The Cleveland Browns 7 point loss left me a half point shy of a perfect week last week, but 3-1 in a week filled with byes is still rather impressive if I say so myself. Let’s hope to build on that performance this week as week 7 brings about a tough slate of games. Still, there are several opportunities for value to be found, so let’s take the plunge:
Baltimore -8 (-110) Over Jacksonville
It seems that the linemakers are a little starry eyed looking at the Jags this week, even though they’ve made them 8 point ‘dogs. In my mind, this should be at minimum a double digit spread. Yes, Jacksonville put up a pretty decent fight against Pittsburgh last week, but that maybe has more to do with the Steelers being banged up and not as good as we think (consider they are only about a field goal favorites over Arizona this week) than with the Jags suddenly coming into their own. Their defense has improved, but they have just about the least impressive offense in the entire league. Considering Baltimore has one of the league’s most dynamic defensive sides, it seems overwhelmingly likely that the Jags end up with a couple of field goals at the most. Even that may be generous, considering the Ravens are giving up an average of 14.2 points per game, good enough for 1st in the NFL. The Jags are 2nd last in points scored, putting up a measly 12 points per game. It should be pretty clear that this combination should lead to a game completely dominated by Baltimore, who have looked like, along with New England, the team to beat in the AFC. The Ravens are averaging 29.6 points per game, not too shabby considering many still consider them a ‘defensive’ team. Now that they have things firing on both sides of the ball, Joe Flacco, Ray Lewis and company should be far too much for the Jags to contain, despite an improved defense. Let’s also consider that this game will be played on Monday night, giving the Ravens a chance to strut their stuff on a national scale, and also that it shouldn’t matter a whole lot that this game is being played in Jacksonville, since it doesn’t count as home field advantage if nobody bothers to show up to the games. The Ravens thrive on Monday night, going 5-1 ATS in their last 6 played on that day of the week, and are also 5-1 in their last 6 as favorites. Meanwhile, the Jags shy away from the spotlight, going 2-7 in their last 9 on Monday night, and are 3-10 ATS against teams with winning records. In what will probably be one of the lowest rated Monday night games in a long time ratings wise, Baltimore should coast to a win in Florida.
Denver +1 (-110) Over Miami
The Tebow Era begins officially this Sunday, and could there be a more fitting place than in Miami, where Tebow is a local hero, dating back to his college days? You better believe that the majority of fans at the stadium will be supporting Tebow rather than the home town Dolphins, who have lost 9 of their last 10 at home anyway. I’m not exactly sure what an 0-5 team being led by Matt Moore has done to earn themselves the ‘favorite’ designation, but I intend to take full advantage of it. While it is hard to predict how effective Tebow will be, one can’t imagine that he’ll be any worse than Kyle Orton was, and while their number one wideout Brandon Lloyd was shipped to St. Louis at the trading deadline, Tebow still has Eric Decker who was arguably outperforming Lloyd. And besides, Tebow is going to do most of his real damage with his legs rather than with his arm. Meanwhile, Miami looked completely overmatched and out of sorts against the Jets last Monday night, with Brandon Marshall in particular playing with stone hands. If there is a worse coach in the NFL right now than Tony Sparano, I’d love for someone to point him out to me. A loss to Denver here and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the man gone by week’s end. Tebow’s ability to run should force Miami to move an extra defender closer to the line of scrimmage, which should in turn open things up downfield for the Broncos receivers. The Dolphins are among the worst teams in the league in pass defense, giving up 284 yards per game and 10 touchdowns through the air. Throw in the fact that Miami is playing on a short week while, while the Broncos are coming off their bye week and will be well-rested, and it is not hard to see Denver handing Miami their 6th loss of the season and one step closer to winning the Luck Bowl. I’m not suggesting that Denver is actually a good team, or that Tim Tebow is going to win them a bunch of games this year, but the Dolphins are really as bad as they appear, and the Broncos are good enough to beat really bad teams. Also consider Miami is 0-7-1 ATS in their last 8, and 0-4 versus teams with a losing record. This won’t be pretty, but enjoy the Tebow show in Miami and back the Broncos.
Oakland -4 (-110) Over Kansas City
Oakland dropped a bombshell on Tuesday when they traded for Carson Palmer, and gave up at minimum a 1st round pick to do so (and possibly 2 depending how things pan out). But we aren’t considered about the long term ramifications for the Raiders franchise, we’re just trying to figure out the best value week to week, and this week the Raiders are looking good. There has been a lot of confusion and mixed signals as to who the Raiders are going to be sending out on Sunday, whether it be the newly inked Palmer or Jason Campbell’s backup Kyle Boller. Earlier in the week it was suggested by a member of the Raiders’ coaching staff that Palmer would be in there ‘unless he wasn’t breathing’, but now new sources are saying that Boller is going to be the man this week as Palmer adjusts to the new system. The major point to consider is that, it actually doesn’t really matter too much who is behind centre for Oakland in this one. The reason? The Raiders’ game plan is going to be to run Kansas into the ground. It wouldn’t shock me for Darren McFadden (who has, for my money, looked like the best running back in the league this year, with honourable mention to Fred Jackson) and Michael Bush to combine for 40 carries this week. The Chiefs have looked a lot better since their horrendous start, but they are still giving up 120 yards on the ground per game, and that is with facing some less than credible run offenses. It will be interesting to see if Jackie Battle can match his performance against the Colts two weeks ago, and if Todd Haley even gives him half a chance to do so. While Battle looked like the most dangerous of the Chiefs’ backs (not hard when the other two are Dexter McCluster and the ancient Thomas Jones), keep in mind Haley had Jamaal Charles in a full on timeshare with Jones last year. The Raiders dominate against the AFC West, and will continue to do so here as they make their claim to being a legitimate threat as the frontrunners for the division title, as they are 8-0 ATS in divisional games. They are also 6-1 ATS in their last 7 overall. Meanwhile, the Chiefs are 1-5 in their last 6 against division rivals, and these trends should continue on Sunday.
Green Bay -9 (-110) Over Minnesota
There are few things more enjoyable when it comes to football right now than watching Green Bay play. They just seem to be head and shoulders above everyone else at the moment, and while yes it is early, but it is going to take another team playing their very best football and catching the Packers on an off-day for Green Bay to lose a game. That day will almost assuredly not be this week, as the Vikings are a complete disaster at the moment. This will also mark the beginning of the Christian Ponder era, and while Ponder looked decent in relief of Donovan Mcnabb last week, it seems a little unfair to the kid to have him make his first NFL start against the Packers. This game could get out of hand in a hurry. Aaron Rodgers is having an incredible year thus far, racking up 2037 yards, 17 touchdown passes and 2 more on the ground. He also has a QB rating of 122.4. In short, Aaron Rodgers is currently unstoppable. It doesn’t hurt that Rodgers has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal in Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver and the emerging James Jones. One colleague put it best when he said that while many quarterbacks have a favorite receiver, Rodger’s favorite is whoever is open. This is what makes them so dangerous, as there is bound to be a favorable matchup somewhere on the field. While I actually think Ponder will be quite an improvement from Mcnabb, there is going to be a steep learning curve, and while the Packers defense hasn’t been as impressive as last year, they still have the talent to make life a nightmare for an opposing quarterback. The Pack are 4-0 ATS as a favorite, and 7-1 ATS in games played against the NFC. Meanwhile, the Vikings are winless in their last 7 ATS versus the NFC North, and haven’t won ATS in their last 6 as a home underdog. Green Bay should continue their mastery of the rest of the league in a laugher.