Iron Mike may be assuming another identity: the Under Taker! Thursday Night’s methodical 25-0 win by New England over Atlanta covered under by 22.5. Last week’s column offered a best bet under the same 47.5 with the Colts and Jags that covered easily.
When I considered overs I got too cute: a value double on Denver winning and the over failed on both counts, and my outside bet of over 44 in Eagles/Panthers, with the Eagles contributing 10 turned into a push, with the Panthers contributing the 10. Go figure.
But I also expressed faith in unders in Detroit/Pitt and Vikes/Chargers and for a Packer low score win over the Seahawks. I am now officially a believer! And so are the bookies, it seems: since Wednesday I make it nine games where the over/under has gone down, and only three where it has risen.
Sunday 18:00 – Saints can cover against the Eagles
Detroit (0-8-1) at Cleveland (5-5): The Lions, who have to win sometime, are 4/1 on the moneyline, and the Browns are battered. But it’s Jared Goff who hasn’t practiced this week, and the thought of Tim Bowen starting leads me to avoid the Lions. Baker Mayfield says he will play, though he might not have Jarvis Landry or Nick Chubb. With Goff the Lions might cover +11.5 but the only bet I’ll consider here is Austin Hooper 23/10 for an anytime TD.
San Francisco (4-5) at Jacksonville (2-7): The Niners come off a big win against the Rams, while the Jags come off. The O/U on this is down to 45, while the Jags are getting only 6.5, which indicates a certain faith in their defense. All that keeps me from recommending Niners at -6.5 is my dread at the west-east jet lag.
Indianapolis (5-5) at Buffalo (6-3): The O/U on this went up half a point to 50, while the Colts lost half a point and are +7. I think the Bills control the Colts’ run game, and are able to pass on the Colts’ D, but I think the under 50 looks better than the points.
Miami (3-7) at NY Jets (2-7): It’s FLACCO Time! I’ve talked a bit about the sudden trend to blitz/zero defenses, built to confuse the QB re coverage and the O line re protections. But they do leave the top of the D open, and throwing those long bombs is the one thing Flacco may still be able to do. The Jets are now 3.5 point home dogs, and though I see Miami covering this, it falls just short of my bests. Under 44.5 is a good possibility too.
Washington (3-6) at Carolina (5-5): Ron Rivera Bowl with Extra Added Cam Newton! Since Taylor Heinecke won the contest vs Tom Brady for GOAT, WTF seem to be on a mini-roll. But with Cam BAAAACCK, people may be jumping on the band wagon without seeing how his arm actually is. The Panthers did hold the Arizona Colt McCoys to 10, and Newton and McCaffrey is an interesting looking combo offensively. I like the Panthers -3 at home.
Baltimore (6-3) at Chicago (3-6): Palindromic Records! Last week’s two palindromic match-ups both went to the dogs: WTF over Tampa and Minn over the San Diego Chargers of Los Angeles. Still Chicago is now getting only 5.5 and the O/U has dropped a point to 44.5 which means action on the Bears in a defensive battle must have dominated. I like Baltimore giving 5.5 here.
New Orleans (5-4) at Philadelphia (4-6): Malcolm Jenkins Bowl! And I actually like the Saints D to be able to contain Jalen Hurts, who is the leading rusher on this run-first Eagles team. I like the Saints to be able to put enough offense into play to win this one, especially as Alvin Kamara is likely back (both he and Mark Ingram are evens as anytime scorers; Taysom Hill is 11/4 and Adam Trautman 4/1) but I’m skipping the under 43.5 to avoid another crazy Eagles backdoor cover.
Outside Bet: New Orleans (+2) @ 1.910/11
Houston (1-8) at Tennessee (8-2): This being 2021 you’d expect the Titans to be upset at home in this one, looking ahead to New England next week. The under in this game dropped from 45 to 44.5 between Tuesday night and our Betfair NFL Only Bettor podcast on Wednesday morning, but the under was still my podcast best bet and I’ll stick with it. I like it because without Derrick Henry, you’re less likely to get those big runs late that run up the winners’ score.
Green Bay (8-2) at Minnesota (4-5): Aaron Rodgers is holding opponents to the third-fewest points and yards per game, which is the secret to the Pack’s 8-2 record. The Vikes are always a tough out at home and AR won’t have Aaron Jones and doesn’t have LT David Bakhtiari either, but Davante Adams should play. Rodgers didn’t practice Wednesday, for no apparent reason except perhaps petulance: he hasn’t had a full week of practice in a month, and it doesn’t seem to matter. But Minnesota playing for their playoff lives make it a battle.
Sunday 21:05 – Go unders in Cincy v Las Vegas
Cincinnati (5-4) at Las Vegas (5-4): The Bengals are rested and ready while the Raiders, after the post-Gruden bounce, have looked sloppy the past couple of weeks; perhaps the run of off-field scandals have had their effect, and DeSean Jackson, whose spectacular fumble last week was the game’s turning point, hasn’t been the answer. It’s another under for the Under Taker.
Sunday 21:25 – Cards can edge Seattle battle
Arizona (8-2) at Seattle (3-6): Colt McCoy is listed as questionable with a pectoral, but the Cards may be getting Tyler Murray and D’Andre Hopkins back. Russell Wilson may have been rusty last week, but with Chris Carson likely out, I am guessing Vance Joseph comes up with a defensive scheme that won’t let DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett beat them deep. I like the Cards giving 1.5.
Dallas (7-2) at Kansas City (6-4): The over/under on this was originally 103 points because everyone remembers when Patrick Mahomes had high scoring games against the Ravens and Saints a couple of years ago and the NFL herd bleated that low-scoring games were a thing of the past, right? The over here must have been popular, as it moved up half a point to 56, which is a 31-28 game, but Dallas is unlikely to play the kind of single high D that let Tyreek Hill get two TDs and the Chiefs score 41 against Vegas and cover over 52.5. The Cowboys should have their full receiving corps back, and will be a real test of the supposedly rejuvenated Chiefs’ D. If Dallas were getting three I’d be very tempted, and I’m sure a lot of people will take them at 11/10 on the moneyline. But even the under 56 can’t make me make you take it.
Sunday Night (01:20 Monday) – Go low at LA
Pittsburgh (5-3-1) at LA Chargers (5-4): TJ Watt and Joe Haden both haven’t practiced, and Big Ben and Minkah Fitzpatrick are on the Covid list for Pitts, while Joey Bosa and Jerry Tillery are both on the Chargers Covid watch, while Linval Joseph hasn’t practiced. Without knowing whether Rothliesberger will play or not it’s hard to take the Steelers; without Watt you’d think Justin Herbert might be able to have a day. That the line moved from 4.5 to +6 for Pittsburgh makes me think people see another Mason Rudolph passalooza! With all the uncertainty, the Under Taker likes this one a lot.
Monday Night (01:15 Tuesday) – Buccs Bowl bid begins here
NY Giants (3-6) at Tampa (6-3) Palindromic: Records! Runs to the Super Bowl in the last six weeks of the season start with wins over the Giants, who are 10.5 point dogs. Antonio Brown Is back practicing, despite the story he used a forged vaccination card. Can you forge a TD?