NFL Odds, Picks: Our Best Bets for the Late Slate on Christmas Eve
Cooper Neill/Getty Images. Pictured: Christian McCaffrey.
NFL Odds & Picks
John LanFranca: Desmond Ridder did not play well on his first career start. His pocket presence was extremely poor and the Falcons offense suffered because of it, as the rookie averaged on 3.7 yards per attempt.
In this spot against Baltimore, it’s likely Ridder will have to do the heavy lifting in terms of moving the stick and scoring points. The Ravens have the No. 1 rush defense in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, since Week 10.
Speaking of Week 10, that is when the Ravens had their bye. Since that point, Baltimore has averaged only 1.3 points scored per offensive possession. That’s last in the NFL over that span.
The Ravens have failed to score 17 points in four of their last five games. In addition to the ineptitude of these offenses, winds will be sustained, nearing 20 mph. Points will be very hard to come by in this game.
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Nick Giffen: Let’s start with some basic stats. Henry has averaged 29.6 yards per game, but that’s skewed by five big games. His median yards per game is just 20. In fact, those five big games were the only times he’s cleared this prop out of 14 games.
Now let’s add in that Henry faces a difficult matchup both positionally and schematically.
The Bengals are fourth in the NFL in defensive pass DVOA to tight ends. So while they allow more volume to the position, they hover right around league average in overall yards allowed.
In addition, the Bengals play man coverage at a top-10 rate. Henry struggles against man coverage to the tune of just 1.08 yards per route run.
Of Henry’s five big games, four of them came against teams in the bottom 10 in man coverage rate. Against teams in the top half of the league in man coverage rate, Henry has an average of 18.6 receiving yards, with a median of 12.5.
I have his median closer to 22.5 and would bet this down to 25.5 comfortably.
John LanFranca: This one is quite simple.
Fant has gone over this total in five of his last six games, and now the Seahawks are without wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Per Sharp Football, Fant has run a team-high 41 pass routes when Lockett isn’t on the field — thus, we may see more sets in which Fant is featured.
The Chiefs are 25th in pass defense DVOA and 17th in DVOA defending the tight end position. Geno Smith is propped for 36.5 passing attempts, as it’s likely the Seahawks will be playing from behind.
In the seven games in which Fant has received four or more targets this season, he has cleared this number six times. It’s not going to take that large of a target share for this ticket to cash.
Play Fant over 25.5 yards up to 27.5.
Sam Farley: Geno Smith has proved his doubters wrong all season long, which is why he’s favorite for Comeback Player of the Year. On Saturday he’s being doubted again, this time by the bookmakers who think he’s more likely to throw Under 1.5 passing touchdowns that Over 1.5, well not me, Geno is going to prove the doubters wrong once again.
The Pro Bowler needs to be at his best with the Seahawks still, for now at least, in contention to make the playoffs and while he may not have Tler Lockett he still has the talents of DK Metcalf, Marquise Goodwin and Noah Fant available.
It’s never easy on the road but the Chiefs aren’t the toughest defense to face, allowing 227.6 passing yards per game and giving up at least two passing touchdowns in five of the their past six games. The only game they didn’t give up two touchdowns was against a Rams team led by Bryce Perkins and without Cooper Kupp or Allen Robinson.
Don’t doubt Geno!
Simon Hunter: I had to give out at least one game that will be a debacle due to weather. The forecast is calling for a -11-degree wind chill because of the effect of Lake Erie, with 20 mph winds.
That’s football weather if we’re living in the 1930s. Luckily for us, we have a Saints team built for that decade.
Taysom Hill was made for this game. We’ve already seen reports that New Orleans’ offense will be mostly him and Alvin Kamara running a wildcat-style offense. I love the randomness of bad weather, but it’s rare you get a team built for it in a matchup against a defense that ranks in the bottom five against the run.
Deshaun Watson has been terrible in his three starts this season, and now Cleveland is dealing with a Nick Chubb injury. I can’t see it going well for the Browns if they’re relying on Watson to play catch up in this game.
I’d bet the Saints at +3. If the line moves lower than that, just bet the New Orleans moneyline. I doubt we’re going to see many field goals with the wind expected, so it’ll come down to which team can find the end zone more often.
Sam Farley: The Browns welcome the Saints and their talented defense to town on Saturday. Only five teams have averaged fewer passing yards allowed per game than the Saints, which might raise flags for Deshaun Watson backers, but don’t let it.
We all remember just how good Watson was before his hold out and off-field issues. He’s looked rusty early on, but with each game there has been improvement and his passer rating has risen.
While he faces a good defense, he’s averaged 189 passing yards per game over three games. He’s not back at his best yet, but with a line as low as 147.5, there’s a good chance he can exceed that comfortably.
Detroit is really good! I’ve been screaming this from the rooftops since I played the Lions’ in-season win total over 6.5 wins on December 3rd’s Friday Futures, noting that “they might do it with a game or two to spare.”
It turns out I sold the Lions short since they’re already over with three games to spare, and now the they are making a serious playoff push too.
With a healthy Amon-Ra St. Brown, the Lions offense ranks fourth in DVOA on the season, averaging 28.9 PPG. Even against an improving Carolina defense, and even on the road with Jared Goff playing outdoors, we should trust Detroit to score.
But it’s not just the offense anymore — the Lions defense is playing well, too. This team found answers during the bye week, and starting in Week 8 once they got St. Brown back a week after the bye, the defense ranks 13th in DVOA while the Lions rank fourth overall.
The Detroit Lions! The fourth-best team in football since Week 8!!
Carolina’s offense has not been good or reliable, so Detroit’s improved defense is a big edge here.
Sam Darnold is 16-22-1 ATS (42%) as an underdog, and Goff thrives in these 1 p.m. ET kickoff windows at 25-13 ATS (66%). The Panthers are “improving” under Steve Wilks and “in the playoff hunt” only because Matt Rhule and the NFC South is so pathetic. The Lions are actually a really good football team, and I expect them to take care of business.
Bet Lions -2.5, but if you want to play a total, you can get creative here.
Both defenses have been far better early in games but troublesome late, and both rank bottom five by DVOA in just the second half. Carolina games average 18.0 points per game in the first half versus 24.1 in the second, while Detroit’s games increase from 24.9 to 27.5. I like the second half over, and I might even get creative and parlay it with a first half under and/or a Lions cover.
You can also just bet on the second half to be the highest-scoring half if you prefer to keep it simple. Either way, make sure you bet Lions -2.5.
Simon Hunter: Oh, look. It’s America’s sweetheart, the Detroit Lions, who have won six of their last seven games. Detroit is on the road against the 5-9 Panthers, and how nice is it of sportsbooks to give Carolina 2.5 points.
What a gift for the holiday weekend. Guys, we know better. This line should be a pick’em at best. But Carolina laid an egg at home last week, and the Lions won a coin flip. So that moves the line three points?
Last week was the first time Carolina gave up more than 20 points in more than two months. Now, the Panthers get a perfect matchup against Jared Goff on the road for a second straight week (and on a short week).
We saw against the Jets that the Lions struggle against man coverage. Guess which team ranks in the top five this season running man coverage? You guessed it: Carolina.
On the flip side, we know the Panthers want to run the ball. That’s the perfect recipe to beat this Lions defense.
Let the public overreact to last week and take the points with the Panthers, who I’d bet down to +2.
Ricky Henne: The Lions laying 2.5 points against the Panthers? That’s it?
I did a double take when I saw this line. Detroit is one of the hottest teams to bet on these days as it has covered the spread in seven straight games. The Lions have won six of those games straight up, with only one of those victories by less than a field goal.
Detroit’s offense has been explosive all year, averaging the fifth-most points per game (26.4). Moreover, they’ve have been blazing hot of late, averaging 31.3 PPG over the last three weeks. That’s the third-best mark over that span. Jared Goff and company have also been outstanding away from home, averaging 27.3 PPG on the road since the beginning of November.
Despite their offensive fireworks, I would have steered clear of this game a couple months back. There was no way to trust a Lions defense surrendering 26.0 PPG, which is the second-most in the NFL. However, during this hot streak in which they’ve won six of seven, they’re giving up a mere 19.7 PPG, including 21.7 on the road.
Now they face a Panthers offense ranked 29th in DVOA by Football Outsiders, including 30th through the air and 20th on the ground. Carolina’s shown signs of life in the last three games since turning the reins over to Sam Darnold, averaging 23.0 PPG with him as a starter compared to their season average of 19.7. Still, there aren’t many reasons to think they can keep pace with Detroit’s high-octane offense.
Additionally, while Carolina’s defensive numbers are solid overall, a closer look shows they’re artificially inflated by performances against bottom-of-the-barrel offenses. When the Panthers have faced some of the league’s best, they’ve been absolutely shredded.
Top-10 offenses are averaging 35.0 PPG against the Panthers this season, while the rest average only 19.0. To boot, Carolina’s lost each game against those top-10 offenses by an average of 15.0 points.
The trends heading into this game are impossible for me to ignore, which is why I’ve already put multiple units on Detroit to cover. I’m willing to go up to 3.5 on this one.
Billy Ward: The red-hot Lions travel to Carolina to take on the Panthers, who’ve also played somewhat better as of late. It’s expected to be a fairly close game, with the Lions favored by 2.5.
It’s a difficult matchup for both offenses though. Detroit’s run defense has been excellent over the last month or two, and Carolina is a far better offense when they’re able to run the ball.
On the Lions side, they have struggled offensively on the road in the Jared Goff era. Dating back to his time with the Rams, Goff has always played his home games in either a dome or a warm-weather city. Goff has tiny hands for a quarterback (6th percentile), which makes gripping and throwing the ball in cold weather difficult.
While it’s not an extreme weather game, temperatures at gametime will be below freezing with double-digit wind speeds. Using the FantasyLabs Trends Tool, Goff has averaged just 8.23 DraftKings points in games with temperatures below 40, less than half his overall average. QB scoring is a reasonable proxy for offensive success, so we should temper our expectations for the Lions.
This line seems settled in at 43.5 after opening a point higher, but I’d continue to take it down to 43.
Brandon Anderson: The 49ers remain the hottest team in football no matter who’s playing quarterback, but this will be Brock Purdy’s biggest defensive test yet. Washington’s defense ranks seventh in DVOA over the last six weeks, including second against the pass. The Commanders win the trenches and should limit Purdy’s offense.
They’ll have to do so because Washington surely won’t score much against this awesome 49ers defense. The Commanders have scored more than 23 points only once since Week 2, averaging 17.5 points per game during that span, and if you can’t block the Giants, you have no shot against the 49ers.
The 49ers have also been tremendous front-runners, with nine of their 10 wins covering this line, and Taylor Heinicke chasing against a ball-hawking defense could get ugly and lead to a big 49ers number. If you like Washington, play the moneyline. If you think the Niners win, just take the cover.
Both defenses are balling, and both offenses are among the slowest-paced in the league. You have to play an under here — the question is which one. I wanted a Washington team total under, but 14.5 is such a low number. I’ll play just the second-half under. Both teams are 9-4-1 to the second half under (69%) on the season, and I just don’t see a ton of points here.
Dylan Wilkerson: Both defenses have been stellar this season. The 49ers unit gets the credit it deserves, but Washington does not.
Both teams create plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, resulting in great pass-defense numbers. Both squads are allowing fewer than seven yards per opponent pass attempts and less than 40% third-down conversion rates.
While both defenses are a force to be reckoned with, I can’t trust the two young quarterbacks to get anything going on offense. Chase Young has been cleared to play, and I am very interested to see the havoc he and Nick Bosa create.
Both teams also take about three minutes per drive on offense, which places them in the top half of the league for that metric. Long drives that don’t end in points, lots of forced pressure and young QBs sound like a great equation for an under.