With two weeks to go in the Westgate SuperContest, I’m as surprised as anyone that my entry is tied for 47th place, which right now is in the money.
The VSiN entry is 7.5 points out of the lead, but let me perfectly clear. I have no focus on catching the two teams that are tied with 55 points – a phenomenal 73 percent. My goal is to finish in the top 100. That’s where the money is this year. Those entries that have designs on capturing the leaders will take big chances these last couple weeks. I’m going to play it as safe as I can.
To be honest, the contest occupies way too much time in my life. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of whether I should take this team or the other. I’ll be glad to get a good night’s sleep again after Dec. 30.
So here goes for Week 16. But before I give you my five teams, there is one thing I believe in down the stretch. Teams that have a chance to make the playoffs are far more attractive to me than teams that are jockeying for the home-field advantage. In other words, organizations and the media obsess over which teams will host playoff games. But I’ve never believed that the players themselves are that hung up on this. They’re just very comfortable knowing that they’re already in the playoffs.
So that leads us directly to the first pick: I’m taking the Baltimore Ravens plus 4½ Saturday visiting the Los Angeles Chargers. The Ravens are not yet locked into the playoffs, and the Chargers are. So I’m willing to think that the Ravens’ terrific defense can keep them in the game against a very good Chargers team. And a tip of the hat to Westgate SuperBook director John Murray, who reveals the lines on VSiN every Wednesday afternoon and then, in a light fashion, gives me his favorite team for the week. He tipped the Ravens, and it would be bad karma for me to change anything we have built up this year with our entry.
Now we go to Sunday. The Dallas Cowboys have not locked up a playoff position, and even though they are coming off a shutout loss at Indianapolis, I’m going to lay the 7½ in the SuperContest against the Tampa Bay Bucs. The ’Boys have been very good at home this year, and this is a case of a team focused on making the playoffs against a team that will probably undergo a coaching change next year. I don’t like laying 7½ in the contest, but in this instance I’ll make an exception.
My third pick takes me to the Minnesota Vikings laying 5½ at the Detroit Lions. It’s clear that the coaching change a week ago rejuvenated the Vikings. Longtime assistant Kevin Stefanski followed the boss’s order and gave the ball to running back Dalvin Cook, who rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in a win over Miami. Even though they’re on the road, I’ll take the Vikings against a mediocre Detroit team.
My fourth pick will be the Philadelphia Eagles catching 2½ at home against the Houston Texans. I’ve seen this movie before. Nick Foles steps in at quarterback, the Eagles catch points at home, and the City of Brotherly Love celebrates all weekend. Now make no mistake: I’ve got tremendous respect for the Texans and what they’ve accomplished this year. But they hold a two-game lead in their division, and I fully expect them to take care of Jacksonville in Houston next Sunday. I also like to go against teams on the second leg of back-to-back road trips. Houston traveled to New York a week ago, when they rallied to beat the Jets 29-22. Then they returned to Texas. Now the long trip to Philadelphia. Break out the dog masks.
My final pick in the contest will be the Seattle Seahawks catching 2½ at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Seahawks still need a win to guarantee themselves a wild-card spot while the very talented Chiefs are already in the playoffs. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is just one victory from being the first quarterback in NFL history to start his career with a winning record in seven straight seasons. Like the crowd in Philadelphia, the home of the 12th Man will be a madhouse on Sunday night.
In an effort to show that life is not all about SuperContest, I offer this Christmas present of my three-team, seven-point teaser at the South Point. Cowboys pick-’em, Vikings 1 and the Raiders 10. Make it a round-robin that includes four bets – one three-teamer and three two-teamers.
Have a merry. And remember, cashin’ stocking-stuffer tickets is what it’s all about.