Some people hate betting the final week of the regular season with many dead teams across the league and increased uncertainty around who will sit or start.
This year it is pretty simple. Los Angeles and Las Vegas are playing head-to-head for playoff spot Sunday night. Indianapolis clinches with a win against Jacksonville. San Francisco clinches with a win against the other LA team. New Orleans needs to win and Los Angeles to knock off San Francisco for them to get in. One will imagine LA will be playing their starters since they need a win or Arizona loss to clinch the division. While most people genuinely play on teams with incentive to win, I have always found value fading them.
Since playoff expansion teams that “need to win” against teams that are already eliminated are 16-26 ATS. So that’s what we are going to do here.
As always - all lines are presented by DraftKings, which has an incredible offer for first time users below.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
Spread: Indianapolis (-14)
Just like last year, Indianapolis will travel to Duvall County needing a win in the regular-season finale against a terrible Jacksonville team. I know what you are thinking, are we really going to bet on Jacksonville?
Yes we are.
We will get them in a bounce back after their blowout loss against New England. After a salty year, the best way to finish it would be to ruin the playoff chances of a division rival. While Trevor Lawrence hasn’t been great, he has been unlucky throughout much of the season. Indy struggles defending vertical threats and Jacksonville has some burners on the outside who can take advantage.
Expect Lawarence to show the talent that made him one of the best quarterback prospects ever. I’ll take Jacksonville and the points.
The Pick: Jacksonville +14
Tennessee at Houston
Spread: Tennessee (-10.5)
While Tennessee has already clinched a playoff spot and the AFC South title, it needs a win to lock up the highly coveted No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. This game is very similar to Tom Brady’s last year with New England. It was Week 17 and Brady and Co. were 17-point favorites to a lowly Miami team starting Fitzpatrick. In that contest, Miami pulled off the improbable upset. I can see that same situation playing out here. Houston beat Tennessee earlier in the season. Davis Mills has been playing very good football as of late. Tennessee offense ranks in the 20 in DVOA since Derrick Henry’s injury. The number is a touch too high for me. Will take Houston at home.
The pick: Houston (+10.5)
New Orleans at Atlanta
Spread: New Orleans (-3.5)
I think you are starting to see a pattern here. New Orleans needs to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, so they are an automatic lock against Atlanta, right? Guess what, your wrong. Whenever Taysom Hill is a favorite you've got to bet against him. New Orleans is 31st in EPA when Hill is under center. Atlanta defense gets shredded by good offenses, but they actually do pretty well against the bad ones. The secondary is the part of New Orleans defense where you can attack. Matt Ryan will be slinging the ball around the yard all game. When these two teams met back in November in New Orleans, the Saints closed as a 6.5-point favorite in a game Atlanta held on for dear life in after building a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter. I see this game playing out in a similar fashion. I’ll take Atlanta as a home dog.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Spread: Baltimore -3.5
Both Pittsburgh and Baltimore are just barely alive in the playoff hunt but it’s going to take something very special for either team to find themselves playing next week. The game has wider significance too, with it very likely being the last time we see Ben Roethlisberger in the black and gold. I like the Big Ben angle. Pittsburgh should be motivated.
Beyond that, Baltimore is missing some key pieces still. Their defense ranks 28th in DVOA and the secondary is basically in shambles. Pittsburgh defense has been rounding back into form. TJ Watt is chasing the NFL’s single season sacks record. If he gets it, Pittsburgh will be in great shape to win. Big Ben beats Baltimore one last time.
The pick: Pittsburgh +3.5
Los Angeles ta Las Vegas
Spread: Los Angeles (-3)
If Jacksonville beats Indianapolis, there is a situation where both teams could manufacture a tie to ensure they both make into the postseason. Even if that situation is on the table, the spirit of John Madden isn’t going to let that happen. Las Vegas really has been a good story. Derek Carr deserves some votes for MVP the way he has led this football team through adversity.
Unfortunately, the run ends here.
Los Angeles gets a healthy secondary for just the third time since Week 3. Las Vegas is last in the NFL in explosive passing plays since Henry Ruggs was cut. Las Vegas has averaged just 15 points in their last three wins. They have played in favorable situations, Cleveland was playing with a third string quarterback, defeated a Broncos team with Drew Lock at the helm. Then they were fortunate to face a Colts team dealing with COVID issues, with Carson Wentz and multiple starters on the offensive line missing the entire
week of practice.
Los Angeles is the more complete team. Carr struggles under pressure, and you know Joey Bosa will get after him. I like the Bolts here.
The pick: Los Angeles (-3)
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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