We're coming off another good week, spoiled only by Lamar Jackson's inability to break off a big run late in the game against the Niners for the winning TD. Baltimore settled for a 49 yard FG by Justin Tucker as time expired, and failed to cover my best-bet spread. Otherwise, however, Tennessee won outright, which was my pick, and both Green Bay and Houston (home dogs to the Pats) won and covered easily.
The final quarter of the season poses its own set of problems. Some games are do and die, even this week, and there is a tendency to over-value teams who 'need' to win, as if need will somehow lift them to levels to which they aren't otherwise capable. There is the mirror-image dilemma of what you do when no-hopers play each other late in the year.
I rarely credit the idea football teams can play to lose: it's too physically a demanding game to go into it without giving your best, but how do you read a situation like the Panthers' this week, when coach Ron Rivera was let go after his team blew an early lead and lost to the Bucs? How does the team react to the interim head coach, Perry Fewell? How will the offense look with Norv Turner's son Scotty calling the plays instead of Daddy? Isn't the loss of both Kawaan Short and Donatari Poe, the core of their defense, as well as Cam Newton, the core of the offense, more of a factor than anything else Rivera did? Those guys aren't coming back this year, so what will Turner do that he might not have done in the past 12 games? Or will Fewell simply light a metaphorical firecracker under the team's metaphorical butts and get them to play harder and better? Stranger things have happened, though few of them in Charlotte, or Atlanta.
Niners can bounce back against the Saints
Best Bet: San Francisco +2.5 at 10/11 at New Orleans
I'm actually picking the Niners to win this one outright, and they are 5/4 on the moneyline, but for betting safety you might prefer the points. Were it three so would I. I think the Niners, coming off a tough loss to the Ravens in Baltimore, and a week training in Florida to avoid the jet lag, ought to be ready to go and I haven't been that impressed with the Saints' offense lately. I don't doubt their D can give Jimmy G some trouble, but Kyle Shanahan is used to them from his time in Atlanta and I think their D is well suited to test Drew Brees. I also see this one cracking the 44.5 over at 10/11.
Seattle are the way to go against the Rams
Value Bet: Seattle to win on the moneyline at evs at LA Rams
The Rams are one point home dogs, but I'd rather back the Seahawks to win outright than take the point and lose the even odds. When these teams met in Seattle the Rams were an unusual field goal miss from Greg Zuerlein from winning the game, but since that time the Seahawks have improved defensively, they've added Josh Gordon and seen DK Metcalf break through and their running game with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny is on a roll. I think this combination is going to be too much for the Rams, but weirdly for a team that are underdogs, they're not getting odds-on to win outright, so I think Seattle's the way to go.
Return of Minshew gives Jacksonville a shot
Outside Bet: Jacksonville +3 at 19/20 v LA Chargers
The Jags are not a good team, but Gardner Minshew comes back at QB and that gives them a shot. They are also not dominant at home, which is another reason not to take this outside shot, but the Chargers are a team that tends to play, and lose close games, so I think the Jags will have enough at this point to overcome Philip Rivers. I also like the over 43 at 10/11 here.