Despite my now 64-47 record on the yaer, it feels like I'm limping into the final week of the regular season. I suppose it's a good sign when a 3-4 week, which has been our worst weekly performance all year, feels so demoralizing. But like the several teams in the NFL vying for playoff spots or better seeds, it's imperative to finish strong.
The good news is the Lock of the Week is 12-5 this year. With how poor my bets (and especially the weekly Locks) fared last season, I have to be encouraged by my improved performance for this 2022-23 slate of picks.
In next week's article, I'll give a brief recap of my betting performance from this season before giving out a few picks for Wildcard Weekend, which is arguably the best weekend on the NFL's schedule. Until then, let's finish the regular season strong by going 7-0.
Buffalo Bills -8.0 vs. New England Patriots
First of all, how great is it to see the recovery Damar Hamlin has made after the terrifying injury he suffered on Monday Night Football? The way the entire league, and even the whole country, came together to offer him and his family support is exactly what makes sports so great. I wish I could've been in Buffalo's locker room when Damar made a surprise appearance over FaceTime to greet his team for the first time, as I'm sure it was an extremely emotional but also inspiring environment. With all that said, I feel bad for the team Buffalo plays on Sunday after all that transpired this week. The Bills and Bills Mafia will be amped up like never before to get out there and show out for their teammate, and what a great gesture it'll be for Damar if they come out and smack their division rivals to eliminate them and gain momentum heading into the postseason. This will be a double digit win for Buffalo.
Miami Dolphins -3.5 vs New York Jets
The Jets have scored nine total points in their last two games combined and have now resorted back to Joe Flacco, who played very poorly in two of his three starts at the beginning of year. New York has just been eliminated from the postseason and have nothing to play for, while the Dolphins need a win (plus a Patriots loss) to avoid losing six straight to miss the postseason. It'll be Skylar Thompson at QB for the Dolphins, but he did decent against New England in the second half of last week's game. He also still has all of Miami's weapons at his disposal and barring any defensive TDs for Jets, which has been a bit of a problem in recent weeks for Miami, I trust the Dolphins' defense to hold New York in check for both the win and the cover in a monumental game for the Fins.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +4.0 at Atlanta Falcons
Todd Bowles has said he plans to play his starters, as they still have things to work on and improvement to be made going into the postseason. As such, Tom Brady will be attempting to keep his streak alive of never suffering a losing season in his career, which is a massive achievement given the length of his tenure in the NFL. Offensively, the Buccaneers have looked a bit better in recent weeks and we know their defense is good enough to keep them in the game against most teams. The Falcons have nothing to play for and will actually benefit from a loss in terms of their draft pick, and they haven't done much to help themselves in their stretch of losses before last week's last second one-point win over the reeling Cardinals. I don't know if Tampa Bay will pull some of their guys in the second half of this one, but I like what Bowles said earlier this week enough to put my money on the Bucs as a four-point underdog against a bad team.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Under 41.5
This Saints defense is no joke. They haven't allowed more than 20 points in a game since Week 9 against the Ravens, which is extremely impressive. But they've still lost several of those games too, which means their offense is basically worthless. Still, they've managed to pull off three wins in a row and can end this season on a high note by stifling Carolina to secure their fourth straight win. Even though it was against backup Gardner Minshew, New Orleans did just hold the league's best offense to 10 measly points last week in Philadelphia. I don't know which team will come out on top given how sporadic the Panthers have been this season, but I do know that points will be hard to come by for both teams. Call it a 17-13 game and cash out your money when the under hits.
Philadelphia Eagles -16.0 vs. New York Giants
Okay, i'll bite... This number is very high for an NFL game, but the Giants are almost definitely going to be resting their starters as they've secured their position in the postseason. Jalen Hurts is expected to return for a tuneup game prior to postseason play, and the Eagles will secure overall 1 seed in the NFC if they win Sunday. They're going to be eager to bounce back from their poor performance against the Saints last week and stomp on their weakened division rivals, who they already beat 48-22 earlier in season with both teams at full strength. Philadelphia is 7-1 against the spread at home, which gives me even more confidence in this pick. My biggest fear is a backdoor New York cover after the Eagles get up big and pull their starters late, but the optimistic side of me tells me that outcome is completely out of the question.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Under 49.0
Both these teams put up 41 points of their own in their games last week, but they also held their opponents, who have respectable offenses, to next to nothing. I was actually initially inclined to take the over in this game, but I've been on the wrong end of Packers overs twice now in recent weeks and I won't let it happen a third time. The story of Green Bay's games is that both teams will typically get out to a hot start, then the wheels will fall off in the second half as their defense becomes staunch and the offense stalls right on the cusp of scoring territory. I think the Packers will win this one to secure an improbable postseason spot, but I'm not too confident about them covering the five points. The Lions are a good team and have impressed tremendously this season, but Green Bay's defense has been playing too well down the stretch to think this will turn in to a shootout. I need to have action on this game due to the massive stakes in primetime, and I think the under is the best play.
Lock of the Week: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Under 43.0
I don't know how the man still has a job in the NFL, but Nathan Peterman will be starting for Chicago in their finale. Peterman's existence in the league has been a total failure and his career stats are frankly unbelievably bad. He made eight appearances and four starts in 2017 and 2018, completing just over 50 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and 12(!) interceptions. And 7(!!) came in ONE GAME! That's not a typo, he really threw seven picks in one game in 2018. He's also managed to throw an interception in just six pass attempts in 2022. The point is the Bears will have no offense without Justin Fields, so the Vikings will have to just about hit the point total themselves for this game to go over. Which isn't technically out of the question given the fact that Chicago just gave up 41 points to the Lions last week. But I'm assuming Minnesota will pull their starters if they get up by quite a bit late in the game. I would expect around a 27-10 outcome at best, which would give the Lock of the Week a 13-5 total record on the 2022-23 season.
Written by Nick Swatson