NFL Under the Radar Teams
Tony Salinas: NFL Off-the-Radar Teams
There have been many surprises in the NFL this year. Most of the ones you hear about on TV have been BAD surprises. Philadelphia isn't a dream team. San Diego is stumbling around again. The Jets are falling apart. I warned you to be on the lookout for overhyped teams before the season started. Today I want to take a look at a few teams that have been GOOD SURPRISES in a way that's largely stayed off the media radar.
The first team on this list is the CINCINNATI BENGALS. It took forever for this team to get any respect even though they were playing competitive football right out of the gate. Cincinnati heads into Sunday's big game at Baltimore with a 7-2 record against the Vegas spread. One of the losses was last week against Pittsburgh in a game they almost rallied to tie late in the game. The other was to San Francisco...a team that's been fantastic against the number this year.
When I was watching some of Cincinnati/Pittsburgh last week, the announcers were saying that the Bengals had decided during the summer to embrace an"us against the world" mentality. Andy Dalton was tired of people thinking he was drafted too high. The whole team was only hearing negative press in the build-up to the season. As I've said many times...tell 60 guys that they don't have a chance to do something, and they'll do whatever they can to prove you wrong.
Cincinnati may not be a true playoff contender just yet given the tough schedule still ahead. They've definitely been a money-maker that too few Las Vegas bettors were ignoring.
The second team the OAKLAND RAIDERS. It's funny that the Raiders now have Cincinnati's old quarterback! This was supposed to be a team in turmoil because of an offseason coaching change...and a collection of athletes that can never seem to put it together. Plus, Al Davis sure wasn't getting any smarter with age. There were no expectations for this team before the season started, as San Diego was expected to dominate the division.
Well, Hue Jackson has brought swagger back to the franchise. And, the passing of Davis may have inspired the team to do something special THIS year in his memory. The Raiders are 6-3 ATS so far, and definitely looked like a playoff team against San Diego last week. Maybe that was more about the Chargers than the Raiders. But, it is worth noting that Carson Palmer seemed to find his timing after the bye week. If that game wasn't a fluke, the Raiders are now the team to beat in the West. I'm very interested to see how they handle Sunday's bad body clock challenge on the road at Minnesota.
The third team that's covering spreads because nobody expects anything from them is the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS. Last week's win over Baltimore pushed them to 5-3-1 against the number. And, that's 5-1-1 the last seven games because the team started out poorly as they transitioned to new quarterback Tavaris Jackson. Remember to look at recent form when handicapping NFL teams. What happened in early September may not have anything to do with what happens in late November or December!
The poor start will keep Seattle out of the playoff race (they're just 3-6 straight up). Just be aware that this team owns straight up wins on the road against the New York Giants and at home over Baltimore. They're playing better NOW than the full season data would suggest. Let's see if they can keep it going on the road in divisional action at St. Louis Sunday afternoon.
If you're like most losing gamblers in Las Vegas, you made a few bets AGAINST the three teams I just listed. You were sure all three would be horrible. You didn't have any respect for the head coaches (I'll admit there are times I've had the Cincy and Seattle coaches in my"Bonehead Club" in the past). You thought there was no way Dalton, Jackson, or Jason Campbell would make money for you if you bet on them. And, many of the teams you LOVED before the season are falling apart before your eyes.
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