Happy holidays from the Tuley’s Takes home office to all our loyal readers.
We’re hoping everyone is in just as festive a mood as we are after starting the bowl season with a Best Bet on Florida Atlantic 3 vs. SMU in the Boca Raton Bowl on Saturday. We thought the whole world was against us when three FAU players were suspended and the line steamed up to 7. But we still believed the Owls were the better team and loved the added value, and then FAU rolled 52-28 to get us off to a great start on the bowls and improve our CFB record to 29-17-1 ATS (63%). We’ll give our takes on this week’s bowl card after going through the NFL Week 17 slate.
NFL Week 16 was mostly a break-even affair though we finished ahead at 3-2 ATS with our Best Bets after the Packers won on Monday Night Football (and stand at 57-47-3, 54.8 percent on the season), but we’re still in contention to cash in the Top 20 of the Ultimate Football Challenge at the Golden Nugget heading into the final weekend.
NFL Week 17 is always one of the toughest to handicap because some games resemble preseason games as some playoff-bound teams rest starters or play them only part of the game. I’m definitely passing on more games as we’re writing this earlier in the week than usual with the holiday and waiting for a better handle on these matchups later in the week. But we’ll still give our take on each game, especially for those still playing in contests in which you have to play the whole card. Games are in betting rotation order, even though several have been moved to the afternoon window due to playoff implications, with lines from VSiN’s host hotel at the South Point as of Monday afternoon (except where noted, especially for line-shopping purposes).
Takes on the NFL
Titans (-5) at Texans (O/U 45.5)
Tuley’s Take: The whole world will be on the Titans, who can clinch an AFC wild card with a victory. The Texans are pretty much locked into a No. 4 seed and are expected to rest their starters since they have to play next weekend in the wild-card round. However, I’m waiting to see if this line gets steamed higher, as I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texans try to stay sharp and give more of an effort than a lot of people are assuming. I’m passing for now but would take Texans 6 and certainly 7 if it gets that far. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Texans 60/40 in ATS, though probably still Titans around 75/25 in SU pools).
Browns (-2.5) at Bengals (O/U 45)
Tuley’s Take: The narrative I’ve been hearing early this week is the Bengals have wrapped up the No. 1 draft pick, so now they can afford to win a game. People are also pointing out that the players were certainly trying to win last week at Miami with their big comeback before falling in overtime. And the early line move from Browns -3 to -2.5 reflects that thinking. However, this line is too short for my money to go on the Bengals. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Browns around 67/33 in all SU and ATS contests).
Bears (OTB) at Vikings (OTB)
Tuley’s Take: This was off the board as of my deadline with the Vikings playing Monday night. With the Vikings losing to the Packers, I’m assuming this line will drop as the Vikings will be more likely to rest starters now that they’re locked into the NFC’s last wild-card slot. Regardless, I’m not planning to back the Bears, especially after how they didn’t step up to give the Chiefs a game on Sunday night. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Vikings around 60/40 in all SU & ATS contests even though resting starters).
Colts (-3.5) at Jaguars (O/U 43)
Tuley’s Take: The Colts are eliminated from the playoffs, but the Raiders need them to win to keep their slim hopes alive. That’s certainly not a reason to back the Colts, though I’m also not recommending a play on the Jaguars, who truly look like they’re playing out the string. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Colts around 67/33 in ATS contests and close to all SU pools).
Falcons (PK) at Buccaneers (O/U 50)
Tuley’s Take: How the heck did the Bucs-Texans game stay Under last weekend after Jameis Winston threw a pick-six on his first pass? I went 0-2 last week with my “bet Over in games between two also-rans as defense is optional” system, but this game now qualifies. Besides, the Bucs won the first meeting 35-22, and I expect a similar result. Best Bet: Over 50 (contest strategy: Buccaneers in slightly more SU and ATS contests as this is a coin flip, just as the pick-’em line says).
Redskins (O/U 44.5) at Cowboys (-11)
Tuley’s Take: After losing 17-9 to the Eagles on Sunday, the Cowboys must win this game and hope the Eagles lose to the Giants to make the playoffs. The Cowboys covered in a 31-21 win in their first meeting in Week 2, so they could blow out the Skins, but I’m betting against it. The Redskins have been playing better the last five weeks (3-2 ATS). Besides, Case Keenum isn’t a downgrade from Dwayne Haskins, so I expect this to be a lot closer than the blowout a lot of people anticipate. Best Bet: Redskins plus 11 (contest strategy: Redskins around 80/20 in ATS contests, though Cowboys around 67/33 in SU pools).
Saints (-13) at Panthers (O/U 47.5)
Tuley’s Take: The Saints are still playing for the No. 1 NFC seed or at least a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed, so it’s not surprising this line is jacked up so high. I’d love to make a case for the Panthers keeping this close, but after watching them get rolled 38-6 by the Colts in Will Grier’s debut, I think our money is best invested elsewhere. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Saints around 75/25 in ATS contests and all SU pools).
Eagles (-4.5) at Giants (O/U 45)
Tuley’s Take: The Eagles came through big-time for us last week in upsetting the Cowboys and taking control of the NFC East. But if you think I’m assuming they’ll now roll over the Giants to clinch the division title, you couldn’t be more wrong. With the Eagles now being road favorites, the value is clearly on the underdog Giants playing spoilers. Besides, the Giants covered in their 23-17 loss at Philadelphia in Week 14 and should have won the game. Though the Giants’ last two wins were against the lowly Dolphins and Redskins, this won’t be a walkover for the Eagles. Best Bet: Giants plus 4.5 (contest strategy: Giants around 75/25 in ATS contests and right around 50/50 in SU pools).
Steelers (-1.5) at Ravens (O/U 38)
Tuley’s Take: This line opened Ravens -2.5, but we had a change of favorite after Lamar Jackson was declared out Monday. The Ravens have clinched the AFC’s No. 1 seed and were expected to sit some of their starters, and the Steelers still need to win (coupled with the Titans losing) to make the playoffs. Backing the Steelers means putting your trust in QB Delvin Hodges. If I play this game at all, I’ll probably tease the Ravens up to 8.5 (or higher if the line continues to move in Pittsburgh’s direction). Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Steelers around 75/25 in all SU & ATS pools).
Jets (O/U 37) at Bills (-1)
Tuley’s Take: The Bills are locked into the AFC’s No. 5 spot, and everyone is probably going to expect them to rest a bunch of starters, but we’ll see if that’s the case. I wouldn’t try to talk anyone out of betting the underdog Jets, especially after the way they played in their 16-10 upset of the Steelers last week, but again the sharper play might be to tease them. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Jets around 55/45 in all SU & ATS pools).
Dolphins (O/U 45) at Patriots (-16)
Tuley’s Take: I gave this as my one Best Bet on “The Opening Lines Show” (9 p.m. to midnight ET/7-9 p.m. PT on Sunday nights, with my segment usually after the 8:30 p.m. commercial break), even though it was off the board at that point after opening at Patriots -15.5. It’s now up to 16, and I love it more. The Dolphins have been playing well since their horrendous start, when everyone was saying they were tanking and predicting an 0-16 season. They’ve actually won four of their last eight and are 5-3 ATS in that stretch. Meanwhile, the Patriots covered Saturday in their 24-17 win over the Bills, but their offense still isn’t in sync and shouldn’t be trusted to cover this big a spread even if they’re trying to clinch the AFC’s No. 2 seed (though they don’t need to win by three scores to do that). Best Bet: Dolphins plus 16 (contest strategy: Dolphins around 80/20 in ATS contests, but Patriots still around 80/20 in SU pools).
Packers (-10) at Lions (O/U 41.5)
Tuley’s Take: This line could be affected by Monday night’s outcome. Since the Packers beat the Vikings, it’ll probably stay around 10 as the Packers will still be playing for the No. 1 seed or at least a first-round bye. If the Lions were playing like they were the first half of the season, I would probably take them to play spoiler, but no thanks now. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Packers 67/33 in ATS contests, especially if laying 9.5 or lower, and in all SU pools).
Chargers (O/U 46.5) at Chiefs (-8)
Tuley’s Take: The Chiefs most likely will be the AFC’s No. 3 seed, but they’re still expecting to put forth their best effort here as they can climb to No. 2 (and a first-round bye) if they win while the Patriots lose to the Dolphins. They also need to win to hold on to the No. 3 seed in case the Texans beat the Titans. The Chargers certainly let down their backers last week as they lost to the Raiders in what was likely Philip Rivers’ last home game as a Charger, but I still might back them here getting more than a TD. As much as Rivers and the Chargers have underachieved, this is the role they’re thrived in the most. Rivers is 31-14-1 ATS (68.9%) in his career as a road dog of 3 or more points — and 7-3-2 ATS since the team moved from San Diego. Best Bet: Chargers plus 8 (contest strategy: Chargers around 67/33 in SU contests but Chiefs around 75/25 in SU pools).
Cardinals (OTB) at Rams (OTB)
Tuley’s Take: This game was off the board Monday due to the uncertain status of Kyler Murray’s hamstring injury. The advance line was Rams -7, but that was when they still had a slim chance to make the playoffs. I’ll probably pass on the side. I’d be interested in playing the Over (I’ve seen O/U 47 for this matchup) as a game between two also-rans but will probably pass if it’s Brett Hundley starting for Arizona in place of Murray. Best Bet: Pass (contest strategy: Rams around 55/45 in ATS contests, though flipping to Cards if given more than a TD, and Rams around 75/25 in SU pools).
49ers (-3) at Seahawks (O/U 47)
Tuley’s Take: Monday’s big news was that Marshawn Lynch might be coming back to the Seahawks backfield. Meanwhile, this line was getting shaded to 49ers -3 (-120). I’m waiting to actually place any wagers in case we get 3.5 or higher, but I’m sure I’ll be on the Seahawks whether Beast Mode returns or not. Similar to my pick of the Eagles over the Cowboys last week, I still trust Seattle’s championship pedigree and coach Pete Carroll over the fledgling 49ers. And, though they lost at home to the Cardinals last week, it’s still hard to go into Seattle for a big game like this. Best Bet: Seahawks (contest strategy: Seahawks in all SU and ATS contests, especially as this will be a tiebreaker game in a lot of contests with the move to the Sunday night finale).
Raiders (O/U 41) at Broncos (-3.5)
Tuley’s Take: The Raiders are miraculously still alive for a wild-card spot, needing the Titans and Steelers to lose and the Colts to win. So I’m actually a little surprised the Broncos are favored, but I’ll take the bonus points. While the Broncos have been playing well down the stretch (3-1 SU and ATS in their last four games), I still have the Raiders as the better team and also like that they won the first meeting 24-16 but are now getting points. Best Bet: Raiders plus 3.5 (contest strategy: Raiders around 80/20 in ATS contests and also around 60/40 in SU pools).
Takes on College Football
As mentioned in the intro, we started the bowl season 1-0 ATS with Florida Atlantic to improve our overall Best Bet record here to 29-17-1 ATS (63%). But we also hope you’ve been following along with our leans on the VSiN CFB Consensus page in this issue, as we started the bowl season 6-3 ATS to improve to 91-70-1 ATS (56.5%) overall with Hawaii 1.5 pending vs. BYU on Tuesday night. My leans for all the biggest bowl games this week are again on the Consensus page.
Also, I have only two Best Bets this week from the VSiN Bowl Guide with Oklahoma State 7 vs. Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl and Washington State 3 vs. Air Force in the Cheez-It Bowl. However, OSU is down to 6.5 at most books (I’d grab the 7 if you can still find one), so I’m just calling it one Best Bet this week here in “PSW.”
Washington State (plus 3) vs. Air Force
I usually don’t like to bet against the service academies, but I like Washington State’s chances to spring the mild upset Friday night. We definitely have a difference in styles. Air Force will run the ball up the Wazzu. It averages 292.5 rushing yards per game, No. 3 in the nation, while WSU allows 170 rushing yards per game. However, Washington State counters with 443.3 passing yards per game (No. 1 in the nation) behind Mike Leach’s latest protege, Anthony Gordon (71.9% completions, 5,228 yards, 45 TDs). This is 2019, so I’ll trust the passing offense to keep up in what should be a shootout (Over/Under 67). Besides, while Air Force’s 10-2 record is impressive, the only win over a Power 5 team was 30-23 in OT over five-win Colorado, which Washington State routed 41-10. Frankly, I think the wrong team is favored.