By Brien O’Donal
The time has come to start looking at who will be playing the hardest for playoff seeding and who has recognized their fate and might be improving their draft order. There are some interesting matchups this week that will can make the long shots even longer, but victories for them would really shake things up. Let’s take a look at what might happen and pick some winners.
Odds are courtesy of mybookie.lv on Wednesday night.
Colts (3-11) at Ravens (8-6)- Saturday 3:30 p.m. CT; NFL Network
Ravens -13 1/2, O/U 41
The Ravens have a playoff ticket to punch and they will do it by rolling over the Colts at home. Normally I have trouble with numbers like this but the Ravens have found a way to open up their offense lately with the performance of Alex Collins in the ground game. Jeremy Maclin might be out but I see that as a positive because I think Mike Wallace is better than him anyways. On a Saturday game with playoff implications on the line I will take the Ravens at this number. But I won’t take the over.
Vikings (11-3) at Packers (7-7)- Saturday 7:30 p.m. CT; NBC
Vikings -9, O/U 40 1/2
Carson Wentz is out and the Vikings have to be smelling blood in the water. Home field advantage would be a huge plus for Minnesota because that could have every game, including the Super Bowl played in their stadium. The Packers will once again be without Aaron Rodgers and that means they will have to run the ball a lot into the teeth of the Vikings defense. Not wise. But if lessons are to be learned, I saw what happened to the Steelers earlier this year when they were expected to win by a bunch and the Packers covered. This is a divisional game so I will say that the Vikings win this game, but the Packers are my bet at +9 and I will pick the over 40 1/2.
Lions (8-6) at Bengals (5-9)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
Lions -4 1/2, O/U 43 1/2
The Lions are scratching and clawing their way to a wild card spot. They need every win they can get. The Bengals are playing like trash right now and this should be an easy win for the Lions. This number suggests they will win by at least a touchdown and I believe it. I will take the Lions at -4 1/2 but the way the Bengals have been operating on offense lately I will take the under.
Dolphins (6-8) at Chiefs (8-6)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
Chiefs -10 1/2, O/U 43 1/2
The Chiefs might have righted their ship and look to be getting it in gear for the playoffs, or at least a shot at the AFC West. The Dolphins–after all this time–still haven’t found a solid identity and now are playing a game on the road against a team that can be well rounded when it really gets going. But the way the Dolphins handled the Patriots not that long ago, I know they are capable of good things when they want to. For this one I will take the Chiefs to win, but my betting money will be on the Dolphins at +10 1/2. I will take the under.
Bills (8-6) at Patriots (11-3)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
Patriots -11 1/2, O/U 47
I feel like a sucker. I doubted the Patriots when their odds were double digits more than once and they covered every time. When I did decide to go with the big number they burned me by getting beat by the Dolphins. I got them at -3 last week and although they won, it wasn’t the outcome I wanted. Now they are back at a double digit number against a team that is still fighting for their playoff lives and is also a divisional foe. Tom Brady has been an MVP candidate and always seems to lead his team to victory. He is playing at home so there has to be a little bit of a bump. Hesitantly, I will take the Patriots at 11 1/2 but the Bills are seriously struggling on offense and their defense can, at times, be enough so I will take the under.
Browns (0-14) at Bears (4-10)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
Bears -6 1/2, O/U 38
If ever there was a chance for the Browns to win a game this is it. I didn’t buy into the hype when people said they could beat the Packers. But I will buy in when people say they can beat the Bears. That is why when I see the Bears favored by more than a field goal I have to be skeptical. I will still pick them to win the game because I think the Browns will finish the season 0-16 but my money will be on the Browns at +6 1/2 and I will take the under as well.
Buccaneers (4-10) at Panthers (10-4)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
Panthers -10, O/U 46 1/2
The Panthers just took down Aaron Rodgers and a Packers team hanging onto a slim playoff hope. Their defense came up big and since the Buccaneers are inconsistent on offense this should be an easy victory for the Panthers. I expect that their defense will give them a 10 point cushion they hold onto. I have the Panthers at -10 and I will take the over 46 1/2.
Falcons (9-5) at Saints (10-4)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
Saints -6, O/U 52 1/2
What should I think of this one? The Saints had a bad game. Do I think that will continue? No. The Falcons cut it close. Do I think that will continue? Yes. But these two teams really know how to battle each other and they both play indoors so the playing field is only about the crowd in the Superdome. Two weeks ago in Atlanta the Falcons got lucky with a pick to end it. Now the Saints are at home where they do pretty well. I don’t believe it will be the shootout everyone expects but the score will be enough to get over 52 1/2. As for the spread, I am going out on a limb and put my money on the Falcons at +6.
Broncos (5-9) at Redskins (6-8)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
Redskins -3, O/U 40 1/2
No idea who to believe here. A lot was expected of these teams at the beginning of the year and neither have lived up to them. A field goal seems to be the right margin for a home team facing someone with it’s own set of problems. I will take it. I will bet on the Redskins at -3 and not look back. I will take the over here because it’s just low enough to entice me to bite.
Rams (10-4) at Titans (8-6)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; Fox
Rams -7, O/U 47 1/2
After what the Rams did to the Seahawks last week, should there be any doubt as to their offensive abilities? I don’t think so. The Titans are falling apart and I don’t see them as much of a threat to hand the Rams another loss. Los Angeles is so well balanced right now that I can’t see them playing a close game. I have the Rams at -7 and I will go with the over on this one.
Chargers (7-7) at Jets (5-9)- Sunday 12:00 p.m. CT; CBS
Chargers -6 1/2, O/U 42 1/2
I really thought the Chargers were going to win last week and they let me down. I don’t think they’ll do the same this week because the Jets lost their big chance at winning any more games when they lost their quarterback. I think Phillip Rivers has a bounce back game this week and the Chargers get more than a touchdown lead and keep it. I don’t know how I feel about the total in this one. The Chargers could blow the lid off of it and make it a garbage time cover but I doubt it. I will take the under.
Jaguars (10-4) at 49ers (4-10)- Sunday 3:05 p.m. CT; CBS
Jaguars -4 1/2, O/U 42
What can I say about Jimmy Garoppolo that hasn’t already been said? The guy has done wonders for the 49ers. Do I think it will help them against Jacksonville? No. He has won with his arm and they have the best pass defense in the league. They should be able to shut him down and focus on stopping an ineffective Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida. Also, if you haven’t been watching Blake Bortles lately, maybe you should. Doug Marrone has him playing at a high level and he might be rising to the occasion. I will take them to cover 4 1/2 points in this one and I will take the over too.
Seahawks (8-6) at Cowboys (8-6)- Sunday 3:25 p.m. CT; Fox
Cowboys -5, O/U 47
Ezekiel Elliot is back and the Seahawks just got their butts handed to them at home against the Rams. All of that seems like the Cowboys should be favored to win. I don’t know though. The Seahawks are still a good team and I expect them to come back with a tough game on the road to save their playoff chances. But the Cowboys are fighting for a shot at the postseason too and they are playing at home. I won’t take a 5 point spread. My money will be on the Seahawks at +5 but I will go with the under 47 total.
Giants (2-12) at Cardinals (6-8)- Sunday 3:25 p.m. CT; Fox
Cardinals -3 1/2, O/U 40 1/2
Yeah, the Cardinals should win this one but maybe the Giants have some life left. This is one of those point spreads that seems to be just based on the home team. The Cardinals are going back to Drew Stanton at quarterback, the better on their terrible backups. I will go ahead and bet on the Cardinals at -3 1/2 and I have a feeling this one is an under play.
Steelers (11-3) at Texans (4-10)- Monday 3:30 p.m. CT; NBC, NFL Network, Amazon Prime
Steelers -9, O/U 44
Terrible. This is just terrible. It might have sounded sexy in the preseason but it certainly isn’t now. I write articles covering the Texans for this site so I will have to watch this. After how the Steelers lost last week they have to be coming into this one with a vengeance and they will take it out on Houston. I have to believe that even without Antonio Brown they should win this game by more than 10 points. I don’t like this total. The Texans defense can easily give up a lot of points like they did against Jacksonville last week or the Steelers could decide just to win by controlling the clock. I’m going to bet on a total under 44. Call it a hunch.
Raiders (6-8) at Eagles (12-2)- Monday 7:30 p.m. CT; ESPN
Eagles -9, O/U 47 1/2
Nope. Not buying into Nick Foles two weeks in a row. He may have gotten lucky against the Giants but he won’t have the same luck now. The Raiders are going to frustrate him all day with their pass rush and he won’t be the same. I still think they will win the game because he proved he can do just enough but I will bet on the Raiders +9. I will hit the under here. Foles will regress but his defense will bail him out.