In a weekend filled with big-time matchups, Nick Ballistreri gives his 5 best bets of the week.
NFL ATS SEASON RECORD: 45-38-3
Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills
Did you think the Bills would be 9-3 and only a game back in the AFC East in Week 13? Me either, but that’s exactly where we are, as they have built a tough nosed team that will beat you up on both sides of the ball. Josh Allen has been a revelation, and he’s been playing with poise, and the toughness of a true leader. The Bills are a legit playoff team, but they get their biggest test this week.
The Ravens passed their toughest test to date with a 20-17 victory over the previously 10-1 49ers in Week 12. It wasn’t pretty, but the team showed they don’t need to score 30+ points to prevail. Lamar Jackson again was the star of the show, and he is running away with the MVP race, not to mention out-running every defender that tries to catch him. They sit at 10-2 and in 1st place in the AFC, looking to continue their dominance.
The Ravens are 6.5 point favorites on the road. While the Bills are 9-3, they haven’t been getting the respect that a team with their record has warranted. That being said, this line feels fair. The Bills will keep it close, and get a couple big stops and plays from Josh Allen to stay in the game. In the end, it’ll be too much Lamar Jackson, as the Ravens pull away late to cover 6.5.
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints
For the second straight week, the 49ers are in the game of the week, and again, it’s a shame it’s a 1 o’ clock kickoff. Thank goodness for NFL Red Zone.
The 49ers enter this one coming off a close loss to the Ravens in Baltimore. Losing on a last second field goal is nothing to hang their head on, and they showed they can slow down the best offense in the league, holding them to only 20 points. With the loss, the 49ers dropped to the #5 seed in the NFC.
The current #1 seed in the NFC? The New Orleans Saints. The Saints are sitting at 10-2, coming off a 26-18 victory over the Falcons on Thanksgiving. The Saints can win in so many ways. If they have to outscore you, Drew Brees will throw for 300+ and Kamara will outrun defenders all game. If they have to win in a slugfest, their defense will make timely stops. If the NFC runs through the Saints, look out.
The Saints are favored by 2.5 points at home. The linemakers have noticed how good both teams are, and are expecting a close game, just as I am. This game will come down to the 4th quarter, and with the home fans in New Orleans going crazy, the Saints sneak out a close victory to further their hold on the #1 seed
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
Although both of these teams are on the outside of the playoff picture, both teams still employ some stars. The Panthers are in free fall, as they have lost 4 in a row and just fired their Head Coach, Ron Rivera. These types of things happen when you lose a home game to the Washington Redskins.
The Falcons have been inconsistent this season. While most of the season has been bad, they’ve shown flashes of being a good team. With their offense nearing full strength, they should get back to putting up points.
The Falcons are 3.5 point favorites in this game at home. With the return of Julio Jones and Austin Hooper, the Falcons offense will be too much for the Panthers to keep up with, although I expect CMC to have a field day. Take the Falcons, but buy a point down to -2.5.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals
The Steelers are coming into this game squarely in the AFC playoff picture at 7-5, with a victory over the Cleveland Browns last week. Since going back to Delvin Hodges at QB, the Steelers have reeled off 2 straight victories. With the way their defense is playing, they don’t need much on the offensive side of the ball.
The Cardinals didn’t show up last week, losing 34-7 last week to the previously struggling Rams. The Cardinals couldn’t stop anyone in that game, and the Rams could’ve scored much more than they did. In a season that started with promise, it has unfolded quickly for the Birds in Red.
With the Steelers being 2.5 point favorites in this one, it seems too easy. The Steelers are playing for their lives, and the Cardinals are looking towards the offseason. Their defense will make things tough for Kyler Murray, and the Steelers will win another one.
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
Boy did the Rams need their win last week. The Rams scored 34 easy points against the Cardinals to fix their ailing offense. Jared Goff did anything he wanted, and looked much like the Goff of old. We’ll see if this can hold up against a much better opponent in the Seattle Seahawks.
Don’t look now, but the Seahawks currently hold the #2 seed in the stacked NFC. Sitting at 10-2 and lead by Wilson at QB, the Seahawks believe they can make a run at the big game this season. On Monday night, they had a come from behind victory against the Vikings in a potential playoff preview, as they showed that they can win against opponents of all calibers.
This game is a toss-up, as the Rams are only 1 point favorites at home. If the Rams hope to make the playoffs, this is a game they must have, as they are on the outside looking in with a 7-5 record. I’m staying away from the line, and instead am targeting the total, set at 47. Both of these teams can score, and I expect them to do just that. I’m taking the over, and don’t expect to sweat too much here.