Welcome back to The Ledger, where I review what went right, and wrong, with my picks against the spread from last week’s games.
It was another great week for me, as I went 10-4 against the spread to run my record to 47-29 on the season. I’ve only had one losing week so far, so if you’re betting with me, you’re not only doing well on the year, but you’ve been consistently winning throughout the season.
In case you missed my original picks, look here:
Let’s take a look and see what went right and what went wrong:
Vikings 38, Rams 10 (Minnesota, -10)
Four times in the first half, the Rams drove the ball into Minnesota territory. Yet the Rams only scored once in those four drives, getting a field goal. The other three drives resulted in fumbles recovered by the Vikings, including one returned by Jared Allen for a touchdown. In other words, the Vikings outscored the Rams 7-3 when the Rams drove into Minnesota territory in the first half. Nice going, Rams.
The Vikings put this one away early in the third quarter, going up 23-3 on an Adrian Peterson TD rush. From that point on, it was a matter of the Vikings maintaining their big lead for those of us who bet on them (1-0).
Cowboys 26, Chiefs 20, OT (Dallas, -8.5)
Two big plays from Tony Romo to Miles Austin saved the Cowboys’ season, and Wade Phillips’ job, perhaps. Alas, it did not save those of us who bet on the Cowboys to cover the spread this week.
Dallas had four fumbles, two recovered by the Chiefs, and one that led to a short Kansas City touchdown drive, giving them a 10-0 lead. It took a blocked field goal by the Dallas defense in the fourth quarter to inspire the Cowboys to take control of the game. If Dallas continues to play mistake-riddled football, they won’t be a playoff team (1-1).
Panthers 20, Redskins 17 (Carolina, -3.5)
The Panthers failed me by a measly point. Granted, they and their fans should be thrilled to have a win. However, I would have been much happier with the outcome had the Panthers chosen to kick a field goal when they had the ball at the Washington one yard line in the 2nd quarter, instead of trying to score a touchdown.
The fumble on that play led to a change of possession, during which the Panthers earned a safety and two points. Two points! Instead of three! It’s the little things that make or break bets, you see.
As for the teams themselves, my general assessment of both is to shrug my shoulders and move on (1-2).
Eagles 33, Buccaneers 14 (Philadelphia, -15)
Picking a favorite that’s giving more than two touchdowns worth of points is always a risky proposition. The bettor finds themselves fearing a “backdoor cover,” which usually happens late in the fourth quarter, when the underdog kicks a field goal or scores a touchdown to wind up covering the spread by a point or two.
While the Buccaneers were never really in a position to cause that kind of damage in this contest, they are a team that bears watching in the coming weeks. Their quarterback, Josh Johnson, is developing a rapport with Kellen Winslow, and their running backs are solid. They will surprise with a “backdoor” cover in the coming weeks, and perhaps win outright soon.
As for the Eagles, they put to rest any doubt about winning big and, as a byproduct, covering the spread early in the third quarter, taking a commanding 28-7 lead and never allowing the Bucs within 17 points again (2-2).
Giants 44, Raiders 7 (New York, -15.5)
I was never worried that the Raiders would wind up with a “backdoor cover” in this one. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder when the Raiders will be posted as a three-touchdown underdog on the road. What a dysfunctional mess they are.
On the polar opposite end of the spectrum are the New York Giants. They burst to a 28-0 lead before the Raiders had their cleats on, it seemed (3-2).
Browns 6, Bills 3 (Cleveland, +6)
Well, the Browns certainly weren’t “Better Without Braylon.” In fact, their QB, Derek Anderson, completed just two of 17 passes for 23 yards.
The star of this game was Dave Zastudil, who sounds like a substitute teacher, but is really the Browns’ punter. He booted nine punts and nailed seven inside the Bills’ 20 yard line, helping the Browns maintain control of field position for much of the game. The Bills had one drive of over 50 yards, which netted them a field goal. They couldn’t sustain any drives, and were forced to punt nearly as often as the Browns. (4-2)
Bengals 17, Ravens 14 (Cincinnati, +8.5)
Until this game, the Ravens had morphed into a team that relied on offense first and defense second, a strange development for a team that still boasts Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, likely Hall of Famers. Yet, the Bengals’ defense kept Baltimore’s offense in check, holding them to one offensive score and just 257 yards of total offense, their worst numbers of the year.
Even more impressive was the fact that the Bengals did this on the road. I know the Bengals have played a lot of close games, but they are due for a blowout win one of these weeks. They run the ball well, their defense contains the opposition, and they have a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback in Carson Palmer. There’s a lot to like here (5-2).
Steelers 28, Lions 20 (Pittsburgh, -10.5)
Classic “backdoor cover” in this game, as Daunte Culpepper hit Dennis Northcutt for a TD pass with under five minutes left in the game.
I like my double-digit underdogs to roll over and play dead, not act up and get frisky late in games. Games like these are why I give double-digit spreads a lot of thought before I make my picks. The final score leads one to believe the Lions were competitive, but the fact is, they just made the score look better than the game itself was (5-3).
Falcons 45, 49ers 10 (Atlanta, +2.5)
In picking Atlanta in this one last week, I wrote: “I’m sure a good portion of the last two weeks was spent figuring out ways to create holes for RB Michael Turner. As good as the 49ers are against the run, I believe he’ll have his best day of the young 2009 season.”
Ninety seven yards and three touchdowns later, I look like a genius.
Of course, I picked the Falcons by a field goal, not by five touchdowns. I had no idea the 49ers would give up over 300 yards in the air. Maybe I can be a semi-genius? (6-3)
Broncos 20, Patriots 17, OT (Denver, +3)
New England looked pretty good early. They scored a touchdown on their first drive, capitalized on a Denver fumble, and then scored another touchdown to end the first half. The Pats had a 17-7 lead and 207 yards of total offense.
Then, the Broncos adjusted.
In the second half and overtime, the Broncos outgained the Patriots 251-120, and outscored New England 13-0. Denver’s not only a solid football team in all areas, they are well-coached. I wasn’t at all surprised by the result, and I think they left points on the field. As long as Vegas keeps installing the Broncos as underdogs, I’ll take them every time (7-3).
Cardinals 28, Texans 21 (Arizona, -5.5)
This was the sort of game that leaves the bettor with clammy palms, waiting to see what happens next. Arizona led 21-0 at the half, and the appearance of an easy cover was in place.
However, Houston tied the score at 21-21 with less than seven minutes left in the game, and they got the ball back with 5:52 to go. As Matt Schaub completed pass after pass, it appeared as if the Texans were going to get the go-ahead score.
Then, Arizona’s Dominique Rogers-Cromartie intercepted Schaub and took the pass back for a touchdown, giving Arizona a 28-21 lead. Phew!
But Houston had another chance. Following a great kickoff return, Schaub piloted the Texans to the Arizona 6-yard line with 1:27 left in the game. A five-yard pass on first down put the Texans at the 1-yard line. Surely, the Texans were going to score the tying-touchdown.
Not so fast!
Texans’ RB Chris Brown was stuffed at the one on second down. Schaub then threw a pass just out of the reach of tight end Joel Dreessenn in the end zone on third down. Brown received another chance, but was stopped short on fourth down. Cardinals cover!
But wait…the play is going to the replay booth! They’re checking to see if the ball crossed the goal line. Oh, the suspense. Thankfully, the ruling on the field was upheld, as was the Cardinals’ cover (8-3).
Seahawks 41, Jaguars 0 (Jacksonville, +1)
Every week, there’s always one game that I miss horribly on, and this week it was the Jaguars-Seahawks game. In fact, I wrote last week that the Jaguars were a team to watch, because their schedule seemed to set them up for a nice string of consecutive wins, maybe getting them to 6-2. After getting their clocks cleaned though, the Jags look more like pretenders. Or, if not pretenders, then at least a bi-polar bunch that isn’t trustworthy enough to bet on consistently.
Of course, with this big win it’s the Seahawks that bear watching. The 49ers got leveled and sit at 3-2. Arizona is 2-2. St. Louis is 0-5. The Seahawks, when Matt Hasselbeck is healthy, look like the best team in the NFC West.
It is not far-fetched to think Seattle could win the remainder of their divisional games, and the Seahawks also have home games against Detroit, Tampa Bay and Tennessee left on the schedule. Things are looking up in the Pacific Northwest (8-4).
Colts 31, Titans 9 (Indianapolis, -3.5)
Since their heartbreaking loss at Pittsburgh to open the season, the Titans have given up 126 points in their last four games. They are 0-3 in their division, 0-5 within the conference. If Vince Young isn’t playing soon for Tennessee, then it’s clear he is finished as a Titan after this year.
I underestimated the Colts and Peyton Manning at the start of the season. Manning has played some of the best football of his career, and at this point in the season, he looks like the NFL Most Valuable Player. As for the Colts, I picked them to miss the playoffs and finish 9-7. Now at 5-0, they seem poised to continue their remarkable run of consecutive 10-win seasons (9-4).
Dolphins 31, Jets 27 (Miami, +2)
I turned the TV on in time to catch the fourth quarter of this game. Clearly, it was all I needed to see, as the lead changed hands five times in the final 15 minutes, culminating in a Ronnie Brown touchdown run with six seconds left to give the Dolphins the win.
The biggest surprise from a casual fan’s perspective was how well the Dolphins moved the ball through the air. Chad Henne was 20 for 26 for 241 yards passing and had two touchdown passes. It was the sort of performance that could make Miami fans quickly forget their other Chad (Pennington).
However, despite the win this week, I wonder just how good the Dolphins are. Their three best performances of the season have all come at home. After having their bye week this week, then a home game against New Orleans, the Dolphins play six of their next eight on the road. If the Dolphins are still in the AFC playoff picture at that point, I’ll be impressed (10-4).
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