Opening Lines: NFL Week 11

Patriots Open as 3-point Favorites At Home Vs. Colts

After a dominating victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday night (ahhhhh, that feels good to say), the Patriots opened as 3-point favorites as they host the Colts.

Anytime we see Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on the same field, it feels like a little bit of magic. However, I don’t think this weekend’s game will be anything like the classic Brady-Manning bouts we’ve seen in the past. While the Colts have a respectable 6-3 record, their vaunted offense is reeling just a bit. After opening the first four weeks of the season with 11 TD passes, Manning has thrown just 5 scores in his last five games. He hasn’t really lost anything on his game though. He’s mostly lost teammates. Injuries at WR (Collie, Gonzalez, White), TE (Clark, Tamme), OL (Johnson) and HB (pretty much everybody) have limited Manning’s numbers.

The season has played out pretty similar to Manning’s acting career: it started out pretty promising (the “cut that meat!” commercial is still funny in my book), but it’s gone downhill to the point that he can’t dodge cardboard cutouts of Justin Timberlake. Seriously, how much did they have to pay him for that commercial? Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough. And how do they pitch that to him? “Uh, yeah, so you’re going to turn into a cardboard cutout, and Justin Timberlake is going to fall on top of you, and you’ll tell him to get off, but it’s not going to be gay or anything, we promise.”

The defense is a bit beat up too, with LBs Brackett and Sessions nicked. The Colts have been getting by with a bit of smoke and mirrors. They won the turnover battle against the Bengals by 5 and only won by 6. They needed 14 penalties against the Eagles to keep things close. They may be in a familiar place in the standings, but these aren’t the same Colts that we’re used to seeing. Much like the beat-up Steelers team the Patriots dominated last week (and no, I never get tired of saying that), the Colts may struggle to keep things close.

The more interesting betting line this week was the over/under of 50.5. The typical over/under is in the low 40s, so 50.5 is a big number. The Pats average 27.8 points per game, and they give up 23.8. The Colts average 26.7 points per game and give up 20.6. This seems like the recipe for a lot of points, but I would lean toward taking the under. Both teams will likely try to keep the ball away from the opposing quarterback, and neither QB throws many clock-stopping incompletions. I think the Patriots will run the ball a bit more against an accommodating Colts run defense. That should keep the clock moving and limit the number of possessions for each side. Add in the Pats’ work in progress in the kicking game, and I think the smarter money is on the under.

I like the Patriots to cover the 3-point spread, and I like the under at 50.5.

Other lines I like this week

Ravens (-9.5) at Panthers

The Ravens have had an extra three days to rest and prepare, and the Panthers might be down to Tony Pike at QB. The Ravens’ biggest weakness is in the secondary, but I really don’t think the Panthers have the personnel to exploit it. I’m not sure how many points you’d have to spot me to bet on Carolina, but single digits won’t cut it.

Lions (+7) at Cowboys

The Lions aren’t quite as bad as their 2-7 record might suggest. They’ve hung with the Jets and Giants and dominated the Redskins in three of the past four weeks. Four of their losses have been by a field goal or less. Even if the Cowboys are playing better, I think Detroit can keep it close at the very least. I don’t think they’ll win, but a +250 moneyline is still awfully tempting.

2010 Record ATS (5-7)