Today's Free Picks for
MIAMI +127 over New Orleans
8:30 AM EST. The NFL returns to London for the second week in a row. At 1-2 the Saints appear to be back on track after a 34-14 win on the road in Carolina. Heading into Week 4, we've heard all about how difficult the Saints early season schedule has been with three of their first four games on the road including this trip to jolly old England. Losses to both Minnesota and New England might be excusable to the talking heads but we are not nearly as bullish on Drew Brees and company after just one good game. The Saints defense is still giving up 437.7 yards per game, second worst only behind the Patriots and even though they picked off Cam Newton three times on Sunday, turnovers are a luck based statistic that cannot be counted on from game to game.
After losing 20-6 to the Jets on Sunday, we don't blame the Dolphins for being eager to skip the continent. The case for Miami through two games is a difficult one to make but we are in the business of buying low. Many consider the Jets to be the worst team in the NFL and the Dolphins were embarrassed by a team that is supposedly tanking it. Backing a team coming off a brutal loss is a situational play we often look out for, as those teams are usually being offered at a discount their next time out. It's really hard to back the Fish this week after losing to the Jets, especially if you picked Miami in your survivor pool or anywhere else for that matter. Even head coach Adam Gase was disgusted in his team's offensive effort saying “I’m tired of watching for two years this garbage...We’ll make the proper adjustments, probably make some changes.” Defensively the Dolphins have been great against the run by holding opponents to just 3.1 yards per carry and 73.5 rush yards per game but they've struggled against the pass by giving up a league-worst 8.6 yards per pass, which makes this short line against the high-flying Saints offense so curious. The Dolphins have been to England three times with their most recent visit in 2015 while the Saints were last overseas in 2008. If familiarity counts for anything, advantage Dolphins.
As we discussed last week, the London games are difficult to handicap. Last week's game between the Jaguars and Ravens was over before most viewers finished their first cup of coffee, which also isn’t unusual, as there have been blowouts galore overseas through the years. We refuse to wager on these games because of the uncertainties and because it’s a different animal to handicap. Just remember that Miami has an excuse for last week. They were displaced because of Hurricane Irma. They opened with an emotional win in L.A. against the Chargers and thus, they were flat against the Jets. New Orleans is a bad football team they may have caught a worse won last week. Dolphins outright. Play: Miami +127 (No bets).
NEW ENGLAND -9 over Carolina
1:00 PM EST. If the Texans were getting 14 in New England last week, then the Panthers should be getting 24. Alright, maybe that’s an exaggeration of sorts but if strength of schedule counts for anything, the Panthers could be in big trouble again this week. Carolina has played San Fran, Buffalo and New Orleans and its offense didn’t look pretty in any of them, which includes a game at home against the defenseless Saints. Think about that for a second. New Orleans is the NFL’s version of the Nuggets and Kings in the NBA and Carolina couldn’t move five yards against them. Even against the 49ers in their season opener, the Panthers had weak yardage, as Cam Newton passed for just 171 yards on 14 lousy completions on 25 attempts. In Week 2 at home to Buffalo, the Panthers scored nine points. Losing by 21 to the Saints isn’t the end of the world but scoring a worthless 13 points on that team in your own building is about as bad as it gets.
What’s Newton’s excuse this week? Since the start of last season there are only two QB’s in the NFL with a lower passer rating than Cam Newton –- Brock Osweiler and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Panthers went out and got Newton a RB this year in Christian McCaffrey but that’s not helping either. Cam Newton is an unrefined pocket passer whose demise is going to come rapidly over the next few weeks but the Panthers are 2-1 so not many have taken notice yet. Sell Cam Newton now and don’t stop until the market catches up.
We all saw what Tom Brady did to the same New Orleans’ team (in New Orleans no less) that Cam Newton couldn’t move the chains on. We also saw that the Patriots get whacked in Week 1 and get whacked statistically in Week 3. Houston had more yards, more first downs, they held a significant edge in time of possession and had it not been for at least three fumbles that landed in the Patriots lap, that score would’ve been as bad as K.C.’s lopsided win in New England. In Week 1 at home, New England was an 8½-point fav against K.C. They didn’t come close to covering. In Week 3 at home against the Texans, New England once again didn’t come close to covering and needed a remarkable drive at the end and a lot of good fortune to win it. The Pats have been favored by more than a TD twice and didn’t come close to covering twice. Now they’re spotting more than a TD again and the market isn’t likely biting again. We will because New England usually responds after a bad game and our target here is to fade Cam Newton and the vile offense he’s trying to orchestrate.
CLEVELAND +3 +100 over Cincinnati
1:00 PM EST. Cleveland lost to Indianapolis while the Bengals went into Green Bay as a 7½-point dog before they almost pulled off the upset of the day by losing in OT, 24-21. Prior to last week, Cincinnati’s stock had hit rock bottom while Cleveland’s stock was up slightly. Prior to last week, Cincinnati had not scored a TD in losing 20-0 to Baltimore in Week 1 and 13-9 to Houston in Week 2. Cincinnati will now get too much market credit for going into Green Bay, building a 21-7 lead and just missing. So, while most of this market jumps back in on Cinci, we’re jumping off because last Sunday, for that one specific day, the Pack was one of the most beatable teams in the NFL. So many things went wrong for the Pack. Aaron Rodgers threw a pick-6, they had no running game, they were sacked six times, they trailed 21-7 at halftime, they had no left tackle, no right tackle and their best defensive tackle was out too. They had a rookie covering A.J. Green yet Cincinnati could not score a single point in the second half and now we’re being asked to spot road points with them? No thank you.
We were just as disappointed by the Browns loss to Indy as everyone else that backed them. The difference is that we’re not abandoning them but we can understand how why most will. Cleveland was down 28-7 to the Colts at which point everyone that backed them switched to another game. Team’s like New England and Green Bay come back from 21 down while the Brownies do not. The final score read 31-28 but a very late TD by the Brownies made the score more respectable but at the end of the day, the Browns did not cover again and lost another game. Hue Jackson got to field questions about what went wrong this time after yet another loss. He’s had to do it now 18 times out of the 19 games he’s coached since taking over as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. However, after three weeks, the 0-3 Browns are on the verge of winning. Rookie QB DeShone Kizer looks better each week. Last Sunday, Kenny Britt, Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis combined to catch just 6 of the 22 footballs that were thrown their way and most of those were right between the numbers. They’ll be better this week. Cleveland came within three points of beating the Steelers in Week 1 and they were the better team. In Week 2 in Baltimore, Cleveland turned it over four times in a 24-10 loss otherwise they matched the Ravens. Last week, Cleveland had more yards but Kizer threw three picks for the second game in a row and the Brownies fell behind by a big margin.
It's hard to be thrilled with this price when the Bengals have won five straight against the Browns and have outscored them by a combined score of 91-30 in the last three meetings. To that we say big BFD! The Browns were in the extremely unfamiliar role of being favored on the road last week but this week they go back to being in the familiar role of being an underdog at home. That’s a role they can embrace and play well in while the Cincinnati Bengals couldn’t beat a makeshift lineup last week and looked absolutely horrible in Week’s 1 and 2. Cleveland gets its first win of the season but we’ll play it safe (after all they are Cleveland) and take the points.
Pittsburgh -3 over BALTIMORE
1:00 PM EST. This one is tough. For one, the Steelers have done nothing to prove that they are worthy of being road chalk. Here’s a team that lost in Chicago as a 7-point choice and that barely got by Cleveland in the season opener for both teams. Under normal circumstances, we would be all over Baltimore but these aren’t normal circumstances. You see, the Ravens played overseas last week and we refuse to invest in games that involve teams’ going overseas the week of or the week after. There are too many unknown intangibles. Furthermore, both squads will come into this one with their stock low so there is no undervaluing here. We trust the odds makers have compensated Baltimore somewhat for traveling but it still does not give us a clear picture to choose one over the other.
The Ravens proved they could beat teams from Ohio in their first two games and most believed we would see their true mettle in Weeks 4-5 vs. Pittsburgh and at Oakland. Instead, it appears as though the Ravens players didn’t make it through customs and we were seeing the reincarnation of the 1987 scab teams. It wasn’t like they were running up against New England. This was Jacksonville. The Jags outgained the Ravens 410-186 and scored on eight of their first 10 full possessions – four touchdowns and four field goals. The Jacksonville defense is no joke, but, in some scoring formats, Joe Flacco had minus fantasy points after completing eight of 18 passes for 28 yards, two sacks, two interceptions and a passer rating of 12.0. With the twice-annual Pittsburgh bloodbath coming this week and a bar fight with the Raiders after that, they both got a lot of film to watch as to just how bad the Ravens can be when they’re off their game. Baltimore figures to be much better this week but the Steelers may be too. Hold a gun to our head and we’ll swallow the points. Play: Pittsburgh -3 (No bets).
HOUSTON +110 over Tennessee
1:00 PM EST. The Titans come in 2-1 after defeating the Jags in Week 2 and the Seahawks last week. Tennessee’s 37-16 win over Jacksonville suddenly looks a whole lot better after the Jags torched the Ravens overseas. The Titans are now starting to get some press. All of a sudden, the media has started touting the Titans as a legit threat to make a deep playoff run because they have opened some eyes by lighting up the scoreboard with 70 points between wins over the Jaguars and Seahawks. We gave you the Titans two weeks ago over Jacksonville and also gave you them last week as a Survivor pick to beat Seattle. Now that the market is jumping in on the Titans two weeks too late, we’re jumping off.
Let’s not forget that Tennessee lost to Oakland at home in Week 1, 27-17. Lost in Tennessee’s victory over Seattle last week is that the Seahawks, a team that couldn’t move five yards previously, racked up massive yardage. Russell Wilson threw for a career-best 373 yards and four scores against the Titans but all this market sees is a victory over one of the NFL’s best teams over the past decade. Yes indeed, at home, Tennessee’s defense had trouble with a QB (R. Wilson) that can move his feet. They’ll get the same thing here.
Houston lost to New England but they dominated that game in Foxboro. Had it not been for New England once again getting every bounce into its laps, Houston may have won that game by three TD’s. The previous week, Houston played on a Thursday night in Cincinnati and beat the Bengals 13-9. The Texans are now 1-2 and are without anything impressive. They were torched by the Jags in Week 1 (29-7), they beat Cinci and then lost to New England. However, Tom Savage started against Jacksonville and there were other factors that contributing to the Texans being flat in their opener. What we see is a team with new found hope because of Deshaun Watson. Watson led the Texans to victory over Cincinnati. He threw for over 300 yards last week in New England and will now start his third game of the season here and first at home (he played in Houston’s home opener against Jax but he came in late in relief of Savage). Houston’s new stadium will be rocking big time.
Last season, the Titans were favored on the road twice and went 0-2 against the number, losing 38-17 in Jacksonville and barely getting by the Bears in Chicago. As the chalk in their season opener, they failed to cover that one too. While we’re on board with Tennessee, we’re not ready to bite on them just yet as road chalk because they have not proven to be profitable in that role. We’re still in the buy-low/sell-high business and Tennessee putting up 70 points the last two weeks combined means if you get behind them this week, you would be buying high. The timing to get behind Tennessee here is way off. Its ship sailed two weeks ago while Houston’s stock is still low and in this business, timing is everything. Houston outright is the call.
TAMPA BAY -3 -108 over N.Y. Giants
4:05 PM EST. Odell Beckham Jr.'s urinary approach to touchdown celebrations has garnered most of the headlines for the Giants this week but don't let one player's penchant for peeing distract you from the major problems that are plaguing the G-Men. Big Blue was expected to contend for a division title but after a 0-3 start to the season, the chances of that are slim at best. New York was awful after being shutout for three-quarters against the Eagles last Sunday but they were able to put up 24 points in the final frame after scoring just 13 in their previous 11 quarters. The Giants were down 14-0 before mounting their comeback and while a three-point loss to the Eagles as a six-point pooch might look like a step in the right direction, we're not convinced. On top of sporting one of the weaker offenses in the league, the Giants cannot stop the run (they are last in the NFL at 153.3 yards allowed per game) or get out of their own way. Beckham and company were penalized 10 times for 137 yards on Sunday. Through three games, the G-Men are the fifth most undisciplined team in the league racking up 80.7 penalty yards per game.
The Buccaneers have only played two games after their season opener in Miami was rescheduled because of Hurricane Irma. In Week 2 at home in Tampa, the Bucs took advantage of four Bears turnovers in a 29-7 victory. The Buccos were a sexy preseason sleeper and after a big Week 2 win, they looked primed to beat a Vikings team minus their starting quarterback. We warned you last week that Tampa was not great against the Bears despite the score and that there was an overreaction to both that win and Sam Bradford's injury. The Bucs got whacked in Minny 34-17 but if the Dolphins get a pass after dealing with the after-effects of Irma, Tampa deserves the same benefit. The Vikings are also worlds ahead of the Jets on both sides of the ball making the Bucs defeat even more excusable.
The Giants covered last week and the Buccaneers didn't so it's not a surprise that Tampa is being sold short here in Week 4. We've read that New York’s offense “hit its groove” last week and that one, “had to like” what one saw against the tough Philly D but the G-Men are getting way too much credit for one good quarter. Don't forget they were down double-digits before all hell broke loose in a bizarre quarter of football. Where this line sits now isn't nearly as interesting as where it opened. We are always mindful of what Pinnacle is doing as they are the sharpest book in town and while most outfits posted Tampa as -3½ point favs, Pinny opened at -4½. That’s one of the prompts that will lead us to paydirt. What's less widely understood is that Philadelphia is a typical rivalry-game in which the underdog is primed to throw everything it has into a big match. The reality in New York is that last week's demoralizing loss to Philly was the game the Giants hung their hats on to get this season turned around. This Giants’ team isn't braced for a big statement game; instead, it just lost one and now the Giants are in line to easily get beat again.
(Risking 0 units - To Win: 0.00)