Last week ATS: 2-2
Overall ATS: 26-23-2
1. New Orleans Saints (+3) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
After beating the Dolphins (8-5) and later seeing the Bills (10-3) beat the Steelers (11-2) on Sunday Night Football, the Chiefs (12-1) have ascended to the top of the AFC playoff picture and have about a 92% chance of capturing the #1 seed. Basically, all they have to do is go 2-1 in their final three games — given that they beat the Chargers at home in Week 17 — to get a first round bye.
At the same time, the Saints are fighting for a 1-seed of their own. With their upset loss last week to the Eagles (that I predicted in my Week 14: Best Bets), they are going to have to win out and hope the Packers — the current NFC leader — trips up somewhere down the stretch. That means you are going to have a max-motivated team (New Orleans) playing at home against a team (Kansas City) that is not in an absolute must-win mode.
Doesn’t matter to me whether Drew Brees comes back or if it’s Taysom Hill starting at quarterback, I think the Saints need it more and hand the Chiefs their second and final loss of the 2020 NFL season.
Score prediction: Saints 28, Chiefs 24
2. Miami Dolphins (-1) vs. New England Patriots
The narrative all week is going to be Bill Belichick against one of his former coaches, and how well Belichick does against first- or second-year quarterbacks. Those seem to be clear advantages for the Patriots, and would seem to be the cause for the opening line (Miami -3) dropping to a single point in the last two days.
But late in the year I’m big on motivation, and the Dolphins have something to play for while the Patriots kinda don’t. It’s not my normal practice to bet against Belichick or the Patriots, and at the same time it’s been a while, like 20 years, since we’ve seen how New England performs down the stretch when they don’t have anything to play for. I just find it hard to motivate grown men who not only aren’t battling for a playoff spot, whose best-case scenario is probably a .500 finish.
Score prediction: Dolphins 23, Patriots 16
3. Minnesota Vikings (-3) vs. Chicago Bears
The Bears went out and had their weird 36-7 win in a game that meant absolutely nothing last week against the Texans. Having snapped their 6-game losing streak, and having Mitch Trubisky play the best game of his life, the moment seems right for them to get broken off in blowout fashion against a real organization with a real head coach and real quarterback.
Chicago has 7-9 written all over them, and right now I would bet that neither head coach Matt Nagy nor QB Mitch Trubisky are retained for the 2021 season. Let’s roll with the Vikings and get a nice head start on blowing up the Bears organization.
Score prediction: Vikings 30, Bears 14
4. Seattle Seahawks (-5.5) at Washington Football Team
It’s been a great ride for Washington, and no one likes to see Alex Smith succeed more than I do. But let’s have a reality check: Smith is a bottom-third quarterback in the league, and the Football Team’s current 4-game winning streak is, if not a fluke, an obvious abnormality. They took advantage of the Bengals (after Joe Burrow blew out his knee), the Cowboys (enough said), the Steelers (in a terrible rest spot for Pittsburgh) and the 49ers (with their backup quarterback).
Seattle, on the other hand, has to keep winning to keep pace with the Los Angeles Rams. This just feels like one of those spots where Washington is hot and being given a lot of respect, while the Seahawks have one of the handful of best quarterbacks in the league in a game he needs to win.
Score prediction: Seahawks 26, Football Team 17
Bonus Best Bets
5. Cleveland Browns (-0.5) at New York Giants & Baltimore Ravens (-7) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars on a two-team 6-point teaser
We’ll call this bet the Shorting The Two Teams Who Just Played The Game Of The Year On Monday Night Football teaser. The Ravens can’t just rise to the occasion after spilling their guts out in a 47-42 win over the Browns, and the Browns can’t get up emotionally after dropping such a game. It’s an easy letdown spot for both teams.
Currently the Browns are -6.5 against the Giants, and the Ravens are -13 against the Jaguars. Chop off six points from both of those spreads — so Cleveland just needs to win, and Baltimore needs to win by a touchdown — and you’ve got yourself a nice cozy -110 payout.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (-26.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
The Steelers are currently favored by 13 points against the Bengals on Monday Night Football. You can lay those points and swallow the -105 or -110 vig, or you can get crazy and double the point spread and get a payout of a sweet +480 (according to Draft Kings). This is not a sharp practice and I wouldn’t normally recommend it, but Pittsburgh is absolutely in need of a feel-good game.
The Bengals have a lousy offense without Joe Burrow and an even lousier defense. So what better way to announce your presence with authority than going out on Monday Night Football and laying the smackdown on a division rival? Like I said, it isn’t a smart bet. But nearly 5-to-1 bets aren’t supposed to be smart. They are supposed to be fun.
7. Indianapolis Colts (-9) vs. Houston Texans & Tennessee Titans (-12) vs. Detroit Lions on a two-team parlay (+375)
This bet is courtesy of 5 Dimes, because the Colts at -9 pays +103 and the Titans at -12 pays +105. That means there’s a 47% chance of the former happening and a 45% chance of the latter. Marry those two teams together and you’ve got a nice little parlay paying +375 rather than, say, a two-team parlay at -110 which pays +260.