Three NFL bets I like right now


The aftermath of the NFL draft reminds me of being a kid on Christmas afternoon. All the presents have been unwrapped, and I already can’t wait for next Christmas. Hopefully readers followed this column’s advice and cashed in on Trey Lance going to San Francisco at + 500 and Justin Fields going to Chicago at + 1700. I was convinced for weeks that Lance would be the third pick. Then on the morning of Day 1 the draft, I was resigned to the fact that it would be Mac Jones, only to see a massive (and telling) line movement toward Lance. Is it really possible that some important people in the 49ers’ building wanted Jones but were persuaded by those who wanted Lance that fans were so much against Jones that it would be hard for the player to overcome all the vitriol? I believe there is more than meets the eye with that selection, as too much truth was accurately reported for this to be some sort of smoke screen. 

Draft coverage made me yearn for the days before social media, when analysts would have strong takes and often criticize players and picks. I can remember Mel Kiper Jr. nearly getting into a fistfight on the air over the Colts passing on Trent Dilfer. Now if a pick or player gets criticized, the clip of the analyst calling it a bad pick will be retweeted every time the player throws a touchdown pass. So the analysts play it safe. It’s not worth being wrong and risking their credibility, so they err on the side of complimenting each pick, which makes for a very boring viewing experience. You know what’s not boring? Picking winners! Let’s find a few ...

Minnesota Vikings (+ 300) To Win NFC North


I would hope my friends and family consider me a good person. But when it comes to betting, I proudly think of myself as a vicious predator. When I hear breaking news — a trade, an injury — my first instinct is always: How can I bet and profit off this information? When Russell Westbrook got traded to the Wizards, I risked injury to my thumbs logging in so fast to all my accounts to fire on the Over 28.5 season wins (it closed at 33.5 a few weeks later). So when news broke last week that Aaron Rodgers was unhappy and wanted out of Green Bay, my wheels immediately began turning. The only problem was that we don’t know where he’d go or whether he’d go. The future prices on his supposedly preferred destinations quickly got adjusted to account for the potential trade. Some books took down division odds — but some didn’t. And that’s how I think we can profit from this news. I’ve written that I expect the Vikings to bounce back to the form they showed in winning 10 or more games and a playoff contest in two of the three years before last season, and if Rodgers were to leave Green Bay, they immediately would become the heavy favorite. Maybe he’ll play in Las Vegas or Denver. Maybe he’ll host “Jeopardy!” or “Supermarket Sweep” and won’t play at all. By betting the Vikings here, you basically have a free roll, and you don’t need to anticipate where Rodgers will end up to extract value. Even if he were to stay in Green Bay, perhaps his dismay will negatively affect the Packers. Or maybe after two trips to the NFC title game, their window has slammed shut and the Vikings will win this division anyway. This will be a fascinating game of chicken, and I’m sure the league would like to know how it gets resolved before releasing its television schedule shortly. The Vikings at plus money with the uncertainty in Green Bay is an opportunity to jump on. 


Houston Texans Under 5 Wins


The Texans selecting quarterback Davis Mills at No. 67 was alarming on many levels. First, that was their first pick of the draft. They are also a team with gaping holes up and down the roster, and the one position where they are elite is quarterback ... assuming Deshaun Watson is available. This decision confirms that the Texans must think what I had already believed — that it’s extremely unlikely Watson will start 17 games next season. Most outlets have tiptoed around Watson’s legal problems. But part of betting is handicapping and assessing the unknown, and due to the volume of accusations as well as the precedent for the league handling off-field behavior, Watson is a huge underdog to escape this situation unscathed. Oh, and this team won just four games last year, with Watson putting up 36 total touchdowns against seven interceptions and completing over 70% of his passes. In the AFC South, the Jaguars will likely be much improved, while the Titans and Colts made the playoffs last year. The Texans are a mess from top to bottom and may struggle to win more than two or three games. They will be competing with the Lions for the first pick in the draft. Go Under.


Miami Dolphins To Make Playoffs (+ 120)


A good defense and an excellent young coach highlight a team that has made incremental improvements since the middle of the 2019 season. While the quarterback play was certainly poor last year, Tua Tagovailoa will have better weapons and perhaps be healthier than last season, just a year removed from a major hip injury. Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller will add some juice to an offense that desperately needs some juicing, and Tagovailoa’s defenders will no longer have the excuse that he has nobody to throw to. Also, although Rodgers hasn’t been linked to the Dolphins, I think they are a potential sleeper team for him. They check a lot of boxes — major market, great weather, good roster and no state income tax. They also have a plethora of draft equity and could even offer Tagovailoa if Green Bay covets him. Miami is headed in the right direction and will have a shot to win its first playoff game in two decades.


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Matt Youmans: Heat (+8.5) at Nuggets. View more picks.


The Lombardi Line: Both the Nuggets and Heat shot poorly in Game 1 of the NBA Finals - and the total is down five points in Game 2 (219.5 to 214.5). Consider betting the OVER if you expect any positive regression. View more tips.