Look for surging Browns to lead pack of ’dogs

I should’ve known. The second I submitted last week’s column patting myself on the back for a positive October, I should’ve known the Gambling Gods would unleash their fury on me—and do so cruelly.

To recap: My big play was the Falcons ($660) as an 8½-point favorite against the Buccaneers, and late in the third quarter Atlanta made a field goal to push a 10-point lead to 13. Good for us, right? Wrong. Tampa Bay took the ensuing kickoff back 89 yards for a touchdown, and those proved to be the final points of a game the Falcons won 27-21.

So instead of going 4-2-1 for a net gain of $545, I ended up 3-3-1 with a net loss of $715—dropping my bankroll to $4,636—all because our kicker made a field goal.

Then again, I didn’t do myself any favors by backing UNLV. Facing a BYU team that hadn’t scored more than 25 points in a game all season, the Rebels gave up the first 55 points in a 55-7 road loss (and somewhere Rory Reid smiled, having gotten off the hook for most lopsided local defeat of the week).

On to this week’s picks …

$440 (to win $400) on BROWNS (+3) vs. Jets: New York hits the road for the second straight week and fifth time in the last seven games. In their last two trips, the Jets did their best David Copperfield impersonation, escaping in the last minute at Denver (24-20) and in overtime last week at Detroit (23-20). In between were a bye week and a 9-0 home loss to Green Bay. Now the Jets fly to Cleveland to face the resurgent Browns, who are coming off consecutive blowout victories over the Patriots (34-14) and Saints (30-17).

Cleveland has been one of the best point-spread teams in the NFL recently, going 11-4 against the spread (ATS) in its last 15 games overall and 9-3 ATS in its last 12 as an underdog. Put it this way: If the Broncos and Lions can hang with the Jets, so can the Browns, who are gaining confidence about as rapidly as Heidi Montag gains cup sizes.

$220 (to win $200) on MISSISSIPPI STATE (+13½) at Alabama: Nick Saban’s ego is such that the Alabama coach probably believes he could solve world hunger, hunt down Osama bin Laden and resurrect Mel Gibson’s career, all in the span of 48 hours. Well, let’s see how the “Nicktator” gets his team to respond after last week’s 24-21 loss at LSU officially ended the Crimson Tide’s dream of back-to-back national championships.

Remember, a month ago Alabama followed up its first regular-season loss in 2½ years with a sluggish 23-10 home win over mediocre Ole Miss as a 20-point favorite. Now the Tide face a solid Mississippi State (7-2) squad that’s riding a six-game winning streak since consecutive losses to Auburn (17-14) and LSU (29-7). Alabama is playing for the 10th straight week and has now failed to cover in three of its last four contests. Also, the road team is on a 7-2 ATS roll in this rivalry.

$110 (to win $100) on SAN DIEGO STATE (+27) at TCU: I regret not playing TCU last week about as much as the Republican Party regrets the Sharron Angle Experiment. I really liked the Horned Frogs against Utah but got spooked by the fact they were laying points on the road against a team that was 8-0 and had won 21 straight at home. Of course, TCU raced out to a 40-0 lead and rolled 47-7. So why fade the Frogs now? Because they’re in a classic “flat spot,” and because the Aztecs are pretty good.

San Diego State sits at 7-2, the only blemishes being controversial three-point losses at BYU and Missouri, and although they will face the nation’s stingiest defense in this one, the Aztecs have scored at least 24 points in all but one game this season. San Diego State is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games overall and 6-2 ATS in its last eight as an underdog, and with TCU having covered in three straight and four of its last five, you know this point spread is inflated.

BEST OF THE REST: Texans-Jaguars OVER 50 ($55); South Carolina (+6½) at Florida ($44); Bengals (+8) at Colts ($33); Minnesota (+21) at Illinois ($33); Bills (-3) vs. Lions ($33); Oklahoma State (-6) at Texas ($33).

Suggested Next Read

The November Nine


The November Nine

By Gary Trask

It’s the Super Bowl of poker, affectionately referred to as the November Nine. It will draw thousands of rabid poker fans to the Rio hotel-casino’s Penn & Teller Theater beginning Nov. 6, and thousands more will get shut out because of the limited seating, causing a spectacle much like a heavyweight boxing match.