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: 23-17-1 season record (last week: 4-1)
Raymond: 24-16-1 season record (last week: 2-3)
All lines taken from the VI Consensus at VegasInsider.com Friday morning.
Sunday Night Football – Packers @ Patriots (-5.5) – Total 56.5
Rich: Through the quirky timing of Aaron Rodgers sitting his first two seasons, missing one matchup with an injury, and being in opposite conferences, this is just the second time ever that we’re getting a game between Rodgers and Tom Brady as starting quarterbacks. Given their career overlap, that’s a bit of missed opportunity, but I’ll just blame it on Mike McCarthy somehow.
As for this Sunday, it’s another opportunity where we’re getting Rodgers and the Packers with a higher number than we’re accustomed to getting. Rodgers’ team has gotten more than five points in game just three times (2-1- ATS) over his entire and we’re getting that in back-to-back weeks. Just like I stated last week, I’m just going to take Rodgers and this many points any time I can get them.
The Patriots have turned things around after a slow start, winning five in a row, but their defense is still highly suspect. Over their seven games since the season opener, the Patriots have allowed 24 or more points in five of those games. The only two teams that were below that arbitrary threshold of points scored were the Dolphins and Bills. Green Bay is averaging 25 points per game, so I like their ability to put points on the board here in a high-scoring game. Rodgers is also getting warm as he gets healthier. He’s averaging 9.0 yards per pass attempt over the past three games after 7.2 Y/A over his opening four games of the season.
On the other side, the Packers have also just been handing out points to the opposition. Opposing teams have scored at least 29 points in five of the past six games against Green Bay with the only exception being the Bills, of course. To piggyback off of that, the Patriots have been stellar at home this season. New England averages 4.0 offensive touchdowns per game at home (third) as opposed to 1.8 per game on the road (24th). We’ve played the over on some of these high-game totals so far with lackluster results over the past two weeks, but I’m ready to go back to the well here again. As much the unders have struck back the past two weeks, we’ve had eight games with a game total of 55 or more points so far this season and the over has hit in five of those games with two of the three unders falling exactly one point short, meaning predicting these ultra-high-scoring affairs has been spot on to date through half of the season.
Pick: Packers +5.5, Over 56.5
Ray: In addition to getting a good quarterback at a pretty big number, the Packers are interesting because they are playing their second road game in a row following the bye week. That only happens a handful of times each season, and teams in that situation tend to do very well against the spread. Following the Saints’ win in Minnesota last Sunday night, teams in that situation are now 26-18-1 ATS (59.1%) since 2008, and underdogs are 17-10-1 (63%). Likely undervalued coming off a disappointing start to the season and a loss to the best team in the league, the Packers are also in a good situational spot. That makes them an easy bet.
I agree with Rich the over is probably the correct side given Green Bay’s difficulties on defense and how good New England’s offense has been at home so far this year. That said, I have thought all year the Packers have the pieces to be a better defense than they have shown, and we saw that kind of coalesce when they “held” the Rams to 29 points last week. Perhaps things will fall to pieces again following the Ha Ha Clinton-Dix trade, but it is enough for me to stay away.
Pick: Packers +5.5
Steelers @ Ravens (-3) – Total 47.5
Rich: This is the first time that the Ravens have been favored over the Steelers since Week 4 of the 2015 season. It comes at an interesting time as these teams have trended in opposite directions of late. Baltimore has lost three of their past four and their defense has allowed 24 and 36 points over the past two weeks. The Steelers, on the other hand, have won three in a row since losing at home to this Ravens team in Week 4. Despite the recent play of both teams, the Ravens are in a unique spot. Since 2008, home favorites in a divisional prior to a bye week are 34-14 straight up and 28-19-1 against the spread.
Pick: Ravens -3
Ray: Considering how much I like playing bye-week trends, there was zero chance of me passing up this opportunity given the numbers Rich cited. I will also add despite the recent losses this is the same Ravens team which went into Pittsburgh and won 26-14 just one month ago. The Steelers are better on defense now, but the offense could once again flounder, especially since this is a one o’clock road start, a spot where Ben Roethlisberger has consistently struggled throughout his career.
Pick: Ravens -3
Rams @ Saints (+1) – Total 58.5
Rich: As mentioned in the open, we’ve chased the over in these high-scoring games much to our chagrin. That includes both Ray and I alternating weeks of picking games involving the Rams that ripped our souls out in each of the past two weeks. But I’m back to the well here in the NFL version of Coors Field. Since 2008, the average game in the Superdome features 54.5 combined points scored, by far the highest in the league. This season, we’ve already had games of 80 and 62 total points scored in New Orleans outside of a 39-point total versus Cleveland. The Saints resume is picking up steam with road wins against Baltimore and Minnesota, but Tampa Bay is the only top-10 scoring offense they’ve faced so far on the season while the Rams are third at 33.0 points per game. In terms of offensive efficiency, this is about as good as it gets. The Saints have scored on 61.2 percent (41-of-67) of their possessions, the highest rate in the league while the Rams have scored on 55 percent (44-of-80) of their possessions, third in the league.
Pick: Over 58.5
Lions @ Vikings (-5) – Total 49
Ray: This matchup falls into the same trend as the Ravens game, so situationally it is a good spot. I also believe the Vikings are simply a much better team than the Lions. Detroit is at its best when it can hide the defense with a slow-paced offense and good rushing attack. While the Vikings have had their struggles on defense this season, that will be difficult to do in Minnesota, the Lions’ defense is susceptible to the exact same game plan, as we saw last week against the Seahawks.
Pick: Vikings -5
Falcons @ Washington (-1.5) – Total 48
Ray: Unders have been extremely profitable over the last two weeks. That certainly does not mean we should bet the under every game, but as we have the last couple weeks, taking advantage of inflated totals in games which might be less explosive than they appear on the surface makes sense. This is one of those situations.
The schedule has helped, but Washington’s defense has given up more than 21 points just once this season, and that was in a terrible situation in New Orleans on Drew Brees’ record-setting night. Otherwise, they have been stellar even in games against the Colts, Packers, and Panthers. Part of that success comes down to their ability to control the ball. They have run the ball on 47 percent of their offensive plays this season, fourth-most in the league, and are second in average time of possession. As a result, Washington has faced the seventh-fewest plays per game this year, and just two of their games have featured more than 40 total points.
The second-worst rush defense in the league according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA, the Falcons are not set up to stop Washington’s game plan. It is a limited sample, but it is also worth noting Atlanta’s two offensive duds this season have come in their only two road game. They scored 12 in Philadelphia in Week 1 and 17 in Pittsburgh in Week 5. I am not going to take the side here because the Falcons are coming off a bye, but I do love the under.
Pick: Under 48
Jets @ Dolphins (-3) – Total 43.5
Rich: The Jets already were thin offensively entering the season, but it’s only gotten worse as they’ve suffered injuries to skill players along the way. They’ve scored 17 or fewer points in five of their past seven games and have scored just 39 points over their past three road games. Over those games, they’ve been outscored 76-39 by the Browns, Jaguars and Bears. Miami was definitely overvalued to start the season, but they’ve been consistent by beating up bad teams. That includes a 20-12 win on the road against the Jets in Week 2. Miami also has been good at home, going 3-1 at home straight up and against the spread while averaging 26.8 points per game on offense.
Pick: Dolphins -3
Bears @ Bills (+10) – Total 37.5
Ray: Here we are again, friends. It was not my worst beat of the weak – thanks Todd Gurley – but Buffalo +14 was the right side last week. It just did not end up hitting. Even after last week’s loss, home dogs of 10 or more are 29-19-1 ATS (60.4%) since 2008. Interestingly, this is only the third time during that span a team has been a double-digit home dog two weeks in a row. Both of those teams easily covered, and one of them won outright, which I think is a possibility in this game. Buffalo’s defense is for real, and now they get to face a worse offense than the one they shut down last week. The pick-six factory known as Nathan Peterman could ruin it, but we have to go back to the well again.
Pick: Bills +10