Dec 25, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to throw a pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Catch a New Year’s Parlay: Dolphins, Niners and Rams in Week 17

We hit our headliner with the Lions in Week 16 but dropped our Cowboys bet when the Dallas defense gave up a last-second field goal to the Miami Dolphins.

This week, we dare to fade the new MVP favorite and sprinkle in some California flavor for a tasty three-leg parlay.

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

THE HEADLINER

San Francisco 49ers at Washington Commanders, 1 p.m. ET, 49ers -11

Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET, Rams -6

Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens, 4:25 p.m. ET, Ravens -3.5

(DraftKings)

Big, big win by the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas night. No doubt about it.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson leapfrogged erstwhile MVP favorite Brock Purdy and is atop the leaderboard for the spotlight NFL award.

Jackson must first deal with a form of Kryptonite: His team is a home favorite.

According to Action Network data, Jackson is 14-23 against the spread as a home favorite. Over the past 20 years, he ranks 211th out of 217 quarterbacks against the spread as home favorite.

The Ravens are at home — and favored — against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Baltimore’s tough-guy linebacker Patrick Queen offered the Dolphins a bit of motivation this week, saying Miami’s offense uses “pretty stuff … gimmick stuff” and talking about the Ravens’ mindset “to come out and just hit people in the mouth.”

Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel won’t have any trouble convincing his team to play hard.

“There’s always going to be something that you have to prove,” McDaniel said Wednesday. “A great thing about this profession … is you get an opportunity to define yourself every single game.”

We’ll boost the number to +10.5 and take Miami. To ensure decent value, we’ll add two legs and adjust those spreads, too.

First, the 49ers are in a “get right” game on the East Coast against the spiraling Washington Commanders. If we move the number from 11 down to “even,” we create a nice cushion.

San Francisco can’t coast just yet if it hopes to secure the top NFC seed and a first-round playoff bye.

To make this a plus-money parlay, we need the Rams.

LA is on the road as six-point favorites against the Giants. We secured a seat on the LA bandwagon weeks ago as the Rams secured better health and a great shot at the playoffs.

It’s Tyrod Taylor – not Tommy DeVito – at quarterback for New York but he’s not going to lift the Giants against LA, which certainly needs to win. And that’s the LA leg: the Rams to win the game (no point spread to cover).

The bet: Adjusted-line, three-team parlay.

Dolphins +10.5
49ers moneyline
Rams moneyline
(+102 at DraftKings.)

THEY SAID IT

“I believe we play better under pressure. I don’t think anybody plays like us. We just need to keep playing that way and keep playing the Raven way.”

— Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

BONUS PLAY

Patriots at Bills, 1 p.m. ET

The line: Bills -13.5 (FanDuel).

Buffalo survived its lookahead game against the Los Angeles Chargers last week in a forgivable performance in the wake of the Bills’ pasting of the Dallas Cowboys in Week 15.

But the defense is still addled by injury and ineffectiveness. The offense remains a revival in progress with the Josh Allen-Stefon Diggs combo the most troublesome for Buffalo fans.

Diggs, undeniably a top pass-catching talent in the league, has failed to reach 50 yards receiving in five of the past six games.

The sputtering nature of the Bills offense now requires Allen – and running back James Cook – to contribute strongly on the ground.

The Patriots defense has not been the problem in New England this season and ranks among the top 10 in yards per drive allowed in 2023.

QB Bailey Zappe and the Pats’ offense found a couple of things that worked last week and could do just enough to rack up 14 or more points.

This betting number appears too big for a game in which the pressure lies squarely on the Bills.

The play: Patriots +13.5 (FanDuel).

PROP CORNER

This Rams road game at New York is a business trip, and the company leaders are primed to return a nice payout if you invest in their performance.

Veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford provides the calm confidence needed in a game that carries some urgency.

The benefactors will be running back Kyren Williams and veteran receiver Cooper Kupp, who watched teammate Puka Nacua have a huge day last week.

It’s Kupp’s turn to show he still has the tools of a top target for Stafford.

Prop play: Three-leg adjusted parlay.

K. Williams 70+ rushing yards
C. Kupp 4+ receptions
C. Kupp 50+ receiving yards.
(-107 at FanDuel)

–Field Level Media

Nov 23, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) celebrates a sack of Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (not pictured) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Week 16 betting primer: Desperate Dallas defies road narrative

GAME OF THE WEEK

After a rough Week 15 in which the Jets returned to their offensive ineptitude and cost us our juicy three-leg parlay, we’ll forge a couple of more conventional plays.

Two trends to fight have emerged: The Lions’ split personalities and the Cowboys’ inability to beat a good team.

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

THE HEADLINER

Lions at Vikings, 1 p.m. ET

The line: Lions -3, total 47 (DraftKings).

Detroit’s home-road splits are enlightening – beware of the Lions away from home.

The feeling is that the bookmakers have over-adjusted for this divisional battle against the Vikings, and Lions QB Jared Goff can successfully imagine that this covered stadium bears a strong resemblance to his cozy home field.

Detroit’s most recent road game resulted in a 28-13 loss to Chicago Dec. 10, but, in keeping with home-road tradition, the Lions rolled to a 42-17 rout of the Denver Broncos last Saturday night in which Goff tied his career high with five touchdown passes.

Back on the road again, the increased productivity of receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and the continued emergence of go-to target Sam LaPorta – a rookie tight end – should mean more options for Goff and another big offensive day.

A field goal is too small a margin for a team ready to clinch its first division title since Rodney Peete, Andre Ware and Erik Kramer were the starting quarterbacks (1993!).

Against the Broncos, St. Brown caught seven passes for 117 yards and a touchdown and LaPorta caught three of Goff’s touchdown passes.

As an explosive complement to the passing game, rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs and veteran David Montgomery combined for 185 rushing yards and a touchdown.

This bet hinges on Goff’s ability to feel at home in Minnesota.

“The most important thing is to cut it loose. That’s the message,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “It’s not the other way because I go back to this: He’s one of the biggest reasons we’re sitting at 10 wins right now, him playing loose.

“Just trust what your eyes see, play the progression and throw with conviction.”

It’s easier said than done, this “trust” thing with Goff, but we’ll take a shot and hope he’s better than Minnesota starting QB Nick Mullens.

The bet: Lions -3.

THEY SAID IT

“We control our own destiny as it pertains to winning the division, no matter what happens (elsewhere). We win (Sunday) and we win the division. We’re in (the playoffs) and we get a home game. That’s right where I want to be.”

– Lions coach Dan Campbell.

BONUS PLAY

Cowboys at Dolphins, 4:25 p.m. ET

The line: Dolphins -1, total 50 (DraftKings).

Here’s another selection that we’re tying to a team’s mental abilities.

Can Dallas muster the urgency and execution to win a very, very important game on the road?

The Cowboys (10-4) are perfect in seven home games. But when they leave Dallas …

Quarterback Dak Prescott is perplexed by the difference in play.

“Obviously, we’d love to come out and produce like we do at home but that just hasn’t been the case,” he said.

“So we’ve got to find out what those answers are and try to close that gap and we can’t be those two different other teams.”

We hear you, Dak.

This bet boils down to the Cowboys needing this win more.

A loss in Miami likely means a road playoff game at the NFC South winner for the Cowboys. If Dallas wins that game, a visit to San Francisco to meet the 49ers awaits.

That’s no recipe for a Super Bowl.

Miami can still grab the AFC East title, even with a loss to the Cowboys, so we are going to side with the more desperate team.

The play: Cowboys +1.

PROP CORNER

This is a prediction predicated on that Dallas desperation.

The defense will have its intensity ramped up and should be aiming to chase down Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. If that’s successful, there should be pressure-induced dump-offs in addition to the designed screen passes to the running backs.

The Dolphins employ Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane. Achane has been trending the right way (11 receptions over the past three games, during which he’s reached at least 24 receiving yards in each of those games) and is back healthy.

That trend, plus the likely Dallas game plan, leads us to an Achane “over” bet.

Prop play: Miami running back Devon Achane over 24.5 receiving yards (-114 at FanDuel).

–Field Level Media

Boise State wide receiver Eric McAlister is among the Broncos who waved goodbye via the transfer portal before the LA Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Bowl season betting primer: UCLA’s last stand in Pac-12

The holidays are approaching, and that means one very important attraction is here: college football bowl season.

A full slate Saturday kicks off the college football postseason and offers up plenty of time for sports bettors to consider their strategy.

The Pac-12 makes its final stand this month before disappearing, with one heralded soon-to-be-former member making an appearance among our betting selections.

NEW MEXICO BOWL

New Mexico State Aggies vs. Fresno State Bulldogs

Date, time: Saturday, Dec. 16, 5:45 p.m. ET.
Site: University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.
The line: New Mexico State -3.5, total 51.

The opt-outs, injury report and transfer portal play a large role, as usual, in analyzing bowl games, and the New Mexico Bowl is no different.

The most prominent area of concern is the health of Aggies starting quarterback Diego Pavia. The guy who keyed the 31-10 upset of Auburn a few weeks ago aggravated an arm injury in the conference title game.

But New Mexico State coach Jerry Kill offered an optimistic evaluation last week, and it appears Pavia is on track to start.

“We’re hoping he is even throwing by Sunday or Monday,” Kill told reporters Dec. 7.

The Aggies (10-4) have won eight of their past nine, while Fresno State (8-4) is on a three-game skid.

The Bulldogs have plenty of distractions, too, with coach Jeff Tedford having stepped away due to “personal health concerns,” leaving Tim Skipper to guide the team.

Fresno State QB Mikey Keene is solid but has some concussion-related issues in his immediate past. His presence is mandatory for the Bulldogs to stand a decent chance.

On the down side for New Mexico State, receiver Trent Hudson entered the transfer portal. Hudson led the Aggies in receiving touchdowns with 10 and was second in receptions (35) and receiving yards (551).

This should feel very much like a New Mexico State home game – 30,000+ pushing the Aggies momentum – and the trends are working against Fresno State.

DraftKings’ opening line was Aggies -1; it’s now at -3.5.

There’s an element of unfinished business for New Mexico State and, having the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year calling signals Saturday feels like enough to make a difference.

The bet: New Mexico State -3.5.

THE LA BOWL

UCLA Bruins vs. Boise State Broncos

Date, time: Saturday, Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m. ET.
Site: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, Calif.
The line: UCLA -2, total 49.5.

This one appears to be a real toss-up, with the Bruins missing the nation’s best player at his position and the Broncos likely without their top two quarterbacks.

The betting number opened with UCLA as much as a four-point favorite but has moved downward as the Bruins deal with defections.

UCLA defensive lineman Laiatu Latu will miss the LA Bowl, opting to prepare for the NFL draft.

It’s a big hole to fill.

Latu was voted the nation’s top D-lineman (Lombardi Award) and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Boise State has its issues, too, and the challenges will test coach Spencer Danielson, who was given the reins after the Broncos fired Andy Avalos after 10 games.

Danielson supervised a 3-0 finish to the regular season and has since had the interim tag removed.

Boise State likes to run the ball, but the Bruins finished atop the list of run-stoppers – first in the country at only 69.6 yards per game.

Compounding the troubles, Broncos starting quarterback Taylen Green, who entered the transfer portal last week, has formally committed to play at Arkansas next season.

Green lost his starting job to Maddux Madsen, who then suffered a season-ending injury. Boise State must turn to either true freshman CJ Tiller or walk-on Colt Fulton.

And there’s not much elite help from the Broncos receiving corps. They will be missing leading wideout Eric McAlister, who averaged almost 20 yards per reception and compiled 873 receiving yards. McAlister entered the transfer portal and waved goodbye to Boise before the bowl game.

Bruins former five-star quarterback Dante Moore also entered the transfer portal, but UCLA is much better prepared and is set to roll with Ethan Garbers at quarterback.

Garbers had the steadier hand this season, connecting for nine touchdowns on 66.4% of his passes for 984 yards. It’s a good matchup for the Bruins, given Boise State’s porous secondary (No. 113 in passing defense).

It feels like UCLA’s defense will have enough left to stack the box against the Boise State running game, and that the Bruins will win the quarterback matchup convincingly.

The bet: UCLA -2.5.

–Field Level Media

Dec 3, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA;  Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) scrambles with the football during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Week 14 Betting Preview: Time to buy the Bills

GAME OF THE WEEK

Thanks to their respective divisions, head-scratching losses by one, a pair of the NFL’s elite teams entering the season are on very different paths.

We’ll target the “losing” team and ride with its depth, but before we expound, let’s briefly check the rearview mirror.

The Atlanta Falcons are becoming the “just-get-it-done” team. They covered against the Jets, but – thanks to those Jets – the game failed to cash our teased “over” of 28.

We loved the Rams last week – even more after they confirmed our confidence by turning back the addled Cleveland Browns.

Perhaps we should be wary of running it back with LA, due in part to meeting the Ravens in Baltimore.

Nah.

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

THE HEADLINER

Bills at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m. ET

The line: Chiefs -1.5, total 48.5 (FanDuel)

The “loser” mentioned above? That’s Buffalo.

Hyped and supported before the season began, the Bills quickly fell on hard times and now are underdogs to make the playoffs.

At 6-6 entering Sunday, their win total this week is posted at over/under 8.5 wins (-124 at FanDuel).

If you’re a Bills believer, now is the time to invest, and the comeback starts in Kansas City against a Chiefs team looking for redemption.

Kansas City stumbled in Lambeau against the Green Bay Packers in a game during which its flaws were plain to see.

Patrick Mahomes has virtually no help.

Travis Kelce isn’t the easy escape plan he once was.

The improved defense can be beaten, since Jordan Love and an iffy running game did the job last Sunday.

Josh Allen leads a Bills’ offense that rolled to 34 points and moved the ball well through the air at Philadelphia. Buffalo is coming off a bye week while the Chiefs try to rebound from a road defeat.

Can Buffalo win three or even four of its remaining five games? After KC, the Bills are home for Dallas, at the Chargers, home for the Patriots and at the Dolphins.

Tall task.

The Bills just have more talent available than KC, and are certainly the more desperate team. They’re fifth in both passing and rushing EPA and average 260 passing yards per game (also fifth in the NFL).

It’s Buffalo vs. Patrick Mahomes and whatever Mahomes can coax out of his teammates.

We’ll take a shot with the Bills – and maybe peruse the various sportsbooks for win totals, postseason odds and sprinkle a little belief on a Super Bowl winner wager (+3500 at FanDuel late in the week).

The bet: Same-game teaser parlay, Bills +7.5 parlayed with Josh Allen passing yards over 225 (odds of -120 at FanDuel).

THEY SAID IT

“We don’t want to be in situations like this but we feel like we’ve been in this situation before, and it has produced some of our best football.”

–Bills quarterback Josh Allen

BONUS COMBO

Rams at Ravens, 1 p.m. ET

The line: Ravens -7.5, total 40.5 (FanDuel).

Matt Stafford is still a quality NFL quarterback, and when he’s fully healthy he’s still among the top third in the league.

With a Kyren Williams-led rushing attack and an improving defense, LA looks like a playoff team.

The Ravens are still figuring out the right buttons to push since losing standout tight end Mark Andrews to an ankle injury.

Lamar Jackson lost his security blanket and the offense now will rely on Jackson’s passing accuracy in the face of a pass rush led by fearsome Aaron Donald.

Yes, the Baltimore defense is typically stout as the season grinds into December, but another vaunted defense, the Browns, posed little trouble for LA last week.

The play: Rams +7.5 (-118 at FanDuel).

PROP CORNER

This prop feels a little “Grinchy” as the holidays roll toward us, but the weather outside looks frightful.

The overwhelming choice (-9000!!) for Rookie of the Year, CJ Stroud, is a great story. He’s been poised and has shown all the traits of a terrific leader.

This week, he just needs to lead Houston to a win over the New York Jets.

He doesn’t need to take crazy shots downfield in a game expected to be played in the rain – and perhaps more than a little wind.

The Texans should be able to control the Jets and returning starter Zach Wilson on Sunday with a measured, if a little boring, attack.

The New York secondary is still very competent, and no one – not even the Grinch – wants to risk a pick-6.

Prop play: Texans QB CJ Stroud under 226.5 passing yards. (-114 at FanDuel).

–Field Level Media

Tennessee Titans cornerback Roger McCreary (21) takes down Carolina Panthers running back Miles Sanders (6) during their game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023.

Week 13 Player Props: Remember Miles Sanders?

Every team took the field over the Thanksgiving holiday but six of the 32 clubs take their bye in Week 13. You’d have to return to Week 7 to find the last time this many teams were on a bye, and the player prop pool was this shallow.

In the penultimate week for byes in the NFL, the final third of the regular season arrives with playoff positioning about to emerge as a plot every week.

The holiday feast of football helped us point to a few get-them-while-you-can bargains outlined below.

–Packers TE Tucker Kraft under 26.5 receiving yards (-120 at BetMGM)
The Packers (5-6) are hunting for a wild card spot (no, seriously) thanks to back-to-back wins over the Chargers and the Lions. Jordan Love might be making a case to remain the starter for the Packers. He has five touchdowns and no interceptions during this recent winning streak.

Through 11 games, Love has a 19-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his first year as an NFL starter. One thing that’s clear with Love’s game is that he’s trying to push the ball down the field.

Per Pro-Football-Reference, the Utah State product ranks fourth in intended air yards per pass attempt (9.3). If we look at the target share to tight ends, the Packers rank 22nd (18.1%) in this metric.

Green Bay will face a Chiefs defense that FTN Fantasy ranks seventh in its defense-adjusted value over average metric (DVOA) against opposing tight ends.

One spot above the Chiefs in sixth is the Detroit Lions, who held Kraft to 15 or fewer receiving yards in both meetings this season.

Kraft has only one game this season with more than two targets (3), and given how Love looks to stretch the field vertically, I recommend taking the under with Kraft’s receiving prop at 26.5 yards.

–Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence over 20.5 completions (-120 at BetMGM)
Although TeamRankings has the Jaguars as one of the more balanced teams, ranking eighth with a run rate of 44.32%, they also rank eighth with 65.6 plays per game.

Thus, given the number of plays per game, I’m not shocked to learn that the Jaguars have a positive pass rate over expectation (PROE) at 2.5%. In other words, the Jaguars call more passing plays than the average team in similar situations.

Yet Lawrence ranks ninth in Total QBR (61.7) despite being 20th in touchdowns (12). His completion percentage of 67.3 percentage puts him 11th in the league.

Lawrence, proving to be a very accurate passer, is coming off back-to-back performances with 23-plus completions. In 11 games this season, Lawrence finished with 21 or more completions eight times.

Jacksonville draws a Bengals’ pass defense that ranks 23rd in expected points added (EPA). Given the number of plays we can project for this offense, the completion prop feels a bit short at 20.5.

–Panthers RB Miles Sanders over 8.5 rush attempts (-100 at PointsBet)
Since joining the Panthers on a four-year deal, it hasn’t been a banner year for Sanders, primarily because of injuries. After averaging 4.9 yards per carry on 259 rushing attempts with the Eagles, Sanders is averaging just 3.1 yards on 97 attempts this season.

Sanders hasn’t lost a step at just 26 years of age. After all, it wasn’t like he had a heavy workload during his time with the Eagles. In his first three seasons with the Eagles, Sanders averaged 160 carries per season.

Sanders’ struggles are a microcosm of a Carolina season that’s been forgettable at best. And with just one win on the year, the Panthers fired head coach Frank Reich.

Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor will take over as the interim head coach. Although I’m not expecting Tabor to be a long-term solution, he does allow the Panthers to hit the reset button.

In the 10 games featuring Carolina’s rookie quarterback Bryce Young, he finished with under 30 pass attempts just once (29). While I understand that the Panthers often find themselves behind early in games, they are increasingly likely to be patient trying to achieve better balance offensively.

Per TeamRankings, Carolina ranks fourth in the league with a pass rate of 62.87%.

Tabor is likely to be conservative, trying to protect his quarterback while showing a more significant commitment to running the ball, even against a solid Buccaneers defense.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson (7) celebrates after a touchdown with quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Week 13 betting preview: No teasing, we like the Rams, Falcons

Success with our picks in recent weeks has caused perhaps a dangerous level of confidence, but you don’t question winning streaks in sports betting.

On the heels of our Week 11 “Love-in” – the emergence of Jordan Love as a useful NFL quarterback – we jumped aboard the train carrying the Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills in Week 12.

Two more winning teaser bets at plus money (ATL +3.5 and the over 36.5; BUF +7.5 and the over 41.5) and we’re ready to rinse and repeat.

(Full disclosure: Our player prop of Stefon Diggs over 79 receiving yards fell 12 doggone feet short of cashing.)

Let’s go hunting.

See our primary play, along with a bonus play and a player prop below.

THE HEADLINER

Falcons at Jets, 1 p.m. ET

The line: Falcons -1.5, total 34 (FanDuel)

The Falcons stepped up and won an ugly NFC South matchup with the New Orleans Saints last week. The division title is right there for the taking.

And Desmond Ridder is the man to lead them … well, about that level of confidence.

Ridder wasn’t great last week, throwing two picks including one at the Saints 1-yard line late in the second quarter.

That said, he doesn’t need to be great because coach Arthur Smith and the offensive staff are finally letting the big dog, Bijan Robinson, eat a little more.

Robinson handled an increased workload like a champ, and he looks ready to flex again in New Jersey.

Atlanta rushed for a season-high 228 yards against New Orleans.

Ridder and Robinson – along with Robinson’s running mate Tyler Allgeier – will put enough points on the board to top New York’s struggling offense.

The Jets need to win two of their next three to even sniff a chance at offering Aaron Rodgers a meaningful snap this season.

And Tim Boyle is the man to lead them …. again, confidence level.

A defense initially heralded as top of the heap (maybe even A-number-one), is not so threatening anymore. Last week, the Miami Dolphins put up 34 points (that included a pick-6, but we digress) at the Jets.

The New York malaise is hardly the fault of the defense, of course.

Fun stat, courtesy of Action Network:

“The NFL average for series success rate is 70% on offense, which means that offenses turn a first-and-10 into another first down or touchdown 70% of the time league-wide.

“The Patriots rank 30th at 65% … the Giants are 31st at 60% and the Jets are all the way down at 58%.”

Jets coach Robert Saleh said he’s hopeful that tackle Mekhi Becton (ankle, knee) will be back Sunday after missing the Dolphins game.

The bet: Same-game parlay, Falcons teased to +3.5 with the over teased to 28.5 (odds of -110 at FanDuel).

THEY SAID IT

“We’re about to go play a really good defense in New York so (the offense) better be ready to go. … I thought the offensive line played the best game since I’ve been here (against New Orleans). We’ve invested heavily in those guys and we’ve just got to stick with our way of doing things.”

– Falcons coach Arthur Smith.

BONUS COMBO

Browns at Rams, 4:25 p.m. ET

The line: Rams -3.5, total 40 (BetMGM).

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is a Super Bowl champ, and his team is finding its footing as it returns to full health.

LA crushed the Arizona Cardinals last week, and running back Kyren Williams looks every bit a standout. Last week was his first game back from an ankle injury that cost him an entire month.

The Cleveland Browns are decimated. Injuries hit hard, claiming Deshaun Watson and backup Dorian Thompson-Robinson (concussion).

Cleveland might start veteran Joe Flacco, who was signed only 10 days ago.

If not Flacco, PJ Walker will start. He is 38th out of 41 quarterbacks in efficiency.

The Browns’ defense, led by Myles Garrett, is terrific. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Garrett suffered a shoulder injury and, best case if he plays, he will play with pain Sunday.

The play: Same-game parlay, Rams teased to -2.5 with the over teased to 30.5 (at +110 odds, per BetMGM).

PROP CORNER

This is a great spot for the continued “Bijan Breakout” experience.

The Jets defense is a little overhyped – and vulnerable to the run – while boasting a talented secondary.

Receiver Drake London may be slowed by Sauce Gardner, fine, but who was second last week behind London’s seven targets? Bijan! He caught three of his six targets for 32 yards.

Robinson also carried the ball 16 times for 91 yards, and his usage doesn’t figure to decrease this week.

Prop play: Falcons RB Bijan Robinson over 79.5 rushing+receiving yards. (-145 at DraftKings).

–Field Level Media

Is heavily favored Liberty about to get planted by a double-digit underdog in the CUSA title game? Mandatory Credit: Brian Bishop-USA TODAY Sports

Conference championship weekend Preview, Prop and Picks

The buffet of betting options overflows with main courses with only conference championship games on the menu this weekend.

With Oregon-Washington, Alabama-Georgia and Michigan-Iowa coming up, it’s easy to be distracted by the shiny draw of big names in big games.

But a matchup not many circled could prove a massive stage for one underdog ready to flex.

It’s the Conference USA championship game – No. 24 Liberty vs. New Mexico State – and you know you’ll look to have something to follow when the TV clicks on.

We have stats, news, quotes and betting predictions for our college football (betting) game of the week.

–Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET, Friday
–Television: CBS Sports Network
–Location: Williams Stadium, Lynchburg, Va.
–Point Spread, Total: Liberty -10.5; 55.5 (DraftKings)

QUICK PICK

It’s a home game for Liberty, with 25,000-plus fans aiming to help the unbeaten Flames (12-0) roll past New Mexico State in Lynchburg, Va., Friday.

The Aggies (10-3) are not intimidated, however, and the venue won’t be a surprise. Liberty stopped New Mexico State 33-17 earlier this season at home.

Bettors who witnessed New Mexico State’s upset at Auburn two weeks ago know about the Aggies’ size and speed. This improving team could be eye-opening for Liberty, a double-digit favorite given the spotlight thanks to a place in the College Football Playoff rankings.

The trends are smiling on Aggies backers. New Mexico State has an 11-2 mark against the spread – 6-1 as the underdog – and following that loss to Liberty has covered 10 consecutive games.

Coming off a 20-17 win over Jacksonville State, in which New Mexico State put two early touchdowns on the board and then became somewhat disinterested, the Aggies have all the inspiration they need in an “us against the world” matchup.

Liberty could be conservative early, and New Mexico State would welcome a slower pace. The Aggies are 9-4 to the “under” this season.

The bet, a plus-money New Mexico State teaser parlay: Aggies +14.5 with the under 60.5 points (+124 at DraftKings).

THE NEWS

The Flames are trying to stay in play for the Group of 5 spot in the upper tier of bowls when the College Football Playoff committee reveals its final rankings Sunday.

“To say we’re 12-0, I would’ve said you’re crazy,” Liberty’s first-year coach Jamey Chadwell said. “But this team bought in to each other, and just what a tremendous season.”

The Aggies will arrive with an eight-game winning streak that includes a 31-10 handling of host Auburn on Nov. 18 and Saturday’s 20-17 home escape versus Jacksonville State. Ethan Albertson’s 52-yard field goal as time expired won it for New Mexico State.

Liberty trails only No. 22 Tulane among Group of 5 teams.

“I told them before the season started, you have an opportunity to make history (in the) FBS,” Chadwell said.

“Certain things haven’t happened here. For us to be 12-0, there’s not an FBS program that has ever won 12 games in a season in the state of Virginia.”

BONUS BET

It’s almost impossible to quantify the number of what-if scenarios that could be hatched if Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC title game.

That’s been a common discussion point among college football fans and media. No. 1 Georgia wants nothing to do with it.

Would the Bulldogs remain among the College Football Playoff top four when the committee reveals its rankings Sunday at noon ET? That would depend on several other outcomes.

The Bulldogs, unbeaten and improving, know their roles and have taken the elite coaching from Kirby Smart and his staff to heart.

Quarterback Carson Beck is on a nice upward trend in performance. He’s completing 72.4 percent of his attempts – which would easily break the school mark – for 3,495 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. His yardage total is fourth most in Bulldogs’ history.

No doubt, Tide QB Jalen Milroe has been exceptional, capping his run of success with a dart of a touchdown throw on fourth-and-goal from the Auburn 31-yard line to Isaiah Bond to win last Saturday’s Iron Bowl.

Our take? It was an incredibly lucky throw to beat a clearly inferior opponent.

The bet: Georgia -5.5.

THEY SAID IT

“Definitely, we have to embrace the challenge that’s ahead of us. They’re coming off of a (29)-game winning streak, so it’s definitely a challenge for the guys in the locker room.” — Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe.

–Field Level Media

Oct 29, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 12 betting preview: Ridder back and better for Falcons?

Our “Love-in” paid off — Jordan Love and the Packers at plus money parlayed with the over vs. the Chargers — as did our secondary bet, Vikings +7.5 and under 45.5 in Denver.

Our player prop? Josh Dobbs went over his rushing attempts (5.5), carrying eight times for 21 yards.

Let’s keep it rolling.

With the Taylor Heinecke experiment all but done, the Atlanta Falcons move back to Desmond Ridder as they host the New Orleans Saints.

Can Ridder become more useful with a break/benching in his rearview mirror?

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

THE HEADLINER

Saints at Falcons, 1 p.m. ET

The line: Falcons -1.5, total 42.5 (FanDuel)

Ridder likely has found some potential answers to the specifics that have tortured him — and Falcons fans — most of this season.

The question is whether he can apply those lessons and execute the plan successfully. In this scenario, he’ll have help from a New Orleans defense that is showing wear and tear.

The Falcons’ defense is seventh in yards allowed per game (308.8) but only 18th in points allowed (21.7). That’s in large part due to Ridder’s early-season mistakes that allowed opponents a short field.

Ridder was 4-4 as the starter before being evaluated for a concussion in Week 8 against Tennessee. Taylor Heinicke replaced him to start the second half and started the next two games, both Atlanta losses.

In Atlanta’s most recent game, Ridder came in for an injured Heinecke and completed 4 of 6 passes for 39 yards against Arizona.

“We have a lot of confidence in Des,” Atlanta coach Arthur Smith said. “Over the last couple weeks, he has handled it really well. I think the time (as a backup) was very beneficial for him.

“Des did a lot of good things (during his time as a reserve). In Arizona, you could see how prepared he was. We had confidence in Des then and we have confidence in him moving forward.”

Smith said he plans to keep Ridder as the starter for the rest of the season.

The Saints are similarly confusing, having seen improvement from the offense but attrition from the defensive numbers.

Saints QB Derek Carr, who was in concussion protocol but officially cleared it Thursday, is a solid if not stellar veteran. Coach Dennis Allen said he’d “like to see more consistency in the passing game.”

This is a battle for first place in the NFC South, so the stakes are still pretty high.

The Falcons continue to be among the unluckiest teams via the Action Network’s luck rankings, and we’ll give into the temptation to believe — a little bit — in Ridder this week.

The play: Same-game parlay teasing Falcons +3.5, with the over teased to 36.5 (at +100 odds, per FanDuel).

THEY SAID IT

“You get a different perspective of not only yourself but the offense as a whole. There are a lot of things where I’d like to have gone back and done better. I could’ve protected the ball better, but there are a lot of (instances) where I could’ve done things to not be in those situations, whether it’s footwork or your reads or your progressions.”

–Falcons QB Desmond Ridder said of his time on the sideline.

BONUS COMBO

The Buffalo Bills were done, right? Dead and buried and likely to struggle against the Jets.

Didn’t happen. Is Buffalo back?

Bills at Eagles, 4:25 p.m. ET

The line: Eagles -3, total 48.5 (FanDuel).

This is not an indictment of former offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey — rather, a vote for the new-look Bills offense.

No longer so reliant on Stefon Diggs, Buffalo QB Josh Allen is set to continue spreading the wealth.

The Eagles’ low-scoring victory in Kansas City was more a product of a struggling Chiefs passing game — and the bad weather.

We like the Bills to exploit a sagging Eagles secondary and keep this within a field goal — if not an outright win for a desperate team.

The play: Two-leg same-game parlay teasing Bills +7.5, with over teased to 41.5 (+105, per BetMGM).

PROP CORNER

Let’s stay with the Bills’ offense for this one.

Conventional wisdom could point to Diggs’ reduction in usage as something that’s here to stay. We aren’t conventional.

The Allen-Diggs combination should be able to hit a few chunk plays on Sunday, resulting in a nice receiving number for Diggs (and his backers).

Prop play: Bills WR Stefon Diggs 80 or more receiving yards (+110 at DraftKings).

–Field Level Media

Michigan Wolverines running back Blake Corum gets a chance to outrun Ohio State 

on Saturday.

No. 2 Ohio State at No. 3 Michigan: Preview, Props and Prediction

Thirteen weeks into the regular season, our first College Football Playoff knockout match arrives with a spot in the Big Ten championship game on the line.

This epic Buckeyes-Wolverines rivarly serves as a virtual CFP play-in game given the likelihood of a victory next week against Iowa.

An unbeaten Big Ten champ would not be denied a final four position. A one-loss division runner-up might sweat it out on bowl selection Sunday.

There is no shortage of storylines in “The Game.”

The dueling quarterbacks aren’t elite, and the talented pass rushers are likely to cause problems.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is serving the last of a three-game suspension, having been sidelined by the Big Ten because of the sign-stealing scheme organized by former recruiting analyst Connor Stalions.

Harbaugh is allowed to coach and prepare the team during the week, but offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore is the acting head coach on game day, as he was for wins over Penn State and Maryland.

Has Moore shown enough tendencies to help the Ohio State coaching staff game planning process? And which of the top playmakers figure to have game-changing performances?

We have stats, news, quotes and betting predictions for our college football (betting) game of the week.

–Kickoff: noon ET
–Television: Fox
–Location: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
–Point Spread, Total: Michigan -3.5; Total 46.5 (BetMGM)

QUICK PICK

Michigan is pursuing a third consecutive win over Ohio State, and the home field can’t hurt.

But pass protection could be a problem for the Wolverines. Not only are Michigan’s offensive tackles on the shaky side, the Buckeyes defense is among the nation’s best. Recent trends show Michigan trying to run the ball – a lot – avoiding the idea of trusting quarterback JJ McCarthy too much.

That conservative approach is likely to be mirrored by Ohio State, whose quarterback, Kyle McCord, isn’t as established.

At midweek, FanDuel reported the Buckeyes were garnering the majority of total bets as well as overall handle for the moneyline and against the spread (ATS).
This season, Ohio State holds an edge ATS, 7-3-1 vs. 5-5-1 for Michigan.

McCarthy has struggled completing only 19 passes in 31 attempts (with no touchdowns) since Harbaugh left the sideline.

Ohio State defensive lineman Tyleik Williams has 10 sacks in 2023 while linebacker Tommy Eichenberg paces the team in activity at 8.1 tackles per game.

Both defenses, as mentioned, have been shutdown champs against their inferior Big Ten opponents.

So is the best playmaker Michigan running back Blake Corum or Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.?

Harrison is the more problematic for the Wolverines defense, and he will make just enough key plays (including a backbreaking third-down conversion or two … or more).

We like the first-half under (22.5) as an additional possibility, but the game should open up in the second half as Michigan sees its running game minimalized.

The pick: Ohio State 28, Michigan 24

The bet: Parlay at +125 (BetMGM), teasing Ohio State to +7.5 with a teased over 40.5.

THE NEWS

Harbaugh’s stand-in, Sherrone Moore, realizes the gravity of the rivalry.

“We all know what it means,” he said. “It’s The Game. It’s the one you practice, you play for, you work for all year. So, we all know the stakes. And that would give us a chance to go to repeat our Big Ten title.”

The Wolverines (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) seek their third straight win against the Buckeyes for the first time since 1995-97.

“We are in a position to be in position. That’s what we know,” Harbaugh said. “(We’re) 11-0, they’re 11-0. Everything, all focus and preparation, is on this game — as it should be.”

The Buckeyes (11-0, 8-0) are out for revenge after dominating The Game for years. They won eight in a row from 2012-19 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 game.

Since then, the Wolverines won 42-27 at home in 2021 and 45-23 last season in Columbus.

“There are guys with scars, and I’m one of them,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Tuesday. “It just drives you every day to work harder and make sure you do everything possible to win the game.”

The Wolverines are first nationally in scoring defense (9.0) and total defense (234.8 yards per game).

The Buckeyes are second in scoring defense (9.3) and third in total defense (252.9).

THEY SAID IT

“They’re going to provide a challenge, but we’re always up for a challenge. They’re fundamentally sound. They play good as a unit and they fly around, so I think it will be a good game. We just have to have a good week of preparation and prepare for a top defense.” –Michigan running back Blake Corum

–Field Level Media

Nov 18, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; Heisman Trophy candidate LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) warms up before their game against the Georgia State Panthers at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Dobbins-USA TODAY Sports

Bo Nix, Jayden Daniels battle for Heisman favorite role

Most questions have been answered with regard to the college football season, but sports-betting fans know there are a few big ones looming as we hit rivalry week.

The Ohio State-Michigan game owns the marquee, but a closer look reveals some additional value among the items on this week’s wagering menu.

THE HEISMAN

The national TV pregame show yappers are serving as de facto social influencers, tipping their collective hand on Heisman Trophy front-runners.

At the top of the list prior to last weekend, Bo Nix took his Oregon offense to new heights and yet saw his odds move backward.

Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. survived the weather — and the then-No. 11 Oregon State Beavers — to lead the Huskies to a narrow 22-20 victory.

Georgia, with an increasing amount of help from quarterback Carson Beck, routed Tennessee 38-10 in Knoxville.

All fine stories, but the guy at the top of the Heisman odds board won’t even be in a conference championship game.

LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels, a sensational runner and improving passer, was all the talk of those pregame and halftime shows on Saturday, with pundits seemingly trying to talk themselves out of handing Nix the honor.

So Nix throws a school-record-tying six touchdown passes — ALL IN THE FIRST HALF — at Arizona State, while Daniels dominated Georgia State with six TD passes of his own, and two rushing scores.

Ohio State’s do-everything receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe round out the super seven.

Daniels and Nix are 1-2 in ESPN’s quarterback rating. Daniels, third in passing yards, has thrown 36 TD passes to four interceptions; Nix, fourth in passing yards, has 35 TD passes and only two picks.

Daniels stands alone in the rushing numbers, however, with 1,014 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

It’s impossible to read the minds of the more than 900 Heisman voters, but college football fans are likely to have strong opinions about the FanDuel odds list.

As of Monday:

Daniels: -125

Nix: +150

Penix Jr.: +700

Harrison Jr.: +5000

Beck: +8000

Milroe: +15000

BetMGM still has Nix on top at +110, with Daniels close behind at +140 and Penix Jr. at +500.

We believe in the Oregon Ducks taking down Oregon State Friday and following up with a Pac-12 title game triumph at Las Vegas Dec. 1. With Nix leading those victories, the odds should swing toward the Pacific Northwest.

On that subject, Penix Jr. isn’t done yet. With victories over Washington State this week and the Ducks in Las Vegas, Penix Jr. would see his number shoot back toward +200. If you believe in a Huskies Pac-12 title, grab Penix Jr. now.

Daniels has only one game left, a home matchup this week against middling Texas A&M, so his work is largely done — for better or worse. Losses to Mississippi and Alabama are big strikes against him, given the other candidates’ leadership of College Football Playoff-contending teams.

But fans — and voters — in the football-mad SEC know Daniels has done most of his work against the best conference in the country. Some will see value, even at -125.

RIVALRY WAGERS

Three top games, all of which carry College Football Playoff implications, grab Saturday’s spotlight. Each of these selections could carry some betting value if you look at just the right angle.

Florida State Seminoles at Florida Gators, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN, Florida State -6.5

With Florida State’s Jordan Travis injured and out for the season, many were questioning the validity of a Seminoles top-four CFP position entering Tuesday’s latest rankings release.

The unbeaten Seminoles have their hands full against a hungry arch-rival in Gainesville, and, despite a four-game losing streak, the Gators have looked markedly improved.

Almost a touchdown is just too much to give, especially when having only a week to fully integrate backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker. The junior, prior to last Saturday, had thrown 43 passes in four years at FSU, with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Florida is coming off a narrow loss on the road at then-No. 11 Missouri and will have no trouble focusing on this one.

The bet: Florida +6.5 (multiple outlets).

Oregon State Beavers at Oregon Ducks, Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX, Oregon -13.5

Nix can see the finish line of his record-setting college career. He has help from a much-improved defense (thanks largely to the hire of coach Dan Lanning, who ran the Georgia defense prior to landing in Eugene) and a Bucky Irving-led ground game that doesn’t allow defenses to target one aspect of the Oregon offense.

Beavers sophomore RB Damien Martinez is special, and Clemson transfer QB DJ Uiagalelei has been a strong leader, but the Ducks have a higher vision and more talent.

This one, though, isn’t likely to get out of hand, and with clear weather in the forecast the Friday night crowd should see plenty of points.

The bet: Oregon teased to -9.5 and parlayed with over 57.5 points (-128 at DraftKings).

Ohio State at Michigan, Saturday at noon ET, FOX; Michigan -3.5.

Wolverines quarterback JJ McCarthy has been similar to Buckeyes QB Kyle McCord: not quite good enough to be the reason his team wins.

Both guys will need help, and Ohio State just seems to have a little more of it — both in depth and with a recency bias.

Michigan inexplicably struggled last week while Ohio State rolled again. The Buckeyes are getting more than a field goal as of early in the week and are not lacking motivation as the No. 2 team in the College Football Playoff rankings prior to Tuesday’s latest release.

We can find a nice plus-money opportunity here.

The bet: Ohio State teased to +7.5 parlayed with over 41.5 points (+112 at DraftKings).

–Field Level Media