Week 14 of the NFL is here and I’ll be breaking down all of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. I turned in a second consecutive positive week last week, going 3-1-1 ATS on The Nickel Package podcast. I added three other plays to my Recommended Wagers on Sunday morning, but unfortunately I lost two of those three selections, leaving my record at a satisfactory 4-3-1 ATS for the week.
I love the card this week. I should have bolded the word ‘love’ because I have a stupid amount of picks. I never try to limit myself—if I feel there’s an edge in a game, I’ll bet it, so that’s exactly what I’ve done this week. Hopefully that doesn’t backfire and ruin a pretty solid record this season.
As of this writing there are no lines posted on most sportsbooks for the Browns/Patriots or Falcons/Packers games. I’m going to leave those two games out of this week’s blog because there are so many different scenarios that can arise in those games depending on which quarterbacks are in. I’ll provide an update on my Twitter account on Sunday morning once lines are widely available.
The Nickel Package Record: 37-25-3 ATS (59%)
As always, you can check out The Nickel Package podcast, which includes my top five plays in order of confidence. Each week, Joe Fortenbaugh from the National Football Post joins me to analyze those picks and provide additional insight to the games I’ve selected. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, listen to the player below or download the MP3 file here.
Recommended Wagers Record: 45-35-3 ATS (56%)
Kansas City Chiefs @ Washington Redskins
Friday Line: Chiefs -3, total of 44.5
Public Consensus: 69% on the Chiefs, 72% on the under
The Pick: After starting the season a perfect 9-0, Kansas City has suffered three straight setbacks against divisional opponents. Many people once believed that the Chiefs offered up the best defense in the league, but 106 points allowed in the last three games has put an end to those discussions. Kansas City will once again be without stud DE Justin Houston in this contest, which should allow for the Redskins to move the ball fairly consistently. The Chiefs have generated just two sacks in their last five games after registering 35 sacks in their first seven games. Kansas City already had one of the worst run defenses in the league, surrendering 4.6 yards per carry, and now their pass defense has suffered greatly due to their inability to get to the quarterback. The Redskins should have no issues establishing the run with Alfred Morris, which will set up favorable short-yardage situations for Robert Griffin III all day. Unfortunately for Washington, games aren’t won solely on the strength of an offense. The Redskins defense is epically poor, but their one strength is getting after the quarterback. Kansas City’s offensive line has been subpar all season and the unit will likely be much worse off this week without left tackle Branden Albert, who suffered a hyperextended knee against the Broncos last week. Alex Smith hasn’t held up well against the blitz this season and the Redskins should be able to keep the former #1 pick under duress all afternoon.
Aside from the X’s and O’s, this is just a horrible spot for the Chiefs. Kansas City has to be demoralized following their second loss in three weeks to the Broncos, and now they have to get up for a non-conference opponent. The Chiefs are essentially locked into the number five seed in the AFC and have nothing to play for. Redskins 27, Chiefs 26
The Wager: Washington is 0-5 on national television this year and that’s definitely affected the public perception of this team, creating some good line value with the Redskins at home. The Redskins definitely aren’t a good team but they catch Kansas City in the ultimate flat spot, and they may have the added bonus of some make-up calls after getting hosed by refs on Sunday Night Football. Redskins +3.5 (Sportsbook), I like the Redskins at +3 or higher.
The Trend: Teams in the third game of a 3-game home stand, coming off of back-to-back losses, are 15-5 SU and 16-4 ATS in the last 20 instances.
Minnesota Vikings @ Baltimore Ravens
Friday Line: Ravens -7, total of 42.5
Public Consensus: 76% on the Ravens, 55% on the over
The Pick: I continue to preach the importance of home field advantage when it comes to the Baltimore Ravens and I’ll do so again this week. There isn’t a quarterback in the league that enjoys playing at home more than Joe Flacco. Flacco sports a brutal 68.8 QBR away from M&T Bank Stadium, but the reigning Super Bowl MVP boasts a solid 91.4 QBR at home, while throwing only three interceptions in six games. Flacco should have no problem exploiting a Vikings’ secondary that is completely battered by injuries. Alshon Jeffery broke the Bears’ single-game receiving record against Minnesota last week, so Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones should have no issues separating themselves from a group of backups. The Ravens also remain hopeful that Dennis Pitta will return to the lineup this weekend which will provide Flacco with a great third option down the middle of the field. Baltimore should have great success moving the ball in this one, but their offense will be the second best unit on the field. The Ravens’ defense has only allowed 74 points in six home games this season and should be able to keep a lacklustre Vikings’ offense in check. Minnesota’s offense runs through All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, but even AP won’t be able to carry the load against a Ravens’ run defense that allows just 3.7 yards per carry while permitting an NFL-low two touchdowns on the ground this season. Matt Cassel gets the start at quarterback in place of the concussed (and completely useless) Christian Ponder, but let’s not forget that Cassel is pretty useless himself. The Ravens are fifth in the league with 37 sacks and have surrendered a measly 5.9 yards per attempt over the past four weeks, so they shouldn’t have much trouble containing the Vikings’ passing game.
Baltimore enters this game with confidence have won two contests in a row. The Ravens will also have the luxury of playing on extra rest against a tired Vikings’ squad that’s played back-to-back overtime contest; one of which went the distance ending in a tie. The Vikings haven’t won a road game all season and it would be a shock to me if they’re competitive in this matchup. Ravens 27, Vikings 9
The Wager: The Vikings are in store for a huge letdown after draining games against two divisional rivals in the Bears and Packers. Baltimore faces a must-win situation here as they look to keep pace in the crowded AFC wild card race. The Ravens have been really good to me at home this season, so I’ll gladly back them at what I consider to be a pretty short line. Ravens -6.5 (Bookmaker, SIA), I would take the Ravens at -7 if I had to.
The Trend: The Vikings are 10-22 ATS in their last 32 outdoor games.
Oakland Raiders @ New York Jets
Friday Line: Jets -2.5, total of 40
Public Consensus: 64% on the Raiders, 62% on the over
The Pick: Man, oh man, this is going to be a painful write-up. The Jets are a complete disaster right now. It’s no secret that New York’s quarterback play has been an atrocity this season, but even I was shocked to uncover that Jets’ quarterbacks have a 9-to-20 touchdown to interception ratio this season. Barf. The Jets might get wide receiver Santonio Holmes back for this contest, but I doubt it will make much of a difference considering Geno Smith has proven to be incapable of completing a pass more than 10 yards downfield. Smith has faced some very tough secondaries in recent weeks—Dolphins, Ravens, Saints, Bengals—but posting a total QBR of 40.7 over his last three starts is simply laughable. It’s not like the Jets are going to be able to run in this contest either as the Raiders have a stout run defense that surrenders just 3.9 yards per carry. With that being said, I’m not too confident in the Oakland offense to score points either. Matt McGloin has looked decent in two of three games since taking over for Terrell Pryor as the starting quarterback, but the Raiders’ inability to run the ball in this contest will lead to plenty of third-and-longs for the young signal caller. The Jets boast the best run defense in the league and it’s not even close as they’re the only team in the league to give up less than three yards per carry. Rashad Jennings has been cleared to play following a concussion on Thanksgiving, but he won’t be able to find much room to maneuver against New York’s devastating defensive front. The Raiders’ inability to run the ball will lead to McGloin having to take more chances than usual, and that should lead to a few turnovers.
I’m pretty torn on this game. It’s a miracle that the Jets have won five games this year with their horrible quarterback play, but that’s a testament to how good this defense is capable of being. The Raiders are on extra rest but they have to travel across the country for an early start time in a cold environment, and I’m not sure they can overcome those obstacles. Jets 17, Raiders 13
The Wager: I can’t imagine any scenario where I’d wager a cent on this game. A month ago I would have had a huge wager on the Jets at less than a field goal, but it’s impossible to trust Geno Smith at this point. Pass
The Trend: The Jets are 17-4 ATS in their last 21 games following a home loss.
Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals
Friday Line: Bengals -6.5, total of 43
Public Consensus: 65% on the Bengals, 70% on the over
The Pick: The betting public has been pretty slow to recognize that the Colts are a complete fraud. Offensively, Indianapolis has been stuck in second gear since Reggie Wayne went down for the season with a torn ACL. T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey have been proven to be extremely unreliable and subsequently, Andrew Luck’s play has suffered. Since the Colts’ come-from-behind victory over the lowly Texans in Week 9, Luck has scored just three touchdowns while committing six turnovers. The Bengals won’t make life any easier for Luck this week as they’ve accumulated 18 sacks in their last five games, while maintaining their spot as the third best pass defense in the NFL in terms of yards per attempt. Indianapolis has virtually no running game whatsoever right now and that puts even more pressure on the second-year signal caller to carry the team on his back. Unfortunately for the Colts, their offense isn’t the only unit struggling. Indianapolis has given up an average of 29.3 points over their last six games, all while allowing Kellen Clemens, Carson Palmer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick to move the ball consistently through the air. Indianapolis hasn’t been very good at stopping the run either, yielding 4.4 yards per carry this season. The Bengals came out of their bye last week and ran all over a porous Chargers’ defense, so there’s no reason to expect a different outcome against a similarly bad Colts’ defense.
This is an awful situation for the Colts. They’ve opened up a three-game lead in the AFC South and now have to head out on the road for a pretty meaningless game against a Bengals team that just so happens to be amazing at home. Cincinnati is a perfect 5-0 at Paul Brown Stadium this season, winning by an average of 16.4 points. Blowout alert. Bengals 34, Colts 14
The Wager: The Colts haven’t played a good game since beating Seattle nine weeks ago. They’ve followed up their last two wins by losing 38-8 to the Rams and 40-11 to the Cardinals. This game is very important to Cincinnati, especially with the Ravens hot on their heels. Bengals -6.5 (widely available), I’d take the Bengals -7 if I had to.
The Trend: The Bengals are 14-6-1 ATS in their last 21 games overall.
Detroit Lions @ Philadelphia Eagles
Friday Line: Eagles -3, total of 53.5
Public Consensus: 51% on the Eagles, 54% on the under
The Pick: At first glance, this looks like a matchup of two pretty evenly matched teams, but it’s a lot easier to trust the Eagles in this spot. Philadelphia had dropped 10 straight home games at one point this season, but a pair of recent home victories over the Redskins and Cardinals will give them some confidence at Lincoln Financial Field. The recent play of quarterback Nick Foles will also lift their spirits. Foles is proving to be a billion times better than Michael Vick as he’s accounted for 21 touchdowns without throwing an interception this season. Pretty unbelievable. What’s even more unbelievable is that Foles has protected the ball while taking shots down the field, as evidenced by his incredible 9.1 yards per attempt. Detroit registered seven sacks against the Packers’ shoddy offensive line last week, but they’d only registered 20 sacks in their first 11 games, so I’d count on Foles being able to shred a Lions’ secondary that surrenders 7.7 yards per attempt. On the other side of things, the Lions’ offense can move the ball with the ease, but unlike the Eagles, they don’t protect the ball. Detroit has committed 17 turnovers in their last five games, and the team now sports an ugly -8 turnover differential on the season. The Lions have also committed a whopping 80 penalties in 12 games this season, which often forces the offense to settle for field goals instead of punching in touchdowns. Jim Schwartz is one of the most idiotic coaches in the league and his mere presence on the sidelines means that the Lions can’t be trusted to play a disciplined brand of football.
Aside from the matchup on the field, I like this situation for the Eagles. The weather forecast is calling for a cold, snowy day in Philadelphia on Sunday; an environment that has caused many issues for the Lions in recent years. Detroit has already dropped games in Arizona, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh this year—I don’t see what would give them an edge over Philly here. Eagles 34, Lions 28
The Wager: The Eagles weren’t even on my radar until I went through the process of this write-up. Now I’m not sure if I can keep them off my list. Detroit is 1-11 ATS in their last 12 games off a double-digit win and they’ll probably suffer a big letdown here since they’re so poorly coached. Ah, screw it. Eagles -2.5 (5 Dimes), this is not a play for me at Eagles -3
The Trend: The Lions are 2-12 ATS in their last 14 games after scoring 30+ points in their previous game.
Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Friday Line: Steelers -3, total of 40.5
Public Consensus: 60% on the Dolphins, 54% on the under
The Pick: It’s hard to predict what mindset the Steelers will be in for this matchup. On one hand, they’re coming off an emotionally draining loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving night, but on the other hand, they’ve enjoyed some extra rest and added preparation time for the incoming Dolphins. The additional time off has allowed for Le’Veon Bell to recover from a brutal concussion suffered late last week and should permit the Steelers to move the ball fairly consistently on the ground against a leaky Dolphins’ run defense. Ben Roethlisberger should be operating out of favorable short yardage situations, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to success against the Dolphins. Miami’s pass defense has been a great strength this season as they’ve allowed only 12 touchdowns through the air, while intercepting a whopping 16 passes. The Steelers are down to their third string center on the offensive line and that means Big Ben will be on the run for the majority of the afternoon. The Dolphins’ offense has a lot of the same issues. Miami’s offensive line has been an abomination in the wake of the Richie Incognito bullying incident, and consequently, Ryan Tannehill has taken more sacks than any other quarterback in the NFL this season. Miami also hasn’t been able to alleviate any pressure from Tannehill with their running game, as they average a putrid 88.7 yards per game on the ground. The Steelers don’t possess the same vaunted run defense as they have in years past, but they should be able to keep Lamar Miller in check, considering Miller has managed just one 100-yard game this season.
This is a tough game to call. Mike Wallace will want to have a big game against his former team but Dick LeBeau should be able to put together a good game plan to shut down the ex-Steelers receiver, especially with extra time to prepare. Big Ben is playing as good as he’s played all season long with six touchdowns in his last three starts. I have more confidence in Roethlisberger to play in cold weather than I do with Tannehill. Steelers 24, Dolphins 19
The Wager: Pittsburgh has now covered four straight games after last week’s backdoor job in Baltimore, but they’re not a team that I’m comfortable laying points with. The team could have been easily distracted by this week’s Mike Tomlin rules violation saga, so I’m going to steer clear of this one. Pass
The Trend: The Steelers are 27-12 ATS in their last 39 December home games.
Buffalo Bills @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Friday Line: Buccaneers -2.5, total of 42
Public Consensus: 67% on the Buccaneers, 65% on the under
The Pick: This is a pretty difficult game to handicap because it’s impossible to confidently predict the state of mind of both teams. Both the Bills and Bucs are out of the playoff hunt and subsequently, it’s hard to determine what kind of effort they’ll put forth in this contest. Based on Tampa Bay’s results in December from previous years, I’d be hard pressed to believe the Bucs will “get up” for this contest. The Buccaneers have been known to quit late in the year and head coach Greg Schiano is a complete tool, so there’s no chance in hell I’m taking Tampa Bay here. The Bucs were completely useless offensively against a stout Panthers’ defensive front last week, and they’ll likely look all out of sorts against a Bills’ pass rush that leads the league with 47 sacks this season. Mike Glennon has been a decent quarterback this season but the combination of relentless pressure and Glennon’s pedestrian 6.8 yards per attempt don’t exactly inspire confidence in the Bucs’ ability to move the ball. Tampa Bay has been outgained by an average of 72 yards per game over their past five contests, which indicates that their three wins in that span were more of a fluke than anything else. In that same time period, the Bills have outgained opponents by an average of 18 yards per game. C.J. Spiller decimated the Falcons run defense last week and he should continue his success against a Bucs’ run defense that yields 4.2 yards per carry. In all reality, Buffalo should have handled the Falcons easily last week but a pair of late fumbles and a borderline pass interference call in the endzone resulted in a tough loss. E.J. Manuel has thrown for four touchdowns and just one interception in the three games since his return from injury and has shown that he’s capable of managing a game on the road.
Both of these coaches have familiarity with each other from their days in the Big East so this game will mean a lot to both Doug Marrone and Greg Schiano. Unfortunately for Schiano, his team has already given up on him in the past, and there’s a good chance that they’ll do so again this week. Bills 27, Buccaneers 23
The Wager: This is one of the less appealing games on this week’s board, from both a football perspective and a betting perspective. I think Buffalo is a much better team than Tampa Bay but they haven’t fared particularly well on the road this season. Pass
The Trend: The Bucs are 0-8 ATS in their last 8 games when playing a team with a winning percentage between .250 and .400.
Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos
Friday Line: Broncos -12, total of 49
Public Consensus: 69% on the Broncos, 66% on the under
The Pick: It would be easy to assume that the Broncos are going to blow out the Titans here, but the situation sets up very favorably for Tennessee in this spot. The Titans are still (somehow) lurking in the AFC Wildcard race, trailing the Ravens and Dolphins by just one game. Their season is essentially on the line here. The Broncos, meanwhile, are in a huge flat spot coming off of three games against the Chiefs, Patriots, and Chiefs again—three high-profile matchups. Denver also has a look ahead to their divisional rival San Diego next week. In addition to the unfavorable spot for the Broncos, they’ll also have to deal with the elements in Denver. Forecasters are calling for a cold, snowy day in Denver on Sunday, which, as we’ve seen time and time again in the past, is not exactly the best state of affairs for Peyton Manning. Manning didn’t play well in New England two weeks ago and has been notorious for crapping the bed in cold weather. With that being said, the Broncos have scored at least 27 points in every single one of their games this season, so Tennessee will have to find a way to score some points. Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t play well last week against Indianapolis but he’s actually performed fairly well this season. Fitzy hasn’t thrown an interception in three of his past four games; a product of great offensive game plans from offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. The Broncos have a bunch of injuries in their secondary and will have issues with the short and intermediate crossing routes that the Titans continuously run. Tennessee’s offensive line has held up extremely well, limiting opponents to just six sacks in their last four games.
I like this matchup for Tennessee. Don’t get me wrong—the Broncos are the far superior squad, but this game means so much more for the Titans, and they haven’t lost by more than 14 points in any game this season. Tennessee will give the Broncos a serious scare before Manning ultimately leads his team to victory. Broncos 30, Titans 27
The Wager: The key to success against the Broncos is obviously keeping Manning in check. The Titans have allowed only eight touchdown passes all season, including just two touchdowns in their last five games. They’ve covered five of six on the road this season and this spread is just way too high for a team that’s playing for their season. Titans +13 (Sportsbook), I like the Titans at anything more than +10
The Trend: The Titans are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games following a ATS loss.
St. Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
Friday Line: Cardinals -6, total of 41.5
Public Consensus: 53% on the Rams, 71% on the under
The Pick: As I mentioned in last week’s column, I believe the Cardinals are highly overrated. Arizona is a good team with a strong defense, but they leave much to be desired in many other aspects of the game. The Cardinals last four wins have come against the weak AFC South (Bruce Arians has a lot of familiarity with this division) and the lowly Atlanta Falcons. St. Louis was far too sloppy to upset the 49ers on the road last week, but they did beat the Colts and Bears by a combined 51 points in their two games prior. Most people thought that the Rams’ season was over when Sam Bradford went on injured reserve, but Jeff Fisher has done a good job of keeping the Rams afloat. Kellen Clemens is obviously limited in his ability to stretch the field, but the Rams have gone to a ground-and-pound type of offense that has worked rather effectively in recent weeks. St. Louis has scored 34 points or more in four of their last eight games, in large part due to Zac Stacy’s effectiveness on the ground. The Rams have also gotten a great contribution out of their defense in recent weeks, holding their last five opponents to an average of 18.8 points per game. St. Louis has generated a heaping 37 sacks this season, which doesn’t bode well for Carson Palmer. Palmer is a statue in the pocket and is known for making mistakes when he’s under duress—Palmer has an insane 20 turnovers in 12 starts this season. Andre Ellington has been limited in practice all week which means that the ineffective Rashard Mendenhall will likely get the bulk of the carries for Arizona again this week. The Rams have limited their last three opponents to a paltry 45.3 rushing yards per game, including games against two highly effective backs in Matt Forte and Frank Gore. Without the ability to run the ball, more pressure will fall on the shoulders of Palmer to move the chains and that’s a recipe for disaster.
Arizona is one of the league’s better home teams but I really don’t see much separating the Cardinals and the Rams. In fact, the Rams have won the last three games in this series, including a victory in Week 1 earlier this year. This won’t be a popular pick but I like the upset here. Rams 19, Cardinals 16
The Wager: The Cardinals are laying too many points here. As I mentioned above, a lot of their recent success has been against the league’s bottom feeders. Arizona’s offense still turns the ball over far too frequently to be trusted as a big favorite. Rams +6.5 (SIA), I like the Rams at +4.5 or more.
The Trend: The road team is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 meetings between these two teams.
New York Giants @ San Diego Chargers
Friday Line: Chargers -3, total of 47
Public Consensus: 58% on the Giants, 53% on the over
The Pick: The Chargers have cooled off in recent weeks but I still feel as though they’re a much better team than the Giants. New York has won five of their last six games but those victories don’t exactly inspire confidence as they’ve taken care of the league’s bottom feeders. In New York’s only game against a relevant team in the last month, they lost on home soil to Cowboys 24-21. A lot of the Giants’ struggles this season can be attributed to Eli Manning, who hasn’t been this awful since his first year in the league. Manning has been sacked a career-high 31 times (not his fault) and has thrown three more interceptions than touchdowns this season, which is downright embarrassing in this day and age. Manning will be facing some unusually harsh conditions in San Diego this week as Chargers’ fans haven’t forgotten when he refused to play for them after being drafted first overall in 2004. The crowd noise should also have a major effect on the Giants’ offensive line, which has proven to be a complete abomination this season. On the other side of things, Philip Rivers is enjoying a career resurgence after struggling over the past couple of season. Rivers has a stellar 23-to-9 touchdown to interception ratio this season and has shown great chemistry with emerging number-one receiver Keenan Allen in recent weeks. Rivers has struggled in the face of pressure this season but the Giants are tied for second last in the league in quarterback sacks, registering a measly 23 sacks in 12 games this season. Rivers should have time in the pocket to attack an improving, but still beatable, Giants’ secondary.
San Diego has the better offense, better defense in terms of points per game, and the better special teams. They’ll have the luxury of playing in front of their home crowd and this game is of great importance to them as they look to remain in the AFC Wildcard race. Chargers 24, Giants 20
The Wager: Despite everything I’ve written above, I’m a little bit scared to bet against the Giants right now. New York has a tendency of going on epic late season runs and I don’t want to completely write them off because of the quality of competition that they’ve been playing. San Diego could also be flat following a string of tough, hard-fought games. Pass
The Trend: The Chargers are 14-2 ATS in their last 16 games against NFC opponents.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Friday Line: 49ers -2.5, total of 41.5
Public Consensus: 54% on the Seahawks, 67% on the over
The Pick: This is a huge game for the 49ers. After getting decimated by Seattle earlier in the season, San Francisco is out to prove that they’re still a legitimate contender in the NFC West. I’m throwing that early season result out the window for this matchup because as we saw last week, Seattle is simply so dominant at home that it’s impossible to hang tight with them as CenturyLink field. The Seahawks are a lot more susceptible on the road though. Despite a 5-1 record away from home this season, Seattle has been far from impressive with a loss at Indianapolis and a pair of narrow wins over the Rams and Texans—the very same Texans that will likely be picking first overall in the next NFL Draft. Not only do the Seahawks have to play on the road, but they have to do so on a short week without major players in their secondary. With Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond expect to both be out of the lineup; the Seahawks will have a difficult time covering Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, and the finally healthy Michael Crabtree. Colin Kaepernick has looked much more comfortable in recent weeks and he’ll be happy to finally have a full plethora of weapons at his disposal. San Francisco should also be able to move the ball on the ground against an overrated Seahawks’ run defense that surrenders 4.1 yards per carry. The 49ers will need a strong effort on the defensive side of the ball as well though. Russell Wilson has been extremely consistent this season and has cemented his spot as an elite quarterback in the league, but he has struggled mightily in two of his three career starts against the 49ers (17/42, 264yds, 1 TD, 2 INT). San Francisco is healthier on defense than they’ve been all season long and they should be able to contain Wilson in front of a raucous crowd at Candlestick Park this week.
This game is all about the situation. Seattle has basically wrapped up the NFC West and are due for a huge letdown after embarrassing the Saints on Monday Night Football. I don’t believe in revenge spots, but I do believe that the 49ers want this game a hell of a lot more than the Seahawks do. 49ers 23, Seahawks 17
The Wager: For all of the reasons mentioned above, I love the 49ers here. Seattle is in literally the worst spot imaginable for them—divisional road game, coming off of a blowout win, on short rest, without much to play for. You’re not going to find a better situational angle this season. 49ers -2.5 (widely available), I would not play this at 49ers -3.
The Trend: The 49ers are 9-0 ATS in their last 9 games when playing a team with a winning percentage of .750 or higher.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
Friday Line: Saints -3, total of 46
Public Consensus: 60% on the Panthers, 51% on the under
The Pick: It’s nice to get to follow a Seahawks/49ers preview with another marquee matchup between the Saints and Panthers. Similarly to the game above, this game is all about the situation. The Panthers are going to find themselves in an absolute hornet’s nest on Sunday night, as the Mercendes-Benz Superdome is one of the harshest environments in football. Worst of all for Carolina is that Cam Newton has only played once career game in the Superdome and it was a Week 17 matchup last year that didn’t mean anything. Newton has no idea what he’s in for on Sunday night and subsequently, I give a big edge to the Saints’ defense. New Orleans has held eight teams to 19 points or less this season and their superb pass rush should be able to generate a ton of pressure on Newton this week, especially with the Panthers’ offensive line dealing with extreme crowd noise. The Saints have faced some strong offenses at home this season (49ers, Cowboys, Bills, Dolphins, Cardinals, and Falcons) and none of those teams have managed to surpass the 20-point plateau. Newton has been awesome in the Panthers’ eight-game winning streak, but his only matchup against a strong defense ended with a 52.7 QBR, 50% completion rate, and meagre 5.3 yards per attempt in San Francisco. On the other side of things, it’s pretty much impossible to slow down the Saints’ offense in New Orleans. The Saints average 33.2 points per game at home and Drew Brees has an unreal 122.2 QBR, throwing for 19 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions in six home starts. Consequently, it’s no surprise that the Saints’ average margin of victory at home this season is a whopping 17 points.
Everyone just watched the Saints get dominated by the Seahawks but EVERYONE gets dominated by the Seahawks in Seattle. New Orleans has the same type of home field advantage that the Seahawks do—the Sean Payton & Drew Brees combo is 15-0 straight up (14-0-1 ATS) in their last 15 games at home together. I’m not going against a staggering trend like that. Saints 27, Panthers 17
The Wager: This line is asinine. The Saints and Panthers are relatively equal teams and New Orleans’ home field advantage should be worth much more than three points. My only concern is that the Saints are coming off of a short week but I still like them to rebound after a blowout loss. Saints -3 (widely available), I would play this up to Saints -6.
The Trend: The Saints are 12-2 ATS in their last 14 games as a home favorite of 7 points or less.