Christmas came a week early here in the Tuley’s Takes home office as NFL underdogs went 10-5-1 ATS, including huge upsets by the Jets and Bengals as double-digit underdogs. We went 5-3 with our best ATS bets here in this column, plus 2-0 with Overs in the Chargers-Raiders and 49ers-Cowboys games for an overall week of 7-3.
In addition, we went 4-1 ATS on college conference championship weekend, including Ball State winning the MAC title at 10-1 as I predicted. For my 10 best bets in the bowls, check out the VSiN Bowl Betting Guide.
Back to the NFL ... I wrote last week that Week 15 had been great to me over the years, and it certainly came through again. As I also wrote, some might call it a coincidence, but I really do believe it’s a case of oddsmakers and public bettors dismissing some teams and overrating others, which leads to overly inflated lines of which we can take advantage. Now the challenge is to objectively analyze where we are and determine whether value exists on these big dogs or whether the oddsmakers are shading the other way.
Some adjustments have been made, such as the Jets being + 9.5 this week vs. the Browns when it was + 10.5 on some advance lines, but most of the lines look about what we were expecting.
So let’s get to NFL Week 16 with a full slate of games. There is no Thursday nighter, but we get a rare Friday game on Christmas and three Saturday games.
Per usual, I’ll give my takes on each game. Even if I don’t have an opinion that I think warrants a bet, I’ll include my pool plays, in which I give my level of confidence for SU and ATS contests, especially for those of us who have pools in which we have to make a pick on every game.
Vikings at Saints (-7)
The Saints, coming off a 32-29 loss to the Chiefs, are playoff-bound, while the Vikings are probably on the outside looking in after their 33-27 loss to the Bears. But I think this line is set a little too high. The Vikings are still good enough on offense to keep within a touchdown in another shootout. I don’t trust the Minnesota defense enough to make a moneyline wager, but give me the points. Best Bet: Vikings + 7 (pool play: Vikings in all my rare ATS contests that include non-Sunday/Monday games, but Saints in all SU pools).
Buccaneers (-9) at Lions
The Lions were one of the big underdogs that didn’t come through in Week 15. Assuming Matthew Stafford, who showed signs of brilliance in trying to keep the Lions in the game vs. the Titans, is good to go, I like the Lions’ chances to keep up with the Buccaneers, who were fortunate to be playing Tom Brady’s favorite team to rally against — and they still didn’t cover vs. the Falcons. I see a similar scenario with the Bucs winning but not covering. This line was Tampa Bay -8.5 earlier in the week, which made it a prime teaser play. But with the line climbing, I’ll pass on that and stick with the Lions plus the generous points. Best Bet: Lions + 9 or better (pool play: Lions 75/25 in ATS contests, though Buccaneers still 80/20 in SU pools).
49ers at Cardinals (-4.5)
The Cardinals covered as 6-point favorites in their 33-26 win over the Eagles, but it wasn’t easy as the Cards usually let teams stick around. So it’s tempting to take the 49ers plus the points. But the line is just too short for me to pull the trigger, and I’d rather invest my money on better dogs (or ones getting more points). Best Bet: Pass (pool play: 49ers 55/45 in ATS contests, but Cardinals 67/33 in SU pools).
Dolphins (-3) at Raiders
A few weeks ago, it looked like the Raiders were heading to the playoffs and that they’d be favored in this matchup. In fact, the Westgate’s advance line had the Raiders -2 just last week. But now it has flipped to the Dolphins, especially with Derek Carr doubtful to return. I’m OK with Marcus Mariota in the short term, but the Dolphins’ defense continues to impress, so this line is still a little short for me, even though it was up to a field goal. This is a good spot to tease the Raiders up to + 8.5 or 9, and this is also a good spot to list our recommended 6-point teaser portfolio for the week (we went 5-1 with our recommended teasers again last week, so hopefully readers continue to play these): Broncos up to + 9 at Chargers, Texans down to -2 vs. Bengals, Steelers up to + 7.5 vs. Colts, Bears down to -1.5 at Jaguars, Panthers up to + 8.5 at Washington, Rams up to + 8 at Seahawks and Cowboys up to + 7.5 vs. Eagles. Best Bet: Pass, except for Raiders in teasers (pool play: Dolphins 55/45 in ATS contests — though flip to Raiders if offered + 3.5 — and Dolphins 67/33 in SU pools).
Broncos at Chargers (-3 -120)
The Broncos have been good to us as underdogs this season, though they let us down in Saturday’s 48-19 loss to the Bills. I’d love to fade Anthony Lynn for as long as he’s still a coach — we don’t have an official stat, but he easily leads the league in clock- and game-management mistakes — but I’d still rather get + 3.5 if it becomes available. Even if it doesn’t get there, we’ll definitely use the Broncos in teasers up to + 9 or better. This should come down to the wire after the Broncos won the first meeting 31-30. Best Bet: Broncos if it gets to + 3.5, plus Broncos in teasers (pool play: Broncos 65/35 in ATS contests, especially if offered + 3.5, but Chargers 55/45 in SU pools).
Browns (-9.5) at Jets
The advance line for this game a week ago was Browns -10.5. But after the Browns beat the Giants and especially after the Jets upset the Rams 23-20 as 17-point underdogs and + 1,100 on the moneyline, the line is in single digits. My first impression is that the line is a little short, but the Jets outplayed the Rams and have been more competitive than most people were giving them credit for, going 4-2 ATS in their last six games. This also fits the old “swagger theory” from my ViewFromVegas Forums, where we often discussed that a team that snaps a long losing streak usually follows it with another good performance as it gets its swagger back. Best Bet: Jets + 9.5 or higher (pool play: Jets 75/25 in ATS contests, but Browns still 80/20 in SU pools).
Bengals at Texans (-8)
The Bengals are another swagger play as they snapped a five-game losing streak with their 27-17 upset of the Steelers on Monday night. But even if the Bengals hadn’t won, I would probably still be on them here as the Texans shouldn’t be favored by more than a touchdown against any team. They are the better team here and should have a better record than 4-10, but they’ve won by more than a touchdown only twice this year, in Week 5 vs. the Jaguars and on Thanksgiving vs. the Lions. Still, the Texans are playable in teasers, so I’ll be cheering for a middle. Best Bet: Bengals + 8, plus Texans in teasers (pool play: Bengals 75/25 in ATS contests, though Texans 75/25 in SU pools).
Colts (-1.5) at Steelers
The Steelers were an example of an anti-swagger play when their 11-0 start was snapped by Washington in Week 13, and then they lost the next week to the Bills. (Of course, the hangover extended another game with the Steelers’ loss to the Bengals.) I’m not willing to jump back on them getting just 1.5 points, but they’re my favorite teaser of the week getting more than a touchdown. This should be a defensive battle, so my favorite bet of all is on the Under. Best Bet: Under 45, plus Steelers in teasers (pool play: Steelers 55/45 in ATS contests and about the same or slightly slipped to the Colts in SU pools).
Bears (-7.5) at Jaguars
The Jaguars were the biggest dogs that let us down in Week 15 as they were run over by the Ravens. The Bears are 7-7 and back in the playoff hunt as they continue their streaky ways — 5-1 start, 0-6 slide, 2-0 last two weeks. But while we agree the Bears should not be favored by this many points, I’m not sure I’m ready to pull the trigger again on the Jaguars. I plan to just stick with the teaser. Best Bet: Pass, except Bears in teasers (pool play: Jaguars 55/45 in ATS contests, but Bears 75/25 in SU pools).
Panthers at Washington (-2.5)
The Panthers covered for us Saturday against the Packers and have been pretty competitive overall, going 8-6 ATS despite a 4-10 SU record. I’d love to take them against a Washington team that is leading the NFC East but still not too trustworthy, but the line is a little short. The Panthers are right there with the Steelers as my favorite teaser plays of the week. But I also like the Under as the Panthers’ defense is certainly capable of shutting down the Washington offense while we all know how good the Washington defense is. Best Bet: Under 44.5, plus Panthers in teasers (pool play: Panthers 55/45 in ATS contests and about the same in SU pools).
Giants at Ravens (OFF)
This was off the board as oddsmakers wait to see the status of Daniel Jones. The advance line was Ravens -9.5, and some books had it at Ravens -11 or -11.5 on Tuesday. I’m undecided at this point of the week. Check the NFL Best Bets at VSin.com over the weekend to see if I’ve decided to jump in on the Giants after we know the starting QB and the line. Best Bet: Pass for now (pool play: Giants about 60/40 in ATS contests, but Ravens 90/10 in SU pools).
Falcons at Chiefs (-10.5)
Here’s the big dog we really like this week. The Falcons covered for us Sunday against the Buccaneers, despite almost blowing it at the end in true Falcons form, and have shown they can match just about any team score for score. The Chiefs, despite their 13-1 SU record, continue to play close game after close game (they’re just 7-7 ATS). So give me the double-digit points. Best Bet: Falcons + 10.5 (pool play: Falcons 80/20 in ATS contests, though Chiefs about 80/20 in SU pools).
Rams at Seahawks (-2)
These NFC West rivals have had pretty good seasons but have also thrown in some clunkers, none more than the Rams’ 23-20 loss to the previously winless Jets. This is for the NFC West lead. The Rams are a game behind but would have the tiebreaker with a victory as they also won the earlier meeting. The line is too short for me to take the Rams, but I’ll use them in my teaser portfolio. Best Bet: Pass, except for Rams in teasers (pool play: Rams 55/45 in ATS contests, but flip to Seahawks about 60/40 in SU pools).
Eagles (-2) at Cowboys
Here we go again with another short line that’s putting me on the teaser. The Eagles’ bandwagon is filling back up since Jalen Hurts took over at QB, but I’m still willing to fade them. Of course, the Cowboys’ defense still can’t be trusted, so this will be one of my least-used teaser options. Best Bet: Pass, except for Cowboys in a few teasers (pool play: Cowboys 55/45 in ATS contests and again flipping to Eagles about 60/40 in SU pools).
Titans at Packers (-3.5)
We get a pretty good Sunday nighter again with the Titans visiting the Packers in what could be seen as a potential Super Bowl preview. I know most people think the Chiefs will be the AFC representatives, but I still like the Titans’ chances for my 40-1 futures-book bet from the summer. The Titans are right there with the Packers for the top-scoring offense, and this should be a shootout that comes down to a field goal, so I love having the + 3.5 working for us. Best Bet: Titans + 3.5 (pool play: Titans 67/33 in ATS contests and close to 50/50 in SU pools with slight edge maybe to the Packers, but I’ll certainly be taking my shots with the Titans).
Bills (-7) at Patriots
The Bills have clinched the AFC East, and the Patriots will be spending a rare postseason watching on TV. I know New England is a shadow of its former self, but I can’t help but get the feeling that this is their Super Bowl and Bill Belichick will have his team prepared for its best showing. The Bills are still fighting for playoff seeding, but I’m not sure that means much, so I’m not even using the Bills in teasers for this game. Best Bet: Patriots + 7 (pool play: Patriots 75/25 in ATS contests, but Bills about 60/40 in SU pools but with plenty of tickets using the Pats).