Every NFL season is full of “flukey” moments, sure. But this year has stood out for its wackiness. From the lack of a training camp and then preseason to the expansion of rosters and rescheduling of games. Nothing is as it usually is in the NFL and that has made picking games especially difficult. We had no baseline and just when we started to get a handle on things, coaching staffs across the league have made their typical adjustments. We just have to get back one step ahead.
If you listen closely, you can hear the fantasy gods stomping a mudhole in our ticket from last week. 0-3 is obviously as bad as gets but to have the Browns blow it for us in the fashion they did was just brutal. So much so that many sportsbooks refunded bets or gave site credit to the many bettors who almost had it. Nonetheless, there is still money to be won and if anybody is going to win it, it should be us. Fingers crossed, sheesh!
A Classic AFL Clash Leads Week 15 Primetime Moneymakers
Los Angeles Chargers (4-9) at Las Vegas (7-6)
Spread: Raiders -3
It’s been an interesting season for the Los Angeles Chargers (6-7 ATS). They’ve had seven games decided by one score (eight points or less). They’ve only won two of those games. Such is life with a rookie quarterback as Justin Herbert has thrown an interception in all but three of his starts. And if it weren’t for a late field goal against the implosion specialist Atlanta Falcons they would be in the midst of another three-game skid. It was much needed after they were shutout 45-0 by the New England Patriots at home a couple of weeks ago.
The Las Vegas Raiders (7-6 ATS) are having a successful inaugural season in Sin City. But they’ve gone 1-3 over the last month with a 46-3 loss on the road to the Atlanta Falcons sticking out. Their lone win was a 31-28 edging of the winless New York Jets. Kansas City bottled up Josh Jacobs who hurt his ankle the following week against Atlanta and the running game has subsequently failed to hit the 100-yard mark in a month. Rushing stats are usually an indicator of winning. For the Raiders it the other way around. If they won it’s likely because they ran.
Neither of these teams has been a safe bet these last four weeks. L.A. hadn’t covered since Week 3 before last week. Vegas hasn’t covered since Nov 22. The specter of a possible coaching change for the Chargers can manifest in any number of ways, such as their late-game rally in Week 14. Las Vegas won this matchup last time thanks to an overturned touchdown call. It’s hard to sweep an opponent but taking the Raiders (minus the points) still feels like the smart call given the Chargers propensity for late-game collapses. Also going over here just because.
Cleveland Browns (9-4) at New York Giants (5-8)
Spread: Giants +4.5
Even with all the hype they received in the preseason, this matchup looked like a snoozer in the preseason. Now, the Cleveland Browns (5-8 ATS) are in a position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Their harrowing defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens last Monday night snapped a four-game winning streak. That streak included a 41-35 manhandling of the Tennessee Titans. Cleveland is third in the NFL in rushing and 25th in passing, but Baker Mayfield has completed over 66 percent of his passes for 935 yards with eight touchdowns to just one interception over the last three weeks.
The New York Giants (8-5 ATS) had a four-game winning streak ended last week too. Theirs was a 26-7 drubbing at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals but was due in no small part to quarterback Daniel Jones trying to play on a bad hamstring. That means Colt McCoy, who got the start and a win in Week 13, could be back under center. Still, their victory and defensive dominance over the Seattle Seahawks highlighted what has been a tremendous mid-season turnaround after they started the season 1-4.
Back-to-back big games are usually a recipe for a letdown the following week. Especially against a battered opponent. But the way the game ended last week can’t sit well with the Browns. It’s hard to see any way they let this team beat them. It has also been a safer bet to take the Giants to cover. But we cannot ignore Jones’ injury and what it does in a spot where New York would be an underdog regardless. Browns laying the points it is as the Giants have covered a spread of fewer than five points just once. We are also riding the under, but only if Jones sits.
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1)
Spread: Bengals +13
For weeks many talking heads have been pointing out the fluke nature of the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5 ATS) record. Over the last two weeks, the rest of us have seen that all bear out. Dropping back-to-back games is bad enough. But one of those came against a team from the feeble NFC East at Heinz Field. Last week’s loss to the Bills is more understandable except for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense’s struggles. Pittsburgh is still first in defense DVOA but they are dragging along the 20th-ranked offense. Perhaps they try to get the ground game going this week.
If we are being completely honest, this is the season the Cincinnati Bengals (7-6 ATS) needed as a franchise. Despite the season-ending knee injury, they appear to have their franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow. Now, they’ll be able to keep putting top-tier talent around him thanks to having a putrid record. Cincinnati is 31st in total DVOA (30th in offense, 29th in defense) and 30th in scoring offense. They are 22nd in scoring defense, though, for whatever that’s worth. This one could get ugly and that would be totally acceptable.
They should bring relegation to the NFL should Pittsburgh lose this game. Beating up on weak teams then losing to the sneakily competitive Washington Football team is one thing. A loss to these Bengals would be catastrophic. Pittsburgh needs to get their offense back in order and this looks like a get-right spot. But 13 points is a big number. The Steelers haven’t had, let alone covered, a spread that large this season while the Bengals have lost by double-digits six times this year. Just two of those were by more than 12 points. Pittsburgh will win but by how much? The under might be the safest play.
All line information courtesy of Covers.com