Picking football games (against the spread), volume v

All right.

So I gave in during Monday Night Football. The Colts were beating the Titans 12-9 at halftime, so I went to check what the odds were for the rest of the game. Tennessee was something like -140 on the money line (meaning you would have to bet $140 to win $100), and that just wasn’t good enough.

By some miracle, almost like an angel coming down and saying, “Here, Eric, is a gift,” Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota threw a pick-6 on their first play of the half, making the score 19-9 in favor of the Colts. That gave me a better price to bet on Tennessee on the money line.

Knowing that Tennessee is the better team — or that Indianapolis is just godawful — I put $100 on the Titans at +165 (which pays a shade better than a blackjack) to win the game.

The Titans won by two touchdowns.

Anyway, I can no longer say that I haven’t bet on football this year. So no need to give the disclaimer this week before making my picks. Home teams will be in CAPS:

1. RAIDERS (+3) over Chiefs (even money)

The Chiefs (5-1) have the best record in the AFC, and the Raiders (2-4) have lost 4 games in a row. So shouldn’t the line be higher than Kansas City -3? I think it should.

Oakland is playing for their season on Thursday Night, and they will do so as a home underdog against their biggest rival. Even if Derek Carr’s back isn’t 100%, and there’s a good chance it won’t be, this is still a recipe for a Raiders cover, if not a win.

Over the last three weeks I have taken the Chiefs -7 over Washington, Chiefs -1.5 over the Texans, and the Steelers (+4.5) over the Chiefs — all winning selections.

Kansas City is my team, and I feel like I have a decent idea of what the deal is where they are concerned. Still very good, still perhaps the best team in the league this year, but the fact that the line is only at three points makes me believe that Oakland is the clever pick in this matchup.

The bet: $100 on the Raiders (+3) to win $100.

2. Panthers (-3) over BEARS (-135)

I don’t think I’m prepared to live in a world where the Bears are winning games with a rookie quarterback, especially against a team that just last week I said might be the best in the NFC.

There seems to be some recency bias in this line, since Carolina just came off a loss (to a good Eagles club) and Chicago just came off a win (against a bad Ravens team). I would jump all over this line at Panthers -3, because I feel like it could increase by the end of the week.

The bet: $135 on the Panthers (-3) to win $100.

3. Falcons (+3) over PATRIOTS (+105)

The fact is neither of these teams has looked very good through the first 6 games. The Falcons already have two egregious home losses, and the Patriots are trying to avoid a third home loss on Sunday night.

Nothing will erase what happened in last year’s Super Bowl, but my instincts tell me that Atlanta has payback on their mind. If they are to be NFC contenders this year, this will be the game they draw the line in the sand.

Uninterestingly I do like the Patriots to win, but I think it will be by a field goal or less — meaning the Falcons cover the spread, or at least give me a push.

The bet: $100 on the Falcons (+3) to win $105.

4. Washington (+4.5) over EAGLES (-110)

Philadelphia has been getting a ton of love, and they are 5-1 so I guess they deserve it. Their only blemish on the season remains a 7-point loss in Kansas City, who happen to be the only other 5-1 team in the NFL.

Washington, though, is pretty fucking good. And since the Cowboys are having a rough go of it this season, the NFC East looks like a two-team competition between Washington and Philly. Strictly off what is at stake I imagine this will be a close contest throughout, and I don’t see the winner getting it done by more than 4 points.

The bet: $110 on Washington (+4.5) to win $100.

5. Broncos (+1.5) over CHARGERS (-110)

Denver is 3-2 and coming off a really bad loss against the Giants. If they won that game I very much think they would be favored in this tilt with Los Angeles by 2.5-to-3 points. Conversely, the Chargers are 2-3 and coming off back-to-back wins. Recency bias, man. It’s killing these spreads. But luckily for you, you can use that to make some money.

The Broncos realize their starting quarterback probably isn’t an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. As such, they are going to run the shit out of the ball all game to neutralize LA’s pass rushers, and win outright in a low-scoring, hardly-watchable football game.

The bet: $110 on the Broncos (+1.5) to win $100.

6. STEELERS (-5.5) over Bengals (-110)

7. RAMS (-3.5) over Cardinals (-105)

8. GIANTS (+6) over Seahawks (-120)

9. Cowboys (-6) over 49ERS (-110)

10. Jets (+3) over DOLPHINS (even money)

Update: For shits and giggles I put in a $50 bet on a 4-team parlay. The games I picked — in other words the teams I need to win — were Panthers -3, Rams -3.5, Cowboys -6 and Broncos +1.5. The parlay pays about 13:1, but to win the bet I must win all four games.

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