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: 7-6 season record (last week: 2-2)
Raymond: 10-5 season record (last week: 3-3)
All lines taken from the VI Consensus at VegasInsider.com Friday morning.
Sunday Night Football – Ravens @ Steelers (-3) – Total 50
Rich: Ravens at Steelers features one of the longest-running rivalries among head coaches as these teams have played each other 23 times under Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh including the postseason. It’s about as even of a rivalry as you can find, with the combined score over those 23 games favoring the Ravens 480-469. The Steelers are 12-11 straight up while the Ravens have an 11-10-2 advantage against the spread in those contests.
This will also mark the 11th time these two teams have met during prime time in the regular season. As we highlighted a week ago, playing under the lights has been lucrative for Pittsburgh. After last week’s win on Monday Night, the Steelers have now won 11 consecutive prime-time games with their last loss under the lights coming to these Ravens in Week 4 of the 2015 season. During that win streak, Pittsburgh is also 8-3 against the spread.
While that spells trouble for the Ravens’ chances to win this Sunday outright, there are some factors playing in their favor to take the three points. For one, the Steelers are a mess defensively, ranking 19th in defensive DVOA to begin the season. Second, they are just 6-8-1 against the spread coming off Monday Night under Mike Tomlin and, more importantly, are a home favorite coming off a short road win, which has yielded disastrous results against the spread the following week over a long-running span. Since 2008, home favorites off a small (1-3 points) road victory have covered just 41.9 percent of the time in 124 instances. Given that history and believing the Ravens actually have the better all-around team at the moment, I’m taking the Ravens and the points here in an expected close game.
Pick: Ravens +3
Ray: Like Rich, I think this is a good spot for the Ravens. They are a divisional underdog early in the season, a spot which we have played to success already this year, and the Steelers are at home following a Monday night game, a situation which has produced an 87-116-5 (42.9%) ATS record over the last 10 seasons.
The Ravens also might be a better team than or at worst even with the Steelers. Pittsburgh has struggled mightily on defense so far this season, especially against the pass. In recent years, that would not be much of a concern against Baltimore, but the Ravens’ passing attack has been competent bordering on good so far this season while Joe Flacco has played well in two of his three games including last week against Denver. With enough talent on defense to at least slow down the Steelers, Baltimore has what it takes to keep it close and perhaps even walk away with a win on Sunday night.
Pick: Ravens +3
Lions @ Cowboys (-3) – Total 44
Rich: One trend I’m just going to keep hitting until a shift occurs in their offensive play is preying on the anemic Dallas offense in game totals. The Cowboys haven’t hit their implied team total in six straight games dating back to last season and have managed to reach that implied total just once over their past 11 games with an average of -7.1 points below game expectation over that span. That has impacted the game lines as the last time a Cowboys game featured more than 40 total points scored was Week 13 of last season, and the under has hit in 11 of their last 12 outings. Sunday sets up for Dallas to really get their run game on track against a Lions defense which ranks last in yardage and yards per carry allowed to opposing backfields, meaning the Cowboys could grind away the game effectively.
Pick: Under 44
Ray: While neither defense in this game is scary – the Cowboys have the makings of a good unit but have been disappointing so far – pace is the real concern for those looking for points in this matchup. The Cowboys have run the third-fewest plays in the league so far this season ahead of just the Dolphins and Cardinals, and while the Lions have run the fifth-most, much of that has come down to game script. Detroit is 25th in situation-neutral pace according to Football Outsiders and have finished 28th and 29th in total plays in two full seasons under OC Jim Bob Cooter. This has the makings of a slow-paced, low-play game which struggles to hit a 44-point total.
Pick: Under 44
Bucs @ Bears (-3) – Total 46.5
Rich: Another team falling under the same umbrella laid out above is the Bears, who are home favorites against the Buccaneers coming off a two-point victory on the road in Arizona a week ago. Lines have the Bears with a 25-point expected team total, a number which Chicago has hit just twice in the 15 games Mitchell Trubisky has started. The Buccaneers are a mess defensively, but we’re not positive the Bears can take advantage of that given Trubisky’s play, and we know Tampa Bay is capable of scoring points on their own, reaching 27 points in all three games to begin the season.
Pick: Bucs +3
Bengals @ Falcons (-4) – Total 53.5
Ray: Betting the Bengals has been fairly profitable to this point, and there is not much reason to stop now. To start, the Falcons are coming off an overtime loss to a divisional rival. The overtime period was not as long as the ties we saw in Weeks 2 and 3, but teams coming off overtime are now just 135-176-10 (43.4%) ATS over the last 10 seasons and 1-3 ATS this year. Second, the Bengals are a road underdog coming off a road loss, a situation which has hit 56 percent of the time since 2008. Finally, the Falcons’ defense is an absolute mess and took yet another hit last week. There is not a silver bullet here, but several things point to the Bengals being the right side.
Pick: Bengals +4
Browns @ Raiders (-2.5) – Total 45
Rich:0-3 teams are 23-16 against the spread over the past decade when they aren’t facing another winless team and are 9-2 against the spread over the past three seasons in those cases. We both mentioned it last week, but one team playing much better than their winless record suggests is the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are the only team other than Kansas City to not have trailed for any offensive play through three quarters in a game this season. The problem is they just can’t close, getting outscored 37-3 in the 4th quarter. At home against a team which has lost 22-straight road games, I’m going back to the Raiders once again.
Pick: Raiders -2.5
Dolphins @ Patriots (-6.5) – Total 48
Ray: This pick goes against my grain for two reasons. First, I was high on the Dolphins heading into the season – I gave out the over on their season win total – and believe they are at worst a .500 team with a legitimate defense. Second, I almost never lay points and even more rarely lay close to seven. That said, this line just screams value. Miami is a surprise 3-0 team heading into New England to face a 1-2 Patriots squad coming off back-to-back road losses including an embarrassing defeat on national television to the Lions. The Pats found themselves in a very similar situation in 2014 after getting demolished by the Chiefs on Monday Night Football in Week 4. Bill Belichick was famously on to Cincinnati after that game, and the Patriots demolished a 3-0 Bengals squad coming off a bye 43-17. Perhaps this Patriots team is simply not as good and perhaps the issues on both sides of the ball just will not be fixed, but they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Pick: Patriots -6.5
Chiefs @ Broncos (+4.5) – Total 54.5
Seahawks @ Cardinals (+3) – Total 39
Rich: Arizona is another 0-3 team and has another positive indicator in their back pocket if you don’t mind flying blind. As Ray has highlighted several times to open the season, early in the season is the time to get out and play home underdogs in division games. Home dogs during Weeks 1-4 in those spots are now 49-29-1 (62.8 percent) against the spread over the past decade and are already 3-0 to start this season. You may not want to do it based on the play we’ve seen from the Cardinals and the Chiefs to start the season, but closing your eyes and placing faith in Arizona and Denver this week is a favorable play which flies right against the public as well.
Pick: Cardinals +3, Broncos +4.5
Texans @ Colts (-1) – Total 47
Ray: The Texans are not home underdogs like the teams above, but all divisional underdogs tend to do well early in the season. Houston also has another factor working in their favor. As Rich pointed out, 0-3 teams are good against the spread in general, but that is especially true of road underdogs, who are 12-5 (70.6%) ATS over the last ten years. As always with underdogs of less than three, I will take the money line.
Pick: Texans -105
Eagles @ Titans (+3.5) – Total 41
Rich: A line that feels really wonky this week is the Eagles giving 3.5 points on the road to the Titans with the public trending toward pushing that number to four or more points as the week closes. After the Titans played that Week 1 game which had a 7-hour halftime, they’ve come back and played nearly flawless defense the past two weeks while the Eagles are still finding their way their offensively. Philadelphia hasn’t covered in each of the past two weeks and has scored 18, 21 and 20 points to start the season. They did get Carson Wentz back a week ago, but they also allowed five sacks and committed two turnovers versus an Indianapolis defense at home.
Pick: Titans +3.5