This week, ESPN betting analysts Eric Moody and Anita Marks, along with Stats & Information’s Seth Walder offer up their best bets.
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook as of Sunday, unless otherwise noted.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11, 49.5)
Moody: Kenny Golladay is not listed on the Giants’ injury report for Week 11. He played on 83% of their offensive snaps and averaged 6.8 targets from Weeks 1-4 before getting hurt. Last week’s bye came at a perfect time for him and many Giants reporters have noted that Golladay has put in some really good practices this week. Against a Buccaneers secondary that allows the 11th-most passing yards per game, Daniel Jones should target Golladay frequently.
Kadarius Toney has been on a similar path to that of Golladay. He is also not listed on this week’s injury report. Back in Week 5, he caught 10 of his 13 targets for 189 yards against the Dallas Cowboys. Against Tampa Bay’s under-manned secondary, Toney could also succeed.
Although Mike Evans only caught 2 of 3 targets for 62 yards and a touchdown in a Week 10 game where the Buccaneers were constantly playing from behind, in his previous eight games he had averaged 8.0 targets and 68 receiving yards. Considering Chris Godwin is battling a foot injury and is listed as a game-time decision (and with Antonio Brown already ruled out), Evans could do quite well on Monday night. Rob Gronkowski may also be ready to shine, having averaged seven targets and 61.3 receiving yards when he’s been on the field and healthy.
Leonard Fournette should also continue to play a significant role in the Buccaneers offense. While playing on 60% of the team’s offensive snaps this season, he has averaged 17.8 opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets) and 85.5 total yards per game. Note that over New York’s last five games, Kenyan Drake, Darrel Williams, Chuba Hubbard, Darrell Henderson Jr. and Ezekiel Elliott have averaged 97.0 yards against the Giants defense.
Picks: Golladay over 45.5 total receiving yards (-120), Toney over 43.5 total receiving yards, Evans over 65.5 total receiving yards (-115), Gronkowski over 28.5 total receiving yards (-115), Fournette over 93.5 total rushing/receiving yards (-110)
Walder: When he was healthy, Gronkowski’s target opportunity far surpassed his Week 11 receiving line prop. He was averaging 46.1 expected receiving yards per game based on air yards, expected completion probability and expected YAC (NFL Next Gen Stats). Had Gronkowski never been injured, this would be a slam dunk over. Of course, he has been out with fractured ribs.
I could be wrong, but I imagine the Buccaneers — especially as Super Bowl contenders — would wait until Gronkowski were fully recovered enough to play significantly before allowing him to return to the field. If that’s true, and based on the way he was used earlier in the season, he should have a good shot to hit 30-plus yards.
Pick: Gronkowski over 29.5 receiving yards (-115)
Marks: The Giants are coming off their bye and will be getting Saquon Barkley back on offense along with offensive lineman Andrew Thomas. The Giants WR corps is also returning Golladay and Toney, giving Jones a much healthier arsenal.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants defense has been good over their last three games, allowing just 39 points, a 28% 3rd-down conversion rate, and only allowed three touchdowns in 13 red zone drives.
Picks: Giants +11, Giants (2-team teaser, +17), Jones over 240 passing yards (-115), Toney over 4.5 receptions (+120)
San Francisco 49ers have turned into a playoff team over 14 days – San Francisco 49ers Blog
Two weeks later, the Niners look like a team that is not only capable of making a push for the NFC playoffs but one that can make some noise if they get there. Sunday’s 30-10 beatdown of the Jacksonville Jaguars follows Monday night’s dominant 31-10 dispatching of the Los Angeles Rams.
From the outside, the first could easily be explained away by San Francisco’s apparent hex over the Rams. The second would be excused by the Jaguars’ overall ineptitude. Put together and into the proper context, those two victories suggest that the Niners have finally discovered themselves.
At 5-5 with two wins in less than a week, these Niners aren’t your 2-week-old neighbor’s Niners.
“These past 14 days have, I don’t want to say changed our team, but we’re definitely moving in the right direction now,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “We have just got to keep going. There’s a lot of football left to be played.”
Indeed there is. While it was way too soon to kick dirt on the Niners after that Nov. 7 loss to an Arizona team without quarterback Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins (especially given the dearth of NFC teams pulling away with playoff spots), it was reasonable to wonder whether they had what was needed to right the ship and make a push for one of those seven postseason positions.
Instead, the 49ers have righted the ship and are moving in the direction of playing games into the middle of January.
How? There are plenty of ways in which the Niners have improved in their past two games but nowhere is it more important than the most obvious place: the turnover battle. San Francisco was minus-9 in takeaway differential in its first eight games, including minus-3 against Arizona. In the past two weeks, the 49ers are plus-4, including a pair of fumble recoveries against the Jaguars.
“We sat here after the Arizona game — bear in the building type of stuff — everyone is trying to solve these problems and we literally said ‘We’ve got to stop turning the ball over, we’ve got to get a couple turnovers on defense or special teams,’ and that’s all we’ve done,” tight end George Kittle said.
That turnover turnaround helped the 49ers soundly beat the Rams on national television and opened some eyes in the process. Doing it again to the Jaguars instead of falling into the “short week/long travel/early start time” trap six days later was exactly the kind of thing a team with legitimate playoff aspirations would do.
“I think it’s coming together at the right time,” linebacker Fred Warner said. “We’re getting to that back half of the season and we’re getting hot. I think that’s just who we are. I think all along we’ve been trying to find that identity, trying to find ourselves and it’s starting to show through.”
The real test of the Niners’ potential postseason hopes will come over the next seven weeks. The first, next week against the Minnesota Vikings, carries double importance. If the playoffs started today, the Niners would be out, but a home win against Minnesota would allow the Niners to leap over the Vikings and give them a meaningful victory for potential tiebreakers down the line. San Francisco follows with games against teams on the further fringes of the NFC playoff picture after that, facing the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 5 and Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 19.
While all of that might be looking ahead a bit too far, the Niners have identified and, at least for now, corrected the issues that had them wobbling to a 3-5 start.
“After that Arizona game, it was pretty low,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We were all embarrassed how we looked and when we watched the tape, we saw a lot of stuff that we felt we could fix. It wasn’t as discouraging as it felt during that game. I was happy with the guys that instead of getting discouraged, they watched the tape and saw the stuff that we could improve on. It’s a credit to the guys and the coaches that they didn’t get down when it was easy to get down. They just kept focusing on trying to get better and practicing and trying to detail stuff up and I think we’ve done a better job of that these past two weeks.”
Making a run to the postseason will be dependent on whether the 49ers of the past two weeks continue to show up.
Miami Dolphins hitting explosive plays that were missing during 1-7 start – Miami Dolphins Blog
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As if there wasn’t enough cloud cover Sunday over MetLife Stadium, New York Jets defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers provided plenty of shade after his team lost 24-17 to the Miami Dolphins.
Franklin-Myers’ comments focused on Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who completed 27 of 33 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns with one interception — notably that Tagovailoa threw up “prayers” throughout the game.
“Sometimes prayers are answered,” Franklin-Myers said.
Those prayers have been answered a lot more often during Miami’s current three-game winning streak.
The Dolphins were one of three teams not to record any plays of 50 or more yards during the first eight weeks of the season, during which they compiled a 1-7 record. But they have done so an NFL-leading three times since Week 9, including a 65-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to Mack Hollins that ended a drought of five straight scoreless drives.
It was Miami’s longest play of the season and the longest play of both Tagovailoa’s and Hollins’ careers — and it wasn’t even drawn up for Hollins.
“The first progression on that play was [tight end] Mike Gesicki, and when I came off of Mike, there were about three people, including the safety, that were on him,” Tagovailoa said. “It turned out Mack was wide open, so I threw it down to him and he made the play. We came back to the sideline and realized how open he was.”
Elijah Riley (33) and Isaiah Dunn (27) both converge on Albert Wilson, leaving Mack Hollins wide open.
— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) November 21, 2021
Miami scored on its opening drive but Tagovailoa threw his sixth interception of the season on the third play of the following drive. He and the offense struggled to get things going from there, mustering just 85 yards on 24 plays over their next five series.
But Hollins’ message to his quarterback after the long touchdown pass was simple — three words: “I told you.”
They knew the play would be there eventually, despite the lapse between scoring drives. That’s been a microcosm of Miami’s offense the past two weeks, when it has hit on plays of 52, 64 and 65 yards; take away those three plays, and its offense has averaged just 4.5 yards per play.
But catching your opponent sleeping is part of football, particularly in a league where games often come down to a handful of plays. It’s something the Dolphins kept in mind during Sunday’s win.
“It was definitely a big sigh for us offensively,” Tagovailoa said. “We really wanted to find our rhythm in the game, obviously the interception kind of stopped us but I would say that’s what I’m most proud of [regarding] our offense. We continued to put our heads down, continued to fight.
“We had some mishaps but it didn’t matter.”
Here comes the a dose of reality though — the Baltimore Ravens and Jets, the teams Miami beat the past two weeks, entered their respective games against the Dolphins with the league’s second-worst passing defense. The “prayers” Tagovailoa threw up Sunday might fall on deaf ears next week against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m., ET, Fox), whose defense entered Week 11 allowing an NFL-best 174.2 passing yards per game and owns the fourth-best pass rush win rate.
But it’s not about racking up yards against a stingy defense — it’s about making that defense pay for any mistakes.
“At some point, it’s going to hit. When they make a mistake, we have to capitalize on it,” Hollins said. “Because if they make a mistake and we don’t [capitalize on it], that might’ve been the one drive where we could’ve had a good rep.”
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