Opening Lines: Week 12

The Patriots opened as 20.5-point favorites as they prepare to host the Colts in Week 13.

If you’re looking for a 20-point favorite, you’ll usually need to dip into the college football schedule during homecoming week. The Pats saw these sorts of lines on a regular basis in the 2007 season, but this is a crazy number for this year’s team. I’m not sure exactly what number I expected to see this morning, but I damn near created a messy 20.5-point spread in my pants when I saw this week’s number.

It almost feels wrong to make fun of the Colts this year. It’s like picking on the smallest kid on the playground who also has a speech impediment. Every week that they come out of the tunnel, the players look as if they’re on their way to a funeral. Every time the camera pans to Jim Caldwell, he looks like a prime candidate to star in one of those Southwest “Wanna Get Away” commercials. They’re basically the dancer in the hole-in-the-wall strip club who has been shaking it 15 years too long. If my hate for the Colts weren’t pounded into my soul over the past decade, it would actually make me sad to witness.

This spread speaks to just how bad the Colts have been this season. They have a -177 point differential on the year, which puts them on pace for the second-worst point differential since the winless 1976 Buccaneers (worse than the 0-16 Lions in 08 and nearly as bad as the 99 Rams). They have among the league’s worst offenses (30th in PPG, 31st YPG) and defenses (32nd in PPG, 29th YPG). Their average margin of loss is 16 points per game, so a 20.5-point spread against a high-powered offense doesn’t seem entirely out of line.

Applying our Patriots Means Test (pass rush plus passing offense), the Colts have recorded just 18 sacks on the year and have the league’s 30th-ranked passing offense. That means they’re going to lose by a whole lot. And given the history between these two teams, I’d expect New England to keep the pedal to the metal. I’ll pick the Pats to cover.

Other Lines I Like

Cowboys (-4.5) @ Cardinals

I’m not buying the Cards yet. They needed another long punt return and a last-second field goal to sneak past the second-worst team in the league last week. Kolb may be back, but I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing for this offense. Dallas has had extra time to prepare after the Thanksgiving game, and they’ve played against a pair of underrated defenses the past two weeks. They should cruise in this one.

Chargers (-3) @ Jaguars

We know exactly what both of these teams bring to the table. The Jags are good against the run, but recently lost their best DB. Blaine Gabbert is the gold standard if you play in a fantasy league where the object is to start a quarterback who doesn’t throw TDs. The Chargers treat the football like it’s covered in an angry swarm of bees, but I don’t think the Jags have enough offense to take advantage of San Diego’s mistakes.

Bengals (+7) @ Steelers

Since I’m cursed to live in a media market that includes the two best teams in the AFC North, I’ve been forced to watch an awful lot of the Bengals the past several weeks. I’m starting to believe that this team is every bit as good as their record would indicate. All four losses this year have all been by a score or less, and three of those four losses have come against teams who are 8-3 or better. Polamalu’s stupid hair couldn’t cushion the impact of a concussion last week, and Big Ben’s thumb is still a concern. The Bengals are masters of hanging around, and I think they’ll keep the Steelers on their toes this week.

Jets (-3) @ Redskins

This is one of those picks that a Patriots fan can appreciate. How much would you pay to watch the Jets lose to Washington? $50? Maybe $100? A fair price. And if the Jets win? You can at least drown your sorrows with some extra scratch. Washington is better under Grossman, but the Redskins should struggle to move the ball through the air against New York’s secondary. This is the kind of game that Sanchez usually looks terrible, the rest of the team keeps the game close, and then they pull it together at the end. Let’s still hold out hope we’re paying for a Redskins win.

2011 Record ATS 31-29-3
2010 Record ATS 25-17-1