Here we are, the final week of the regular season. Remind me never to bet against the Bucs again (could the Saints be tanking it at a worse time?) It’s down to the wire now, and teams are either playing for their playoff lives (Pittsburgh, New York Giants), positioning (Cincy, New England, Dallas, Philly) or taking the week off (Colts)…again. So there’s plenty of drama before the real drama begins. Let’s hope it’s snowing somewhere this weekend.
Patriots are 7.5-point underdogs at Houston. This betting line perplexes me a little, as New England has not only shown that Brady has much of his chemistry back with his receivers again, but that the Pats still have something to play for. If not positioning, that to prove they belong at the top of the AFC discussion with the Colts and Chargers. Because in my book, on a good day, the Pats are still the best team in the AFC. The running game isn’t as steady as it has been in years’ passed, but its fully capable of keeping the opposing defenses honest if the offensive line can do its job long enough to give Brady some breathing room. The Texans are 8-7, and don’t scare anybody on either side of the ball with all apologies to Andre Johnson – it’s just not this team’s year. So I don’t quite get it. Bet the Pats to upset on the road.
Biggest game of the weekend in terms of rivalry, positioning and postseason implications is Philly at Dallas – with the Cowboys favored by a field goal. Now Dallas has shown some significant positives the last few weeks. Romo has found Witten again, the defense has been huge and the confidence of the entire team is brimming. They hadn’t beaten a single strong team until they toppled the Saints, and now might just be that club catching fire at the perfect time. Enough to get by the Vikings in the playoffs? Doubtful, but certainly enough to cover the line against a team that still feels it should play Brian Westbrook. Go with the hot hand and bet the Cowboys to cover.
And finally, the woeful Redskins visit the Chargers (aka the current “best” team in the AFC) as only a 5.5-point underdog? Geez, where to start here. How about, the Redskins are 4-11, on the road and their only win in their last six games is over Oakland. I’d feel comfortable betting the Chargers with a 15.5-point line. And can Clinton Portis just retire already? To the defense’s credit, they’ve given up more than 30 points only twice this year (one of those games in OT), so they can hold a team from exploding on offense, but with nobody to run the ball and weak receivers, even if Campbell is better than his stats show this year, it ultimately doesn’t matter. Not even pride is enough to keep this one close. That is, of course, unless the Chargers rest their entire team – which is a distinct possibility since they know where they’ll be once the playoffs start. Tough call for gamblers, but easier to avoid the game altogether.