The 9-4 Cleveland Browns are poised to return to the postseason for the first time since 2002 and possibly could win a playoff game for the first time since their resurrection in 1999 (Bill Belichick’s Browns beat Bill Parcells’ New England Patriots, 20-13, on Jan. 1, 1995, but that Browns franchise became the Baltimore Ravens beginning in the 1996 season).
The Browns are just 5-8 against the spread this season, however, and have been the scourge of bettors on several occasions. Monday night’s lateral-safety travesty versus the Ravens cost Brownies backers a cover or at least a push, rivaling the feeling they had on Nov. 15 when Nick Chubb purposely ran out of bounds at the 1-yard line to cost them a cover against the Houston Texans.
Now, Cleveland comes to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Giants. The spread has been rising steadily on the news Daniel Jones has a bum ankle to go with a hurtin’ hammy, as well as the absence of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who tested positive for COVID-19, and cancellation of Thursday’s practice. Later Thursday, the announcement CB James Bradberry will miss the game due to being a COVID-19 close-contact makes the Giants a no-go, even though that was my original lean.
The Pick: Browns, -5.5.
New York Jets (+17.5) over LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Jets travel to the West Coast for the second week in a row. They lost, 40-3, to the Seahawks this past Sunday, and many fear this one against the Rams will be just as bad. The numbers are a little curious, though, as it’s a mega-spread in a game with a very small total (Over/Under 43.5 points). The Jets are 7-6, and the Rams are 9-4 to the Under this season, and the theory goes it’s harder to win by a lot if the total points stay low. Denzel Mims is back, and remember, the Jets should have had at least 12 points last week as Sergio Castillo missed three field goals.
ATLANTA FALCONS (+5.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs got the cover last week over the Vikings, thanks to three missed field goals and a missed PAT by Dan Bailey. Matt Ryan has a little revenge to get in the quarterback battle with Tom Brady from Super Bowl LI.
DALLAS COWBOYS (+3) over San Francisco 49ers
Cowboys are 0-3 after wins, losing by an average of 16.7 ppg. But I can’t justify giving points on the road with a banged-up 49ers team that’s 1-5 SU and ATS in its past six games.
TENNESSEE TITANS (-10.5) over Detroit Lions
This line steamed from Titans -8 to double digits over the uncertainty of Matthew Stafford’s ribs. If he’s out, this would seem to be a game in which the Titans can run away.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-7.5) over Houston Texans
The Colts barely survived an upset bid by the Texans in a 26-20 win in Houston just two weeks ago. But Philip Rivers likely went to school on a bad Texans defense that got destroyed by Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears last week.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (-2.5) over New England Patriots
The Dolphins have won eight of their past 11 games and covered 10 of their past 12. They also have in-season revenge motive for a Week 1 loss in Foxborough. The Patriots had won four of five before last week’s 24-3 dud at the Rams. Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins feel as if they now have the upper hand on a long-time nemesis.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (-3.5) over Chicago Bears
Interesting the line is this small considering the Vikings won by six (19-13) at Chicago on Nov. 16. The Bears scored a combined 66 points in their past two games, but that was against Detroit and Houston, two bad defenses. They might be getting a bit too much credit for that.
Seattle Seahawks (-5.5) over WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
I’ve had success backing the WFT and was holding out for some good news on injured QB Alex Smith. He sat out Thursday’s practice with a calf injury, and I can’t take the chance Dwayne Haskins will be the quarterback against Russell Wilson.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+12.5) over BALTIMORE RAVENS
This is the third short week in a row for the Ravens. They won and covered the past two, but I wonder if the grind will take a toll, particulary mentally with a spread this high. Gardner Minshew will bring some enthusiasm back to the Jags’ offense.
Philadelphia Eagles (+6.5) over ARIZONA CARDINALS
Jalen Hurts got the start, and the Eagles got out of the teens for the first time in a month and a half in a 24-21 win over the Saints. Expecting a close one with the Cardinals, whose rout of the Giants broke a string of five straight non-covers.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (+3) over Kansas City Chiefs
VSiN reports it was sharp money that dropped this line from Chiefs -4 through -3.5 and all the way to -3. Prior to their loss at Philadelphia, the Saints had won and covered five in a row. Kansas City has failed to cover its past five, all straight-up wins. Drew Brees’ return still uncertain.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (+12.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers:
The Bengals have averaged just 10 ppg in their past five games, but the Steelers are at 17.0 over their past three, including their first two losses of the season. Pittsburgh should right the ship but could be looking ahead to toughies against the Colts and Browns to end the season.
Best Bets: Eagles, Colts, Jaguars.
Lock of the Week: Eagles (Locks 4-9-1 in 2020).
Last Week: 7-9 overall, 1-2 Best Bets.