Besides being a “dog-or-pass” bettor in Las Vegas, I’m a huge proponent of contest play.
Whether big ones in Vegas or online or even smaller office pools, contests are a great way to maximize your winnings when you’re having the season of your life or bail you out in an otherwise losing season by winning a big weekly prize. Favorites dominated NFL Week 8 at 8-5 ATS (against the spread), so it wasn’t my week. I didn’t cash in any small pools and went 3-2 or 2-3 in most of my big Vegas contests and, unfortunately, 2-3 here in The Times.
However, we’re undeterred. Parity is alive and well, as underdogs are still 59-44-2 ATS (57.3%) for the season. Double-digit underdogs have gone 3-0 ATS the last two weeks: the Bengals +10.5 vs. the Ravens in Week 6 and the Dolphins +17 vs. the Bills plus the Redskins +10 vs. the 49ers in Week 7. So, yes, even the ugliest of dogs have been cashing, and we have plenty to choose from this week.
One final note for L.A. fans: I’m not touching the Chargers-Bears, as I don’t trust either team right now.
Bengals +13 vs. Rams in London
The Bengals are 0-7, and most people are rushing to fade them. But they’re actually a respectable 3-4 ATS and have been competitive in five games, including leading 10-9 against the Jaguars last week heading into the fourth quarter. The Rams certainly looked better last week in routing the Falcons 37-10 to snap their three-game losing streak, but I think it’s a stretch to expect them to win by two full touchdowns again, and you never know how teams are going to perform in London.
Giants +7 at Lions
The Giants let down a lot of bettors in their 27-21 loss to the Cardinals in Week 7 — and were the No. 1 choice in the Westgate SuperContest and Circa Sports Million contests here in Vegas — so a lot of people are trashing them. But I think that’s giving us value here, getting a full touchdown. Granted, Daniel Jones has come back to earth after his ballyhooed start, and the 28th-ranked defense is still atrocious. But the Lions shouldn’t be this big a favorite. As improved as they are, they’re still 2-3-1 and ranked No. 31 in total defense, giving up the same exact 26.7 points per game the Giants allow. The Lions’ offense is better, but not by a touchdown, plus the Lions haven’t beaten anyone by more than three this season.
Cardinals +10.5 at Saints
The Saints have won and covered Teddy Bridgewater’s five starts since replacing the injured Drew Brees, and most people are saying they’re not going to fade them anymore. But I’m not most people. I believe we’re finally seeing where they’re being overrated. Yes, I know the Saints are the far superior team, but the Cardinals have been pesky underdogs at 5-1 ATS in that role this season. The last time they were double-digit road underdogs was Week 2 at Baltimore, and they lost only 23-17. That looks good to me.
Browns +13 at Patriots
I’m still recovering from the Patriots giving me no hope in their 33-0 rout of the Jets on Monday night, when I had the Jets here and in all my big contests. But the silver lining is the opening line for this game was Pats -10, and now we’re getting another field goal. The Browns have performed well below their lofty expectations at 2-4 SU (straight up) and ATS, and I’ve been happy to fade them a couple of times. But this reminds me of their game vs. the Ravens in Week 4, when everyone was writing them off but they played their best game in a 40-25 rout. I don’t expect an outright upset like that, as there’s clearly a coaching mismatch, but the Browns’ best effort should get us the cover.
Dolphins +14 at Steelers
The Dolphins are arguably the worst team in the NFL, but they’ve been playing hard and covered the last two weeks vs. the Redskins and Bills. Ryan Fitzpatrick has made them relatively competitive and should keep them within two touchdowns of the Steelers, who have won by more points than this spread only against the lowly Bengals. Should they really be favored by 14 points even with Mason Rudolph returning from concussion protocol?
LAST WEEK IN THE TIMES: 2-3.
SEASON (SuperContest): 20-15.
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