Cowboys, Raiders look to catch Patriots as Super Bowl favorites

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We are now officially past the midpoint of the regular season as all teams have played at least eight games with 10 teams having played nine.

New England is considered the best team in the NFL and the favorite to win the Super Bowl. Since Tom Brady’s return the Pats have won their three road games by margins of 20, 11 and 16 points and their only home game by 18 points. They have held five foes to 17 points or less and have not allowed any team to score more than 25 points.

In the NFC the Dallas Cowboys opened the season with a 20-19 home loss to their Division rivals, the Giants. But since that loss Dallas has won seven straight games and covered in all seven. Four of the wins have been by double digits with two of the wins by double digits on the road.

In the AFC the Oakland Raiders are living up to the preseason hype. They had their most impressive win of the season on Sunday night, defeating Division rival and defending Super Bowl champion Denver, 30-20, in a game they never trailed and was not as close as the 10 point margin might suggest. At 7-2 the Raiders need just two more wins in their next seven game to be assured of their first winning record since 2002 – the last time Oakland was in the Super Bowl. Oakland is 5-0 both SU and ATS on the road this season.

Oakland is just a half-game ahead of 6-2 Kansas City in the AFC West but suffered one of its two losses at home to the Chiefs, 26-10, in Week 6. The rematch in Kansas City will be in Week 14 and the rematch in Denver is in Week 17. The Raiders play their final three true road games over the final four weeks of the regular season. The game in Mexico City was originally an Oakland home game.

How ironic would it be if Oakland plays at New England for the AFC Title in late January, the site of the infamous “tuck rule” play in the 2001 Playoffs that began the current New England dynasty? It truly could happen. But much football is still to be played before the Playoffs.

Seattle, at 4-2-1 entering Monday night’s game against Buffalo, was the only other team with fewer than three losses through nine weeks.

The AFC North is led by a pair of 4-4 teams, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The AFC South is led by 5-3 Houston. Nineteen teams are at or below .500.

Using closing lines from the Westgate, home favorites are 39-39-6 ATS and home underdogs are 20-19-1. There have been six games that closed at pick ‘em and five have been won by the road team; the sixth was Jacksonville’s win over Indianapolis in London. The other two London games saw the Giants win and cover as 3 point favorites and Cincinnati, also favored by 3, tying Washington.

OVERs continue to outpace UNDERs by a 73-59 margin, seven OVERs and five UNDERs in Week 9 through Sunday.

Unlike the past two weeks when six teams had byes, just four teams are on the sidelines this week – Buffalo, Detroit, Indianapolis and Oakland.

Here is a preview of the 14 games that comprise the Week 10 schedule.

Thursday

Cleveland (+10) at Baltimore (Over/Under 45): Five of the Browns’ nine losses have been by more than 10 points and the Browns are just 2-7 ATS. But all of Baltimore’s eight games have been decided by 8 points or less, including last week’s win over Pittsburgh that snapped a four-game losing streak. The Ravens are not built to blow out teams but are methodical on offense with a strong defense. This is a Divisional game that makes it tough to lay a big number, so the better of two unattractive options is to prefer the underdog. CLEVELAND.

Sunday

Houston (-1) at Jacksonville (42.5): Houston returns from its bye, which allowed the Texans to make adjustments for QB Brock Osweiler who was far from impressive in his debut season. The defense is still the Texans’ strength despite the absence of J J Watt. Jacksonville had its best offensive game of the season last week, outgaining Kansas City by 218 yards. But four turnovers and a blown replay call resulted in a 19-14 loss to the Chiefs. Houston is 5-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. But those losses have been at Minnesota, New England and Denver and the Jaguars are not in that class. Both teams are better on defense than offense with Houston number 10 in yards per play allowed and the Jaguars number 6. UNDER.

Kansas City (+3) at Carolina (44): The Chiefs are off a dull performance to defeat Jacksonville, 19-14, while the Panthers won their second in a row, 13-10 at Los Angeles, in which they had season lows on offense with 244 total yards and 3.9 yards per play. Both teams are down defensively this season with rather ordinary stats. The Chiefs have won four in a row but their two losses have both come on the road in the only two games in which they’ve been underdogs. CAROLINA.

Denver (+1.5) at New Orleans (48): Denver played its worst game of the season in losing 30-20 Sunday night in Oakland, trailing throughout. They’ve lost 3 of 5 following a 4-0 start and continue to struggle on offense, both running and passing the football. New Orleans has won 4 of 5 following a 0-3 start with two of the wins on the road. That the Saints are small home favorites is an acknowledgment by the linemakers that these teams are heading in opposite directions. New Orleans’ defense remains a vulnerability. But so was Oakland’s and the Broncos were unable to take advantage. NEW ORLEANS.

Los Angeles (+2.5) at New York Jets (41): The Jets continue to play undisciplined, mistake filled football and it cost them again in Miami. There are reports of locker room disharmony and coach Todd Bowles is taking a bashing from the New York media. The Rams played well defensively against Carolina in last week’s 13-10 home loss, their fourth loss in a row. They are underdogs for an eighth straight week and have scored 17 or fewer points five times. At a FG or less the Jets are worth backing with the better running game that has rushed for 140, 171 and 155 yards the past three weeks. NY JETS.

Atlanta (+1) at Philadelphia (49.5): Atlanta sits atop the NFC South at 6-3 following a pair of wins after two straight losses. They have won 4 of 5 road games, including 3 as underdogs and the lone loss was that controversial loss at Seattle. The fine QB play of Matt Ryan continues whereas Philly rookie QB Carson Wentz has struggled over the last month. The Falcons have gone OVER in 8 of their 9 games and Philly has followed suit in 5 of 8. Wentz should have success against Atlanta’s number 31 pass defense. OVER.

Minnesota (+2.5) at Washington (42): Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned prior to last week’s game. The Vikes have the number 31 rushing offense that has yet to rush for more than 104 yards in any game and their overall offense ranks last. The defense remains a strength that keeps the Vikes in most games. Washington is off its Bye that followed their tie against Cincinnati in London, a game in which the Redskins played the better football. Minnesota is near the bottom of the league with their games averaging just 35.1 points per game, 11 points lower than the NFL average. None of their games has produced more than 44 total points. Washington’s games are right at the NFL average. UNDER.

Green Bay (-2.5) at Tennessee(49): The Packers look lethargic and QB Aaron Rodgers continues to perform below established standards. They were totally outplayed in the surprising home loss to the Colts last week. Tennessee has won 3 of 5 after starting 1-3. But the Titans continue to play hard even in defeat as they again showed last week in San Diego. On talent alone Green Bay should be favored by over a FG. But in three of their four wins they struggled after getting comfortable leads. The short number indicates support for the underdog which becomes even stronger if the spread rises to a FG. TENNESSEE.

Chicago at Tampa Bay (No Line): The status of Tampa QB Jameis Winston and WR Mike Evans has this game off the boards on Monday. It is expected that one or both will play with extra rest following the Buccs’ home loss last Thursday to Atlanta. Chicago is rested following its Bye that came after a Monday night win over Minnesota in which QB Jay Cutler returned and played well. This game likely comes close to Pick’em with Tampa perhaps the slightest of favorites. The Bears will have significant crowd support which negates some of Tampa’s home field edge. The Buccs are 0-4 at home with all 3 wins coming on the road. Chicago does have the better defensive stats and has been better at avoiding turnovers which are usually key edges. CHICAGO.

Miami (+3.5) at San Diego (48): Both teams are playing well after slow starts. Both teams started 1-4 but Miami has won three straight and San Diego has won 3 of 4. The Chargers have competitive in all five losses with their largest margin of defeat 8 points two weeks ago in Denver where four chances to score from the 2 yard line failed in the closing minutes. San Diego has played the tougher schedule with their 4 wins coming against teams that are 18-13 against the rest of the NFL. Miami’s four wins have been against teams that are just 11-19 versus the rest of the league. SAN DIEGO.

San Francisco (+13) at Arizona (48): Since SF defeated Los Angeles 29-0 to open the season the 49ers have lost 7 straight with 5 of the losses by 17 points or more including each of the last 3. Arizona has home wins by 33 over Tampa Bay and by 25 over the Jets so the potential is there. Coming off a tie with Seattle and loss at Carolina preceding last week’s Bye, the 3-4-1 Cardinals should be well prepared and well-motivated to take early control against a team that is poor on both sides of the football and ill equipped to play well from behind. Note that double digit favorites are 4-2 ATS this season with San Francisco 0-2 ATS as a double digit dog. ARIZONA.

Dallas (+2.5) at Pittsburgh (50): Dallas rolled to its seventh straight win and cover following their opening week loss to the Giants with three of the wins as underdogs. 4 of the wins have been on the road with 2 of them by double digits. Pittsburgh looked out of synch in their 21-14 loss at Division rival Baltimore in a game they trailed 21-0. The Steelers have lost 3 straight and failed to reach 17 points in any of the losses. It’s hard to recall a team like Dallas that has won and covered 7 straight being installed as an underdog the following week and it can be costly trying to predict when a lengthy streak – winning or losing – will end. DALLAS.

Seattle at New England (No Line): Seattle hosted Monday night and barring key injuries is expected to be about a 7 point underdog at rested New England. The Patriots are 7-1 both SU and ATS with the lone loss to Buffalo in Week 4 – a loss they avenged in a big way prior to last week’s Bye. The Seahawks had won 4 of 5 prior to a tie and a loss prior to Monday night. Seattle still has an elite defense but the offense is rather ordinary. Both offenses average losing less than 1 turnover per game which suggests this will be a well-played game.. At -7 or less the preferred play is New England. Otherwise, the play is the UNDER.

Monday

Cincinnati (+2.5) at New York Giants (47): The Giants scored touchdowns following a pair of first quarter interceptions of Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz for an early 14-0 lead but had to hold on for a 28-23 victory that has the G-men in second place in the NFC East, two games behind Dallas. It was their third win in a row following three straight losses. But the Giants still lack a running game, rushing for 78 or fewer yards in each of its last five games and averaging an NFL worst 68 yards per game. Both passing offenses rank in the top ten and both defenses rank in the bottom ten. And each has a big play receiver in the Bengals’ A J Green and the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. OVER

Last week: 4-7-1

Season: 66-62-3

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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