Christmas Day NFL best bets: How we're betting Browns-Packers, Colts-Cardinals
With the Hawaii Bowl's cancellation, December 24th is the first day without a football game - either NFL or NCAAF - since December 15, ending a run of eight consecutive days of football with a total of 31 games to bet on!
Understandably so, our appetites will be high as sports return on the 25th following a brief pause, so let's dive into the NFL's two-game slate and see what looks appealing.
Here are our favorite plays for the NFL's Christmas Day doubleheader:
C Jackson Cowart: Browns team total under 19.5
I'm fading this Browns offense until it gives me a reason not to. Yes, several COVID-related incidents tanked this unit in last week's 14-point effort, but this group has been inefficient for a while now.
Including Tuesday's dud, Cleveland has scored 17 points or fewer in eight of its last 11 games, largely due to lousy QB play. That won't change this week - Baker Mayfield still has to clear protocols before Saturday after coming off an extended quarantine and taking zero snaps in practice.
Some of Mayfield's teammates may still be in protocols, too, but even a fully healthy Browns offense would struggle to put up points on its shortest rest of the season against a fully rested Packers defense. I'm simply not buying any momentum for this group in an absolutely brutal spot on Christmas Day.
Alex Moretto: Cardinals -1
We're getting a clear discount on the Cardinals, given the circumstances ahead of Week 16. I'm not saying you should feel great betting Arizona amid this downturn, especially against a Colts team significantly on the upswing, but you should at least feel great about the price you're betting at. The line adjustment here has been drastic after Indianapolis beat the Patriots and the Cardinals lost to the Lions, with Arizona moving to -1 from -3.5, and I can't pass up this price.
I also like this matchup for the Cardinals. While I worry about their run defense against Jonathan Taylor's excellence, the Colts are seriously shorthanded on the offensive line with starters Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Mark Glowinski out. Offensively, I like Arizona to find success against an Indianapolis defense that plays a ton of zone, playing right into Kyler Murray's hands. Murray's numbers are much better against the zone, while his legs will also play a big part with the Colts ranking just 24th in pass rush win rate and the Cardinals getting center Rodney Hudson back for this one.
Indianapolis has enjoyed some turnover luck lately, contributing to this strong run of results, but I'm expecting regression to hit. The Colts are 0-5 this campaign when they either tie or lose the turnover battle. Takeaways have been a strong suit of this team - Indianapolis leads the league in turnover differential - but there's certainly some luck involved with that. The Colts turned it over just once against New England despite Carson Wentz having 25% of his passes graded as turnover-worthy.
The Cardinals are equally opportunistic, ranking bottom five in giveaways and seventh in takeaways. Arizona will punish any Wentz mistakes on the road here in a hostile environment, and Murray can make more plays through the air and on the ground than Mac Jones was able to as the Cards snap a two-game losing skid with a big win on Christmas Day.
Matt Russell: Cardinals ML (-115)
This week is the only moment this season where Arizona would be considered a pick'em at home to Indianapolis.
I have been bearish on the Cardinals all campaign long, rating them lower than virtually any other ratings or power rankings source you can find. Those very same ratings still make the club a 2.7-point favorite at home on Saturday, but since the Colts had a highly regarded win over the Patriots in Week 15 while Detroit stunned Arizona, we've seen a massive perception shift alter this number.
The matchup could be better - the Cards' run defense is pretty suspect - but I can't pass up on a number advantage like this, especially since Arizona will be at full attention for this one while Indianapolis might be riding a little too high for its own good following that big win.