Welcome to the beginning of crunch time. Want to know the REAL standings heading into the final four weeks of the NFL season? Which teams are doing best against the lines?
According to ESPN, New Orleans has the top mark, 9-3, versus the number. Kansas City is 8-3-1, Chicago and New England are 8-4 and the Seattle Seahawks are 7-3-2. The Eagles, Jets and Raiders are near the bottom at 4-8. The Falcons are 3-9.
This list is, naturally, a bit subjective. Lines change more radically in the age of multiple betting outlets, but this gives you an idea who is performing.
The hottest teams against the spread right now are the Cowboys and Giants, each riding four-game win streaks. Both teams have been revitalized, and Dallas seems to be hitting its best stride with the addition of Amari Cooper to take some attention away from Ezekiel Elliott.
This week brings a version of deja vu. The Houston Texans were 0-3 and two plays away from losing to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 4. But they prevailed in the final seconds of overtime, after Indy elected to go for it on fourth down rather than punt deep to ensure a tie. Everybody hates a tie, of course, but how would Indy, now 6-6 on the season, like that tie now? Houston, meanwhile, has run off nine straight wins. They meet again this week in Houston, where the line has been climbing favorably for the Texans, up to -4.5. Do you believe in fate, as in the Texans streak began with the Colts and may end with them, even that Indy was shut out last week and due to break out? Or are these teams heading in opposite directions? That's why they call it gambling.
Another case of past vs present. Do you believe Miami, with Ryan Tannehill back, will score as a seven-point underdog at home against New England this week? The Dolphins have won three of five outright against New England in recent times and they are 8-8 there over the last 16 years.
What about New Orleans at Tampa? The lowly Bucs beat the Saints in the final game of last season and the first one this year. Do they have the Saints' number or are they about to be punished? They are an eight-point dog.
Another strange number: The Arizona Cardinals are a 2.5 point dog against visiting Detroit after winning in Green Bay last week.
A plus B does not equal C. The Eagles were blown out by 41 points against the Saints. Then Dallas beat the Saints. Should Dallas be favored only by 3.5 against the Eagles? Some will bet the Eagles on the theory that the line should be higher and thus, the public has a feeling they will perform well. Others will take the Cowboys and thank the line-makers for not making it six or seven.
This week's games. Spreads are according to Draft Kings. As of Thursday, Sugar House was practically identical. Over-unders are in parentheses.
Dallas -3.5 EAGLES (43)
Pittsburgh -11 AT Oakland (51.5)
Green Bay -6 Atlanta (49)
Kansas City -7 Baltimore (53)
Carolina -2 AT Cleveland (47.5)
Houston -4 Indianapolis (49.5)
New Orleans -8 AT Tampa Bay (56)
New England -7 Miami (47)
New York Giants -4 AT Washington (41)
LA Chargers -14 Cincinnati (47.5)
Denver -5.5 AT San Francisco (45.5)
Detroit -2.4 AT Arizona (40.5)
Rams -3 AT Bears (52.5)
Seattle -3 Minnesota (45)
Buffalo -3.5 NY Jets (38 according to Bet Stars)
Mattias Stetz, COO of SugarHouse Online Sportsbook & Casino, told Between the Lines in mid-week
that Sunday's 49ers vs. Broncos game offered an interesting perspective, from the injury standpoint.
“Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has reportedly torn his Achilles in practice and is out for the season,” he said. “The Broncos are favored by 5.5 points in this game and the total is currently at 45.5. If you think this injury as an impact on the Broncos ability to pass the ball or their game plan, you may think the 49ers and/or the under are good bets.”
Stetz also figured that Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, now expected to play against the Rams, has kept the line tight at the Rams -3.'
“If Trubisky was not expected to play, we might expect the spread to be Rams -5.5 or -6,” he indicated.
So keep an eye on Trubisky. If you think he won't play for some reason, make your bet as soon as possible, before the information is gobbled up by the gambling public.
To place bets with Sugar House, you can go to PlaySugarHouse.com for lines and wagers.
Try though we did, we could not locate a prop bet on Incredible Bulk scores. In the last two weeks, we've seen a 325-pound offensive lineman, Alejandro Villaneuva, and 332-pound DEFENSIVE player, Akiem Hicks, score offensive touchdowns. Can the NFL make it three in a row?
This week's picks
Excerpted from Beat the Degenerates, which I host along with Scott Cronick, director of entertainment publications for the Press of Atlantic City. Our show airs on Newstalk 1400-AM WOND, 92.5-FM, WONDRadio.com and the Tune In app. Check out next week's show, Dec. 12, from 5-6 pm. We are lighthearted, yet armed with insights from the sports books.
Cronick Pick. New England -7
Dave Weinberg, Press of Atlantic City Eagles writer's pick. Los Angeles Chargers -14 over Cincinnati. The Press of Atlantic City's Eagles writer also thinks Dallas will cover against them, but it's not his official selection.
Bontempo pick. Seattle -3 over Minnesota. Honorable mention, tease Eagles over-under to 37 and Arizona-Detroit to 34 and take both OVERS.
Listener’s picks. Cowboys over the Eagles
DA KIPSTER, Pickett Russell goes rogue, breaking his pattern of picking a different team every week of the season. He took Carolina -2 at Cleveland. Earlier in the season, he selected Carolina against Washington. Kipster now only has the regular degree of difficulty.
Guest Degenerate Brian Cahill lays the big number on Pittsburgh -11 at Oakland.
Cronick played Santa Claus and survived, taking the Rams giving 9.5 points to the Lions on the road. With the Rams up seven and running out the clock in the final two minutes, Todd Gurley busted a long one and later scored.
Dave Weinberg, with the Saints against the Cowboys and me, via the Falcons against the Ravens, came up short.
The Jacksonville Jags fired their offensive coordinator after a 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills. They celebrated the new regime by scoring six points. SIX. And they WON, beating the Colts 6-0.
The game that had it all: What else could you ask for? In the Giants' 30-27 win overtime win against the Chicago Bears, here's what got registered: a defensive touchdown, 57-yard field goal, a beautiful option pass by wide receiver Odell Beckham for a score, by the Giants. The Bears brought back memories of William “The Refrigerator” Perry with Hicks' fourth-and-goal touchdown from the one. Always fun to see a number 96 barreling into the end zone. The Bears also got an onsides kick and a sweet halfback option touchdown pass by Tarik Cohen on the final play of the game to force overtime. The game had three scores in the final two minutes.
It was like watching Ping-Pong, with Cronick and Brian Cahill banging five and 10-dollar bets back and forth over their phones last weekend. Made me think of a new reality. When they ask what you did before cell phones, many people will say “I didn't text.” Now it's “I didn't bet.”
Both players kept their wagers small, but entertaining.
“I only bet five dollars at a time,” Cahill says. “It's just enough to have fun and not get you in trouble.”
That's the right APP-titude for this tricky game.
Go get ’em this week and keep calling the show
Marc from EHT showed Degenerate Versatility, predicted a DRAW in the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury fight last weekend. What a selection, at 14-1. We have smart people calling us.