Week 15 of the NFL is here and I’ll be breaking down all of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. After two consecutive winning weeks, I turned in a dud in Week 14. My plays on The Nickel Package podcast went 2-3 ATS, and my ridiculous eight Recommended Wagers went 3-5 ATS. I did get a little bit unlucky with 49ers -2.5 (two point win), so it’s not like it was an abysmal week, but definitely a week to forget.
I’m not a huge fan of this week’s card. You’ll notice a common theme this week with the public wagering heavily on a number of road favorites. Most of these lines are drastically inflated, but even so, it’s hard to make a case for the underdog in many of those games. A lot of the following predictions are simply educated guesses based on all of the information that I’ve looked at—I really don’t have a feel for many of these games. I’m not trying to make excuses here; simply warning you that unless it shows up in my Recommended Wagers, I really don’t have a strong opinion on the game.
As of the time of this writing, there are still uncertainties at quarterback for the Packers and Bears. My breakdown of those games is entirely dependent on who’s starting at quarterback, so I’ll refrain from previewing those games, and instead opt to update them on my Twitter account (@robpizzola) on Sunday morning.
The Nickel Package Record: 39-28-3 ATS (58%)
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: 48-40-3 ATS (54%)
Washington Redskins @ Atlanta Falcons
Friday Line: Falcons -7, total of 50
Public Consensus: 53% on the Falcons, 71% on the under
The Pick: I usually lean toward the underdog when two inept teams matchup against each other, but it’s really difficult to support the Redskins right now. A coaching change is looming in Washington after Mike Shanahan announced that he’d be shutting down sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season and replacing him with fellow sophomore Kirk Cousins. Cousins may actually give the Redskins the best chance of winning at this point, but Washington appears to be a lost cause as they checked out mentally many weeks ago. If the Redskins show up with even a thread of desire this weekend, their offense shouldn’t have many issues moving the ball against a decimated Falcons’ defense that is second-worst in the league at stopping the run. That’s a big if though. Atlanta is also out of the playoff race at this point, but it appears as though they’re still putting in a good effort for head coach Mike Smith. With that being said, the Falcons have only won twice at home this season despite having one of the biggest home field advantages in the league over the past few seasons. Atlanta’s once prolific offense has suffered immensely since Julio Jones went on injured reserve, as evidenced by their inability to score an offensive touchdown in the final 39 minutes of last week’s contest against a brutal Packers’ defense.
In the end, the Falcons have only averaged 18 points per game over their last seven weeks. I have no aspirations of laying a full touchdown with a team that has struggled scoring points for the better half of two months. Atlanta should probably be able to carve up an abysmal Washington defense, but at this point it’s more of a guess than anything. Falcons 30, Redskins 24
The Wager: I could have seen value in Atlanta at the opening line of Falcons -3.5 but the public (and possibly sharps) have gotten a hold of this thing and bet it all the way up to Falcons -7 at most books. Atlanta can’t stop anybody right now so I’d have a really hard time justifying any play here. Pass
The Trend: The Falcons are 0-7 ATS in their last 7 games against defenses allowing a completion percentage of 64% or worse (weird trend, I know).
San Francisco 49ers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Friday Line: 49ers -5, total of 41
Public Consensus: 63% on the 49ers, 57% on the under
The Pick: The 49ers have rattled off three straight wins to assert their playoff spot in the NFC, but this week could prove to be more difficult than most people would imagine. San Francisco is in a dreadful spot coming off of last week’s enormous win over their most hated divisional rival, the Seattle Seahawks. Now the 49ers have to travel all the way across the country and battle the improving Buccaneers at an early start time—San Francisco’s body clocks will feel as though this game is at 10:00 AM. San Francisco is also enlisted as the favorite in this game, which means that they’ll have to score enough points to cover the spread; a feat that may prove daunting based on their recent results. The 49ers have averaged less than 20 points per game over their last five games, with quarterback Colin Kaepernick completing just 57.4% of his passes during that span. The Bucs will also make things especially difficult for the 49ers’ offense with a run defense that has surrendered just six touchdowns on the ground in 13 games this year. Kaepernick will find himself in plenty of third-and-long situations and that’s a recipe for disaster against a Bucs’ defense that’s forced 13 takeaways in their past four contests. Offensively, the Bucs will struggle to move the ball as well but Mike Glennon has proven to be serviceable in his first year of action. San Francisco will likely look lifeless at times in this contest, so there will be opportunities for Glennon to make plays down the field.
Tampa Bay is clearly progressing as the season wears on, winning four of their last five games; including wins over the Lions and Dolphins, both of whom are in postseason contention. I’m not sure they have the talent to knock off the 49ers outright, but then again, this team was very close to beat the Seahawks in Seattle, where NFL teams go to die. I’ll grow a set and take the Bucs to pull the upset. Buccaneers 19, 49ers 17
The Wager: I love betting against teams coming off of emotional victories, and I especially love doing so when the opposing team is playing good football. This line is inflated because of last week’s result but anyone who watched the 49ers-Seahawks game knows that Seattle was pretty unlucky not to win that game. I’ll happily grab the points here. Buccaneers +6 (BoDog), I’d play the Bucs at +4.5 or higher
The Trend: The Buccaneers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games following a win of 14+ points.
Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans
Friday Line: Cardinals -2.5/-3, total of 41.5
Public Consensus: 56% on the Cardinals, 98% on the over
The Pick: This is a classic case of two teams going in opposite directions. On one hand, you have the Tennessee Titans, who started the season with a promising 3-1 start and have gone just 2-7 since. The Titans have been especially bad at home, where they’ve lost four straight games, allowing a minimum of at least 26 points in all four contests. Tennessee was all but eliminated from postseason contention last week in Denver, and it’ll come as a big surprise to me if the Nashville crowd plays a factor in this contest now that the season is essentially over. To make matters worse, the Titans simply lack any sort of firepower on offense with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. Fitzpatrick has topped 222 yards passing in just one of his last four starts, and has transformed back into the turnover machine that was known to be in years past. Arizona, on the other hand, continues to ascend up the NFC rankings, winning five of their last six games. Most impressively, the Cardinals’ last five wins have come by an average margin of 15.8 points as they now sit just one game back in the wildcard race. Michael Floyd has become a legitimate second option to Larry Fitzgerald, and the return of running back Andre Ellington gives the Cardinals a much needed presence in the backfield. Arizona has produced an average of 28.7 points per game over their last six games, and more impressively, they’ve won the yardage battle in 10 of their 13 games this season. Cardinals’ head coach Bruce Arians is very familiar with the Titans from his time in the AFC South with the Indianapolis Colts, and that gives Arizona an even bigger edge as they’ve already put up 94 points in three games against AFC South opponents this season (going 2-0-1 ATS in those games).
This seems to be a pretty big mismatch. Tennessee could try to get their running game going to alleviate some pressure from Fitzpatrick, but Arizona boasts the third best run defense in the league in terms of yards per carry. The Titans faced a similar type of opponents at home back in Week 7 and they were shredded 31-17 by the 49ers. Expect more of the same here. Cardinals 27, Titans 16
The Wager: I’m fully aware that Arizona isn’t the best of road teams, but it’s hard to ignore the multiple disparities between these two squads. It’s not like this is a true road game anyways since Tennessee residents are more likely to be stoked about Vanderbilt’s Bowl game against Houston than this meaningless Titans’ game. Anything less than a field goal seems like a bargain. Cardinals -2.5 (5 Dimes), I would play this game at Cardinals -3 but it would be a smaller play
The Trend: The Cardinals are 6-0 ATS this season against teams allowing a completion percentage of 61% or worse.
New Orleans Saints @ St. Louis Rams
Friday Line: Saints -6.5, total of 47
Public Consensus: 89% on the Saints, 92% on the over
The Pick: I’d love to sit here and tell you about this being a potential flat spot for the Saints in between two colossal games against the Panthers, but the truth is, I just don’t believe that. This is New Orleans against St. Louis. Drew Brees against Kellen Clemens. It’s not like Brees will be facing harsh conditions either—the crowd won’t be much of a factor since the Rams’ season is over, and the Saints’ offense tends to thrive in dome environments. In New Orleans’ only other dome road game this season, Brees threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns in Atlanta on Thursday Night Football, with only three days to prepare. This is simply a terrible matchup for St. Louis defensively. The Rams excel at stopping the run but they have the second-worst pass defense in the league, yielding a whopping 8.4 yards per attempt. New Orleans runs the ball less than all but six teams in the league, while throwing a ridiculous 39.9 times per contest. That’s not good news for the Rams, especially since Sean Payton is one of the few coaches in the league that can devise a game plan to exploit opposing teams’ weaknesses. There’s worse news for St. Louis though; Kellen Clemens is a complete disgrace to the quarterback position. Clemens has exceeded a QB rating of 86.7 just once in eight games this season, and I’d chalk that up to being a complete fluke since that was a Week 10 win over the Colts in which the Indy defense yielded an ungodly 15.4 yards per attempt. To make matters worse for Clemens, he may be without the services of rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin due to an ankle injury.
I’ve done everything in my power to try to make a case for the Rams here but I just can’t do it. The Saints aren’t in a very good spot coming off of a blowout win, but I’ll be pretty surprised if this game is within one score heading into the fourth quarter. Saints 31, Rams 13
The Wager: Based on my write-up above you’d probably assume that I’m playing the Saints this week. I might do it come Sunday but as of now I’m leaving New Orleans off of my card. The Saints have burned me far too many times on the road in recent years, and their 12-23 ATS mark away from home since the middle of 2009 doesn’t exactly instill confidence. And then there’s the 89% public consensus on New Orleans. Jeez. Pass
The Trend: The Rams are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games against NFC opponents.
Seattle Seahawks @ New York Giants
Friday Line: Seahawks -7, total of 41.5
Public Consensus: 69% on the Seahawks, 89% on the over
The Pick: This write-up is going to be eerily similar to the Saints/Rams preview above. I can almost always make a case for a home underdog, especially when they’re getting a full touchdown on home soil, but I just can’t muster the strength to do so here. I’m fully aware of Seattle’s struggles on the road in recent years, but I don’t think the general public understands how inept this Giants’ squad really is. New York benefited from possibly the most favorable four-game stretch in NFL history earlier this season, but aside from that run against terrible opposing quarterbacks, the Giants have been absolutely brutal. The terrible version of Eli Manning that plagued the Giants earlier this season re-emerged in San Diego last week, as the former first-overall pick threw a pair of interceptions to run his season total up to 20. New York’s passing game has been miserable this season and that speaks volumes when you consider that every defense they’ve faced in the last eight weeks has ranked 18th or lower in the league. The Giants have virtually no hope of moving the ball against Seattle’s overwhelming secondary, even with Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond out of the lineup. The Seahawks have allowed just one team to exceed 215 yards passing this season and that was against Drew Brees and the Saints in the Superdome; a game that they can hardly be blamed for. Meanwhile, prior to last week’s game against the 49ers, the Seahawks had totaled 135 in their previous four contests. The Giants’ defensive statistics are deceptive due to their ridiculously easy schedule so I don’t foresee the Seahawks’ offense having many issues moving the ball.
Seattle is a really, really good football team. The Seahawks are 16-6 ATS in their last 22 games, and although this line is inflated, this appears to be a great spot for Seattle to make a statement following their loss to the 49ers last week. Don’t think too much about this one. Seahawks 24, Giants 10
The Wager: Laying a full touchdown with a road team in the NFL is hardly a winning proposition in the long run. Seattle has actually fared well as a road favorite this season, posting a solid 4-2 ATS mark, but I’m not interested in pulling the trigger on an inflated spread. This is another game where I may change my mind on Sunday, but for now I’m going to stay away. Pass
The Trend: The Seahawks are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games following a loss.
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts
Friday Line: Colts -5.5, total of 45.5
Public Consensus: 62% on the Colts, 62% on the under
The Pick: I’ve been consistently picking against the Colts for many weeks now, but I think this is a pretty favorable matchup for them. After all, the Texans have lost 11 straight games and they could easily be 0-13 right now if it weren’t for a pair of comebacks against the Chargers and Titans in the first two weeks of the season. To make matters worse, it appears as though the Texans’ players have completely mailed it in. Houston has lost to Jacksonville twice in the last month, and committed an embarrassing 14 penalties in last week’s contest on Thursday night. Things were so dire for the Texans that they fired head coach Gary Kubiak after last week’s game; a little over a month after he suffered a stroke on the Texans’ sideline! In comes Wade Phillips to take the reigns—I wouldn’t trust Phillips to deliver my mail, let alone coach an NFL football team. Indianapolis isn’t exactly playing quality football right now, and there really isn’t much to play for now that they’ve clinched the AFC South division title, but the Colts have made a habit of bouncing back after poor showings. Indianapolis has covered their last nine games following a loss, with Andrew Luck being a perfect 8-0 ATS in that situation through his first two years in the league. Luck also may have found a quality receiver in the absence of Reggie Wayne as undrafted rookie Da’Rick Rogers has shown some immediate chemistry with the former Stanford standout. Houston’s Case Keenum will have a tough time keeping up, especially since he’s managed to completed just 53% of his passes while throwing for only two touchdowns in his last four games.
The Texans are 0-11 in franchise history in Indianapolis. I don’t put a ton of stock into historical trends, but the combination of that trend and the fact that Houston has completely fallen apart lead me to believe that the Colts will use this game as an opportunity to get back on track. Houston retains the first overall pick. Colts 31, Texans 20
The Wager: It’s rare that I’ll back a team when there isn’t much motivation for them to win but I’ll make an exception here. Texans’ ownership just sent a message that their season is over with the firing of Kubiak, and I don’t see how any of the Houston players get up for this contest. This is a pretty short price when you consider that Indianapolis always responds after a loss. Colts -5 (BetOnline), I’d play the widely available Colts -5.5 but wouldn’t want to go much higher than that.
The Trend: The Colts are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 home games. The Texans are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 road games.
Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Friday Line: Bills -2, total of 43
Public Consensus: 62% on the Jaguars, 82% on the over
The Pick: Jacksonville has been sneakily good over the course of the last month, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a good team. The Jaguars have won three straight games and four of their last five, but a closer look at those games reveals an element of fraudulence. Jacksonville has defeated Houston twice (2-11), Tennessee (5-8), and Cleveland (4-9) with Brandon Weeden under center. For the most part, those games were won with smoke and mirrors as the Jags have been outgained in four of their last five games by an average margin of 85 yards per game. Buffalo is in that same category of bottom feeders but I’d argue that the Bills have a lot more talent than the teams listed above. The Bills also have a first year head coach and a number of young players on offense which ensures that they’ll be playing hard right until the end of the season. The main question surrounding Buffalo has to be their quarterback play though. E.J. Manuel was beyond awful last week against the Bucs, but then again, that was the Bucs, and this is the Jags. Jacksonville made Matt Schaub look like Joe Montana last Thursday so it’s not a guarantee that Manuel will struggle on the road again, especially with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson in the backfield. Another factor favoring Buffalo in this contest is that this isn’t a true road game. For starters, the Jaguars have the worst home field advantage in the entire league—home field is literally worth nothing in Jacksonville. Additionally, the Bills played in Tampa Bay last week so they haven’t had to leave the state of Florida all week.
The Bills have performed admirably in this spot in recent years, posting a stellar 8-2 ATS mark in the second of back-to-back road games. I think this is a good opportunity to buy low on Buffalo and sell high on a vastly overrated (I can’t believe I just typed that) Jaguars’ squad. Cue the regression to the mean. Bills 28, Jaguars 24
The Wager: This line reeks of a trap. I don’t see how anyone is going to be interested in taking Buffalo as a road favorite here, which leads me to believe that the books are enticing Jacksonville action. With that being said, I’m not going anywhere near Buffalo. The Bills have looked hopeless in recent weeks and predicting when (or if) they’ll snap out of that funk is more of a guess than anything else. Pass
The Trend: The Bills are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games following a road loss.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
Friday Line: Patriots -1, total of 45.5
Public Consensus: 54% on the Patriots, 64% on the over
The Pick: The Patriots are in some real trouble heading into this week. New England’s defense has been a huge liability in recent weeks, but their offense has been picking up the slack. The Patriots have surrendered 31 points per game over their last three contests and have fallen behind early by double-digits in all three of those games. Tom Brady has been able to lead the Pats out of those early holes, but he’ll find it ever more difficult to do so without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup. The loss of Gronkowski is an enormous blow to a Patriots’ offense that was finally starting to play to their potential. To make matters worse for New England, they take on a Dolphins’ defense that has been rapidly improving as the year as worn on, mainly due to the return of multiple players from injury. The Dolphins have flown up to fifth in the league in sacks since the return of stud defensive end Cameron Wake, and they should be able to pressure Brady relentlessly without his favorite target down the field. Miami has already had great success against Brady this season, holding the former Super Bowl MVP to a measly 116 yards in Foxborough. The Dolphins’ defensive unit isn’t the only unit that’s been improving as the season as gone on. Miami is one week removed from posting 34 points in Pittsburgh and should be able to gash a Patriots’ defense that surrenders 4.5 yards per carry (this number is misleading because the Pats could actually stop the run when Vince Wilfork was in the lineup). The Patriots’ defense has been particularly susceptible on the road this season, surrendering 30 points to Geno Smith, 30 points to a struggling Falcons’ offense, and 31 points to 2-11 Texans. Jason Campbell moved the ball with ease against New England last week, so there’s no reason to believe Ryan Tannehill can’t do the same.
The Patriots are coming off of an emotional win last week after they miraculously came back to beat the Browns—if you need a miracle to beat the Browns, you have some serious problems. Miami used to be an automatic fade at home in past years, but they’ve reversed that trend this season. The Dolphins are in much better form and should remain in the playoff hunt with a big win. Dolphins 26, Patriots 19
The Wager: I love this game. The Dolphins have covered in four straight games and already own home victories over good teams in the Chargers and Bengals this season. They even nearly upset the previously smoking hot Panthers in Week 12. The wrong team is favored here. Dolphins +1.5 (BoDog), I’d play the Dolphins all the way up to -2.5 because I love this spot.
The Trend: The Dolphins are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games as an underdog of 7 or less points against a divisional opponent with a winning record (did you get all that?).
Philadelphia Eagles @ Minnesota Vikings
Friday Line: Eagles -5.5, total of 51
Public Consensus: 73% on the Eagles, 67% on the under
The Pick: This is another one of many games this week where it would appear like it should be an absolute cakewalk for the road team, but let’s not ignore what the Vikings have done in recent weeks. Minnesota should have won in Baltimore last week, which is historically a very tough place to play. Aside from a Week 11 loss at the Seahawks, the Vikings haven’t lost a game by more than four points since a Week 8 drubbing at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Minnesota continues to be competitive on a week-to-week basis, even with the likes of Matt Cassel under center. With that being said, this could be the game where the wheels fall off for Minnesota. All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson is expected to miss this contest with a foot injury, and backup running back Toby Gerhart is dealing with an injured hamstring as well. The Vikings are already lacking weapons on offense and they could be without two big ones this weekend. Furthermore, Minnesota is likely to be completely drained following the insane amount of ups-and-downs in the fourth quarter of last week’s game against the Ravens, especially when you consider that their two games prior were back-to-back overtime games. Minnesota’s appalling defense will also find it extremely difficult to slow down a speedy Eagles’ offense that will benefit by playing on turf inside of the Metrodome. Nick Foles puts his incredible 20:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio up against a Minnesota pass defense that yields 287 yards per game with a 26:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. That’s a clear mismatch.
The Vikings have been competitive in the last month but they seemingly always find a way to lose. I really wouldn’t like this matchup for them even if AP was healthy, so it’s hard to do so when it’s possible that Matt Asiata, an undrafted free agent out of Utah, could be starting in the backfield. Minnesota is eventually going to put in a complete stinker after all of these tough, emotional losses and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they got steamrolled this week. Eagles 28, Vikings 17
The Wager: Another inflated road favorite that the public is pounding as if the game is already over. I can understand playing the Eagles at -3, but with the line hitting -6 at many books today, there is no line value whatsoever with the road team. This probably ends up being a blowout and I may play the Eagles in a few small parlays, but I’m not paying an inflated price on a big straight bet. Pass
The Trend: The Eagles are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games against a team with a losing record.
New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers
Friday Line: Panthers -10.5/-11, total of 40.5
Public Consensus: 62% on the Panthers, 64% on the over
The Pick: There’s reason to believe that this could be a tough spot for the Panthers. After all, this is a classic “sandwich” game as Carolina is coming off of an embarrassing loss to the Saints and have an opportunity to exact their revenge next week. Even with this horrible scheduling spot, I can’t foresee any way in which the Jets can keep this game respectable. This is a horrific matchup for Geno Smith, who has thrown a heaping 21 interceptions this season, while only managing to account for 10 passing touchdowns. Smith has a terrible supporting cast and now faces a defense that has generated 41 sacks this season; a defense that will undoubtedly generate a ton of pressure against the rookie quarterback. The Jets have only one road victory this season and have been outscored by a combined 79 points in their last three road games. Not good. Aside from their lone victory away from home in Atlanta, the Jets have failed to surpass 14 points in any other road game, while Smith has been sacked in a whopping 14% of his dropbacks. I could keep going and going here. On the other side of things, the Panthers were stopped by the Saints last week, but that was predictable as New Orleans is dominant at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Carolina can get right back down to business this week and do what they do best—beat up on miserable teams. The Panthers are a perfect 6-0 ATS this season when favored by six points or more, and they’ve covered those games by an average margin of 11 points (those six wins have been by an actual margin of 24 points straight up). Cam Newton has played exceptionally well over the past few months and shouldn’t have much of a problem attacking a Jets’ secondary that surrenders 7.3 yards per pass attempt.
These teams aren’t in the same stratosphere. Sure, Carolina could be looking ahead to their rematch with New Orleans next week, but it’s equally likely that they’ll be looking to bounce back in impressive fashion after being humiliated on national television. New York has the worst turnover margin in the NFL at -18, and that number is going to be a whole lot worse after Sunday. Panthers 31, Jets 6
The Wager: I was burned once this season betting on a double-digit favorite, but I just can’t pass up this opportunity. Carolina has been smashing inferior competition all season long and I don’t see any reason why they can’t do so again this Sunday. I also think this spread is quite a bargain as I would have installed Carolina as a two touchdown favorite. Panthers -10.5 (SIA), I like Carolina up to -13.5.
The Trend: The Panthers are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games after allowing 350+ total yards in their previous game.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders
Friday Line: Chiefs -5, total of 41.5
Public Consensus: 83% on the Chiefs, 95% on the over
The Pick: These two teams met back in early October and the Chiefs’ defense absolutely owned the Raiders’ offense. Kansas City generated an unbelievable ten sacks in that contest and added in three interceptions just for good measure, but a lot has changed since then. Let’s start with the Raiders where Matt McGloin has taken over at quarterback for the ineffective Terrell Pryor, and running back Rashad Jennings has proven to be an upgrade over Darren McFadden, who is evidently made of glass. The Raiders aren’t the most talented team in the league (obviously), but they continue to play hard under head coach Dennis Allen. Oakland can be counted on to put in maximum effort week in and week out and this will be an important game for the players as they look to knock off one of their division rivals. The Raiders also haven’t dropped two straight games against the spread since September. Meanwhile, Kansas City has come back down to earth after an incredible 9-0 start to the season. The Chiefs’ blowout victory over the Redskins last week can be thrown right out the window because Washington has completely mailed it in. Kansas City is now just 2-5 ATS in their last seven games, and their offense will face a tough task against the Raiders as they accumulated a pathetic 216 total yards in their first meeting with Oakland this season. The Chiefs have been better offensively as of late but they’ve faced defense that can’t stop the run, and the Raiders only surrender 3.9 yards per carry to opposing running backs. Still though, it’s tough to have faith in an Oakland defense that’s given up over 31 points per game in their last six contests, including 37 points to an inept Jets’ offense last week.
In my opinion, this is one of the toughest games of the week. Kansas City has been a very good road team this season and there’s still an outside chance that they can catch Denver in the AFC West, so you know they’ll be playing hard as well. At the end of the day, the Chiefs are the better team but the Raiders are capable of making life difficult for them. Chiefs 27, Raiders 24
The Wager: I don’t want any piece of this game. I’m pretty sure that I’m winless on my wagers in Chiefs’ games this season; they’re a team that I’ve been unable to figure out all year. Like most of the other games this week, this line is extremely inflated (KC wouldn’t be -11 at home to OAK), but I can’t find it in myself to make a play on the Raiders. Pass
The Trend: The Chiefs are 7-25 ATS in their last 32 games after gaining 175+ rushing yards in their previous game.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Friday Line: Bengals -2, total of 41.5
Public Consensus: 56% on the Steelers, 85% on the over
The Pick: The Steelers suffered a disappointing loss to the Dolphins last Sunday, but I look at this game as a grat bounce back spot. Pittsburgh is two games back of a wildcard spot with just three games to play, and although that situation looks dire, the Steelers will know that their season hinges on Sunday night’s game. Pittsburgh lost to Cincinnati on Monday Night Football in Week 2, but that loss came during a horrible stretch of the season where the Steelers began 0-4. Pittsburgh was without running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Heath Miller for that game, and clearly their offense suffered. Since that deplorable start to the season, the Steelers are 5-4 straight up and 6-3 ATS. More importantly, Ben Roethlisberger has been playing some great football as of late, throwing for nine touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last four games. Cincinnati’s defense has looked very average in recent weeks, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise as two of their best defensive players (Geno Atkins and Leon Hall) are on injured reserve. Another big issue for the Bengals has been their play away from home. Cincinnati is just 2-4-1 ATS on the road this season, including losses in Chicago and Cleveland, plus a narrow victory over Buffalo with Thad Lewis under center. Most of the Bengals’ road woes can be attributed to the inconsistency of quarterback Andy Dalton, who has led his team to an average of 44 points per game in their last three home contests, but just 18 points per game in their last three games on the road. Dalton’s 67.8 career QB rating against the Steelers also leaves much to be desired as he’s thrown just five touchdown passes in six career games against Pittsburgh.
I’m not a big believer in revenge spots, but I do believe that Pittsburgh will exact some revenge this week. The Bengals beat a completely different Steelers’ team earlier in the season, and they’re in store for a very tough matchup this time around. Pittsburgh shows up in a big way with their season on the line. Steelers 27, Bengals 21
The Wager: I really love the Steelers in this spot. I’m not sure what Cincinnati’s done to be installed as a road favorite here—I’d argue that Pittsburgh should be the team laying points. Pittsburgh seems to relish the role of being a home underdog, and I trust that Mike Tomlin will have his team ready to go in their biggest game of the year. Steelers +3 (BoDog), I’d play the Steelers at any underdog price.
The Trend: The Steelers are 17-5 ATS in their last 22 games at home after throwing for 300+ yards in their previous game.