This time of year is so fun in the NFL. The playoff picture is becoming clearer every single week and each game means more than the last. Fantasy Football leagues are heading into the semifinal matchup. Even college football is getting ready for Bowl season!
I always preach that the beginning of the season is the toughest to bet because the teams haven’t yet found their identities. Who would have thought that the Dallas Cowboys would have had the best record in the league with a rookie quarterback and running back? A lot of people lost a lot of money early in the season by betting against the Cowboys.
This time of year is equally as hard because there are so many factors that are completely out of the hands of the bettors, the players, and the coached.
My three major factors that I keep an eye on in late game betting.
1 – Weather – The weather in a lot of the nation is cold and snowy. That frozen ball is hard for the quarterback to throw, painful for the receivers to catch, and almost impossible for the kickers to kick. Last week there was a snowy game played in Green Bay and another snowy game in Buffalo. This week Buffalo got about a foot of snow this week and they host the Browns on Sunday. The Bears host the Packers in Chicago this week where temperatures are not expected to get above freezing on Sunday. It could be the coldest football game ever played in Chicago. Watch the weather forecast.
2 – Injuries – This is an obvious one, but let me take a different look at injuries and how they can change your betting this time of year. A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Adrian Pederson are all perennial Pro Bowlers that are all looking to come back from injury in the next couple weeks. We see it each week, when someone comes back from injury they typically are limited and underperform. Don’t overreact. The general betting public will overreact when stars come back, the line will adjust, that is when you bet the other way.
3 – Coaching Changes – So far there has only been one major coaching change in the NFL. The Los Angeles Rams let go of incredibly mediocre Jeff Fisher. Their first game without him was Thursday night against the Seahawks. Keep an eye on who else is about to be let go. Teams tend to quit on a coach right before he is released and tend to take a couple weeks to get things back together with their new coach. Look for some more coaching turmoil the next couple weeks.
Now on to the picks!
Miami Dolphins -3 @ New York Jets
The Jets have officially been eliminated from contention and the Dolphins are fighting for their playoff lives. A lot has been made about the Dolphins losing their quarterback Ryan Tannehill but I don’t believe that will be as big of a blow as this line suggests.
Two weeks ago the Jets got beat by 31-points by the Colts and then last week beat one of the worst teams in the league on the road. This is a middling team that is looking to the future. Starting Bryce Petty is a complete white-flag type move for the Jets.
The Dolphins have plenty of offensive weapons to score enough points even without Tannehill.
Dolphins 20 – Jets 14
Philadelphia Eagles +4 @ Baltimore Ravens
I went back and forth on this one over the course of the week. I don’t love either team but I think that this game will be low scoring enough that the Eagles will be able to keep it close.
The most valuable Raven is their kicker, Justin Tucker. What this game comes down to is a late-game field goal. Tucker wins the game for the Ravens, but they don’t cover the spread.
Ravens 24 – Eagles 21
New England Patriots -3.5 @ Denver Broncos
The last time that these two teams met was last year in the AFC Championship game where the Broncos beat the Patriots in Denver, 20-18. As we all know, the Broncos went on to demoralize the Panthers to win Super Bowl 50.
This time around is a bit different. Peyton Manning is sitting at home watching on Sundays and Brock Osweiler is stinking it up in Houston. The quarterback situation in Denver isn’t great either with second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian leading the way. Siemian has been good in spells but their offensive line hasn’t been great and their running game has been depleted by injuries.
Tom Brady, who I believe is the best quarterback to ever play the game, is a very prideful quarterback. He will remember what happened last year. He will take it personally that the Patriots were only able to score 18 points against the Broncos last year. I think that Brady has quite the day leading the Patriots to a big win.
Patriots 31 – Broncos 14
Carolina Panthers @ Washington Redskins -6
Kirk Cousins vs. Cam Newton. This should be a fun one on Monday Night Football!
Josh Norman gets to play against his old buddy Newton in a game that I expect to have a lot of offense.
The Redskins have the 2nd most yards per game in the NFL. They are especially dangerous through the air with a talented bunch of wide receivers and a healthier Jordan Reed. This is a team that can throw on all three downs and spread it all around the field, which is one of the weaknesses of the Panthers defense.
Newton is bound to have a breakout game at some point this season after his MVP campaign last year. He has been fairly underwhelming all year. Not blaming it all on Newton though, his receivers have been bad especially lately.
Redskins 29 – Panthers 21
Upset Special of the Week:
Indianapolis Colts +4 @ Minnesota Vikings
Have you ever completely gone with your gut? This is one of those times.
Andrew Luck is a top-5 quarterback on a bottom-5 team. Seriously. This team is devoid of talent in a lot of areas but Luck has found a way to have this team in Playoff contention. They are currently a game behind the Texans and Titans in the AFC South.
Luck will find enough offense to beat a team that is pretty awful on the offensive end.
Colts 27 – Vikings 21
*All betting lines provided by Bovada.LV on the Thursday preceding particular NFL week.