Here we are, the final week of the regular season. Crazy how football season just flies by. This is a tricky week for bettors and experts alike as many teams ticketed for the postseason may opt to rest their regulars and buy them an extra week of good health and much-needed recovery heading into January. Last week was another strong week overall posting a 9-6-1 record against the spread with a few near misses in lines that ended up shrinking like the Browns game, so hopefully you bet it on the back-end. I also went 13-3 straight up marking another great week of picking winners only missing on Baltimore, Jacksonville and the Packers.
A lot of playoff scenarios on the line this week and home field to be decided in the AFC, also a playoff-like game on Sunday night where the winner goes on to play the No. 3 seed and the loser goes home. Time to dive in.
All lines courtesy of Bovada
Miami Dolphins (7-8) at Buffalo Bills (5-10): BUF -4.5, Confidence: 8
The Dolphins have looked flat since they won their Super Bowl back at Hard Rock against the Patriots with the “Miami Miracle“. Now they are set to move on from Ryan Tannehill and maybe even Adam Gase after the season. Say what you want about the Bills and their lack of talent, but they fight and play tough especially at home. Josh Allen will run all over the team from South Beach playing in upstate New York and the Bills should roll here.
Detroit Lions (5-10) at Green Bay Packers (6-8-1): GB -8, Confidence: 7
Detroit has quit on this season. Just look at their recent results, they are sunk. Now they have to travel into Lambeau to play Aaron Rodgers and the Packers who still play their best football at home. Rodgers still wants to show everyone why the Pack made the right call firing McCarthy, Green Bay wins by double digits.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) at Houston Texans (10-5): HOU -7, Confidence: 6
The confidence is a little lower than usual here because we don’t know exactly what Bill O’ Brien‘s plan is. The Texans technically still have home field on the line here, but they need help from the Jets against the Patriots in Foxboro. Blake Bortles is back under center for the Jags, but that defense won’t have any motivation to go into Houston and win the game. Watson pulls away in the first half. Take the Texans.
New York Jets (4-11) at New England Patriots (10-5): NYJ +13.5, Confidence: 7
I had the Bills last week and they covered, albeit a garbage time score, but a back-door cover does the job just the same. The Patriots will employ a similar type of gameplan this week leaning on the running game and defense at Gillette Stadium, before getting a much needed bye week before the divisional round. Sam Darnold looked great last week in a loss and the Jets will get a late back-door cover here in garbage time against Brian Hoyer who should play most of the second half.
Carolina Panthers (6-9) at New Orleans Saints (13-2): NO -7.5, Confidence: 9
The Panthers are starting undrafted rookie free agent QB Kyle Allen on Sunday in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, it’s the first time in five years a team has started a QB who didn’t receive a combine invite. The Panthers are going to end the season with eight straight losses and are likely to rest star Christian McCaffrey here as well after he has shouldered the load all season. Whether Brees plays a significant amount of time or not means very little here to me as Teddy Bridgewater and Tayson Hill could still two-piece this Panthers unit by two touchdowns at home with even half of those weapons around them.
Dallas Cowboys (9-6) at New York Giants (5-10): DAL +6, Confidence: 8
The Cowboys are locked in for the 4 seed heading into the playoffs. That said, last time they rested starters they were quickly dispatched in the playoffs and I bet Jerry doesn’t want his team to limp in at 9-7 after a loss to rival Big Blue. Dallas gets a big lead led by the defense and Zeke then steps off the gas in the second half. Cowboys win and cover in what could be Eli’s final start at Metlife.
Atlanta Falcons (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10): ATL -1, Confidence: 6
Matt Ryan and the Falcons are driven to end this abysmal season on a high note and the offense has looked good over the last few weeks. That should be no different this Sunday as they travel to Tampa to face a bad Bucs defense. This is basically a pick ’em because Tampa has hung around with good teams under Jameis Winston who is playing to remain the franchise QB while Dirk Koetter is fighting for his job. The Falcons are just the much better team despite their obvious defensive flaws and will win and cover. Free bet: take the over of 51 here.
Cleveland Browns (7-7-1) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6): CLE +5.5, Confidence: 8
The Browns are a good team. Baker reminds us of that every time he steps foot on the field. Had they moved on from Hue earlier in the season maybe they would control their own fate to win the division here. Nevertheless, the Ravens are a hungry and great defensive team playing sound football with Lamar Jackson as their dual-threat QB. The Browns will do their best to knock off the Ravens at home and that’s why I’ll take the points, but Ravens win late. Difference here in the coaching advantage Baltimore has in John Harbaugh and his staff.
Oakland Raiders (4-11) at Kansas City Chiefs (11-4): KC -14, Confidence: 9
The Raiders looked great last week at home in what was likely the final game in Oakland. Now they have to travel into Arrowhead to play a Chiefs team that can secure home field in the AFC with a win and Patrick Mahomes is looking to wrap up that MVP award. He will throw for 4+ TD’s in the first half as KC rolls to home field. Raiders secure a top-3 pick in the draft.
Chicago Bears (11-4) at Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1): MIN -4.5, Confidence: 7
The Vikings control their own destiny this week. A win and they are locked in and get to play the same Bears team next week just in Chicago. There are two reasons I like Minnesota in this spot. First, this is why they paid Kirk Cousins all this money to go win a game like this to get into the postseason. He needs this game and the Vikings are at home with everyone on offense healthy and rearing to go. The second reason is Matt Nagy isn’t going to show anything here offensively he could use the next week. You leave the bullets in the chamber especially considering you could play this same team next week. I think they would rather play Cousins in a big spot at home in the playoffs over the defending champion Eagles led by Nick Foles and his magic, too. Minnesota wins and is in.
Cincinnati Benagals (6-9) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1): PIT -14.5, Conference: 7
This is a huge line to swallow here, but I’ll take the Steelers in this spot at home. They will come out firing and destroy the Jeff Driskel led Bengals putting up 40-plus while hoping for a Browns bail-out win on the back-end. I don’t think they get the help from Cleveland to get in, but this team is so offensively gifted at home I’ll eat the points here for a motivated Steelers team.
Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) at Washington Redskins (7-8): PHI -7, Confidence: 8
The Eagles are going to win this game in Washington. Did you see them pull off the win last week against the Texans? They want to get in and have NicK Foles back under center with the offense firing better than they have all season. They should make quick work of Josh Johnson and the beat-up skins in route to their win and cover, I just don’t see them getting the help from a Vikings loss to get in.
Los Angeles Chargers (11-4) at Denver Broncos (6-9): DEN +6.5, Confidence: 7
Chargers are pretty much locked in as the 5 seed. They would need a Chiefs loss to the Raiders to get home field and a bye and I don’t see that happening. They may look to rest starters in the second half and in Denver against a QB fighting to remain John Elway‘s guy, I’ll take the points here. This one is difficult to call because we don’t know if Rivers will play out the string, I’ll take the Chargers to win a close game, but even a broncos win won’t save Vance Joseph‘s job at this point.
San Francisco 49ers (4-11) at Los Angeles Rams (12-3): SF +10, Confidence: 7
While the Rams say they aren’t resting starters, I expect their core guys to only play the first half. Add that to a 49ers team that still plays hard snap to whistle under Kyle Shanahan and I’ll take the niners and the points here. Nick Mullens should have a solid game and while I’ll take the Rams to win, it’ll be a one-score game.
Arizona Cardinals (3-12) at Seattle Seahawks (9-6): SEA -13.5, Confidence: 9
Seattle says they aren’t resting starters in Week 17 and I fully believe them. This is a different Seahawks team than we have seen in some time and want to head into their playoff matchup with the Cowboys with the most amount of confidence possible. 10-6 sounds like a massive over-achievement compared to how we looked at this team in August. Credit to Pete Carroll and his guys will roll on Sunday at home for the final time against a Cardinals team that will clean house and wind up with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Sunday Night: Indianapolis Colts (9-6) at Tennessee Titans (9-6): TEN +3.5, Confidence: 8
Win or go home. The Colts weren’t supposed to be this good under first-year coach Frank Reich and a staff he was handed from Josh McDaniels before he spurned the Colts. Andrew Luck is healthy and the offensive line is keeping a clean pocket and not letting him get touched. They have a good young defense anchored by rookie Darius Leonard that will look to carry them into the playoffs. So with all that why am I taking the Titans?
A highly emotional game favors the home crowd and the better defense. First year head coach Mike Vrabel is a motivator and can get his team up for big games, see the Titans emphatic wins over the Cowboys on Monday Night Football and against the Patriots for further proof. Marcus Mariota practiced yesterday and is believed to be ready to go. The Titans will lean on the running game and Derrick Henry who has been a monster in recent weeks and their outstanding defense. Rookie Rashaan Evans will have a big game up the middle with the corners on the outside stunting the Indy passing game. Titans win a hard fought low scoring game, 20-17.
I don’t know if you heard, but there’s a few massive college bowl games this weekend including the college football playoff semi-final matchups. I will give my picks for those two games and a few bonus bowl picks for this weekend heading into New Year’s Eve.
Peach Bowl: Florida (No. 10) vs. Michigan (No. 7): MICH -6, Confidence: 9
I may be a little biased here as a resident Michigan football fan, but Jim Harbaugh‘s boys are going to bring the Gators to the wood-shed. The Wolverines will be without three top stars heading into the game in LB Devin Bush, DL Rashan Gary and RB Karan Higdon are all sitting out as they prepare for the NFL Draft, but I still love Michigan here especially with Shea Patterson under center who announced he will return for his senior season. Florida has a solid defense and Felipe Franks has been much improved as the Florida QB, but the boys from Ann Arbor will send a message that they were one of the best teams in college football this season.
Cotton Bowl (CFB Semi-Final): Notre Dame (No. 3) vs. Clemson (No. 2): ND +12.5, Confidence: 7
Two unbeaten teams meet in Arlington on Saturday afternoon at 4 PM ET to decide who will play in the National Championship game. The headline here is three starters for the Clemson Tigers are suspended for the game after testing positive for traces of a banned substance. While coach Dabo Swinney will do a great job of emploring the next man up mentality, it will still linger with the ACC Champions. Ian Book has done a great job for the Irish and they have been able to run the ball well all season, I like them to hang tough with Clemson for the entire game where this one will likely be decided on the last possession. I am pulling for the Irish in this one, but think the Tigers win late to get back to the title game. Brian Kelly’s team getting this many points even with over a month off, is too tempting here, I’ll grab those 12.5 points.
Orange Bowl: Oklahoma (No. 4) vs. Alabama (No. 1): ALA -14, Confidence: 8
Kyler Murray won the Heisman, congrats to him on a terrific season. Lincoln Riley has done a great job in his two seasons as head coach at OU, but he’s in way over his head here. Their defense is atrocious and Nick Saban’s boys will come out for the kill from start to finish. They will pound the rock all day and play sound defense with all those future first rounders on that side of the ball. I’ll swallow the two touchdowns here even with the health of Tua in question, Hurts could start and play the whole game and they’d win by 20.
Citrus Bowl: Kentucky (No. 14) vs. Penn State (No. 12): PSU -7, Confidence: 9
I’m a Big Ten guy through and through and in this particular matchup I get a battle-tested Penn State team under coach James Franklin and only have to swallow a touchdown against a basketball school? Slam dunk, I’ll take the free money.
Rose Bowl: Washington (No. 9) vs. Ohio State (No. 10): OSU -7, Confidence: 9
This will be Urban Meyer‘s final game as head coach for the Buckeyes. Need I say more? Dwayne Haskins is likely ticketed for the first round of the draft and wants one final showcase evaluators can put on tape, why not light it up in the Rose Bowl against a Pac-12 defense. As much as I admire the work of Coach Petersen for the Huskies way out west, they can’t hang with the Big Ten size and dominance of the Ohio State defense loaded with future NFL stars. Bcukeyes win comfortably.