If big money is sharp money, then the sharps are putting the biggest road dogs of Week 17 into their NFL picks. That includes the Cleveland Browns, now that Johnny Football won’t be playing quarterback.
Jason’s record after Week 16: 38-52-1 ATS, 19-28-1 Totals
It’s time to put the 2014 NFL regular season on an ice floe and set it adrift. There’s just one week left to go before the playoffs, and it’s everyone’s favorite week for making NFL picks (sarcasm alert), Week 17. Who’s starting? Who’s sitting? Does anybody really care? If you’re a sharp NFL handicapper, of course you care about these things. So we’re going to ride your coattails this week and try to get through Sunday’s Bizarro World unscathed.
We do this by reading the consensus reports to suss out where the sharps are betting. By the time the weekend approaches, we’ve usually collected enough survey data to see which teams are drawing the most money. The bigger the average bet, the more likely that team is a sharp pick – because casual fans tend to bet smaller, for recreational purposes. Let’s do this.
This week’s biggest average bets as we go to press are on a pair of double-digit road dogs. The Jacksonville Jaguars (+10.5, –130 on our NFL odds) are pulling in $461 per bet for their early matinee (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX) against the Houston Texans, while the Cleveland Browns (+14.5, –135) are good for $409 a pop in their matchup with the Baltimore Ravens.
Back-up quarterbacks are heavily involved in both games. The Texans (8-7 SU, 9-5-1 ATS) are still in the AFC Wild Card hunt, but thanks to a spate of injuries, their future is in the hands of Case Keenum (74.2 career passer rating), who was picked up off the scrap heap last week. At least he’s somewhat familiar with the Texans after starting eight games for them in 2013. But Keenum wasn’t very good in last week’s 25-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens (–6.5 away).
How not very good? Try No. 25 out of all the starting quarterbacks from Week 16. That’s according to the efficiency stats at Football Outsiders, where Keenum (20-of-42 for 145 yards, zero TDs and one INT) posted minus-36 Total DYAR. Granted, that was better than Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles at No. 29 overall (minus-74 DYAR), but Keenum was still bad enough to kill whatever betting value Houston was carrying into Sunday’s contest.
It Was in the Bleak December
In our other featured game, it’s the underdogs who will be dipping into their deep reserves. The Browns (7-8 SU, 8-5-2 ATS) have elevated Connor Shaw form the practice squad, following injuries to both Johnny Manziel (hamstring) and Brian Hoyer (shoulder). Shaw went undrafted this year out of South Carolina, where he played receiver as a sophomore, then switched positions and did quite well at quarterback.
As with Houston, the Ravens (9-6 SU, 7-7-1 ATS) are fighting for their AFC playoff lives, although Baltimore needs a lot less help to sneak into a Wild Card spot. It looks like it’ll be a rainy and miserable Sunday at The Bank; rain tends to lower-scoring games, and lower-scoring games make it more difficult for giant chalk to cover.
Mr. Grant’s Office
Then again, not all double-digit road dogs are created equal. The St. Louis Rams are getting 13.5 points (–125) when they visit the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX), with more rain in the forecast. But according to our expanded consensus reports at press time, the action is both light and even on both teams.
Blame it on the Seahawks and their five-game winning streak at 4-0-1 ATS. A win for Seattle (11-4 SU, 8-6-1 ATS) will clinch at least a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. The Rams (6-9 SU, 7-8 ATS) have nothing left to play for this year after dropping back-to-back games SU and ATS at home. As a result, the average bet for both teams is hovering around $50. Low rollers, baby.