NFL Week 17 Predictions: Final Playoff Spots Yet to Be Determined

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After four long months of football, the National Football League has not yet determined the 12 teams that will vie for the right to raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl 50 a little more than a month from now. In one conference, the six teams have been determined but not their actual positions. In the other, there are still a couple of spots up for grabs, with one team guaranteed not to be too pleased when the season ends on Sunday night.

In the NFC, the six teams are set. Winning the NFC East is the Washington Redskins, while the Carolina Panthers (NFC South) and Arizona Cardinals (NFC West) will vie for home field advantage through the playoffs (they already have seized the first round byes). If Carolina wins, the road to the Super Bowl goes through Charlotte; if Carolina loses and Arizona wins, then the Cards will bring teams to the desert with home field advantage. Where it gets interesting is in the NFC North.

The Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings will meet on Sunday night on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Wisconsin with the NFC North title on the line for the winner. That victor has the dubious task of hosting the Seattle Seahawks, the #6 seed in the NFC, while the loser would have to hit the road as the #5 seed to take on #4 Washington in the Wild Card Round (there are some permutations that see Seattle moving up, but let’s stick with this for right now). It is that classic question…do you tank a bit to get the easier game against a perceived weaker opponent in Washington or do you go all out to win the division, with the reward the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks?

The picture in the AFC isn’t quite as clear as the NFC has become. The only thing that is set in stone is that the New England Patriots (AFC East champion) and the Cincinnati Bengals (AFC North champion) have solidified spots in the playoffs. The Denver Broncos, who currently lead the Kansas City Chiefs by a game in the AFC West, have to win on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers to lock up the division and a first round bye (the Patriots would take the other). If they lose, there is a chance that they will fall all the way to the #5 or #6 seed in the AFC.

The other division titlist is still up for grabs, too. Right now the Houston Texans have a one game edge over the Indianapolis Colts, but a loss by the Texans to the Jacksonville Jaguars opens the door slightly for the Colts to take the AFC South (if they are able to beat the Tennessee Titans). There are also two teams contending for one Wild Card, with the situation taken care of if the New York Jets simply defeat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday (the Pittsburgh Steelers, the other team vying for the Wild Card, needs the Jets to lose and to beat the Cleveland Browns if they are to be the final Wild Card team).

There are plenty of lines waiting to be written about the 2015-2016 NFL season, even on Week 17. As it is the final week of the season, putting a few bets out there (you know, if you’re in an area where you can do that type of thing) is a bit more difficult, but it does give you a bit more excitement while watching the games.

(Home teams in CAPS, pick in bold)

New York Jets (-3) vs. BUFFALO BILLS; UNDER 41

With a win in this game, the Jets can clinch the #5 seed in the AFC. If you had said that to the Jets hierarchy prior to the start of the season that the final game of the year they would be playing to get in the playoffs, they would have been jumping for joy. Alas, a loss by the Jets to their former Head Coach Rex Ryan (and a win by the Steelers) would bump them from the playoffs.

There’s just too many injuries on the Bills side of the ball for that to happen, however. RB LeSean McCoy is out for the game, further reducing the tools that QB Tyrod Taylor has to go to on offense. The weather isn’t going to help either team (snow is predicted with the winds around 16 MPH), so we’re also taking the UNDER on this game.

Seattle Seahawks vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (-6.5); OVER 47

As one of the most prolific offenses in the NFC, the Cardinals still have a chance to take down the NFC home field advantage with a win here and a loss by the Panthers. Both teams will be playing at the same time, so there will be some “scoreboard watching” done, but the Cards have the most to play for out of the two teams.

Seattle is scraping into the playoffs this year, with injuries to TE Jimmy Graham, RB Marshawn Lynch and others (Graham and Lynch are out Sunday), but QB Russell Wilson has stepped up and is playing his best football of the season. It won’t be enough here as Cardinals QB Carson Palmer has an array of weapons at his disposal (and will use them frequently) and one of the toughest defenses in the game. The Seahawks, who aren’t going to move out of the Wild Card win or lose, might just let this one go to rest up for next week’s first playoff game.

Minnesota Vikings vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (-3); UNDER 44

To be honest, neither team really impresses me, even this late in the season. Sure, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has come back with a Renaissance season, but QB Teddy Bridgewater has been rather inconsistent behind him. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has had to deal with a rash of injuries on his offense, which brought about an inconsistent running game and a midseason swoon that nearly jeopardized their trek to the playoffs.

On what is going to be a cold night in Green Bay (temperature expected to be 23 degrees at game time tonight), the defenses are going to be what dictate the game. I personally like the Packer defense at home, even though the statistics say that the Vikings are the better defense (ranked 14th in the league against the Pack’s 19th). It could be another fluke game that’s decided by a “Hail Mary” …like the Packers have already used earlier this year.

Last Week:  3-2-1
Overall:  42-29-5

A case where just a couple of points prevented a good weekend from being a great one. The Jets and Pats eked the OVER at 26-20 (we took the UNDER at 45.5) and got a push out of the Broncos/Bengals game while missing the O/U there (picked OVER 39.5, actual 37). Hope the last week of the season is kind as we get ready to enter into the postseason.

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NFL Week 11 Predictions: What The Hell Happened?

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If you were watching the National Football League last weekend, you had to feel like you were in the Twilight Zone. Just about the time that you thought that you had the inner workings of the season down, it became Bizarro World (also known as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ daily existence). Just take a look at some of the finishes from last week and you’ll see what I mean.

The Detroit Lions beating the Green Bay Packers IN LAMBEAU FIELD? The Washington Redskins crushing the New Orleans Saints? The lowly Kansas City Chiefs knocking off the (then) undefeated Denver Broncos ON THE ROAD? I could go on, but you’re getting the gist. It was an ugly weekend last week to try to pick games.

You will see these types of weekends once or twice during an NFL season. The unfortunate thing is it completely screws up any logic you have on your wagering (you know, if you’re in an area where you can do that type of thing). Still, we have to soldier on and hope that the craziness of Week 10 doesn’t rear its ugly head again this week.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Indianapolis Colts vs. ATLANTA FALCONS (-3); OVER 47.5

The Falcons are vying for one of the two Wild Card positions in the NFC and, as such, they cannot overlook a Colts team whose only hope of making the playoffs rests in their winning the division (the Colts are leading the AFC South despite their 4-5 record). Unfortunately for the Colts, they are coming into the Georgia Dome to face a team that is coming off a bye week. It isn’t going to be a pretty sight.

Falcon RB Devonta Freeman looked to be hitting the wall in his last game (this is his first year as a starter), so the week off had to give him a much needed recharging. With QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones also needing a bit of refreshment, the bye week came at a perfect time for them to make a charge towards the playoffs. The Falcons defense should have a pre-Thanksgiving feast with QB Andrew Luck on the bench due to injury and a geriatric Matt Hasselbeck lining up under center for the Colts.

They may not catch the Carolina Panthers for the NFC South divisional crown, but they are in great position to capture a Wild Card. They need this win against the Colts to keep that drive going.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (-4); OVER 48

If this game had been played a week ago, I would have been on the Bengals. The powerhouse offense of QB Andy Dalton, WRs A. J. Green and Marvin Jones and RB Giovanni Bernard looked to be unstoppable…that is, until they ran into the Houston Texans and sputtered in a Monday night game 10-6. Now, I’ve got to go with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals have been thoroughly challenged over the course of the season, winning a shootout with the Seattle Seahawks last week (39-32) with a defense that is currently holding teams to 20 points a game. Only once has someone come into University of Phoenix Stadium this season and beaten the Cards (that was the St. Louis Rams) and the Cards offense has scored less than 20 points exactly once this season. Put those facts together and I see the Cardinals winning a shootout in the desert by a touchdown.

Buffalo Bills vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-7); OVER 47.5

The Patriots are one of only two undefeated teams left in the NFL (the other is the Carolina Panthers) and there is nothing to make anyone think that they won’t be undefeated after this game. QB Tom Brady is still on his “Fuck You” Tour 2015 (remember, they had one of these back in 2007 after the “Spygate” situation) and the rest of the team seems to be following their leader. Add in the fact that one of the arch-enemies of the Patriots – Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan – is standing on the other sideline and this one is going to be a bloodbath quickly.

With the vitriol that the Pats already have for Ryan and the Bills, you can add in one more. At this time, the Bills are in the playoffs as the second Wild Card team (behind the Pittsburgh Steelers) and it would potentially make Head Coach Bill Belichick crack a smile to whip the Bills and put a dent in those playoff aspirations. There is pretty much nothing that is going to put a loss on the Patriots’ schedule in this game.

Last Week:  3-3
Overall:  31-20-2

For the fourth consecutive week, we haven’t been able to break the .500 mark. After a week like last weekend, however, I’ll take that. There was so much chaos that sometimes you’ll take a .500 week amid the carnage and walk away alive. Looking to make some ground this week because the playoffs are approaching. Once teams start locking up playoff slots, then the betting options start to dry up.

NFL Week 4 Picks: Advent of Bye Weeks Effect Betting Lines

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After a tumultuous first three weeks to the National Football League season, one of the things that continually makes wagering on the games (you know, if you live in an area where you can legally do that) a more difficult endeavor is the “bye week.” The “bye week,” which came about in 1999 because of the odd number of teams in the NFL and stuck around to give teams a week off after the league went to 32 teams in 2002, is something that has an affect on every NFL team, depending when it falls in the season. If that “bye” falls in the early part of the season, you might lose out on a key late season break; if it falls too late, you may no longer be in the running and the “bye” is simply a waste of time instead of a welcome respite. Add in the fact for the game following the bye week and smart bettors know to look for some strange happenings.

With Week 4, two teams – the New England Patriots, who have roared out to a 3-0 start, and the Tennessee Titans – will take a seat. While these two teams will be ones to watch next week (and we’ll talk more about it then), the remainder of the NFL will have to wait patiently for their “bye week” – and the well-deserved rest – and hit the field this weekend. In some of these games, the East Coast weather conditions are also going to have a significant impact on the outcomes.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold.)

New York Giants (+5.5) vs. BUFFALO BILLS; UNDER 44

What should be a huge rivalry game, the Giants/Bills never has seemed to be able to capture the attention of New Yorkers (hell, the Giants/Jets and the Jets/Bills aren’t even strong rivalries, to be honest). Perhaps it is because the teams aren’t at their bests at the same time (the Giants are good when the Bills suck and vice versa), but the rivalry never seems to have been born. This week’s game between the two will continue that streak of a “yawn” instead of a rivalry.

The Giants got off the schneid after defeating the Washington Indigenous Persons at home last week and are attempting to get back into the race in the NFC East. Only a game behind the Dallas Cowboys (who the Giants have already lost to), a win for the Giants would keep them in the hunt. Another loss, putting them two games back of the ‘Boys, would pretty much doom the season.

The Bills have been one of the perplexing teams in the NFL this season. Under the guidance of head coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the Bills are 2-1 and coming off a crushing win over the Miami Dolphins. In that game, however, the Bills lost one of their big playmakers in RB LeSean McCoy, who has already been ruled out for Sunday’s tilt.

Adding in the weather conditions that could affect the game on Sunday, this is going to be a much closer affair than many people are expecting. I’m grabbing the Giants and the points this week as the weather makes sure that the two teams don’t go over 44 total points for the game.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. CINCINNATI BENGALS (-3.5)

In looking at the statistics of this game, you have to wonder why the Bengals aren’t a bigger favorite. The Bengals are ranked second overall in total offense and are going against the 24th ranked Chiefs defense. The flip side is true in examining the other matchup, with the 22nd ranked Chiefs offense going up against a sneaky strong 12th ranked defense for the Bengals. As home teams are normally given -3 points to begin with, you’re going to tell me that the 3-0 Bengals are only .5 points better than the 1-2 Chiefs? I don’t think so, especially after watching QB Andy Dalton and WR A. J. Green rip apart the Baltimore Ravens secondary last weekend. If there’s a lock on this week’s schedule, this would be the one.

St. Louis Rams vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (-7); OVER 44

As to the O/U, two of the last three games – both at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona – have come close to the 44 combined points (45 in the 2014 contest, 40 in 2013). With this track record, the fifth ranked offense of the Cardinals at home that is averaging 42.0 points per game and the fact that the Rams scored all of six points at home in a loss last weekend to the Pittsburgh Steelers (don’t expect that to happen again), to take anything other than OVER on the points would be a little silly.

The Cardinals are clicking along early this season and, with the difficulties of the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks, are looking to keep the boot firmly on the neck of the division. To do that, you have to win the divisional games such as this one against the Rams. The Cardinals also remember last year when QB Carson Palmer built a nice lead up for the team before getting hurt and watching as the Seahawks passed them by.

Palmer has been stellar so far this season, throwing for nine TDs to this point in the year with only two picks, but the true story on the Cardinals is the rebirth of RB Chris Johnson. After disappearing during his 2014 season with the New York Jets, Johnson has rushed for 219 yards so far this season and is an integral part of the Cardinals offense. With the 1-2 punch of Johnson and Palmer, the Cardinals could well be on their way to dethroning the Seahawks in the NFC West (should they stay healthy, that is).

Last Week:  2-4 Overall:  10-7-1

A completely disgusting Week 3 result. Despite correctly picking Atlanta over Dallas, the shootout completely destroyed our O/U pick. From there, it only got worse…the Seahawks covering the two-touchdown spread against the Chicago Bears was the only other pick we got right for the entire weekend. Time to turn that around!

NFL Week 2 Picks: Abnormalities Leave Bettors Wanting More Info

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The first week of the National Football League season is in the books and there are plenty of unanswered questions that leave those that wager on the games (you know, if you’re in an area where you can LEGALLY place a bet) in a difficult spot. Are the New York Jets THAT good that they laid 31 on the Cleveland Browns (let’s be honest, after Browns QB Josh McCown was knocked out of the game with a concussion, ushering in Johnny Manziel to show again why he shouldn’t be playing quarterback in the NFL)? Have the years finally caught up with Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning (I think I’ve seen mannequins move better and have more zip on the ball than Peyton has in the first two games)? Has New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin finally lost his mind?

The first four weeks of an NFL season are really a feeling out process. You have to be able to crunch the information from all the teams, figure in for those “weird” games when the outcome should have been different (we’re looking at you, Kansas City Chiefs) and make a solid decision on limited information. Some of the matchups this weekend that I’ve decided to offer a pick with seem to be gift wrapped from the bookies, though.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

New England Patriots (+1) vs. BUFFALO BILLS; UNDER 44

Inter-division games are always a tough pick because they usually are a rivalry game. With the AFC East, every other team in the division considers the Patriots an “arch rival” while the Patriots wonder what these teams are talking about; the Pats have won the division title in 11 of the past 13 years, not exactly something that rivalries are made of. If there’s a game with head coaches Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan involved in it, however, there is going to be some heat in the game.

The Patriots utilized the usual suspects on offense – QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski and RB Shane Vereen – to effectively whip the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 and, with 10 days to rest up for the Bills, I don’t see how they’re going to lose this one. I’ve also got to question just how good the Jets’ defense is. They had a great game against the Browns, but that was after the injury to McCown sent Manziel into the game to turn the ball over to them twice. I’d like to see them stand up against a team that doesn’t lose their starting quarterback in the first game.

This is going to be a bit of a slugfest, though. I don’t see the two teams scoring more than 44 points, hence I’ll take the UNDER there. As to the game, you’re giving me Brady AND a point? I’ll take it.

Baltimore Ravens vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (+6.5)

The Ravens looked anemic against Denver last Sunday night. No running game to speak of and, without that, QB Joe Flacco’s play-action passing game has a bit of a problem getting started up. Still, there are more concerns about this team, whom many thought might be challenging for another trip to the playoffs.

The Raiders…what can you say about the boys by the Bay? QB Derek Carr went down early in the action with an injury (he is expected to start on Sunday) and the Silver and Black never even got the engines started in losing to the Bengals. I don’t expect the Raiders to win this game but I do expect them to make it much more competitive than Week 1 (even the Raiders have some pride to their game). That 6.5 points is just a bit too juicy to pass up, so let’s see if the Raiders have some resolve and come back strong.

Seattle Seahawks vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (-3), UNDER 49

Seattle was shocked in Week 1 in going on the road and losing to the St. Louis Rams in a game that the ‘Hawks had to scramble to get back into (Seattle outscored the Rams 18-7 in the fourth quarter) before losing in overtime. It isn’t clear if DB Kam Chancellor’s contract holdout is causing issues to their once vaunted defense, it isn’t clear if QB Russell Wilson’s big new contract has satiated his drive, it isn’t clear if RB Marshawn Lynch is just having issues, period. What is clear is that the Seahawks can ill-afford to go to 0-2 on the season, especially giving up a game to a team that may be a divisional champion.

The Packers seem to keep plugging in players to maintain the smooth running of the ship. After losing WR Jordy Nelson to a knee injury in pre-season, all they did was go and get James Jones back on the roster. All James would do is light up the Chicago Bears defense for two TDs (James had six for the Raiders in 2014) in their victory. Alongside fellow WR Randall Cobb, QB Aaron Rodgers has plenty of options on the offensive end of the ball (hey, we didn’t even talk about RB Eddie Lacy).

The Packers are nearly unbeatable at home and they are looking for some revenge after losing to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game to close last season. Look for them to cover the spread, but it’s going to be something along the lines of 21-17 or 17-13 on Sunday night.

CURRENT RECORD:  4-2-1

Not a bad week overall for Week 1. Could have been better if the Patriots had not given up the late TD to the Steelers in the opener (that was the push on the board with the Pats -7) and there had been a real game between the Browns and Jets. Then again, Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s fourth quarter heroics did save our OVER bet (the 27-26 final went over 51.5), so maybe we shouldn’t complain.

It promises to be another interesting week in the NFL. Over the next couple of weeks, some trends will begin to emerge and players can begin to use them accordingly.

NFL Week 1: Tread Lightly When Looking at the Picks

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One of the things that I’ve always liked about the National Football League is the ability to bet on the games (you know, if you’re in an area where you can LEGALLY place a bet). The added attraction of laying down a few dollars on the game adds a little extra exhilaration to watching live or on television. And just think of how someone feels when a 155 pound kicker is lining up a 50-yard field goal to cover that spread for them?

Betting on the first couple of weeks of the season is extremely difficult, however. Basically you have the information from last season, a month of practices (usually without pads in the 21st century version of the NFL), four exhibition games where the starters seldom see the field (a reason they should cut the exhibition season to two or three games rather than its current setup) and your own gut as to how you determine your wagers. For those that like a little more information before they actually get into the game actively, it is a time to tread lightly.

But hey, you’re not that person, are you!?!?! You SNEER in the face of trepidation! You DIVE right into the deep end, right!?!?! With this in mind (and a little more explanation than on Thursday with the Patriots game…more on that at the end), here’s a few picks you might want to take a look at (remember, all picks are for entertainment purposes only!):

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Cleveland Browns (+3.5) vs. NEW YORK JETS

The Jets are truly in a whirlpool of a disaster. After firing last year’s head coach Rex Ryan (who immediately landed on his feet with the conference rival Buffalo Bills), it was supposed to be a year of rebuilding for the Jets with reserved optimism. Then QB Geno Smith got his jaw broken by a teammate (who now is with the Bills, oddly enough), the team failed to rebuild with the right pieces and the wheels have fallen off even before the first game of the year.

Cleveland isn’t without its drama, either. The constant slurping of now-backup quarterback Johnny Manziel seems to have subsided for now (that is until he’s thrust into the starting lineup in the middle of the season) and starting QB Josh McCown actually has some weapons around him. RB Isaiah Crowell and WRs Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe are going to give McCown some good offensive options and the defense for the Browns is sneaky-good.

How the sharps came up with New York as the favorite in this game is beyond me. The line actually has had the Jets as the favorite from the start, even moving it from -2.5 to its current level. Thanks for the early Christmas present!

Carolina Panthers (-3) vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS; UNDER 40.5

Even though they snuck into the playoffs last season with a losing record (7-8-1), the Panthers actually became the first team to ever repeat as division champion in the NFC South’s history. The team is a solid one, even with the loss of RB DeAngelo Williams to the Pittsburgh Steelers during the offseason and WR Kelvin Benjamin to injury during training camp. QB Cam Newton, fully healthy for the first time in a couple of years, still has RB Jonathan Stewart as his fallback and, as always, TE Greg Olson will be his security blanket.

Different season, same team for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They signed a big free agent during the offseason but it was a fucking TIGHT END, former Denver TE Julius Thomas, who will be out with an injury for the opening game of the season, naturally. QB Blake Bortles will be running for his life from the Carolina defense and LB Luke Kuechly for most of Sunday afternoon.

This isn’t going to be an offensive show, however. Take the under on this game as Carolina, with its ball control style of offense, will probably win a 21-10 or 24-13 type game (in other words, nothing spectacular).

New York Giants vs. DALLAS COWBOYS (-6); OVER 51.5

There is a big bandwagon with the New York Football Giants for some reason this year. QB Eli Manning (how difficult is it to believe that he has more Super Bowl rings than his brother Peyton?) is talking all the right talk, but you have to put some guys around him to get the job done. That job is going to be more difficult this Sunday with WR Victor Cruz out for the game with injury.

Speaking of bandwagons, have you met the Dallas Cowboys? It seems every year is supposed to be “the year” that the Cowboys break out and return to their prominence (even though that “prominence” was over 20 years ago). QB Tony Romo is expected to take the team to the “Promised Land” while the defense “squashes” everything in its path.

This is a tough game to pick, but the Cowboys and Giants always get up for each other. I’m going out on a limb with both of my picks here as I believe that the Cowboys are going to look for an early season statement both to the NFC and their opponents in the NFC East. Nothing would say “dominance” like a win against the Giants by more than a touchdown. It is going to be an entertaining game as they will go up and down the field, thus I’m also taking the OVER on the game.

Current Record:  1-0-1

We nailed both sides of the equation with our picks on Opening Night. The Patriots 28-21 victory over the Steelers pushed the spread (Patriots -7) and the 49 total points scored was barely under the 50.5 over/under (O/U) line set. Let’s see how long we can keep the unbeaten streak alive…when it comes to sports betting, the longer it goes, the better!