LAS VEGAS — One of the NFL games of the year — if not the tilt of the season, so far — has instead had a question mark attached to it as Buffalo determines the health of quarterback Josh Allen’s right arm.
Or, more precisely, that elbow, in which he’s been diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament with related nerve issues.
It happened during Sunday’s defeat to the Jets in New Jersey, where Allen struggled throughout the game. Credit New York’s defense.
“Nice goin’, Jets team!!!” wrote their most famous alum, Joe Namath, on Twitter. “That was absolutely terrific!!”
Initial reports seemed to confirm that Bills’ medical personnel do not fear that the injury will have long-term repercussions, and that Allen might just miss one game (this one).
That seemed wise to Dr. David J. Chao, an orthopedic surgeon and former NFL team head doctor for 17 years. He predicted, via his popular Twitter feed, that Allen could miss additional games.
A game that opened Sunday at many Vegas shops with Buffalo as a 9- to 9.5-point favorite and a 49.5 total had been whittled down to -4 and 43.5 by Wednesday at the Golden Nugget. As of Friday morning, the line is down to -3.5 across the sports betting marketplace.
“They’re very concerned about the UCL injury,” says Vinny Sanzare, director of race and sports at the Nugget. “I even heard some of the commentators utter the phrase, ‘Tommy John,’ fearing if it got aggravated.
“Number one, that’s kind of rare. Number two, it could be something that might be serious, long-term, for him. At this point, [the line movement] is all about Josh Allen.”
Case Keenum, the Bills’ reserve quarterback, is a 34-year-old Texas native who went 11-3 as a starter for the Vikings in 2017. In those playoffs, they beat New Orleans before losing the NFC title game at Philadelphia, 38-7.
In the past three seasons, Keenum has started twice, both for Cleveland in 2021. He won both. The 10-year pro out of Houston is 29-35 lifetime as a regular-season starter, with 78 touchdowns and 48 interceptions.
This season, in mop-up duty twice, he’s 2-for-7 for eight yards.
“The guy has experience,” Sanzare says. “Doesn’t have the same skill set, obviously, as Allen, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable. He’s still in the league, for a reason. Still with one of the élite teams, for a reason.
“I believe they believe in him and will rally around him, [but] that is not a prediction on the game in any way.”
Going into Week 10, Unders have come in at a 59% clip (79-55-2), and underdogs have covered at a 57.8% rate (74-54-6).
Minnesota Vikings (7-1, 3-4-1 ATS) at Buffalo Bills (6-2, 4-3-1 ATS)
The Bills cruised down to Jersey and got slapped by the Jets. Anyone who took the 13 points for the home side or the around +450 that represented New York’s moneyline, you, sir or ma’am, are livin’ right.
NFL · Sun (11/13) @ 1:02pm ET
|Bills Stadium, Orchard Park, New York|
Minnesota is riding a six-game winning streak in which every victory margin has been one score.
“Is that something that’s sustainable throughout a season?” Sanzare says. “Who knows? In the NFL, a lot of games hinge on one play. They’ve been finding ways to win, which is always something you look for in an élite team.”
Seattle Seahawks (6-3, 6-3 ATS) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5, 2-6-1 ATS)
The fairytale run of Seattle quarterback Geno Smith, who leads the league with a 73.1 completion percentage, lands in Deutschland against the greatest to play the position, Tom Brady.
NFL · Sun (11/13) @ 9:30am ET
|Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida|
Smith uttered Sanzare’s favorite line, so far, of the season.
“One of my favorite quotes. I might be paraphrasing, but he said, ‘Everybody wrote me off, but I didn’t write back.’ A great response. It’s one of the great stories of the year, not only him but the Seahawks, as a whole.
“Everyone figured they were done once they parted ways with Russell Wilson. Pete Carroll, obviously, is a great coach. Geno Smith finally gets an opportunity to have a coach, system, and team around him that lets his abilities shine.”
Foes can consider the 45-year-old Brady past his prime at their own peril. A single pass out of 398 this season has been picked off by a defender, a rate that leads the NFL. Moreover, his 260 completions are No. 1, too.
Brady’s aerial figures should be even better, according to an analyst who has determined that Bucs’ receivers have dropped a league-high 23 passes, costing the team approximately 54 expected points.
Tampa has dropped five of its past seven, which would have been a far worse tailspin if not for Brady’s late heroics last weekend at home against the Rams.
The Bucs have not been underdogs once this season; they covered their first two, but are on an 0-6-1 spread run. Also, Tampa games are 7-2 to Under.
Seattle has won five of its past six. Its average victory during its current four-game winning streak is 29-17.
L.A. Chargers (5-3, 5-3 ATS) at San Francisco 49ers (4-4, 4-4 ATS)
Sun (11/13) @ 8:20 p.m. ET
Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
Niners -7, Total 45.5
It didn’t take long for Christian McCaffrey to feel comfortable in his new uniform. In a 31-14 triumph at the Rams two weeks ago, he ran 18 times for 94 yards and a TD, caught eight passes (one for a score), and threw a 34-yard TD pass to Brandon Aiyuk.
Since the 1970 merger, only LaDainian Tomlinson (2005), David Patten (2001), and Walter Payton (1979) have recorded such a hat trick.
That and a bye week have the Niners in a nice spot, with four of their next five at home.
“I think the Niners kind of thumbed their noses at the Rams. The Rams really wanted McCaffrey, and [the Niners] showed them this is what you didn’t get,” Sanzare says. “A little gamesmanship. He’s had time now to get into the playbook, to get into the system, and I look for them to make a run.”
Also read: Chargers vs. 49ers odds and prediction
Dallas Cowboys (6-2, 6-2 ATS) at Green Bay Packers (3-6, 3-6 ATS)
Sun (11/13) @ 4:25 p.m. ET
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
Cowboys -5, Total 43
FOX is showing this one, promoting it as the renewal of ancient, glorious rivalry. The Ice Bowl and all that and former Packers boss Mike McCarthy is coaching Dallas.
But cold, stark reality shows that it could easily be a one-sided game, with Dallas taking out full vengeance on a franchise that has beaten it in eight of their past nine meetings.
Away from home, the Cowboys own a points-per-play margin of 0.087, which is fifth in the NFL. Inside Lambeau, the dreadful Packers are fourth from the bottom with a home PPP margin of -0.091.
Any team that has lost five consecutive games will have ugly stats. However, just when some might have thought the Packers have hit rock bottom, they sink lower. They’ve scored seven and 10 points this season. Last week in Detroit, nine.
“I don’t know if it’s a systemic thing,” Sanzare says. “Something there isn’t clicking. Could be a chemistry thing in the locker room. But that’s a team that has fallen from grace quickly.”
Still, the Nugget opened this at 5.5, and money on the Packers shaved it down a bit. Remember, Green Bay somehow covered at Buffalo, even though 11 or 12 points in the NFL is enormous.
“They still have [QB Aaron] Rodgers,” Sanzare says. “He puts it on his shoulders and can get you there if you’re close. Gives you a chance.”
Green Bay was a slim home underdog last November when it beat the Rams. However, since 2017, it’s been a home dog six times and that’s the Packers’ lone victory. They covered in a tie to the Vikings, but those first four games were defeats and coverage losses.
“They’ll be motivated for the Cowboys,” Sanzare says. “Dallas is an élite team, even proved it can win without Dak [Prescott]. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Packers play with a lot of pride and make this a competitive, interesting game.”
Detroit Lions (2-6, 4-4 ATS) at Chicago Bears (3-6, 4-4-1 ATS)
Sun (11/13) @ 1 p.m. ET
Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Bears -2.5, Total 48.5
This could be one of the weekend’s highest-scoring and entertaining affairs.
“I agree with that assessment,” Sanzare says. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see both teams in the 30s.”
The largest early-week wager the Nugget took was on the Lions +3, a substantial position by a sharp bettor, according to Sanzare, that sliced it to 2.5.
“Someone really believes in the Lions,” Sanzare says, “or believes it’s going to be a close game or doesn’t believe in Justin Fields and the Bears.”
Under new head coach Matt Eberflus, first halves in Bears games are 7-2 to Over. Those exploring that first-half play should know that over its past three games, Chicago has averaged 18 points in the first 30 minutes and 13.7 for Detroit.
The Lions have yielded 234 points, and Arizona (241) is the only team that has given up more points on defense.
In Chicago’s past three games, it has lost by an average score of 32-31. To seven opponents, not counting a tilt against the pathetic Packers, Detroit has allowed an average of 32 points.
One forecast predicts it to be 36 degrees at kickoff under partly cloudy skies, with zero chance of precipitation and a 9- to 10-mph wind dissipating as the game progresses.
Cleveland Browns (3-5, 4-4 ATS) at Miami Dolphins (6-3, 4-5 ATS)
Sun (11/13) @ 1 p.m. ET
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
Dolphins -3.5, Total 48.5
Glance at the NFL’s quarterback statistics and the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa is atop 14 of them. Not bad. In games that he has started and finished, Miami is undefeated this season.
Raheem Mostert is the effective tailback, and Tua has exceptional targets in receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. A home game against a sub-.500 opponent shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
“But the Browns are a team that’s tough to gauge,” Sanzare says. “They seem to rise up when no one thinks they have a chance, making a game of it. They’re trying to keep their heads above water till Deshaun Watson comes back.”
Watson is slated to return in three weeks at Houston. The Browns are 1-6 lifetime in Miami. Every game has been decided by one score, four by a field goal.
Denver Broncos (3-5, 3-5 ATS) at Tennessee Titans (5-3, 6-2 ATS)
Sun (11/13) @ 1 p.m. ET
Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
Titans -2, Total 36.5
Powerhouse tailback Derrick Henry owns a league-high 183 runs and 879 rushing yards, averaging 109 a game. He and his teammates had the Chiefs on the run in their own yard until… they didn’t.
He has six touchdowns in his past four games. And in his past five, Henry has averaged 135 yards. He had averaged 30 carries a game in three in a row, until carrying it 17 times in Kansas City.
Henry is the perfect ball-control weapon, and five consecutive Titans games have finished Under. The past four for Denver have finished Under. Even more impressive, since 2018, the Broncos easily lead the league in Unders at 49-24 (67.1%).
As I spoke with Sanzare, the Nugget cut this total to 38.5. A few hours later, it had been chopped to 36.5. Since 2019, 14 games had totals of 37 or lower, and Under went 10-4 in those tilts.
“This has all the earmarks of being an Under game. The Broncos are still trying to find their way. I think the Titans should take care of business. Even with that low total, it likely isn’t going to be a high-scoring game, unless there are some defensive scores mixed in there.”
Washington Commanders (4-5, 4-4-1 ATS) at Philadelphia Eagles (8-0, 5-3 ATS)
Mon (11/14) @ 8:15 p.m. ET
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
Eagles -11, Total 44
Off-the-field dramatics are a constant in Washington, but Sanzare gives head coach Ron Rivera kudos for the competitiveness of his players.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to cover here, having the spotlight on Monday night against an undefeated team,” Sanzare says. “I’d think they’d be motivated against the Eagles, or they could lose by four touchdowns.
“I always tell people there’s a reason I’m on this side of the counter. We have an expectation of what’s supposed to happen. That doesn’t mean it always happens.”
At 0.186, the Eagles own the second-best home PPP margin, behind Buffalo. Thank QB Jalen Hurts, second in the league with 8.5 yards per throw and sixth with a 68.2 completion percentage.