Writer's note: I'm Carl’s intern who made him a bunch of money for years with my independent NFL betting blog before stepping up to Barstool all of last season.
Sportsbooks feasted last week with all four public favorites failing to cover in prime time (Bucs/Seahawks/Saints/Bills), so I can believe it if you're hurting. My picks aren't always appealing, but that's why I've steered you clear of those public bloodbaths. Let's line up some gross picks and side with the books to get you right this week.
Texans (1-4) @ Titans (4-0); 12pm CT
Pick: Texans +4
Action: 41% of bets on the Texans
If you really think the Titans are good, ask yourself why they're roughly a field goal favorite at home against a 1-4 opponent.
I'm loving this spot because we get Tennessee off a "vindicating" win over a public favorite (Bills) in prime time while Houston just chalked up their season's first win against the lowly Jaguars.
You couldn't tell from the 42-16 final score Tuesday night, but Buffalo outgained Tennessee and matched them in yards per play despite the Bills starting with a curiously run-heavy gameplan. Toss in a 3-0 turnover margin and 10-6 penalty differential, and we're looking at a Bills team that gift-wrapped the W.
Aside from Tuesday's game, the combined record of Tennessee's opponents this year is 3-11 (Broncos/Jags/Vikings), and their average win margin over those scrubs was two points. Compare that to Houston's treacherous start (Chiefs/Ravens/Steelers), and we're looking at an extreme imbalance in strength of schedule on which to capitalize.
It's the same shit as last year with the Titans: no one is talking about Vrabel's below-average defense (27th in yards per play allowed) because Titans OC Arthur Smith is working miracles with Ryan Tannehill and this offense. At a game total of 53, the Titans and Texans are both going to score in bunches, so I'll take the unpopular 4 points with Houston all day.
Former Texans GM Bill O'Brien (fun to say) fucked up his team's personnel in a big way. Offensively, he traded away a Top-5 WR and perplexingly assembled the most aged/fragile skill position talent I've seen since Gruden returned to the Raiders in 2018. And defensively, he invested in the analytically devalued linebacker position with guys who can't cover the pass. O'Brien left the Texans at a severe disadvantage structurally, but his departure has given a galvanizing emotional lift to the players within that structure.
The players lobbied for O'Brien to be gone and bet on themselves to prove they're better off without him, and it showed in a rejuvenated performance resulting in their first win last week. Now that a mature leader like Deshaun Watson has free rein, team morale couldn't be higher. It's like when you hit the town with your buddy after they get out of a shitty relationship, and you remember how fun they are with no one weighing them down. We're seeing more creativity, more play-action, more deep shots, and overall more motivation.
Long-term, the Texans have too many personnel issues to overcome, but you need to pounce on the emotional upswing in the short-term. In other words, go bar-hopping with that buddy one more time this week while they're slaying the town, then abandon ship before you realize the break-up was justified because their cocaine habit is "a bit much."
Against an undefeated Titans team that played only 5 days ago, give me points with the recently-electrified Texans playing to save their season.
Rams (4-1) @ Niners (2-3); 7:20pm CT
Pick: Niners +3
Action: 44% of bets on the Niners
I get it. You puked your guts out on the first pick and now you're tapping into bile.
The Niners lost outright as 8.5-point favorites in consecutive weeks to the Eagles and Dolphins while Alex Smith's wife got a front-row seat to the Rams rag-dolling her husband last week.
(yes, watching in loving admiration and not concerned about Aaron Donald caving his legs in)
I get it - the Rams are the sexier pick, but this is all about value. On the look-ahead line before last Sunday's games were played, the line on this game was SF -3. After only one day of a great Rams performance and a shitty Niners performance, do you expect me to accept a SIX POINT line swing to LAR -3? Fuck outta here.
The craziest thing about this line overreaction is that the Niners are getting healthier. Jimmy G's ankle put him in quicksand last week, but he practiced in-full all of this week and he'll be ready to rip to a replenished set of weapons in Kittle, Samuel, and Mostert.
And let's chill on the Rams for a sec. All four of their wins have come against the four teams in the NFC Least (corny, but it applies). Defensively, the Rams linebackers can't cover, which is a serious problem against Shanahan's scheme. And offensively, McVay has his play-calling swagger back, but his success hinges upon runs and quick-hitting passes. The Niners D can be beat over the top to big-bodied outside receivers, but they're great at stuffing the run and defending short-to-intermediate passing. The Rams don't have the the type of receiver to beat the Niners deep, so the San Fran D will be well-suited to keep the Rams in check.
One of the hardest things to do is to either bet on a team that lost you money in the previous week, or bet against a team that kicked your ass in the previous week. My dumb public brain doesn't want to lose to the Rams in consecutive weeks, but that's all the more reason to bet on the Niners here. Sack up and bet the value.
Bears (4-1) @ Panthers (3-2); 12pm CT
Pick: Bears team over 21.5
Yeah, this breaks the "chronological order" thing but I'm not ending this blog on a West Coast game breakdown.
I told you last week that the Panthers would send Dan Quinn packing with a CAR +2.5 bet (winner), and the main reason was that the Falcons offense was too sneakily-bad to take advantage of the mediocre Carolina defense. The Panthers aren't good, it's just that the Falcons are atrocious.
The Carolina D can't stop the run, can't rush the passer, and can't defend pass-catching RBs (big day for Montgomery coming). And on top of that, they're trending in the wrong direction with injuries to DT Kawann Short, CB Eli Apple, and CB Donte Jackson. If you're the Bears offense, it's boner time.
What a question…
Nick Foles has looked adequate at the head of this Bears offense, which I'd actually say is a massive positive given his competition. Big Dick's first two starts came against two of the best defenses in the league (Colts & Bucs), and he only had three days between those starts. The 20 points scored against the stout Bucs D isn't impressive on its face, but when you consider the points that Chicago left on the table (Allen Robinson's fluke-kick INT and Foles missing Mooney on a wide-open deep shot), I see an offense primed to get over the hump against inferior competition.
For a team that snuck out 3 wins with in-game win probabilities below 10%, the public is calling this 4-1 Bears team a fraud. If Mitch was still at QB, I'd agree. But Nagy now has his man in Big Dick, and against this frail Panthers D with extra time to prepare, the stage is set for the Bears offense to roll.
Best of luck out there today. Bottoms up, Bear down!