The final week of the NFL regular season is here. Some games on this schedule are much more meaningful than others. There are extremes. There's a game between the Chargers and the Raiders in which the winner makes the playoffs and the loser is eliminated. There are also games that are completely meaningless such as Giants-Washington and Minnesota-Chicago.
We're taking a look at six games and breaking them down from a betting angle. Every angle must be examined when handicapping the final week of an NFL regular season. All betting lines are as of Friday afternoon and courtesy of BetMGM.
Would you rather back the Titans or Chiefs laying double digits on the road?
On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs are 11-point favorites on the road in Denver. Kansas City is still alive for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but it needs a win and Titans loss. Speaking of the Titans, Tennessee is a 10.5-point favorite in Houston against the Texans. Which road favorite would you rather back?
Greg: Hmmmm, do I want a Tennessee team that constantly plays to the level of its competition and already lost to the Texans this year, or a Kansas City squad that’s found its groove and is averaging more than 37 points per game over its last four? I’m not even sure that Denver is the better opposing team in these two matchups. The Broncos certainly don’t play with as much grit as the Texans, who blew out the Chargers with half their team on the COVID-19 list. If you were to suck the talent out of Patrick Mahomes and you stopped halfway through the process, you’d get Taylor Heinicke. If you went all the way, you’d end up with Drew Lock. I’m all over the Chiefs.
Pete: I think Kansas City absolutely rolls the Broncos. Anyone who still had hope that Drew Lock could develop into an NFL quarterback should no longer have that hope after his performances in fill-in duty this season. Mahomes vs. Lock is such a significant mismatch that it's impossible to ignore. I think Kansas City's defense will also be motivated to get right before the playoffs after it was exposed for the first time in a while last week by Ja'Marr Chase. Tennessee should win, but as Greg said, it's lost to the Texans already this season as well as the Jets. You never know what you'll get from the Titans. Therefore, I'm more confident taking the Chiefs.
Would you rather lay over a field goal at home with the Baltimore Ravens or L.A. Rams?
Technically, both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are still alive when it comes to the playoffs.
Wink Martindale with the line of the year: "If we win this game, we just need a three-game parlay to hit."
— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) January 6, 2022
However, for all intents and purposes, these teams need a miracle. Nevertheless, I'd expect them to play hard and refuse to concede defeat. Baltimore is a 3.5-point home favorite over the Steelers. If the Rams win, they clinch the NFC West. If the 49ers win, they clinch a playoff spot. In this high stakes matchup, the Rams are 4.5-point favorites over the 49ers. Which home favorite would you rather back?
Greg: It’s tough to take a position on the Rams game without knowing whether Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance will be under center for the Niners. Furthermore, the majority of San Francisco’s secondary is currently on the COVID-19 list. One thing we do know is that Kyle Shanahan owns Sean McVay, winning their last five matchups. I could see a big letdown game for the Steelers following last week’s emotional Big Ben retirement party. (Has anyone else in the history of work ever taken a two-hour lap around the premises after their last day at the office is finished?)Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t throw deep often enough to take advantage of Baltimore’s biggest weakness. Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, makes no difference, the Ravens should have their way on both sides of the ball. I’ll take Baltimore.
Pete: It's hard to see the emotion the Steelers had for the Ben Roethlisberger final home game and not expect a flat performance from Pittsburgh. That game was Monday, so this is a short week for them to compound that. The Ravens have been playing tough, close games against the likes of the Packers and Rams in recent weeks, and Tyler Huntley appears to be a solid option at quarterback. On the other side, I can see the 49ers winning outright or at the very least keeping it close. Kyle Shanahan has owned Sean McVay, and the 49ers should pull out all the tricks to get this win. I hate to agree with Greg again, but give me the Ravens.
Would you rather back the Cardinals or Buccaneers as home favorites?
The Arizona Cardinals got back on track last week in their win over the Cowboys. This week, Arizona is a 6.5-point favorite at home against the Seahawks in what could be the final game as a member of the Seahawks for Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll or both. Elsewhere, the Buccaneers have had en eventful week dealing with the fallout from the Antonio Brown situation. Tampa Bay is an 8.5-point favorite over the Carolina Panthers. Which home favorite are you going with?
Greg: I love both of these favorites. The way Arizona has tightened up its rushing defense is such a huge factor in the matchup Sunday. If the Cardinals can travel to Seattle as underdogs and dominate the Seahawks with Colt McCoy, then what’s stopping them from rolling at home behind Kyler Murray? It will be interesting to see if the Bucs are distracted by all the Antonio Brown stuff, or if they’re able to shut it all out and take care of business. The Panthers have failed to cover in 11 of their last 13 games, including a 32-6 loss to Tampa at home just a couple weeks ago. Future despots will torture their political opponents by forcing them to watch the 2021 Carolina Panthers offense. To paraphrase Jerry Maguire, give me the Bucs.
Pete: I too like both of these favorites, but I'll be different this time. I think it's pivotal for Arizona to string together wins before the playoffs, as the second half of this season has been far from encouraging for the Cardinals. Last week showed their potential, but they've been inconsistent down the stretch. Arizona rolled with Colt McCoy in Seattle, and it should do the same here with Kyler Murray. Seattle still feels overrated despite its 17-game sample of not being good. That's name reputation for you. On the other side, something smells a bit rotten in Tampa Bay. Tom Brady is the last quarterback I'd expect to be impacted by these sideshow circuses, but you never know. I'll take the Cardinals.