LAS VEGAS — From a five-game losing streak that had many giving them a 10-count to four consecutive wins that have put them in a position to determine their own playoff destiny.
Just when critics were discounting the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, here they are in the final standalone game of the regular season with the NFL spotlight on Lambeau Field.
“They’re a major attraction,” says Rampart Casino race and sports manager Duane Colucci. “Rodgers gets to this point and really starts to play with a chip on his shoulder, especially against this division.”
On Sunday night, Detroit visits Lambeau, where the Lions have won only three times in their past 31 games.
Both are 8-8. If Green Bay wins, it gets the final NFC Wild Card. Detroit needs a victory and a Seahawks home defeat to the Rams to snatch that last playoff spot.
In his career, Rodgers is 59-23-1 against his NFC North rivals, with 174 touchdown passes, 29 interceptions, and 20,468 aerial yards.
Detroit Lions (8-8, 11-5 ATS) at Green Bay Packers (8-8, 8-8 ATS)
The game opened Green Bay -4.5 points at the oddsboard at Rampart, the South Point’s sister property, and hasn’t budged, while the total got bumped a point to 49.5.
The forecast is 25 degrees at kickoff, with minimal precipitation and wind.
Here are odds on sportsbook apps from around the sports betting marketplace.
“People are anticipating a possible shootout,” Colucci says. “Detroit has put up a lot of points, but their defense has been a little suspect. And I have to say, quarterback Jared Goff has been pretty solid this year.”
Goff is eighth in the league, averaging 263 passing yards a game. In nine games at home, he has thrown for 23 touchdowns and had three passes intercepted. In seven on the road, though, he has only six TDs and four picks.
The Lions are 11-5 against the number this season.
“It’s uncharacteristic. Usually, the Lions are synonymous with Bet Against,” Colucci says. “The public started to get a little perceptive, that’s why you didn’t see this game move to 6 immediately.
“Normally, in the old days, you open 4.5 and the sharps are like, ‘Geez!’ It’s not only a good team, the impressive spread record reins it in and some of the sharper guys will take the Lions in this situation.”
Packers rookie receiver Christian Watson had made a recent three-game splash with 265 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 12 catches and another long scoring run.
However, in his past three games, Watson has gained only 106 total yards on 11 catches, with no touchdowns.
In the Green Bay backfield, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon have combined for 2,391 total yards this season, with 14 touchdowns.
Jones had recorded four triple-digit yardage games before going cold, with none in five consecutive games. But he broke through for 111 yards last week in a 41-17 home romp over Minnesota.
In his lone Super Bowl triumph, Rodgers led the Packers to three consecutive road playoff wins before taking the big prize. Colucci, though, provided a cold dose of reality to the legion of Green Bay fans.
“If they win, for the Packers to go farther in the playoffs … there are some good teams in the NFC this year. Once Jalen Hurts gets back, Philadelphia will be monstrous. Dallas is really hungry, and the 49ers are strong.
“You’ve got three teams that can really play, I believe, better football than the Packers.”
Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson leads the league with 124 catches, 1,771 yards, and an average of 111 yards per game. But of five targets last week in Green Bay, he caught only one pass for 15 yards from Kirk Cousins.
Over the NFL’s past three games, Green Bay is seventh with a points-per-play margin of 0.131. On the road during the season, only Indianapolis, Chicago, and Pittsburgh have posted worse PPP margins than Detroit’s -0.114.
Tennessee Titans (7-9, 8-6-2 ATS) at Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8, 8-7-1 ATS)
The victor claims the AFC South.
Jacksonville has won six of its past eight, covering each win and not covering those two losses. In that stretch, second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence has 14 TD passes and only two interceptions in 275 throws with two scoring runs.
Tennessee has dropped six in a row and seven of its past nine. Plus, 10 of its past 13 have finished Under. In his past three games, tailback Derrick Henry has scampered for 351 yards and three TDs.
The Jaguars’ rush defense at home, yielding an average of 133 yards, is in the bottom third of the league.
New York Giants (9-6-1, 12-4 ATS) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-3, 8-8 ATS)
Sun (1/8) @ 4:25 p.m. ET
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA
Betting Line: Eagles -14, Total 43
The South Point/Rampart opened this at 13.5 and were flooded with Philadelphia cash.
“The money is all on the Eagles,” Colucci says. “The Giants aren’t going to play anybody, so we have to be careful in a game like this. Two TDs is a key number, but I think we could get past that.
“There will be so many teasers on the Eagles. The Giants are locked into the sixth [playoff] spot, and the Eagles can solidify home field throughout the [NFC] playoffs.”
Don’t expect to see quarterback Daniel Jones or tailback Saquon Barkley take any snaps for the Giants.
“Ticket count will be 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 when it’s all said and done, maybe more. Just because we’re going to have teasers and moneyline parlays on a team that must win against a team that’s locked in and doesn’t want to risk injury.”
Many called “fraud” about the Giants all season, but they’ve clinched a playoff spot and have gone 12-4 against the number — of which Colucci is well aware.
“That’s definitely a thorn in my side. Without a doubt. People just bet on them blindly, and in parlays and teasers, which has just given us a headache.”
Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, a 6-5, 250-pound rookie out of Oregon, has turned heads in his past three games with 23 total tackles, five for loss, and a forced fumble, recovery, and touchdown in one swoop at Washington.
Kansas City Chiefs (13-3, 4-11-1 ATS) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-10, 8-8 ATS)
Sat (1/7) @ 4:30 p.m. ET
Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
Betting Line: Chiefs -9.5, Total 52.5
With Derek Carr’s permanent shelving, Jarrett Stidham started at home last week and nearly pulled off the Vegas victory. But the Niners won, 37-34, in overtime.
“He proved himself and threw pretty well,” Colucci says. “But a lot of people knew about San Francisco partying out here. They saw [Christian] McCaffrey’s wife all over the place, bouncing around clubs, so you know he wasn’t far behind.
“They might have been resting on their laurels. Still, [the Niners] were able to win.”
McCaffrey ran 19 times for 121 yards and a TD against the Raiders, his third time running for triple-digit yardage in four games. He scored five times in those four tilts.
Stidham is a 6-foot-3, 214-pound third-year pro whose start against San Francisco was his first in 12 NFL career games. He played at Baylor and Auburn, logged two seasons in New England, and was sidelined in ’21 by back surgery.
He went 31-for-47 for 437 yards, three TDs, and two interceptions against the Niners. He tossed 11 passes at Davante Adams, who caught seven for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve seen good two-way action,” Colucci says. “It’s obviously more important, for home field in the playoffs, for the Chiefs.
“But I think it’ll be hard to get to 10. There’s so much public backing of the Raiders, at the South Point and Rampart. They’ll bet them blindly, just like they bet the Golden Knights and Aces. A big local fan base.”
Cleveland Browns (7-9, 8-8 ATS) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8, 9-6-1 ATS)
Sun (1/8) @ 1 p.m. ET
Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Betting Line: Steelers -2.5, Total 40.5
The total moved up from 39 through the first few days of the week at the South Point/Rampart.
“Since [Cleveland quarterback DeShaun] Watson returned, there’s definitely some focus there,” Colucci says. “For the Steelers, [quarterback Kenny] Pickett isn’t too bad, and Najee Harris is a fabulous tailback.
“This is a big rivalry, and this one has a good handle.”
In five starts, Watson is 3-2. He’s completed less than 60% of his attempts, has five TDs and three interceptions, and he’s run 30 times for a total of 131 yards, one TD, and nine first downs.
Pickett, the rookie slinger out of Pitt, has played in 12 games. As a starter, he’s 6-5. He’s completed 64.4% of his attempts for 2,209 yards, six touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
Harris hit triple figures for the first time all season last week in Baltimore, with 111 yards on 22 runs. But he scored his lone TD on a short catch.
The Browns have won only once in their previous 19 trips to Pittsburgh. The Steelers need to win — and both New England and Miami to lose — to squeak into the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-8, 4-11-1 ATS) at Atlanta Falcons (6-10, 8-8 ATS)
Sun (1/8) @ 1 p.m. ET
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Betting Line: Falcons -4.5, Total 40.5
Ninth-year receiver Mike Evans has spent every season with the Bucs, and he starred last week with 10 catches for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
Trailing 21-10 in the fourth quarter, quarterback Tom Brady hit Evans with a 57-yard score and answered that with a 30-yard strike to Evans to give Tampa, at 24-21, the lead for good at home against Carolina in an eventual 30-24 victory.
“Unbelievable,” Colucci says. “That’s what they need. They’ll rest up, and [Brady] will be prepared for that first [playoff] game. We’ll make spread adjustments, without a doubt.”
The Bucs, who had covered only once in their previous 13 games, were 3.5-point favorites against the Panthers. The triumph clinched the NFC South for them.
“That was one of our big games, and we got crushed,” Colucci says. “When Tampa Bay is faced with a must-win situation, Brady is definitely a premier attraction in the NFL, but I don’t believe they can improve their playoff position this week.”
Still, the South Point/Rampart opened Atlanta as a 6.5-point favorite, and Tampa cash sliced two points out of that by midweek.
If anything were at stake here, Colucci says, Tampa would be favored.
“Still, Tampa has taken a little action. We’re seeing some teasers on Tampa, and people will take the Bucs regardless of who they’ll play; you don’t know.
“But, depending how you bet on this team … the Bucs will cover most teasers, I’ll be honest with you.”
Come the postseason, Colucci and company will disregard Tampa’s rough season against the spread.
“I’ll throw that out. I think this is an improving team. If the defense can find itself, they can be a thorn in anybody’s side.”
Minnesota Vikings (12-4, 6-9-1 ATS) at Chicago Bears (3-13, 5-10-1 ATS)
Sun (1/8) @ 1 p.m. ET
Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
Betting Line: Vikings -8, Total 43
Justin Fields, the Bears’ young versatile quarterback, will sit this one out. Smart, Colucci says, because there’s no reason to risk injury.
“He’s a class act. He’s definitely the future of [Chicago]. He brought a different element that helped the Bears. They just have to put more talent around him.”
Indeed, because Chicago is riding a franchise-worst nine-game losing streak.
The South Point/Rampart opened Minnesota -2, and the above news bumped that up to eight.
“Huge money,” Colucci says. “Just teasers and parlays on Minnesota, with some straight action. They were getting a sense that Fields would be shut down. So it’s a game we don’t want to get ‘middled’ on, let’s put it that way.”
Colucci pegs Fields’ value at 4 to 4.5 points, the rest of that difference being the other inexperienced Bears.
“It was an initial reaction. Sharps knew [Fields] was going to shut it down. There’s a couple of extra points in there, regarding other teammates, as well as the sharp action coming in.”
Los Angeles Chargers (10-6, 10-5-1 ATS) at Denver Broncos (4-12, 7-9 ATS)
Sun (1/8) @ 4:25 p.m. ET
Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Betting Line: Broncos -2.5, Total 40
The visitors have won their past four games, and five of their past six. The home team, meanwhile, is a circus, whose rookie head coach didn’t last the season and whose quarterback seems more clownish by the week.
Russell Wilson, the self-professed Mr. Unlimited, is, in fact, quite limited, with an 82.5 passer rating that ranks him 28th in the league.
The Broncos have lost seven of their past eight games.
“We’ve had good two-way action,” Colucci says. “The Broncos have been horrible, and you’ll definitely see a fully new revamped coaching staff there, I bet my eyes on it … almost.”
He raves about Austin Ekeler, the Chargers’ tailback who has amassed more than 7,000 yards and 63 touchdowns on the ground and through the air in six seasons.
A star at Division-II Western Colorado, he ran 10 times for 122 yards and two TDs last week against the Rams, his second triple-figure rushing game of the season. He has six rushing touchdowns in the past four weeks.
“A threat and a beast,” Colucci says. “Be careful. They could catch one of these teams sleeping in the playoffs.”