These days, when I look at NFL lines I like to imagine how the majority of people will react to the line and then do the opposite. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. If a line is skewed too far in one direction or too close given the matchup, I want to know why.
So that's how I approached a few of this week's favorites.
Two of the teams are laying more points than most people will be comfortable with. Another team that is favored probably makes people uncomfortable in general. As you probably guessed, that's one of the reasons I like all three.
But it's not the only one. Let's break down a few favorites I think you should roll with this weekend.
(Note: All lines via Bovada. My pick in caps.)
Arizona Cardinals at MINNESOTA VIKINGS (-6)
There are two reasons I love the Vikings this week—they're 3-0 at home (versus 1-2 on the road), and the Cardinals are changing quarterbacks again this week, going back to John Skelton.
The Cardinals have also been exposed in the past two weeks, with losses to the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills (though they were a field goal away from beating Buffalo). The Cardinals have an excellent defense, yes, but they are miserable on offense.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are coming off a humbling 38-26 loss against the Redskins. In a battle of 4-2 teams, I trust Minny at home to win easily over Arizona.
New York Jets at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-11)
At first glance, this seems like a great line for the Jets. Double-digit spreads are terrifying, and Rex Ryan has worked up some masterful game plans against Tom Brady and this offense in the past.
But consider the context. The Jets are 3-8 in the their last 11 road games. They don't have Darrelle Revis to incorporate into the defensive game plan. The Patriots are fourth in the NFL in rushing offense (who saw that coming?), while the Jets are 28th against the run.
There's more. The Patriots are ridiculously good after a loss, and they figure to have a bit more animosity this week after limping to a surprising 3-3 start. Oh, and they've covered that spread against the Jets three of the last six times they've played (and won by nine in another).
Oh, and its a home game. That counts for something, too.
It's a risky line, but I'd rather lay the points with New England than take them with New York. Expect a blowout.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What happens when you put the Saints' top-ranked passing attack against the Buccaneers' 31st-ranked pass defense?
Lots of points for the Saints, that's what.
Which favorite is most likely to beat the spread?
New Orleans may be 1-4, but they are a pretty good 1-4 team. Every loss has been by one possession or less, with losses of eight points twice, three points (in overtime) and one point. No, the Saints' defense couldn't stop a runny nose with a blanket.
No matter; what makes you think the Bucs can slow down Drew Brees?
Plus, the Saints had an extra week to prepare for this game. Giving Brees an extra week to prepare is like giving Usain Bolt a head start in a race. Expect fireworks, and the Saints to win by at least a touchdown.
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