Opening Lines: Week 5

The Patriots opened as 9.5-point favorites as they prepare to host the rival Jets in Week 5.

I fully expected New England to be a strong favorite in this matchup, but that 9.5 number really jumped off the page at me. I thought Vegas might give the Pats 6 or 7, but not two scores. I’m not going to lie, folks – the fact that the bookmakers somehow hated the Jets more than I do makes me feel like less of a man. You can’t see me right now, but rest assured I am hanging my head in shame.

When a line seems really out of whack, there is usually a good reason why. In this case, it’s because the Jets offense and run defense has been well below average in the first four games of the year. They’re giving up 130 yards per game on the ground, their completion percentage is in the bottom quarter of the league, and their two leading receivers are a running back and a tight end. Their running game has done nothing to take the pressure off Sanchez either, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry (good for 31st in the league). The only person who’s expecting the Jets to pile on the points this week is Rex Ryan, but that’s only because his team is clearly going to the Super Bowl this year.

The real key to this matchup will be New England’s ability to decipher New York’s pass defense. The Jets rank 2nd in the league against the pass, and they did a tremendous job of keeping Brady and the offense from finding any rhythm in the playoffs last year. The Patriots offense still really misses Aaron Hernandez, but they may have hit on something big last week (pun intended) by lining up OL Thomas Welch as a second TE to create mismatches in the running game. I would not be surprised to see them use Welch as a de facto sixth offensive lineman more in this game as well since the Jets have been vulnerable on the ground and will surely design their defense around stopping the pass.

If you’re betting on this spread, the over-under of 49.5 becomes an interesting proposition. You have to figure that New England’s worse-case scenario involves them putting up around 24 points (no jinx, no jinx, no jinx). That means the Jets will have to put up three scores to cover, which puts the total well into the 40s. If you talk yourself into taking the Jets and the points, the over makes a lot of sense. It gives you some measure of insurance against a Pats blowout and gives you a shot at winning both bets if the game is close and high-scoring (a very strong possibility in any game involving the Patriots).

I think New England will win this game, but it’s too easy for the Jets to nail down a backdoor cover with 9.5 points and the porous New England secondary. I’ll take the Jets to cover and the over (49.5).

Other lines I like this week

OVER (49.5) on Eagles @ Bills

This is an extremely tough week for picking games against the spread. Not a ton of value on the board. The Eagles defense is very thin up front and weak at linebacker, so the Bills should have no trouble moving the ball. I can’t envision the Bills shutting down Mike Vick. Getting this line anything below 50 is a steal.

Saints (-6) @ Panthers

The Panthers are receiving a pile of positive press because of the exciting play of Cam Newton. However, the defense has been pretty bad (31st against the run, 109.5 QB rating allowed), and they’ve had trouble running the ball. New Orleans has been a well-oiled machine on offense this year, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has a knack for causing problems for rookie QBs. Saints should win this one by at least a score.

OVER (38) on Chiefs @ Colts

You know who I think wins this game? The fans with the good sense not to watch it. These teams are both painfully boring to watch. Neither of these defenses are particularly good in any area of the game, and there are enough playmakers on both offenses to allow each team to easily approach the 20s. 38 is an exceptionally low number that even these two inept teams should be able to reach.

2010 Record ATS: 25-17-1

2011 Record ATS: 8-14

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