Sports gambling column: Week Nine

To start things off, I was right to tell all of you to bet against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football tonight. Not only did the Titans cover the +6.5-point spread, but the Titans also won the game outright. So there.

In terms of my ongoing NFL bets, this weekend was sort of a mixed bag. The Bengals, the team I’ve been monitoring most closely, had a BYE week. Unfortunately, the Steelers beat the Ravens to improve to 5-2-1 and took first place in the AFC North. Anyone in their right minds would pick the Steelers to win that division, but I still have some misplaced faith in the 5-3 Bengals. They’re just a tough team and they’ve been really, really banged-up lately. Hopefully, some of their injured players will be ready to go after the BYE week, and the Bengals will need all the help they can get against a red-hot Saints team in week 10. If both the Steelers and Bengals stay the course, the AFC North will probably come down to a Dec. 30 tilt in Pittsburgh, a game in which the Bengals will probably need to win to win the division.

My other season-long bet is the Chiefs to win the AFC West, and while they’ve looked great all season, I am a little nervous about how the Chargers are right on their heels. After controlling most of the game today in Seattle, I think we can finally say that the Chargers are for real. No matter how good you are, it’s just really hard to beat the Seahawks at home. Two teams with some of the best offenses in recent history, the 2016 Falcons and 2017 Eagles, couldn’t do it. Although the Chargers aren’t on the level as either of those teams were (one of them won the Super Bowl and the other improbably lost it), they’re 5-2, only losing to the Rams and Chiefs so far. Quarterback Philip Rivers is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career, and the Chargers are good enough on both offense and defense to be a problem for opposing teams in a weak AFC. I would still definitely pick the Chiefs over them in a playoff game, but I think they should scare the Patriots and Steelers because of how running back Melvin Gordon can take advantage of each team’s slow linebackers in the passing game. The only issue I have with the Chargers is the same issue I have with the Chiefs. I don’t trust their coach, which matters less in the regular season, but still opens up a wormhole of ways a team can lose a game that they’re supposed to win. So yeah, the Chiefs are winning the AFC West.

As for my bets on the Rams and Patriots winning the Super Bowl, I still feel relatively good about both of them after week nine. The Rams suffered their first loss of the season to the Saints, who might be the best team in the NFL. I watched this entire game, and it seemed like the Saints were going to run away with it after going up 35-14 late in the second quarter after scoring 21 straight points. But the Rams scored 21 straight of their own and were able to tie the game at 35-35 in the fourth quarter. But the Saints ended up having too many weapons for the Rams secondary, and wide receiver Michael Thomas’ 72-yard touchdown essentially sealed the 45-35 win. The Rams still have to play the Chiefs in Mexico City and the Bears on the road, but should still feel good about their chances of getting the top seed in the NFC since their final two games are against two of the worst teams in the NFL in the 49ers and Cardinals, and the Rams might be able to rest some of their stars in both of those games and still win. However, the Saints exposed the Rams’ weak secondary, and it should scare Rams fans that their pass rush was not able to record a sack all game. I feel slightly worse about their Super Bowl chances, but because they lost to my favorite team, I don’t have much to complain about.

Meanwhile, the Patriots took care of business in a 31-17 win against the Packers. I explained my case for and against the Patriots last week, and not much has changed. They should be able to contend, and I like their chances, even if they have to play the Chiefs in the playoffs.

Sorry if this column seemed a little bland. I was going to rank the top ten most memorable NFL playoff games of the last five seasons but quickly realized that would take too long and would probably be easier to cover in podcast form. See you next week.


Money spent to date: $80

Winnings to date: $0