So my neighbor Shirley, a big football fan who proudly flies a Nebraska Cornhuskers banner in front of her home each fall, paid me a visit recently. “I’ve been reading your article every week,” she tells me. “You better start winning there, buddy boy!”
So that’s what it took to get me going: a kick in the pants from my 70-something neighbor? Whatever works. All I know is I delivered my best performance of the season last week, hitting six of eight plays and clearing $623. Over the last two weeks I’m 12-6, pushing my bankroll up to $4,475.
Between that and Esquire tabbing actress Minka Kelly as the “Sexiest Woman Alive” and celebrating the honor with an online photo gallery—reason No. 1,384 why the Internet is the greatest invention ever!—let’s just say it’s going to be difficult to wipe the smile off my face this week.
(What’s that? My Chargers lost to the Raiders? The Raiders? Thanks for the buzz kill.)
On to this week’s winners …
$550 (to win $500) on BEARS (-6½) vs. Seahawks: I don’t know if Jay Cutler (concussion) will be back running Chicago’s offense this week. Don’t care, either. The Bears (4-1) could drag Sid Luckman out of the grave and prop him up under center and I’d still lay the chalk here. That’s because the Seahawks are like a philandering husband: They cannot be trusted away from home. Seattle lost its first two road games to Denver and St. Louis by a combined score of 52-17, and is now 3-18 when venturing away from the Pacific Northwest since December 2007 (two of those wins came against the once-crappy Rams).
The Seahawks have scored 21 points or fewer in 17 of those 18 road losses, including two touchdowns or less 10 times. Now they face a rejuvenated Bears defense that’s giving up just 14.8 points and 295 total yards per game. Bottom line: You know how many times you’ve won money if you bet on the Seahawks in their last 11 road contests? Once.
$220 (to win $200) on IOWA (-3) at Michigan: Remember the movie Groundhog Day when Bill Murray kept waking up to the same day over and over again? Michigan fans are experiencing it in real life. Last year, the Wolverines jumped out to a 4-0 start, including a close victory over Indiana in their Big Ten opener, before falling to Michigan State and Iowa in consecutive weeks and spiraling to a 1-7 finish (with their only win coming against Delaware State). Well, this year Michigan jumped out to a 5-0 start, including a close victory over Indiana in the Big Ten opener, only to get clobbered by Michigan State last week. Now here comes 15th-ranked Iowa.
The difference between these teams? One plays defense like the 1985 Chicago Bears (Iowa has given up 17 points in its four victories this year and allowed 31 total points in its last six wins); the other plays defense like the French Army (Michigan has given up more than 30 points in three of its last four overall and eight of its last 10 conference games).
$110 (to win $100) on TEXAS (+9½) at Nebraska: I’m going to hear from Shirley about this, but if you give me this many points with an angry Texas team that a) is coming off a bye following consecutive losses, and b) hasn’t dropped three in a row since 2000, I’m jumping all over it. Sure, Nebraska freshman QB Taylor Martinez has put up some gaudy numbers, but not against a team that can play defense like the Longhorns, who allow just 254.2 yards per game and 2.6 yards per rushing attempt.
Texas has defeated Nebraska five straight times and is 9-1 in the last 10 meetings, and the underdog is 6-2-1 against the spread (ATS) in the last nine in this rivalry. The Longhorns are also 6-2 ATS in recent years in the rare role of underdog, while Nebraska is 0-5-1 ATS in its last six as a home favorite.
BEST OF THE REST: Rams (+9) vs. Chargers ($44); California (+2½) at USC ($44); Ravens (+2½) at Patriots ($33); Steelers (-14) vs. Browns ($33); Virginia Tech (-22½) vs. Wake Forest ($33).