Beating Vegas: Playoff Positioning

Week Seventeen of the NFL season is the trickiest of all when it comes to getting an edge against the spread.  For some teams it’s “win and you’re in” while others need help from other teams so they can get into the playoff dance.

Cleveland Browns +10.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Yes, this is a very predictable start for this week’s Beating Vegas.  The Steelers need to win in order to secure home field advantage but they also need the New England Patriots to lose their game against the Jets.  The last time the Steelers played the Browns,  it was week one and the Steelers squeaked by 21-18.  This loss was looked upon as a positive for the Cleveland Browns, who hung in there and made things difficult for Pittsburgh, but that premature optimism was proven to be idiotic because they are currently on a 15 game losing streak (just in case you didn’t figure it out, that means they haven’t won a game all season long).  Cleveland is in the pitts (burgh? eh. . .) and now many on this team are just auditioning to keep their jobs on the team or trying to play themselves off of it. . .  Cleveland’s one positive all year has been their rush defense but in the last two weeks, they’ve let up 4 yards per rush against Melvin Gordon and then 5.4 yards a carry against Baltimore’s Alex Collins.  Steelers running back LeVeon Bell was held to 32 yards rushing the last time he went up against Cleveland and will be looking to make his mark this week.  Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer seems to get worse every week – while hovering at the 50% completion mark with only 9 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Pittsburgh’s pass defense is ranked in the top 10 this year and will have no problem confusing  “Disheveled Kizer.”  Pittsburgh is also top ten in rushing yards allowed in the NFL so this shouldn’t be a repeat performance of week one.

The Pick:  Pittsburgh -10.5

Carolina Panthers +4  at Atlanta Falcons

This game is interesting because two other games that directly affect the Falcons and the Panthers playoff hopes are being played at the same time.  Here is the breakdown for the NFC South:

  • New Orleans wins the NFC South if they beat the Bucs or if the Panthers lose
  • The Panthers win the NFC South if they beat the Falcons AND the Saints lose
  • The Falcons get a wildcard berth if they win OR if the Seahawks (who also play at 4:30) lose.

Keeping all this in mind, the public is going to jump all over the Panthers getting points against a team that since last year’s Super Bowl has been a punchline. . . The Falcons offense, has indeed taken a step back – but remember the numbers they were putting up – it was video-game-like.  Matt Ryan is still completing passes at 65%, Julio Jones has over 1300 receiving yards and the Falcons possess the second best running back duo in the league with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman (behind the Saints).   If Coleman’s concussion symptoms linger – Freeman has proven before he can carry the load for the whole four quarters. . . the Panthers defense is what generally keeps them competitive, but they are allowing 4.1 yards a rush and let opponents throw against them for a completion percentage of 64%.  Atlanta is pretty much right there defensively with Carolina – but nobody really talks about that. . . out of these two teams, Carolina is definitely the one you don’t want to play in the playoffs because their style of play can travel well; but in this scenario the Falcons at home are the play.  Don’t be cheap though – buy the whole point and give yourself the -3, even maybe buy a point and a half.

The Pick: Atlanta Falcons -4

Cincinnati Bengals +9.5 at the Baltimore Ravens

For the Ravens it’s pretty simple – win and you’re in.  It seems almost too simple.  You beat the Bengals and you’re in though, and the Bengals at 6-9 have nothing going for them. . .nothing except playing the role of spoiler to the Ravens.  The last time these teams played was on week one were the Ravens shut out the Bengals 20-0.  The Ravens went on to shut out two more teams this year (the Dolphins and the Aaron Rodger-less Packers, big whoop) and pretty much lucked in with second year running back Alex Collins who is averaging 4.7 yards a carry.  Joe Flacco is the most underwhelming “franchise quarterback” in the NFL, and it’s been that way for about four or five years.  Sure he completes 65% of his passes, but he only averages about 6 yards a pass.  Cincy might be without running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Vontaze Burfict this week, but believe it or not, there is so much talent on both sides of the ball, it shouldn’t make a difference.  Yes, I said it, there is actual talent here.  The results don’t show it and that is why this is head coach Marvin Lewis’ last year.  Expect the leaders on this team – quarterback Andy Dalton and wide-out AJ Green to expect their teammates to send their coach out with a win, against their division rival.  This is a team with nothing to lose, getting almost ten points and in a position to play spoiler against a division rival.  Who wouldn’t love the odds here!?

The Pick: Bengals +9.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

 

 

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