NFL Free Picks for
Posted at 12:20 PM EST.
1:00 PM EST. First off is that we do not want to overreact to Sam Darnold’s return but we don’t see the market doing that so we’re not going to be concerned about it. We are always on the lookout for over and under reactions but at the same time, we also have to be mindful about everything else too. In that regard, Buffalo’s stock is trending upward after three very good performances in a row that included two victories and last week’s near win in Miami. If you watched that game and bet Miami like we did, than you’re aware of how fortune works both ways. Miami wasn’t lucky to win that game (and cover), they were extremely lucky to win that game. Buffalo should be on a three-game winning streak and now they’re at home to face a reeling Jets squad that has lost six in a row. In fact, the Jets six-game losing streak leads the NFL currently and the offense has lost all signs of life since midseason and that is hard for the market to ignore. That’s our sign to move in.
The Bills have played 12 games this season and they have been favored zero times. Now they’re -4½ because why? Because they’re at home? Because they are in better form? Because they steamrolled the Jets four weeks ago, 41-10? In that game in New Jersey a month ago, the Jets were a 7½-point favorite. Even though the venue has changed to Orchard Park, it’s still a short trip for the Jets and it’s an 11-point swing in the number. That can’t be and what about that 41-10 loss? The Jets can't erase three months of bad football in one afternoon, but a victory Sunday would provide a temporary reprieve from the ugliness. Revenge is not an angle we endorse but there are exceptions and this one has power. You see four weeks ago, the Jets suffered one of the worst defeats in franchise history to these Bills. The Jets were not competitive from the first play to the last, embarrassing themselves against fourth-string quarterback Matt Barkley. If they have any pride -- if there's anything left in their heart after six straight defeats -- this is it.
"Cut to the chase, man: It's personal," safety Jamal Adams said Wednesday. "They came in and they whupped us. They don't like us, we don't like them. Players said coach Todd Bowles reminded them of the debacle when he spoke to them Monday. He brought it up again Wednesday. He might as well bang the redemption drums, because there's no other tangible motivation. This is the Jets Super Bowl and we actually like that Darnold has been watching from the sidelines for the past month too. One gets a different perspective and Darnold has the football IQ and talent to use that education to his advantage. No chance of the Jets being flat again and that alone makes them worthy of taking back these points.
Open an account today at and take advantage of their -104 style pricing on sides and totals, which is 60% better than other sportsbooks.
N.Y. Jets +4½ -109 (Risking 2.18 units - To Win: 2.00)
Posted at 11:45 AM EST.
1:05 PM EST. "Hey Mike, Got a minute?" Unless you’ve been under a rock the past week, you’re aware that the Packers fired their head coach of the last 13 years after a listless effort led to a home loss to the 2-9 Cardinals. Given the results from the past year and the obvious tension between Aaron Rodgers and McCarthy, it was going to happen by the end of the season but the embarrassing loss accelerated that eventuality. Aaron Rodgers OC Joe Philbin is the interim head coach.
An unhappy Rodgers meant McCarthy had to go. The Packers quit on McCarthy and now a new era begins (life without McCarthy) and we’ll trust Rodgers to show his approval of the move with a strong performance here. After perhaps the most embarrassing home loss in close to three decades, a bounce back is in order. The Packers are not going to the playoffs and they’re playing for nothing but pride, thus, the market understandably appears reluctant to get behind them but we’re not. You see, this one is all about fading the Falcons and there are plenty of reasons to do that.
The Falcons offense has gone cold for the last month and they've suffered their worst losses in recent road games. The rushing effort continues to stumble and the passing game ends up as little more than searching for Julio Jones on every play. Atlanta’s 26-16 loss to Baltimore last week doesn’t look horrible on paper but it was so consider it one of the year’s most misleading scores. Atlanta racked up 131 yards of total offense (that’s not a typo). Kansas City for instance, usually racks up 131 yards in two plays. Atlanta was at home and Baltimore held an incredible 40 minutes to 20 minutes time of possession edge. Atlanta’s effort last week was perhaps the worst effort of the year by any team and now they are being asked to travel to frigid temperatures in Green Bay (game time projections are -3 Celsius or -11 Fahrenheit) to play their most meaningless game in a decade or more. Atlanta is usually making a push for the playoffs this time of year.
Finally, and again, Atlanta’s defense was on the field for 40 minutes last game, Even good defenses play poorly when they tire, and being worn out renders bad ones hopeless. Always be aware of whether the schedule helps or hinders freshness, the mental and physical toll of each game and the running "pitch count." Atlanta is dead team traveling while Aaron Rodgers had better come up with something because he’s the reason McCarthy was fired in Week 13.
Open an account today at and take advantage of their -104 style pricing on sides and totals, which is 60% better than other sportsbooks.
GREEN BAY -3½ -108 (Risking 2.16 units - To Win: 2.00)
Posted at 11:45 AM EST.
4:05 PM EST. Marvin Lewis continues to prove that he has something big hanging over the owners head. Seriously, we can’t believe the NFL is going to let this team play again this season. Haven’t we ALL seen enough? For the love of football, get this team off my fucking television.
The Bengals have been so completely checked-out for weeks that after last week’s horror show, we figured, “That’s it. There’s no WAY Marvin survives this. They can’t possibly justify keeping him around after a showing like that.” My friends, you should never EVER underestimate Mike Brown’s desire to save a dollar, because…Marvin Lewis is still here. 16 years isn’t a big enough sample size? Let’s keep Marv and see if he can finally break through Amazing. Marvin’s signature career accomplishment is presiding over the greatest victory of the century … for the Buffalo Bills. For his own team, he is a classroom lecture they can never leave. The Bengals are rancid but even a team this rancid has to respond to being so disrespected.
Jeff Driskel’s first start posted 236 yards and one score on the visiting Broncos and he had the Bengals offense moving forward but turnovers once again did the Bengals in. Driskell now has a start under his belt and being on the road is actually a better scenario for him, as he will not be under local scrutiny. That said, the Chargers cannot be priced in this range in this situation.
It's the oldest trap in the book, but the "sandwich game" still has bite. The garbage opponent on the schedule between two big games. The letdown and the lookahead rolled into one and it remains a common cause of a C-game, because there are so many ways for it to go wrong. The first big game can be taxing, thrilling, deflating or any other thing that big games often are, the second one can be anticipated in several different distracting ways, and then there's the meat of the sandwich itself: not feared, overlooked, disrespected and written off. Last week, the Chargers played in Pittsburgh in prime time and after being near dead at halftime, the Chargers played perhaps their best half of football in five years and put the Steelers away. The Bolts play on Thursday night in Kansas City and it’s without question the Chargers biggest game of the year. We’re certain that the Bolts will be gathered around the TV set in the locker room watching K.C. battle Baltimore before this one kicks off and we’re alos sure that more Chiefs than Bengals will be on the Chargers chalkboard. The Bengals getting 15½ is nuts in this spot.
Open an account today at and take advantage of their -104 style pricing on sides and totals, which is 60% better than other sportsbooks.
Cincinnati +15½ -106 (Risking 2.12 units - To Win: 2.00)
Posted Friday, December 7 at 12:45 PM EST and updated Sunday at 11:45 PM EST.
This year we’re changing it up a little bit from what regular readers are used to. We have always posted our NFL writeups and selections on Friday and that will not change.
What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criterion we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday.
We’re intent on providing our readers with the best possible selections and doing so on Sunday instead of Friday just makes more sense. Again, we’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST.
NFL WEEK 14
SEATTLE -3 -107 over Minnesota
8:20 PM EST. The Seahawks have strung out three straight wins since the close loss to the Rams in Los Angeles. The offense is cranking out higher points than ever and the rushing offense is ever-improving even if it takes three guys to get the job done. The Seahawks absolutely have a home-field edge and you can double that sentiment in a prime time game but this choice is more about fading a Vikings’ squad that has not answered the bell when it has mattered most. The Vikes at 6-5 have to win three of their final four games to even have a chance at the playoffs and it must begin here. A loss and the Vikes are almost guaranteed to miss the playoffs so the question is how will they respond?
On March 28, 2018, Mike Zimmer looked more anxious than excited as he took the podium to officially introduce Kirk Cousins as the Minnesota Vikings’ new franchise quarterback. In the NFL, high expectations can kill. The moment Cousins held up a purple No. 8 jersey, the entire NFL media began calling the Vikings’ 2018 season “Super Bowl or bust.”
At this point in the season, the “Super Bowl or bust” folks would have to call the season’s results the latter. The Vikings are not in the conversation with the Rams and Saints as the NFC’s best team and they aren’t in first place in their division. The expectation for this point in the season was that a playoff spot would have been mostly or completely locked up heading into the final stanza of the season, not that they would be heading to the Pacific Northwest to play a game in which a loss could drop their postseason odds significantly. To see the offense rank 18th in points and 17th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA statistic also falls under the “bust” category. Nearly all of the possible pitfalls have been hit, including injuries on the defensive side, regression from key defensive players, offensive line struggles and lack of offensive threats past Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
The Vikings missed Everson Griffen for five weeks and have seen Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr and Dalvin Cook miss time due to injury and they lost Mike Hughes and Andrew Sendejo for the season. In high profile games this season, the Vikes have been buried and until we see Cousins and the rest of the gang embrace the expectations instead of fearing them, we can’t recommend the Vikes in their biggest game of year with their playoffs hopes hanging on a big performance. Recommendation: Seattle -3 -107 (No bets).
KANSAS CITY -6½ -101 over Baltimore
1:05 PM EST. The Ravens are still fighting to end a three-year playoff drought even though they are riding their longest winning streak of the season. The Ravens hold a one-game lead for the sixth and final postseason spot in the AFC. Baltimore (7-5) also is within a half-game of the first-place Steelers in the AFC North. Pittsburgh and Baltimore traded road wins this year so the only control the Ravens have is winning out and hoping the Steelers stumble one more time. We’ll see how that plays out but for now, Baltimore’s stock is rising after their third straight win, capped off by last week’s victory in Atlanta. It was also their third in a row behind rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson and that’s getting some press too. If you’re buying into what the media is selling --that Lamar Jackson is a better option than Joe Flacco-- you’re buying fool’s gold.
Jackson just happened to come along when Baltimore was scheduled to play Cincinnati, Oakland and Atlanta. The Ravens beat Cinci by a lousy three-points and they struggled for three quarters against Oakland. Against Atlanta last week, trust us when we tell you that any other team would have beaten the Falcons by 35 points, as Atlanta pulled a complete no show. Lamar Jackson can run and that makes him more mobile than Flacco but he’s a college QB that runs college plays and that does not have the arm, accuracy or football IQ to be an effective QB against an elite team on the road. He’s not even good enough to consistently beat weak teams either. Dude is a third-tier QB. Jackson and the Ravens faced three dumpster fires but winning is everything and we’re now the beneficiaries of a market that puts way too much emphasis on results. The Ravens couldn’t get out of their own way prior to those aforementioned three lousy victories. Baltimore’s seven wins this year have all come against teams that will be watching the playoffs from the rail.
If New Orleans is -9 and New England is -7½ on the road against Tampa and Miami respectively, how can Kansas City be less at home against the Ravens? We’re suggesting we’re getting the Chiefs at a true bargain here. Kansas City’s stock is down because they struggled to beat the Raiders last week (sort of) and because of the Kareem Hunt situation. We’re trusting that there is an overreaction to both those negative things. Kansas City has won two straight but its defense has been torched by allowing 87 points the past two games, which included surrendering 33 to the Raiders last week. What we’re hearing this week is similar to what we were hearing in Week 5 when K.C. was scheduled to face the “great defense” of the Jags and the Chiefs were just a three-point home favorite. This week the narrative is the same - that the Chiefs are finally facing a good defense.
The Chiefs rolled the Jags in Week 5, 30-14. The Jags scored a garbage time TD late in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville’s offense couldn’t keep up with Kansas City and frankly, neither can Baltimore’s. If this was 2008, we’d support defense over offense but it’s not. This is 2018, where good defenses barely exist anymore. Teams’ have strong defensive games from time to time but that’s very likely more a case of the opposing offense having an off day. Even Dallas’ “great defense” allowed the Jags to score 40 and two weeks later, the Titans racked up 28 points. On Thanksgiving Day in Dallas, Washington’s offense scored 23 on the ‘Boys but would’ve scored 35 or more on Dallas had they not turned it over in the red zone twice. There is literally no such thing as a great defense in this league anymore because the rules won’t allow it. There are only great defensive plays from time to time. So, whose offense do you trust more? That’s a no brainer my friends and just like Jacksonville got buried at this venue, so, too, will the Ravens but we're concerned with the look-ahead spot against Chargers so we'll pass. Recommendation: Kansas City -6½ -101
DALLAS -3½ +102 over Philadelphia
4:25 PM EST. This one is interesting, as both Dallas and Philadelphia are coming off high-profile, prime time victories. One of the first things we want to identify from week-to-week are the under and over-reactions to teams coming off great or weak performances in prime time because those isolated games cause the biggest market reactions. In this case, we have Dallas coming off a very impressive victory against the then hottest team in the league, the Saints, while Philadelphia put the wood to Washington in a 28-13 victory on Monday Night but the two victories couldn’t be more different.
Dallas shut down Drew Brees and company and were essentially the first team to do so since Week 2 when the Brownies held the Saints to 21 points. Dallas is starting to hum with a great balance of defense and offense, as Amari Cooper has opened up the playbook and made defending Dallas so much tougher. Ezekiel Elliott is on fire and Dak Prescott is heating up. Dallas has won four in a row and probably haven’t peaked yet.
By contrast, Philadelphia has peaked. The Eagles season is over and last week’s win may have been their prime time swan song. Some will argue that the Eagles will play their hearts out to try and make life miserable for the ‘Boys and we would’ve agreed had they not played on Monday night. The Eagles very simply do not have the horses to compete with the Cowboys right now so let’s have a look at that and why their season is over.
Philadelphia had 28 first downs to Washington’s 10. They also had double the yards, averaged twice as much per pass, had the ball double the time of possession and were three for five in the red zone. The ‘Skins were downright awful but Philadelphia struggled for 75% of that game to put away Mark Sanchez and the Redskins. What do the Eagles do well? Not much. It was their first two-game winning streak of the year. In the NFL coaching matters -- a lot -- and in the offseason, Philly lost Frank Reich (Indy) and John DeFilippo (Vikes) and didn’t replace either. Doug Pederson wrote a book on “How to Win the Super Bowl”. Chapter One was hire a great offensive coordinator, hire a great assistant to the offensive coordinator and then pray they never leave. The Eagles led Washington 14-3 at the half and 14-3 after three quarters. Last year, they would have buried the Skins in the third quarter but this year they can’t put away anyone and even lost to the Saints, 48-7. We love that the oddsmakers also threw in a hook on a key number like three on the champs. Again, Philly’s season is over and Dallas’ season is just beginning. Recommendation: Dallas -3½ +102
Indianapolis +4 -108 over HOUSTON
1:00 PM EST. The Colts are coming off an eye-opening 6-0 shutout in Jacksonville and in this new age of flag football, taking the collar really stands out. Andrew Luck and company had been rolling with five wins in a row including a 29-26 win over Jacksonville that sailed easily over the posted total of 48. Now, the Colts must travel to Houston to take on the Texans in what can be billed as an "elimination" game, as a loss would drop Indy from AFC South contention and lessen their Wild Card hopes greatly. The AFC playoff picture is muddy to say the least with four teams at 6-6 all chasing the 7-5 Ravens for the sixth seed. With the 9-3 Chargers holding the fifth seed, there is really just one spot left up for grabs. Two weeks ago, Indy’s stock was soaring when they hosted the Dolphins as a 7½-point favorite. A furious fourth quarter rally allowed them to escape with a win but they were never in charge and did not cover. Last week, they were shut out by a Jags’ squad that just got rolled in prime time by Tennessee so Indy’s stock figures to drop even more. We now get the Colts at a true discount.
Houston's stock is through the roof after nine straight wins and it was its 37-34 Week 4 win in Indy that got the ball rolling. In those nine victories, Houston has led at halftime by and average of 10 points but their average margin of victory is just 5.6 points. To be more specific, the Texans have played one-score, coin flip games against the Colts, Cowboys, Bills (a game Houston should have lost if not for Nathan Peterman), Denver and Washington. A 34-17 drubbing of the Titans on Monday Night Football and last Sunday's 29-13 victory over the Browns seem to have finally legitimized these Texans in the eyes of the market, but since when did beating Cleveland and Tennessee set the barometer of what is a quality football team? By the way, the Texans were out-gained by the Brownies, but turnovers were the story of that game, as Cleveland coughed up the rock four times. The market has a short memory so let us take you back to that Week 4 matchup in Indy. If not for a horrible call by Colts coach Frank Reich to go for it in overtime on 4th and four on their 43-yard line, the result might have been different. The Colts failed and pretty much conceded the contest, as they left the Texans practically in field goal range. Despite their success, the Texans have been playing with fire and eventually, they are going to get burned. Recommendation: Indianapolis +4½ -108
CLEVELAND -1 +100 over Carolina
1:00 PM EST. This game has a bunch of moving parts, as both the Panthers and Browns playoff hopes took a big hit last Sunday when both sides dropped road games in Tampa and Houston respectively. In particular, the Browns loss in H-Town looks really ugly and not just because of the lopsided 29-13 score. We weren't the only ones drinking the Baker Mayfield Kool-Aid either, as the Brownies were a popular bet after trouncing the Bengals 35-20 the week prior. Cleveland was never in that game on Sunday, as it went down 10-0 before you could grab a beer and were stuck 23-0 at halftime. Three Mayfield picks and a lost fumble sunk any chance the Browns had to win or even cover that contest.
It was a similar story for the Panthers, as Cam Newton threw four interceptions in a 24-17 loss to the Buccaneers, but Carolina was a 3½-point road favorite, while the Browns were a pooch. The Panthers stock is plummeting after a 6-2 start to the season, but this appears to be a potential look-ahead spot, as Carolina hosts the NFC South-leading Saints next Monday night. The Panthers have also been a much better team at home than they have been on the road and a December game in the Dawg Pound is not likely to fix what ails this visitor. Carolina is just 1-5 when playing outside The Tar Heel State. That the Panthers have played three of their last four games on the road does them no favors here either and if they haven't hit rock bottom yet, this game could be it, as Carolina plays three of their next four games against division opponents, including a second date with the Saints in New Orleans to finish the season. The Browns are still very much undervalued and on the way up, while the Panthers may have peaked and their biggest game of the season, by a country mile, is on deck. The Panthers have been sloppy on the road for years and we cannot find a single reason that warrants them being road chalk against a Browns’ squad that does everything better than they they do. Recommendation: Cleveland -1 +100
New Orleans -9½ +100 over TAMPA BAY
1:00 PM EST. While the Buccaneers may feature an offense that makes fantasy football owners salivate, in real life their defense is among the worst in the NFL. Don't let the last two weeks fool you into thinking Tampa has tightened up things on that side of the ball, as its been turnovers that has this team winning games. The Bucs were outgained badly (129 yards) last Sunday against the Panthers, but picked off four Cam Newton passes on their way to victory. In Week 13, Tampa was a popular fade in the market, as the 49ers were bet heavily, but San Francisco got whacked 27-9. The Bucs again won the turnover battle that afternoon with a +2 differential. The reality is, the Bucs are giving up over 274 passing yards per game and have allowed 28 touchdown passes against, which is second worst in the NFL.
The Saints are coming off a pair of lackluster, high profile, prime time performances against the Falcons and Cowboys. While they won and covered on Turkey Day, the football world all saw that game and if you had a ticket on New Orleans, you never felt good about that bet until the final whistle blew. Last week in Dallas, the Saints high flying offense was grounded, as the Cowboys muddied the game up and limited Drew Brees to just 127 yards in what was his worst game in what has otherwise been an MVP caliber season. Those sub-par outings combined with the fact that the Bucs already beat the Saints in New Orleans to open the season make the Bucs look very appealing here indeed but we smell a rat here. That the Saints were priced in this same range in Dallas two weeks ago is more proof of where the value lies. Two misleading wins later by the Bucs have not fooled oddsmakers so don’t let it fool you. Tampa’s 48-40 Week 1 upset carries little weight here, as it is actually the Saints that have tightened up on the defensive side of the ball and the analytics back that up. New Orleans in ninth in weighted defense, which values recent performance over games played earlier in the year. Meanwhile, the Bucs are 30th. The Saints come into this one in a rather foul mood, thus a date with this soft defense is likely just what the doctor ordered to get Brees and company humming again. The enticing price on the Bucs looks a bit curious too so really be cautious here about taking the points because they actually look too good. Recommendation: New Orlean -9½ +100
Detroit -3 +109 over ARIZONA
4:25 PM EST. We’re not sure if Arizona’s stock had the capability of rising so their win last week was more of a case of “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in the Mike McCarthy saga. Arizona’s win will no doubt go down as the the loss by Green Bay that got McCarthy fired. So, what happens when a dreg goes on the road as a two touchdown favorite and wins outright? It’s a euphoric moment for a team that lacks talent and that was supposed to get buried in Green Bay. That victory last week now gives the Cardinals just enough market credibility to make them worth fading here in a big letdown spot so allow us to remind you just how rancid this host is.
The Cardinals are 3-9 and look uninspired on both sides of the ball. Steve Wilks' first year in Arizona is probably his last year. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen has struggled to impress, and the Cardinals offense is averaging more than 40 fewer yards per game than any other team. The Cardinals' lost 45-10 to the Los Angeles Chargers the week prior to last. Arizona has been outscored by 138 points this season, the second-worst differential in football behind the Oakland Raiders. That’s hard to do in just 12 games. In October, the Cardinals fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and replaced him with Byron Leftwich. The team has not fared much better in four games under Leftwich, averaging 15.8 points per game. McCoy's unit had recorded 13.1 points per game.
It’s therapy time once again for Lions fans, as there are not many positives to take away from the their latest loss, a 30-16 drubbing to the Los Angeles Rams. The defense put up an admirable fight to keep the game close, but only to let Todd Gurley feast in the most crucial moments. The offense was the same miserable drab that it has been for most of the season. It took 13 weeks for Jim Bob Cooter to consider calling some non-traditional plays, just in time for the team to be completely out of playoff contention. That’s about where it ends for the Lions and now we have to question the state of mind of a team that has to travel across the country to play a meaningless game. That said, Matt Patricia comes from the Bill Belichick tree and we don’t believe for a second that the team has quit on him.
What stands out to us is the Lions improvement on the defensive side of the ball. It looks like the defense plays more as a unit now than they did at the beginning of the season and Patricia seems to be finding the types of players he wants to execute his defensive schemes. The Lions figure to come up with a strong defensive effort this week. Furthermore, Matthew Stafford is taking a boatload of heat because of his poor play, his accuracy or lack thereof and his bad decisions regarding his ball security instincts. Perhaps getting as far away as possible from Detroit is the best case scenario for the Lions, who are still at least two weeks away from being mathematically eliminated from the postseason. As it stands right now, there are still plenty of ways to still make it in at 8-8 that involves a chaos of mediocrity throughout the NFC, but that’s sort of been par for the course in the conference this year. The Lions are not officially dead yet and if they have any pride whatsoever, they’ll come in here and do to the Cardinals what the Packers were supposed to do last week. This is indeed a bargain price on the Lions. Recommendation: Detroit -3 +109
Pittsburgh -9½ -107 over OAKLAND
4:25 PM EST. We’re reluctantly going to recommend the Steelers here based on the process of elimination, as we want nothing to do with Jon Gruden and we also could have taken 11½-points earlier in the week with the Raiders so why would we take less now? There are teams in this league that are worthy of getting behind when one has missed the “best number” but the Raiders are not one of them.
This market has very likely overreacted to Oakland’s very game effort against one of the league’s elite last week. Not many people gave the Raiders a chance last Sunday and in fact, they came into the game as their biggest home underdog in 20 years. Indeed, the Raiders showed a lot of fight against their AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs, and really turned some heads with their performance. The rookies stepped up, Derek Carr played exceptional, and had it not been for some turnovers, they could have won the game. However, that was likely their peak moment, thus a repeat performance is not likely. Do the Raiders have it in them to throw a wrinkle into the playoff picture in the AFC and make life difficult for both Pittsburgh this week and Denver in two weeks from now? If Pittsburgh shows up, probably not.
We have no idea if the weed-smoking Steelers are going to show up this week. Last week, they were seen in prime time playing 30 minutes of football before the weed kicked in at half time. What happened in the second half of that game was almost jaw dropping, as the Chargers made the Steelers look like the Cardinals for the final 30 minutes and blew by them like a champion race horse blows by a tired field down the stretch. We should also mention that the Steelers host the Patriots next week back in Pittsburgh so there is always the possibility that these divas are looking at this game as more of an inconvenience than anything else. The challenge this week is to try and figure out whether the Steelers are shocked, mentally messed up or looking ahead to next week’s showdown with the Pats or if they come here in a foul mood and completely focused to take their frustrations from last week out on a ripe opponent. We’ll see if we can get any signs of either over the weekend but in terms of talent, importance and X’s and O’s, the Steelers are clearly the dominant side. Sometimes that matters not and we’ll decide on Sunday which way we’re leaning more but for now we’ll pencil in the Steelers after their embarrassing second half that was a good reminder how you can never lose focus in this league for even a minute. Recommendation: Pittsburgh -9½ -107
New England -8½ -105 MIAMI
1:00 PM EST. While we are not in the habit of spotting a number such as this on the road in a division game but we cannot get the image of Bills quarterback Josh Allen twiddling his thumbs before throwing the ball against Miami last week, as he had all day in the pocket. Buffalo came just a few inches from a comeback win, as Allen scrambled around and narrowly missed wide-open tight end Charles Clay who was all alone in the end zone. Now, it's one thing to give a rookie all day to throw, but if Tom Brady is given even half the time Allen was, the vet is going to rip the Dolphins to shreds.
The Fish are going to have some appeal here because they have held their own at home against the Pats after winning four of the last five games played between these two teams in South Florida. Miami is also now 6-6 after that win over the Bills and so they are in the discussion for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC. That the Fish are in the postseason conversation says much more about the lack of quality, as the Ravens are currently the sixth seed at 7-5. The Dolphins were badly outgained by the Bills last Sunday (240 yards), as they were in Indy the week prior (141 yards) and in seven of the eight games before that. You may remember the buildup to a Week 4 matchup between these two teams in New England when the Miami hype train was gaining steam after a 3-0 start to the year. The Dolphins got whacked, 38-7 and were outgained by 277 yards that day, which is scary considering how weak their pass rush was last Sunday against Buffalo. Finally, a line like -7½ is designed to entice you to bet the pooch here, as that "hook" on a key number like seven looks very appealing. However, do not get caught up backing Miami here, as it is likely to be in for a long day. If the Fish show up and play their best game of the season so be it but it’s December and that’s when the Pats traditionally remind us that down the stretch is the right time to start peaking. The Fish have been getting badly outplayed week after week and we're willing to bet that their poor play continues here. The only difference is, this time, the Hoody will make them pay dearly for it. Recommendation: New England -8½ -105
SAN FRANCISCO +3 +102 over Denver
4:05 PM EST. The 49ers season was over long ago, but the role of spoiler is not one to be ignored and it is one that players relish, as misery loves company. From a coaching perspective, this game is a slam dunk in favor of San Francisco and even though nobody had heard of Nick Mullens before the season started, the undrafted free agent has proven he's a gunslinger and deserves to have a higher profile role next season. Mullens put up 414 yards against the Seahawks last week and while the final score of 43-16 was not flattering, the 49ers played with intensity to the final whistle, which says something about the character of the team and the head coach. The "next man up" philosophy is a real one and it's not just Mullens who has stepped up, as running back Jeff Wilson Jr. made an impact in the Seahawks game running hard and angry every time he touched the ball. Jobs in the NFL are few and far between and many of these players are fighting for their futures.
Injuries are the major storyline coming into this game between the 49ers and Broncos and you could make a heck of fantasy lineup with the loaded IRs on both sides. Jimmy Garoppolo, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and now Emmanuel Sanders are all down for the count with the Broncos receiver being the latest to go down with a torn Achilles in Wednesday's practice. In most week's we would expect an overreaction to a star player going down, but the 'Niners are so far down in the market dumpster that we're not so sure the loss of Sanders will have much impact here. Courtland Sutton has already emerged as a popular fantasy pick-up after clicking with Case Keenum the last few weeks, while Sanders had notably seen a decrease in his role since the Demaryius Thomas trade.
The Broncos have won three straight since losing that 19-17 squeaker the Texans, but while a run of wins has given Denver some glimmer of playoff hope, a closer look shows they were quite fortunate to get the W in games against the Steelers and Chargers. The Broncos were badly outgained in both games, but relied heavily on turnovers to get the job done. Takeaways get a ton of attention in the media, but they are not a skill based statistic and therefore cannot be counted on from game to game. If we knew who was going to be on the right side of the turnover differential, we could give you the winning team far more often than not. The Broncos defense is not "back," they just had a few breaks finally go their way. Denver is the definition of a sell high squad and cannot be spotting points on the road against a 49ers side that has no quit. Recommendation: SAN FRANCISCO +3 +102
N.Y. Giants -3 -110 over WASHINGTON
1:00 PM EST. It is almost impossible to get behind the Redskins this week, as the injuries continue to rack up. The Redskins lost another quarterback for the remainder of the season with Colt McCoy breaking his leg on Monday Night Football. With Alex Smith already on the shelf, Washington will be forced to start Mark "Butt Fumble" Sanchez for this division showdown with the surging Giants. Joining Sanchez, who was signed just a few weeks ago, will be Josh Johnson, who walked off the street and into uniform. Washington's market credibility is at a season-low after three straight losses with that 28-13 drubbing by the Eagles on Monday Night Football pretty much putting an end to what was once a promising season. Normally we would be buying low but we cannot recommend buying this host on a short week with its fourth string QB going.
As longtime NFC East rivals, these two sides have already played once this season, but much has changed since then, as the 'Skins were the favorites to win the division at the time, but are now fighting just to field 53 players, as their IR is loaded. Washington was a one-point road favorite that October day and beat the Giants, who were trending downward at the time 20-13. The tables have now turned and it is the Giants that are being asked to spot a price here, which is a much different role than they were in last week when they were a home pooch to the Bears.
Situationally speaking this has all the makings to be a buy low/sell high play with Washington being the undervalued team. Mindset is everything and we have to wonder what the Redskins have left in the tank after seeing their season fly so spectacularly off the tracks in the last month. As of this writing, our lean would be to the G-Men but who isn’t betting the Giants spotting a small number. New York might be the sucker bet of the week so be cautious here too and we'll wait to see where the money goes on Sunday morning before proceeding any further. Recommendation: N.Y. Giants -3½ +100
L.A. Rams -3 +102 over CHICAGO
8:20 PM EST. The Rams are NFC West Champions after clinching their division in a 30-16 win against the Lions in the Motor City. With that all-important milestone wrapped up, we've heard that the Rams may exhale here, as they've all but locked up a first-round bye as well, but with just a one-game lead over the 10-2 Saints and with its only blemish coming in New Orleans, we doubt Los Angeles will take its foot off the gas here. The Rams have notably been a bad bet against the spread (5-6), which is what matters most around these parts. Spotting points on the road, especially in a prime-time game isn't a tool we pull out of the box very often, but this is a special case because if the Rams record against the spread was anywhere near their surface number, this line would be much higher, but with the Bears welcoming back their starting quarterback, we are spotting a much smaller price than we should be.
If we are to believe that Mitch Trubisky will start this game for the Bears and the line here suggests that he will, then we cannot get to the window fast enough to bet the Rams. Do not let the pundits talk you into any nonsense about how Trubisky is some great improvement at quarterback over Chase Daniel. The funny thing is, if Trubisky is ruled out any time between now and kick-off, this line is bound to change dramatically, as we would expect the Rams to be heavily bet. Because of that potential overreaction, we would recommend betting the Rams now because you are not going to get a better number. It's not going to come off of three and if it does, that suits us just fine, as we prefer to be on the opposite side of where the money is moving, especially in these high profile prime time games. Swallow these points with confidence because only one of these teams is ready for prime time and it’s not the host Bears. Recommendation: L.A. Rams -3 +102
NFL Historical - Totals
|Last 30 Days||18||11||0.00||+16.10|
|Season to Date||65||45||0.00||+49.86|