Sunday, September 11, 2011

NFL 2011 - Betting Lines - Who to Pick Versus the Spread: Week 1

I'm not much of a gambler, but I know many of you are!  So, this year I will be helping out my friends who like to make wagers versus the spread.  Here, I will try provide some insight on how the matchups within the game can work to your advantage when making a wager.  Making good picks is all about good information.  So, without further adieu, the picks and analysis for wagers versus the spread for the NFL: Week 1...


Winner: 10-6
Winner w/ Spread: 8-8
Over/Under: 7-8-1

Trifecta: 3

Perfect Score Predictions: 3 (Atlanta, St. Louis, Detroit)
Perfect Game Predictions: 1 (Atlanta v. St. Louis)

NOTE:  The Green Bay/New Orleans game was played Thursday, September 8th so no pick or analysis will be given, but for the record, I had Green Bay winning by 7 and both teams scoring often so I took the over.  Nice start, huh?

NOTE 2: The team with a negative number in parenthesis "(-3)" next to their name is the favorite to win the matchup and the number represents how many points the favorite has to score more than the underdog to count as a winning bet.  The over/under for the game is represented by a number in parenthesis with the letters o and u "(o/u 46)".  The number represents the amount of points you are wagering whether or not the two team's combined score will be in excess of or short of.  Official betting lines courtesy of

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore(-1.5)  (o/u 36)

Savant Spread Pick: Pittsburgh to win ~ 16-14
Over/Under Pick: Under

Result: Baltimore 35  Pittsburgh 7 / Total Score 42 /
Winner: -  Spread: -  O/U: -

This game is always very physical as these teams have a downright hatred for one another.  When these teams play, it's lights out collision-making on every play.  These teams have hard hitters that hit their hardest when they play each other.  Injury is always a high risk in these games because of intensified aggression of the rivalry.  Both teams will have mental mistakes as the lockout prevented them from having much time to gel in a truncated off-season.  Most of the familiar names of recent years are all still with their teams for this game as neither team did much in free-agency so you can expect a similar result to what has happened in years past in this one.  These factors are why I'm taking the under at 36.  These games typically end in 13-10 fashion, so under is a safe play.

This early in the season, great defenses usually get the better of good offenses.  Because of this, and the Ravens star defensive players being just another year older in the twilight of their careers, the Steelers should win this game by at least a field goal. 

Detroit @ Tampa Bay(-1)  (o/u 42.5)

Savant Spread Pick: Detroit to win ~ 27-17
Over/Under Pick: Over

Result: Detroit 27  Tampa Bay 20 / Total Score 47 /
Winner: +  Spread: +  O/U: +    

I know it's on the road and a long flight to Tampa from Michigan, but the Lions are a team ready to prove people wrong and they have the arsenal to do it.  This Lions team is a whole other beast when it has it's signal caller, Matthew Stafford at the helm.  This season, Stafford to Calvin Johnson will be one of the leagues best duos and they will score lots of points with their high-octane offense.  The Bucs are a team that will take a step back this year.  They were not as good as advertised last year.  Four of their 10 wins in 2010 came in a sweep of the worst division in football, the NFC West.  

Those preposterously large defensive lineman on the Lions(Suh and Fairley) are going to plug up running lanes and TB running back, LeGarrett Blount is an in-between the tackles runner.  Lions should neutralize the running game and make the Bucs more one-dimensional.  The Bucs will put up a couple of TD's; the Lions will put up even more TD's.  This is why I took the Lions and the over.  This isn't a close game to me.

Chicago vs. Atlanta(-2)  (o/u 40.5)

Savant Spread Pick: Atlanta and the points to win ~ 24-13
Over/Under Pick: Under

Result: Chicago 30  Atlanta 12 / Total Score 42 /  
Winner: -  Spread: -  O/U: - 

This appears to be one of the easier picks of the week, as I see it.  Atlanta has very real Super Bowl aspirations and the Bears will be lucky to finish third in their division this season.  The Bears gave up the most sacks in the NFL last season.  Their strange way of remedying this is to cut their only Pro-Bowl offensive lineman(C Olin Kruetz) and signed, nor drafted anyone worthwhile to replace him.  So the worst O-line in football only got less talented and less experienced.  Not only do you have that problem, but they had one of the worst receiving corps. in the NFL last year and they only signed Cowboy reject, Roy Williams who was cut by Dallas because he was way overpaid, so they are still bad in that area. 

This pick isn't even as much about how good the Falcons are, and they will be very good, but more about how disappointing the Bears will be in 2011.  Most games the Bears played in last year were very low scoring and I don't think even 28 points by the Falcons will be enough to help the bad Bears offense help the game total eclipse the 41 point mark so I'd say under is a safe bet.

Buffalo @ Kansas City(-5.5)  (o/u 39.5)

Savant Spread Pick: Buffalo with the points; Kansas City to win ~ 21-14
Over/Under Pick: Under

Result: Buffalo 41  Kansas City 7 / Total Score 48 / 
Winner: -  Spread: +  O/U: -

It wouldn't be surprising to me if Buffalo went right in to KC and beat them on their home-field, but it's because of that tremendous home-field advantage the Chiefs maintain, I've got them winning by just a field goal, if they win at all.  KC QB Matt Cassell sustained a rib injury in the final preseason game a week ago and was questionable for the game so he will be less than 100%.  Jamaal Charles will get his run of yards, but without a completely healthy Cassell and Dwaye Bowe disappearing for long stretches of the season last year, I can't have any confidence in the Chiefs offense.  

The Bills have a serviceable QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick and emerging start WR Stevie Johnson along with two headed spear Rb committee; Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.  In the end, the Bills offense just does a little more than the Chiefs offense, but it might be a big home-field play that puts the Chiefs just over the Bills, but certainly by less than 6 points.

Indianapolis @ Houston(-9)  (o/u 44)

Savant Spread Pick: Indianapolis with the points; Houston to win ~ 28-20
Over/Under Pick: Over

Result: Houston 34  Indianapolis 7 / Total Score 41 / 
Winner: +  Spread: -  O/U: -

With this spread it is easy to see that gamblers are predicting gloom and doom for the Colts without Peyton Manning in the lineup.  Though I happen to agree with them, I don't agree to that level of doom.  The Colts will be below average without Peyton, but they could have a worse starter filling in than Kerry Collins.  The team, even without Peyton, still has a ton of talent all over the offense.  Collins just needs to delivery the ball and they can do the rest.  

It won't be nearly enough to keep up with one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL in the Texans.  Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson are going to have a field day against an average Colts secondary.  The Texans should lead by more than the spread for most of the game, but will allow some meaningless points at the end when they have the game in hand and it will be just enough to both uncover the spread and make Indy a winning bet versus the spread and enough to get over the o/u hump and make the over a winning bet.

St. Louis vs. Philadelphia(-4)  (o/u 44)

Savant Spread Pick: Philadelphia and the points to win ~ 31-13
Over/Under Pick: Over

Result: Philadelphia 31  St. Louis 13 *Perfect Prediction!* / Total Score 44 / 
Winner: +  Spread: +  O/U: push

One of the greatest disadvantages a home team can ever have is when they play in a dome and they have relatively little team speed and they are playing a team with one of the NFL's fastest offenses.  Philly's blazing-fast receivers, not to mention the speed of QB Michael Vick, will torch the Rams "no-name" defense on their home carpet.  Sam Bradford is young and still struggles against a fast blitzing pass-rush, which the Eagles are known to be the best at in the league.  This won't even be close.  Take Philly and the over with great confidence.

Cincinnati @ Cleveland(-6.5)  (o/u 35)

Savant Spread Pick: Cleveland and the points to win ~ 14-6
Over/Under Pick: Under

Result: Cleveland 27  Cleveland 17 / Total Score 44 / 
Winner: -  Spread: -  O/U: -

This is the throw-away game of the week, but it's the throw-away game that is many times the hardest to bet on because you don't know what to expect.  In this case, I think the decision is not too difficult.  Nothing screams offensive impotence more than a rookie QB making his first career start.  It almost typically ends with that team not scoring a TD the entire game no matter how good that team's running backs are(and the Bengals don't have much at RB).

Cleveland, sadly, is not in a much better position, however they have the QB with more experience(by 1 year) and the much more dominating RB, Madden '12 cover-boy Peyton Hillis.  The Browns also have the clearly superior defense, actually a strong point on their team.  I wouldn't be surprised if the Browns shut-out the Bengals, but for the sake of a turnover or two deep in their own territory, I think Bengals squeak out a couple of field goals and nothing more.  This makes taking the under a very easy wager to me.

Tennessee @ Jacksonville(-1)  (o/u 37)

Savant Spread Pick: Tennessee to win ~ 23-17
Over/Under Pick: Under

Result: Jacksonville 16  Tennessee 13 / Total Score 29 / 
Winner: -  Spread: -  O/U: +

Career NFL journeyman, QB Luke McCown gets a very surprise start in week 1 for the Jaguars.  The Jags inauspiciously fired their franchise QB, David Garrard, just a week before the regular season in what looked like a money saving move by the team.  Though no one can quite understand this move, it does tangibly downgrade the whole offense.  They still have elite RB Maurice Jones-Drew, but he will be faced with lots of eight man fronts with no threat of great QB play by McCown.  

Tennessee, of course, still has all-world RB Chris Johnson who is capable of making the homerun breakout for a TD every time he touches the ball.  The Titans can expect good, consistent play from new QB Matt Hasselbeck throwing to stud wideout Kenny Britt.  The Jags will only score points based on the quality of play from Mo-Jo, which I expect to be high.  Tennessee still wins easily.  The Jags practically announced they were giving up on 2011 when they cut Garrard.

Washington v. New York(N)(-2.5)  (o/u 39.5)

Savant Spread Pick: Washington to win 24-21
Over/Under Pick:Over

Result: Washington 28  New York(N) 14 / Total Score 42 / 
Winner: +  Spread: +  O/U: +
*Trifecta *

Some games have an outside factor that can have a profound effect on he outcome of the game, like when the heavy underdog Saints routed the heavily favored Falcons in the New Orleans Super Dome reopening after hurricane Katrina. I think this game will have that factor.  Emotions will be running very high as the two cities that were directly hit by the attacks of 9/11 play each other on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

  Though the Giants are the more talented team, they have 6 defensive players already on season-ending injured reserve.  But more importantly, that D.C. crowd is going to be outrageous as they are running high with emotion from the anniversary.  Home crowd makes the difference in this one.  I'm taking Washington and the over because of the Giants suspect defense and the emergence of new Redskins RB Tim Hightower looking real good in preseason.  We know the Giants can and will score points on offense.  The over here feels like a lock to me.

Carolina @ Arizona(-6.5)  (o/u 37.5)

Savant Spread Pick: Arizona and the points to win ~ 27-3
Over/Under Pick: Under

Result: Arizona 28  Carolina 21 / Total Score 49 / 
Winner: +  Spread: +  O/U: -

As was discussed about rookie QB's making their first NF start earlier, we have another for the Panthers in QB Cam Newton.  He won the job fair and square in the preseason, but it was mostly because he had no competition to fight with for the job.  Cam may be a good dual-threat QB someday, but it's not in his first NFL start.  I want to call a shutout in this one, but alas Arizona will probably find a way to have at least one turnover in their territory giving the Panthers a chance to go 3 and out and kick a long field goal.  This is a no-brainer, Cards and the under.

Seattle @ San Francisco(-5.5)  (o/u 37.5)

Savant Spread Pick: San Francisco and the points to win ~ 21-10
Over/Under Pick: Under

Result: San Francisco 33  Seattle 17 / Total Score 50 / 
Winner: +  Spread: +  O/U: -

San Francisco is no prize these days, but few teams have taken a plunge like the Seahawks.  New QB Tavaris Jackson has looked atrocious in the preseason and newly acquired deep threat WR Sidney Rice will miss the game(shoulder).  They also have injuries at offensive line.

  The 49ers are coming in to the game with most everyone healthy and a new look offense under new coach Jim Harbaugh and their own deep threat WR acquisition, Braylon Edwards.  The only player of any significance on the Seattle offense is their running back Marshawn Lynch, but the 49ers have the best middle LB in football, Patrick Willis, to stuff those running lanes.  It's fair to say the 49ers will cover the spread, it's more a certainty they will combine for under 38 points.

Minnesota @ San Diego(-8.5)  (o/u 42)

Savant Spread Pick: San Diego and the points to win ~ 34-13
Over/Under Pick: Over

Result: San Diego 24  Minnesota 17 / Total Score 41 / 
Winner: +  Spread: -  O/U: -

One team last year had the #1 offense and the #1 defense in the NFL in 2010; it was the San Diego Chargers.  A feat already rarely done, but nonetheless done with their greatest offensive weapon, TE Antonio Gates, and superstar WR Vincent Jackson missing most of the season!  They now have both guys back and healthy and will only add to the arsenal that QB Philip Rivers has at his disposal.

Minnesota acquired veteran QB Donovan McNabb to fill their "Favre Void" and he's not a bad pickup, but it is not McNabb that will make the Vikings a sub-par team this year, it will be the defense.  You can always count on all-world RB Adrian Peterson to show up on Sundays and dominate, but with an average receiving corps., the Vikings will be a run-oriented team.  San Diego will prove to be way too much for them to handle and this should be a blowout.

Dallas @ New York(A)(-6.)  (o/u 40.5)

Savant Spread Pick: Dallas with the points; New York to win ~ 21-16
Over/Under Pick: Under

Result: New York(A) 27  Dallas 24 / Total Score 51 / 
Winner: +  Spread: +  O/U: +   

The Jets are one tough cookie to beat at home and Dallas showed signs of improvement late last year, but have lost some players coming into this season, mostly because of salary cap casualties. Dallas has a pretty nice offense with QB Tony Romo, TE Jason Witten and stud WR's Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, but the Jets are a better defense, finishing ranked near the top in 2010.

Dallas has a starter in the secondary out for the game and this should give WR Santonio Homes some extra space to squeeze in some more yardage that will make the difference in the game.  Dallas will be able to keep the running game of Shonn Green and LaDanian Tomlinson somewhat in-check, but I feel like they are going to get burned a few times for big chunks in the passing game.  This is a tricky one, but my gut tells me to take Dallas with the points and take the under.

Miami vs. New England (-7)  (o/u 45.5)

Savant Spread Pick: Miami with the points; New England to win ~ 26-20
Over/Under Pick: Over

Result: New England 38  Miami 24 / Total Score 62 / 
Winner: +  Spread: -  O/U: +

The Patriots are a team that is finally showing some cracks in it's marbled "dynasty" this year.   Acquiring misfits DT Albert Haynesworth and WR Chad Ochocinco looked to be a bit of a desperation move for a team that is not very good at the WR or DT positions.  It appears that neither move is really panning out, too.  When you have Tom Brady you always have a chance, no matter who you put out there, but Brady didn't win those Super Bowls on his own.  This will be one of the worst supporting casts he has seen in a number of years.

It's rare to be a 7 point dog at home, but leave it to the Dolphins to manage this.  After a failed attempt to trade for Kyle Orton, they are still stuck with QB Chad Henne.  They took a downgrade at the RB position, letting go Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to sign unproven every-down back, Reggie Bush and drafted rookie Daniel Thomas to back him up.  Lucky for the Dolphins, they have possibly the best kicker in the NFL in Dan Carpenter.  He can bail them out some when they stall near the 40 yard line and drop those long field goals he did many times last year.  The Pats are good enough to win this game over the Dolphins, but they won't dominate them like they have in years past.

Oakland @ Denver(-3)  (o/u 40.5)

Savant Spread Pick: Denver and the points to win ~ 24-20
Over/Under Pick: Over

Result: Oakland 23  Denver 20 / Total Score 43 / 
Winner: -  Spread: -  O/U: +

The most under-rated QB in the NFL is a guy who threw for over 3,600 yards and 20 TD's last year.  That QB is Denver's Kyle Orton.  He's back with his favorite weapon, WR Brandon Lloyd who was one of the NFLs' top receivers.  Denver is not going to be very good this year, but they can surely take advantage of an Oakland secondary that will be without Nnamdi Asomugha, whom they lost to the Eagles in the free-agent market.  Oakland will be able to run the ball effectively against the Broncos porous defense, but the air attack with Kyle Orton will prevail and look for a two TD game from Willis McGahee for Denver.  These teams have above average offenses and bad defenses, wager the over with confidence.

I hope this guide proved to be helpful!  Look out for my picks each and every week of the NFL season.

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