Titans, Jags Makes for Poor Viewing But Potentially Good Wagering

Whis
Whis
Ken Whisenhunt takes his Titans to Jacksonville for a battle of 2-12 teams.

I am not the National Football League schedule-maker. I do not know the National Football League schedule-maker. Therefore, do not be upset with me because this is the match-up I have to discuss for you today. In fact, you should not just dismiss this game altogether.

For most football fans, they are poo-pooing this game tonight from merely a viewing standpoint and who could argue with them? These are two of the worst teams in the NFL after-all. However, those of us who may throw the occasional dollar at a few NFL games each week cannot just wave our hand at this game. Often, it is contests like this one that give us the best chance to call ourselves “winners.”

Tennessee (+3) at Jacksonville (O/U 40) – The Tennessee Titans invade Jacksonville for this Thursday night match-up between two teams who are both 2-12 on the current season. In essence, this game and the final one next week are about draft positioning. While no one wants to talk about those things or even admit that teams are thinking this way, the truth is that are.

Bortles
Blake Bortles is questionable with a foot injury so pay attention to that today.

In Northeast Florida, the Jaguars have their quarterback for the future in Blake Bortles. While has struggled, I think much of that is due to the lack of real weapons around him, He will get at least one more year before anyone can fairly judge his NFL career.

In Nashville, the Titans are going to find themselves in an interesting position draft-wise. Do they feel Zach Mettenberger is the QB of the near future or do they believe they need to consider taking one in the coming draft?

Both teams have significant issues well beyond the quarterback position though and that explains why both have come up empty so often this season.

Earlier this season when the two teams met in Nashville, the Titans hung on for a 16-14 win. Bortles played fairly well throwing for one touchdown and one pick but he was sacked six times. Under center for Tennessee was Charlie Whitehurst who managed a good game didn’t do anything to lose by any stretch.

The Jags were finding some success running the ball a few weeks back behind Denard Robinson but he’s out for the season. His departure left Blake Bortles as the team’s leading rusher.

Both teams will feature defenses that can get after the other team’s passer and they will also look to force turnovers as well. This game could very well come down to special teams where solid kicking and a return here or there to flip field position in one team’s favor.

Key Injuries: JAX QB Blake Bortles QUEST/Foot, TEN OT Taylor Lewan Did not practice yesterday with a foot injury.

Trends: Tennessee is 1-5 against the spread in their last six games on the road… The total has gone UNDER in six of Jacksonville’s last seven games with the Titans at home… The Titans are 1-3-1 ATS in their last five games at Jacksonville… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Jags’ last six games at home.

The Pick: With Bortles less than 100% I like the Titans getting the points and take the UNDER.

An Early Look at Some Early Games in the NFL

Lacy
Lacy
Eddie Lacy has yet to really get it going the way he did last year.

Minnesota (+9.5) at Green Bay (O/U 50) – The good news for both teams is that they each won games last week. The bad news is that Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater has a gimpy ankle for the Vikes and the Packers gave up three sacks and nearly 400 yards offense.

Green Bay is 28th in defense so with all due respect to Aaron Rodgers and his “relax” comment, there are issues on this team. The Vikings have problems too and that’s why I would expect a sloppy game. As of right now, Bridgewater is a ‘go’ for Thursday night.

Trends: The Packers are 7-2-1 in their last ten games against the Vikings… Minnesota is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games at Green Bay… The Packers are 0-3-2 ATS in their last five home games… The total has gone OVER in five of Minnesota’s last seven game at Green Bay.

The Pick: The Packers are too explosive on offense to lose but I like the Vikes and the points and I like the OVER.

Eli
Eli Manning appears to be getting on a roll as the Falcons come to town.

Atlanta (+4) at NY Giants (O/U 49) – The Giants just put 45 points on the Redskins last week and the Falcons are surrendering over 28 points per game. Overall, Atlanta is 30th in the league in total defense and I expect a hot Eli Manning and company to go right at them.

For the Falcons, Matt Ryan is going to have to have big numbers but his offensive line is severely banged up. So much so the Falcons had a tight end playing on the offensive line in Sunday’s game.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in four of Atlanta’s last five games in New York against the Giants… New York is 1-5 against the spread in their last six games at home against the Falcons… Atlanta is 5-2 straight up in their last seven games on the road against the G-Men… These two have split their last ten games with the Falcons winning most recently at home last year 34-0.The Pick: Take the Giants to cover and take the OVER.

Buffalo (-7) at Detroit (O/U 44) – The Bills announced on Monday that they are making a switch at quarterback as E.J. Manuel will sit while Kyle Orton gets the nod. Manuel has struggled and the switch isn’t a total surprise as the Bills have lost two straight since starting 2-0.

The Lions have their fans cautiously optimistic as they are 3-1 and find themselves atop the NFC North. The biggest concern right now is the health of Calvin Johnson who missed several series in the win Sunday over the Jets.

Trends: The total has gone UNDER in five of Buffalo’s last six games… The total has gone UNDER in five of Detroit’s last six games against the Bills… Buffalo is 2-4 against the spread in their last six games against the Lions… The Lions have lost three of the last four to Buffalo and all three losses were in Western New York.

The Pick: I like the Bills to cover and I like the UNDER as well.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Jacksonville (O/U 46) – The Steelers have to be kicking themselves after blowing a sure win against previously winless Tampa Bay while the Jags are 0-4 on the season. The good news in Jacksonville is that rookie Blake Bortles looked pretty decent in his first start and now he goes up against a defense surrendering 24 points per game.

The Steelers will need to ride their offense in order to protect the porous defense.

Trends: The Steelers have won four of their last six games in Jacksonville… The Jags are 1-7-1 against the spread in their last nine games at home… The total has gone OVER in four of Pittsburgh’s last six trips to Jacksonville… The Jaguars have won just one game at home in their last 11.

The Pick: I like Pittsburgh to win but it seems to never be easy so I like the Jags getting the points and I like the OVER.

Here are Your Late Game Numbers in the NFL today.

Bortles
Bortles
Blake Bortles makes his first career start today in San Diego.

Jacksonville (+14) at San Diego (O/U 45) – A week after knocking off defending champion Seattle, the Chargers went on the road and beat previously unbeaten Buffalo in Western New York. If you take away that blown 11-point lead in the opener at Arizona, then the Chargers would be the talk of the league right now.

For the Jags, Blake Bortles makes his first career start at quarterback after most of us thought this would be a ‘red-shirt’ season for him. I think he’ll play decently but I think he’ll make mistakes too and that will lead to points for the Chargers.

Trends: Jacksonville is 3-13 straight up in the their last 16 road games… The Chargers are 4-1 SU in their last five games against Jacksonville… The total has gone OVER in five of the Jags last six games when playing the Chargers… The total has gone UNDER in four of San Diego’s last five games.

The Pick: 14 is a huge number but the Bolts are clicking right now so I like them to cover and take the OVER.

Philadelphia (+4.5) at San Francisco (O/U 50.5) – The Eagles are 3-0 but have not exactly played a full game yet and LeSean McCoy hasn’t really gotten it high gear yet either. They’ll look to take advantage of a suddenly struggling 49ers’ defense.

San Francisco meanwhile needs to get things right and in a hurry. At 1-2, they can’t afford to fall behind Arizona (3-0) and Seattle (2-1) in the NFC West if they expect to make the playoffs.

Trends: The Eagles are 6-1 straight up on the road in their last seven games… The Niners are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against the Eagles at home… The total has gone OVER in four of Philly’s last five games at San Francisco… The 49ers are 18-6-1 SU in their last 25 games at home.

The Pick: I expect a close game so take the Eagles and go with the OVER as well.

Bridgewater
Bridgewater will also make his first career start today.

Atlanta (-3.5) at Minnesota (O/U 47) – The Teddy Bridgewater era is underway in the Twin Cities and he obviously will have to make due without Adrian Peterson in the backfield so much of the offense will be on his shoulders.

The Falcons are coming off a 10-day break after they whipped Tampa Bay 56-14 on a Thursday night. While the offense is certainly clicking, the defense is picking things up a bit too.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in four of Atlanta’s last six games… Minnesota is 2-4 against the spread in their last six games when playing at home against Atlanta… The Falcons are 3-6 SU in their last nine games when playing on the road against the Vikings… The total has gone UNDER in four of the Vikings last five games when playing the Falcons.

The Pick: Take Atlanta to cover and take the UNDER.

New Orleans (-3) at Dallas (O/U 54) – If this game were outside I’d probably go with Dallas immediately because the Saints just don’t play well outside. That said, they’ll be inside at Jerry World and I expect a good performance from them. The Saints’ defense has to be better and the Cowboys will be a challenge in the air and on the ground.

Look for Dallas to keep getting better defensively and for DeMarco Murray to keep hauling the pigskin in order to keep pass rushers off of Tony Romo.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in four of New Orleans last five games when playing at Dallas… The Cowboys are 1-4 straight up in their last five games when playing the Saints at home… The Saints are 2-8 against the spread in their last ten games on the road… Dallas has beaten New Orleans just once in their last nine meetings.

The Pick: Call me crazy but I like the Cowboys getting the points and I like the OVER.

Odds for the AFC South Division for 2014

Luck

 

Luck
Andrew Luck should have the Colts in the top spot in the AFC South in 2014.

The AFC South is on tap today!

Indianapolis -200 – Talk about having everything in place for a division title… The Colts have Andrew Luck in his third year and let’s be honest, he needs to produce another playoff win or two as he was one horrendous choke job by Kansas City from being 0-3. The biggest question I have regards Trent Richardson. If he can be  the running back he’s capable of being then the Colts will be tremendous. If not, they could struggle to remain balanced.

Last time we saw the defense, the Colts were getting run over by LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC Divisional Playoffs. The unit has to be better and has to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks as well. I don’t find the schedule that difficult other than the final four games three of which are on the road in Cleveland, Dallas and Tennessee.

Season Projection: 11-5

Clowney
The Texans hope Jadeveon Clowney plays a great 'Robin' to J.J. Watt's 'Batman.'

Houston +200 – Hard to believe a team that finished 2-14 last year is the second favorite to win the division. The Texans and new coach Bill O’Brien will enter 2014 with a clear plan in place. With Ryan Fitzpatrick the QB, the running game has to be good because Fitzpatrick can’t win games with his arm. The other clear plan is to attack on defense and the selection of Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick was a clear indication of that.

Clowney has already flashed his explosiveness and will create an incredibly scary tandem with J.J. Watt. If they can create enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks to the point where the secondary can just ‘ball-hawk’ then look out. The Texans schedule is not difficult but they do have five of their first eight games on the road and some of those stops include Dallas and Pittsburgh.

Season Projection: 8-8

Tennessee +700 – This is the make or break year for quarterback Jake Locker who has battled injury and sub-par play so far in his career. What’s going for him though is the fact that new head coach Ken Whisenhunt knows how to get the most out of quarterbacks. He did it with Ben Roethlisberger and he did it with Kurt Warner in Arizona. Can he now work his magic with Locker?

The defense wasn’t atrocious by any stretch finishing in the middle of the pack overall, in rushing and in passing. They have the ability to keep things close is the offense can be balanced and take care of the football. The schedule features a fairly ugly stretch in November when the Titans have three road games in four weeks. Those trips are to Baltimore, Houston and Philly with a home against the Steelers.

Season Projection: 7-9

Jacksonville +1400 – Head Coach Gus Bradley has a tough choice to make in terms of the quarterback position. Does he stay with veteran Chad Henne knowing what that he’ll get some big plays but also turnovers or will he go with rookie Blake Bortles? The original plan was to sit Bortles this season but he has been so impressive so far in the preseason that he’s making the choice difficult.

Regardless of who is at the helm, they need the running game to get going and take pressure off of the passing game. The defense is coming together nicely in Jacksonville but I think it’s a couple of studs away from really making a serious dent in the division. The Jags have a brutal opening schedule with three of four on the road in Philly, Washington and San Diego plus a visit from Pittsburgh.

Season Projection: 5-11

Overall: I just don’t know how the Colts lose this division outside of a significant injury to Luck. Take them and don’t look back.

‘Safe’ Bets for Your NFL Weekend

Johnson
Johnson
Can Chris Johsnon take advantage of the Jaguars' 30th ranked run defense?

Normally when you talk about a bet or wager being safe, you’re talking about it being a pick that you feel good about. It probably isn’t going to cost you a whole lot either so in other words, you feel safe about it.

In this particular case, I’m using the term ‘safe’ because you need to go with games that aren’t impacted by other, perhaps earlier games. Why? Because so much is riding these games for teams in other locales.

For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers play the featured late game on CBS on Sunday in Green Bay. Personally, I’d stay away from this game because the mindset of the Steelers and maybe Packers, could already be determined. Because the Steelers need so much help to stay alive, they will more than likely know by the time they kick-off in Lambeau whether they are still alive or not. This will depend on the earlier games of course.

For Green Bay, only Minnesota will have played by the time the Packers kick-off so their fate will still be in their hands. The Detroit Lions kick at 4:05ET and the Chicago Bears don’t play until Sunday night.

Therefore, the games you want to focus on are the ones that have little bearing on others because that can play a significant factor in a team’s mental approach. Here are the ‘safe’ games I like this week.

Tennessee (-6) at Jacksonville – Chances are the stands in Jacksonville will be quite empty for this AFC South match-up. Both teams are out of the playoff race and will affect absolutely no one in terms of the playoffs. In fact, this game may mean more in terms of the NFL Draft coming up in May.

The Jaguars announced that wide receiver Cecil Shorts is on the injured reserve list and he’s going to be missed. He led the team with 66 receptions and three scores. Jacksonville is a game behind the Titans who are 5-9 and they would love nothing better than to hop Tennessee in the standings and finish second in the AFC South. That thought months ago seemed like a pipe dream.

The Jags are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven home games and are 6-13 against the spread in their last 19 games in Jacksonville. The problem is that they don’t stop the run (30th) and don’t run it well either (30th). I will however take them and the six points.

Brees
Brees must shake the poor numbers when playing outdoors in order to beat the Panthers.

New Orleans (+3) at Carolina – While this game has tons of playoff implications for both teams as well as a few others, it’s a 1pmET start so the two teams will have nothing to concern themselves with other than each other. It was just two weeks ago that the Panthers came into New Orleans as hot as any team in the NFL. They ended up losing 31-13.

Should Carolina win this game, they will take a game lead over the Saints with one game to play. That means a Panthers’ win over Atlanta in the final week would give them the division. New Orleans plays Tampa Bay. If both teams tie atop the division, the division record then conference record will break the tie. Both of those are just a game apart.

The Saints laid a serious egg in St. Louis last week while the Panthers defeated the New York Jets. I’ve gone through Drew Brees’ stats when he plays outdoors versus indoors and they aren’t pretty. The Saints are 1-4 against the spread in their last five trips to Carolina and the Panthers are 7-2-1 against the spread in their last ten games overall.

I really like the Panthers giving the three.

Unusual Lines Highlight Sunday’s NFL Action

Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger
Can Roethlisberger avoid the turnovers and get his Steelers' their first win?

One of the largest lines in pro football history awaits you as do a couple of rare home dogs as well. Check them out!

Pittsburgh at NY Jets (Pick’em) – This game has moved from minus three in favor of Pittsburgh to minus three in favor of New York and now moves to a straight pick’em game. The reason? Part of it deals with Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau having a 15-2 all-time record against rookie quarterbacks and on of those games was a meaningless one to finish a season.

Another reason is that the Jets put on an excellent show Monday night in defeating the Falcons in Atlanta. The Steelers are winless on the year while the Jets have been one of the surprise teams of the NFL but they face injuries on defense and a suspension to their leading receiver Kellen Winslow.

I think the Steelers, who are coming off a bye, will catch the Jets at the right time. The Jets are 2-6 in their last eight home games against the spread when hosting the Steelers. I like a Steelers’ victory today.

Jacksonville (+27) at Denver – The most interesting line of the pro football season is going to be very enticing for millions of people. I have no doubts that the Broncos can easily win this game by more than 27 points but will they call of the dogs too early and give up meaningless points late? How long do you keep Peyton Manning in the game as well?

The Jags are losing by an average of 22 points per game this year. Therefore, why should we think the hottest team in the NFL can’t tack on five or more points to that total? There are two numbers to keep in mind here. The Broncos are just 1-5 straight up in their last six against the Jags and are just 2-4 in their last six against the spread when hosting Jacksonville.

I have every reason to believe that Denver covers but I fear late scores will be the difference so take the Jags.

Johnson
Detroit's chances hinge on whether or not Johnson can go today against Cleveland.

Detroit (-3) at Cleveland – This line is likely to change after I go to press because of the status of Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson. He practiced a little this week but has been deemed a game-time decision. If he doesn’t play, that will alter things dramatically. Last week without him they managed just nine points against a Green Bay defense that is decent, but not that decent.

The Browns are coming off a mini-bye of sorts following their Thursday night win over Buffalo. That was their third-straight win following their 0-2 start and trade of Trent Richardson. The Lions are just 8-14-1 against the spread in their last 23 road games and is 1-5 ATS in their last six on the road.

Despite the fact that Brian Hoyer was lost for the season, I think Brandon Weeden gained some confidence in replacing him. I really like the Browns in this one.

Philadelphia (-3) at Tampa Bay – Believe it or not there is a chance this game might not be played because a third Tampa Bay player has been diagnosed with a MRSA infection. It’s a situation that the Bucs have now faced twice this season. Sadly, it’s just one more thing the Buccaneers have had to handle this season.

Josh Freeman is gone and the reins have been handed over to rookie Mike Glennon. Philadelphia may have a QB issue of its’ own if Michael Vick can’t go because of a hamstring but Nick Foles is much more capable than Glennon is.

The Eagles have had no problems scoring but their defense is giving up an alarming amount of points as well. No matter, because the Bucs can’t score as they’re averaging just 11 points per game. Tampa is 3-6 against the spread in their last nine games against Philly so I love the Eagles to cover today.