The playoffs are almost here, and with teams jockeying for position, Nick Ballistreri gives his 5 best bets.
NFL SEASON ATS RECORD: 39-28-2
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is either #1 or #2 in most MVP ballots right now. He’s been absurd. Check out his stats to date:
Early in his career, Wilson was looked at as more of a game-manager, someone who won’t lose you a game, but also wouldn’t win it by himself. That’s because on the defensive end, the Seahawks had the Legion of Boom, better known as “LOB” in their secondary, with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor stopping opposing offenses in their tracks. This Seahawks defense isn’t the same, but with Wilson under center, it hasn’t mattered, as Seattle is 8-2 and locked into a wild card spot.
The Eagles have been frustrating to watch this season. They’ve shown signs of a true contender, and also have looked like a team that’ll be picking Top-10 in April’s draft. They sit at 5-5, but with the NFC East being weak, the Eagles are only 1 game behind the Cowboys for the division.
The Eagles are 1-point favorites in this game at home. It’s basically a toss-up, which confuses me. It’s been clear the Seahawks are the superior team this season, and with them coming off a bye last week, look for them to respond with a great performance going into the stretch run. I’m taking the Seahawks at their ML.
Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots
TV ratings at CBS will be through the roof for this game. The Cowboys, America’s Team, against the New England Patriots, owners of 6 Super Bowl championships, in the prime-time late window. It’s going to be a good one.
The Cowboys took care of business last week against a Lions team without their starting QB. They sit at 6-4, first place in the NFC East, but have yet to beat a quality team to this point. They have one of the best offenses in the league, but have continually been let down by inferior coaching. Will the real Cowboys please stand up?
The Patriots are well, the Patriots. They are 9-1, but things seem a bit different. Their defense has been otherworldly, carrying an offense which is struggling mightily. On offense, their weapons are thin, and although #12 is still under center, he doesn’t have much to work with. To make matters worse, he may be without two of his top receivers, Muhammad Sanu and Phillip Dorsett, who are both questionable.
The Pats are 6 point favorites at home. I think this will be the game of the week. It’s contrasting styles to a T. The Cowboys high-flying offense lead by Dak Prescott, and the Patriots stout defense. Who prevails? Well, I don’t really know. I can see it going either way, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys pull a W out of nowhere. It fits their style under Garrett. I won’t take them at the ML, but with their offense, I’ll happily take them at +6.
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
Raiders nation is loving life right now. The Raiders sit at 6-4, and are currently on a 3-game winning streak. Jon Gruden has the Raiders playing hard, and they are looking to make the playoffs for the first time in years.
The Jets have been an enigma this season. They aren’t good, but they’ve shown potential. They still don’t know if Sam Darnold is the future at QB, but they’re sure as hell going to try and figure out. They are coming off a dominating win over the Redskins last week, and are riding with some confidence right now.
The Jets are 3 point underdogs at home. I was surprised when I saw this line, but it makes sense. The Jets are on a roll, and nobody really respects the Raiders yet. That being said, I think this will be a highly competitive game where the Raiders pull out a sneaky win at the end. I’m buying a half-point in this one.
Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins
This game won’t have many viewers besides fans of the teams. Even then, the Redskins have done a good job of alienating their fans of late, with their stadium looking pretty empty last week.
The Lions will be without QB Matthew Stafford again in this one, but backup Jeff Driskell showed promise last week against the Cowboys, putting up 27 points. With the weapons on this team, they can still put up points.
The spread for this game is 3.5, but I’m staying away. Instead, I’m targeting the total, at 40.5. That’s a low number, and I expect these two teams to score points because both defenses are so bad. I’m taking the over 40.5.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
This has the potential for the game of the week. The 49ers come into this game at 9-1, with the best record in the NFC. The Packers are not far behind them, with an 8-2 record, breathing down their neck. This may be an NFC Championship preview.
The 49ers have been living dangerously as of late. They survived against the upstart Cardinals last week, but for much of the game, that was in doubt. Many are still not sold on Jimmy Garappolo at QB, and they may not unless he wins this game.
The Packers still have Aaron Rodgers under center, so it is business as usual. They’re coming off a bye where they may be fully healthy, and are looking to make a statement on national TV. This is their chance.
The 49ers are 3 point favorites at home. I’m not buying them yet. For some reason, they don’t strike me as a true contender, and with the injuries to their weapons, they won’t be able to score with Green Bay. I’m taking the Packers, but buying up to +3.5 in case they lose on a field goal at the end.