Twas the week before Christmas and all through the sportsbook; Not a thing was going this expert’s way – not even the gosh-darned hook.
The tickets were hung above the chimney with care; only to be burned by Trevor Lawrence and his hair.
The Derry children were all asking about their wrapped-up treats, but I told them not to get excited because of all the bad beats.
Mama took her kerchief and wrapped it around my neck; somehow I got out of her choke hold, but I was still a wreck.
One of the kids yelled, “Hey Dad! Come look real quick!” I ran to the window and saw good ole’ St. Nick.
He whistled and shouted and called the reindeer by name: “Now Dasher, now Prancer and Comet and Cupid! Let’s pass up this house because Derry’s picks are so stupid.
“Just kidding,” he said, as he tossed me a couple of dimes; “That’s about all you’re worth because your column is worse than your rhymes.”
I’m not worried about all these naysaying skeptics; I know I am going to bounce back and Week 16 will be prophetic.
Thanks for continuing to follow me even through the rough weeks! Merry Christmas to you and yours, and we’ll see you again for our last column in 2022 next Wednesday. Good luck!
Any comments, questions, gratitude or hate mail is welcome at [email protected].
NOTES: All spreads, money lines and over/under totals (as of late Tuesday night) are provided by Caesars Sportsbook. We started the season with a mythical bankroll of $1,000. Our totals for the past week and the season are at the bottom of this column.
THE WEEK 16 BEST BETS
HOME TEAM in CAPS
1 / Teaser, Tampa Bay -0.5 over ARIZONA and BALTIMORE -1.5 over Atlanta
WHEN: Bucs at Cardinals on Sunday at 8:20 p.m.; Falcons at Ravens on Saturday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $36 to win $30.
Teaser explanation: At most books, a bettor can parlay two teams in a “teaser” and get 6 points of cushion for each bet. However, it costs -120 to play and – like a parlay – both legs must hit to cash the ticket.
How’s this for analysis of the Bucs-Cardinals game? The Bucs stink, and they’ll be one-and-done in the playoffs, but I can’t fathom Tom Brady losing a game that matters to either Colt McCoy or Trace McSorley. Could be one of the top teaser legs of the season.
SCORE PREDICTION: Bucs (-6.5) 26, Cardinals 17. (Over 41.)
Coming off an awful performance in Cleveland last week, the Ravens are now in a position to where they likely must win out to win the AFC North. Even if they can survive by losing one, they CANNOT lose to a lowly Falcons team we told you last week is playing the final month of the season as if it’s an extension on the 2023 preseason.
Atlanta cannot stop the run, while their only strength is on offense with their own run game. The problem for them: Baltimore is third in the NFL in rushing defense. In this brutally cold weather (16 degrees with a 20 mph wind), it could be a rough day for both offenses, honestly, and even if that’s the case, the Ravens will do more than enough to win.
SCORE PREDICTION: Ravens (-7.5) 10, Falcons 0. (Under 37.5.)
2 / ML parlay, CLEVELAND over New Orleans and TENNESSEE over Houston
WHEN: Both games Saturday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $20 to win $26.60.
This is my first moneyline parlay of the season in which I am on the good side of the juice, and I will start with Saints at Browns.
New Orleans has not won back-to-back games since taking the final two games of the 2021 season, and I am not sure why anyone would possibly think this is a good matchup for them. In a similar formula used last week, Cleveland will look to run, run, run and get the hell off the field in projected single-digit temps with possible snow and winds of up to 30 mph (which means wind chills well into the negative numbers).
Alvin Kamara has looked disinterested most of the season – you think he’s going to be interested in this shhh … um … stuff? Yeah, uh, no. What about Andy Dalton? I don’t care how much he played in this kind of crap in Cincinnati, he’s not going to be effective here.
And as for the Browns, how do we think their fifth-ranked rushing attack will do against a Saints run D that is ranked 23rd and gave up 139 yards and a touchdown last week to Tyler Allgeier, who was hoping to play his way into the NFL Draft this time last year.
By the way, if the total remains this low (32), it will be the lowest over/under in a Saints game since it was 29 when they visited Philadelphia in December 1993 (and lost 37-26). It would be just the 11th game in team history since totals began being recorded in 1979 it has been set at 32 or fewer points (including one in the postseason). If it were to drop to 31.5 (where it was as recently as Tuesday morning), it would be just the fifth time it was that low for a Saints game.
Cleveland has only played in seven previous games with an over/under of 32 or fewer with the last one coming in December 2008 in a 14-0 loss to Cincinnati.
SCORE PREDICTION: Browns (-2.5) 16, Saints 6. (Under 32.)
Sigh, Tennessee. Sigh. All my regulars are now rolling their eyes. “Here he goes picking the (bleeeeeeep)ing Titans again. What is it with this dude and the Titans? Does he have posters of Mike Vrabel on his wall or something?”
Calm down, people. Yeah, I have been on the bandwagon for a couple of years now and rolled when they were on their eight-straight ATS win. Now that they have lost three in a row against the spread, readers are wondering when I am going to jump ship. Well, if they don’t win this one, the answer is next week.
Here’s their first must-win of the season, and even without Ryan Tannehill, I cannot see Tennessee blowing a chance to all but wrap up the AFC South (assuming my other prediction from this division comes through and Jacksonville loses).
Houston clearly has been playing with heart and nearly shocked the world – twice – with collapses against Dallas and Kansas City in back-to-back weeks. But I cannot fathom how the worst rushing defense in the NFL will be able to put clamps on Derrick Henry when he clearly will HAVE to run it 30 times.
Maybe I just don’t WANT to fathom it, but with Dallas up next on the Titans’ schedule, they simply cannot afford to be anything but ultra-focused, and I think they will be in a game that it’s expected to be played in 13-degree weather.
SCORE PREDICTION: Titans (-5.5) 21, Texans 7. (Under 37.)
3 / CAROLINA +3 (+130) over Detroit
WHEN: Saturday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $26 to win $20.
Wanna hear something silly? If the football gods came down and wiped out the first six weeks of the regular season, the Panthers would be in first place in the NFC South by a full game over Tampa Bay with a 4-4 record and the tiebreaker, while the Lions would be just one-half game behind Minnesota at 6-3.
Unfortunately for these teams, the season did not start on Oct. 23, but rather, Sept. 11. Still, they both remain in contention for a playoff spot, and Carolina – even at 5-8 – controls its own destiny if it can win out.
In their home finale, I am certain the Panthers will be fired up, as they will be looking to get the bad taste of last week out of their system. And while everyone seems to be back on the Lions’ train, the fact remains they have not been a great team on the road this season even with a sort of lucky escape against the Jets last week.
Detroit will have a tougher time throwing the football in the wind and 25-degree temps in Charlotte, while the Lions and their 31st-ranked defense could give up some chunk plays on the ground.
The NFC South deserves to come down to one game between Carolina and Tampa Bay next week, and it will.
SCORE PREDICTION: Panthers 20, Lions 17. (Under 44.)
4 / KANSAS CITY -9.5 over Seattle
WHEN: Saturday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $22.
No doubt the Chiefs have been playing on cruise control for the past month or so, and it nearly bit them in the ba-dank-a-dank last week in Houston. But after a three-game road trip, they are ready to be back at Arrowhead, where they have won nine in a row against the NFC.
Speaking of the NFC, Kansas City is 4-0 against those teams this season, winning all four by at least 10 points and by an average of 17 per game.
Although the Seabags technically remain alive in the playoff race, Geno Smith cashed in his glass slipper and has turned back into, well, Geno Smith. They have lost four of five and have turned the ball over eight times in those five games, and now will be without stud receiver Tyler Lockett (broken hand) and could be without its only decent running back, Kenneth Walker (ankle).
This will be a statement win for a Chiefs team that knows it must roll through their final three to have a shot at winning the No. 1 seed in the AFC and gaining the only bye. They will be on their A game.
SCORE PREDICTION: Chiefs 38, Seahawks 20. (Over 48.5.)
5 / INDIANAPOLIS +4 over LA Chargers
WHEN: Monday at 8:15 p.m. THE BET: $11.
I mean we can’t go Christmas week without playing an anti-Aunt Mabel special. Think about it: What average bettor do you know willing to lay any money on the Colts after blowing a 33-0 lead last week? And what average bettor do you know who doesn’t love Justin Herbert, who is second to some only by the greatest quarterback ever to walk the face of the Earth, Josh Allen?
C’mon man. “But Indy is without Jonathan Taylor!” Yeah, and they have been without him for many other games this season. “But the Jeff Saturday effect has long worn off!” Yeah, I get it, but I think he has one more push in him before he goes back to the ESPN studios. “But Matt Ryan chokes harder than a chain smoker who is trying to swallow an entire beef loin without chewing!” Yeah, but, well, um … Well, I got nothin’ for that one.
The one thing I know the Colts are great at sacking the quarterback (fifth in the NFL), and Herbert has been a mess when he has bum-rushed this season.
So yeah, Mabel, I’ll bet you two fruitcakes on the Colts on Monday night. Lord knows you’ll have plenty left over the day after Christmas to send me some. I’ll need them because I’ll be out of hockey pucks after the deep freeze this weekend.
SCORE PREDICTION: Colts 23, Chargers 21. (Under 46.5.)
(No bets for the following)
Thursday at 8:20 p.m.
NY JETS (Pick) 20, Jacksonville 14: OK, Jaguars, I am getting just about sick of you. I bet against you, you win. I bet on you, you lose. Why is this the toughest team in the NFL to predict? And I can’t listen to the sharps on them, because they have been in love with this team all year long, so they ALWAYS seem to pick them.
I would have made this a best bet, but two things had me back off: My aforementioned record with Jax, and my distrust of Zach Wilson, who will start another week in place of Mike White.
All that being said, I trust the Jets’ defense to frustrate a highly overrated Trevor Lawrence in the rain and cool (50 degrees or so) temps in East Rutherford, and Wilson to do just enough. Also, don’t you think the Jags are getting a little too big for their britches and are due for a letdown after (luckily) coming back to defeat Dallas? They have lost 22 of their last 24 road games, 11 of 12 against AFC East opponents and 14 in a row on the road before a division game. (Jax plays Houston next week, whom they have lost nine straight games to.) (Under 38.)
Saturday at 1 p.m.
MINNESOTA 30, NY Giants (+3.5) 27: Here’s one I simply can’t touch. I have been on the Vikings plenty this season and against the Giants for much of the past month. Last week thoroughly confused me, and even though the G-Men got super lucky and got plenty of help from the referees in the end against the Commanders, they still were the better team.
We know the Vikings’ defense is not very good, but the Giants are pretty porous themselves. If I had to play something here, I would probably lean over, but I don’t feel confident enough in either team to go out on a limb. (Over 48.)
Cincinnati 20, NEW ENGLAND (+3.5) 17: Very similar to the last game I wrote about, I can’t touch this one for a couple of reasons.
First, don’t let either score fool you from last week: The Bengals don’t win that game without the early Christmas presents from Tampa Bay, while the Patriots and the most-bone-headed final play in regular-season history still have me shaking (and scratching) my head. Did a Bill Belichick-coached team really give one away like THAT?
I have no idea how New England will respond back at home in their element, although I suspect they will put a ton of pressure on Joe Burrow and keep it close in one they simply have to have if they are to remain alive in the playoff race. I just don’t know if it will be enough. I’d rather play the under in the frigid tundra of Gillette Stadium. (Under 41.5.)
Buffalo 32, CHICAGO (+9) 25: If there are two teams that don’t give a wooden nickel about the cold, it’s these two. Therefore, this is the only over I like all weekend long where the temps are forecasted to be 25 or less.
As far as the game, I don’t love it enough to make it a best bet, but I just can’t go against the Bears when they get this many points these days. As bad as they are on defense, they find ways to make games fun and close. Even against the great Josh Allen, couldn’t you just see Justin Fields playing his best with something to prove?
Besides, this is a terrible spot for Buffalo, sandwiched between games against Miami and Cincinnati, and they have failed to cover in four straight when they are favored by nine or more. (Over 40.)
Saturday at 4:05 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO 17, Washington (+7) 13: Doesn’t it just feel like it’s time for Brock Purdy to come back down to Earth a little? Like maybe an interception when the 49ers are driving for the put-away score?
The problem for the Commanders is Taylor Heinicke already has had that moment, and he has proven why he cannot be a long-term starting quarterback in the NFL. I don’t have the candy canes to predict an outright Washington win, but considering how ticked off they’ll be and how well their defense has played, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they did. (Under 39.5.)
Saturday at 4:25 p.m.
Philadelphia at DALLAS: No pick, because as I write this I have no idea who is going to play quarterback for the Eagles (+5), and it certainly matters. It appears as if Gardner Minshew will play, but Philly is trying to at least put on a good show that Jalen Hurts will try to go.
A tougher decision: Trying to figure out who is going to play quarterback on my fantasy football team this weekend with a potential trip to the championship game for the second consecutive season hanging in the balance. What? You don’t care? Well, that’s not a very nice thing to say on Christmas. I wish nothing but the best for your fantasy team unless your name is Greg Lee.
(If Minshew plays, you simply can’t bet this game one way or the other. He lost to the Cowboys last year, 51-26, in Week 18 and is 8-16 in his career as a starter, including losing eight of his last nine.) (Over/Under: No pick.)
Saturday at 7:20 p.m.
PITTSBURGH (-2.5 at -127) 13, Las Vegas 10: On the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception,” wouldn’t be apropos for something lucky to go in favor of the Steelers, who still have a shot at keeping Mike Tomlin’s string of never having a losing season alive?
Also, I mean the football karma gods have got to take away from the Raiders, who really had no business winning last week following the not-a-touchdown-called-a-touchdown and then the Patriots’ gift of all gifts. (I’m not going through all that again – just go up and read my prediction of the New England game. And yes, I am extremely bitter. Of course, I had the Patriots.)
Lastly, I will say two more words: ELEVEN DEGREES. (Under 39.5.)
Sunday at 1 p.m.
Green Bay (+4) 28, MIAMI 27: OK, I don’t usually react to one moment or even one week, but how can you not like Aaron Rodgers’ postgame questioning and answering on ESPN when he knew exactly the records of his remaining opponents? You have to think his mind and body are back in this thing, right?
And besides, it’s just about time for the Dolphins to continue their fade into where they should have been in the first place – somewhere other than first place. Or second place, or third place, or … you catch my drift. They’re not that good.
Enjoy your vacation in sunny Florida, Packers. (Over 49.5.)
Sunday at 4:20 p.m.
Denver (-2.5) 21, LA RAMS 16: I don’t care about this game. I won’t bet on this game. And I would rather take a Christmas nap than watch this game. If you degenerates want to partake, that is up to you. But wouldn’t you rather open up the new game of Parcheesi from cousin Jo or learn how to speak Portuguese with that Christmas subscription to Babbel you got from Mabel? (Over 36.5.)
HOW WE DOIN’?
Note: TIES ARE NOT COUNTED IN MY RECORD, which could result in a different total of games in the “straight up” and “against the spread” categories, as well as with totals.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Week 15 best bets: 3-2 (+$37). Season best bets: 43-31 (.581; +$113.50 on season). Week 15 all picks against the spread: 3-11. Season all picks ATS: 111-104 (.516)
STRAIGHT UP (no spread)
Week 15: 7-8. Season: 126-94 (.573).
Week 15: 11-5. Season: 122-100 (.550).
(click on week to view)
Week 15: 3-2 best bets (+$37); 3-11 ATS; 7-8 straight up; 11-5 over/unders.
Week 14: 1-4 best bets (-$74); 5-8 ATS; 8-5 straight up; 8-5 over/unders.
Week 13: 1-4 best bets (-$70); 9-6 ATS; 7-7 straight up; 6-9 over/unders.
Week 12: 3-2 best bets (+37); 11-4 ATS; 12-3 straight up; 8-7 over/unders.
Week 11: 1-3 best bets (-$81); 5-7 ATS; 9-5 straight up; 7-7 over/unders.
Week 10: 2-3 best bets (+$16); 7-7 ATS; 6-8 straight up; 6-8 over/unders.
Week 9: 4-1 best bets (+52.40); 9-2 ATS; 9-4 straight up; 5-8 over/unders.
Week 8: 4-1 best bets (+$69); 9-6 ATS; 13-2 straight up; 6-9 over/unders.
Week 7: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-9 ATS; 6-8 straight up; 9-5 over/unders.
Week 6: 4-1 best bets (+$62.60); 9-5 ATS; 8-6 straight up; 6-8 over/unders.
Week 5: 3-2 best bets (+$2); 10-5 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
Week 4: 4-1 best bets (+$37); 9-6 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
Week 3: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-11 ATS; 8-8 straight up; 8-7 over/unders
Week 2: 4-1 best bets (+$57); 7-9 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 12-4 over/unders
Week 1: 3-2 best bets (-$15); 8-8 ATS; 6-9 straight up; 10-6 over/unders