just take a team because it’s better. There’s so much more that goes into picking NFL games against the spread.
Favorites went 7-4-1 last week, but the underdogs are still ruling this season with a 62-51-5 record. Underdogs could be in store for another big week.
EAGLES (4-3) AT GIANTS (4-3), 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 5; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)
Giants by 2; O/U: 42.5
This rivalry usually produces memorable games, and often times, forgettable ones for Giants fans (see: DeSean Jackson and Herm Edwards). This one figures to be a close division battle that could produce another big finish. The Eagles are coming off a Sunday night meltdown in Dallas and probably can’t wait to get back on the field. Philly’s defense has been one of the best in the NFL this season, allowing an average of 16.7 points per game. The Giants’ offense has been in a funk for most of the season and is averaging only 19 points. Other than Week 1’s one-point win at Dallas, Big Blue hasn’t had an impressive win. They’re coming off a bye after two wins, but one of those was an ugly win over the Rams in London, and in the other they needed two huge plays by Odell Beckham Jr. just to beat the Ravens at home. Despite the identical records, Philly has looked like more of a contender. Doug Pederson also gets the edge over Ben McAdoo in the battle of first-year coaches. Not a big believer in trends because so many things change from season to season, but this one’s hard to ignore: The Eagles have won eight of nine at the Giants. Make it nine of 10.
The pick: Eagles
JETS (3-5) AT DOLPHINS (3-4), 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 2; Radio: ESPN (98.7)
Dolphins by 4; O/U: 44
Both teams are riding two-game winning streaks, but the Dolphins are off a bye and at home and that’s always a good combo. Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins’ much-improved offensive line will look to make history as Ajayi eyes a third straight 200-yard rushing game. That’s highly unlikely to happen against the Jets’ top-ranked rush defense (74 ypg). So the onus will fall on the Dolphins’ passing game. Look for Jarvis Landry to make plenty of plays against a suspect Jets secondary that has been picked apart repeatedly this season. This should be a close game, but the Dolphins get the edge because they looked more impressive in their wins over the Steelers and Bills than the Jets did against the Ravens and Browns. Lay the points.
The pick: Dolphins
1 P.M. GAMES
STEELERS (4-3) AT RAVENS (3-4)
Ravens by 2.5; O/U: 43.5
If Ben Roethlisberger plays, this spread definitely will change, so pounce on this line now. Even if Landry Jones starts, the Steelers are the right play against a Ravens team that has lost four in a row and really didn’t look all that impressive during a 3-0 start. Both teams are off a bye, and that extra preparation could be key for Jones. It also helps that he has Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. This won’t be the most memorable chapter in the riveting Steelers-Ravens rivalry, but take Pittsburgh to snap its two-game losing streak.
The pick: Steelers
JAGUARS (2-5) AT CHIEFS (5-2)
Chiefs by 7; O/U: 44
The Arrowhead atmosphere alone should be enough to help the Chiefs make it 10 straight wins at home. But will they cover such a big number? That’s less likely. The Chiefs will start their backup quarterback and No. 3 running back because of injuries. Jacksonville has looked bad, but may get a spark after replacing offensive coordinator Greg Olson with Nate Hackett this week. Also, the Jaguars have had more than a week to stew about an embarrasing loss to the Titans on Thursday Night Football. Take the points and hope those factors motivate a team that needs to show up if it doesn’t want its coach to be fired.
The pick: Jaguars
LIONS (4-4) AT VIKINGS (5-2)
Vikings by 6; O/U: 40.5
Minnesota went from looking like a Super Bowl contender after a 5-0 start to a complete mess with back-to-back road losses at Philadelphia and Chicago. Not only did the Vikings score only 10 points in each of those games, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned this week. Laying this many points with that offense is risky. The obvious pick is to assume Minnesota will bounce back at home against a Detroit team that has lost three in a row on the road. That very well may happen, but division games tend to be closer, so the Lions could keep this inside the number in a low-scoring game. Bet the under.
The pick: Lions
COWBOYS (6-1) AT BROWNS (0-8)
Cowboys by 7; O/U: 48.5
On paper, this is the most lopsided game of the week, one that probably has Cowboys fans thinking: “Ooooh, Dallas can take such a big lead that Dak Prescott and Tony Romo could play!” Wait just a second. After the Cowboys’ comeback win at home over the rival Eagles in prime time, you have to think the letdown factor will be in full effect. Will Dallas be up to face winless Cleveland? The Browns, on the other hand, will treat this like their Super Bowl against America’s Team. Take the points.
The pick: Browns
4 P.M. GAMES
COLTS (3-5) AT PACKERS (4-3)
Packers by 7.5; O/U: 54
Aaron Rodgers vs. a bad Colts defense plus Andrew Luck vs. a banged-up Packers secondary equals lots and lots of points. Bet the over. As for the spread, lay the points with Green Bay because there’s a stronger chance of this being a 35-21 type of game than under a touchdown. Indy hasn’t held a team under 20 points this season, and four of those teams have hit the 30 mark. Another important note: After this game Green Bay plays three straight on the road, so expect the Pack to do a big Lambeau Leap back into the win column after last week’s one-point loss at Atlanta.
The pick: Packers
PANTHERS (2-5) AT RAMS (3-4)
Panthers by 3; O/U: 45
It’s easy to overreact to Carolina’s win over Arizona, but the Panthers were off a bye and the Cardinals were playing an early game after an overtime tie. Now, it’s the Rams who are off a bye after their ugly London loss to the Giants two weeks ago. The Rams will be motivated playing their first game back in Los Angeles since Week 5. Everyone will be on the Panthers this week, thinking Cam Newton & Co. are about to turn it around after a 1-5 start. But there’s a reason they lost those games, mostly because of a porous secondary. Even Case Keenum could have success downfield, so look for Tavon Austin’s speed to produce some big plays. The “betting public” likely will be on Carolina, but my guess is if that you surveyed some of the top “sharps” (aka professional gamblers) in Las Vegas, most would like the home underdog. Give me the Rams to beat the “Cams” outright.
The pick: Rams
TITANS (4-4) AT CHARGERS (3-5)
Chargers by 4.5; O/U: 47
This is a bad spot for the Titans. The Chargers need a win after losing a game that was there for the taking at Denver. They’ll be pumped at home, where they’re 2-1 and averaging 31 points. While Tennesse is improved, don’t be fooled by the records: The Titans are not as good as 4-4 and as you all know by now, the Chargers’ late-game miscues cost them three, possibly four wins. San Diego bounces back with a double-digit win.
The pick: Chargers
SAINTS (3-4) AT 49ERS (1-6)
Saints by 5; O/U: 52.5
San Francisco’s stretch of six straight weeks with a loss — both overall and ATS — ended last week . . . because the team was on a bye. All jokes aside, it’s the Saints who have meant business after an 0-3 start. Drew Brees and the NFL’s No. 2-ranked offense should have no trouble eclipsing the 30-point mark for the fifth time this season against a 49ers team that already has allowed five teams to do it. The Saints march up and down the field.
The pick: Saints
LOCK OF THE WEEK
BRONCOS (6-2) AT RAIDERS (6-2)
Raiders by 1.5; O/U: 44
The Raiders are riding high, tied for first and already approaching their first winning season since 2002. They must be feeling great about themselves after another dramatic win . . . and that’s exactly why you should bet against them this week. The guess here is that Oakland, which went 2-0 in Florida during its week-plus stay, will be flat at home. It’s the classic scenario you see over and over in the NFL. The Raiders are 1-2 at home, and as exciting as they’ve been, it’s wise to take a step back and look at their wins: All but one was close, including one by a field goal and two by one point. Sorry Raiders Nation, but your team is a little over-Raided. They’ll struggle against Denver’s dominant defense, which last season held Derek Carr to quarterback ratings (QBR) of 32.7 and 11.7. The Raiders’ defense has allowed at least 24 points in six of its eight games, so Denver (6-2 ATS) will be able to move the ball. The expectations will be too high for Oakland to live up to, and the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos — much like the Chiefs did in a 26-10 win at Oakland in Week 6 — will show that the Raiders still have a way to go to before being considered among the AFC West elite.
The pick: Broncos
BILLS (4-4) AT SEAHAWKS (4-2-1)
Seahawks by 7; O/U: 43.5
Seattle will be happy to play in front of its home crowd after a wacky tie at Arizona and a loss at New Orleans. The Seahawks should win, but don’t count out Rex Ryan’s squad, which is 3-0 vs. the NFC West this season. Two of Seattle’s home wins were by two points each, so the Bills can keep this inside the number in prime time.
The pick: Bills
STAFF PICKS (best bets in bold)
Record: 57-58-5 overall, 6-2 best bets
Last week: 7-5-1
Eagles Dolphins Steelers Jaguars Lions Browns Packers Rams Chargers Saints Broncos Bills
Record: 56-59-5 overall, 4-4 best bets
Last week: 6-6-1
Giants Dolphins Ravens Chiefs Cowboys Vikings Packers Panthers Chargers Saints Broncos Seahawks
Record: 62-53-5 overall, 3-5 best bets
Last week: 8-4-1
Giants Jets Steelers Chiefs Cowboys Vikings Packers Rams Titans Saints Raiders Seahawks
KIMBERLEY A. MARTIN
Record: 53-62-5 overall, 3-4-1 best bets
Last week: 6-6-1
Giants Jets Ravens Jaguars Browns Lions Colts Panthers Titans Saints Broncos Seahawks