NFL Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 9/24/2013
Could we see a 16-0 and 0-16 team in the same season for the first time in NFL history? Obviously there is a long ways to go, but the Denver Broncos look pretty unbeatable right now, and the Jacksonville Jaguars pretty unwatchable.
Peyton Manning continued his road to a fifth NFL MVP Award by totally toying with the Raiders on Monday night, completing 32-of-37 passes for 374 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. That 86.5 completion percentage was Manning's best when throwing at least 20 passes. Tom Brady's NFL record of 50 touchdown passes is in jeopardy. Manning's 12 TD passes are the most ever in the first three games of a season. His 1,143 passing yards are No. 4 through a season's first three games. Denver's 127 points is tied for the second-most through three weeks. Four Broncos already have at least 190 receiving yards.
Honestly, who will beat Denver? Sportsbook.ag has some game of the year lines involving Denver. I already presume the Broncos run the table at home, although this Sunday's game with the Eagles should be a ton of fun to watch. The toughest tests figure to be at Indianapolis in Week 7 (Broncos -4.5), at San Diego in Week 10 (Broncos -7.5), at New England on Nov. 24 (Broncos -3) and at Houston in Week 16 (Broncos -3). It would be fascinating to see if the Broncos are 15-0 heading into their finale at Oakland presumably with home-field advantage locked up. Remember, the 2009 Indianapolis Colts under Manning started 14-0 but had little interest in winning out. They didn't, losing their final two and were beaten by New Orleans in the Super Bowl.
The Jaguars predictably were blown out in Seattle on Sunday, 45-17, although I liked getting the 20 points. Jacksonville has easily the worst offense in the NFL and didn't reach the 100-yard mark against Seattle until midway through the third quarter. I don't know if this is good news or not, but Blaine Gabbert will return as the starting QB this week at home against the Colts. Gabbert missed the previous two games with a cut on his hand. He was terrible in the Week 1 loss to Kansas City. Jacksonville certainly won't be a favorite this year, with its best chances for wins likely Week 13 at Cleveland or Week 15 at home against Buffalo.
I hope you took Manning on the NFL MVP prop before the season when he was around +500 because he's now a ridiculous -140 favorite on Sportsbook.ag. Drew Brees (-600) is the only other player at less than +1000. Brees can tie his own NFL record this week by throwing for 300 yards in a ninth straight game as New Orleans hosts Miami in a 3-0 showdown on Monday night, a game I will preview here at Doc's. If you are wondering, a Saints-Dolphins Super Bowl is +11000. Both seem a near lock to make the playoffs after missing out last year. A total of 86 of 114 teams to start 3-0 since 1990 played in the postseason. Seahawks-Broncos is the easy +500 favorite, with Denver at +300 to win it and Seattle at +450.
I'm surprised the Patriots are third-favorites at +1200 with San Francisco as New England has not looked good in starting 3-0. I think New England loses Sunday night in Atlanta as a 1.5-point dog. The Niners, meanwhile, seem unlikely to repeat as NFC West champs now. In fact, the four 2012 NFC division champs are a combined 3-9. The AFC could see all four win again as that quartet is 10-2.
Week 4 Enticing Underdogs
I was 2-1 on my underdog picks last week, with the Jaguars failing to cover in Seattle but the Colts not just covering but upsetting the Niners in San Francisco and the Browns also pulling an upset in Minnesota. So 4-2 on the enticing dogs so far this season.
Jacksonville (+9.5) vs. Indianapolis: I know I just got done bashing the Jaguars and Gabbert, but I think the Colts are due for a massive letdown after last Sunday's huge win. Don't get too excited about Indy yet as it nearly lost at home in Week 1 to Oakland. Last year one of Jacksonville's two wins as in Week 3 at home against Indy, 22-17. Early action is heavy on the Colts, so if you wait you might get this at 10.5. Then I'd love it.
Philadelphia (+11.5) at Denver: The Eagles were the talk of the NFL after Week 1 but really haven't been all that great offensively since the first half of that opener against the Redskins. Still, it's a short week for Denver. I wonder if the altitude will wear out the Eagles' offense, however. I still think Philly can stay within 10.
Chicago (+2.5) at Detroit: The Bears' defense just continues to amaze. It has three touchdowns this year, as many as the Buccaneers and Jaguars' offenses. Chicago's defense has scored on 1.6 percent of its snaps, which is higher than Jacksonville's offense. That's pretty funny. That unit will be tested this week for sure in Detroit. The Lions lost starting receiver Nate Burleson this week to a broken arm in a car accident, but Reggie Bush should return. I believe Jay Cutler will have his best day of the season thus far against a very “iffy” Detroit defense. I'd also wait on this and see if you can get the 3.5.
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