Week 16 of the NFL is here and I’ll be breaking down all of Sunday’s games from a betting perspective. After a disappointing Week 15 performance, I rebounded nicely with last week’s selections. My plays on The Nickel Package podcast went 3-2 ATS, and I added an additional play into my Recommended Wagers to finish 4-2 ATS. One of my losses came on the Panthers -10.5 (won by 10), which would have probably been a push if I wrote my article on Saturday instead of Friday, but what can you do?
Before I get into this week’s selections, I’ll give a little bit of insight into my strategy this week. A lot of spreads are inflated because of the “need to win” factor, and it’s very important to recognize this going into the week. Don’t assume that a team will win a game just because they need to, and conversely, don’t assume that a team will roll over because the game is meaningless.
I like a lot of games on this week’s board. I’ve had two weeks this season where I’ve wagered on eight or more games, going 5-3 ATS in one week and 3-5 ATS in the other. I’m obviously hoping for the former rather than the latter. I was trying to be as selective as possible this week but just can’t pass up on a lot of these games, especially since my lines are so substantially different from the oddsmakers’ lines.
As of the time of this writing, there is still no posted line on the Packers/Steelers matchup. My breakdown of those games is entirely dependent on who’s starting at quarterback, so I’ll refrain from previewing that game until Sunday morning via my Twitter account (@robpizzola).
The Nickel Package Record: 42-30-3 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: 52-42-3 ATS (55%)
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
Friday Line: Dolphins -2.5, total of 42.5
Public Consensus: 69% on the Dolphins, 78% on the over
The Pick: Everyone’s assuming that the Dolphins are going to roll into Buffalo and dispose of the Bills rather easily—after all, Miami needs to win this game to keep up in the AFC playoff race. What most people are failing to recognize is that this is a terrible spot for Miami. The Dolphins are coming off of a huge victory over New England last week, but as is often the case in the NFL, Miami could be primed for a letdown against an inferior squad this week. Miami’s victory also came at a price as they suffered injuries to their top cornerback Brent Grimes and their nose tackle Paul Soliai. The Dolphins can’t afford to be shorthanded this week because the Bills have quietly been one of the league’s best home teams this season (at least from a bettor’s perspective). Buffalo is 5-1 ATS at Ralph Wilson Stadium, with two straight up wins over the Panthers and Ravens, and three extremely narrow losses against the Patriots, Bengals, and Chiefs. The Bills will also enter this game with some confidence, coming off of a win last week in Jacksonville, and knowing that they knocked off the Dolphins as a touchdown underdog in Miami earlier this season. Buffalo will also take solace in the fact that Miami’s defense surrenders 4.2 yards per carry, as the Bills have been very successful when they’ve been able to run the ball this season. With Thad Lewis taking the place of the injured E.J. Manuel under center, Buffalo will rely heavily on their running game to move the chains. The Bills’ defense should also find some success against a pedestrian Dolphins’ offensive line. Buffalo leads the NFL with 49 sacks and shouldn’t have any issues teeing off on Ryan Tannehill, just like they did earlier this season. The Dolphins have given up seven sacks in the last two weeks, including three sacks against a Steelers’ defense that has no pass rush whatsoever.
I think the spot and the matchup both favor the Bills here. Add in a strong home-field advantage, and this game has all the makings of an upset. Tannehill has played admirably as of late but his unfamiliarity with cold weather, combined with the Bills stellar pass defense over the past month, lead me to believe that some costly turnovers are in the cards. Bills 23, Dolphins 20
The Wager: The wrong team is favored in this game. Buffalo’s track record at home speaks for itself and just about every situational angle favors the home team in this one. I’ll gladly take advantage of an inflated line because of the Dolphins’ “need to win” factor. Bills +3 (BoDog), I like the Bills at any underdog price.
The Trend: Teams coming off of a victory over New England are 2-8-1 ATS in the last 11 scenarios (Miami). New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers
Friday Line: Panthers -3, total of 46
Public Consensus: 61% on the Saints, 56% on the over
The Pick: A lot of people were left scratching their heads when the Saints were assaulted by the Rams in St. Louis last week. “How could one of the best teams in the league lose to Kellen Clemens and the Rams!?”. Well, if you haven’t figured it out by now, the Saints reek away from home. Let’s start with Drew Brees, who obviously isn’t as comfortable outside of his home dome environment. Brees boasts an incredible 23-to-3 touchdown to interception ratio at home, but a much more practical 11-to-7 ratio on the road. When you think of the Saints, you immediately think about a high-powered offense, but New Orleans is averaging less than 19 points per game on the road! In fact, they’ve been held to less than 20 points by the Jets, Bucs, Seahawks, and Rams in road games this season. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that New Orleans is just 3-4 on the road this season, with two of those three wins being nail biters against the lowly Bucs and Falcons. The Saints are in for a world of hurt against Cam Newton, who’s strung together 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions in Carolina’s seven home games this season. Taking a look at New Orleans’ past results, the Saints tend to struggle against teams with strong running games and good defenses, as they’ve lost to the Jets and Seahawks, and nearly lost to the 49ers at the Superdome. The Panthers were forced to abandon the run after falling behind early on a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans, but they’ve likely learned from that mistake and will look to attack a Saints’ defense yielding a massive 4.6 yards per carry. The Saints couldn’t slow down Zac Stacy last week and they’ll have their hands full with DeAngelo Williams, who’s enjoyed a pretty solid season.
A change of venue can often make a huge difference in the NFL. New Orleans is nearly unbeatable at home, but as we’ve seen time and time again, they’re not built to be successful on the road. Carolina found themselves in a hornet’s nest in New Orleans two weeks ago, but they’re about to turn the tide this week. Panthers 26, Saints 17
The Wager: Two weeks ago, I LOVED the Saints -3 at home to the Panthers. This time around, I LOVE the Panthers in the role of the home favorite. You may have heard the saying “the trend is your friend”, and while I don’t live by that adage, I do believe that betting against the Saints on the road is the way to go until proven otherwise. Panthers -3 (widely available), I would not bet the Panthers at -3.5.
The Trend: The Saints are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 meetings in Carolina.
Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins
Friday Line: Cowboys -3, total of 53.5
Public Consensus: 66% on the Cowboys, 80% on the over
The Pick: Can you remember the last time the Cowboys win a big road game in December? Neither can I. It’s right about that time of year when Dallas starts pissing away their hopes of a playoff spot, and I’m not sure that they can recover from their demoralizing loss to the Packers last week. Aside from the poor situational angle for Dallas, it’s becoming increasingly more obvious that this Cowboys’ team isn’t very good. Dallas has been outgained by over 1,200 yards this season and their defense continues to journey towards breaking records that have been set by putrid defenses in years past. The Cowboys finished last week’s game without their top four linebackers on the field, and are expected to be without defensive leader Sean Lee again for this week’s contest. Dallas has yielded 784 rushing yards over their last five games, and without their linebacking corps, they have realistically no chance of containing the Redskins’ third-ranked ground game. The Cowboys’ defensive issues also extend into the passing game, where they’ve been torched week in and week out. 178-year-old defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin refuses to make adjustments on a week-to-week basis even though his defense has allowed 30 touchdown passes this season, and subsequently, Kirk Cousins should be able to have a field day. Washington committed a whopping SEVEN turnovers against the Falcons last week and still had an opportunity to win the game with a two-point conversion attempt, which is a testament to their improved offense under Cousins. On the other side of things, Tony Romo has a solid matchup against a porous Redskins’ defense, but the Cowboys will need to have an atypical perfect game offensively to make up for their defensive deficiencies. Last week, Dallas was able to move the ball consistently but settled for field goals more often than not.
Dallas defeated Washington 31-16 earlier this season, but that outcome was a complete farce. The Cowboys managed only 213 yards of total offense in that matchup and won the game solely because of a Dwayne Harris punt return touchdown and 90-yard kickoff return. With the added pressure of needing to win to silence their critics, I think the Cowboys fall flat on their face here. Redskins 34, Cowboys 31
The Wager: Aside from needing to win this game, the Cowboys don’t have anything going for them in this game. They’ve been installed as road favorites because (a) they’re a huge public team, and (b) everyone bets the “need to win” factor heavily late in the year. Here’s another instance where I believe that the wrong team is favored. Redskins +3 (BoDog), I would consider this at widely available +2.5 but I much prefer the +3.
The Trend: The Cowboys are 9-19 ATS in their last 28 road games against a team with a losing home record.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ St. Louis Rams
Friday Line: Rams -4, total of 43
Public Consensus: 52% on the Rams, 80% on the over
The Pick: St. Louis is coming off of a Super Bowl-ish victory over the Saints last week and that makes them prime for a big letdown here. The Rams have probably spent the last week walking around like they’re “big shit” but they’re about to find about that they’re still one of the league’s bottom feeders. Tampa Bay’s 33-14 loss to San Francisco last week is not indicative of how that game should have played out. The Bucs were within six points in the fourth quarter before fumbling a kickoff return on a reverse and gifting the 49ers a touchdown. Tampa Bay has only lost by more than three points twice since the end of October, and when comparing their overall roster to that of the Rams, it would seem as though the Bucs have a pretty significant edge. St. Louis used their running game to bewilder the Saints last weekend, but that strategy won’t work as successfully against a Bucs’ defense that is actually capable of making an occasional tackle. Tampa has a boatload of talent on defense and have only surrendered six rushing touchdowns in 14 games this season, which means that the Rams will be forced to rely on Kellen Clemens’ arm to move the chains. Clemens was solid against the Saints last week, but again, I’d like to re-iterate that New Orleans is a complete abomination away from home. On the other side of things, Mike Glennon has been less effective in recent weeks, but Glennon has been phenomenal on the road this season, posting a QB rating of 103.4 with six touchdowns and only one interception. Most impressively, Glennon has staked a superb 7.8 yards per attempt on the road and shouldn’t have much of an issue exploiting the Rams’ second-worst pass defense, allowing a brutal 8.2 yards per attempt.
Despite their blowout loss last week, I still believe that the Bucs are much better than the record indicates. Tampa Bay has also continued to play hard down the stretch this year, which is a surprise when you consider that they completely mailed it in last season. Expect St. Louis to be lifeless following last week’s monumental victory. Buccaneers 20, Rams 19
The Wager: How in the hell are the Rams laying more than a field goal here? Talk about a major overreaction. Tampa Bay is the better team, they play well on the road, and they’re in a great “bet on” situation coming off of a blowout loss against a team coming off of a huge victory. I’m pretty confident that Tampa will win this game outright, so I’ll gladly grab the points. Buccaneers +6 (BoDog), I’d be comfortable taking the Bucs at +3 or higher.
The Trend: The Buccaneers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games following a loss of 14+ points.
Cleveland Browns @ New York Jets
Friday Line: Jets -2.5, total of 40
Public Consensus: 50% split on the side, 56% on the under
The Pick: This game has been rendered meaningless now that both of these pathetic excuses for teams are now out of the playoff picture. Ordinarily, I’d be inclined to side with the Jets at home against another losing squad, but Cleveland actually has a pretty favorable matchup here. New York boasts the league’s best run defense but that won’t come into play against a Browns’ offense that has been airing it out in recent weeks. Cleveland has finally figured out that the combination of Willis “Arthritis” McGahee and Chris Ogbonnaya can’t get the job done, and consequently they’ve asked Jason Campbell to throw the ball 83 times in the past two weeks. The Jets’ secondary has been decimated by injuries and there’s virtually no hope that they’ll be able to contain Josh Gordon, who has been smashing records left and right in recent weeks. Cleveland has scored 20+ points in four of their past five contests, and they should be able to eclipse that mark again this week. New York’s offense just isn’t equipped to keep up. The Jets possess a quarterback that has more than twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes, which isn’t the best recipe for success in the NFL. New York could always try to establish the run to alleviate some pressure from Geno Smith, but unfortunately for them, the Browns have the third best run defense in the league, limiting opponents to 3.7 yards per carry.
New York played the Panthers tough last week and they’ll find it difficult to get up for this contest after falling short in Carolina. The Jets may be playing at home but this has all the makings of being a terrible matchup for them. Browns 27, Jets 20
The Wager: I’d love to bet the Browns here but I just can’t muster the energy to do so. The Jets have played adequately at home this season, and it’s entire possible that Cleveland could mail it in for the remainder of the season. The Browns are also just 1-5 on the road this year, which doesn’t exactly instill confidence. Pass
The Trend: The Browns are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games after scoring 30+ points in their previous game.
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs
Friday Line: Chiefs -6.5, total of 45
Public Consensus: 75% on the Chiefs, 95% on the over
The Pick: There’s a potential playoff preview in Kansas City this weekend. It seems more than likely that these two teams will be squaring off in Indianapolis two weeks from now, so I’d expect an inspired effort out of both squads this week. Fortunately for the Chiefs, an inspired effort from the Colts makes them nothing more than a mediocre team. Indianapolis is 5-0 within their division, beating up on the dredges of the NFL on a week-to-week basis, but they’ve lost four of their past five non-divisional matchups, failing to cover in all four of those games. The main issues for the Colts reared their ugly head when Reggie Wayne tore his ACL. Since Wayne has gone down, the Colts have struggled to find a legitimate playmaker on offense, and it doesn’t help that they can’t run the ball whatsoever. Trent “Orgy” Richardson has been a huge bust (that’s an epic understatement) since coming over from Cleveland, and subsequently, the Colts’ offense has failed to hit stride. This is particularly bad news for Indianapolis because Kansas City is probably going to score a boatload of points. The Chiefs’ offense has averaged an insane 41.7 points over their last four games, and shouldn’t face much resistance against a Colts’ defense that is below average in just about every possible aspect. Indianapolis’ pass defense has given up a QB rating of over 110 in five of their last seven games, which should allow for Alex Smith to have another strong performance. Smith will lean heavily on Jamaal Charles, who gashed this Colts’ defense for 226 yards and 10.3 yards per carry in last year’s meeting. In case you’re wondering, Indianapolis is actually worse against the run this year, giving up 129 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry.
I’m not a big believer in revenge spots, and I don’t think the Chiefs are out for revenge after losing to the Colts last season, but a close look at that game shows that Kansas City had a monstrous 507-288 yard edge. Remember, the Chiefs were awful last season and the Colts were the talk of the league. My predicted outcome isn’t based solely on a game from over a year ago, but I do think that it’s telling. Chiefs 31, Colts 17
The Wager: Kansas City doesn’t have the composition of a team that is built to blow other teams out, but they make things look so effortless at times. The Colts are an upgrade over the Chiefs’ last two opponents (Raiders and Redskins), but not by much. Indianapolis tends to lay an egg after a big win, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this game was out of reach by halftime. I’m very tempted to take Kansas City here, and may do so on Sunday morning, but for now I’ll hold off. Pass
The Trend: The Colts are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following a win.
Minnesota Vikings @ Cincinnati Bengals
Friday Line: Bengals -8, total of 47.5
Public Consensus: 73% on the Bengals, 72% on the over
The Pick: This may not look like that intriguing of a matchup, but it intrigues me from a betting point of view. Since Matt Cassel took over as quarterback of the Vikings, Minnesota has been extremely competitive, with the exception of a blowout loss in Seattle (who can blame them for that?). In the past three weeks, the Vikings have defeated the Bears and Eagles, and almost knocked off the Ravens in Baltimore, which is no easy task. With that being said, Cincinnati has been arguably the most dominant home team in the NFL this season. The Bengals are a perfect 6-0 straight up and ATS at home this season, and dating back to last year, they’ve covered nine of their past ten home games. Minnesota may be playing well, but I’m not about to pick against that type of dominance, especially since the Vikings have some key injuries on defense. It looks likely that Minnesota’s top three cornerbacks—Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, and Xavier Rhodes—will all miss this contest, and that doesn’t bode well against a Bengals’ offense that’s scored 132 points in their last three home games. The Vikings’ run defense is also pretty poor as they’re one of only three teams to surrender at least 14 runs of 20 or more yards this season. It’s evident that the Vikings are going to have to score a lot of points to keep pace with the Bengals here, and that’s easier said than done against a Bengals’ defense that ranks in the top seven in every major statistical defensive category. Cassel may have picked apart a subpar Eagles’ defense last week, but he won’t find the same holes against a very sound Bengals’ unit, run by one of the best defensive coordinators in football.
The Bengals were embarrassed by the Steelers on Sunday Night Football, so I think they’ll put in a spirited effort this upcoming Sunday. There is a massive talent discrepancy between these two teams and although Adrian Peterson is expected to return for the Vikings, I don’t think it’ll be nearly enough to keep them in this game. Bengals 35, Vikings 18
The Wager: I really want to bet the Bengals here but there are two factors keeping me off of this game. The first, and most important, is that this is a classic “sandwich” game for Cincinnati, as they play Minnesota in between their two most hated divisional rivals, the Steelers and the Ravens. Secondly, this line is slightly inflated because of Cincinnati’s “need to win” factor. The Bengals probably make for good teaser material this weekend, but other than that, I have no interest in wagering on this one. Pass
The Trend: Road underdogs are 4-13 ATS in the last 17 instances after a game where they scored 42+ points.
Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans
Friday Line: Broncos -11, total of 52.5
Public Consensus: 78% on the Broncos, 92% on the over
The Pick: In all likelihood, this game will be a complete dud. That’s what happens when you pit arguably the best team in the league against arguably the worst team in the league. Denver enters this game on extra rest and hungry for a victory following last week’s flop at home to the Chargers, but I can’t help but think that the best the Broncos have to offer is long gone. The Broncos were once steamrolling everyone that came across their path, but the last four weeks have left much to be desired, with a pair of losses, a one-touchdown win in Kansas City and a blowout victory over the Titans in which they trailed for much of the first half. We’ve seen Houston get up for a big game earlier this season when they took the Patriots to the wire a few weeks ago, but a lot has changed since then. It’s become apparent that the Texans could care less about the rest of their season as they laid a complete egg last week in the first game after the firing of former head coach Gary Kubiak. With that being said, Houston gives the reins back to Matt Schaub this week and quarterback changes often light a fire under a team. Based on Case Keenum’s play in recent weeks, it’s easy to see that Schaub is an upgrade, and he’ll be looking to redeem himself as he attempts to retain a starting position in the NFL next year. Schaub will also have the luxury of handing off to Dennis Johnson, who isn’t much of a running back, but nevertheless should be capable of gashing a Denver run defense that’s allowed at least 92 rushing yards in seven straight games. Even still, the Texans’ defense will have to find a way to make some stops against Peyton Manning, and seeing as though this game isn’t being played in cold weather, that’s not likely.
There are some strong situational angles to support Houston here, but that doesn’t matter. The Texans may put in a good effort in Schaub’s return, but they still don’t have what it takes to upset the Broncos. The league is slowly starting to catch up to Denver but not enough to warrant any consideration for an upset here. Broncos 34, Texans 24
The Wager: In the past, I would have certainly snatched up the home dog here but I’m done with betting on uninspired teams. Houston is the most unbettable team in the league right now and they’ve shown nothing in recent weeks to indicate that they’re capable of keeping this game close. At the being of the year, this line would have been completely asinine, but right now, it’s bang on. Pass
The Trend: The Texans are 18-8 ATS in their last 26 home games against a team with a winning road record.
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Friday Line: Titans -4.5, total of 44
Public Consensus: 70% on the Jaguars, 85% on the over
The Pick: Is there a less intriguing game on the board this week than Jags-Titans? Tennessee has completely fallen off the face of the earth. After a promising start to the season, the Titans are just 2-8 in their last 10 games, with their only two victories coming against the rancid Raiders and Rams. Ryan Fitzpatrick performed admirably in the early going after taking over for the injured Jake Locker, but Fitzy has been an abomination as of late. The former Bills’ reject has tossed six interceptions in his last three starts, substantiating the common belief that he’s a turnover-prone quarterback. In Fitzpatrick’s defense, he hasn’t gotten much help from the team’s running game. Chris Johnson is a shell of his former self and has averaged a meagre 3.7 yards per carry this season. Johnson’s motivation is also in question as it’s basically a certainty that he’ll be released by the Titans in the offseason. While things have been going rather poorly for the Titans, the Jaguars have enjoyed a much better second half to their season. Jacksonville continues to put in spirited efforts for their first-year head coach Gus Bradley, as evidence by the four wins that they’ve accumulated in their last six games. One of those wins was a 29-27 conquest in Tennessee as a double-digit underdog. Chad Henne isn’t exactly the best starting quarterback in the league, but he’s proven to be more than serviceable in the past month, and played pretty well against a solid Bills’ secondary last week. The Jags are without running back Maurice Jones-Drew and wide receiver Cecil Shorts III but they got a big contribution last week from Jordan Todman, who ran for 109 yards on 25 carries. The Titans’ run defense is a big question mark so it’s reasonable to believe that Todman could put together another big game.
Tennessee is officially eliminated from the playoffs and they’re coming off a tough, hard-fought loss to the Cardinals after rallying from 17 points down in the fourth quarter. The Titans have been outgained by 70 yards per game on the road this season, and based on what I’ve seen in recent weeks, they’re not the better team taking the field in this contest. Jaguars 23, Titans 17
The Wager: Someone should be fired for setting this line. This isn’t September—what has Tennessee done to deserve being favored on the road here? I understand that Jacksonville doesn’t have much of a home-field advantage but installing the Titans as a 5-point road favorite is ludicrous. Jaguars +5 (5 Dimes), I have this game as a pick’em so I see value in the Jags at any underdog price.
The Trend: The Titans are 3-12-1 in their last 16 division games.
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks
Friday Line: Seahawks -10, total of 43
Public Consensus: 67% on the Seahawks, 74% on the under
The Pick: Arizona has enjoyed a very strong second half of the season, but I’m still reluctant to consider them a high quality team. The Cardinals last five victories have come against the Titans, Rams, Colts, Jaguars, and Texans—or the entire AFC South and the Rams. Arizona’s head coach Bruce Arians coached in the AFC South last season, making that list of victories particularly unimpressive. Only one of the Cardinals’ seven wins has come against a team with a top-seven defense, and that was against the Texans, who would own the first-overall pick if the season ended today. When the Cardinals have played quality teams, they haven’t been able to attain results, losing by an average of 13 points to the Eagles, Seahawks, 49ers, and Saints. Arizona also enters this game riding a big, emotional high following last week’s overtime victory overtime the Titans, and that could leave them flat for this big divisional matchup. The Seahawks have a chance to clinch the number one seed in the NFC with a victory this week, and based on their recent track record at home, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to accomplish that goal. Seattle has won 14 straight home games, with an average edge of 95 yards per game and an average score of 31-13. The Seahawks also dominated the Cardinals in Arizona earlier this season, sacking Carson Palmer a whopping seven times, while limiting the Cards to a paltry 30 yards rushing. Palmer enters this game with a high ankle sprain, and his top wideout Larry Fitzgerald is banged up after suffering a concussion in last week’s game against Tennessee. With some serious concerns on offense, it’s hard to envision the Cardinals moving the ball with consistency against an elite Seahawks’ defense.
Arizona has one of the biggest splits in the league when it comes to playing at home versus playing on the road. The Cardinals give up 61 more yards per game and 7.6 more points per game away from home, and this won’t be any ordinary road game. Seattle boasts one of the biggest home field advantages in professional sports, and should be able to win this game fairly comfortably. Seahawks 24, Cardinals 12
The Wager: It’s difficult to lay double-digit points against the Cardinals because they have a strong defense and they’re capable of making a backdoor cover. Blindly betting on Seattle at home has proven to be a winning proposition but I’m just not comfortable with the steep price here. I think the Seahawks are the right side but there are other games that I prefer this weekend. Pass
The Trend: Home teams coming off of a shutout win are 17-8-1 ATS in the last 26 instance.
New York Giants @ Detroit Lions
Friday Line: Lions -9, total of 48.5
Public Consensus: 66% on the Giants, 59% on the over
The Pick: Man oh man, the Lions just always seem to find a way to blow it. Detroit had a chance to put a stranglehold on the NFC North against the Ravens on Monday, but they fell flat on their faces in front of the raucous Ford Field crowd. Luckily for Detroit, it will be extremely difficult to wilt against the pathetic Giants this weekend. New York has been absolutely embarrassed in the last two weeks, losing to the Chargers and Seahawks by a combined score of 60-14. It’s apparent that the team has completely given up on head coach Tom Coughlin, and it’s pretty apparent that they’re going to get shelled in this contest. Detroit struggled to score against a quality Ravens’ defense on Monday night, but the Lions entered that matchup averaging 32 points per game at home. The Lions were only held under 20 points in one other game this season, and they followed that performance by shelling the Browns 31-17 in Cleveland. The Browns were actually trying in that game—the Giants won’t be doing the same here. Even if by some miracle, New York decides to actually show up for this game, there’s no conceivable way that they’ll be able to move the ball consistently. Eli Manning has gone from a Super Bowl to a complete laughing stock, as evidenced by his atrocious 16-to-25 touchdown to interception ratio. To make matters even worse for Manning, he’ll be without his top receiver as Victor Cruz underwent knee surgery earlier this week. New York may try to get their running game going, but the Lions are just one of six teams to give up less than 100 yards per game on the ground, so there’s a good chance that that will be an utter failure as well.
The Giants are just 3-8 ATS in their last 11 road games and they seem to be gradually getting worse as their season draws to a close. New York just doesn’t have the playmakers on defense to keep the Lions’ offense in check, which leads me to believe the Giants are en route to their third straight blowout loss. Lions 34, Giants 16
The Wager: There are a million reasons to love the Lions here, but I can’t muster the will power to bet on a Jim Schwartz-coached team ever again. Detroit should win this game comfortably, but I’ve said that at least a dozen times in the past couple of years and this team inevitably finds a way to make things interesting. The inflated line doesn’t even bother me here, but I’m going to stay away out of principle. Pass
The Trend: The last 12 teams to be shutout in December are 2-10 ATS in their next game.
Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers
Friday Line: Chargers -9.5, total of 50.5
Public Consensus: 60% on the Raiders, 55% on the under
The Pick: There’s a lot to like about the Chargers heading into this contest. San Diego is probably a bit too late in their push for the postseason, but they’ve been playing good football as of late with back-to-back impressive victories over the Giants and Broncos. The Chargers enter this game on extra rest and are greeted by a Raiders’ squad that’s been exceptionally garbage in recent weeks. The Raiders’ defense, in particular, has been a complete atrocity, surrendering 124 points over their last three games, including 37 points against a Jets’ squad that I didn’t think could ever score 37 points in a game. Oakland also continues to make an abundance of mistakes, as they’ve committed 28 penalties and turned the ball over nine times over that same stretch. And if you thought that was bad, the Raiders are in a horrible scheduling spot, having to play their fifth road game in a seven week span. The Chargers continue to improve offensively as the year wears on, and judging by the five-touchdown performance that Jamaal Charles had against the Raiders last week, both Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead are in for a big afternoon. Philip Rivers has also played at a remarkably high rate this season, completing 70% of his passes with 28 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions. San Diego’s offense won’t have any issues moving the ball, and their improving defense should be able to ensure that this game ends in a blowout. The Chargers have limited their past three opponents to just 17 points per game, and that number is particularly striking when you consider that two of those opponents were the Broncos and Bengals.
Oakland continues to play hard under head coach Dennis Allen, but the effort simply isn’t making up for their complete lack of talent. The Raiders are vulnerable at the quarterback position and that will prove to be too much to overcome against a Chargers’ team playing for their playoff lives. San Diego was great December team under Norv Turner and that shouldn’t change this season, especially against a second-rate opponent. Chargers 38, Raiders 21
The Wager: I was originally concerned about laying this many points with the Chargers because they had lost to the Raiders in early October. A close look at that game reveals that Oakland managed just 299 total yards and an insane +5 turnover margin in that game. The Raiders have gotten a hell of a lot worse since then, and the Chargers are playing the best football they’ve played all season. Everything that I’ve taken into account leads me to believe that this will be a blowout. Chargers -9.5 (SIA), I’d go as high as Chargers -10 but not into 10.5 range.
The Trend: The Raiders are 17-35-1 ATS in their last 53 games in December.
New England Patriots @ Baltimore Ravens
Friday Line: Ravens -2.5, total of 45
Public Consensus: 67% on the Patriots, 64% on the over
The Pick: Talk about an overreaction to last week. I correctly predicted that Miami would upset New England last week, but I’ll be the first to admit that the Patriots probably should have won that game. Danny Amendola nearly caught a touchdown to put New England ahead late in the game, but the ball was knocked out of his hands, and the Pats eventually went on to lose after a late Tom Brady interception. The notion that the Patriots can’t move the ball without Rob Gronkowski is a fallacy, as they put together 453 yards of total offense on 29 first downs in that contest. New England was even able to convert on 9-of-17 third downs, and that came without wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins in the lineup. Tom Brady should have similar success against the Ravens’ defense this week because Baltimore is completely lacking a pass rush. The Ravens have mustered just six sacks in their last four games and any football fan knows what Brady is capable of when he has a clean pocket. Baltimore enters this game on short rest, having played on Monday Night Football, and there’s also some concern around quarterback Joe Flacco after he took an awkward hit to the knee late in Monday’s contest. Flacco was mired in a pathetic campaign prior to the knee injury, so you can only imagine how pathetic he’ll likely be in this week’s matchup. The reigning Super Bowl MVP isn’t in a position to have a bad game because he’ll be facing a ton of third-and-longs thanks to the Ravens’ complete inability to run the ball. The Ravens have also struggled against good teams this season, getting outgained by an average of 56 yards per game against teams with a winning record.
New England is very familiar with this Baltimore team, and while I’m not a believer in revenge games, I do take solace in the fact that Bill Belichick is 13-3 ATS against teams that he lost to by 14+ points in their previous meeting. With the Ravens coming off of a Monday night game with a huge game against the Bengals on deck next week, I think they’re ripe for the picking here. Patriots 26, Ravens 23
The Wager: I’ve been preaching Baltimore’s home dominance all season long, but a closer look at their outcomes has me questioning my belief. Three of the Ravens’ last four victories have come by a combined eight points against the Vikings, Steelers, and Bengals. Earlier this season, the Packers walked into Baltimore and knocked off the Ravens 19-17, with the final score being much more flattering than it really should have been. I love betting the Patriots in bounce back spots, and I’ll gladly grab the points here. Patriots +2.5 (widely available), I would have probably taken the Pats regardless of the line here.
The Trend: The Patriots are 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games as a road underdog.
Chicago Bears @ Philadelphia Eagles
Friday Line: Eagles -3, total of 55.5
Public Consensus: 56% on the Bears, 59% on the under
The Pick: This game is extremely difficult to handicap because of it’s dependency on the Redskins-Cowboys matchup in the afternoon. This game could be meaningless for the Eagles if the Cowboys win, but since I predicted the Redskins to win above, I’ll work under the assumption that Philadelphia could clinch the NFC East with a victory here. This is a nightmare matchup for the Bears’ defense. Over the course of the past month, Chicago’s defense has surrendered an outrageous 6.4 yards per carry. The Eagles just happen to possess one of the best running backs in the NFL, as LeSean McCoy averages a stellar 5.0 yards per carry and is capable of getting involved in the passing game as well. The Bears are also dead last in the league in quarterback sacks with just 26 in 14 games this season, so Nick Foles should have a lot of time in the pocket to connect with his targets downfield. The main concern for the Eagles in this contest is undoubtedly their defense. Philadelphia just relinquished 48 points to the Vikings’ offense last week, which doesn’t bode well for their chances of slowing down Chicago. Fortunately, the Bears have chosen to start Jay Cutler instead of the more capable Josh McCown, and that means that there’s always the possibility of a complete blow-up for the Bears’ offense. Cutler played great in the fourth quarter of last week’s contest against the Browns, but his success coincided with Joe Haden leaving the game. It’s not like a narrow victory over Cleveland is something to be satisfied with either.
The conspiracy theorist in me would like to think that the NFL will all but guarantee that NBC gets a meaningful Eagles-Cowboys game next week, but my gut tells me otherwise. The Eagles played like trash against Minnesota last week, but I still trust them slightly more than the Bears right now. I think Philadelphia wraps up the NFC East this weekend. Eagles 35, Bears 27
The Wager: As of now, there’s no possible way that I can bet this game since I don’t know the outcome of Redskins-Cowboys yet. If Dallas happens to lose on Sunday afternoon, people will be lining up to bet the Eagles in a possible clinching game, and that may create some line value with the Bears. Even so, I just don’t envision myself having any action on Sunday Night Football this week. Pass
The Trend: The Bears are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 games against NFC opponents.