The ability to make valid comparisons is a key part of handicapping the NFL. Bettors can try to compare anything they’d like, but two things must happen before they can go to the window to collect — the comparison has to matter, and the takeaway needs to be correct.
For Sunday’s game between the Giants and Dolphins in Miami, I’m choosing to differentiate two different things.
One is the point spread. Four weeks ago, the Dolphins were 4-point favorites at home against the Houston Texans, who at the time were 1-7 and had lost seven in a row. The 17-9 result was the first of four wins in a row for Miami.
This surge has elevated their power rating in the marketplace to a level where the Dolphins are now the same -4 at home against the Giants, a team with four wins that is 4-1 ATS in its past five. It’s up to the bettor to decide whether this comparison matters and if it suggests there’s value on the Giants’ side. I say yes to both.
The other element I’m looking at is the Giants holding Jalen Hurts and the Eagles to seven points last week. Hurts did injure his ankle in the second half, but that was a good result for the Giants’ defense against a guy who’s on the verge of becoming a dangerous quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa outranks Hurts by a bit in passer rating and ESPN’s QBR metric, but to me, Big Blue’s short-circuiting of Hurts is an indication they could have success against Tagovailoa.
Speaking of the line, it moved from +2.5 to +4 partially on the news that Daniel Jones had a sore neck and might not play. Wednesday’s update was encouraging, so it might be wise to grab the Giants before the number sinks back.
The pick: Giants, +4.
NEW YORK JETS (+6.5) over Philadelphia Eagles
This line seems to be priced as if Hurts is healthy, so there might be a bit of value on the Jets side if Hurts is unable to run freely or if Gardner Minshew has to start. Zach Wilson wasn’t very impressive in the Jets’ 21-14 win over Houston — still inaccurate on the short, rhythm passes Mike LaFleur’s offense is built upon. But perhaps the “W” will help his confidence. If he can run the ship competently, there seems to be plenty for him to work with, from Elijah Moore to a committee of useful running backs to an improving offensive line. One note of caution is the Jets are 0-8 ATS in their losses, all as underdogs. Another is they are 0-11 straight up all time vs. the Eagles.
DETROIT LIONS (+7) over Minnesota Vikings
Detroit covered the spread in a Thanksgiving loss to Chicago that left a lot of people down on Dan Campbell, but the rookie coach still has the Lions playing hard, and they are 7-4 ATS despite their 0-10-1 record.
Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) over CHICAGO BEARS
At midweek, Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins were working their way back into the Cardinals’ lineup. The Bears D could be missing some of its biggest names, as Khalil Mack is on IR and Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith are dealing with injuries.
ATLANTA FALCONS (+10.5) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Same comment as last week on the winning Falcons selection over the Jaguars — a healthy Cordarrelle Patterson opens up everything else for Matt Ryan’s offense. The Bucs have given up 96 points in their past three road games.
Indianapolis Colts (-10) over HOUSTON TEXANS
The line steamed to double digits, and the Colts look to be the only choice here. The Texans rank 32nd in rushing offense and 31st in rushing defense, and Indianapolis should be able to dictate the game. Tyrod Taylor taking five sacks from the Jets wasn’t too encouraging, either.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (-3) over Los Angeles Chargers
L.A. ranks last in the NFL in rushing defense, part of the reason it has allowed an average of 31.2 ppg over the past seven games. Though the Chargers will get nice weather in Cincinnati, they still have to deal with the early body-clock scenario,
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (-2.5) over Washington Football Team
Tough turnaround for the WFT with distant travel after a Monday night win that went to the final play. Las Vegas, meanwhile, has extra rest after winning at Dallas on Thanksgiving to snap an 0-3 SU/ATS skid.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+13) over LOS ANGELES RAMS
The Rams have failed to cover their past five spreads in a stretch that included games against the Lions and Texans. Also, Matthew Stafford looks worse for wear even if no injury is being disclosed. Jaguars have a recent 9-6 win over the Bills, which is an outlier but shows they can be capable on occasion.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (+4.5) over Baltimore Ravens
The Steelers got crushed by the Bengals on short rest in the second game of a tough road back-to-back. Going to give them another shot catching points at home against a Baltimore team that has been held to 17 points or fewer in four of its past five games. My running count still has Mike Tomlin as an epic underdog at 42-21-2 ATS including 4-2 ATS this season.
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The Seahawks have scored 0, 13 and 15 points in since Russell Wilson’s return, and two of those points came on a blocked PAT return. The Niners are rolling, having scored 30 or more in four of their past five.
Denver Broncos (+9.5) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Though Andy Reid is 18-3 SU coming off a bye, that’s not the issue here with a spread that’s close to double digits. According to the Action Network, Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater is 26-8 ATS as an underdog in his career.
New England Patriots (+3) over BUFFALO BILLS
The Patriots have given up 6, 7, 0 and 13 points in their past four games. Surrounding a 41-15 destruction by the Colts, the Bills have given up 11, 9, 17 and 6. So I’m getting the idea this game will be close, low-scoring and that even a small head start will be valuable.
Best bets: Broncos, 49ers, Patriots
Lock of the week: Broncos (Locks 7-4 in 2021)
Last week: 6-9 overall, 1-2 Best Bets
Thursday: Saints (L).