“Too much information, running through my brain. Too much information, driving me insane.”
– The Police, Ghost In The Machine
I can’t tell you how many weeks this season I’d get a text from my counterpart Kevin that went a little something like this…
He’d complain about getting accurate, well-researched picks in under the deadline. With the unpredictability of COVID and which key players might be unavailable when, Kevin’s concerns were justified. It’s nearly impossible to pick games days ahead of time when, on a whim and a negative test, a player integral to his team’s success could be deemed ineligible.
That hasn’t seemed to bother Kevin all that much this season as he notched yet another 5-0 week and continues to pick games at a 60% clip. There’s no way he can maintain that pace next year and yes, that is a challenge.
So, let’s talk about information when it comes to gambling. It’s impossible for even the most educated wagerer to have every bit of information he needs to place an accurate wager, especially in the time of COVID. We gamble off what we know, or at least, what we think we know. Add to that the fact that we’re picking games sometimes up to 72 hours or more before they kick off and all we can do is hope for the best.
Which is why a solid case can be made for picking underdogs blindly. According to a recent Oddshark article, NFL underdogs are 52.5% against the spread this season, which tells me Las Vegas has been on point with their betting lines despite all this madness. Someone should give those boys a raise.
Betting underdogs to win across the board has also pulled a profit. Underdogs have won 37% of the time. So sometimes, you might not need information at all. Just bet the underdog straight up to win and you’d have made a profit.
Speaking of underdogs, this week we have invited Tom Brady apologist and former competitive cheerleader Swoops into the mix. This fellow bartender extraordinaire even wrote his picks on a bar receipt which I’ve posted below. Our celebrity guests have been keeping yours truly honest in a battle for second place as Kevin has all but run away with this thing. Let’s see what the home stretch holds.
I’ll take $50 on Houston Texans (+13 ½) at San Francisco 49ers
I’m going to jump on this line before it moves. I’m seeing Niners minus 13-plus on some services which is ridiculous considering a) the Texans just manhandled the Chargers and b) the Niners don’t know who their starting quarterback is. From what I saw last week, it sure as hell looks like the Texans are playing inspired football. Meanwhile, the Niners will trot out either Jimmy Garoppolo with a fractured thumb or Trey Lance who still isn’t NFL ready otherwise he would have stolen away the starting job. At this point, Houston could give a flying leap about draft position, otherwise they wouldn’t have laid waste to the Chargers. Meanwhile, the Niners are one of those Life is Like a Box of Chocolates teams. One week, they look like they could cause some problems in the playoffs, the next they look like they don’t belong. Either way, 13 is too many for me to feel comfortable giving so I’m taking all day. Texans plus the 13 please.
I’ll also take $40 on Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team (+3 ½)
The Eagles have looked very, very good lately. They just embarrassed the New York Giants last week by a final score of 34-10. Their rushing attack is the best in the NFL. Similarly, the Dallas Cowboys embarrassed the Washington Football Team in a game most football fans didn’t turn off only to see which Washington players would get into a fight on the sidelines next. Personally, I think the Eagles are overvalued and I’d be hard-pressed to believe a Ron Rivera coached team won’t respond after the beatdown they took at Dallas. Let me have Washington plus to even further muddy who will and who won’t be getting into the playoffs in the NFC.
How about $30 on Arkansas Razorbacks at Penn State Nittany Lions (+2 ½)
Right here in my backyard, the annual Outback Bowl pits two of the top tier teams from the SEC and Big Ten. It’s a fun time for Tampa Bay as it means one fan base from a snowy part of the country comes down to Florida to remind themselves what sunshine looks like. This year’s Bloomin’ Onion Bowl features Kevin’s alma mater, the Penn State Nittany Lions, who were pretty good this year, against the Arkansas Razorbacks, who were competitive in a top-heavy SEC. When it comes to these two teams, I’m going strictly off overall resume and if you ask me, Penn State had the better year. These teams are primarily being judged by their losses to teams better than them. Penn State has a tough final stretch losing three of their last five games but those were to Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. Arkansas lost to Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama. All those losses, except Arkansas’ loss to Georgia, were competitive games. Penn State is getting two-and-a-half points in a game I thought they might be favored. I think this line is skewed because oddsmakers remember Arkansas giving Bama a contest, but I think Penn State is the better team. Accordingly, I’ll take the Fighting Paternos plus the 2 ½ to give my boy Kevin a feel-good pick down the stretch.
I’ll also take $20 on Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals (+5)
I’m going to ride this Bengals train. If there’s one NFL team I’d take as a keeper in my fantasy draft, it’s the Bengals. While still a tad inconsistent, this team’s future is so bright, I gotta wear shades. This week, they get a true test at home. The Kings of the AFC strut into town and would like to remind Cincy who’s still boss in the conference. The Bengals have other things in mind. I can’t imagine Cincinnati fans not being all fired up for this game. They’re coming off a game where Joe Burrow looked like the best quarterback known to man, throwing for 525 yards against the Baltimore Ravens. While KC’s been playing better of late, keep in mind this is a defense that took half a season to find its way. If this were a playoff matchup, I’d take the more experienced team but it’s not. It’s a regular season game that Cincy needs to stay atop their division. I’m getting five points and one of the league’s most high-powered offenses at home. Give me Cincy plus the five.
And finally, $10 on Las Vegas Raiders (+7) at Indianapolis Colts
Las Vegas has had a tough season. They lost their coach to racist e-mails. They lost their most talented young wide receiver to a DUI. And they lost the icon most commonly associated with the franchise, John Madden. Still in the playoff hunt, this week they travel to Indianapolis who it appears will be playing without their starting quarterback Carson Wentz. The Raiders would probably have given Indy a game with Wentz in the lineup. Now that they’re starting an unproven rookie, Raiders should have an excellent opportunity to keep their post-season hopes alive. They’re getting a touchdown so I will take it. Give me the Raiders plus the seven.
THE WIFE HATES SPORTS WEEK 17 PICKS
$50 NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-6.5)
I already had this locked in at 6 1/2 points with the Packers playing at Lambeau. Then, the news broke that Kirk Cousins (COVID – unvaccinated) will be out for this contest. Minnesota now has a major question mark offensively. Aaron Rodgers sure sounds happy in Green Bay these days. That’s if recent interviews are a clear indicator. Toe injury or not, Rodgers is playing well – and seemed motivated after breaking Brett Favre’s TD record. When it comes to this rivalry, the Packers have not dominated at home like one might expect. Despite that, this game comes down to Dalvin Cook coming off the illness and no Kirk Cousins under center. Green Bay wants that #1 seed. Therefore, give me the Packers to cover at home.
$40 NFL: Las Vegas Raiders (+7) at Indianapolis Colts
Again, another big game with a gaping hole at the quarterback position. Like Kirk Cousins, Carson Wentz is unvaccinated and recently tested positive, meaning he’s out. That leaves rookie Sam Ehlinger to lead the Colts offense. As a result, the game plan seems rather obvious. Indianapolis will rely heavily on Jonathan Taylor, as they often do. Vegas is likely to hone in on Taylor and force Ehlinger to beat them. As of late, the Raiders have performed well against the run (now 19th in the NFL). Of course, Jonathan Taylor presents a more significant challenge. It’s more preventing the Colts from being balanced offensively. I trust Derek Carr and the Raiders to keep this game close. Give me Vegas and the points.
$30 NFL: Los Angeles Rams (-4.5) at Baltimore Ravens
Another week, another Rams pick. I do not have L.A. as my highest confidence selection, like I did in each of the last two weeks. John Harbaugh continues to put on a stellar coaching performance, despite his team being crippled by injuries. The Ravens have been competitive in most weeks. However, it’s important to note all the injuries in the secondary and how that has impacted the Ravens against strong passing offenses. Just look at what Joe Burrow and the Bengals did. That is also what the Rams possess. Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and OBJ should feast in this game. It’ll be whether Lamar Jackson plays and if the Baltimore offense can keep up. That seems unlikely to me. Rams cover on the road.
$20 NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-13.5) at New York Jets
Zach Wilson vs. Tom Brady – should we just end the writeup with that? Fine, I’ll write more context. I realize that Tampa Bay has a lot of injuries offensively, but that didn’t seem to slow them down during last week’s blowout win against the Panthers. This is a similar lopsided matchup. Brady has proven over the years that he doesn’t need to be surrounded by stars. He just needs to be on the same page with his teammates. Then he makes them all better. Offensively, Tampa Bay is 2nd in the NFL, averaging 402.4 ypg. Wilson and the Jets face a Tampa Bay defense that overall ranks 10th in the NFL (and 3rd against the run). The weather looks nice for this time of year. With no sloppy conditions, this seems like a lock on paper for Brady and the Bucs. Tampa Bay covers.
$10 NFL: Philadelphia Eagles (-4) at Washington Football Team
My last selection came down to this game or the Lions-Seahawks matchup. I truly believe the Lions may be the greatest two-win team in NFL history. So, you can consider Detroit this week, especially with Swift returning. As for this game, Washington is a mess. It’s a free-fall. Players are fighting on the sideline. The offense can’t get Terry McLaurin the ball. Antonio Gibson remains hobbled. On the flip side, Philly is locked in. The Eagles ran all over Washington just a few short weeks ago. The way the WFT defense has performed, it’s hard to imagine them shutting down the Philly rushing attack (even without Miles Sanders). As for home field, well… that simply doesn’t exist at FedEx. Philly fans will pack the stadium. Guaranteed. Philadelphia covers.
CELEBRITY GUEST PICKS: SWOOPS