New York Giants (6-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-5)
If it wasn’t for Hurricane Sandy, I would have picked against the Giants last week. I thought they were in a really bad spot at home for the Steelers, but because the Steelers had to travel on the day of the game because of the Hurricane, I couldn’t pick them. It was one of the few games I picked incorrectly last week and fortunately it was a really low confidence pick. I just didn’t know how the storm, which had different effects on each of the two teams, would affect the outcome of the football game.
The reason I thought the Giants were in a bad spot is because they struggle at home, especially as favorites of 3 or more and because they really struggle in the 2nd half of the season, going 53-19 in their first 8 games and 27-38 in their second 8 games under Tom Coughlin since he took over in 2004. Eli Manning is struggling of late, by his standards.
He’s thrown for fewer than 200 yards in each of his last 2 games and his completion percentage in his last 2 games is under 50%. Dating back to week 7 against Washington, he’s thrown just 1 touchdown in his last 3 games (that memorable game winner against Washington), and 4 interceptions. Over in those 3 games, he’s 51 of 93 (54.8%) for 654 yards (7.0 YPA), 1 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Meanwhile, his extrapolated season numbers, 61.0% completion, 7.6 YPA, 21 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions, resemble 2005-2010 Eli much more than they do 2011 ELIte. He’s such a big part of this team’s success so it’s no surprise that they’ve struggled of late, barely putting away two inferior opponents as losing at home to the Steelers.
The Giants schedule is such that they could have yet another late season struggle this year with games against Atlanta, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Green Bay outside of the division, along with 3 divisional rivals, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Washington, that always play them tough. Fortunately for them, they have a pretty commanding divisional lead right now, so they’re not really in danger of missing the playoffs unless something goes horribly wrong.
Also fortunately for them, that won’t really matter this week as this is probably their easiest remaining game on their schedule, especially since they’re going into a bye. Much like home favorites of 6+, road favorites do well going into a bye as well. Not as well, but if you exclude road favorites of 7+ (a situation teams generally struggle to cover in), road favorites heading into a bye are 28-15 ATS since 2002.
Cincinnati started 3-1, but now stands at 3-5 4 games later. Andy Dalton has still yet to beat a playoff team. He went 0-8 against such teams last year and is either 0-3 or 0-4 against those such teams this year (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Miami, Denver). In those 12 games, he is a combined 257 of 451 (57.0%) for 2718 yards (6.0 YPA), 11 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.
This year, his 3 wins have come against opponents who are a combined 6-20 and he’s actually lost at least once against non-playoff teams, something he didn’t do last year, so you could argue he’s regressed. Some of that can be blamed on an inferior defense however. They’re allowing 27.3 points per game, 25th in the league, after allowing 20.2 points per game, 9th in the league, last year. They’ve been especially poor against the pass, 25th in the league, so Eli Manning should be able to have a bounce back game this week, as he usually does when people are doubting him.
If Eli can make this a shoot out, Dalton doesn’t stand much of a chance. Jay Gruden is an excellent offensive coordinator who can mask Dalton’s flaws against average or bad opponents, but he’s really, really struggled against playoff caliber opponents. I don’t expect him to break through this week. As much as the Giants tend to disappoint at home, they’re great on the road, going 50-25 ATS in the Tom Coughlin era, easily the best in the league over the 8 and a half seasons he’s been their Head Coach. That includes 18-7 ATS as road favorites.
The Bengals are in a good spot here as well, as home dogs are 56-38 ATS off a loss as home dogs, and we’re also getting line value with them. The yards per play method of computing line value says this line should be Cincinnati -3.5, while the rate of sustaining drives method says this line should be NY Giants -3.5, both of which are below the actual line of -4.
The Giants are also heavily publicly backed. As some of you may know, the public killed the odds makers in unprecedented fashion last week, going 12-2 and winning every heavy lean. The odds makers aren’t going broke or anything. They killed the public for the first 8 weeks of the season and are still up on the year, but given that, I would be very nervous to bet on a heavy public lean this week because the odds makers, regardless of whether or not you believe in conspiracy theories, always have a way of bouncing back.
However, at the end of the day, the Giants should still be the right side. They’re great as on the road, and as road favorites specifically, and road favorites of less than 7 are great going into a bye. I don’t think this is the week Dalton breaks through and beats a playoff caliber team and the spread is small enough for that to be a reason to take the Giants. It’s not a big play though.
Public lean: NY Giants (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Cincinnati covers)
Sharps lean: NYG 12 CIN 7
Final update: No change.
New York Giants 27 Cincinnati Bengals 20
Pick against spread: NY Giants -4 (-110) 2 units