Deadlines are a bitch.
I knew all week I had to get my column in for noon Saturday, but here I am late Friday night typing this uninspiring lead.
Sometimes I think to myself if I only had a few more days – or if I wasn’t the worst procrastinator since Axl Rose – I’d be able to write something half decent.
NFL coaches make the most of their time to prepare for their upcoming opponents. They work 20 hour days and sleep on office couches six days a week.
It got me thinking about how these master planners fare when given an extra week. We all know you should never bet against the Eagles off their bye week (11-0 straight up and 9-2 against the spread under Andy Reid) or the Patriots (7-2 SU, 6-3 ATS under Bill Belichick).
But that extra seven days of prep work and healing time is an advantage every team in the NFL makes good use of. Clubs coming off their bye are 5-3 ATS this season and 76-49-2 against the number since 2005.
And there’s even more hope for us dog bettors thanks to the bye. Weird things happen when bad squads get two weeks to game plan their next foe.
The Cleveland Browns beat the New York Giants 35-14 last season after their bye, despite being 9-point home dogs. Remember when we found out that Donovan McNabb didn’t know a game could end in a tie? Well the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Bengals covered in that one off their bye as 9.5-point underdogs.
Covers Expert Marc Lawrence chipped in with a nice piece of advice for betting the bye week. He says the best strategy is backing the best and worst teams in the league following their off week.
According to his numbers, teams that are undefeated entering their byes and teams that are winless at the mini break are a combined 41-28-1 ATS in their following game, dating back all the way to 1990.
Covers Expert Steve Merril takes a cautious approach with the bye. He says the additional time off usually drains the momentum from clubs that are on a roll.
Okay, all this chatter had to lead to a connection with my picks this week.
San Francisco 49ers (+3) at Houston Texans
San Fran knows all about the disadvantage of playing against a rested opponent. Two weeks ago the Falcons walked into Candlestick Park and tore the home side apart.
Now the role is reversed for the Niners.
They go to Houston fully prepared to defend the Texans explosive offense. Coach Mike Singletary gets his prize runner Frank Gore back which should help SF keep Andre Johnson and Co. off the field. Pick:
49ers Minnesota Vikings (+6) at Pittsburgh Steelers
I’m shocked that this line has moved so much in Pittsburgh’s favor. Minny’s road wins are against three cupcakes and it worries me how its secondary will defend without Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield.
And we all know this is a classic look-ahead spot for the Vikings (at Green Bay next week) even though they’re playing the defending champs.
But still… an undefeated team getting six points? I like my chances. Pick:
Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns (+9)
I’m going to say something that might upset some Cheeseheads out there. The Packers are not a good team. That pains me to say because I grabbed them at +235 at the start of the year to win the NFC North.
But we’ve got to face the facts people. The Packers struggle running the ball, they have one of the worst offensive lines in the league and their defense is still adjusting to the 3-4.
Getting back to that offensive line – starting left tackle Chad Clifton and starting center Jason Spitz are both expected to sit out Sunday’s game.
I don’t care if half the Browns’ roster has swine flu, there is no way the Pack should be giving this many points on the road. Pick:
Browns Last week: 3-1
Season record: 10-9