Palmer, Bengals not worth the risk against Falcons

How do you go 5-3 with your football picks, including solid upset winners with Texas over Nebraska and the Rams over the Chargers, and end up upside down for the week? You put your biggest chunk of money on the Chicago Bears, who lost as a six-point home favorite to a Seattle Seahawks team that had just three wins in its previous 21 road games.

I knew Chicago’s offensive line had more leaks in it than a British Petroleum pipeline, but six sacks allowed to Seattle? And 27 sacks allowed on the season? Even New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie—he of the nine children by eight different women—thinks the Bears have protection issues.

Just know this: You’ll see me betting on the Cowboys’ Wade Phillips and the Chargers’ Norv Turner to share NFL Coach of the Year honors before you’ll see me laying points with the Bears again this season. Speaking of, remember a few weeks back when I said you couldn’t underestimate the importance of coaching in the NFL? Here’s an update: Turner, Phillips, Chan Gailey (Bills), Eric Mangini (Browns), Tom Cable (Raiders), Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Josh McDaniels (Broncos), Brad Childress (Vikings) and Mike Singletary (49ers) are guiding teams with a combined record of 13-37 straight-up (SU) and 16-32-2 against the spread (ATS).

Each of those nine clubs—five of which were projected as playoff teams just six weeks ago—is under .500. What’s the old idiom, “A fool and his money are soon parted”? Well, bet on these fools and you and your money are destined to part.

As for my record, despite losing $227 with my 5-3 showing, I’m still 17-9 for $597 in October, putting my bankroll at $4,248. On to this week’s selections …

$330 (to win $300) on FALCONS -3½ vs. Bengals: Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer reminds me of the aging grandfather who is too old to drive, but no one in the family has the guts to walk up to him and say, “OK, Pops, that’s enough; hand over the keys.” Palmer’s numbers (59.3 percent completion rate, 257.4 passing yards per game, 7 TDs, 6 INTs, 78.3 quarterback rating) are pedestrian, but they don’t tell the entire story. He’s had at least a half-dozen interceptions dropped, and he’s made some horrific throws at crucial times. In short, I don’t trust him and I don’t trust the Bengals (1-6 SU, 2-5 ATS last seven road games) to be competitive against a Falcons team coming off a humiliating loss at Philadelphia. Plus, Atlanta has won 16 of 19 at home, going 13-6 ATS.

$220 (to win $200) on PATRIOTS (+3) at Chargers: Yes, the Chargers are 2-0 at home (compared with 0-4 on the road). Yes, those two home wins were by an aggregate score of 79-23 (albeit against the Jaguars and Cardinals). And, yes, the Patriots, fresh off a physical overtime home win over the Ravens, must now make the long journey to the West Coast. All valid points. So is this: New England has defeated San Diego three straight times (twice in the playoffs) when Tom Brady has been under center (combined score: Patriots 83, Chargers 47). And then there’s this: Bill Belichick vs. Norv Turner. Enough said.

$110 (to win $100) on IOWA (-5½) vs. Wisconsin: The Big Ten has been my security blanket lately (3-0 the last three weeks), and here we’ve got Wisconsin in a classic letdown spot, traveling to Iowa after stunning top-ranked Ohio State 31-18 at home. The Badgers fell flat in their first conference road game, losing 34-24 at Michigan State. Iowa is riding a three-game winning streak (outscoring the opposition 107-31) and has won its last five in Iowa City (outscoring the opposition 153-17). The Hawkeyes also have had the Badgers’ number, easily winning the last two meetings, and going 6-2 SU and 7-1 ATS in the last eight.

BEST OF THE REST: Alabama (-16½) at Tennessee ($55); Patriots-Chargers OVER 48 ($44); Vikings (+2½) at Packers ($44); Steelers-Dolphins OVER 40 ($33); BYU (-10) vs. Wyoming ($33); Nebraska (-6) at Oklahoma State ($33); Air Force (+19) at TCU ($33).