NFL Sunday Best Bets, Saturday recaps
Saturday was a wild day in and out of the Tuley’s Take home office as we started working at home, went down to Circa in downtown Las Vegas to interview contests in their two big handicapping contests and then back home to finish up this column (after falling asleep for a few hours).
Yep, it was an exhausting but very fun day.
Many of you know that I proxy for some out-of-state contestants in the big contests here (Circa Sports Million, Circa Survivor, Westgate SuperContest, Golden Nugget, William Hill), so early Saturday was spent putting in picks, made more frantic by the Raiders-Chiefs game starting at 1:30 p.m. PT. Then, I put on my reporter’s hat and went down to Circa to interview two of the three finalists in Circa Survivor and some top contenders in Circa Sports Million. You can find my Circa contest update story on the VSiN.com website
. When the players appeared on “The Football Contest Show,” I was on the floor of the VSiN studio writing down quotes and Tweeting out the plays.
I then worked on that story during the Jaguars-Titans game and stayed after to Tweet out my nightly betting recaps (see below) before returning home to get some much-needed rest.
As for my own picks. I lost my supposed Best Bet on the Raiders +10 in their 31-13 loss at the Chiefs. With everything else going on, I had the game on the background at home and wasn’t watching every play but the Raiders seemed to be moving the ball on the Chiefs (when they weren’t turning the ball over, but had one long drive that resulted in zero points on a failed fourth-down and two long drives where they had to settle for field goals. They were down before scoring their one and only touchdown, so that wasn’t nearly enough to get back within the spread.
I did at least win my second Best Bet on the TItans +6, though went 1-2 ATS with my two suggested NBA plays for a personal losing day. I also went 0-for-2 with my horse racing plays (plus a scratch) in my “Team Tuley’s Thoroughbred Takes” column that appears at VSiN.com/horse-racing/
each Saturday, but my friend Ed Sehon stayed hot by picking up the slack with a pair of winners – Candidate ($17.20) and Moon Cat ($9.00), a week after giving out a Pick 5 at Gulfstream that paid $588.20.
Let’s get to the recaps of the rest of Saturday’s action and our NFL Sunday Best Bets based on the current lines. Then, as has become our custom around here, we’ll rerun our Wednesday column in which we update our “takes” on the full NFL schedule and try to find some other value plays along the way on a wild Week 18 Sunday card.
NFL: Jaguars (6-point home faves) rallied to beat Titans 20-16 on late scoop-and-score by EDGE rusher Josh Allen to win AFC South but the Jaguars did NOT cover (games stayed Under the betting total of 39.5 points). Earlier, the Chiefs (8.5-point road faves) covered in their 31-13 win vs. the Raiders to clinch the AFC's No. 1 seed and first-round bye (game stayed Under 52). Faves went 2-0 SU on the day while splitting 1-1 ATS. Home/road teams split 1-1 SU but dogs led 2-0 ATS. Unders swept 2-0.
More NFL: On season, faves lead 165-86-2 SU with 4 games closing pick-'em, but dogs still lead 134-112-7 ATS (54.5%). Home teams lead 138-111-2 SU with 6 neutral-site games but just 123-122-6 ATS (50.2%). Unders lead 142-112-3 (55.9%) with primetime Unders improving to 34-19-1 (64.2%).
CBB: Washington State (12-point road underdog) upset No. 5 Arizona 74-61. No. 9 Gonzaga (8-point road favorite) escaped with a 81-76 win at Santa Clara, but didn't cover the spread. No. 22 Auburn (2.5-point home fave) beat No. 13 Arkansas 72-59, but it wasn't an upset.
NBA: Underdogs went 3-2 SU and 4-1 ATS on Saturday with the Spurs (+15) covering in a 121-116 home loss vs. the Celtics. The upsets were by the Lakers (+7.5 in 136-134 win at Kings), Magic (+6.5 in 115-101 win at Warriors) and Bulls (+2.5 in 126-118 win vs. Jazz). Road teams went 3-2 SU but home teams led 3-2 ATS. Overs led 4-1.
More NBA: On the season, favorites dipped to 371-215 SU with 9 games closing pick-'em while underdogs improved to 298-271-17 ATS (52.4%). Home teams lead 362-233 SU and 311-268-16 ATS (53.7%). In totals wagering, Overs continued to improve their slim lead to 306-282-7 (52%).
NHL: Dogs went 6-3 with biggest upsets by the Blue Jackets (+280 vs. Hurricanes), Kings (+137 at Golden Knight) and Canadiens (+135 vs.Blues). Home teams went 5-4. Overs led 5-3-1 with the push in LA-VGK (6). On the season, faves lead 358-234 with 18 PKs, home teams lead 317-289 with 4 neutral-site games and Unders lead 295-288-27.
Sunday NFL Best Bets
Lions +5 at Packers: Hopefully I’m saving my Best Bet for last as we love the Lions in the Sunday nighter even if they’re eliminated from the playoffs by a Seattle win earlier in the afternoon. For more details, see below.
Browns +8.5/Texans +9 (2-team, 6-point teaser)
Browns +8.5/Bills -1.5 (2-team, 6-point teaser)
Jets +4 at Dolphins
Rams +6 at Seahawks
Here's the rerun of our weekly breakdown of the full NFL schedule:
NFL Week 18 Best Bets, 'takes' on full card
Welcome to the Wednesday version of this column where we give our takes on the full NFL Week 18 schedule.
In last week’s NFL column, we won our Best Bet on the Broncos +13 at the Chiefs as they covered in their 27-24 loss and also with the Saints +5.5 at the Eagles, Raiders +10 vs. the 49ers in their 37-34 OT loss. We lost with the Texans and Panthers but swept with our 2-team, 6 point teasers with our top play on Browns +8/Dolphins +8.5 as well as Seahawks +7.5 and Steelers +8.5 (unfortunately didn’t also get to see if Bengals +7 would have cashed vs. the Bills on Monday Night Football).
The Saints and Texans plays were originally given out on my regular appearance on “The Greg Peterson Experience” (12:15 a.m. ET/9:15 p.m. PT Sunday nights), so we split those to drop to 20-10 ATS (66.7%) with our early-week plays. This week’s plays are the Raiders +10 vs. the Chiefs on Saturday and Lions +4.5 at the Packers on Sunday Night Football (we also gave out TCU +13.5 in next Monday’s CFB Championship Game vs. Georgia).
Without further ado, let’s go through the NFL Week 18 schedule (we normally put these in Nevada rotation order, but we’ve moved the games that are being played in the “afternoon” down to the 4:25 p.m. ET/1:25 p.m. PT window and the Lions-Packers to the Sunday Night Football slot).
Note: Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of early Wednesday morning unless otherwise noted. Check out VSIN.com's live NFL odds page for current odds.
Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5) at Las Vegas Raiders
This game was moved to the early Saturday slot (4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT) with the Chiefs still playing for the AFC’s No. 1 seed and first-round bye. Of course, that’s not as clear with the Bills-Bengals postponement. Anyway, we gave out the Raiders +10 on Sunday night and in the Monday version of this column for many reasons. As we’ve written many times this season, the Chiefs tend to let lesser teams stick around, including only beating the far inferior Broncos 27-24 on Sunday. Meanwhile the Raiders covered as 10-point home dogs on Sunday in a 37-34 OT loss to the 49ers, who have a far better defense than the Chiefs. Double-digit home underdogs are 5-1 ATS on the season, so I had to jump on this. The line has since been bet down to +7.5 (we’d like to think it was the clear sharp side), but I still like it at anything more than a touchdown as home dogs of +7 or more are 15-9 ATS (62.5%) this season.
Best Bet: Raiders +7.5, though hopefully followers already got the +10 (pool play: Raiders 67/33 in ATS contests, though Chiefs still 70/30 in SU pools). Thursday update: the line has steamed back up to Chiefs -9.5, so late followers wanting to join us on the Raiders might get +10 again. Saturday update: the +10 is looking less likely as the Raiders getting more support than expected, but we still like them at anything over a TD. Sunday update: LOSER.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-6.5)
The AFC South title comes down to this Saturday primetime matchup after it looked earlier in the season like the Titans were running away with the division. However, they’ve lost six straight, including a 36-22 loss in the first meeting between these two teams, which is a concern. However, they get Derrick Henry back, plus I saw enough good things from Joshua Dobbs in the loss to the Cowboys last Thursday to believe he’ll be better with more than a week to prepare with the first-teamers. The Jaguars are obviously the hotter team with a four-game winning streak, but this is too many points to lay for a team that was 0-3 SU and ATS in the role of favorite before last week’s 31-3 rout of the Texans.
Best Bet: Titans +6.5, though hopefully it returns to +7 (pool play: Titans 60/40 in ATS contests, though Jaguars still 67/33 in SU pools). Thursday update: most books are down to 6, so we don't think we'll see +7, but we still believe Tennessee is the right side especially with the public jumping all over the Jacksonville bandwagon. Sunday update: WINNER!
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-1)
The Jets (7-9) have been relegated to the spoiler role after a once-promising season has unraveled with a five-game losing streak. The Dolphins have also lost five straight and need a win and some help (Bills must beat Patriots) to the playoffs. The Dolphins’ have the No. 6 offense in the league with plenty of weapons, but haven't been as explosive when Tua Tagovailoa has been out of the lineup (and they might be going with third-stringer Skylar Thompson). The Jets have mostly relied on its No. 3 defense that allows just 19.1 points per game, but the problem is the offense have averaged a mere 12 points per game in their losing streak (and an even worse 9.5 points per game in the last four games). The Dolphins opened around 4-point favorites at the Westgate SuperBook on Sunday afternoon with other books opening at 3, but it was down to -1 at DraftKings as of Tuesday afternoon with several books going to pick-’em.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Jets 55/45 in all SU and ATS contests). Saturday update: we haven't used the Jets in contests, but with the line up to 3, we're liking the Jets more with Joe Flacco vs. Skylar Thompson. Sunday update: we added this as a Best Bet with Jets up to +4.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5)
We heard people saying all season that this was going to be Mike Tomlin’s first year below .500, but the Steelers have won three straight games and five of their last six to get to 8-8 with a chance to prove all those people wrong if they beat the Browns on Sunday. The Steelers are 3-2 SU and ATS as favorites this season, but I wouldn’t trust them in this spot. The Browns beat them 29-17 in Week 3 when the Steelers obviously weren’t playing as well, but that was with Jacoby Brissett at QB. The Browns haven’t been world-beaters with Deshaun Watson, but they are 3-2 SU and ATS in his starts with only the 23-10 loss to the Bengals in Week 14 being their only loss by more than 7, so let’s tease them up over a touchdown to +8.5. This is as good of a time as any to discuss our teaser portfolio with Sunday’s other options being the Texans +8.5 at the Colts, Broncos +9 vs. the Chargers, Bills -1.5 vs. Patriots and Bengals -1 vs. Ravens..
Best Bet: Browns in teasers (pool play: Browns 55/45 in ATS contests but Steelers still 55/45 in SU pools). Sunday update: this is our favorite teaser on Sunday and we're make Browns +8.5 a Best Bet along with Texans +9 and Bills -1.5
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-3)
This is one of the few Sunday games that doesn’t have any playoff implications and most people will only pay attention to see if the Texans play themselves out of the No. 1 draft choice (if the Bears beat the Vikings). The Colts have lost six straight games since Jeff Saturday won his coaching debut, so we would usually love to fade them in this spot, but the Texans are just as bad (and the 31-3 loss to the Jaguars last week was disappointing). I’ll just put them in a teaser or two.
Best Bet: Texans in teasers (pool play: Texans 55/45 in ATS contests but Colts 60/40 in SU pools).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-4)
This line opened Falcons -7.5 after the Buccaneers wrapped up the NFC South title with their 30-24 come-from-behind win vs. the Panthers on Sunday. I had grabbed the Bucs at the inflated price on Sunday night, but it’s now down to 4 after the Buccaneers have said that they aren’t resting starters despite not being able to improve their playoff position. However, I will warn those who still want to take the Bucs +4 that we’ve seen this scenario before where a team says that but then one player limps off with an injury and the game plan changes.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Buccaneers 55/45 in ATS contests but Falcons still 75/25 in SU pools).
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
These teams had high hopes that this would be for the NFC South title, but the Panthers were unable to hold on vs. the Buccaneers before losing 30-24. We thought about adding the Panthers to our teaser portfolio, but there are many more dogs that I like better on Sunday and other games I’ll be following a lot more closely.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Panthers 55/45 in ATS contests but Saints 60/40 in SU pools).
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (-7.5)
This game has certainly taken on a different feel since Monday’s Bills-Bengals postponement and Damar Hamlin still in critical condition as of early Wednesday. The Patriots are still fighting for a wild-card spot, but I’ve always believed athletes are able to compartmentalize their jobs, so I wouldn’t fade the Bills in this spot and will actually use them in some teasers as they’re also playing for playoff position.
Best Bet: Bills in teasers (pool play: Patriots 55/45 in ATS contests on principle, but Bills 90/10 in SU pools). Friday update: this game was off the betting boards with the aftermath of the Damar Hamlin situation, but is back up at Bills -7 and we still like the teaser.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-7)
The Bengals are also dealing with the aftermath of Monday’s postponement. They still need a win to secure the AFC North title while the Ravens are trying to steal the division and get a home playoff game. The problem is I just don’t trust Tyler Huntley. I would feel a lot better if Lamar Jackson was able to play (though the line will certainly plummet several points if that were announced). For now, I’m just planning to use the Bengals in some teasers.
Best Bet: Bengals in teasers (pool play: Ravens 55/45 in ATS contests on principle, but Bengals 80/20 in SU pools). Friday update: with the news that the Bills-Bengals game has been canceled, the Bengals clinched the AFC North and removed any incentive for the Ravens in this game, so we still like the Bengals teasers. Saturday update: with Lamar Jackson declared out and the Ravens not having anything to play for, this line is up to Bengals -9 and out of the teaser zone.
Minnesota Vikings (-5.5) at Chicago Bears
The Bears are tempting as home dogs against a Vikings team that can’t really improve its playoff position. A lot of people are saying the Bears should lose so they have a shot at the No. 1 draft pick if the Texans. I don’t believe they’ll tank, but even though Justin Fields has made them more competitive, they’ve still lost 9 straight games and only 2-7 ATS (Wednesday morning update: line actually up to Vikings -8 with Fields reportedly out and Nathan Peterman in...still passing for now, but check for updates later in the week).
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Vikings 55/45 in ATS contests and 75/25 in SU pools). Saturday update: with the line down to Vikings -6, I'm no longer considering a play on the Bears.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-6.5)
The Seahawks need a win to keep their NFC wild-card hopes alive (and would then need the Lions to beat the Packers in the Sunday night game). Seattle is a 6.5-point favorite, but let the bettor beware that just because a team must win doesn’t mean it will win. Besides, we’ve said for years that if a team is in a must-win situation it usually means they’re not very good and often shouldn’t be trusted to “flip the switch” to win just because they want to. The Seahawks haven’t lived up to expectations when favored anyway as they’re just 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS, including beating these same Rams 27-24 in Week 13 but not covering as 6.5-point road faves. The Seahawks’ defense is ranked No. 27 in yards allowed per game, so that’s another reason not to lay the points. Granted, the Rams’ offense is only No. 31 in yards per game, but even though they only scored 10 points this past Sunday against the Chargers, they ran over a much better defense in the Broncos in a 51-14 rout on Christmas Day.
Best Bet: Rams +6.5 (pool play: Rams 60/40 in ATS contests, but Seahawks 75/25 in SU pools). Saturday update: despite the line getting bet down to 6, I still think the Rams are the right side.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-14)
There’s plenty of square plays in Week 18, especially with so many people jumping on the “must-win” teams or chasing the steam. This might be the squarest of all with the Eagles still needing to win to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and get the first-round bye while the Giants have already clinched their wild-card spot and have nothing to play for. Still, I think I’m going to pass on taking the Giants plus the obviously overinflated number unless I hear some news that makes me believe they’ll be playing enough talented players to let them compete with the Eagles.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Giants +55/45 in ATS contests on principle, but Eagles in all SU pools).
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (-14)
Here’s another game with the favorite still playing for the NFC’s No. 1 seed (unless they see the Eagles get out to a big, early lead vs. the Giants) against a team playing out the string. I might jump on the Cardinals plus the huge points if Colt McCoy is cleared from the concussion protocol and plays – but not with David Blough or Trace McSorley.
Best Bet: Pass for now (pool play: Cardinals 55/45 in ATS contests on principle, but 49ers 90/10 in SU pools, lower if McCoy returns).
Los Angeles Chargers (-3) at Denver Broncos
This line would obviously be higher if the Chargers had something to play for. After cashing with the Broncos in their spread-covering loss at the Chiefs, it’s tempting to take the Broncos again here with their No. 6 defense still keeping them in games and Russell Wilson and the offense showing some life down the stretch, but I feel the better play is to tease them up over a touchdown.
Best Bet: Broncos in teasers (pool play: Broncos 55/45 in ATS contests, but Chargers still 60/40 in SU pools). Friday update: the conventional wisdom is the Chargers will rest starters or pull them early and the line has dropped to 2.5, so we're sticking with the Broncos in teasers. Saturday update: with the Chargers not having much to play for, this line has flipped to Broncos -3 and we're no longer including them in our teasers.
Dallas Cowboys (-5.5) at Washington Commanders
The Commanders are out of the playoff picture (to coach Ron Rivera’s surprise) while the Cowboys still have a shot at the NFC East title (but only if the Eagles lose to the Giants and we’re not counting on that and neither should they). Still, even if we suspect the Cowboys will be pulling starters at a high rate, this line is still too short to take the Commanders as home dogs.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Cowboys 55/45 in ATS contests and 70/30 in SU pools).
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (-4.5)
The Packers (8-8) have somehow rallied from a 4-8 record to win four straight games and be in control of their playoff destiny if they beat the Lions on Sunday night. The Lions (8-8) need the Seahawks to lose to the Rams earlier in the afternoon or they’ll be eliminated before taking the field. Green Bay still is a middle-of-the-pack team with the No. 16 offense and No. 18 defense, but Aaron Rodgers and the offense has picked things up by averaging 29.8 points per game down the stretch during their win streak while the defense has allowed only 17 points per game. Despite the same records, the Lions have looked like the better team most of the season. While the Packers have made an impressive turnaround, the Lions were 1-6 before they beat the Packers 15-9 in Week 9. Jared Goff leads the leagues’ No. 4 offense at 383.6 yards and 27.1 points per game, but the defense ranks dead-last at No. 32. Even if the Lions are eliminated, I still think they’ll have the pride to cover this number with a great shot at the outright upset at +190. Note: this game will probably be taken off the betting boards during the Sunday afternoon games and we might get a better price if the Seahawks win).
Best Bet: Lions +4.5 (pool play: Lions 67/33 in ATS contests and Packers only 60/40 in SU pools). Saturday update: the line is up to Packers -5 and even -5.5 at some books, so we're waiting to bet more on the Lions.