We’ve entered the second half of the 2014 NFL season and by now, games becomes more important as teams begin jockeying for playoff position. A handful of Week 9 games have serious playoff implications so expect teams to be preparing for these games knowing full well that the magnitude of a win and the despair that comes with a loss. We’re now in the trenches of this NFL season, people, so if you have a losing betting record at this point in the year, now’s the time to start righting the ship. Conversely, if you have a winning record, now’s the time to buckle down and not give all those winnings back.
The battle for the NFC South
If you had told me that the NFC South wouldn’t have a team with a .500 record at this point in the season, I would’ve probably laughed in your face and quietly questioned your NFL acumen. Yet here we are, halfway through the season and the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers are battling for the NFC South title with both teams having lost more games than they’ve won. The game will be held in Carolina but the Panthers are just -1.5 favorites against a Saints team that looked like its dominant self in its beatdown of the Green Bay Packers. The opening line is telling because sportsbooks seem to be out on the Panthers. I think the public takes the hint and will be heavily influenced by the Saints’ trashing of the Packers. If you’re backing New Orleans, now’s the time to get it. If you wait long enough, you could end up getting New Orleans as the short favorites. Take the points, people.
San Diego travels to South Beach
They’re not division rivals, but the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins are two teams in the thick of the AFC playoff picture. San Diego has noticeably cooled off after a torrid start to the season, having lost its last two games and in need of a win against the Dolphins if it hopes to keep up with the Denver Broncos in the AFC West. Meanwhile, Miami opened as -1.5 favorites on the strength of having won three of its last four games, all of which were on the road, including that London beatdown of the Oakland Raiders. The only blemish was that last-second loss to the Green Bay Packers in a game that the Dolphins should have actually won. This game also has a number of situational trends to look at, one of which is the all-too familiar “west-coast-team-travelling-east” narrative. I’ve never been a fan of that theory in the first place and I certainly won’t use it to justify picking the Dolphins, which I am because I think they’re playing better and they’re far healthier than the Chargers these days. This will be a close game and I don’t see that opening number moving a lot in the coming days. I just think Miami’s a little better than people are giving them credit for.
Biggest opening line of the year
The Oakland Raiders are an abomination and the chances of them winning their first game this week are about as likely as me losing 30 pounds in three days. The Raiders travel to Seattle as massive 15-point underdogs to face a Seahawks team that has suddenly had to deal with a lot of internal turmoil in the past few weeks. The team did enough to eke out a tough road win at Carolina, but things should be easier this time around with the hapless Raiders coming to town. The line is big enough that it could entice some people to make a small play on the Raiders, but this looks like an annihilation from the get-go. Unless that number moves up to 17 or 17.5, I think Seattle will handle its business to get some of its mojo back.
1st place in the NFC on the line
This is about as big a game as it gets for non-division games in Week 9. The surprising Arizona Cardinals are the number one team in the NFC right now. Believe it. But they face a tough test this week when the Birds travel to Dallas to face a Cowboys team fresh off of losing to the Colt McCoy and the Washington Redskins. The ‘Boys opened at -4, which is about as tight a number as you can have between two well-balanced teams. The public will be squarely on Dallas for this game and I can’t blame them. That’s why a Cardinals pick is looking particularly tasty, especially if the number moves up to -6 for the Cowboys. I’d wait on this one to see where the public sides, but I’d be very surprised if there’s significant money riding on Arizona in the next few days.
Manning vs Brady Part 16
If the Cardinals-Cowboys game is the most important game in the NFC, the Denver Broncos-New England Patriots game takes that title in the AFC. It’s not surprising that these two teams are meeting again during the season. After all, the NFL can’t have a season without Tom Brady and Peyton Manning going head-to-head. Denver’s traveling to New England for this game, yet oddsmakers have deemed them as -3.5 favorites. Yep. The Patriots rarely get points at home, but it’s happened twice this season already. We all remember how the last one turned out and I actually expect a similar result in this game. Ok, the Pats won’t dominate the Broncos like they did the Bengals a few weeks ago, but I do see them beating the Broncos in a game that will be analysed and dissected in every conceivable way leading up to the game. The only thing this game will miss is a Tim Tebow cameo. I’d wait to see how the line moves, but I don’t think the Pats will underdogs by more than four points.
AFC North rivalry renewed
Normally, Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers games are pretty straightforward. Make the home team a 3-point favorite and be done with it. But the Ravens have the better record and they already won against Pittsburgh in Week 2. Handily, in fact. That’s why the Steelers opened at just a point favorite, despite Ben Roethlisberger going ham all over the Indianapolis Colts’ supposedly tight defense. This is also my easiest call of the week. Run away with the Steelers and be happy that you’re only laying a point against the Ravens.
Eagles fly to heart of Texas
Is it fair to say that the Philadelphia Eagles are being overvalued here against the Houston Texans? Granted, Ryan Fitzpatrick is Houston’s quarterback but Arian Foster is quietly making a case as the best running back in Texas, let alone the NFL. I’m a little flabbergasted why the Eagles are 2.5-point road favorites here. If Fitzpatrick can get out of his own way and be at least decent, the Texans are a pretty darn good team. The opening line also gives me cause to pause on making a bet this early. I think the public will look at that line and think that Philly can win by at least three points against a team with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Hopefully, that’ll drive the number up to at least -4, which would make it easier for me to pick Houston.
Grounded Jets take the bus to KC
The Jets are horrible. The Chiefs are better than we thought. The Jets will have Michael Vick at quarterback this week. The Chiefs defense will eat him alive. No science required here. KC actually opened as -7.5 favorites, which is are gift odds now that the line is at -9.5. Hopefully, some bettors still believe in the magic of Vick and bet enough to drop the number back to -7.5. Should that happen, put me in large on Kansas City.