NFL Best Bets: Week 16

Last week ATS: 1-2-1

Overall ATS: 27-25-3

1. Jaguars (+7.5) vs. Bears

Chicago is obviously motivated to win, and Jacksonville is obviously motivated to lose. So why is this line only 7.5 and not, like, 14? Probably because football is weird.

2. Rams (PK) vs. Seahawks

The Rams lost last week against the Jets. Maybe they were looking ahead?

3. Football Team (PK) vs. Panthers

One team is fixin’ to win their division, the other isn’t.

4. Falcons (+10.5) at Chiefs

What is Kansas City playing for, exactly?

* * * * * *

Saturday update, just to expound a little bit:

In writing about sports, and in particular sports betting, the reader of this blog will notice I would I use almost every time I blog. The word is motivation. I argue that motivation is the most important handicap when assessing which team can beat the spread.

Where has that gotten me? Not very far, if you’re looking at my overall record this year. 27-25-3 is about as close to 50% as it gets (51.9% to be exact), but at this time of the year in particular is when motivation means the most.

Take this weekend’s games as an example. On Friday the Saints beat the Vikings 52-33. The Saints are playoff bound and fighting for the number one seed in the NFC, while the Vikings will be staying home this postseason. In the early game on Saturday, the Buccaneers defeated the Lions 47-7. Again, the Bucs are going to the playoffs, while the Lions are not. In the late game the Dolphins took down the Raiders, 26-25, and Miami is probably going to the playoffs while the Raiders aren’t. Seeing the trend?

As a general rule it’s a good strategy to bet on the seemingly more motivated team, but it doesn’t always work. In the sandwich game on Saturday the 49ers (who aren’t going to the playoffs) beat the Cardinals (who had a realistic chance) 20-12. Why did the better, more motivated playoff contender lose that one? Well, for starters it was a division game. Secondly it was payback for when Arizona beat the Niners in Week 1. And thirdly Kyle Shannahan teams do not take weeks off. They play hard all the time.

As an aside, I bet on the 49ers at +3.5, which was a lucky win for me since the line closed at 49ers +5.5. I got the worst number and still won. But I only bet on them because I thought they would play hard enough to keep it within a field goal. I had no idea they would win the game outright and basically kill the Cardinals playoff hopes.

There is so much nuance in sports betting that it gives you a headache. I’ve been betting on football for like five years now and I still don’t understand it. Sometimes you take the better team who has all sorts of matchup edges, and their opponent still finds a way to throw a late touchdown and cover the spread. Other weeks you take the underdog and the points, and the favorite flat out embarrasses them. I don’t know.

What I do know is that grown men require motivation. They need a spark to get them up for games. Winning has to mean something for them. If it doesn’t, weird shit tends to happen. I feel decent about my better than .500 record this year, but I’m sure I’ll be back in a week wondering why I took the Jaguars and Rams and Football Team and Falcons.

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