Ebola Panic Yields to Manning Mania

Remember when Peyton Manning adulation reached its peak before last year’s Super Bowl…from sports networks to ad agencies to betting parlors around the globe? During last season’s playoffs we joked around here that pretty much any anchor or analyst at ESPN would get naked and oiled if Manning entered the facilities. Guess what? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Lazy Line results for the year: 7 wins and 8 losses against the spread, with 10 winning units vs. 8 losing units. (Using $100 as a base betting unit, we have $1000 in wins and $880 in losses, for a profit of $120.)

Lions at Falcons
Official Line:
 Lions −3
Lazy Line: Lions −7. Lions are a 2-unit play.

Injuries dominate the considerations here on both sides. The Lions will be without WR Calvin Johnson and three tight ends. Lately, they’ve played conservative, ball-control offense, and it has worked for them. With the Atlanta defense ranking among the bottom six in passing yards allowed per game and rushing yards allowed per game, Detroit QB Stafford might have his best game in a while.

The Falcons enter the game with a depleted offensive line, including a center plucked from a pie-eating contest at the Fulton County Fair. This Atlanta home game takes place in London, effectively making it a road game for the Falcons. Matt Ryan performs much worse on the road, as evidenced by his 6 TDs vs. 6 INTs on the road this year and his 13 TDs vs. 14 INTs on the road last year. The final score won’t be pretty and the 3-point spread might be more reasonably set at 13. We’ll call it 7 and make this a 2-unit plunge.

Texans at Titans
Official Line:
 Texans −3.5
Lazy Line: Titans −1. Titans are a 2-unit play.

We feel like gambling this week, so we’re betting that an untested rookie QB for the Titans will be an upgrade over both Charlie Whitehurst and Jake Locker. Neither of the usual two Titans QBs can throw long with any accuracy or consistency. Zach Mettenberger can, which will give the Titans offense a very different look.

The Texans defense not only enters the fray blind, with no tape on the rookie, but also without star LB Brian Cushing. That might allow the Titans to run more successfully and take some pressure off the rookie QB. And the Texans pass defense ranks among the 10 worst in the NFL. Oh yeah, we also get to bet against Ryan Fitzpatrick on the road. What could possibly go wrong?

Colts at Steelers
Official Line:
 Colts −3
Lazy Line: Colts −1. Steelers are a 1-unit play.

Since we’re betting against maximum Manning Mania, let’s also bet against the mini-mania breaking out in Andrew Luck’s world. We nailed the Colts for a 2-unit score last week, taking full advantage of their display of superiority against the Bengals and the bumbling Andy Dalton-Knotts. This week the Colts don’t face such a pushover.

In addition to betting against the Luck mini-mania that has inflated the line, we get a bonus point or so for betting the Steelers as pessimism about the franchise grows. The line opened with the Colts favored by 1, and it has moved to Colts favored by 3. We’ll back the Steelers with that spread even though we might get a shot at taking the Steelers and an even more generous 3.5 points on game day.

The Steelers own one of the best running attacks in the NFL, a Super Bowl caliber QB, a ball-hawking defense, decent coaching and home field. Yes, Andrew Luck has the luxury of throwing against an injury-depleted secondary, and that could be our downfall with this wager. But if the Steelers run, grind down the clock and force a turnover or two, holding 3 points might prove profitable.

Chargers at Broncos
Official Line: Broncos −9.5
Lazy Line: Chargers −3. Chargers are a 2-unit play.
Over/Under: 51 points. The Under is a 2-unit play.

Do you believe Peyton Manning transcends the usual boundaries of time and space? Apparently most bettors do: the opening spread of 6.5 points shot up to 9.5…and it might even hit 10 by kickoff!  Tonight’s Over/Under total is 51. Yep, apparently Peyton Manning might throw 5 TDs tonight…oh, wait, that’s still just 35 points.

These teams split decisions the last two times they met, with the Chargers employing a conservative, clock-killing offense each time. Because that’s the Chargers’ M.O. you shouldn’t expect anything different tonight. The scores last year came up 27-20 Chargers and 24-17 Broncos, both games well under 51 total points. With the Chargers chewing up the clock again tonight, Manning likely needs to throw a TD pass on 50% of Denver’s possessions to get the game over 51. And he must do it against a top 5 defense. With each drive lasting less than 3 minutes. Essentially betting the over is equivalent to betting the Chargers defense will completely melt down each time it takes the field.

Maybe the Chargers, who haven’t lost by 10 points since new coach Mike McCoy was still calibrating the controls early last year, will fall apart. Maybe Manning can turn Coors Light back into water, but that hardly makes him a miracle worker. I’ll take the points and the under.