Wild Card Weekend Odds: Breaking Down The NFL Playoff Field

The NFL playoff schedule will feature three games each on Saturday and Sunday, starting with the Indianapolis Colts visiting the Buffalo Bills.

Here come the NFL playoffs, the coveted second season for NJ sports betting operators and bettors.

Three games on Saturday and Sunday form a strong six-game Wild Card Weekend, adding two games to the first-round total of previous years.

As it prepares for the postseason, the NFL, sportsbooks and gamblers are savoring a monster victory. The league completed all 256 regular-season games without a single COVID-19-related cancellation.

We take a closer look at the wild card games in this week’s  Odds Five breakdown.

Saturday NFL playoff  games

The Buffalo Bills opened as a significant favorite over the visiting Indianapolis Colts for the weekend opener at DraftKings sportsbook.

The host Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams meet for the second time in three weeks. Favored Seattle won the last battle, 20-9.

In the evening finale, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a fat -7.5 against the host Washington Football Team. The 7-9 squad earned a home game by winning the NFC East. Hey, somebody had to do it.

Sunday NFL playoff games

The visiting Baltimore Ravens opened as a slightly above a field-goal favorite against the Tennessee Titans in what could be the most entertaining matchup of the weekend. It opens the Sunday ticket.

The host New Orleans Saints are the lopsided chalk against the Chicago Bears in the middle game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, at -4, host the Cleveland Browns for the second straight week, this time with their starters, in the evening clash.

 Saturday NJ sports betting overview

Line shopping provided deals for Buffalo Bills bettors in the early trading.

While Buffalo opened at -7.5 at DraftKings, encouraging action on Indianapolis, William Hill had the line at -6.5. That’s an enticement for Bills bettors and indicates the sensitivity of that dreaded “7” number. Bettors will be ready to whale on either side of the Buffalo -7 line, depending on which team they prefer.

Buffalo enjoyed a monster regular-season sprint of six straight wins to the finish line. In that surge, they defeated the Steelers and then torched the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins by scoring 142 points. That’s almost 50 a game.

Buffalo is doing the intangibles found with championship teams.

They crushed a 10-6  Dolphins team that needed the season finale, 56-26. The Bills featured the league’s leading receiver in Stefon Diggs, a strong young quarterback in Josh Allen and a defense that picked Tua Tagovailoa three times and scored, along with a special team’s unit that delivered a punt-return score. One player, Isaiah McKenzie, scored three consecutive touchdowns, including the punt return TD.

This team is feelin’ it. And local officials just relaxed COVID-19 restrictions to allow nearly 7,000 spectators into this game.

Indy has one of the game’s best coaches in Frank Reich and a good run game.

The Seahawks do just enough to win, week in and week out. They face a Rams team that gutted out a season-ending 18-7 triumph over the Arizona Cardinals without quarterback Jared Goff. The defense notched a score, and quarterback John Wolford improved throughout the game.

But now he goes against Russell Wilson. In Los Angeles, there is sentiment to start Wolford, who accounted for nearly 300 combined pass and run yards this past week against the Arizona Cardinals, even if Goff is healthy.

The Bucs, riding a similar wave of dominance, have crushed their last three foes, the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons (twice) to the tune of 122-61.

Tampa Bay has been on an offensive steamroll. In the last four games, Tom Brady has reached the level expected from him when he was lured away from the New England Patriots in the offseason.

Brady features a sizzling 12 touchdowns against just one interception over the last four games.  He has thrown for over 390 yards twice. Brady is releasing the ball with more certainty, the offensive line is protecting him and a talented group of receivers like Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown help make Tampa Bay one of the hottest offensive teams in the NFC.

The Bucs will meet a legitimate defense for the first time in four weeks, providing a good clash for Brady. One reason for the lopsided line? The Washington offense is weak.

Sunday NJ sports betting overview

The Ravens, the team nobody wants to play in the postseason, opened as slight road favorites against the Titans, who beat them 30-24 in overtime during the regular season.

Sunday’s opener features a terrific matchup of The Beast, Titans running back Derrick Henry, against the Lamar Jackson-led Ravens, who ran for an astounding 404 yards in Sunday’s 38-3 pasting of the Cincinnati Bengals. It was the most rushing yards in an NFL game by one team since the Bengals did it in 2000. The Ravens won their last five games to finish 11-5.

The Titans come off an exhilarating last-play triumph over the Houston Texans. And it was a roller-coaster ride for the bettors.

They won on a doink. Kicker Sam Sloman’s game-ending field goal banged off the right upright and snaked across the crossbar.

The Titans were heavily favored. Many moneyline parlays contained them winning this game. The “doink” therefore resonated with gamblers.

New Orleans looked methodical in crushing the Carolina Panthers, while the Bears flirted with an upset of the Green Bay Packers before surrendering two fourth-quarter scores and losing 35-16 in the season finale.

The line for this late-afternoon game says the second-seeded Saints are playing too well and should roll the team that got the last playoff spot. We’ll see.

And then the Browns and Steelers do it again, with everything on the line for both teams.

Cleveland nearly choked on the gift it was given Sunday when the Steelers rested quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and others for a game they didn’t need.

Cleveland, at -9, jumped to a 24-9 lead early in the fourth quarter. But the Browns gave up 13 fourth-quarter points and escaped with a 24-22 home triumph. It took the denial of a two-point conversion to ensure the Browns’ first playoff appearance since 2002.

Now they are the visiting team and Roethlisberger is back in. The first line of Pittsburgh -4 was 13 points different than the Browns -9 for the Week 17 finale.

Wild Card Weekend ‘bye’ standers

You won’t see the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend. The Packers have the NFC top seed, and the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs garnered the AFC’s lone bye. Each team will face the lowest-rated survivor of the Week 1 playoff round.

Both teams have the home field throughout the playoffs.

Final look at the NFC East, the division nobody wanted

Every team had at least one four-game losing streak. The eventual winners, Washington, once dropped five straight.

No team could sustain the run that put it in first place.

The Eagles, once in “command” of the division at 3-4-1, finished 1-7.

The Giants took over with a pulsating triumph against the Seahawks as a massive underdog, but then lost three straight. They escaped in Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys, who had won three straight, because Dallas fell apart inside the Giants’ 10-yard line in the final two minutes.

That put a light on Washington, which rebounded from a 1-5 start to win the division at 7-9. Its last four wins were on the road, including a strange 20-14 triumph over the Eagles on Sunday.

How strange?

Eagles coach Doug Pederson made two head-scratching moves in this game. He bypassed a chip-shot field goal that would have tied the game late in the third quarter, and the Eagles did not score on fourth down. Pederson then inexplicably replaced starter Jalen Hurts, who had rushed for two touchdowns, in the fourth quarter.

Washington was on its heels and ripe to be beaten. Pederson’s move prompted derisive comments like “Tank you very much” by New York Giants fans, who accused the Eagles of lying down in order to preserve a better draft pick. Pederson was also second-guessed on the national broadcast.

Gamblers got burned, too. Hurts’ over-under rushing attempts was 9.5 across the major books. He was at eight and probably would have run at least twice more. When he sat, that bet lost.

On to the postseason, where history has been kind to teams in Washington’s position.

The two teams that did win their divisions with sub .500 records, the 2010 Seattle Seahawks and 2014 Carolina Panthers, both won their first-round game.

And the coach who did it in 2014?

Ron Rivera. The same Rivera who is guiding the 7-9 Football Team into this postseason.

AP Photo/John Munson



NFL Week 17 Odds: Eagles Have Chance To Spoil Washington’s Postseason Hopes

The eliminated Philadelphia Eagles are hosting Washington in a Week 17 Sunday Night Football showdown that will impact who wins the NFC East.

From first place in midseason to first out now, NFL Week  17 will wrap up the sad irony for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Instead of seeking the NFC East title in Week 17 against the Washington Football Team, the eliminated Eagles will crown another team as the champion, in the Sunday Night Football national spotlight, no less. That’s like contending for an Academy Award only to be asked on stage to name the winner.

We open the Odds Five with an NJ sports betting Who Needs It Week 17 list, capped by the NFC East.

NFL Week 17 must-win scenarios

Here are the teams that must show up this week:

  • Chicago Bears (vs Green Bay Packers)
  • Green Bay Packers (at Chicago)
  • Tennessee Titans (at Houston Texans)
  • Miami Dolphins (at Buffalo Bills)
  • Baltimore Ravens (at Cincinnati Bengals
  • Cleveland Browns (vs Pittsburgh Steelers)
  • Arizona Cardinals (at Los Angeles Rams)
  • Los Angeles Rams (vs Cardinals)
  • Indianapolis Colts (vs Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Everyone but the Eagles in the NFC East

They all still have something to play for this week.

The NFC East champion will be the first team in NFL history (of 342 candidates) to start a season 2-7 or worse and make the playoffs, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.

If the host Eagles defeat Washington, the winner between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys in the afternoon enters the postseason with a home game for the first round. If Washington triumphs, the Football Team earns the NFC East.

Washington has looked abysmal offensively in two consecutive outings, losing to the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers at home. The Football Team was beaten by the four-win Panthers in Week 16 when all it had to do was win to clinch the division. Washington was never in the game, falling behind 20-0 and playing with an offensive lack of awareness. Washington’s body language and team chemistry are bad.

Alex Smith, if healthy, will start at quarterback for Washington against the Eagles. He missed the Panthers game.

Betting angles: Washington, Dallas and the New York Giants must play hard. With the Eagles, one can’t tell.

The early DraftKings Sportsbook line spoke volumes. The last-place, eliminated Eagles opened as a one-point pick against first-place Washington, which has everything to play for.

Cowboys look hungrier than anyone in NFC East

Remember the Arizona Cardinals humbling them on Monday Night Football?

Remember this team at 3-9?

The Cowboys have won three straight and suddenly look like they remember the talented receiving corps of CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, who singed the Eagles on deep patterns in Week 16’s 37-17 victory. Dallas outscored the Eagles 34-3 after falling behind early.

Ironically, Dallas was the preseason favorite to secure this division and could still get it.

The Giants fought hard in a 27-13 setback to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16, losing the game they were supposed to lose. Yet despite dropping three straight games by a combined total of 73-26, the Giants have a road to the playoffs with a win over Dallas and an Eagles triumph.

It would seem fitting in this division that both Week 17 games end in a tie.

Miami Dolphins gain late Christmas gift

If the Miami Dolphins reach the playoffs, they will credit the most bizarre stroke of luck in last Saturday’s 26-25 triumph over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Miami fell behind 25-23 on a Daniel Carlson field goal Saturday night with just 19 seconds remaining. Should be game over.

But on the ensuing possession, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed a long pass AND the Raiders were called for a bonehead face mask penalty.

That made the difference as Jason Sanders drilled the game-winning field goal with one second remaining.  The Dolphins are guaranteed a playoff berth if they can defeat the host Buffalo Bills in the season finale.

Miami will be playing for something in Week 17 at Buffalo.

Lessons from the Dolphins-Raiders game: The Raiders remain an undisciplined team, although they covered the +2.5 here.

Dolphins bettors got a bad break when the go-ahead TD Las Vegas scored with 3:37 left was followed by a missed extra point. That took any possibility of overtime, and a chance to win by a field goal, out of play.

Bettors of the under got burned by 22 points being scored in the last four minutes.

Dolphins coaches hopefully learned a lesson by bringing Fitzpatrick into the game. He engineered 13 fourth-quarter points in relief of Tua Tagovailoa, who is too green for this kind of pressure.

A quarterback has to look pretty lost to make the Raiders look like a good defensive team. Fitzpatrick ought to be starting the rest of the way.

Ravens enter Week 17 in playoff position

The Baltimore Ravens, denied leapfrogging into a playoff spot when Miami stole the game from the Raiders, did manage the feat Sunday with the Pittsburgh Steelers rallying from 24-7 down to beat the Indianapolis Colts, 28-24. And the Cleveland Browns losing to the New York Jets also helped the cause.

Baltimore took care of business against the New York Giants and will likely get to 11-5 after its Week 17 matchup against the host Cincinnati Bengals. Win and you’re in. The Ravens have won four straight and have hit their best stride of the second half.

The Arizona Cardinals, fresh off good-looking victories over the Giants and the Eagles, fell flat as a pancake in losing to the San Francisco 49ers. Now they must defeat the Los Angeles Rams on the road to guarantee a playoff spot.

Betting note: Rams quarterback Jared Goff suffered a broken thumb and will likely miss the game.

And who woke up Da Bears?

Arizona’s loss opened the door for Chicago, which stormed through with its third straight triumph, ripping the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-17. “Da Bears,” who looked rudderless a month ago, have scored more than 30 points in four consecutive games (hope you had the over).

When is the last time they did that? Not since the Gale Sayers era, in 1965. Chicago can guarantee a playoff berth by beating Green Bay or the Rams beating Arizona.

Browns still fighting for a playoff spot

The Browns look to rebound from their self-inflicted wounds, finishing against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finally managed to clinch the division with Sunday’s come-from-behind 28-24 triumph over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Browns lost their top receivers because of positive COVID-19 tests. That’s why they flopped and got beaten by the suddenly live New York Jets, who won their second game in a row.

Now the Browns must defeat the Steelers at home to guarantee a playoff spot. And while Pittsburgh may not need the game, this is a bitter rivalry, and the Steelers could play harder than expected. The Browns are heavily favored.

NFL Week 17 around the league

The Kansas City Chiefs have wrapped up the AFC home field throughout the playoffs. They don’t need to win this week.

The Packers need a win or Seattle Seahawks loss to wrap up the No. 1 NFC position.

AP Photo/Susan Walsh




Football Five Week 16: Jets And Bengals Capture That Winning Feeling

One of the hot NFL betting topics heading into Week 16 is how the Jets and Bengals pulled off two of the biggest upsets of the 2020 season.

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


NFL Week 16 Odds: Jets Finally Win Their First Game Of 2020 Season

The New York Jets’ odds of winning another game are iffy heading into Week 16, but they shocked the NJ sports betting world with a victory over the Rams.

NFL Week 16 arrives with the NJ sports betting world still in a state of shock.

The New York Jets, shaking up the NFL by stunning the Los Angeles Rams as a whopping 17-point road underdog, headline our Week 16 Odds Five.

New York Jets win, but are still 1-13

The Jets, who obtained their first victory of the season, retained the NFL’s penchant for surprising fans and rewarding a few savvy New Jersey online sportsbook gamblers.

Their 23-20 triumph over the sleepwalking Los Angeles Rams, who entered with nine wins, became the largest upset of the year.

The Jets burned an avalanche of moneyline parlay tickets but also rewarded a few sharp bettors. A tip of the hat to the 5% of SugarHouse sportsbook patrons who went against the grain, taking the Jets odds on the moneyline at +1000.

As they return to MetLife Stadium to oppose the 10-4 Cleveland Browns in Week 16, the Jets sport a satisfying achievement. This was the same team that took a 40-3 shellacking from the Seattle Seahawks one week earlier.

But it was also the same Jets team that scored on its opening drive for the eighth straight game. Plus, they actually held a lead for the sixth consecutive game, indicating they should have won three or four previous games.

No home field advantage at MetLife Stadium

The Browns, methodically proficient in Sunday’s 20-6 triumph over the suddenly lifeless New York Giants, are looking for the MetLife Parlay in Week 16.

Facing the Jets, they’ll try to match the San Francisco 49ers, who swept the Giants and Jets handily on this field in Weeks 2 and 3.

Here is some irony. Who has the most wins at MetLife Stadium, the combined home of the Jets and Giants, this season?

The answer would be the Giants and Niners, with two apiece. And the Browns can tie them this week.

The Giants, meanwhile, were too tricky for their own good in the first half against the Browns on Sunday night. Three red zone trips, three points after a fake field goal and a 4th-and-short run into the line from the six-yard line produced no results.

There’s a reason teams don’t make the playoffs.

Two ugly home losses to the combined tune of 46-13 have kept the Giants out of first place.

Will the Eagles-Cowboys game matter?

In the NFC East, the now last-place Philadelphia Eagles and second-place Dallas Cowboys sport a unique, two-tiered perspective to their heated rivalry Sunday.

Both teams will be rooting for the Carolina Panthers to defeat the host Washington Football Team in the early-afternoon game. If that doesn’t happen, both teams will be eliminated from the postseason before they even take the field for the late-afternoon contest.

If Carolina scores the mild upset, Dallas and Philadelphia will then fight for the right to eliminate one another. Now that would be the Eagles and Cowboys.

If the game means something, betting will pick up briskly just before kickoff. And if a Carolina win is matched by the Baltimore Ravens’ expected victory over the New York Giants, Philly or Dallas could take a significant leap.

A Washington victory, however, coupled with a Baltimore victory gives the Football Team the division outright on Sunday.

There are many chances here.

Washington is a slight favorite to defeat the four-win Panthers at home, but Carolina sports a mobile quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, who could give Washington problems.

Washington sits in the rarified air of 6-8, good for the top spot.

Jalen Hurts still Eagles starting QB

The Eagles did not win against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but they have found a quarterback. Jalen Hurts provided leadership via three touchdown passes thrown and one rushing touchdown in Philadelphia’s gut-wrenching 33-26 loss.

It was the best game the Eagles have played in several weeks, but they failed to capitalize on the earlier loss by the Washington Football Team to the Seattle Seahawks.

Hurts provided mobility and leadership. He had three touchdown passes in the first half. His predecessor Carson Wentz did not have a three-TD game this year. The biggest difference between quarterbacks is Hurts’ ability to extend plays, either by scampering for a first down or moving out of the pocket to find receivers.

Bills have championship potential

Josh Allen had a terrific game for the Buffalo Bills against the Denver Broncos, accounting for four touchdowns, two rushing and two passing. Cole Beasley found all kinds of room to operate as a receiver, looking as formidable as Julian Edelman did when complementing Tom Brady during the Patriots’ championship runs.

The Buffalo defense also scored a touchdown in the 48-19 road romp.

In winning their first AFC East title since 1995, the Bills are knocking on the door of the No. 2 seed. They only trail the Pittsburgh Steelers by one game and would capture the tiebreaker if it came into play.

Buffalo plays the now-eliminated New England Patriots on Monday night.

No Brady and no Patriots playoff run

It was an anticlimactic bow-out for the New England Patriots, who had made 11 straight playoff appearances before their hopes ended with Sunday’s 22-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

New England simply doesn’t have the weapons, quarterback Cam Newton can’t throw a deep ball and the team is not built to come from behind.

In the meantime, former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finally looks comfortable in Tampa Bay. The Bucs obtained a character-building victory in Atlanta. They rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to defeat the host Falcons, 31-27.

Brady stepped nicely into throws, receivers ran good patterns and the team displayed a rhythm it had not shown in several weeks. Granted, this was the Falcons, not a playoff team, but Tampa Bay needed it.

The 9-5 Bucs are right in the playoff chase before visiting the Detroit Lions on Saturday.

NFL Week 16 around the league

There is a Christmas game in Week 16, featuring the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. It marks the first time in NFL history that the league has played a game on every day of the week.

It includes three Saturday games:

  • Tampa Bay at Detroit, 1 p.m.
  • San Francisco at Arizona, 4:30 p.m.
  • Dolphins at Raiders, 8:15 p.m.

Tampa Bay, Arizona and Miami all need their games, making the competition interesting.

Sunday’s key games include the Rams and Seahawks for the NFC West lead and the Tennessee Titans versus the Green Bay Packers.

Photo by Associated Press

Football Five: Week 15 Arrives With Eagles and Giants Still In NFL Playoff Hunt

Now that NFL Week 15 is here, Philadelphia and New York are running out of time to make a run at a division title that is still up for grabs.

NFL Week 15 means there are just three weeks before the regular season concludes. And the schedule will see four teams crisscross the country in highly important matchups.

And this means the games will be in the NJ sports betting spotlight.

The NFC East versus NFC West kicks off this week’s  Football Five.

How strong are the NFC East and West?

The East-division leading Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles are decided underdogs against the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, respectively.

The West is 7-3 in the rivalry heading into the final two games.

The Eagles play the only team that has swept its matchups against the East. The host Cardinals, 3-0 on the moneyline and spread in this rivalry, put an exclamation point on that dominance with last Sunday’s 26-7 pasting of the New York Giants.

And it’s Arizona whom the Philadelphia Eagles must defeat to keep its modest playoff hopes alive.

Washington, sporting the NFC’s top current win streak of four games and a newfound perch atop the East, hosts a Seahawks team that looks good but not intimidating. Seattle barely covered in just one of its three contests versus the East and lays a medium-range spread on the road.

Can Washington continue its resurgence?

It came of age during a season that was looking dead in early November.  The Football Team was 2-7 and trailing the Cincinnati Bengals when rookie phenom Joe Burrow left the game because of a season-ending injury.

Washington came back to win that game, throttled the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day and just had a week for the ages. They defeated the  Pittsburgh Steelers, who were 11-0 at the time, and the San Francisco 49ers on the road.

The NFC East has been a hot potato, with the Eagles, Giants and Washington occupying the top spot. Washington looks like it has the goods. But how many times can the team count on the defense to outright win the game? In last week’s victory over San Francisco, Washington scored two defensive touchdowns, while its offense tallied none.

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Dallas Cowboys, really?

The price of being “America’s Team” is that of being overbet. That’s what happened to the Dallas Cowboys, who were played heavily throughout the season to win the NFC East.

DraftKings Sportsbook released the splits Monday regarding division betting. And the Cowboys, who can’t find enough algorithms on this planet to capture the division, lead the way with 64% of the revenue. The Giants command 16% of the money, the Eagles 13% and Washington, which would win if the season ended today, has just 7% of the handle (and only 1% of the bets).

The Cowboys were also the last team in the league to cover a spread, even behind the New York Jets.

Ravens win classic, Browns bettors burned

The Week 15 slate includes the Baltimore Ravens hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cleveland Browns visiting the New York Giants. And Baltimore and Cleveland will try to surpass the NFL’s game of the year, a terrific 47-42 Ravens victory on Monday night.

As grandiose as it was, with an unheard of 20 points in the final two minutes, it was another electroshock for Cleveland bettors.

The Browns, at +3 and leading by one point in the game, were scorched by yielding a 4th-down, go-ahead score from Lamar Jackson with Cleveland just one play away from gaining a victory. A two-point conversion followed.

But Cleveland marched down the field to score the tying touchdown with 1:04 to go. And then Justin Tucker put the Ravens up with a 55-yard field goal with two seconds left. Ravens 45, Browns 42: a push, at least. But wait … numerous laterals on the final play led to a safety. What an excruciating way to lose.

This is the same Cleveland team that failed to cover on a missed extra point, beating the Cincinnati Bengals by 3 rather than the required 3.5.

Regardless of betting implications, it was a game for the ages. And it tied an NFL record with nine rushing touchdowns.

Chiefs facing a tough Week 15 line

For bettors, it’s all about getting the right number. And that’s been hard to find with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, favored on the road when they visit the New Orleans Saints.

Kansas City is 12-1 on the moneyline, but not covering.

That happened for the fifth straight time Sunday when the Chiefs edged the Miami Dolphins 33-27 at -7.5 via DraftKings. A field goal in the final seconds decided the spread pick.

In previous weeks, the Chiefs defeated the Carolina Panthers by two points, the Las Vegas Raiders by four, the Tampa Bay Bucs by three and both the Denver Broncos and Dolphins by six.

They were favored by more than a touchdown in four of the games and three and a half versus Tampa Bay, biting the dreaded hook.

Any bettors wagering into the tough task given the Chiefs have been able to ride opportunity, but Chiefs backers are having a rough patch.

Week 15 around the league

NFL betting will save the Week 15 Thursday Night Football opener.  There’s no reason to watch the Raiders-Chargers game under ordinary circumstances. The Chargers are done, and the Raiders will barely reach the playoffs, if that.

The Raiders have the worst defense of any prospective playoff team. Wait for it …

That means gamblers can decide whether the 53 over-under line is worth playing. And whether the Raiders should be -3.5.

Don’t forget the props. This game is ripe for big Derek Carr passing yardage, Josh Jacobs rushing totals and quarterback-receiver props.

Without betting, this game appeals to West Coast viewers only.

With betting, it’s a national game.

After this game, which should be entertaining, the rare Saturday package returns. The Denver Broncos are hosting the 10-win Buffalo Bills and the Green Bay Packers, newly minted as the NFC top seed, will be significant favorites against the Carolina Panthers.

Extra points: The crazy world of props

James Washington of the Pittsburgh Steelers was the top moneymaker for first touchdown scored Sunday, returning +3000 to DraftKings bettors for his tally against the Bills.

This is a just reward. The Steelers have a talented group of receivers, any of whom can score the first TD in a game. Last week, it was Diantae Johnson. One week before that, it was the defense. And one week prior to that, it was Chase Claypool.

This is always a tough prop, but fun.

Live by the prop, die by the prop.

Ever try a field goal as the first score of the game?

It paid in the neighborhood of 4-1 for the Eagles and 3-1 for the Saints on Sunday.

Some bettors corral both sides of this prop, guaranteeing a profit if either comes in.

What happened? Eagles coach Doug Pederson passed up the field goal three times before a 4th-down pass by Jalen Hurts provided the game’s first tally.

On the other side, New Orleans actually attempted a field goal, but the kick did not split the uprights.

Four chances. No hits.

Even when a prop is teed up to come in, it often does not.

Photo by Associated Press

NFL Week 15 Odds: Eagles Score Victory Over Saints To Remain In NFC East Hunt

The Philadelphia Eagles’ odds of winning the NFC East remains an NJ sports betting play after Sunday’s 24-21 upset. A Week 15 trip to Arizona is up next.

Hard to believe NFL Week 15 is here. And here’s something else that’s hard to believe:

Philadelphia Eagles 24, New Orleans Saints 21.

OK, who saw that coming?

As jubilation reigns for their fans, relevance returns, at least this week, for Eagles backers at New Jersey online sportsbooks. The NJ sports betting crowd doesn’t care about the team’s 4-8-1 record, only the fact that Philadelphia defeated the 10-win Saints, the NFC’s top team at kickoff.

That warrants a cameo-role resurrection of the NFC East picture, which Eagles bettors had already buried.

The Birds lead off the Odds Five.

Eagles Week 15: Optimism vs. realism

So how should bettors view the Philadelphia Eagles’ odds of winning the NFC East at this point?

Well, as the Birds prepare for a Week 15 road matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, here’s a look at optimism vs. reality.

Optimism: This week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals has far more significance than it did last week. Season-ending battles at the Dallas Cowboys and at home against the Washington Football Team could become meaningful.

Realism: The battle remains an uphill one, as the Eagles trail division-leading Washington by 1.5 games. The Eagles must cut one game off of that margin over the next two weeks for the finale to matter.

Washington hosts the 9-4 Seattle Seahawks in Week 15 and the 4-9 Carolina Panthers in Week 16. If Washington captures just one of its next two games, a likely possibility, the Eagles must win out against Arizona, Dallas and Washington to steal the division.

Optimism: This week may represent Philadelphia’s best chance to cut into the margin. The Eagles can’t figure to get help from Carolina, but Seattle plays well in the Eastern time zone and is a medium-sized favorite to win over Washington.

Realism: An Eagles loss and a Washington win Sunday against Seattle would knock Philadelphia out of the race. Arizona has seven wins, while the Eagles are underdogs by nearly a touchdown. Running the table when two of the three teams on the schedule have more wins than you do is asking a lot.

In this crystal ball, the Giants need to drop a game too, but that’s likely, even probable, as they host the Cleveland Browns and visit the Baltimore Ravens.

What do NJ online sportsbooks say? Here is the updated topsy-turvy ride in the NFC East, reflected on its odds board to win the division.

Will the Jalen Hurts chapter continue?

These are the best odds an Eagles backer will get the rest of the way. Dallas would need hell to freeze over twice. Any loss or a Washington victory begins its offseason.

Philadelphia will feel good about its chances behind rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts. He lifted the intensity level of the entire team as the Eagles gouged a rushing record the Saints had been proud of. New Orleans had not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 55 straight games. That’s three-and-one-half seasons.

But the Birds burned them not with just one, but two 100-yard rushers in Miles Sanders and Hurts. Sanders drilled them for 82 yards on one play, a touchdown putting the Eagles up 17-0 late in the second quarter. Hurts gives the Eagles an important running component outside the pocket.

The Eagles had a certain look in this game. Can they carry it over?

And will Hurts get another start? Head coach Doug Pederson had yet to name his Week 15 starting QB as of Monday morning.

Washington riding hot streak

The Washington Football Team has fashioned a four-game win streak, including three straight on the road. Don’t laugh; it now holds the longest current win streak in the entire NFC.

They toppled the San Francisco 49ers 23-15 Sunday to obtain two road victories in one week. Coupled with last Monday’s 23-17 triumph over the previously unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington has vaulted to 6-7. The team not only surpassed the DraftKings Sportsbook projected win total of 5.5 games, but triumphed in unlikely fashion against San Francisco.

Washington’s offense failed to score a touchdown against the Niners. But its defense reached the end zone twice to carry the team on its shoulders. Washington’s offense had less than 200 yards, but the team won.

This is a special Washington defensive group, bailing out a weak offense.  Washington lost quarterback Alex Smith in the second half, and its potential number one is, guess who, the old number one.

Dwayne Haskins began the year as Washington’s top QB, was demoted all the way to third string and did not even come to a couple of games.

Now he may be asked to lead the team, although that will be determined by Smith’s health status.

How fitting is it that all four NFC East teams have needed backup quarterbacks this year?

Giants and Jets flounder on Sunday

The Giants laid an egg following four consecutive victories that had vaulted them into first place. Sunday’s 26-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals was as ugly as it gets. The offense, in Daniel Jones’ return, was clueless.

It was hard to believe this was the same team that had just defeated the Seattle Seahawks. Jones returned from a hamstring injury and appeared to reaggravate it. The Giants should bench him and try again with Colt McCoy when they oppose the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens in their next two games.

They face two high-powered offensive teams and must have at least a reasonable running attack to shorten the game. Big Blue went from trying to gain control of the division to now having its work cut out for it.

And the New York Jets, who continued their march to infamy with Sunday’s 40-3 debacle at Seattle, now must visit the Los Angeles Rams amid the perception that they have quit.

Here’s what happened Sunday to the now 0-13 Jets:

Three missed field goals when the game was still relevant. Three.

They also suffered from the bad things that happen to bad teams. When the Jets trailed 17-3, Seattle was guilty of an uncalled pass-interference penalty that would have given the Jets the ball at the Seattle 1. After that came a missed field goal.

In the second half, the Jets did quit.

Green Bay Packers head NFC stack

The Green Bay Packers assumed the top NFC top seed with Sunday’s triumph over the Detroit Lions, coupled with the Eagles’ upset of the Saints.

Green Bay plays its next two games at home, versus the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans, before concluding at the Chicago Bears.

Green Bay, which holds the top spot by virtue of beating New Orleans early in the year, tries to gain a commanding position with a Week 15 victory and the possibility of New Orleans losing at home to Kansas City.

Only the No. 1 seed gets a bye in this year’s playoff race, making that spot even more precious.

Week 15 around the league

The Kansas City Chiefs visit New Orleans as the new top seed in the AFC, now that Pittsburgh has dropped two in a row. They lost 26-15 to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night. Kansas City has much at stake, as Pittsburgh holds the tiebreaker if the teams end the season deadlocked.

Bettors and NJ sportsbooks love the staggered schedule of Week 15 games, with Saturday coming into the mix.

The Las Vegas Raiders begin the Week 15 slate Thursday as an outside-looking-in playoff hopeful hosting the Los Angeles Chargers. Neither team has a good defense; both teams make a lot of mistakes. It should be an entertaining game.

A shootout is already baked into the over-under line of 54.5, DraftKings’ highest of the week.

On Saturday, Buffalo visits the Denver Broncos and the Packers face the Panthers.

And the Steelers visiting the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night closes out Week 15.

Photo by Associated Press