AL MERRITT’S BEST BETS
New Orleans Saints (-13) at Carolina Panthers
It’s a tough week for best bets with so many teams having nothing to play for, so we’ll see if we can find a winner in a big favorite playing for seeding. The Saints are 12-3 ATS on the road the past two seasons. Offensively they’ve scored 98 points over the three road games when Drew Brees has been healthy from start to finish, and defensively they’ll be facing a rookie quarterback who was overwhelmed behind a poor offensive line that couldn’t block Indy’s underwhelming pass rush last week.
As an added bonus, the Saints won’t know about their chances for a first-round bye until the Sunday night game wraps up, so there’s no chance they let off the gas.
Arizona Cardinals (+7.5) at Los Angeles Rams
Arizona has gotten better and better each week and will want to finish the season on a high note under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback, Kyler Murray. Murray is banged up, but has said he wants to play in this game. If he does, it’s an easy cover for the Cardinals getting more than a touchdown against a Rams team that is playing for nothing. If Murray ends up not playing, I still like Arizona getting the points with Brett Hundley. The Rams are eliminated after playing in the Super Bowl last year. I don’t expect a big effort from them at all in the final game of an extremely disappointing season.
L.A.’s defense has been torched in the past couple of weeks, giving up 34 points to the Niners and 44 to the Cowboys, leading to rumors that coordinator Wade Phillips could be out of a job after the season. The versatile Arizona offense, including red-hot running back Kenyon Drake, could be enough for an outright win.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (+4.5)
Last week we cashed when betting a New York home underdog going up against a team in a “must-win situation,” so let’s go back to that well.
Barely anyone wanted to touch the Eagles with a 10-foot pole last weekend when they were a home underdog to the Cowboys. Now, Philadelphia is the talk of the town, and needs just a win over the Giants to make the playoffs.
This is still the same Eagles team that in December has lost to the Dolphins, needed overtime to squeak by the Eli Manning-led Giants at home and needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Dwayne Haskins-led Redskins. Beating the Cowboys 17-9 with a clearly hurt Dak Prescott shouldn’t blind you from the result of these results.
With Daniel Jones back in the saddle, the Giants are more equipped to take advantage of a weak Philly secondary. And the Eagles still have several injuries on the offensive side of the ball, including star tight end Zach Ertz recently joining that group. Don’t fall into the trap into thinking that a team won’t lose that needs to win to make the playoffs, those types of teams do in fact lose every season in the NFL. Instead, take the value here with the home underdog getting a little too many points.