NFL Betting: Buyer Beware of Perceived Late Season Locks



Ross Benjamin discusses betting on or against three NFL teams the have something to play for in Week 16.

There’s no such things as mortal locks or sure things when it comes to sports betting. That’s especially the case when it comes to NFL betting. The latter weeks of regular season action is when bettors are prone to making a specific ill-advised assumption. Namely, just because a team may need a game more than their opponent regarding its postseason chances, divisional title hopes, or better playoff seeding, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a cinch to cover against-the-spread (ATS). Hence, I’m going to discuss three teams who this week fit that exact profile.

Indianapolis Colts
Currently (12/19), the NFL betting odds at 5Dimes is displaying Indianapolis as a 10.5-point favorite in this week’s game against the New York Giants. It’s a first time the Colts have been tabbed as a double-digit since 11/23/2014 against Jacksonville.

Colts NFL betting tipsThe Colts are coming off a dominating 23-0 home win over Dallas. The win improved their season record to 7-7. They now find themselves 1.0 game Baltimore for the final AFC Wildcard berth with 2 weeks left to play. Furthermore, they’re also tied with Miami and Tennessee who own identical 7-7 records. Indianapolis needs to win each of their last 2 games if they’re to have any realistic chance of qualifying for the NFL Playoffs.

The Colts covered last week as a 3.0-point home favorite, and that’s an important footnote. Indianapolis hasn’t covered as a home favorite in consecutive weeks since 11/30/2014, and if my math is correct like I’m sure it is, it’s been a little over 4 years since that last happened.

The New York Giants will be in Indianapolis on Sunday to take on the Colts. The Giants are a coming off an embarrassing performance during last week’s 17-0 home loss to Tennessee. That defeat officially eliminated the 5-9 Giants from any possible chance of making the playoffs. For all intents and purposes, the G-Men have nothing left to play for but pride. Nevertheless, you may be surprised to know, the Giants have gone a perfect 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games this season as an away underdog, and they won 2 of those contests straight up.

Before being disillusioned by a team coming off a shutout win being a can’t miss cover versus another coming off a shutout loss, please be aware of the facts. This will be only the 8th time since 1980 in which this exact situation has transpired. Other than pointing out the rarity of such an occasion, there just isn’t a large enough sample size to place any credence into any of those past results. But in case you’re wondering, the teams coming off a shutout win went 6-1 SU&ATS.

Chicago Bears
Last Sunday was certainly a momentous time for the Bears. They not only defeated bitter rival Green Bay, it also clinched their first NFC North Division crown since 2010. Additionally, that victory snapped an 8-game losing streak at Soldier Field against the Packers. The “Monsters of the Midway” will now travel to San Francisco to take on a 4-10 team next. The chances of matching their intensity from last week isn’t likely, and a possibility of a letdown arising is better than average.

Chicago Beras betting adviceThe 10-4 Bears are 1.0-game behind the 11-3 Rams for the NFL #2 playoff seed. Nonetheless, the Rams remaining 2 regular season games are against teams (Arizona, San Francisco) that have a combined 7-21 record. Then again, the Rams have lost 2 games in a row, and that includes last week’s 30-23 defeat as a 13.5-point favorite to Philadelphia. My point being, Chicago still needs a win on Sunday at San Francisco, but it’s not imperative in the grand scheme of things.

Don’t be so fast to give the 49ers up for dead despite their awful 4-10 record. All San Francisco has done over the last weeks is defeat Denver and Seattle, and they were a home underdog in both instances. It’s essential to note, the Broncos and Seahawks were facing San Francisco with playoff ramifications at stake. Further proving my point, just because a team may need a game more than their opponent does, it never guarantees a winning result let alone an ATS cover.

There’s one more interesting handicapping tidbit pertaining to this matchup which shouldn’t be ignored. Since Kyle Shanahan took over as San Francisco’s head coach last year, the 49ers are an unblemished 6-0 straight up during the final 4 weeks of regular season action. There's unequivocally betting value to be found on the 4.0-point underdog 49ers on Sunday if one is contemplating going in that direction.

Minnesota Vikings
The NFL odds at Bookmaker is presently showing Minnesota as a 5.5-point favorite at Detroit on Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings NFL pciksThe Vikings are desperately clinging to the final NFC Wildcard spot with an uninspiring 7-6-1 record. They’ll be facing a hapless Lions team which will enter this NFC North Division battle with a 5-9 record and has already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Once again, before hastily wagering on the Vikings as a road favorite, take a deep breath and do some further research. For starters, Minnesota is 0-3 SU&ATS in their last 3 away games and lost by an average of 11.0 points per contest. This will also be just the 4th time since 2009 that Minnesota will be an away favorite of 3.5-points or more, and it’s the first such occurrence this season.

Final Analysis
I want to be perfectly clear, the purpose of this article isn’t to suggest fading all 3 of these teams that were discussed. It’s just making you aware of some pertinent NFL betting tips to keep in mind when handicapping this week’s card. There just aren't any sports handicapping shortcuts which lead to successful long term results.

Ross Benjamin Free Pick

Ross Benjamin is a top sports analyst and one of the sports industry's most respected handicappers. Follow him on Twitter: @RossBenjamin1 or visit his website at RBWins.com