Welcome to the 14th Sunday of the NFL regular season. With only four games remaining, we are officially entering the home stretch. Now is when we separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Through 13 weeks, the top betting storyline continues to be the relentlessness of underdogs. Dogs went 9-7 ATS last week. With the Bears beating the Cowboys 31-24 as 3-point dogs Thursday night, dogs are now 106-82 ATS (56.4%) on the season. Home dogs are 35-34 ATS (50.7%) while road dogs are 69-45 ATS (60.5%).
Road dogs plus 6 or less: 46-33 ATS (58%)
Road dogs off a loss: 38-21 ATS (64%)
Road divisional dogs: 20-11 ATS (65%)
December divisional unders are 3-2 so far this season and 281-214 (57%) since 2003 according to Bet Labs Sports.
Here are your matches for today
For more gameday analysis and betting updates, be sure to join Michael Lombardi, Patrick Meagher and myself this morning from 9 a.m.-noon on The Lombardi Line. We'll be breaking down all the late sharp action leading up to kickoff.
In the meantime, let's discuss where smart money is flowing for four of today's biggest games along with several others receiving sharp action.
1 p.m. ET: San Francisco 49ers (10-2) at New Orleans Saints (10-2)
This showdown between NFL elites could be a possible NFC Championship game preview. Both teams are 10-2, tied for the best record in the league. San Francisco came up just short last week against the Ravens, losing 20-17 but covering as 6-point dogs. The 49ers are plus 166 in point differential, averaging 29.08 PPG on offense and allowing 15.25 PPG on defense. New Orleans has won three straight games, most recently beating the Falcons 26-18 on Thanksgiving as 7-point favorites. The Saints are plus 50 in point differential, averaging 24.83 PPG on offense and allowing 20.67 PPG on defense. San Francisco is 7-4-1 ATS and New Orleans is 8-4 ATS.
This line opened with the Saints listed as 3-point home favorites. With oddsmakers typically awarding 3-points for home field advantage, this means books view this game as a coin-flip at a neutral site. Pros and Joes have both sided with the 49ers, forcing sportsbooks to drop this line all the way down to 2. San Francisco fits several profitable systems this season: road dog, short road dog plus 6 or less and road dog off a loss. Despite two-thirds of bets taking the over, the total has fallen slightly from 45 to 44.5, signaling smart money on the under. John Hussey, the lead referee, has been profitable to the under (59.2%).
1 p.m. ET: Carolina Panthers (5-7) at Atlanta Falcons (3-9)
This NFC South matchup features two disappointing teams who opened the season with playoff aspirations. The Panthers started 4-2 but have gone 1-5 since. They've lost four in a row, including last week's embarrassing 29-21 loss to the Redskins as 10.5-point favorites. Carolina is -40 in point differential, averaging 23.33 PPG on offense and giving up 26.67 PPG on defense.The Falcons have been even worse. Atlanta started 1-7, had a brief two game winning steak but has now lost two in a row, most recently falling to the Saints 26-18 as 7-point dogs on Thanksgiving. The Falcons are -63 in point differential, averaging 21.67 PPG on offense and giving up 26.92 PPG on defense. Carolina is 6-6 ATS while Atlanta is 4-8 ATS.
The line opened with Atlanta listed as a short 2-point home favorite. A slight majority of bets are backing the Falcons, but so is sharp money, pushing the line up to -3.5. The Falcons enjoy extra rest, having last played November 28 compared to the Panthers last playing December 1. Carolina also just fired their longtime head coach Ron Rivera, which makes you wonder if they will play hard today or fold completely. The total has ticked down slightly from 48 to 47. When the total is 45 or higher in a divisional game, the under is 60% since 2003. The over is 8-4 in Carolina games but the under is 8-4 in Atlanta games. The Falcons welcome back two of their top pass catchers from injury: Julio Jones and Austin Hooper.
1 p.m. ET: Cincinnati Bengals (1-11) at Cleveland Browns (5-7)
The Bengals finally got off the schneid last week, securing their first win of the season by beating the Jets 22-6 as 2.5-point dogs. Cincinnati still has the worst record in the league and is on pace to secure the number one overall pick in the draft. However, despite their awful record, Cincinnati is a respectable 5-6-1 ATS. The Bengals are -119 in point differential, averaging only 14.92 PPG on offense while allowing 24.83 PPG on defense. The Browns had their three-game winning streak snapped last week, falling to the rival Steelers 20-13 as 1-point favorites. Cleveland is 4-7-1 ATS and has a -26 point differential, averaging 20.5 PPG on offense while allowing 22.67 PPG on defense.
This NFC North divisional matchup opened with Cleveland listed as an 8.5-point home favorite. Despite the tickets being even, the line has tumbled down to 7, signaling sharp line movement toward Cincinnati. The Bengals have value as a divisional road dog and a dog with a low total. Sharps have also leaned on the under. The total opened at 42.5 and has fallen to 42. The forecast calls for 15-17 MPH winds at the Dawg Pound. Divisional unders with 10 MPH winds or higher are 60.4% since 2003. The Bengals are 8-3-1 to the under this season and the Browns are 7-5 to the under.
8:20 p.m. ET: Seattle Seahawks (10-2) at Los Angeles Rams (7-5)
Talk about a primetime Sunday Night Football divisional showdown. The Seahawks look unstoppable and are tied for the best record in the NFL (their best start since winning the Super Bowl in 2013). Seattle has won five straight and just beat the Vikings 37-30 on Monday Night Football as 3-point favorites. Seattle is plus 36 in point differential, averaging 23.58 PPG on offense and allowing 20.83 PPG on defense. The Rams have struggled all year but remain in Wild Card contention. Los Angeles just demolished the Cardinals 34-7 as 2.5-point favorites. The Rams are plus 33 in point differential, averaging 23.58 PPG on offense and allowing 20.83 PPG on defense. Both teams have been profitable ATS (Seattle 7-5, Los Angeles 8-4).
This divisional matchup opened with Seattle listed as a short 2.5-point road favorite. The Seahawks are an auto-bet for the public at this point and three-out-of-four bets are laying the points with Seattle. However, the line has plummeted down a pick'em, signaling massive sharp action on the Rams at home. Los Angeles has value as a divisional dog and a contrarian team in the most heavily bet game of the day. The total has been bet up slightly from 46.5 to 47. Primetime unders, however, are 25-16 (61%) this season and December divisional unders 45 or higher are 60% since 2003. The over is 7-5 in Seahawks games but the under is 8-4 in Rams games.
More sharp action
Redskins plus 13.5 to plus 12.5 at Packers
Colts-Bucs Under 49 to 47
Dolphins plus 6 to plus 5 at Jets
Dolphins-Jets Over 44 to 46
Broncos plus 9.5 to plus 9 at Texans