Last week, I went with the Ravens and nearly got burned, but for the refs allowing Ray Lewis to force a fumble long after the ball-carrier's forward progress was clearly stopped. But as with a suck-out in poker, I'm certainly not going to apologize for it because I'll be on the other end often enough. Actually, I was on the other end because I had the Chiefs (having used the Ravens earlier in the year, I hedged Saints and Chiefs in my two pools). So I wanted the Ravens to lose, but at the same time didn't want to be wrong in this column, so it was a no-win situation. If the Ravens had lost, I would have been down to the final four where I had the Chiefs, and honestly I wish that had happened because it would have illustrated my point that when you avoid the popular pick, you get the biggest payout and ultimately have the best chance to win. In any event, let's take a look at this week's slate:
|Team ||Opponent ||% Picked ||Vegas ML* ||Vegas Odds
|Chiefs||Bills ||50.2%||300 ||75%
|Cowboys||Jaguars ||13.2%||250 ||71.4%
|Jets||Packers ||10.5%||230 ||69.7%
|Patriots||Vikings ||8.6%||250 ||71.4%
|Colts||Texans ||5.8% ||220 ||68.8%
|Rams||Panthers ||5.3% ||135 ||57.4%
|Other||N/A ||6.4 ||N/A ||N/A
*average of the two money lines
1. Dallas Cowboys
Vegas likes the Pats slightly better, though it's a little up in the air with Minnesota's quarterback situation. Still, I prefer the way this game sets up for the Cowboys - they're at home, the playoffs are out of the question (which means no pressure), Tony Romo
's out, and they're facing a weak opponent in Jacksonville. My feeling is Jon Kitna
should be able to manage the game well enough for Dallas' superior talent to take over. I give the Cowboys a 74 percent chance to win this game.
2. Indianapolis Colts
I've used up the Chiefs (who too many people are on) as well as the Cowboys already, and I went with the Colts in my last remaining pool over the Pats. Fewer people are on Indy, but it's marginal and not a reason to take them over New England unless you like their chances to win at least as much. Which I do. The Texans won the first game on the ground, but unless Arian Foster
goes absolutely nuts again, I doubt they'll keep up in Indy, given their terrible pass defense. I give the Colts a 72 percent chance to win this game.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
I'd probably make the Chiefs my top choice if more than 50 percent of pools weren't on them. Essentially everyone who had the Ravens last week will be taking them, and that makes the payout for avoiding them worthwhile. As for their chances to win, I think they'll probably overmatch the Bills defense, and it'll be too much for Ryan Fitzpatrick
to keep up in that hostile environment. But I can't feel too confident about it because Buffalo had no problem keeping up in Baltimore last week. I give the Chiefs a 77 percent chance to win this game.
4. New England Patriots
I'd honestly be more nervous about Tarvaris Jackson
starting than a gimpy Brett Favre
, but either way, Minnesota is easily the more talented and more desperate team. The Pats are at home though, and the disparity at quarterback and at head coach is substantial. I give the Patriots a 70 percent chance to win this game.
New York Jets:
The Jets are one of the league's best teams, but their pass defense has been just average this year, and I don't want to go against Aaron Rodgers
St. Louis Rams:
To me even considering the Rams would be insanity. They're three-point favorites against a Carolina team that has its quarterback back on track and its top wideout back in the fold.