Opening Lines: Week 9

The Patriots opened as 9-point favorites as they host the Giants in Week 9.

Today’s fun fact: these two teams have never played each other before. Not once. Not even in the postseason. Never happened. And if you try to convince me otherwise, I will ninja punch you right in the mouth. And I know karate.

All ninja-punching and painful repressed memories aside, this line is heavily skewed toward the Patriots for a few reasons. First, the home crowd in Foxboro is likely to become a lynch mob at some point in this game in an attempt to find out of Eli Manning has permanent dumb face even while hanging from a tree (which is weird, since I don’t recall these two teams ever playing one another). Second, the Giants struggled against a winless Dolphins team last week, just a few weeks removed from a double-digit loss at home to the Seahawks. And third, Brady loses two games in a row about as often as Rex Ryan eats leafy greens.

These are all compelling reasons to back the Pats, but a few circumstances make me pause. First, the Giants have done a good job of protecting the football this year. Eli has taken a bad rap as a turnover artist, but at least half of his 25 picks in 2010 were of the fluky, off-the-receivers-hands variety. Second, the Giants offense compares closely to a Steelers unit that just held the ball for basically an entire game (three good receivers, decent tight end, quarterback of questionable sexuality, etc.). Third, the Steelers and Cowboys have provided somewhat of a roadmap to slowing down the Patriots offense. Playing 9 or 10 men in the box takes away a lot of the short and intermediate passes this offense favors, and the Patriots have done a poor job through two games of adjusting to attack defenses down the field against a stacked front. And lastly, the Giants do a tremendous job of rushing the passer, leading the league in sacks with 26. One of the keys to slowing down the Patriots offense is covering the short routes and getting after Brady, and I think this defense can do both.

I can’t see this game being a blowout for the Pats. I’ll pick the Giants to cover the spread, and I even like them enough to endorse the moneyline at +300 if you want to take a shot at a huge payout in a parlay. A first-ever Giants win over the Patriots isn’t terribly likely, but they’d only need to win one time in five to make it a good bet. I think it’s safe to say they have a 20 percent chance of scoring an upset here, so it’s a decent value.

Other Lines I Like This Week

Bengals (+3) @ Titans

The Bengals haven’t received much attention for their 5-2 start, but they have been playing solid football. The Titans haven’t been able to run the ball, and the Bengals are good against the pass. I think the Bengals may be better than Tennessee in all three phases of the game, so I’m happy to take the points with full knowledge that Andy Dalton will screw me over since he doesn’t have a soul.

49ers (-3.5) @ Redskins

I thought San Fran would give up around 6 in this game based on how poorly the Redskins have played with John Beck under center. The 49ers are great against the run, and Santana Moss should still be sidelined. The Becksins have averaged 10 points per game against two of the league’s worst defenses. Can someone please remind me why I should like the Redskins, ever?

Steelers (-3.5) vs. Ravens

The first loss to Baltimore was a bit fluky for the Steelers. Pittsburgh was minus-seven in the turnover battle the first time these two teams met, which is not characteristic of either team. Since his 3 TD, 0 INT game against Pittsburgh, Joe Flacco has thrown more INTs (6) than TDs (5) and has looked downright awful for long stretches. Unless Baltimore forces at least two or three more turnovers, the Steelers will get revenge against the Ravens, and their insufferable fans will continue to propagate my Facebook news feed with posts about Pittsburgh going to the Super Bowl. Sigh.

Jets (+1.5) @ Bills

The Bills may be the better team, but the Jets create an awful lot of matchup problems for Buffalo. The Buffalo defense will have trouble protecting a lead, and the Jets D is built specifically to protect a lead. The Bills probably won’t be able to move the ball through the air, and as strange as it sounds, Mark Sanchez has been doing an adequate impression of an NFL quarterback the past few weeks. This shapes up to be a two-score win for the Jets.

2011 Record ATS 19-22-2

2010 Record ATS 25-17-1