This handicapper actually likes several games on Sunday's NFL odds board, and had to narrow our picks to fit the top few into this space. Now, whether that's a good thing or not is up for debate ...
Sometimes home dogs cash in, and sometimes they don't; sometime we like home dogs for our free NFL picks, and sometime we don't. We'll go with one home dog among our picks for Sunday, and fade another.
Panthers in Divisional Match-Up Over Bucs
Carolina is off to a 3-0 start, 2-1 ATS, after beating New Orleans last week 27-22. The Panthers spotted the Saints the game's first 10 points, and gave up a touchdown on a punt return, but rallied behind QB Cam Newton's three touchdowns for the victory.
Tampa, meanwhile, is 1-2 both SU and ATS with a rookie starting at quarterback, after falling at Houston last week 19-9. The Bucs got outrushed 186-57 and lost time of possession by a lopsided 36-24 margin.
Carolina is a little banged up on defense, but might have added a spark this week when it traded with Chicago for DE Jared Allen.
The Panthers have averaged 132 YPG on the ground this season, while allowing just 76 YPG; Tampa has averaged 96 YPG rushing, while giving up 138 YPG. So far this NFL season teams that have outrushed their opponents are 31-16-1 ATS.
Finally, Carolina has won the last four meetings with Tampa Bay, going 3-1 ATS. The Panthers swept the Bucs last week, even as Newton missed both games with injuries.
We like Carolina today, on the road, where the NFL odds are a little more amenable.
NFL Pick: Panthers -3 (-110) at 5Dimes
Redskins as Divisional Home Dogs
Divisional home dogs are always a tempting bet, and that's what we've got with Washington playing at home against rival Philadelphia.
The 'Skins are 1-2 both SU and ATS after losing at the Giants last Thursday night 32-21. But Washington actually outrushed and outgained New York, and has now outrushed and outgained each opponent this season. From afar the Redskins look like a mess, but some of their internals ain't bad; they rank fourth in the league in rushing at 144 YPG and third in rush defense, allowing just 75 YPG. And as mentioned above, outrushing your opponents is a good way to cover spreads in the NFL.
The Eagles, meanwhile, are also 1-2 both SU and ATS, after beating the Jets last week 24-17. But one of their touchdowns came on a long punt return by Darren Sproles, and on the day they managed a total of just 231 yards of offense. Sproles is a great little player, but if Philly is relying on him to carry this team offensively, it's probably in big trouble.
The Eagles have won three of the last four in this series, but the Redskins covered both games last year, losing by a field goal in Philly but covering at +4, then winning outright as a seven-point home dog 27-24.
Also, the 'Skins are working on a couple extra days off, after playing two Thursdays ago. They may be missing both starting cornerbacks today, but Philly QB Sam Bradford doesn't exactly scare us.
Finally, not only are NFL home dogs 9-6 ATS this season, they're 8-7 SU. We'll take Washington, and we don't even need the points.
NFL Pick: Washington +135 on the moneyline at Heritage
For our final pick for Sunday we like a pair of OVERS for a two-pick parlay.
San Diego and Cleveland are both susceptible to the run, and when you can run the ball, eventually, you'll be able to throw it, too. And turnovers aren't necessarily a bad thing when backing an OVER; sometimes they set up short fields. We like the OVER on the Chargers-Browns contest.
Finally, Green Bay has shown a tendency over recent seasons to grab big leads, then relax a bit, and go semi-prevent on defense. The results are some high-scoring games. Last week the Packers led Kansas City 31-7 in the third quarter, then allowed the Chiefs to score 21 points from there, sending that game flying past its total of 47. We could see something similar happening today out in San Francisco, whose Colin Kaepernick has given the Pack fits the last few meetings.
NFL Pick: San Diego OVER 44.5 hooked with the San Francisco OVER 48 at Pinnacle