Last week, we followed up our first undefeated week of the season with a thoroughly average and unremarkable 3-3 week, which included a couple of my worst handicaps of the year (Memphis +10.5 against Mizzou, 49ers +11 against the Rams... yuck.) So this week, we try to get back to our winning ways.
One sort of uncharted future trend in the NFL that will be interesting to watch are these teams that are selling off players at the trade deadline like it's a flea market or something — looking at you Raiders and Giants! The NFL's trade deadline had forever been just some innocuous date on the calendar that just came and went uneventfully, but in the last couple seasons, we've seen more and more NFL teams treating it like the NBA and MLB creates their deadlines.
REAL deals are getting done, and more than that, teams with no chance at making the postseason are entertaining any and all trade offers. They're trading core players or disappointing young players for future draft picks, figuring "Hey, let's get something for these guys, since (a) they're not really helping us, (b) we're going nowhere, and/or (c) we really don't want to pay them on their next deal."
The ripple effect there is that there are still several dozen players left behind in that locker room that get the message loud and clear from management — WE ARE TANKING. Let's see how that plays out in Oakland and New York, and let's see what other teams join in the tankalicious fun. Could be some easy money for us these coming weeks once the deadline has passed. Let's get to the games....
Wake Forest +2.5 over LOUISVILLE
Truth be told, neither of these teams have really beaten anybody, with Wake's three wins over Tulane, Towson, and Rice, and Louisville's two wins over Indiana State and a three-point win over Western Kentucky (as a three- touchdown favorite). It just so happens that I believe very little in Louisville. I think it's a team and a program on the verge of implosion, and any time there's a match-up where you have one of the worst teams in college football at defending the run (Louisville is 122nd out of 130 FBS schools) against an up tempo team that LOVES to run the football (Wake is 30th in rushing offense), that feels like one of those recipes for a cover, regardless of venue.
Iowa +7 over PENN STATE
While these two teams are ranked next to each other in the AP poll, from a handicapping standpoint, I view them very differently. First, I think there's a huge coaching mismatch, with my nod going to Kirk Ferentz over James Franklin, whose strange decision making has been magnified in close games this season, against Ohio State (running the ball on 4th and five in the waning moments) and against Indiana last week (calling a time out before an onside kick that nearly cost Penn State the game in the final minute). Iowa has covered three straight games, the last two fairly comfortably. The Hawkeye defense is one of the most stout in the country, fifth in the country in scoring defense, and Penn State just hasn't been the same team since blowing that fourth quarter lead to the Buckeyes a few weeks ago.
MISSOURI -7 over Kentucky
One thing Missouri can do (provided they're not playing Alabama on the road) is score points. I learned that the hard way last week, when I took Memphis to cover in Columbia against Mizzou. I should have taken the over instead, as Missouri hung 65 themselves on Memphis in that game. Now Kentucky comes to town, with flickering, long shot hopes of a playoff spot still on the line. This is a classic "look ahead" spot here for the Wildcats, with Georgia on the docket for them next week. Kentucky gets things done one way (and one way only) offensively, and that's running Benny Snell a few dozen times. If Missouri gets a lead in this game early, no chance Kentucky comes back, Mizzou is covering. I'll back Drew Lock here.
Eagles -2.5 over Jaguars (in London)
I saw what all of you saw in watching the Jags against the Texans this past weekend — a team on the verge of implosion. There was a starting quarterback yanked (deservedly so) from the game, there was infighting on the sidelines (and in the locker room, reportedly) between players and coaches, and a team dealing with adversity about as well as an entitled toddler. Both of these teams are 3-4, so this is a desperation situation. Philly, despite a catastrophic collapse at home to Carolina last week, feels like the team more capable of righting the ship. The Jags may very well be the "old Jags" (read: mediocre at very best) again. When I love a favorite, the spread being under a field goal makes me even more excited. Philly here.
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Saints/VIKINGS OVER 52
Both of these teams got off to rocky starts to the season, but both seem to have straightened things out. This is a rematch of one of the flukiest finishes in NFL history, the divisional round playoff game won by the Vikings on Case Keenum's prayer to Stefon Diggs that sent the Vikings to be slaughtered in Philadelphia the next week. I don't know how that factors in, and I'm not sure which side to take, so here is one thing I do know —- there will be points... lost and LOTS of points. Both of these offenses are in the upper half of the league in passing DVOA (Saints 4th, Vikings 13th) and in the bottom half of the league in DVOA pass defense (Saints 30th, Vikings 19th). This will be a thoroughly entertaining Sunday night game, so sit back, watch the fireworks, and cash in.
Packers +10.5 over RAMS
Yeah, I know, I know... I told you to bet against the Rams last weekend, catching 11 points taking the 49ers, and that ended (really, REALLY) poorly. However, Aaron Rodgers is not C.J. Beathard. This is the most points that a Rodgers-quarterbacked team has been catching in the history of EVER. I'm willing to back the most talented QB on earth getting double digits, even against the undefeated Rams. If anything, the Rams' being undefeated here puts a bigger target on them.
Last Week: 3-3
Season Record: 27-20-1 (57.4 percent)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.