We were so close to 3-0 last week but ended up 2-1. Beggars can’t be choosers though so we’ll take the two wins as we claw our way back towards .500 (13-16) at about the halfway point of the season. Last week, I recommended fading my picks. If you did so, you would’ve lost money yet again, so maybe I should tack on another loss for giving bad advice there. Let’s take a quick look at last week’s picks so I can gas myself up and get overly confident before making more picks this week.
Patriots +3.0 1st Half: We had a couple of opportunities to make this a winner and I thought we were done for after a failed drive with about three minutes left in the half. Luckily, Justin Herbert threw an interception and gave us a chance to cover the spread. It wasn’t a 45-0 blowout like last year, but we’ll take the win however we can get it.
Bengals over 13.5 1st Half: First and foremost, I should apologize for all the Mike White slander. Mike White came out and proved to the world that he isn’t just my childhood friend’s dad. Regardless, the Bengals managed to overcome getting stuffed on the goal line and go over the first-half total to give us another win.
Bears/49ers under 20.0 1st Half: So close to a perfect afternoon here. I really thought the Bears could get a stop and keep the total at 19, but Jimmy G connected with Deebo Samuel on a deep ball and the 49ers kicked a last-second field goal to hit the over. They can’t all be winners so I’ll settle for two wins this week.
Now, let’s get to some picks.
Browns @ Bengals First Half O/U
The past few weeks the first half under has come back to hit me with a couple of losses after being so good to me at the beginning of the season. If I have one redeeming quality though, it’s self-awareness. I’m so self-aware, that I can acknowledge when I’m making a mistake and not learn from it at all. I don’t like to say this is my pick of the year, month, century, millennium, or whatever, but I do really love this pick. Odell Beckham Jr. is out for the Browns after being released and Baker Mayfield does seem like the type to play the game of his life out of pure spite, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take for my beloved first-half unders.
This game is going to FLY. This entire game may be finished before the rest of the games start the second half. The Browns run the ball just as much as anyone, keeping the clock moving and eating clock. On top of that, it’s a solid run game that can pick up first downs and isn’t constantly turning the ball over. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt remain out, and while D’Ernest Johnson has looked like a good runner, he isn’t quite as explosive as those other two which should limit potential huge plays. The Bengals like to throw the ball, and they typically have success doing so, but for some reason, they hate offense. They’re methodical and huddle up between every play and let the clock burn. If I had an offense with Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, along with those other receivers, I’d try to let them run as many plays as possible. For whatever reason Zac Taylor wants to keep it slow and that’s okay because it’s good for the under. There’s not much more to this pick, but it is worth noting both the Bengals and Browns have struggled in the red zone this season, particularly in the first half. According to Warren Sharp’s successful play metric, the Bengals run successful plays in the red zone just 36% of the time, while the Browns are slightly higher at about 44%. 23.5 first-half points feels way too high here; with the length of the drives and the pace of play, just one red zone field goal or turnover could be enough to keep this game under.
Side note that has no basis in logic, but matters in my brain: The Bengals announced they’ll be wearing all black this weekend. They may win this game by a billion. Let’s hope all of the points come in the second half.
Pick: UNDER 23.5 1st Half (-110, Fanduel Sportsbook)
Bills @ Jaguars First Half Spread
Welcome back to another episode of “Jake Makes a Sucker Bet” presented by QBList.com. I have no idea how somebody hasn’t told me to stop doing this yet because it’s really another case of me not learning from my mistakes, but I’m gonna do it anyway. The Bills are a weird team in that they’ve absolutely dominated some teams like the Texans, Dolphins, and Football Team (20+ point victories), but they’ve also been in some slugfests like the first half of their game against the Dolphins last week or week one against the Steelers. I see this as a bounceback game for the Bills where they pull away early and aren’t tied after the first half like last week.
I try not to call myself “a writer” because I just make bad gambling picks on the internet and have little other qualifications. I have an accounting degree and an expired lifeguard certification, but I don’t know that those qualify me as a writer. Regardless, anyone who’s been hired to write about this game can find a million reasons why the Bills will win. The Jaguars are as dysfunctional as they come, and the Bills look like the favorites out of the AFC. Josh Allen is playing at an MVP level, and the defense is sharp. The biggest reason I think this game can get out of hand in a hurry is the Bills’ defensive line. They use their entire roster and rotate guys in and out to keep them fresh, leading to the highest “havoc rate” in the league (more on havoc rate here). Trevor Lawrence has struggled against pressure this year, shown by his passer rating of just 52.3 compared to an okay 84.6 in a clean pocket. The game should play at a pretty quick pace, the Jaguars are insistent on going fast and giving the ball back to their opponents as quickly as possible, so we should get a few possessions to get points on the board early for Buffalo.
Pick: Bills -7.5 First Half (-110, Fanduel Sportsbook)
Cardinals @ 49ers First Half Spread
Not to be cliché, but everyone should have rules they live by. Be nice to others, live in the moment, bet the Cardinals when they’re getting points. I’m sure you’re all very familiar with these age-old adages and don’t need me to spell it out for you, but that’s what I’m paid to do so here we are. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m taking the Cardinals. Arizona is 7-1 and has played really good football, the 49ers are 3-4 and have played not-so-good football. It’s been quarterback-by-committee for San Francisco with Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, and as they say, “if you’ve got two quarterbacks, you’ve got none”. Neither guy has been particularly impressive and it looks to be Jimmy G’s team this week whose ceiling is about as high as Harry Potter’s.
I’m writing this on Friday before a quarterback decision has been made for the Cardinals, so this line could move a lot depending on who lines up under center. Kyler Murray was hobbled at the end of last week’s Thursday night game, but the extra rest has given him time to recover and he could be good to go. There’s concern about Kyler’s mobility if he is the starter, but I’m not overly worried. These two teams have already matched up once this season, a 17-10 Cardinals victory. In that game, Murray was largely left in the pocket as he ran the ball seven times for just one yard, although that number is a little suppressed by a few kneel-downs to kill the clock, but he wasn’t doing much damage with his legs anyways. With a healthy Kyler Murray, the Cardinals are four or five-point favorites in this game. If Murray can’t go, it’s Colt McCoy, who I still think can manage this game this to at least a tight first half. As I said, it’s really simple: take the Cardinals when they’re getting points. I call myself a sucker pretty frequently in these write-ups, but I’ll contend that this is the right pick 100 times out of 100, regardless of the outcome.
Pick: Cardinals +2.5 First Half (-115, Fanduel Sportsbook)
Featured Image by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)