How would you like to wake up at six in the morning to play a football game? It's a tough enough challenge to make the Oakland Raiders a dubious NFL pick for Week 3.
Jason's 2015 record as of Sept. 20: 11-5 ATS; 0-1 ML (–1.00 units); 5-3 Total
How crazy was the 2014 NFL season from a betting perspective? Even one of the tastiest trends from the past decade fell apart at the seams. No doubt you remember that old chestnut about fading West Coast teams when they're playing an early-afternoon Sunday game in the Eastern Time Zone. That play went 69-55 ATS in the 11 seasons leading up to 2014. It went 2-6 ATS last year.
Shall we give it another try? We've already seen one team have a bad trip: The San Diego Chargers hopped a plane last week and flew to Cincinnati, where they dropped a 24-19 decision to the Bengals (–3.5 at home) in a 1:00 p.m. Eastern start. This week's targets are the Oakland Raiders, who have an early game on CBS against the Cleveland Browns. The Raiders are 4-point puppies on NFL odds as we go to press.
Fly Me to the Moon
Before we get into this matchup, a quick reminder about the logic behind this betting trend. There's a three-hour difference between the Pacific and Eastern time zones – or two hours for the Cardinals, who are living on Mountain Time. For the Raiders, it'll feel like they're playing a game at 10 in the morning, after a cross-country flight. You can't just roll out of bed and play, either. It takes about four hours to prepare for a game.
Oakland was able to overcome this challenge twice last year in the first three weeks. They lost their season opener 19-14 to the New York Jets (–6.5), then it was on to New England for Week 3, where the Patriots (–14) won 16-9. The Raiders actually went 4-1 ATS on the road during their epic 10-game losing streak to start the 2014 campaign, so at least they were prepared for battle. But now they've got a new head coach in Jack Del Rio. How did he do against this trend when he was coaching the Jacksonville Jaguars? Trick question: Jacksonville's on the East Coast.
Oaks Up, T-Town Down
By the way, the one host Oakland failed to cover against during that losing streak was the Browns. They won 23-13 in Week 8 as 6.5-point faves. Mind you, that was back when it looked like they might make the playoffs with Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Things eventually went south from there.
Cleveland's chances haven't improved much for 2015, especially after Josh McCown suffered a concussion in the opener and was replaced by Johnny Manziel. But Manziel connected for a couple of deep touchdowns in Sunday's 28-14 win over the Tennessee Titans (+1 away). He only went 8-for-15 on the day, but Manziel didn't turn the ball over, even though he fumbled twice. Baby steps for our NFL pick?