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Here is my sports betting preview for Week 18: We got BONUS football! This is our first year of having an extra week of the regular season, so let’s enjoy it! But first, let’s take a look at how last week went. Couple of close calls- I said the Pats would cover (I promise, you can go back and it read it!), but chose to take the under and was wrong; had a rare PUSH on the total in the Bills game; and the damn Cleveland Browns… the freaking Browns…
Week 17 record: 9-6-1
Kansas City @ Denver
There’s a reason the spread is -11 in this game. Denver’s offense is in shambles with Drew Lock at the helm. Kansas City is finally rounding into form, making us all forget how dreadful they were in the first month and half of the season. KC ranks 4th in PPG and in the last three weeks, they rank 1st in the NFL. Denver ranks 23rd in PPG on the season and 29th in the last three weeks. Only the Saints, Panthers, and Giants are scoring less than the Broncos lately. Even their once great defense (3rd on the season in opponent PPG) is ranked 16th in the last three weeks. I know the KC defense hasn’t been awesome this year but consider this: the Broncos went against the worst ranked rushing defense in the NFL last week with a two-headed backfield of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon and only rushed for 83yds. Gross.
Pick: KC -11
Dallas @ Philadelphia
The late game on Saturday night should be interesting. The Cowboys have clinched the division, and the Eagles have clinched a playoff spot. The only thing in play is seeding. It’s a long shot, but there is a scenario where the Cowboys win, get the #2 seed, and then face off against the Eagles next week in Round 1 of the playoffs. That would require losses by TB, ARI, and LAR however, and seems unlikely. There’s no real incentive here for either team to go all out, and especially with Jalen Hurts’ ankle injury, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get pulled early, if he plays at all. Both teams are dealing with covid, and the line have gone from DAL -1.5 to -7 and now it sits at -4.5. Most people would be tempted to take the under in a game with mostly backups, but I would do the opposite. I think backups on defense hurt a lot more than on offense. Especially with the potential of a Gardner Minshew audition for next year. Keep watching this as we get closer to kickoff. If guys come off the covid list and will play, things will change. If you can get PHI closer to a TD, take them. Otherwise, I’ll take the over 43 and probably get disappointed.
Pick: Over 43 (PHI +7 if it happens)
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
These two teams are like the Mountain in Game of Thrones- they were once behemoths, got resurrected from the dead, and just won’t f*cking DIE! Somehow, both of these teams have hung around .500 despite being in the bottom half of the league in most stats. Baltimore hasn’t won a game since November 28th. Both of these teams have been kept alive by their head coaches. They clash in a great rivalry game that unfortunately, will most likely be lackluster and like watching Mayweather vs. Pacquaio when they were almost 40 and way past their primes. Baltimore’s rushing defense is very good, ranked 3rd in opponent yds per carry at 3.9yds. Their passing defense is atrocious, and Big Ben is atrocious going against them. The already suspect Ravens offense has looked even worse without Lamar Jackson, who is likely out for this one too. Everywhere I look I see a stalemate in this game, so I’ll just take the team getting the points and move on.
Pick: PIT +5
Cincinnati @ Cleveland
The Baker Mayfield Experience might be over in Cleveland. It has been reported that he has asked for a trade if “things don’t change” in regard to offensive play calling. He’s not playing this week and will opt for surgery to fix his list of ailments. Joe Burrow is also out. So is Joe Mixon. It’s going to be Brandon Allen vs. Case Keenum in this one. FUN! The Bengals are being ravaged by covid right now too on both sides of the ball. In his five games that he started last year Allen threw 5 TDs and also turned the ball over 5 times while averaging 185yds per game. Avoid this game at all costs. The total is low for a reason. Don’t let that stop you though.
Pick: Under 38
Tennessee @ Houston
Will Derrick Henry make his return this week? I don’t think it really matters, to be honest. As much as I don’t understand TEN’s success this season despite their average to below average stats, Houston is just flat-out garbage. They rank 26th or worse in just about every stat that matters. Houston managed to beat Tennessee back in November, but that was a game where the Texans had Tyrod Taylor and the Titans were relying on geriatric patient Adrian Peterson. If Tennessee wins, they have the #1 seed and the only bye this year. I think they win big.
Pick: TEN -10
Washington @ New York Giants
Two awful teams going at it from the NFC East in the last week of the season. Sounds like I’ve heard that before. The Giants have averaged 6.3pts over their last three games. An NFL team full of professional NFL players has averaged less than a TD over a 3-game span. Imagine that? Now Mike Glennon needs surgery so they’re left with Jake Fromm and Brian Lewerke. The Giants’ defense has been decent this year, but I can see both defenses not playing as hard and trying to avoid unnecessary injuries in the final week of the season.
Pick: WAS -7
Chicago @ Minnesota
Chicago has one of the worst offenses in the NFL. It seems like Justin Fields will be out this week with covid too. Both teams like to run the ball, and neither team can defend the run. Chicago ranks 18th in rushing yds per attempt and 20thin defensive rushing yds per attempt. Minnesota comes in at 19th and 30th in the same stats. Despite both teams running often, they don’t seem to have much success. Luckily, the Vikings should have Dalvin Cook and Kirk Cousins back for this one. Neither team’s defense is great, but I have to go with the offense that has Cousins, Cook and Jefferson vs. the one with Andy Dalton and… and… Darnell Mooney? Hey, what ever happened to Allen Robinson?
Pick: MIN -5.5
Indianapolis @ Jacksonville
One of the two games everyone is talking about this week. If the Jaguars win, then the Chargers and Raiders can TIE and both make the playoffs. The Colts haven’t won in Jacksonville since 2014. Yada, yada, yada. That’s all fun and well, but the Colts haven’t played in Jacksonville with a MVP-candidate RB Jonathan Taylor. Yes, I know he played against them last year in the Colts loss, but that was Week 1 of Taylor’s rookie year. In his first career NFL game he had 9 carries for 22yds. This is a very different Jonathan Taylor. The Jaguars rank 15th in opponent yds per attempt and 31st in opponent PPG. The Colts are tied for 1st in rushing yds per attempt and 7th in offensive PPG. The Colts will win this game, but I can see them getting out to a big lead by halftime and bringing in backups to close it out, putting the MASSIVE 15pt spread in jeopardy. I like the over in this game, but I think I’m going to go with the Colts team total instead.
Pick: Colts TT Over 30
Green Bay @ Detroit
Green Bay has locked up the #1 Seed and the first-round bye. Matt LaFleur has said that they will still be playing their starters despite that news. Green Bay is the much better team. Detroit plays hard for its head coach, but they are just inferior in every way to the Packers. GB is 10th in PPG, DET is 28th. GB is 8th in opponent PPG, DET is 30th. GB is 9th in yds per completion, DET is 32nd. GB is 9th in defensive yds per completion, DET is 31st. The only slight edge DET has is in the run game. The run the ball decently well, and GB struggles to stop the run. There hasn’t been a team total released yet on either of the books I use. If it is under 30 I’ll take GB’s team total. Otherwise, I’ll take the over in this one.
Pick: Over 44.5
New York Jets @Buffalo
When these teams played in November, Buffalo won by 28pts. Buffalo failed to cover a large spread last week against the Falcons, and they were actually down 15-14 at halftime. Despite the wins, Buffalo has kind of been stumbling around the last few weeks. They’re still one of the best teams in the NFL statistically. Buffalo needs to win in order to win the AFC East, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scenario where they get up 28-10 in the second half and then rest their starters, leaving the door open for a backdoor cover. The Bills are 3-2 ATS this year when favored by 14 or more points. That’s a lot of points to cover for a team that might be resting starters in the second half.
Pick: NYJ +16.5
New England @ Miami
This Patriots team’s kryptonite for years has been games at Miami. Will that change with Mac Jones at QB? I’m not so sure yet. Miami’s defense has seemingly played well, but when you take a closer look at their opponents over the last 2 months you get a better picture: 34pts to TEN, 3pts to NO, 24&17pts to NYJ, 9pts to NYG, 10pts to CAR, 10pts to BAL, 9pts to HOU. Every single one of those teams ranks in the bottom half of the NFL in PPG. The highest-ranking team they faced? TEN at 15th, which they allowed 34pts to last week. This should be a matchup that favors New England. NE struggles to stop the run (26th in opp. yds per rush attempt) but Miami struggles to run the ball (31st in yds per rush attempt). Offensively, NE ranks 13th in yds per completion and Miami ranks 29th. Defensively, NE ranks 15th in yds per completion and Miami ranks 17th. The Pats should win, but as a Pats fan, I think this will be annoyingly close. The line moved from NE -3 originally to -7.5 at one point after the Dolphins loss last week, and has come back down to 6 in some places. These teams are similar enough to keep it close.
Pick: MIA +6.5
New Orleans @ Atlanta
Two teams that can’t wait for the year to be over. Atlanta will have some decisions to make regarding Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley, and New Orleans will again be searching for a QB this offseason. New Orleans ranks 19th in PPG this year and Atlanta sits at 27th. New Orleans’ defense ranks 4th in opp. PPG but Atlanta ranks 29th. I think the NO defense is good enough to limit the Falcons on offense. There’s also still a decent chance that NO makes the playoffs if they win and the Rams can beat the 49ers. Believe it or not, New Orleans actually ranks 5th in offensive yds per completion this year.
Pick: NO -3.5
San Francisco @ LA Rams
This game seems to be the keystone for the NFC playoff picture. Rams win- they get the 2 seed and the 49ers are out if the Saints win. Rams lose- if ARI wins, the Rams fall to the 5th seed, ARI wins the division, and 49ers are in and Saints are out regardless their outcome. These teams are very evenly matched. First let’s look at the offensive numbers: SF ranks 13th in PPG, 16th in yds per carry, and 1st in yds per completion. LAR ranks 9th in PPG, 23rd in yds per carry, and 3rd in yds per completion. Now let’s check the defense: SF ranks 14th in opp. PPG, 8th in yds per carry, and 4th in yds per completion. LAR ranks 15th, 5th, and 10th, respectively. Assuming Jimmy G plays, I’ll be taking the 49ers. I think they’ve played well against slightly better competition than that Rams lately. Another year where the Saints get screwed out of the playoffs.
Pick: SF ML +180
Seattle @ Arizona
What happened to the Arizona Cardinals? They just can’t put it together as of late. After starting 10-2, they currently sit at 11-5. Meanwhile, Seattle seems like they might have finally started to turn things around offensively. This is a weird game that could see Colt McCoy and Eno Benjamin in the second half, given that the Cardinals are locked into the playoffs and Kyler and both RBs are banged up. I think this is going to be a close game, regardless of the outcome.
Pick: SEA +7
Carolina @ Tampa Bay
I’m going to miss the drama of Antonio Brown. A week after needing a 4th quarter comeback to beat the Jets, I think a lot of people are going to be backing the Panthers this week. If there is one thing I know about Tom Brady after watching him as a Pats fan for most of my life, it’s that he doesn’t care about anything but playing football and winning games. Sure, the Bucs defense will be resting JPP and Shaq Barrett, but the Panthers offense ranks 29th in PPG anyway. They also rank 25th in yds per carry and 26th in yds per completion. I don’t hate the under 41.5, but I’m going with TB -8 here. Wait until closer to kickoff to see if the number drops even more- this was -17 last week as a lookahead line.
Pick: TB -8
LA Chargers @ Las Vegas
The game everyone has been talking about. Quite a coincidence that it is also the SNF game. If by some stretch of the imagination, Jacksonville can beat Indy, then these two teams could agree to tie and both make the playoffs. It’s those types of people that buy into crazy conspiracy theories too. The amount of people involved to collude just makes it nearly impossible. Let me tell you this- if the Jags win, there is no way in hell these two teams “just keep taking a knee” like it has been purported on social media. The NFL Competition Committee would most certainly get involved and have an epic meltdown. That being said, I just can’t trust either of these teams to do anything right. The Chargers can’t defend the run, but the Raiders rank 29th in yds per carry. The Chargers are great at passing, but so are the Raiders- both rank in the Top 8 in the NFL in yds per completion. The matchup seems to favor the Raiders on defense. They rank 3rd in opponent yds per completion, while the Chargers rank 24th. The numbers say take LV +3, but my gut says LAC -3. So, I’ll punt on the spread and take the over instead.
Pick: Over 49