Unless (and maybe even if) Johnny Manziel starts for the Cleveland Browns, it looks like public bettors will be putting the Arizona Cardinals in their Week 8 NFL picks.
Jason's 2015 record as of Oct. 25: 23-16-1 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 17-27 Total
The Arizona Cardinals have dropped two of their last three games SU and ATS. A mini-slump like that would derail the career of just about any other entertainer. However, the Arizona Cardinals appear to have caught the imagination of football fans. They're still the most popular team on the public money charts going into Week 8, and that river doesn't show signs of drying up anytime soon.
Getting to play the Cleveland Browns this Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX) should keep the Cardinals flush with cash – unless a certain celebrity Heisman-winner ends up playing quarterback for Cleveland. Johnny Manziel was rushed into service after Josh McCown hurt his shoulder in last week's 24-6 loss to the St. Louis Rams (–6.5 at home). Will Johnny Football reverse the cash flow in this matchup?
It might not even come to that. Monday's early reports suggested that McCown was just a little “banged up,” although results of an MRI are still pending. McCown might not have the same Q rating as his back-up, but he's played at a higher level, and the Browns have been a profitable NFL pick thus far at 2-5 SU and 4-3 ATS. Assuming he's healthy, McCown represents Cleveland's best chance of covering this week.
It's a fair question how popular Manziel truly is these days. “I hope people haven't given up on me,” he told Cleveland.com on Sunday after his relief appearance against the Rams. Manziel was recently in the news for a “domestic incident” that may have involved alcohol. There's an online petition to have him suspended that's got 46,000-plus signatures on it.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals (4-2 SU and ATS) continue to attract public money. They're one of several “small-market” teams playing at a high level this year, earning themselves some more national press than usual. Other teams in this category: the Atlanta Falcons (6-1 SU, 4-3 ATS) and the Carolina Panthers (6-0 SU, 5-1 ATS), who are changing people's perceptions of the NFC South.
It's a bit more difficult to explain the popularity of the San Diego Chargers (2-5 SU and ATS). They're sitting at No. 3 on the public money charts over the past 30 days. Of course, we could point at their recent BeeVee win for Week 6 as 10.5-point road dogs against the Green Bay Packers. Or maybe it's those nice blue-and-yellow uniforms with the lightning bolts on them, or perhaps the combo of QB Philip Rivers and promising rookie RB Melvin Gordon. Whatever the case, the Chargers could be the public pick again this week, once the lines go up on the NFL odds board for Sunday's game (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS) against the Baltimore Ravens.