By Dave Bontempo
Just when you thought they were out, they pull you back in.
It was surprising that the Eagles stunned the football world with their defeat of the Rams, in Los Angeles, last week. That made them 7-7 and very much alive in the playoff hunt, entering a hump game against the Texans this week and a winnable road finale against the Redskins. That October loss to the Minnesota Vikings, coupled with Minnesota's bizarre week 2 tie against the Packers, could loom as deciding factors if these are the last two teams chasing a playoff berth.
And, in classical fashion, radio callers and hosts have been talking about how they never gave up on this team. Even when Nick Foles replaced Carson Wentz before the Rams game. Ahhh, you gotta love it. In fact, people love the Eagles so much this week that they went from an underdog to a favorite against Houston in a must-win home showdown.
Who's hot and not? Sugar House Online Casino says the Bears have become a surging 10-4 against the spread, up from 3-3. Playing under the radar without playoff expectations have helped them rise from 3-3 against the number. They finally make the post-season and may have the best defense going in. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, injured at times this year, is worth about three points, by himself, to the spread. With New Orleans winning vs Carolina, but not the spread, DA BEARS are the hottest team against the number. They lay 3.5 on the road against San Francisco this week.
And...Cleveland rocks. The Browns are 4-2 against the spread under new coach Gregg Williams and 9-5 overall, and are finally starting to finish close games, as they did in Denver last week. For those who love the Brownies, they are opening as a whopping 7-point favorite against the Bengals in Week 16. Ironically, it comes as they face their old coach Hue Jackson. They were favored TWICE in 40 games when he was there. Nonetheless, in all the giddiness, you start to wonder when the posted number will be too high for them. As if to stoke that debate, oddsmakers moved it to 8.5 early Thursday afternoon. The Browns, 8.5 faves after no wins last year. What a turnaround.
To wager with Sugar House casino, go to PlaySugarHouse.com. Sugar House reported Thursday afternoon that the departure of Cam Newton from the Carolina Panther lineup changed them from a 2.5-point favorite to a 3.5 underdog.
The Patriots finish the road season 3-5 and may gloss over their deficiencies with home games against the Bills and Jets. No sympathy from the odds makers, though, as they came out as 10.5 point favorites against Buffalo and the line was up to 12.5 by midweek. They have gone 13-2 the last 15 times they were favored by 10 points. On the flip side, Tom Brady is making some dumb, rookie-type mistakes near the goal line. And the Pats will lose anywhere from between two to five games this year against teams that won't make the playoffs.
Remember, two Saturday games in Week 16, the Ravens are plus 4.5 at the Chargers and the Redskins plus 10 at the Titans. Road teams generally do well in Saturday games, for some reason. And last week was no exception, with Houston covering 6.5 against the Jets in a 29-22 win and Cleveland beating Denver 17-16 and having 3.5 points to boot. The Jets loss was a bad-beat for bettors who had them at plus 6.5 because they missed two extra points and gave up two scores in the last three minutes of the game.
How hard core are you? The Monday Night Football matchup features two proud franchises on the road to nowhere. Denver plays at Oakland and gives 2.5 points. You would need an itchy mobile-app trigger finger to like this game or simply be a degenerate.
This week's lines according to Draft Kings. Over-under in parentheses.
Tennessee -10 Washington 36.5)
LA Chargers -4.5 Baltimore (45)
Eagles -2.5 Houston (45.5)
Atlanta -3.5 AT Carolina (43.5)
New England -12.5 Buffalo (45)
Cleveland -8.5 Cincinnati (46)
Green Bay PICK AT New York Jets (44)
Miami -5 Jacksonville (39.5)
Minnesota -5.5 AT Detroit (43.5)
Indianapolis -9.5 New York Giants (46.5)
Dallas -7 Tampa Bay (46)
Chicago -3.5 AT San Francisco (42.5)
New Orleans -5.5 Pittsburgh (53.5)
Kansas City -2.5 AT Seattle (53.5)
Denver -2.5 AT Oakland (44.5)
Selections made on 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. 26 from 5-6 pm. Guest degenerate Brian Cahill will also guest host.
This week's picks.
Bontempo and Dave Weinberg, press of Atlantic City Eagles writer:Eagles minus 2.5 vs Houston.
Cahill. 49Ers plus 3.5 vs Bears
Listeners, who are 9-3, Chicago over San Francisco
Last Week's Highlights
The Giants and the Cowboys, the NFL's hottest teams against the spread, don't score a single point between them. Indy blanked the Cowboys 23-0 and the Titans clipped the Giants 17-0, for their first shutout in roughly 20 years. The Giants went from scoring 40 points one week to zero the next. That's life in the NFL. Also for the first time in 20 years, New Orleans won a game despite scoring 12 points. Twelve? Isn't this the team routinely hitting the 40's? What a gift for them, nipping Carolina 12-9....the problems pointed out in this column about Cam Newton last week proved to be true. He had no arm strength (a shoulder injury?) but also posed no running threat. Carolina would have been better with a different quarterback. Now that Carolina is shutting him down for the year, you have to question the coaching staff leaving him to play the game that eliminated them from post-season.
The Panthers are now 6-8 after being 6-2. And this is the team that scored 21 points on the Eagles in the fourth quarter in October. Eagles fans will remember that sadly if they don't make the playoffs.
LAST Week's Picks. You can take them to the bank ... but not cash them. Cronick (the Rams), Yours Truly (the Patriots), Press of Atlantic City Eagles writer Dave Weinberg (Jacksonville) and DA Kipster (Dallas) came up short. Guest degenerate Brian Cahill (Tennessee) did pick correctly. And so did the listeners with Pittsburgh, running their mark to 9-3. .
We appreciate all your phone calls and interest in this column and the show. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May you find a winning five-team parlay under the tree and a no-brainier selection as a stocking stuffer.
Editor of At The Shore, Atlantic City Weekly & Flavor
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