The 25th season in this space turned out to be a double-banner year, with an outright Best Bet championship and a share of the overall title with George Willis, who incredibly won 12 of his last 13 selections.
Now everyone’s back to 0-0 as we move into the wild-card round of the NFL postseason:
Colts (+1¹/₂) over TEXANS; Under 48¹/₂: Back when Hondo was roaming these parts, he often would point out games that fell under the Tom V SuperSystem. That theory picks road teams that are underdogs of 2¹/₂ points or less, with the logic being when you factor in three points for the home field, you are getting the better team with points. Both Saturday games fall under those auspices this weekend.
The AFC South rivals each won by three on the road in their two previous meetings. The Colts come in having won nine of their past 10 games after a 1-5 start, and the Texans have won 11 of their past 13 after opening 0-3.
It’s a tough call, but Andrew Luck looks to be more of a sure thing than Deshaun Watson right now. And though both of these teams struggled to beat the New York teams in December, the one recent game that stands out is the Colts’ 23-0 victory over the playoff-bound Cowboys.
In addition, the Colts are 5-1 straight up (SU) and 5-0-1 against the spread (ATS) in their past six games in Houston.
Colts 26, Texans 21
Seahawks (+2) over COWBOYS; Over 43: The Seahawks beat the Cowboys, 24-13, in Week 3 in Seattle, though that feels a bit like ancient history already. Credit to the Cowboys for going all-out against the Giants last week, while the Seahawks largely mailed it in against the Cardinals.
But this selection comes down to the playoff pedigrees of Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson compared to those of the Cowboys’ coach/quarterback combo of Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott.
As for the total, these are both defensive teams at heart, and eight of their past 10 meetings have gone Under. But this number is so low, and the expectation here is that the likes of Chris Carson, Doug Baldwin, Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott will do enough to get over the 43.
Seahawks 24, Cowboys 20
Chargers (+3) over RAVENS; Under 41¹/₂: The teams just met in Week 16, and the Ravens knocked off the Chargers on the road, 22-10. Baltimore’s No. 1-ranked defense frustrated Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon. The difference in the game was a 65-yard touchdown pass from Lamar Jackson to Mark Andrews and a 62-yard fumble return at the end that put the game away for the Ravens. Even with those, the total reached just 32 on a night when two strong teams slugged it out and kicked field goals.
Expecting a similar type of game on Sunday in the Inner Harbor, with the Chargers winning this time. Los Angeles is a far better team on the road, having gone 7-1 with wins at Seattle, Pittsburgh and Kansas City, among others.
Another issue is that this is the first time Jackson will face a team for the second time as a starter. Figuring he’s taken some teams by surprise with his unique style, and that the familiarity will benefit the Chargers more than it will him.
Chargers 20, Ravens 13
Eagles (+6) over BEARS; Over 41¹/₂: Again here, we look at the coach/quarterback combo matchup. Daring Doug Pederson has a Super Bowl ring and Nick Foles was the MVP of Super Bowl LII. On the other side, the Bears have a rookie coach in Matt Nagy and a first-time postseason quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky.
The Bears have gone 9-1 both SU and ATS in their past 10 games. They also are 7-1 SU and ATS at home, with the only blemish a 38-31 loss to the Patriots in which a Trubisky Hail Mary completion came up a yard short on the final play. The Bears have been a veritable ATM machine for their backers, but as we all know, the playoffs are a different animal.
The teams didn’t meet in the regular season, but in 2017 the Eagles crushed the Bears, 31-3, in Philadelphia, and in 2016, the Eagles won, 29-14, at Soldier Field. So though this is a first experience for Nagy, Pederson twice has crushed many of these same Bears players.
The forecast is dry and mid-to-upper 40s with moderate wind, so the conditions are favorable for points. In addition, the propensity of both coaches to gamble will lead to increased scoring opportunities, and the Bears had six defensive touchdowns (five interception returns, one fumble return).
There are plenty of reasons to like both teams, but the view from here is Bears win, Eagles cover, total goes Over.
Bears 27, Eagles 23
Lock of the week: Chargers (Locks 11-5-1 in 2018)
Last week: 6-10 overall, 2-1 Best Bets.