Two things are clear after the first half of the season: there are a lot of home dawgs, who get increasingly tempting as the sour cream sinks to the bottom of the mug, and the Thursday night game is becoming a good one to bet. It's always risky because the short week makes it very hard to predict how a team will bounce back physically, especially the road team, but Indy's win last night in Jacksonville was the fourth win in ten games for the visitors. I picked the Colts to win on the nfluk.com website, where I pick straight-up, and even though they were giving three points to the Jags, they were a good bet. And hindsight is always 20/20, at least.
But now think about how shaky Dallas have looked lately, and then realise they are one point favourites IN PHILADELPHIA, and realise the Mayans may well have been right about the impending end of the world.
Sure thing: Miami (-6) v Tennessee at 1.92
I probably would not have included this one, but Jake Locker is back at QB for the Titans, and I think that probably limits their ability to pick up points in garbage time and beat the spread. The Dolphins' defence has been playing well, and the offence has become balanced enough to compensate for the fact that they don't have a number one receiver. I hesitate to call Miami a sure thing, but the more I look at it the more I like this bet.
Underdog: Cincinnati (+3.5) v New York Giants at 1.85
I'm probably picking the Giants straight up for this one, but the Bengals have a couple of match-ups on offence that might make life tough for New York's secondary: AJ Green (who might just be the AFC's best receiver right now) and tight end Jermaine Gresham against safety Stevie Brown. The problem is that the Bengals might not be able to cope with the Giants' pass rush and give Dalton, who needs to find his rhythm, time to do that. Defensively, if the Bengals study how teams have shut down the Giants' wideouts in the past two weeks, they might be able to come up with a way of doing that themselves: their real problem has been that their linebackers don't cover well, and that puts more pressure on the secondary. If you don't trust that, try New Orleans (+1) vs Atlanta: the 3-5 Saints are home dogs to the unbeaten Falcons, but because it's only a point you can see the bookies are thinking upset.
Value bet: Tampa v San Diego (+3) at 1.90
Nothing's ever sure when you're Norv Turner's team, but their pattern in the past has been to start to turn it on as November rolls into December. The Bucs have won two good road games in a row behind the running of rookie Douglas Martin, and when teams stack against the run, they have ex-Charger Vince Jackson, who is playing the best he has in three years as a downfield receiving threat. But the Chargers can stop the run; their secondary doesn't allow runners to get big gains, and they ought to be able to put enough pressure on Josh Freeman to keep jackson under control. They have to avoid turnovers, they have to get some running themselves, and they need Philip Rivers to play the best he's capable of. No one seems to think they can except me.
One to avoid: San Francisco v St Louis (+11)
I've warned about visiting teams getting huge margins against the Niners, because they don't have the kind of explosive offence to blow games open, so on the surface the Rams getting 11 might look attractive, especially given the blow-out they suffered at Wembley two weeks ago. If you're feeling tempted to cash in on another bet with those odds, you might do better with Buffalo (+11) at New England, where New England's offence is fully capable of putting +20 on the board, but their D might well concede a few themselves. Call me cautious, but I'd skip both of them.