Jason’s 2018-19 NFL picks record through Week 15: 8-13 ATS, 0-1 ML (minus-1.90 units), 4-5 Totals
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET (FOX)
Free NFL Pick: OVER
Best Line Offered: BetOnline
Week 17 is usually when everything goes crazy in the NFL. But why wait? They’re starting the insanity early in Charlotte; the Carolina Panthers opened as 3.5-point home favorites against the Atlanta Falcons, then they announced that QB Cam Newton would be shut down for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. Whoopsie. Now the Falcons are –2.5 on the NFL odds board as we go to press.
We love this kind of volatility here at the home office. When the lines start dancing, the betting public usually over-reacts with their NFL picks, giving us the profit margin we need. In this case, as you may have already noticed, we’re going with the over/under instead of the spread. Sunday’s total has dropped like a stone from 50.5 to 44 points – and we’re on the OVER like white on rice.
I’m Not Gonna Pay a Lot for This Quarterback
That’s partly because we have no interest in supporting the Falcons at 4-10 ATS. They’ve had a lousy year in general, partly due to injuries, and partly due to their league-worst defense; Football Outsiders have Atlanta at No. 32 overall in defensive efficiency, compared to No. 10 on offense. Besides, the consensus is eerily divided between the two teams, each pulling in an average bet of $74 at press time, with 54.55 percent of both bettors and the money on Atlanta.
In theory, we could go with Carolina ATS, expecting the public to go mental over Newton’s absence. Too bad the Panthers don’t have Derek Anderson and his giant feet to take care of this – Taylor Heinicke is the No. 2 pivot in Carolina this year, and he’ll be making his first NFL start on Sunday. Who the hell is Taylor Heinicke?
Blue and Silver, Worn With Pride
He’s no spring chicken. Heinicke played four full seasons at Old Dominion, as both quarterback and punter – gotta like that – and helped the Monarchs make the transition from the FCS to the FBS before going undrafted in 2015. Three different teams kicked the tires on Heinicke before the Panthers scooped him up in April; he got in one throw (and completed it) for the Houston Texans in Week 16 last year filling in for the concussed T.J. Yates, then suffered his own concussion and had to be taken out. On Christmas Day, no less.
We’re not saying Heinicke will make everyone forget about Newton. But against the league’s worst defense, on what the forecasts say will be a sunny afternoon in Charlotte? And with the Panthers still technically alive in the NFC Wild Card race? It’s worth a shot, and even if Heinicke can’t get it done, Matt Ryan will get his opportunity to ventilate the Panthers defense, which has also been disappointing this year. We’ll buy that for a dollar.