When you look at the way point spreads are set in the NFL, you may want to consider a number of things to figure out what the oddsmakers were thinking. It can make your head spin going over everything, but the key is not to overthink everything.
Studies and analysis into how many times a team has covered a spread on the road in the third Sunday of October is taking things a little too far. You laugh, but there is someone out there looking that up right now.
Instead, try to focus on the here and now. We get so bogged down with information thanks to this newfangled Internet that we lose our grip on what is actually going on in the NFL right now.
With that public service message out of the way, here are the underdogs we love this weekend.
Odds courtesy of Bovada
Baltimore Ravens (+7) at Houston Texans
Yes, the Ravens lost Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb for the season. Sure, Haloti Ngata is playing with an injured MCL. Other than that, the Ravens are doing just fine.
Actually, the fact that Ngata is still going to be playing makes me feel fine about their defense. They are giving up a lot of yards this year, which is worrisome, but only two AFC teams have given up fewer points. It is the classic bend-but-don't-break defense.
The Texans, meanwhile, have their own issues after last week's 42-24 humbling at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. I know Joe Flacco isn't Aaron Rodgers, but the Ravens can run the ball, have a great pair of receivers in Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith and can put up points in the right situation.
I would pick the Texans to win the game, but to give them a touchdown edge in this matchup strikes me as an overreaction to the absence of Lewis and Webb.
Washington Redskins (+6) at New York Giants
Here is a spread that is wholly justified. The Redskins are a mediocre team—their point differential this season is plus-5—and they give up a lot of big plays in the secondary.
The Giants boast one of the top passing offenses in the NFL. Eli Manning has all sorts of weapons on the outside, starting with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. If that's not enough, Ahmad Bradshaw suddenly can't be stopped with 316 yards in the last two games.
However, what I love about the Redskins this week is quite simple. It's Robert Griffin III. The rookie quarterback had an amazing performance against a very good Minnesota Vikings defense last week, despite suffering a concussion against the Atlanta Falcons the previous week.
The Giants did play their best game of the year against the San Francisco 49ers last week, but they still have problems in the secondary, which can open up big plays for Griffin and Santana Moss.
The Redskins are going to keep this game much closer than a lot of people are expecting.
Detroit Lions (+6) at Chicago Bears
I hate the Lions.
It's not that I actually root against them. I'm not a fan of another team in the NFC North. I hate them because they really should be a lot better than they are.
Thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles' ineptitude in the fourth quarter, they stole a game last week. Other than that, there really is nothing inspired about the way the Lions are playing.
Matthew Stafford's mechanics look awful. He continues to change his arm slot and throw off his back foot. The running game is decent, at least when they want to use it.
Now they have to play the 4-1 Chicago Bears on primetime this Monday.
So what is there to like about the Lions?
I don't think the Bears are nearly as good as their record indicates. They are good, but not 4-1 good. They have beaten the Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars this season.
Jay Cutler is still Jay Cutler. He has thrown just as many interceptions as touchdowns (seven) and is completing less than 60 percent of his passes. He is still a timebomb just waiting to explode, and when he does, things will get ugly in a hurry.
There really is no substantial reason to think the Lions will cover, other than to say I trust Matthew Stafford more than Jay Cutler. Neither defense is great, and both struggle to stop the pass.
In a matchup of gun-slinging quarterbacks, go with the one you have more faith in.
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