James Hernandez has more than 15 years in the sports handicapping industry and will contribute weekly for FOXSports.com as our betting expert. Have comments or questions? Make sure to email him at email@example.com.
James Hernandez, Contributor to FOXSports.com
During the NFL season, I will attempt to guide you to the winner’s circle more often than not. I consider a combination of statistical trends, my own personal player ranking system, and meticulous attention to various wagering techniques that allow me to analyze and formulate a plan of attack each week.
Each week I will post my five favorite plays in order of preference, best on top and so on. All right, let’s get into it:
New York Giants (+8) over Chicago Bears
With the train wreck that is the Giants season, it seems crazy to say that a road matchup with the Bears on a short week could be exactly what the doctor ordered.
As Tom Coughlin does his best to deflect the criticism directed at his much-maligned quarterback and attempts to shoulder the blame himself for the team’s lackluster start one thing is certain, the Giants players are still firmly behind their coach. Look for Coughlin to rally his group with an us-against-the-world mentality and get the absolute most from his team as they keep pace with a suddenly vulnerable and banged up Chicago Bears team in a game that should be much more competitive than the betting line suggests.
After the 3-0 start to the season, injuries have caught up to the Bears as they have dropped two consecutive games and face a short week in which Lance Briggs, Jermon Bushrod, Charles Tillman, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett are all questionable to play. After Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham had their way with an overmatched secondary, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks must be chomping at the bit to get a turn at this vulnerable and banged up Chicago secondary. As long as Manning can keep from a total meltdown he should be able to execute the game plan well enough to keep the G-Men competitive.
Even if they don’t win the game outright, look for New York to keep it within 8 points and come up with their first cover of the season.
Final score: Bears 27, Giants 21
Arizona Cardinals (+11) over San Francisco 49ers
Don’t look now but the Arizona Cardinals are coming off two straight up wins as underdogs and boast a 4-1 mark this year against the spread which ties them with five other teams for the best mark in the NFL.
The Cards are without a doubt the Rodney Dangerfield of the league, however, with a few more performances like last week the respect will be sure to follow. After putting relentless pressure on Cam Newton and registering 7 sacks, this blitz-happy defense seems to finally be hitting its stride with the return of emotional defensive leader Daryl Washington.
Despite winning two consecutive games, the 49ers have looked a bit vulnerable especially when it comes to protecting Colin Kaepernick. Things won’t get much easier with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu coming to town as Bruce Arians entrusts his gifted corners to play man coverage all afternoon long as he dials up blitz after blitz attempting to get the young Kaepernick rattled and off his game.
Keeping Frank Gore and the San Francisco running game in check is key as the Cards D will look to force San Francisco into third and long so the front seven can pin their ears back and put pressure on Kaepernick. This game is a division battle between two teams tied for second place in the NFC West with identical 3-2 records, yet the 11-point spread makes it seem as if this game is a complete mismatch.
Although Arizona has traditionally struggled when making the trip to the Bay Area, this Cardinals team has a newfound identity and belief in a coaching staff that hasn’t been seen in the desert since Kurt Warner was leading this franchise to a Super Bowl in 2009.
Look for both defenses to step up and make life difficult for the opposing offense and after the dust settles Arizona should have another cover against the spread and possibly even an outright win.
Green Bay Packers (-3) over Baltimore Ravens
As his supporting cast continues to get healthier, Aaron Rodgers can finally begin to utilize his full complement of offensive weapons. After receiving a concussion in Week 2, Eddie Lacy appears to be running at full speed once again and if he can stay on the field he should be the perfect remedy to an underachieving run game and complement one of the most dynamic passing offenses in football.
Already averaging 29.5 points per game, this unit goes up against a Baltimore defense that has little to no resemblance to the veteran group that carried the load as the Ravens hoisted the Lombardi trophy last February. Combine that with the offensive inconsistencies that have plagued Flacco, Rice and the rest of the offense and it seems as if Baltimore will be hard pressed to keep up with a Green Bay unit that will have Rodgers pressing the issue and attacking at a pace that will be sure to wear down the Ravens defensively.
With the Pack averaging 453.3 yards per game (third best in the NFL) Rodgers should utilize Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley to create mismatches in the Ravens secondary. Unless Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are able to overpower Green Bay’s offensive line and disrupt things in the backfield, the Baltimore secondary will have little to no chance at neutralizing an explosive aerial assault.
Don’t be surprised if on Sunday Baltimore, Maryland becomes Mr. Rodgers’ neighborhood as he carves out yet another vintage performance en route to a road win and cover over the defending champs.
Washington Redskins/Dallas Cowboys over 53
With the NFC East not featuring a team over .500 after five weeks of football, believe it or not this classic rivalry game that has both playoff and division title implications. If the Redskins can somehow win this game they will match season wins with Dallas and possibly even a pull into a three way tie for the division lead depending on the outcome of the Philly/ Tampa game earlier that afternoon.
Both Washington and Dallas are giving up over 27 points per game and the consensus is that Dallas’ D should be quite fresh after failing to show up last week against Peyton Manning and the Broncos allowing 51points. All season long Washington (19th ranked defense) and Dallas (30th ranked defense) have struggled to keep opposing teams out of the end zone and expect for this week to be no different.
With the Redskins coming off a bye week Robert Griffin III and the Shanahan’s should have a game plan in place that will allow them to establish the run with Alfred Morris and let Griffin utilize the play action pass to find Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss down the field.
As we get deeper into the season the optimism continues to grow regarding the surgically repaired knee of RG3 as it continues to get stronger and hopefully healthy enough to allow him to run the read option properly and reintroduce the ground threat to his game that made him such a unique and electrifying talent. Many people want to crucify Tony Romo for yet another crushing interception with the game on the line, however his brilliance through the first three quarters was what allowed Dallas to compete with the NFL’s best team play for play and bring them within a play or two of beating a team that had looked invincible through five weeks of the season.
The task of beating Washington will not be nearly as daunting and as long as Jason Garrett doesn’t forget that his team is undefeated (10-0) when Demarco Murray carries the ball at least 18 times the Dallas coach should be able to devise a plan to free up his playmakers and create mismatches against a below average Washington defense.
Each team will take turns lighting up the scoreboard at Jerry’s World for a second consecutive week and should have no issues scoring early and often, easily pushing the total over 53 points.
Jacksonville Jaguars/ Denver Broncos over 52.5
If you can’t tell by now I am going to ride the over in the Denver Broncos games until the wheels fall off.
After scoring 230 points through five games (46 ppg) Denver gets a matchup with the worst team in the NFL. Even if Denver only plays the starters for the first half, that should be enough time for Peyton to put up 42, kick his feet up for the second half and allow Brock Osweiler to get some game reps. The oddsmakers in Las Vegas consider this to be the biggest mismatch in NFL history making the Broncos a record setting 28-point favorite. As long as the Jaguars can keep from getting shut out, Denver will do the heavy lifting and utilize the most talented set of offensive weapons in the league to march up and down the field scoring at will.
Look for the Broncos all-out assault on the NFL record books to continue as they destroy an inferior Jaguars team that is on a historic pace of futility. The Broncos will easily make it 6 for 6 this season on the over as they score points at a record-setting pace and continue to reward bettors who have capitalized on this early season betting trend.