Mike's Pick (1 Live)
Since his promotion to first-string, rookie QB Will Levis is
Mike's Past Picks
The betting public, taking notice of the Chargers' habitually playing in (and mostly losing) games decided by three points, knocked down this line from 3.5. Such moves are often significant, and this one fit right in. Baltimore excels in projected tight games - i.e., with spreads of three or less -- having gone 3-0 outright this season. More important is a contrast in defenses: Baltimore's is one of the best, L.A.'s among the worst. With Chargers' pass rusher Joey Bosa sent to injured reserve, QB LamarJackson could be afforded extra time in the pocket.
Denver has built a four-game outright win streak in less than dazzling fashion and bumps into the league's foremost defense. Yet Cleveland QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson is a limited passer dealing with high altitude in his initial road start. Counterpart Russell Wilson is not his former self but sports the NFL's best TD/interception ratio. Avoiding turnovers is paramount against the Browns' D. Wilson need only get Denver to 20 points for a probable cover.
The Bucs are kings of the road in ATS terms this season, having covered in all five travel gigs. They were underdogs in each, same as this one. Their last-ranked rushing game might get a lift since Indy's run defense has suffered lately without suspended NT Grover Stewart. On the flip side, an absent lineman -- C Ryan Kelly -- has impact the Colts' ground game. Tampa Bay's run defense is a bragging point for the visitors. The line is 2.5 in most jurisdictions; getting a field goal is the clincher for 'dog lovers.
When the league's worst offenses square off, resulting in a seriously low total, a speed of 4.5 appears inflated. New England has exceeded 20 points scored once all season. Bill Belichick has resorted to subterfuge by not announcing his quarterback, which seems beneath him. Not sure it matters who's behind center anyway. Much has been made of the coach's 24-6 straight-up record against rookie QBs. -- and, make no mistake, Tommy DeVito is a rookie -- but this is no normal Pats team. The Giants are coming off their high-water mark of the year -- 31-19 over Washington -- and should be in more of a fighting mood than New England.
The Rams roll out the red carpet for the return of healed WR Cooper Kupp and RB Kyren Williams, a likely one-two boost for a sputtering offense averaging below 20 ppg. Furthering the Rams' cause is two 'Zona defenders, lineman Leki Fotu and LB Kyzir White, landing on injured reserve this week. A slump of four consecutive ATS losses this season collides with an opposing trend; coach Sean McKay has covered in 12 of 14 meetings with the Cardinals. As much as QB Kyler Murray's grand re-entrance from a long rehab is a positive, they are still the Cards.
Utah State is devastated by injuries -- primarily on offense with the top two quarterbacks questionable and three running backs likely out. New Mexico's QB also is ailing but might get the green light. Both teams could lean on the ground game more than usual, resulting in fewer offensive fireworks than normal. The Lobos' shaky defense was vastly improved last week, which provides another argument in going Under here.
Oddsmakers first posted a total of 27.5, likely figuring anything lower would be driven up by Over wagering. Amazingly, it has plummeted three points to the most minuscule figure in FBS ever by a substantial margin. No doubt Under backers of Hawkeyes games who have collected all year are looking for one last hit in the regular season and have pounded the Under. Every data point cries out for a low score, but defenses and special teams can produce points, too, directly or indirectly. This is a close-your-eyes pick rooted in the simple fact that games ending 14-10 and 17-7 are rare.
Rivalry games sometimes bring spreads that appear reduced because the underdog presumably will find motivation. That's the apparent case here. Strip out the rivalry aspect, and Ole Miss would seem closer to a two-touchdown favorite. The Rebels' lone outright loss I the last seven outings was to No. 1 Georgia. Their typically potent offense averages 35-plus ppg. Underdogs need turnovers for an upset, yet the Rebs have committed just seven, fourth fewest in the land. Underdogs need to control the clock against foes with powerful offenses, but the Bulldogs cannot count on a subpar ground game. They are 3-8 ATS, one of the worst ledgers in FBS.
It takes awhile for the Packers' offense to get revved up. Green Bay ranks 31st in first-half scoring, and the drought could continue without ailing RB Aaron Jones and with injuries to teammates. Detroit does crank up its offense early, but the Pack's defense has become accustomed to starting strongly to account for the offense's early lack of productivity. Sure wish the number were 24 but will take the hook just below two-dozen.
Both teams have banged-up quarterbacks. Kansas' depth at the position gives the visitors an edge. With Jason Daniels out, Jason Bean is experienced and freshman Cole Ballard was effective last Saturday in relief. For Cincinnati, with Emory Jones already gone, ailing second-stringer Brady Lichtenberg might join him on the sidelines. The next option is Brady Drogosh, who has taken three snaps this season. QBs aside, the Bearcats enter on a 1-8 straight-up slide, while Kansas' 7-4 record looks shiny in light of the fact that three conquerors are ranked -- two in the top 10. The Jayhawks are bouncing off an impressive near-upset of Kansas State.
Backup quarterbacks are not always created equal. FSU's Tate Rodemaker, filling in for the injured Jordan Travis, is a redshirt junior experienced enough to have played in 2020. He holds an edge on Florida's Max Brown, a redshirt freshman who is replacing the ailing Graham Mertz and has 12 career passes. More so, the Seminoles (11-0) are seeking a berth in the college football playoffs, whereas the Gators (5-6) will find little motivation in striving for a minor bowl. Underdogs in rivalry matchups are worth considering, but the motivation gap is vast here.
Calling backup quarterbacks.Starters Graham Mertz of Florida and Jordan Travis of FSU almost certainly are out after last Saturday's injuries. Max Brown, a redshirt freshman who had hurled seven passes before replacing Mertz at Missouri, stands in for Mertz. Tate Rodemaker, has mopped up regularly this season, given the Seminoles' many blowouts, but must cope with the pressure of keeping his team in CFB playoff contention. The 'Noles rank 24th in defense among FBS teams and should keep the Mertz-less Gators in the teens.
With its most effective WR, Keenan Allen, cleared to play for L.A. after a week of uncertainty, the gulf between these offenses grows wider. The Packers have displayed a bit of offensive oomph lately, but they still haven't exceeded 20 points scored since mid-September. The Chargers have hurdled the 20-point threshold in five of seven outings during the same span and landed on it once. Green Bay has covered once in the last half-dozen tries. Above all, L.A. is extra-hungry for a win lest its preseason hopes of contending for a Super Bowl berth be dashed.
It's been two years almost to the day since Kansas City laid less than a field goal at home in the regular season. Bonus angle: The Chiefs are coming off a bye, a scenario in which coach Andy Reid is 21-3 straight-up and 15-9 ATS. While the offense with Patrick Mahomes vacuums up most of the praise, it's the K.C. defense that best explains its title contention. It has permitted 15.9 ppg, tied for fewest in the NFL. Philly's has yielded 21.7 ppg. Given the gap, spotting such a small number seems like a bargain.