Unlike the original “Saturday Night Live” cast, the Rams and Chargers had better be full of ready-for-prime-time players in Week 11.
With both LA teams in pretty much must-win situations to stay in the playoff hunt, the Rams host the Chicago Bears as 6.5-point favorites on “Sunday Night Football,” and the Chargers are 3.5-point underdogs against the Kansas City Chiefs on “Monday Night Football” in Mexico City.
But just because these matchups are must-see TV doesn’t mean you must bet. Our M.O. as sports bettors should be to bet only when we have an edge, and I see both these prime-time games as coin flips, especially against the spread. If you must have action, I’d recommend:
Rams-Bears Under 40.5 points. The Bears are offensively challenged and have a defense that will challenge a Rams offense without wide receiver Brandin Cooks and with a depleted offensive line.
Chargers-Chiefs Over 52 points. Philip Rivers and Patrick Mahomes could both air it out in high altitude at Estadio Azteca.
We went 2-2-1 ATS last week with our Best Bets. The wins were on the Miami Dolphins (+10.5) and Minnesota Vikings (+3), who won outright against the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys. The losses were on the Cincinnati Bengals (+10) and Carolina Panthers (+5), with the push on the Buffalo Bills (+3) in their 19-16 loss at Cleveland.
Here are my four live underdogs on Sunday’s NFL card. My fifth Best Bet for Week 11 is the Pittsburgh Steelers +3 at the Cleveland Browns on “Thursday Night Football” for early online readers.
Jacksonville (+2.5) at Indianapolis
I bet the Jaguars +3 earlier this week and would advise anyone to grab any +3/-120s that are still out there. But even with many books dropping the line to 2.5, I feel strongly enough about the Jaguars’ chances at the minor upset to call it a Best Bet. Nick Foles returns at quarterback, and we’ve all seen how well he can handle playing off the bench and after a layoff. It’s undetermined if Jacoby Brissett will return, but whether it’s him or Brian Hoyer, I expect the Colts to have problems with the Jacksonville defense.
Denver (+10.5) at Minnesota
In addition to cashing in on the Vikings’ upset of the Cowboys on Sunday night, I was excited as I knew we’d get double digits in this matchup. While the Vikings are certainly capable of a blowout, I’m confident enough in the way Brandon Allen (60%, 2 TDs, 0 INTs) game-managed the 24-19 upset of the Browns two weeks ago and how well the Broncos’ defense has been playing. Denver is 4-1 against the spread (ATS) in its last five games before the bye, with only Kansas City scoring more than 20 points, and there’s no shame in that.
Arizona (+11.5) at San Francisco
The 49ers fell as the NFL’s last undefeated team in the 27-24 Monday night thriller against Seattle. The public will be all over the 49ers to bounce back, but they’re just as likely to have a letdown. So getting double digits with an Arizona team that continues to be competitive (7-3 ATS, including a cover as a 10.5-point underdog against this same San Francisco team on Halloween) looks great to me.
Cincinnati (+10.5) at Oakland
First-time starting quarterback Ryan Finley certainly looked overmatched in Cincinnati’s 49-13 loss to Baltimore on Sunday, but he shouldn’t have the same problems against the Oakland secondary. The Raiders (5-4) have overachieved at 6-3 ATS, but they shouldn’t be favored by double digits over any team — even the winless Bengals, who have covered at Seattle, at Buffalo and in the first meeting in Baltimore. Besides, the Raiders haven’t won by more than eight points all season.
LAST WEEK IN THE TIMES: 2-2-1.
SEASON (SuperContest): 26-23-1.
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