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BRENNAN (NFL Week 18) BETS: Eagles dump Dallas, Niners upset Rams and a finish Madden would love


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BEST BETS

CHIEFS 11-5 at BRONCOS 7-9
LINE: Kansas City by 10 1/2
CHEWABLE: The Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs still have a chance at top seed in the AFC so they’ll be going full steam ahead in a bounce back from last week’s streak-ending loss to the Bengals, a rare bad day for the K.C defence. This sets up well for a redemption. Chiefs won their Week 13 meeting at Arrowhead 22-9 and that’s when Broncos had their best quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) in the lineup and Javonte Williams rushing for 102 yards. With a downgrade at QB (Drew Lock) piloting a weakened air attack, Williams managed just 30 yards on 14 carries in last week’s loss to the Chargers. Broncos have lost four of their last five because they’ve averaged 11 points in the games surrounding a 38-10 outburst versus the Lions. They’ll be lucky to reach double digits versus a team determined to go into the playoffs on a high.
TAKING: KANSAS CITY -10 1/2
SCORE: Chiefs 33, Broncos 10

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PACKERS 13-3 at LIONS 2-13-1
LINE: Green Bay by 3 1/2
CHEWABLE: Aaron Rodgers continues to raise eyebrows off the field as well as on it. This week he took umbrage against an NFL award voter who said he would not endorse the Packers QB as MVP because of his character. Rodgers thinks Hub Arkush’s problem with him has to do with the fact he’s not vaccinated, when maybe it’s because he lied about it. Anyway, Rodgers says he’s going to play in this meaningless game, and his team would like him to come back next season so nobody will deny him. Packers beat the Lions for a fifth straight time when they won 35-17 in Week 2. Rodgers career numbers against the Lions: 18-5, with 50 TD passes and eight picks.
TAKING: GREEN BAY -3 1/2
SCORE: Packers 30, Lions 12

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COLTS 9-7 at JAGUARS 2-14
LINE: Indianapolis by 15 1/2
CHEWABLE: Whatever is left of the Jaguars fanbase has grown this week to include supporters of the Steelers, Ravens, Chargers and Raiders, as an upset over the Colts would improve the playoff aspirations of all four teams, if just slightly. It’s not happening, even though the Colts have lost each of their last seven visits to Jacksonville, a streak that started with a 51-16 by the Blake Bortles-led Floridians on Dec. 13, 2015. Before their three-point loss to the Raiders last week, Colts were one of the hottest teams in the NFL. With Trevor Lawrence throwing two TD passes and eight picks in his last nine games, and with Jonathan Taylor making one final bid for the MVP award against the 25th ranked run defence, it’s easier to believe in the Easter Bunny than the Jaguars pulling off a miracle upset here. There’s always the possibility of the back door cover, but even the Colts backups should be able to handle the Jags.
TAKING: INDIANAPOLIS -15 1/2
SCORE: Colts 40, Jags 9

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THE REST

COWBOYS 11-5 at EAGLES 9-7
LINE: Dallas by 4 1/2
CHEWABLE: Question: Which of these playoff-bound teams has more to gain from a win? Answer: It’s a trick question, the answer is neither. Cowboys will almost surely settle in as the No. 4 seed regardless, and having lost WR Michael Gallup to injury it’s understandable if they’re nervous about losing another key piece to their on-again, off-again offence. Eagles will be seeded either 6 or 7 and hitting the road next week to either Tampa, Arizona, Dallas or L.A. to face the Rams. They could gain some confidence with a victory here even if it comes against a number of second-stringers. It would be Philadelphia’s first in seven games against an opponent with a winning record this season. Cowboys have also gone home empty-handed after their last two trips to Lincoln Financial Field, scoring a total of 18 points in the process.
TAKING: PHILADELPHIA +4 1/2
SCORE: Eagles 27, Dallas 24

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BENGALS 10-6 at BROWNS 7-9
LINE: Cleveland by 6
CHEWABLE: The big number has less to do with the past, and the fact the Browns have won the last three meetings while scoring a total of 113 points, than it does with the present and future. Neither team will use its banged-up starting quarterback, with Case Keenum stepping in for Baker Mayfield and Brandon Allen getting the call so Joe Burrow can avoid further damage to his knee and finger before the playoffs. Bengals will also be without RB Joe Mixon, the NFL’s second-leading rusher, after he tested positive this week. There’s no telling who else they might limit or rest because they’ve clinched the division title and have nothing at stake. Browns will try to save a little face in front of the disappointed inhabitants of the Dawg Pound.
TAKING: CLEVELAND -6
SCORE: Browns 24, Bengals 17

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BEARS 6-10 at VIKINGS 7-9
LINE: Minnesota by 5 1/2
CHEWABLE: While Boomer Esiason says Matt Nagy has already been informed this is his last game as Bears coach, it’s believed Mike Zimmer will also be unemployed as of Monday. Chicago has played well in winning the last two games with Nick Foles then Andy Dalton at quarterback. Justin Fields was named the starter for the finale, but he wound up on the COVID-reserve list Thursday. Vikings faded out of contention by going 2-4 in the last six — a stretch which includes a 17-9 victory at Soldier Field in Week 15 — and with Kirk Cousins back from COVID-reserve, they’re not likely to go out with their first three-game losing streak of the season. Bears are 3-9 as an underdog and that trend should continue too, but expect that they’ll continue to play hard for Nagy and that this will be Minnesota’s seventh game decided by a field goal or less.
TAKING: CHICAGO +5 1/2
SCORE: Vikings 24, Bears 21

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WASH. 6-10 at GIANTS 4-12
LINE: Washington by 7
CHEWABLE: Washington will try to hit the seven-win mark for the second and final season as the Football Team which, before the 3-13 mark in 2019, is consistent with 2017 and 2018 finish. What the boys from D.C. won’t have is a chance to build on a playoff game losing streak that sits at five, dating back to a 17-10 victory over the Bucs in the 2005 wildcard. Interesting, Tampa also represents the last time the Football Team won a game by as many points as they are being asked to win this one. Since that startlingly 29-19 victory over the Bucs in Week 10, Washington has a six-point victory and two by a pair, followed by the current four-game losing streak that has led to a seat on the sidelines for the playoffs. Giants started the season poorly, losing three straight out of the gate, and are ending it worse. They’ve lost four in a row and scored more than 13 points once in their last seven.
TAKING: N.Y. GIANTS +7
SCORE: Wash. 17, Giants 13

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STEELERS 8-7-1 at RAVENS 8-8
LINE: Baltimore by 6
CHEWABLE: Not sure why there’s such support for the Ravens, who have lost their last five games while spiralling out of the playoff picture and, as of now, look like they’ll be without Lamar Jackson for the fourth in a row. Tyler Huntley has proven to be a decent option, but the Ravens have a number of issues, including a pass defence that ranks as the worst in the league. Theoretically, that should be a parting gift for Ben Roethlisberger, but numbers-wise the Steelers QB appears to be getting an early start on retirement. Somehow he managed to have a 2.7 yards per attempt average while completing 24 passes in last Monday’s Heinz Field swan song, and this week he’s unlikely to have as much help from Najee Harris, who rambled for 188 yards against the Browns. What the Ravens do have is the best run defence in the league.
TAKING: PITTSBURGH +6
SCORE: Ravens 13, Steelers 10

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TITANS 11-5 at TEXANS 4-12
LINE: Tennessee by 10
CHEWABLE: Derrick Henry hasn’t played since Halloween and he’s still sixth in league rushing with 937 yards. If he does suit up Sunday, he probably won’t overtake Jonathan Taylor or reach the 2,000 yard plateau again — probably — but what better way to get back into the flow then against the Texans, who have the worst run defence in the league while giving up an average of 143.4 yards per game. Texans have showed some fight by winning two of their last three, but Tennessee is a very well-coached team with a shot at top seed in the AFC. Houston will be crying “no mas” midway through the third quarter.
TAKING: TENNESSEE -10
SCORE: Titans 38, Texans 12

SAINTS 8-8 at FALCONS 7-9
LINE: New Orleans by 4 1/2
CHEWABLE: Excuse Tom Brady and the Bucs if they’re quietly pulling for the home team to pull off the upset, since New Orleans can get into the playoffs with a win (and Niners loss) and Tampa hasn’t beaten the Saints in two seasons. Saints have a great defence, led by sack specialist Cam Jordan, and an offensively dangerous 1-2 punch of Alvin Kamara-Taysom Hill. Falcons are worse than their record indicates, which is testament to first-year coach Arthur Smith. Quarterback Matt Ryan has a better reputation than numbers. He hasn’t thrown more than one touchdown pass in a game in his last eight outings. Saints have won their last three games in Atlanta and six of the last eight meetings overall and three of their last four to get to this point.
TAKING: NEW ORLEANS -4 1/2
SCORE: Saints 21, Falcons 10

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JETS 4-12 at BILLS 10-6
LINE: Buffalo by 16 1/2
CHEWABLE: Bills need this game to clinch the division title for a second year in a row and to own home field advantage in an anticipated wildcard showdown with their arch-nemesis from New England. And they will win it. But it won’t be easy. For whatever reason, Josh Allen has had his hands full with the Jets, winning four of six games while throwing only five TD passes and five interceptions. Bills tap-danced on the Jets to the tune of 45-17 in Week 10, but they were helped by four interceptions off backup quarterback Mike White. Rookie second overall pick Zach Wilson hasn’t thrown an interception in four games and he went toe-to-toe with Brady in a 28-24 loss last week. It was the Jets’ third decent game in a row and head coach Robert Saleh will push another a fourth out of them on Sunday. Either way, the spread is too juicy to pass up.
TAKING: N.Y. JETS +16 1/2
SCORE: Bills 37, Jets 21

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PATRIOTS 10-6 at DOLPHINS 8-8
LINE: New England by 6 1/2
CHEWABLE: Dolphins had their balloon popped last week in Nashville, where their seven-game winning streak and playoff hopes came to an end in 34-3 loss to the Titans. It took a lot of work for them to erase the 1-7 start and now that it’s over it would be understandable if they’re mentally drained. Patriots, on the other hand, are just gearing up for the playoffs and still hold out hope, however unlikely it may be, of taking the division title. Miami won the season opener 17-16 in Foxborough, but that was also the NFL debut of Mack Jones, who snapped out of a funk with a three-TD game in last week’s 50-10 victory over Jacksonville. If you think Tua Tagovailoa can rally the troops and finish this topsy-turvy season (and possibly his career as a Dolphin) on a high, ask yourself this: when was the last time Bill Belichick’s team was swept in a season series by an inferior division rival?
TAKING: NEW ENGLAND -6 1/2
SCORE: Patriots 28, Dolphins 7

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PANTHERS 5-11 at BUCS 12-4
LINE: Tampa Bay by 8
CHEWABLE: How much are the Bucs looking forward to ending the Antonio Brown conversation and getting back on the field? How anxious are they to show their support of the coach that led them to a Super Bowl win amid allegations Brown’s spat with Arians stemmed from his bitterness over not getting enough targets? And what an interesting twist of fate it would be if Brown’s old running mate in Pittsburgh, Le’Veon Bell, parlayed an opportunity against the Panthers into a role in the Bucs playoff run. With nothing concrete to play for, the defending champs should use this tuneup to get Brady in sync with Tyler Johnson and Cyril Grayson. Panthers have horrible offence but still rank No. 2 in total yards against. At the same time, they’ve also lost their last six games, including a 32-6 schooling by Tampa two weeks ago, and surely can’t wait for this season to end.
TAKING: TAMPA BAY -8
SCORE: Bucs 27, Panthers 13

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NINERS 9-7 at RAMS 12-4
LINE: L.A. Rams by 4 1/2
CHEWABLE: Big quarterback questions for both sides in the weekend’s most interesting game, with the Niners needing a win to make the playoffs and the Rams needing one to take the division crown. Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to start for the Niners, but with torn ligaments in the thumb on his throwing hand, will he remain a better choice than rookie Trey Lance? Meanwhile, despite winning five straight, Rams QB Matthew Stafford is struggling with five touchdown passes and six interceptions in his last three games. Can he pull it together against the No. 5-ranked pass defence? Consider this: Niners have won the last five meetings between the teams, including a 31-10 spanking in Week 10. Both teams have plenty of star power on both sides of the ball, but with a healthy Elijah Mitchell producing along the ground to compliment Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, the Niners will become the third team from the NFC West to reserve a spot in the post-season.
TAKING: SAN FRANCISCO +4 1/2
SCORE: Niners 30, Rams 27

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SEAHAWKS 6-10 at CARDS 11-5
LINE: Arizona by 6 1/2
CHEWABLE: Cards coach Kliff Kingsbury admits he’d rather not play the Cowboys in the wild card game — after his team ended a three-game slump with a 25-22 victory over them last week — because “it’s tough to beat anybody twice in this league.” To avoid Dallas, Arizona has to win this one and hope the Rams lose, which is how we think this race is going to unfold. Russell Wilson’s finger looked fin

e in last week’s 51-point outburst against Detroit, but he’s already said his so long to Seahawks fans and there’s more at stake for the playoff-bound Cards, who were on top of a 23-13 final between the teams in Week 11,

TAKING: ARIZONA -6 1/2

SCORE: Cards 30, Seahawks 21

CHARGERS 9-7 at RAIDERS 9-7
LINE: L.A. Chargers by 3
CHEWABLE: A classic win-and-in scenario for both teams in the finale of the 2021 regular season — unless of course both are in a position to tie for a spot in the post-season tournament, which could create a wildly controversial finish. Raiders could receive a big boost with the return of TE Darren Waller. Led by Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler, Chargers scored a 28-14 win in their Week 4 meeting, but only have a victory over the offensively challenged Broncos to show for their last three games. Raiders have won their last three games. We see them paying the ultimate tribute to their former coach, the great John Madden, by sneaking into the playoffs.
TAKING: LAS VEGAS +3
SCORE: Chargers 24, Raiders 24

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