NFL Betting: Healthy Detroit Lions Can Spread Christmas Cheer

Yes, the biggest event of the NFL season came and went last week, and virtually no-one noticed it apart from all the networks, media covering the league, and social media all over America. Attracting a level of coverage previously available only for arrests or affairs engaged in by NFL players, the on-field debut of Johnny Manziel was something like the second-coming of Tim Tebow, except when you say second-coming and Tebow in the same sentence you're talking about something bigger than football, bigger even than money fingers.

Manziel 'led' the Browns to a 30-0 defeat at home to the Cincinnati Bengals, putting the zero in Ohio Derby. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards, threw two picks, was sacked three times, and basically looked about as comfortable with the offense as George Bush did when he was interrupted reading a story to five year olds.

The Browns' offense was perfectly balanced: 53 net yards passing and 54 running (Manziel contributed three rushing yards on five carries, a yards per carry average worthy of Trent Richardson or Chris (CJ2.0YPA) Johnson.

Of course you can't judge a rookie quarterback on his first start, but you can note that Manziel looked lacking in exactly the things that many of us said were lacking when he came out of college, and he's going to be hard pressed to improve his ability to read defenses, to stay in the pocket, or to throw without setting his feet all in one week. On the other hand, he may scramble and find Josh Gordon open once or twice, which is about what Carolina's passing game amounts to. They're getting three and a half in Charlotte!


BEST BET: DETROIT (-8 at 1.92) at Chicago. This sounds crazy, I know. They're on the road, Matt Stafford is like the friendly version of Jay Cutler, but the Lions are getting healthy at the right time, and the Bears are imploding like a giant furry black hole somewhere out in space. Jimmy Clausen gets the start at QB for Chicago, and he has to face a team with a powerful pass rush, if a suspect secondary. Detroit, meanwhile, ought to be able to use its big-time weapons downfield and put some points on the boards.

Denver Broncos v San Diego Chargers : News Photo

A more conservative play might be DENVER (-3 at 1.85) at Cincinnati on Monday Night. It seems like the Bengals at 2.00 would be the safer bet, but they never seem to play well on prime time TV in the evenings.


VALUE BET: SAN DIEGO (+1 at 2.06) at San Francisco, on Saturday. One point on the road is no great gift, but it shows that the bookies think the Chargers, who still have a playoff long-shot to play for, can beat the Niners, who are eliminated from contention, have Jim Harbaugh weighing other jobs, and finally released Ray McDonald, accused to domestic violence and rape in separate cases, as if to say their season is over.

DALLAS (-3 at 1.92) vs Indianapolis is risky because the Cowboys have been a better team on the road (7-0) than at home (3-4), and DeMarco Murray is likely to miss the game with a fractured hand, but they need the win, the Colts don't, and the over/under of 55 at 1.92 could be threatened.


OUTSIDE BET: CAROLINA (-3.5 at 2.00) vs Cleveland: see above. The over on Seattle at Arizona stands at 39 at 1.96, which might be worth a flutter; Atlanta at New Orleans with 56 at 1.92 is less attractive.

 Miami Dolphins v New York Jets : News Photo

ONE TO AVOID: I probably should have taken Carolina v Cleveland right off the board, but instead I'll say NEW ENGLAND at NY JETS +10.5. The Jets are 1.96 to cover, and they have a good defensive front which could give the Pats problems. Rex Ryan sometimes, but not always, game plans well against Bill Belichick, and the Pats could have problems running up the score. But sometimes is a lousy guide to betting.