It’s becoming difficult to ignore home underdogs. We’ve had 12 so far — four in each of the first three weeks — and the home team has an impressive 8-4 record against the spread.
Six home teams are catching points Sunday (and St. Louis was a home dog Thursday night). One of them, Jacksonville, is winless and averaging 9 points per game. Another, Houston, is 2-1 and expected to make the playoffs.
Considering this season’s numbers and historical trends (home underdogs have come in around 54 percent over the last 20 years), these games are worth a look.
This week’s picks (home team in caps):
HOUSTON (+3) over Seattle: Before getting blown out last week, the Texans were actually leading the Ravens late in the second quarter before a pick-6 and a punt return for a touchdown changed the game. The Texans are 0-3 against the number and Seattle’s defense is frightening, but Houston is a home team getting points that can move the ball. Risking $110 to win $100.
JACKSONVILLE (+8) over Indianapolis: The Jaguars are 0-3 against the spread, 0-3 in the standings, and have the worst offense in the NFL. But I’m siding with this seemingly dreadful team because it is home for the first time in three weeks and the Colts are playing their second straight road contest and coming off a huge win in San Francisco.
While it’s hard to imagine the Colts losing, this is a divisional game, so it’s not unreasonable to expect the Jaguars to eventually stay within the number. Seattle may have taken its foot off the gas while dismantling Jacksonville last week, but the Jags showed heart by scoring 17 second-half points. Risking $110 to win $100.
Pittsburgh (-1½) over Minnesota (game is in London): Both teams are desperate for their first win, and quarterback play indicates Pittsburgh has the edge. Ben Roethlisberger found his rhythm for the Steelers against Chicago, while Minnesota’s Christian Ponder has banged-up ribs and was recently criticized by his position coach. Matt Cassel is Minnesota’s backup quarterback. Risking $165 to win $100.
ATLANTA (-2) over New England: After facing E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, and the newly benched Josh Freeman, the Patriots finally face an accomplished quarterback: Matt Ryan, who can lead a team downfield. Risking $110 to win $100.
Last week: 2-1, plus $85. Season: 6-5, plus $45.
Ed Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.