Ladies and gentlemen, we are on a heater. The column has gone 9-0-1 over the last two weeks and we are going to look to keep that hot streak going. We have five game previews on the slate and we are breaking down the slate's biggest games. We have a rematch of last year’s most electrifying playoff game with the Bills and Chiefs. The classic NFC East rivalry on Sunday Night Football between Dallas and Philly. We have many more games to break down.
So here we go, and before we do, a quick reminder: All point spreads are provided by our partners at Betfred Sportsbook. Bet $50 on any game this weekend with Betfred, get $250 in free bets. That's courtesy of Betfred Sportsbook.
Trend of the week: Underdogs of a touchdown or more are 17-9 ATS this year.
This seems to be the year of parity. Underdogs in the NFL are covering at a rapid rate. There have been only four games that have had a three touchdown differential. Two of those blowouts happened in Bills games. Something to look out for, don’t be afraid to bet the ugly underdog. We got one in this slate.
Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh
Spread: Tampa Bay (-9.5)
Things didn’t really go well in Kenny Pickett’s first start. He threw for over 324 yards but the Steelers only scored three points in Buffalo, continuing a trend of awful offense in Pittsburgh. Mike Tomlin’s squad has averaged just 15.4 PPG on 296 YPG and turned the ball over nine times across a 1-4 skid to open the season, with their highest scoring output thus far coming in a Week 1 overtime win over the Bengals (W, 23-20 OT). The Steelers offense ranks 24th in DVOA and 30th in yards per play.
On the other side, the Bucs defense has been fantastic ranking third overall in DVOA. Tom Brady has had off the field issues, but on the field he has been pretty solid this year completing 68 percent of his passes for over 1400 yards, with seven touchdowns to one interception. The Bucs aren’t really asking Tom Brady to do much. Pittsburgh’s defense just gave up over 10 yards per play against Buffalo. But if you take out the three 80+ yards play, Pittsburgh’s defense wasn’t horrible down to down.
So I’m going to take the under here. The under has hit in four out of the last five Tampa games. The under has hit in the last five Pittsburgh home games. I think they get up early similar to what they did against Atlanta, then chew down the clock.
Pittsburgh is going to have trouble moving the ball against this Tampa defense. The Steelers defense should show up at home. Let’s start the slate with another under win.
The pick: Under 46
Minnesota at Miami
Spread: Minnesota (-3)
Miami is on their third string QB. so this should be an easy win for Minnesota right? Minnesota is 4-1 and leading the NFC North, they will come to Miami and win easily. Miami just got blown out against the Jets. Easy money right?
Well contrary to popular belief, betting the NFL is never easy.
Former Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson will make his first career NFL start Sunday. And I’m ready to back him.
Miami has been tremendous at home dating back to the second half of last year. Their defense is fourth in EPA against the run. Despite the 4-1 start, Minnesota has not been impressive in wins against the Bears and Lions. They barely beat New Orleans in London with a backup QB, had to come from behind against Detroit, and were snuck by Chicago. They are 1-4 ATS against a pretty weak schedule. This is a fishy line and Vegas just knows. Back Miami to take home the win.
The pick: Miami +3
San Francisco at Atlanta
Spread: San Francisco (-4.5)
Who is the only team to be undefeated against the spread? You guessed it, the Atlanta Falcons. We have been on this Falcons bandwagon since the beginning and we are not hopping off. I really like this matchup for Atlanta.
The strength of this Atlanta defense is the front seven. The Atlanta defense has been bad in the secondary but not sure the 49ers can exploit that. San Francisco is playing their second consecutive game on the East Coast. In this contest the 49ers have 10 starters that are confirmed out. They are missing two starting offensive lineman, their three best defensive lineman, and two starters in the secondary. San Fran is the best team against the run but I think Atlanta has a chance to move the ball with all of their injuries.
Arthur Smith is a great play caller and the Falcons have done a great job of keeping things close. I’ll ride Atlanta to keep the gravy train rolling.
The pick: Atlanta +4.5
Carolina at Los Angeles Rams
Spread: Los Angeles (-10)
There is a new regime in Carolina. Matt Rhule is gone, Steve Wilks has taken over. PJ Walker is making the start at QB. They are traveling across the country to face the defending Super Bowl champions.
So why do I like Carolina here? It’s because the Rams are in quiet crisis mode. The Rams rank 26th in offensive DVOA, 28th in points per game, and they are the last in the NFL in yards per play. They have a -0.6 yards per play differential for the first time in Sean McVay coaching tenure. The elite defense that the Rams have been known for has been slightly above average ranking 13th in yards per play, 10th in DVOA. The Rams have excelled playing great football at the biggest moments. Ranking eighth in third down conversion rate and second in fourth down conversion rate offensively. I just think the Rams have been lucky even in their 2-3 start. The Rams will be missing Cam Akers at running back and Cooper Kupp is questionable with a foot injury.
Then add to the fact teams with an interim coach are 14-9 straight up in their first game since 2010. In most of those cases those teams were underdogs. I think there is a lot of value in Carolina here. They will have a new energy jolt with a new coach and a new QB. The Rams don’t deserve to be a double digit favorite against anyone.
Take the Panthers to keep this one close.
The Pick: Carolina (+10)
Buffalo at Kansas City
Spread: Buffalo (-2.5)
The most anticipated game of the 2022 NFL regular season kicks off at 4:25 eastern time on CBS with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo on the call. The Bills and Chiefs are the two best teams in the NFL and they feature the league's best quarterbacks, and this is of course the first time these two teams are meeting since their playoff overtime thriller last year. Are we going to get more fireworks in this one? This also the first game where Patrick Mahomes has been an underdog at home.
Let’s break down this game.
Let’s start with Buffalo. The Bills have cemented themselves as the best team in the NFL. They rank second in the league in scoring and first in the league in points allowed. They have been tremendous on defense despite suffering numerous injuries in their front seven and secondary.
Buffalo's defense has been sensational. But defending Mahomes has been a different beast. Mahomes has thrown for 1,398 yards (fifth in NFL), 15 touchdowns (first in NFL), and just two interceptions. The Bills typically play two high safeties and play match up zone coverage. Which has been the best defense to play against Mahomes. Even then Mahomes has eaten up that coverage.
The biggest X-Factor is taking away Mahomes top target. Travis Kelce. The Bills are the best team at defending tight end thanks to coverage abilities of Jordan Poyer. Mahomes doesn’t have Hill anymore. Can Mecole Hardman and Juju Smith win enough on the outside. I think the Bills deploy a blitz heavy approach and play man to man on the outside. Really there is no strategy for defending Mahomes, but the Bills defense has the ingredients to do it.
The Achilles heel of KC teams have been the defense. But this year’s unit has been above average giving up 5.3 yards per play. But it’s a different animal facing Josh Allen. The KC defense ranks 19th in pass DVOA. They are going to have their hands full with a Bills offense that averages 6.7 yards per play. Buffalo is going to have a sense of urgency here. It’s going to be all gas and no breaks. Josh Allen has been virtually unstoppable. KC Achilles heel has been defending the explosive play, which a problem against the Bills who lead the league in that category by a wide margin.
We are going to take Bills in the first half here. The public loves the idea of betting Mahomes as an underdog. Arrowhead is a great home field advantage. The Bills are going to come in and make a statement. The Bills have a positive seven point differential in the first half. The Bills are the team that will come out with a sense of urgency.
The pick: Buffalo -1 - first half
Dallas at Philadelphia
Spread: Philadelphia (-6.5)
Right after the Bills and Chiefs we dive into the Sunday Night primetime matchup with the Cowboys and Eagles. Arguably the most surprising teams in the NFL this season. The Eagles are power rated as the best team in the NFC while Dallas is 4-1 playing with a backup quarterback. Each team is experiencing their own magic mojo, so who will keep it going?
When talking about this game you have to talk about the trenches. Eagles offensive line against the Dallas defensive line. Both units rank No. 1 in the advanced metrics respectively. The Cowboys are one of the top pass-rushing teams no matter how you slice it. They're second in sacks (20), first in pass rush win rate (56 percent) and first in pressure rate (33.6 percent).
With Dallas’s pass rush, the main way to slow it down is by keeping them honest. Look for Philly to try to run the ball at will here. Dallas ranks 18th in rush DVOA defense and are allowing 4.7 yards per attempt. I expect Hurts and Sanders to have success in the ground game and sustain long drives.
How can Dallas get one more win out of Cooper Rush? Rush has only thrown more than 20 passes in just one of his starts. When he does throw it, it’s not in his hands for long (2.55 seconds on average) to be exact. The ground game and quick passing is where Philly’s formidable defense is most susceptible. Philly ranks 20th in rush DVOA and the defense typically gives opposing offenses shorter routes. Philly is one of the best teams at defending the deep ball. But I doubt Dallas takes a lot of shots. So it will be interesting to see how their defense adjusts. Will they bring more in the box, tighter coverage on the outside. We will see, but I think the Cowboys have used the perfect formula to win with Rush. That same strategy can work against Philly.
We are going to keep riding with Dallas here.
A lot of the sharp guys are in Philly. They are just underestimating the value of the Dallas defense whom I think slows down Philly’s offense here. Rush won’t make mistakes and he will put them in position to win. Since I think this will be a defensive struggle I will add in the first half under at 21. The game is going to be played at a snail’s pace when Dallas has the ball. Expect a lot of running on both sides. Which favors the side of an under.
The pick: Dallas +6.5 and first half under 21
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