This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."
NFL Week 9 (Thursday Night): Aaron Rodgers passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns as the Packers rolled to a 34-17 victory over the 49ers on Thursday night at Levi's Stadium. He completed 25 of 31 passes before exiting. Green Bay has scored at least 30 points in all six of its victories. Nick Mullens completed 22 of 35 for 291 yards for one TD but also threw an interception and lost a fumble, starting in place of Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle). San Francisco has been decimated by injuries and then the COVID-19 pandemic made matters worse. Without QB Jimmy Garoppolo, TE George Kittle, RB Raheem Mostert, WRs Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Kendrick Bourne, left tackle Trent Williams, cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford and more, the team the Niners put on the field Thursday night was unrecognizable from the one that ran roughshod over the Packers in two meetings last season. A whopping $80.8 million worth of cap space was on injured reserve.
Let's check on the Y-T-D numbers heading into Sunday. Home teams remain barely over .500 at 60-59-1 (.504) on the season while going just 53-65-2 ATS (.449). Home dogs check in at 11-30 SU but a more respectable 20-19-2 ATS. Scoring remains high but with over/under numbers being adjusted higher, there have been 61 overs, 56 unders and three pushes.
Sunday NFL: The 7-0 Steelers (6-1 ATS) are the NFL's lone unbeaten team and will travel to Dallas to take on the 2-6 Cowboys, who are the NFL's only winless ATS team (0-8). Pittsburgh's Big Ben will go up against a Dallas defense that is allowing the most points of any team in 2020, 33.3 PPG. Meanwhile, the Steelers own one of the NFL's best defenses, allowing 20.3 PPG on 310.7 YPG. Dallas' franchise QB Dak Prescott is out with a season-ending broken ankle. Backup Andy Dalton has been transferred from concussion protocol to the reserve/COVID-19 list and head coach Mike McCarthy has lost confidence in Ben DiNucci, a Pittsburgh native who made his first start last week (he completed 21 of 40 passes for 180 yards with two lost fumbles in last week's 23-9 loss to Philadelphia). It will come to a decision between Garrett Gilbert and Cooper Rush. Pittsburgh is favored by 14 points and the over/under is 42. The league's lone winless team is the NY Jets (0-8 & 1-7 ATS) and they will host the 2-5 Patriots (who have lost FOUR in a row) on Monday night. I'll cover that contest in Monday's Notes.
SNF (8:20 ET on NBC) has the week's marquee matchup, as the 5-2 Saints are in Tampa to take on the 6-2 Bucs. The winner will sit atop the NFC South and the game is a rematch of the Saints' 34-23 Week 1 win in New Orleans. Both Brees and Brady had two TD passes last week, leaving Brady with 561 for his career, ONE more than Brees. Tampa Bay is favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 50 1/2. While the Saints and Bucs square off for the lead in the NFC South, two first-place teams square off in Buffalo, where the NFC West-leading Seahawks (6-1) will meet the AFC East-leading Bills (6-2). MVP candidate Russell Wilson threw four more TD passes last week and enters having completed 71.5% with 26 TDs and six INTs (120.7 QB rating). He's also run for 260 yards on 7.4 YPC. Two of those TDs went to DK Metcalf, who set career highs with 12 receptions for 161 yards. Seattle's defense has been much-maligned in 2020 and for good reason. Seattle is allowing a league-high 406.9 PPG. However, the defense just might be trending in the right direction, as it allowed just 117 total yards and one score through three quarters of last weekend's 37-27 victory against visiting San Francisco. The 49ers' backups put together some drives after the Seahawks had built a 23-point lead. The Bills snapped a SEVEN-game losing streak to New England last Sunday with a 24-21 win. New England has won the AFC East in each of the last 11 seasons but the Bills seem poised to win the division for the first time since 1995 in 2020. Seattle is favored by three points and the over/under is 55.
There are three other games of note, the 5-2 Ravens at the 5-2 Colts, the 5-3 Bears at the 5-2 Titans and the 4-3 Dolphins at the 5-2 Cardinals. The Ravens, who were 14-2 in the regular season in 2019, have lost BOTH of their marquee games in 2020, 34-20 to KC and 28-24 to Pittsburgh (BOTH at home!). Meanwhile, after opening with a 27-20 loss at Jacksonville (the Jags' LONE win this season), the Colts have won FIVE of six. The key has not been the addition of QB Philip Rivers but rather the play of the Colts' D, which allows just 293.4 YPG (2nd-best in the NFL) and only 19.4 PPG. Baltimore is favored by 1 1/2-points and the over/under is 48. The Bears trail the 6-2 Packers in the NFC North, while the Titans are dead-locked with the 5-2 Colts atop the AFC South. The Titans are favored by 6 1/2-points and the over/under is 47. The Dolphins and Cards are both 2020 surprises and the game features Miami rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa and Arizona QB Kyler Murray, a former Heisman-winner who is having an excellent sophomore season. Tua won his first career NFL start over the Rams last Sunday but he completed a modest 12 of 22 for only 93 yards with one TD (zero INTs). His longest completion was for 15 yards and his TD pass was a three-yarder. As for Murray, who is off a bye week, he's completing 66.8% for 1,847 yards with 13 TDs and seven INTs, while rushing for 437 yards on 6.7 YPC and seven TDs. Arizona is favored by 4 1/2-points and the over/under is 50 1/2.