The operative word in this item's headline is "dope." We're going to look at a handful of the weekend's NFL games taking into consideration the point spread. Risky business to say the least.
First of all, this is a weekend when there are lots of big favorites, which always makes for tough picks and lots of nail-biting. The winning team could go soft defensively at the end of the game and easily win on the scoreboard but fail to cover for the bettors. There are at least eight games with a point spread of 6 1/2, and some of those could move to a full touchdown by kickoff.
Not the least of the big-spread games is the Jets-Ravens, where Baltimore is giving 10 points. By the way, this game opened at -12, so that public money coming out of New York has had a substantial effect. If injuries are part of the line movement, I think it's a reflection more of Jonathan Ogden's status because if Steve McNair and Chad Pennington are both scratched, bettors are probably giving Baltimore the nod at backup QB. The Ravens have been dynamite at M&T Bank Stadium -- 8-3 in their last 11 home games against the spread. But Baltimore games also skew toward the under when it plays within the conference. The over-under total in this one is 33.
Obviously, I like the Ravens for the game outright, but the spread scares me. I like the under just a little more, although I would be worried about Baltimore's defense putting points on the board and taking it over the top, especially at the end when the Jets are in fire-drill mode. Force me to make a pick and I take the under.
Houston at Carolina (-6 1/2) -- Every year there is a team that comes out of nowhere to hammer the spread. A few years ago it was Cincinnati when Marvin Lewis got those guys on track. I think this year it'll be the Texans. The betting public is somewhat aware that Houston QB Matt Schaub is pretty good, but it's tough to get that loser stink off you when you've been as bad as the Texans. So for a while, I think they'll be undervalued. I'd love the Texans with the full 7, but I still like them with the 6 1/2. Pick: Houston (taking 6 1/2).
Dallas at Miami (3 1/2) -- I'm never comfortable picking public teams and they don't come any more public than the Dallas Cowboys, especially when they're a little bit good. Both teams are starting with new head coaching regimes, but Dallas is a much smoother transition. Dallas' Wade Phillips has been there before. Miami's Cam Cameron is a first-time head coach. Sometimes it works out for a newbie -- as it did for Sean Payton in New Orleans last year -- but that's not usually the case. Despite allowing all those points to the Giants last Sunday night, Dallas still can play pretty good defense at times and the Miami offense is without an identity. And the 'Fins are coming off an emotional loss to Washington. As usual, there's that half-point that gives you second thoughts, but I think the Cowboys win going away. Pick: Dallas (giving 3 1/2)
Minnesota at Detroit (- 3) -- I have this rule: Never take a really, really bad team no matter how many points it is getting. Well, for a long while, the Detroit Lions have fit that category. But I think Detroit might actually be raising the level of its game all the way to mediocre. Seriously, a second season with Jon Kitna at quarterback helps and rookie WR Calvin Johnson looks like the real deal. Two of Minnesota's TDs last week against Atlanta came on interceptions. In a matchup of Kitna vs. Tarvaris Jackson, I'll take Kitna. Pick: Detroit (giving 3).