Proceed with extreme caution! That’s advice all NFL "punters" should heed as they prepare for the final week of the regular season.
I know it’s always been one of the most difficult weeks of the season to handicap for me, if not the absolute toughest.
There’s no big secret why the final week tends to leave many bettors scratching their heads and scratching to find their bankrolls. Which team has homefield locked up? What’s the incentive to play the starting QB and risk injury? Or any starters for that matter? Which home teams will make a big push to try to impress the season ticket-holders that are considering whether to renew for next season?
The handicapping waters can turn a little muddy. In fact, it might be a great week to reduce the size of your wagers and save the heavy ammo for the playoffs.
Denny The Dog is wading into those murky waters with caution. And you should too, especially with a special holiday press time which is a day earlier than normal. It will create a few funky betting lines. But The Dog will take a stab at estimating those early lines and selecting the right side for Week 17.
Patriots -15 at Giants: In order to protect the honor of all underdogs across this great country of ours, I need to pick the dawg in this grand finale. The Pats have a great chance to go undefeated, but have looked anything but unbeatable in two of their last three road games. The G-men have stunk it up pretty good at home and haven’t won at the Meadowlands since Week 7 when they beat the Niners. G-men could have real incentive here for the playoffs and the potential historic asterisk of being the team that downed the mighty Pats! GIANTS.
Bills +3Â½ at Eagles: Eagles only 2-5 at home for the year, making it tough to cover those point spreads when you can’t even win the game! Buffalo is 3-2 on the road since Week 8. BILLS.
Panthers +7Â½ at Bucs: I’m not sure if the Bucs will have much incentive other than to protect their key players from injury. I thought Carolina produced a heroic effort against Dallas, covering the point spread without the services of Julius Peppers. PANTHERS.
Bengals -5 at Dolphins: The Fish haven’t been beaten at home since Week 13! The Fins are on a one-game winning streak there. Okay, enough of the easy jokes. The Tuna will be watching every coach and player very carefully. They had better work tirelessly and give maximum effort. And that’s no joke! DOLPHINS.
Cowboys -4 at Redskins: The Skins came close five weeks ago in Dallas, losing 28-23. I think the home field is a bigger advantage than normal for the Skins home finale. Cowboys will be without Terrell Owens. Wade Phillips could lighten up the starters’ role in this game with Owens’ high ankle injury and possible additional injuries potentially looming. REDSKINS.
Lions +9 at Packers: Packers need to fine tune their offense after a pitiful performance in Chicago. Favre’s charges just topped the Lions four weeks ago by 11 points in Detroit. If the Packers have nothing to gain and Favre is benched I still have confidence in backup QB Rodgers. PACKERS.
Jaguars -6 at Texans: Don’t look now but the Texans are gaining ground on the NFL field. Houston is 5-2 at home this season. Texans are coming off three straight impressive home wins over the Saints, Bucs and Broncos. The Jags destroyed the Texans in Week 6 and they’re playing great football. But I’m afraid of the Jags resting too many starters in this meaningless affair. TEXANS.
Saints +3 at Bears: The Saints started the year 0-4. Sean Peyton’s guys turned it around of late, only to have their playoff hopes dashed last Sunday. I should favor the home team with neither club having much incentive. I’m going to go with what should be extra bonus points to take the better QB in Brees over Orton. SAINTS.
Steelers -8 at Ravens: The Steelers have secured the division title. Their main focus should just be getting out of Baltimore with everyone healthy. Billick’s focus should be looking for his next job. What a joke this offensive guru has been in Baltimore. The Ravens had one of the greatest defenses in the history of the NFL the year Baltimore won the Super Bowl, Ravens fans realize he’s a joke, but they’ve stopped laughing long ago. Ravens should be able to savor some sort of respect and honor out of a valiant effort here. RAVENS.
Seahawks -8 at Falcons: I guess I can’t hide the fact that Denny The Dog has found a soft spot in his heart for the home teams. They say it’s better to give than to receive, but I’m a taker all the way in Atlanta. I think Holmgren will sit the starters early and often. FALCONS.
49ers +7 at Browns: What happened to the great year Derek Anderson was in the midst of? The Anderson magic disappeared last week in Cincy with too many turnovers. Cleveland has only lost one home game this season and that was in Week 1. I think Anderson will come up big at home. NINERS.
Titans +7 at Colts: Indy, for the most part, didn’t crush any teams down the stretch with the exception of Houston last Sunday. Two 3-point wins over the Jags and Chiefs and a 4-point loss to the Pats come to mind before the crusher last Sunday. Jeff Fisher seems to always find a way to lift the efforts of the Titans above what’s expected by the lines makers. TITANS.
Vikings -3 at Broncos: I don’t believe the Vikes will take much of a risk with allowing starters to play. Take the home team, coming to the end of a frustrating season. Denver may still want to prove it can compete with a playoff bound team. BRONCOS.
Chargers -4 at Raiders: Oakland beat Denver by two touchdowns and then played the Colts to within a TD. Why should Norv Turner risk any injury to his key players? RAIDERS.
Rams +6 at Cards: If the Rams can’t play competitive at home it’s tough to play with any confidence on the road. CARDS.
Chiefs +4 at Jets: I think the Chiefs have handed in their playbooks. Take Eric Mangini over former Jets football coach Herm Edwards any day of the week. JETS.