By: Liam O’Brien
With the gambling czar Matt Doherty on vacation in Bermuda this weekend, you will have to trust me with your money as you spend Sunday’s 79-degree afternoon on your couch watching some enticing NFL matchups.
Here are picks you can’t go wrong with in both the NFL and the college ranks this weekend.
Bills (+5) over Titans
Yes, Tennessee is 3-1. But are they really that good?
The Titans average just 18.8 points per game while allowing 18.3. Their defense has been mediocre, yielding 360.8 yards per game, including 118 rushing yards which ranks 25th in the NFL.
They should have lost to the Eagles last week. If not for a few bonehead penalties and lapses by the Philadelphia defense, the Titans would not be two games over .500 with everyone lauding Mike Vrabel as a certified football genius.
Don’t sleep on a Bills rushing defense which ranks 11th in the league in yards given up per game. This will likely force Marcus Mariota to air it out, and I don’t see him replicating the 344-yard performance he put up against Philadelphia.
Dolphins at Bengals (Over 48)
These defenses are two of the worst in the NFL.
The Dolphins are 26th in the league in yards allowed per game (395.3) and the Bengals are 29th (419.3). Miami struggled to move the ball against a leaky Patriots unit last week, but Cincinnati is granting 28.3 points per game to opponents including 68 over the last two weeks.
This should create room for Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense to figure it out, something Andy Dalton and his troops have already done. The Bengals are fourth in points per game (31.5) and have done it without a consistent running game (22nd in the NFL with 93.5 yards per outing). This ineffectiveness could change with Joe Mixon expected to return from knee surgery.
Ravens (-3) over Browns
This AFC North matchup has been once-sided over the years, as Baltimore has won 18 of their last 20 against Cleveland.
Expect this trend to continue as this is the best the Ravens have been since winning the title in 2012. Their defense is a unit, ranking third in points per game (16.3), and fourth in run defense (82.5 yards allowed per game) and pass defense (193.3 yards per game).
The Browns defense can’t hold a candle to these numbers, giving up 26 points and 278.3 passing yards per game. This is a problem against Joe Flacco, who has silenced critics with 1,252 yards and eight touchdowns over the first four weeks while pacing the Ravens to 30.8 points per game.
Raiders at Chargers (Over 52.5)
This game should be a high-octane affair filled with points.
The Raiders defense is a shell of its former self without Khalil Mack, giving up 30.8 points per game which ranks 31st in the NFL. Oakland forced four turnovers last week and still managed to give up 42 points to the Browns at home.
The Chargers defense is not much better. They allow 30 points per game and are coming off a week in which they let a C.J. Beathard-led 49ers offense garner 22 first downs and convert on five third down tries en route to scoring 27 points.
Both of these offenses rank in the top ten in the league in yards with each averaging over 400 yards per game.
Fasten your seatbelts.
College Football Picks
Oklahoma (-7) over Texas
The Sooners are flying high after steamrolling Baylor last week in a 66-33 victory.
Kyler Murray & Co. were on a new level, setting school records with 18.8 yards per pass attempt, 25.2 yards per completion and a 317.8 pass efficiency rating. This week presents the opportunity for more of the same as Texas allows 218.2 pass yards per game, ranked 65th in the country.
Oklahoma will be able to score at least two-thirds of the 66 points they dropped a week ago in this one. This output should be enough to overtake the Longhorns by seven or more. Texas’ offense ranks just 73rd in the country with 28.8 points per game. This may seem like a solid amount, but it pales in comparison to the 48.8 points the Sooners have been putting up each game.
Iowa (-7) at Minnesota
I bet against Iowa at home two weeks ago and almost got burned because of it. The Hawkeyes you could argue should be 4-0 with a resumé-building win against Wisconsin in their rearview mirror.
Their defense is one of the best in the country, ranked fifth in scoring (13 points allowed per game), third in yards (261 yards per game) and fifth in rushing defense (84 yards per game).
The ineffectiveness of Minnesota’s offense makes this pick even more compelling. The Golden Gophers rank 85th in scoring, 110th in yards and 83rd in rushing yards.
This is a game in which you swear by the under. I could see Iowa winning 13-3.
New Mexico at UNLV (Over 62.5)
This game is going to be fun.
The Lobos enter the contest after scoring 43 points in a game they lost by nine points to Liberty, a team that had scored 31 points combined in their first three games.
The Rebels allowed 0-5 UTEP, a team with a -88 scoring differential, to hang 24 points on them in a contest earlier this year. In that same game, UNLV piled up 38 points by halftime.
UNLV’s rushing attack ranks third in the country with 336.5 yards per game against a New Mexico rushing defense that sits 114th in the nation with 219 rushing yards allowed per appearance.
The statistics back the over on the other side, as well. New Mexico’s offense ranks 23rd with 40.3 points per game. Meanwhile, UNLV allows 27.8 points per game, ranking 82nd.
South Florida (-15.5) over UMass
The Minutemen are coach-less this weekend for the game on their schedule in which they need a coach the most.
Head coach Mark Whipple will be watching his team attempt to pose a challenge to 4-0 South Florida from the couch after saying wide receiver Andy Isabella got “raped” on a hit without the official throwing a flag.
Isabella is having a memorable season with 648 yards already, but the UMass defense might need a brainwashing after the 2018 campaign is over.
The Minutemen rank 126th in the nation with 42.7 points allowed per game. The Bulls’ passing game is 25th in the country with 290.3 yards per game, and that number will increase once this contest is through.