We got off to a good start in the NFL last week with the Bengals and Patriots helping the cause. Pitt, San Diego State, and Army made a college football weekend that I'd otherwise like to forget at least bearable.
I'm a little shorter on time than I'd like to be, so here we go.
Bengals (-1.5) over San Francisco. I don't feel great about this, but of their first four games, this is the Bengals' most winnable, and even if assuming the worst for the Bengals is always the safe play, I refuse to believe that they're going to start 0-4. I'm wary of being too optimistic after a game that Bengals didn't win even though they should have, and the shelf life for feeling good after a loss expires if the Bengals don't win on Sunday.
I think they will win on Sunday. There's lots of similarities here, two teams with shaky offensive lines, quality defensive fronts, and injury questions at running back, but even if I'm taking a major leap of faith in John Ross assuming that last week's performance will portend a productive season, I think their edge at the skill spots gives them an advantage at home. In fact, I'd like to wager on John Ross doing to Richard Sherman in 2019 what Jerome Simpson did to him in 2011.
I don't think they'll make the same number of backbreaking mistakes we saw from the Bucs in San Fran's week one win, and even if the prospect of watching George Kittle wreak havoc against the middle of the Bengals defense scares me, and even if I'm not exactly thrilled with the prospect of watching 'Frisco's formidable defensive line match up against the guys blocking for Andy Dalton, I still lean toward the home team in a game that, in order to be relevant this season, the Bengals have to win.
I think a field goal makes the difference, and God help Randy Bullock if the field goal that should make the difference ends up being missed.
Give me the good guys, 20-17.
Arizona (+13) over Baltimore. Week two is all exploiting overreaction, and I think we find it here. I think the Ravens might be good, I don't believe at all that they're the powerhouse a team turns into when it plays the tanking Miami Dolphins. The Ravens should win, and they should put up big running numbers, but running the ball shortens the game, and nothing is better for a team trying to cover a big number than a shortened game.
Plus, I own Kyler Murray stock.
The Action Network had a good stat: since '03, underdogs that won six or fewers the prior year have covered the spread close to 59 percent of the time during the first two weeks of the following season.
I'll lay those points.
Indy (+3) over Tennessee. More overreaction here. The Titans played well last week, but their 30-point win over the Browns was more about what Cleveland didn't do, and what they did poorly, than what Tennessee did and did well.
If the Colts commit 18 penalties and if Jacoby Brissett throwns three picks, the Titans will win, and cover, but I'm getting the better offensive line, the better QB, and the better coach PLUS three points?
Sign me up. Keep in mind, over the last ten seasons, there have been nine teams that had 28+ point wins in week one. All none failed to cover the following week.
Jacksonville (+9) over Houston. If I'm a Texans fan, I'm really encouraged by the way my team rolled into the Superdome and outplayed the Saints, even in a loss. But I'm not a Texans fan, I'm a guy looking for good value, trying to cash in on week one overreaction.
I think I've found value here.
I like the Texans, but not enough with their secondary and a lousy O-line that gave up six sacks last week to lay close to double-digits. Give me Gardner Minshew and company.
Pittsburgh (-4) over Seattle. You've gotta do some shopping, because there's plenty of books that have the Steelers laying just 3.5 At four though, I'll take the home team. The Steelers have been money when coming off of a loss, 18-5 as a three-point or more favorite the week after a defeat since 2010.
Pittsburgh could win ten games, and I wouldn't be surprised. They could lose ten games, and I wouldn't be surprised. But I think they win this week, at home, against a team their defense is designed to stop. It'd be fun to be wrong about this, but it'd be even more fun to make some money.
Miami (+17.5) over Cincinnati. The Battle for the Victory Bell series has been lopsided, but games between the Bearcats and Redhawks in recent seasons have not, and it wouldn't stun me to have this one in doubt in the fourth quarter. We still really don't know what this UC team is, they're depth is being tested, and I worry about the physical and mental residue from what went down last week in Columbus.
I don't believe the 13-year winning streak over Miami is in jeopardy, but the number seems high for a rivalry game with so many unknowns, and I don't love the backdoor cover potential here.
The Bearcats will go into a tough three-week stretch beginning two weeks from this Friday. First, they ring a bell as Miami-plus-the-points backers ring their registers.
God, I'm lame.
Bearcats 35 Redhawks 20
North Carolina (+3) over Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons didn't cover against Utah State. They pushed against Rice. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you again. Fool me three times...
Houston/Washington under 73.5. This is a byproduct of a weak slate of college games. The Cougars aren't where many thought they'd be offensively. Actually, it just occurred to me that both teams are called the Cougars. Mind blown. You figure out which one I'm referring to.
Pitt (+17.5) over Penn State. Last year, it was UMass that I rode unreasonably, this year it might be the Panthers. It's my way of celebrating their role in the 2009 UC season.
BYU (+4.5) over USC. I think Urban Meyer has done really well doing studio work on the set of Big Noon Saturday, which I actually think is a fun name for a pregame show. This seemed like a good time to mention that.
Also...Ohio State opened the season at 16/1 to win the national title. Other odds have changed since the start of the season, like Oklahoma going from 16/1 to the 12/1 it is now, and LSU falling from 25/1 to 12/1. The Buckeyes are still at 16/1. They won't be for long. If you like OSU now, you might want to make your investment now.
2019 NFL mark, including the Thursday nighter we gave you on Cincy 3:60: 4-2.
2019 college mark: 5-5.
Enjoy your weekend.