It's week seven of this unpredictable season and Mike Carlson is bidding to land some winning bets with three picks from the weekend's NFL action...
"Mitch Trubisky depends on the Bears' run game to be marginally effective, and if Luke Keuchley is back for the Panthers, as I think he will be, the Panthers can stop the run."
There has been a lot of bad juju around the NFL so far this season. You could call it parity, that grail for which the league has searched forever, and may have finally reached. In most seasons, parity existed at the second, or sometimes third level: the top teams, the very good teams, the teams at parity, and the dogs. This year, it's hard to anoint anyone as a truly top team, and there are only a handful you might consider second-tier, and even they have flaws.
I say have flaws, but sometimes flaws are thrust upon you. Injuries, most notably, and certainly they are more prevalent as we become more sensitive to concussion dangers, as well as play more games on artificial turf and short rest. And more games with less contact in preseason and practice, which paradoxically probably prevents more injury than it causes.
Then there are salary cap issues, preventing teams from accumulating quality backups, as insurance against injury. And there is officiating: not so much that no one still understands when a catch is or isn't a catch, or a catch and a fumble is or isn't an incompletion, but more that as the league has allowed the use of hands by the offense when pass blocking and the defense when pass defending, the flags could fly on virtually any play. Thus officiating becomes a matter of making the calls only for the most egregious fouls or - and here is where it really hurts - when the play is the most crucial.
This may be a complicated way of excusing my own shortcomings, but damn if I can't make a theory out of it!
Returning Keuchley can fire Panthers to victory
Here's what's wrong with the season. Last week dogs were 11-3 against the spread, and when you look at a road favourite as your best bet you do get nervous. But Mitch Trubisky depends on the Bears' run game to be marginally effective, and if Luke Keuchley is back for the Panthers, as I think he will be, the Panthers can stop the run. If they do, the Bears' don't really threaten you in the air, and the Panthers, although one-dimensional in the air, ought to be able to get Cam Newton enough points to cover a field goal. Ought is such an ugly word. I'd be tempted to go with the Over 40.5 at 20/21 here.
Falcons can cause an upset in Foxboro
This should really be the outside bet, but given that I think this one is going to be high scoring, the 3.5 points on offer to Atlanta doesn't seem worth the difference in the odds. In other words, if you think the Falcons can keep it that close, you probably should think they can win in Foxboro on a Sunday night against a defense that has allowed six straight quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards or more against them. That has never happened before in the history of the NFL. Then again, the Pats are 4-2 against those teams. The Falcons get Muhammad Sanu back, which ought to make their offense better, and this one might be a shocker, though it probably shouldn't be.
Struggling offenses could make for low-scoring contest
The Saints scored 52 their own selves last week, but 21 came from the D. The Packers with Brett Hundley at QB are going to struggle to get offense going, even at home, and I think the Saints' offense doesn't actually have the play-making receivers who could drive the Pack's secondary crazy. I just looked back and see that I am backing road teams to get results, which I really distrust, but in this season, it makes about as much sense as anything else.