Jan 14, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) walks off the field after losing in the 2024 NFC wild card game against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys, Texans road favorites Week 1

More than three months before Week 1 of the 2024 NFL season, the Cowboys and Texans are among the early-line favorites on the first Sunday of the regular season.

Dallas is a two-point favorite at Cleveland and the Texans are giving a point at Indianapolis.

Circa Sports published its Week 1 lines on Friday afternoon with the Cincinnati Bengals leading the way as the largest favorite — nine points over the New England Patriots. The Buffalo Bills (-7.5) are the only other team giving more than five points in the opener.

The first game of the regular season, Super Bowl ring night at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, has the Chiefs set at 2.5-point favorites over the Baltimore Ravens.

A rematch of the NFC divisional playoffs in Detroit between the Lions and Rams features the highest projected point total at 50.5.

The full lineup for Week 1 with odds and point totals (over-under) from Circa Sports:

Thursday, Sept. 5
Baltimore at Kansas City (-2.5, 47.5)

Friday, Sept. 6 (Brazil)
Green Bay vs Philadelphia (-1, 48.5)

Sunday, Sept. 8
Jacksonville at Miami (-3, 49)
Pittsburgh at Atlanta (-2.5, 43)
Minnesota at NYG (-1.5, 41)
Carolina at New Orleans (-5, 40)
New England at Cincinnati (-9, 42.5)
Tennessee at Chicago (-4.5, 43.5)
Arizona at Buffalo (-7.5, 48)
Houston (-1, 48) at Indianapolis
Las Vegas at LA Chargers (-3.5, 43)
Washington at Tampa Bay (-4, 41.5)
Denver at Seattle (-5, 41)
Dallas (-2, 44) at Cleveland
LA Rams at Detroit (-3.5, 50.5)

Monday, Sept. 9
NY Jets at San Francisco (-5, 44.5)

–Field Level Media

Feb 10, 2024; Las Vegas, NV, USA; The BetMGM Sportsbook at the MGM Grand Las Vegas. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Record $185.6M wagered in Nevada on Super Bowl

Bettors set a record by wagering $185.6 million on Sunday’s Super Bowl at Nevada’s sportsbooks.

Unaudited figures were released Tuesday for Kansas City’s 25-22 overtime win against San Francisco.

The amount eclipsed the state’s previous high for a Super Bowl, set in 2022, by nearly $6 million, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Nevada’s 182 sportsbooks recorded a $6.8 million win on the game, per the figures obtained by ESPN.

The Chiefs’ victory over the 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII came in the first Super Bowl ever held in Las Vegas.

–Field Level Media

Feb 11, 2024; Paradise, Nevada, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) is pressured by Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (95) in the second half in Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

49ers expected to bounce back, open as Super Bowl LIX favorites

Although they came up just short this year, the San Francisco 49ers have been installed as the early favorites to win their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history in 2025.

San Francisco held a 19-16 lead with 1:53 remaining in regulation on Sunday, but it coughed it up, going on to fall 25-22 in overtime to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII.

However, sportsbooks are banking on the 49ers to bounce back, with FanDuel giving them the shortest odds (+450) to go all the way next season. BetMGM has San Francisco listed at +500, and DraftKings has it at +550.

Of course, Kansas City isn’t far behind.

Super Bowl champions in three of the past five years, the Chiefs have the second-shortest odds of continuing their dynasty. Kansas City lands at +650 on DraftKings, +700 on BetMGM and +750 on FanDuel.

If the Niners were to take home next year’s Lombardi Trophy, they would be tied with the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl victories in league history. The Chiefs will be gunning for their fifth title.

The Baltimore Ravens (+850 at BetMGM, +900 at FanDuel and DraftKings), who fell to Kansas City in this year’s AFC Championship Game, have the third-best odds of winning Super Bowl LIX.

Both BetMGM and FanDuel are offering the Lions and Bills at +1200. Detroit was eliminated by San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game and comes in at +1200 on DraftKings, which is also listing Buffalo at +950.

At +25000 at all three aforementioned books, the Carolina Panthers have the longest odds of winning the Super Bowl in 2025.

The Patriots (+20000 at BetMGM, +15000 at FanDuel, +10000 at DraftKings), Tennessee Titans (+15000, +15000, +15000) and Washington Commanders (+15000, +15000, +10000) also shouldn’t have their sights set on some hardware, per the books.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2023; Frankfurt, Germany, ;  Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) reacts to fans before an NFL International Series game against the Miami Dolphins at Deutsche Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl novelty props range from anthem length to proposals

The Super Bowl’s attractive novelty prop betting market has found its perfect over-the-top match: Las Vegas.

The narratives are firmly in place long before kickoff Feb. 11, when the Kansas City Chiefs meet the San Francisco 49ers in Sin City’s first Super Bowl.

The props that stir sports-betting fans’ interest are those that have a perceived edge to be uncovered. It’s seen by some as an opportunity to play detective — maybe a team manager leaked his or her team’s choice for the color of Gatorade — and lock in a bet that has nothing to do with the football game.

As a disclaimer: Not all states with licensed sportsbooks allow all (or any) of the novelty prop bets discussed below.

The Gatorade bath

This one has its roots in the 1987 Super Bowl when New York Giants coach Bill Parcells was drenched following his team’s victory over the Denver Broncos. The tradition didn’t really stick until 2001, when it began a run of attention that remains today.

Last year’s Super Bowl, won by Kansas City, saw Chiefs coach Andy Reid doused with purple Gatorade — a long shot anywhere from +800 to +1900 at various sportsbooks.

This Super Bowl LVIII matchup features two teams with red as a primary color. But is red Gatorade the favorite? Nope. Sportsbooks have almost unanimously opened the betting with purple as the favorite to repeat.

A sample of odds shows purple at +225 (DraftKings) and +275 (BetMGM), with yellow/green second.

DraftKings then lists orange third and blue, red, clear/water and “no Gatorade shower” filling out the top seven options.

BetMGM believes in blue, a co-favorite with purple, followed by yellow/green and then a tie between red and orange, with clear and “no shower” rounding it out.

We’re still tempted to roll with red, a +500 outsider at both aforementioned sportsbooks.

National anthem time

If you love the pregame hype, entertainment and activity leading up to kickoff, surely you can be coaxed into predicting the length of a given singer’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Yes, the time it takes to sing the national anthem has become a conversation piece — and a bet whose outcome is predicated entirely on the whims of the singer.

This year’s performer, country legend Reba McEntire, has a track record of relatively quick national anthem performances, and the most common number sits at about a minute, 30 seconds.

According to research from TheLines.com, the longest McEntire anthem available via YouTube is only a minute and 23 seconds.

If you can find the prop at north of 1:30, it may be worth a little investment.

Words, words, words

A prop that gradually has gained more attention over the past few decades is the content of the postgame speech.

If these props were around in the 1960s, Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr, MVP of Super Bowls I and II, certainly would have hit one of these favorites in the immediate on-field aftermath.

Odds and markets such as these from BetMGM below (posted for use at BetMGM in Ontario, Canada, only) are available at many offshore sportsbooks, as well as from some licensed sportsbooks in North America.

Who will be mentioned first in MVP Speech?

God/Religious Figure -150
Teammates +250
Coach +1100
Team Organization +1400
Family +1800
Fans +2000

Another opportunity for the amateur detective. Anyone see the setlist for the halftime performance?

Here are the BetMGM odds (these specific numbers available only in Ontario) for “Halftime Show — Usher’s First Song Performed.”

“Yeah!” +225
“My Way” +225
“DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” +500
“Love in This Club” +600
“OMG” +800
“Boyfriend” +1100
“Superstar” +1100
“Burn” +1200
“Good Good” +1800
“My Boo” +2000

More on the menu

Other options across the silly-bet landscape include whether NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be shown more than once on the CBS broadcast. Seems like better than even money, but it’s difficult to place real money on the whims of the TV production crew.

How about the Super Bowl commercials? A couple of iconic advertisers, Coors and BMW, are part of a prop market asking which will be the first ad to air.

We have the national anthem props, as well as what player will be shown first during Post Malone’s singing of “America the Beautiful,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce or 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey. (Kelce is favored anywhere from -200 to -300 at offshore sportsbooks.)

Finally, as everyone knows, there’s a certain celebrity who’s aiming to make it to the big game to support her boyfriend. The prop offers approximate -300 odds on “no” to the question of whether any player will propose to his girlfriend on the field after the game.

Kelce’s music superstar girlfriend, Taylor Swift, is expected to be in the building.

But a bet on “yes” at +210? Really? Not to be a wet blanket here, but even in the crazy world of Super Bowl novelty props, this seems highly unlikely.

–Field Level Media

Jan 20, 2024; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) reacts after running past for Houston Texans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (98) for a touchdown during the fourth quarter  in a 2024 AFC divisional round game at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson, Lions serve as popular bets heading into title games

There has been little movement from the opening lines to the current spread in the AFC and NFC Championship games on Sunday.

The top-seeded Ravens opened as 3- and 3.5-point favorites by DraftKings and BetMGM, respectively, over the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game in Baltimore. The line currently resides at 4.5 by both sportsbooks in favor of the Ravens, who are being backed by 59 percent of the bets and 72 percent of the handle at BetMGM.

BetMGM had the opening line and current spread staying level in the NFC Championship Game. with the top-seeded San Francisco 49ers serving as a 7-point favorite over the visiting Detroit Lions. DraftKings, however, saw its opening line of 6.5 jump to 7.5 in favor of the 49ers.

The betting public, however, is supporting the Lions, with the spread attracting 71 percent of the bets and 58 percent of the handle at BetMGM.

“The Lions are the most bet team to win and cover in the conference championship games,” said Christian Cipollini, trading manager, BetMGM. “BetMGM will be cheering for the 49ers on Sunday.”

As for player props, BetMGM noted the most bet (tickets) player props included Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson with over 64.5 rushing yards and 49ers wideout Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle over 75.5 and 58.5 receiving yards, respectively. All three are listed at -135.

BetMGM has Jackson (+100), Kittle (+115) and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (+115) as favorites to score a touchdown, while DraftKings has Jackson (+105), Lions rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs (+115) and Kelce (+120).

–Field Level Media

Baltimore Ravens Jadeveon Clowney linebacker (24) pressures Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

AFC Divisional Playoffs: C.J. Stroud, Patrick Mahomes and inspired road dogs

OK, OK, C.J. Stroud, we get it. You’re not a rookie anymore.

Leading the Houston Texans to a rout of the Cleveland Browns, Stroud bucked all the rookie-QB-in-the-playoffs trends, and did so convincingly.

And this showing came the NFL’s league-leading defense in the regular season. Cleveland allowed a league-best 270 yards per game — almost 20 yards fewer than the next-best team.

Is that enough to forge a winning play in this matchup with the AFC No. 1 seed in Baltimore?

Read on for our main AFC play and a bonus bet along with a player prop.


Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
When: Saturday.
Time, TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC.
Odds: Ravens -9.5, total 43.5.

Reasons to bet the Texans against the AFC No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens must include more than just the eye test.

The odds-on NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite, Stroud leads the Texans into this divisional round matchup as 9.5-point underdogs.

The Ravens are led by odds-on NFL MVP favorite Lamar Jackson, who is not infallible.

Over the past three seasons as a favorite of 3.5 points or more, he’s 6-16 ATS. It’s even worse when applying Saturday’s line.

Jackson is 1-8 ATS when leading a favorite of 7.5 points or more. Maybe he just enjoys a close game.

His playoff history is checkered, to put it kindly:

2018, lost to Chargers, 78.8 rating
2019, lost to Titans, 63.2 rating
2021, beat the Titans, 74.8 rating (Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill posted an 83 rating)
2021, Lost to Bills, 61.5 rating
2022, Did not play, injured.

Jackson is a true talent — the league MVP again very likely — and his legs might prove the difference Saturday.

But his playoff stats are what they are: a 1-3 record with three touchdown passes, five interceptions and a 55.9 completion percentage.

So if you’re talking perceived pressure, it’s all on Jackson and the Ravens; Stroud and the Texans come in waving wads of house money.

Here come the supporting (if selective) statistics to back our position:

Home favorites are just 42 percent against the spread (ATS) during the divisional round according to Action Network numbers over the past 20 years.

The No. 1 seeds are 35% ATS, and, fitting our narrative, if narrowly, are 10-25-1 ATS (29 percent) when they are favored by 10 points or fewer.

The most comfortable fit among the trends favoring Houston, however, is the “we don’t know any better” angle.

The Texans missed last season’s playoffs.

The Texans are the road team.

The Texans are rolling.

Per Action Network: Road teams that missed last year’s playoffs are 27-13 ATS (68 percent) in the past 40 divisional round games.

The bet: Texans +9.5.


Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills, Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS
(Consensus line: Bills -2.5)

Quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills have fought through must-win games for weeks. The mentality suits them well, as you can see by Buffalo hosting a division-round game.

Counterpart Patrick Mahomes has led a flawed offense most of the season and plays his first ever true road playoff game (no, Super Bowls don’t count).

This is not likely to be the aerial show of past iterations. We’re expecting more running plays and a tight contest. Mahomes has the stats to back up the oddsmakers’ number.

Mahomes is a guy who rarely needs extra fuel, but when his team is an underdog, watch out. He’s 7-3 when the Chiefs are the underdog, and 8-1-1 in those games against the spread.

He’s not likely to be on the short end of a blowout.

In their meeting earlier this season in Kansas City, the teams combined for 37 points.

Buffalo’s defense, dented by injury as a team can be, has actually performed better in recent weeks. We’ll allow that holding down the Steelers offense is no great accomplishment.

The Chiefs have been under the posted game totals in five of their past six games.

The bet: Tease two-leg parlay, Chiefs +7.5 with the under 51.5 (-125 a DraftKings).


There’s no questioning the competitiveness of these QBs. They will exhaust every option Sunday, and will eagerly tuck it and run. Let’s exploit that fearlessness.

The bet: Two-leg parlay, Josh Allen 30 or more rushing yards with Patrick Mahomes 25 or more rushing yards (-110 at BetMGM).

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Wild-card Weekend Betting: Preview, Prediction and Picks

The NFL playoffs kick off Saturday and run through Monday night as the league spreads the wealth for its fans.

Speaking of spreads, that Buffalo line feels a little high. And that Rams-Lions matchup just might have the wrong team favored.

See how this primary wager developed, along with a bonus play and a player prop below.


Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills (-10), 1 p.m. ET on CBS
Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions (-3), 8 p.m. ET on NBC

We will use adjusted lines to produce a two-leg parlay on this pair of playoff games.

First up: The case for a closer-than-expected, bad-weather matchup between flawed teams.

By now, sports-betting fans are not fooled by the Buffalo Bills. This is a flashy-looking team with middling results that needed a punt return TD to help win its Week 18 game in Miami.

Josh Allen is an elite quarterback who will throw into small windows and risk interceptions. His legs provide the extra element in his array of tools; there’s no doubt he’s entertaining to watch.

The issue is whether his Bills can maintain an adequate ground attack, which should be an easier task against the Steelers’ addled defense (all-world linebacker TJ Watt is injured and will miss Sunday’s game).

But Pittsburgh has prospered by using a cold-weather offense with running back Najee Harris’ physical presence leading the ground attack. This not only will provide some scoring opportunities, but also will help shorten the game — and lessen the chances for a blowout.

It’s been snowing all week in Buffalo and flurries are expected Sunday, but the wind gusts of 20-30 miles per hour would conspire to keep Allen somewhat grounded.

Buffalo is good enough to pound out a victory; the Steelers gained only 289 yards last week against a Baltimore Ravens team resting its top defensive players.

Against all odds, though, Mason Rudolph has quarterbacked Pittsburgh to some success the past few weeks and isn’t likely to be rattled by playoff pressure.

Pressure is something the Lions will say has no effect on their Sunday matchup with the Rams, but LA knows about Detroit QB Jared Goff.

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has plenty of research and options to exploit Goff’s shortcomings.

The LA offense, though, has been a shining reason for the Rams’ 7-1 record to close the regular season.

Matthew Stafford is the better QB in this matchup, Kyren Williams is the top running back and although Detroit’s Amon-Ra St. Brown is arguably the top talent at wide receiver, the Rams’ receiver room is the better of the two teams.

Cooper Kupp has seen his health and production improve, and LA has benefited from a shocking rookie season from Puka Nacua. There are just too many options for the Lions to handle.

Want trends? According to Action Network, home teams winning their last game in the regular season by 10 points or fewer — as Detroit did — stand 17-30-3 (36 percent) against the spread (ATS) in their first playoff game (trend covers the past 20 years).

The Rams have to feel as if they are playing with house money. The Lions have to feel excited just to be back in the playoffs, along with a mix of anxious desperation to please a very hungry city without a home playoff win in 30 years.

On that note, home playoff teams that failed to make the prior season’s playoffs are only 13-29 (31 percent) ATS in the first playoff game.

The bet: Two-leg parlay featuring adjusted line, the Steelers +17.5 with the Rams +7.5 (-118 at DraftKings.)


“I so badly want to win a playoff game for this city, that hasn’t had one in so long. That’s so much more important than anything personally for me.”

–Lions quarterback Jared Goff


Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:15 p.m. ET Monday.
Eagles -3, total 44

The Eagles are grasping for an explanation; the Bucs have a banged-up quarterback.

Baker Mayfield is preparing to play through ankle and rib injuries for Tampa Bay against Philadelphia, which went 1-5 to finish the season.

This Monday game provides dessert after a five-course NFL weekend meal, but it’s not terribly tasty. In fact, the play here is to fade the excitement.

A trend to spotlight comes from the laboratory at Vegas Insider, which found this game’s total to have encouraged enough “under” betting action to qualify.

The past season and a half, when 56 percent or more of the money is showing up on the “under,” the bet has a mark of 45-29 ATS (60.8 percent) to the “under.”

It’s not just sharp money, either. The number of bets (at 56 percent or better), too, brought a record of 35-22 (61.4 percent) to the under.

Both “under” stats were qualifying as of Thursday.

The bet: Eagles-Buccaneers UNDER 44.


Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will gladly try to shove Harris down the Bills’ throats.

If the wind kicks up in Buffalo, this will be an even better option. Grab the “over” 15.5 carries as soon as you can.

Prop play: Steelers running back Najee Harris “over” 15.5 carries. (-114 at FanDuel.)

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2024; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) warms up during a timeout against the Texas Longhorns in the 2024 Sugar Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan vs. Washington: National championship preview, picks and prediction

Date, time: Monday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Site: NRG Stadium, Houston.
Line: Michigan -4.5; total 56.5 (FanDuel).

The path for Michigan and Washington has been anything but easy. Iron sharpens iron and all that.

In the final season of the four-team playoff, there’s little doubt the committee nailed this group, right down to the seeding.

Oddsmakers have seized on the size and quality of Michigan’s offensive line, and perhaps again are mildly disrespecting the talent and schemes of the Huskies offense.

Ever try to predict the behavior of a bunch of 18-to-22-year-olds? Not easy.

Michael Penix Jr., who would have won the Heisman Trophy if stone-cold victories mattered more, is oblivious to pressure. He did win the Maxwell Award as college football’s best player, so that’s not nothing.

His award-winning offensive line has a true test Monday night, but Penix showed he’s not averse to tucking and running in the Sugar Bowl victory over Texas.

Penix can move laterally in the pocket, too, and his NFL-bound receivers — most notably Rome Odunze — have consistently proved that no moment is too big for them.

Is Washington 4 1/2 points inferior to Michigan? It’s gotta feel like deja vu to Huskies fans, who have played the disrespect card all season.

Texas was a 3.5-point favorite in the Sugar Bowl, but according to Action Network figures, Washington had 66 percent of the bets and 64 percent of the money backing them to cover.

And the sportsbooks didn’t do well against the public, which placed 74 percent of moneyline bets on the Huskies to win outright.

We can’t get past the Penix factor. He threw for 4,648 yards and 35 touchdowns this season, including a dynamic performance against Texas, hitting 29 of 38 pass attempts for 430 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Washington’s offense should be good for 24-plus points.

Again this week, it’s Huskies running back Dillon Johnson in the spotlight. Although he left the Sugar Bowl after aggravating a right foot injury, Johnson and head coach Kalen DeBoer have indicated he’ll be ready to roll.

No doubt, it’s hard to find anyone who runs harder than Johnson, and he’ll exploit any opening the big boys on the O-line can create.

Generally, when TV networks are rounding up broadcast narratives they focus on the glamor position: quarterback.

So, calling this guy a wild card is a little sideways — but “wild card” also means unpredictable. And that’s Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy, who somehow engineered the late rally that took down Alabama in the Rose Bowl.

If he makes one or two hero splash plays, the Wolverines can use their big lines and ground game to level everything else.

Can he?

Michigan’s 27-20 overtime victory over Alabama as a 2.5-point favorite in the Rose Bowl was a fortunate cover for Wolverines backers. Not everyone was on board — in fact a majority (63 percent tickets and 52 percent money) supported Alabama.

This title game number still feels too big for a matchup so even.

DeBoer and his Huskies coaching staff likely spent a great deal of time last week in the laboratory scheming ways to deflate Michigan with the aerial attack.

With receivers Odunze, Jalen McMillan and Ja’Lynn Polk, there’s a strong case to be made that — unless the Wolverines succeed with a crazy amount of quarterback pressures — the Huskies will break more than a couple of long pass plays.

This Michigan secondary led by cornerback Will Johnson and Mike Sainristil can’t cover all day, so the Wolverines’ pass rush is the area that ultimately decides the national championship.

The sharp money and the public are in lockstep. The number opened at 4.5 and remained there all week.

We aren’t convinced this Michigan team can keep the Washington offense from its usual array of big plays. And even if the Wolverines have a late lead of 10-11 points, the Huskies are a natural for the feared backdoor cover.

Let’s leave this as a very tight call, adjust the line in favor of the Huskies and push more confidence in both teams’ ability to score.

Two-leg parlay: Washington +7.5 parlayed to the over 42.5 for a -113 national championship wager (FanDuel).

–Field Level Media

Nov 23, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in action during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Commanders at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 18 betting primer: Fishing for playoff-motivated contenders

The Miami Dolphins barely bothered to show up last week against the Baltimore Ravens, failing to cover the expanded +10.5 and scuttling a tasty three-team parlay.

It’s those spiraling Dolphins we’ll target this week in an epic Sunday night matchup to decide the AFC East champ.

See how this primary wager developed, along with a bonus play and a player prop below.


Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins, 8:20 p.m. ET, Bills -3.

NFL fans are well aware that Buffalo needs a victory to take the AFC East title, and that provides sufficient motivation for the Bills.

The betting line has inched consistently toward Buffalo, landing at -3 by midweek.

Adding to the motivation equation is the fact that quarterback Josh Allen and company might need to win the game just to make the playoffs.

By any measure, though, a victory to seize the AFC’s No. 2 seed is the Buffalo target in South Florida Sunday night.

The Dolphins are trending downward. According to Action Network numbers, Miami gave up .54 expected points added (EPA) per play in last week’s 56-19 submission in Baltimore.

Although they beat Dallas on a last-second field goal the week before, that Dolphins effort landed in the bottom third of all defenses. Over the past month, Action reports Miami is 24th in defense.

Not good.

Coach Mike McDaniel’s offense isn’t bailing out the defense, either, ranking 16th in offensive EPA/play over the past month, again per Action Network numbers.

The Bills’ improving defense isn’t going to make it easy on the Dolphins offense.

Over its past four games, Buffalo’s defense gave up an average of only 17.5 points per game (No. 4 in the NFL during that span), 277 total yards per game (fourth) and a 66.7 passer rating (third best).

“I think it’s the rush and coverage working together and the communication that we’re developing with the back seven … ” Bills coach Sean McDermott said.

“I credit those guys on the back end but also the front with their ability to rush the passer.”

Working in Miami’s favor is Allen’s underwhelming passing numbers recently – a development largely the result of his offensive line’s failure to provide much time to throw.

Working against Miami? The absence of its top two pass rushers, Jaelen Phillips (Achilles) and Bradley Chubb (ACL).

Allen is ready to enjoy a little more time to find open targets as he did in the Week 4 meeting in Buffalo. He threw four TD passes in the 48-20 rout and added a rushing touchdown.

In addition to Phillips and Chubb, the Dolphins don’t expect starting corner Xavien Howard (foot) and No. 2 wideout Jaylen Waddle (ankle) to play.

And Miami deeply missed running back Raheem Mostert (ankle, knee) against the Ravens.

The bet: Bills -3 (DraftKings.)


“We’ve talked about this for the last five, six weeks of how our season can go and what we want to do and what we want to accomplish and everything that we want to accomplish is still in front of us. But again, it’s going to take a group effort in all three phases to go get a victory on Sunday in a hostile environment.”

— Bills quarterback Josh Allen.


Eagles at Giants, Cowboys at Commanders, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Eagles are stumbling; the Cowboys are riding good fortune in the wake of their last-gasp survival against the Detroit Lions.

If Philadelphia wins and Dallas loses, the Eagles claim the NFC East crown. The Cowboys just need to defeat the lowly Commanders to earn the division title.

This makes for a nice first-half opportunity. Both teams should be able to carve out a lead before halftime.

The bet: Parlay the Cowboys’ first-half moneyline (-380) with the Eagles’ first-half moneyline (-175) for a -102 wager. (DraftKings)


The debate continues in Chicago regarding quarterback Justin Fields’ status with the Bears, who own the top pick in the 2024 draft.

Has Fields done enough to cement his position as the starter, or will Chicago grab a QB with the No. 1 selection?

Take a swing with Fields in a game the Bears would love to win. They haven’t beaten Green Bay in more than five years, so there’s your motivation – and Fields should deliver a top effort.

Prop play: Bears QB Justin Fields’ 175 or more adjusted passing yards parlayed with 40 or more adjusted rushing yards. (+100 at FanDuel.)

–Field Level Media

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy and head coach Jim Harbaugh take the field for warmups before the Big Ten championship game vs. Iowa at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

Rose Bowl: Preview, Prop Pick and Prediction

The only college football game with the gravity of Monday’s Rose Bowl matchup between Michigan and Alabama will kick off a week later in Houston, with either Michigan or Alabama the likely favorite over Texas or Washington in the College Football Playoff national championship game.

It might be the getting there that proves to be more difficult.

The Wolverines are a slim favorite against the Crimson Tide in this epic playoff pairing (apologies to Florida State) in Pasadena, Calif.

We have a few betting angles for consideration as New Year’s Day nears.

No. 1 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide

Date, time: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET.
Site: Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
Line: Michigan -1.5; total 44.5 (FanDuel).

The Michigan program, coached by the narrative-friendly Jim Harbaugh, is among the elite iconic brands in college football history.

But does it approach the gravitas owned by the University of Alabama, especially during the incredible run of success under the direction of coach Nick Saban?

The Wolverines players, at least to some degree, will take a moment to watch Alabama before the game, perhaps fighting off the urge to be impressed.

If there is an edge with regard to intimidation, Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe believes it comes from Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

“A hundred percent,” Milroe said in advance of the Rose Bowl. “This ‘A’ means a lot to people. We take a lot of pride in wearing the ‘A.’

“(When) it comes to opponents, it’s a hard task to beat down Alabama. It’s a credit to Coach Saban, how well he coaches, the supporting cast he has with his coaching staff and his medical staff and everyone that’s all a part of it, his recruiting staff, as well.”

Milroe takes care of this offense but has the ability to lift his team, as evidenced by his 177.48 pass efficiency rating, fourth in the country and tops among the final four teams left standing.

There undoubtedly figure to be details that need attention or halftime adjustment, and Alabama has been elite in that area this season. The Tide allowed their nine SEC opponents to average only a shade more than eight points during the second half.

Credit the strength of this coaching staff and the players’ belief in that instruction.

The Wolverines hope to contend with the Tide’s speed, depth and skill. It wasn’t too much to succeed with the schemes for Ohio State, but Alabama is a different animal.

Milroe is not only mobile, he’s blessed with running back skills.

This facet of football was not a concern for Michigan against Ohio State, whose quarterback Kyle McCord carried once for minus-3 yards. Nor was it a problem in the Big Ten title game (Iowa’s Deacon Hill carried six times for minus-16 yards).

Milroe rolled for 155 rushing yards against LSU and 107 against Auburn.

Milroe takes care of the ball. That includes big games. He had two touchdowns and no interceptions in the SEC title game victory over Georgia, and isn’t likely to be asked to exit his comfort zone unless Alabama finds itself in a deep hole early in the game.

Michigan’s JJ McCarthy may feel a tap on his shoulder and a demand to elevate his game Monday. The Wolverines haven’t needed him to exceed expectations because running back Blake Corum and the ground attack have sufficiently stifled Big Ten competition.

The increased demands on McCarthy have the potential for chaos if Alabama can stuff the Michigan run game.

McCarthy isn’t as skilled at improvisation as Milroe.

If McCarthy succeeds in making the big plays largely by himself, we’ll see him in Houston. If he’s pressured into mistakes and Alabama seizes a win in the turnover battle, Milroe will be the QB in the winner’s circle.

There’s not much doubt regarding Harbaugh’s imagination and quirky genius but there’s really no doubting Alabama coach Nick Saban’s planning expertise – especially with a month to prepare.

No bowl victories in the past six tries for Michigan?

Saban contributed to Harbaugh’s winless mark, rolling the Wolverines 35-16 in the Jan. 1, 2020, Citrus Bowl.

It’s easier to coach a team with more NFL talent, and that season’s Saban team included receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, running back Najee Harris, quarterback Mac Jones and a fearsome defense including cornerback Patrick Surtain II and defensive lineman Raekwon Davis.

It’s more of the same for Saban, and the Alabama depth could swing the late-game storyline.

Despite the No. 1 ranking, Michigan is second in talent and depth, not to mention coaching. The halftime adjustment factor is real, so it opens up an opportunity for a plus-money parlay.

Parlay Alabama +1.5 third quarter spread with Alabama +3.5 for the full game (+112 at FanDuel).

–Field Level Media