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Newly Confident Giants?: At every level, football coaches will talk about enstilling a culture and getting their players to buy into what they’re selling. Brian Daboll certainly seemed to have those kinds of positive intangibles working in his favor in his first season with the Giants for most of the first two months on the sideline for Big Blue. However, prior to Sunday, New York was 1-3-1 in its last five games. The Giants got embarrassed at home by the Eagles in Week 14 and were leaking oil heading into the home stretch and in danger of missing the playoffs after a 6-1 start. I’m betting on last week’s gritty 20-12 road divisional win at Washington giving the Giants the necessary confidence to launch them into the playoffs. That makes me think they’re a live underdog against Minnesota this week. The Vikings don’t blow anyone out and closed as 3.5-point chalk last week against Indianapolis. I’m certainly not upgrading Minnesota after needing a comeback from 33-0 down versus one of the worst teams in the NFL in Week 15 so then if you think the Giants are better than the Colts, which seems obvious, you should absolutely be betting the Giants +3.5 at Minnesota this week.
Lions Primed for a Letdown?: I kind of hate that I’m making this bet, but losing against the lowly Panthers would have us all saying the Lions are still the Lions. Who doesn’t love this Detroit story? Going from 1-6 to the playoffs is well within reach for a team that I feel like almost everyone has grown to like. Jared Goff is making the most of his new opportunity with the Lions. Detroit’s defense has transformed itself midseason to where it doesn’t need to score 30-40 points each week to win. With Kirk Cousins only getting older and no future in sight at quarterback in Minnesota, it’s not an overreaction at all to say Detroit has the best future out of any team in the NFC North. However, I’m not sure the Lions are just going to coast into the playoffs in the present either. Teams like this usually have a “What was that?” game right when they appear to be gaining everyone’s trust. We’ve been riding the Lions a lot lately in this column, but this week feels like a good week to hop off the ship. Detroit has gone from an underrated team that not enough people were betting on to a heavy public team against an inferior opponent in Carolina this week. Those kinds of transitions often aren’t seamless particularly for teams like the Lions that are new to the spotlight and trying to put the finishing touches on a playoff berth. I’ll take the Panthers +2.5.
Taking Their Talents Back to South Beach: In some ways the Dolphins are a combination of the Giants and Lions vibes we just harped on. Like the Giants, Miami is in the first season of a new coaching regime, got off to a hot start, but has faded recently to put its playoff hopes in jeopardy. Like the Lions, the Dolphins have kind of an arrival feeling of sorts surrounding them that there are enough foundational pieces on the roster for this to be the start of something in South Florida and not just one random good season. We call this the situational spots column and we like the spot Miami is in this week. After three straight road losses, two of which were in California, the Dolphins are back home and in need of a win to solidify their grasp on one of the AFC wild cards. Miami got blown out by San Francisco, lost in an ugly fashion against the Chargers, but played much better from an eye test standpoint last week in Buffalo. My guess is the Dolphins left western New York with some confidence and will unleash on the Packers this week. It’s also a Packers team that’s won three out of four and one that I’d like to sell high on as a result in addition to buying Miami a bit low. Bear in mind, the Dolphins allow an average of 16.4 points per game at home and we know how many weapons they have on offense that should give Green Bay fits. I’ll lay the 3.5 to back the Dolphins.
Not So Lucky Raiders: I may want to bet against the Packers and their recent success, but that craving is severely enhanced to bet against the Las Vegas Raiders. What a disastrous ending that was for New England last week in Sin City. By now everyone has seen the last play and the failed pitchy pitchy woo woo as it’s called that gifted the Raiders a win at the end of regulation. But don’t forget about the tying touchdown in which the Raiders got some replay review luck on a call that still doesn’t look like a touchdown to me on a Keelan Cole catch. Now factor in that we have a warm-weather team in the Raiders, traveling to Pittsburgh on Saturday night for real feel temperatures that are going to be below zero and I’m all over the Steelers in this spot. Pittsburgh gets Kenny Pickett back at quarterback from a concussion and needs to win out for Mike Tomlin to avoid his first losing season as Steelers head coach. I’ll be all over Steelers -3. Merry Christmas to all!
By Greg Frank
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