We're past the quarter mark of the season and we're finally starting to learn about these teams. Last week I went with my gut on some games and against it - picking with Vegas - on others to end up 3-2 overall. The strategy didn't make much of a difference. I easily won one game going with my gut and one game against it, and then the Cowboys, Colts, and Raiders all could have gone either way. I was so distracted by my strategy I gave the Lions points again just so Backdoor Matt Stafford could beat me again. I will not give Stafford any more points this season.

At this point in the season I am 11-9. That's a 55% win rate and around the target for professional bettors. But I'm not about to move to Vegas to grind out this edge full time - like Worm in Rounders - and I'm not going to place in the Super Contest being slightly above average. I'm tied in 977th place with 258 other people and we're six points behind first place.  

This week I had a good feel for the Vegas lines. I missed only 4 of 15 games by more than one point in my projections. I mostly avoided those games - considering them odd - and took sides that were only slightly off from my projections. These were the teams I would have taken even if the line were a bit worse for me.

The new quarter mark means the start of a fresh four week mini contest. If I can win this stretch I'll win $15 k. If I at least do a bit better I can get back into contention. I'm hoping to do well enough to keep hope alive.

Rams over SEATTLE  -7

This is the largest road favorite I have taken this year. I'm still queasy about it - especially giving points to Seattle's 12th man - but I take solace knowing that I have the league's best team. And there's precedent for the large cover. Rams crushed Seattle at Century Link field 42 to 7 last year in a game to determine the division winner. Russel Wilson was sacked seven times and Todd Gurley had four touchdowns.

I don't see any reason why this game should go any differently. The Rams have an even more ferocious pass rush and Todd Gurley is still the best athlete in football - an all 99er in Madden. Seattle's offensive line is still a disaster. The biggest difference is against the Seahawks. Last year they had their defensive centerpiece, Earl Thomas, and this year he's out after a devastating leg injury.

In my season preview over unders, I took the Rams under 10 wins expecting the league to catch up with McVay. I was dead wrong. He spent the offseason creating more room between himself and the rest of the league. Pete Carroll spent the offseason hiring Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator for his uncreative scheme. I don't think Pete's the guy to innovate a solution to McVay. Rams win going away 35-17.

PANTHERS over NY Giants  -7

I believe that the Giants are a talented team, but I'm ready to start betting against Pat Shurmur. Look at how disheveled this guy got during the NFL Draft this year.

Looks like Pat Shurmur needs a nap.

I've never seen an NFL coach look like that. I don't think he's going to inspire to the confidence of his team to power through its adversity.

The team has taken on the coach's personality. It's a weak team. They can't run the ball - they're ranked 29th in the league in rushing yards - despite drafting stud RB Saquon Barkley far too high. But worse for Sunday is the fact that they also can't stop the run against a team who's entire offense depends on running the football. The Panthers are well-rested after their too-early bye so they should be extra strong for this week.

I bet the Giants keep it close early, but start to wear down towards the end of the game. The Panthers score a touchdown on an 8 minute plus drive in the fourth quarter to take a 31-20 lead. They're the last points of the game and I cover.

Cowboys over HOUSTON +3

This line of Houston -3 implies that these are even teams and Houston has a crowd advantage at home. I don't think that either implication is true. Houston may be called the Texans, but the Cowboys own Texas. There will be more Cowboys fans at this game than Texans fans, so the Cowboys offensive and defensive lines will have the advantage.

But these teams aren't even anyway. I don't understand any of the Houston love from Vegas and I'll continue to bet against them until they change my opinion. JJ Watt and Jadaveon Clowney are an impressive duo, but this defense still is isn't good. They've still given up the 27th most passing yards so far this year.

Their offense is good when Deshaun Watson has time to throw - he's an aggressive passer that likes to look downfield -  but he needs a lot of time. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he takes 3.11 seconds before each pass. The only quarterback taking more time to throw this year is Josh Allen. The Cowboys have the fourth most sacks in the league so far and it's going to be a problem. They bother Watson all night, get a few long drives, and win an ugly game outright, 18-13.  

EAGLES over Vikings -3

Everyone has been saying the Eagles have lost their Super Bowl magic. I think it returns this week. This is a much better team at home than on the road. They're now 16-2 at home under Doug Pederson. A lot of that record is line play - our pass rush and protection is much better at home - and line play has been the problem in both losses this year. The defense should make Kirk Cousins uncomfortable all day. And I think we're going to score a lot of points. Wentz looked much better last week throwing to a healthy Alshon Jeffery. With time to throw against an overrated defense he'll look even better this week.

For some reason the betting public still thinks the Vikings defense is good and that the season so far has just been a series of anomalies. It hasn't. They're not good - they're the 25th best defense according the NFLOutsider's DVOA. Their star pass rusher, Everson Griffen, is out with mental issues. The rest of the team looks old and slow. And the scheme appears flawed against these college style offenses. Their past 3 games against college style offense they've given up an average of 34 points per game to the Bills, Rams and Eagles.

I don't expect this game to be very close. It's an important game for both teams, but the Eagles are the better team and at home. Three points is not a large enough spread. Eagles win 34-20.

Packers over DETROIT -1

I'm 0-2 betting against the Lions, but I can't stop. I think Matt Patricia is a terrible coach for this terrible team. And I've been mostly right. They've lost both games I had against them, but they covered because of some late heroics by Garbage Time Matt Stafford. This week I'm only giving them one point. They can't lose and cover!

The Lions weak spot is their rush defense. They make everyone they face look like Barry Sanders reincarnate. They've given up the most rush yards (631) on the third most yards per carry (5.3). It's even worse on first down - they give up 6.3 yards per first down rush. Aaron Rodgers will be ahead of the sticks all game and will take advantage of it.

And he's primed for a breakout this week. Per Football Outsiders he's faced two of the top three pass defenses by DVOA through four games - these Lions are not a top defense. The Packers will score a lot of points. Their defense may have trouble stopping the Lions, but their they'll get more stops than the Lions. The Packers win a dramatic game, 30-27.

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