This is the season of timeworn traditions—you know, like giving to the less fortunate, It’s a Wonderful Life, the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye … hip checking old ladies out of the iPad line … human-resources visits after company holiday parties … airing grievances with family members (Happy Festivus!).
Not to be outdone, the sports betting community also celebrates a ritual at this time every year: padding the ol’ bankroll by wagering against NFL teams that have thrown in the towel. Let’s take a look at the 2014 class of white-flag wavers:
Jets (2-11): Let me start by addressing the fact that three of the five 2-11 teams—the Raiders, Jaguars and Buccaneers—didn’t make this dubious list. Why? Because they’ve actually shown some spunk in recent weeks. It’s the reason I almost didn’t include the Jets, who in their last two games nearly knocked off the Dolphins at home before taking the Vikings to overtime in Minnesota. Then again, when you leave it all on the field in consecutive late-season games in an otherwise lost season, yet fail in excruciating fashion both times, well … it’s like the prisoner who twice gets one leg over the 20-foot wall, only to be smacked down both times. The good news for the Jets? Their next opponent is …
Titans (2-11): When we look back on the 2014 NFL season, the biggest shocker—aside from Roger Goodell keeping his job—will be Tennessee’s season-opening 26-10 victory over the Chiefs in Kansas City! Since then, the Titans have tasted victory just once—they beat Jacksonville 16-14 at home—and have rewarded bettors just twice. Want proof that Tennessee has mailed it in? Look at the last three games: 43-24 loss to the Eagles, 45-21 loss to the Texans, 36-7 loss to the Giants. The French have never folded like this.
Redskins (3-10): Washington’s three victims this year: Jacksonville, Tennessee and Dallas. Talk about one of these things not being like the others. Before you consider putting a single red cent on a team that benched a former No. 2-overall pick for Colt McCoy, note that seven of the Redskins’ 10 losses have been by double digits, and going back to Week 4, they’re 2-8 against the spread.
Bears (5-8): It’s the equivalent of the chicken-and-egg debate: Did Jay Cutler quit on his team or did his team quit on Cutler? No matter, Chicago is a mess, having dropped seven of its last 10 games straight-up and ATS—the last two losses being to the Cowboys and Lions by a combined tally of 75-45. Here’s all you need to know about the state of ’Da Bears: They’re a home underdog this week against an opponent (New Orleans) that has the exact same 5-8 record and is coming off a 31-point loss at home!
49ers (7-6): How does a 7-6 team end up on this list? By producing just 248 yards in a 24-13 loss to the Raiders—despite having 10 days to prepare, after an embarrassing 19-3 Thanksgiving night home loss to the hated Seahawks! San Francisco has now scored 17 points or fewer in six of its last seven games, going 2-5 ATS. (Hmm, how’s that Colin Kaepernick contract looking now?) I knew Jim Harbaugh’s act would wear thin eventually, but this thin?
Clearly, Las Vegas is aware that the Niners have quit on Harbaugh. Even though San Francisco is traditionally one of the betting public’s favorite teams, oddsmakers opened the Seahawks (6-1 in their last seven) as a 9½-point favorite in the rematch in Seattle this week. That number quickly jumped to 10—and it’s only going higher. Memo to Seattle authorities: When the power goes out late in the third quarter Sunday at CenturyLink Field—nullifying all betting action on this contest—consider launching your investigation in Vegas…
Last Week: 2-5 (1-2 NFL; 1-3 college; 1-0 Best Bet).
Season Record: 48-50 (24-27 NFL; 24-23 college; 5-9 Best Bets).
Matt Jacob appears at 10 a.m. Thursdays on Pregame.com’s First Preview on ESPN Radio 1100-AM and 100.9-FM.