We’re sad to see the NFL regular season end here in the Tuley’s Takes home office, but we’re excited about the expanded NFL playoffs with six wild-card games this weekend, plus the college football national championship game on Monday night.
I only went 1-3-1 with my ATS best bets in this column last week and 1-3-1 to fall out of the Top 100 in the Westgate SuperContest and short of the Top 50 in Circa Sports Million II. I also lost to Brent Musburger in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s NFL Challenge, so congrats to Uncle Brent for also winning VSiN bragging rights.
However, I still had a very profitable weekend as my Over/Under plays were 3-0 here and my recommended teaser portfolio plays were 4-1. We also added the Rams + 3 in the weekend update at VSiN.com when the line moved more toward the Cardinals. Week 17 is always about adjusting to overreactions in the betting markets, so we hope readers grabbed overadjusted lines, such as Steelers + 10.5 and Eagles + 6.5, even though we didn’t like them as best bets here. Plus anyone betting over the weekend should have been able to get the Jaguars between + 14.5 and + 15.5 for a win with their 28-14 loss to the Colts, while I got stuck with a push with my Point Spread Weekly pick and in the contests.
We also wrapped up a 6-3 ATS best-bet record in the VSiN Bowl Betting Guide, capped by Ohio State’s 49-28 upset of Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Unfortunately, I didn’t pick Notre Dame to cover against Alabama as I believed the Fighting Irish were overmatched, but congrats to any underdog followers who got the back-door cover. And, of course, with my dog-or-pass philosophy, I certainly didn’t lay the 19.5 points with Bama.
So, with an eye toward finding more live dogs this weekend, I’ll give my takes on the six NFL wild-card games, plus the Alabama-Ohio State game on Monday night.
Colts at Bills (-6.5, O/U 51.5)
In addition to Notre Dame-Alabama, here’s another example I can use when people say “you always take the dog.” Dog or pass means being selective in deciding which are the best dogs to back and at which price. The whole world seems to be jumping on the Bills’ bandwagon, so my first thought is that I’d like to fade the public. And I did take the Colts + 6.5 on the VSiN NFL Consensus page because I was required to make a pick. However, the Bills are the better overall team, and they’re also an NFL-best 11-5 ATS, so they cover a lot even when favored, so I would need a full + 7 before betting the Colts. In fact, I believe so much that the Bills will comfortably win this game that this is where I’ll start my weekly 6-point teaser recommendations. Teasing the Bills down to -0.5 means they just need to win the game outright. For bettors who don’t grab that right away, I’d still tease the Bills over the weekend even if you can only get -1 or -1.5. Best Bet: Pass, except teasers with Bills.
Rams at Seahawks (-4, O/U 42.5)
This is the game I have the least opinion on, except for believing the Seahawks will prevail. Any thoughts on jumping in on the Rams comes down to whether Jared Goff is able to return after having surgery on his fractured right thumb. And, even then, I’m not confident he would be 100%. I went with Seattle on the VSiN NFL Consensus page, so you have my lean there. My lean on the total is to go Over 42.5 as I feel that has been shaded too low, though I’d also feel better about that if Goff is a go. Best Bet: Pass, but using Seahawks in all my playoff pools.
Buccaneers (-8.5, O/U 45) at Washington
This line opened Tampa Bay -7.5 and has been bet up to 8 and even 8.5 at most books as of Tuesday night. I wouldn’t be surprised to see books go to Bucs -9 to minimize their exposure on 6-point teasers, so I’ve already grabbed a two-team, 6-point teaser with Bucs -2 and Under 51, plus separate teasers with the Bills, Titans and Steelers. I lean to the Under as I think this will be a defensive battle. Chase Young is a monster and the Washington defense can contain Tom Brady & Co. while the Washington offense will have to play its best to get 20 points on the Bucs defense. However, with the expectation of a low-scoring game, I love Washington + 8.5. Let’s call it something like Tampa Bay 24, Washington 17. Or 24-20, 23-16. Something in that range. I’m waiting to get the best price with the expected increase in the line. Best Bet: Washington + 8.5 or better, though using Buccaneers -2 or -2.5 in some teasers and hoping to hit a middle if the Bucs win by three to eight points.
Ravens (-3, O/U 55) at Titans
My Cardinals NFC futures are dead, but I still have my top pick in the AFC — the Titans, at 40-1 — to win the Super Bowl. They’re currently around 30-1 to 35-1 as I was expecting them to get a first-round bye and be lower by this time. Anyway, I love them on Sunday against the Ravens. Honestly, I believe they should be favored. Is everyone forgetting that the Titans beat the Ravens 30-24 in November after running over them 28-12 in the playoffs last Jan. 11? If you can’t get + 3.5, the + 3 is still a great bet as well as the moneyline of around + 155. Just in case, I’ll be teasing them up over a touchdown, but I honestly think that’s like buying unnecessary insurance. Best Bet: Titans + 3, plus using Titans in teasers.
Bears at Saints (-9.5, O/U 47)
Regular readers probably are assuming I’m taking the Bears, and not just because I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and have a daughter named after Walter Payton, but also because they’re the biggest dog on the board. However, while most others are passing on the Bears because of a lack of faith in Mitchell Trubisky, the thing that keeps me off them is that the better defense is actually in New Orleans — which adds to the lack of faith in Trubisky. I think the Bears defense will also step up and give the Bears their best chance, so that’s why I think the best play is on the Under. If this line wasn’t quite so high, I’d recommend a teaser on the Saints, but I don’t like -3.5 and I’m not crazy about paying extra juice to buy 7 points. Best Bet: Under 47.
Browns at Steelers (-6, O/U 47)
When I originally submitted my plays for the VSiN NFL Best Bets page, I included Browns-Steelers Over 46.5. But then the total was bet to 47 and even 47.5 on Tuesday and I changed it to Bears-Saints Under 47. My trust in the Over also took a hit when it was announced that Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski will miss the game after a positive COVID-19 test. I expect this game to be more like the Steelers’ 38-7 rout on Oct. 18 and less like the Browns’ 24-22 win this past Sunday, which the Steelers nearly rallied to win despite being short-handed. I’m not laying the six points, but I’m including the Steelers in teasers as they just have to win the game. Best Bet: Pass, except using Steelers in teasers.
TULEY’S TAKE ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Ohio State vs. Alabama (-8 O/U 75.5)
When this line was first posted during the fourth quarter of Ohio State’s rout of Clemson, Alabama was -7. Later that night, a few books went to 7.5 and I tweeted that I took the Buckeyes + 7.5 because I didn’t see it going higher. Well, I was wrong as it went to 8 over the weekend, back down to 7.5 by Monday and then back up to 8 at nearly all Vegas books as of Tuesday night. But I like the Buckeyes enough to bet it again — though I’ll exercise more patience this time and wait to see if it gets any higher later this week or over the weekend. Ohio State showed it was worthy of the College Football Playoff despite having played only six games, and Justin Fields showed he’s capable of matching Mac Jones and the Alabama offense score for score. I think it’s going to be a shootout, but I also like the Under as I think it should be closer to 65 than 75. I foresee a score of around 34-31, with either team winning, so that puts me clearly on the Buckeyes plus the points as well as the Under. Best Bet: Ohio State + 8 (or better) and Under 75.5.