The next to last week of the NFL season is often a head-scratcher for bettors. Motivation and who will be playing, of course, factor into wagers, but teams with playoff hopes on the line often falter. The numbers bear this out too – eliminated teams playing teams that need to win over the final two weeks of the season have hit 63% of the time (95-57-4) since 1990. But, with players like Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers under center, bettors need to dig into more than just the numbers.
Age and Experience Matter
We posted last week that Tampa Bay is going to make the playoffs and TB12 is looking to carry this team on his back, with the help of aging WR Mike Evans. Brady went 34-of-45 for 432 yards and three touchdowns, adding a rushing touchdown to even help the Bucs cover the 3.5 point spread, winning 30-24. He tossed bombs to Evans for 207 yards and the three TDs. You have to go back to October to find a game where Evans got more than 100 yards receiving and he scored as many times as he had the entire regular season up to that point. In the playoffs, experience matters and with Tampa’s defense in the top 10 of the league, this could be a scary team in the post-season, despite the way they have looked most of the season. Tampa is in the 4th spot for the NFC Championship at 9-1 currently at FanDuel.
Another veteran QB who has been deemed ‘washed up’ by many pundits is another 12, Aaron Rodgers. The Pack destroyed the fading Vikings 41-17 as a 3-point favorite and Rodgers posted solid second half numbers, after a dominating effort rushing the football by Green Bay. The defense scored and so did special teams in the rout. I never would have said this 6 weeks ago, but the Packers are going to make the playoffs – they clinch a playoff spot with a win over Detroit this weekend. Oddsmakers know what’s up as they have the Packers favored by 4/4.5 points as home in what should be the final game of the season Sunday night at Lambeau.
Bet or Fade
Besides the two teams above, one team that has to win is the Seattle Seahawks. They will need the Packers to lose, but play against the LA Rams four hours before the clash in Lambeau. This line has moved from the Seahawks by 3 to 6.5-points since it opened a week ago for a reason. and it’s the Rams. They have had one of the worst seasons ever by an NFL team following a Super Bowl win. And they have Baker at QB, who though fun to watch at times, gives the injury riddled Rams little chance vs one of the league’s top defenses, in this game. The strength of running and the defense get the win for Seattle. BET
The Miami Dolphins were riding high until Tua Tagovailoa got injured. Then they were riding high again when he came back. But his recent injuries have fueled an 0-5 run that has taken a team that everyone talked about in November, to needing help to make the playoffs. Currently, Tua is most likely out (doubtful) and backup Teddy Bridgewater is probably playing (questionable) with a broken finger. If the Dolphins (+1 at PointsBet) start Skylar Thompson vs. the Jets, fade the Fins, and look at Under 38.5.
The Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive with a come-from-behind win vs the awful Raiders. But they will need the Dolphins (above) and the Patriots to lose to get in, even with a win. Kenny Pickett has come a long way in his rookie season, but the QB that really needs a win is Deshaun Watson. Watson has led the Browns to a 3-2 record since returning from suspension and has added Amari Cooper to his list of favorite targets. the former Pro-Bowler has 9 catches for 172 yards in the last two games and scored twice vs the Commanders last week. Watson needs to show everyone that he’s still ‘got it’ and ending the season 4-2 would go a long way towards getting the Dawg Pound 100% behind him next season. Remember that eliminated teams stat above, add the Steelers as another stat this week. FADE
Check back next week for my NFL Payoff Primer. I’ll break down who is going further and who is going home in the NFL Wild Card round.