It might be a huge understatement to state that last weekend was one of the wildest and wackiest NFL weekend over the past decade but ways in which many games unfolded and ended were as varied and as unusual as can be imagined.
Only the Stanford band was missing from Miami’s multi-lateraled game winning touchdown the stunned New England and kept Miami very much in the mix of AFC Wild Card contention. The loss dropped the Patriots to 9-4 which might have also dropped them to the third seed in the AFC but for Houston having its nine-game winning streak end at home against Indianapolis, dropping the Texans to that same 9-4 mark.
By virtue of their Week One win over Houston, the Pats hold the tiebreaker between the pair and, were it to come into play, likely would involve the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds, the difference between which are having a Bye week when the Playoffs begin vs. hosting a Wild Card game against the No. 6 seed.
There was constant controversy involving the officiating from the beginning of the NFC East showdown between Dallas and Philadelphia. Perhaps it was fitting the game went into overtime with a Dallas touchdown resulting from the deflection of a likely interception right into the hands of Amari Cooper.
Acquired in a mid-season trade with Oakland, Cooper has been a major factor in the recent play of the Cowboys, now winners of five in a row (5-0 ATS) following their 3-5 start which has them two games ahead of both Philadelphia and Dallas with three games to play.
This has been a season of an above average percentage of close games. A third of all games this season (70) have been decided by four points or less or by a TD in overtime. This compares to just 29.3 percent for the six seasons from 2012 through 2017.
Underdogs have won 71 of 208 games straight up, 34.1 percent of all games. This compares to 31.7 percent for the prior six seasons.
Competitive games and upsets increase viewership. They also increase the level and intensity of exhilaration or frustration enjoyed or endured by bettors.
Chargers (+3) at Chiefs (Over/Under 53): A win by the hosts clinches the AFC West title while a Chargers win would tie the teams at 11-3 with two games to play. The Chargers have the second best record in the AFC and would make for a solid play were this game played on other than a Thursday. Home teams have had great success this year on Thursdays as the short week and lack of travel is a benefit. Overall, home teams are 12-3 SU, 10-3-2 ATS on Thursday. CHIEFS
Texans (-6) at Jets (41.5): Despite the end of their nine-game winning streak Houston still holds a comfortable two game lead in the AFC South over the Colts and Titans and hold the number three AFC Playoffs seed. The Jets are playing out the schedule but can take encouragement from last week’s win at Buffalo when rookie QB Sam Darnold led the Jets on a late fourth quarter game-winning drive. Houston played its last three games at home and its 4-2 road record features just one of the wins by more than a FG. JETS
Browns (+3) at Broncos (45.5): Denver’s playoff chances took a major hit with last week’s loss at San Francisco. At 6-7 they trail a quartet of 7-6 teams for the second AFC Wild Card. Cleveland has played well since firing coach Hue Jackson in midseason and has won three of its last four. Denver’s defense should be the key. Over their last five games the Broncos have allowed an average of just 17.6 points per game with no foe scoring more than 22. BRONCOS
Dolphins (+7) at Vikings (43): Both teams remain in contention for Wild Cards in their respective conferences. Miami has been outscored by 55 points this season, Minnesota by nine. Miami would need help but the Vikings would earn a Wild Card by winning their final three games. Should the Vikes win here and next week in Detroit they might well enjoy a favorable situation in Week 17. They will host Chicago which likely will have wrapped up the Division and might rest players, knowing that a Vikings win would result in a Wild Card rematch the next week in Chicago. VIKINGS
Raiders (+3) at Bengals (45.5): Both teams covered as double-digit underdogs last week with the Raiders winning outright at home vs. Pittsburgh. Both teams will miss the playoffs but the Bengals might have added motivation. With their final two games on the road, this likely will be the final home game for Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis who has been popular with his players. Despite the key injuries the team showed some moxie in their close loss at the Chargers last week. BENGALS
Buccaneers (+8) at Ravens (46.5): Tampa gave New Orleans a competitive game last week, leading into the fourth quarter of their 28-14 loss. Baltimore likewise gave Kansas City one of its toughest games of the season in a 27-24 overtime loss. QB Lamar Jackson injured his ankle late in that game but is considered likely to start here. The Ravens currently control the second AFC Wild Card and are third in the conference in scoring differential (+ 80) behind only the Chiefs and Chargers. Baltimore also leads in the NFL in allowing just 241 points – an average of 11 points per game less than the average allowed by the Buccaneers. RAVENS
Cowboys (+3) at Colts (47): Both teams are red hot with Dallas winning five straight and the Colts six of seven. While both teams’ offenses have gotten much of the attention both defenses have stepped up. Dallas has allowed the second fewest points in the NFL this season (246) and their offense has improved greatly since trading for Amari Cooper. After starting 0-4 on the road the Cowboys have won their last two on the road, at Philadelphia and Atlanta, as underdogs in each. COWBOYS
Lions (+2.5) at Bills (38.5): Neither team can finish with a winning record. The Lions are 1-4 both SU and ATS in their last 5 games as underdogs while Buffalo, which made the Playoffs last season at 9-7, has been favored just once this season – in last week’s home loss to the Jets. Fundamentally the Bills are the better team, especially on defense as they’ve held 5 straight foes and 8 of the last 9 to under 175 net passing yards and holding 6 of the last 9 to under 85 rushing yards. BILLS
Packers (+5.5) at Bears (45): Following the firing of coach Mike McCarthy the Packers played spirited football last week in defeating Atlanta. Though needing much help, they can still earn a Wild Card by winning out. Chicago blew a comfortable 23-3 fourth-quarter lead in Green Bay by being too conservative. Revenge would be especially sweet for the Bears as a win gives them the Division title. Green Bay will be playing out of desperation and there’s plenty of room for the Pack to get the cover, even in a losing effort. PACKERS
Titans (+2.5) at Giants (43.5): By winning out the 8-8 Giants would still have a remote shot for a Wild Card under scenarios that are not unrealistic. The Titans are still in the mix for an AFC Wild Card but also need help. The Giants offense is finally gelling. After a 1-7 start the G-Men have won four of five, including the only two games in which they’ve been favored all season. They’ve scored at least 30 points in three of their last four games after scoring 30 or more just once in their previous 43 games – and that came earlier this season. GIANTS
Redskins (+7) at Jaguars (36): Despite four straight losses, 6-7 Washington still can make the playoffs whereas the Jaguars have been officially eliminated. Both teams have struggled offensively over the past two months. The Redskins have averaged just 18.5 points per game over their last 10 games. Over their last nine games Jacksonville has averaged just 13.8, scoring in single digits four times. With both teams now relying on backup QBs it’s hard to feel comfortable about either taking or laying this number. UNDER
Cardinals (+8.5) at Falcons (44): The Cardinals are averaging an NFL worst 13.7 points per game, scoring more than 21 just once all season (28). Atlanta is on an 0-5 SU and ATS streak and has been held under 21 points in all 5 games after scoring over 30 points in five of the first eight. It’s hard to lay this number with a team that is just 3-10 ATS and, despite being favored for the tenth time this season, never by more than 5.5 points prior to this game. During their extended offensive droughts Atlanta has stayed Under in five of its last seven games (after starting 5-1 to the Over) while Arizona has stayed Under in eight of its 13 games. UNDER
Seahawks (-6) at 49ers (44): Seattle has won four straight and is 8-3 since starting 0-2. This includes a 43-16 home win over the 49ers two weeks ago. San Francisco is just 3-10 SU, 4-9 ATS. The Seahawks control their destiny to a Wild Card but do have a potential loss at home next week when they host Kansas City, making this a game they should not take for granted despite the easy win in their first meeting in which they led 27-3 in the third quarter before relaxing. Although Seattle was outgained by 121 yards they did have the more important 6.8-6.1 yards per play edge. SEAHAWKS
Patriots at Steelers (No Line): Pittsburgh injuries had this game off the board as of Tuesday morning. Pittsburgh is on the verge of playing itself out of the Playoffs, losing three straight and leading Baltimore by just half a game in the AFC North. New England was stunned by Miami last week and the lost the No. 2 AFC playoffs seed but for Houston also losing. Getting that Bye week for the Patriots is important as the Brady/Belichick dynasty is showing wear and tear. Had the Pats not lost last week this would be a great spot to play on the hosts even though the Pats have had recent success against the Steelers (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS since 2013 including a win last season and two in 2016). But last week’s results change that. PATRIOTS
Eagles (+9.5) at Rams (54): At 6-7 the Eagles are in serious danger of missing the playoffs and thus being unable to defend their Super Bowl title. Although the Rams have clinched the NFC West they have yet to clinch an opening round Bye. Both teams’ performances have declined over the past month as compared to the first half of the season but the Rams’ decline has been more severe. Although dealing with injuries, look for a spirited effort from the Philly defense to keep them competitive against a team they defeated by 10 points on this field late last season. EAGLES
Saints (-6.5) at Panthers (52): Carolina’s collapse continued last week in Cleveland and the Panthers are now on an 0-5 run both SU and ATS and will need help to make the Wild Card. Compounding that effort is that they face the Saints again in Week 17. Their stats are fine as they’ve outgained each of their last four foes with each of those losses by seven points or less. New Orleans’ offense has slowed in recent weeks with QB Drew Brees passing for under 200 yards in three straight games. At the same time the Saints have held each of their last five foes to 17 points or less. PANTHERS
Last week: 7-9