The NFL schedule is a weird one this weekend. Virtually every game on the schedule has some sort of meaning, but many of them have true meaning (read: playoff hopes/seeding riding on the outcome) for only one side.
Currently, 19 teams have either clinched a playoff spot or remain alive for the playoffs. That's good! Of the 16 games on the schedule, 14 involve at least one team with something to play for. Also good!
However, of those 14 games, only five have both teams vying for some sort of playoff chip, whether it's an actual berth in the playoffs or a better seed/home field advantage. That's...well, that's a little scary. The trap will be assuming that the nine games involving teams with nothing to play for going against a playoff hopeful will be, by and large, walkovers.
Scary, because that's what logic dictates. And wagering often belies logic. Let's try and find six good ones in this bunch, shall we?
Giants -2 1/2 over RAVENS In a battle between two likely playoff teams (Ravens are already in and the Giants will probably hit the switch and get a wildcard) who are playing like they have other plans in January (Baltimore has lost three in a row, New York has lost four of six), I'll take the team with the two time Super Bowl winner over the team with Joe Flacco.
Redskins -6 over EAGLES Seriously, I'd take the Redskins laying the six even if Kirk Cousins were starting, so if Robert Griffin III coming back from injury is viewed as "gravy"? Well, here's your six points, Philly fan. Now, on the count of three, Philly fan...ready? 1...2....3.... BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! BOOOOOOO!!!!!! BOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!
PACKERS - 12 1/2 over Titans My buddy Wooly B, who runs the handicapping juggernaut fatsideofthebacon.com, has a little rule (he actually has dozens of rules) that goes like this -- in December interconference games with double digit spreads, bet the favorite and you'll win around 70 percent of the time. The rationale behind this rule, a double digit spread implies that there is a certain talent gap between the two teams. That late in the season, the "care" factor for the underdog in a game against a team they see once every four years will be minimal. The favorite inherently should have something to play for if they're good enough to be a double digit favorite in an NFL game, so fire away on the favorite! Go Pack go!!
TEXANS -8 over Vikings Going into the season, we knew the Texans would have a slew of games against first and second year quarterbacks. While the games against some of the big league throwers (Brady, Rodgers, Stafford, Manning) haven't gone so well statistically (or in the case of the former two, on the scoreboard), the games against the pups have gone about as planned:
Week 1 vs Miami (W, 30-10): Ryan Tannehill (20-36, 219 yards, 3 INT) Week 2 @ Jacksonville (W, 27-7): Blaine Gabbert (7-19, 53 yards, 1 TD) Week 4 vs Tennessee (W, 38-14): Jake Locker (TKO in the 1st quarter) Week 11 vs Jacksonville (W, 43-37): Gabbert (TKO in the 1st quarter) Week 13 @ Tennessee (W, 20-14): Locker (21-45, 309 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, 2 FBL) Week 15 vs Indianapolis (W, 29-17): Luck (13-27, 186 yards, 2 TD)
In case you're wondering, the cumulative quarterback rating for those six starts is 58.41, a number which would rank ahead of only John Skelton currently. If you had to stack rank where Ponder sits among the first and second year quarterbacks above, he's ahead of Gabbert for sure and maybe Locker. And that's at his best. (Tannehill and Luck are clearly better. In short, Adrian Peterson or no Adrian Peterson, this is the type of game that the Texans have flourished in this season. I expect the same on Sunday. Texans 30, Vikings 14.
Let's round things out with a couple degenerate meaningless college bowl picks. Let's spin the wheel of misfortune that is college bowl season and see what we land on, shall we? Ready? ....SSSSSSPINNNNNNN..... (pretend the big Price is Right wheel is spinning right now) ...... DING!!! Meineke Car Care Bowl!!!
Minnesota/Texas Tech OVER 56 1/2 Crappy Big Ten team's defense against a potent Big 12 offense? Any offense against the defense of a team that just saw its head coach (and de facto defensive coordinator) take another job three weeks ago? OVER...yes...please.
Let's spin it one more time.... SSSSSSPINNNNNNNN...... (This is where Bob Barker would be making small talk as the wheel spins around) ..... DING!!! Belk Bowl!!!
Cincinnati -7 over Duke I didn't even know the Belk Bowl existed until I spun the imaginary wheel. Cincinnati's head coach Butch Jones has taken the Tennessee job, so logic would seem to dictate that you take the team who at least has its head coach. (We remember last time Cincinnati went into a bowl game without a head coach.) But dammit, it's just so much fun betting against Duke, regardless of sport, I gotta do it.
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Last week: 1-5 Season record: 41-47-2
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.