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The Bettor’s edge

In NFL a bad team can cover as well as a good one

My gambling mentor often badgers me to “stop betting on bad teams.” He feels I have an obsession with NFL bottom-feeders, and he recently eviscerated me for selecting the Dolphins — getting 3 points — over the Jets.

He saw the Jets as the logical play, thinking New York would build off its overtime loss to the Patriots in Foxborough. I considered the Jets to be frauds, felt Miami was decent, and liked that the Jets were heading into a bye and Miami was coming off a bye.

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I was right, but I can’t gloat. My balance is below, for all to see, and the larger point is this: If I’m betting on bad teams, what are the good teams? Against the spread, which teams can you trust? The Packers are a good team, but they are 3-5 against the number. The Jets are 5-3 against the spread. Are the Jets a good team?

I understand where my Yoda is coming from, and over the course of a season, favorites do come in at around 55 percent. But money looks the same when you cash a winner on the Patriots (good team) as it does when you cash a winner on the Panthers (bad team). Both covered in Week 8.

The key word, of course, isn’t “good” or “bad.” It’s “winners.” Let’s find some.

This week’s picks (home team in caps):

Pittsburgh (+3½) over NEW YORK GIANTS: The Giants, particularly their secondary, look like a group in need of a bye. But that doesn’t come for another two weeks. New York has been surviving recently, but that won’t be enough against the Steelers. Risking $110 to win $100.

Baltimore (-3½) over CLEVELAND: I’m bullish on Cleveland’s future, but Baltimore has superior personnel. Ride the scenario I described above: The Ravens are coming off a bye and the Browns are heading into a bye. Risking $110 to win $100.

INDIANAPOLIS (+2) over Miami: As noted, I like the Dolphins, but they’re laying points on the road? Risking $110 to win $100.

GREEN BAY (-11) over Arizona: The Packers returned home after three consecutive road games and, forget covering, barely beat the Jaguars. This is the week to take Green Bay. Arizona can’t score and hasn’t covered since Sept. 23. Risking $110 to win $100.

Last week: 2-2, minus $75. Season: 14-18, minus $538.

Ed Ryan can be reached at ed_ryan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @EdzoRyan
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