Welcome to the homestretch.
As the NFL hits its final four regular-season weeks, bettors ponder varied intangibles turning crunch time into hunch time. There’s a coaching change with the Carolina Panthers, quarterback shuffling with the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars and clear lines between contenders and those playing out the string.
The factors unfold inside a league schedule packing big-name matchups, haves-versus-have-not battles, playoff-hungry teams needing victories and bad clubs laying large points.
There’s even an unusual nod to road teams. Let’s unwrap it.
PlaySugarHouse: Road Warriors
PlaySugarHouse reports a seasonal first, with all four of its highest publicly-backed teams playing on the road this week.
“The heaviest support we have is for the (7-5) Pittsburgh Steelers, now at -3 at the Arizona Cardinals,” said Matt Stetz, the COO of Rush Street Interactive, which operates PlaySugarHouse in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“The game opened at Pittsburgh -1.5 and moved all the way to three. Most of the wagers are with the Steelers at -2 and -2.5 points. Support for the Steelers is at 86%.”
Stetz said the Baltimore Ravens enjoy a solid 81% backing from the public as a 5.5-point favorite against the host Buffalo Bills, with 70% of them wagering over the 43.5 total.
The Ravens, 10-2, face an over-achieving 9-3 Bills team that can no longer stay under the radar. The Bills, projected for seven wins at most sportsbooks before the season, surprisingly trail the New England Patriots by only one game in the AFC East.
Buffalo defeated the Dallas Cowboys outright as a 6.5-point underdog on Thanksgiving Day and has a strong defense. It will need that in making the latest attempt to stop Ravens phenom quarterback Lamar Jackson.
The 10-2 New England Patriots, always one of the top-played teams at PlaySugarHouse, slid to less than 20% support against the visiting Kansas City Chiefs, despite giving only three points in this game and having two more victories.
Kansas City and New England always play offensive-minded games that end up close. Watch that line, it could move half a point in either direction. If not, backers of each side will be tempted to select an alternate spread of -2.5 or -3.5. It’s usually a reasonable deal, forcing bettors to lay roughly 6-5 rather than even money in exchange for the valued half point.
Another strong visiting team gained enough sentiment to prompt a contrarian angle. The 10-2 Seattle Seahawks have received 75% of the tickets when invading the 7-5 Los Angeles Rams, Stetz said.
The Seahawks were originally favored by 2.5, but Rams bettors feasted on that line enough to drop it all the way to 0.5. Both teams come off impressive victories, with Seattle topping Minnesota 37-30 and the Rams thumping Arizona 34-7.
The San Francisco 49ers, one of America’s most popular teams, have received support ranging at 80% for their road matchup against the New Orleans Saints. San Francisco is +2.5 in most major books for the battle of 10-2 teams.
This is part three of what the team calls its gauntlet, successive games against tougher teams before finishing with easier matchups:
- Green Bay
- New Orleans
The Niners are 1-1 on the money line in those games and 2-0 against the spread.
San Francisco vs. New Orleans NJ betting odds
The Under-Achievers Angle
The Philadelphia Eagles opened as a fat 8.5-point favorite against the New York Giants on Monday Night, despite losing three straight games. And then it got fatter.
The Giants announced the return of quarterback Eli Manning, who guided them to two Super Bowls but was benched after Week 2, driving this line up to 9.5 at most major books.
That’s a big number for an NFC East divisional game and the Giants receive the edge in early support, roughly 67% at FanDuel Sportsbook. At PlaySugarHouse, the Eagles were at 54% popularity. Manning is expected to replace injured Daniel Jones.
The Eagles have only covered one of their last six games. Are they due? Philadelphia is 5-7 and lost to the Miami Dolphins outright as a nine-point favorite last week.
The New York Jets offer a curious 5.5 points on DraftKings Sportsbook to the Miami Dolphins, who beat them earlier in the season. That’s a power-ranking assessment with the home-field factor tossed in, but what about momentum?
The Dolphins rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to stun the Philadelphia Eagles last week, while the Jets had a three-game win streak snapped and gave the Cincinnati Bengals their first win. The Jets should be fired up about their performances against the Dolphins and Bengals and come out strong. But this is a battle of AFC East teams not heading to the playoffs.
The game shapes up as a matchup of the public vs the sharpies. Miami obtained 73% of early-betting tickets but only 30% of the handle according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The Jets have fewer backers, but they are big players.
Jets vs. Bengals NFL Week 14 odds
Along the line of generosity, should the 5-7 Cleveland Browns give 8.5 points across the major books to the one-win Cincinnati Bengals in a match of disappointing AFC North foes.? We will see.
How will the Carolina Panthers perform under interim head coach Perry Fewell after head coach Riverboat Ron Rivera was fired this week? The Panthers, blowing a 14-0 lead before losing 29-21 to the three-win Washington Redskins, were embarrassed last week.
They visit an Atlanta Falcons team that has not covered a single game as a favorite this year. Can the Falcons do that for the first time or will the Panthers, losers of four straight, rise from the ashes? Early FanDuel betting totals projected Atlanta with 61% of the spread handle.
Crunch time in the AFC South
The Houston Texans come off an exhilarating triumph against the New England Patriots and, at 8-4 atop the AFC South, play their third consecutive home game in hosting the Denver Broncos. They stand one game ahead of the Tennessee Titans, a division rival they meet twice in the final three weeks of the season. This is one game Houston must-win for playoff positioning.
The betting sentiment at NJ sportsbooks is split whether Houston will cover the 9.5 points most books have them giving. Houston received 56% of the early wagering at Fan Duel. It only received 47% of the spread handle, though, indicating some heavy Broncos players weighed in. Denver has played tough, with seven of its games decided by less than a touchdown.
This matchup, against the 4-8 Broncos, is also important for Texans backers who wagered the over 8.5 projected win total for them at William Hill before the season. It pays +120, a nice return.
NJ betting odds for Houston vs. Denver
The 7-5 Titans, meanwhile, are playing some of the best football in the league. They visit the last-gasp Oakland Raiders as a 2.5-point favorite. Oakland, outscored 74-12 by the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs the last two weeks, has fallen to 6-6 and would disappear from the playoff picture with a loss here.
The Indianapolis Colts are also in desperation mode, at 6-6, when they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a three-point underdog. Perhaps because of that, Indianapolis received nearly 60% of the early money.
Minshew Mania II?
The Los Angeles Chargers are giving 2.5-3.5 points across the books against the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road. However, Jacksonville looked rejuvenated when Gardner Minshew replaced Nick Foles in the middle of a 28-11 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Minshew will most likely replace Foles this week and that will help this team. The Chargers have found an infinite number of ways to lose this year. Jacksonville is taking most of the money in this one and that line could move. Minshew sparked the Jaguars to late comeback victories earlier in the season.
Chargers vs. Jaguars current odds
Some Have It, Some Don’t
The haves-versus- have-nots angle applies when the 8-4 Minnesota Vikings host the 3-8-1 Detroit Lions. Detroit went 0-for-November and is 0-5 versus the league and the spread since Oct. 27. But Minnesota is giving 13.5 points. That’s likely to be a money-line parlay or prop-bet target. Detroit, which has had 11 quarterbacks in camp this year, may be starting yet another new one.
The playoff-bound Green Bay Packers give 12.5 points to the three-win Washington Redskins at most major sportsbooks. The Packers usually cover at home. This is a big number, though, and Washington is playing its best ball of the season.
NFL Week 14 odds for Green Bay vs. Washington
Lower Totals Projected
DraftKings had the Kansas City-New England game over-under at 49 in midweek, its highest total. None of the books had an over-under exceeding 50 for the first time in several weeks. Colder temperatures, wind, ice and even snow (the Giants-Packers game had some last week) will trim some of the scoring totals.