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April 25, 2014

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Week 7 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Hot starts for the Lions and Bengals no surprise in Las Vegas

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson makes a catch during warmups before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, in Cleveland.

Typically featured in this space are teams that have, in one way or another, deviated from the preseason betting market’s consensus.

Sun's NFL betting game of week 7

Which team would you take in Cincinnati at Detroit?
Lions -2.5 — 62.4%
Bengals +2.5 — 37.6%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

The Eagles went from an afterthought to a trendy sleeper pick among public bettors, the direct opposite of last week’s opposing Buccaneers. The Saints reverted to their vaunted gambling status and became Super Bowl favorites in the process.

But just as many teams exist that have stuck relatively close to what Las Vegas pegged them for through six weeks of the season. Two such teams clash when the Detroit Lions host the Cincinnati Bengals as 2.5-point favorites in the best game scheduled to kick off at 10 a.m. as part of Week 7’s slate.

It’s the only early contest pitting opponents with winning records — Detroit is 4-2 both straight-up and against the spread with the Bengals at 4-2 straight-up and 3-2-1 against the spread — and the one that enamored contestants in the Sun’s handicapping contest the most. All three sports writers used one of their six weekly selections, found at the bottom of the page, on the showdown.

Sports books’ power ratings have only made marginal adjustments on the two teams since the beginning of the season. Consider that all summer Cantor Gaming had the Lions listed as a 1.5-point favorite over the Bengals in this game.

It might come as a surprise that the Lions, which have already matched their win total from last year and are two covers away from doing the same against the spread, haven’t been adjusted more positively. But oddsmakers knew an element of flukiness contributed to Detroit’s 2012 collapse, as its Pythagorean expectation was 2.5 wins better than it finished.

Big bettors knew it, too. The Lions were a popular pick to eclipse their win total of 7.5, as the LVH Superbook charged nearly minus-200 (risking $2 to win $1) to take the over.

Ditto for the Bengals going over 8.5 wins, which went off the board at minus-170. Action on the Bengals hasn’t slowed, as they’ve dropped from 25- to 20-to-1 to win the Super Bowl in the last seven weeks.

The price on the Lions has risen slightly, from 40- to 50-to-1, indicating that bettors don’t quite see the franchise that infamously went 0-16 five years ago as championship caliber just yet.

It’s fitting that the AFC team is the chalkier Super Bowl selection in this inter-conference battle. The AFC’s superiority over the NFC has served as an early-season revelation.

The Superbook had the NFC as a 1-point favorite in the Super Bowl over the AFC after one week, but the line has since swung the other way, with the AFC giving 2.

Aside from the AFC housing what’s clearly the best team to this point — the Denver Broncos — and the only other undefeated squad — the Kansas City Chiefs — it’s also beaten up on the NFC.

The AFC is 17-13 straight-up and 16-13-1 against the spread versus the NFC through six weeks. The Bengals own one of those wins, defeating the Green Bay Packers 34-30 as 3-point underdogs, and one of the losses, dropping a 24-21 decision to the Chicago Bears as a 3-point underdog to open the season.

The Lions won on the road against the Cleveland Browns, 31-17, as 2-point favorites, last week in their first such contest. They managed the win without all-world wide receiver Calvin Johnson fully healthy, as he managed just three catches for 25 yards.

Johnson is practicing and expected to return at full strength against Cincinnati. The Bengals, however, might be up to the task of slowing the 6-foot-5, 235-pound “Megatron”.

Johnson is Detroit’s biggest strength, but Cincinnati counters with its pass defense. Buoyed by the rush of defensive tackle Geno Atkins and the coverage skills of cornerback Leon Hall, the Bengals are fourth in the league against the pass, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA.

One of the units must win out Sunday, and elevate its team's stagnant sports-book status in the process.

Check below for all of the Sun’s Week 7 picks, which are listed in order of kickoff time.

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 18-18 (4-2 last week)

Patriots minus-4 at Jets

Panthers minus-6 vs. Rams

Bears plus-1 at Redskins

Bengals plus-2.5 at Lions

Ravens plus-1.5 at Steelers

Giants minus-3 vs. Vikings

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 17-17-2 (2-4 last week)

Bengals plus-2.5 at Lions

Eagles minus-2.5 vs. Cowboys

Chargers minus-7.5 at Jaguars

Rams vs. Panthers over 42

49ers minus-4.5 at Titans

Steelers plus-1.5 vs. Ravens

 

Case Keefer

Record: 16-20 (3-3 last week)

Texans plus-6.5 at Chiefs

Lions minus-2.5 vs. Bengals

Eagles minus-2.5 vs. Cowboys

Jaguars plus-7.5 vs. Chargers

Ravens vs. Steelers over 40.5

Broncos vs. Colts under 57

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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