In his most recent road test against an opponent headed for the playoffs, Aaron Rodgers failed miserably. He appeared defeated and disinterested early in a blowout loss at San Francisco in late November.
Here’s hoping we see a much different Rodgers on Monday night, when I’m giving the Packers one more shot. With the NFC North title on the line, Green Bay is my play as a 5½-point underdog at Minnesota.
The Vikings are the NFL’s only undefeated team at home (6-0) this season, winning by an average score of 27.7-14.2.
But there are a few reasons to back the Packers and one is Rodgers, who has 24 touchdown passes with two interceptions and should be pumped up for this high-stakes showdown.
There are also two negatives with the Vikings and one is a trend involving quarterback Kirk Cousins, whose 0-8 record on “Monday Night Football” is the worst in league history. Minnesota will be without stud running back Dalvin Cook and his backup, rookie Alexander Mattison, might also be out because of an ankle injury. Without the threats of Cook and Mattison, Cousins would be less effective with play-action passes.
—One play I had to scratch Saturday night was the Titans as home underdogs against the Saints. It appears Tennessee will be missing running back Derrick Henry, who’s a significant loss because the game plan was to run the ball at New Orleans’ depleted defensive line.
After a combination of brutal luck and bad handicapping last week, here are four more guesses for Week 16:
* DOLPHINS (plus-1.5) over Bengals:
Veteran quarterback Andy Dalton probably makes Cincinnati (1-13) the better team, but is this 4½-point line move justified? The Bengals clinch the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft with a loss, so they should not be making a great effort to win. Tanking is not on Dalton’s mind, of course. Miami is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 games, and there might be some magic left in Ryan Fitzpatrick.
* Ravens (-10) over BROWNS:
Baltimore has won 10 in a row since a mystifying 40-25 loss to Cleveland in late September. John Harbaugh owes Freddie Kitchens a beatdown. The Ravens are 7-2-1 ATS during their winning streak, so this is my first double-digit favorite of the season.
* Cowboys (-2) over EAGLES:
Dak Prescott is banged up and it would be no surprise if the Cowboys lose, but I have been wrong about the Cowboys three weeks in a row. I was right about fading Philadelphia last week but still lost the bet on fluke fumble return. Anyway, Dallas looks more like a team that can win in the playoffs despite months of bad play and drama surrounding coach Jason Garrett. This is a coin flip and I’m not betting on it.
* Cardinals (plus-9) over SEAHAWKS:
Seattle has not been a double-digit favorite all season for a reason. The Seahawks (11-3 SU) have won 10 one-score games, and their lone comfortable win came in a 27-10 decision at Arizona in late September. But the Cardinals, who took the 49ers to the wire twice, are showing positive signs. The Arizona offense totaled 445 yards and averaged 7.4 yards per play against Cleveland in Week 15, when Kenyan Drake rushed for 137 yards. The Seattle defense has been inconsistent and could be in better health with linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Quandre Diggs attempting to recover from ankle injuries. The Seahawks have a bigger game on deck in Week 17, when they host the 49ers. Seattle’s point differential (plus-26) shows its trend of winning close games.
—I also will play a two-team six-point teaser: Chargers (-1) and Broncos (-1).
Last week: 0-5 against the spread