A mixed bag last week, though my best bet Cardinals came through big time winning outright, with the points, and going over 51 as well, thanks to the Falcons' offense, leaky D and Matt Bryant's extra point miss. Not so with the Saints and Jags, which I'd called for over 44, and came in at 19 (a 13-6 Saints win) and my faith in the Chargers giving seven to the Steelers and their third-string QB. In my patreon.com column, analysing all the games, I'd warned of an upset here; I should have listened to myself.
But the bad beat was really the Lions. I got fancy, going over 23.5 on the first half total, which I thought was solid. And so it should have been, but the Lions contrived to come out with only one TD from three early trips to the Red Area, and the total wound up being 23. The game itself was a nightmare, unless you took the over on the over/under of atrocious penalty calls or no calls, but far as I know, no one's offering odds on that.
Last night's win by the Chiefs over the Broncos in Denver was a little surprising, both for how poorly the Denver offense played and how well the Chiefs' D stood up. Those may have something to do with each. Last week, Denver sacked the Titans' QBs seven times, this week Joe Flacco got sacked 7 times, and the punter contributed an eighth on the worst fake punt I think I've ever seen. I was on the under for this one, which came in easily, not least because Patrick Mahomes dislocated his knee cap on a QB sneak TD. I hate to be right for the wrong reasons, but I'll take it. This week offers more of the same in the NFL's crazy crawl toward parity.
Seattle to edge Ravens in battle of teams that like to win ugly
Best Bet: Seattle -3 at 20/23 v Baltimore
The Ravens are the specialists at winning ugly in close games, look at the OT slug fest with the Steelers, but the Seahawks have been the same so far this year, beating the Rams at home only when Greg Zuerlein missed a 44 yard game winning field goal and beating the Steelers by two when Big Ben got injured early. Both teams want to run the ball; the Ravens will use Lamar Jackson as a runner if the D invites it, but with the way the Seahawks pursue they may not. The Seahawks trust Russell Wilson to make plays in the passing game, where the Ravens have three cornerbacks out, which is why they traded with the Rams for Marcus Peters. Earl Thomas, the ex-Seahawk, is at safety for the Ravens, and if he makes a big play to spoil this one I will be sorely disappointed.
Lions can rattle Cousins and defeat Vikings
Value Bet: Detroit to win at 11/10 v Minnesota
You can also take the Lions +1.5 at 10/11. This is a tricky proposition, especially with Detroit on the short week coming off a controversial loss, but the way to beat the Vikes is clear: stop the run game and make Kirk Cousins beat you through the air. If you know Cousins has to throw you can rush and rattle him, unless the officials decide to call your best pass rusher for phantom hands to the face penalties, as they did to Trey Flowers in Green Bay Monday night. So the Lions need ideally a quick start, taking the Vikes out of their natural game.
The Vikes will look to do something similar, although Matt Stafford has more targets with which to spread the field. But if Minnesota take the lead, their game plan is again simple: they will bring more and more pressure, willing to trade rushed completions for the occasional big loss or turnover. I think the Lions know that a loss makes it a real uphill battle in this division, where the Pack have already beaten all three of the other teams.
Reinforced Rams should have the best of a tight contest
Outside Bet: LA Rams -2.5 at 10/11 at Atlanta
This could get ugly, even with Jalen Ramsey and Kenny Young added to the Rams' D and Austin Corbett to their O line. The Falcons can't play D, but occasionally they rise to the occasion at home, while the Rams know their once dominant offense is shaky when they a) can't run, b) Jared Goff is thus forced to play drop back passing and gets rushed and c) defenses clog their lanes the way the Pats did in the Super Bowl. But I think all three factors need to play in to this one for the Rams to lose by or win by less than a field goal, so I like this one.