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Contest games worth looking at

December 21, 2021 06:22 PM
kannon

Last week we talked about it possibly being a point in the contest season when a gamble might be necessary for anyone on the edge of contention. After a slew of big favorites won and covered in Week 14, lines were likely to be inflated in Week 15. The majority of the betting public was bound to back the big favorites that rewarded them the previous week. There were certainly some oversized underdogs that did get home in Week 15 — the Lions (+ 13), Ravens (+ 9.5), Saints (+ 11.5) and Jets (+ 10). Hopefully those of you who were borderline in contention in contest play landed on at least a couple of these winners. The Ravens losing to the Packers 31-30 was the biggest mover as Green Bay was the very most popular pick in both the Westgate SuperContest and the Circa Millions. The line in the contest was only -5.5 in favor of the Packers, compared with the actual closing line of -9.5, but obviously Baltimore still covered pretty comfortably.

The Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers losing outright as big favorites eliminated six more contestants from Circa Survivor. There are three weeks left in the regular season, but this week, "Christmas Week," is a week in and of itself in Circa Survivor — so with four weeks remaining, 16 players remain with $6 million on the line. The inherent value of each entry is now $375,000. There are only three games to choose from in Christmas Week — the same as the isolated Thanksgiving Week. The 49ers are at the Titans, the Colts are at the Cardinals, and the Browns visit the Packers. It’s difficult to choose a straight-up winner in all of these games. Green Bay certainly has the largest point spread of the group, but I would tread lightly here too. The Packers may exhale for a moment having just clinched the NFC North and maybe Cleveland gets 'em here. Of the remaining 16 entries, two contestants have only Green Bay available to use this week. Five contestants have two teams available and nine contestants have three teams to choose from. Nobody left in Circa Survivor has more than one entry still alive as both contestants who did had one of their remaining two entries eliminated in Week 15.

Two games I am looking at heading into Week 16.

CLEVELAND BROWNS (+ 7.5) AT GREEN BAY PACKERS

As I mentioned earlier, the Packers could suffer a momentary letdown, having wrapped up the NFC North crown with their win over the Ravens last week. Of course, they still want to lock down the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but there could be just enough sense of relief here for the Browns to slip inside the number. Secondly, Cleveland has a very good defense, ranking inside the top 10 against the run and the pass. They also get after the quarterback, ranking sixth in the NFL with 2.6 sacks per game. Green Bay's offensive line is average at protecting the quarterback, ranking 14th in sacks allowed. The good news is the Packers are at home, where they are unbeaten this season. One last possible red flag I see is that in Week 17, the Packers host the Vikings on “Sunday Night Football.” Again, it might be a good spot for Cleveland to slide in here as a nonconference opponent with a division rival on deck for Green Bay.

DENVER BRONCOS (+ 1) at LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

It is difficult to sweep a season series against a division opponent, which is what the Raiders will be attempting to do against the Broncos in Week 16. Las Vegas beat Denver as a road underdog in Week 6. Obviously, the Broncos will be looking to return the favor. Both teams' postseason hopes are hanging by a thread, but I believe the Broncos are the better team. After a fast start, the Raiders have been hit by injuries and off-the-field turmoil. They have become very inconsistent and have played very poorly more often than not since their bye week. The Raiders have an anemic rushing attack, ranking 29th in the league. They also rank 25th in the league in defending the run. The Broncos are in the top 10 in the league both rushing the ball and in defending the run. If they can force the Raiders to throw the ball, the Raiders will do so, facing an excellent defensive secondary. The Broncos are fourth in the league in defensive passer rating and sixth in overall passing defense. I think the wrong team is favored in this game, and I think the Broncos get the victory. They also will have a lot of orange-clad fans at Allegiant Stadium as a lot of Broncos backers will likely make the easy trip from Denver to Las Vegas to show their support.

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