Watching Monday night's game between the Rams and Packers made me want to scream.
We entered Monday with a respectable 4-2 betting record for the week. A win would take us to a solid 5-2 weekly performance while a loss would make for a positive but still disappointing 4-3. I told you to bet the over 39.5, and as the Packers entered the fourth quarter with a 24-12 lead and the ball in Ram territory, all we needed was one more touchdown (or two field goals) to win. Naturally, the Packers' offense stalled twice in plus territory (including a lost fumble in the red zone) before going on a nearly nine minute drive which stopped inches from the goal line to kneel out the clock in the closing minute of the game.
As infuriating as that single bad beat was, I take a bit of solace in the fact that the Lock of the Week got back on track to improve to 10-5 on the year. Our season record of 57-40 is nothing to be ashamed of, but I'm hoping that as winter storms bring frigid conditions to games all over the eastern part of the country, Santa will leave us a red hot 7-0 betting week under the Christmas tree to stay warm on this holiday weekend.
Minnesota Vikings -4.0 vs. New York Giants
To avoid some of the potential erratic results that come from the winds and snow that are attacking much of the eastern U.S., I've decided to try to target games that will be minimally impacted by the weather. Or in this case, not at all impacted. Minnesota plays in a dome, which I'm sure Vikings fans and players are thankful for, and so there will be nothing outside of the Giants defense capable of hindering the Viking offensive attack. The Vikings are rolling in with momentum and oozing with confidence after the largest comeback win in NFL history last Thursday, whereas the Giants had a shorter week following their Sunday night matchup. New York has struggled after a solid start to the season, winning just one of their last five games - and they benefitted from a no-call on an obvious pass interference in the end zone to prevent the Commanders from potentially sending the game to overtime in New York's lone victory in that stretch. I just can't see how Giants can stop the Vikings' offense right now. Plus, I'm playing against Justin Jefferson in my fantasy playoffs this week so I would like to receive some sore of benefit when he inevitably explodes to knock me out of title contention.
Houston Texans +3.5 at Tennessee Titans
I know the Texans have been really bad this season, but I really like them to cover here with Ryan Tannehill out. Malik Willis will get the starting job, but he's looked very bad in his two appearances - 11 of 26 passing with only 135 yards, no TDs, and an interception. And one of those games was against Houston. It's very possible Willis struggles so much that the Titans are forced to play local favorite Josh Dobbs, who they just signed off Detroit's practice squad this week. The Titans have lost four in a row and are in danger of giving up what seemed like a guaranteed division title a few weeks ago. Houston won in Nashville last year under similar conditions and circumstances against a much better Titans team, and Tennessee tends to struggle against bad teams. I'm not sure if the Texans will be able to pull off an outright win, but I think they'll definitely keep it close and give themselves a chance down the stretch. I think a field goal decides this one.
Atlanta Falcons +6.5 at Baltimore Ravens
This feels like way too high of number for a Ravens team without their starting quarterback. Backup Tyler Huntley, who actually looked quite good when filling in for Lamar Jackson last season, hasn't been the same player this year. He's also dealing with an injury to his throwing shoulder and is still questionable for this game, meaning the Falcons will get either a banged up backup QB or a third stringer with no game experience in the NFL. Baltimore has not scored more than 16 points in a game since Jackson got hurt and were just completely stymied by the Browns last week in a 13-3 loss. Atlanta's defense isn't quite as talented as Cleveland's, but the Falcons have been consistently holding their opponents to around 20 or below and losing close games at the wire. They should play well enough on defense to limit how much the Ravens could win by, if they even win at all. This has to be one of my favorite plays of the week.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Over 47.0
It's a bit sketchier to take the over here with no Jalen Hurts for the eagles, but I'll tell you exactly why I still like this bet. There are still loads of weapons for Gardner Minshew, who has had decent success in the league, to work with. This is without a doubt the best team around Minshew that he's had in the NFL, and I think he takes advantage of it. Much of Philly's offensive prowess comes from Hurts' dual threat ability, and Minshew is mobile enough to keep Dallas' defense guessing. And if the run game isn't getting it done, what better weapons to throw the ball up to that A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith? The Eagles have put up so many points this year that even when taking a step back at the quarterback position, they should be competent enough to continue to score. The Cowboys have been explosive and will be at full strength offensively, and last week's game against Jacksonville exposed their defense a bit. Here's a surprising stat: Dak Prescott leads the league in interceptions since he returned from injury. That fact combined with an opportune Eagles defense equals potential short fields and/or defensive scores for Philadelphia. I like this game to still be somewhat of a shootout even though we don't get to see the full strength matchup we were hoping for between these two teams.
Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins Over 50.0
This will surely be the warmest outdoor game of the week, which will allow both offenses to open things up more than they've been able to in recent frigid conditions. Miami has given up lots of points recently, and their strength against the run which will make Green Bay open up the passing attack. The Packers looked a lot better offensively against the Rams last week, and as I mentioned in the intro, their game should have gone well over the point total without some stupid mistakes and turnovers. The Packers are still trying to claw their way to an unlikely playoff spot, and Aaron Rodgers usually performs best when it matters most. No one is stopping that Dolphins offense as long as Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are on the field. This should turn into an exciting game.
Los Angeles Chargers at Indianapolis Colts Under 45.5
I don't even know where to start with the Colts. I mean, how can you show up and still give it a go after blowing a 33-0 lead, the largest lead squandered in the history of the the NFL? I guess one step is to bench the quarterback who has become known for his blown leads. Indy has finally benched Matt Ryan for good, handing the reigns to Nick Foles for the remainder of the season in a move Colts fans have been pondering for weeks. However, with Jonathan Taylor out, who is going to score points for the Colts? Michael Pittman is a nice weapon but has struggled with drops. Jehlani Woods is good for one big play per game. But Indianapolis has no guys they can look at to step up and deliver when they need it. On the other hand, the Chargers do have several big time weapons and are now finally back to full strength on the offense side of the ball. However, they've typically played in lower scoring games this season, and with likely no real need to put up tons of points in order to beat Indy, I expect them to be fairly conservative in their play calling. I like L.A. to win by a score of about 24-13.
Lock of the Week: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals Under 40.5
It feels like the Buccaneers have been included as the Lock of the Week so much this season, but I have a high success rate in those games. (After writing that sentence, I went did some research and discovered I've picked four games featuring Tampa Bay for my weekly Lock, and all four have been correct.) 10 out of Tampa's 14 games this season have stayed under the point total, including five out of six on the road. The Cardinals are without both Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy and third stringer Trace McSorley amassed just 95 yards and threw a pick when he filled in for McCoy in the second half of last week's game. Arizona still has good weapons, but their offensive prowess is significantly hamstrung without Kyler at the helm. I really just can't trust either offense in this contest, and the Buccaneers have been so good on defense that I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Cardinals are held to the single digits. We'll try to go 5-0 in what I'll have to rename Buccaneer Locks of the Week in 2022.
Written by Nick Swatson