I’m going to take my first stab at writing NFL handicaps thanks to some encouragement from my good buddy, OutKick’s Geoff Clark. I have been a regular guest on Geoff’s podcast (OutKick Bets with Geoff Clark) this season and so far have compiled a 18-5 record betting on the NFL.
Because of that, I’m going to start writing them down. That can only mean that negative regression is coming, of course, so tail at your own peril. Then again, I’m winning at a 78% clip on the season, so fade at your own peril, as well.
I have several picks this week that I’ll break into a few different articles. Let’s start with two spread bets I like Sunday, and both are underdogs. All lines are from DraftKings Sportsbook at the time of writing.
Indianapolis Colts +5.5 over New England Patriots
UPDATE: Since posting, the Colts have ruled Jonathan Taylor OUT with an injury. This doesn’t affect my handicap, and in fact might even get you a better number. Deon Jackson will be fine in his absence.
Admittedly, this is a frightening bet. We’ve got Patriots head coach Bill Belichick going up against what is essentially a rookie quarterback. Yes, Sam Ehlinger is a second-year player but he started his first game last week and threw his first NFL pass in the contest.
Ehlinger did enough to win the game. And, he got better as the game went on. In the first half, the Colts punted three times, kicked a field goal and Ehlinger lost a fumble. But in the second half, he led the team on three scoring drives, two field goals and a touchdown, and it would have been a fourth but Jonathan Taylor fumbled in Washington territory.
The defense gave up a late touchdown and the Colts lost by a point. Not the best game by any means, but the Patriots are coming off an unimpressive win over Zach Wilson and the Jets.
While Wilson certainly has a higher ceiling than Ehlinger, he played terrible last week — much worse than Ehlinger. Wilson completed less than half of his passes against New England (20 of 41) and threw three interceptions. And the Jets still lost by just five points. Which, coincidentally, is the line on this game.
Colts Defense Finally Getting Healthy
Mac Jones was sacked six times against the Jets and Indianapolis will get 2021 first-round pick edge rusher Kwity Paye back this week. Shaq (formerly Darius) Leonard finally returned last week and made a huge impact with an interception — and that was while only playing 40 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He should get a more full compliment of looks this week.
This is the healthiest the Colts defense has been all season. For that reason, the total is just 39.5 points and honestly I lean toward that under. But in a low-scoring game where I’m getting 5.5 points against Mac Jones with a healthy Colts defense, I’ll take it.
Not to mention, even though the Patriots are at home, fans are clamoring for backup quarterback Bailey Zappe. Jones will be under a lot of pressure early in the game and the Foxboro crowd will turn on him in a heartbeat. That could easily lead to some big mistakes, especially against former Patriots star cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who will be motivated in this contest.
As far as line movement, this was a pick’em game preseason was still pick’em prior to Week 8. The switched to Ehlinger over Matt Ryan, lost to Washington and fired their offensive coordinator, while the Patriots beat an overrated Jets team. That’s too much of an overcorrection. This should be a 3-point line, so I’ll take the extra 2.5, thanks.
Detroit Lions +3.5 over Green Bay Packers
Maybe I’m just tired of the Packers screwing me over. They knocked me out of my survivor pool with their loss to the Jets. Then, they got a gross backdoor cover last week against Buffalo. But they’ve lost four in a row, did nothing to get better at the deadline and missed out on adding Chase Claypool. With all the rumors about Aaron Rodgers considering retirement and trying to get out of Green Bay this past offseason, he just seems like he’s done with the Packers. And they don’t seem committed to making the team much better around him.
Rodgers has historically been a lot worse in domes than he has been outdoors, at least as far as wins and losses. Of course, that’s because he plays his home games outdoors and most quarterbacks and teams are better at home than on the road. But Rodgers has always benefitted from having a strong arm that could cut through tough weather, giving him and the Packers a massive advantage over weaker quarterbacks.
Rodgers has a 69% winning percentage in 178 career outdoor games. In domes, he’s just 17-16. But he dominate at Ford Field against the lowly Lions, right? Wrong. Rodgers is 2-2 in Detroit over the past four seasons and the Packers are 0-4 against-the-spread in those games. Green Bay hasn’t covered in Detroit in any of the past five seasons.
Detroit hung tough against Miami last week and the Dolphins are better than the Packers, who don’t have nearly the weapons on offense. According to VSIN, the bets are split exactly 50/50 between the teams, but 70% of the money is on the Lions. They’re the sharp side for a reason.
Backing Underdogs in the NFL is Not for the Faint of Heart
Yes, I understand that we’re taking Sam Ehlinger over Bill Belichick and Jared Goff over Aaron Rodgers. But that’s exactly how the public thinks. They look at these matchups and they follow the known commodities. In this case, we’re going to fade the public and take the points.
It’s not easy to do, but winning never is.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ