“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” When you mix the decision making of Roger Goodell with a global pandemic, you can up the odds from “often” to “always”. We’re in our third week now of having to cautiously wait until the last second to safely throw in our wagers because we have no idea which team is going to be the next ravaged by the protocol. I said when I first started writing these that this was all probably folly, even with the best laid plans, and that’s truer today than it was a few weeks ago. Regardless, let’s play the game anyway.
Tier 1: Riding the Contenders (Season Record 7-5)
Chiefs -5.5 over Bengals
Bucs -13 over Jets
Packers -6.5 over Vikings
This is probably getting boring to see the same few teams rotate into this tier every week, and frankly it hasn’t been all that effective, given that this tier’s record is no better than any of the others. However, I can’t help but think that as this long season drones on, your best bet is to ride the teams that we know are good. The Chiefs are hotter than Hansel right now and the Bengals are a roller coaster even without a Covid wave running through the roster. Either way, expect plenty of points in this one, and bet either Pat Mahomes or Joe Burrow to throw for 4+ touchdown passes at 3-to-1 odds. The Packers have been disappointing the last couple of weeks but still find ways to win. They had also been missing key members of their defense that should be coming back. Tom may not be in the Jets division anymore, but he never passes up an opportunity to lay it on the J-E-T-S.
Tier 2: Playoff Picture Shapers (Season Record 6-5)
Eagles -3.5 over Washington
Rams -3.5 over Ravens
Chargers -5.5 over Broncos
We will look back at all these games as having a significant impact on the playoff bracket in a couple of weeks. The Eagles and Chargers are still fighting for playoff spots and have good matchups to stay in the hunt this week. Washington is a train wreck right now and coming off one of the most embarrassing Sunday night performances ever. The Broncos decided to start their New Year’s festivities early last week and lost on a dropped ball against a team they should have won. The real dropped ball in Denver though is John Elway’s inability to find a franchise quarterback to make this team a contender. The Rams have already clinched a playoff berth but are still battling it out with the Cardinals for the division title. Don’t love that Los Angeles has to travel cross country this week, and honestly Baltimore has been pretty much the same team regardless of who’s played quarterback for them, but the Rams should still be more than a field goal better than this iteration of Baltimore.
Tier 3: Frisky Teams (Season Record 8-6)
Colts -6.5 over Raiders
Lions +7 over Seahawks
Texans +12.5 over 49ers
Cowboys -5.5 over Cardinals
The Lions and Texans are both bad. They aren’t lifeless though, unlike the Jaguars. They always seem to make superior teams sweat just a little bit, and they’ve both been good against the spread for the last few weeks. Having Seattle favored by a touchdown over anyone is a mistake at this point, especially since they’ve also been eliminated from postseason contention. The 49ers proved last week that they are the epitome of a Jekyll and Hyde team, and I simply don’t trust them with a double digit spread, especially considering they will likely have to start Trey Lance this week. Lance has a ton of upside, but he’s shown in his action so far this year that he isn’t ready to be a full-time starter. The Colts may be without Wentz this week, but they managed to beat the Cardinals last week without their starting offensive line, which is a much bigger loss than Wentz for this offense. If they have Jonathan Taylor healthy, I think they are a touchdown better than the Raiders. Arizona will find their stride again at some point probably, and it may be this week, but they’ve lost my trust. Dallas has not beaten a good team since before Halloween, but they have at least found some model of consistent play that has eluded the Cardinals recently.
Tier 4: Shrug Emoji (Season Record 9-2)
Steelers +3 over Browns
Patriots -15.5 over Jaguars
Dolphins +3.5 over Titans
Who knows about these games? I took the Steelers at home two weeks ago and it paid off. This Browns team isn’t good, and their quarterback play has been abysmal. This will also likely be Big Ben’s last home game at Heinz Field, which makes for a touching sendoff story. Las Vegas is just daring anyone to put money on the Jaguars at this point, and a 15.5-point spread for a Patriots team whose best play might be behind them is frightening to take, but do you honestly want to be sweating it out hoping the Jaguars can get a backdoor cover on Sunday afternoon? I didn’t think so. Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle have extended their prolific college connection to the NFL and have this Miami team playing decent football. Derrick Henry isn’t going to suit up this week for Tennessee, so I really don’t understand this line. Then again, Tennessee’s defense could get after Tua and shut things down, so I really don’t feel great about it.
Tier 5: Looking to 2022 (Season Record 7-5)
Panthers +6.5 over Saints
Falcons +14.5 over Bills
Bears -6 over Giants
I honestly can’t believe I’m picking any of these three teams again this season. They need to just mail it in and get ready for next year. The Falcons are stagnating with Matt Ryan, but there is too much talent on the roster to be this bad, and I don’t know that the Bills are more than two touchdowns better than they are. The Bills also just dominated the one regular season game that they really wanted and their best performance of the season. I expect them to be at least a little sluggish in this one. As much as I hate this Panthers team, Darnold coming back is somewhat of an improvement. (A truly sad commentary on the state of Carolina football). Whereas no one has any clue who will start at quarterback for the Saints this week. Taysom Hill and/or Trevor Siemian should be available, but it’s difficult to imagine this Saints team beating anyone by a touchdown right now. The Bears have the most future hope of any of these three teams with the promise of Justin Fields, who may be available this week. The thought of having money riding on them to beat anyone by a touchdown gives me indigestion, but marginally less than the thought of putting any money on the Giants to do anything positive on a football field. As a matter of fact, if you’re just Jonesin’ to put any money on this game, bet David Montgomery or Saquon Barkley to rush for 100+ yards at +175 and then clinch your anus for 3 hours while watching them slam into the back of their offensive line over and over again…just kidding that also sounds terrible.
Season Record 37-23
Player Prop Record 1-4