Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 8:00 PM
Straight from the "what's-going-on-here" file: NFL Betting Favorites exited Thursday night's game in Minnesota - see Tampa Bay 36, Minnesota (- 5) 17 - with a 37-64-4 spread record this year (or a 36.6 winning rate).
Folks, we've said it before in this Jim Sez column space and we'll say it again ...We never/ever remember going this deep into an NFL Season with either the Favorites or the Underdogs sporting such a lopsided won/loss mark and no longer can we hear as possible reasons for the great run by NFL dogs the following: The replacement officials had a hand in it, the league's best teams had too many key injuries, blah-blah-blah.
The here-and-now fact is NFL Dogs have run wild through the first seven-plus weeks of this 2012 season and below here's a list of the best buys - and why -- as point-grabbers thus far:
ARIZONA - The Cardinals are a healthy 3-0-1 ATS (against the spread) this year with nearly all that damage done to opponents during the first three weeks of this season but it's no secret that a rock-ribbed defense has been key. Note that the Redbirds allowed 6, 18 and 6 points in season-starting covers against Seattle, New England and Philadelphia, respectively, and it's rather telling that Arizona is 3-1 spreadwise when holding folks to 18 points or less and 0-2-1 versus the vig whenever surrendering 19-or-more points.
MIAMI - How 'bout a round of applause for the Dolphins who are 3-1-1 spreadwise as pups this season with covers against Oakland, Arizona and Cincinnati with the lone spread setback coming in a Week One tilt in Houston. Sure, rookie head coach Joe Philbin has squeezed every bit of energy from his AFC East team with defense - and that's a better-than-you-thought defense - keying the way as the Fish held the Raiders to a mere 13 points while the Bengals also scored just 13 points back in a Week 5 clash that Miami won by four points. Toss into the mix the fact that rookie QB Ryan Tannehill - for the most part - hasn't killed the Dolphins in any really close games and you see why Miami's been a betting bargain plus points.
NEW YORK GIANTS - So what else is new, right? The defending Super Bowl champions are 2-0-1 ATS as underdogs this season with covers against Carolina and San Francisco (both were lopsided road wins as 3- and 7-point dogs, respectively) to go along with that 19-17 loss/push in Philadelphia back in Week 4 action. It's no secret that the G-men play their best ball when "disrespected" by the Las Vegas oddsmakers and their opponents and just date back to that first Super Bowl-winning season under head coach Tom Coughlin and you shall note the Giants are an electric 25-11-1 ATS as dogs over a five-plus year time frame - folks, that's a .694 winning rate in this wagering category that's even better than how NFL dogs have fared overall this year (.634 winning rate). Okay, so it helps having the best fourth-quarter quarterback in this generation as Eli Manning seems extra-geeked when in the dog role but - let's face it - when you're taking the Giants plus points you are generally taking the better team plus points no matter where the game is being played.
ST. LOUIS - The Rams head into their London game this weekend against TD-favorite New England with a nifty 5-2 spread mark this season (all while in the dog role) and first-year head coach Jeff Fisher surely deserves much of the credit because this offense simply has not clicked (see a 15.2 ppg average the past five weeks) but new kicker Greg Zuerlien has saved their bacon more than once and this new-and-improved secondary is keeping enemy air games silent for much of the time. Note that this NFC West crew has allowed 13, 3 and 17 points in three of its last four games and the fact St. Loo has proven it can win the close games - see a 3-point win against Washington and a 6-point victory versus Seattle - shows that this franchise is getting back on track and folks willing to plunk down a bob or two on 'em plus points have been duly rewarded.
SEATTLE - Betcha didn't realize these Seahawks were a perfect 5-and-oh against the odds as underdog sides this year! Pete Carroll's crew has - in fact - won four of these five games in outright upset fashion including that gallant 24-23 come-from-behind win against 4 ½-point fav New England two weekends ago and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the combo of a turnover-minded defense with a first-year quarterback (Russell Wilson) who isn't afraid of late-game challenges has been a real key in piling up the loot as point-takers this season. The Seahawks are underdogs once again this Sunday in Detroit and should be latching onto points at least another three or four more times down the road ... so you have been warned.
TAMPA BAY - Now that the Bucs and their backers cashed in the aforementioned Thursday Night game in Minnesota, this NFC South crew is a delicious 4-1 ATS as dogs this year and that includes barely sneaking under the price tag in earlier-year losses at both the 7 ½-point favored Giants and the 7-point favorite Dallas Cowboys. The Bucs are often a good dog play because they have a more explosive offensive nature these days - QB Josh Freeman is being given more freedom to throw it and throw it deep - plus Greg Schiano's crew is a sure-tackling bunch on "D" and that nose-for-the-ball reputation has helped get T-Bay over the top in some big games this year.
WASHINGTON - Last but not least, these Redskins are 4-1 vig-wise as underdog sides this year and it ain't all just because of mega-star QB Robert Griffin III. The 'Skins have a high-quality ground game these days led by rookie RB Alfred Morris and a bang-your-head offensive line plus the fact the Washington defense has made some significant red-zone stands this year - most notably early on in that 38-26 win against 2-point fav Minnesota a couple of weeks ago - and that's helped the cause for Mike Shanahan's crew.
So, there you have it: Seven NFL teams that have thrived big-time as underdog sides this year - and who's to say their magic is gonna run out anytime soon, right?
Now, here's a couple of NFL Week 8 Sunday afternoon key previews ...
ATLANTA (6-0) at PHILADELPHIA (3-3) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Wow ... the NFL's lone unbeaten is going up against an Eagles team that is 13-0 SU (straight-up) following a bye week under 14th-year head coach Andy Reid.
Did someone say something's gotta give?
No doubt the Eagles were the major newsmakers last week while both of these teams had bye weeks as Reid - under pressure from ownership - axed defensive coordinator Juan Castillo in favor of secondary coach Todd Bowles but will that be an answer for a Philly team that has self-destructed on both sides of the ball this year?
One-time Falcons QB Michael Vick already has thrown 8 INTs to go along with his 5 lost fumbles and we stopped counting a while back how many sacks/hurries/hits had been put on Vick by enemy defenses.
No doubt the bye week allowed Vick time to rest his battered/beaten-down body but here Philadelphia must get something positive from RB LeSean McCoy who has managed only 75 rushing yards on 30 carries in his last two outings.
On the flip side, Atlanta wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones have combined for 67 receptions and 8 TDs thus far - if QB Matt Ryan (14 TDs and 8 INTs for the league's eighth-ranked passing attack) is given just enough time to spot 'em deep, the Eagles and their boo-happy fans will be miserable again at the conclusion of this one.
NEW YORK GIANTS (5-2) at DALLAS (3-3) - 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Round I sure got a whole lotta press, didn't it?
The Dallas Cowboys' season-opening 24-17 win at the 3 ½-point favorite New York Giants (there we go again with another NFL underdog winner and the one game that started it all!) has been all the talk in Gotham City this past week but if you listen to the Giants they claim that things will be different here where Coughlin's club has won all three games it has played at the still-new Cowboys Stadium.
The Giants have shrugged off that "kick their (butts)" summer-time chatter by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and insist that this is less about bulletin board material and more about in-game execution:
Did you realize the Giants garnered a season-low 269 offensive yards in that initial meeting with the 'Boys back on Sept. 5th and you might recall that NYG wide-out Victor Cruz - one of the NFL's top three playmakers this year - dropped three or four Manning passes in that tilt?
If the Cowboys are gonna get their first regular-season "clean sweep" over the Giants since way back in 2007, than Dallas QB Tony Romo (307 yards passing and three TDs in that first game against the Jints) must be razor-sharp and butter-fingered WR Dez Bryant must catch everything thrown in his general direction ... got it, guys?
NOTE: Catch our NFL Week 8 Sunday Night Game Preview - that's New Orleans at Denver -- in our next edition of Jim Sez.