The betting app that I use sent me a notice last week that I had a free $20 bet. As someone who normally bets in $2 increments, this was a big deal. It was the first time I had a “free bet” to use and my first thought was to just take the moneyline of a favorite and cash the $20 – but that’s not how it works. You get to keep the winnings, not the stake.
So I put together a parlay of a few favorites I thought would prevail on some moneylines, trying to stack adds to create some juice. I ended up with a 7 game parlay to give me +330. By Monday, I had hit the first 6, needing only the mighty Steelers to defeat the lowly Bengals to cash a nice bet. By the middle of the day, I decided to hedge the bet and put some money on the Bengals moneyline just in case.
Wow, am I glad I did that. Not only did I not care at all about that game, but I found myself actually cheering for the Bengals to hold on for the win. Otherwise, I know I would’ve been really disappointed. That betting win, even with the hedge, took me from being slightly down on the season to a decent amount above. With my season-long bets looking like they’ll be profitable, I’m looking good. Yes, it’s low stakes. Yes, I got saved by a free bet, that I then had to hedge. But in 2020? I’ll take whatever help I can get.
The following lines were captured on Tuesday. Betting lines can vary by site and move throughout the week so check yours to make sure that you have similar information.
|Analyst||Jeff Berckes||Erik Smith||Bryan Sweet|
|Pick #1||Colts +2.5||Eagles -1.5||Cardinals -3|
|Pick #2||Ravens -10||Titans +3.5||Chargers -3|
|Pick #3||Cardinals -3||Bills -7||Colts +2.5|
|Pick #4||Titans +3.5||Dolphins -2||Ravens -10|
|Pick #5||Dolphins -2||Washington -2.5||Eagles -1.5|
Jeff Berckes: Why does it feel like I’m walking into a trap here? The Steelers look like they’re broken. They’re a well-coached team but one has to wonder if the magic of the early season run has simply run out. A loss to the lowly Bengals and they’re still favored over the Colts? This was the one line that jumped out to me as a gut reaction, gimme the Colts! The Colts defense is good enough to force the Steelers’ short passing game into some difficult situations and the Colts offense is starting to hit its stride. IND +2.5
It appears the Ravens have started to turn this thing around and hit their stride at the perfect time. Winners of three straight, Baltimore’s offense rolled through Dallas, Cleveland, and Jacksonville. No, those teams aren’t great on defense, but the Giants aren’t world-beaters. I respect the Giants mini-run in late November to make a push, but I think they’re going to get rolled here. BAL -10
The Cardinals currently sit in the #7 spot in the NFC playoff race. They’ve dropped a few tough games this year but overall have been an interesting team to watch with a star QB. The 49ers are incredibly well-coached but have so many injury issues it’s tough to project them week to week. Another QB injury for the 49ers puts CJ Beathard back on the field and more than anything, I believe in Kyler Murray more than Beathard. ARI -3
I will probably regret betting against the Packers but I think the Titans are good enough to keep a game against the Packers close or even win it outright. The Packers are the #1 seed in the NFC and they can all but cement that spot if they win this week but the Titans are fighting for their division. This could be a knock ’em down, drag ’em out fight to the bitter end. I’ll take the underdog to keep it within a field goal. TEN +3.5
The Dolphins – Raiders game could be really entertaining, particularly when the Raiders are on offense against Brian Flores’s defense. I’ve been on the Dolphins all year and a win here gives them 10 and can remain in the thick of things for a playoff berth. A remarkable feat. The Raiders are essentially eliminated and what once looked like a promising campaign will end around the .500 mark. I think Miami keeps themselves in the playoff race with a nice victory here. MIA -2
Erik Smith: Despite a two-game winning streak, this Cowboys team isn’t good. They were handed three-straight fumbles two weeks ago against an even worse Bengals team to start the game, and last week the 49ers fumbled twice early on to spot the Cowboys with another positive game script. Now the Eagles roll into town, who look like a brand new team with Jalen Hurts under center. They knocked off the Saints two weeks ago and went toe to toe with the Cardinals last week, a much stronger slate of opponents than the Cowboys have had. I expect Hurts to play better than Dalton, so I’m taking the Eagles, who hopefully will have Darius Slay back as well. PHI -1.5
I like the Packers a lot, I actually picked them as my Super Bowl representative for the NFC on the QB List Fantasy Football Podcast recently. But I have a lot of respect for this Titans team, and I feel like I’m getting a free half point here. The Titans have an explosive offense themselves, and if they can get a lead Derrick Henry could take over against a bad Packers run defense. Tennessee should have a chance to win this at the end, and I think they can at least keep it close enough to cover. TEN +3.5
The Patriots just lost Stephon Gilmore on defense and have been eliminated from the playoffs for the first time in 45 years. Maybe I need to double-check that stat, but it’s been a long time since they had nothing to play for. I don’t know what to expect from Bill Belichick here, but I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see this team go into all-out tank mode for a better draft pick, or at least to rest starters and see what they have in some young players. Buffalo should relish the chance to beat up New England, so I like the AFC East champs here. BUF -7
The Raiders’ defense has been pitiful lately, so the mediocre Dolphins offense should have some success here, especially with a decent running game to focus on as they finally get healthy in the backfield. Meanwhile, it looks like Derek Carr will return, but a potentially hobbled Carr against this extremely well-coached Dolphins defense sounds less than ideal. This looks like an ugly game, but one that the Dolphins should be able to control from the start. MIA -2
I don’t feel great about this Washington offense, but neither side of the ball in Carolina is inspiring a ton of confidence currently. We at least know that Washington will bring a ferocious pass rush into this game, and Teddy Bridgewater has struggled in games where the rush gets to him consistently. This looks like another ugly one, but a game that the Football Team can pull out behind their strong defense. The fact that they have much more to play for than the Panthers doesn’t hurt either. WAS -2.5
Bryan Sweet: With just two weeks left in the regular season, there are several games this week that could have huge implications on playoff seeding or division standings. Right now, the Cardinals are the beneficiary of the NFL’s expanded playoffs this season as they currently reside as the #7 seed in the NFC. A victory this week all but assures them of hanging on to that seeding and a victory coupled with a Chicago loss cements their trip to the playoffs. Kyler Murray seems to have found his rushing groove again, making this offense tough to gameplan against. I think Arizona takes care of business in this one with the playoffs in sight. ARI -3
One of the teams in this AFC West battle looks like they have their QB of the future and the other, well, not so much. Justin Herbert has proven he can handle everything about being an NFL QB except winning the close game with regularity. The Chargers have secured back-to-back three-point victories and are favored by the same this week. L.A. has the advantage at the skill positions and should be able to take advantage of Denver’s 28th-ranked rush defense with a healthy Austin Ekeler. It took a last-second TD following a pass interference penalty for Denver to squeak out a one-point victory in Denver earlier and each team is headed in opposite directions at this point. LAC -3
It feels wrong to continue to pick on the Steelers but this team looks nothing like the team that was poised to cruise to an easy #1 seed in the playoffs over the last three weeks. The Colts, on the other hand, have won three straight and are trying to catch the Titans for the AFC South lead and a home playoff game. Philip Rivers has looked rejuvenated the last few weeks, perhaps coinciding with a healthy and productive T.Y. Hilton. The line tells us Indianapolis might be the better team at a neutral site, but I think they’re the better team regardless right now. I like them to win outright, but gimme the points anyway. IND +2.5
For me, one of the most interesting games on the slate is the Ravens/Giants given how much is potentially at stake for both teams. If the season ended today, the Ravens would not be in the playoffs as they are currently looking up at the Dolphins for the 7th playoff spot. The Giants can still win the NFC East but need a lot of help to get there. The Ravens seem to be rounding into playoff form and have enough on both sides of the ball to control this game from start to finish. Daniel Jones is turnover prone and that could doom the Giants early if that continues. I don’t really love the double-digit number, but Baltimore has put up big numbers the last three weeks and I think they can win this going away right now. BAL -10
A quarterback playing with confidence can shift the momentum of an entire franchise and that’s exactly what the Eagles have with Jalen Hurts. Hurts has brought an explosive running element to the QB position and it seems to have sparked the whole offense. Did I mention Dallas is the worst rush defense in the NFL? The Eagles have the personnel to go run-heavy and wear on the Dallas defense while controlling the clock and keeping Dallas’s explosive playmakers off the field. This is a must-win game for both teams, but the Eagles are playing with more energy right now and I like them to win a close one. PHI -1.5
What are your favorite picks of the week? Put in your comments below to play along. We’ll be updating our records all season!
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)