The Final Week: Sunday's NFL Picks (Early Games)

NFL Jan 01, 2021

Looks like we made it!  

The 2020 NFL regular season ends this Sunday.  

It's been an incredible, and most of us will agree – wildly unpredictable four months watching and betting on football.  But before the playoffs are about to begin, we still have one final week with a full slate of games.  A total of 16 games are happening, all played on Sunday.

Here's a look at each match-up in the early games (1 pm EST starting time), with opinions on both sides and totals.

Note that in last week's betting action, we split, going 6-6 on the day.  All lines and totals are based on numbers currently available at SPREADS.CA.  See those odds here:

Dallas at NY Giants – This is one of two games that will determine who wins the dreadful NFC East (Sunday's late game is the other – Washington at Philadelphia).  The Cowboys are certainly the hotter team at the moment, by far.  Dallas has won three straight games, coming back from the dead after being written off as a contender by just about everyone.  The defense has also played much better recently, though the Cowboys have faced weak competition. Unfortunately for the Giants, after upsetting Seattle nearly a month ago, these same NYG have dropped three straight games and have looked terrible, especially on offense.  While the Giants defense is capable of getting the win, there are way too many questions marks with the offensive unit to back the Giants.  Based on current form, it seems Dallas is the obvious play here, as the hotter and better team which is laying a small number.  Hard to argue with the obvious perceptions here, so we will take the Cowboys and lay the small number of points. Recommendation:  Dallas -1.5

Pittsburgh at Cleveland – The Steelers will rest most of their starters (including QB Roethlisberger) with nothing to play for here.  Meanwhile, the Browns have absolutely everything on the line (a playoff spot).  But they may be just as short-handed due to getting hit with COVID-related "injuries."  Cleveland turned into a punch line last week, losing to the lowly Jets.  Let's be honest – even with the WR corps out, this is a fraud of a team that is going nowhere, assuming they make the post-season.  They've even been outscored by their opponents this season, despite a misleading 10-5 record (remember this, in the first round of playoff games).  Still, the Steelers will be playing every backup on their bench including the waterboy this week and might just allow the Browns to get an easy win and cover.  So, the play here – if you don't want to lay the number given the Browns fragile situation -- is probably the UNDER, which has value based on the Pittsburgh offense having little to no motivation to put up points combined with the Cleveland offense, which might also not be at full strength.  Recommendation:  UNDER 42.5

Baltimore at Cincinnati – The Bengals have very quietly won their last two games (against Pittsburgh and Houston) and could be a dangerous opponent here.  But the Ravens are playing as well as any team in the league right now, aside from perhaps Buffalo.  The Bengals getting generous points should be worth look, since the Ravens may be content with an "ugly" win and some motivation to rest their best players in anticipation of what might be a first-round match-up against Buffalo.  It's hard to see why the Ravens would run up the score here or show much, hoping to just get out of rival Cincy with a win and stay healthy.  Meanwhile, the Bengals are playing for nothing but pride, yet have looked pretty good on both sides of the ball when nothing is expected of them.  Not much is expected of Cincy this week, so they are probably the correct pick. Recommendation:  Cincinnati +12.5

Atlanta at Tampa Bay – The Bucs better not take division rival Atlanta lightly, which is capable of the upset given how they're playing right now.  The snake-bit Falcons lost by 5 to New Orleans, then lost by 3 to LA Chargers, then lost by 4 to these same Bucs, then lost by 3 to Kansas City.  So, getting nearly a full touchdown with the spread looks quite generous.  Also, the number here is inflated because of Bucs easy win at Detroit 10 days ago but this doesn't take into account the Falcons, who haven't quite given up on their season, though they were out of the playoff race two months ago.  The dogs looks like a solid value here. Recommendation:  Atlanta +6,5

NY Jets at New England – Why is New England even favoured in this game?  The Patriots looked like a team that can't wait for their disappointing season to end, particularly in their MNF loss at home to Buffalo.  So, how are they going to get up emotionally for this contest?  Getting motivated for the Jets doesn't seem to fit the routine of a team that looks prepared for a busy offseason, with lots of decisions to make.  Certainly, Belichick's decision to start a young QB over Cam Newton indicates this is a trial game for the Patriots.  Meanwhile, the feisty Jets have won two straight games, and have covered in five of their last seven contests.  NY Jets getting +3 looks like a gift.  Play this and watch Jets win this one outright.  Recommendation:  NY Jets +3 and on the moneyline.

Minnesota at Detroit – This is as ugly any game as exists on the NFL schedule this season, but it still might provide us with a chance to get down a bet and make some money.  The Lions are expansion-level bad, given they have surrendered 41, 30, 31, 46, and 47 points their last five games.  Those are horrendous numbers and could have been worse except multiple opponents ook their foot of the gas later in the game.  I have no idea what the miserable Vikings will bring to this road finale and can't say that laying -6.5 inspires confidence.  Perhaps the OVER is worth a look given that both teams are a combined 19-11 to the OVER this season.  The total at 54 does look breakable, so that's the play if you have to bet this game.  Recommendation:  OVER 54

Miami at Buffalo – The big news came out during midweek that Dolphins aging wonder Ryan Fitzpatrick will miss this critical final game due to a COVID diagnosis, which now puts Miami into less certain territory with the inconsistent Tua under center.  Where is Tua's head after getting pulled in the 4th quarter last week?  Miami desperately needs the win here while Buffalo has little on the line to play for.  However, there's some thought that the Bills could tank here hoping to get Miami again next week in the first round of the playoffs.  Otherwise, they could end up hosting Baltimore, which looks far more dangerous.  Buffalo shows no signs of letting up streaking into the playoffs.  Miami was going to be the play, but now the UNDER might be the only viable option given the Dolphins offensive issues (without QB Fitzpatrick) combined with two defenses ranked near the top in most categories.  Recommendation:  UNDER 43

Coming Next:  Analysis and recommendation on Sunday's late games