Just like the grey, sweat-suited, headband wearing Rocky Balboa descended from his front porch to sprint through the streets and triumphantly climb the steps of Philadelphia’s Art Museum, I too raise my hands in victory. Of course, Balboa hadn’t beaten Apollo Creed… but Creed knew it was coming.
In Week Eight, yours truly had his first, ten-win week of the season slicing into KP’s previously unsurmountable lead. Remember when Rocky inflicted that gash under Ivan Drago’s eye in Rocky IV? Of course you do. So does Kevin.
His lead has been narrowed to ten games.
Not only have the stakes increased in Week Nine but for the first time this season, we’re staring a bunch of double-digit point spreads squarely in the face. It’s time to be daring.
Our celebrity guest this week is a man they call Bets. RonBets is a Vegas insider and more often right than not when it comes to wagering. I stumbled into him somewhere in cyberspace not long ago and since then, he has consistently provided some valuable insight on whom to bet on and why. This week, we’re putting his skills to the ultimate test. After all, if we can beat a wise guy, then perhaps there’s hope for us.
I’m just hoping he has an off week.
Now, on to the games…
SPORTSCHUMP’S CUT ME MICK PICKS
NEW ORLEANS -2.5 at CAROLINA
Carolina’s in a world of hurt these days. They haven’t won a game since October 5th. I know New Orleans can’t win on the road but their victory at home last week over Green Bay might have given them all the confidence they need to start a streak that will set them apart from the rest of the misery known as the NFC South. Carolina is one of the worst teams in the league at stopping the run. That doesn’t bode well against a team that had Mark Ingram run for 172 yards last week. If Ingram can get off to another solid start, things should open up for Brees to do what he does best which is throw touchdown after touchdown. The winner of this game will have a leg up in the division so which is the better of the two teams? I’m thinking it’s the Saints. Give me them to cover on a Thursday night.
SAN DIEGO at MIAMI -2
I’ve been high on Miami the last few weeks. That might be because their last three wins have come against Oakland, Chicago and Jacksonville. San Diego is none of the above. The Chargers are coming off two straight losses and can’t be happy about that. I still think this is a playoff caliber team. San Diego will not lose three straight going into their bye week. Give me the Chargers and the points in a game they should probably win outright.
JACKSONVILLE +10.5 at CINCINNATI
How’s this for a statistic. Jacksonville has scored over 20 points in a game only once this season. Cincinnati, on the other hand, has scored over 20 points in all but two of their games. The Bengals struggled a bit in October but finally got off the snide with a controversial victory at home last weekend against Baltimore. After an awful start, Jacksonville has been keeping games close lately but they still can’t run the ball effectively and Cincy is good at defending the run. In the first of many double-digit spread games this weekend, I’ll take the heavy favorite and lay. Like I said, it’s time to be daring.
TAMPA BAY +6.5 at CLEVELAND
After being painfully forced to watch every Buccaneers game this season, I’m actually surprised this game isn’t one of the double digit spreads. The Bucs can’t move the football with any sort of consistency and even though they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier in Week Four, that’s still their only win of the season. Good times. If there were a do-over flag in the NFL, Lovie Smith would be throwing it. Tampa’s star wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who was rumored to be traded before the deadline, had only one reception last week. Do you think their willingness to move him leads to a disgruntled Vincenzo in the locker room? I do. The Bucs can’t run the ball nor can they protect their quarterback. All these factors combine for the disaster that we humbly call the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Cleveland isn’t the toughest defensive team in the league but one doesn’t have to be when playing the Yucks. Their futility takes care of itself. Cleveland covers.
WASHINGTON +2 at MINNESOTA
The good news coming from the nation’s capital is that we’ll soon usher in a new president. And his name is Colt McCoy. Seriously though. If I had told you two weeks ago that Colt McCoy would be starting for (that team from) Washington and have led them to two wins with one of those wins being in Dallas on Monday night, you’d have stopped reading this site altogether. Wait, you are still reading, aren’t you? I can’t believe I’m saying this but…. Colt McCoy has actually looked good. Apparently someone’s been doing their homework on the sidelines. Of course none of that matters now because RGIII will start this game. It’s okay though, Colt. The ‘Skins will release you and some other team will sign you to a huge contract a la Matt Cassell. Regardless of who starts behind center, Minnesota stinky-poo. I’ll take (that team from) Washington and their never-ending carousel of quarterbacks.
PHILADELPHIA -2 at HOUSTON
Tough game to pick here. I can make a valid argument for both of these teams winning or losing this game. All I have to do now is convince myself which one of those two potential outcomes is more likely to happen. I said last week that Darren Sproles would be back for Philly. I was wrong. I’m saying he’s going to be back this week. Hopefully I’ll be right. Philadelphia is the better team here but Houston is the hotter team. After all, they’ve won one straight and that’s quite a feat for the Texans. I’m not crazy about this pick and my only logic in choosing Houston here is that they have to win this game if they want any shot at the post-season. A loss drops them to 4-5. In an act of desperation, I’ll take the Texans and the deuce.
NY JETS at KANSAS CITY -9.5
We’re all sitting around and waiting for the Jets to cover in one of these games but waiting for Rex Ryan to receive his walking papers is far more appropriate. Even Coach Ryan himself has to be surprised when he shows up to his office Monday morning not to find his name stenciled off the front door. After he tossed three picks early in the game last week, the Jets pulled Geno Smith and inserted Michael Vick who didn’t fare that much better. This week, Vick will get the starting nod against a Chiefs team which is far superior in every facet of the game. The Jets got absolutely embarrassed (lather, rinse, repeat) at home last week against the Bills. This team is either no good or has given up entirely, neither of which is a good sign. Michael Vick even admitted to not being physically or mentally prepared to play earlier this season. That sounds like the rest of the players in that locker room. These guys are aware this is the NFL and that they are professional football players, right? I’ll take the Chiefs to cover as the Jets continue to go down in flames.
ARIZONA +3.5 at DALLAS
No mo’ Romo? Tony Romo took a nasty hit to his back Monday night, knocking him out of the contest for some mid-game X-rays. The results found only a contusion but still… ouchies. There’s no way he can be 100% for this game and Arizona is one of the nastiest defenses in the league. If I were Jason Garrett, I’d sit Romo for the week and let him heal. Of course, Jerry Jones would override my decision and have me ride his players into the dirt. But seriously, Dallas doesn’t need this win as much as they need to ensure their health. And Arizona can control some clock with the best rushing offense in the league. Call me kooky here but I’m talking the Cards and the points. And somebody send Romo some flowers to his hospital room.
ST. LOUIS +10 at SAN FRANCISCO
Man, this is a lot of points to lay. Why the heck are the St Louis Rams, a pretty solid team, getting ten points against a divisional rival that for all intents and purposes has underachieved so far this season? I’ll tell you why. Because the Niners are a playoff team while the Rams are not. The Niners also have some key players returning to their lineup this weekend. They can ill afford to drop another game in what’s becoming a rather competitive NFC playoff race. Ten is a lot to lay but like I said, Las Vegas sets these lines for a reason. They want you to lay the points. So I am.
DENVER -3 at NEW ENGLAND
Let me be the first you hear say this match-up is NOT about Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Sure these are among the two best quarterbacks we’re ever seen. And sure the NFL intentionally schedules these two to square off against each other annually in a shameful ratings grab. (Who are we kidding? We love it!) Yes, Tom Brady-led teams are 9-5 against Peyton Manning-led teams. But these Broncos are far better than these Patriots. If you take the Pats here, you’re forgetting that this Broncos team will probably be in the Super Bowl this year and that the Pats are decimated with injuries. Give me Peyton to cover all day.
OAKLAND at SEATTLE -15
Seattle is not as bad as they’ve led on. Sure there’s been some locker room dissension with Percy Harvin being shipped to the Apple, Marshawn Lynch trade rumors flying around and Russell Wilson accused of not being black enough by his teammates. The Raiders couldn’t come to town at a better time. Here’s how bad the Raiders are. They were a better team when Lane Kiffin coached them. Give me the ‘Hawks to cover because these Raiders are not silver and black enough.
BALTIMORE -1 at PITTSBURGH
What do to here? Baltimore is the better team but Pittsburgh is the hotter team. Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t incomplete a pass last week against Indianapolis. I mean, when was the last time the Steelers scored 51 points in a game? It usually takes them three weeks to score that much? On the flipside, Baltimore was stung with a last minute loss to Cincy. So what to do? This is actually a huge game as both of these teams are 5-3. A loss might mean one of these teams misses the playoffs. I think that team is the Steelers but I’m still going with them on a Sunday night.
INDIANAPOLIS -3 at NY GIANTS
Another battle of the Manning brothers… oh wait, Brother Peyton doesn’t play in Indianapolis anymore. The Colts run finally came to an end last week at the hand of the aforementioned Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger was so efficient last week that I thought he was Andrew Luck. Big Ben’s boys put up fifty-plus against one of the better teams in the league. The Giants are not one of the better teams in the league although they are coming off a well-needed bye. The only problem is how much better can a bad team get after a bye? It’s not like they can magically morph themselves into the 1986 Giants, as much as their fans would like to see that. Ya’ know what? Everything screams Colts here but as bad as these Giants are, I can’t help but think they’ll give one last ditch effort to right this ship. An energetic Monday night crowd might be just enough to get them over that hump. I’ll take the G-Men and the points. And that’s about as daring as it comes.
RONBETS’ VEGAS INSIDER PICKS
CAROLINA +2.5 – Brees is a different animal away from the Dome.
MIAMI -1.5 – West coast teams traveling east aren’t used to playing @10a.m. their time.
CINN -11 – This Dalton alive… unlike Swayze. Welcome to the NFL, Bortles.
TBAY +7 – Despite record, this is not your daddy’s CBrowns. Running game won’t jell with C Alex Mack out. Bucs will compete.
MINN -2 – Don’t fall for the MNF result. Short rested WASH will run into an emerging TBridge. Regardless RG3 or not.
HOU +2 – Foles will succumb to a fierce pass rush.
KCITY -9.5 – M Vick starts and KC finishes
AZ +3.5 – Hear Romo really hurting. Short week ain’t helping.
SFO -10 – Bye week means CYA Rams
NENG +3.5 – Brady edge over PM. Belichick will out-FOX.
OAK +15.5 – SEA has internal issues. OAK should backdoor the cover.
BALT +1 – Don’t be too influenced by those Arena #s put up by BBen.
GTS+3.5 – This is the NFL where the best team doesn’t always get the $$, especially on the road.
KP’S SLIGHTLY NERVOUS NOW PICKS
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (+1.5)
The Saints are the only team in the NFL to be undefeated at home and winless on the road. For last Thursday’s game, I presented a random stat such as that, and it blew up in my face. Not falling for that again. Besides, since Week 3, the Panthers have allowed 30 or more points on four different occasions (Steelers, Ravens, Bengals and Packers). New Orleans owns the league’s second best passing offense (312.3 ypg), and appears to be a team coming out of an early season slump. If last week’s win over the Packers is any indication, look for Drew Brees and the Saints to outlast Cam Newton and the Panthers, giving New Orleans its first road win of the season.
Against the Spread: New Orleans Saints
Straight Up: New Orleans Saints
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals (-11.5)
The Bengals scratched and clawed its way to a home victory over the Ravens last week, while the Jags regressed back to its losing ways, dropping one to the Dolphins. Cincinnati might get A.J. Green back, but will be without Giovani Bernard (hip/clavicle) and LB Vontaze Burfict (knee). Jacksonville’s only non-double-digit road loss was at the Titans in Week 6. Still, I like Jacksonville’s pass rush (2nd – 25 sacks), and even though the Jags have allowed the most sacks in the NFL, Cincinnati has managed only 11 in 7 games. With Cincy’s key injuries, I’m taking the Jags and the points, considering the line.
Against the Spread: Jacksonville Jaguars
Straight Up: Cincinnati Bengals
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cleveland Browns (-6.5)
The Browns face off against its third straight sub-par opponent, and get the Bucs at home, all after Tampa Bay lost a heartbreaker in overtime to the Vikings last week. Jordan Cameron is out for the Browns, leaving one offensive weapon off the field for the Browns. The Bucs have just 10 sacks in 7 games, likely leaving time for Brian Hoyer to distribute the football. Tampa Bay has been blown out multiple times, but each of those losses were against teams with more offensive weapons than the Browns have. For that reason, expect the Bucs to keep this close. Take Tampa Bay and the points.
Against the Spread: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Straight Up: Cleveland Browns
Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings (-2.5)
Colt McCoy led the Redskins to a surprising overtime victory against the Cowboys, and this week, Robert Griffin III is returning from injury, and will start. It is unclear just how recovered RGIII is from a dislocated ankle, and therefore, how mobile he will be on the field. As a pocket passer, Griffin has been quite underwhelming, and is likely to be rusty, too. The Redskins are coming off an emotional Monday night win, and will be playing on short rest. With that win in hand, many will expect to build off that momentum. I expect a setback, falling victim to Jerick McKinnon and Teddy Bridgewater, who will prove to each be more explosive than RGIII. That and Minnesota’s pass rush, with the league’s second most sacks (25), should force RGIII mistakes, too. Vikings win at home.
Against the Spread: Minnesota Vikings
Straight Up: Minnesota Vikings
Philadelphia Eagles at Houston Texans (+2.5)
The Eagles narrowly missed a last second victory over the Cardinals, while the Texans were able to take care of the Titans on the road. Arian Foster has been the leading rusher in 6 of Houston’s 8 games, and the Texans are only as successful as its fifth-ranked rushing offense will take them. That, along with J.J. Watt and the Houston pass rush. The Eagles have a high-flying offense that could force Houston to throw more, and the Eagles have also allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL, with just seven through seven games. For these reasons, I like the Eagles to cover on the road.
Against the Spread: Philadelphia Eagles
Straight Up: Philadelphia Eagles
New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5)
Michael Vick will get the start for the Jets, but this isn’t the same quarterback. The Jets couldn’t play as sloppily as last week, could they? Perhaps not. The real key here is New York’s run defense, which is actually pretty solid, ranking 5th in the NFL, allowing 3 TD’s on the ground and 85.4 ypg. It will need to come up big against Kansas City’s run game, which is ranked 3rd in the NFL and has 10 rushing TD’s, tied for the most in football. This battle in the trenches should eat up plenty of clock, leading to a lower scoring game. The Jets are a mess, but should be able to keep this one under ten points.
Against the Spread: New York Jets
Straight Up: Kansas City Chiefs
Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys (-4.5)
Arizona fended off a late Philly rally for a huge win in the desert, while Dallas was upset by the Redskins at home in overtime. Tony Romo enters the game as a major question mark, due to ongoing complications with his back – and following last week’s hit that took him out of the game for significant time. This would leave the Cowboys relying on Brandon Weeden, which could lead to Arizona further focusing on DeMarco Murray and the run game. Either way, the Cardinals have been steady and balanced on offense, with Carson Palmer, Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd all contributing. With Romo not 100%, or maybe not even playing, I like Arizona to win.
Against the Spread: Arizona Cardinals
Straight Up: Arizona Cardinals
San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins (-1.5)
The Chargers have had a few extra days to rest and prepare for Miami, following a loss to the Broncos last Thursday. The Dolphins are third in pass defense and sixth in rushing offense, a tough combination for opponents to contend with. New England, Chicago and Green Bay are the three strong passing offenses that Miami has faced, and San Diego’s pass game will be similar. But the Chargers are used to the warmer weather, and have had the extra rest. With a tossup line, I like San Diego.
Against the Spread: San Diego Chargers
Straight Up: San Diego Chargers
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers (-9.5)
The Niners had a week off to rest and prepare for the game – a divisional matchup between two teams that faced off just a few short weeks ago, with San Francisco winning 31-17. The Niners have the home field advantage, while the Rams have struggled to sustain a consistent pass rush. Add in the extra rest and prep time, and I like the 49ers to cover at home.
Against the Spread: San Francisco 49ers
Straight Up: San Francisco 49ers
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots (+3.5)
Manning vs. Brady XV… enough said. In the game of the week, both future Hall of Fame QB’s are red hot. Peyton has had a few extra days to prepare for this year’s Patriots, which is a scary thought for any opponent. This is one of those “sit back and enjoy the ride” games. The one stat that stands out the most is New England’s second-ranked pass defense, allowing 210.9 ypg, while having 8 INT’s. Part of that is inflated due to teams faced, but it’s still a solid unit. With the home field advantage and a red hot Tom Brady, New England should keep this one close, or even win. In the end, I like Peyton Manning with a few extra days to prepare, but the Pats keep it at a field goal.
Against the Spread: New England Patriots
Straight Up: Denver Broncos
Oakland Raiders at Seattle Seahawks (-14.5)
A month ago, this would be a no-brainer, but the Seahawks have really struggled offensively in recent weeks. Even with the 12th man present, it is difficult to take Seattle to cover with confidence, when the line is more than two touchdowns. Still, that’s an awfully loud crowd for a rookie QB to have to deal with. That, plus Oakland has next to no pass rush (29th in sacks, with 7), leaving Russell Wilson plenty of time to throw. Opposing quarterbacks are also posting a 107.5 QB rating on the Oakland defense. Translation: The Raiders might be just what the doctor ordered in Seattle. Seahawks wake up, crush the Raiders and cover at home.
Against the Spread: Seattle Seahawks
Straight Up: Seattle Seahawks
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-1.5)
Pittsburgh has new life in recent weeks, most notably last week, when Big Ben and the Steelers’ offense posted gaudy numbers against the Colts, while sporting those crazy bumblebee-like unis. When facing bitter rival Baltimore, these games are always jam-packed with brawls and big hits, but normally absent of high scores and touchdowns. The Ravens won the first match 26-6, back in Week 2, but it’s tough to pick against a Steelers team that has scored 81 points over the last two weeks. The home team has also won the last three times in this rivalry. I’ll take the Steelers in a close one.
Against the Spread: Pittsburgh Steelers
Straight Up: Pittsburgh Steelers
Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants (+3.5)
The Giants are coming off a bye week, and will host an Indianapolis team that was torched by Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers last week. The Colts own the league’s top passing offense and will be a big challenge for New York’s passing defense, which while ranked 25th in passing yards allowed, has managed 11 INT’s on the year. While Odell Beckham will continue to grow in his role, the Giants will still miss Victor Cruz (out for the year). Rashad Jennings also will not play, and therefore, even with the extra prep time, I like Indy’s potent passing offense to cover on the road.
Against the Spread: Indianapolis Colts
Straight Up: Indianapolis Colts