1) Cin +1 @ Bal
This is really just a case of taking a much better team, at least in terms of last season, in a game they just have to win. By DVOA Bengals were the #6 ranked team and the Ravens were 23rd. Andy Daulton struggled mightily in the Bengals playoff loss but overall he was very effective as a passer last year, Bengals.
Defensively these teams were pretty similar but you see the advantage Bengals have in the passing game averaging 7 yards per pass compared to 5.8 by Bal and Cin also averages almost a yard more per play. Ravens will be without Ray Rice and need to rely on the pass game, I like Bengals to be in control of this game early and the win.
2) NE @ MIA +4.5
This is a game that pops up a couple of times every year, Pats go on the road and are favored by more than a FG and less than a TD against a Div opponent and the majority of bets placed are on NE. For this game we see almost 80% of bets on NE yet the opening line is dropping. Add to that the fact that NE was not a good road team last year finishing s 2-7 ATS on the road.
Gronc is back but hasn’t played all pre-season, add to that less than stellar outside WRs and its difficult to expect NE to be fully efficient on offence. Miami is a notoriously difficult place to play in September due to heat and humidity and the Pats have struggled to look good there even when they had dominant offenses.
On defense NE last year was substantially worse on the road giving up 7.2 ards per pass on road compared to 6.3 at home, with new Miami OC Bill Lazar showing well in the preseason I expect Miami to be able to score in this game and stay within a FG with a chance to win.
3) WSH @ Hou-3
Houston was the worst team in the NFL last year winning only 2 games, Washington wasn’t much better winning just 3, so with a 3 pt spread the bookmakers are essentially saying these teams are even and Hou gives 3 for home field. I expect both teams to be improved this year but based on the pre-season struggles of WSH on offense, especially Robert Griffith III, I think they will struggle against elite defenses. So is Hou an elite defense? Last year they weren’t by the numbers but I have to do much of that was due to the circumstances the offense put them through last year. This pick may be to heavily waited on RGIII’s struggles with the new offense in the pre season but with the addition of Clowney to JJ Watt and the Hou defense that was so dominant in 2012 I think they win this game.
4) 6pt Teaser Cin +7 & Den -1.5
The case for Cincy is above the case for the defending AFC champions is as follows; they were dominant last year especially in the first half and especially at home. After losing in Indy last year and getting blown out in Super Bowl this is a full on revenge game for Manning. Of course we saw how good Luck was at coming back last year late in games, ask Andy Reid and the Chiefs in the playoffs so to cut out the back door possibility I will use Den in the teaser instead of giving the TD plus. Hat tip to Marco D’Angelo on this one.