- December 13, 2015 at 11:12 am #19783
HoustonDecember 13, 2015 at 11:26 am #19786
Sal Iacono is a writer for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and better known among sports fans as “Cousin Sal” on Bill Simmons’ podcasts. He’s also making a name for himself as ESPN’s NFL gambling expert.
After going 19-2-3 over the final eight weeks of the 2014 season, Sal has caught fire again. Cuz is 15-6 over the last seven weeks, despite going 1-2 a week ago. He is also 10-3 this season on his “Best Bet.”
So let’s take a look at who Cousin Sal likes this week along with his thoughts on each pick. As usual, assume plenty of goofiness and sarcasm that is difficult to transcribe (you can see the segment here).
Cincinnati Bengals -2.5 (vs Pittsburgh Steelers): “Everybody loves this Steelers team. 70% of those betting this game are backing Pittsburgh, and all the talk is ‘they’re going to be tough to beat in January.’ But this is December! And Cincinnati is the best team in the AFC. Geno Atkins is a force up the middle. Here is my favorite stat. Cincinnati, 14-1-1 in their last 16 home games that kick off at 1 p.m. eastern … Cincinnati is better. They’re home. They’re only laying 2.5. I like them over Pittsburgh.”
His second pick is his two-team teaser — must pick both games correctly, but you get a more favorable point-spread in each game. Cousin Sal was 7-1-1 on teasers over the final nine weeks of the 2014 season.
Denver -1 (vs Oakland Raiders) and Miami Dolphins +7.5 (vs New York Giants): “The Broncos are 5-0 in their last five against the Raiders, and since [Brock] Osweiler took over for Peyton Manning, they average 140 yards on the ground. That’s tough to beat. And Derek Carr is making a lot of mistakes. That’s not going to work against the Broncos defense. The second team, Miami plus-7.5, Monday night against the Giants. I told you last week, these Monday night games, they come down to the last two minutes. So, Miami plus-7.5 is going to work. You have to take it. Lamar Miller getting a steady dose of carries. I like what they’re doing. Ndamukong Suh is going to kill this patchwork offensive line of the Giants.”
This is Sal’s “Best Bet.” He was 12-3-1 with this pick in 2014 and has been 10-3 this season:
Seattle Seahawks -10 (at Baltimore Ravens): “That’s a big number, but Seattle is starting to click. It’s that time of year. We have to jump on them. And Baltimore, as of Friday morning they don’t even know who their quarterback is. Matt Schaub, Jimmy Clausen, it doesn’t matter. Seattle, 15-5-1 [against the spread] in their last 21 December games. Meanwhile, Baltimore 0-7-1 in their last eight against the spread at home. I don’t even think this is close. This reeks 35-9 to me. Take Seattle, minus-10, they win big over Baltimore.”December 13, 2015 at 11:29 am #19787
Pittsburgh (+2.5) 25 CINCINNATI 21
With Roethlisberger at quarterback the Steelers offense is the best in the league and right now they are playing at a very high level. They toasted the Indy defense on Sunday night with 523 total yards at 7.5 yppl and in his past four games Roethlisberger is averaging an amazing 383 passing yards per game at 9.0 yps. Passing offenses running as smoothly as the Steelers have a decided advantage and I expect that he and the Pittsburgh passing offense will produce in this game against a banged up Bengals secondary. Cincinnati’s rush defense has not been particularly strong this season as they allow 4.6 ypr against teams that average 4.3 ypr and that is an area ripe for exploitation by a Steelers run game that is averaging 124 rushing yards at 5.1 ypr against teams that allow 108 yards at 4.3 ypr. Pittsburgh should move the ball well with a balanced attack in this game.
On the other side the Bengals rush offense hasn’t been as productive as they had hoped (averaging 4.2 ypr against teams that allow 4.3 ypr) and will have a hard time generating production as they face a strong Pittsburgh rush defense that is allowing just 91 rushing yards at 3.9 ypr against teams that average 105 yards at 4.2 ypr.
The Steelers need this game as they currently stand as the 7th seed and if the playoffs started today, they’d be out while Cincinnati holds the #1 seed. When these teams played back in Week 8, Big Ben was just returning from injury and was rusty in his return, throwing multiple interceptions. Despite Ben’s performance and the loss of running back Le’Veon Bell earlier in the game the Steelers had every opportunity to win that game but couldn’t make the plays they needed late.
I expect that things will be different this time around and my model favors the Steelers slightly (-.2). In addition, based on their strong ground match-up, the Steelers qualify in a 692-521-41 fundamental rushing situation. I like the Steelers.
Indianapolis (pk) 24 JACKSONVILLE 23
At 6-6 the Colts are still on top of the AFC South, tied with Houston, and will be battling to pull ahead as we enter the final few weeks of the season. After getting crushed last week by the Steelers 45-10 on Sunday night they’ll look to rebound against a Jaguars team that lost a close game last week in Tennessee.
The Jaguars match-up pretty well in this game and should be able to move the ball against a Colts pass defense that has allowed an average of 275 passing yards at 6.9 yps against teams that generate 255 yards at 6.6 yps. While Blake Bortles still has plenty of room for improvement he has played well this season with 27 touchdown passes with just 13 interceptions. His talented pass catchers are all healthy and ready to roll in this game so I expect the Jags will be able to move the ball effectively.
On the other side, Matt Hasselbeck will once again get the start and while he has played well for the most part, he had a rough outing last week with just 169 passing yards and two interceptions. He’ll need a stronger game this week and he should get it against a Jags pass defense that’s been their weak link so far this season – allowing 263 passing yards at 6.7 yps against teams that gain 247 yards at 6.4 yps.
The problem for Indy will be in the trenches where the Jags should be able to run the ball at around a league average rate but Indy won’t have much success running the ball themselves. So far this season the Colts are averaging just 88 rushing yards at 3.7 ypr against teams that allow 102 yards at 4.1 ypr and will face a Jaguars rush defense that’s pretty good – allowing 3.9 ypr against teams that gain 4.2 ypr.
Based on their poor performance last week the Colts qualify in a good 216-133-14 bounce back situation but my model favors the Jags by 3.0 points. The Jags have the advantage in the trenches so it’s a bit of a toss-up but I’ll lean slightly with the Colts based on the situation.
Buffalo (+1) 25 PHILADELPHIA 21
Since their bye week the Bills have played well winning three of their five games (the losses were expected in New England and in Kansas City) and at 6-6 are right now projected as the #8 seed in the AFC. They’re fighting for a Wild Card spot and are motivated to go and get the win in Philadelphia against an Eagles team that was very fortunate to get a lucky win last week in New England (they were outgained 428 yards at 5.0 yppl to 249 yards at 4.4 yppl but scored on a blocked punt, a 99 yard Malcolm Jenkins interception return as well as a Darren Sproles punt return).
Philadelphia is not a very good team and from a yards-per-play perspective are well below average on offense – they are only averaging 352 yards at 5.2 yppl against teams that allow 355 yards at 5.6 yppl and Sam Bradford is ranked #29 in the league in Total QBR. Defensively, the Eagles have been gashed on the ground their last six games (allowing an average of 156 rushing yards at 5.3 ypr) and I expect that Philadelphia is going to have a hard time slowing down LeSean McCoy and a Bills rushing offense that averages 142 yards per game at 4.9 ypr (against teams that allow 108 yards at 4.2 ypr).
I don’t have any situations that apply to this game but my model favors the Bills by 3.6 points so it’s a lean to Buffalo minus the short number. I do have a 95-39-3 totals situation that plays on the Over by my totals model only projects around total 46 points so it’s also a pass.
Detroit (-2.5) 23 ST. LOUIS 17
The Rams have really fallen on hard times as after a 4-3 start they have now dropped their last five SU and ATS and signs of life are lacking. After multiple injuries to their offensive line their once highly productive run game has disappeared (an average of just 85 yards per game at 4.2 ypr the last four) and their quarterback play has been terrible. Nick Foles has a Total QBR of just 30.0 for dead last in the league and whether it’s him or Case Keenum doesn’t make much of a difference. Meanwhile, their once strong defense has also fallen off the cliff and is allowing an average of 422 total yards at 6.5 yppl in their last four games. To make matters worse, their defense this week lost defensive end Robert Quinn and safety T.J. McDonald for the season and starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins is dealing with a concussion. Coach Jeff Fisher doesn’t know what else to do and this week fired his offensive coordinator and promoted former tight ends coach Rob Boras to the position. When asked this week if there will be adjustment period to calling plays he said “I’d be lying if I said no. . . .that’s part of the process.” That can’t be a good sign for an offense that is already really struggling.
On the other side, the Lions have been a completely different team since their bye week, going 3-1 SU and ATS (and really should be 4-0 after their Hail Mary loss to the Packers last Thursday night). They have played better in all phases of the game since their bye week but have been ridiculously good against the run (allowing an average of 59 yards at 2.8 ypr) on defense. Offensively, Jim Bob Cooter opened the offense up utilizing more shotgun and pistol with resulting increases in production in both the run and the pass games.
The Lions are the far better team right now and my model favors them by 6.1 points. The Rams do qualify in a good 187-117-7 situation but I don’t like anything coming out of Rams camp right now while I like the way the Lions have been playing. I lean with Detroit.
CHICAGO (-3.5) 25 Washington 19
After starting the season out slow with new coaches and systems and losing to three of the best teams in the league (Green Bay, Arizona and Seattle), the Bears had improved steadily prior to last week, going 5-3 SU and 7-1 ATS. Then, last week they had a bad game against the 49ers as a big home favorite – losing in overtime 26-20. They let that one slip away and really never should have lost – normally reliable kicker Robbie Gould missed a 36 yard field goal as time expired that would have won it, after missing a 40 yarder earlier in the game. The Bears controlled the action for most of the day and outgained San Francisco 365 total yards at 5.0 yppl to 291 yards at 4.9 yppl but were -1 in turnovers and gave up a 71 yard touchdown pass in overtime in the loss. I expect that they’ll bounce back in this game as coach John Fox is 16-5 ATS off a home loss against an opponent off a loss, including 10-1 ATS as a favorite of 3 or more in his previous game.
In addition, the Bears are the better team in this game and should be able to move the ball effectively against a Redskins defense that is below average both defending the run (allowing 125 yards at 4.7 ypr) and the pass (allowing 6.7 yps against teams that gain 6.5 yps). Chicago’s vulnerability on defense is defending the run but since the early part of the season the Redskins run game has fallen apart. Since Week 3 the Redskins are only averaging 77 rushing yards per game at 3.3 ypr and last week they couldn’t get anything going at home against an average Cowboy run defending unit (73 rushing yards at 2.8 ypr). In addition, Washington plays much better at home than they do on the road – they are 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS away from home and are getting destroyed in the trenches in the process – they average just 40 rushing yards per game at 2.3 ypr while allowing an average of 158 rushing yards at 4.5 ypr on the road.
Chicago should win this game and my model favors them by 7.4 points. With a motivated home team that is the better team laying a short number, I like the Bears.
CLEVELAND (-2) 23 San Francisco 19
The Browns are 2-10 and have lost their last 7 games straight up but they are favored in this game against a 49ers team that has improved and just beat the Bears in Chicago last week. Meanwhile, last week against the Bengals, Cleveland was destroyed 37-3 with Austin Davis at quarterback. This week the Browns have decided to switch back to Johnny Manziel so it’s been a carousel of quarterbacks for Cleveland the past few weeks on a team that appears to have a lot of dysfunction. It’s one of those games where at first glance the line doesn’t make a lot of sense but when you dig deeper you can see multiple reasons why the Browns are favored.
First off, the 49ers are not a very good team and should have lost last week on a Robbie Gould 36 yard field goal as time expired. Second, the 49ers are terrible on the road (1-5 SU and 2-4 ATS), losing by an average score of 16-33 and losing ATS by an average of 8.5 points. Last week in their only road win they got lucky as they were outgained and outplayed for the majority of the day. In addition, model numbers actually agree and favor the Browns by about a point. While there are a few situations in play, the stronger ones favor the Browns.
Based on their terrible performance last week Cleveland qualifies in a very good 187-117-7 bounce back situation while the 49ers qualify in a negative 18-35-4 time zone travel situation that plays against certain teams travelling to play an early game in the Eastern time zone. The premise is that the visiting team won’t be in their peak physical performance time window while their opponent (the home team) will be. This will also be the 49ers third away game in the past four weeks.
Putting it all together it looks like a Cleveland win to me so I’m going to lean the Browns way.
TAMPA BAY (-4.5) 31 New Orleans 21
The Saints have not won a game since barely getting by the Giants at home over a month ago and have played some of the worst defense I can ever remember seeing. In what was a big spot last week they played a close game but ultimately came up short at home against the undefeated Panthers and now at 4-8, and having fallen way out of contention for the playoffs, take to the road to try and slow down the surging Buccaneers. This seems to be a natural let-down spot for the Saints and if they don’t have the fire needed to play in this game, this one could get ugly.
That’s because Tampa Bay matches up really well in this game with a rush offense that is among the leagues’ best – averaging 145 rushing yards at 4.9 ypr against teams that allow 112 yards at 4.3 ypr and they’re facing a Saints rush defense that is one of the worst in the NFL – allowing 139 rushing yards at 5.0 ypr against teams that average 114 yards at 4.2 ypr. Even worse than their run defense is their horrible lack of ability to defend the pass. New Orleans has allowed an average of 287 passing yards at 7.8 yps against teams that gain 244 yards at 6.5 yps. Facing a Bucs passing offense that is getting healthier and has actually been pretty good this season (averaging 6.8 yps against teams that allow 6.6 yps), the Saints defense is going to have major problems slowing down the Bucs offense.
When the Saints have the ball they’ll hang their hat on Drew Brees and the passing offense as they usually do, mainly because they won’t be able to run the ball against a solid Tampa rush defense that allows just 96 yards at 3.7 ypr against teams that gain 105 yards at 4.1 ypr. Without their starting running back, Mark Ingram, who was placed on IR earlier this week, that task will be even tougher. Without balance in the run game, the Bucs resurgent pass rush (12 sacks their past four games) will make things very difficult for Drew Brees. Making matters worse, Brees has a banged up trio of starting offensive linemen that missed practice much of the week – tackle Terron Armstead (knee) and tackle Zach Strief (shoulder) look like they’ll play but guard Jahri Evans (ankle) is out. Due to their superior run game the Bucs qualify in a 696-521-41 fundamental rushing situation and the math favors Tampa Bay by 8.6 points. It looks like a good spot for the Bucs with strong match-up advantages but two of their best defensive players Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy may not be able to play. I’ll update this one on Sunday.
Seattle (-10) 28 BALTIMORE 14
The Seahawks are as hot as any team in the NFL right now, winning three straight and four of their last five. Last week they crushed the Vikings 38-7 and really dominated the game with a 435 yard (6.8 yppl) to 125 yard (2.6 yppl) advantage. However, after a string of competitive games against good teams and now travelling east to play a bad team that may be starting Jimmy Clausen at quarterback, the natural tendency may be to let up a bit. After all, the Seahawks faced Clausen earlier this season when he was with the Bears and they won big (26-0). Clausen was just 9-17 for 63 yards in that contest and as a result the Seahawks can’t be very motivated in this game. In fact, Seattle qualifies in a negative 39-78-4 contrary situation that plays against them.
No doubt Seattle is the better team with an offense that is clicking on all cylinders (averaging 380 total yards at 6.1 yppl against teams that allow 349 yards at 5.5 yppl) and a defense that is still one of the best in the league (allowing 308 yards at 5.1 yppl against teams that generate an average of 344 yards at 5.6 yppl.
Seattle is a run heavy team and the best thing the Ravens do is defend the run (allowing 97 rushing yards at 3.9 ypr against teams that gain 100 yards at 4.2 ypr) so it’s possible the Ravens slow down the hot Seattle offense by limiting their running game and keep this game close. I don’t have a lot of confidence in a Clausen led offense (on 387 career attempts he averages just 5.1 yps with 5 touchdowns and 11 interceptions) and despite the situation I like Seattle to pull away in this game if Clausen is the man. It’s possible Schaub plays so I’ll update as it becomes clear who will be starting.
Oakland (+6.5) 22 DENVER 21
The Raiders played a good three quarters last week and held a 20-14 lead before three 4th quarter Derek Carr interceptions led directly to 21 Kansas City points. Oakland outgained the Chiefs 361 total yards to 234 but the turnovers killed them. Carr is a good young player and will have moments like that but I expect a bounce back performance from him and the Raiders in this game knowing that they need to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Meanwhile, the Broncos escaped with a 17-3 win in San Diego due to a +2 turnover differential but they barely outgained the Chargers (285 total yards at 4.5 yppl to 272 yards at 4.4 yppl for San Diego). Since Brock Osweiler has taken over at quarterback the Broncos running game has improved dramatically (averaging 161 rushing yards at 4.6 ypr) but the pass game is still a work in progress.
The Broncos have played well this season overall and their defense has been outstanding (#1 in the league in total defense, # 1 in pass defense, #1 in sacks and #2 in scoring defense) but they have also had some luck – Denver has only fumbled 5 times all season, losing just 1 (best in the NFL), while their opponents have fumbled 20 times, losing 12 (also best in the NFL). If you win the turnover battle odds are that you are going to win the game and while those numbers explain a lot of what happened in the past they aren’t very good at predicting what’s going to happen in the future. If anything, there is a tendency in some cases for turnovers to regress back towards the mean. Oakland, of course, is tied for the league lead in fumbles with 22 and they have lost 10 of those, while their opponents have fumbled 11 times and lost 7, explaining a portion of their negative result so far this season.
Oakland has a good passing game (averaging 266 yards at 6.7 yps against teams that allow 238 yards at 6.4 yps) and Denver is banged up in the secondary so the Raiders have a chance to keep this one close. This is a lot of points to give a divisional opponent in a revenge situation with their playoff hopes on the line and the math likes Oakland to win this game outright (Oak -1.4). I lean with Oakland plus the points.
Dallas (+7) 19 GREEN BAY 21
Green Bay was lucky to win last week on a controversial facemask call that should have ended the game followed by a 61 yard Hail Mary touchdown pass. They had been severely outplayed for the majority of the game and trailed 20-0 in the third quarter before getting some good fortune late. Simply put, they aren’t the same team right now that they were earlier in the season with an offensive line that has been banged up and receivers that are having problems getting separation. Since their bye week the Packers have regressed and are just 2-4 SU and ATS (they should be 1-5 after the Lions game) with Aaron Rodgers averaging just 222 passing yards per game at 5.5 yps.
From a yards per play perspective Green Bay has the statistical profile of an average team on both offense and defense, very similar to the Cowboys. By the stats, there are no real match-up advantages to speak of and my model only favors the Packers by ½ point.
Amazingly at just 4-8 the Cowboys are still in the hunt for the NFC East title and may have some momentum from their Monday night win against the Redskins. I don’t have any situations in play but based on my numbers it appears that the Cowboys are undervalued in this game so I’ll lean their way.
New England (-3.5) 26 HOUSTON 19
With their 35-28 loss last week to the Eagles, New England has lost two straight games – that doesn’t happen very often and the last four times it occurred the Patriots are 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS, winning by an average score of 36-14 and covering by an average of nearly 18 points per game. Off a loss and playing on the road against a .500 or better team that Patriots are 21-2 ATS, covering by an average of 12.6 points per game. The Patriots are the better team in this contest, even after adjusting for the absence of Gronkowski and Edelman, and will be motivated to play well after consecutive losses and playing in the Sunday night spotlight.
While the Texans have played better with Hoyer in the line-up (they are still just 4-5 SU and ATS) they are still a below average offense with a bad run game (averaging 3.7 ypr against teams that allow 4.2 ypr) and a pass game that averages 5.9 yps against teams that allow 6.4 yps. Defensively they allow 4.6 ypr to teams that gain 4.5 ypr and will have an injured J.J. Watt in the line-up this week after breaking his hand in practice. On the other side the Patriots are good in all phases of the game with Tom Brady at quarterback and an underrated defense that is allowing just 5.2 yppl to teams that generate 5.5 yppl. My model favors the Patriots by 8.6 points in this game and with the situation mentioned above, I like the Patriots.December 13, 2015 at 11:31 am #19788
10* Saints / Bucs
OVERDecember 13, 2015 at 11:31 am #19789
100* Packers -6.5
100* Steelers / Bengals – Over 49December 13, 2015 at 11:32 am #19791
5* Saints / Bucs – Over 50.5
3* Bengals ML
3* Redskins +3.5
2* Cowboys +7.5
2* Texans +4
2* Texans / Pats – Over 45
2* Jets / Titans – Over 43
1* Seahawks -11
1* Raiders +7
1* Chiefs / Chargers – Under 43.5
1* Colts / Jags – Over 46December 13, 2015 at 11:35 am #19793
10* NFL GAME OF THE MONTH!
Pittsburgh SteelersDecember 13, 2015 at 11:37 am #19794
Dallas CowboysDecember 13, 2015 at 11:38 am #19795
NFL | Dec 13, 2015
Steelers vs. Bengals
This big time early AFC game features the 7-5 Steelers and the 10-2 Bengals. Bengals are 10-1-1 ats this season which favors us. Steelers are desperate for a win to keep up in the AFC and they are looking to revenge a 16-10 loss in Pittsburgh. Teams off back to back games in which they didn’t give up 10 or more points are just 92-149 38% as long as they were not a dog of 3 or more points. Public is 50/50 on this game but we are seeing a shift from 3 down to 2.5. Statement game for Steelers as they upset the Bengals but take the points for a 15* winner.December 13, 2015 at 11:41 am #19797
Carolina Panthers -8
NY Jets -7
Free play – Tampa Bay Bucs -4.5December 13, 2015 at 11:46 am #19799
25* NEP -3 1/2
8* Detroit -2 1/2
6* TB -3 1/2
20* Under 41 – 49ers vs Browns
8* JagsDecember 13, 2015 at 12:02 pm #19800
Betting First Look Show with Marco D’Angelo
Under 43 – Tennessee Titans vs NJ Jets
*38pts or less.December 13, 2015 at 12:03 pm #19801
POWER PLAY WINS
POD – CINCINNATI BENGALS -2.5December 13, 2015 at 12:04 pm #19802
Bears / Skins – UNDER 43.5
Bills / Eagles – OVER 46.5 (2x)
Titans / Jets – OVER 43
GB /KC / Carolina (+104) (2x)
Pitt +9 / Buf +7
Seattle – TT OVER 26
Buffalo – TT OVER 23.5 (-105)
Buffalo – 1st Half – TT OVER 10.5 (-135)
Niners/SF – OVER 41December 13, 2015 at 12:15 pm #19803
Philadelphia -1 1 Unit
Houston +3.5 1 Unit
Atlanta +8 2 Units
Cincinnati -2.5 2 Units
Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati – Over 49.5 2 Units
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