NFL Picks Week 8 (updated)

UPDATE:  The Giants line continues to see wild movement – it has shifted all the way to +1 and now the Eagles are considered underdogs.  Gamblor now likes the Giants well enough to bet above the $5.00 minimum on them.  I’d have rounded up anyhow, but somehow this makes me feel vindicated.  The juice on the Buffalo game was very heavy (-120) so Gamblor doesn’t stand to win all that much on its second-largest bet of the week.  Apologies to those who have seen their comments disappear – the old post was giving me formatting issues so I put it on waivers – DON’T THINK YOU WON’T GET CUT FROM THIS TEAM, WORDPRESS!  An updated summary sheet is here for those who want to follow along at home.

Last week was an absolute nightmare for the computer, as favorites covered the spread in all but two instances (plus a push) and my season’s winnings so far went up in smoke. It was particularly heartbreaking to see Miami blow a lead of 21 points (especially considering they were getting an extra 6.5 points from the spread) and then get my hopes up by holding tough on their goal line to preserve the cover, only to toss up a completely meaningless pick-six at the end of the game. I was the beneficiary of an identical finish in Pittsburgh in my second-biggest bet of the week, so I suppose I ought to be grateful the week wasn’t even worse, but it’s hard to find much joy when your bets go 3-9-1 and your top bet loses by a score of 38-0. My own picks were pretty good, going 8-4-1, but that’s scant consolation for such an awful, awful week.

I wasn’t alone in my anguish last week – last week practically bankrupted a number of sportsbooks. Most of the games that featured lopsided betting on the favorites – New England (87%), Green Bay (91%), San Diego (91%), Indianapolis (95%), the New York Jets (76%), New Orleans (90%), and Philadelphia (89%) – ended up being blowouts and a lot of parlays paid off. In terms of competitive football, it was actually the most uninteresting weekend we’ve seen all year. The disparity in talent between NFL teams this year is pretty amazing; if the NFL were run like the Premier League in England you could expect a few teams to be relegated at the end of the season in favor of some of the more competitive college squads. From a fantasy perspective, though, it was an exciting week, as a number of players had spectacular offensive performances and lots of matchups turned into shootouts that weren’t decided until Monday night.
(To watch this video, right-click and hit play)
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Fantasy football has sometimes been described as "dungeons and dragons for jocks". There are certainly a few parallels - each player (owner) develops a character (team) whose abilities are determined by a roll of the dice (random draft order). Players develop a deep affinity for their creation, and can spend inordinate amounts of time selecting a name and drawing sketches (designing logos) of their alter-ego. The campaign (season) is overseen by a dungeon master (commissioner) who manages the adventure and adjudicates disputes, but ultimately the success or failure of the players is left up to how well they allocate their resources such as weapons, spells, and magic items (quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers) with an element of random chance (injuries and turnovers) thrown in. Not to mention that participants can display a level of obsession that is terrifying to those unfamiliar with the game.
Proponents of fantasy football argue that since the games take place in the real world with flesh and blood players, and since real treasure is often awarded to the winner of the league, the two aren't all that similar. And although fantasy football has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity in recent years due to the accessibility of the internet, the game itself actually predates Dungeons and Dragons. The concept of fantasy football originated amongst a group of team employees and sportswriters in Oakland, who created the first league in 1962, just a few years after the invention of fantasy baseball. Dungeons and Dragons didn't surface until 1971, when Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren published Chainmail, a set of rules for warfare with miniature figurines (a pastime that lives on in such tabletop games as Warhammer 40K and the currently endangered Heroclix) that ultimately evolved into Dungeons and Dragons, the first box set of which was published by TSR in 1974.

Now of course most jocks wouldn't hesitate to stuff your head in a toilet if you accused them of playing with figurines of elven warriors and twelve-sided dice, but for Halloween, I thought it would be fun to count down 5 of the monsters from the AD&D's Monster Manual along with their 5 counterparts from the NFL. Taking over from here is the lovely Shi Ne of The Sports Report Girl.com.

Gamblor is doubling down this week, taking yet another broad selection of underdogs - but this time for even higher stakes. And as queasy as it makes me feel, I'm glad. It's not possible for the sportsbooks to take another beating like they did last week - it just won't happen. There's simply no way, or sports gambling as we know it will come to an end. Here's the picks.

HOUSTON TEXANS
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BUFFALO BILLS
Gamblor's Pick: Buffalo (+3.5)
Bet Amount: $38.50 (Hedge)
WHY I AGREE: There's a general sense that on a good day, the Houston Texans can beat just about anybody. While this is certainly true of an offense that can put up so many points so fast, Houston's defense hasn't shown that they can stop anybody (except for Oakland, who doesn't count). Although Buffalo's fans are dying to get rid of Dick Jauron, they haven't yet given up on the team and are likely to show up in full force. Buffalo's got a bye week coming while Houston is looking ahead to their matchup with the heretofore invincible Colts next week, so as uneasy as it makes me feel to pick against the Houston points machine, I'm taking Buffalo here.
CLEVELAND BROWNS
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CHICAGO BEARS
Gamblor's Pick: Cleveland (+13)
Bet Amount: $21.20 (Hedge)
WHY I AGREE: The Bears will certainly be stinging after last week's humiliating loss to Cincinnati. But it took Cincinnati until the very last seconds of overtime to beat Cleveland. So why such a large spread? Hint: it's because Cleveland sucks. Cutler hasn't turned out so great yet, but he won't be called on to do all that much here - expect the Bears to keep the ball on the ground against Cleveland's truly pathetic run defense - much as Green Bay did last week. The only problem is that this won't lead to blowout-level points. I just don't see Chicago putting enough points on the board to cover a spread this large, and I see this one turning out as Vegas' revenge on gamblers who saw all the big spreads last week get covered easily and are getting a bit too greedy.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
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DALLAS COWBOYS
Gamblor's Pick: Seattle (+9.5)
Bet Amount: $29.76 (Hedge)
WHY IT'S WRONG: I really have no idea what to expect from Seattle during any given week. I'm still convinced that they're terrible, but every time I put that in print they burn me. Then again, Dallas looked spectacular last week and Miles Austin looks like Calvin Johnson decided to dress up in a Cowboys uniform for Halloween just to experience what it's like to play for a winning team. Dallas is a very public team and their lines tend to get inflated, though Gamblor doesn't see that being the case here. A victory of greater than 9 points is a lot for this unreliable offense to deliver. I think they will probably succeed, but I'm no more confident of that than I am of the outcome of a coin toss.
SAINT LOUIS RAMS
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DETROIT LIONS
Gamblor's Pick: St. Louis (+4)
Bet Amount: $35.52 (Hedge)
WHY IT'S WRONG: There's no line yet for this game. And I don't really care what it is. Detroit is a terrible team that can't stop anyone, but they actually can put of a few points of their own. St. Louis can do neither. It feels strange to describe any game as a routine blowout for the Lions, but that's what I see happening here.
NEW YORK GIANTS
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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Gamblor's Pick: New York Giants (-1)
Bet Amount: $7.81 (Flip)
WHY I AGREE: The books have been sliding this line towards Philadelphia all week long. Would you believe that this one opened up at -3? It's a pretty classic example of what Gamblor looks for - Vegas not giving the New York Giants the points they ought to be getting. Although looking at the score last week would convince you that Philadelphia won pretty convincingly, they actually looked terrible. They couldn't move the ball at all, and really only were able to build a big lead based on Jason Campbell's turnovers. I don't see them standing a chance against a Giants team that is looking to lash out against anyone - particularly a divisional rival. Tom Coughlin will have no trouble motivating his men for this contest, and I think they'll be able to win this one with ease.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Gamblor's Pick: San Francisco (+13)
Bet Amount: $14.69 (Hedge)
WHY IT'S WRONG: As I said before and intend to keep saying until someone makes me eat my words, I'm with the Colts all the way.
MIAMI DOLPHINS
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NEW YORK JETS
Gamblor's Pick: New York Jets (-3.5)
Bet Amount: $2.79 (Flip)
WHY I AGREE: Nothing can help a team get their mojo back more than playing the Raiders. The Jets rushed for over three hundred yards against the Raiders, which is even more impressive when you consider the amazingly short fields that Jamarcus Russel was giving them to work with. Like all the other suckers who bet against New Orleans last week, I'm furious with Miami for blowing a 27.5 point (spread-adjusted) lead. After such a spectacular meltdown, I wouldn't trust them to carry my bag, let alone try to take control of a team like the Jets.
DENVER BRONCOS
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BALTIMORE RAVENS
Gamblor's Pick: Denver (+3)
Bet Amount: $17.30 (Flip)
WHY I AGREE: Once again, Denver is being treated as equal to or inferior to a team with a far worse record than their own. They can only summon the energy for these contests so many times before they run out of gas, but this is a seriously disrespectful line. The only decent opponent Baltimore has beaten has been San Diego, and they would have been beaten there as well if it weren't for Ray Lewis' late-game heroics. Gamblor sees this line as a trap because Baltimore was so tough at home last season; it expects Denver to be getting more points. I think a more appropriate line would be +1.5 or so, but right now the money is pretty much split between the two teams. I like Denver here, pulling off one more win before their winning streak finally comes to an end next week against Pittsburgh.
OAKLAND RAIDERS
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SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Gamblor's Pick: Oakland (+16.5)
Bet Amount: $18.60 (Hedge)
WHY IT'S WRONG: I'm amazed that during the season so far, Gamblor has actually made money betting on the Raiders - even including last week's disaster, the computer has earned $9.84 from their victories against the spread - but I think this week is where that dives back down into negative territory. It's amazing to think that the Raiders practically beat San Diego in their opening game this year. The team hasn't gained or lost any signifincant personnel, but that doesn't matter to the oddmakers in the slightest - they're telling us loud and clear to expect Oakland to be blown out. But is that really how things are going to turn out? Home field advantage shouldn't matter too much; the annual Raiders-Chargers game in San Diego is famous for how many Raiders fans turn up in the stands. But I think what this game will come down to is coaching - Norv Turner is smart enough to make adjustments to his game plan based on what he saw in Week 1, while Tom Cable is still puzzling over the "shoelace matrix."
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
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TENNESSEE TITANS
Gamblor's Pick: Jacksonville (+3)
Bet Amount: $38.68 (Hedge)
WHY IT'S WRONG: Every week during the early part of the season, everyone expected the Titans to turn things around. This week, we said, is the week they finally get their first win. Well, it's been seven weeks so far, and literally every week the margin has gotten worse. Just look at the progression: -3 (OT), -3, -7, -20, -22, -59...and now they're favored? Vince Young is great at winning games, and I think if he starts here he'll be inspired to play his best football in ages. But Jacksonville already put up 37 points against the broken secondary of the Titans - they won't score as many this time around, but they'll score enough that the spread will factor in and put them over the top (if they don't win outright).
MINNESOTA VIKINGS
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GREEN BAY PACKERS
Gamblor's Pick: Minnesota (+3)
Bet Amount: $23.62 (Hedge)
WHY I AGREE: A lot is being made out of Brett Farve's return to Green Bay this weekend, but I'm not actually all that concerned about it as a factor in this game. I think it's a lot simpler than that - Minnesota is the better team. They proved it when they beat the Packers at home - it was a very solid victory before Green Bay scored 10 points in the final 5 minutes to pull within a touchdown. The only decent team that Green Bay has beat this season was Chicago - and it took a late game drive to pull that one off. The points are a gift here - take 'em.
CAROLINA PANTHERS
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ARIZONA CARDINALS
Gamblor's Pick: Carolina (+10)
Bet Amount: $17.85 (Hedge)
WHY I AGREE: Arizona's defense has been looking unbelievably fierce lately. And I'd expect them to eat Jake Delhomme for lunch. Arizona's offense has also been looking really tough, and should have an easy time working with the short fields they'll get after Delhomme inevitably turns it over two or three times. But something here makes me uneasy. Arizona isn't going to take Carolina seriously, and with San Francisco expected to lose to Indianapolis, they won't feel any pressure to win to hang onto their division lead. I doubt that the Cardinals will lose to the lowly Panthers (especially in front of their home crowd), but I do think that 10 points is too many for them to cover.
ATLANTA FALCONS
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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Gamblor's Pick: Atlanta (+10)
Bet Amount: $21.57 (Hedge)
WHY IT'S WRONG: I'm not picking against New Orleans. I could talk myself into seeing reasons for Atlanta to keep this one close, but after last week it's going to take more than just 10 points for me to pick against the Saints.
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Week

Zack

Gamblor

Weighted Wins

Weighted Picks

Weighted Win %

Profit

Win

Lose

Push

Win

Lose

Push

1

7

9

-

9

7

-

1339

1727

77.5%

$155.71

2

9

7

-

11

5

-

970

1292

75.1%

$98.97

3

9

7

-

6

10

-

607

1552

39.1%

-$61.75

4

8

6

-

5

9

-

288

963

29.9%

-$70.33

5

6

8

-

6

8

-

655

1217

53.8%

$15.46

6

7

7

-

8

6

-

625

1231

50.8%

-$10.53

7

8

4

1

3

9

1

246

1161

21.2%

-$127.43

Total

54

48

1

48

54

1

4730

9143

51.7%

$0.10

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