Let’s review how accurate Vinnie has been against the spread, 16 weeks in:
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints (-9.5): The Panthers have lost only once in their last five games, covering against the spread in those four wins. With all the positive momentum and how hard they are playing for first year head coach Ron Rivera, this team would love nothing more than to stick it to the division rival Saints, whom they have not defeated since the 2009 regular season finale. Barring a St. Louis Rams’ upset of the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans will have minimal motivation to play competitively through three (let alone four) quarters. Regardless of whether DeAngelo Williams and/or Jonathan Stewart do well against the Saints, you can expect an especially good performance from Cam Newton – the exclamation point to a record-setting rookie season.
Gimme the Panthers plus the points.
San Francisco 49ers @ St. Louis Rams (+11): Teased above, this mismatch pits running back Steven Jackson – too bad the holes opened for him have been few & far between – against what is probably the finest run defense the NFL has ever given us. Kellen Clemens will be quarterbacking the Rams, his accuracy not half what Sam Bradford‘s is … but it could be worse; 2nd-string quarterback A.J. Feeley had nearly as much to do with his team getting shutout and held to 157 yards of offense at San Francisco earlier this month, as did the abysmal play of the Rams’ offensive line. The 49ers’ defense routinely puts pressure on opposing quarterbacks, led by rookie Aldon Smith, and has 21 interceptions to date. Offensively for San Francisco, expect very nice things from Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Of note: the Rams have failed to beat the spread in six straight games.
Gimme the 49ers minus the points.
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5): What a streaky team you have there, Dan Orlovsky. After losing 13 in a row, the Colts have won their last two. Shall we chalk up Donald Brown‘s stellar play, Indy’s suddenly not so lame defense, and Orlovsky’s late-game heroics to players working harder to earn spots on next season’s roster or a collective bid to help head coach Jim Caldwell keep his job? While that is not something Vinnie can answer really, what he can lobby for is why Indy will come close to – or perhaps doing so outright – stealing a victory on the road. The Jaguars were defeated by a pretty wide margin in two of their last four games, having yet to accomplish much beyond putting the football in the capable hands of Maurice Jones-Drew and playing stretches of good pass defense. Of note: Jacksonville’s only recent victory came in the form of hosting Tampa Bay three weeks ago, while Indianapolis has beaten the spread in four straight games.
Gimme the Colts plus the points.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers (+3.5): Guess who the Lions want to beat more than any team in the league? If Green Bay’s coach speak is to be taken at face value, Aaron Rodgers and fellow starters will play to win throughout. I mean, having locked up home field advantage in the NFC playoffs or not, what team wants to lose two of its final three before trying to focus its personnel on hopefully a championship run? Vinnie is more quick to buy into what Aaron Rodgers has been more freely suggesting, namely that goals for your team change this time of year and a premium is placed on avoiding risk of injury. The Lions are very motivated to win this game, the promise of clinching the #5 seed and traveling to play the New York Giants or Dallas Cowboys (rather than the San Francisco 49ers or New Orleans Saints) hangs in the balance. On the Packers’ side, expect a good number of reserves to eventually get some reps regardless of the score. On the Lions’ side, expect Matthew Stafford to close in on 40 touchdown passes and put his team into position to win.
Gimme the Lions minus the points.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals (+2): Baltimore looks to sweep the AFC North division for the first time, en route to earning the right to sit out the opening round of the playoffs. Cincy has righted the ship, so to speak, after weathering the exceedingly difficult portion of its schedule and holding off the resurgent Arizona Cardinals in Week 16. If the Bengals manage to win this one at home, they clinch the #6 seed and finalize travel plans in anticipation of facing the Houston Texans a week from now. Both defenses featured here are quality, first of all. The fact that Cedric Benson and Ray Rice both enjoyed success when these teams tangled earlier in the season, is a credit to their talents as well as that of their teammates blocking for them and the play-calling by their respective coaches. To Vinnie, though, the Ravens have been shaky enough on the road that Cincy has this one in the bag.
Gimme the Bengals plus the points.