Dec 26, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (14) catches a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Week 18 TD Props: Something to parlay for

The final full NFL Sunday of the year is here.

We pegged down a handful of winners last week, so let’s finish the regular season strong with touchdown scorer props in Week 18.

Here are five of my favorite touchdown bets this weekend in the NFL.

Steelers WR Ray-Ray McCloud: +450 on BetMGM
McCloud of the Pittsburgh Steelers has not yet scored this season, but the receiver is seeing consistent volume near the goal line. McCloud had five red zone targets last week and has seen at least one target in the red zone in four straight weeks.

You’ll see as a likely constant throughout this piece is a preference for games that matter. The last week of the NFL season sometimes gets funky, with young players seeing more snaps and starters getting pulled.

Luckily, this game is not one of those cases, with both the Steelers and Ravens still alive in the postseason race.

Speaking of the Ravens, few defenses have struggled slowing down receivers quite like Baltimore this year. Only four teams have allowed more touchdowns to WRs than the Ravens, so there’s going to be opportunities for a Pittsburgh pass-catcher in this one.

I’ll take a chance on McLoud to finally score at +450.

Ravens WR Marquise Brown: +190 on BetMGM
Let’s stick with this game for a moment and load up Marquise Brown. The best odds are once again at BetMGM, with DraftKings/FanDuel closer to +150.

Tyler Huntley will be starting for the third time in four weeks to wrap the season for the Ravens, who as mentioned are still alive and will be fighting to win.

In Huntley’s two most recent starts, Brown has seen 14 and 8 targets, and should once again be heavily involved in the passing game.

Pittsburgh let up the eighth-most touchdowns per game to WRs.

49ers RB Elijah Mitchell: +140 on FanDuel
The 49ers are in an important game against the Rams, with their wildcard hopes on the line. We turn to Mitchell, as LA has been more generous to rushing scores, ranking second-best in the NFL in passing touchdowns allowed.

Mitchell returned in Week 17 and commanded the work out of this backfield, taking 21 carries for 119 yards. While he didn’t score, Mitchell did find the end zone in his two previous starts. I like the +140 odds here.

Two-Leg Parlay: Devin Singletary and D’Onta Foreman TDs (+203 on FanDuel)
I’m combining these two picks to give us favorable odds, since both come in closer to -140 on their own.

Let’s start with Singletary of the Bills, who will play the Jets.

I’ve been betting running backs to score against New York on a weekly basis, as no team allows more touchdowns to the position than the Jets (1.63 per game).

Singletary has taken hold of the top running back position in Buffalo and has a whopping 20 red zone looks in the past three weeks.

He’s also scored four touchdowns in the past three weeks, momentum I like seeing in a parlay.

Now for Foreman. He too gets himself a soft opponent in Houston, who allow the second-most rushing touchdowns per game.

Foreman is averaging 3.4 red zone looks per game in his last five, scoring in three of four.

Both running backs have established roles near the end zone, soft opponents, and perhaps most importantly, something to play for.

Buffalo clinches the AFC East with a win and Tennessee secures the coveted first round bye with a win. Love this play.

Chargers TE Jared Cook: +240 on FanDuel
Speaking of games that matter, there isn’t a more cut-and-dry example than the Chargers-Raiders on Sunday Night Football. It’s win and you’re in for these two teams.

It’s always good to get a touchdown scorer prop in for SNF to have a rooting interest for the final game of the day, and Cook has us covered.

The Raiders allow the third-most touchdowns to tight ends, and Cook is back after spending a week on the COVID list.

Cook sees a steady stream of targets from Justin Herbert, with 5+ in three straight games. He’ll get his chances on Sunday against this Raiders defense, and with their defensive attention likely diverted to Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, I like Cook to slip through the cracks and score.

–By Griffin Carroll, Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) reacts after throwing a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the 2021 Cotton Bowl college football CFP national semifinal game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tide Swell: Public heavily backing Alabama

Alabama is proving to be a very popular underdog as the Crimson Tide prepare to defend their College Football Playoff national title.

Georgia opened as a 2.5-point favorite last week and has moved to a 3-point favorite at several sportsbooks less than a week before the Jan. 10 clash in Indianapolis.

The Bulldogs were trounced 41-24 by the Crimson Tide in last month’s SEC Championship Game. That has no doubt contributed heavily to top-ranked Alabama being backed by 66 percent of the bets and 53 percent of the spread-line handled at BetMGM.

The action has been far more lopsided at DraftKings, where the Crimson Tide are being backed by 71 percent of both the spread-line bets and handle.

The public is also expecting a high-scoring affair after Alabama blitzed Georgia’s previously dominating defense in the first meeting, when 65 total points were scored.

The Over/Under is currently 52.5 points at both sportsbooks. The Over is being supported by 60 percent of the bets and 81 percent of the money at BetMGM and 68 and 69 percent, respectively, at DraftKings.

BetMGM reported that the most prop bets have been placed on Alabama to win by 7-12 points at +475 and the Crimson Tide -7 and over 46 points at +375.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) warms up before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Week 14 betting capsules: Division matchups galore will affect playoff races

Week 14 brings plenty of intrigue, especially when it comes to playoff positioning. The Baltimore-Cleveland, Dallas-Washington, Las Vegas-Kansas City and Los Angeles Rams-Arizona games are all key divisional matchups. Plus, Buffalo will try to prove it’s a contender and not a pretender with a trip to defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay.

Sunday’s Games

Atlanta at Carolina (-3 points, O/U 41.5)

The Falcons (5-7) and Panthers (5-7) are in a three-way tie for second place in the NFC South, four games behind Tampa Bay and both have lost three of their past four games. The Falcons lost to the visiting Buccaneers 30-17 last Sunday while the Panthers had a bye week, during which they fired their offensive coordinator. Carolina won 19-13 in the previous meeting this season.

Baltimore at Cleveland (-2.5, 42.5)

This will be back-to-back games against the Ravens (8-4) for the Browns (6-6), who had a bye last week after a 16-10 loss at Baltimore. The Ravens lost a nail-biter 20-19 at Pittsburgh last week, going for two at the end of the game. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is 5-2 against Cleveland, while Browns QB Baker Mayfield is 2-5 against Baltimore. The Browns have scored 17 or fewer points in seven of their past nine games.

Dallas at Washington (+4.5, 48)

Despite a 27-17 win at New Orleans last week on a Thursday night, the Cowboys (8-4) have lost three of their past five games. With two games remaining against Washington (6-6), which has won four in a row, the NFC East title remains up for grabs. QB Taylor Heinicke has led the WFT to two straight 17-15 victories, including last Sunday in Las Vegas.

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-8.5, 43.5)

The Titans (8-4) are coming off a much-needed bye after two consecutive defeats and remain without their top offensive weapons in RB Derrick Henry and WR A.J. Brown. The Jaguars (2-10) were blown out 37-7 last week by the host Los Angeles Rams. Jacksonville has lost 14 consecutive road games, including all five this season.

Las Vegas at Kansas City (-10, 48)

The slumping Raiders (6-6) have lost four of their past five, including a 17-15 loss last week to visiting Washington. They’ll face a tough task against the Chiefs (8-4), who have won five in a row — during which their defense has allowed an average of 11.2 points per game. That includes a 22-9 win against visiting Denver last Sunday. Kansas City won 41-14 at Las Vegas in Week 10, as Patrick Mahomes threw for season highs of 406 yards and five touchdowns.

New Orleans at N.Y. Jets (+5.5, 43)

The Saints (5-7) lost 27-17 to visiting Dallas last week on Thursday night as Taysom Hill threw four interceptions. They’ve dropped five games in a row, but their offense could get back on track with a couple of extra days to prepare against the Jets’ league-worst defense and the return of RB Alvin Kamara. New York (3-9) lost 33-18 to visiting Philadelphia and backup QB Gardner Minshew last Sunday.

Seattle at Houston (+8.5, 40.5)

The Seahawks (4-8) showed some signs of life last week, beating visiting San Francisco 30-23 to snap a three-game skid. Russell Wilson had his best game since returning from finger surgery, throwing for 231 yards and two TDs and leading a rally from a 10-point deficit. The Texans (2-10) lost 31-0 at home to Indianapolis last Sunday and are expected to go with rookie Davis Mills at QB.

Detroit at Denver (-10, 42.5)

The Lions (1-10-1) will try to go for two wins in a row after beating visiting Minnesota 29-27 last week on a last-second scoring strike from Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown. Goff threw for 296 yards and three TDs. The Broncos (6-6) lost 22-9 at Kansas City last week to drop two games back of the AFC West-leading Chiefs. Denver has won 19 of its past 23 games against opponents with a losing record.

N.Y. Giants at L.A. Chargers (-9.5, 42.5)

The Giants (4-8), who lost 20-9 at Miami last week, nearly had to turn to third-string QB Jake Fromm make his NFL debut with Daniel Jones (neck) ailing, but Mike Glennon cleared concussion protocol and is expected to start a second straight game. New York is 1-5 on the road and hasn’t scored more than 17 points in any of its past three trips. The Chargers (7-5) blew out host Cincinnati 41-22 last Sunday as Justin Herbert threw for 317 yards and three TDs. L.A. has alternated wins and losses for the past six weeks.

Buffalo at Tampa Bay (-3.5, 53.5)

The Bills (7-5) lost 14-10 on Monday night to New England, despite the visiting Patriots attempting just three passes in blizzard-like conditions. The Buccaneers (9-3) have won three in a row, including a 30-17 win at Atlanta last week as Tom Brady threw for 368 yards and four TDs. Brady is 32-3 in his career against Buffalo and is 18 completions away from breaking Drew Brees’ all-time NFL record of 7,142.

San Francisco at Cincinnati (+1.5, 48.5)

The 49ers (6-6) had a three-game winning streak snapped last weekend when they blew a 10-point lead in a 30-23 defeat at Seattle. San Francisco managed just 71 yards on the ground and Jimmy Garoppolo threw a pair of interceptions. The 49ers are 4-2 on the road and have won six in a row in the Eastern time zone. The Bengals (7-5) lost 41-22 at home to the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday and QB Joe Burrow is dealing with a dislocated pinkie.

Chicago at Green Bay (-12.5, 43)

The Bears (4-8) lost 33-22 at home to Arizona last weekend, their sixth defeat in the past seven games — with the only win in that span on Thanksgiving against lowly Detroit on a last-second field goal. The Packers (9-3) are coming off a bye. QB Aaron Rodgers owns the Bears — remember, he told their fans just that after a 24-14 win at Chicago back in October. Rodgers is 21-5 in this series, with 57 TDs and just 10 interceptions.

Monday’s Game

L.A. Rams at Arizona (-2.5, 51.5)

The Rams (8-4) need a win if they have any hope of catching the Cardinals (10-2) in the NFC West. Los Angeles snapped a three-game skid with a 37-7 victory against visiting Jacksonville last weekend as Matthew Stafford threw for 295 yards and three TDs. Arizona got QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins back last Sunday for a 33-22 victory at Chicago. The Cardinals won the first games between the teams this season, 37-20 on Oct. 3 in Inglewood, Calif., beating Rams coach Sean McVay for the first time in nine meetings.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Week 13 betting capsules: Bills, Patriots tussle for AFC East

The AFC East lead will be at stake when the New England Patriots visit the Buffalo Bills on Monday night in what is a fairly easy pick for Game of the Week. The teams will meet again in Week 16, so there’s plenty still left to be decided. This is a matchup of the two best defenses in the league and the teams with the top two point differentials.

Sunday’s Games

Arizona at Chicago (+7.5 points, O/U 43 points)

The Bears (4-7) have had a couple of extra days to prepare after a 16-14 win at Detroit on Thanksgiving, but the Cardinals (9-2) are even fresher coming off a bye. Arizona QB Kyler Murray and WR DeAndre Hopkins returned to practice this week after both missed multiple games. Andy Dalton will take the snaps for Chicago with rookie Justin Fields ailing.

Indianapolis at Houston (+10, 44.5)

The Colts (6-6) had a three-game winning streak snapped last Sunday with a 38-31 loss to visiting Tampa Bay, the defending Super Bowl champion, on a last-minute touchdown. These teams met Oct. 17, with the host Colts winning 31-3. But the Texans (2-9) have been much more competitive since QB Tyrod Taylor returned from injury.

L.A. Chargers at Cincinnati (-3, 49.5)

This will be the first meeting between second-year QBs Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow. The Chargers (6-5) have lost four of their past six games, including 28-13 last week at Denver. The Bengals (7-4) are coming off an impressive 41-10 win over Pittsburgh, but earlier this season beat Baltimore 41-17 one week and lost to the lowly New York Jets the next.

Minnesota at Detroit (+7, 46.5)

The Vikings (5-6) dropped to the outskirts of the NFC wild-card race with a 34-26 loss at San Francisco last week. Leading rusher Dalvin Cook (shoulder) has been ruled out for this one, as has his Detroit counterpart D’Andre Swift. The Lions (0-10-1) nearly got off the schneid on Thanksgiving before losing to visiting Chicago 16-14 on a last-second field goal.

N.Y. Giants at Miami (-6, 39)

The Giants (4-7) are coming off a gritty 13-7 victory against visiting Philadelphia. But they’ll be without QB Daniel Jones (neck), who will be replaced by journeyman Mike Glennon. WRs Sterling Shepherd and Kadarius Toney are both listed as doubtful. The Dolphins (5-7) have won four in a row, including a 33-10 victory against visiting Carolina last week. Miami’s defense has allowed just 46 points during the streak.

Philadelphia at N.Y. Jets (+6.5, 45)

The Eagles (5-7) seemed on the upswing, winning three of four, before a 13-7 loss to the host New York Giants last week. They’ll hope for better in their second straight game at MetLife Stadium, though QB Jalen Hurts (ankle) is questionable. The Jets (3-8) snapped a three-game skid with a 21-14 win at Houston in the return of rookie QB Zach Wilson.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (+10.5, 50.5)

The Buccaneers (8-3) have been up and down of late, but they still have a three-game edge on the second-place Falcons (5-6) in the NFC South. Tampa Bay won 38-31 last week at Indianapolis as Leonard Fournette rushed for 100 yards and three TDs and also caught a scoring strike from Tom Brady. Atlanta won 21-14 at Jacksonville to snap a two-game skid in which it was outscored 68-3.

Jacksonville at L.A. Rams (-13, 48)

The Jaguars (2-9) have yet to win on the road, unless you count their “home” win over Miami in Week 6 in London. They lost 21-14 to Atlanta last week. Rookie QB Trevor Lawrence’s 228 passing yards against Atlanta were his most in November. The Rams (7-4) have lost three in a row to fall two games behind Arizona in the NFC West. They played tough last week in a 36-28 loss at Green Bay.

Washington at Las Vegas (-1.5, 49.5)

Washington (5-6) has won three in a row and snuck into playoff position in the NFC with a 17-15 win over Seattle on Monday night, stopping a late two-point conversion. RB J.D. McKissic, who scored both touchdowns against the Seahawks, suffered a concussion and is out. The Raiders (6-5) are in a three-way tie for second in the AFC West, a game behind Kansas City. Las Vegas snapped a three-game skid with a 36-33 overtime win at Dallas on Thanksgiving as Daniel Carlson overcame a bout of food poisoning to kick five field goals, including a career-long 56-yarder.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh (+4.5, 44)

The Ravens (8-3) have won two in a row despite scoring just 16 points in each. They got QB Lamar Jackson back last week for a 16-10 victory against visiting Cleveland and he led them in both passing and rushing — though he threw four interceptions. The Steelers (5-5-1) are on a three-game winless streak, having surrendered 41 points in each of their past two games, including last Sunday’s 41-10 loss at Cincinnati.

San Francisco at Seattle (+3.5, 45.5)

The 49ers (6-5) have won three in a row, scoring 30 or more points in each, to climb back into the NFC’s wild-card chase. They beat visiting Minnesota 34-26 last week as rookie Elijah Mitchell rushed for 133 yards. WR Deebo Samuel added two TDs on the ground, but is out this week with a groin strain. The Seahawks (3-8) have lost three in a row, including 17-15 at Washington on MNF. Seattle has won 14 of the past 16 overall meetings with San Francisco, including a 28-21 road win in Week 4, but Russell Wilson hasn’t been the same since returning from finger surgery.

Denver at Kansas City (-9.5, 47)

The Broncos (6-5) have won three of their past four, including a 28-13 victory against the visiting Los Angeles Chargers last week. Pat Surtain II returned an interception 70 yards for a score midway through the fourth quarter to clinch the victory. The Chiefs (7-4) seem to have gotten back on track, winning four straight before last week’s bye.

Monday’s Game

New England at Buffalo (-3, 41.5)

The Patriots (8-4) have won six in a row to take a half-game lead over the Bills (7-4) in the AFC East. That includes a 36-13 victory against visiting Tennessee last week as rookie Mac Jones threw for a career-high 310 yards and two scores. New England has outscored its opponents 211-63 during the streak. Since opening 4-1, the Bills have been up and down. They won 31-6 at New Orleans on Thanksgiving but have struggled against stronger teams, including a 41-15 loss at home to Indianapolis the previous week.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 betting capsules: Chiefs favored against Jordan Love, Packers

It’s midway through the season and injuries and illnesses are starting to take a toll. The game of the week might have been Green Bay at Kansas City, but that was before Packers QB Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 despite his earlier claims of being “immunized.”

Tennessee at the Los Angeles Rams also lost some of its luster after Titans running back Derrick Henry, the two-time NFL rushing champ, underwent surgery Tuesday on his injured right foot. Maybe with an extra hour of sleep, everyone can stay healthy this week.

Sunday’s games

Atlanta at New Orleans (-6.5 points, O/U 42)

With Jameis Winston sidelined, Trevor Siemian was named the starting QB for the Saints (5-2), coming off a 36-27 victory against defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. New Orleans has won six of the past seven against the NFC South rival Falcons (3-4). Atlanta lost at home 19-13 to Carolina last week and will be without star WR Calvin Ridley because of mental health reasons. That leaves QB Matt Ryan with few options other than rookie TE Kyle Pitts.

Buffalo at Jacksonville (+14.5, 48.5)

The Bills (5-2) lead the league in most points scored and fewest allowed and have an early MVP front-runner in QB Josh Allen. Their wins have been by scores of 35-0, 43-21, 40-0, 38-20 and last week’s 26-11 victory against visiting Miami. The Jaguars (1-6) failed to build any momentum from their 23-20 victory in Week 6 against the Dolphins in London. Coming off a bye, they suffered a 31-7 road loss last week to the Geno Smith-led Seattle Seahawks.

Cleveland at Cincinnati (-2.5, 47)

The drama continues for the Browns (4-4), from QB Baker Mayfield’s torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder to WR Odell Beckham Jr. being told to go home. They dropped to .500 with a 15-10 loss at home to Pittsburgh last week, a team they blew out in last season’s playoffs. The Bengals (5-3) are coming off a shocking 34-31 loss to the New York Jets, but that was between a blowout of Baltimore and this week’s battle for Ohio bragging rights.

Denver at Dallas (-10, 49.5)

The Broncos (4-4) managed to get past visiting Washington 17-10 last week to snap a four-game skid, then traded star LB Von Miller to the Los Angeles Rams. Even with QB Dak Prescott out, the host Cowboys beat Minnesota 20-16. Prescott might return from a calf injury and WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are healthy, but Dallas (6-1), which is the only team that’s 7-0 against the spread, could probably win again with backup Cooper Rush under center.

Houston at Miami (-5.5, 46.5)

Neither of these teams has won since Week 1. The Texans lost 38-22 last week to the visiting Rams while the Dolphins suffered a 26-11 defeat at Buffalo. The Dolphins (1-7) showed some interest in Texans star Deshaun Watson, but talks fizzled before the trade deadline. QB Tyrod Taylor should return for the Texans (1-7) for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury in Week 2, giving them a slightly better chance at an upset.

Las Vegas at N.Y. Giants (+3, 46.5)

The emotional roller coaster continues for the Raiders (5-2). They responded well to coach Jon Gruden’s resignation, but this week leading receiver Henry Ruggs III was released after being arrested for a fatal DUI crash. While the Raiders are coming off a bye, the Giants (2-6) have had a short week after a 20-17 defeat at Kansas City on Monday night. New York might get WR Kenny Golloday and RB Saquon Barkley back from injuries.

Minnesota at Baltimore (-6, 49.5)

Expect the Vikings (3-4) to keep it close as their four losses are by a touchdown or less, including a 20-16 defeat against visiting Dallas last Sunday night. QB Kirk Cousins has 14 TD passes and just two INTs and RB Dalvin Cook is back healthy. The Ravens (5-2) had a bye last week, giving them time to tend to their wounds after a 41-17 home loss to Cincinnati. Baltimore is 10-3 following an off week under coach John Harbaugh.

New England at Carolina (+3.5, 41)

The Patriots (4-4) improved to 3-0 on the road with a 27-24 win against the L.A. Chargers last week as Adrian Phillips picked off two passes, returning one for a go-ahead TD. Nick Folk added four FGs. The Panthers (4-4) snapped a four-game skid with a 19-13 win at Atlanta, but QB Sam Darnold was knocked out and might not be able to play in this one. Carolina might finally get RB Christian McCaffrey back from a hamstring injury, though.

L.A. Chargers at Philadelphia (+1.5, 50)

The Chargers (4-3), behind second-year QB Justin Herbert, were looking like a threat in the AFC until dropping their past two games, including a 27-24 home loss to New England last week. Herbert has a right hand injury and has been limited in practice this week. The Eagles (3-5) blew out the winless Lions 44-6 last week in Detroit but have yet to win in three home games this season. QB Jalen Hurts is more exciting in the running game (71 yards on seven carries last Sunday) than as a passer (9 of 14 for 103 yards).

Arizona at San Francisco (-2.5, 45.5)

The Cardinals (7-1) are coming off their first loss — 24-21 to visiting Green Bay last Thursday night — and QB Kyler Murray is hobbled with an ankle injury. Arizona won the first meeting between the teams 17-10, but that was with 49ers rookie Trey Lance under center. Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw for 322 yards in a 33-22 win at Chicago last week, is back for this one. The 49ers (3-4) will try to snap a seven-game home losing streak, while the Cardinals have won four straight on the road.

Green Bay at Kansas City (-7, 48)

The Packers (7-1) have won seven in a row, including a 24-21 victory at previously undefeated Arizona last Thursday night. But that was with Aaron Rodgers, who is now in the league’s COVID-19 protocol. Backup QB Jordan Love threw seven passes in the season-opening loss, completing five. He’ll likely spend a lot of time handing off to Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. The Chiefs (4-4) steadied the ship a bit with a 20-17 victory against the visiting New York Giants on MNF. Patrick Mahomes has thrown an NFL-high 10 INTs, however.

Tennessee at L.A. Rams (-7.5, 52.5)

The Titans (6-2) have won four in a row and eked out a 34-31 overtime victory last week at Indianapolis despite the loss of RB Derrick Henry. They signed 36-year-old Adrian Peterson to help replace him, but a lot more will fall on the shoulders of QB Ryan Tannehill. The Rams (7-1) have also won four straight, including a 38-22 victory last week at Houston. It wasn’t that close, as L.A. had a 38-0 lead through three quarters. The Rams added eight-time Pro Bowl LB Von Miller in a trade with Denver, showing they’re serious about winning now.

Monday’s Game

Chicago at Pittsburgh (-6.5, 39.5)

The Bears (3-5) have lost three in a row and dropped a 33-22 decision to San Francisco last week at home. LB Khalil Mack missed his first game since 2018 because of a foot injury and head coach Matt Nagy was in the COVID-19 protocol. Rookie Justin Fields threw for 175 yards and a TD and rushed for 103 yards and a score, the first Chicago QB to rush for 100 since Bobby Douglass in 1973. The Steelers (4-3) have won three in a row to stay in the AFC North race, but they average just 19 points per game. Big Ben Roethlisberger is 16-6 in his career on MNF.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) drops back to pass against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Bills QB Josh Allen’s MVP odds continue to strengthen

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen has put a little more distance between himself and his closest competition for NFL MVP honors.

Allen is now the +250 favorite at several sportsbooks. At BetMGM, the next shortest odds belong to fellow quarterbacks Tom Brady (+400), Kyler Murray (+500) and Matthew Stafford (+600).

The trio are each being offered at +600 at DraftKings.

The Bills hold a 1 1/2-game lead in the AFC East over the New England Patriots, with Allen leading the way 17 touchdowns against only three interceptions while throwing for 1,972 yards. That includes 249 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no picks in Buffalo’s thrashing of Miami last Sunday.

Meanwhile, Brady and Murray are coming off losses — the second of the season for Tampa Bay and the first for Murray’s Arizona Cardinals. Brady still leads the way at DraftKings with 17 percent of the MVP handle backing the Buccaneers’ quarterback, while Stafford is now second with 13 percent, ahead of Allen and Murray at 11 percent each.

Reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers opened the season at +1200 and has seen his odds steadily shorten to +800 this week with Green Bay riding a seven-game winning streak. He has been backed by 17 percent of the total bets at DraftKings, well ahead of Allen at 11 percent and Brady and Stafford at 10 percent each.

Dallas’ Dak Prescott still has shorter odds both books — +650 at DraftKings and +700 at BetMGM — despite missing last week’s win over Minnesota.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry remains +4000 at DraftKings despite foot surgery that will sideline him until the playoffs, if not for the season. He has been taken off the MVP market at BetMGM, where the top non-quarterback now is Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp at +10000.

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Week 5 NFL betting lines

We’ve got to give the NFL’s schedule-makers some credit. Last Sunday night it was Tom Brady’s return to New England in prime time. This week it’ll be a rematch of last year’s AFC title game as Buffalo travels to Kansas City.

The Chiefs overcame an early nine-point deficit to win that one 38-24, before losing to Brady and Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. The Bills will look to prove they’re the team to beat this season.

Sunday’s Games

N.Y. Jets vs. Atlanta Falcons (-3, 45.5 O/U)

If the NFL is looking to grow the game overseas, this matchup of 1-3 teams in London isn’t the way to go — unless Tottenham star Harry Kane kicks for both teams. The Jets are coming off their first win of the season, beating Tennessee in OT as rookie QB Zach Wilson threw for 297 yards and two TDs and the defense had seven sacks. Falcons QB Matt Ryan threw for four TDs in a narrow loss to Washington but will be without leading receiver Calvin Ridley (personal reasons).

Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers (-1, 39.5)

The Broncos (3-1) suffered their first loss last week, 23-7 to Baltimore, as QB Teddy Bridgewater was knocked out with a concussion. Bridgewater has been remarkably effective, the league’s lone quarterback with more than 50 passing attempts and nary an interception. If he can’t clear the protocol, Drew Lock will start. The Steelers (1-3) have lost three in a row and have struggled to protect the aging Ben Roethlisberger. Denver linebacker Von Miller could have a field day.

Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (-10, 49)

The Lions (0-4) are one of only two winless teams in the league and have lost their past seven meetings with their NFC North rivals. Their offensive line has been decimated by injuries, with Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow (turf toe) going on the IR this week. The Vikings (1-3) have been outscored by 11 points in their three losses. RB Dalvin Cook has vowed to play through an ankle injury that limited him to 34 yards on nine carries in a 14-7 loss to Cleveland last week.

Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals (+3, 51)

Would it surprise you to learn second-year Bengals signal-caller Joe Burrow has thrown for more yards, has more TD passes and a better passer rating this season than Aaron Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP? It’s true. The Packers (3-1) have won three in a row since their no-show in the season opener. The Bengals (3-1) have had a couple of extra days to prepare after beating Jacksonville 24-21 in a Thursday night game as Burrow threw for a season-high 348 yards. Bengals RB Joe Mixon is nursing an ankle injury.

Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-10, 47.5)

After an emotional victory at New England, in which he became the NFL’s all-time leading passer (80,560 yards), could QB Tom Brady suffer a letdown? Unlikely, as the reigning Super Bowl champion Bucs (3-1) play host to the Dolphins (1-3) and backup Jacoby Brissett. In 35 career starts against the Fins, Brady has accounted for 70 TDs (67 passing, three rushing). The last time the Dolphins won at Tampa Bay, in 1988, Don Shula was the coach and Dan Marino was the QB.

New England Patriots at Houston Texans (+9, 39.5)

The Patriots’ Mac Jones has been the best QB of the rookie class thus far, topping the newcomers in completions and passing yards. He nearly pulled off an upset of Tom Brady and defending champion Tampa Bay last week, if not for Nick Folk’s late FG attempt hitting the upright in a 19-17 defeat. Both teams are 1-3, but the Texans are headed in reverse. They lost 40-0 at Buffalo last week as rookie Davis Mills, making his second start for the injured Tyrod Taylor (strained hamstring), was 11 of 21 for just 87 yards and four picks.

New Orleans Saints at Washington Football Team (+2, 43.5)

This is an odd-numbered week — Week 5 — so maybe the Saints show up? After crushing Green Bay 38-3 in the opener, New Orleans (2-2) has been wildly inconsistent. The Saints played at home for the first time last week because of Hurricane Ida and lost 27-21 in overtime to the previously winless New York Giants. Washington (1-3) was supposed to have a great defense, but it’s allowing 30.5 ppg. Taylor Heinicke passed for 290 yards and three TDs in a 34-30 win over Atlanta last weekend.

Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers (-3, 45)

The Eagles (1-3) played Kansas City tough last week, as Jalen Hurts threw for a career-high 387 yards in a 42-30 loss at home. Hurts has a 101.1 QB rating and leads Philadelphia in rushing. The Panthers (3-1) suffered their first loss last weekend, 36-28 at Dallas. Newcomer Sam Darnold has shown why he was once a first-round pick and is the first QB in league history with five rushing TDs through the first four weeks of a season. RB Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) is doubtful.

Tennessee at Jacksonville (+4.5, 48.5)

The Titans (2-2) rival New Orleans for the most unpredictable team, despite having the league’s leading rusher in Derrick Henry. They lost 27-24 in overtime to the previously winless Jets last weekend. The Titans listed 23 players on their injury report this week, including WRs Julio Jones and A.J. Brown with hamstring problems. The Jaguars (0-4) have lost 19 in a row and coach Urban Meyer had to apologize for his off-the-field conduct. Jacksonville has forced just one turnover while committing nine.

Chicago at Las Vegas (-5.5, 45.5)

Rookie Justin Fields, still looking for his first TD pass, has been named the starter for the Bears (2-2). RB David Montgomery (sprained knee) is going to miss the next 4-5 weeks, so the Raiders (3-1) will be free to tee off on Fields behind a suspect Chicago O-line that has allowed sacks on a league-worst 13.7 percent of passing plays. Bears LB Khalil Mack gets to go up against his former team. The Raiders’ Derek Carr led the NFL through four weeks with 1,399 passing yards. Vegas averages 406.5 yards per game; da Bears, 237.0, worst in the league.

Cleveland at L.A. Chargers (-2.5, 46.5)

The Browns (3-1) allowed a TD on Minnesota’s first drive last week, then shut out the Vikes the rest of the way in a 14-7 win. Myles Garrett, with a league-high six sacks, leads a D allowing 16.8 points and 250.3 yards per game. With QB Baker Mayfield nursing an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, Cleveland needs to keep the score down. That won’t be easy against the Chargers (3-1). QB Justin Herbert continues to impress and Austin Ekeler rushed for a career-high 117 yards last week in a 28-14 win over Las Vegas.

N.Y. Giants at Dallas (-7, 52)

The Giants (1-3) won 27-21 in OT at New Orleans last week as Daniel Jones threw for a career-high 402 yards. Three QBs lead their teams in rushing: Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts, and … Jones. The Cowboys (3-1) are clicking on offense. Dak Prescott threw four TD passes last weekend in a 36-28 victory against previously undefeated Carolina and Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a season-high 143 yards and a score. Dallas has a plus-7 turnover differential, as CB Trevon Diggs became the first Cowboy since 1970 with picks in the first four games of a season.

San Francisco at Arizona (-5, 50)

The 49ers (2-2) have been hamstrung by injuries in both backfields and now QB Jimmy Garappolo (calf) is ruled out. Rookie Trey Lance came off the bench at halftime last week and threw for 157 yards in a 28-21 loss to Seattle. The Cardinals (4-0) are the last remaining unbeaten team in the league. QB Kyler Murray ranks fourth in passing yards and is must-see TV. Chase Edmonds rushed for 120 yards in a 37-20 win over the host Los Angeles Rams last weekend in a showdown for first in the NFC West.

Buffalo at Kansas City (-2.5, 56.5)

After a stunning loss to Pittsburgh in their season opener, the Bills (3-1) are back on track. They’ve shut out two of their past three opponents, are allowing just 11.0 points and 216.8 yards per game and have forced 11 turnovers (all league-bests). QB Josh Allen continues to shine and RBs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss combined to rush for 140 yards in a 40-0 win over hapless Houston last week. For the Chiefs (2-2), Patrick Mahomes threw for five TDs in a 42-30 win at Philadelphia. The K.C. defense has given up the second-most points (31.3) and yards (437.8) per game in the league.

Monday’s Game

Indianapolis at Baltimore (-6.5, 46.5)

The Colts (1-3) finally got their first win in the Carson Wentz Era, defeating host Miami 27-17 last week as Jonathan Taylor rushed for a season-high 103 yards and scored his first TD. The Ravens (3-1) are 16-2 at night under coach John Harbaugh. QB Lamar Jackson had his second regular-season 300-yard passing day ever in a 23-7 win last week at Denver. Jackson has 10 TDs (eight passing, two rushing) vs. zero INTs in four career starts on “Monday Night Football.” LB Justin Houston, who had 19 sacks over the previous two seasons with the Colts, will set his sights on Wentz.

–Field Level Media

Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson holds onto this pass in the end zone against Bills cornerback Levi Wallace.  Pittsburgh went on to win 23-16.

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Betting records shattered on NFL opening weekend

Betting records were shattered on the opening weekend of the 2021 NFL season with nearly 60 million transactions recorded by U.S. sportsbooks.

With legally licensed sportsbooks now operating in 26 states and Washington D.C., 58.2 million betting transactions were recorded Thursday to Sunday by GeoComply, which provides geolocation services to sportsbooks.

GeoComply said Monday — when the final game of Week 1 will be played — that New Jersey had the highest number of bettors, ahead of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois.

“The data tells a remarkable story about the growth of the industry in a short period of time,” said Lindsay Slader, managing director of gaming for GeoComply.

The increase in U.S. transactions was measured at an uptick of 126 percent.

Underdogs were 11-4 against the spread, starting with the Dallas Cowboys covering an 8.5-point spread in the first game of the season Thursday night at Tampa. There were eight outright upsets, which typically represent big victories for sportsbooks.

–Field Level Media

June 5, 2018; Stanton, DE, USA; At 1:30 p.m. today Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Delaware launches the country's first full-scale sports betting operation outside of Nevada as people roll into the Casino at Delaware Park in Stanton, Del. to wager their bets. Mandatory Credit: Suchat Pederson/The News Journal via USA TODAY NETWORK

Record 45.2M Americans expected to bet on NFL in 2021

A record 45.2 million Americans are expected to wager during this upcoming NFL season, a 36 percent increase year-over-year, the American Gaming Association (AGA) announced Tuesday.

The increase is largely due to eight more states where fans can legally bet compared to 2020. Americans can wager in 26 states versus 18 one year ago.

Further, three more states (Arizona, South Dakota, Washington) are expected to come online by Thursday’s regular season kickoff and two more by the end of the season.

“Importantly, when the 2021 NFL season begins, more than 111m American adults will be able to wager safely with regulated sportsbooks in their home states rather than with the predatory illegal market,” AGA president and CEO Bill Miller said in a statement.

Based on its research, AGA projects that five million Americans will place a bet online (up 73 percent YOY) while seven million will bet with a bookie (up just 13 percent).

The Kansas City Chiefs are the most popular Super Bowl bet among Americans, followed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys.

–Field Level Media

May 25, 2021; Ashburn, Virginia, USA; A general view of an NFL ball on the field during a Washington Football Team OTA at Inova Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Football to generate more than $20B in legal sports bets

The NFL and college football could generate more than $20 billion in legal sports betting during the upcoming season, according to projections released Tuesday by PlayUSA.

It would result in as much as $1.5 billion in revenue for sportsbooks, per PlayUSA.

“The U.S. sports betting market looks entirely different than it did just one year ago. There is no question that it will be a historic football season unlike any we’ve seen before,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for the network.

The projections are at least $12 billion wagered on NFL games and roughly $8 billion on college football, per the report.

The total football-related handle was about $7.5 billion for the 2020 season.

Since the end of the 2020 football seasons, Michigan and Virginia have launched sports betting to emerge as the fifth- and seventh-largest markets in the U.S., respectively, per PlayUSA.

Another 11 states could launch or expand betting initiatives during this upcoming football season.

–Field Level Media