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Expectation is the name of the game this week as the NFL concludes its regular season. Myriad playoff implications surround several games, but the lines already reflect some anticipated realities about teams that need to win. Do they agree with yours?

We face an interesting selection of 16 games, with only a few teams playing relevant matchups.

That's usually where the money goes in the final week.

The Eagles and Minnesota Vikings are purported to play the hardest, as they vie for the last spot in the NFC playoffs. Philly plays in Washington and the Vikings host the division-champion Chicago Bears, who would like the game but don't need it the way Minnesota does. If the Vikings and Eagles both win, Minnesota clinches the final spot by virtue of a week two gift tie in Green Bay and a victory in Philadelphia.

In the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens face a win-and-you're-in game against the Cleveland Browns, at home, and give six and a half points. Pittsburgh, clamoring for a Baltimore loss, plays division rival Cincinnati and would leap-frog the Ravens with a win and Baltimore setback.

The Kansas City Chiefs need to dot their i's and cross their t's for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and should take care of Oakland at home. But the line is 13 and a half points in a divisional game. How must is must-win? Thirteen and a half points worth? Tough call.

The Los Angeles Chargers are kicking themselves for losing to the Ravens at home last week. Now, they can only get home field edge throughout the playoffs in the AFC by winning in Denver, where they give 6.5 points, and having the Chiefs lose. Los Angeles may be forced to play during the first post-season weekend despite having the second-best record in the AFC because, at this juncture, they would lose the division on a tiebreaker. New England is in line to get that coveted first-round bye now, needing only to beat the Jets at home.

The Los Angeles Rams should lock up the second NFC spot and a first-round bye, just needing to beat San Francisco. Chicago is practically land-locked for third unless it beats Minnesota and the Rams lose. The only good team with no concerns is the New Orleans Saints. They have locked up home field throughout the playoffs and play the Carolina Panthers in what's essentially an exhibition game.

And, as if blessed by Hollywood, Indianapolis visits Tennessee Sunday night in a likely playoff tiebreaker. The spread is Indy -2.5, a good value on either side, but has fluctuated between 2.5 and 3 points for Indy. If the injured Marcus Mariota plays for Tennessee, this one's a crapshoot. If he's out, edge to Indy.

Our friends at have kept us abreast all season long about line fluctuations attributed to certain players, usually quarterbacks. Mitchell Trubisky of the Bears has been worth about three points when he's in the lineup. Cam Newton of the Panthers moved it six points when he sat out last week against Atlanta. Carolina went from a 2.5 favorite to a 3.5 point dog and did not cover against Atlanta. Along those lines, Marcus Mariota is a key factor here. News on his status could juggle the line a little. At midweek, it appeared to be a nagging injury that he might try to play through. A thumb injury will hamper long passes and affect what the offense does. But you never know what can happen by Sunday.

To make bets and review lines with Sugar House, go to

This week's games. Lines set by Draft Kings. Over-under in parentheses. In some cases, totals have not been set).

Eagles -6.5 AT Washington (42)

Tampa Bay -1.5 Atlanta (52)

New Orleans -9 Carolina

NY Giants -6 Dallas (41.5)

Green Bay -8 Detroit (45.5)

Houston -7 Jacksonville (40.5)

Buffalo -3.5 Miami (38.5)

New England -13.5 New York Jets (45.5)

Seattle -13.5 Arizona

Minnesota -5.5 Chicago (40.5)

Pittsburgh -14.5 Cincinnati (45.5)

LA Chargers -6.5 Denver (41.5)

Kansas City -13.5 Denver (53.5)

LA Rams -9.5 San Francisco (49.5)

Indianapolis -3 AT Tennessee

Baltimore -6.5 Cleveland (40.5)

Holiday Shopping

At Between the Lines, we talked all year about shopping for a favorable point spread, that it often makes a difference.

And no game proved that like the Eagles last week. Houston opened as a 1-point favorite, but that line gradually moved to Philly giving 2.5 points. How did that burn a multitude of people and reward others? Let's show you.

The Eagles kept their season alive last week, despite frustrating many of their bettors by coughing up a 13-point fourth-quarter lead against the Texans. It was a bettors' nightmare. They missed two extra points and a two-point conversion. Up 29-16 with the ball in Houston territory with less than five minutes left, they fumbled while running out the clock. And then Houston scores. When the Eagles later punted, they got confused on a punt that would have pinned Houston at the 1-yard line. The ball moved to the 20. Then they let Desean Watson escape a sack … not once, not twice, but three times on a 3rd-and-11 play. And then they give up a ridiculous 3rd-and-long touchdown. The fact they came back to win the game holds no solace to someone who gave 2.5 points. It looked like a conspiracy not to cover.

But if you'd grabbed that spread earlier, you may have been spared the emotional carnage. Or you were redeemed on the final field goal play. What a crazy game this is.

This week's selections, excerpted from Beat the Degenerates, which I hosted with Brian Cahill on Wed. (he was elevated from “guest” degenerate to “true” degenerate by hosting the show). He subbed for vacationing Scott Cronick, director of entertainment publications for the Press of Atlantic City. Our show airs on Newstalk 1400-AM WOND, 92.5-FM, and the Tune In app. Check out next week's show, Jan. 2, from 5-6 pm.

MY PICK. Colts -3. Honorable mention. Tease Eagles-Redkins to 36, Baltimore and Cleveland to 34.5 and take both OVERS. I

Cahill pick Vikings -5.5

Cronick pick. Ravens -6.5

Listeners:Eagles -6.5 over Redskins.

Last Week.

The Eagles burned yours truly and Press of Atlantic City Eagles writer David Weinberg by failing to cover by one half of a point. Cronick and Cahill were nipped by the Bears. The listeners, of course, won again, taking Chicago over San Francisco.

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