A precocious handicapper weighs in (USAT)
Five picks against the number, that's how we roll. The lines come from Yahoo! Pro Football Pick-Em. Only games with a posted number are eligible for selection. Time to get in character.
Saints +2.5 at Cowboys: The general Dallas distrust applies here. The Cowboys are 12-20 ATS at home since Jerry World opened in 2009; no one is afraid to visit this stadium. And we also have to consider the Steelers hangover; teams are 34-54-1 ATS following a game against Mike Tomlin's crew.
While the Bucs did plenty of things wrong in last week's abomination at New Orleans, I also give some credit to the Saints defense. The Steve Spagnuolo schemes seem to be coming around. You can laugh with the sinners, I'll be crying with the Saints.
Browns +13.0 at Broncos: If you simply grabbed every big underdog when the line passed the 10 mark, you probably wouldn't get hurt over the long haul. Those dogs are 232-185-9 ATS since 2000. And the Browns have quietly become a competitive lot in 2012; the Giants and Redskins are the only teams that have beaten them by more than 10 points. Look for another respectable loss, and a cover, from Cleveland here.
Jets -2 vs. Chargers: Both teams obviously have a lot of flaws and punchlines, but the Jets defense is the unit I trust the most. And if I have to pick one beleaguered coach to rally his troops in this game, I'll go with Rex Ryan over Norv Turner. New York obviously is breaking in a new quarterback, but the Chargers have plenty of problems on offense, too (Mathews out, Rivers slumping, Alexander and Gates up against bad matchups). I also like being on a home favorite that's giving less than three.
Ravens +2.5 vs. Giants: I've been skeptical of the Ravens pretty much all year, but the hate has gone too far with this line. I suspect it's an overreaction to the fact that the Giants need the game. What's so special about the Giants, anyway? Last I looked, Atlanta was blowing their doors off. I expected Baltimore to be a small favorite here (less than three points), and while you don't get a ton of value as a line crosses the equator, it's enough to justify a selection.
Seahawks Even vs. 49ers: Thank the football gods for the flex option; no one wanted to watch the Jets and Chargers in prime time. While I fully respect the balance and physical nature of the Niners, not to mention the explosive element Colin Kaepernick gives them, I have to side with the Seahawks at home, especially without any points to spot. Russell Wilson has started to play well in all venues, but his best work has come in Seattle (118.4 rating, 12 TDSs, one pick). And it's not like Kaepernick has never shown a clunker; go run the tape at St. Louis again. The Seahawks get a major break with Richard Sherman; his appeal remains in limbo, so he's good to play here.
Last Week: 3-2