These parties, which used to be very tongue-in-cheek, have become so mainstream that now you can go to pretty much any major department store and find “Ugly Christmas Sweaters” hanging on the racks. That kind of defeats the point of the whole thing.
Half the fun of rocking a terrible Xmas sweater was in the pursuit, either rummaging through your aunt’s closet for her green and red elf sweater with the light up eyes or hitting the thrift store and digging through funny smelling second-hands (I’m pretty sure that’s piss) to unearth a gem. The core reason the “Ugly Christmas Sweater” party was so funny was that at one time someone actually wore these things. On purpose. In public.
For those who love to find beauty in ugly things, like a bedazzled corduroy vest with Santa riding a surfboard, look no further than the NFL’s ugliest road teams. Since 2014, NFL teams with one or fewer wins away from home have gone 20-12 ATS (14-18 SU) on the road (62.5 percent) in the final four weeks of the schedule.
There are nine clubs with one or fewer wins away from home heading into Week 14 (three at 0-6), and four of them are once again playing the role of visitor this Sunday.
The 0-6 Chicago Bears (+7.5) hit the highway to face the Detroit Lions in Motown. The 1-5 Houston Texans (+6.5) visit the rival Indianapolis Colts. The 1-5 Cincinnati Bengals (-5.5) come to play their state cousins the Cleveland Browns. And, the Arizona Cardinals (-2), who are 1-4-1 SU on the road, cross the country to play the Miami Dolphins.
Looking back over the past two seasons, those lousy visiting teams have lost road games between Week 14 and Week 17 by an average score of just 22.34-21.5 and have been an average underdog of +5.67 points, covering the spread by nearly five points in that span.
It would seem, come the home stretch of the schedule, that these road sides are just too ugly for even oddsmakers to love. Their lines are over inflated and the betting public runs them up even higher going against them on Sundays, which opens value on the visiting team – regardless of how craptacular they’ve been in enemy territory.
On the flip side of this trend, good road teams have maintained their value away from home in the closing four weeks of schedule. Going back to 2014, NFL teams with five or more road wins have finished a collective 7-3 ATS (6-4 SU) when playing on foreign turf between Weeks 14 and 17. That tally does, however, include the Oakland Raiders’ (5-1 SU on road) 21-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs as 3.5-point underdogs this past Thursday.
The Dallas Cowboys (6-0 SU on the road) are the lone qualifier for this trend Sunday, visiting the rival New York Giants as 3.5-point chalk in the Meadowlands. Going back to 2010, teams with six or more road wins are just 3-5 SU and ATS away from home in the last four weeks of the regular season.
Look out for the letdown
Earlier this week, Covers Experts’ Brandon Shively tweeted out an interesting NFL trend, involving teams coming off a victory in which they scored 40 or more points. Those teams, riding high from a big offensive performance, have dropped to earth faster than Santa versus a surface-to-air missile.
Heading into Week 14, NFL teams coming off a win in which they put 40-plus points on the scoreboard are just 12-19 ATS (10-20 SU) in the following game since October 4, 2015 – AKA Week 4 of last year – covering 39 percent of the time. That record includes a 2-6 ATS mark and a stunning 0-8 SU count since Week 7 of this season.
That puts the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts on the naughty list in Week 14. Seattle is fresh off a 40-7 smackdown of the Carolina Panthers, and visiting the Green Bay Packers as 3-point favorites at Lambeau Field. The Colts won a 41-10 squash of the New York Jets Monday night, and are giving 6.5 points to the Houston Texans at home Sunday.
In that 31-game span, those qualifying teams averaged 44.6 points in their victory the game before, winning 44.6-22.1, then saw that scoring clip drop to an average of 22.8 points the following game, losing by an average score of 23.3-22.8 versus an average pointspread of -1.2.
Winter brought snow to the NFL last week, with the white stuff showing up in Chicago and Green Bay. Before those snowy showdowns, NFL games with snow posted a 24-9-1 Over/Under record – topping the total 73 percent of the time – since 2004. Yeah, I wrote that.
So, of course, both games played Under, stinging me like a close-range snowball to the face, Harry Dunne style. Houston and Green Bay mustered just 34 points, and the Niners and Bears managed two better, both finishing well below their closing numbers.
Well, here we are again with snow in the forecast for Week 14. Orchard Park, New York is expecting 3-5 inches of snow and temperatures in the low 20s for Sunday’s Steelers-Bills clash (47.5 down to 46). Cleveland is calling for 1-3 inches for the Battle of Ohio between the Bengals and Browns (43.5 down to 40.5). Lambeau Field is also forecasted to get 1-3 inches for a snowy showdown between the Seahawks and Packers (46.5 down to 44.5).
Do what you will with the snow game trend, which is now 24-11-1 Over/Under (68.5% Over) in the last dozen years, but at least know that winds could get wild in Cleveland, not only cooling game temperatures into the low 20s but also blowing the football around on long passes and kicks.
Arizona. The Cardinals opened as 2.5-point road underdogs in Miami and wiseguys came in hard on the road side, moving this to Dolphins -1 before a substantial moneyline bet took Arizona and forced books to jump the fence, eventually settling on Cardinals -2.
“We’re going to need the Dolphins to cover and cover the 2.5 even though they’re the underdogs now,” says Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology.
That big swing in the Arizona-Miami game is the largest move on the Week 14 board.
“They’ll want to go to -3 since we took all that action along the way,” says Simbal.
Dallas at N.Y. Giants. According to CG Technology, there are five times more bets on the Cowboys in the Sunday night game, with Dallas giving 3.5 points on the road.
“The Giants are coming off a bad loss and the public figures to be all over Dallas,” says Simbal.
Sunday Night Football. With the Patriots playing the Ravens on Monday night, and wiseguys jumping on Baltimore in that matchup, the game that could decide the week for bookies is that NFC East showdown. As of Saturday, Dallas is -3.5 but Simbal doesn’t rule out a line move before kickoff.
“It may depend on how the day games go. If the early games all go to the public, you could see a move to -4 in order to protect from parlays,” says Simbal. “We’re going to need (the Giants) for the whole day.”
Injury to watch
Nick Mangold C, New York Jets
A perfect storm could be brewing with the Jets in Week 14. New York is handing the offense over to third-stringer Bryce Petty in the home stretch of the season and the Baylor product will be performing without net.
His would-be starting center, Nick Mangold, is done for the season with an ankle injury and that could cause all sorts of timing issues when Gang Green crosses the country to play San Francisco as 3-point road underdogs.
Backup center Wesley Johnson steps to the line after replacing Mangold in four games this season, and did put in work with Petty this offseason. However, it’s on him to not only make sure the ball comes out clean but also call out the defense, making his voice heard over a hostile crowd.
We know how to pick’em
While there are currently no pick’em spreads on the Week 14 board, there are a number of tight spreads. One in particular, the Denver-Tennessee line, could move to pick or cross the fence once the betting public wakes up Sunday morning. The Titans are 2-4 ATS at home this season and a horrendous 16-34-3 ATS in their previous 53 games in Music City USA. Thankfully, they have one of the best cheer squads in the biz.
Are they enough to sway your wager? Like we do with the closest spread each week, leave all your handicapping know-how at the door, and pick which team you think has the hotter cheerleaders.
My Cowboys play the Giants in a huge game Sunday night. And while we’ve already locked in a playoff spot, these primetime games with New York always make me queasy – especially since Dallas has failed to cover in four straight with the G-Men.
With my stomach in knots, I’m sticking to the lighter fare for Sunday’s menu…
Easy (money) like Sunday morning
Oh snap! I took some shit from one of our readers last week, telling me to “Man up and make some damn picks right or wrong own them.” And you know what? They’re right.
After stumbling out of the blocks and continuing to wobble week after week, like a damn baby deer (en route to a 2-7 record), I took the coward’s way out and started flipping a coin for our weekly pick. I figured it couldn’t get much worse. But, thanks to Covers user UGA250 calling me out (and, in fact making it much worse), I decided to grow a pair this week and take on the coin head-to-head. Thank you for that.
Coin takes (selected randomly from our live odds page and decided by an actual coin flip): HEADS… I mean New Orleans -2.5 over Tampa Bay.
I take: Over 43.5 in Chicago at Detroit.
Say what you want about the Bears’ situation, but third-stringer Matt Barkley and rookie RB Jordan Howard have upped Chicago’s offensive production the past two games, with the Bears scoring 21 and 26 points. Before then, Chicago had scored more than 21 points just once in the first 10 games.
The Bears are also giving up 27.8 points per road game (compared to only 17.2 at home) and face a Detroit offense that is itching to erase a Week 4 dud, in which they managed only two touchdowns in a 17-14 loss in Chicago.
Pick: Over 43.5 Chicago at Detroit
Song for Sunday
As we all know, Dallas is at New York for the Sunday nighter. That also means my father and I will exchange trash talk for the next 24 hours, with dear old dad backing Big Blue. These bi-annual bad blood battles can get pretty nasty come game day and are usually followed by at least a day or two of grace before the victor gets to throw any salt in the wound. So, here we go again Poppa Bear…
Follow Covers’ Senior Managing Editor Jason Logan on Twitter @CoversJLo. Check out JLo’s Covers archive for his latest features and columns.