I want to begin this week's Best Bets column — coming to you two days early, because the Texans play on a Thursday night, by the way — by saluting a great American (I'm assuming he's American, he may be from Zimbabwe, for all I know) that Action Network's Darren Rove has anointed the Kid Parlay King. Check out this inspirational, overwhelmingly improbable gambling story:
My best "long shot parlay" story took place back in early 2009, on the day of the AFC and NFC conference title games. I put $10 on an eight-leg parlay that included the side and total of both title games, a college basketball game, and three NHL games. (Yeah, NHL games — don't ask, it was a dark time for me!) $10 would end up paying me $5,707 (yes, there were a LOT of underdogs in there), and my signature moment involved me standing on the bar at Jake's Philly Steaks screaming "RUN, YOU MAGNIFICENT SON OF A BITCH!" to Troy Polamalu as this pick six helped hit the side and over in the AFC title game:
But I am small potatoes compared to the Kid Parlay King. I am his court jester. Still, to this day, I plan to hug Troy Polamalu if I ever meet him on Super Bowl Radio Row. Now onto this week's games....
TEXANS -4 over Colts
Yeah, you're reading this correctly. I am jumping in both feet first with the Texans, even after that inexcusable debacle in Baltimore on Sunday, and in spite of the fact that the Colts have beaten them three times in a row (two in NRG Stadium), and in spite of Jacoby Brissett's 4-0 record against the Texans. In fact, the last time Brissett faced the Texans on a Thursday night, he was a rookie in New England, and he beat Brock Osweiler, 27-0. The general rule of thumb is, when a team loses by 28 or more, you back them the following week. That's all I'm doing here. I think Deshaun Watson and the Texans bounce back in what is the latest "biggest game of the year" for Bill O'Brien.
TITANS -3 over Jaguars
The Jags got their first taste of Nick Foles as their full time starter, going beginning to end of an NFL game, and it did not taste good at all. The Colts stomped the Jags 33-13, which means, in their last two games, the Jags have lost by a combined score of 59-16 to two hated division rivals. Now comes the Titans' chance to complete the trifecta, and coming off a bye week, no less. The Colts had TWO running backs each go for over 100 yards on the Jags and their "fake tough guy" defense. I'm imagining Derrick Henry going for about 175 yards on 20 carries. Titans by 10.
BROWNS -10.5 over Dolphins
My days of backing the Dolphins (three weeks in a row!) end sadly this weekend. The Dolphins had a little "non tanking" mojo there for a couple of weeks, with wins over the Redskins and Colts, but the bubble burst in a big way against Buffalo on Sunday, and now they have to travel to a cold weather venue to face the suddenly resurgent Cleveland Browns, who have won two in a row, and whose schedule the rest of the way is actually conducive to a run at a wild card spot in the playoffs. The Dolphins turn back into the "tanking Dolphins" this Sunday.
Steelers -6.5 over BENGALS
Yes, this week, I am preying on the dregs of the league. First, the Dolphins and now the winless, hapless, hopeless Bengals. The Steelers sit at 5-5 with a real shot at a wild card berth, so every win is necessary. Mike Tomlin has generally coached some pretty inspired football when his team's back is against the wall. The Steelers have a few extra days rest after playing on Thursday night the previous week, and the Bengals are still rolling with rookie Ryan Finley at quarterback, against a fearsome Steeler pass rush. I think covering a touchdown here is very doable.
FALCONS -4.5 over Buccaneers
Man, in the standings, these are two teams that are going nowhere and tied with each other at 3-7 in the NFC South. I left Atlanta for dead a few weeks ago when they sat at 1-7, and Dan Quinn was all but fired as the head coach. However, a funny thing happened the last two weeks — the Falcons accomplished this little feat:
Look, when they were losing games, the Falcons were never viewed in the same light as, say, the Dolphins, Bengals, or Redskins, who are three teams in true rebuilding disarray. They were viewed as a talented team, who might have quit on their head coach. Now that they clearly haven't quit, then I choose to see them as a talented team, who just covered big road spreads against division foes, and now head back HOME to face the worst team in their division. I love this spread being under a touchdown.
JETS +4.5 over Raiders
The Raiders are a surprising 6-4 on the season, and I have to admit that Jon Gruden has done a much better job than I had anticipated coaching this team. That said, this feels like a letdown spot for them, coming off three straight home games, and heading across the country to play a suddenly sneaky Jets team the week BEFORE a battle for divisional supremacy with the Chiefs. I think the Jets may win this one outright. Feels like classic schizo Raider spot here.
LAST WEEK: 2-4
SEASON NFL ATS RECORD: 32-34 (48.5 percent)