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Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-7.5)
Isn’t this about the time that the cranky old 1972 Dolphins of Mercury Morris and Don Shula start to worry? Carolina is four wins away from an undefeated regular season, which would match New England’s 2007 mark and begin speculation about besting the Fins’ run-the-table season 43 years ago.
First up is offense-starved Atlanta, which averaged better than 32 points in winning its first five games but in its last seven (1-6) has not scored more than 21 as its season has come crashing down. The Falcons have gone more than two months (Oct. 4) without covering a spread, and aren’t getting much love from early bettors in this one – even with the half point. Unless Cam Newton is lying and really is concussed, this line stays put.
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Detroit Lions at St. Louis Rams (-1)
This basically a pick’em game anyway, but with significant early money down on the Lions, the Rams might not have to give even the one by the time this one kicks off. There’s not much in the way of motivation for either team (both are 4-8 and just about out of playoff contention), but by the time this one kicks off Detroit will have had several things going its way.
The Lions are on a few extra days of rest after playing on Thursday (Dec. 3) as well as decent momentum despite losing on the Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary. The Lions had won three in a row prior, including a mid-November win in Green Bay. St. Louis goes in with five straight SU losses (0-4-1 ATS). Number could easily slide to pick’em.
Total to watch
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (51)
Quietly and away from the Jameis Winston spotlight, the Buccaneers have strung together a month of decent defensive efforts. In games against Dallas, Philadelphia, Indianapolis an Atlanta, the Bucs have given up an average of fewer than 17 points a game in pulling to 6-6 and remaining on the fringes of a playoff spot. The Saints (7-4-1 on the over this season) will provide a good barometer for Tampa Bay’s defense.