When the NFL announced that it was holding its first regular-season game in Germany, we all scoffed at the matchup: Seattle Seahawks vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Surely that will be a blowout. Why force German fans to watch such a bad team?
We were trashing the wrong team.
There isn't a valuable statistic that shows the Buccaneers are better than the Seahawks, who we spent all offseason making fun of. The Seahawks are 6-3; the Bucs are 4-5. The scoring differential is +21 for Seattle and -2 for Tampa Bay. The Seahawks are better in net yards per play, a favorite stat for some analysts. Seattle is fifth in Football Outsiders' DVOA, while Tampa Bay is 10th. The list goes on.
Yet, there's one significant way in which the Buccaneers are considered better: the point spread.
The Buccaneers are 3-point favorites at BetMGM for Sunday morning's game in Munich. That's confusing.
The market hasn't adjusted for how good the Seahawks are. They were two-point underdogs last week against a bad Arizona Cardinals team. The Seahawks destroyed Arizona. Like the Tampa Bay spread, there was no reasonable way to argue Arizona was the better team. At least Arizona had home-field advantage, unlike the Buccaneers this week. The Seahawks are good. Deal with it.
Tampa Bay's issues are well known. The Buccaneers beat the Los Angeles Rams last week, but just about every NFL fan got to see that game in the late-afternoon window. The Buccaneers were horrible on offense for 59 minutes. The defense was good, but the offense didn't do anything until the final 44 seconds. One good drive doesn't mean they're on track.
Maybe the oddsmakers don't like that the Seahawks are playing a second straight road game, but that shouldn't influence the point spread so much. The money has come in on the Buccaneers all week. They've gone from the Buccaneers -1.5 to -3 this week.
I'll take the team that, by any reasonable measure, is better. Weird things happen in the NFL all the time, and maybe this will be a strange outcome. But make no mistake: If the Buccaneers beat the Seahawks, the worse team won.
Here are the picks against the spread for Week 10 of the NFL season, with the spreads from BetMGM:
Falcons (-2.5) over Panthers
As discussed in today's Daily Sweat, maybe we'll get a better game than we anticipate on Thursday night.
Bills (-3.5) over Vikings
Obviously the Josh Allen elbow injury hangs over this game. I'll take the Bills either way. If Allen plays, the line is way too short. If Allen doesn't play, Case Keenum is capable and I like taking teams — especially talented ones like the Bills — that will rally around their backup. If Allen is ruled out and the line moves the Vikings' way, don't be scared to take Buffalo at a discount.
Lions (+3) over Bears
I like how Justin Fields is playing, but it's still a flawed team that just traded away its two best defensive players. I don't know that I trust the Lions either, but they did play hard and well last week against the Packers.
Broncos (+2.5) over Titans
The Titans defense played a lot of plays last Sunday night. The Broncos had a bye, and they had to feel better leaving London with a win. My blind faith team for the second half is Denver. I don't have many great reasons to back it up, but I think they do well ATS the rest of the way.
Jaguars (+9.5) over Chiefs
The Chiefs are very good and I know the Jaguars aren't, but we can pretty much prepare for Chiefs spreads being inflated through the Patrick Mahomes era. The Titans got too many points last week and covered, and this seems like too many for the Jaguars too.
Dolphins (-3.5) over Browns
Not sure exactly sure what I'm missing. The Dolphins are good. When Tua Tagovailoa has played, they've been a clear top-10 team. It's possible I'm too low on the Browns. Advanced stats indicate they're better than their record. But I think the Dolphins are undervalued still and I'm going to ride that.
Giants (-5) over Texans
The Texans are probably the worst team in the NFL. I don't necessarily feel great backing the Giants at more than three or four points, but they're way better than the Texans.
Saints (-1.5) over Steelers
This is probably going to be an ugly game. You remember that net yards per play stat from above? The Saints are a surprising sixth in the NFL. The Steelers are dead last. It's not comfortable to back the Saints as a road favorite, but I'm not sure we really comprehend how bad the Steelers might be.
Raiders (-6) over Colts
I wrote earlier this week about how Josh McDaniels absolutely can't lose this game to the Colts' traveling circus. I just can't back a team whose head coach will be on his seventh day ever on the job (no, I don't give much weight to Jeff Saturday's high-school coaching career) and whose offensive play caller nobody had really heard of before this week. It's not like the Colts were good even before this week got crazy, either. If the Raiders don't cover here, we'll know what to do with them the rest of the season.
Packers (+4.5) over Cowboys
Mike McCarthy revenge game! I think the Cowboys are strangely under the radar, and it's hard to back the Packers these days. Green Bay was also playing three road games in a row, and that's a tough spot. Being at home will help. I assume most bettors will be on the Cowboys, so I'll go the other way.
Rams (-1.5) over Cardinals
Two broken NFC West teams. If the Rams lose this one at home against a bad Cardinals team, we're looking at them probably having the worst season for any reigning Super Bowl champ. I'm not quite ready to go there with the 2022 Rams yet.
Chargers (+7) over 49ers
This is a pretty big spot for the 49ers. They're on Sunday night. If they can blow out a Chargers team that is banged up but still 5-3, it'll be a signal that San Francisco is about to dominate the second half of the season. You'll hear a lot of Super Bowl hype with San Francisco next week if they win by double digits. Already, this line is giving them that kind of respect. I'm not ruling out the 49ers being a top-five team the rest of the season, but I'd like to see a little more from them first.
Commanders (+11) over Eagles
You've heard it in this space before: My default is to take any double-digit NFL underdog, and I need to be talked into backing the favorite. This matchup is definitely testing the limits of that strategy.
Last week: 7-4-2
Season to date: 72-61-1