Rain is usually the great equalizer in football, hampering offenses and reducing skill gaps between teams.
And now it's the great UN-equalizer. The NFL made the bold and unusual move of switching its Monday Night showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs out of Mexico City because the field was unplayable. Concerts, soccer games and an unusually long, rainy season prompted health concerns for the players. Some threatened not to participate. The league stepped in and moved the game to Los Angeles.
That's good in the sense that the showcase game of the year should be played on someone's home field. The league may want to expand its influence, but the players don't always show up for games in Mexico City and England. Their body clocks are off. The games lack something.
The switch of this game back to the states may also be good for bettors who wagered early, snagging the Rams as a 2.5-point favorite when it was a neutral-site game. Now it's a home game for the Rams, and home field is usually worth about three points. Indeed, the line did move in mid-week from 2.5 to 3.5, a significant development. Some books had opened the line at -3, the loneliest and most frustrating number in point spreads.
It encourages thoughts of a push, so why bet, unless you can “buy a hook,” moving the line down to 2.5 or up to 3.5 depending on who you like in the game? But now, thanks to the switch in venue, the line moved on its own.
The over-under on this game is a whopping 63.5, the highest ever since these bets entered the mainstream in 1986.
This is an electrifying matchup. Both once-beaten teams are coming off wins without covers, as the Rams beat Seattle 36-31 and the Chiefs, saddled with the NFL's largest point-spread of the season — 17 — beat Arizona 26-14 to win without the cover.
Kansas City, nonetheless, is a league-best 8-2 against the spread this year.
A couple of defining games light the schedule this week. Who are the Chicago Bears, now sitting atop the NFL Central, as they host the team that nearly made the Super Bowl last year, the Minnesota Vikings.? If DA Bears, now riding a three-game win-and-cover streak, are to win the division, this is the game that may send them toward the title.
Other notable matchups include division leaders Houston and Washington, in the nation's capital. The Redskins own one of the strangest behavior patterns known to man. In their nine games, there has NEVER BEEN A LEAD CHANGE. When they score first, they win. When they don't, they lose. They are 6-3. What they've been telling you is that their games are over after the first score. I'd say that has to change and maybe this week. Why does that matter? Consider prop bets like in-game betting, in which the odds change after every score. It entices bettors to put new money on the team that just got scored against. The idea is that the lead will go back and forth - and it usually does - except for in this bizarre run by the Redskins.
The New York Giants have not won a home game this year as they get ready to host the Tampa Bay Bucs. Is this the week?
This Week's Games
Odds from Draft Kings. Over-Unders in parentheses
New Orleans -8.5 Eagles (54.5)
Carolina -3.5 AT Detroit
NY Giants -1 Tampa Bay (52)
Houston -3 AT Washington (43)
Atlanta -3.5 Dallas (47.5)
Pittsburgh -5.5 AT Jacksonville (47.5)
Indianapolis -3 Tennessee (48)
Los Angeles Chargers -7 Denver (46.5)
Arizona -4 Oakland (41)
Chicago -2.5 Minnesota (45.5)
Los Angeles Rams -3.5 Kansas City 63.5
Baltimore -3.5 Cincinnati.
This Week's picks, excerpted from Beat the Degenerates, which I host with Scott Cronick, director of entertainment publications for the Press of Atlantic City, on Newstalk 1400-AM WOND, 92.5-FM, WONDRadio.com and the Tune In app. We will take a hiatus from the air next week, but we will have our picks in this column.
Cronick: DA Bears over Minnesota.
David Weinberg, Eagles beat writer for The Press of Atlantic City: New Orleans Saints, emphatically, over the Eagles at -8
Bontempo: I like very little, but will pick the Bengals +3 over the Ravens, who have lost 3 straight.
Last Week's Highlights
Cleveland got a team-record 92-yard touchdown run, and it wasn't from a guy named Jim Brown. It was done by Nick Chubb, helping the Brownies roll past Atlanta.
And how do you do THIS? Tampa Bay gained 501 yards against Washington last week. Phenomenal. That kind of total should lead to at least an offense in the high 30s or low 40s. Well, how about — drum roll please — THREE ... that's right, Tampa Bay parlayed 501 yards into all of three points, an NFL record for futility. A goal-line interception and two missed field goals helped account for the total.
Here's another head scratchier. Buffalo scored 41 points to trounce the Jets 41-10 with a fourth-string quarterback ... on the road! One week earlier, they were humbled 41-9 by the Chicago Bears, at home. This is the strangest NFL team. They have convincing wins over playoff contenders Minnesota and Tennessee and they walloped the Jets, but in other games, they haven't shown up. Head Scratchier, double dose: Buffalo notched 41 points against the Jets after scoring just 37 points in the entire month of October.
The New England Patriots set a record they won't like: three double-digit losses in one year, the first in the Bill Belichick era. Jacksonville, Detroit and Tennessee did it to them.
Last Week’s Picks
Cronick won with Pittsburgh over Carolina. And he was alone. The rest of us, including the listeners, lost, as the Eagles could not cover for Weinberg, San Francisco blew a 10-point lead against the Giants and lost in the last minute for me, while listeners lost with the Rams not covering against Seattle.
Ring WHAT Bell? Pittsburgh's Pout and Holdout running back Le'Veon Bell made it official this week, saying he would not play at all this season. He wasn't happy with the money being offered, as $14 million a year does not buy what it used to. So, after holding his team hostage most of the year, he's opted to save wear and tear on his body and may actually make more in free agency next year. That's a shame. In the meantime, Pittsburgh scores more points without him, than with him, and running back James Conner's ability to get to the outside contrasts Bell's running between the tackles. Bell was as much a product of blocking as his own moves.
Pittsburgh opened as a 5.5 favorite against Jacksonville, which eliminated them in the post-season last year. But this year? The Jags have been awful.
Nah-Nah, Hey-Hey, Kiss Them Goodbye. Coach Jim Harbaugh and the Ravens, losers of three straight, will part ways after this season. And the Jets have quit on coach Todd Bowles. Their game checks should have bounced last week, that's how bad they were against Buffalo. The thing standing between them and a loss this week was a bye. Bowles is a bigger lame duck than a President at the end of a second term.
Looking A Bit Further Ahead.
It's common to believe the Lions are invincible on Thanksgiving Day. There was a time when they were. But a 1-11 streak — including an incredible nine straight home losses — makes them 37-39-2 on Turkey Day before they play the Bears, who just beat them. Will the real Lions stand up? Who knows.
Other Turkey Day matchups include Washington at Dallas in a battle with NFC Least implications, and Atlanta at New Orleans Thursday night. Bring the oxygen. The air should be filled with footballs.