Thursday, November 6, 2014

NFL Week 10 Primer (With Picks): RIP Year of The Underdog

Thanks to a big season from Andrew Luck, the Colts have been perennial favorites this year. Favored in eight of their nine games, the Colts are a league-best 7-2 against the spread.
 By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

The Year of The Underdog is dead.

Long Live Year of The Underdog.

The last time dogs finished above .500 for a week was Week 2. No, seriously, you can look it up and everything. They started the year 20-12 (an astonishing 62.5 percent), but they're just 45-55-2 (45.0 percent) since. Favorites haven't really had a kick-ass week other than a 9-5-1 showing in Week 6, but nothing like the 11-5 drubbing the underdogs put up in Week 1. As a matter of fact, if you exclude Week 1 from the sample (when Vegas is just winging it and so are the gamblers), favorites are 62-54-2. Eight games over .500 through nine weeks is pretty good. Once Vegas course-corrected, it seems like favorites are back in business - and remember, this is after favorites covered on 52.2 percent of spreads last year, the third-highest figure in the last 25 years.

We started the year with "when in doubt, take the points." That doesn't seem to be true anymore.

Underdog Update:

Last Week: 6-7
Season: 65-67-2
Home Dogs, Last Week: 1-3
Home Dogs, Season: 16-22-1

Game(s) of The Week

Miami @ Detroit (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

These would probably be the most surprising teams from each conference this year if not for Cleveland and Arizona. Granted, Detroit has been helped out by two straight somewhat-fluky wins (both by a single point following mostly-unforced collapses by opponents from the worst division in football), but Miami has beat the pants off their last three opponents and would be riding a five-game winning streak into this game if not for Aaron Rodgers heroics in the final seconds of Week 6.

San Francisco @ New Orleans (1:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

The Saints might finally be waking up after two straight convincing wins and the 49ers look about ready to completely fall apart at any second after two straight losses in which they looked terrible. The NFC South is going to get into the playoffs - they have to, it's in the rules. So that means there are three teams in the NFC West fighting for (probably) two playoff spots. San Francisco needs a win here to keep pace. 

Pittsburgh @ New York Jets (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

This game is probably going to suck, but I just want to see if Antonio Brown can break the single-game receiving yards record against a passing defense that has allowed a 24-1 Touchdown-to-Interception ratio this season. 

Chicago @ Green Bay (8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC)

This game always seems to matter at least a little bit, and it definitely matters for the Bears - they're starting to get desperate at 3-5, surprisingly in last place in the NFC North.

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams In CAPS)

NEW ORLEANS (-5) over San Francisco

JC: I believe again.

JP: I believe in them at home, and I'm starting to lose faith in the Niners.

BALTIMORE (-10) over Tennessee

JC: The Ravens need a win to keep pace and they've made a habit of beating up on bad teams this year (by 22 over Atlanta, by 31 over Tampa Bay, by 28 over Carolina). If Good Flacco shows up, this should be a bloodbath.

JP: The Titans were down three scores the entire second-half last week against Houston before a Justin Hunter touchdown made it look more respectable in the last 50 seconds of the game. That was against a Houston team that has since benched its quarterback in favor of Ryan Mallett. That is not good.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) over New York Jets

JC: The Jets have one win. It was over the Oakland Raiders. So the Jets only win is against a team that hasn't beaten anybody. And they didn't even cover.

JP: I never like to bet on the Steelers or Ravens after they play each other, but here I am picking both of them. If the Steelers don't beat the Jets soundly, much of their progress the last three weeks will be for naught. 

Dallas (-7) over Jacksonville (Played in London)

JC: If Romo plays, I'll take Dallas over the terrible Jags.

JP: Romo looks like he'll be good to go after practicing today, and the 'Boys really need to get back on track. If they can't take out the Jaguars by more than a touchdown, their mini-slump becomes troubling. If nothing else, that will lead to more entertaining Jerry Jones interviews, but I don't see it happening.

Atlanta (-2) over TAMPA BAY


JP: Uh, the Bucs are winless at home?

Denver (-12.5) over OAKLAND

JC: The Raiders continue to be a frisky underdog - they're 4-4 against the spread, including covers against Seattle, San Diego, and New England. But all of those covers were against teams that either hadn't hit their stride yet or may secretly be falling apart. Denver lost last week, but they'll have a bounce-back beatdown.

JP: Peyton should be out for blood, and Oakland really should have been blown out by Seattle last week. A few late scores cost Seattle the cover, but the Raiders were mostly garbage when the game was still up for grabs.

St. Louis (+7.5) over ARIZONA

JC: The St. Louis pass rush is back (seven sacks last week!), and if they rough up Carson Palmer, Arizona shouldn't be able to run away with this.

JP: Arizona just spent the last week being told they were the best team in football at the season's midpoint... These are the Cardinals, so if a collapse is going to begin, now would seem like the time.

New York Giants (+9.5) over SEATTLE

JC: Woof. I mean, the Giants aren't good either, but at what point do we collectively decide that Seattle just doesn't have it this year? They've lost their last four games against the spread and they let Derek Carr march down the field for a backdoor cover last week. Derek. Carr.

JP: Yeah, I know Seattle is significantly better at home than they are away, but they're no longer in the class where they should be giving two scores to pretty much anybody. The Giants are coming off a butt-whooping on Monday Night Football, but after watching the end of that game (I don't know why I stayed up, but hey) I feel like Eli's got a backdoor cover in him this week.

GREEN BAY (-7.5) over Chicago

JC: Aaron Rodgers seems to be in God Mode and Chicago's defense shouldn't have a prayer of slowing them down, especially with the Packers coming off a bye.

JP: I would normally think twice before giving over a touchdown in a Bears-Pack game, but man is Chicago falling apart right now.

Carolina (+6) over PHILADELPHIA

JC: Never lay a touchdown with Mark Sanchez against anyone. It's one of my rules in life.

JP: As good a rule to live by as any.

Here Are The Picks We Don't (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

JC: CINCINNATI (-6.5) over Cleveland

How much credit do we give the Browns for just barely pulling out wins by the skin of their teeth? They have a grand total of one impressive win this season (a 31-10 beatdown of Pittsburgh that looks even better now than it did in Week 6). They won by 5 against the terrible Bucs and by 1 against a very bad Tennessee team, and they're the only team Jacksonville has beaten (and they looked *terrible* in that game). If Cincinnati is (somewhat) back on their feet, they should take this one.

JP: Cleveland (+6.5) over CINCINNATI

If these are the Browns we've come to know and love, they'll get absolutely torched on Thursday night by their in-state rivals. However, if this is a new breed of Browns team, one that resides in a city that also houses the NBA's biggest star and is competitive in the NFL's only division where every team is over .500, then Cleveland should go on the road and score a huge divisional win. Basically, I think it's either going to be Bengals by 30 or Browns by 3. I'll go with Cinderella tonight.

JC: DETROIT (-3) over Miami

As mentioned above, Detroit has gotten a bit lucky of late, while the Dolphins have been beating teams up. But Ryan Tannehill might have been playing above his head a little bit, and Detroit should have Calvin Johnson back. That should tip the scales.

JP: Miami (+3) over DETROIT

Let me get this straight: Miami blows out a team by 37, and they're getting points the next week? I'll take that!

JC: BUFFALO (+2.5) over Kansas City

Kansas City is 6-2 against the spread. At what point does it become weird? I think it's when they're giving two and a half on the road against a team with the same record that's also coming off a bye.

JP: Kansas City (-2.5) over BUFFALO

I've gotten burnt betting against Kyle Orton and his beautiful neck beard before, but I've also had too little faith in the Chiefs this year. I'm going to say that KC picks up a 21-17 road win when Sammy Watkins gets tackled while prematurely celebrating at the 5-yard line as time expires.

Jeremy's Record: 
Last Week: 6-7
Season: 66-56-2 
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-4
Season's Disagreements: 18-22

Joe's Record: 
Last Week: 8-5
Season: 70-62-2 
Last Week's Disagreements: 4-2
Season's Disagreements: 22-18

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