by Bob Dunkel
NFL PREVIEW – WEEK 10
It was a rough week for road favorites, who were just 2-5 SU and 1-6 ATS in Week 9. Among the victims was the previously unbeaten New England Patriots, who lost at Baltimore, 37-20. That left only the San Francisco 49ers as the last unbeaten. The Niners survived on the road at Arizona, 28-25, but could not cover the spread.
Here are this week’s Five For The Drive:
BUFFALO AT CLEVELAND
Buffalo (6-2, 5-3 ATS, No. 14 in Dunkel Index); Cleveland (2-6, 2-6 ATS, No. 24 in Dunkel Index)
The Bills have won three of their last four with wins over Washington, Miami and Tennessee. They’ve won all three of their road games straight up against the Jets, Giants and Tennessee. The schedule has been easy (combined record of teams they’ve beat: 7-31), but they are not apologizing for a 6-2 record after starting out 2-6 last year. It’s the Bills best start since going 7-1 in 1993.
Following their big 40-25 win at Baltimore, the Browns have dropped four straight, including a home loss to Seattle as a 1-point favorite. Overall, Cleveland is 0-3 SU at home this season with losses to the Seahawks, Rams and Titans. Not even playing a Broncos team that had a QB (Brandon Allen) making his NFL debut 1,402 days since his last college appearance at Arkansas could snap Cleveland out of its funk last week.
Key Trends: Buffalo is 4-0 ATS in its last four road games; Cleveland is 1-8 ATS in its last nine home games versus a team with a winning road record.
Vegas Line: Cleveland by 3
Dunkel Margin: Even
Dunkel’s Pick: One team looks headed to the playoffs right now, the other doesn’t. We’ll take the playoff contender (Buffalo) plus the points.
ATLANTA AT NEW ORLEANS
Atlanta (1-7, 2-6 ATS, No. 26 in Dunkel Index); New Orleans (7-1, 6-2 ATS, No. 3 in Dunkel Index)
The losses keep mounting for the Falcons, including all four road games this year to Arizona, Houston, Indianapolis and Minnesota where they failed to cover the spread. Atlanta headed into a bye week following a 27-20 loss to Seattle that saw QB Matt Ryan’s streak of 154 straight starts snapped with a sprained ankle. With Matt Schaub at QB, the Falcons trailed 24-0 at the half and have now been outscored 144-50 in the first half this season.
The Saints are just the opposite with six straight wins and a cover in each. The last one came at home as a 12.5-point favorite over Arizona. It marked the return of Drew Brees after missing five games following thumb surgery. All he did was throw for 373 yards and 3 TDs. The defense continued to do its part, holding a team under 260 total yards for the fifth straight week.
Key Trends: Atlanta is 5-17 ATS in its last 22 road games; New Orleans is 10-2 ATS in its last 12 games following a bye week.
Vegas Line: New Orleans by 12.5
Dunkel Margin: New Orleans by 17
Dunkel’s Pick: The Saints keep marching and put Dan Quinn’s job in even greater jeopardy.
DETROIT AT CHICAGO
Detroit (3-4-1, 4-4 ATS, No. 18 in Dunkel Index); Chicago (3-5, 2-6 ATS, No. 19 in Dunkel Index)
Two teams that see their seasons slipping away. The Lions have lost four of their last five with the only win coming against the lower-rated Giants. They are 0-3 ATS in their last three games. Matthew Stafford did throw for 406 yards and 3 TDs in, and had a game-tying pass broken up with 3 seconds left in last week’s loss in Oakland.
The Bears are 0-4 SU and 0-4 ATS in their last four games. Offensive production has been the problem as the Bears have failed to score at least 20 points in five of their eight games and have combined for just 30 points in their last two (losses to Philadelphia and the LA Chargers). Mitchell Trubisky was just 10 of 21 for 125 yards and was sacked three times against the Eagles. The Bears were three-and-out in their first five possessions for minus-10 yards.
Key Trends: Detroit is 10-3-1 ATS in its last 14 games versus a team with a losing record; Chicago is 1-4 ATS in its last five home games.
Vegas Line: Chicago by 3
Dunkel Margin: Even
Dunkel’s Pick: Neither team is playing with much confidence right now, the Lions can at least still score points and that should be enough to keep this one within the spread.
LA RAMS AT PITTSBURGH
LA Rams (5-3, 6-2 ATS, No. 10 in Dunkel Index); Pittsburgh (4-4, 5-3 ATS, No. 17 in Dunkel Index)
Unlike the Bears-Lions matchup, this one features two teams turning their seasons around. Following three straight losses, the Rams have taken advantage of the schedule to pick up wins over Atlanta and Cincinnati. Those teams are ranked only No. 26 and No. 29, respectively, in the Dunkel Index. Cooper Kupp liked London, catching seven passes for a career-high 220 yards in the 24-10 win over the Bengals.
The Steelers have won three straight since starting out 1-4, including a win as an underdog against the Chargers (No. 20) and in a pick ‘em matchup last week against the Colts (No. 8). They needed some breaks to go there way against Indy, which lost Jacoby Brissett to a knee injury in the second quarter and missed a 43-yard FG from Adam Viniatieri with just over a minute left that would have given the Colts the lead.
Vegas Line: LA Rams by 4
Dunkel Margin: LA Rams by 1
Dunkel’s Pick: The Steelers have shown great resolve in the face of QB uncertainty and keep this one under the spread at home.
SEATTLE AT SAN FRANCISCO
Seattle (7-2, 4-5 ATS, No. 11 in Dunkel Index); San Francisco (8-0, 5-3 ATS, No. 2 in Dunkel Index)
The Seahawks last two wins have come against the Bucs (No. 23 in the Dunkel Index) and Falcons (No. 26). Prior to that they lost at home as a 3-point favorite to the Ravens (No. 5) by 14 points. In the win over Tampa Bay, Seattle needed overtime and 5 TD passes from Russell Wilson after allowing Jameis Winston to throw for 335 yards and 2 TDs, and the Bucs to tie it in the final minute of regulation.
The 49ers did not look as sharp against Arizona as they did the week before against Carolina (51-13), but still managed to keep the perfect season alive with a 3-point win as a 10.5-point favorite. When they needed the offense to pick up the slack during a rare off-game for the defense (357 total yards given up to the Cards), it did with Jimmy Garoppolo throwing for 317 yards and 4 TDs. The Niners have won their last two home games by 38 and 28 points as a 4.5-point favorite (vs. Carolina) and 5-point favorite (vs. Cleveland).
Vegas Line: San Francisco by 6
Dunkel Margin: San Francisco by 10.5
Dunkel’s Pick: The Seahawks are 0-3 ATS in their last three games against upper tier teams (Ravens, Rams and Saints) and are unable to keep this one within the spread.