Last week I made the mistake of logging onto Facebook to play a little Lexulous (AKA Scrabble) with my dad. It's one of our bonding activities I let go by the wayside once football season started and once he started using a Word Finder website (AKA cheating). Nonetheless, with a little time on my hands I checked in to see if he'd played his turn when I was suddenly interrupted by one of those stupid chat boxes:
So-called Friend (SCF): Hey Vinny. I think I need to ask you a favor.
First of all, what the hell does that mean? It's like the time my sister called me on vacation at four in the morning to say, "I think your dog is dead." I used to think there was nothing worse than ambiguous death notices...until I received an ambiguous Facebook message. I told my sister to call me back when she knew for sure. I wish I'd done the same thing this time.
Me: What's up?
SCF: It's not a big favor, but I do need to ask.
Again, enough already with the salesmanship. If there's one thing I hate more than someone saying, "This is the funniest joke you've ever heard," it's someone not letting me determine the magnitude of the favor I'm about to do. Considering that this SCF and I have never exchanged favors, nor have we discussed favors done for us or by us for others, there was no real scale available to determine the size of the favor he was about to request.
Me: (reluctantly) Go on...
SCF: Well, I'm out of town and so is my wife, and our dog has been in the house since eight o'clock this morning without food or a potty break. Do you think you could go over to our house and take care of those things.
I should have prefaced this by saying three things:
1. I'd just gotten home from vacation,
2. I'm not a fan of last minute favors whose origins lie blatant irresponsibility, and
3. I freakin' hate their stupid little mother f-ing dog.
Me: Tomorrow? (Knowing he didn't mean tomorrow) Sure. No problem.
SCF: Umm. No tonight.
Me: Well, that wasn't very good planning.
SCF: No, terrible planning. The wife was supposed to take care of it. She'll be home by midnight.
Me: It's almost seven. The dog can't make it until then?
Ewww...times a thousand.
I finally relented, got into my car, drove through the fog, sneaked into their backyard, found their hide-a-key, unlocked the door and waited for the most annoying, high-pitched, ferociously terrified bark I've ever heard in my life. I've met this dog twice and I'm pretty sure once was in a past life as mortal enemies. Sure enough, the minute I crack the door the dog starts yapping, backing its way into the living room corner. As I approached the chihuahua and tried to usher him towards the backdoor, I was rewarded for my time with both humor and metaphor.
When the chihuahua realized I was heading straight for his little haven between the fireplace and the sofa, and more importantly when he realized there was enough room between me and the wall to make his escape, he bolted for the kitchen. Unfortunately, his eyes, his spirit, and his vision of freedom all had better grip than his speedy legs and claws on the hardwood floors. He scampered mightily for what felt like an eternity but went absolutely nowhere. Then, in an instant, the physical laws of friction and momentum shot him forward through the three feet between me and the wall. Unfortunately, there was a sharp left turn between the dog and the wide open porch door. Even less fortunate was the fact that the turn was banked by a large obstacle known as the living room wall. Wham! The dog hit, bounced, and scampered away.
At the time, that moment felt like perfectly justifiable karmic retribution for the dog sucking so much, but in hindsight and in the wake of trying to bet on this new-fangled sport called regular season basketball, those few seconds of that dogs life seem like the perfect metaphor for gambling. Scampering like crazy trying to find an edge, feeling like you're going somewhere when you're actually standing still, finally catching a break and moving forward, then slamming into a wall and limping off to the closest door.
Me: Ummm, SCF - I think your dog is dead.
This week, we feel like the chihuahua when he finally got a little grip and still unaware that there's a very large, very hard wall waiting for us just around the corner. Coming into this ninth week of the NFL season our stats look something like this:
Season to Date: Who Cares? We live in What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately Culture where nobody cares what you did before Lately, even if it's somewhere around 37%. What we have done lately is:
Week 8 Results: 8-5 ATS; 8-5 O/U*
Expert Team: Every single member was over .500
*A special thanks to Dan P. for reinforcing our success with mucho grande coffee donation. Thanks, Dan. Oh, and also a shout out to Epic Joe for trusting us enough through the tough times to keep coming back for advice on prop bets.
So, here's hoping two things: that our grip on NFL capping isn't as tenuous as that little shit of a dog, and that there's nothing but wide open spaces if we make a last minute turn.
Thursday Night Football
Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) over MIAMI DOLPHINS: Rumor has it the Dolphins are dressing up like a consistent football team for Halloween, so we might have a Thursday Night game worth watching for once. I'm totally kidding - nobody makes costumes that convincing. This line is begging us to take the Dolphins while secretly telling us to take the Bengals. Confused yet? Me, too.
According the the PredictionMachine.com, when these two teams play 50,000 games, the Cincinnati Bengals win 61% of the time while covering the spread 55% of the time. According to the entirely fictional (albeit really good idea for a gambling website) RealityMachine.com, the Bengals win and cover this game tonight 100% of the time. Granted the Bengals of old had a bad habit of playing well against good teams and letting down against pedestrian ones, this Cincinnati team appears, feels, and plays differently. Take the Bengals and the OVER 42.5 which has hit in 3 of Miami's last 4 home games.
Expert Team: 4-1 Bengals
CAROLINA PANTHERS (-7.5) over Atlanta Falcons: It's payback time in Carolina where the Atlanta Falcons come into their division showdown with the Panthers with a 2-5 record - good/bad for third place in the NFC South and three games out of the wild card race. If there was a must win for the Falcons, it was every week for the last month. Apparently, backs to the wall is not a motivating position for the banged up, defending South champs. Carolina, on the other hand, is half a game behind the Lions for a wild card spot and are playing some of the best football in the league on both sides of the ball. Their defense has given up the fewest total points in both conferences and their offense is now playing well enough to inspire even better performances rather than frustration and in-house resentment. Give up the TD, the hook, and watch the Panthers cruise to the OVER 43.5.
Expert Team: 4-1 Panthers
DALLAS COWBOYS (-10.5) over Minnesota Vikings: An e-mail from Daniel Y. convinced us that we were over-compensating for a the Dallas Cowboys being both inconsistent and a personal blind spot. This week we had the Vikings for a minute, but the echo of Daniel's comments about his "beloved 'Boys" would not relent. This one's for your Danny boy. Besides, Dallas has been money ATS of late, covering in seven of their last eight games with the O/U at about 50-50. We'll give up all these points, but we like the UNDER 47.5 with Minny's inability to score.
Expert Team: 5-0 Cowboys
New Orleans Saints (-5.5) over NEW YORK JETS: It's no secret that New Orleans is a different team on the road. They struggled last year and they've struggled a bit this year. They have, however, alternated covers and non-covers over their past five road games since last December with their last being a non-covering loss to the Patriots. What does that mean? They're due. And the fact of the matter is, they're at least a TD better than the Jets on both sides of the ball. Give up the points and take the UNDER 45.5.
Expert Team: 5-0 Saints
ST. LOUIS RAMS (+3) over Tennessee Titans: We're not drinking the Kool Aid or being a prisoner of the Monday Night moment, we just believe the Rams have value as a home dog here. They are 5-2 ATS as a home dog in the Jeff Fisher era, and whatever he said to inspire them to cover against the Seahawks as double digit dogs, you'd better believe he'll have something prepared as he welcomes his old team into town. Give up the field goal and put a little on the Rams on the money line in an ugly UNDER 39.5.
Expert Team: 3-2 Titans
Kansas City Chiefs (-3) over BUFFALO BILLS: The Chiefs are undervalued in this spot for two reasons: back-to-back ATS losses and the pressure and hype of being the last undefeated team in the NFL. We believe they handle the pressure, control the ball, and take care of business on the road in this spot. If Alex Smith doesn't throw the ball down field, he surely doesn't look ahead past the games right in front of him. Call me crazy, but this team is now playing every game as though it were for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Chiefs win by four with the UNDER 40.5 hitting as it has in 6 of their 8 games this year.
Expert Team: 3-2 Chiefs
San Diego Chargers (PK) over WASHINGTON REDSKINS: The Chargers are coming off a bye while the Redskins are coming off an embarrassing and forgettable second half of football in Denver last week where they gave up 38 unanswered points to the Broncos after jumping out to a 21-7 third quarter lead. That doesn't sound like improved defense to me. Yes, teams run out of gas at altitude, but that was ridiculous. Don't count on the Chargers to play defense like the Bears did in DC. Trust us, the Chargers will win this game going away. Give up nothing and take home money in yet another San Diego road UNDER 50.5 game.
OAKLAND RAIDERS (-1) over Philadelphia Eagles: Over-valued vs Under-valued coming in from last week? Yes absolutely, but the Eagles haven't done anything consistently this year except for lose and injure quarterbacks, while the Raiders have played solid defense and are currently sitting close to the top of the NFL ATS standings at 5-2. Time of possession is a terrific predictor of both winning and covering in the NFL, and it just happens to be something these two teams are polar opposites at. This game will be both controlled and won by the Oakland Raiders no matter who's behind center for the Eagles. We do like the OVER 43 in this one.
Expert Team: 5-0 Raiders
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-16.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It was tempting to take the points here after Seattle was exposed in St. Louis Monday Night, but they are a different team in the cold, drizzly, jet engine loud, confines of CenturyLink Field where they are 10-0 SU/8-2 ATS in their last 10 games. Granted the two ATS losses were as double digit favorites, but they won and covered the other eight by an average margin of over 20 points. Tampa Bay has nothing left to play for except a franchise opportunity in Europe. Give up the big line, watch the Bucs hang tough for a quarter, then watch Seattle run up the score in an OVER 40.
Expert Team: 4-1 Seahawks
Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS: Yes, we do have a lot of favorites this week, and no we're not taking all the home dogs - even when their mascot is a dog (right?). The Ravens are coming off a bye week where they are 5-1 SU/ATS in the Jim Harbaugh era. Enough said. This is still the Browns, they still don't have Brian Hoyer, and they're still going to lose this game by a field goal. The UNDER has hit the last four years Baltimore has come out of the bye, too.
Expert Team: 4-1 Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers (+6.5) over NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Underdog alert. No, we're not saying ML or anything crazy like that, but we do see a 24-21 Patriots win and a Steeler's cover. Pittsburgh has been showing signs of life, winning two games in a row before going down in Oakland last week. The Patriots are tough to pick against, but we see Pittsburgh playing just enough defense to keep this game close and just OVER the total.
Expert Team: 4-1 Patriots
Sunday Night Football
HOUSTON TEXANS (+2.5) over Indianapolis Colts: Why? It's a division rivalry game in which these two teams have alternated ATS wins and losses every single game since 2009. It just happens to be the Texans turn. The best bet of all, which has hit five times in a row when these two teams go at it is the UNDER 44.5, but take the points, too.
Expert Team: 4-2 Texans
Monday Night Football
GREEN BAY PACKERS (-10.5) over Chicago Bears: Green Bay has owned this so-called rivalry, going 8-2 SU/ATS in their last 10 meetings, splitting the games as double digit favorites. The real value, hitting 9 of their last 10 meetings, is the UNDER, but we'll also give up the 10+ and watch the Packers slowly dissect the suspect Bears defense. Yes, even on the Monday Night stage. In Rodgers we trust.
Expert Team: 5-0 Packers
Good luck this week, everyone. And Happy Halloween.
Vinny and Marco