As Ferris Bueller might say: The world of sports moves pretty fast...
... If you don't stop and look around at least once a week, you could miss it. Here we'll review what you might have missed in the past week all in one place. Why spend hours scrolling through Twitter to catch up on the news you want? We've already done that for you, so remember to check back every Monday to get your dose of weekly sports review.
It's rare this late in the season for so many teams to still be in playoff contention. With most of the games already played on the Week 13 schedule, only four teams have been mathematically eliminated from contention, those being the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
With a loss to the Patriots, the Los Angeles Chargers have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. https://t.co/8wtFVyM5bh— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1607301694.0
The New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs have officially clinched spots in the the post season. Pittsburgh and Green Bay are just waiting to see their names added to the list of teams that have clinched, which should happen in the next week or two. But the large majority of teams are playing for their postseason lives, and the three games left on the Week 13 schedule all have major playoff implications surrounding them.
NFL playoff picture: Saints and Chiefs clinch, and Vikings move into the NFC's No. 7 spot https://t.co/59jRijlZYZ https://t.co/wfDRgfiTOE— ESPN Los Angeles (@ESPN Los Angeles)1607315583.0
On Monday night the Steelers will play the Washington Football Team and the Bills take on the 49ers. Every team in the NFC East has a sub .500 record, including the division leading Giants (5-7); that means that any win can thrust you to the top of the division. Washington is currently just behind them in second place, so a win tonight would go a long way in that division.
*me trying to figure out how the 49ers will win the NFC West* https://t.co/fU0pXeWMnK— Akash Anavarathan (@Akash Anavarathan)1607297735.0
The 49ers also need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The NFC West has continued to be one of the most competitive divisions in football all season and with both Seattle and Arizona taking losses this week, a win would be even more important to San Francisco to make up some ground.
For the Bills, on the other hand, a loss would be disastrous, as they would then be tied with Miami at 8-4 while the Patriots seemed to have figured it out as they've won two straight and are now sitting at 6-6.
On Tuesday night the Cowboys will face the faltering Ravens, who are at least expected to get QB Lamar Jackson back for this one. On the surface it seems like an easy win for Baltimore, but their recent run of play, even with Jackson in at quarterback, has been lackluster at best.
Ravens' QB Lamar Jackson is expected to come off Reserve/COVID19 list and start Tuesday vs. the Dallas Cowboys, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@Adam Schefter)1607263799.0
The Ravens are riding a three game losing streak and have allowed Cleveland to assert a three game lead ahead of them for second place in the AFC North and are in the top AFC Wildcard spot. If Baltimore has any chance of getting back to the playoffs, they will need the Lamar Jackson we saw last season during his MVP campaign. If we get more of the 2020 Lamar, Baltimore will need to start thinking about a new OC to replace Greg Roman, or a new QB to replace "Big Truss".
"BIG TRUSS!" —@markingram21 One year ago, Mark Ingram was turned up for his MVP @Lj_era8 🤣 https://t.co/3asitzrAhD— NFL on ESPN (@NFL on ESPN)1605628581.0
Let's break down the AFC and NFC to see how the playoff picture is developing in Week 13.
The Steelers, Chiefs, Bills, and Titans lead their divisions. Buffalo is in a tight race in the East, as Miami is right on their heels and have a chance to draw even with Buffalo if San Francisco is able to upset them Monday night. Kansas City and Pittsburgh have significant breathing room and are more concerned about their playoff seeding since both will have spots in the postseason (barring a historic collapse from the Steelers). Tennessee is also in a close division race with Indianapolis, both 8-4 with the Titans holding the tiebreaker. But, luckily for them, they don't have a third team that can chase them down like Buffalo and Miami does.
Bill Belichick and Cam Newton have figured out a very boring and very effective way to win football games in today's NFL. The bad news for the former juggernaut is that over their last four games, three of them are against the Los Angeles Rams, the Miami Dolphins, and the Buffalo Bills. The other is against the Jets in the last week of the season.
Cam “character issues/won’t fit the Patriots way” Newton changing the culture in NE 👀👀 https://t.co/wmNFbvYFXA— PJWalkerQB1 (@PJWalkerQB1)1607301434.0
Speaking of the Jets, the Las Vegas Raiders were the beneficiaries of the Jets' incompetence that we've seen this entire season. Derek Carr and Henry Ruggs III connected on a deep pass for a game-winning touchdown with five seconds remaining on the clock. Running an all-out blitz, the Jets left cornerback, Lamar Jackson (the other one), on an island with an Olympic level sprinter and it turned out the way you'd expect it to.
"We were down to the wire, and we knew that we needed a play." @__RUGGS and @derekcarrqb combined for the play of… https://t.co/2HDW9UKYS3— Las Vegas Raiders (@Las Vegas Raiders)1607302801.0
The Saints are the only NFC team that holds the claim to have clinched a playoff berth already. The Packers shouldn't be too far behind. Green Bay are now 8-3 after this week's win over the Eagles, and their nearest competition in the division is Minnesota who is 6-6. Chicago and Detroit haven't yet been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention – but c'mon, let's be real; they're done.
Moving on to the Saints' division, it's a pretty similar situation. They're already in, and there's only one other team in the division that can make a playoff push, and that's the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa's season has had its share of ups and downs, but they're certainly a team that is able to turn it on and look like a Super Bowl contender at times.
The #Saints are headed to the playoffs!!! ⚜️ https://t.co/DAu3I1jo9o— New Orleans Saints (@New Orleans Saints)1607289411.0
The Bucs will be vying for a Wild Card spot and should have a strong chance to land one coming off their Week 13 bye. Carolina and Atlanta both currently have a 1% chance of reaching the postseason both sitting at 4-8.
The East, as we've discussed at length throughout the season, is a mess. Because of the current structure of deciding NFL playoff spots, there are currently four teams in Week 13 of the NFL season that are below .500 that have a real chance at reaching the playoffs. They're ALL in the NFC East.
I want to make sure to drive home the point of how much I hate the NFC East and the NFL for allowing this to happen. That means that one of these teams will make it in over someone like the Vikings, Seattle, or the Rams, depending on who falls out of the final Wild Card spot.
Live look at the NFC East https://t.co/7ZQPbX7gH0— Annie Agar (@Annie Agar)1607300906.0
The only other thing worth mentioning about the East is that Jalen Hurts came in to replace Carson Wentz in the Packers game and did well enough to start a QB controversy in Philadelphia. Coach Doug Pederson is definitely on the hot seat, and his fate may already be sealed.
Starting Hurts the rest of the way doesn't seem like a bad idea considering we've had 12 weeks to see if Carson Wentz can lead this team to a division crown. Considering how low-hanging that fruit is, and how poorly Wentz has done with his chance, Hurts could save the season and Pederson's job.
.@JalenHurts has his first NFL touchdown! #PHIvsGB | #FlyEaglesFly 📺: CBS https://t.co/TuRPDyFU0k— Philadelphia Eagles (@Philadelphia Eagles)1607298753.0
Saving the best for last, the NFC West has been the opposite of the East. It's been a pleasure to watch all of the teams in the league's best division fight for positioning all season, from the quarterback play of Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray to the impressive coaching we've seen displayed from Kyle Shanahan dealing with a myriad of injuries in San Francisco. And finally, Sean McVay reworking the Rams into a much different team than who we saw in the Super Bowl two years ago.
Sean McVay on taking the lead in the NFC West: “I mean, that means absolutely nothing because there are four games left.”— Jourdan Rodrigue (@Jourdan Rodrigue)1607301123.0
The Rams and Seahawks are both 8-4, with the Rams holding the tiebreaker. Both are in the driver's seat toward reaching the playoffs, but the Cardinals and 49ers are far from out of it. The Cardinals fell to 6-6 after losing to the aforementioned Rams this week; but for San Fran, they could reach 6-6 with a win against Buffalo tonight in primetime. Neither are close to being out contention with four games left on the schedule, but at least one of them will be left on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs this year.
It's another eventful week in the NFL.
Four teams -- the Jets, Falcons, Saints, and 49ers -- are the first teams to get a bye week. After Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers narrowly escaped Thursday Night Football with a 28-22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the reigning Super Bowl champs are the first team with five wins in the league. Who will join them on Sunday? We know that we'll get at least a second five-win team since the 4-1 Ravens are hosting the 4-1 Chargers. That is going to be an epic battle, so let's start with that clash of AFC contenders. Welcome to our Week 6 NFL Best Bets.
Playing on the road is a difficult task for any team, but if any team can escape with a victory, it's Justin Herbert and the Chargers. This isn't the Chargers of the last decade. This team is winning the close battles. Herbert is playing at an MVP level this season and already has led this team to big-time wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns -- two of the top teams in the AFC. This L.A. team is deep at the skill positions, can rush the passer, has an improved offensive line and a great young coach. What's not to like?
All that said, Lamar Jackson seems to be playing as he did during his 2019 MVP campaign. Not to mention, Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is actually catching passes. He eclipsed 100 yards last week and scored two touchdowns (including the game-winning catch in overtime). Simply put, this is a tough team to bet against. It did take last-second heroics for the Ravens to beat the winless Lions and a pretty pedestrian Colts team. Overall, Baltimore hasn't faced a test like this yet this season. Take the points and the better overall squad. Chargers may win this game, but if they don't, they are not going to lose by more than a field goal.
PICK: Chargers +3.5
It's been a tough start to the season for the Chiefs. They had great odds to return to the Super Bowl and are now last in the AFC West heading into Week 16 with a 2-3 record. They desperately need this game. This is a great opportunity for the Chiefs to prove they are still elite by defeating a team that made the postseason last year on the road. The Chiefs are going to turn it around against a Washington defense that is allowing the sixth-most passing yards and second-most passing touchdowns this season. Patrick Mahomes is going to blow up. Tyreek Hill is going to dominate. Travis Kelce is going to continue to provide a steady source of receptions down the middle of the field. As long as the Chiefs' offensive line holds against Chase Young, it's going to be a long day for Washington's defense. Betting on Mahomes to right the ship isn't a really difficult choice.
PICK: Chiefs -6.5
Yes, the Texans are one of the worst teams in the league. Betting on them on the road against a divisional rival might seem crazy at first. However, the Texans are 7-3 against the spread as underdogs in their last 10 games. Plus, the Colts are emotional after completely giving away the game against the Ravens in which they blew a 22-3 lead late in the game. This is going to cause a bit of a hangover in that locker room. When New England suffered a terrible loss against Tom Brady and the Bucs, the Texans managed to cover the spread the following week. Look for history to repeat itself. Texans coach David Culley has Houston playing hard in spite of its lack of talent and quarterback Davis Mills appeared to take a step forward last week against the Pats. Houston has played pretty good pass defense, too. The Texans have allowed only seven passing TDs this season.
PICK: Texans +9
Sunday night will be an interesting matchup to watch as Geno Smith will make his first start in four years as the Seahawks travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. I hate betting on Ben Roethlisberger, but it's hard to envision the Seahawks covering the spread without the services of Russell Wilson. And as much as I think Big Ben should hang up his cleats, you have to give him credit for the way he dominated a solid Broncos defense last week. Roethlisberger looked better than he did earlier in the season and was able to get the ball to his playmakers -- Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and running back Najee Harris. Seattle's defense is one of the worst in the league and their secondary is even worse than their front seven. Look for the Steelers to light up Seattle in the passing game.
PICK: Steelers -5
Both of these offenses can put up a lot of points, though they go about it very differently. The Browns are a run-heavy team, and even though they will be without the services of Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt is more than capable of getting the job done. Meanwhile, Arizona's offense runs through electric quarterback Kyler Murray. Murray is able to move the chains with his legs but he isn't afraid to toss the ball either. He loves getting his guys involved and his weapons are elite in DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, and Christian Kirk.
The Browns are coming off an 89-point slugest with the Chargers and hit the OVER in their other game against a high-end offense in a 33-29 loss to the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have scored 30-plus points in four of five games this year. Smash the OVER.
PICK: OVER 49.5
Week 2 of the NFL was full of breakout performances, thrilling finishes and potentially the start of the Justin Fields era in the NFC North as the Bears' win over the Bengals finds them in first place in the division.
We cap off the week with a Monday Night Football showdown between the Packers and the Lions with the winner finding themselves tied for first in the North. The Packers put up an absolute dud of a performance last week against the Saints in Week 1 while the Lions looked surprisingly effective while playing catch-up against the West-leading 49ers. The expectations for these two teams couldn't have been further apart coming into the season but with matching 0-1 starts on the books, I think there are a couple of interesting props and roster construction angles to exploit.
NFL DFS Showdown Picks
*Prices are from DraftKings
Captain: TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions ($9,600) ($14,400)
I'm normally not a fan of playing a tight end in the captain spot, but T.J. Hockenson is not your average tight end. He finished 2020 with an elite 18% target share in the Lions' offense and picked up right where he left off in Week 1, finishing with an 18.2% share on 50 routes run last week. Hockenson has always carried premium TD upside as a red-zone target but what was most encouraging about last week was that he ran nearly 55% of his routes out of the slot, leaving him a matchup against Chandon Sullivan, who's allowing a 67% catch rate in his coverage. In a game where the Lions are projected to be down early, expect Hockenson to get fed once again. His red-zone utilization gives him enough juice to take the captain's chair in my builds.
Core Consideration: QB Jared Goff, Detroit Lions ($10,000)
Two principles I take into Showdown slates apply to this play. Generally speaking, if I have a pass-catcher as my captain, I'm finding a way to get their QB into a flex spot. The second is that your build needs to tell a story. Mine is that the Packers come out with something to prove after getting embarrassed in Week 1 and that we'll likely see upwards of 50 pass attempts from Jared Goff as he attempts to mount a comeback. Goff is a surprisingly effective passer when getting good protection and this unit gave him a clean pocket on 86.7% of snaps last week. Expect that to continue tonight as Goff will continue to feast in garbage time.
Contrarian Play: WR Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers ($2,000)
I still chuckle at the thought of the return of Randall Cobb being on the short-list of demands from Aaron Rodgers in the midst of his holdout. I do, however, think there is something to be said about the importance of chemistry between a quarterback and his receiver and I expect that in a typical game (which Week 1 was not), Aaron Rodgers is going to find his spots to get Cobb involved. In a game script that figures to have the Packers up by a healthy margin, not many are going to look at the tertiary passing options for Green Bay and I think a $2,000 Randall Cobb could sneak in a handful of receptions at single-digit ownership..
Salary Relief: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions ($2,400)
This one fits perfectly into my narrative for the game as well. In a game where the Lions are likely to flirt with 50+ pass attempts and coming off a week where St. Brown ran routes on 75% of the team's passing plays, I will be overweight on Amon-Ra tonight. Lining up in the slot on 74.5% of plays means St. Brown will primarily see coverage from Chandon Sullivan, the most favorable of the options GB lines up in their defensive secondary. Expect St. Brown to see his target volume increase tonight. If Detroit can be more effective in getting to the red zone, he carries decent scoring upside with the way he's utilized in this offense. Plus, who doesn't love the extra motivation of playing against their big bro?
Monday Night Football Best Bets
Taking a look at the wagering side of this game; before we determine anything else we must ask ourselves what we think of these Green Bay Packers. I tend to look at last week's performance as the exception and not the rule. With that being the case, I am laying the 11.5 points and taking GB tonight. Over the past six seasons, oddsmakers have been fairly sharp when it comes to these larger spreads and NFL teams cover double-digit spreads more than 55% of the time. The total for tonight is sitting at 48.5 and given the somewhat surprising ability of the Lions to make up ground last week, I am confidently on the "over" side of that line.
Picks: Packers -11.5, OVER 48.5 points
Taking a look at the prop market, I am again mainly investing in the "GB Blowout" narrative:
D'Andre Swift: OVER 28.5 Receiving Yard
Coming off a 65-yard performance in a very similar game script, this one feels like a no-brainer. Swift averages nearly 8 yards per reception so this really boils down to whether you think he catches more than 3 passes. I certainly do and I'm confidently on the OVER for this prop. FanDuel is currently carrying the best odds at -110.
T.J. Hockenson: Anytime TD
I'm not the biggest fan of these "to score" props, but I'll break from the norm with this one. I am projecting the Lions to at least have a go at it in this game and there simply isn't a scenario where that doesn't involve a score for Hockenson. +220 odds at FanDuel sort of feels like stealing given that I see this game going over the 48.5 total.
AJ Dillon | UNDER 8.5 Rushing Attempts
I know that the betting public is forecasting a fairly comfortable win for the Packers, but let's not get carried away. AJ Dillon would have to nearly double his career average for carries to get to this number. Plus, it's a bit unlikely that this game gets so far out of reach that Green Bay brings in their backups. Even last week when they did bring in the second-stringers, Dillon only saw 4 carries. I'm expecting Aaron Jones to have a monster day on the ground, as evidenced by my Saturday article.
Week 1 is in the books and it's time to move on to the best bets in Week 2.
If you listened to my article earlier this week, you would have started 1-0 for taking the Giants with the points against Washington in that thriller of a matchup Thursday night. Now, let's dive into Week 2's best NFL bets.
Tennessee Titans/Seattle Seahawks Over 54
The Seahawks' offense was high-flying in the first half last week. Because the Colts never really threatened the outcome of the game, the Seahawks were able to take the air out of the ball and finish the game with an easy win while only scoring seven in the second half. While both the Titans' defense and offense looked atrocious, expect Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry to have big bounce-back weeks and make this an epic high-scoring game. This has all the makings for a shootout in which both teams put up 30-plus points.
Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 @ Chicago Bears
Until that Monday night game, the Bengals had the honor of winning the craziest Week 1 game over the Vikings in overtime. The Bears' defense, which is supposed to be their strength, looked awful against the Rams, including one of the most blown coverages you'll ever see on Cooper Kupp's long touchdown. It was simply an awful week for the Bears. I don't think it gets any better until they remove Dalton and promote Justin Fields. If they don't do that prior to game time, the Bengals will run away with this one.
Los Angeles Rams -3.5 @ Indianapolis Colts
Coming out of Week 1 the Rams looked great on both sides of the ball. Matthew Stafford had a great first game, going 20 for 26 with three touchdowns. The Colts... They didn't look that great on either side of the ball. While Carson Wentz's overall numbers didn't look bad, most of the yardage and one of his two TDs came in the fourth quarter as they were chasing from two or more scores back, never actually threatening to win the game. I'm leaning towards the Rams winning this in a blowout and would consider alternate spreads.
Arizona Cardinals -3.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Kyler Murray appears to be a man on a mission to avenge last season's bitter ending after absolutely torching the Tennesee Titans in Nashville. The Vikings' defense, who hasn't been as formidable as years past, is going to have their hands full with Kyler. Last week they allowed Joe Burrow to complete nearly 80% of his passes, and Burrow isn't a threat to run nor has a receiver as talented as DeAndre Hopkins. If the Vikings offense doesn't step up and make this a shootout, things could get ugly in Phoenix.
Dallas Cowboys + 3.5 @ Los Angeles Chargers
Dak Prescott looked great in Week 1 and if there were any issues with his shoulder after throwing 58 times, he had 10 days to get healed up again and ready for the Chargers. I can almost guarantee, whenever the Cowboys go to play either Los Angeles team in their stadium, that there will be more Cowboys fans than LA fans. So while they aren't playing in Jerry World, they'll have more fan support. My concern for Justin Herbert and the Chargers is their efficiency in the red zone. His most potent weapons in Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler become less effective as they get closer to the goal line. That leaves Jared Cook and Mike Williams as your bigger bodies in the red zone, which isn't ideal. The Cowboys have a decent chance to win this one outright, but you can take the points for some cushion.
- Cowboys ML (+160)
- Titans +6.5 (-105)
- Steelers ML (-225)
- Rams -3.5 (-110)
Five Props To Consider
- Calvin Ridley OVER 6.5 receptions (+115)
- Tyrod Taylor OVER 34.5 Pass Attempts (-105)
- Aaron Jones OVER 88.5 combined yards (-115)
- Nick Chubb OVER 17.5 carries (-120)
- James Robinson OVER 9.5 carries (-125)
All five of these props have an excellent chance at hitting. I like the idea of wagering a three-leg prop parlay with the last three props listed (Jones, Chubb and J-Rob). Thanks me on Monday.