With just two weeks to go, we are in the thick of the NFL playoff chase, but with some games this weekend featuring two teams out of the playoff race, it’s important to remember that the NFL odds don’t differentiate between betting on two 10-4 teams or two 4-10 teams. The money you can win is the same whether the players are trying their hardest or not. So, let’s try to find the best bets this week, whether the teams are playing for the playoffs or for pride.
It’s easy to be swayed by recent results, but the fact that the Colts have won three in a row, while the Steelers have lost three in a row is not the only reason why the Colts are the play here. Both teams have starting QB’s from the 2004(!) draft class, but while Philip Rivers is having a late-season resurgence, Ben Roethlisberger appears unable to complete a pass over 5 yards, despite having one of the best receiver corps in the league. In fact, Big Ben’s 6.2 yards per attempt ranks 31st among NFL QBs, while Rivers is 9th at 7.7.
The Colts have not yet clinched a playoff spot, while the Steelers are already in the postseason and can clinch the AFC North with one more win. Pittsburgh need to show you some sign of life before you bet on them again, so with a small line the clear play of the Steelers vs Colts is Indiana at -2.
We’re going to run with this Giants under streak until Vegas picks up on it. The Giants have played six straight games that have gone under this number. They have played three games all season that have had 45 points scored. No one has scored more than 27 points in a Giants game since Week 5. Those streaks keep getting longer but the Giants over/unders keep staying in the mid-40’s. Here are the totals of Giants games since the bye: 36, 29, 33, 26.
While it’s true the Ravens are averaging 40 points per game over their past three contests, that included games with the two worst defenses in the NFL, Jacksonville and Dallas. New York are an unstoppable force of low-scoring games, so under 45 in the Giants vs Ravens is a solid number. but you can also get the under at 44.5 points for -110 in some books, if you’d prefer a little more risk.
Here’s a fun fact: the Bears have seven wins, while the Jaguars have one win, but both teams each have exactly one win by 7 or more points this season. That seems particularly pertinent for a game with a 7.5 spread. The Bears 7+ win did come two weeks ago against Houston, but they’re also only three weeks removed from a home loss to the Lions.
Against other NFC North opponents recently, the Jaguars lost by 4 at Green Bay, and by 3 in overtime in Minnesota. The only other non-playoff team the Jaguars have played since their bye was Houston, who only beat Jacksonville by 2. Ask yourself this question: are you comfortable betting on Mitch Trubisky to cover a 7.5 point spread in a game against the Jaguars?
The Jets won their Super Bowl last week (while the Jets fans lost theirs), while the Browns are playing for a playoff spot. By a wide margin the Jets best player in their stunning victory over the Rams last week was Quinnen Williams, and he’s now out for the season. Meanwhile, the Browns have stayed relatively healthy since the Odell Beckham Jr. injury and have far too much firepower for the Jets to handle, having scored 103 points in their past 3 games. The Giants offense, which, like every offense in the NFL, is better than the Jets attack, only scored 6 points last week on a stingy Cleveland defense.
The Jets have failed to move the ball against the better AFC teams, scoring an anemic 46 points in 6 games against the teams in the AFC playoff picture, for an average of under 8 points per game. You can find the line for the Browns vs Jets at 9.5 in some places, but you should feel comfortable with giving 10 points and getting the lower -106 number.
When two teams are even, take the points. The Packers are on a four game winning streak, but haven’t played a team with a better than .500 record during that stretch. In fact, the Packers have only played three teams with a winning record all season, and are 1-2 in those games, beating the Saints in Week 3, while getting hammered by the Bucs, and losing to the Titans’ division mates, the Colts. The Titans are 3-3 in games against winning teams and have three wins by 19 or more points in their past four games. It’s not clear that the Packers are better than the Titans, and Lambeau Field will be empty, so take the 3.5 points happily in our lock of the week.