Last week against the spread: 1-3
2021 overall ATS: 4-7-1
Humbling: That’s usually the first word that comes to mind after going 1-3 in a given week. Other solid candidates are “Fuck,” or “Fuck me,” followed closely by “Goddamn it” or “Jesus Christ.” I can’t predict the future, but I try to. I talk at decent enough frequency about how most of life’s decisions tend to sway in the direction of 90-10, or 95-5 in your favor. The reason football is so great, and why it never fails to keep things interesting, is because every matchup against the spread is a veritable coin flip. It’s not best to test fate in that sort of way in everyday life, but there is some peace in the knowledge that the NFL pretty much exists just to fuck with you.
1. Baltimore Ravens (-1) at Denver Broncos
It’s high time to fade the Denver Broncos. They go from playing the Giants (in Week 1), the Jaguars (in Week 2) and the Jets (in Week 3). Those three teams combine for an immaculate record of 0-10, and a Kansas City Chiefs-like 2-8 (or 2-7-1 if you got a good number in the Jets-Panthers game in Week 1) against the spread. Denver, meanwhile, is undefeated and 3-0 ATS.
Call me crazy, but here I’m assuming the Ravens are just a tad of a step up in class of those other three teams. Certainly Baltimore, with a record of 2-1, could very easily be winless themselves. They eekd out a 36-35 win against the Chiefs in Week 2 that they had no business winning. And last week they needed an NFL record 66-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Lions 19-17. Still, I don’t care.
This contest could have a wide array of outcomes, but with the cluster injuries the Broncos have at wide receiver, along with the fact that they don’t have a ton of familiarity with the speed threat of Lamar Jackson, I am betting on a run-dominant game on both sides and the first team to 20 points taking this one home.
Score prediction: Ravens 23, Broncos 17
2. Arizona Cardinals (+4.5) at Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are feeling really good about themselves after handily beating the Buccaneers last week, and it has to be somewhat of a letdown going “merely” against an undefeated division rival at home. These NFC West matchups are a fucking gauntlet to run through every time, and I don’t know what it is but I’m just guessing that whoever wins this game is only going to do it by a field goal.
The Cardinals are clearly a live dog. They’ll probably lose, but you could talk me into pretty much anything in this spot. With Kyler Murray healthy, he is probably a top-10 QB in the NFL. I like this number a lot better if you could get 5 or 5.5. Nonetheless I will roll with the points and expect a shootout of some sorts.
Score prediction: Rams 31, Cardinals 29
3. Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5) at Philadelphia Eagles
Maybe I’ll just go ahead and pick the Chiefs every week until they actually win a game against the spread. This may be the squarest of all square picks on Sunday, particularly since Kansas City has not covered a spread during the regular season since Week 8 of last year. That win, 35-9, came on November 1st, 2020, as 19.5-point favorites against the New York Jets.
Most of the time Kansas City doesn’t appear to give a fuck. They have this habit of putting themselves into holes early on in games, only then to decide to turn on the switch as if to say, “Okay, fine, I guess we can go win now.” It’s basically how they handled their Super Bowl run in 2019, it’s how they performed during the entire 2020 season, and it’s what they’ve done up to this point in 2021. 1-2 record, 0-3 against the spread.
But there is something about starting 1-2 that I think really bothers them. I think they know they could just as well be undefeated. I think they know they are lightyears better than both 3-0 teams — Broncos and Raiders — in their division, and I think they know they are comfortably better than the Chargers, the team that needed a +4 margin in turnovers and a fluke pass interference call on 4th and 9 in the last minute of the game.
Part of why I like them so much this week is because the Eagles aren’t very good. If Kansas City is motivated — which they shouldn’t not be — they should be able to pick their score in this spot. Andy Reid is playing against his old team, the Chiefs are coming off back-to-back losses, and Patrick Mahomes needs to remind everyone that he is still, in fact, the best player in the NFL.
It is rarely smart to bet on the Chiefs against the spread, especially on the road where they are laying more than a touchdown, but if ever they are going to go out and destroy somebody it’s right here. So let’s give up 7.5 points and enjoy watching Kansas City look like their old selves for once.
Score prediction: Chiefs 38, Eagles 17
4. Houston Texans (+17) at Buffalo Bills
Not much to say here other than this: the Bills have to play the Chiefs next week, in primetime, and I doubt they have very much interest in creating margin against a Texans team they know they can beat. It’s a perfect lookahead spot, and it’ll be a shoe-in if Houston can somehow manage to take a 7-0 lead early on.
Score prediction: Bills 24, Texans 13