The NFL Wealth Gap Widens

The scoreboard in recent weeks shows the wealth gap widening between the NFL haves and have-nots. With the defenses of the Bears, Giants, Panthers, Bucs, Raiders, Titans and Jaguars falling to pieces, NFL fans have witnessed some extraordinary blowouts lately.

And on the flip side, top QBs demonstrated clearly what they can do to crumbling defenses in this era of pass-friendly rules changes.

Aaron Rodgers owns a TD/INT ratio of 24-3. Close on his heels in the perfection department is Tom Brady, with 22 TDs and 3 INTs. And Big Ben torched two weak defenses in a row for 6 TDs per game. With this in mind, we’ll be on the lookout for top QBs facing struggling defenses. If the bookies fail to set the spread wide enough, we’ll pounce.

Possible qualifiers this week include

  • Denver –9.5 at St. Louis,
  • Atlanta –1 at Carolina
  • Pittsburgh –6 at Tennessee
  • San Diego –10.5 hosting Oakland
  • New Orleans –6 hosting Cincinnati

Because we vowed to focus on wide margins of error, the LazyLine advantages for Denver (–11), Atlanta (–3), Pittsburgh (–7) and San Diego (–12) do not qualify as bets. It seems as if the casinos, in most cases, adjusted for the widening wealth gap.

That leaves us with the Saints (–10 on the LazyLine vs. –6 in Vegas) as the only 2-unit wager in this group. We also like the Packers (–5) hosting the Eagles while spotting them not much more than the home edge. And we’ll toss in the Patriots as our live ‘dog of the week and our only 4-unit bet.

Bengals at Saints
Official Line: Saints –6
LazyLine: Saints –10. Saints are a 2-unit play.

You might question why we toss the Bengals defense into the same betting bonfire as the Giants, Raiders and other paper-thin NFL defenses. Masked by a few decent efforts lately against the TD-challenged offenses of Jacksonville and Cleveland, the Bengals are sliding into the flames. They proved defenseless vs. the Pats (43 points), Panthers (37 points) and Colts (27 points). On the road, they were blown out in New England and Indianapolis. Expect the same result in New Orleans, where Bengals defenders face another elite offense likely to treat them like kindling.

Here’s grim reality. The Bengals defense this week needs to defeat two QBs: Drew Brees and Andy Dalton-Knotts. That’s a daunting task that even a great defense seldom handles. If Drew Brees is hot (likely) and Andy Dalton performs poorly (also likely), this game joins the growing list of late-season, jaw-dropping blowouts. Somewhere in Cincinnati, Nero is fiddling.

Eagles at Packers
Official Line: Packers –5
LazyLine: Packers –9. Packers are a 2-unit play.

It’s playoff time in the NFC! Time for third-rate QBs to be exposed (to the elements and other harsh realities).

With Nick Foles injured, Mark Sanchez takes over the Eagles offense. According to Bill Barnwell at grantland.com, Sanchez owns the worst QB rating when facing pressure over the past 3 seasons (among 34 QBs with over 500 dropbacks). Will the switch to Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense help Sanchez?

Apparently not very much. Sanchez currently has 59% completions with 4 TDs, 2 INTs, and 2 fumbles. That less-than-illustrious stat line comes from appearances against two average defenses: Carolina and Houston (while missing its 2 starting cornerbacks). With a likely dropoff in performance on the road vs. the Packers, Sanchez can be counted on for at least 2 turnovers this week. While on the other side of the field, Aaron Rodgers is unlikely to match Sanchez’ generosity.

Patriots +3 at Colts
Official Line: Colts –3
LazyLine: Pats –3. Pats are a 4-unit play.

It’s playoff time in the AFC! Time to give more weight to stronger defenses.

Pats QB Tom Brady gets to face a team that relies too heavily on the blitz. The Colts rank among the top 3 in the NFL in terms of percentage of defensive plays on which they blitz the opposing QB. But they sit only in midpack in terms of sacks. Worse yet for the Colts, Brady has been sacked only twice in 59 dropbacks vs. the blitz. He’s thrown 7 TDs and only 1 INT against blitzing opponents.

The Pats currently rank as the stronger defense over the course of the season and appear to be improving still. They also own the best turnover ratio in the NFL at + 12. In the Pats’ most recent game, Coach Belichick devised a masterful scheme to shut down Peyton Manning and the powerful Broncos offense. With an extra week to prepare for this game, his chances of repeating that virtuoso coaching performance warrant a 4-unit bet.

Lazy Line results for the year: 9 wins and 14 losses against the spread, with 15 winning units vs. 20 losing units. (Using $100 as a base betting unit, we have $1500 in wins and $2200 in losses, for a loss of $700. Yikes! We have some catching up to do.)