Last week, I wound up taking the Vikings (indecisiveness kept me away from the Niners on Thursday night and a sense that more people would be on the Patriots than the early polling showed kept me off the Pats), but nearly everyone made it through. Let's take a look at this week's slate:
Home Team in CAPS
* according to OfficeFootballPools.com
** average of the two moneylines
In East Coast Offense I wrote that the Bears and the Packers were essentially equal choices because the Bears offered exactly enough of a payout to compensate their backers for the added risk of not taking Green Bay. But that was with 62 percent of pools on the Packers, only 12 percent on the Bears, and with the Packers considered 90 percent to win that game. The actual moneyline came out today, and it looks like Green Bay is priced a little higher - closer to 92 percent. The Bears bumped up, too, to 78 percent.
When you re-do the calculations with these numbers, the Bears are riskier by a 22:8 ratio (2.75), while the payout (39 remaining rather than 87) is 2.23 percent greater. So the Packers are the better value than the Bears.
1. Green Bay Packers - This is one of the biggest favorites you'll ever see, nearly 92 percent. The Jaguars have no consistency in their passing game, are without Maurice Jones-Drew and are not even league average on defense. The Packers meanwhile are playing as well as anyone in the league and are at home. We give Green Bay a 92 percent chance to win this game.
2. Chicago Bears - If you think your pool will go crazy and go up to 70 or 80 percent Packers, then it's worth fading them in light of the monstrous payout. In that case, the Bears are probably the safest play at home against the Panthers. Carolina is a desperate team, and Cam Newton is an unconventional quarterback, but Chicago's defense is so sound this year, and Carolina's most assuredly is not. We give the Bears a 77 percent chance to win this game.
3. New England Patriots - New England could very easily have lost at home to the Jets last week, and the Rams are a similar challenge with a solid defense, a shutdown corner and an offense that's improving as it figures out who its key players are. But the Patriots and Jets know each other's tendencies pretty well, and New England's unconventional looks should be more of a challenge for the Rams. We give the Patriots a 73 percent chance to win this game.
4. Denver Broncos - The Saints are always dangerous given their quarterback and offensive system, but New Orleans defense is so terrible it's hard to imagine it slowing down the Broncos at any point. Moreover, even last year when the Saints were elite, they struggled outdoors on the road. We give the Broncos a 71 percent chance to win this game.
Minnesota Vikings - They didn't look good against the Cardinals last week, and the Bucs defend the run well, the key to stopping the Vikings. Moreover Josh Freeman has quietly put up 8.2 YPA, 11 TDs and only five picks on the year.