Home teams are your friend.
If the NFL has taught us anything over the first eight weeks of the season, it's that the action is predictably unpredictable and betting on matchups can be a very dangerous game.
Concentrating only on home teams can be a good way to combat that variableness, however. I'm not saying home teams will always cover, but you're going to get fewer shocking performances from teams that are in the comfort of their own stadium.
That being said, let's take a look at this week's picks along with a closer glance at some home squads that will beat big spreads.
|Away Team||Home Team||Spread||Predicted Winner|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Miami Dolphins||Bengals -3||Bengals|
|Atlanta Falcons||Carolina Panthers||Panthers -7.5||Panthers|
|Minnesota Vikings||Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys -10||Cowboys|
|New Orleans Saints||New York Jets||Saints -6||Saints|
|Tennessee Titans||St. Louis Rams||Titans -3||Rams|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Buffalo Bills||Chiefs -3||Chiefs|
|San Diego Chargers||Washington Redskins||Chargers -1||Chargers|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Oakland Raiders||Raiders -2.5||Raiders|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks -15.5||Seahawks|
|Baltimore Ravens||Cleveland Browns||Ravens -2.5||Browns|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||New England Patriots||Patriots -6.5||Patriots|
|Indianapolis Colts||Houston Texans||Colts -2.5||Texans|
|Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||Packers -10.5||Packers|
Spreads via Covers.com
Seattle Seahawks (-15.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two things make me wary about this pick.
First, the Seahawks' offensive line, thanks to both injuries and inconsistent play, is a mess right now. On Monday night, the St. Louis Rams sacked Russell Wilson seven times, hit him 10 other times, pressured him on pretty much every dropback and held the 'Hawks to 14 points and a measly 135 total yards.
Second, Seattle is more of a run-oriented, physical-defense kind of team, so blowouts come less often for the Seahawks than for a team like the Broncos, who have more weapons in the passing game.
Nevertheless, it's the Seahawks at their CenturyLink fortress against a winless Bucs squad that reportedly has all kinds of animosity between players and head coach Greg Schiano right now.
Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell's offense may be struggling, but the Seahawks' elite, playmaking defense is going to make life miserable for rookie quarterback Mike Glennon and a Bucs offense that is 31st in the NFL in both points and yards per game.
Prediction: Seahawks win by 21 points.
Carolina Panthers (-7.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Talk about two teams moving in opposite directions.
The Panthers, following a 1-3 start that featured some narrow defeats, have won three in a row by 25, 15 and 18 points. Granted, those wins came against the Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, respectively, but right now the Falcons pretty much fit in with that group.
Atlanta has been decimated by injuries. Julio Jones is out for the year, Roddy White remains uncertain for Week 9 (via the Charlotte Observer's Joe Person) and Steven Jackson is back after missing four weeks but looked like a shell of his former self Week 8 against the Cardinals, tallying six yards on 11 carries.
Put it all together, and Mike Smith's team has lost four of its last five, including a drubbing on the road in Arizona.
The Panthers are 2-1 at home with two blowout wins and a narrow loss to the Seahawks. They have the run defense (seventh in the NFL in yards per rush allowed) behind Star Lotulelei and Luke Kuechly to make the Falcons one dimensional. And Cam Newton and the offense has put up 30-plus points in four of the last five weeks.
Prediction: Panthers win by 13 points.
New York Jets (+6) vs. New Orleans Saints
With Sean Payton back on the sidelines and Rob Ryan drawing a variety of blitzes as defensive coordinator, the Saints have the look of a legitimate Super Bowl contender out of the NFC.
Who is the safest home bet to cover their big spread?
But, while they look damn near unstoppable at the Superdome, this is how their road contests have played out: a two-point win over Tampa Bay, an eight-point win over Chicago and a three-point loss to New England.
On the flip side, the Jets have been good at home, going 3-1 with just a seven-point loss to the Steelers.
Don't get me wrong. The Saints are clearly the better team, and the Jets are a little harder to trust after losing by 40 to the Cincinnati Bengals last week. But New York has a stout front seven and enough offense to at least keep this one close.
Prediction: Saints win by 4 points.