Inside Slant: Week 17

Dave Larkin breaks down his best bets for the final week of the regular season. 

I don’t claim to be an expert at betting football games.

After all, gambling is, by definition, a bit of a toss-up. If you manage to come out of a season with anywhere around 55% of your bets earning a profit, you can afford to pat yourself on the back. Getting to that point is the hard part, but my aim is to help you do that across a season with some under the radar wagers.

What gambling on football does allow us to do is have a little bit of fun with games we might not normally be interested in. While wagering on the spread and total points is the norm, your best bet might be to eschew these and go with more unconventional options.

To start off, I hope each and every one of you had a pleasant Christmas with your families and friends. Sitting down to watch football on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was a particularly enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, my bets would prove to be fatal as I endured my only 0-4 week of the season.

To sift through the wreckage that was Week 16 gambling and to look ahead for some rays of light, let’s kick it off.


LOSS: Total points under 43.5 – Tennessee at Jacksonville @ 10/11

The Marcus Mariota injury put a damper on this contest, with the quarterback set to miss the remainder of the season with a broken leg. It stings for the Titans, who might have had an outside chance of a comeback in Jacksonville had Mariota stayed in the game. However, at the time it looked bleak for that possibility to unfold; the Jaguars clearly found a time machine, used it to procure 2015 Blake Bortles and promptly sending 2016 Bortles the other way at 88MPH. The Jaguars impressed their future head coach with a strong effort at home, so the total proved to be way off.

LOSS: Longest successful field goal: R. Aguayo (Tampa) at New Orleans @ evens

Betting on kickers is inherently flawed, but I was disappointed Roberto Aguayo wasn’t afforded more chances in this tough road game. Predictably, the Bucs caved in and Drew Brees carved them up. This limited Aguayo’s opportunities, with the Bucs focused more on touchdowns than field goals in catch-up mode. The thing that appeals to me about kicker bets is the odds; often you can jump on prices like evens or 6/5 for what is essentially a 50/50 bet – much like a spread bet or total bet.

LOSS: Cincinnati to beat Houston @ evens

This is my ‘Aggrieved Bet Of The Week’ as the Bengals conspired to lose a game they should have been winning. A kicker haunted all of us who had made this wager, with Randy Bullock unable to nail a long field goal as time expired. A scoreline of 12-10 sort of summed up this game top to bottom, so perhaps it was more my fault for betting on than anything else.

LOSS: Carolina Panthers over 26 points vs. Atlanta @ 5/6

My blind fan optimism sent me down a dark alley here – and I was accosted by a cadre of ill-tempered Falcons, who pecked my betting slip out of my hand and smote me down for even contemplating a wager against the birds. The optimism in the Carolinas had been high prior to the new NFC South champions coming to town; Cam Newton was back, all would be well. Not so fast, my friend. Matt Ryan was ‘dealing’ (where did that phrase come from, anyway?) as the Fox commentators continued to harp on, and the Panthers offense started far too slowly to compete. The opportunities were there; Newton simply couldn’t take them.

WEEK 16 RECORD: 0-4-0
SEASON RECORD: 28-34-2 (0.437)


Disclaimer: Beware of Week 17 gambling. It is a week of peril and promise in equal measure, as Vegas throws up their hands in determining the spreads and totals. Sometimes even teams who need a victory can be dangerous gambles, as the teams with no pressure on them can play loose and free.

Pittsburgh Steelers (-5.5) vs. Cleveland @ 10/11

The Browns pulled off an incredible feat last week in front of a sparsely populated home stadium, knocking off the Chargers in dramatic fashion to avoid the 0-16 curse. As Joe Thomas said, that was their Super Bowl. This week in Pittsburgh might resemble more of a preseason game, truth be told, as the Browns get set for a huge letdown. The 5.5-point line tells me that Vegas expects Pittsburgh to rest their starters in the second half, opening the door to a backdoor cover from Cleveland. That could happen, but I can’t recommend it. The Browns are 3-12 against the spread this year, and this line is still too low – even against backups.

Total points under 48.5: Green Bay at Detroit @ 10/11

These are two teams who rest on opposite ends of the over/under record spectrum; the Lions have 66.7% of their games go under, while the Packers have 60% of their games go over. That makes the total roughly correct, but my feeling is that it is still too high. Detroit will be embarrassed after their defeat in Dallas, with cornerback play (and missing Darius Slay, in particular) contributing to their downfall in a big way. Aaron Rodgers will like his chances of exposing the Lions, but there is pride in the home team. Knowing a win will put them into the playoffs, expect a fired-up Lions outfit to give it everything. In a tighter than expected game, I’ll go under.

Away team total points: New York Giants over 17 @ 10/11

This Giants offense hasn’t been firing on all cylinders by any means, but 17 points seems a bit disrespectful. In my opinion the Giants should play their starters until it is obvious the game is out of hand. After all, they cannot improve their playoff seeding with a win. Washington needs this victory to have any chance of January football (past January 1st, of course), so they will go all out. Even so, I believe, Eli Manning or no Eli Manning, the Giants can score more than 17.

Race to 20 points: New Orleans (at Atlanta) @ 11/5

This one, if it comes off, could make up for all the hurt I caused anyone who took my advice last week. With odds of 11/5, the Saints are not fancied to take the lead against the Falcons – but what’s not to like? Drew Brees, after a rough spell, has turned the ship around and has been playing good football. Playing in the dome suits him down to the ground. The total is 56 points, which sounds about correct for this contest, but let’s avoid the total. Trust the Saints offense to outscore the Falcons early.

Make sure to check back next week for more betting tips ahead of the wildcard round games. Follow me on Twitter @davlar87.

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