Rich Hribar and Raymond Summerlin bring you their best bets every Friday of the NFL season as well as a preview of Sunday Night Football. The preview is free, but the bets can only be found in the Rotoworld Season Pass. Don’t miss out on the action.
Rich: 27-23-1 season record (last week: 2-3)
Raymond: 26-23-2 season record (last week: 1-3-1)
All lines taken from the VI Consensus at VegasInsider.com Friday morning.
Sunday Night Football – Vikings @ Bears (-2.5) – 44.5-point total
Rich: It’s been a while since both these teams were simultaneously in contention to win the division, so it’s no surprise that the NFL flexed this game to the main stage. The last time both the Bears and Vikings had winning records through 10 weeks of the season was in 2012. Given the Bears' recent ineptitude as a franchise prior to this season, it’s no surprise this rivalry has been one-sided of late, with the Vikings winning 6-of-8 games since Mike Zimmer took over in Minnesota.
The Bears have six wins, but their best is a home Monday Night win against Seattle back in Week 2. Their other five wins this season have been over the Cardinals, Buccaneers, Jets, Bills, and Lions. That’s not me suggesting they aren’t good – they’ve blown many of these teams out as they should have - but a win here would go a long way into truly proving they are a real contender.
The Vikings' resume is even worse considering they have a home loss to the Bills and haven’t beat anyone with a winning record. They still have good faith with the public since we saw them go to the NFC Title game a year ago, but they’ve hardly played to that level during this season.
All in all, I hate everything about this game from a betting stance. The game total is near a dead zone. If you twisted my arm, I’d lean towards the under. But at the end of the night, I’d prefer to leave this one alone.
Ray: Off the top, I would like to acknowledge I am in the midst of a terrible run (4-10-1 over the last three weeks) and apologize for it. There were certainly some bad beats in that run, but there have also been a lot of bad decisions. I will strive to do better.
At first glance, the Vikings looked pretty good as 2.5-point dogs. As Rich mentioned, the Bears have yet to record a marquee win unless the Seahawks are counted, and while Mitchell Trubisky is coming off one of the best games of his career, he has been up and down even in a favorable schedule.
That said, it is not like Minnesota has been any more convincing -- their best win of the season is against an Eagles team we now know is mediocre at best. They are also in a negative spot from a situational perspective. While road underdogs after a bye week are actually slightly positive, they are 14-21-1 against the spread (40 percent) in divisional games.
The Vikings are probably the better team, and they would be my selection in pick ‘em formats. Still, the uncertainty and the negative situation is enough to make this a no play.
Chiefs @ Rams (-3.5) – 63.5-point total
Rich: These teams are just about a wash in all capacities, but you’re getting the bonus with the hook here on top of the typical three-point swing in favor of the home team. The Chiefs have just one loss on the season, a three-point game on the road to New England, and just two of the teams that Chiefs have beat kept the differential under a touchdown. The Rams have been just as dominant in the win-loss column but have let a lot of teams get close enough to them on the scoreboard to feel good about getting that extra .5 here. Three of the five past wins by the Rams have been by three points or less.
Pick: Chiefs +3.5
Ray: It has let us down a few times – thanks, Todd Gurley – but betting the over in marquee matchups has been profitable all season. There have been seven games with totals of 55 points or higher this season, and the over is 7-3 in those contests including two hits the last two weeks after a lull in the middle of the year. Over the last 10 seasons, the over is 11-3 (71.4 percent) in games with totals of 57 or more. The over has hit in six of the seven games with a total of 58 or above during that span.
Of course, this game is in a bit of a different stratosphere. Since 1989, which is as far back as my database goes, there have been just three games with a total of 60 or higher, and Monday night’s contest has the highest total during that span. The first of those games, way back in 2000, did not hit the over, but the playoff matchup between the Falcons and Packers in 2016 did get over the mark.
The good news is these teams have a track record of reaching these high heights. Four of the Chiefs’ games have topped 64 points, and another two have topped 55. Kansas City has also scored at least 26 points in every game and at least 37 in all but four contests. Like the Chiefs, four of the Rams’ games have surpassed 64 points, and they have scored at least 29 points in every game. In fact, the Rams are averaging 33.5 points per game. It would be more surprising if one of these teams failed to reach 30 points than if one of them scored 40.
Because there is no precedent for this in the pro game, it still seems like books are unwilling to set the lines where they should be, meaning there is still value despite the high total. It is a lot of points, but give me the over.
Pick: Over 63.5
Panthers @ Lions (+4.5) – 49.5-point total
Rich: There’s only one favorite I’m putting in play this week, and it’s the Panthers at Detroit. The Lions are just a wreck right now and have too many core injuries. Detroit has scored a touchdown on just 5-of-32 drives (15.6 percent) the past three weeks, 28th in the league. They’ve lost games by 14, 15, and 12 points over that span with two of those losses coming at home to teams not as good as the Panthers. Carolina is coming off a prime time beat down, so there’s value in them still giving the points. Since 2003, teams coming off a loss of 28 or more points are 55.3 percent against the spread the following week.
Pick: Panthers -4.5
Ray: You would think we learned our lesson after last week, but we are right back on the road favorites out of the gate. That said, Carolina has found a great spot at the intersection of analytical and situational, making them tough to pass up. Rich hit on the analytical. The Lions are a train wreck right now. They cannot protect Matthew Stafford, cannot move the ball, and cannot stop anyone else from moving the ball. That is a bad combination. On top of that, the Panthers are in a spot which is always profitable. Road teams coming off a road loss have hit right around 55 percent of the time since 2008, and favorites are 61-45-3 against the spread (57.5 percent). That is not strong enough to bet on its own, but it is when paired with Carolina simply being a much better team.
Pick: Panthers -4.5
Texans @ Washington (+3) – 42.5-point total
Rich: We’ve done this all year with Washington and they’ve consistently come through when discounting them. They’ve been an underdog in six of their nine games and covered in five of those with the lone exception being to the Saints. We’ve also gotten them as a home dog three times this season and they’ve flat out won the game outright in each of those weeks. Washington is one of my least favorite real-life teams, but they are one of the better betting teams since we know they rarely beat themselves (third in the NFL in turnover margin) and they are consistently undervalued by the public.
Pick: Washington +3
Ray: For the first time this season we are on the opposite side of a pick. Considering the run I am currently on, siding with Rich probably makes the most sense. That said, the Texans are in too good a spot to pass. Road favorites after a bye are an astounding 40-19 against the spread (67.8 percent) since 2008, and favorites of three or more are 26-9 ATS (74.3 percent). Washington’s track record this season is certainly a concern, but this is a must-bet trend.
Pick: Texans -3
Titans @ Colts (-1.5) – 49-point total
Ray: It resulted in an annoying push last week, but I am going right back to the well against the Colts, who I continue to believe are overrated. Andrew Luck is playing extremely well, and it is possible he can just carry them down the stretch as he has done in the past, especially since the offensive line is playing like one of the best in the league. The defense is simply a disaster, though, and it has to be exposed at some point. This week against an ascending Titans Offense is a good bet, especially since their defense has not allowed more than 23 points since Week 1, are giving up an average of 16.8 points per game, and just held New England to 10 points. This could certainly be a letdown spot, but that seems unlikely in an important divisional game. As always with favorites of less than three, I will bet the money line.
Pick: Titans +1.5
Broncos @ Chargers (-7) – 46.5-point total
Rich: This number feels far too large. Denver may not be a good team, but they certainly aren’t a terrible one. Denver has already played some of the league’s best teams and have kept those games in check. They have four and seven-point losses to the Chiefs and a three-point loss to the Rams. Divisional dogs by 7-plus points on the road are 34-28-2 against the spread from Weeks 9-12, right past the heart of the season.
Pick: Broncos +7
Raiders @ Cardinals (-5.5) – 41-point total
Ray: In the polar opposite of the game on Monday night, the Raiders and Cardinals face off in Arizona on Sunday afternoon with a game total of just 41 points. Taking the under on that numbers seems crazy given the current offensive landscape, but it is difficult to overstate how bad the Raiders have been on offense as of late.
They have failed to score a touchdown in three of their last four games, and they scored just one touchdown the week before that. They have topped 20 points twice this season -- against the Browns in one of the more confusing hindsight games of the season and against the Colts’ lackluster defense a few weeks ago. One of the better units in the league, the Cardinals’ defense is not going to be as giving as the Colts were, and Arizona’s offense has topped 18 points just once this year.
Most importantly, both teams have routinely gone under this total. Last week, Arizona combined for just 40 points with the Chiefs of all teams, and all but three of their games have failed to top 40 points. For the Raiders, five of their games have finished below 40 points including four of the last five. Taking the under on a total this low, especially with the potential of defensive touchdowns, is difficult, but it is the correct call.
Pick: Under 41