It's been a hell of a week across the NFL. We have multiple teams who will struggle to field complete teams this weekend as COVID has returned to impact the league with a vengeance. It appears some of the games this weekend might now be moved, but we're focusing on six games that appear to be unaffected, for now. Let's cross our fingers and knock on wood. All betting lines are as of Friday afternoon and courtesy of BetMGM.
Would you rather take the points with the Bengals or the Patriots?
The Cincinnati Bengals are a 3-point underdog in Denver this weekend. Elsewhere, the Patriots are getting 2.5-points from the Indianapolis Colts. Which of these appetizing underdogs would you rather back?
Greg: Man, these lines. You wouldn’t see two bigger traps if you broke into Kevin McCallister’s house. Every bone in my body tells me not to go in there, but the potential riches are calling out to me and I just can’t help myself. I’m a discerning Wet Bandit, though, so I’m only jumping headfirst into one of these underdog traps and that’s New England. Jonathan Taylor and Carson Wentz have had great seasons, but they’ve been great against a slew of bad teams. The Rams, Bucs, and Titans (twice) bottled both of these guys up. The entire Colts offense is those two and Michael Pittman Jr. Bill Belichick is notorious for taking away your best weapon and he’s had two weeks to gameplan on how to keep Taylor in check with a defense ranked second in DVOA. Indy is one of my dark horses to make a run in the playoffs, but this is a bad matchup for them. Patriots win outright. Bengals-Broncos is a complete toss-up to me. This is like if you had two Jekyll and Hydes fighting each other. One week they’re dragging the Ravens and Chargers by multiple scores, then they’re losing to the Jets and getting blown out by the Eagles. I understand that’s the nature of the NFL (any given Sunday, right?), but with other teams, we know their identity and it’s a matter of whether they execute or not. With the Bengals and Broncos, I feel like we have no idea which version is going to show up. If I don’t have a handle on a team, I just stay away, so that’s what I’ll be doing with this game. Give me the Patriots and keep the points, ya filthy animal.
Pete: Both underdogs look good to me here, but both feel like obvious traps. The New England line feels slightly more trappy, for whatever that's worth. I can see a world where Frank Reich comes up with a great gameplan like he did against the Buccaneers a few weeks ago. This is also a home game for the Colts and huge in terms of their playoff push. I do believe in this Colts team, which might make me slightly biased because I don't exactly believe in Denver. It's just hard to trust Teddy Bridgewater to keep pace with Joe Burrow. For that reason, I'll be taking the points with the Bengals here.
Would you rather lay the points with the Miami Dolphins or the San Francisco 49ers?
The Miami Dolphins are a 9.5-point home favorite over the New York Jets. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers are laying 8.5 points at home against the Atlanta Falcons. Which home favorite would you rather back?
Greg: Losing Jaylen Waddle for this game is such a gut-punch for the Miami offense. However, as famous 21st century philosophers Linkin Park once sang: in the end, it doesn’t even matter. The Jets’ defense is a joke, and those Waddle targets will get split up between Myles Gaskin, Mike Gesicki, and DeVante Parker. Tua has completed 80% of his pass attempts since he’s been back in the starting lineup and New York ranks 32nd in opponent completion percentage (70.6%). His counterpart, rookie Zach Wilson, is missing the BYU days when defenders couldn’t get any penetration and he lived in a clean pocket. He’s been terrible under pressure this year, and the Dolphins blitz at the second-highest rate in the league. The Falcons also have a less-than-stellar defense, but at least they have some bright spots. One of those is cornerback A.J. Terrell, who has never allowed a deep completion for a touchdown and has only given up three catches for a total of 16 yards over his last three games. Atlanta is the only team in the NFL who hasn’t surrendered a completion of over 40 yards this year. That’s important because the Niners are a chunk play offense, relying on guys like George Kittle and Deebo Samuel to break off big plays. The Falcons have also been pretty decent against the run. I think they can hang around in this one. I’m on the Dolphins.
Pete: The Jets are bad, and now they're even worse. Zach Wilson has had an awful rookie year and now he's without Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, his top two weapons. Miami should be able to get pressure on Wilson, which is when he's at his worst. I don't see the Jets scoring much at all here. Miami will be without Jaylen Waddle and their running back room is a bit depleted, but they should still roll. I don't think the Falcons are good at all, but I can see them hanging around in this game against San Francisco. I'll also take the Dolphins.
Would you rather take the points with the Carolina Panthers or the New Orleans Saints?
The Carolina Panthers are an 11.5-point underdog in Buffalo against the Bills this week. Elsewhere, we have the New Orleans Saints as an 11-point underdog in Tampa Bay. Which double digit dog would you rather back?
Greg: I’m done with anything having to do with the Panthers. Matt Rhule, Cam Newton, Robby Anderson, Sir Purr, they’re all dead to me. They’ve had some unfortunate injury luck this year, but you play the hand you’re dealt and Carolina is staring at a deuce-seven. This is low key one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Buffalo desperately needs a resounding win to cement their standing in the playoffs and build some momentum. After a couple tough losses, this is Josh Allen’s chance to bounce back against a defense that’s allowing nearly 30 points per game over their last three outings. I don’t know why I like the Saints this week. The only thing they can do is run and that’s what the Bucs are best against, but Sean Payton has beaten Bruce Arians in five of their last six regular season matchups and this is basically their season on the line. I’m marching in to Tampa with the Saints.
Pete: I hate to agree with Greg, but he did a pretty good job with his breakdown. There's nothing appetizing about the Panthers right now. The Bills showed me something in their comeback last week despite the fact they fell short in overtime. This should be a spot where the Bills get right. They need this win because they are at risk of missing the playoffs in the AFC, believe it or not. The Saints are Tom Brady's kryptonite so far as a member of the Buccaneers, in the regular season at least. It kind of reminds me of how Brady struggled in Miami as a member of the Patriots. Sean Payton has COVID, but you'd have to think that most of the gameplan is already installed so only his sideline presence will be missed. I like the Saints to keep it close, while I can see the Bills winning in a blowout. Give me New Orleans.