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April 23, 2014

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Week 8 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Double-digit underdogs have proved a smart bet in the NFL over a long span

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) responds to the crowd as he walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. The Saints won 38-17.

Using betting lines as the basis for their argument, pessimists could conclude that this NFL season is revealing parity as a myth.

Sun's NFL betting game of week 8

Which big favorite do you think has the best chance to cover this week?
Seahawks minus-11 at Rams — 28.3%
Packers minus-9 at Vikings — 23.0%
Saints minus-11 vs. Bills — 19.0%
49ers minus-17 vs. Jaguars — 16.8%
Broncos minus-13 vs. Redskins — 12.8%

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.

A season that’s already produced the largest favorite in NFL history is now featuring one of the most unevenly matched weeks in memory. Of the 12 games scheduled between now and Monday Night Football in week 8, as many as five could close with a double-digit favorite.

At this point last year, there were seven teams that had taken 10 points or more in a game. There have already been 13 in 2013.

The performance of those unsavory dogs, however, could present a lingering case of competitiveness as they’ve gone 7-5-1 against the spread with three outright victories.

Screaming out “small sample size” on the double-digit underdogs is both unnecessary and untrue. Their success is well-documented going back many years.

Teams taking 10 points or more covered at a profitable 54 percent clip from 1988-2011, according to research conducted by WagerMinds.

Keeping that in mind, the three sportswriters in the Sun’s NFL handicapping contest may have made a shrewd move in mostly refraining from the double-digit favorites lurking all over the betting board. The New Orleans Saints minus-11 hosting the Buffalo Bills were the only team laying a big number that any of the three took with their six weekly picks, which are available at the bottom of the page.

New Orleans hasn’t given that large of a number since 2011, when it went 2-1 against the spread and straight-up in the scenario. Buffalo has already covered a double-digit line once this season, narrowly falling to the New England Patriots 23-21 as 10-point underdogs in week 1.

Two of the Sun’s prognosticators jumped on New Orleans — which is coming off of a bye week sporting a 5-1 straight-up, 4-2 against-the-spread record — this week. Two also took the lone team teetering between a single- and double-digit underdog Sunday.

The Minnesota Vikings shot as high as plus-10 at home against the Green Bay Packers after quarterback Josh Freeman’s freakishly horrendous 20-for-53 passing debut in purple. They crashed down to the current 9-point line roughly around the time it came out that Christian Ponder would return as the starting quarterback against the Packers with Freeman injured.

It’s a telltale sign a team has reached a point of desperation when someone like Ponder — who’s 13-14-2 against the spread as a starter in his three-year career — potentially necessitates a positive line move. The Vikings are 1-5 straight up and 2-4 against the spread on the season.

Double-digit home underdogs are even more reliable than their traveling counterparts, though. The same WagerMinds study found that 59 percent of teams at plus-10 or more in their home stadium cashed in the 23-year span.

Gamblers might have a chance to bet on two in a row in week 8. After the Vikings and Packers play in Sunday Night Football, the Seattle Seahawks go on the road as 11-point favorites at the St. Louis Rams on Monday Night Football.

The games will draw consecutive prime-time audiences, knowingly or not, into Las Vegas’ seasonlong parity debate.

Read below for all of this week’s picks.

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 22-18-2 (5-1 last week)

Giants plus-6 at Eagles

Chiefs minus-7.5 vs. Browns

Saints minus-11 vs. Bills

Dolphins vs. Patriots over 45.5

Steelers minus-2.5 at Raiders

Vikings plus-9 vs. Packers

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 21-21 (3-3 last week)

Bengals minus-6.5 vs. Jets

Saints minus-11 vs. Bills

Patriots minus-6.5 vs. Dolphins

Giants plus-6 at Eagles

Raiders plus-2.5 vs. Steelers

Cardinals minus-2.5 vs. Falcons

 

Case Keefer (2012 champion)

Record: 17-25 (1-5 last week)

Lions minus-3 vs. Cowboys

Browns plus-7.5 at Chiefs

Dolphins plus-6.5 at Patriots

Cardinals minus-2.5 vs. Falcons

Raiders plus-2.5 vs. Steelers

Vikings plus-9 vs. Packers

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

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