Favorites posted a sixth consecutive winning Sunday, finishing 9-3 ATS against the closing number. Over the past six Sundays, favorites are a combined 45-21-5 (68.2 percent) ATS. Two of the three underdogs that did cover on Sunday won outright: Bills +8.5 and Cardinals +6. Home teams turned a small profit on the day at 7-5 against the closing number, and overs split at 6-6.

From an entertainment value standpoint, we watched a fairly competitive day of football, as illustrated by the 10.2 point average margin of victory.  Seven of the 12 games were decided by one possession.

The Cleveland Browns dropped to 0-11 on the season and somehow found another way to not cover. Sorry Cleveland, you are now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

Only five teams in the NFL have a point differential greater than plus-100:

  1. Eagles +160
  2. Rams +123
  3. Patriots +105
  4. Jaguars +101
  5. Saints +100

If the season ended today, here is what the NFL postseason would look like:

NFC

  1. Eagles (10-1)
  2. Vikings (9-2)
  3. Rams (8-3)
  4. Saints (8-3)
  5. Panthers (8-3)
  6. Falcons (7-4)

AFC

  1. Steelers (9-2)
  2. Patriots (9-2)
  3. Jaguars (7-4)
  4. Titans (7-4)
  5. Chiefs (6-5)
  6. Bills (6-5)

The Bills recovered from last week’s disaster in Los Angeles and picked up an enormous road win in Kansas City to jump into the sixth spot in the AFC playoffs.  However, if the Ravens can hold serve at home on Monday night against the Texans, Baltimore will jump the Bills as a result of having a better conference record. For as good of a season as the Saints have had to date, it looks like they will have to play on Wild Card weekend, as they now have losses against the Vikings and Rams.


Key Injuries on Sunday:

49ers C.J. Beathard – Knee (?)
Bears OL Josh Sitton- Concussion (?)
Bengals LB Nick Vigil – Ankle (?)
Broncos QB Paxton Lynch – Ankle (?)
Broncos DT Domata Peko Sr. – Knee (?)
Browns P Britton Colquitt – Concussion (?)
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Concussion (?)
Bucs CB Josh Robinson – Hamstring (?)
Colts CB Rashaan Melvin – Hand (?)
Colts C Ryan Kelly – Concussion (?)
Falcons CB Desmond Trufant – Concussion (?)
Falcons CB Brian Poole – Back (?)
Jaguars LB Telvin Smith – Concussion (?)
Panthers Greg Olsen – Foot (?)
Panthers LB Thomas Davis – Thigh (?)
Patriots OL Kyle Van Noy – Leg (?)
Raiders WR Amari Cooper – Concussion (?)
Rams LB Connor Barwin – Arm (?)
Saints TE Coby Fleener – Concussion (?)
Saints T Terron Armstead – Hamstring (?)
Seahawks TE Luke Wilson – Concussion (?)

Let’s take a quick look at each game from yesterday…


Titans (-3.5) at Colts

Titans win 20-16 (Under 46)

For the first time in 10 years, the Titans will leave Indianapolis with a win — ending their 0-9 streak against the Colts on the road — as the Colts blew another fourth-quarter lead (in typical Colts fashion).

After throwing a couple of picks in the first half, Marcus Mariota seemed to settle into the game as it progressed, and he played well enough to lead his team to victory. Jacoby Brissett played a decent game in his own right, throwing for just shy of 200 yards, but he failed to make enough big plays down the stretch.

At one point, the Colts led 16-6 with possession before coughing it up inside their own 5-yard line and allowing the Titans to cut the lead to 16-13.  Not surprisingly, the fourth quarter woes continued for Indianapolis, who has now given up 117 fourth-quarter points: good (or bad) enough for worst in the NFL.


Panthers (-6) at Jets

Panthers win 35-27 (Over 40)

A topsy-turvy affair concluded with Carolina on top, but for a while it seemed as though the Jets would at least come out of this game with a cover to show for their hard work.

With a little over 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Jets were clinging to a two-point lead before the Panthers defensive/special teams unit took matters into their own hands. First, Luke Kuechly scooped and scored a fumble recovery to give the Panthers a 26-20 lead (after a Cam Newton two-point conversion), and then — following a quick three-and-out — Kaelin Clay took a punt to the house, extending Carolina’s lead to 32-20.

Robby Anderson was a nightmare for the Carolina secondary, racking up 146 yards on six grabs with two touchdowns. Anderson has really come on lately, and has now caught a touchdown in each of his last five games.

The Panthers are now 18-1 without their former “No. 1” receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, and just 18-21-1 with him. Hmph.


Browns at Bengals (-8)

Bengals win 30-16 (Over 38)

Another disappointing Sunday for Browns (and Browns fans, alike), as Cleveland moved to 0-11 on the season (2-9 ATS) and the Bengals improved to 5-6 — keeping their playoff hopes alive in the process.

Joe Mixon had his best game thus far as a professional, cracking the century mark for the first time in his career, amassing 114 yards and a touchdown on the ground for Cincinnati. Andy Dalton also had a decent day for the Bengals, playing a very tidy game, tossing two touchdowns with a passer rating of 111.3.

The Bengals are still in the hunt, just a game behind the Bills who, at 6-5, are currently in position for the final Wild Card spot. A tough road lies ahead of them still, with the Steelers, Bears, Vikings, Lions, and Ravens left on the schedule.

 


Bucs at Falcons (-10)

Falcons win 34-20 (Over 47)

The Bucs were able to make this a game late, cutting their deficit to 27-20 in the fourth quarter, but Matt Ryan and the Falcons were able to stretch their lead and cover the spread while they were at it.

Steve Sarkisian went to his bag of tricks early, with the game tied 3-3 in the second quarter, calling for a “wildcat” type formation — which ended with wideout Mohamed Sanu heaving up a 51-yard touchdown bomb that landed right in Julio Jone’s breadbasket.

And, unfortunately for the Bucs’ defense, Julio Jones — who has been the topic of many “slump” talks — was just getting started. Jones finished his day with 12 receptions for… wait for it… 253 yards and two touchdowns. I think it’s safe to say that Julio has broken out of whatever slump he might have been in.

After Doug Martin was forced to leave the game for the Bucs due to concussion protocol, Peyton Barber made the most of his chances — including two rushing touchdowns (on just 7 yards). Not bad for a day at the office.

 


Dolphins at Patriots (-17)

Patriots win 35-17 (Over 48)

The Pats’ D ran amok Sunday, recording seven sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery against the Miami Dolphins, who have just been sent reeling over the past month or so. The Dolphins have now lost five straight games dating back to their 40-0 debacle against the Ravens in London.

The Patriots, on the other hand, seem to have fully hit stride — and, once again, appear to be the strongest team in the AFC. Tom Brady was in vintage form, spreading the ball around the offense and throwing for four touchdowns, including two to Rob Gronkowski, one to Brandin Cooks and another to Rex Burkhead.

Speaking of Rex Burkhead, in typical Belichick fashion, another “formerly no-name” player has now become the “it” player in this New England system. In addition to his touchdown catch, Burkhead also amassed 50 yards with a touchdown on the ground for the Pats. Dion Lewis chipped in with 112 of his own rushing yards at 7.5 yards a clip.

Outside of Jarvis Landry, who caught eight balls for 70 yards, there was not much to write home about regarding this Dolphins offense.


Bills (+9) at Chiefs

Bills win 16-10 (Under 46.5)

One week after benching their starting quarterback for the likes of Nathan Peterman, the Bills — and Tyrod Taylor — bounced back this week and upset the Chiefs as nine-point underdogs. Despite their apparent QB troubles, the Bills find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase, in one of the two Wild Card spots at 6-5.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, continue their freef all through the power rankings, losing their third straight game — and fifth in their last six. The Chiefs still sit atop the AFC West, but with the Chargers gaining a full head of steam, the question remains: For how long?

Kareem Hunt, who started the season white hot, averaging 122 yards rushing over the first five games, now finds himself mired in something of a slump, averaging just 47 yards per game over his last six. Without the rushing game setting the tone, it appears that Alex Smith lacks an elite repertoire of weapons to carry the offense on his own.

Steven Hauschka’s streak of 13 straight 50-plus yard field goal attempts came to a halt, but he still connected on three of four tries, including a 56-yarder before halftime.


Bears at Eagles (-14)

Eagles win 31-3 (Under 44)

There was no letup Sunday for the Eagles, who improved to 10-1 on the season after another dominant performance at home against the Bears. Carson Wentz was lights out yet again, racking up 227 yards through the air for three touchdowns.

Wentz connected with his tight end Zach Ertz 10 times for 103 yards and a touchdown, while his No. 1 target, Alshon Jeffery, hauled in his seventh touchdown pass of the season.

On the ground, LeGarrette Blount handled the majority of the workload, rushing for 97 yards on his 15 touches. Jay Ajayi, who got only five carries, looked like he was about to punch in the dagger early in the fourth quarter, but he fumbled on his way into the endzone. Luckily for him and the Eagles, wideout Nelson Agholor was “Johnny On The Spot” and scooped it up for a touchdown.

 


Seahawks (-6.5) at 49ers

Seahawks win 24-13 (Under 45)

The Seahawks improved to 7-4 on the season behind another strong performance from the defense — despite the absence of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.

Russell Wilson accounted for three touchdowns, including one on the ground, hitting both of his tight ends — Jimmy Graham and Nick Vannett — for scores.

San Francisco struggled to move the ball again, on the ground AND in the air — until, of course,  quarterback of the future Jimmy Garrapolo made his 49er debut during garbage time and found Louis Murphy in the back of the endzone for the young quarterback’s first TD in red and gold.

 


Saints at Rams (-2)

Rams win 26-20 (Under 54)

The Rams handled business at home, finally slowing down the Saints, holding the high-powered offense led by Drew Brees to just 346 yards. Brees never got into a good rhythm, throwing just one touchdown, to Alvin Kamara.

Kamara also rushed for 87 yards, breaking a couple of highlight-worthy runs, but the balance in the New Orleans backfield was somewhat one-sided, with Mark Ingram failing to get things going.

In something of a bounceback performance, Jared Goff responded strongly after a losing effort last week, throwing for 354 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper Kupp, on the receiving end, hauled in eight catches for 116 yards; he’s quickly become Goff’s favorite option.

Considering how strong New Orleans has looked over the past few months, Los Angeles asserted itself as a power player in the NFC with this victory.


Jaguars at Cardinals (+6)

Cardinals win 27-24 (Over 37)

The Jaguars lost a heartbreaker, rallying back from a few different deficits before Phil Dawson won the game for Arizona on the strength of a 57-yard field goal as time expired, the longest of his career.

Blake Bortles simply didn’t make enough plays for the Jaguars to win this game, and the Jacksonville offense sputtered on many occasions. Granted, he didn’t get much help, and outside of a few runs Bortles broke, the Jaguars were bottled up rushing the football.

The Jags’ defense did what they could, and Calais Campbell took a stripped sack to the house, which put Jacksonville up 17-16 — their first lead. Blaine Gabbert didn’t play great by any stretch, but still put his team in a position to win the game. Adrian Peterson chipped in, rushing 20 times for 79 yards.


Broncos at Raiders (-4)

Raiders win 21-14 (Under 41)

Things got worse for the Broncos, who fell to 3-8 after a road loss to the Raiders. At 5-6, the Raiders find themselves right in the middle of the AFC title chase, one game off the pace, with a slumping Kansas City team at the top. About a minute into the game, Aqib Talib snatched Michael Crabtree’s chain during a stalk block, and that sparked a brawl that ultimately led to both players’ ejection.

Amari Cooper got hit hard as a “defenseless receiver” and left the game concussed, but not before scoring a touchdown. With wet conditions, Marshawn Lynch got a heavy dose of touches. He looked sharp, rushing 26 times for 67 yards and a touchdown. Lynch was also active in the passing game, catching three balls for 44 yards.

After Paxton Lynch went down with an apparent ankle injury, Trevor Siemien entered the game and, somewhat surprisingly, gave his team a lift. In just over a quarter, Siemien threw for nearly 150 yards and two touchdowns.

 


Packers (+14) at Steelers

Steelers win 31-28 (Over 43)

Despite facing a double team for most of the evening, Steelers’ playmaking wideout Antonio Brown still wreaked havoc, catching 10 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns (and also a two-point conversion).

Jamaal Williams played a big role in the Packers’ offense, rushing for 66 yards. He also broke a slip screen that went for a 54-yard touchdown. Brett Hundley continues to develop each week and turned in by far his best performance as a professional: 245 yards passing and three touchdowns.

Leveon Bell finished 5 yards short of the century mark on the ground, and he also pitched in through the air, leading the Steelers in receptions with 12 for 88 yards.

A last-minute drive by the Steelers, led by Big Ben Roethlisberger, put kicker Chris Boswell in position to win the game; he knocked down a 53-yard field goal to avoid overtime. The Steelers improved to 9-2 on the season, firmly atop the AFC North.

 


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