Fact: Last week, my “best bet” was Mississippi State as a home underdog against Alabama.
Fact: Alabama beat Mississippi State, 24-7.
Fact: Some 96 hours before kickoff, Alabama was laying at least 17½ points at every sports book in town; not only did the line not dip below 17½ the rest of the week, but by the time the game started, the Crimson Tide were as big as a 19-point favorite in some spots.
Fact: By any and all measures, Mississippi State covered the spread … for everyone but me.
Even though this publication doesn’t hit the streets until Thursday, deadline circumstances require me to make my selections and lock in my numbers by mid-afternoon Tuesday, at which point last week Mississippi State was still a consensus 17-point underdog, forcing me to settle for the push.
On the bright side, I hit my next three biggest plays. On the bleak side, I went 1-7 with the rest of my picks, including losing Nevada (14-point win as a 14½-point favorite) and Nebraska (3-point win as a 3½-point favorite).
The 4-7-1 mark netted $147, which I’ll definitely take, considering the disastrous results of the previous week. In that respect, I feel like Tim Tebow: Just win ugly, baby. (Speaking of, I had two more wins than Tebow had completions last week in Denver’s victory at Kansas City. Now excuse me while I go shopping for a Jesus fish to attach to my bumper.)
On to this week’s picks …
$660 (to win $600) on Bears -3½ vs. Chargers: How confident am I in this pick? I’m going to break this bad boy down without even mentioning you-know-who’s name.
The Bears have won (and covered) four in a row; the Chargers have lost (and failed to cover) four in a row. The Bears are 4-1 at home this year (only loss to the unbeaten Packers), including wins by 24, 29 and 18 points; the Chargers are 1-3 on the road, both straight up and against the spread (ATS). The Bears rank fourth in the NFL in turnover margin at plus-9; the Chargers rank 30th at minus-8. The tough, physical Bears run the ball, stop the run and play tremendous special teams; the soft, passive Chargers usually get destroyed at the line of scrimmage and play awful special teams. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has just six interceptions in 283 pass attempts, and only two in his last five games; Chargers QB Philip Rivers has a league-high 15 INTs in 352 pass attempts, throwing eight picks during his team’s four-game losing skid.
Not only are these teams heading in opposite directions, but Chicago is traveling by bullet train, while San Diego is pedaling a tricycle. And then there’s the Norv Turner factor. (Dammit, I almost made it!)
$220 (to win $200) on Packers -13½ vs. Buccaneers: Prior to the season, I recommended playing Tampa Bay “over” eight wins, admitting I was wrong about Bucs QB Josh Freeman. Well, the Bucs head to Green Bay with a 4-5 record, having dropped three straight games by an average of 15 points, thanks in large part to Freeman, who has thrown seven picks during the slide (he threw six all of last season). Um, looks like I was wrong about being wrong about Freeman.
Meanwhile, the Packers have won 15 consecutive regular-season and playoff games, going 12-3 ATS (7-2 this season); they’ve scored 33, 45 and 45 points in their last three games overall; they’re averaging exactly 40 ppg at home, taking the last three by the combined score of 118-33; and their quarterback is a lock to win the MVP award. What else? Oh yeah, I also recommended playing Green Bay “over” 11 wins before the season. You’re welcome.
$110 (to win $100) on Wyoming -24½ vs. New Mexico: If you’re a parent, you know there’s no greater joy than the day when your kid makes it through 24 hours with a clean diaper. “Hallelujah, he’s potty-trained!” Then the next day rolls around, you’re standing in the kitchen and the kid, while looking you right in the eye, bends his knees and makes “that face,” and as he does it, you say it. Well, New Mexico, coming off its first win of the season (a 21-14 upset of UNLV), is about to make “that face” again. Final scores of the Lobos’ four road games: 52-3, 49-7, 69-0, 35-7.
BEST OF THE REST (NFL): Lions -7 vs. Panthers ($66); Cardinals +9½ at 49ers ($55); Lions-Panthers OVER 47½ ($44); Cowboys-Redskins UNDER 41½ ($44).
BEST OF THE REST (COLLEGE): Missouri -17½ vs. Texas Tech ($77); USC +14½ at Oregon ($66); Oklahoma -15 at Baylor ($55); Kansas State +9½ at Texas ($44); Purdue +2½ vs. Iowa ($44).
LAST WEEK’S RESULTS: 4-7-1 (+$147); Bankroll: $6,737.