NFL and college football odds: Home underdogs to cover, other best bets

By Sam Panayotovich
Gambling Analyst

It has been a chilly October around these parts.

That said, our best bets (19-15 YTD) are still in the green, and I’m rolling with five plays over the next few days. This space isn’t the place for a million picks or five-team parlays, either. These are the games I love the most.

Let’s go to work with odds courtesy of FOX Bet.

Toledo Rockets at Eastern Michigan Eagles (Noon ET Saturday, ESPN U)

I don’t expect Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn to play.

Finn took a shot to the head at the end of last Saturday’s game, and Rockets head coach Jason Candle has been rather tight-lipped about his status. As we’ve learned over the last few years, concussions are a very serious issue at the collegiate level, and it’s more than fair to think Finn won’t go.

Finn is easily one of the best quarterbacks in the MAC, and oddsmakers tell me he’s worth around four points to the betting line. And even that sounds conservative when you consider freshman Tucker Gleason will likely start.

Assuming Finn doesn’t get cleared, this line will crash, so I’m more than okay taking almost a touchdown with the home team right now.

pick: Eastern Michigan (+6.5 at FOX Bet) to lose by fewer than 6.5 points (or win outright)

No. 2 Ohio State at no. 13 Penn State (Noon ET Saturday, FOX and FOX Sports App)

It says a lot that oddsmakers opened the Buckeyes as over two-touchdown favorites in Happy Valley. That’s big-time respect for Ohio State behind the counter.

OSU’s offense has been unconscious the last five games averaging over 56 points a pop over that span. Heisman Trophy front-runner CJ Stroud & Co. are the highest power-rated team in the country per multiple oddsmakers, and nobody can stop this scoring attack when it’s firing on all cylinders.

And don’t look now, but the Buckeye defensive line is rounding into form, too. Those young underclassmen in the trenches are getting better and better by the minute, which makes life easier on the linebackers and secondary.

I like the Buckeyes by three touchdowns.

pick: Ohio State (-15.5 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 15.5 points

No. 8 Oregon at California (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, FS1 and FOX Sports App)

The white-hot Ducks are rolling, but this one won’t be easy.

California’s defense is no joke at all, and the Golden Bears will do their best to bring the heat on Oregon quarterback Bo Nix. Justin Wilcox’s defense is also very stingy against the run, allowing just over 100 yards per game.

I am concerned about Oregon covering a huge number away from home against an opponent that wants to slow the tempo. Cal wants absolutely no part of a shootout because the Bears don’t have the offensive personnel to go drive-for-drive down the field. A field-position game favors Cal.

Give me all those points in a game totaled at 58.

pick: Cal (+17 at FOX Bet) to lose by fewer than 17 points (or win outright)

Giants at Seahawks (4:25 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX and FOX Sports App)

How long can my Giants keep this up?

As someone holding a ticket on Over 7 regular-season wins, I can’t believe they’ve won six of their first seven football games. That said, the betting market still isn’t sold on New York on a week-to-week basis, and FOX Bet is dealing them at 16-1 to win the NFC and 40-1 to win Super Bowl LVII.

Regression is coming eventually, and I’m willing to bet that it happens this Sunday when the Giants travel across the continental United States to face the Seahawks in the Emerald City. Seattle’s surprisingly explosive offense should jump ahead and force Daniel Jones & Co. to play from behind. Advantage: Hawks.

Lay the points.

pick: Seahawks (-3 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 3 points

Cardinals at Vikings (1 p.m. ET Sunday, FOX and FOX Sports App)

I hate how much I love Arizona in this spot.

The Cardinals are insanely successful in the road underdog role under Kliff Kingsbury. According to Joe Osborne from Vegas Insider, the Birds are 15-3-2 against the spread (ATS) as a highway pup under Kingsbury, and they’ve won eight straight on the moneyline. Sheesh.

I’m not a big trends person, but I circled that one in red Sharpie.

Minnesota’s defense has struggled against mobile quarterbacks — Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields, etc.— and Kyler Murray should be able to move the ball with his arm and legs. Arizona’s offense is also starting to round into form, with DeAndre Hopkins back from suspension.

I think you should take the points with a very live road dog.

pick: Cardinals (+3.5 at FOX Bet) to lose by fewer than 3.5 points (or win outright)

Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.

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