Week 16 College and NFL Pick ‘Em: SportsChump vs The Wife Hates Sports vs Dave Bradley

Have you ever asked a friend for a favor, only to see them end up doing the exact opposite?  Last week, I asked Bobby Kady to pick up the slack for the rest of you.  With our celebrity guests combining for an ice cold 41% accuracy picking football games this season, I thought Mr. Kady might be of assistance.

He wasn’t. 

He went 0-for-5. 

With numbers like these, it’s no wonder sports gambling is becoming legal around this country at a rapid-fire pace.

When I talk to fringe sports fans about the recent legalization of sports gambling in Florida, many admit they’ve opted out, proclaiming they really don’t know how to gamble.

Wise choice, people.

I have never placed a single chip on a craps table.  Why?  Because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, in most walks of life but most assuredly on the craps table.

There’s a lot that goes into gambling on sports.  Knowing how to properly place a wager helps, but all the knowledge in the world can be bested by a little chance.

So, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times.  Wager wisely, people.  Know your hot streaks but more importantly, know your bankroll.  Find information you deem valuable and scrap the rest.  After all, it’s your money you’re losing… but it could be their money you’re winning.

This week, we have another local, fledgling comedian offering up guidance and taking comfort in the fact that he can’t do any worse than his counterpart last week.  Please welcome back Dave Bradley, ladies and gentlemen.

Speaking of winning, another 4-1 week has me coasting to the finish line but with three weeks left, I’m trying my darnedest not to give it all away.  Which is why I like…

$50 on Detroit Lions (-2 ½) at Minnesota Vikings

I’m not crazy about the Lions.  I mean, I like what this team has done, sort of.  They are clearly one of the top four teams in the NFC… but they’re probably number four.  They’re dynamic offensively and they’re stout defensively, that is, when they want to be.  I just find their play a little too inconsistent for serious title contenders.  This weekend, they travel to Minnesota who is somehow still alive in the playoffs, a miracle after the season they’ve had.  They’ve started umpteen quarterbacks, lost their star wide receiver, and have proven time and time again that they can’t run the football.  The Lions have been the class of this division for most of the year, we’ve just been waiting for them to commemorate it officially which they should do this weekend.  What scares me is their scoring differential, a paltry +51 for a team with ten wins.  That shouldn’t matter against a team that they’re clearly better than.  What better way to clinch both a playoff spot and a division title than against a rival in their own house.  Usually, I’m leery about laying points on the road in games between divisional opponents but we’ve been waiting for months to stick a fork in Minnesota.  Detroit will do the honors on Sunday.  The line opened at 2 ½ before it jumped to three, so I’ll take the hook in my favor.  The Lions cover the spread on the road.

$40 on Dallas Cowboys (+1 ½) at Miami Dolphins

I’m two-for-two the last two weeks picking the Dallas Cowboys.  I figured they’d handle Philly at home, which they did, then travel to Buffalo and lose, which they did.  This week, they travel to Miami to face one of the toughest offenses in the league.  Miami boasts the highest scoring offense in the league this season, totaling 441 points in 14 games.  You know who’s second?  That would be the Dallas Cowboys with 431 total points, yet we don’t consider the Cowboys offense quite as high-powered as Miami’s.  Tyreek Hill’s quest for 2000 yards hit a halt last weekend as he opted out of Sunday’s game.  His services were not needed as the Fish embarrassed the Jets.  The Cowboys are not the Jets.  Not only is their defense better (they have allowed fewer points than the Jets), but their offense is also, in a word, frightening.  The knock on the Cowboys is that they can’t win on the road.  At 3-4, it’s a legitimate chink in their armor.  Neither team needs this game. They’re both assured playoff spots (Miami’s technically not in… yet).  Not only does Dallas want to prove they can win a difficult road game, but they also want to win the NFC East and secure home field advantage for as long as they can have it.  Philly’s loss to Seattle last Monday kept that a realistic possibility.  Miami’s Mike McDaniel is one of the sharpest young football minds in the game, but I fear they may force the ball to Tyreek a little too often in search of that 2000-yard mark, if he’s even able to go.  If that dictates their game plan, Dallas could have their number.  Raheem Mostert will also need to get some rest before running headfirst into that Dallas defense.  This is your game of the week, but I like Dallas to go into Miami and make a statement, winning a big one on the road.  If they can’t get this done, no one will take them seriously in January.  If they do get this done, look out.  I like Dallas to out-physical Miami.  I’ll take the Cowboys plus the 1 ½.

$30 on New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (-6)

I wonder if Bill Belichick’s hoodies are folded up and neatly packed into a cardboard box in his Foxboro office.  I wonder if he took the time to scissor those sleeves off himself, or whether he has someone do it for him.  More importantly for the good chowderheads of New England, I wonder if he has any interest in returning to coach this football team in 2024.  I’m pretty sure Coach Belichick has earned the “Never Be Fired” privilege from Robert Kraft so if they decide to part ways, it will be amicable, with Bill maybe taking another gig, staying in the front office, or yes, returning.  But returning means he will be responsible for picking their next quarterback in the upcoming draft.  At 3-11, they should have their pick of the litter in a quarterback-rich draft.  This team has been an abomination, losing six of their last seven.  This week, they travel to Denver who, at 7-7, might still have something to play for after a Sunday full of scoreboard watching.  There are a few teams ahead of Denver in the AFC playoff race that might lose their games.  If so, that opens the opportunity for Denver to saddle on in with a win over the Pats.  Despite last week’s hiccup in Detroit, prior to that, the Broncos had won six of seven, after a miserable start that has mirrored the Pats’ entire season.  I’m not quite sure what the Patriots have left to play for.  On a rowdy, chilly Sunday night in Mile High, Coach Belichick will probably wish he’d left his sleeves attached.  Give me Denver minus the six.

$20 on Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers (+2)

One of the most impressive streaks in NFL history belongs to Mike Tomlin.  This man has never had a losing record.  Despite Steelers fans’ collective love/hate relationship with the most underappreciated coach in the league, for 17 years in Pittsburgh, the man has not had a single losing season, which is unfathomable considering how bad some of his teams have been.  You can throw a snowball full of dysfunction right in Tomlin’s face and he’ll stare it down before it makes contact.  Speaking of dysfunction, this week Tomlin’s starts Mason Rudolph, meaning he has a quarterback most have forgotten about, no running game to speak of and a locker room that appears to be boiling over.  Yet somehow, the Steelers are still 7-7.  This week, they face the Burrow-less and Ja’Marr Chase-less Cincinnati Bengals.  Group the Bengals in with the list of teams that are performing miracles with a backup quarterback nobody had heard of before this season.  And if you don’t believe in miracles, look no further than Tee Higgins’ touchdown catch to send last week’s Bengals game into overtime, one they’d eventually win.  It was as impressive a catch I’d ever seen.  I still feel these Bengals, as currently comprised, have no business being in the playoffs.  Don’t get me wrong, neither does Pittsburgh.  As usual, we have a battle of slightly above mediocre AFC North teams doing just enough to somehow be alive in late December, but neither of these teams is very good, which means Pittsburgh’s role here is to play spoiler.  A Steelers win muddies up the AFC playoff picture so a) I’m hoping for chaos and b) I’m hoping that Mike Tomlin gets one win closer to keeping his streak alive, because he deserves it.  Give me Pittsburgh plus the two.

$10 on Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3)

I was all prepared to explain how the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to waltz into Tampa Bay and prove that they were the better team.  Then I read that Trevor Lawrence was in concussion protocol, along with the rest of the starting quarterbacks in the league.  Must be some party.  I sure hope they remember it.  This means the Jags, while fighting for a playoff spot, might have to roll into Sunday starting CJ Beathard (please insert joke I haven’t heard about his last name here).  The Buccaneers have won three straight and, with the Saints loss on Thursday night, can move one giant step closer to winning the NFC South, which is once again the worst division in football.  Meanwhile, over in the AFC South, we have the Jags tied with two other teams, the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans, who all start quarterbacks that they weren’t starting in Week One.  Welcome to the walking wounded.  Meanwhile, down in Tampa, Baker Mayfield is fighting not only for a playoff spot but a contract for next season which he’s likely to get if he keeps playing the way he does.  Pound for pound, when healthy, I think the Jaguars are the better team, but with no Trevor Lawrence, I support the home team.  The Bucs defense, all apparently healthy except for the slowly impending departure of Devin White, should keep Mr. Beathard running for his life and wishing he’d never made the trip.  Something odd is happening within the Buccaneers locker room, something most of us didn’t expect, and that’s camaraderie.  Call it a Christmas miracle, brought to you by Baker and company.  The Jags come into this one whimpering after getting embarrassed by Baltimore at home.  They could turn things around but not in Tampa, against a Bucs team, that has its eyes on the prize. Tampa started out a dog and moved to a slight favorite with the news about Lawrence.  I jumped on them at plus three and will ride it, for small stakes, to the bank this Christmas.  Buccaneers plus the points at home.

Dave Bradley’s picks (Career 3-2, +$10)

Kevin’s Picks for the week

$50: Green Bay Packers (-4) at Carolina Panthers

I could count the number of fans at Bank of America Stadium on my hands last week. But then again, the weather was absolutely dreadful. Why go see a one-win team (now two) in those conditions? Green Bay, meanwhile, is quite the Jekyll and Hyde team. Once you think Jordan Love and the Packers have turned the corner, the team encounters back-to-back losses to the Giants and Bucs. The playoffs are still in reach for Green Bay, and the schedule is quite favorable (the Vikings and Bears follow the Panthers). The key will be the Packers getting more from its surprisingly mediocre run game (injuries have not helped, for what it’s worth). Jordan Love will need to limit his mistakes against Carolina’s third ranked pass defense. Overall, while it could be ugly, I think Green Bay finds a way. Packers cover on the road.

$40: Las Vegas Bowl: Utah Utes (-6) vs Northwestern Wildcats

This opened as my $10 game and crept up the list as the week progressed. I have concerns with both teams. For the Wildcats, it was a solid and quite surprising season. This was not a team many expected to finish 7-5. But here’s the thing: the Wildcats faced minimal stiff competition. Penn State trounced the ‘Cats 41-13 on September 30. Iowa topped NW 10-7 (big shocker with that score). Duke defeated them 38-14 early in the year. Utah, on the other hand, was much more battle tested, facing the likes of Oregon State, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona. My concern with Utah is opt-outs. The Utes have fifteen players in the transfer portal (and on the opt-out list). The only one in that group expected to play is QB Bryson Barnes. Overall, I lean to the more battled tested team with more depth. Utes cover.

$30: Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Kansas Jayhawks (-11) vs UNLV Rebels

Will the KU offense still click without Andy Kotelnicki as its OC? If you use Penn State (Kotelnicki’s landing spot) as an example, the Nittany Lions survived and flourished without its OC. Kansas can game plan around the team’s strengths (and use existing plays that were successful under Kotelnicki). Regarding those opting out, Kansas will be short three players, all on offense (two WR’s and a TE). UNLV has six players in the portal. The Jayhawks are more battle tested this season. Other than facing Michigan on September 9 (a 35-7 loss), the Rebels haven’t faced a ranked team. UNLV also lost its last two games. The key will be how UNLV’s 90th ranked rush defense will handle the 9th ranked rushing offense at Kansas. My gut says Kansas will wear them down over the course of four quarters. Jayhawks cover.

$20: Cleveland Browns (+1) at Houston Texans

CJ Stroud (concussion) remains out. Case Keenum (23-36, 229 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) will start again. Joe Flacco is back for Cleveland, with some prognosticators arguing that he could be a darkhorse for Comeback Player of the Year. I wouldn’t go that far, but Flacco has surprisingly been the glue the injured Browns have needed. Both teams have managed to keep their proverbial heads above water (a.k.a. the .500 line and in playoff position) despite a slew of injuries. Keenum will have his hands full facing Cleveland’s talented defensive front that has 41 sacks this season. Houston (+8 turnover differential) has been opportunistic all year and is 5-2 at home, while the Browns are 2-4 on the road. But the injured Texans haven’t faced a team with a winning record all month. Not until now.  Browns cover on the road.

$10: Jacksonville Jaguars at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3)

Trevor Lawrence cleared concussion protocol today and that changed my confidence level with this game. I decided to leave it in my top five, having the Bucs as three-point underdogs at home. Tampa Bay is .500 on the season (and level both at home and on the road). Baker Mayfield has 7 total TD and 0 INT over his last two games, showing why he was once the top overall pick. This week, Mayfield faces a Jacksonville defense that ranks 29th against the pass. On the flip side, Tampa Bay’s passing defense has also struggled against the pass (31st overall). The Bucs have been more successful getting to the QB (40 sacks versus Jacksonville’s 30), and that’s an additional advantage considering a banged up Lawrence. This should be a close game, but I give the edge to Tampa Bay. Bucs cover at home.

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