Austin Montgomery Week 6 Gambling Preview - LA-Baltimore and can Cleveland give Arizona its first L?
The column is back for another week. We are coming off three straight winning weeks and improved to 19-10 after Philadelphia's Thursday night cover.
Last week we finished a modest 3-2, but as we continue to finish over 500 every week, we are slowly stacking up the capital. We have a huge slate of games on Sunday. We have our largest card of the year this week with an insane nine picks on the slate.
You heard what I said, NINE picks. We are going to break into sportsbooks savings accounts Sunday afternoon. I am all here for it. Without further ado, here are the picks:
Cincinnati at Detroit:
Spread: Cincinnati (-3.5)
I have been waiting all year to put Dan Campbell’s Lions on the picks. If you are a football guy, you will love how Detroit plays football. They are devoid of talent, but they play until the final whistle. After an 0-5 start they are in line to get their first win. They are playing a Cincy team that is overrated by the public.
Put simply, Cincy has been lucky this season needing a Cook fumble to beat Minnesota, Green Bay kicking woes allowed them to be competitive last week, and they miraculously beat Jacksonville after being down two scores. The tandem of Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase are great. But even with the production from the LSU duo, Cincy ranks 18th in passing DVOA and 20th in success rate. Detroit’s secondary is nothing to write home about, but despite facing the most passing attempts in the league, they rank 17th in passing defense allowing 251 yards per game.
Offensively, Detroit should be able to move the ball. There’s one rule with projecting Jared Goff’s performance, when he is clean in the pocket he is pretty accurate, when there is pressure Goff is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. Thankfully this week, Cincy has only one defensive lineman who has been consistent rushing the passer, Trey Hendrickson. As a team Cincy has a pass-rush win rate ranked 27th in the league. Detroit will get their left tackle Taylor Decker back. Goff should move the ball to improving receivers Quintez Cephus, and Armon Ra Saint Brown.
This pick looks extremely ugly on its face, but I expect Dan Campbell to get his first win as an NFL coach.
The pick: Detroit +3.5
Kansas City at Washington
Spread : Kansas City (-7)
It’s been a chaotic week for the Washington Football team. An investigation going back over a decade has the organization under fire. Ironically, nobody in the organization has faced any repercussions; instead John Gruden is under fire and Adam Schefter is tweeting like the Spongebob GIF after his journalism practices were exposed.
Regardless you don’t want to hear any of that, you come here for the picks. This one, I feel pretty guilty about. It’s Sean Taylor retirement day and we are taking over. Taylor is someone I admired growing up playing youth football. The thing is, this Washington secondary doesn’t resemble anything from Taylor’s day. He’s shaking his head from the heavens watching this secondary play. Through the first five games Washington ranks 28th in overall DVOA and 29th in pass DVOA. The pass rush is underperforming and their secondary couldn’t cover me one on one. Now they have to play an angry Patrick Mahomes who is coming off back to back regular season home losses for the first time in his career.
Kansas City is going to put up a huge number here. Despite the 2-3 record, KC still ranks No. 1 in offensive DVOA and success rate. Defensively, Kansas City has the worst defense in the NFL ranking 32nd in DVOA. They rank 32nd against the run and 31st against the pass. Washington’s offense isn’t great; they do have some explosiveness under Taylor Heinicke. The play is simple, let’s not over think it.
The pick: over 54
Green Bay at Chicago
Spread: Green Bay (-6)
The oldest rivalry in football highlights the early slate of games. Green Bay travels to Chicago to face phenom Justin Fields. While all the quarterbacks take the headlines, I’m interested in the defenses in this one. Chicago’s defense has quietly bounced back to their 2019 form. They rank fifth overall in DVOA, seventh in scoring, and they rank first in the NFL in adjusted sack rate. They've held their last two opponents under the 20-point mark and collected seven sacks (two from Khalil Mack), 10 QB hits (three from Mack), 10 tackles for a loss (two from Mack), and three turnovers.
The reason? Chicago has implemented a big nickel, or three-safety scheme. This look has given Rogers trouble in the past. They can play an inverted cover 3 look against run formation and they run deep cover two against passes. It gives Chicago's defense a lot of versatility and it makes it hard for quarterbacks to identify coverages. Rodgers shredded the Bears for 76 points in two games last year. That won’t be the case this time around.
First off, the loss of Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley has affected the Green Bay offense more than most people expected. Green Bay ranks 15th in adjusted line yards after ranking in the top 5 a majority of last year. The Packers scored touchdowns on 80 percent of their red zone possessions last season. It was miraculous how good their red zone offense was last year. Well let me tell you, regression is a bitch. The Packers haven’t had the same red zone luck. They rank 27th in the NFL scoring touchdowns on just 55% of their red zone possessions. It has lowered the production of this offense a bit.
This is a rivalry game and six points on the road is too much to give to Chicago. Aaron Rodgers' dominance in this series gives me caution to assume Chicago has a home dog. So we will safely ride with the under in this one.
The pick: Under 44
Los Angeles (C) at Baltimore
Spread: Baltimore (-2.5)
Everyone has seemed to have joined the Justin Herbert bandwagon with me. If you are a normal reader of this column you know how high I am in LA this season. We are going to keep riding the train until the wheels fall off. We are 3-0 betting LA this year, and despite what some may think- this is a good matchup for them.
I know Brandon Staley’s defenses voluntarily don’t defend the run. Even against Cleveland, LA had just 11 defensive plays where they played with an 8-man box. Cleveland killed them for it, running for 230 yards on 6.6 per carry. Baltimore doesn’t have the dynamic rushing attack they have had in the past. They rank 16th overall in rushing DVOA due to all their running back injuries during training camp. LA can play the edge well, forcing Lamar to hand it off. That’s how most defenses have been defending Baltimore. However, Lamar has been killing teams with his arm throwing for 1,583 yards and 8 touchdowns. Here is where I like Staley’s strategy, he’s going to give Lamar tighter windows to throw into. He is not going to isolate Baltimore’s speedy receivers one on one. They are going to make John Harbaugh and company be patient on their drives. Derwin James is a guy who can spy Lamar on the edge or take away Mark Andrews in the passing game. He is the Lamar stopper here.
On offense, I just don’t see how Herbert can be stopped. He has 90 grade on PFF ranking third among NFL quarterbacks. The Ravens blitz at a 50 percent rate and the LA has a lot of avenues to beat it whether it’s quick passes to Austin Ekler and Keenan Allen. Baltimore ranks 20th in defensive DVOA and 20th against the pass.
Baltimore struggles with defending running backs in the passing game. Ekler should have himself a game in this one.
LA is very good on the road, and we will take them to get the win at Baltimore.
The pick: Los Angeles (+2.5)
Minnesota at Carolina
Spread: Minnesota (-2.5)
One of the more unique line moves I have seen. The spread has moved 1.5 points in Minnesota’s favor after the confirmed absence of Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey.
Two weeks ago, Carolina was everyone’s breakout darling and they were a popular upset pick to beat the Cowboys on the road. Now they are home underdogs to Minnesota who are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 road games? This is a number that pushes back against my power ratings. I have Carolina rated above Minnesota and they get home field advantage. The loss of McCaffrey doesn’t justify this line. Carolina has an improved front seven and secondary with the addition of CJ Henerson. Last week Minnesota struggled to move the ball against Detroit when they were missing multiple defensive starters. Zimmer is getting too much credit for his ATS record when he had more talented teams.
Carolina should be able to push the ball downfield to their top receivers DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. We are getting Carolina undervalued.
The pick: Carolina (+2.5)
Arizona at Cleveland
Spread: Cleveland (-3.5)
The league’s only undefeated team will hit the road for the fourth time in six weeks, only this time they will be traveling without their head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers will split the head-coaching duties in Kingsbury's absence.
Arizona has three road wins against Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Los Angeles. They have won each of those contests convincingly. Now they will have to battle an unfamiliar AFC foe and unfamiliar weather. There will be wind gusts of 25-30 miles an hour in the weather forecast - Cleveland played in four contests last season under similar conditions, going 4-0 of those games. This will be Kyler Murray’s first NFL start facing those kinds of winds. It is definitely something to factor since Arizona likes to throw deep and they stretch the field horizontally using their speed going sideline to sideline.
Cleveland will have to rely on its running game without starting tailback Nick Chubb. Hunt is a suitable replacement and will be a popular DFS target in this matchup. The vulnerable part of Arizona’s defense is their run stopping unit. Their linebackers are young, and they are allowing ball carriers to run for 5.4 yards per carry (31st in the NFL). Lucky for the Cardinals defense, the team’s offense has put them in advantageous spots where they have to give up the run game due to the score. That won’t be the case here. Cleveland will get Jedrick Wills back at tackle and the Cardinals will miss Chandler Jones. Even with the high winds, I expect Cleveland’s offense to find success through the ground game.
Offensively, it’s hard to say how well Arizona will do. The wind is going to affect their deep passing game. They won’t have their head coach to make offensive adjustments on the field. The Cardinals offense pushes the ball down field ranking 4th in the NFL in yards per pass attempt at 8.4. Cleveland is vulnerable against the deep pass ranking 19th in pass defense DVOA. They will get Denzel Ward back who did not suit up for the game in Los Angeles. The Cardinals will need to generate offense on the ground against Cleveland’s run defense that ranks 5th in rushing DVOA. The weather and the circumstances put the Cardinals dynamic offense in a tough spot.
This is one of my favorite handicaps of the year. The NFL's last unbeaten team goes down Sunday. The wind will get the Arizona offense out of sync. Cleveland will be able to run the ball down Arizona’s throats. With limitations on the deep passing game and an emphasis on ball control, I like the under in this game as well. Unders in games where the wind is 25 miles an hour or more hit at 58 percent rate. We get a pretty sizable total at 48. Cleveland wins in old school flashing style.
The pick: Cleveland -3 (buy the half point) AND Under 48.5
Dallas at New England
Spread: Dallas (-3.5)
This may be the most public pick I have ever made in my life. How about the boys from Dallas? Jerry Jones’ squad is 5-0 ATS, and they are covering against record numbers. So is the train going to keep moving or is going to stall against Bill Belichick’s squad?
I think the former.
How good is New England? Their best data point came against Tampa in an emotional Sunday Night game at home where their defense was aided by weather. They barely survived Houston last week. They beat a horrible New York team on the road. Their two wins come against the 29th and 31st power rated teams in the league. Now they are a short home favorite against Dallas who is steamrolling everyone? Zeke Elliot is back in prime form averaging over 5.0 yards a carry in his last three games. Dallas will face a New England run defense that continues to struggle. New England ranks 22nd in rush defense DVOA. Outside of that, New England’s defense has been pretty stout. But they will face the third most explosive offense in the league in Dallas on Sunday.
The thing people don’t realize, Dallas ranks 6th overall in defensive DVOA. They have stars at three levels of the defense: Trevon Diggs in the secondary, Micah Parsons at middle linebacker and several difference-makers along the defensive line.
This is a perfect public vs sharps grudge match in the sportsbook. Sometimes it’s fun to ride in public. The pro betting guys are overthinking this one. Take Dallas to keep winning for at least one more week.
The pick: Dallas -3.5
Buffalo at Tennessee (Monday Night)
Spread: Buffalo (-6)
If eight picks for Sunday weren’t enough, we went one more for the finale on Monday Night. Buffalo is the talk of the NFL after their Sunday Night win against Kansas City. They are officially the September Super Bowl Champs. Ranked No. 1 in every single power rating you read on the internet. For good measure, Josh Allen is on another planet. Buffalo ranks No. 1 in team DVOA by a 16 percent margin. Buffalo ranks No. 1 in the NFL in scoring offense and scoring defense. But now the whole world is talking about them and they have to face a consecutive tough road test in Tennessee.
While Tennessee has been a fade for us the past few years, we are buying them in this spot. It’s also nice to bet on a team that has Derrick Henry. Henry is a man amongst boys even at NFL standards. Henry has run over 100 yards in four of out five games this season. He will feast against a Buffalo run defense that has yet to be tested this season. Henry will be a shock to their system. Buffalo ranks 4th in the NFL in opponent’s yards per rush. However, they have yet to face a run offense that ranks in the top 25 in run DVOA. Henry should move the ball up and down the field for Tennessee, chewing the clock and shortening the game.
On defense, I don’t have an answer for how Tennessee is going to stop Buffalo (lol). I’m not going to make some bullcrap justification out of thin air, other than maybe Josh Allen is due for regression? Tennessee ranks 27th overall in team defense DVOA. Facing the league’s top offense will be a tough task. One area where Tennessee has drastically improved, is limiting red zone touchdowns and getting off the field on third down. Last year, Tennessee’s defense was the worst in both categories. Now Tennessee ranks above average 13th and 14th respectively. Being at home in a prime top spot can give Tennessee the edge it needs.
Weird things happen in the NFL. I will be the one loner that takes Tennessee in this spot here. Buffalo is great but they aren’t invincible. Tennessee will remind folks of that fact Monday.
The pick: Tennessee +6
Make sure to follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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