This is going to be one of the trickiest weeks on the schedule, as we’ve got Week 18 of the NFL schedule and questionable motivation for more than a few teams. Luckily, we’ve got college basketball to balance things out and then we won’t have to worry about motivation in a football game again until around October.
Anyway, for betting in the final week of the NFL season, it’s important to never bet unless you’re sure you know who will take the majority of the snaps for each team. The last thing you want is to place a bet on a team who you think might be playing spoiler, only to discover they couldn’t care less about getting a win. However, that’s not true with every eliminated team, especially when they can knock out a rival.
With that in mind, here are my picks for January 9.
STEELERS +3.5, -110
Both Pittsburgh and Baltimore are still technically alive, but both need a lot to go their way to have a shot at the playoffs. As for the game itself, both offenses are in bad shape, but Pittsburgh still has its starting quarterback and Baltimore doesn’t. I’d rather get points than give them in this situation, so I’ll go with the Steelers with the hook.
FOOTBALL TEAM -7, -110
The worry here is whether the Football Team can score 7, as this game between Washington and New York is going to be shield your children’s eyes television. But Washington is still playing with some enthusiasm, while the Giants have checked out since Thanksgiving. Jake Fromm’s likely to do something dumb to give Washington a short field in there somewhere, and that should be enough for this game to earn an ugly cover.
BUCCANEERS -9.5, -110
We just saw this game two weeks ago in Charlotte, and it finished 32-6 for the Buccaneers. Now you’re asking a Panther squad that appears to have given up on the season and on coach Matt Rhule to go down to Tampa and cost the Bucs a shot at the No. 2 seed? That’s not happening. The Panthers have gone 0-6 ATS in their past six, and this should make it 0-7.
JETS +16.5, -110
Too many points. Buffalo is the better team, but unlike their New Jersey neighbors the Giants, the Jets are still playing decent football and actually showing signs of improvement. Gang Green nearly knocked off Tampa Bay last week when the Bucs were trying to earn a higher seed in the playoffs, and they can stay within shouting distance of Buffalo, especially with the Bills likely to pull starters if they get a good lead. This feels more like a 10-point win for Buffalo.
YOUNGSTOWN STATE +2.5, -110
Because of the Horizon League’s pandemic schedule format, Cleveland State didn’t make the trip to Youngstown last year. When the Vikings do come down I-76 to the Beeghly Center, it’s usually a tight battle. The Penguins have won two of the past five meetings in Youngstown, with the other three decided by five points or less or in overtime. Plus, Youngstown State just dominated the glass in a win over Robert Morris on Wednesday. Cleveland State played Robert Morris on Friday and lost the rebounding battle to the Colonials. That gives the Penguins an edge here.
WISCONSIN -1, -110
Vegas is expecting a trap game here, but I’m not so sure. Maryland is down this season and has already lost three games in Big Ten play, while Wisconsin is playing excellent basketball in beating Purdue and Iowa. The Badgers won last year in College Park, and I think they can do it again.
SAINTS -3.5, -110
It seems impossible, but Atlanta has a grand total of zero covers in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium this year. The Falcons are 0-6 ATS at home, with their only home cover coming in London against the Jets. New Orleans needs this game, and the Falcons just have a sense that they’re going to find a way to blow it.