Let’s begin the NFL Week 16 Football Five with a salute to the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals, two basement teams who restored faith in the NFL’s competitive balance.

They turned the tables on the week’s two largest imminent blowouts, turning them into the year’s largest upsets.

Bravo to them and the sliver of Week 15 bettors. And that group was an extremely small one at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Only 11% of the money was on the Jets to win straight up against the Los Angeles Rams.

And only 9% of the money was on the Bengals to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Both teams were in the vicinity of +1000 across the establishments favored by NJ sports betting customers.

Newfound respect for Jets and Bengals

Will the Jets come out with a chip on their shoulder after an only-in-New-York media reaction to their victory?

They were knocked for now not being the league’s worst team and thus not likely to draft quarterback Trevor Lawrence from Clemson as the top pick in the next NFL draft.

Imagine being Sam Darnold, the Jets’ current quarterback, and hearing that.

The Jets, now with one victory, will be looked at differently when they host the Cleveland Browns this week. And the Bengals have their third win, the first without Joe Burrow, before playing the Houston Texans.

The Jets, a whopping +17 against the Los Angeles Rams, have been awarded a full touchdown more on the opening line against the Browns at DraftKings Sportsbook.

FanDuel’s early line of Cincinnati +8.5 shows some respect for a team that bounced back to life Monday night as a 14.5-point dog.

The Jets and Bengals also stirred the playoff-ramifications pot throughout the league.

Say hello to the new No. 2 seed in the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills. They have additional incentive to defeat the New England Patriots in the next Monday Night Football game.  The sizzling hot 11-3 Bills look more likely to host a first-round playoff game when the postseason begins during the second weekend in January.

The Rams, who have played volleyball with the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West lead, now trail by one game before this weekend’s critical matchup on the road.

And the Steelers? Look at these offensive numbers in the last four games: 19, 17, 15 and 17.

Since leading the Washington Football Team 14-0 in the second quarter of their Dec. 7 game, they are being outscored 76-35. Shocking numbers for an 11-3 team.

That’s how life changes in the NFL.

Giants’ playoff chances are fizzling

Two dull home losses, 26-7 to the Arizona Cardinals and 20-6 to the Cleveland Browns, snapped a four-game winning streak and laid the New York Giants bare in front of the bettors. They are a slow, deliberate, grind-it-out offense just before the worst matchup possible.

New York plays the high-flying, explosive Baltimore Ravens, who have topped 40 points two weeks in a row.

Falling behind early would be a disaster against the Ravens.

But Big Blue’s defense is stout, evidenced by goal-line stands against the Cardinals and Browns. This included limiting Cleveland to 20 points after the Browns had scored 42 against the Ravens.

The Giants have lost control of their own destiny, however. Much of it now rests in the hands of the four-win Carolina Panthers, who must defeat the Washington Football Team in order for Big Blue to retain realistic playoff games.

Basically, the season is coming down to the IF game. So if:

  • Carolina upsets Washington;
  • The Giants defeat the Ravens as a big dog; and
  • The Philadelphia Eagles defeat the Dallas Cowboys,

then, and only then, the Giants would be in first place heading into the last week of the season.

But there are other ifs that would end the Giants’ postseason hopes.

A Washington win combined with a Giants loss will earn the Football Team the NFC Was crown.

In a similar vein, the Eagles, who trail the Giants, need Carolina to defeat Washington or it’s over for them. It’s the same for second-place Dallas. This is a significant betting consideration.

The Eagles-Cowboys will have huge NFC implications, or none, based on the Washington game, which is played earlier.

 Vikings, Saints under the Christmas tree

Whether it’s COVID-19 necessitated or a future consideration, the NFL has a Friday game, the New Orleans Saints hosting the Minnesota Vikings.

And it happens to fall on Christmas Day.

There is a unique undercurrent to this game. The Vikings are going nowhere, and in fact propelled the Chicago Bears into the fringes of the NFC playoff picture with Sunday’s loss, but they knocked the Saints out of the playoffs last year — in New Orleans, where this game will be played.

And there was that Minneapolis Miracle a couple of years earlier when the Vikings eliminated the Saints from the playoffs with a long TD on the final play.

Are the Saints jinxed against the Vikings, or is this the game in which they remove the hex?

Minnesota has an excellent offense with Kirk Cousins and running back Dalvin Cook, whereas New Orleans has a revenge motive from last year.

The Saints are resting injured star Michael Thomas until the playoffs, and their offense improved after a sputtering start with the return of Drew Brees against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Week 16 Saturday games matter

The sportsbooks love isolated opportunities like Friday’s one-gamer and the Saturday trio of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Detroit Lions, the Miami Dolphins visiting the Las Vegas Raiders and the Arizona Cardinals sharing a home game with the San Francisco 49ers. Betting action pours in on these games and, fortunately for the NFL, Tampa Bay, Miami and Arizona need the games.

The league never knows how much these games will matter when it draws up the schedule well before the season.

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Another way to interpret the lines

The Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers have the week’s highest over-under projection of 56 at DraftKings. The Tampa Bay-Detroit contest, 53.5, and the Atlanta Falcons-Kansas City Chiefs matchup, 54, are close behind.

Point totals convey a secondary angle, prop mania.

Watch the yardage and touchdown-tossing props in all of these games as they approach, and if you want to take a stab, consider some of the following payouts reported from Week 15 by DraftKings:

Austin Hooper of the Cleveland Browns returned +1600 as the first touchdown scorer in the Giants-Browns game.

Derrick Henry of the Titans paid +350, hitting paydirt against the Detroit Lions.

Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs returned +510, scoring against the Saints.

But how about Russell Gage of the Atlanta Falcons? He returned a hefty +3500 as the first to hit paydirt in the game against Tampa Bay.

Like most props, these contain the intellectual component of selecting likely recipients and the good fortune of hitting the right individual. Hooper is a tight end. Bettors had to survive two goal-to-goal runs before he was found on a TD toss. Hill and Henry are usually good anytime scorers, but for them to be first scorer in the entire game limits the player to a couple of possessions.

These bets are proving to be more popular because they can provide a lot of bang for a little buck.

Photo by Associated Press

 

Dave Bontempo

About

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.