It was a 5-1 week for our intrepid hero, Ernesto the Prediction Iguana. He hit the Broncos, the Bengals and three over/unders, for a cumulative season total of 14-5. The lone blemish was the Redskins, who packed it in a halftime against the Jets.
This week, the best sports betting member of the animal kingdom is going with six game picks - no over/unders. (Although that 48 in the Seahawks-Niners contest looks tempting on the under...)
Steelers (+10.5) at CHIEFS
Wouldn't you know it? Roethlisberger goes down, everyone kisses the Steelers goodbye, bettor confidence in them plummets and - PRESTO! - they pull two wins out of nowhere. Landry Jones and Chris Boswell were picking beans in a New Hampshire field (metaphorically!) last year, and here they are starting for the most storied franchise in football...and winning when everyone is picking them to get shellacked.
The point spread on this game may swing wildly the other way, however, should Roethlisberger be cleared to play. (Consult VegasInsider.com for updates.) His mere upgrade in status from "OUT" to "DOUBTFUL" and then from "DOUBTFUL" to "DAY TO DAY" is enough to swing the line three whole points, maybe even four. If there's one team that doesn't fear Arrowhead, it's Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, without Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs lost in pitiful fashion in Minnesota. Alex Smith should attempt 60 passes, and with a weak Pittsburgh secondary, have enough to keep K.C. close for a while, but one big defensive play is all Pittsburgh needs to salt this one away...and that unit specializes in big plays.
P.S. If Roethlisberger comes back, take the OVER.
Falcons (-1.5) at TITANS
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota may not play, throwing an already chaotic team further into downward spiral. Miami came into last week's game in tatters and sailed out of Tennessee with a W, so how much hope can the Titans - searching for so many answers - can they have against the high-flying Falcons? This one could get ugly early...
CARDINALS (-1/2) vs. Ravens
The Cardinals are going to be livid, as they outplayed the Steelers the whole game last week only to choke it away in the fourth quarter. We knew the era of Ravens defensive dominance was waning, but Baltimore is down this year in all facets of the game - a thought inexplicable earlier this summer.
PANTHERS (+3.5) vs. Eagles
Will the Eagles find their stride on Monday Night Football against the Giants? Can they maintain any semblance of consistency? The Panthers are fresh off a huge comeback win against the Seahawks in Seattle. Their confidence is soaring, with a huge road win off a potential playoff foe, but they are also finishing off lesser teams in dominant fashion. Barring an epiphany tonight by Chip Kelly's Eagles, the Panthers come into the game in much stronger form overall. Take the 3.5 - the extra half point makes it that much stronger a play. (One would hope.)
NFC WEST WRANGLES
Seahawks (+10) at 49ERS
Ernesto keeps saying to stay away from these NFC West matchups, as zanier things happen here at a greater frequency (to him anyway...). Yet here we go again jumping in with a pick.
It's shocking to see how little confidence the betting public has in Seattle (outside of Seattle, that is...). San Francisco's defense has surrendered the third-most points in the NFC - averaging a dismal 26.5 points per game! - and yet they are a four-point favorite. Is it because Seattle is terrible on the road? Or did the Niners suddenly find some offensive alchemy against the Ravens? We're going to stick with the trend of Seattle's improving on both sides of the ball - especially the line of scrimmage. And 10 points should be enough to carry the day in what should be a low-scoring game.
Browns (+12) at RAMS
That's a lot of points for a flaccid Rams team to spot anybody. They've scored a paltry 84 points this season - exactly 14 per game - dead last in the league. Cleveland has made improvements on both sides of the ball, especially offense. They put up 33 on the Ravens and 23 on the Broncos before bowing in overtime. But more importantly, they're playing faster and with more fire than Browns teams in years past. A tough out under ordinary circumstances, 12 points is too much for St. Louis to spot them.