If the polls were open today, with the NFL MVP award up for voting, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen would be working on a concession speech.
For six days leading up to Sunday, there was confusion about Allen’s status because of a right elbow injury. Surprisingly, Allen showed up for work, but in hindsight, it was a good time for him to sit this one out.
The result of the season’s most insane game was nearly a nightmare for bookmakers. Instead, the losers were Allen, the Bills and some unlucky bettors.
The Vikings-Bills game was an instant classic and a great example of why we as bettors have a love-hate relationship with the NFL. A play-by-play description of the drama that unfolded in Buffalo is challenging to sum up in writing and needed to be seen to be believed, but the bottom line is Minnesota escaped with a 33-30 overtime win that still seems unbelievable.
In the fourth quarter and overtime alone, Allen showed why he was the MVP favorite … and also why he’s now unlikely to win the award this season. He was sensational at times and stunningly clumsy at other times — throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble in the end zone — as the Super Bowl favorites squandered a 17-point second-half lead in a mind-boggling defeat.
The Bills were prematurely celebrating victory in the final minute of regulation before Allen mishandled a snap from center and fumbled in the end zone. In other words, just when it appeared a 27-23 win for Buffalo was a certainty, the Vikings took a 30-27 lead.
“An all-time bad beat for me,” said professional gambler Randy McKay, who followed the line moves during the week and wisely played for a middle by betting the Bills -3 and Vikings +7.
McKay was a big winner, and then he was not, and the bookmakers in jeopardy of getting middled on the game avoided disaster with the improbable turn of events.
Allen leads the league with 10 interceptions. He will bounce back and have some great days down the stretch, but the memories of his blunders against the Vikings are not going to fade away anytime soon.
Allen is fully capable of winning the Super Bowl in February. Still, the Bills are 6-3 after back-to-back losses, don’t even lead the AFC East and have lost their grip on home-field advantage in the playoffs. DraftKings still lists Buffalo as the Super Bowl favorite at 4-1 odds, but that’s a bad bet today and one of 10 lessons to take away from Week 10.
The Raiders are the league’s biggest embarrassment.
Which team is more of a mess, the Colts or Raiders? I asked that question on VSiN shows last week, and now we have a definitive answer. The Colts, led by interim coach Jeff Saturday and previously benched quarterback Matt Ryan, proved they are less of a mess by defeating Las Vegas 25-20. The 37-year-old Ryan ripped off a career-long 39-yard run on third-and-3 in the fourth quarter to set up his winning touchdown pass two plays later.
Indianapolis, a 4-point road dog, reminded everyone that anything can happen on any given Saturday … the Colts were the butt of jokes all week after putting Saturday, an ESPN analyst who had never coached above the high-school level, in charge of calling the shots. Saturday’s unprecedented promotion triggered outrage in the coaching profession.
“I’m happy Saturday won,” VSiN analyst Will Hill said. “These meatheads overestimate how hard that job is and act like they’re all brain surgeons.”
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels should be embarrassed. His quarterback, Derek Carr, should be humiliated after getting outplayed by Ryan. Las Vegas owner Mark Davis is heavily invested financially in his coach and quarterback and probably has to stick with both even while countless critics are screaming for a house cleaning.
“It’s probably an overreaction,” Red Rock sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said. “However, the Raiders do stink. I think you probably need to give McDaniels a chance to bring in some of his own guys.”
A year after winning 10 games and reaching the playoffs, the Raiders are a 2-7 wreck. Don’t bet on things getting better. Las Vegas has been — and will continue to be — a bet-against team.
Laying points with a bad team is seldom a good idea.
The previous statement applies to the Raiders, but it’s also a reference to the Bears, who were 3-point home favorites in a 31-30 loss to the Lions. A 24-10 fourth-quarter lead for Chicago disappeared as quarterback Justin Fields tossed a pick-six, Cairo Santos missed an extra-point kick and the defense allowed a game-losing 91-yard touchdown drive, all in the final 10½ minutes.
Fields passed for 167 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns, but the Bears found ways to lose to a team that usually finds more ways to lose. Chicago became the first team in NFL history to score 29 points or more in three consecutive games and lose all three.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are still alive.
Just when it appeared Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy’s return to Lambeau Field would be triumphant, his team collapsed and Rodgers was rejuvenated. Rodgers hit rookie wideout Christian Watson for two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and Green Bay rallied from a 28-14 deficit to defeat Dallas 31-28 in overtime.
McCarthy, who won a Super Bowl as Packers coach, etched his name in Cowboys history. Dallas had an all-time record of 195-0, including playoff games, when leading by 14 points through three quarters.
I debated all week whether to take the points with the Packers, who had a five-game losing streak. I finally decided to do it, taking my own advice to bet on bad news and count on Rodgers to bounce back. The contrarian angle paid off.
The defending champion Rams are dead.
In a battle of backup quarterbacks, Colt McCoy and the Cardinals crushed John Wolford and the Rams, 27-17. The game was not as close as the final score. Wolford’s touchdown pass with seven seconds left put the score Over the total of 38.
This season is a bad beat for the Rams, who are 3-6 and last in the NFC West. Not only was quarterback Matthew Stafford sidelined by concussion protocol, star wide receiver Cooper Kupp was lost to a potentially serious ankle injury. Despite the Rams’ ongoing problems, bettors backed Los Angeles as a 3.5-point home favorite.
South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews called the day a “small win” overall and added, “The Cardinals winning was probably the best result.”
Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury has little on his resume to brag about, but he is a good dog. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Kingsbury is 11-14 straight up as a favorite and 17-16-1 straight up as an underdog.
Tom Brady and the Bucs are still alive.
A week after rallying in the last minute to beat the Rams, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers traveled to Germany to take down the league’s surprise team in a 21-16 victory over the Seahawks. Tampa Bay, favored by 2.5 points, had to hold off a rally this time after taking a 21-3 lead over Seattle early in the fourth quarter. Brady had two touchdown passes and Tampa Bay’s run defense stepped up with a strong performance.
The Buccaneers, who have rebounded after dropping five of six games, are 5-5 and probably headed for the playoffs. Tampa Bay is fortunate to have a soft schedule in the season’s second half — and even luckier to be in the NFC South.
Don’t ride with Russell Wilson and the Broncos.
Westgate SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay, who doubles as a Denver fan, said, “If the Broncos scored 18 points in each game this season, they would be 7-2.”
Denver (3-6) has the league’s No. 1 scoring defense (16.6 PPG) and No. 32 scoring offense (14.6), and the latter is something no one expected when the team traded for Wilson, who is in contention to be voted the NFL’s No. 1 bust.
Wilson arrived in Denver and repeatedly said, “Broncos country, let’s ride.” He needs to put up or shut up. Wilson threw a game-clinching interception in a 17-10 loss at Tennessee. It was curious to see sharp money show on the 2.5-point road dog.
The Broncos, who scored a season-high 23 points in a loss at Las Vegas on Oct. 2, catch a break in the schedule by hosting the Raiders in Week 11.
The Saints are not fit to be road favorites.
It looked wrong when New Orleans opened as a 2.5-point favorite at Pittsburgh, and it was wrong. The Steelers closed -1 in their 20-10 victory over the Saints, who were held scoreless in the second half.
Pittsburgh controlled the game and led in total yards (379-186). Outside linebacker T.J. Watt’s return from a seven-game injury absence helped the Steelers put pressure on Saints quarterback Andy Dalton, who’s no longer a quality starter. The “Red Rifle” was intercepted twice and sacked twice. Pittsburgh rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett is nothing special, but he avoided turnovers to help compensate for taking six sacks.
I am not going to be betting on the Steelers many more times, but that was a good spot.
The Chargers are fit to be road dogs.
The Chargers are arguably the most injury-ravaged team in the NFL, but they find ways to compete on the road even when it seems they should have no shot. San Francisco was bet up to -8 on Sunday night, and the 49ers needed to come back from a 13-3 deficit to win 22-16.
Critics of Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert are fools. Herbert has been behind a bad line and without his top two receivers for most of the season.
Use these trends as your friend: Fade the Chargers as home favorites (1-3 ATS) and play on them as road dogs (2-0 ATS). Those records are for this season, but those trends also extend for several years.
The Eagles have challengers in the NFC East.
Philadelphia is expected to improve to 9-0 on Monday night, when the Eagles are 11-point home favorites against Washington. It’s another chance for quarterback Jalen Hurts to gain ground in the MVP race.
The Eagles are not quite running away from the pack in their division, though. The Giants (7-2) and Cowboys (6-3) are hanging around, and Philadelphia still faces games at New York and Dallas in December. The division is not a done deal.
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