Ness Notes: Tuesday, Dec 22

by Larry Ness

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."

MNF capped NFL Week 15 with a shocker in Cincinnati. The Bengals entered on a FIVE-game losing streak (sat 2-10-1 on the season) but as a 14 1/2-point home dog, upset the Steelers 27-17. The Steelers' 11-0 start is officially a "thing of the past," as Pittsburgh was able to generate only 244 yards (12 FDs). The Bengals had just 230 yards (13 FDs), yet the game went over the low total of 40 1/2. (I had the over and it feels REALLY good to 'steal' one!). Before commenting on some Week 15 happenings, let's get to the weekly numbers. Home teams finished 8-8 SU and ATS for the week, with home dogs going 4-4 SU but 5-3 ATS. Week 15 games averaged 51.9 PPG but unlike in Week 14 when games averaged 48.0 PPG but just FIVE games went over the total, 10 games went over and just six stayed under. Y-T-D numbers available with Week 16's preview in Friday's notes.

I like to start at the bottom and let's hear it for the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets! Much like in last night's game, the Jets/Rams contest had little in the way of offense (Jets gained 289 yards and the Rams 303) but when a team breaks a franchise-record 13-game losing streak, who cares about how many yards the team gained. The 23-20 win ends any worries the Jets would match the 0-16 seasons of the Lions and Browns. The bad news for the Jets came in that the win may cost them the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft (expected to be Clemson's Trevor Lawrence). The Jags now own the NFL's longest active losing streak, as their 40-14 loss at Baltimore gives them 13 straight losses since the team's home-opening 27-20 win over the Colts. It also currently has them in line for the No. 1 pick. No one knows for sure if 'playing for the No. 1 pick' will play ANY part of how the Jags and Jets play these last two weeks. QAnon just may have an opinion on that!

Staying in the AFC, Pittsburgh's loss drops them to 11-3, two games back of the 13-1 Chiefs (AFC West leader) and into a tie with the 11-3 Bills (AFC East leader). However, Buffalo's head-to-head win over Pittsburgh currently gives the Bills the No. 3 seed. The No. 4 seed belongs to AFC South leader 10-4 Tennessee, which owns the tiebreaker over the 10-4 Colts. The Colts (No. 6 seed) lose a tiebreaker to the 10-4 Browns for the No. 5 seed, while the 9-5 Dolphins own the tiebreaker over the 9-5 Ravens for the No. 7seed, and final playoff spot. The 7-7 Raiders are still not officially 'dead' but they are clearly on 'life-support.'

Over in the NFC, the Packers' unimpressive 24-16 Saturday win over the Panthers moves them to 11-3 and with the Saints losing 32-29 to the Chiefs, New Orleans' second straight loss after NINE straight wins, moves Green Bay (NFC North leader) ONE game ahead of both the 10-4 Saints (NFC South leader) and 10-4 Seahawks (NFC West leader) for the No. 1 seed. The Saints own the tiebreaker over the Seahawks for the No. 2 seed and 6-8 Washington gets the No. 4 seed by virtue of being the "best team" in the NFC's "worst division." The 9-5 Rams own the tiebreaker and own the No. 5 seed over the 9-5 Bucs (No. 6 seed). The 8-6 Cardinals are the No. 7 seed (final playoff spot), although the 7-7 Bears and 6-8 Vikings are still 'alive.' Naturally, the 5-9 Cowboys and Giants are out of the wild card hunt but implausibly, they are still alive for the NFC's No. 4 seed, which goes to the winner of the NFC 'Least.' Can't make this stuff up. Again, NFL Week 16 preview set for Friday Notes.

The bowl season opened Monday afternoon with Appalachian State (-21.5) overwhelming North Texas 56-28  to win the inaugural Myrtle Beach Bowl. Cam Peoples scored five TDs and rushed for a school-record 317 yards as his five rushing TDs tied a school record and he also matched a bowl record for ANY team for the number of rushing TDs. The 9-3 Mountaineers have now won ALL six bowls since joining the FBS. It was the most points they've ever scored in six all-time bowl appearances, though they've posted more than 30 points in each of those outings. Not a bad program located in Boone, NC. Two more bowls go Tuesday, as 6-5 Tulane meets 6-2 Nevada in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (3:30 ET on ESPN) and 6-3 UCF and 10-1 BYU (ranked in the AP) meet in the Boca Raton Bowl (7:00 ET on ESPN). Tulane and Nevada meet for just the second time, with the only meeting between the schools coming back in 1992 at the Superdome in New Orleans with Tulane winning 34-17. Tulane is favored by 1 1/2-points and the over/under is 56 1/2. UCF and BYU both have "something to prove" in tonight's bowl game and despite BYU's outstanding defense (14.6 PPG allowed ranks 3rd), it's hard not seeing this game as anything other than a "shootout!" The UCF offense averages 44.3 PPG (5th) on 585.6 YPG (5th), while BYU's offense is averaging 43.0 PPG (6th) on 512.2 YPG (8th). BYU is favored by six points and the over/under is 76 1/2. I'll have much more on the college bowl season in Wednesday's and Thursday Notes plus will catch up with Monday's and Tuesday's CBB news, as well.

I'll conclude Tuesday's Notes with the opening of the 2020-21 NBA season. After the shortest offseason in NBA history, TNT will televise an Opening Night doubleheader. Up first is the Golden St Warriors visiting Barclays Center to take on the Brooklyn Nets (7:05 ET). Golden State struggled in the 2019-20 season and finished with a league-worst 15-50 record, after appearing in FIVE consecutive NBA Finals. The Warriors will square off with former teammate and current Net, Kevin Durant. Durant is playing his first regular-season game since rupturing his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors, while playing for the Warriors. In the nightcap, the Lakers will open defense of their NBA title by hosting the Clippers (10:05 ET). Of course, both teams call Staples Center home. Most think that both the Clippers and Lakers improved their respective teams during the short offseason (we'll see). The Nets are favored by 7 1/2 points and the Lakers are favored by three points.

Good luck...Larry

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