Getting that bye can be Super

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Kansas City clinched the top seed in the AFC on Sunday with its come from behind 17-14 win over Atlanta. Under the new playoffs format the Chiefs will enjoy the lone AFC bye.

Pittsburgh or Buffalo will be seeded second but, unlike past seasons, will have to play on Wild Card weekend, hosting the newly introduced seventh seed team.

Three teams remain in contention for the top NFC seed and that conference’s lone Bye. Green Bay is 12-3 while both New Orleans and Seattle are both 11-4. And each of them can earn that seed depending on what happens on Sunday.

It sets up much excitement to conclude the regular season.

How important is that Bye week?  Let’s look at some Super Bowl history. Since seeding began in 1990 when the playoffs expanded from eight to 10 teams, every Super Bowl has had at least one team that had a Bye for Wild Card weekend (a one or two seed). Eighteen of the 30 Super Bowls played under that format have featured both teams seeded first or second, including each of the last seven, four of which featured the top seeds from both conferences.

None of those 30 Super Bowls involved two teams that played on Wild Card weekend (seeds three through six).

Kansas City had its Bye in Week 10. Green Bay’s Bye was all the way back in

Week 5. Both New Orleans and Seattle had Byes in Week 6. With those three NFC teams having played 12 or 11 straight weeks the Bye week will not only be much needed but could provide even a bigger edge if that team reached the NFL Title game as it would likely be favored to do.

Once revised Super Bowl and conference odds are released following Sunday’s games, you might want to consider this history in making any future wagers prior to Wild Card weekend.

Sunday

Washington at Eagles, Total 43: The scenario is fairly simple. Washington wins the NFC East with a win. Barring ties, a loss gives the division title to the winner between Dallas and the Giants.

In the season opener Washington won 27-17 as the teams combined for just 504 total yards of offense. Philly’s lost six of seven, scoring 17 or less five times. In Washington’s last six games the loser’s scored 17 or fewer points.  Only once did the teams combine for more than 40.

Washington’s scored more than 27 points just once and will rely either on a less than 100% Alex Smith or untested Taylor Heinicke. With the 30th ranked offense, fourth-ranked defense and a conservative game plan, points should be scarce. UNDER

Jaguars +14 at Colts: Having clinched the top draft choice, there’s little to keep Jacksonville from going all-out to win this game.

The spot sets up nicely for the Colts. After a dominating first half against struggling Pittsburgh, outgaining the Steelers 206-28 and holding a 24-7 lead in the third quarter, the Colts collapsed and lost 28-24.

The Colts have several paths to the playoffs but they start with a win here. Jacksonville’s lone win came in Week One when they upset Indy as 7-point home ‘dogs. Combine that loss with their blown lead Sunday and the Colts should come out aggressively early to put the Jaguars in a hole from which they should not recover. COLTS

Packers -5.5 at Bears: A win and the Packers get the top NFC seed. A Chicago win and the Bears earn a Wild Card.

Chicago’s playing its best football of the season, winning three straight while outscoring foes 110-51, scoring at least 33 in each game. QB Mitchell Trubisky has looked like the QB they traded up to choose with the second pick in the 2017 draft. Yes, the wins were all against losing teams with two on the road. Chicago’s defense has had success against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in recent seasons.

After a 5-1 start that preceded six straight losses, the Bears have found their early-season form and are worth backing here. BEARS

Cowboys -3 at Giants: Should Washington lose Sunday night, the winner here wins the NFC East. Dallas won the earlier meeting 37-34 that dropped the Giants to 0-5.

New York won its first game the following week. The Giants then won five of seven to take control of this weak division. But three straight ugly double-digit losses followed. The Giants have not scored more than 19 points in five straight and have failed to reach 20 nine times.

Dallas is playing its best ball, winning three straight and scoring 30, 41 and 37 points. It’s hard to trust teams with just five or six wins in the final week of the season but the Cowboys have more talent, the better QB and positive momentum when it counts most. COWBOYS

Titans at Texans, Total 56.5: A Titans win gives them the AFC South title while Houston heads home, win or lose.

In losing Sunday night in the snow in Green Bay 40-14, the Titans snapped a five-game streak of scoring 30 or more points (average 37.4). There should be plenty of offense in this game as these teams rank second and fifth in averaging more than 6.1 yards per play. The defenses are almost as permissive, ranking 24 and 30.

Tennessee won the first meeting 42-36 in overtime as they combined for 1.013 total yards. And the Titans had the game’s two turnovers. Their games have averaged an NFL leading 56.7 total points per game. Houston’s not far behind at 51.3. OVER

Jets +3 at Patriots: After two decades of dominating the NFL, the Patriots’ reign is coming to an end. At 6-9 New England will have its first losing season since 2000, coach Bill Belichick’s first season.

COVID-19 caused several key defensive players to opt out of the season and signing QB Cam Newton to replace Tom Brady has not worked out despite some positive signs in September.

The Jets are feeling good. After starting 0-13 they’ve defeated the Rams and Browns. However, Belichick has long harbored ill feelings towards the Jets. The Pats have won 15 of the last 17 meetings since 2014 and is 43-11 SU overall.

After three straight losses — all to playoff contenders — Belichick should take out his frustrations on his favorite punching bag. ­PATRIOTS

Last week: 4-1-1

Season: 39-54-3

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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