3 games for contest players to watch

December 14, 2021 06:08 PM
kannon

If you tend to be an underdog bettor or you are a sportsbook, Week 14 in the NFL was not good as favorites went 12-2 SU and 11-3 ATS. This included big favorites, too, such as Chargers (-9), Chiefs (-10), Titans (-8.5), Seahawks (-9), Cowboys (-6.5), Broncos (-12.5) and Packers (-12). Pretty crazy, and all but the Cowboys got home with nary a sweat.

Most bettors got paid and hundreds of contest players had perfect 5-0 weeks. Of the 23 remaining contestants in Circa Survivor, no one was eliminated. Interestingly, the Top 5 consensus plays in the Westgate SuperContest and Circa Millions went 1-4, so for the many players who had big weeks, they made huge leaps on the majority of the field.

After 14 weeks, my top-rated teams are as follows:

1. Buccaneers

2. Cardinals

3. Patriots

4. Cowboys

5. Bills

6. Rams

7. Chiefs

8. 49ers

9. Packers

10. Colts

Four of those teams are double-digit favorites in Week 15, and San Francisco is close at -9 over the Falcons. The Cowboys and the Cardinals are laying double digits on the road. The Patriots, winners of seven in a row, are short underdogs on the road at Indianapolis. Both teams are off byes, and the homestanding Colts have seen the early money.

Early this season, we saw quite a separation between the haves and the have-nots. It seemed to even out in the first part of the season’s second half but reverted in Week 14. How will it go in Week 15? Have the books adjusted their numbers with the expectation that bettors will gravitate toward big favorites again off what we saw last week?

It could set up as a good week for contrarian plays if one is figuring on the dogs coming back with some bark after getting kicked to the curb in Week 14. Most bettors lined their pockets when the favorites came through last week, and my guess is they will be inclined to ride the wave and back the big bullies again.

With four weeks left in contest play, if one is teetering on the edge of contention, Week 15 could make for a timely gamble. A bad week could kill your season, but a big week might put you firmly in the cash with only three weeks to go.

Early in the week, I have my eye on two underdogs and one favorite.

Seattle Seahawks (+ 5) at Los Angeles Rams

This line opened at 7 in favor of Los Angeles and has been bet down pretty quickly. First, this is a same-season revenge game for the Seahawks, who fell 26-17 at home to the Rams in Week 5 when Russell Wilson dislocated his finger. One would have to think Seattle would like to make amends. Second, the Rams come off a big same-season revenge win of their own in beating Arizona on Monday night. They’re on a short week and an outright win as an underdog, now into the role of favorites. Lastly, not long before kickoff in Arizona, the Rams were hit with COVID-19 news, losing key players like Jalen Ramsey and Tyler Higbee. The rest of the team rallied and put up a huge effort for the 30-23 win. Reality may set in now in the follow-up contest if Ramsey and Higbee are still unavailable Sunday. Taking as many points as one can get with Seattle looks like a good situational play.

New Orleans Saints (+ 11) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Yes, it will be same-season revenge for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, but the Tampa Bay staff and players have to know this is a much different Saints team due to injuries. They are not nearly the same team that beat the Bucs 36-27 in Week 8, and that is reflected in the line. New Orleans was a 4-point home underdog in the previous game. Now the Saints are getting a full touchdown more on the road? If the Saints’ home-field advantage is worth 2 points, that made them 6-point dogs on a neutral field in Week 8. If Tampa Bay’s home-field advantage is worth 2 points, that would make the Bucs a 9-point favorite here. Though New Orleans has been battered by injuries, the adjustment seems too large. The Buccaneers lead the NFC South by four games. Their remaining opponents are the Saints, Panthers, Jets and Panthers again. They just came off a very intense overtime win over a top-notch opponent in the Buffalo Bills. If the Bucs are going to have one final slip before the postseason, it looks like this would be it.

Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) at Chicago Bears

The Bears are definitely one of the worst teams in the league — 28th in yards per play on offense, 29th in third-down conversions, 31st in defensive passer rating, 27th in red-zone offense and 31st in sacks allowed. That final stat doesn’t stack up well for quarterback Justin Fields, as the Vikings are tops in the league in sacking the quarterback at more than three per game. Conversely, they are second in the league at protecting their QB, allowing fewer than 1.5 sacks per game. Kirk Cousins ought to have time to throw, guiding an offense that ranks fifth in yards per play against a defense that is 24th in defending the run. The Bears are coming off a big game against their biggest rival in the Green Bay Packers. They were terrific for half the game and then were blown out in the second half. Off that big effort in prime time, they are under the lights again on “Monday Night Football.” Can Chicago muster all that energy again? The Vikings are off a prime-time game, too, but that was Thursday, so they are on extra rest. I made this number 5.5 in favor of Minnesota, and my first dive further into the stats spits out Vikings -10.5. One could argue this is a buy-low spot on Chicago, a team that has lost seven of its last eight games but I think that spot was last week and we know how that worked out. The Vikings’ Mike Zimmer is coaching for his job every week. I think the number is short for the clearly better team. If Minnesota was a 3.5-point favorite at home against the Steelers, I make the Vikings 5 to 7 points better than Chicago at Soldier Field.

 

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