September 20, 2015 (Posted at 11:00 AM ET)
Much like last Sunday, there are 3 NFL picks today.
1) Take the UNDER 41 total points in St. Louis Rams vs. Washington Redskins for 3% of the bankroll.
The Rams have some of the best pass rushers in the entire league! Their defense was on full display against the Seattle Seahawks, holding them to just 13 points through the first 3 quarters. 4 offensive fumbles, setting the Seahawks up with good field position and their special teams allowing two defensive touchdowns, severely took away from just how good they played. Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins have not been a team normally known for their stout defense, but did play well in their opener, holding the Miami Dolphins to just 256 total yards. With so many question marks on the offensive side of the ball, defense is actually the only thing the Redskins have seemingly done well the last couple seasons and should be a focus in this contest.
Both teams are also experimenting with new quarterbacks. The Rams and Eagles decided to "swap" quarterbacks and Nick Foles is still in the process of learning a new offensive system. With Tre Mason being inserted back into the lineup this week, we expect Jeff Fisher to have a solid focus on the running game. The Rams have a trio of backs in Mason, Cunningham and Gurley, which shows just how dedicated this team will be to running the football. Foles is not a gunslinger and has been brought in to simply make the throws when needed, as he did in Philadelphia, but we don't expect to suddenly see the Rams turn into an Air-Raid Offense. Look for Fisher to implement more of a “run, run, pass” type offense this week.
Washington is in a similar QB situation. With RGIII taking a seat, the Redskins have been trying out former Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins at the helm. Cousins has been up and down in his few starts the last couple of season and has shown that he still has a lot to learn about quarterbacking an NFL team. The Skins have a dynamic running back in Alfred Morris and we expect him to be the workhorse this afternoon as Jay Gruden attempts to negate the pressure of the Rams pass rush. In the passing game, Desean Jackson will be out of the lineup this afternoon which takes away a vaunted deep threat for Cousins to throw to. If the Rams can contain Pierre Garcon on the perimeter, there likely won't be much other than check downs in the passing game for Cousins.
We expect a conservative effort from both sides in this contest with more of an emphasis on the ground game and playing solid defense. With the Rams / Seahawks game having a combined 65 points scored, there is no doubt that some of the betting public will be expecting a high scoring affair in this contest as well. We believe they will be sadly disappointed. Both defenses are severely undervalued but they should do a solid job at keeping the opposing offenses out of the end zone. We don't expect to see a lot of touchdowns in this contest; this will likely be a back and forth FG affair. If that is indeed the case, this game should fall just under the Total.
2) Take Philadelphia Eagles at -6 spread against Dallas Cowboys for 3% of the bankroll.
The Eagles will no doubt come into this contest looking to take out some of their opening week frustrations out on their division rivals. On the road in Atlanta on Monday Night and down 3 points, Sam Bradford drove his team down the field and on a 4th and 1 on the fringe of FG range, Chip Kelly elected to try and tie the game with a FG rather than run the ball as they had effectively done all game long. Cody Parkey missed the field goal and the Eagles went on to lose the game. Kelly has surely been questioning his decision on that call and had he have a chance to do it all over again, we believe he would’ve gone for it. We don't believe he will hold anything back in this contest at home. The Eagles were road chalk and it’s important to know that teams coming off an "embarrassing loss" of 4 or more points as a road chalk, are an impressive 13-1-1 ATS.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys are coming off an improbable win at home due to some bad clock management by the New York Giants. In all honesty, the Cowboys didn't look all that good in that game. Their running game has obviously taken a hit with the loss of DeMarco Murray and Dallas received another huge blow in their opener with Dez Bryant getting injured. Bryant is no doubt the Cowboys most electric playmaker and QB Tony Romo's favorite target. The loss of Dez will really hurt the Cowboys in this contest. Let's not forget, before Bryant really broke out for the Cowboys, Tony Romo had a very prominent reputation of throwing interceptions and trying to "force things" through the air. Bryant is a dynamic receiver and has the ability to "win" his matchups with defenders. Without him on the field, we expect Romo to revert back to a version of his former self and make mistakes with the football in this contest.
Speaking of DeMarco Murray, he will get a chance to run against his former team in this contest and run he shall. The Eagles running game is arguably the most dynamic in the league. We saw how their tempo and pace completely wore out the Atlanta Falcons in the second half of the game on Monday night. With a trio of back in Murray, Sproles and Matthews, they consistently have fresh legs on the field that have the ability to outrun defenders. The Cowboys have a bunch of "big boys" in their front 7, and their cardio will certainly be tested in this contest. We expect to see a lot of "hands on hips" come the second half of this game as the Eagles simply wear out the defense of the Cowboys.
The Eagles made a lot of moves in the offseason and big things were expect of them this season. After narrowly losing their Monday Night game on the road, we find it hard to see Chip Kelly going down 0-2 to start the season. Sam Bradford had a solid showing in the second half in Atlanta and at one point completed 15 straight passes. After getting his first start under his belt, we expect him to be much more comfortable in this contest. He has numerous weapons at his disposal, including his favorite target, Jordan Matthews who should give the Cowboys secondary fits this afternoon. With this being a rivalry game, the Eagles should score early and often and we don't expect them to show the Cowboys any mercy in this contest. The Eagles should come away with a convincing win and cover.
3) Take the UNDER 47 total points in Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints for 3% of the bankroll.
The Buccaneers defense is the laughing stock of the league right now! After their terrible display against the Titans last week, the betting public is expecting them to implode yet again but we tend to disagree. Every NFL player, co-ordinator and unit has a lot of pride and after being mocked all week long by the media and even their own fans, they'll want to put on a much better display. And while we don't expect them to suddenly turn this defense into a stout bunch, we do believe they will fare better than they did against Mariotta and company. That's because as great as Drew Brees is, having to prepare for a QB as mobile and as quick as Marcus Mariotta was an entirely different task and one that the Bucs had not had much experience against. They've faced Brees and company many times in the past however and at least know their tendencies and what they're up against. People tend to over-react to lopsided results and quickly make conclusions but historical NFL data proves that division teams that were embarrassed by giving up 40+ points shore up their defense in the following game. Such instances have occured 6 times over the last four seasons and in all 6 cases, the next game has gone 'Under'!
The Saints being a double-digit favorite should help keep the game relatively low-scoring as well. That's because when teams have a comfortable lead, they tend to get conservative and become more concerned with managing the clock and wasting as much time as possible rather than trying to continue to put points on the board. Sean Peyton is certainly a coach that has chosen to run the ball in such situations in years past and will rely on Mark Ingram and Robinson. The Saints have some capable running-backs but few got the opportunity to rush for yards last week. After management declared all off-season that their plan is to run the ball more, Week 1's game hardly featured that. Drew Brees continued to pass the ball in what was a air-heavy offense but we expect that to change today at home. The New Orleans offense no longer has giant tight-end Jimmy Graham for those key 3rd down passes or red zone TDs and will elect to give its RBs more carries than they had last week. That should take time off the clock and slow down the tempo especially when they hold the lead which is likely to be for much of this game. Our historical database also reminds us that games with big home favorites (8 or more points) in the second week of the season have gone 'Under' 9 straight times!
Jameis Winston has some good receivers at his disposal this year but few are at optimal condition (100%) at the moment. Mike Evans will likely play but was banged up all week and limited in practice. Vincent Jackson is another great target but he and Winston have not yet forged the type of relationship and understanding that a QB and receiver need to have great success. Winston should fare better than in his NFL debut but we don't expect him to outplay Brees or anyting like that. Tampa's offense will still be limited while their defensive unit will have a chip on its shoulders and come out fired up to prove a point! Doug Martin will get to carry the ball at times and will be opposed by the likes of Cameron Jordan. The Saints should ultimately win this game but by controlling the tempo and having the lead, they may elect to run the ball and take precious time off the clock. We also foresee quite a few drives ending in field goals instead of TDs and that should help the game stay 'Under'. Last but not least, this is a division game and such matchups have often gone 'Under' as coaches emphasize defensive solidarity above offensive flair. Nearly 80% of the public is betting the 'Over' in this matchup and yet the fact that the opening number was 48.5 but has dropped to 47 points says a lot on its own.
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