We're now into the second half of the NFL season. With the parity in the league, most teams can still make a reasonable case that there's something to play for. Eleven of this weekend's 14 games have betting spreads of a touchdown or less. As always, we're picking six games to break down. We're talking through our thoughts and mindsets and hoping to find an edge. All betting lines are as of Friday afternoon and courtesy of BetMGM.
Would you rather lay 9.5 points with Tennessee or 10.5 points with Tampa Bay?
The Tennessee Titans have won six straight games. Tennessee is laying 9.5 points at home against Houston, a team that has lost eight straight games. The defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost back-to-back games. Despite that, Tampa Bay is laying 10.5 points at home against the New York Giants. Which big home favorite are you backing?
Pete: It sure does feel like Tennessee is due for a flat clunker. It also feels like Tom Brady might go scorched Earth after back-to-back losses. If I was handicapping solely based off motivation, it'd be an easy pick here. However, I'm going to fade that narrative even if it comes back to bite me. I don't think the Giants are terrible, they're just not very good. They are getting healthier on offense with Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney all expected to play. Even if Tennessee continues to struggle on offense and barely shows up, I see a world where they win this game 20-6 or something like that. The Giants always play Tom Brady tough and he sees that logo in his nightmares. I'll lay the points with Tennessee here.
Greg: The Buccaneers have won all their home games this year by an average of 22 points. Bruce Arians ripped into his team after their lackluster performance against Washington last week, so I think we’ll see a much more focused effort against the Giants on Monday night. I’m still not convinced that the Titans are a contender, much less the cream of the AFC. They were fortunate that Matthew Stafford made two awful throws early in the Rams game and they barely edged out an Alvin Kamara-less Saints squad. Sorry if I’m not trembling in fear in the face of an offense ranked 19th in DVOA that’s splitting the backfield workload between D’Onta Foreman, Adrian Peterson, and Jeremy McNichols. I’ll take a steamed up Brady in Tampa.
Would you rather take the 1.5 points with Minnesota or the point with Las Vegas?
The under .500 Minnesota Vikings are 1.5-point home underdogs against the Green Bay Packers, who have covered in nine straight weeks. Meanwhile, in a battle of 5-4 teams in the AFC, the Las Vegas Raiders are 1-point home underdogs against the Cincinnati Bengals. Which short home dog are you taking?
Pete: You're basically asking me if I'm willing to take the bait on Green Bay here. I hate being in this mindset of always thinking I'm being trapped by the oddsmakers. This is definitely a trap though, right? I'm not gonna fall for it. On the other side, it seems like we've reached the point of the season where the Raiders fall apart. It's happened multiple years in a row now. This Raiders team has been through a lot this season and I'll be extremely impressed if it can pick itself up again. I'll take the points with the Vikings and continue fading the Raiders.
Greg: What a line in this Vikings game. The Packers are 8-2, holding opponents to 11.6 points per game over their last five, and are only favored by 1.5 against a 4-5 Minnesota team. The best part about betting Green Bay this weekend is that every slip comes with a free fishing hook. Cincy at Vegas is equally interesting. Both are coming in with two-game losing streaks, each giving up 41 points in their last outings. The Raiders offense has been struggling without Henry Ruggs, and the defense is starting to fall off from where it started the season. I expect the Raiders to get some pressure on the quarterback, but Joe Burrow’s pocket movement this year has been impressive. As long as he doesn’t glitch in the clutch like he’s done a few times this season against the Bears, Packers, and Jets, the Bengals should be fine. No teaching me how to fish this week, give me the Vikings.
Would you rather take the 6.5 points with Jacksonville or the 5.5 points with Chicago?
The Jacksonville Jaguars have had back-to-back somewhat impressive performances, but the Jaguars are still 6.5-point home underdogs against San Francisco. Elsewhere, the Chicago Bears look to continue to develop Justin Fields. The Bears are 5.5-point home underdogs against Baltimore. Which home underdog are you backing?
Pete: I'm done trying to figure out the San Francisco 49ers. Seriously, I'm just going to ignore them. This team is so inconsistent. When they're on their game, you could see why they are just two seasons removed from a Super Bowl. Then they go out there and get blown out by Colt McCoy. Jacksonville has been competitive recently and I like what I've seen from their defense. In the other game, I like John Harbaugh to bounce back after a semi-bye. Allen Robinson, Danny Trevathan and Khalil Mack are out for Chicago. Fields has looked good the past two weeks, but rookie quarterbacks are inconsistent. I think Baltimore covers, so I'll take the Jaguars.
Greg: I see we’re back to doing the Jags every week. If I did something to offend you, just tell me, you don’t have to be passive-aggressive about it, Pete. This is tough, because I like both of these dogs. Some day, one of these NFL coaches is going to realize that all you have to do against the Niners is stack the box and defend the middle of the field because Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t throw to the sides or beyond 15 yards. Seriously, just look at his throwing chart. It’s more concentrated than a surgeon on Adderall. Jacksonville’s run defense has allowed only Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor to run for more than 85 yards against them. I think the Bears have a better shot at winning straight-up, though. Chicago is racking up the fifth-most sacks per game and that Ravens offensive line has been really shaky. Baltimore’s secondary is ranked 30th in deep passes allowed, while Fields has the highest aDOT of any starting quarterback over the last few weeks. I’m on da Bears.