Let's be honest, there really was nothing better than getting some football on our Christmas Day, and after a 1-1 day, we're back with our normal Sunday column.
Here are thoughts on four of today's games, plus a fun teaser at the bottom - it's my Christmas gift to you.
Our lines as always are provided by DraftKings Sportsbook which has an incredible offer for first-time users.
New York at Philadelphia
Spread: Philadelphia (-10)
This is a game I have no interest in watching but have a pretty strong conviction towards. The winds are expected to be blowing 15-18 miles an hour. Philly is a 10 point favorite that is averaging just 26 points per game and they run the ball more than any team in the NFL. On top of that, New York has a rushing defense that ranks 28th in rushing DVOA. Philly should be able to move the ball conservatively on the ground.
On the other side, New York QB Daniel Jones was placed on IR earlier this week, ending his season. With Philly playing on short week I expect a very conservative game plan. They can avoid playing conservatively against a New York team that averages just 17 points per game. Points will be at a premium and I can see Philly breezing to an easy 24-10 win.
The pick: under 40.5
Tampa Bay at Carolina
Spread: Tampa (-9.5)
Cam Newton has been so bad turning over the football, it’s been impossible to hit Carolina unders. Everyone who is rushing to bet the under in this one, is going to find that out. Carolina’s offense ranks 31st in DVOA overall and they have been the worst offensive team since Newton took over. Sam Darnold may be available to take some snaps, but that doesn’t make much of a difference for me.
On the other side, the line has climbed down due to injuries on the offensive sides of the ball for Tampa. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Leonard Fournette are listed as out. But we have seen Tom Brady win with no name replacements before. However, the people replacing those guys are far from no names. Ronald Jones will have an opportunity to command the backfield, Scotty Miller who caught a TD in the NFC Championship game gets a crack in the lineup, and we will see Antonio Brown back in the mix after missing three games due to a bogus vaccine card.
I don’t recommend taking road chalk often, but this is a spot where I see Tampa blowing Carolina out. Carolina has failed to cover in their last nine losses. I see Tampa shutting them down here.
The pick: Tampa -9.5
Los Angeles at Minnesota:
Minnesota: Los Angeles (-3.5)
We have another fringe playoff team in a must win spot. Minnesota increased their playoff chances from 25 percent to 35 percent with their road win against Chicago last week. Their playoff chances increase significantly more with another win on Sunday, although it won't be easy with with Dalvin Cook entering COVID protocols. But Alexander Mattison serves as a decent back up.
Still, this comes down to Kirk Cousins. Can he get Minnesota into the postseason? Cousins ranks as the fourth overall QB this year according to PFF, but a lot of those performances have not translated into wins. Los Angeles has a stellar defense ranking sixth overall in DVOA. With Aaron Donald they will get pressure in Cousins' face. I like the home underdog in this spot, as Los Angeles has had to deal with an irregular practice schedule and they have a rest disadvantage after playing on Tuesday. C
Combining that distraction from Covid, playing on the road during the holidays against a desperate Minnesota team, makes me love Minnesota in this spot. LA’s secondary is good but the combination of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson is among the league’s best. Give me Minnesota has a home dog.
Denver at Las Vegas
Spread: Las Vegas (-1)
My favorite pick on the board is the over in this game. Mostly because the change of style isn’t factored into the line. The Broncos are tied with the Jaguars for the best Under record in football going under in 11 of 14 games, but a lot of that has had to do with Teddy Bridgewater not turning the ball over and taking very few shots downfield.
Drew Lock does the opposite of both of those things and saw a game total of 50 in both of his games versus the Raiders last season. Those two games saw a total of 113 points scored.
Meanwhile, Las Vegas' offense has been good all season, as Derek Carr ranks in the top 5 in the NFL in air yards. There is a good chance he gets his dynamic tight end Darren Waller back as well. The total is suppressed with Las Vegas’s last three bad offensive efforts, but this is a different team when Waller is on the field. Carr threw for 347 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-24 win against Denver earlier in the year. I think we have a chance for more offensive explosiveness with Lock on the other side of the ball. This is a great spot for a motivated Lock to start. Las Vegas ranks 29th overall in pass DVOA, and if Las Vegas gets hot, Denver may need for their gunslinger to loosen the reins.
It’s boom or bust for Denver here. Lock thrives on the big play and Las Vegas has given up a lot of them this year. Take the over in this one with confidence.
The pick: over 40.5
TEASER: Atlanta (PK) and Buffalo +7 (-115)
We'll wrap with a two-team, six-point teaser to end this Sunday column.
Atlanta gets to play at home against Tim Boyle and Detroit. Detroit is coming off their biggest win of the season against Arizona. While Atlanta's playoff hopes are dim, they are still mathematically alive. Detroit still isn’t a good team while Atlanta has been pretty solid against not-good teams.
Atlanta doesn’t have good underlying metrics, but it’s because they get demolished by any team that’s even sort of good. Against Tampa (twice), Dallas, New England, Philadelphia and San Francisco, Arthur Smith's club is 0-6 with an ugly -145 point differential. But against anyone else — all the mediocre and bad teams — Atlanta is 6-2 with a positive point differential. Atlanta ground game to control the clock. Detroit ranks 29th in rush DVOA and they will have to face breakout star Cordarrelle Patterson.
As for Buffalo this is a chance to get the better quarterback and offense at around a touchdown. It’s one of the best teaser spots of my lifetime. I like Buffalo as an underdog, but I’m done betting against Bill Belichick in New England.
Pro Football's sith lord had the perfect weather conditions when he beat Buffalo without having to attempt over a handful of passing attempts. He won’t have those weather conditions here. Buffalo is still rated above New England in several power rankings. Early the opening number should be more around a pick. It’s hard to imagine this being a two possession win for either side. I’m more than comfortable taking Buffalo with the points here.
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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