On my radio show, we've had a running joke over the last few NFL seasons — when trying to guess where the Texans rank statistically in certain areas, we would always just guess 16th, because it would probably be within a spot or two of being correct. The Texans, up until this season, in which they're now one of the better teams in the league, were the epitome of average, the essence of "middle of the pack."
Well, three straight weeks of 3-3 picks against the spread got me feeling some kind of pre-2018 Texans way. I've never felt more middle of the pack in my whole betting career. What I'm saying is, it's time for me to begin channeling the 2018 Texans and get us all some holiday money. Let's go!
CHARGERS -4.5 over Ravens
These are two of the hotter teams in the NFL right now, facing off on a Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Chargers are 9-1 SU in their last 10 games, and coming off a gigantic fourth quarter comeback win against the Chiefs last Thursday night. The Ravens are 4-1 SU in their last five games, all five of which have been started by rookie QB Lamar Jackson. These two teams have similar plights, in that if the season ended today, they would be the two wild card teams in the AFC, but both still have a shot winning their divisions. The Ravens have gone run-heavy with Jackson, who still is a poor thrower of the football, and have been fortunate that Jackson's five opponents thus far have been, essentially, five of the bottom six or seven teams in run defense DVOA. The Chargers are middle of the pack defending the run, which should be good enough to bottle up Jackson and bring home the win and cover.
BROWNS -8.5 over Bengals
These two teams played four weeks ago in Cincinnati, and the Browns blew the doors off the Bengals, 35-20, in a game that wasn't even THAT close. The Browns are a team playing their best football here in the second half of the season, at 4-1 in their last five games, and a big road win in Denver last Saturday night. The Bengals are playing out the string with Jeff Driskel as their quarterback. The home field advantage in Cleveland should be off the hook, with the Browns playing their first meaningful December games in over a decade.
Packers PICK EM over JETS
This time of year, there a lot of spreads where you go "Man, if someone went back in a time machine and showed me this number in August, I'd be like HUH?!?" This is one of them, Aaron Rodgers, the most skilled quarterback (not the best, but probably the most talented) of the last decade, traveling to play the 4-10 Jets just need to win the game for a betting victory? Yep. The Packers are not a good team, but I do think there's a big part of Rodgers that wants to finish strong to show that Mike McCarthy's firing (for which he is being heavily blamed) was justified.
DOLPHINS -4 over Jaguars
If you've been fading the Jags over the last ten games, I'd like to congratulate you on the Lamborghini you are buying yourself for Christmas! The Jags are 1-9 SU in their last ten games, and they've failed to cover a spread in any of those nine losses. The Dolphins, meanwhile, still find themselves on the fringe of the postseason at 7-7, even coming off of 41-17 loss in Minnesota last weekend. Overall DVOA says that I am having to lay four points with the lesser team — Jags are 18th overall, Dolphins are 24th — but Jags QB Cody Kessler has engineered exactly ONE touchdown drive over his last 31 possessions, and Dolphin QB Ryan Tannehill has done a good job protecting the football since returning from injury (two turnovers in four starts). The Dolphins have been a surprisingly good home team this season, 6-1 SU and ATS.
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RAIDERS +2.5 over Broncos
Speaking of DVOA anomalies, somehow, the Denver Broncos are seventh in the league in overall efficiency. I have no idea how that happens, except that maybe DVOA diminishes the importance of crappy turnovers and really poor coaching decisions, two things that will be the Broncos ultimate undoing this season. The Broncos had their playoff dreams crushed at home against the Browns last week, and have a dead coach walking. The Raiders have a coach with a 10-year contract, and have been playing on their home field with some pep lately, even though they're moving to Vegas. it's weird, I get it. I love the Raiders getting points in this spot.
Steelers/SAINTS UNDER 53
I know when you think of these teams, obviously the offensive firework starters come to mind — Brees, Kamara, Thomas, Big Ben, Brown, Juju — but this game sets up to be played at a total under the posted 53. The Saints'have been hanging their hat on defense lately, averaging just over 12 points allowed per game in their last six games, the last five of which have gone UNDER the posted total. The Steelers have been involved in UNDER games in five of their last seven, and they are not a very good road team, as they are one last second Big Ben TD run in Jacksonville away from being 0-3 SU and ATS in their last three road games, all against teams that are sub-.500 right now (Oakland, Denver, Jacksonville). The UNDER has hit in the last five Steeler road games, as well. Love the UNDER here.
Last Week: 3-3
Season Record: 49-44-3 (52.7 percent)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.