Staff picks, led by handicapper Vegas Vic, for this week’s NFL games:
Home team in CAPS
Eagles (-7.5) vs. GIANTS (O/U: 40), 1 p.m. (Fox)
Quick hit: The Giants have scored more than 17 points just once in their last seven games. They’re 1-5 at home and the average margin in those five losses has been by 18 points.
Eagles vs. spread: 10-3
Giants vs. spread: 5-8
Vegas Vic’s take: So sad. No more Wentz-sylvania. Now we move on to Foles-adelphia. We’ve seen Nick. We know Nick. We remember 2013. That was the last time the Birds had a taste of the playoffs. And it was one of the most amazing — let’s call it historic — QB seasons.
If you’re a little hazy on the stats, and have not seen them yet, Foles was 203-of-317 (64%) for 2,891 yards. It was a Pro Bowl selection as well, probably because of his touchdown to interception ratio. Foles had 27 TDs and only two interceptions.
And once again, if you’re hazy on the stats, Nick surpassed Tom Brady’s 2010 season when Tommy had 36 TDs and four picks. Simply the best TD/INT ratio in NFL history.
So yeah, it can be done with a backup. Just ask Minnesota. Thinking that the defense is gonna lead the charge early, get a lead, and maybe go a little conservative. Not thrilled about laying a TD and a hook, so would stay very light. Calling it for the Green, 22-14.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 12, 2017
LIONS (-5.5) vs. Bears (O/U: 43.5), 4:30 p.m. (NFLN)
Quick hit: Jordan Howard last week became the first Bears running back to run for 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. Here are the rushing totals for the first two years of some of the most prominent RBs in team history: Walter Payton had 679 yards as a rookie, 1,390 in his second season; Matt Forte 1,238, 929; Gale Sayers 867, 1,231. Howard has 1,313, 1,032.
Sure, Payton and Sayers played 14-game seasons, but Howard got his 1,032 in 13 games this year and got to 1,000 in 13 games last season, as well.
Bears vs. spread: 6-6-1
Lions vs. spread: 6-6-1
Vegas Vic’s take: Can not back a Detroit team that has covered only one of the last five at home (20%).
CHIEFS (-1) vs. Chargers (O/U: 46), 8:25 p.m. (NFLN)
Quick hit: The Chargers have won four in a row and covered four of their last five. The Chiefs last week broke four game losing streaks straight-up and ATS when they beat the Raiders. KC has won the last seven in this series.
Chargers vs. spread: 7-5-1
Chiefs vs. spread: 7-6
Vegas Vic’s take: KC as a home dog has me totally confused, so naturally, I’ll take a light lean to the Lightning Bolts.
PANTHERS (-3) Packers (O/U: 47), 1 p.m.
Quick hit: Carolina is coming off a solid win over Minnesota in which its defense had six sacks and forced three turnovers. Will be a fascinating matchup, especially with you-know-who coming back for Green Bay.
Packers vs. spread: 7-6
Panthers vs. spread: 8-4-1
Vegas Vic’s take: Would normally rock Aaron Rodgers as a dog, but not in his first game back.
|Ed Barkowitz||Panthers (Best Bet)|
|Marcus Hayes||Packers (Best Bet)|
VIKINGS (-10.5) vs. Bengals (O/U: 42), 1 p.m.
Quick hit: The last time these two played in Minnesota was in 2009 when Brett Favre and the Vikings rolled Carson Palmer and the Bengals, 30-10. The Vikes are 5-1 at home against the spread this year.
Bengals vs. spread: 7-6
Vikings vs. spread: 9-4
Vegas Vic’s take: Minny’s two-month spread run — covering seven of the last eight (88%) — has been phenomenal.
BILLS (-3) vs. Dolphins (O/U: 38.5), 1 p.m.
Quick hit: Mildly surprising that each of the last four games in this series have gone over, with the average being 44.5.
Dolphins vs. spread: 5-6-2
Bills vs. spread: 6-5-2
Vegas Vic’s take: If Tyrod Taylor is all systems go — and he sure looks that way — shuffle off with Buffalo.
JAGUARS (-11) vs. Texans (O/U: 39.5), 1 p.m.
Quick hit: Five of the six games Houston has played since DeShaun Watson tore his ACL have gone under. Jacksonville won the first meeting, in Week 1, 29-7.
Texans vs. spread: 7-6
Jaguars vs. spread: 8-5
Vegas Vic’s take: Jacksonville — or my new favorite nickname, Sacks-onville — is on the cusp of one of the most amazing turnarounds in NFL history. The Jags were pathetic last season (3-13) and now sit in the AFC South penthouse with a 9-4 record. What?
And it’s defense, baby. The Jax D is on the verge of a football triple crown. They lead the NFL in scoring defense (15.5 points), sacks (47) and takeaways (30).
According to NFL Research, no team since 1970 has finished a season leading the NFL in those three categories. So, basically, 11 should not be a problem.
SAINTS (-15) vs. Jets (O/U: 47.5), 1 p.m. (CBS)
Quick hit: The Saints haven’t been this big of a favorite since 2011 when they laid 13 to the Rams and lost outright. New Orleans is on a 5-0 run against the spread at home in 2017, however.
Jets vs. spread: 7-5-1
Saints vs. spread: 8-5
Vegas Vic’s take: Not in the habit of laying gigantic numbers, but in this spot, the chalk should be magic. Why? Because the Jets are coming to town with Bryce Petty at QB.
A little something on Petty. He was 2-for-9 last week for a grand total of 14 yards after Josh McCown broke his hand.
If you want some info on his last start, gotcha. It was Week 16 last season against the Patriots. Petty went down in the first quarter with a left shoulder injury after going 0-for-3 with an interception. New York was a 17-point underdog in that game, and wound up losing, 41-3.
Now, we have to lay only 15. And we’ve got the amazing Drew Brees slinging. Brees is on pace for the lowest interception total of his career, with just seven, and the best completion percentage (71.7) in NFL history.
Don’t know if the Jets will eat another bagel like last week against the Broncos (23-0), but I do know that this is the Best Bet.
REDSKINS (-4) vs. Cardinals (O/U: 42.5), 1 p.m.
Quick hit: Arizona’s Chandler Jones leads the NFL with 14 sacks, and has had at least one in 11 of 13 games. He needs three to break Simeon Rice’s 1999 team record.
Cardinals vs. spread: 4-8-1
Redskins vs. spread: 5-8
Vegas Vic’s take: Could care less about this ugly matchup and calling it our traditional “Monopoly money only” game.
Ravens (-7) vs. BROWNS (O/U: 40.5), 1 p.m.
Quick hit: The Ravens (7-6) will get into the playoffs by winning their final three. They finish at Cleveland (0-13) and home with Indianapolis (3-10) and Cincinnati (5-8). That’s a combined 8-31 for its opponents, so it would be an unpleasant surprise if Baltimore did not get in.
Ravens vs. spread: 7-5-1
Browns vs. spread: 3-10
Vegas Vic’s take: Baltimore is still in the hunt for a wild card, while Cleveland has one win — one win! — in the last 28 — 28! — games. Don’t think we need to really say anything else.
SEAHAWKS (-2.5) vs. Rams (O/U: 47.5), 4:05 p.m.
Quick hit: Russell Wilson’s 17 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter already are an NFL single-season record. Eli Manning’s 15 in 2011 had been the standard, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. The Eagles record is 10, set by Ron Jaworski in 1980.
Rams vs. spread: 8-5
Seahawks vs. spread: 5-7-1
Vegas Vic’s take: Los Angeles came up short at home in the first matchup back in October, losing, 16-10, as a one-point favorite when Cooper Kupp dropped a pass in the end zone. The rematch will be even tighter and could even be a mini-upset.
The Rams have covered seven of the last nine and get explosive WR Robert Woods back. Never easy to play up in Seattle, but the ‘Hawks have covered only two of the last seven at home, so we’re gonna buy a Goff.
|Les Bowen||Seahawks (Best Bet)|
Patriots (-3) vs. STEELERS (O/U: 53.5), 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Quick hit: In 12 starts against the Steelers, Tom Brady is 10-2 with 29 touchdown passes and three interceptions. But, in games in Pittsburgh, he’s a more human 5-2 with nine TDs and those three picks. You know who does have trouble in this game? The Oddsmakers. In the seven games Brady has played in Pittsburgh, the underdog has won outright five times.
Patriots vs. spread: 8-5
Steelers vs. spread: 6-7
Vegas Vic’s take: Tough to buck New England’s ridiculous 15-1 straight up road record and a 13-3 mark against the spread as a visitor.
|Jeff McLane||Patriots (Best Bet)|
Antonio Brown’s last four games
vs. TEN: 10 rec 144 yards 3 TDs
vs. GB: 10 rec 169 yards 2 TDs
@ CIN: 8 rec 101 yards 1 TD
vs. BAL: 11 rec 213 yards
— 360°FantasyFootball (@360FFB) December 11, 2017
49ERS (-1.5) vs. Titans (O/U: 44.5), 4:25 p.m.
Titans vs. spread: 5-7-1
49ers vs. spread: 7-6
Vegas Vic’s take: “Yo, Vic. How are the 3-10 Niners a small favorite over the 8-5 Tennessee club?” Easy. This is the era of Jimmy Garoppolo, who has hit on 46 of 70 for 627 yards in just two weeks on the job.
|Zach Berman||Titans (Best Bet)|
Cowboys (-3) vs. RAIDERS (O/U: 46), 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Quick hit: Call this the Mediocre Bowl, as 7-6 Dallas visits 6-7 Oakland for the first time since 2005. “I think the two of us probably expected to have a few more wins at this point in the year,” said Oakland coach Jack Del Rio. Ya think?
Cowboys vs. spread: 7-6
Raiders vs. spread: 4-8-1
Vegas Vic’s take: Last week, we said that Dallas was on the upswing and finally figured out a way to win without Ezekiel Elliott. Back-to-back Ws, 38-14 against Washington and 30-10 at the Giants confirmed my theory.
Dak Prescott was close to superb last week, hitting on 20 of 30 for 332 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, and a scorching 137.1 rating.
The Raiders have covered just two of the last 11, and there ain’t gonna be any silver lining up in the black hole in Oakland.
|Paul Domowitch||Cowboys (Best Bet)|
Falcons (-6) vs. BUCCANEERS (O/U: 48.5), 8:30 (ESPN)
Quick hit: Touchdown receptions for Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans for the first four seasons of his career: 12 in 2014, 3 in 2015, 12 in 2016, 4 this season … The only team worse against the spread than Tampa Bay is Cleveland (3-10) … The Falcons have won (and covered) four of their last five.
Falcons vs. spread: 6-7
Buccaneers vs. spread: 3-9-1
Vegas Vic’s take: If Atlanta can’t get past a Tampa club that has covered just one of the last 11, it’s time to close up shop.
Broncos (-2.5) COLTS (41)
Broncos 25, Colts 13: Brock Osweiler came off the bench to throw two touchdown passes and run for another as Denver handled host Indianapolis.
Entering Week 15