Tag Archives: Tom Brady

Philip Rivers vs Josh Allen Leads Super Wild Card Weekend

The NFL is in full playoff mode as everyone gears up for the first-ever “Super Wild Card” round. That just means that an extra team has been added to each conference’s playoff field, making it seven teams each from the AFC and NFC and 14 in total. But the additional entrants won’t be diluting the on-field product as we have a slew of great matchups ahead this weekend.

Previewing Super Wild Card Matchups

Indianapolis Colts @ Buffalo Bills

There’s a new sheriff running the AFC East and it’s the Buffalo Bills who won the division for the first time since 1995. Led by MVP-candidate Josh Allen at quarterback, the Bills unlocked their offense with the acquisition of Stefon Diggs in the offseason. Buffalo is second in points and yards this season; their highest marks since the 1992 season.

If “building from the trenches out” was a team, it would be the Indianapolis Colts. Aside from their heavy (and wise) investment in their offensive line, they also traded a first-round pick for DeForest Buckner to bolster their run defense. They then supplemented that with drafting players like Johnathan Taylor and Darius Leonard. Philip Rivers just has to take care of the football most of the time.

This is a matchup of the fourth (Buffalo) and 10th-ranked (Indianapolis) teams in DVOA, per Football Outsiders with Buffalo obviously having the edge. But the Colts defense, ranked seventh to the Bills 12th, could be the equalizer here. Buffalo is extremely reliant on the passing game and the Colts are top-10 in both pass and rush defense DVOA, with their pass defense ranking slightly higher. Meanwhile, Buffalo can check Rivers but could struggle with Taylor who ran for 253 yards in Week 17.

Prediction: Colts 24-21

Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks

It’s always a thriller when division opponents face off. Knowing your opponent well levels the playing field or completely making it no contest. It’s the former for these teams as the Los Angeles Rams have been playing Seattle tough since before they were a good team themselves. Now, after John Wolford got them into the playoffs in Jared Goff’s stead in Week 17, they get the chance to make it count for something.

The Seattle Seahawks are riding a heater. After starting the year 5-0, they hit a bump in the road, going 3-4 over their next seven and losing to two playoff teams in the process. But they’ve won four straight and will host this game, for whatever that’s worth with no fans in attendance. And the addition of Carlos Dunlap has added teeth to the pass rush that was led by safety Jamal Adams. They’ve also turned from letting Russell Wilson “cook” to a more balanced attack.

L.A. is the only team in the NFC West Wilson has a losing record against (8-10) which includes being 3-5 against the Sean McVay-led version. But Seattle won the last meeting between the two in Week 16 20-6, in Los Angeles. Perhaps they’ve figured something out between the added juice to the pass rush that neutralizes Goff. They’ll need to in order to come away with a win.

Prediction: Rams 31-27

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Football Team

In our first “David vs Goliath” matchup of the weekend, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Washington to face the team with no name. It’s Tampa’s first playoff berth since 2007 and, given where the differences between this year’s roster and last year’s, is in no small thanks to Tom Brady. Of course, adding Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin doesn’t hurt either.

The Washington Football Team shouldn’t be here, and that’s not in reference to them having a losing record. A team that has gone through four different starting quarterbacks and settled on the one that had 17 surgeries to his leg isn’t supposed to be in the playoffs. But, led by a defense ranked third in DVOA, they present an interesting challenge. Not in the secondary as the Bucs are loaded. But the Washington pass rush is third in Pass Rush Win Rate, per ESPN whereas Tampa is just 17th in Pass Block Win Rate, per ESPN.

As much as it would be a cool story for the Football Team to pull off the monumental upset, we have to be realistic. Tampa is far more talented and has much more leeway for the slow starts and mistakes that have plagued them throughout the year. But they need to remember what happened to the Steelers. Dawdling too long will see Washinton walk away victorious.

Prediction: Buccaneers 31-14

Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans

Sunday’s first game is a bit of a throwback. These are the first and second-ranked teams in rushing this season even though they go about it in a different way. The Baltimore Ravens focus in the ground game is quarterback Lamar Jackson who became the first quarterback in the NFL with multiple 1000-yard rushing seasons. Baltimore is having a “down” year compared to last, but they are still averaging 37-plus points per game over their last five.

This season, Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans became just the eighth person in NFL history to rush for 2000 yards. H also was the first to do so without a Pro Bowl offensive lineman. In a league that constantly reminds you why you don’t pay running backs, Henry is bucking the trend and proving you can still build around the position. You need a Ryan Tannehill to fill in the appropriate gaps, though, and the work the Titans have done there might be their best.

These teams met back in Week 11; a game the Titans won in overtime 30-24. Added to Jackson’s postseason struggles and it’s easy to see a path to a Titans win. Their biggest defensive weakness is also Jackson’s: the passing game. If they can manage to keep him in the pocket they can make short order of the Ravens. But the Tennessee pass rush is mediocre at best. If they are forced to rely on Tannehill this game will play right into Baltimore’s hands.

Prediction: Titans 31-28

Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints

Make no mistake about it, the Chicago Bears are a playoff team only because the NFL expanded the field. But that isn’t to say they haven’t done their best to rebound from a mid-season skid that saw them lose six straight games. They were 3-1 over the final of the season and were among the top-scoring teams in that span. In control of their own destiny entering Week 17, they failed to take out the “big brother” Green Bay Packers.

The New Orleans Saints are a powerhouse. So much so they went 3-1 in the four games Drew Brees missed with cracked ribs. And they’ve done it without Michael Thomas for most of the season. Thomas should rejoin the team for this one as the Saints look to give Brees the chance to go out on top if reports that this could be the last hurrah for the surefire Hall of Famer prove to be accurate.

Chicago hasn’t beaten the Saints since 2008 and hasn’t won in the Superdome since 2002. They’ve played each of the last two seasons, including back in Week 8. New Orleans has won both meetings by an average of 31-24 and is fifth in scoring, offensively and defensively, this season. The Bears are also dealing with injuries to key players like Roquan Smith and Jaylon Johnson. Does Chicago have a chance to pull the upset? Yes, but it isn’t a good one.

Prediction: Saints 34-17

Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers

The Cleveland Browns are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and they got there by beating the team they’ll face in the Super Wild Card round; albeit with a bunch of backups playing. Their 11-5 record is their best since 1994, Bill Belichick’s second to last year at the helm. Nick Chubb will have to find whatever cracks he can in the defense because bad things tend to happen when they rely on Baker Mayfield.

Many people called the Pittsburgh Steelers the most fraudulent 11-0 in history. A three-game skid that began with a loss to the Football Team reinforced that notion. Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a comeback victory in Week 16 over the Colts, at least pausing the doubters. But questions about this offense still remain. Such as, can they effectively run the football? Their rushing attack ranked 32nd in the regular season.

These two technically split their regular-season matchups but, as mentioned, the Steelers played backups in Week 17. Pittsburgh will need to come out of the gates fast or they could find themselves playing catchup on a team that specializes in ball control. The Steelers defense is first in DVOA and third in both points and yards. If they get the lead it’s almost certainly a wrap for this young Browns squad that ranked about average in counting stats and was 18th in DVOA. It’s just hard to see the former scenario playing out over the latter.

Prediction: Steelers 28-17

Super Wild Card Weekend Set to Excite

It’s a first in NFL history and there’s a chance this won’t be the only season with an expanded field. It was on the table well before COVID was a thing so that’s why it has staying power. They’ve avoided adding extra regular-season weeks (for now) and it’s hard to argue this is a bad thing when you look at some of the games we’re getting on Super Wild Card Weekend.

Picturing Perfect Playoff Payoffs

You go through an entire sports season (in this case a 16-game, 17 week NFL slate) and get amped up for a thrilling playoff match just to get something with no appeal. Oh, you thought this was about quality of play? Nah. More than likely, if a team is in the playoffs the game will be good. Often the least expected matchups wind up being the most entertaining.

But that does nothing for the personal investment of a storyline that really piqued your interest never coming to fruition. For years the quintessential matchup was Tom Brady and the New England Patriots taking on Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Or Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Well, Manning is retired now and the other three now reside in the same conference with Brady’s move to Tampa.

Ideal Payoffs For a Long Road to the Playoffs

For the Nostalgia

Some combination of Rodgers versus Brady versus Brees is still very much a possibility. Rodgers is a legitimate MVP candidate with 33 touchdowns to just four interceptions and completing passes at his highest rate since becoming a full-time starter. Brees’ top-seeded Saints are 2-0 with him on the mend from 11 cracked ribs. Brady is bringing up the rear for the trio and his Bucs are still 7-5 with the seventh-ranked scoring offense and the second-highest DVOA of the three defenses, per Football Outsiders.

It wouldn’t matter what leg of the postseason, if any two of these three were to meet it would be must-see tv. Brees-Brady has the most extensive history, despite being in different conferences, with Brees owning a decisive 5-2 edge in their head-to-head matchups, including a sweep of the season series this year. Next is Brees-Rodgers, where the Packers passer holds a 3-2 lead after winning in Week 3 this year. Brady-Rodgers have faced off three times as starters and had taken one apiece before Brady’s Bucs stomped a mudhole in Rodgers’ Packers in Week 6.

Again, all would be great matchups but, given the comparative rare nature of a Brady-Rodgers matchup that might be ideal to some. But if we are going off of the current performance of the principles, Brees-Rodgers 6 would be the one. Both quarterbacks are playing at an extremely high level (or were in Brees’ case). Brady’s team might be the most talented. But the cohesion hasn’t been there and Brady has committed many uncharacteristic mental errors this year.

Air Forces

Conference Championship week has often been referred to as the best round of the playoffs. The two teams are the best of their respective conferences but tend to have a level of familiarity that adds both to the strategery of the game as well as the personal investment. Losing is bad enough, losing to a “rival” is unfathomable. In that vein, is there a more exciting potential meeting than the seemingly inevitable one of the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs?

It’s really a matchup of Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes, though they will never be on the field at the same time save for possibly the coin-toss and the post-game handshake. Still, Roethlisberger versus Mahomes is must-see programming at its finest. Mahomes has thrown 30 touchdowns to just two picks with 3497 yards to go with that. Roethlisberger, with his 26 touchdowns and six interceptions, hasn’t generated the same kind of buzz because his team is so well rounded. But he is still throwing touchdowns at his highest rate since 2012 and throwing interceptions at his lowest rate since 2010.

Home field advantage could play a significant part in this one; both locales are notoriously tough for visitors. That’s with fans though. With empty stadiums, the bigger deciding factor could be the defenses. This is where the Steelers could prove to be the kryptonite to Mahomes and the Chiefs’ Superman. Pittsburgh’s defense is first in DVOA, sacks, and scoring. Kansas City ranks 17th in DVOA and 23rd in sacks. They are sixth in scoring, though, so maybe that squares it.

Micro Machines

Remember those fun, tiny little toy cars where the spokesman in the commercial talked like he was hooked up to a caffeine drip? This is kind of like that. Unconventional as they may be, the Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson and the Arizona Cardinals Kyler Murray have proven they can hang with the big boys. Both of these players spent time as the MVP favorite this season. Wilson, who has never even received a first-place vote for the award, had a case for longer than Murray, but the latter was a popular preseason pick for MVP.

The season has been filled with ups and downs for both quarterbacks and franchises. Neither escaped the rash of severe injuries that hit the NFL so hard this season with Seattle losing their top-four running backs for different stretches of the season and Arizona losing stud pass-rusher Chandler Jones. The quarterbacks both had hands in their own undoing, with both having three-interception games at one point or another.

These two have split the series both seasons since Murray entered the league, with Seattle taking the most recent duel in primetime. Playing in what might be the toughest division in professional football, these teams have spent much of the season beating up on each other and that has led to many taking both to task for their flaws. But the NFC is wide open and both of these offenses can hang points on you in a hurry. Seattle is third in scoring and Arizona is eighth.

Picture Perfect Playoff Payoffs

There are just some of the potential matchups that would be worth the price of admission. A playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins would be a throwback to the ’80s and ’90s. If they were healthy, seeing the San Francisco 49ers take on the Tennessee Titans might not be the Super Bowl the league wants. But seeing the game’s greatest rushing system and its greatest runner go at it for the ultimate glory just feels like an ode to its origins. At any rate, we’ll get to see the actual playoff pairings in just a few weeks. Hopefully, the payoff is worth it.

Week 11 Primetime Moneymakers: Like Looking Into a Mirror

After weeks of having at least one stinker on the primetime NFL slate, we finally get treated to great matchups across the board in Week 11. All six teams are in the playoff hunt and two of the games feature divisional opponents. We also have no fewer than four MVP candidates and a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. You could say it’s pretty loaded.

Week 10 was a rough one. We committed a cardinal sin in betting: betting with the heart and not with the mind (looking at you, Chicago Bears), resulting in an 0-3 week. It’s the first winless week of the year and it stings. The record now stands at 8-11. Yuck. It is what it is and we won’t be dissuaded. As usual, there’s money to be made and if anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us!

Primetime Moneymakers: Like Looking in a Mirror

Arizona Cardinals (6-3) at Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

Spread: Seahawks -3

O/U: 57.5

Arizona Cardinal’s (5-4 ATS) Kyler Murray Hail Mary’ed himself back into the MVP race with his late-game heroics in Week 10. A 43-yard heave found stud wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone in the middle of three Buffalo Bills defenders. After starting the season 2-2, the Cardinals have won four of their last five to pull into a tie with their opponent in this very game. Arizona leads the league in total yards, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. They’re also seventh in points per game. And they’re far from one-sided, ranking ninth in scoring defense and have allowed just 23 touchdowns, four off the league-lead.

Russell Wilson has seen his MVP stock dip in recent weeks. He threw 19 touchdowns to just three interceptions through the first five weeks. He’s thrown nine scores to seven picks and lost three fumbles in the four games since. The Seattle Seahawks (5-3 ATS) need Wilson to play perfectly because their defense is as porous as they come. Seattle ranks 32nd in total yards and passing yards allowed. They’re a respectable fourth against the run but are 28th in scoring defense. It’s why they’ve lost three of their last four after starting off 5-0. Letting Russ cook has led to them getting burned.

This is the matchup that started the recent woes for the Seahawks. Tyler Lockett was dominant and D.K. Metcalf famously hawked safety Budda Baker but the Cardinals won 37-34 in overtime.  A Wilson interception essentially sealed that one too. Arizona has won the last two meetings between these two squads after losing the previous three. These two teams are trending in different directions heading into this battle for a leg up in the chase for the NFC West crown. Ride the heater and take the Cardinals plus the points. Speaking of points, expect a lot of them. Arizona has allowed an average of 32.6 PPG over its last three contests while Seattle has allowed 32.7 in their last four.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-3)

Spread: Raiders +8

O/U: 56.5

Led by MVP-frontrunner Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs (6-3 ATS) sit just behind the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers for the best record in the NFL. The Chiefs are first in offense DVOA, per Football Outsiders, tied for first in points per game, and fifth in total yards. Mahomes is third in the NFL with 25 touchdown passes to just one interception. Kansas City may also get wide receiver Sammy Watkins back this week as well. He hasn’t played since Week 5 when these teams last met. They will be without tackle Mitchell Schwartz, however. Their defense is no slouch either. While they rank 14th in defense DVOA, they are sixth in scoring defense, allowing just over 20 PPG.

It’s been about as good of an inaugural season in Sin City as the Las Vegas Raiders (6-3 ATS) are off to their best start since 2016. They finished that season 12-4 but lost to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. Derek Carr was an MVP candidate that season but suffered a broken leg in Week 15. Flash forward and Carr is having the best statistical season of his career while the Raiders offense is eighth in scoring, ninth in DVOA, and 13th in total yards. Their defense is ungood so they rely on a run game ranked fifth in rushing attempts and touchdowns, and seventh in rushing yards to keep them looking average statistically.

Las Vegas pulled off the shocker last time these two met, walking out of] Kansas City with a 40-32 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. The Raiders are 3-1 since that game and have averaged 34 PPG over their last two contests. Too bad for them they are facing an Andy Reid team. His record coming off of extra rest is the stuff of legend. Add in the extra incentive of revenge and this could be a recipe for disaster if, unlike last time, the Raiders fail to establish the run. Look for the Chiefs to be aggressive early to eliminate that threat and protect their 27th ranked (30th in DVOA) run defense. Take K.C. but just moneyline as the Las Vegas ground game could keep this one close. That also makes the under appealing.

Los Angeles Rams (6-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)

Spread: Bucs -4

O/U: 48

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for the Los Angeles Rams ( 5-4 ATS) of late. Despite coming off their bye week to beat the Seahawks, they’re just 2-2 in their last four games after starting the season 4-1 with road losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins. Jared Goff is 12th in passing attempts and 11th in passing yards but has just 13 touchdowns (and six picks) to show for it. L.A. is eighth in rushing and their 14 rushing touchdowns rank second but they’re only 18th in scoring. The Rams defense is second in total yards, third against the pass, and fourth in stopping the run.

Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) are second in total DVOA while he leads the league in pass attempts and sits fourth in pass attempts. This is the Bucs best start since 2010 when they also started 7-3. They finished 10-6 that season but still missed the playoffs. That shouldn’t be an issue this year as they sit behind the 7-2 New Orleans Saints in the NFC South but Drew Brees just went on IR and Taysom Hill is starting his first-ever game in the NFL. The Bucs could easily find themselves in the catbird seat with a win. Tampa also boasts the number one defense in DVOA, though the unit has allowed 26 PPG over the last four games; nearly four points higher than their season average.

L.A. is looking for just its third win this season over a team with a winning record after beating the Chicago Bears a few weeks back in addition to the Seahawks last week. Tampa is still seeking its first. If we look at the season, all three of the Buccaneers losses have been against teams in the top-five in DVOA. Their only win against a team in the top half of the league in defense DVOA is against the Denver Broncos. The Rams are eighth. But Los Angeles is just 2-3 on the road this season while Tampa Bay’s lone loss at home was to the Saints. Both teams are just 2-2 ATS over their last four, so we revert back to home-field advantage (and Goff’s disadvantage). That makes the Bucs the preferred play and with these defenses, hit the under.

We All Want To See It But Can Shaq vs. Cody work?

NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal is no stranger to the world of professional wrestling. Despite making appearances on WCW and WWE programming multiple times the big diesel has never had an official match. Will AEW and Cody Rhodes finally pay-off the fans and O’Neal’s dream, or will it turn into a nightmare?

History

Celebrities and pro wrestling have a long and storied history. On paper, it’s a win-win. Fans feel the excitement of worlds colliding. Seeing an actor, athlete, or personality crossover with a John Cena, Sting, or Roman Reigns creates buzz. For the celebrity, entering the squared circle can fulfill a lifelong dream and create iconic moments. In execution, most matches are heavily gimmicked and are a mixed bag at best. For every windfall, there seem to be two or three disasters when it comes to expectation vs. result. 

The Good

    A celebrity match doesn’t have to be the most technical, the appearance doesn’t even have to be very long, but fans want a satisfying build and payoff. One of the best examples of both has to be Vince McMahon vs. Donald Trump in the battle of the billionaires. Back when Trump was the host of the Apprentice, he and Vince went back and forth on Raw one-upping each other, with Trump famously dropping “thousands of dollars” to the audience on fan appreciation night.

 The feud would culminate at Wrestlemania 23 in a hair vs. hair match Bobby Lashley vs. Umaga with special guest referee Stone Cold Steve Austin. Vince and Umaga lost, and McMahon paid with the loss of his locks. Trump for his part, even took a stunner from Stone Cold, albeit not the prettiest of selling jobs from the current president. 

For a more recent example, Pat McAfee stunned most of the internet wrestling community by having a high quality against NXT superstar Adam Cole at Takeover 30. Many people were doubtful the former punter turned sports entertainer could back up his talk on the mic. In the storyline, McAfee had only two weeks to prepare to fight Cole, despite the limited experience he impressed with his athleticism, charisma, and overall ring awareness.    

The Bad

Most long-term fans of wrestling would rather forget most celebrity appearances and while it’s impossible to list all of them there are a few examples that especially stick out as being excruciatingly bad. Basketball fans will remember the endless self-promotion of the Ball family and Big Baller Brand in 2017. LaVar Ball and his sons LaMelo and Lonzo Ball were featured in an ill-fated segment on the June 26th episode of Raw. 

In one of the worst Miz TV segments, Miz talked with LeVar about the possibility of joining BBB. After awkwardly squabbling with the Ball’s and LaMelo mistakenly saying the N-Word live on air, the wrestler formerly known as Dean Ambrose (now Jon Moxley) broke up the segment by announcing he had joined BBB. 

This year WWE fans were reminded that just because an individual is gifted in traditional sports doesn’t mean that translates well to the ring. Rob Gronkowski, arguably one of the best NFL tight ends of his generation, hosted this year’s Wrestlemania. Gronkowski captured the 24/7 championship but showed little potential in the ring or on the mic. The former Patriot star ended his brief wrestling career when he rejoined former teammate Tom Brady in Tampa after being traded to the Buccaneers.

Will Shaq Work

You either learn from the past or you are doomed to repeat it. This is especially true for Tony Khan and Rhodes in their attempts to recruit the legendary seven-foot plus hooper. Shaq was scheduled to appear in Wrestlemania 33 against the Big Show, but the constant changing of plans “messed it up” according to O’Neal himself. The big Aristotle could also land in the camp of Gronkowski as an athlete that can’t transition to the wrestling world. The now NBA analyst is nearly 20 years older than Gronk and is unlikely at best that he could wrestle a full match one-on-one against Cody and give the fans a satisfying finish. 

If Last week’s dynamite is any indication AEW could see its very first mixed tag match as a promotion. Jade Cargill, a newly signed AEW talent and former college basketball player spoke on behalf of Shaq last Wednesday. She interrupted Rhodes in the center of the ring, and gave a long-winded speech, dubious of Rhode’s claim of being a “giant killer”. The segment was punctuated by a strong Brandi Rhodes promo. A tag match would properly limit O’Neal’s in-ring time while hopefully maintaining the star power. The biggest concern is Cargill who also has limited ring work.

Khan has a tough challenge ahead of himself and several variables are incredibly hard to control. If anyone associated with the feud has to be quarantined for Covid-19 exposure or positivity the entire contest could be postponed. The longer this builds, the more likely something could go wrong. My first reaction is skepticism. So many great ideas AEW has had have fallen by the wayside despite the company and performers’ best efforts. The Matt Hardy debut, championship builds starting and stopping, and Will Hobbs’ push being paused multiple times creates worry and casts doubt.

The optimist in me sees evidence that both Rhodes and Shaq will make this work. Both men are under contract for TNT and have partaken in creative advertising before. Each individual is already invested in this so it will be more difficult to back out of. AEW has already successfully had some notable star appearances including a segment in which Chris Jericho brawled with Mike Tyson. Plenty of pitfalls await this feud, but AEW has a chance to make an iconic moment with Shaq if they play their cards right.    

Week 8 Primetime Moneymakers: Highly Favored

Another week in the NFL meant another string of brutal injuries. Odell Beckham is out for the season after tearing his ACL and Kenyan Drake will miss time with an ankle injury. We also got word on Wednesday that the Houston Texans shut down their facilities following a player having a positive COVID test. Fortunately, they are on their bye week so we should avoid any rescheduling. That’s assuming the Green Bay Packers, their Week 7 opponent, don’t have any positives pop up.

We broke even last week, bringing us to 4-6. It’s a feat only possible due to the flexing of Bucs-Raiders out of primetime. That game and the Thursday game (Giants-Eagles) came through against the spread. The Cardinals made a statement over the Seahawks, as did the Rams over the Bears. But those just added to the loss column for our purposes. Nailing the total has been a challenge too, but we still hit .500 there too. As usual, there’s money to be made so we might as well make it!

Primetime Moneymakers Week 8: Highly Favored

Atlanta Falcons (1-6) @ Carolina Panthers (3-4)

Spread:  Panthers -2.5

O/U: 51

What more can you say about the Atlanta Falcons (2-5 ATS)? Rarely is scoring the go-ahead touchdown a recipe for disaster. But that’s what happened after Todd Gurley fell into the end zone against the Lions. Atlanta’s 27th-ranked (DVOA) defense allowed Matthew Stafford and the Lions to march 75 yards in five plays and the game-winning touchdown. Their pass defense has been particularly atrocious, ranking 32nd in yards and touchdowns allowed.

The Carolina Panthers have been a mixed bag this season. They are 3-4, which isn’t great. But they’ve only beaten one team with a winning record. Teddy Bridgewater is second in the league in completion percentage but has only thrown eight touchdowns to five picks. Mike Davis has filled in admirably with Christian McCaffrey out of the lineup. But the dynamic back has an outside shot at playing in this one. He missed the first meeting between these two teams, which the Panthers won 23-16.

It’s almost impossible to put money on the Falcons. They have blown leads in every way imaginable. After getting a brief respite in interim-head coach Raheem Morris’ first game; a 40-23 washing of the likewise bombing Minnesota Vikings. Carolina’s offense is 10th in DVOA (Atlanta is 23rd) and their defense is 23rd (27th for Atlanta). There could be a lot of points put up, but the under hit last time they met. Avoid the spread and take the Panthers moneyline. The under is also appealing, though the offenses are far superior to the defenses in this one.

Dallas Cowboys (2-5) – Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1)

Spread: Eagles -7.5

O/U: 43.5

What’s more ridiculous? That the Philadelphia Eagles play in primetime in back-to-back weeks? Or the Dallas Cowboys getting another primetime game at all? Whatever, we’ll hold our nose and take a swing. Philly (2-5 ATS) eeked out a victory against the wayward New York Giants. Carson Wentz threw just one (or fewer) interception for just the third time this season and the Eagles (25th in DVOA) ascended to first in the NFC East in the process. Now they’ll get a shell of the Cowboys.

The D in ‘Big D’ must stand for despair. After losing star quarterback Dak Prescott to a gruesome ankle injury a couple of weeks ago. Dallas (0-7 ATS) saw replacement Andy Dalton take a cheap shot from Washington Football Team linebacker Jonathan Bostic. He’s now in concussion protocol and, as of Wednesday, wasn’t practicing. In steps rookie seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci at quarterback. He took as many sacks as he had completed passes last week and the Eagles pass-rush is still fierce. They’re third in sacks and fifth in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate.

Listen, nothing has been easy for the Eagles this season. They have been one of the most inconsistent and injury-riddled outfits in the NFL. This one, though, might be the gimme-est of gimmes. A third-string quarterback making his first NFL start playing behind a porous offensive line and backed by an even more porous defense is food for the battle-tested Eagles. Dallas hasn’t covered all season and you shouldn’t expect them to now. The Cowboys likely struggles should also suppress the score here, putting the under in play.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2) – New York Giants (1-6)

Spread: Giants +10.5

O/U: 46

Antonio Brown made headlines this week when he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3 ATS), further solidifying the deepest stable of weapons in the NFL. Tom Brady is having a throwback campaign and has thrown 18 touchdowns (second in the NFL) to just four picks. Brown won’t play in this one but the Bucs boast the sixth-best offensive DVOA without him. Add that to their defense (first in DVOA) and it’s a tall task for any opponent.

Daniel Jones has regressed this season. Granted, New York (4-3 ATS) has suffered as devastating injuries as any team. Saquon Barkley comes to mind. But Jones is throwing fewer touchdowns and more interceptions and still has a fumbling problem. The Giants are 30th in offensive DVOA. That defense (19th in DVOA) won’t be able to save them. They were able to keep it close against the Eagles last week. That probably won’t be the case against the Bucs.

To put it in no uncertain terms, this should be a blowout. Tampa has scored 23-plus points in every game but one while the Giants have allowed 22-plus in four of seven contests. New York was able to move the ball and even put up points against the Eagles. Tampa, the number one overall team in total DVOA, is a different animal entirely. 10.5 might not be enough for the Giants to cover this week, friends.

NFL Week 5 Primetime Moneymakers

Entering Week 5 of the NFL season we can finally form accurate opinions. Ones based on current data and not rely on what we saw last season and expected to see in the preseason that never was. We get a full slate after having the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers go into forced bye weeks following outbreaks of COVID-19. Tennessee isn’t out of the woods yet and there have been other positives from New England to Las Vegas. As of now, though, it’s all systems go this week.

Betting has been tough this year. Injuries have reshuffled depth charts across the league and no preseason had us guessing early on. Hitting on winners has been tough enough, betting against the spread that much tougher. That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to try though! With that, let’s get into this week’s primetime moneymakers; bets on (you guessed it) primetime games that can be bet separately or parlayed but should win you some money either way!

NFL Primetime Moneymakers Week 5

Tompa Bay Gronkaneers

Tampa Bay (3-1) comes into this game feeling solid after coming back from down 17 to beat the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 4, extending their winning streak to three games. Their opponent, the likewise 3-1 Chicago Bears, come in feeling…not so hot. They had made a living on down-to-the-wire finishes the first three weeks just to have that halted by the Indianapolis Colts.

Tampa is 9th in passing yards and averaging 30 PPG on the season; 32 PPG over the last three weeks. Chicago comes in averaging 21 PPG, but just 14 PPG at Soldier Field where they’re allowing 16 PPG. Tampa, for its part, is putting up 25.5 PPG on the road, but that was against far less formidable defenses. Brady has thrown a pick in all but one game this season and has had two returned for touchdowns.

The money line isn’t paying here, but it is a gimme. Maybe you can parlay it with some riskier bets to add a little extra to your slip. The spread though, 3.5, is low if we are to believe what we have seen from both. This game shouldn’t be close, despite all of Tampa’s injuries, if the last four weeks hold true. Added to that, Brady is 5-0 against the Bears and there are cracks in Chicago’s once impenetrable defense. Take the Bucs and the points, and with a total set at 44.5, take the under in what should be mostly battle of two solid defenses.

Bonus Player Prop: Rob Gronkowski to score (+165) – The Bears have allowed three passing touchdowns this season. All three have been to tight ends, a position Brady has long had an affinity for, and where the Bucs just lost O.J. Howard to a torn Achilles. Ronald Jones has a solid chance too with Leonard Fournette doubtful.

Let’s Get DangeRuss

Did you know the undefeated Seattle Seahawks (4-0) are a pristine 4-0 against the spread this season? That’s important to remember as they prepare to face the Minnesota Vikings (1-3) with the largest spread to date at +7. Minny (2-2 ATS) is averaging 32 PPG on the road and the Seahawks defense just gave up 23 points to the woeful Miami Dolphins. That was the fewest amount the Seahawks have allowed this season. Long story short, this ain’t the Legion of Boom. Minnesota’s once-mighty defense isn’t much better off, allowing over 31 PPG this year.

The Seahawks are letting Russ cook and the MVP candidate is first in passing touchdowns, first in completion percentage, and third in passing yards. There’s a whole host of other categories he tops but you get the point. Minnesota is giving up the fourth-most yardage on the season and has allowed seven passing scores, including two last week to Deshaun Watson. Kirk Cousins is going to have to be at his best to get the win this week.

If you throw away the clamps Minnesota got put on them in Week 2 by the Colts the Vikings are putting up over 31 PPG so the over (57.5) is square in play here, something Seattle has hit in each of its last three games. The spread is a little too optimistic. Take Minnesota +7 and pray Kirk Cousins plays like he did in Week 4 and not Weeks 2-3 because the Seahawks are third against the run this year.

March or Charge?

Maybe the lack of preseason was hindering New Orleans Saints (2-2) quarterback Drew Brees because has heated up over the last two weeks, completing over 78 percent of his passes and throwing five touchdowns to just one pick against Green Bay and Detroit. The Los Angeles Chargers (2-2) defense is better on the backend than either of those teams. Even with all their injuries, they are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete around 65 percent of their passes though they have given up eight touchdowns.

Alvin Kamara should star again in this one with Michael Thomas still nursing an ankle injury and the Saints having a bye next week. L.A. is allowing 4.5 YPC to running backs but have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. Luckily, the Chargers are also giving up the sixth-most catches to the position and two scores through the air.

Don’t get it twisted though, L.A. boasts the third-ranked red zone defense while New Orleans is dead last. So while the Chargers are down several pieces, they can still move the ball and will have scoring opportunities and have enough defensive talent to stall drives in scoring position. That makes L.A. getting +7.5 points more appealing and it helps that the Chargers are 3-1 ATS while New Orleans is 2-2 ATS. The under also feels in play, though there isn’t much confidence in that statement. The Saints have hit the over in every game but the Chargers have hit the under in three out of four.