The NFL announced this week that it would expand the playoffs to eight teams per conference if it were unable to play a full regular season. Maybe this idea excites you, but all it's done for me is cause me to cross my fingers even harder that the NFL is able to finish the season without any major setbacks.
You see, a few weeks ago, following a Chicago Bears loss, I placed a rather hefty wager on the Bears to miss the playoffs. It was partially done out of anger -- which you should never do! -- but it was at least a reality based anger. Despite the team's good start to the season in the standings, anybody who had watched them on a weekly basis knew that the house was due to come crumbling down eventually. The cracks in the foundation were too large to ignore.
Well, expanding the playoff field would only increase the Bears chances of sneaking into the playoffs with a record like 8-8, and that would be a disaster for me. So, come on, everybody. Wear your masks, follow the guidelines, and get this season completed. For me.
Of course, just to be safe, I should win enough money betting games to make up for any potential rage losses later. All lines via William Hill Sportsbook.
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This game strikes me as a perfect storm for the Cleveland Browns. It's looking more and more likely that Nick Chubb will be returning to the backfield, which is a significant boost to the team's ground game. The Browns haven't been nearly as effective running the ball with Kareem Hunt as the lead back as they were when Hunt was a secondary punch to Nick Chubb. What isn't as widely-noticed is that Cleveland's also likely to get guard Wyatt Teller back on the offensive line too, and his absence has played a significant role in the drop-off of Cleveland's ground game as well. With both of them likely back, and facing a porous Houston rush defense (28th in DVOA, 23rd in success rate), the Browns offense should have a strong game on Sunday.
Projected score: Browns 27, Texans 20
Best bet: Browns -3
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2. Buccaneers at Panthers
The last we saw Tampa Bay it was being embarrassed in primetime by New Orleans. There are few things I love more than taking a team after they've been destroyed in a spotlight game, because the public tends to be overly reactive, and it's often reflected in the next week's line. I believe that to be the case here. It was a bad night for Tampa, against a team that seems to have their number this season. I fully expect Tom Brady and company to bounce back this week against a Panthers team that has lost four straight, and that Tampa beat by 14 in Carolina earlier this season. Oh, and it's looking like the Panthers could be without Christian McCaffery again.
Projected score: Bucs 31, Panthers 20
Best bet: Bucs -6
I have a very difficult time not picking the Seahawks as underdogs. Or, to be more specific, when Russell Wilson is an underdog. Russ has been a monster ATS throughout his career, but he's truly special as an underdog. Since taking over as the Seahawks starter in 2012 (has it really been that long?) Seattle is 27-13-2 ATS as an underdog. When they're a dog to a division opponent that number improves to 9-2 ATS. There's simply no way in the world I can do anything but back the Seahawks in this spot. Sure, it's going to be stressful because all Seattle games are crazy, but that's part of the fun.
Projected score: Seahawks 34, Rams 30
Best bet: Seahawks +1.5