BEST GAME – Buffalo at New England (-2.5)
Buffalo 8-6 SU, 7-6-1 ATS, 7-7 O/U
New England 9-5 SU, 9-5 ATS, 6-8 O/U
The Patriots had hoped to close the Bills’ coffin in Week 15, but NE’s loss in Indy and Buffalo’s victory over Carolina tightened things up again in the AFC East and set up this division showdown in Foxboro. Miami (7-7 and with six straight wins) still has a puncher’s chance if things break right, but mostly likely the East belongs to the Pats again if they can take care of business on Sunday in the final week of play in calendar year 2021. The season has been full of surprises, no smaller than Bill Belichick actually APOLOGIZING to reporters for his dour non-responsive post-Indy press conference. What Belichick would love for Christmas is a half-decent performance from rookie QB Mac Jones, who was pantsed by the Colts. Buffalo, still bitter from losing to Jones and the Pats in the wind a few weeks ago, no doubt took note. The long-term Sunday forecast for Foxboro on Sunday is sun and light winds. Sorry, Bill.
WORST GAME – Jacksonville at New York Jets (-2.5)
Jacksonville 2-12 SU, 4-12 ATS, 3-11 O/U
New York 3-11 SU, 4-10 ATS, 8-6 O/U
With negative Urban Meyer stories seemingly every week this season, overall No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence has been able to pretty much escape scrutiny. Turns out Lawrence has taken more than his share of lumps as well. After a decent start Lawrence has struggled as the season has worn on, and last Sunday’s loss to the also-woeful Texans highlighted the regression – 210 yards passing and no touchdowns. In fact, he has just two TDs in his last six games, and his numbers are pretty much down across the board when compared to the first half of the season. If anyone needs the season to end (hopefully without serious injury), it’s Lawrence and the Jags. The Jets are giving a few in this one because the game is in East Rutherford, and the early bettors seem to like their chances of covering.
BIGGEST SPREAD – Tampa Bay at Carolina (+10.5)
Tampa Bay 10-4 SU, 7-7 ATS, 7-7 O/U
Carolina 5-9 SU, 5-9 ATS, 7-7 O/U
Job One for Tom Brady and the defending champs is to figure out what the offense is going to look like without wide receiver Chris Godwin, whose ACL tear has sidelined him for the rest of the season. Lots of his targets will no doubt now go to Antonio Brown, who is back from his latest suspension. But can Brown even be counted on going forward, and should the Bucs even go balls to the wall in the final three games to get the top seed in the NFC? Carolina is not likely to get much betting action despite being a double-digit home dog. Since their 3-0 start, the Panthers have won only twice, and have lost five straight home games.
SMALLEST SPREAD – Denver at Las Vegas (-1)
Denver 7-7 SU, 7-7 ATS, 3-11 O/U
Las Vegas 7-7 SU, 5-9 ATS, 7-7 O/U
There are just too many tiebreaker hoops for the Broncos to jump through to get to the playoffs this season even though they are still technically in the hunt. A red zone fumble by QB Drew Lock last week in a loss to Cincinnati just about nailed down the coffin. The Raiders, OTOH, stayed very much in the hunt thanks to their last-second field goal win over the Covid-ravaged Browns on Monday night. Yes, the delayed game does give the Raiders less prep time for the Broncos, but at least they are still in the playoff picture. Not much early money down yet, but what there is has been mostly on LV.
LARGEST TOTAL – Indianapolis at Arizona (49.5)
Indianapolis 8-6 SU, 9-5 ATS, 8-6 O/U
Arizona 10-4 SU, 9-5 ATS, 7-7 O/U
Every team should be able to take a week off, right? Well, last week against Detroit was Arizona’s, and you have the figure that the Cardinals playing at home in Week 16 will move heaven and earth to win this one. They still have a chance to catch Green Bay for the best record in the NFC, and the Colts may be primed for a letdown after their huge win over New England. Arizona figures to emphasize offense after getting shut down by the Lions, and the Cardinal defense will have its hands full with NFL leading rusher Jonathan Taylor. If you prefer to bet the side, bear in mind that the Cardinals have beaten a decent team at home only once this season (Oct. 3, Rams).
SMALLEST TOTAL – Miami at New Orleans (38.5)
Miami 7-7 SU, 7-6-1 ATS, 6-8 O/U
New Orleans 7-7 SU, 7-7 ATS, 6-8 O/U
A rare total in the 30s in a season in which handicappers regularly set multiple totals in the 50s every week. Much of the number reflects Miami’s top-notch defense, which has fueled the Dolphins’ six-game winning streak. But don’t overlook New Orleans’s offensive problems, including ragged QB play from Taysom Hill.