11/18/2010 4:27PM

Vikings may not win, but they should keep score close against Packers


We are 10 weeks into the NFL season and the bye weeks are behind us.

With every team having played exactly nine games (heading into Thursday’s game between the Bears and Dolphins), it’s a good time to check how teams are faring against the spread with our annual ATS Standings. This usually shows how teams are exceeding or falling short of expectations.

In addition to the fact that underdogs have been cashing at nearly 57 percent so far this NFL season on a record of 78-59-5 ATS, one of the biggest betting stories has been that the formerly cowardly Lions have been making money for their backers. I have them tied with the equally overachieving Rams atop the ATS Standings at 7-2, but while the Rams have a very ugly 44-6 loss to these same Lions, Detroit’s biggest point-spread loss this season was a single point in a 24-10 loss as a 13-point underdog at Minnesota in Week 3. Their only other setback was this past week in a 14-12 loss at Cleveland as a 1 1/2-point dog.

DRF SPORTS: Latest betting lines, StatFox matchups, and handicapping news for every game

Now, you might see some people saying the Lions are actually 8-1 ATS as last week’s line was as high as Lions +3 (in fact, that was the line in the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest) and was +2 1/2 most of the week. Regardless if you think of them as 8-1, 7-2, or even 7-1-1 if you got a push on Lions +2, they have still been the best bet so far this season.

The Jets and Dolphins are next at 6-3 ATS, with the only other teams hitting at better than 60 percent being the Patriots, Colts, and Buccaneers at 5-3-1.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Texans have the worst spread record at 2-6-1 as they have failed to cover their last five games. The biggest underachieving team has been the Cowboys, who were 1-7 ATS before pulling their big upset over the Giants last Sunday. The Panthers are also 2-7 AT, but that’s not too much of a surprise.

In totals wagering, the Jets, Patriots, Cardinals, and Cowboys are all 7-2 with the over. The Jaguars and Broncos are right behind at 6-2-1 (coincidentally, both teams’ push was from their Week 1 meeting when the Jaguars beat the Broncos, 24-17, with the over/under closing at 41 (it was 40 prior to that Sunday, so early bettors cashed the over in that game as well).

Overs, thanks to going 21-6 over the past two weeks combined, are hitting at better than 58 percent this year at 83-59-2, so it’s hard to find many consistent under teams. The Bears were 7-2 with the under heading into Thursday night’s game.

Back to the betting board

I went 2-1 with my picks in this space last week. I lost with the Titans –1 1/2 vs. the Dolphins (which serves me right for going against my own dog-loving principles and picking a favorite), but my plays on the Cowboys +14 vs. the Giants and Patriots +4 1/2 vs. the Steelers not only covered but pulled the outright upsets.

Vikings +3 vs. Packers

Yes, the Vikings are one of the disappointments this year for fans and bettors, but just like last week when I took the Cowboys, they still have the talent to play with anyone, and most of their games have been close and could have gone either way. The exception was last week in a 27-13 loss to the Bears, but Marc Lawrence of playbook.com points out the Vikings are 11-2 SU and ATS at home after a loss of 14 points or more. I look for a similar bounce back against Brett Favre’s former team (note: this game was Vikings –3 over the summer).

PLAY: Vikings for 1 unit

Cardinals +8 vs. Chiefs

This is another line I feel has been adjusted too much. Yes, the Cardinals have been a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde team this season, but this is more a bet against the Chiefs. They have been a feel-good story this year, but I think the league has figured them out as evidenced by the fact they were 5-1 ATS to start the year (all but the sixth game being as underdogs) and are 0-3 since then with a non-covering win over the Bills and outright losses as chalk to the Raiders and Broncos. I don’t see them covering this inflated number either.

PLAY: Cardinals for 1 unit

Broncos +10 vs. Chargers

It amazes me how in this Year of the Underdog that bettors continue to be willing to lay the wood, but here we have the Monday night game getting bet higher. The Chargers got off to their annual slow start and bettors obviously think they are getting ready for another late-season run, but I wasn’t overly impressed with their wins over the Titans and Texans before their bye week. They didn’t look any better than the Broncos did in dismantling the Chiefs, 49-29, last week. I will take the generous points in a key AFC West battle as these teams try to chase down the Raiders and Chiefs. (Not many could have foreseen that sentence being written prior to the season, but it has been that kind of year).

PLAY: Broncos for 1 unit

Last week: 2-1 for a profit of 0.9 units (based on risking 1.1 units to win 1). NFL season record: 18-12 for a net profit o f 4.8 units.