NFL Week 14 was a bit of a letdown after recent weeks for dog-or-pass bettors. But it was still an OK weekend here in the Tuley’s Takes home office, as we went 4-0 ATS on the VSiN CFB Best Bets page. And even though NFL favorites went 10-6 ATS on the weekend, we still didn’t do badly as we managed to go 3-2 or 2-3 with most of our contest entries and 3-5 ATS with our picks in this column. With favorites faring so well overall, we’ll take that.
Let’s get to NFL Week 15, with a full slate of 16 games starting with a Thursday nighter and adding two Saturday games for good measure. I’m afraid of jinxing myself, but Week 15 has been very good to me over the years. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but I’d like to think it’s because this seems to be the time of year when oddsmakers and bettors have totally dismissed some teams while overrating others. So we often see point spreads out of whack — and we could have five double-digit spreads this week, especially if the public continues to bet some of these higher. Per usual, I’ll give my takes on each game. Even if I don’t have an opinion I think warrants a bet, I’ll include my pool plays, giving my level of confidence for SU and ATS contests, especially for those of us who have pools in which we have to make picks on every game.
Chargers at Raiders (-3.5)
This is a pretty good Thursday night matchup as the Raiders are fighting for a wild-card spot, though the Chargers are basically playing out the string. All the stats say the Chargers are the play with this line back over a field goal, but I still don’t trust Anthony Lynn to make the right calls in a close game. I expect this to be a shootout, maybe not like the Ravens-Browns on Monday night but at least like the first meeting between these teams that ended with Derek Carr and the Raiders winning 31-26. That’s just above this game’s total, and I’m not expecting either defense to get many stops. Best Bet: Over 53.5 (pool play: Chargers in all my rare ATS contests that use “TNF,” but Raiders in the SU pools).
Bills (-6.5) at Broncos
This is the second game on the Saturday betting rotation, but it’s being played first at 4:30 p.m. ET. The Broncos came through for us beautifully Sunday with a 32-27 upset of the Panthers. I already had this game circled for another Denver pick as the advance line was Bills -5. It reopened Sunday afternoon at Bills -4, which seemed right to me considering the Broncos’ victory, and I still felt OK recommending them at + 4. Of course, the whole NFL-viewing world saw the Bills beat the Steelers 26-15 on “Sunday Night Football,” and the line was reposted at -4.5 and has been getting steamed higher. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the Bills were -6.5, with several books at -6.5 -120. It’s probably just a matter of time before we see + 7, so I’ll still call it a Best Bet at + 6.5 for our purposes here. But trust me, I’m waiting to get the best line possible. Best Bet: Broncos + 6.5 or higher (pool play: Broncos 75/25 in ATS contests — and even higher if offered + 7.5 — but Bills still 67/33 in SU pools).
Panthers at Packers (-8.5)
I won by fading both these teams last weekend, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that I’m taking the Panthers getting more than a TD on Saturday night. Carolina has been competitive for the most part this season at 7-6 ATS despite a 4-9 SU record, and Teddy Bridgewater & Co. can keep within a TD of Aaron Rodgers, even if Christian McCaffrey isn’t ready to return. Coach Matt Rhule said Tuesday he doesn’t expect McCaffrey to play, though I would like our chances better if he did. But don’t wait for an announcement as you’re sure to lose at least a point of line value if he is cleared. Having said all that, this is a good spot to start our weekly teaser portfolio discussion. These have been profitable most of the year, though the Week 14 results weren’t as strong. They started great in Sunday’s early games but went only 5-4 overall. Anyway, this week's teasers that capture the key numbers of 3 and 7 include Packers -2.5, Colts -1, Patriots + 8.5 and possibly Bears + 9. Mix and match as you see fit depending on your own handicapping. I’m on the fence with that Bears teaser, just like my reluctance to include the Saints + 9 and the Cowboys + 9. Best Bet: Panthers + 8.5, though Packers in some teasers and hoping for a middle (pool play: Panthers 67/33 in ATS contests, but Packers still 80/20 in SU pools).
Texans at Colts (-7)
As you can see, I’m including the Colts in some teasers. I’m not looking to take the Texans at any price, especially after seeing what the Bears’ defense did to the Texans two weeks after the Colts beat the Texans 26-20 in their first divisional meeting in Houston. Equally troubling for those looking to back the Texans is what Mitchell Trubisky, and most other QBs this season, did to the Houston defense. Best Bet: Pass, except for Colts in teasers (pool play: Colts 60/40 in ATS contests, though less if forced to lay -7.5, and Colts close to 90/10 in SU pools ).
Lions at Titans (OFF)
This is the toughest game to pick as it was off the board at most books Tuesday, with Westgate having Titans -10.5 and Circa having -11. The issue is Matthew Stafford’s rib cartilage injury. It’s looking more likely that Chase Daniel will start for Detroit, which would push this line higher. The Lions came through with a back-door cover against the Packers, but I’ll probably pass on them this week, even if Stafford guts it out and plays as he obviously wouldn’t be 100%. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Titans 55/45 in ATS contests and close to all SU pools).
Jets at Rams (-17)
OK, the Jets obviously let us down in their 40-3 loss to the Seahawks after closing as 16.5-point road underdogs. But they’ve been good to us lately. Double-digit underdogs are still profitable at 11-8-1 ATS entering this week — we’ll see where they stand after this week with four and possibly five big dogs — so I’m still going to bet the Jets at the best price I can. However, in case they get rolled again, I won’t be using them in as many contest entries this week. Plus there are more dogs I like this week, so we don’t have to put all our proverbial eggs in one basket. Best Bet: Jets + 17 or higher (pool play: Jets 67/33 in ATS contests, but Rams at least 90/10 in SU pools).
Buccaneers (-6) at Falcons
Surprisingly, these NFC South rivals have not met this season and will now play twice in the last three weeks. The Bucs are obviously the better team and should be favored on the road, but I don’t think the line should be this high. The Bucs have let lesser teams, such as the Bears and Giants, stick around and were lucky to cover last week due to Washington’s Dan Bailey missing three FGs and a PAT. Besides, the Falcons have been more competitive since Dan Quinn was fired, so give me the points. Best Bet: Falcons + 6 (pool play: Falcons 75/25 in ATS contests and taking a flier on the Falcons in majority of SU pools at about 60/40).
Patriots at Dolphins (-2.5)
We’ve seen a changing of the guard in the AFC East as the Bills lead the division and the Dolphins are ahead of the Patriots in the wild-card race. But before you rush to lay the points with the Dolphins, don’t forget that the Patriots beat them 21-11 in the season opener. I’m not rushing to bet the Patriots + 2.5, but I’d tease them up to + 8.5 (or + 9 if the lines move to 3). Best Bet: Pass, except for Patriots in teasers (pool play: Patriots 55/45 in ATS contests — and any contest offering + 3.5 — but flipping to Dolphins around 55/45 in SU pools).
Seahawks (-5.5) at Washington
Washington’s defense, especially Chase Young, really came through for us against the 49ers and has been impressing me all year. However, a defense can do only so much in 2020, and I have to pass on taking the Football Team this week. I certainly won’t be backing them if Dwayne Haskins starts at QB, though I wouldn’t expect Alex Smith to match Russell Wilson score for score even if the defense steps up again. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Seattle 60/40 in ATS contests at less than a TD and closer to 80/20 in SU pools).
Bears at Vikings (-3 -120)
Both teams are 6-7 and are two of the hardest to figure out on a week-to-week basis. The Vikings ground out a 19-13 Monday night win in Week 10, and I expect a similar Black and Blue Division battle. The Bears snapped a six-game losing streak with their 36-7 rout of the Texans, in which they looked like a team that could still get into the playoffs. Getting the points is the way to go in a close game like this should be, but I haven’t grabbed the + 3 yet as we’re seeing most books at Vikings -3 -120 and assuming we’ll get + 3.5 by the weekend. Best Bet: Pass for now, but jumping on Bears at + 3.5 (pool play: Bears 67/33 in ATS contests, especially at + 3.5, though Vikings in slightly more SU pools around 60/40).
Jaguars at Ravens (-13.5)
Yep, Lamar Jackson running back from the locker room and throwing a TD pass on fourth-and-5 against the Browns was amazing. And I’m hoping that leads more people to bet the Ravens against the Jaguars with another overinflated line. I was glad I passed on the Jaguars against the Titans, but I saw enough magic from Gardner Minshew to be willing to back them in this spot. Besides, this could be a classic letdown spot for the Ravens, especially as their goal here is to get out with a win and keep their playoff hopes alive. They won’t necessarily care if they win by two touchdowns as long as they win. Best Bet: Jaguars + 13.5 (pool play: Jaguars 75/25 in ATS contests, but Ravens at least 80/20 in SU pools).
49ers (-3) at Cowboys
This game has been flexed out of the prime-time game and into the early window. The Cowboys routed the Bengals 30-7 last week, but I’m not putting much stock in that. The 49ers are 1-5 SU and ATS in their last six games, but they’re really not that bad and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys’ defense helps the 49ers’ offense break out of its slump. The skid is as much a matter of scheduling as anything else as their last four games were against the Saints, Rams, Bills and Washington. This total looks like it’s shaded a little low, so ... Best Bet: Over 45 (pool play: 49ers 60/40 in ATS contests and 75/25 in SU pools).
Eagles at Cardinals (-6)
Here we have two more teams in the playoff hunt, but no one would be surprised if neither made it. Rookie Jalen Hurts will start again at QB after the Eagles beat the Saints 24-21 as 7.5-point home underdogs. But while that was impressive, I’m unwilling to back him again vs. Kyler Murray, his predecessor at Oklahoma. I was tempted to include the Cardinals in the teaser portfolio, but they’ve been too inconsistent for my liking. So I’ll just stay away from this game as there are plenty of better betting opportunities this week. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Eagles 55/45 in ATS pools, especially at + 6.5, but Cardinals 75/25 in SU pools).
Chiefs (-3 -120) at Saints
This is the marquee Sunday afternoon game — and the reason we have only three games in that TV window. Many people think it’s a Super Bowl preview. The Saints are tempting as home underdogs, especially if it gets to + 3.5. But there are still some concerns about QB Taysom Hill, especially if falling behind or being forced into a shootout. I’m understandably selective when deciding when to fade the Chiefs and just don’t feel I’m getting enough points in this spot. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Saints 55/45 in ATS contests — higher if offered + 3.5 — but Chiefs still 70/30 in SU pools).
Browns (-4) at Giants
With both teams in playoff contention, this game has been flexed to “Sunday Night Football.” These aren’t the same old Browns, and it looks like they earned more bandwagon jumpers despite their Monday night loss to the Ravens as this line was Browns -3.5 but had been bet up to -4 at a lot of books as of Tuesday night. The Giants put in a clunker in their 26-7 loss to the Cardinals, but I think QB Daniel Jones was rushed back and should have a better showing this week. Even though the Browns are 9-4 SU, they’re only 5-8 ATS, so they’ve let lesser teams stick around and failed to cover in wins against the Bengals (twice!), Texans and Jaguars. Best Bet: Giants + 4 (pool play: Giants 67/33 in ATS contests, but Browns in slightly more SU pools around 55/45).
Steelers (-13) at Bengals
The luster is off the Steelers as they’ve lost two straight, though against what could be two playoff teams in Buffalo and Washington. Most people are expecting the Steelers to get well by blowing out the Bengals, who have been held to 17 or fewer points in their last five games. But I’m here to warn you that this is a spot where parity usually pops up in the NFL, especially with this basically being the Bengals’ Super Bowl. As of now, sharp bettors seem to be agreeing with me as they’re snapping up the Bengals at + 13, but I’ll still be on them at anything in double digits. Best Bet: Bengals + 13 (pool play: Bengals 75/25 in ATS contests, but Steelers still in all SU pools as I’ve written before that I like to be all in on the Monday nighter in SU pools).