For a moment there, the Cincinnati Bengals were the best but now they’re 3-point road dogs against the Indianapolis Colts, and it’s the Colts who people are adding to their NFL picks this week.
Jason’s record after Week 6: 21-22 ATS, 5-10-1 Totals
Profit: minus-13.99 units
It’s been a while since we saw the Cincinnati Bungles in action. But the last two weeks have been classic Cincy football. First there was that 43-17 loss to the New England Patriots (+2.5 at home). Then there was Sunday’s 37-37 tie against the Carolina Panthers (+7 away), where Mike Nugent missed what would have been the game-winning field goal from 36 yards out. All that was missing was David Klingler at quarterback.
The Bengals are still on top of the AFC North at 3-1-1 (3-2 ATS), but they’re no longer the No. 1 team on the DVOA charts at Football Outsiders, and sharp bettors are flocking to the Indianapolis Colts for this Sunday’s matchup (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS) at The Luke. Our consensus reports have Indianapolis pulling in nearly 70 percent support and 70 percent of the action as a 3-point chalk on the NFL odds board.
Cincy No. 5
So who are the real Cincinnati Bengals? The ones who started the season 3-0 SU and ATS, or the ones who showed up the past two weeks? Best we can do is split the difference; looking at the stats for the season thus far, Cincinnati checks in at No. 5 in DVOA (No. 5 offense, No. 14 defense, No. 17 special teams). Pro Football Reference is less kind, giving the Bengals a plus-3.2 SRS, which would put them No. 14 overall in the league.
For an even bigger sample size, we can dip back into Cincinnati’s 2013 performance – which Football Outsiders does with its DAVE (DVOA Adjusted for Volatility Early) metric. Again, the Bengals come out No. 5 overall. We can also look at the Week 7 Elo ratings at FiveThirtyEight, where Cincy is No. 10 in the league. All in all, it seems safe to call the Bengals a very good second-tier contender at this point.
Is there anything safe about the Indianapolis Colts (4-2 SU, 5-1 ATS)? They’ve been a very difficult team to pin down in the Chuck Pagano-Andrew Luck Era, but they’ve also been wildly successful at 26-12 SU and ATS. Football Outsiders has them ranked No. 13 in DVOA (No. 12 offense, No. 21 defense, No. 5 special teams) and No. 12 in DAVE. However, Pro Football Reference values the Colts more highly with a plus-10.2 SRS, tops in the league, while the Elo ratings at FiveThirtyEight have Indianapolis at No. 8, almost dead-even with Cincinnati at 1578-1576.
Dead-even is just about the way the NFL odds have this contest, too. Three points at home still translates closely to a pick’ em on neutral ground, even if 2.5 points is the new normal. But if you were to use SRS as your point spread guide to making NFL picks, that would make Indianapolis roughly a 9.5-point chalk on Sunday. It appears we’re still trying to figure out if the Colts are for real or not.
It’s that darned strength of schedule that keeps throwing us off. Indianapolis has had a relatively easy run in the AFC South, playing the No. 15-ranked schedule thus far, compared to Cincinnati at No. 6. Football Outsiders has the Colts pegged at 3.9 Estimated Wins, and the Bengals at 3.7 EW with a game in hand. Don’t forget, Indy started the season at 0-2 (1-1 ATS) with losses against Denver and Philadelphia. We’re willing to place a small bet on the Colts, who have had a few extra days to prepare for Sunday’s contest. But it’s a tepid endorsement for now.
The Five Stars
Defense/Special Teams: IND
Market Bias: CIN
Betting Line Value: CIN
Verdict: 1-star pick on IND
Free NFL Pick: Bet 1.4 units on the Colts –3 (–112) at Matchbook