Loyal readers know we preach our dog-or-pass philosophy here at the Tuley’s Takes home office, and that makes us contrarians at heart. That means we’re betting against the public and on the same side as the house — which, in the long run, isn’t a bad place to be.
So when the Ravens routed the Jets 42-21 on Thursday night, though the Jets had the ball late with a chance to get in the back door as 14.5- to 17-point underdogs, and favorites went 6-1-1 ATS in Sunday’s early NFL games, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we were on the way to a disastrous week. Our Best Bets here in “Point Spread Weekly” were 1-4 ATS, with the Texans the only winners, as well as in the Golden Nugget contest in which we entered the week tied for 20th place. Fortunately, things turned around. Dogs went 4-1 ATS in the late Sunday afternoon games, as we cashed with the Falcons vs. the 49ers, and then the Bills beat the Steelers 17-10 on “Sunday Night Football.”
We still lost on the weekend at 3-4 ATS but slipped only into a tie for 21st in the Nugget contest as other contenders also had tough weekends with the nearly all-NFL card. We have two weeks left in the NFL season, and we get the return of college football with the bowls starting Friday.
Our college football Best Bets were 28-17-1 ATS (62.2%) for the regular season, and we hope to continue that success into the bowl season, though I just have one Best Bet this weekend. If you want my leans on the other bowl games this weekend, they are on the VSiN CFB Consensus Page, where my overall picks went 86-67-1 (56.2%). All my bowl Best Bets are in the VSiN College Bowl Guide.
I did go 4-1-2 ATS in the Ultimate Football Challenge at the Golden Nugget, which includes NCAA sides, to get into the top 20 with three weeks to go.
So, yes, we’re very excited for what’s to come as we head into the last two weeks of the NFL season. And while this week’s column will be devoted solely to the NFL, check out our VSiN College Bowl Guide, plus I’ll be adding my bowl picks for the current week starting next week in “Point Spread Weekly.”
Let’s look at this week’s NFL card, though my Best Bets did dip to 54-45-3 (54.5%) on the season. For newbies, I give my take on each NFL game and — since I’m a huge proponent of contest play, as you could see above — I’ll at least give my contest strategy for those looking for input for contests in which they have to play the whole card. Lines are from VSiN’s host hotel at the South Point as of Tuesday afternoon (except where noted, especially for line-shopping purposes).
Takes on the NFL
Rams (O/U 45) at 49ers (-6.5)
Tuley’s Take: This is the first game in the betting rotation but the nightcap of Saturday’s NFL tripleheader. The Rams’ Super Bowl hangover has resulted in missing the playoffs after getting blown out by the Cowboys last week. They could play spoiler vs. the 49ers, who obviously need this game a lot more, but the line’s too short to trust the Rams. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: 49ers in slightly more ATS contests and closer to 80/20 in SU pools).
Bills (O/U 38) at Patriots (-6.5)
Tuley’s Take: I knew I should have grabbed the Bills 7 on Sunday before it was taken off the board when their game kicked off vs. the Steelers. Still, I like the Bills enough as live underdogs to recommend them as a Best Bet, though I’ll wait to see if the public bets the line back up to 7. I’ve been impressed with the Bills’ defense since their 16-10 loss to the Patriots in Week 4, when the Pats had only one offensive TD, the other coming on a blocked punt return. I expect another low-scoring battle that comes down to one score. Best Bet: Bills 6.5 (contest strategy: Bills in nearly all ATS contests, but Patriots about 67/33 in SU pools).
Texans (-3) at Buccaneers (O/U 50)
Tuley’s Take: This is third on the betting board but the first game Saturday. The Texans can clinch the AFC South with a win. The number’s too short to back the Buccaneers, who were already without WR Mike Evans and now have lost WR Chris Godwin. But I’ll still keep riding the Bucs’ Over trend (11-1 in their last dozen games). The Texans will get their points, while Jameis Winston still put up big numbers last week with the reserves, including fantasy playoff superstar Breshad Perriman. Best Bet: Over 50 (contest strategy: Texans around 90/10 in all SU and ATS contests).
Lions (O/U 38) at Broncos (-6.5)
Tuley’s Take: This game was a possible Saturday matchup but was moved to Sunday with these teams out of the playoff hunt. The Broncos let us down last week against the Chiefs, but I won’t fade them just because of that. Besides, the Lions haven’t done much since David Blough’s opening drive on Thanksgiving. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Broncos slightly more than 50/50 in ATS contests and around 75/25 in SU pools).
Raiders (O/U 46) at Chargers (-6)
Tuley’s Take: A lot of people are saying they like the Chargers since it could be Philip Rivers’ last home game, but I’d warn them that many were saying the same thing last week with the Raiders playing their last game in Oakland. That lackluster performance is also why I’m unwilling to take the Raiders here as underdogs. Instead, I’ll look to the Over, as I expect Rivers and Derek Carr to fill the air with footballs in a shootout with neither defense having the incentive or ability to stop the offenses. Best Bet: Over 46 (contest strategy: Chargers around 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 80/20 in SU pools).
Jaguars (O/U 45.5) at Falcons (-7)
Tuley’s Take: The Jaguars woke up from their swoon to rally and beat the Raiders, but I still don’t trust them to keep up with the Falcons. Still, the Falcons’ defense is porous enough to once again go with the Over between these also-rans. Best Bet: Over 45.5 (contest strategy: Falcons around 60/40 in ATS contests and 90/10 in SU pools).
Saints (-3) at Titans (O/U 50.5)
Tuley’s Take: After the Saints’ 34-7 rout of the Colts on “Monday Night Football,” I was hoping this line might get inflated over a field goal as a lot of people are jumping on the Saints’ bandwagon. The Titans are still fighting for an AFC playoff spot, and I believe the Titans’ defense is good enough to contain Drew Brees and company, but this number is too short. However, I would grab the 3.5 if it becomes available before game time. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Titans in slightly more ATS contests, especially if offered 3.5, but Saints around 67/33 in SU pools).
Giants (O/U 42.5) at Redskins (-2.5)
Tuley’s Take: The Redskins have certainly been more competitive the last month, with upsets of the Lions and Panthers, a cover at Green Bay and a terrible Bad Beat against the Eagles. But I still don’t think they should be favored, especially against a Giants team that also has been playing better lately and beat them 24-3 in Week 4. Whether it’s Eli Manning or the return of Daniel Jones, I’ll take the Giants as short road dogs. Best Bet: Giants 2.5 (contest strategy: Giants around 80/20 in all contests).
Steelers (-3) at Jets (O/U 38.5)
Tuley’s Take: Here’s another case in which the line is just too short for me to bite on the dog. The Ravens were -17 vs. the Jets, but the Steelers, battling for an AFC wild-card spot, are only -3? I know the Ravens were home and the Steelers are on the road, but c’mon! I know the Jets were run over by the Ravens, but they still had a chance to cover at the end. I believe that can happen here, too, but I’d need at least 3.5. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Jets around 67/33 in ATS contests if getting 3.5 but flip to Steelers at -2.5; Steelers 80/20 in SU contests).
Bengals (O/U 46.5) at Dolphins (-1)
Tuley’s Take: My first impulse is to fade the Dolphins as chalk, but it is just 1 point — and the team I’d be backing is the Bengals. I have to pass some of these games, and that goes for the Over as well. Despite how terrible both defenses are, I think the total is set too high for these offenses. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Bengals in slightly more SU and ATS contests but pretty much 50/50).
Panthers (O/U 46) at Colts (-6.5)
Tuley’s Take: I missed the 7 earlier in the week, but we might see it again as the Colts still have (slim) playoff hopes, so the public might bet the line up over the weekend. I know Kyle Allen has come back to earth after his hot start, but the Panthers kept clawing and pushed in a 30-24 loss to the Seahawks last week, cashing for those who got 6.5. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Panthers around 70/30 in ATS contests — all if offered 7.5 — though Colts still around 67/23 in SU pools).
Ravens (-10) at Browns (O/U 49)
Tuley’s Take: When I finished my segment on “The Opening Lines Show” (I’m usually on at 11:30 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. PT or 1:30 into the replay/archive), VSiN colleague Jonathan Von Tobel wondered why I didn’t mention this game among my early leans. I almost called back in because I do consider this my top play of the week. Yes, I know the Ravens are awesome and 7-1 ATS in their last eight games. And, yes, the Browns are the biggest underachievers this season. However, the Browns are likely to get up for this game against their biggest rivals and, despite their records, can certainly match up against them, as they showed in beating them 40-25 in Week 4. Chalk bettors will cite revenge as a reason to lay the points with the Ravens, but they really don’t have the incentive. Their main goals are to win straight up to clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and get out of this game healthy. Best Bet: Browns 10 (contest strategy: Browns in all ATS contests, though Ravens around 75/25 in SU pools, but taking my shots with the Browns in several).
Cowboys (-2.5) at Eagles (O/U 46.5)
Tuley’s Take: This line was wavering between 2.5/3 on Tuesday, so obviously shop around for the best number regardless of which side you’re playing. But I’ll still call it a Best Bet at Eagles 2.5. We know the Cowboys ran over the Rams 44-21 in a win they didn’t really need, while the Eagles were lucky to beat the Redskins 37-27. But that’s kind of why I like the Eagles in this battle for the NFC East lead. Their championship pedigree has shown through as they’ve been able to pull out wins even when not playing their best. This should be a battle to the final gun, and I’d much rather trust Doug Pederson than Jason Garrett. Best Bet: Eagles 2.5 or 3 (contest strategy: Eagles around 80/20 in ATS contests and still around 60/40 in SU pools).
Cardinals (O/U 50.5) at Seahawks (-9.5)
Tuley’s Take: The Seahawks are back atop the NFC standings and in control of their playoff destiny, but it’s tempting to take the Cardinals, who have been competitive most weeks at 8-5-1 ATS. However, I am discouraged by the Seahawks dominating both sides of the ball in their 27-10 win in Week 4 — and that was at Arizona, while this rematch is in Seattle. I might get involved if the public bets it up to 10, but for now I like better dogs on the card. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Cardinals slightly more than 50/50 in ATS contests, but Seahawks around 90/10 in SU pools).
Chiefs (-5) at Bears (O/U 45)
Tuley’s Take: Here’s another game with the line too short for me to bite on the dog. While the Chiefs’ defense usually lets teams stick around, I don’t trust Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears’ offense to take advantage and keep up with the Chiefs’ offense. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Chiefs around 67/33 in ATS contests and closer to 90/10 in SU pools).
Packers (O/U 45.5) at Vikings (-4.5)
Tuley’s Take: I guess the Vikings are favored by this much since they need to win, while the Packers could lose and still win the NFC North by beating the Lions in Week 17. But I think the Packers will take care of business here. Besides, they’re trying to hold off the Saints for a first-round bye and still have a shot at home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Objectively, I have this as a coin flip to win straight up, so I’ll gladly take the bonus points as this should come down to a field goal. The Packers won the first meeting 21-16 in Week 2 as Aaron Rodgers stood out early and Kirk Cousins choked late with a red-zone INT. I wouldn’t be surprised by the same result. Best Bet: Packers 4.5 (contest strategy: Packers in all ATS contests and at least 60/40 in SU pools).
Takes on College Football
As mentioned earlier, we’re excited about the start of bowl season after going 28-17-1 ATS (62.2%) during the regular season. However, of the 11 bowls covered in this issue, I have only one official Best Bet since I think the favorite is the right side or the number if too short to take the dog.
Florida Atlantic ( 3) vs. SMU
When the bowl matchups came out, I was thrilled to see FAU as an underdog as I made this matchup pick-’em. The teams have very similar records and stats. SMU’s offense scores about a touchdown more per game, but FAU’s defense allows about a touchdown less. And then I realized this game is being played at FAU Stadium, and I liked it more as we’re basically getting a home dog. FAU played in this bowl two years ago and routed Akron 50-3, plus it blew out UAB 49-6 here two weeks ago in the Conference USA title game. I realize coach Lane Kiffin has left for Mississippi, but I dismiss those guessing-game motivational factors that come up in a lot of bowls. I handicap the players on the field and believe it’s more likely the Owls will come through on their home field again.