There is a mainstream blog that I won’t embarrass by naming, but I will tell you that the site is regretfully connected to Real Clear Politics, which is still my favorite political news site in spite of what I just mentioned. (I like RCP’s tactic of putting opposing-viewpoint editorials together as a package, with readers encouraged to click on both and vibe each side of the story.)
Anyway, pretty much everything you read on the blog is absolute baloney – not misinformation about important stuff like the government or foreign relations and such. Just garden-variety bulls*** on pretty much every random subject you can think of. This shall-not-be-named publication thinks that a handful of National Football League teams in the 2019-20 are dead already, practically trying to lose.
There are, of course, 2 sides to any NFL club’s story – how the greater North American public sees the franchise, and the “woulda, coulda, and shouldas” of hometown radio and fanfare. The fact that any campaign can be – at least in traditional circumstances – viewed in hindsight as a “missed opportunity” is what keeps so many lousy teams in the season-ticket business.
It’s like a Tiki Barber interview that aired on Late Night With David Letterman just as the tailback’s New York Giants were busy sneaking into a Wild Card seed. New York was unprepared for a Super Bowl run and destined for a quick exit, but when asked about the Big Blue’s potential as a postseason dynamo, Barber said, “You know Dave, the sky is the limit. Lot of talent on this team.”
Whoops – gotta reset my PlayStation. My NFL video game is running too many of those automated “The sky is the limit. Lot of talent on this team” quotes. We could say that about any professional football team at any time.
But wait – can we really now? NFL is considered the ultimate brand-achievement in sports parity – and yet some of the 2019-20 match-ups feel like “predetermined” outcomes on the lowest levels (“Big City Prep 66, Horse & Saddle Academy 0″). The Miami Dolphins are putrid, the Washington Redskins rancid, and the Denver Broncos have lost 8 times in a row. That much I’ll give the “BS Central” linkage on my RCP recommendations.
Point spread wagers on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are giving (+16) points to the woeful ‘Skins at FedEx Field, and the handicap is hardly a freak in an early-autumn landscape of blow-outs. If any of the lousy 0-4 teams plan to turn things around, they’d better start at the quarter turn.
Despite all of the early speculation about a “#1 overall draft pick battle” for April 2020, I’ve got a hunch that at least 1 woeful roster will pull it together for a noble effort in Week 5.
Oakland Raiders vs Chicago Bears (at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium)
As Boston Globe sportswriter Marisa Ingemi has pointed out, Chase Daniel is a grammatically proper sentence. He’s also the only QB the Chicago Bears will have at their disposal for a while, and he can’t put his head down and run for 1st downs the way Mitch Trubisky can. A windy day in London could portend a tighter game than usual, and the Raiders might be getting overlooked as a .500 team that knows the smell of blood in the water.
The Raiders were able to pull out a Week 4 road win over the Colts, who were without star WR T.Y. Hilton, as a late pick-6 by S Eric Harris sealed a 31-24 victory for the boys in black. It’s not all peaches and cream for Oakland though. Raider linebacker Vontaze Burfict inflicted another dirty hit on a defenseless receiver in Jack Doyle last week, and the league has taken swift action and suspended him for the season. A lifetime ban could be soon to follow.
Chicago’s starting LB corps has no suspension issues – yet. Khalil Mack is eager to face his old team, and hasn’t forgotten it was Gruden who traded him away to Chicago to load up on draft picks. The mighty defense of the Bears held NFL leading-rusher Dalvin Cook to just 35 yards on 14 attempts in a 16-6 Week 4 victory. Chicago has sacked the quarterback 17 times and intercepted 4 passes.
The Bears have been out-playing bookmakers’ expectations for about the last calendar year, with only a small handful of exceptions in which the Bears disappointed ATS. It speaks to how little Trubisky’s skills are regarded in Las Vegas when the lines don’t even move much after the QB is ruled out for multiple football games.
Daniel is also the type of passer who could excel in a jet-lagged environment, even though the timing of this particular London scrum lends itself to more standard biorhythmic preparation for a “noon” NFL kickoff.
Defenses often struggle when not fully warmed up and tuned-in. But we rarely see more than 1 offense play well for the entire game in the slate of overseas results. Daniel’s nickel-and-dime style is likely to produce field goal drives for the Bears while the Raiders fail and flail and rely on the deep ball by the 2nd quarter, and Chicago’s defense could always produce some points on its own. But if Chicago’s QB has the zippy-quick release that can aid a team trying to find footing far from home, Derek Carr of Oakland also has a cannon-arm to challenge the Bears deep.
ATS wagers on Oakland come with (+5.5) points. But my recommendation is to go with the Over (40) – preferably the in-play over at below (40) following a deceptive 1st quarter of almost no scoring.
Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants
Minnesota is an odd road favorite this Sunday at MetLife. The quarterback and the WR corps are awash in controversy,
Frustration was Kirk Cousins’ play at QB came to a head this week as wide receiver Adam Thielen openly suggested that Cousins was off his game following the Chicago loss. Cousins wound up apologizing to Thielen for missing him on a potential touchdown on Cousins’ show Under Center and it’s certainly possible that there are no further problems remaining between the pair.
Stefon Diggs was the lone bright spot in a 16-6 loss to the Bears last week, catching 7 passes for 108 yards, but he mysteriously missed practice on Wednesday and stories are circulating that Diggs now wants out of Minnesota. The whole corps of skill players appears restless and displeased with the offense to some degree, and Cousins will continue to be the focal point.
Las Vegas is irrational sometimes. The Giants have a quarterback controversy of their own, but made a decision and are sticking to it. That’s better than the toxic stew brewing in Valkyrie-ville. Take the Giants to cover (+6).
New England Patriots at Washington Redskins
You’d expect New England to be putting up a lot of points with Tom Brady’s continued dedication to the NFL, but a dynamite defense has led the club to a 4-0 start instead. Shockingly for what has been a bend-but-don’t-break type of unit over the past decade, the Pats also lead the league in sacks and interceptions.
Veteran linebacker Jaime Collins Sr. has been all over the field, recording 17 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and intercepting 3 passes. Devin McCourty is also off to a fantastic start with 4 INTs. These numbers are essentially unheard-of for good weather games early in the year when offenses are fresh, and given that in the modern era, picks (and sacks against above-average pocket QBs) are on the decline to begin with.
Brady is averaging just over 265 yards passing per game, and currently holds a very solid 7:1 TD/INT ratio, exactly the game-manager that the Patriots need him to be at this stage of a long, celebrated career.
The (+16) Washington Redskins are comprised of professional athletes, however playing for an NFL team. They’re hosting a defending champ that hasn’t been putting many points on the board. That may make the ‘Skins a poor moneyline underdog but it makes them a decent bet to cover the spread.
New England loves to defy expectations, but the expectation in Las Vegas seems to be that the Redskins present a “get-well” opponent for the Pats’ slow-paced offense.
That’s why the spread has moved so close to 17 points from sub-(14) on opening. Bet against the public here – it’s been known to pay dividends.
Take Washington to cover (+16).
Denver Broncos at L.A. Chargers
Denver has been hit worst where it hurts the most. What was believed in preseason to be a well above-average defense has played well enough to keep the Broncos in games up to this point, but to add injury to insult, the team lost star linebacker Bradley Chubb for the season to an ACL tear last week.
Von Miller recorded his 99th and 100th career sacks against Jacksonville in Week 4 and continues to do his thing, but he doesn’t have a lot of help coming off the edge. Opposing OCs are running at the Bronco front-7 to nullify the pass rush, and it’s working wonders. Leonard Fournette sliced and diced the Orange “Slush” with 225 yards on 29 carries, surely causing the returning Melvin Gordon III and Austin Ekeler of L.A. to shake like racehorses in anticipation of daylight.
Los Angeles has played well in each of its 2 losses and is closer to a 3-1 team in form. That will be enough to overwhelm any twists and turns of momentum in a rivalry game.
Take a well-oiled Philip Rivers and the ‘Bolts to cover (-6) ATS in 1 of only 2 late-afternoon Sunday kickoffs.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.