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Sports gambling column: Week 14

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In the NFL, there’s sometimes a surprise team that runs the table, meaning that a team wins their last four or so games in weeks 14-17 to sneak into the playoffs. The 2016 Packers did it most recently, but there have been other examples. This year, I thought that team would be the Broncos because they have an easy schedule during weeks 14-16 (at 49ers, vs Browns, at Raiders) and a game in week 17 against the Chargers that the Chargers will probably rest their starters for because they will have likely clinched a playoff spot. But, the Broncos essentially blew any chance they had to be in the playoffs with Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, so I’m probably out another $10 after I bet it on the Broncos to make the playoffs at +240 odds. Technically, the Broncos could still make the playoffs, but I’ll have to hope that the Titans, Dolphins, Ravens and Colts lose more games than they should for that to happen. The Dolphins winning on the “Miami Miracle” play yesterday didn’t help, and neither did the Broncos failing to win on a similar play in San Francisco. Had Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes missed his incredible fourth-and-nine throw, this bet would probably be a loss already since the Ravens would have won that game and would be essentially in the playoffs already. So, I still have a sliver of hope for this one, but I’m not going to get my hopes up.

The good thing about all this is that it’s now easier to guess what matchups we might see in the Wild Card round in both conferences. Using ESPN’s NFL Playoff Machine (I play with this every day), I was able to predict what I think will be the four Wild Card matchups. I came up with: Colts-Texans (Meh), Chargers-Ravens (Maybe the most intriguing matchup), Vikings-Bears (Prepare for bad kicking) and Seahawks-Cowboys (I love overconfident Cowboys fans). I’m going to rank them in order of how excited I would be to gamble on them, starting with the least exciting matchup.

4: Colts-Texans

I might not even watch this game, to be honest. It’ll be early on a Saturday, with ESPN’s horrible commentators. The early Saturday game has recently featured at least one terrible quarterback (2016 Brian Hoyer, 2017 Brock Osweiler and Connor Cook), and the Texans. Anything could happen in this game, from Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins making the greatest catch of all-time to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck ripping off his jersey after the game and becoming a full-time caveman instead of just doing it on off-days. Because I don’t really want to watch it and because a lot can happen to ruin a potential bet, I would stay away from this one.

3: Vikings-Bears

I’ll definitely watch this one, but this is another game in which a lot can go wrong in a potential bet. This will be a cold-weather game in the Windy City, so there will be a lot of talk about how field goal attempts can and will go wrong. Since these two defenses are so great, it will likely be a low-scoring slugfest, meaning that these field goals will become even more important. Given how the Vikings have been tortured by their kickers throughout history (Blair Walsh in 2016, Gary Anderson in 1999), I would definitely not trust that team to go into Chicago and come out with a win. I also am not gambling on Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky in a playoff game, so I’m also probably out on this one.

2: Chargers-Ravens

Don’t look now, but the Chargers might be the best team in the AFC. They have a great offense with a lot of weapons, and a good pass rush that can bother Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. It doesn’t really bother me that this game would be in Baltimore because I like to think the Chargers are a tough team that doesn’t really benefit from playing at home anyway (their home stadium only holds 27,000). I would bite at any opportunity to bet against a rookie quarterback in the playoffs like Jackson, who can barely throw the ball but sort of makes up for it with his running game. If the Ravens decide to start their other quarterback, Joe Flacco, then that’s even better because all he can do nowadays is try to draw pass interference penalties, which might not work against the Chargers’ strong set of defensive backs. If this game happens, take the Chargers, especially if running back Melvin Gordon is healthy.

1: Seahawks-Cowboys

I’m smirking just thinking about this game. Overconfident Cowboys fans? Check. Shaky quarterback for the home team? Check. An experienced playoff team coming into town? Check. This game has all the makings of something I would gamble on. I love to see the Cowboys lose almost as much as I like seeing the Saints win, so if I won on this game because the Cowboys lost, it would be double the victory for me. But to quote Count Dooku in Star Wars, twice the pride, double the fall. So this game could end up going really bad for me if the Cowboys won and I bet on them to lose. I’m still confident that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson can make some plays while on the run from the scary Cowboys defense, but the Cowboys can still run their ball-control offense to keep him off the field. It’s a very evenly matched game, so I’m going to use one of Bill Simmons’ ways to justify betting on a playoff game. Take each team’s head coach and quarterback, rank how good they are from 1-10, and combine the ratings to see which team ends up with the higher total. For the Seahawks, I’ll give head coach Pete Carroll a 7/10, and Wilson an 8/10. For the Cowboys, head coach Jason Garrett gets a 4/10, and I’ll be generous to Dak Prescott and give him a 6/10. That’s 15-10 for the Seahawks, which could be pretty close to the final score of this game if it plays out how I think it might. Even more delicious about this game is that the oddsmakers typically overrate the Cowboys, so there will probably be good odds on the Seahawks to win outright and the Cowboys will be favored by too many points. Don’t trust the Cowboys. Ever.

When looking at the lines and odds for Week 15, there isn’t much that stands out to me. I don’t have any recommendations, so I’ll see you next week.

 

Money spent to date: $120

Winnings to date: $45.59

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Sports gambling column: Week 14