A wiser man than myself once said that uncertainty only breeds more uncertainty. Now, more than ever, betting on sports is a minefield as a new wave of COVID-19 attacks depth charts throughout sports. The NBA and NHL are already postponing games. The NFL has some tough decisions to make in the coming days and weeks. As I write this on Wednesday afternoon, the Cleveland Browns expect to miss between 12-16 of their starters for their scheduled Saturday game. As someone who loves the agony vortex that Cleveland sports tend to create, even I don’t believe it’s fair that they should have to play with that compromised of a roster.
As a quick aside, for people who are wondering why it’s happening now, all of these teams taking such massive COVID-related hits, I do not believe it relates necessarily to another wave, but rather a more simple answer: the vaccine is wearing off around the 4-9 month mark for many players and they are becoming more susceptible to it. Not trying to be all Conspiracy Theory Guy, but the timelines do make sense. The NFL was able to sell a lot of players on getting vaccinated due to the precariousness of a spot on an NFL roster.
Teams started stepping up its player initiatives in March, around nine months ago. Holdouts that ended up getting their shot because of the risk of their roster spot in July and August, four to five months ago.
The NFL, in order to save the sanctity of their season, may need to heavily push the COVID booster shots throughout the league.
Anyway, here is the big gambling takeaway from all of this: DO NOT BET ON GAMES UNTIL GAMEDAY. Take it from someone who had Tyler Higbee in multiple fantasy leagues with playoff implications, having your money potentially screwed with over a last-minute pulled player is a mess.
It’s just not worth it to make risky bets on things that might not happen due to close contact or illness situations, ESPECIALLY if you are on Draftkings. I cannot stress enough how much I already hate Draftkings. There are numerous horror stories about them screwing around with paying out in a timely manner. There is also something else they don’t do: they don’t remove your sick player from parlays if same-game parlays are your thing.
With FanDuel, if you make a four-player prop parlay, and one of those players gets Covid and can’t play, then that parlay becomes a three-team parlay. On DraftKings, you just lost the parlay. This became a big thing earlier this week when a Draftkings player made a seven-person player prop, hit six, and didn’t get paid because the sixth one he didn’t hit was Tyler Higbee, who wasn’t in the game.
These are all things you need to keep in mind both when you are making your bets, and who you are making your bets with. Now, onto the games.
New England Patriots (+2.5) at Indianapolis Colts
When I started writing this years ago, the entire name of the article was “30 Team Parlay: Because You Never Bet on the Raiders, and You Never Bet Against the Patriots.” It was kind of fun earlier this season when that got thrown on its head because the Raiders were good and the Patriots weren’t. Now we are hitting the home stretch of the NFL season, and the football universe has righted itself. The Raiders are back to being a mess and the Patriots are back to being one of the best teams in the NFL.
It was nice while it lasted.
The Colts provide a unique threat to the Patriots with MVP candidate Jonathon Taylor (I know he won’t win it but are we really just giving it to Tom Brady?) and Carson Wentz showing base-level competence in Frank Reich’s system in Indy. That being said, the Patriots have given up the third-fewest passing touchdowns and fewest rushing touchdowns in the NFL. To be clear, the Patriots have been stout on defense. In fact, if you were to remove the Dallas game in October, they would be getting talked about as one of the better defenses of the past decade.
While the Colts have given up the second-fewest rushing touchdowns on the season, they have given up the second-most receiving touchdowns. If the game was in New England, where there were weather conditions, and Mac Jones’ noodle arm would come into play, the game is being played in a dome in Indianapolis. Ol’ Mac Cassell will dink and dunk his way to three passing touchdowns while averaging around four yards per pass play.
For this game, I’m taking the Patriots money line (+118). And on the inevitable Mac Jones touchdown passes, I’m going to bet Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry on a same game touchdown parlay.
Carolina Panthers (+10.5) at Buffalo Bills
Sometimes, it’s just not worth overthinking. As long as the Bills show up healthy to this game, they are going to win by 20. The Carolina Panthers, who are technically only one game out of a playoff spot, look like they have given up on the season. That’s an easy thing to do when you have no startable quarterbacks on your roster. Sam Darnold almost had us fooled at the beginning of the season, before turning back into a guy who looks like he spent his first few seasons as a Jet and being coached by Adam Gase. Cam Newton is not a savior, but he is fun because Newton is basically football amnesia to fans. Every time he leaves a team, everyone forgets how inaccurate he is. Then he shows up to that team, and everyone is like, hell yeah, this is a problem solver. Them he completed 30 percent of his passes for a total of 50 yards and you remember that he sucks. I can’t wait ’til he does this for the Steelers next year.
This is an eye test game for me. Sometimes you just see it. If Newton is the QB, then they will score on their first drive and then never score again. If PJ Walker is their QB, they will score on their last drive and nothing before it.
Meanwhile, the Bills are probably going to use this game to figure some stuff out on offense. I see a big Devin Singletary game. And by big Devin Singletary game, I mean “terrible game for a good running back.” Singletary has been on the field more for the Bills and the usage of all other running backs is down. Not sure who Zack Moss pissed off, but his usage rate has cratered over the past month and a half. The last time he touched the ball more than ten times in a game was on Halloween. I’m going to bets the Bills giving the points at home. Then, I’m going to bet Devin Singletary over 40 rushing yards, over 40 receiving yards, anytime touchdown.
Tennessee Titans (+1.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers
The AFC playoff picture is an absolute mess. The Titans are currently the second seed, but are two losses away from being out of the playoffs. The Steelers are currently in eleventh place in the AFC but are one game out of potentially being the six seed.
The game is in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers are 4-2-1 this year. They are winning those games by an average of 3.5 points. They aren’t getting away from anyone, and that could be because Ben Roethlisberger died two years ago, but because Pittsburgh is such a classy organization, they opted to “Weekend at Bernie’s” him until his contract ended.
I wish I had more in depth analysis for why I’m picking how I am, but 3.5 > 1.5, which is the spread. I’ll take the home team to win a close game on the back of a monster Najee Harris game, which I will bet with Harris getting two touchdowns, 100+ rushing yards, and 6+ receptions.
Arizona Cardinals (-12.5) at Detroit Lions
You are in one of two camps. Either you think Arizona is going to have a huge game because they are such a good road team and have the offensive weapons to win by 30… Or you are in the camp of, “ya know, the Lions have been really competitive all year, and are only a couple breaks away from being in playoff contention because the NFC is such a dumpy mess.”
Since Halloween, the Lions are only losing by five points a game, and that includes a 28 point loss to the Broncos a couple of weeks ago. I believe Dan Campbell might be the worst coach in the NFL who will inevitably get more opportunities. I call it “Gaseing.” His time management is only functional when he plays the Vikings. His play calling is reminiscent of playing someone in Madden who doesn’t really know how to play Madden.
But whatever he does, his team plays hard for him. There isn’t a ton of talent there, but somehow, I think this is only a ten point loss. And I’m a big enough idiot that i’m actually going to work the line down to Detroit +10.5 to get them slightly into the plus side on betting, and i’m going to combine that with, ehh screw it, an Amon Ra St. Brown anytime touchdown, and a Zach Ertz anytime touchdown.
Green Bay Packers (-4.5) at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are beat up. Even if Lamar Jackson plays, he isn’t going to be 100 percent. His mobility on a bad ankle is going to severely limit an offense whose running back depth chart this season has included Latavius Murray, Le’Veon Bell, Ickey Woods, and Tim Biakabatuka.
Tyler Huntley has kept the offense semi-functional, even if the teams he played were the Bears and whatever was left of the Browns. He completes a higher percentage of his passes than Jackson and does run for a six-yard average. That said, Jackson is a former MVP who provides a completely different dimension to the offense.
The Packers seem to have weathered their Covid storm and are one of, if not the best teams in the NFL. Home, road, it doesn’t really matter to me, and I really doubt it matters to Aaron Rodgers, either. he is going to light up a Ravens defense which has existed this year more on reputation than anything else.
I’ll take the Packers giving points on the road, and mix that with a player parlay of Aaron Rodgers over 20 rushing yards, Davante Adams over 100 receiving yards, and an AJ Dillon anytime touchdown.