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Week 10 handicapping column

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By Mike Wilkening

Favorites covered in 10-of-14 games in Week Nine, causing much teeth-gnashing from the bookmaker's side of the counter.

I was favorite-heavy a week ago, and I'm taking the same approach this week. As I've said before, I look for value; I don't set out to take or lay points.

A few years ago, I had something of a complex about picking favorites. I knew sharp handicappers generally preferred underdogs, and I knew this much — I didn't want to be a square.

Well, those days are in my rearview mirror, and though it's never easy to handicap, it's easier when you're not worried about style points.

Underdogs have their place in the bettor's portfolio. So do favorites.

Last week's results were a reminder that laying the points can be the right — and winning — move.

My Week 10 picks:

Houston (+1) at Chicago

Here's why I like the Bears:

• In 36 non-conference matchups entering Week 10, the NFC has won 23 times, with the AFC winning just 13 times.

• The Bears' offense has the potential to be more dangerous than it is right now. The Bears have a blue-chip wideout (Brandon Marshall) and above-average starters at quarterback (Jay Cutler) and running back (Matt Forté). Yes, the offensive line is shaky, a real concern in this particular matchup. Nevertheless, I believe this is an offense with the ability to improve.

• At this price, the Bears are tough to pass up. The Texans are very, very good, but facing a rolling Bears team in Chicago is no easy task. I believe the Bears, with a strong defense, excellent special-teams corps and an intriguing offense, are the play.

Wilkening's pick: Chicago

San Diego at Tampa Bay (47½)

It's time for me to dive back into the world of Over-Unders for the first time since Week One. 

The Bucs' offense should give the Chargers' defense fits. San Diego has had trouble with all of the top-level offenses it has faced (Atlanta, New Orleans, Denver). And yes, we can place Tampa Bay in this category. The Buccaneers, led by RB Doug Martin, WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams and QB Josh Freeman, now lead the NFL in yards per play (6.18, just ahead of San Francisco's 6.14).

By the numbers, the Chargers' offense looks a little suspect. San Diego has gained the seventh-fewest yards per game entering Week 10. However, the Chargers' offense is still quite capable of giving the Buccaneers' fits. With extra time to prepare, Chargers head coach Norv Turner should have a strong plan of attack ready for Tampa Bay.

There are more than enough elements to suggest a high-scoring affair could be in the cards. I'm taking the Over.

Wilkening's pick: Over 47½

Dallas at Philadelphia (44½)

You know what? I believe these two lost souls have been looking for each other all season. What better tonic than for 3-5 Dallas (26th in scoring, with 18.8 ppg) to face Philadelphia's strugging defense? By extension, won't 3-5 Philadelphia (t-29th in scoring at 16.6 ppg) relish seeing a Dallas stop unit that's 23rd in yards per pass play allowed? Also, the Cowboys' pass rush has hardly been robust, notching just 16 sacks in eight games.

Both offenses showed some signs of life in defeat a week ago. The Cowboys gained a strong 7.0 yards per play at Atlanta. The Eagles, meanwhile, gained 447 yards and a respectable 5.8 yards per play in the loss at New Orleans.

To me, Dallas looks to be in better form, and I would not be surprised if the Cowboys' offense is ready for a big, big effort. But I also believe the Eagles, with their season on the line, will give the Dallas' defense all it can handle.

Wilkening's pick: Over 44½

Kansas City (+12½) at Pittsburgh

In my view, this line is a little short. There just aren't many hurdles for the Steelers to overcome. For starters, the Chiefs will have their undivided attention. Kansas City played Pittsburgh to within four points last season.

Also, the Steelers know the Chiefs' personnel and schemes well. Everyone knows that Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley was Kansas City's head coach before being fired during the 2011 season. This can't hurt Pittsburgh's preparation. Nor does it hurt that the Steelers saw Brian Daboll-led offenses in Cleveland in 2009 and '10. The Steelers are going to be ready for any wrinkles Daboll unveils, and he surely will, considering how tough points have been to come by for Kansas City.

Finally, the Steelers are in great form. Their offense has ideal balance, and their defense is stout.

This is a lot of points, yes, but I wouldn't have been surprised if it were 14 or more. The Chiefs are going to have to step way up to keep this close, and I don't believe they are capable of such an effort in their current state.

Wilkening's pick: Pittsburgh

Last week: 2-2
Season to date: 20-15-1

Click here to see the PFW staff's consensus selections for Week 10.

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