Look for the underdog Colts to take a bite out of Texans
Eight NFL teams are competing this weekend for the chance to continue playing for a championship. Here are some notable gambling items pertaining to each of these squads.
■ Indianapolis (10-6 overall, 8-7-1 against the spread): The Colts began the season 1-5, and their fifth loss was at the Jets, a game in which they surrendered 42 points. Finishing the season by winning nine of 10 was not expected, but Indianapolis did so while going 6-3-1 against the spread.
■ Houston (11-5 overall, 8-7-1 ATS): Just like Indianapolis, Houston’s divisional foe and wild-card opponent, the Texans finished strong against the number, going 7-2-1 in their last 10. Head to head, each covered once. Houston was particularly sturdy in its AFC South games, going 4-2 straight up and against the spread.
■ Seattle (10-6 overall, 10-5-1 ATS): Always tough at home, Seattle covered on the road just three times, a fact worth remembering before Saturday night’s game in Dallas.
■ Dallas (10-6 overall, 9-6-1 ATS): Home field has been important to the Cowboys this season; they were 5-2-1 vs. the number at AT&T Stadium, including 3-0-1 in their last four.
■ Los Angeles Chargers (12-4 overall, 9-7 ATS): The Bolts were 7-1 against the spread on the road, including a 2-0 mark at AFC North teams (LA plays in Baltimore Sunday).
■ Baltimore (10-6 overall, 8-8 ATS): Surprisingly, the Ravens beat the number at home just three times. For what it’s worth, Baltimore went just 1-5 vs. the spread in its division.
■ Philadelphia (9-7 overall, 6-10 ATS): Playing in Chicago Sunday afternoon, the Eagles are the biggest underdog of the weekend. Do they have another late-season run in them with Nick Foles under center?
■ Chicago (12-4 overall, 12-4 ATS): The Bears had the NFL’s best mark against the spread, they’ve covered nine of their last 10, and they were particularly outstanding covering at Soldier Field (7-1).
This week’s picks (home team in caps):
Indianapolis (+1) over HOUSTON: My eyes always wander toward the underdog in a divisional matchup. The fact that this underdog has a star quarterback and a stellar offensive line corroborates my initial notion. Risking $110 to win $100.
DALLAS (-2) over Seattle: In a matchup of similar teams, the Cowboys’ impressive season-long dominance at home is the deciding factor, as explained above. Risking $110 to win $100.
LA Chargers (+3) over BALTIMORE: Yes, the Ravens beat up on the Chargers in LA two weeks ago, but the Chargers are now healthier, and their young defense doesn’t have to rely on film to figure out Baltimore’s rookie quarterback, Lamar Jackson. They’ve lived the experience.
We know LA quarterback Philip Rivers is occasionally reckless, but in the last month, he has led the Chargers to wins in Pittsburgh, in Kansas City, and in Denver. If ever there were a year in which Rivers could make an improbable Super Bowl run through the AFC, this is it. Risking $165 to win $150.
CHICAGO (-6) over Philadelphia: The Eagles’ late-season push into the postseason is a terrific story: Super Bowl champions overcome key injuries to make another run at a title. We all can appreciate that narrative.
But facing Chicago’s ferocious defense at Soldier Field with a banged-up Foles at quarterback is a more realistic narrative that will be played out not as an alert on your phone but over the course of a 60-minute football game. If you’re inclined to back the biggest underdog of the weekend, be prepared to walk into a trap. Risking $110 to win $100.
Last week: 3-2, plus $25. Season: 39-34-1, minus $115.