The chants have gone on long enough. It’s finally time. Johnny Manziel will make his first NFL start this Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
I’m not leading my column with this because I’m a Manziel super fan. Instead, I want to highlight once again why the NFL is a world of overreactions. Week to week overreactions happen all the time, but it’s the ones that last multiple weeks that really gain traction. For example, Drew Stanton being able to lead the Cardinals to a Super Bowl seems pretty laughable now. He had a nice stretch of competency, but he was never going to bring Arizona to…Arizona. But people jumped on the small sample size and hopped on the bandwagon, pundits and public alike.
The same can be said for Brian Hoyer. Through nine weeks of play, Hoyer had the Browns at 6-3, despite some pretty average performances. But because Cleveland was winning, and because they haven’t won in quite a while, there were demands that the Browns give Hoyer a large contract to keep him as their starter. Um, what?
I was baffled by it. You’ve got a first round pick waiting in the wings and people think you should give a journeyman who really hasn’t proved much of anything millions of dollars? Why don’t you ask the Buccaneers how that worked out with Josh McCown.
The NFL is all about being one step ahead of the curve. Foresee what’s coming next and you look like a genius. Get on the train at the wrong stop and you look stupid. Betting is the same way (except there’s money involved). So the point I’m training to make is do your best to stay on the ground. The NFL changes every week, every two weeks, every three weeks, etc. Look at the big picture and all the facts you can.
And get ready for Johnny Football.
Five Star Bets
BROWNS (-1) over Bengals, Confidence Rating 4.5/5
Well look where we start…Johnny Football! It turns out that Manziel is making his first start in a great spot. First, the Browns are coming off a tough loss and know that they need to win this game for any shot of making the postseason. Second, the team and the crowd will both be pumped with the QB change. New quarterbacks tend to do well and re-energize their team in their first start. If anyone defines energy, it’s Johnny Football. Marvin Lewis won’t have any film of the “midget” under center, so that’s another disadvantage. Also, the Bengals have to host Denver next Monday night in the MNF finale. I know this is a divisional game, but you have to think the Bungles are looking ahead a little bit. Vontaze Burfict being out only dumps more gasoline on the fire. But finally, look at this line. These teams are basically even (although Cleveland might actually be a little better, especially with Manziel). The line says it would be Bengals -5 in Cincinnati. It’s also important to know that the line opened up at Bengals -1.5, meaning it would be a Bengals -7.5 line at Cincinnati. That’s absurd, especially given what happened the last time these two teams met (remember, Andy Dalton had one of the worst QB performances EVER). Take the Browns, and see what Johnny Football can do for you.
BILLS (+5) over Packers, Confidence Rating: 4/5
Buffalo made a valiant effort to cover in Denver this week, and I expect them to do so again at home. Like the Browns, even though the Bills probably have no shot at the playoffs, they’re still technically in it, so they’ll play their hearts out. This nonconference game doesn’t mean nearly as much to the Packers. Did you know that Green Bay is 1-5 ATS away from Lambeau this season? They play much better with their big homefield advantage, and the public will surely be all over them. After a short week and no cover at home against Atlanta, it seems the Packers aren’t invincible after all (would you look at that). The Bills defense gave Peyton Manning trouble, and it should do the same to Aaron Rodgers.
Both bets: Bet $20, win $18.18; Bet $100, win $90.90
Redskins (+13) over GIANTS, Confidence Rating: 4.5/5
So I talked about Washington big time last week and they went and laid a goose egg. I get it. I was wrong. Let’s try not to overreact people, ok? The Rams killed them, and the Giants are not the Rams. Everyone is back on New York because they blew out the worst team in the NFL. Congratulations! Washington is in a much better spot coming off a loss, and they should be able to get up for this divisional contest. I know I said it last week, but despite how bad they’ve been, Washington has some talent on both sides of the ball. The quarterback situation and uncertainty scares me a little, so I’ll tease this line up just in case.
FALCONS (+8.5) over Steelers, Confidence Rating: 4/5
Atlanta had a surprise cover in Green Bay (not too surprising, I picked them) and it looks like they may not be as awful as they’ve been. Matt Ryan is playing well again thanks to an offensive line that, while bad, seems to at least be benefiting from some consistency. And this Steelers defense is trash. I picked Pittsburgh last week because it was a game they probably should have lost. With this being a game they should probably win, I’ll go against them and their up and down ways. If the Falcons don’t have Julio Jones, that could be an issue, but anyone should be able to burn the Steelers secondary. It’s not ideal that Atlanta has their huge matchup in New Orleans next week, but coming off a close and respectable loss with Pittsburgh getting to hear how great they are (again), I’ll grab the points with this teased line.
49ers (+16.5) over SEAHAWKS, Confidence Rating: 4/5
I know this one has the potential to go south real quick, but I don’t see that happening. We’ve seen Seattle blow out San Fran before, and the Niners are in turmoil so it could happen again, but after a horrendous loss and going into Seattle against their arch-rivals, the 49ers should be more than fired up for this game, regardless of what’s going on with Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick. Everyone is back on the Seattle bandwagon after they beat Philly, but let’s pump the breaks. Their offensive line got pummeled, the running game wasn’t great, and I still don’t trust consistent play from Russell Wilson. I know the Seahawks are playing better football and the Niners are playing worse, but with a line this high, I’ll put my faith in Harbaugh in what will likely be his last game against Seattle as the San Francisco head coach.
Two-team teaser: Bet $20, win $18.18; Bet $100, win $90.90
Three-team teaser: Bet $20, win $32; Bet $100, win $160
Redskins over GIANTS, FALCONS over Steelers, Vikings over LIONS, Texans over COLTS
I hope it’s Colt McCoy who plays against the Giants. If it is, I think he’ll lead Washington to victory. If it’s not, then I’m not so sure about their new punter, Robert Griffin III…Pittsburgh could very well lose this game in Atlanta that they should win, beat Kansas City in Arrowhead next week when they shouldn’t win, and drop their finale at home to the Bengals. It would be fitting of their season so far…Detroit has scored 34 points in back to back weeks, and this is their third straight home game. The Lions coming off these two trends haven’t had a ton of recent success (I think they’re allergic to success)…I think it’s obvious that the Colts are not as good as we thought they were. Andrew Luck is great, but he’s not truly at the elite level yet. They can’t run the ball either. However, I don’t know if people realize Houston may be better than we thought they were. J.J. Watt leads a solid defense, they CAN run the ball with Arian Foster (something they couldn’t do in the previous meeting, and they still almost won), and as long as Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t a huge liability, they could make this divisional race a real battle.
*Payouts are not yet available in parlay options for Redskins vs. Giants and Steelers vs. Falcons. The oddsmakers are waiting to see who the Washington QB will be and if Julio Jones will play.