This has been a tough few weeks for bettors who aren't slavishly connected to news feeds ready to take advantage of any breaking COVID-related news in the NFL. Considering it's holiday season, I'd say most of us probably fall in that bucket. The ever-shifting availability of players makes it tough picking games early in the week, as just when you lock in what looks like value, a team will lose its starting quarterback or have to deal with a major COVID outbreak among its players. The former happened to me this week with the Vikings, who I took at +6.5 on Thursday only to see Kirk Cousins placed on the COVID list Friday. With the Vegas contest lines already locked, that makes Green Bay an autoplay for me and many other participants at the stale number, even though I was prepared to use the Vikings on both cards as recently as Friday morning.
I've been SportsLine's No. 1 NFL expert over the last four years, going 354-292-22 against the spread in particular during that stretch. I've also delivered a 57.1 percent hit rate on my SuperContest picks over the last six seasons, which is exactly what you're getting below. And that run includes two finishes in the money, including finishing 18th out of 2,748 entries back in 2017.
If you're a SportsLine subscriber, you can get all my picks, which in a typical NFL week number in the double digits, at the same time as I make them by downloading the app and signing up for alerts on my expert page. That's crucial, as you might not have access to the same lines from the Las Vegas contests, which don't move after they're posted mid-week. This week, I'm backing an underdog that has impressed the last few weeks: the Houston Texans +12 vs. the San Francisco 49ers.
When Houston handled the Jaguars as six-point underdogs, it was easy to write it off as a line that got out of control reacting to Urban Meyer's firing. The Jaguars shouldn't be laying points against anyone, right? But when the Texans won outright as 13-point underdogs against the Chargers, scoring 41 points despite missing top wideout Brandin Cooks, it came time to reckon with the fact that they're not even close to the worst team in the league.
Davis Mills didn't look ready for the NFL when pressed into duty early in the season, but even then he flashed at times, including in a near loss against the Patriots. He's looked consistently better since being reinserted into the lineup, completing 69% of his passes for 794 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in three starts. Only three QBs have a better completion percentage on the season, and nine are averaging more passing yards per game. That's not to say Mills is a top-10 QB; my point is he's closer to average than bottom of the barrel.
If the Texans can get an average performance from their QB, they have a great shot at covering against a team that doesn't know what it will get from its quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo was unable to practice all week, setting the stage for rookie Trey Lance to make his second start of the year. He looked like he still had a ways to go as a passer in his first start, a Week 5 loss to the Cardinals. I don't believe that's the guy that will definitely take the field on Sunday; after all, we just went over an example of a rookie QB looking much better once given a second opportunity to lead the offense. But I do think Lance will have to be very good for the 49ers to cover this number against a team that scored 71 points in its last two games.
To me, it seems more likely both these teams stay in the 17-27 point range rather than the 49ers get above 30 while holding the Texans under 20. And that makes the Texans one of my best bets this week.
Get the rest of my SuperContest picks and my Circa Million picks below.
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