NFL Underdogs: Week 4 pointspread picks and predictions

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There’s nothing like a good old fashion distraction to hide the ugliness. I do it with my screaming kids, the President does it to the media pretty much every week, and the New York Giants are doing it in Week 4 of the NFL season.

The talk of the Big Apple is rookie QB Daniel Jones and his triumphant debut as the Giants’ new starter, just squeaking out a victory at Tampa Bay last Sunday. Jones passed for two touchdowns and scrambled for two more, ushering in a new era for New York football and putting the dark days of Eli Manning under center to bed.

But while football fans fall in love with “Danny Dimes” they’re blinded to the fact that the G-Men have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. New York has allowed scores of 38, 28, and 31 points through three games, giving up 6.8 yards per play to opponents (second worst) and getting torched for 16 strikes of 20-plus yards, including allowing six plays of 40 yards or more.

When you’re hemorrhaging those kinds of gains, it’s a lot to ask a rookie passer – without his best weapon (Saquon Barkley out with high ankle sprain) – to pick up the slack. And honestly, had the Bucs made that last-second field goal in Week 3, this line could look very different (lookahead lines had Giants -2 before Week 3).

New York’s Week 4 opponents, the Washington Redskins, don’t exactly fill football bettors with confidence. Washington is playing on a short week after a rough home outing on Monday night, losing to a desperate Bears squad and falling to 0-3 on the season.

The Redskins are sitting near the Giants at the bottom of the defensive results, but some of the blame can be put on an offense that has turned the ball over five times in three games and has forced the stop unit to play more than 33 minutes per outing – fourth most in the league. With Barkley out of order, the New York offense (which is averaging a NFL-high 6.3 yards per run) becomes one-dimensional, allowing the Skins to focus on frustrating the rookie.

This line is starting to tick down at some books, so grab the Redskins at a field goal and brace for some ugliness.

PICK: Washington +3

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT DENVER BRONCOS (-3.5, 38.5)

Do we still think Denver has a good defense? Is that still a “thing”?

I’m not a huge stat head but the Broncos’ DVOA at FootballOutsiders has this unit ranked among the bottom feeders of the NFL. Denver is winless through three games, allowing 22.3 points per game despite giving up only 314 yards an outing (ninth in the NFL). What’s more, the Broncos have yet to record a single sack or takeaway in 2019. That’s bonkers.

A deeper dive shows that this methodical Broncos offense, which chews up nearly 32 minutes of clock, has worked to cloak those issue with the stop unit. Opponents have held possession for a mere 28 minutes a contest, scoring almost 0.8 points per minute or 0.4 points per play. The Broncos’ scoring attack has posted totals of 16, 14, and 16 through the first three weeks and runs into a solid Jacksonville defense in Week 4.

The Jaguars pass rush was the star of the show last Thursday, recording what seemed like 100 sacks (actually nine) against a Titans offense that looks pretty similar to the one the Jags will face in Denver Sunday. Broncos QB Joe Flacco has been sacked 11 times already this season, including five against the Packers last week.

As for the Jaguars offense and rookie Gardner Minshew, they benefit from a mini bye coming off the Thursday game in Week 3. That should help with Minshew’s maturation before this big road game as well as give RB Leonard Fournette some time to recharge after fighting through a frustrating night versus the Titans.

I’m taking the points against a 0-3 team that’s worse than it looks. And it looks pretty bad.

PICK: Jacksonville +3.5

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (-4, 43.5)

I’m back on the 0-3 Bengals and the points for the third time in three weeks. And why not?

Cincy woke up just in time to put 17 second-half points up versus the Bills and steal the cover as a 6-point pup at Buffalo last Sunday. In Week 1, the Bengals’ new up-tempo attack caught the Seahawks by surprise, and kept things close enough to cover the +9.5 as the visitors.

Those results improved Cincinnati to 13-5 ATS on the road going back to 2017, including an 11-5 ATS mark when getting the points in those away contests. And that’s where we find the coolest helmets in football again in Week 4: catching four as the road team on Monday Night Football.

While I love the pace of this Bengals offense, it was actually the defense that got the job done for bettors in the final two quarters against the Bills. The team showed sound tackling for the first time in a long time and kept the Buffalo runners between the hash marks.

Pittsburgh’s 24-20 result in San Francisco wasn’t as close as it seems. The Niners fumbled away the ball three times and Jimmy Garoppolo threw two interceptions, yet the Steelers offense managed only 239 total yards (second lowest for Week 3) and went 3 for 12 on third downs.

And as poor as the Pittsburgh offense is under backup QB Mason Rudolph, the Pittsburgh defense may just as bad. The Steelers were gashed for 21 second-half points by San Francisco and have allowed an average of 18.3 points in the final two frames so far in 2019.

Smells like another backdoor cover for my favorite underdogs.

PICK: Cincinnati +4

Week 3: 2-1 ATS
Season to date: 7-2 ATS

Running up the points with Rockets, and the college football bets you need to make in Week 12

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Are you ready for some more MAC-tion? Because there are two more games on the schedule Wednesday night. We break down the best bets for these games and take a look at the weekend ahead in college football – from sides and totals to props and everything in between.

ROOM TO ROAM

The Toledo Rockets might be only slight favorites for Wednesday night’s MAC tilt with visiting Northern Illinois, but they have a significant advantage in at least one area – and it could turn this one into a bit of a laugher. The Rockets come into the game with the nation’s No. 12 rushing offense, averaging nearly 251 yards per game on the ground – and they’ve been especially dominant over their previous two games, racking up a combined 664 rushing yards in narrow victories over Eastern Michigan and Kent State. The Huskies, meanwhile, are coming off getting routed 48-10 to Central Michigan in which the Chippewas posted 327 rushing yards.

An edge like this makes Toledo a terrific option in a variety of different bet scenarios; we recommend buying a few points in their favor and taking an alternate line of -6.5.

MIAMI (OH) FOR 3

The Miami (OH) Redhawks should have little trouble filling the board Wednesday night as they host a Bowling Green defense that ranks among the worst in the nation in points allowed. But while the Falcons have surrendered a mind-boggling 33.8 points per game so far this season, the Redhawks might not necessarily be headed for a parade to the end zone. Miami (Ohio) has one of the worst touchdown-to-field-goal ratios in the country coming into Week 12, having scored 22 TDs compared with 16 FGs – six of those coming over the course of their current three-game winning streak.

Miami (Ohio) is a big-time favorite here, and is a good bet to open the scoring given BGSU’s 2.5 first-half-points-per-game average on the road this season. We like the Redhawks FG to kick off the point parade.

GILBERT  GETTING BACK

Kansas State’s premier rushing threat might be back on the field this weekend. Wildcats senior James Gilbert practiced on Tuesday and is trending in the right direction as he recovers from an undisclosed ailment that kept him out of last week’s 27-24 loss to the Texas Longhorns. It was originally thought that Gilbert would be in the lineup vs. Texas, but he was a late exclusion – and Kansas State struggled in his absence, finishing with a paltry 51 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Gilbert ranks ninth in the Big 12 Conference in rushing yards (558) while adding five touchdowns on the ground.

Gilbert’s return would invigorate a Kansas State rush attack that has a favorable matchup against a West Virginia defense allowing 173 rushing yards per game. We recommend the hosts ATS if Gilbert is deemed fit to return.

WAKING NIGHTMARE

The Wake Forest Demon Deacons have seen their season take a terrible turn with word that standout wide receiver Sage Surratt will miss the remainder of 2019 with an undisclosed injury. Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson confirmed Tuesday that Surratt, who wasn’t featured on the team’s depth chart ahead of its Week 12 encounter with Clemson, would be out for the rest of the season – though he wouldn’t specify what was wrong with the star wideout. Surratt finishes the year with 1,001 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 66 receptions as the premier target for quarterback Jamie Newman.

The absence of Surratt should give bettors even less of a reason to bank on Wake Forest, which has seen the line shift as far as four points in Clemson’s favor. Look for the Tigers to keep the undermanned Deacons below their team total.

Too late to start fading the Fins, and the NFL bets you need to make in Week 11

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This may require a double-take, but listen up. The Miami Dolphins have been the best bet in the NFL since the start of October. Yes, those Miami Dolphins. We break down the odds and let you know what bets we like in Week 11 of the NFL as we dive into sides, totals, props and more. 

STAYING HOT IN Q1

The hottest team in the league right now is Lamar Jackson’s Baltimore Ravens. After knocking off the Patriots in Week 9, they turned their crosshairs on the winless Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10. The Ravens ran just 48 offensive plays but managed to put up 49 points. Lost in the 49-13 win was the fact that Baltimore moved to 8-1 against the first-quarter spread after winning the first 15 minutes 14-0.

This week, Baltimore is a 4-point home favorite versus a Houston team that is coming off their bye. If you don’t trust a team coming off a blowout win versus the worst team in the league and/or covering their last three games, take a look at the 1Q Ravens -0.5 (-105) as an alternative.

Baltimore is second in the league in first quarter points per game at 9.5 and third in the league in points against in the first quarter at 3.67 while the Texans are 0-3-1 on the road this year in the first quarter. Take the Ravens 1Q -0.5.

FEAST AWAITS EVANS

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face a very motivated New Orleans Saints team Sunday, but NOLA will be without their top cornerback in Marcus Lattimore. The third-year CB is week-to-week with a hamstring injury meaning Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin will face sub-par corners in P.J. Williams and Eli Apple.

As Brad Evans pointed out on twitter, this is especially great news for Mike Evans who has struggled over his career versus Lattimore. Evans put up a donut early this year in Week 5 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and averaged 9.5 targets for three catches and 34 yards in two games in 2017 (last year Lattimore struggled following up his 2017 DROY but has been much better this year).

Even with Jameis Winston getting sacked nearly four times a game, Evans is averaging 139 yards a game over his last four contests. Jump on Evans’ receiving yard total on any number below 85 and check in on his reception total, hitting the Over on any number below 7.

LOADING SCREEN

No team in the league relies on the screen game more than the Minnesota Vikings. Per ESPN, Minnesota is averaging 9.8 yards per screen attempt which is 3.5 yards more per attempt than the No.10 team.

The beneficiary of this is running back Dalvin Cook who gashed the Cowboys in primetime every time he got the ball with blockers ahead of him. Over the last three games, Cook has amassed 193 yards receiving and will face a Denver Broncos’ defense that is giving up 8.6 yards per pass to RBs since Week 8.

Grab the Over on Cook’s receiving yards on any total less than 40 yards.

LOADING SCREEN PT. 2

If you’re tailing the Cook receiving yards play and want some action on the other side of the ball, maybe look to fade the Broncos’ backfield in receiving yards. Denver is the worst team at generating yards on the screen game (3.7 yards per attempt) and neither Phillip Lindsay nor Royce Freeman has topped 17 yards receiving in the last two weeks. In the only game Brandon Allen has started at quarterback, Lindsay wasn’t targeted at all and Freeman saw one target which he lost a yard on.

Feel confident in taking Lindsay’s Under receiving yards on anything greater than 19 and Freeman’s Under on any number greater than 25.

AIN’T FADING THE FINS NOW

The best team ATS over the last five weeks has been the Miami Dolphins. The former 0-7 team has rattled off five-straight wins ATS and face a Buffalo Bills team that has zero offensive identity of late and trailed the Dolphins by five points heading into the fourth quarter just four weeks ago.

We are a little bearish on Miami hitting a sixth-straight win ATS but have no problem fading Josh Allen’s Bills who are putting up just 288 yards of total offense over the last three weeks, good for sixth-worst. Their once stellar defense now sits 12th in Wtd DVOA — 9th against the pass and 27th against the run.

The Bills needed 22 4th-quarter points in their last meeting to cover their team total and we don’t see Brian Daboll’s offense clearing 23.5 points since they are 2-5 O/U that total in their last seven.

Get on the Bills’ team total Under 23.5 now, as it may drop under this key number later in the week.