It really doesn’t matter how long you have been a casual – or professional – sports bettor: If you don’t continue to learn, you’ll never get better. And man, did I learn a lesson in the wild-card weekend.
Heading into Monday night’s finale, I had hit all three legs of the teaser parlays and needed Tampa Bay just not to lose by more than one score to have a 2-0 start to the playoffs in best bets and have a cornucopia of rewards for regular readers. Heading into Sunday, I revisited the bets I made earlier in the week and began to feel a pit in the bottom of my stomach.
Had I understood the full meaning of that bad feeling, I would have loaded up on the Sunday card. But I had already had so much riding on Monday.
Sure enough, the two things I needed to happen on Sunday went my way, as the Giants won outright and the Bengals got a little lucky in covering their half of the teaser. In best bets, I already had won 49ers-Cincy, but my personal card had three more bets all tied up in the Bucs.
What was I thinking? At no point did I think Tom Brady was a sure thing to keep it close. Obviously, I liked the play, but not enough to tie up all but one pregame bet with one team. No surprise, the Bucs went on to get shellacked, and a great weekend turned into a loser real quickly. And for those asking, I thought about hedging with the Cowboys, but I just didn’t see the value in it. I was stuck.
Before the butt-kicking was over, I knew what the lead would be to this week’s column: To remind readers – and myself – that no matter how much you might like a single play, don’t tie it up in too many bets. If you’re wrong on one, it doesn’t matter how much you’re right with the others.
And with that, let’s shake it off and get back to our winning ways. We have just one best bet this week, and it indeed is a teaser, where despite last week’s 1-1 record, we’re 12-4 on those for the season.
Any comments, questions, gratitude or hate mail is welcome at [email protected].
NOTES: All spreads, money lines and over/under totals (as of late Wednesday night) are provided by FanDuel 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 DIVISIONAL ROUND BEST BET
HOME TEAM in CAPS
1 / Teaser, KANSAS CITY -2.5 over Jacksonville and Cincinnati +11.5 over BUFFALO
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.
WHEN: Jaguars at Chiefs, 4:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC); Bengals at Bills, 3 p.m. Sunday (CBS).
There is one thing that’s scary about this one: If it’s too good to be true … well, you get the picture.
Other than that, what could possibly make anyone like Jacksonville here other than the fact they seem to have the football gods on their side? We know this: If it weren’t for Chargers coach Brandon Staley, they wouldn’t be here.
Kansas City is No. 1 in total offense and passing offense, and they have the best football player on the planet. Jacksonville has the 28th-ranked passing defense, the 24th overall, and in their last four games against teams that made the playoffs this season, they allowed 30 to the Chargers, 34 to the Cowboys, 27 to the Ravens and 27 to the Chiefs.
Meanwhile, Kansas City has not allowed more than 28 to any team in 12 consecutive games, and only 17 to the Jaguars in their other meeting this season – in Week 10 at Arrowhead. In that one, it was like a cat toying with a mouse, as the Chiefs collected 486 yards of total offense to Jacksonville’s 315, as Trevor Lawrence was sacked five times.
All that equals to the Chiefs being in the position here of quite possibly being the best teaser leg of the season at 8.5, which means you go through the 7 and the 3 and get them at -2.5. This especially is true if you think Kansas City will score at least 28 here in a game that appears to be free of weather issues with projected temps around 40 degrees with no rain and little to no wind.
Side note: If you agree with me, even if you want to pair this with something else other than what I have here, do it now. I am very surprised 8.5 has lasted this long into the week, and I will be shocked if this spread doesn’t jump to 9 by Thursday or Friday – if for no other reason than to get rid of the teaser value.
SCORE PREDICTION: Chiefs (-8.5) 34, Jaguars 23. (Over 52.5.)
Was there any team more hosed in the final month of the season than the Cincinnati Bengals? Of course, canceling the game against Buffalo in Week 17 was the right thing to do after the Damar Hamlin collapse, but why did the NFL go out of their way to make sure the Bills didn’t get hosed and not do the same for Cincy?
Had the game continued and the Bengals went on to win, this game would be in Cincinnati. Instead, the Bills not only get to play this one at home but potentially get Kansas City at a neutral site next week in the AFC championship game? Makes no sense. And don’t think the Bengals aren’t going to use that as motivation. In the little bit of game we actually got to see on the night of Jan. 2, Cincy seemed to be the better team. A small sample, for sure, but it told me the Bengals – at the minimum – should be able to compete and keep this one close.
The reality Cincinnati is missing some key pieces of its offensive line keeps me from taking the Bengals outright, but the fact Josh Allen keeps turning the ball over tells me it wouldn’t be a surprise in the least if the Bills’ season ended following this one.
By the way, don’t we think this could be one of the games of the year if Joe Burrow is able to escape the pressure (as he did last season) and get on target early?
SCORE PREDICTION: Bills 34, Bengals (+5.5) 31. (Over 48.5.)
NFC PICKS (No official bets)
Saturday at 8:15 p.m. (FOX)
NY Giants (+7.5) 23, PHILADELPHIA 21: Many experts have this as the second leg of the teaser with Kansas City, and I completely understand why. Barring a weird finish or things falling exactly the wrong way, the Eagles have to win by just more than 1 to hold up their end.
Looking at past results, there’s no reason to think they won’t. They have won three in a row in the series and 15 of the past 18. The G-Men haven’t won in Philly since 2013 and that came in a game where neither team scored an offensive touchdown.
If one were to look at season rankings, there would be no reason to like the guys from Gotham here, either, as the Giants rank 18th in total offense, while the Eagles are second in defense. Conversely, it’s Philly at No. 3 in offense against New York, which is 25 in total defense.
So what gives, Derry? Why in the world would anyone like the Giants here, especially since you preach over and over again about not putting too much stock in one week?
The answer is simple: It’s much more than one week – more like a month – and it comes down to the health of one player for me. Sure, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts no longer is on the injury list, but it’s funny how teams manipulate the injury report the way they want to.
They want their opponent to think Hurts is fine and that Philly will be able to run their regular offense – that he will be able to run at will as he has done all season long, and even push forward behind that (also banged-up) offensive line on the 4th-and-1 or 4th-and-goal at the 1 play they have run for success all season long.
Logic says Hurts is anything but fully healthy, and that he will not be able to run around much, sort of like a pitcher coming back from shoulder surgery who is on a pitch count.
And while I don’t think Daniel Jones will be able to do what he did last week in running all over the porous Vikings, it’s clear he’s not scared to try. It’s also clear Saquon Barkley should be well-rested, and Coach Brian Daboll knows how to motivate this team.
Not enough is being made of Giants defensive back Adoree Jackson being back from injury, which clearly made a difference in them being able to slow down Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. It also will make a difference this week against AJ Brown and Devonta Smith.
Call this one of the upsets of the season if you like, but this is just a continuation of a recent trend, as last year both 6 seeds, Cincinnati and San Francisco, advanced to their conference championship games against Tennessee and Green Bay, respectively. Also, over the course of the past 10 postseasons in the divisional round, road teams facing the No. 1 seed have either won or been within seven points in 12 of 20 games. (Under 48.5.)
Sunday at 6:30 p.m. (FOX)
SAN FRANCISCO (-3.5) 26, Dallas 13: This is the second consecutive season these two will meet in a playoff game, but for old dudes like me, it’s tough to believe it hadn’t previously happened since they faced off three straight Januarys from 1993 to 1995. Oh wait, maybe that’s because the Cowboys haven’t really played a ton of playoff games since the late 1990s.
I don’t get it. I don’t get this line, and I don’t get the outpouring of love for a mediocre Dallas team that didn’t have a significant win before last week (in my mind) since beating the Giants, 28-20, in Week 12 and rolling over the Vikings, 40-3, the Sunday before that.
But wait, they won 40-34 against Philadelphia on Christmas Eve! Yeah, and they did it against Gardner Minshew (355 yards passing and three total touchdowns) and a banged-up Eagles defense. Other than that, they have losses to Jacksonville and Washington and squeaked by Houston and topped Tennessee with Josh Dobbs making his first NFL start in four years.
Anyone who doesn’t think San Francisco is the (much) better team really should go fly kites or feed the pigeons on the weekends. This is the top-ranked defense in the NFL and second against the run, which will force the Cowboys to lean on Dak Prescott. That’s fine against the leaky sieve known as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but not in Santa Clara.
Besides that, Dallas will not only be on the road on a short week with two fewer days rest than the 49ers, but it will be the fifth week out of six they are away from Jerry World, which means something this time of year.
The only real chance I see for Dallas here, and it’s the reason why it’s not a best bet, is that I could see Brock Purdy having his first “off” game, which could mean two or three turnovers. Still, Christian McCaffrey and the Niners’ running game against the league’s 22-ranked rushing defense should be more than enough to get San Fran to the NFC title game for the second straight year and third time in four seasons. (Under 45.5.)
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.
Wild-card best bets: 1-1 (.500). All games against the spread: 3-3 (.500). Straight up (no spread): 4-2 (.667). Over/Under totals: 4-1 (.800).
FINAL REGULAR SEASON
Best bets: 52-37 (.584). All games against the spread: 134-125 (.517). Straight up (no spread): 157-107 (.595). Over/Under totals: 143-123 (.538).
(click on week to view)
Wild card: 1-1 best bets (-$40); 3-3 ATS; 4-2 straight up; 4-1 over/unders
Week 18: 3-2 best bets (+49); 11-5 ATS; 11-5 straight up; 6-10 over/unders
Week 17: 3-2 best bets (+66); 6-7 ATS; 10-3 ATS; 5-8 over/unders
Week 16: 3-2 best bets (+39); 6-9 ATS; 10-5 straight up; 10-5 over/unders.
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
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