Oakland Raiders (3-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)
Every year, one team goes from the playoffs to 5 wins or fewer. The Bengals now stand at 5-5, but I won’t rule out them losing out. The Lions at 4-6 are the favorite this year and I also won’t rule out that we won’t have one this year (only happened once in the last decade). However, looking at the Bengals’ remaining schedule, they’re only definitely going to be favored in one more game, this one at home for Oakland. At Philadelphia and home for Dallas are other options, but if they lost this week, they could conceivably, but improbably, lose out.
Will they lose at home this week to the Raiders? I won’t say it’s impossible. Teams are 36-16 ATS off back-to-back losses by 21 or more since 2002, and the Raiders have lost 55-20 and 38-17 in their last two games. Teams tend to be embarrassed, playing for pride, undervalued, and overlooked by their opponent in this spot. That trend is actually a perfect 4-0 ATS and SU this year and has led to such upsets as Tennessee over Detroit, Tennessee over Pittsburgh, Buffalo over Arizona, and last week’s NY Jets over St. Louis. This line has shifted 2.5 points in the last week (from -5.5 to -8), so the Raiders are definitely undervalued. In spite of this, the public is still on the Bengals, important since the odds makers desperately need to make money back after a bad 3 week stretch, though it’s not a huge lean.
The Raiders are also dogs before being favorites. Teams are 96-53 ATS in this spot over the last 2 seasons. They host the crappy Browns next week, so they’ll be completely focused for the Bengals this week in a pride game. I can’t say the Bengals will be completely focused for them, however. The Raiders certainly don’t scare anyone right now and the Bengals have to go to San Diego next week, where they will almost definitely be underdogs. Teams are 111-56 ATS since 2008 as dogs before being favorites when their opponent will be dogs the following week, including 34-13 ATS when all three games (the current game, their next game, and their opponent’s next game) are all non-divisional. This game simply means different things to these two teams.
Besides, the Bengals tend to disappoint as favorites. Since 2007, they are 6-14 ATS as home favorites. Even in the last two years, when young Andy Dalton has had a ton of success against non-playoff teams (9-0 last year against non-playoff teams, 4-2 this year against teams currently outside of the playoffs), they are just 2-4 ATS as home favorites. In total in the Marvin Lewis era (going back to 2003), they are 14-25 ATS as home favorites, including just 3-9 ATS as favorites of a touchdown or more.
We’re also getting some line value with the Bengals. The yards per play differential method of computing line value says this line should be Cincinnati -5.5 and the rate of sustaining drives differential method says this line should be Cincinnati -7, both of which are lower than this -8 line. 8 points seems like too many points even if the Raiders didn’t have a significant trends advantage.
The Raiders should cover this spread and there’s a decent chance they could even win this game. This would be a bigger play on the Raiders if it wasn’t for 3 things. First, the Raiders have burned me twice in the last 2 weeks, though I never really let this scare me off, any team can cover at any time and the Raiders are undervalued and possibly very embarrassed. I say possibly because there’s a chance they may have quit on their Head Coach, which is the 2nd reason, but they have a 1st year Head Coach so it’s unlikely they’ve already quit. Third, and most significantly, the Raiders have to travel as a West Coast team to the Eastern time zone for a 1 PM start. Teams tend to struggle in this spot. The Raiders are just 7-14 ATS in this situation since 2002. It’s still a significant play on the Raiders.
Public lean: Cincinnati (60% range)
Sharps lean: OAK 9 CIN 2
Final update: All 3 of my co-picks of the week line up with heavy sharps lean. I always have my best weeks when that happens.
Oakland Raiders 23 Cincinnati Bengals 20 Upset Pick +330
Pick against spread: Oakland +8 (-110) 4 units