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September 18, 2016

There are two NFL picks today.

#1: Take Cincinnati Bengals +3 spread against Pittsburgh Steelers for 3% of the bankroll.

To say there's bad blood between these two AFC North rivals would be an understatement. They despise each other and have let that publicly be known. Last year's games were close, competitive and a dog-fight and we don't expect this one to be much different. It'll likely go right down to the wire again before one of the teams likely wins it with a late field goal. If that's the case, there's great value in siding with the points instead of laying them. Because this is a matchup where the Bengals are a live underdog in our opinion and can win outright. If they don't however, we may still cover the spread or at least 'push' if Pittsburgh steals it via 1-3 points.

The Bengals led the division for much of the season last year before a devastating injury to QB Andy Dalton made things more difficult for them. Despite his absence, backup AJ McCarron actually did a decent enough job in relief but it was a couple of undisciplined and bone-headed plays by the likes of Vontaze Burfict that cost Cincy. Marvin Lewis' side had the lead and looked set to head to the playoffs before a 30-yard penalty and another to follow by Adam Jones gave the Steelers offense a chance for a dramatic finish. The rest is history... but needless to say that Cincinnati players have admitted they've thought a lot about that game since and learned quite a few things from it. We believe they'll do a better job of keeping their emotions in check.

Le'Veon Bell is arguably the best running back in NFL! His presence on the field is a game-changer and his absence will once again be sorely missed. Luckily for Pittsburgh, they have veteran DeAngelo Williams who's been doing a great job as his deputy since last year. The Bengals know all about him however given that they've now themselves been burnt by him a few times. They know they must still pay attention to the ground game and can't simply be focused on stopping Antonio Brown and crew. It should be noted however that even in the WR position which the Steelers are usually very strong in, a couple of players will once again be missing. Martavis Bryant showed his brilliance at times last season but won't be part of this offense due to off-field issues, meanwhile Markus Wheaton is still banged up and whether he plays or not, he's not at 100%.

Andy Dalton looked real sharp last week despite constantly getting pressured by the Jets and taking quite a bit of punishment. That showed how tough he's become. He was sacked more times in that game than he has been in a long time and we expect the O-line to do a better job this afternoon. The Bengals were also limited to just over 50 yards in rushing yards which was also an anomaly as they went the entire season achieving close to 100 yards on the ground. The combo of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard poses a lot of challenges for opposing defenses as one is a bruising back who can bulldoze his way in while the latter is an elusive and agile runner perfect for escaping through holes! Meanwhile AJ Green once again proved that he's one of the best receivers in the league when he torched Darrelle Revis and the Jets for over 150 yards and multiple scores! The public watched Pittsburgh demolish the Redskins on Monday Night Football and is in love with them all over again. They see a high-powered offense and want to back them! They are in a bit of a flat-spot here today however and have had one less day to prepare. We believe the Bengals will find a way to win this game but even if they don't, it should be another hard-fought battle where the points may well come into play.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Bengals are 9-0 ATS on the road after a game as a favorite in recent years!
  • Steelers are just 2-12 ATS (with only 4 wins) as home favorites after a Monday Night Football game!
  • Bengals are a perfect 10-0 ATS over the last decade as an underdog after a road game in which they allowed +22 first downs!

#2: Take Houston Texans -1 spread (buy half a point) against KC Chiefs for 3% of the bankroll.

These two teams faced each other back on January 9th in an AFC Wild Card game that is hard to forget. SPS had backed the Chiefs as a FG favorite on that day and the game never looked in doubt as Andy Reid's side cruised to a 30-0 blowout! It was an easy win for us and our clients but one that shouldn't be made much of, in relation to this contest. We expect this game at NRG Stadium to be played out very differently, this time around and in fact see the home side edging it for what will be a very satisfying victory. There's no doubt that JJ Watt and his gang have had their calendars circled and been looking forward to this contest since the schedules came out! After all, they were truly humiliated in that game and have a score to settle with the Chiefs.

The fact that Kansas City is coming off an improbable victory is another factor that goes against them this week. The Chiefs were outplayed by the Chargers for 3 quarters at home in Week 1 and trailed by as many as 3 touchdowns, before rallying and taking the game to overtime. They then completed the job in OT and won it by a FG, marking the largest comeback win in franchise history! While their determination and resolve is admirable, that 'W' may give them a false sense of security. They played poorly overall and were fortunate to have certain things go their way such as Keenan Allen leaving mid-game with a serious injury and a couple of questionable flags helping them extend drives. All in all, they deserve credit for their tenacity but that does leave them in a vulnerable spot head into Houston this week as some of the players may now believe that they can win games even without giving 100% or executing well. That is a fallacy at this level as poor performances are often punished. Unless KC plays much better than they did last week, we don't see them walking out of Texas with a win.

Not only will the Texans be incredibly motivated to deliver payback to a team that beat them twice last season (season opener and Wild Card game), they are an improved side. Brock Osweiler is an upgrade to Brian Hoyer and as he grows more comfortable in his new surroundings and with his new team, we believe he'll showcase his potential. The 'Ostrich' did well in his debut for the Texans against Chicago last week and with 'first game nerves' out of the way now, we believe he may do even better in Week 2. Phillip Rivers and the Chargers certainly showed that scoring against this Chiefs defense isn't much of a daunting task and may have provided a blueprint for DeAndre Hopkins and company. They gave up yards in bunches on the ground and through the air and the Texans should have success moving the chains as well. The continued absence of Justin Houston will only make matters more difficult for Kansas City. Let's not forget that Bill O'Brien's team has covered the spread 11 of 14 times when installed as a favorite! We believe Houston will be the hungrier football team in this one as they have an important point to prove, and that is that they can beat the Chiefs. That extra desire and urgency coupled with home field advantage should see them win this game.

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