We’re back for another year of Throwing Darts, five picks against the NFL spread every week. We’ve had a winning record in 10 of the past 12 years, including a 46-39 mark last year. If you’re interested in the year-by-year details, you can click here.
All lines are provided by BetMGM and are current as of the publishing of this piece.
Dolphins -3.5 over Patriots
I wish I had punched this ticket earlier in the week, at -2.5 or -3, and I might wait to fish out a three if I can. But for the purposes of this column, we ride at -3.5. The Patriots had a messy summer and their offense could be rudderless at the moment, as some combination of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge is in charge. Sure, Bill Belichick is a master of making chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what, but it takes time. The best moment to draw the 2022 Patriots is right now. New England has also struggled with the Miami trip for years, even in the glory days of the franchise; the Dolphins are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 home games against the Patriots.
Panthers -1.5 over Browns
Forget the Baker Mayfield you saw last year, he was hurt. He’s healthy now, and a notable upgrade over the last few quarterbacks Carolina has employed. DJ Moore’s career year is coming, and I’m here for it. Jacoby Brissett is a good backup, but will be miscast as a three-month starter; he's 14-23 career for a reason. I won’t be surprised if the Panthers sneak into the NFC playoffs.
Vikings +1.5 over Packers
Minnesota remodeled its offense and picked up a tone change at the right time. Mike Zimmer out. Kevin O’Connell in. The Packers defense is a staunch unit, maybe the best in the NFL. But Green Bay’s receiver room makes my eyes sting. Aaron Rodgers is a wizard, but no one can do it without downfield help (and Allen Lazard isn't expected to play). Minnesota is an interesting bet at plus odds to win the NFC North.
Steelers +6.5 over Bengals
Mike Tomlin’s never had a losing record through 16 years in Pittsburgh, a remarkable run. He’s a perfect modern coach, smart enough to appeal to a player’s intellect, and emotionally relatable enough to connect with his troops. Cincinnati still has an offense likely headed for the moon, but after Joe Burrow’s summer appendectomy, a sluggish start could be coming. The Steelers can certainly hang around. Heck, Mitch Trubisky might not be a downgrade over the last days of Ben Roethlisberger.
Broncos -6.5 over Seahawks
Road favorites are rarely my jam, especially when the number is this big. But I expect Russell Wilson to win the breakup with Seattle. Like Tom Brady a few years back, Wilson is escaping at the right time, now supported by a supporting cast that can keep him at an elite level. Geno Smith wasn’t a disaster as the temporary starter in Seattle last year, but he’s not an ideal solution for a full season. The Seahawks still enjoy a robust home-field edge, but that’s only good for as long as the game stays competitive. I’m expecting a blowout.
Have picks to share? I’m all ears: @scott_pianowski.