MNF and Christmas Day NBA Previews
'Twas the night before Christmas and all thru the NFL's house, there were plenty of creatures stirring … some were hungry for a playoff spot, others for a better post-season seed and some were downright greedy while looking for a #1 conference seed.
In short, let's just say some NFL teams are gonna be enjoying this festive holiday week more than others - we can't imagine that it's going to be a really fun Christmas for the likes of the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Houston Texans or even the Kansas City Chiefs as all three of those AFC teams suffered painful road losses this past Sunday. If you had money line plays on all of the above, well, your Christmas goose was cooked!
Well, NFL Week 17 action this coming Sunday figures to be a rollicking day/night of elation and/or grand disappointment but before we look ahead let's point out how the NFL delivered "gifts" to many of its fans:
Let's start with those Steelers who - for some strange reason - faked that fourth-quarter punt in New Orleans and now may not be able to squeeze into the upcoming playoffs, thanks to a high-wire act 31-28 loss-but-cover at 6.5-point favorite New Orleans. Sorry, no explanation that Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin comes up with will be any good for us - but folks that had the Saints on the money line (- 300) are thanking their lucky stars tonight and anyone with a Win it All ticket on New Orleans (at 10-to-1) are having a Merry Christmas too. Now, the Steelers need to beat lowlife Cincinnati and have Cleveland win at 6-point fav Baltimore to snag the AFC North. Good luck!
And how about the aforementioned Texans? They entered NFL Week 16 with the #2 seed in the AFC but Bill O'Brien's crew surrendered four touchdown passes to past Super Bowl hero QB Nick Foles and then watched in horror as Philadelphia Eagles' PK Jake Elliott drilled a 35-yard FG as time expired in a 32-30 loss-but-cover by Houston. So, the Texans dropped below New England in the AFC standings and now - unless the Pats lose in Week 17 to the two-TD pup New York Jets - Houston's gonna have to host a game in that wild card round weekend while N'England gets a bye and (dare we say) a real inside track at making it back to yet another Super Bowl.
What, you think anyone can count on the KC Chiefs anymore as they're 1-6-1 versus the vig since late October!
True, the always-brilliant QB Patrick Mahomes (273 yards passing with 3 TDs and 0 INTs) was busy entertaining the national TV audience last night with all his pinpoint strikes (many from wacko arm angles) but the Chiefs' quarterback can't do everything and that creaky KC defense was a mess while allowing 210 rushing yards to Seattle - plus all those downfield bombs by Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson) in Seattle's 38-31 win as 1-point home dogs.
Hey, the Chiefs' defense is the gift that's always giving as this unit now has allowed nearly 36 points per game in their last five tilts and make a note that four of KC's last five games have gone "over" … it seems as if Las Vegas can't make a totals price high enough in their games!
Tonight, there's a single/solitary game on the NFL Week 16 agenda - no playoff meaning but something to watch (and wager on) when you're wrapping those last-minute presents:
DENVER (6-8) at OAKLAND (3-11) - 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
These AFC rivals have combined for zero playoff wins these last three years - not sure what's worse: The players, the coaches or the respective front offices … ugh! You'll be hearing plenty about this rickety-old stadium tonight and whether or not the Raiders will be leaving, so we'll let ESPN's "three wise men" spell out that part of the story but check out the matchup between pass-rushing star OLB Von Miller against Raiders' QB Derek Carr who has 19 TDs and 0 INTs in his last nine games … really.
Spread Note - The Broncos own a 9-4-1 ATS head-to-head advantage since the second meeting back in 2011.
NBA ON CHRISTMAS DAY
What would Christmas be like without a stocking full of NBA games on the menu?
Here's the five (5) games that come your way on Tuesday afternoon/evening:
MILWAUKEE (22-10) at NEW YORK (9-25) - 12:05 p.m. ET, ESPN
In case you missed the news late last week, there will be no "Merry Kristaps" for the beleaguered Knicks who now say their always-injured star Mr. Porzingis will be looked at in "mid-February" before proceeding after last year's knee injury. Hey, the Bucks are - early line here - a 10-point road fav with Giannis Antetokounmpo coming off a crummy 3-of-12 FG game against Miami.
OKLAHOMA CITY (21-11) at HOUSTON (17-15) - 3:05 p.m. ET, ESPN
Don't look now but OKC's Paul George and Houston's James Harden are scorching hot these days (Harden's been averaging nearly 40 ppg in his last handful of games). P.S., Houston's still trying to "dig out of that hole" and won't have PG Chris Paul (hamstring) on the floor here.
PHILADELPHIA (22-12) at BOSTON (19-13) - 5:35 p.m. ET, ABC
Three of the 76ers' last four games have been 20-plus point wins and do-it-all star Ben Simmons comes off a 26-point / 12-rebound / 8-assist game against Toronto this past Saturday night … is he the best player on the floor here or does Celtics G Kyrie Irving have somethin' to say?
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (19-14) at GOLDEN STATE (23-11) - 8:05 p.m. ET, ESPN
The shiniest present under the NBA tree is this West Coast gem - the Warriors are listed as heavy-duty 9-point betting favorites thanks in large part to a recent 8-of-10 winning stretch while LeBron James' club could be short-handed as big men Tyson Chandler (back spasms) and JaVale McGee (pneumonia) are questionable. Okay, so 2018-19's been a grind for the Warriors but we still love watching Kevin Durant drain all those late-game triples. Yowie!
PORTLAND (19-14) at UTAH (16-18) - 10:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
If the egg nog hasn't knocked you out yet, then stay up for this Western Conference clash with a reminder that the 6-point underdog T-Blazers have a backcourt that's averaging 48.1 ppg - Damian Lillard (26.9) and CJ McCollum (21.2 ppg).
Merry Christmas to all!