Each week during the pro football season, Covers Expert Art Aronson looks at the NFL odds and tells you which spread to bet now, which one to bet later, and which total to watch as the week plays out.
Spread to bet now
Washington Redskins at New York Giants (-3.5)
Has there been a more bizarre NFL team in recent years than the Redskins? Washington started its season with controversy about its nickname and will likely finish it with eight straight losses. The last time the Redskins won, we were still eating Halloween candy.
Washington lugs a 3-12 record (1-6 on the road) into New Jersey this Sunday, with Mike Shanahan coaching his final game for the team. The only thing that smells halfway decent about this one from the Skins’ perspective is the short commute. Don’t be sucked by the half a point or the Giants’ overall lousy play. New York is actually 6-3 since its nightmare 0-6 start and should cover. Jump quickly on this one.
Spread to wait on
Buffalo Bills (+8.5) at New England Patriots
This one might be a game-time decision for bettors, because there are a lot of moving parts at the top of the AFC playoff picture. At 1 p.m. ET, the 10-5 Bengals play at home against Baltimore in a game Cincinnati absolutely has to win to have a shot at the No. 2 AFC seed, which comes with a home game and a bye.
If the Bengals get it done, the 11-4 Patriots will have to hold serve in their 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff against the Bills in order to keep that No. 2 seed for themselves because Cincy won their head-to-head battle. New England also has an outside shot at the top seed in the AFC, but Denver would have to go down at Oakland. Best to see how the Bengals are doing around 3:45 p.m. ET. Then if you can, move before the numbers or vig changes on this game.
Total to watch
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (43.5)
Have you also noticed that scores are coming down? The results, no doubt, are inflated O/U totals and the cold weather. Heading into Monday night the Under had carried in 11 of 15 games during Week 16. With depressed posted totals for Week 17 (only two games in the 50s – Detroit at Minnesota and Denver at Oakland), the pendulum appears to have swung back for the final weekend of the season.
That has created a buying opportunity on the Browns-Steelers game. Until this past Sunday, Cleveland averaged nearly 30 points in its previous three games. The Steelers, meanwhile, have had no problem scoring points at home. With a modest 43.5 on the board, an Over play looks solid.