The charade is over. Through five weeks I was riding high, having picked 57 percent of games correctly against the spread, a good enough clip to turn a nice profit in Las Vegas. I had been .500 or better every week, remarkable consistency given the volatile nature of the NFL. Then Week 6 exposed me as the fraud that I am.
Last week, I went 1-12. There were seven 1:00 games on Sunday, and I lost all of them. Watching at a sports bar, I could turn in any direction on my bar stool and see a game going against me. It was the same feeling as having your entire NCAA Tournament bracket busted on the first day.
There were two close calls, and of course, they both went against me. I picked the Giants (-3.5), and they won by three. I picked the Raiders (-7.5), and they won by seven. Maybe the most telling result was in the Eagles-Redskins game. I picked the Redskins (+2.5). My explanation: “Results should count for more than expectations.” Well, the Eagles finally lived up to their potential (winning 20-13), and I finally lived down to mine.
This was coming; it was just a matter of time. I’m now 45-45 for the year. If you think these columns are too long, save time and flip a coin. This week, in an effort to recapture the magic, I changed the name of the column from fat chance to good luck. They say that confidence is key, but I have my doubts.
Titans (-3.5) over Texans — This is a hugely important division game. With the Colts out of the picture and the Jaguars as terrible as ever, the AFC South will be represented in the playoffs by one of these two teams. It would be a great story if the Texans could play in the postseason for the first time, but they’re on a two-game losing streak, and the Titans are 2-0 at home.
Buccaneers (+0.5) over Bears — The Bears have been wildly inconsistent this season. In their first game, they trounced the Falcons (30-12) and in their last game, they blew out the Vikings (39-10). In the four games in between, they went 1-3. This game is in England, which is far from Chicago, so I’ll take the Bucs.
Lions (-3.5) over Falcons — The 3-3 Falcons have alternated wins and losses all year. It’s their turn to lose. This could be a statement game for the Lions, who are coming off their first loss and could use a signature win against a quality opponent. I think the Lions can win this one even without the concussed Jahvid Best, though it would certainly help if he can play.
Broncos (+1.5) over Dolphins — Tim Tebow takes over as the Broncos starting quarterback. Back in Florida. Against the 0-5 Dolphins. The narrative is too good for him to lose. Plus, there’s always the chance of divine intervention tipping the game in Tim’s favor.
Redskins (+3.5) over Panthers — Carolina has covered a few spreads this year, and everyone loves Cam Newton, but look at this team objectively. They’re 1-5 and coming off a 14-point loss. Hopefully the Redskins will benefit from benching Rex Grossman.
Seahawks (+3.5) over Browns — Seattle’s first couple of games were a disaster, but they’ve been playing better of late, and their win on the East Coast against the Giants made me a believer. The Browns seem like a team without a direction.
Jets (+2.5) over Chargers — The Jets are undefeated at home, and picking home underdogs is the oldest trick in the sports gambling book, so I’ll pull it out here. Maybe the Chargers will suffer from the old West-Coast-team-playing-on-the-East-Coast effect.
Raiders (-4.5) over Chiefs — I’m a believer in this Raiders team, even if they are going to start Carson Palmer, who hasn’t played since last season, as Cincinnati fans are certainly aware. If Hue Jackson is smart (and I think he is), he’ll direct Carson to hand the ball to Darren McFadden early and often.
Steelers (-3.5) over Cardinals — The Steelers have had their share of ups and downs this year, and watching them eek out a win against the Jaguars last week was painful, especially since I had picked the Black and Gold to cover a two-touchdown spread. But I have no interest in tying my fate to Kevin Kolb.
Cowboys (-13.5) over Rams — Last week’s game between the Packers and Rams was strange. I picked the Rams (then +15.5) to cover, and every time I looked at their game it seemed like they were driving. Sam Bradford threw for 328 yards, and Steven Jackson rushed for 96 more. They still scored only three points.
Packers (-8.5) over Vikings — The 1-5 Vikings are coming off that 29-point loss to the Bears and are planning to start Christian Ponder. The Packers have won by double-figures each of the past four weeks.
Colts (+14.5) over Saints — This line is a tough one because it falls just beyond two touchdowns. If the line had been 13.5, I would have taken New Orleans. The Saints will probably win by 47, making this distinction—and me—look stupid.
Ravens (-8.5) over Jaguars — Jacksonville is 1-5. Baltimore is 4-1. The Ravens are going to win this game. I tried not to overthink the spread.
Record last week: 1-12
Record overall: 45-45
Record picking Bengals games against the spread: 3-3
Record picking Bengals games straight up: 2-4