WEEK 8 REPORT:
WINNERS: 7-6 (.538); SEASON: 75-41 (.646)
ATS: 7-6 (.538); SEASON: 61-55 (.526)
ATS BEST BETS: 0-0 (NA); SEASON: 10-11 (.476)
Hmm. Not such a good week last week, but at least I kept it above the .500 line.
One interesting trend that's starting to pick up significance: The spread picks on the 68 games I've rated as better than "Just Guessing" in the first eight weeks have a combined record of .559 against the spread. Thing is, those categories are assigned based on how I feel about the chances of a team winning, not my confidence in a point spread edge.
But if I'd been betting each of those all season, I'd be eight games over .500 and three games ahead of breaking even at 52 percent.
Confident (Week 8: 3-1 winners, .750; 2-2 ATS, .500. Season: 34-9 winners, .791; 23-20 ATS, .534)
Arizona at (-3.5) Tampa Bay (early): Quarterback makes all the difference. The Bucs have one, the Cardinals don't. ATS: Bucs are an underrated team and should manage this one pretty easily.
Carolina at (-4) Tennessee (early): Once again, it's the quarterback. Carolina fans had high hopes that David Carr would find his potential as a former No. 1 overall pick, but it looks like that train left the roundhouse years ago. The Titans, meanwhile, have recaptured their defensive prowess, and Jeff Fisher might just be the best coach in the NFL not named Bill Belichick. ATS:Titans by a TD or more.
San Diego at (+7) Minnesota (early): It's taken them two months to work out the kinks, but the Chargers appear to be on their way to the AFC West title. The Vikings don't have a quarterback. ATS: The Chargers should have enough power to pull away in the second half.
Not Betting the Farm (Week 8: 1-1 winners, .500; 1-1 ATS, .500. Season: 15-10 winners, .600; 15-10 ATS, .600)
Cincinnati at (+1) Buffalo (early): A must-win for the Bengals (and aren't they all at this point?), but it's on the road against a Buffalo team that's becoming increasingly difficult to figure. I'm taking the Bengals, and it's more than a guess, but if the Bills win it may be time to reevaluate their status. ATS: The line has actually reversed on this game, apparently, with the Bengals moving from a two-point road dog to the favorite by a point. This basically a pick-em game, so I'm sticking with the Bengals.
Green Bay at (-1) Kansas City (early): Green Bay is having a good year, and last week's overtime win against the Broncos was memorable. But they're not really that much better than Kansas City, and the Chiefs are at home. ATS: I'm surprised to see this, but apparently the oddsmakers agree with me. If you can get the Chiefs -1, take that.
Washington at (+3.5) N.Y. Jets (early): This should be a Redskins win, but I've put it in this provisional category because the Jets are just a bit dangerous right now and they're at home. ATS: It's difficult for me to have much faith in the Redskins, but I'll hold my nose and take them to cover.
Houston at (-3) Oakland (late): The Raiders are going back to McCown, which is a good move, and they catch the Texans at a banged-up low point. Then again, we are talking about the Raiders, and the Texans really aren't dreadful, so this one comes with a caveat. ATS: Raiders to cover.
New England at (+5.5) Indianapolis (late): I think New England is the best team in football, but if the Patriots are going to lose this season it will be this weekend, on the road, against the 2007 Super Bowl Champions. Peyton Manning is entirely capable of leading an uprising against the Evil Empire of pro football. I still think the Pats win by more than a touchdown, though. ATS: Vegas thinks so, too, which is really no surprise. I said earlier this year that I was going to keep taking the Patriots until they didn't cover, and they've covered every week this season. That's remarkable (hence, my remark).
Dallas at (+3) Philadelphia (SNF): I like Dallas here, but there are several wild cards on the table that give me caution: First, it's a night game in Philly; second, Tony Romo just signed a big franchise deal, and that can be a distraction; and finally, the Andy Reid "drug emporium" story this week could affect the way the Eagles play. That could go either way, but there's at least a 50 percent chance that the team uses the adversity to rally around their well-liked coach. ATS: I'm taking a risk on the Eagles based on the idea that the aforementioned wild cards, plus the prospects of a possible low-scoring game, will keep them close.
Baltimore at (-10) Pittsburgh (MNF): Baltimore is an underachieving team, and age is a factor, just as I speculated it would be this offseason. But when the Ravens are on their game -- and they usually are when they face the Steelers -- they can affect the flow of the Pittsburgh offense. The Steelers are a Top 5 team and I think they'll win this one, but an inspired Ravens' effort could catch them a bit flat. ATS: Ten points is a lot, and McNair is back for the first time in a month. Ravens.
Just Guessing (Week 6: 3-4 winners, .428; 4-3 ATS, .571. Season: 26-23 winners, .531; 21-28 ATS, .428)
Denver at (-3) Detroit (early): I'm not sure how that mediocre Lions' o-line is getting it done, but they've rediscovered the run in the past three weeks, and Kevin Jones' success is slowing down their opponents' pass rush. The resulting offensive statistics are very un-Martz-like, but combine that with an opportunistic defense and veteran leadership by Jon Kitna and you've got a playoff contender. The Broncos are vulnerable to the run, so what once looked like a strength-on-strength matchup (Denver's corners vs. Detroit's wideouts) now seems almost secondary. I'm taking the Lions, but it really depends on who shows up. If Jay Cutler has one of his good games, this one could swing the other way. ATS: What the heck, gimme the Broncos.
Jacksonville at (-3) New Orleans (early): I was hard on Quinn Gray last week, but apparently he's a better player after a week of taking starter-snaps in practice. How will he be on the road at the Superdome? Hard to say. What I can say is that Drew Brees and Marques Colston finally got things rolling last week, and even though the Jaguars have excellent cornerbacks, I think the Saints stand a good chance of keeping the Jags off-balance on defense. Jacksonville can win if it stays close, but if the Saints get out to an early lead, look out. ATS: Saints, again.
San Francisco at (-3) Atlanta (early): The 49ers have been winless since opening 2-0 and losing two of their three offensive stars to injury. Alex Smith and Vernon Davis finally got back on the field together last week, and this week could be the game when the 49ers finally put together decent stats under their new, struggling offensive coordinator. Then again, if they play like they've been playing, this one will be low scoring and anything could happen. ATS: Wow. Vegas has the Falcons as a three-point favorite. I'm sticking with the 49ers.
Seattle at (-1) Cleveland (late): Conventional wisdom says the Seahawks are the better team because they've been good for a longer time. But conventional wisdom sucks. Seattle has a mediocre football team with flashes of adequacy, while Cleveland is a young team that's showing signs of playing consistently well under Derek Anderson, who apparently signed a free-agent contract with Satan after Week 1. I'm taking the Browns, but I understand that this is exactly the kind of game that improving young teams often blow. ATS: What do I know from conventional wisdom? Apparently Vegas sees this a lot like I do, making the Browns a slight favorite at home. OK by me.
BEST BETS: Bucs, Titans, Chargers, 49ers.
Open dates: Chicago, Miami, N.Y. Giants, St. Louis