FLORIDA (-2) vs. GEORGIA @ Jacksonville (Total 46)
The scenario for “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” is that Florida’s program, despite the loss to LSU, is on the severe upswing, while Georgia may be ready to decline without the services of superback Nick Chubb, a worthy successor to Todd Gurley (and a Heisman candidate) who is out for the year. Their biggest asset offensively is that Greyson Lambert has been picked off just twice in 139 attempts. But the low-risk Lambert will undergo a stiff challenge from a Gator secondary that ranks among the very best in the country.
True, the Bulldogs have allowed just 3.3 yards a carry. And Florida has just 3.5 ypc of its own on offense. But Kelvin Taylor seemed to penetrate that front in last year’s meeting, rolling for almost 300 yards. Treon Harris has not been intercepted in 59 throws. Okay, that’s pleasant news. Florida won last year’s game, with a lesser team, and despite just 27 passing yards, they won it by 18 points, and that was even after Georgia scored a TD with three seconds left. We’re just fine laying this number with the Gators.
MARSHALL (-17) at CHARLOTTE (Total 51)
For the past four years, when people have thought of Marshall they have thought of a lot of offense led by quarterback Rakeem Cato. But the nice surprise the Thundering Herd have for potential backers is a defense that ranks second nationwide against the pass (efficiency). They’ve also gotten good news from the quarterback move they made, as Chase Litton, a freshman, replaced James Madison transfer Michael Birdsong. All Litton’s done is come in and throw a dozen touchdown passes with only four interceptions in 185 attempts. He play sunder control, and that allows the running game to operate. Marshall has one of the best in Conference USA in Devon Johnson (6.6 ypc).
FBS (Division I) newcomer Charlotte is well-intentioned, and they brought some experience over for their transition, but they haven’t really come close against any quality foe. The 49ers run the ball a lot, but they don’t have a lot to show for it (just 3.7 ypc as a team). And QB’s Lee McNeill and Matt Johnson have combined for three TD passes and 16 interceptions. Whew! This number is actually quite reasonable for the rampaging Herd, which has six wins by double digits. LAY IT.
VIRGINIA TECH (-2) at BOSTON COLLEGE (Total 37.5)
There is a sense of urgency around the Hokies these days, as they need to win three of their last four games to get bowl-eligible. And that’s why it is a good thing that they have quarterback Michael Brewer returning from his collarbone injury. Perhaps now they can get back to looking a little more like the team that led revenge-minded #1-ranked Ohio State at the half. Statistically, Boston College has been so incredibly good on defense, ranked first against the run (1.9 ypc allowed), sixth against passing efficiency and second overall (allowing just seven touchdowns). But they have been just so woeful offensively, ranking 125th out of 127 FBS teams in total offense. They had four first downs and 79 total yards against Louisville last week. Interestingly enough, they lost that road game by only three points. Hey, you know what? We’ve got an idea…..UNDER 37.5
DETROIT vs. KANSAS CITY (-4) @ London (Total 45)
This game begins at 9:30 AM ET on Sunday, but the Lions served a nasty wakeup call to three assistants who found themselves out of a job – that’s the offensive coordinator and two offensive line coaches. And why the hell not? This team has not run the ball at all (last in the NFL in yards gained), not was it able to lend any protection whatsoever to Matthew Stafford last week, as he was sacked seven times against Minnesota. So now, this artificial turf team is expected to get its act together in the sloppy turf at Wembley Stadium against a Chiefs team that has been almost as disappointing, but at least may have found someone who can plug the gap a little in the absence of Jamaal Charles, as Charcandrick West had 110 yards in a win against Big Ben-less Pittsburgh. Kansas City has the pass rushers (Tamba Ali and Justin Houston) who probably gave Stafford nightmares on that long flight to the UK. We’re going to lay the points with the Chiefs.
SAN DIEGO at BALTIMORE (-3.5) (Total 50.5)
This may sound somewhat cliche-ridden, but when a team like the Ravens, who are used to making that annual trip to the playoffs, starts out a season 1-6, with virtually all playoff hope eliminated, you have to wonder what their mindset would be like. And they have probably traveled more than any NFL team that hasn’t been overseas yet. Did something go wrong for the Chargers last week? Yes it did. You don’t get blown away with such a listless first half against Oakland – and at home no less – without their being some reason for that extreme flat spot. Maybe it’s the fact that there is so much unrest in San Diego because it is no longer a secret that this team wants to move to Los Angeles.
So perhaps the best thing for them is to get out of town. Look, the offensive line seems about as “healthy” as it has been in a while, which may not be saying much. You can’t doubt that Philip Rivers has weapons, and that he has not been too shy about putting it up in the air lately, with 123 attempts the last two weeks. Well, that actually plays into Baltimore’s weakness at the moment (pass defense). Melvin Gordon sat the bench last week, ostensibly because of an ankle problem, but he’s had fumble-itis lately. Did you see how the Chargers were doing their best to score in the final seconds last week, even though the game was out of hand? They’re still working on stuff. Yeah, we’ll grab the points with the Bolts.
TAMPA BAY at ATLANTA (-7) (Total 49)
Boy, it was kind of scary watching the Falcons try to mount any kind of attack at all against a Tennessee team that, behind substitute quarterback Zach Mettenberger, could only generate 256 yards against them. But even scarier is imaging what kind of mental state Tampa Bay must be in after blowing a 24-0 lead against Washington last week. If the Bucs can get over that, they may have a chance to keep this one very tight. Jameis Winston has not turned the ball over in either of the last two games (hooray!) and the Bucs have some “intelligence” on their side, with first-year offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter having served in that capacity for Atlanta the last three seasons.
We know that Devonta Freeman leads the league in rushing at the moment, but hey – Doug Martin is not far behind in third place. And those tall receivers are a potential problem for anybody. Actually, the defensive metrics are not all that bad for the Bucs; they are just allowing a lot of points in relation to yards. That tends to even out over time; at least we think so. You are laying premium prices with the Falcons these days, and we are inclined to be “on the take” in this one.
(Charles Jay is a gaming professional, content specialist and sports handicapper. He offers his special commentary in the 2015 Sports Betting Guide – http://2015sportsbettingguide.com/)