Last week I didn't write anything. I took a mini vacation instead. And if you're following me in the Westgate standings you'll see I went 3-2 last week. The funny thing about that is that my actual picks: Eagles, Chiefs, Pats, Dolphins, Niners, only went 2-3. Serendipitously, my text of picks to my proxy - the man who places my picks in the contest each week - didn't go through. He picked five games in my stead. And they did better than my picks.
Of course they did. My picks have been terrible. I went 11-9 in the first four weeks, but since then I have gone 3-10-2. It's a disaster. I have no shot to win the contest. And I lost the mini contest for weeks 5-8 in week 5. This week is inconsequential for me.
I still have hope I can salvage something from the season. If I pick the best from week 9-12 or 13-17 I can win $15,000. It's not a million, but it'd definitely be appreciated.
There is also betting in standard format; moneyline, totals, teasers, parlays - more flexibility without the need to reach five games - that I can pursue to subsidize my contest losses. Somehow, as I've been getting crushed in the contest, I've turned a $200 deposit on betonline.ag into $500. If I can turn it into $1,500, this season won't be an abject disaster.
This week I'll share my contest picks, because that's what this column is, but I'll also share a few other picks I like for Sunday's slate.
CHIEFS vs. Broncos -10
The Chiefs are an amazing offensive team. Pat Mahomes is electric - his athleticism and throwing ability jump off the screen, but they'd be worthless without his quick decision making to drive it. They've got weapons at every skill position and we don't notice their offensive line - which is the best thing I could say about an offensive line. The result is the eighth best offense through seven weeks in the history of Football Outsider's DVOA.
But why I think the Chiefs will cover this huge spread is on the other side of the ball, their much maligned defense. At home they're actually pretty good. They've only given up 6.5 yards per pass attempt on only a 58% completion rating. They average 3.66 sacks per game at home versus only 2 on the road. And it's been against decent competition; the Niners with Jimmy G. still, the Jaguars before their tailspin and the Bengals.
Home field advantage has not made the Chiefs run defense any better, but that won't matter this week. The Chiefs have scored at least 20 points before half time in each of their home games this year and will jump out to an early lead again here. The Broncos won't be able to stick to their run game, they'll need to turn the game over to Case Keenum - and he'll fail miserably. Chiefs win in an easy one 41-27.
Patriots @ BILLS -13.5
This is an enormous line to lay in the NFL on a road team, but this is also my top pick of the week. I don't see any possible scenario where the Bills cover here. Their offense was already historically bad when they turned the reigns over to a quarterback they signed off the street a week prior. And that quarterback, Derek Anderson, sucks and would be terrible even with preparation. Before last week, he last started two games in 2016 for the Panthers. He wasn't sacked in those games but still threw five interceptions. The Bills won't score more than 10 points in this game.
And there is no way they'll hold the Patriots under 24. The Pats acquired Josh Gordon for week 4 and since then they haven't scored less than 38 points in a game. That includes last week on the road against the Chicago Bears, the top defense in the league. The Patriots are rolling and won't slow down in Buffalo.
13.5 points is so many points, but it's not even close to enough. Last year the Patriots beat a decent Bills team by 20 and 21 points in their two matchups. This year it's the same Pats against a much worse Bills team. The Bills only hope is that the Patriots overlooked them all week, but the Patriots don't do that. They'll go up to Buffalo, take care of business, and then start preparing for the Packers. Patriots win in a blowout 41-9.
RAMS vs. Packers -9.5
Packers @ RAMS +9.5
Disclaimer, I put Rams in as my contest pick. Lucky for me my contest picks barely matter this week. After trying to write about it, I changed my mind.
I had started my case for the Rams with this sentence:
"I know all of the reasons not to pick the Rams in this game; Mike Mccarthy is 9-3 off a bye, Aaron Rodgers should be in his best health since week one, this is the largest underdog Aaron Rodgers has ever been, the flaky LA fans will let the stadium fill up with Packers fans to negate home field advantage."
And then I started to look for the case that the Rams should definitely cover. But I couldn't find anything more compelling than the Rams just feel unstoppable. The Rams offense is great. They score the third most points per game in the league and they average the third most plays per drive, but it hasn't translated into blowout victories against good teams lately.
The Packers have done just as good a job at holding onto the ball for long drives as the Rams with an injured Rodgers. With him at full strength they'll be even better. The offenses are going to dominate this game, and it will stay competitive. Counter-intuitively, I expect this to be a slow paced game where the offenses both have have a lot of success between the twenties and the score ends in the twenties. I'll take the huge spread in this close match up. Plus, I get the chance of a garbage time cover by Aaron Rodgers. Rams win, but it's close, 27-23.
CHICAGO vs. Jets -7
The Jets had a few weeks there where they performed well above expectations, but sank back to earth last week in a blowout loss at home to the Vikings. This week I expect the sorrows to continue because rookie QB Sam Darnold is going to struggle in Soldier field. His numbers on the year are okay, but they are buoyed by two great games against the Colts and Lions. In his other five games he's averaging 49% completion rate, only 6.3 yards per attempt, and has thrown eight interceptions against six touchdowns. That's Peterman-esque.
Vic Fangio, the Bears defensive coordinator, has given rookie QB's a lot of trouble over the years. His record is 15-8 and his defenses have held them to a 72.6 quarterback rating. The Bears also have some extra motivation after giving up more than 30 points the past two weeks. They should dominate this matchup.
On the other side of the ball the Bears appear to be gelling. They've scored over 28 points their last three games and haven't been held under 24 at home all season. I think even 17 would be enough to push this week, as the Bears will win 27-10.
BENGALS vs. Buccaneers -4.5
The Buccaneers defense is the worst in the league. They've only held two teams below thirty points - the Nick Foles led Eagles and Browns - and both of those games were at home. This week they'll be on the road, where they've given up at least 34 points in all three games, and missing at least half of their defensive lineman. It's not going to go well.
The Bengals offense is good. Andy Dalton is an excellent quarterback during the day. He's 61-33-1 in games during the day versus 6-14 in night games. This year they're scoring 28 ppg, but only 22 ppg at night. I think they're going to have a day.
They'll also force a few turnovers to aid the offense. The Bucs have turned the ball over six times in the two games since Winston took over. They also haven't cracked thirty points, which they'd need to do to cover in this game. It's shootout-esque, but ultimately the Bucs don't have enough. The Bengals win 37-27.
Actual Bets to Cover my Contest Fees
Pats -13.5 @ Buffalo $150
Reasoning explained above. I love this game and should probably throw everything I've got on it. But I won't. I guess anything could happen?
KC -10 Parlay Pats -13.5 $25 to win $72.50
I like both of these teams, may as well parlay them.
PANTHERS +2.5 Tease with Steelers -7.5 $100
The Steelers have started to round into form. Their pass rush has been vicious, especially at home. And Baker Mayfield has been sacked 5 times per game, including last week against Tampa who was missing half their defensive line. I don't think that the game will be close, but I'll take the six points because there's no way that the Steelers end up losing this game.
The Panthers are a solid team playing at home where they are undefeated. They haven't lost a game by more than a touchdown all year. The Ravens have the top ranked defense, but I don't see their offense putting up enough points for a blowout win like they'd need to cover 8.5.
Seahawks +3 Tease with Packers +8.5 $50
If the Lions beat the Seahawks, it will be by a touchdown or less. But I don't even think they'll win. Russell Wilson was banged up prior to the bye and he'll be fully healthy this week. And Seattle is an excellent rushing offense going against Detroit's embarrassing run defense.
I explained above why I like the Packers ATS, but I feel even better taking the extra six points to get up above a two touchdown deficit. Aaron Rodgers in his career has only lost 8 of 155 games by more than 14 points. I don't think he'll add to that count this week.
Rams/Packers under 56.5 $25
I don't expect enough possessions for this game to make it over the total. There would need to be multiple long touchdowns or a 100% touchdown rate in the red zone and I don't see either of those outcomes.
Best of luck this week folks. Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments. Also, subscribe below to get my picks in your inbox weekly as soon as they post. Thanks!