Last week I went with the Falcons, and it wasn't pretty as Tampa was knocking on the door in the closing minutes down six. On the other hand if you had the Packers, Giants and Saints, you made it through completely stress free. But in the end, the Falcons did stop the Bucs from scoring, and the Vikings and Jets pulled out comeback wins, so there wasn't much damage done - except for a few people who had the Pats in Cleveland.
This week, there's one slam dunk choice in the Giants, but if you've used them up, it gets interesting. Here's how the numbers shake out:
|Team ||Opponent ||% Picked ||Vegas ML* ||Vegas Odds
|Buccaneers||Panthers ||54.3%||255 ||71.8%
|Giants||Cowboys ||29.2%||562.5 ||84.9%
|Colts||Bengals ||8.1%||310 ||75.6%
|49ers||Rams ||3.3%||240 ||70.6%
|Jets||Browns ||1.3% ||165 ||62.3%
|Eagles||Redskins ||1.2% ||165 ||62.3%
|Cardinals||Seahawks ||1.2% ||165 ||62.3%
|Bills||Lions ||0.8% ||130 ||56.5%
|Steelers||Patriots ||0.3% ||205 ||67.2%
|Other||N/A ||0.3% ||N/A ||N/A
*average of the two money lines
1. New York Giants
I don't really need to explain this. The Giants are easily the biggest favorite on the board, but less than 30 percent of the pool is on them. That makes them the best bang for the buck easily. Of course, Dallas still has talent and a new coach, and they're a wounded animal facing a bitter rival - maybe that's why the money line is so low (less than 85 percent) despite the 14-point line (often translates to 88 percent). I'll split the difference and give the Giants an 86 percent chance to win this game.
2. Indianapolis Colts
If I had used up the Giants, the Colts would be my clear pick at home coming off the road loss to the Eagles. The Bengals are no doormat - they might have beaten the Steelers if Mike Nugent could make a field goal, but that was at home, and winning in Indy will be a tall order for a team with injuries in the secondary. I give the Colts a 75 percent chance to win this game.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
Here's where it gets interesting. If you've used up the Colts and Giants as I have, then you really have two choices in my opinion: (1) the Steelers at home against the Pats; or (2) the 49ers at home against the Rams. What about the Bucs home against the Panthers, you might ask? More than half your pool is probably on the Bucs, and they're not a good team. I realize they're playing perhaps the worst team in the league, and I'd give them slightly better odds to win than either Pittsburgh or San Fran. (Vegas has them at 71.8%, the Niners at 70.6% and the Steelers at 67.2%). In other words, the odds are pretty close, but the payout is vastly different. If the Bucs go down, more than half your pool dies with them, and you'll be very happy to be sitting on the Steelers or Niners if they win. If one of those two go down, it won't be a big deal - almost no one will be taking them, so if you take the Bucs you'll still be stuck with most of your pool remaining next week. All that said, I'm going Steelers over Niners because I think the difference between Pittsburgh and New England is a little bigger than the one between the San Fran and St. Louis. The Steelers are better on offense and defense than the Pats so far, and New England hasn't found a vertical threat in the passing game to replace Randy Moss
. I give the Steelers a 70 percent chance to win this game.
4. San Francisco 49ers
Coming off the bye, I think the Niners will hold serve at home. They'll stuff the run, and I don't think the Rams 31st-ranked YPA offense will get enough done to win the game. I give the 49ers a 69 percent chance to win this game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
I explained why I don't like the Bucs above. I think Vegas' number (71.8%) for them is about right, and if that's the case, it's a mistake to take them over the 49ers or Steelers given the pool distribution and hence pot odds.
New York Jets:
They were life and death in Detroit last week, and now they go to Cleveland to face a Browns squad that just beat the Saints and Patriots. No thanks.
They have a Monday night road game against a division rival coming off a bye and that beat them earlier in the year.