Saturday Slate: Best Bets for December 24

Sometimes, a good play just doesn’t work out. Wake Forest hitting its team total should have connected for me, but a miscommunication got in the way. Near the end of the first half, Wake had a great shot to take a 21-3 lead on Missouri, but the Deacons wrongly thought they had a free play near the end zone. Sam Hartman tossed one up for grabs, and the Tigers predictably grabbed the pick.

I knew that play was going to come back to bite me, and it did exactly that. Wake managed two more touchdowns to get to 27, but that left them four points short of what I needed. And that’s back-to-back days where my alma mater has ruined my bets. Needless to say, I’m on worse terms than usual with Missouri right now.

But we’ve got NFL action to consider today, so hopefully, we can get something to go our way. Here are my plays for December 24.


Without Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee’s offense plays poorly. The defense has been more hit or miss, but against Houston’s weak offense, it should be back on point. Meanwhile, the Texans have shown more fight in recent weeks, and the defense should be able to keep Malik Willis from doing much damage. As long as Derrick Henry doesn’t break a big one, the under holds promise.

BENGALS -3, -110

I’m riding with Burrow and the Bengals for as long as I can. Cincinnati looked bad for a half against Tampa Bay, but the Bengals got rolling in the second half for a comfortable win. Meanwhile, New England’s margin for error has dropped to nothing now that it’s at 7-7. The Patriots tend to be at their best when their backs are to the wall, but this isn’t a vintage New England team. The Bengals have the AFC North in their sights, and I like their chances.

CHIEFS -10.5, -110

It’s never easy to bet a large Chiefs spread. But I think this becomes an exception because Seattle looks cooked. The Seahawks have been a great story behind Geno Smith’s emergence, but they’ve lost four of five and have gone 0-5 ATS in that stretch. They’re also going into lousy conditions in Kansas City, and the Chiefs should be set to freeze them out. It’s reluctant, but Kansas City appears to be the play.

BROWNS -3, -110

New Orleans has dropped five straight on the road, and the only cover came against equally wretched Tampa Bay. Plus, that came in good weather in Florida, which won’t be waiting for the Saints in Ohio. Temperatures will sit at 5 degrees in Cleveland, with winds approaching 30 miles per hour. That means running the football, which the Saints really cannot do. Cleveland makes the most sense here.

LIONS -2.5, -110

Detroit smells opportunity. The Lions have a favorable schedule and a realistic path to the playoffs, and they’re playing excellent football right now. Truth be told, the biggest worry the Lions have is accidentally doing too well and getting the No. 6 seed. If the Lions finish No. 7, they’ll get Minnesota, a matchup that everyone in the Twin Cities dreads. The No. 6 gets San Francisco, which isn’t as favorable to Detroit.

Meanwhile, Carolina has to avoid looking ahead to the Buccaneers. But as long as the Panthers beat both New Orleans and Tampa Bay and the Bucs lose one other game, Carolina wins the NFC South. This isn’t the game the Panthers need to win, so I like Detroit.


Middle Tennessee faces a tough assignment in San Diego State’s fierce defense. The Aztecs defend both the run and the pass well, and they add to that with poor passing on their own end. That should keep the clock running and keep drives stalling out early. Even in Hawaii, these teams shouldn’t get the offenses rolling.


The Raiders give up too many soft throws to the running backs, and that should give Kenny Pickett the ability to keep drives moving. I expect the Steelers to come out fired up to try to win for Franco Harris, especially with his death coming so close to the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception. That game was defense-heavy; I think this one will be too.

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