This season was a humbling experience. After a strong and steady start, a couple of bad weeks gave back all of the positive gains made in September and the first part of October. What followed was mostly keeping the betting record around average until a 1-4 Week 16 sealed my fate. After posting such strong numbers in 2019, this was a dose of reality that, to be fair, I needed. I’ve done much better with player prop bets this season, winning about two thirds of those. The player props are so much closer to fantasy lines that maybe we’ll need to expand into that in the future.
The preseason bets I made in the over/under universe look great, on the other hand. I made 5 over and 5 under bets. Currently, 7 of those bets have cashed with one sitting on a push (it’s the Bears at over 8 wins… it’s going to remain a push). The hits included betting the under on the Jets, Giants, Jags, and Chargers while topping the overs on the Cardinals, Dolphins, and Titans. The only two I missed on were the Broncos over (bet a day before the Von Miller injury) and the Rams over. On the divisional bets, I should finish make a small profit with the Steelers (+300) and Titans (+180) offsetting some misplaced enthusiasm elsewhere.
My colleagues have struggled in a similar way so there’s comfort in numbers. Misery loves company, as the saying goes. Week 17 is probably not the place to make a final stand with teams playing with uneven motivations and starters resting for the playoffs but here we are.
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||BAL -11.5||DAL -2.5||TEN/HOU O56|
|Pick #2||IND -14||LV -2.5||PHI +2.5|
|Pick #3||TEN -7.5||ARI +5||NYG +2.5|
|Pick #4||SEA -5.5||GB -5.5||ARI +5|
|Pick #5||GB -5.5||NYJ +3.5||MIA +2.5|
Jeff Berckes: The Bengals have been playing solid football as of late but the Ravens are on a tear. They need to win to make sure they’re not left out in the cold as the Dolphins, Browns, and Colts/Titans are all in the mix for playoff spots. The Ravens were in a mid-season swoon but have adjusted nicely, rattling off four straight wins and comfortably taking out the Cowboys, Giants, and Jags. It’s a big line in the final week but I think the Ravens are peaking at the right time. BAL -11.5
The Jaguars are not without talent. They have some interesting pieces on offense and Myles Jack is pretty good. But as long as they’re trotting out Mike Glennon to take the reps, there’s no reason to believe they can be competitive against a team in a must-win situation. Like Baltimore, the Colts absolutely need to win to not be left out of the playoffs, so I think they take care of business early. IND -14
The Titans can win the division and all that stands in their way is the struggling Texans. Those poor Texans. After getting beat last week against the Bengals (and earning me a second strike in my Survivor League), I don’t have a lot of faith that they can match up against a Titans team desperate for a strong comeback back after getting embarrassed against the Packers. The Titans have a path to the division title and a home playoff game. I wish the hook wasn’t on the 7, but we’ll live with it as talent wins out. TEN -7.5
Seattle looks like they’re hitting their stride just in time for the playoffs… because of course they are. They’ve already wrapped up the division but they’ve got a chance at the number one seed. Seattle is too good and too experienced to get tripped up against a well-coached but hurting 49ers team. Despite George Kittle’s presence, Seattle makes Green Bay work for it. SEA -5.5
Okay, so Green Bay has to work for it to earn the number one seed, which is bad news for my beloved Bears. Maybe it’s just because I’ve seen this movie too many times but the Bears aren’t in a position to take down
a fire-breathing dragon Aaron Rodgers when he’s playing at an MVP level. Green Bay was up 41-10 on the Bears after three quarters in their first meeting. Chicago has played well against some lesser opponents, but if Tennessee couldn’t keep pace, I don’t see how the Bears can. GB -5.5
Erik Smith: I’m not sure what I’m missing here, but the Cowboys look like a strong bet this week in a must-win game against the Giants. For the purposes of this article, the line is Dallas by 2.5-points, but bettors have moved the line down to Dallas by just 1.0. I don’t get it. These are two teams moving in opposite directions, and I don’t expect that to change this week. Since Daniel Jones injured his hamstring in Week 12 against the Bengals, Jones has played two games and rushed for a total of 3 yards. Joes had rushed for over 400 combined yards in the 11 games prior, and Jones’ mobility was one of his few strengths. Without his rushing, the Giants’ offense has scored 17, 7, 6, and 13 points over the last four weeks, and with Dallas moving the ball offensively lately, I don’t think New York can keep up. DAL -2.5
I may be playing with fire picking a game with no playoff implications for either team, but I feel fairly confident backing the Raiders here. Regardless of whether Derek Carr plays the whole game, we should be fairly safe, as Marcus Mariota looked solid when given a chance this year. And frankly, I would take either quarterback over Drew Lock at this point. The Raiders’ awful defense is certainly a worry, but I think they have enough offensive firepower to keep up, and they will be looking to get the ball to Darren Waller as he chases Tim Brown’s franchise record for receptions in a season. LV -2.5
This one is cheating since the line has shifted dramatically, but frankly, I’ll take all the help that I can get. With Jared Goff out, Arizona should be set up well even against a tough Rams defense. In what should be a low-scoring game I’ll take my chances with Kyler Murray’s ability to make plays with his legs. At our line, the Cards are a no-brainer, but even at the current line of ARI -3, I’d take the plunge. ARI +5
I’m a little worried about a letdown game here after the Packers just blew the doors off the Titans, but they should be able to outclass the Bears in this one. It feels like the Mitch Trubisky momentum is due to come crashing back to earth, and the Packers even introduced a new weapon into their offense with A.J. Dillon last week. The Packers certainly want this first-round bye, so they should be motivated throughout. GB -5.5
It was a weird year so let’s get weird with the final pick. The Jets have been gasp good lately, and the Patriots have been in a tailspin. New York should be able to slow down the run, which is just about all that the Pats can do offensively, and there are enough Jets fighting for their jobs and future in the league that I expect them to be motivated. I like the extra half point here, so the Jets are the pick. NYJ +3.5
Bryan Sweet: The Titans can ensure a playoff spot and AFC South crown with a victory over the Texans this week and there is an outside chance Derrick Henry hits the elusive 2,000 rushing yards mark if the team wanted to push for it. When these teams last met, back in Week 6. Tennesse escaped with a six-point victory in overtime in a back-and-forth affair. Houston doesn’t have anything to play for other than ruining Tennessee’s chances at making the playoffs, but I think they’ll still play to win and I expect an outcome similar to the first meeting. I think Tennesse gets the victory, but that “.5” on the end scares me. Let’s predict another high-scoring affair to be safe. TEN/HOU O56
Washington can win the NFC East with a victory over the already-eliminated Eagles on Sunday, but a loss means the winner of the Cowboys/Giants game wins the division. Washington’s hopes may very well hinge on the health of Alex Smith’s calf as the veteran sat out Wednesday’s practice with the injury. We know for certain Jalen Hurts will be behind center for Philadelphia and he seems to have provided a spark to a team that badly needed one. Washington’s front four can put pressure on Hurts and cause havoc, but if they are too aggressive, Hurts has the ability to hurt them with his legs. I like Hurts to make enough plays to pull this one out, or at least cover. PHI +2.5
Speaking of the other NFC East battle, the Cowboys come in riding a three-game winning streak and looking like a new team after the BYE with Andy Dalton under center. The Giants, on the other hand, are reeling having dropped three straight by double-digit deficits as they have struggled on both sides of the ball. A closer look at the Cowboys’ recent victories shows a bit of a reliance on generating turnovers against bad teams, something the Giants have been better at controlling the last two weeks. This game will be played at the same time as the Washington/Philadelphia game, so both teams will be watching the scoreboard closely as they play for a chance at hosting a playoff game. The Cowboys won by three back in Week 5, so it’s the Giants’ turn to squeak out a victory this week. NYG +2.5
This next pick might be cheating just a bit as the lines came out before word came down that Jared Goff would not be playing this weekend. As of this writing, the line has switched showing Arizona as three-point favorites. The absence of Goff will make it tough for the Rams to keep pace and I think Arizona wins this one going away. ARI +5
Miami also finds itself in a “win and you’re in” scenario as they travel to Buffalo in a final clash with the AFC East champion Bills. Buffalo can’t alter their playoff positioning and it is being speculated they will be resting their starters for this game to prepare for the first playoff game. Miami has greatly exceeded expectations this season and I think they wrap up Brian Flores’s first season with a playoff berth. I like Miami to win outright, but the points are a nice bonus. MIA +2.5
BONUS: Since I’ve had such a good year this year (insert eye roll here), I thought I’d give my Super Bowl prediction to wrap this season up. I think the Green Bay Packers will represent the NFC this season because they are the only team in the NFC with a true home-field advantage this season. Last week’s game against Tennessee shows just how impactful bad weather can be on teams that aren’t used to it and the NFC is full of teams that play in domes or warm weather, giving the Pack a huge advantage in January. On the AFC side, I think it ultimately comes down to Buffalo or Kansas City and I’m siding with Buffalo right now. Kansas City might be pulling a Golden State Warriors job in sleepwalking through the regular season before turning it on in the playoffs, but I think Buffalo is the only team in the AFC that can match up with them. Arrowhead Stadium isn’t as imposing without fans and I think Buffalo can escape with a narrow victory if that is what the AFC Championship Game comes to. Experience wins out in the Super Bowl, however, and I like the Packers to secure another title with a win over the Bills. Final score, Green Bay 31, Buffalo 21.
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)