I know I keep repeating myself, but it was another roller-coaster week in the Tuley’s Takes home office.
We won with our best bets on the Titans last Thursday and the Browns plus the points against the Packers on Saturday, but then had a rough Sunday, though teasers again helped cut our losses. Our original teasers using the Ravens + 8.5 lost, but we flipped to the Bengals -7.5 in our “Tuley’s Takes Today” column when there was a change of favorites later in the week.
This is the craziest season I’ve ever seen when it comes to trying to handicap these games early in the week. It used to be that you just had to keep updated on quarterback injuries, which were about the only thing to significantly alter a line during the middle of the week, but now it’s a daily (and sometimes) hourly chore to keep up on all the players going on and off the reserve/COVID-19 list.
But we do our best.
Let’s get to the full NFL Week 17 card from my dog-or-pass point of view. Per usual, even if I don’t have a strong opinion on a game, I’ll give my pool-play strategy for those in contests that require picking every game. You can find my takes on the college football bowl games (11-4 ATS through Monday) on the VSiN CFB Best Bets elsewhere in this issue of PSW as well as in the VSiN College Betting Guide, which is still a valuable resource with the major bowls still to come.
Las Vegas Raiders at Indianapolis Colts (-1.5)
Jonathan Taylor has carried the Colts into the playoff hunt, and many are regarding them as a top contender, making me finally feel good about my 35-1 future-book tickets bought last winter. But then came news Tuesday morning that quarterback Carson Wentz was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. This is good news for the Raiders, who are 8-7 and also fighting for a wild-card spot. Derek Carr has enough weapons to match the Colts score for score, and he might be getting tight end Darren Waller back this week. This line was more appealing when the Raiders were + 8.5, but with the line down to 1.5, this does put the Raiders in prime teaser territory as we can tease them back up over a TD. As always, check out the updates in our “Tuley’s Take Today” daily version of this column through the week and into the weekend.
Best Bet: Raiders in teasers (pool play: Raiders 55/45 in ATS contest, but Colts still 55/45 in SU pools. Basically a coin flip either way).
New York Giants at Chicago Bears (-6)
The Giants have finally worn me down as I’ve lost with them the last three weeks and can’t stand to back them anymore, whether it’s Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm under center. Nick Foles rallied the Bears past the Seahawks in the snow on Sunday in a game that showed they’re still trying. I didn’t expect the Bears to be teasable as a favorite this year, but I’m sure a lot of people will be teasing them down to basically pick-’em, and I might be one of them.
Best Bet: Pass, except for possibly Bears in teasers (pool play: Bears 55/45 in ATS contests and at least 85/15 in SU pools).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-13.5) at New York Jets
The Jets also showed a lot of effort on Sunday, though let’s not get too excited as it was just a 26-21 win over the Jaguars. Of course, they did also cover against the Dolphins in Week 15. The Buccaneers are obviously looking ahead to the playoffs and just trying to get out with a win here, but I’m not sure I’m willing to pull the trigger on the Jets. I’m passing for now, but if the Bucs start coming up short-handed on defense through injuries or COVID issues, I might take a flier on the Jets.
Best Bet: Pass for now (pool play: Jets 55/45 in ATS contests, but Buccaneers at least 90/10 in SU pools).
Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills (-14.5)
The Bills have somehow re-rallied to pass the Patriots for the lead in the AFC East as Josh Allen and Co. are playing up to preseason expectations. The Falcons are the worst team still in the playoff hunt, but they’re still there and capable of staying within two touchdowns with Matt Ryan getting the most out of his best weapons, tight end Kyle Pitts and running back/receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Weather could be a factor with a 50 percent chance of snow and temperatures in the 30s at game time, which tends to favor a lower-scoring game.
Best Bet: Falcons + 14.5 (pool play: Falcons 67/33 in ATS contests, though Bills still 80/20 in SU pools).
Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys (-5.5)
Besides the Chiefs, there is no team getting more hype these days than the Cowboys. Granted, they’ve won and covered four straight and are up to the No. 2 seed in the NFC, but let’s not crown their ass quite yet. The advance line for this game was Cowboys -2.5 last week before the Cardinals lost to the Colts and the Cowboys routed the Washington Football Team. The line was reopened at Cowboys -3 on Sunday, but now it’s up to 5.5 and getting out of control. The Cardinals are reeling with three straight losses to fall from the NFC’s No. 1 seed to No. 5 as they’ve been passed by the Rams for the NFC West lead, but they still have plenty of talent and should be able to match the Cowboys score for score. The only fear is the Cowboys’ ability to get turnovers, led by cornerback Trevon Diggs’ 11 interceptions. The closer the turnover battle is, the closer the game will be.
Best Bet: Cardinals + 5.5 or better (pool play: Cardinals 67/33 in ATS contests, and Cowboys just 60/40 in SU pools).
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-6.5)
The Saints’ roster was decimated by COVID issues and they played like it in a 20-3 loss to the Dolphins on Monday night. This game was off the board at most books on Tuesday morning. The books that did have lines up were mostly using New Orleans between -6.5 and -7.5. My initial plan is to use the Saints in my teaser portfolio, assuming they get back a fair share of those on the reserve/COVID-19 list, as the Panthers are fadeable right now on a five-game losing streak without a cover. An interesting note while we’re on the subject: there are very few teasable games this week (and we’re talking about “Wong teasers” or advantage teasers that capture both the key numbers of 3 and 7). The Colts were above 7, but that line has been plummeting. Some will tease the Bears from -6 to pick-’em, though that technically doesn’t qualify. And the Steelers were + 2.5, though that’s now + 3 and trending toward + 3.5. Per usual, we’ll finalize our teaser portfolio recommendations in “Tuley’s Takes Today” later in the week.
Best Bet: Pass, except for Saints in teasers (pool play: Saints 55/45 in ATS contest and 80/20 in SU pools).
Philadelphia Eagles (-4) at Washington Football Team
Washington would need a lot of help to get to the playoffs, but I would still consider betting on it here as home dogs except that this line is too short for my liking. I mean, the Eagles beat them 27-17 just two weeks ago, pushing on the closing line of -10, but with Washington getting routed 56-14 by the Cowboys and the Eagles routing the Giants 34-10, I expected this line to be closer to 7. It’s not like the change of home fields is too much of an advantage for Washington; in fact, it might be a negative at this point. If this line does drift up, I’ll probably be more likely to tease the Eagles down than to take the points on Washington.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Eagles 55/45 in ATS contests and 80/20 in SU pools).
Kansas City Chiefs (-5) at Cincinnati Bengals
The Chiefs are on a roll with eight straight wins and six straight covers as the defense has made a complete turnaround from early in the season and Patrick Mahomes is looking more like a game manager, which is just fine. But don’t sleep on the Bengals, who are looking more and more potent with Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Ja’Marr Chase, etc. and an unsung defense that is playing as well as the Chiefs. This line is creeping higher, so I’ll take as many points as I can get as this looks like another game for the Bengals to make a statement that they belong.
Best Bet: Bengals + 5 or higher (pool play: Bengals 67/33 in ATS contests, but Chiefs still 67/33 in SU pools).
Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots (-15.5)
Regular readers know I love NFL double-digit underdogs, but in this era, they’re no longer an automatic play. We see too many mismatches and blowouts, so we have to be selective in which big dogs to back, even if it means missing some winners like the Texans against the Chargers on Sunday. I feel the same way here. The Jaguars did have that inexplicable 9-6 upset of the Bills on Nov, 7, but they’ve lost seven straight with only one cover in there. The Patriots should roll, and I certainly wouldn’t trust Trevor Lawrence to get a backdoor cover at this time. Did you see him spike the ball on third down when the Jaguars could have run two plays to try to beat the Jets on Sunday, leaving the Jags just one final play, which of course failed?
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Patriots 55/45 in ATS contests but in all SU pools).
Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans (-3.5)
I can’t get over the Dolphins becoming the first NFL team ever to have a seven-game losing streak and a seven-game losing streak in the same season. They’re obviously on a roll, though helped by a soft schedule. This is another case where the line comes up too short to back the underdog. The Titans are still trying to hold off the Colts in the AFC South and got a lift last week with the return of wide receiver A.J Brown.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Titans 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 75/25 in SU pools).
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (-5.5)
The Chargers put up the clunker of the week with their loss to the Texans, Every time it seemed like they were getting back in the game and would take control, they couldn’t stop the Texans. It was pretty embarrassing, but we know you’ve heard many of us on VSiN say how the Chargers aren’t to be trusted as favorites and are much better in the underdog role, dating to the Philip Rivers era. I’d really like to take the underdog Broncos in this game, but I’d really prefer if road-underdog master Teddy Bridgewater returns from concussion protocol. As of Tuesday, it was still unclear if that would happen, so again check “Tuley’s Takes Today” later in the week.
Best Bet: Pass for now (pool play: Broncos 55/45 in ATS contests — higher if Bridgewater starts — but Chargers still 67/33 in SU pools).
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers (-12.5)
Yes, the Texans upset the Chargers on Sunday, but they will face a tougher challenge here against the San Francisco defense. We do have some added uncertainty with Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury status and whether Trey Lance will be forced into action. Either way, we feel the Texans have shown enough to take as double-digit dogs. The line has dipped a little from a high of 15, but we’ll take them as long as it’s still double digits.
Best Bet: Texans + 12.5 (pool play: Texans 67/33 in ATS contests, but 49ers still 90/10 in SU pools).
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks (-7)
The Lions continue to cash for us as dogs as they’re now an unbelievable 10-5 ATS despite a 2-12-1 SU record. We lucked out on Sunday as Dan Campbell chose to take a late field goal trailing by 7 to get us the cover in a 20-16 loss to Falcons. It again showed how this team keeps showing up each week and outperforming expectations, at least from an ATS perspective. We’re a little surprised this line is so high, though it was Seahawks -9 before coming down, as the Seahawks are 2-5 SU & ATS in their last seven games and just lost 25-24 to the Bears at home. But, hey, we’ll continue to take whatever points they give us.
Best Bet: Lions + 7 (pool play: Lions 67/33 in ATS contests — even higher if offered 7.5, lower at 6.5 — and Seahawks just 60/40 in SU pools).
Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) at Baltimore Ravens
This is another game that probably needs us to wait until we have a clearer picture of the injury/COVID situation for both teams, especially Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson as backup Tyler Huntley has already been declared out. Of course, the way the Ravens defense was ripped apart by Joe Burrow and the Bengals is also a huge cause for concern, so we need to see how many starters they get back on that side of the ball, too.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Rams 55/45 in ATS contests and closer to 75/25 in SU pools at least for now).
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-6.5)
I had the VIkings circled as a potential best bet this week, but the + 7’s have mostly disappeared. I’ll probably be back on them if it goes back to 7. We cashed with the Browns last week in their 24-22 loss at the Packers — and should have won outright if they had stayed with Nick Chubb running through the Green Bay defense, or if Baker Mayfield wasn’t throwing so many interceptions. And the Vikings can certainly have the same game plan with Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison as long as Kirk Cousins takes care of the ball. And don’t forget that the Vikings beat the Packers 34-31 in their earlier meeting, so we know they can play with them even with the change of home fields.
Best Bet: Pass for now, but Vikings + 7 if we can get it (pool play: Vikings 55/45 in ATS contests — higher at 7 or better, though Packers still around 67/33in SU pools).
Cleveland Browns (-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers
The playoff chances are slipping away for both of these teams, and the loser of this game will certainly be done. It’ll be interesting to see where they stand after Sunday. The Steelers won the earlier meeting 15-10, so I love that we’re getting points at home in the rematch. The Browns have the better defense, but they continue to shoot themselves in the foot on offense, which should keep the Steelers in the game. I certainly rate Mike Tomlin above Kevin Stefanski in a must-win situation.
Best Bet: Steelers + 3, though waiting for + 3.5 (pool play: Steelers 67/33 in ATS contests — lower if not offered + 3.5 — and we’ll also side with them at 55/45 in SU pools).