NFL fan Joshua Jones (@JoshuapsJones) oversees Boxing Day's action from Week 16.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions | Saturday 26th December 2020, 18:00 | Sky Sports
The ‘Tom Brady tries to win a Super Bowl outside of New England’ tour rolls into Michigan on Boxing Day, as his Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) side face the ever-disappointing Detroit Lions (5-9).
The Lions are what they are. A woeful defense with an offense that simply isn’t good enough to bail them out every single week. Last Sunday’s 46-25 defeat to the Tennessee Titans was the fourth time Detroit has shipped 40+ points this season – more than the 1-13 New York Jets and 1-13 Jacksonville Jaguars combined.
That’s no slight on Matthew Stafford though, who is officially questionable this week. He has been ballin’ since Darrell Bevell took over head coaching responsibilities – throwing for 898 yards, 5 TDs and just one INT over those three games.
The Bucs got away with one last week, coming back from a 17-point half-time deficit to defeat the Falcons. It’s not the first time Tom Brady has had to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Atlanta (wink wink nudge nudge), connecting with Antonio Brown on a 46-yard touchdown midway through the 4th quarter.
It was (somehow) Leonard Fournette that had himself a day for them, forcing himself into the end zone from the one yard line twice in the absence of Ronald Jones. He’s out again this week, and Fournette is facing a Lions defense that has allowed a league-high 17 rushing TDs to running backs.
He’s worth a look to find the end zone again this week at 4/5 with Unibet, which feels like value considering he’s as short as 8/13 at some bookmakers. In fact, I like Leonard Fournette Anytime TD/Tampa Bay Bucanneers to win at evens with Unibet.
Fournette 2+ TDs and Bucs to win is an interesting one at 11/2 as well. While I don’t necessarily think he’s an elite back, the Lions have allowed players to score 2+ Rush TDs in seven of their games this year.
Just a hunch: This is a weird one, and isn’t something I’ll be officially tipping, but I’ve got a feeling Tom Brady sneaks one in. There’s no real value there at 13/2, but the Lions have allowed three in the last two weeks so I’m trusting my gut here.
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals | Saturday 26th December 2020, 21:30 | Sky Sports
The Niners (5-9) head to Glendale to take on the play-off chasing Cardinals (8-6) in Boxing Day’s second match-up. I say ‘head to’, they’ve been based in Arizona all month after being kicked out of their home county due to COVID regulations in Santa Clara County.
It was yet another setback in what has been a tumultuous season for San Francisco, who have been arguably the most injury-burdened side in the league. This is evidenced by the fact Kyle Shanahan’s side have already been eliminated from play-off contention, less than one year after featuring in Super Bowl LIV.
They’ll be starting 3rd string quarterback CJ Beathard on Saturday, with Josh Rosen – who they signed from Tampa Bay’s practice squad this week – backing him up.
It’ll be a tough task for either of them to keep up with Kyler Murray though. Arizona’s enigmatic young QB posted career-best numbers against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, going 27-36 for 406 yards, three passing TDs and one rushing TD.
It was an encouraging performance for the Cardinals, as Murray looked to finally be over the shoulder issues that has plagued him for the last few weeks. They’re a completely different team when he’s healthy, with his ability to make plays on the ground giving them another dimension on offense.
That ground game, and the rushing attack of their opponents, is where I’ll be putting my money in this one – backing Both Teams to Score a Rushing TD at 8/11 with SkyBet.
Arizona have scored the joint-second most rush TDs in the NFL this year (21), whilst San Francisco are joint-seventh (18). With both sides averaging more than one rushing score per game, I would expect nothing less in this one.
Interesting stat: Arizona are looking to sweep the Niners for the fifth time in six years.
Miami Dolphins @ Las Vegas Raiders | Sunday 27th December 2020, 01:15 | Sky Sports
The Las Vegas Raiders (7-7) saw their play-off hopes all but disappear with an overtime loss to the LA Chargers last Thursday night. Their hopes were slim anyway, essentially needing to win out to stand a chance, but now they are as good as eliminated.
Miami (9-5), on the other hand, currently occupies the seventh (and final) postseason berth – though they are by no means safe there. They edge out Baltimore (also 9-5) based on win percentage in conference games and will likely need to win both of their remaining matches to keep it that way, considering the Ravens’ final two opponents have a combined record of 8-19-1.
That’ll be a tough ask for Brian Flores’ side (whose two opponents are a combined 18-10) but a primetime win in Vegas would be the perfect start.
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure where to go with this game. I liked the Dolphins at -2.5 earlier in the week, but the line is now -3 and I don’t think I can back Tua Tagovailoa as a field goal favourite. Right now, he is probably the 3rd best quarterback that could conceivably start this game, with Jon Gruden not confirming whether it’ll be Derek Carr or Marcus Mariota under centre.
Carr went out of their TNF loss to the Chargers early with a groin injury, but he’s practiced this week and has no injury designations so should be good to go. He is the best QB involved in this game, and will give the Raiders their best chance of winning.
Our best chance of winning though, will probably be avoiding betting on the spread all together. Instead, I’m focusing my attention on Miami’s running game.
I wrote about how bad the Raiders’ rush defense is in last week’s preview, and I doubt it will have gotten any better over the last 10 days even with a new defensive coordinator.
Vegas ranks 31st against the run (per DVOA) and allows an average of 125.8 rushing yards per game at 4.6 yards per carry, as well as 1.6 rushing touchdowns per game.
Miami activated lead back Myles Gaskin off the COVID-19/Reserve list this week, and he should be relishing a match-up with this defense. His line is set at 50.5 which I think is low, and I assume it’s because of Salvon Ahmed’s emergence, but he’s still their best back and should get enough carries to hit this line.
I’m taking Myles Gaskin Over 50.5 Rushing Yards at 9/10 with Unibet. He’s hit this line in three of his last four (and was only three yards short against the Rams), whilst the Raiders have allowed opposing backs to hit 50 yards in five straight and eight of their last nine.
Interesting Stat: Since Week 5, the Dolphins are 8-2 straight up and 9-1 ATS. The best such record in the NFL.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions – Fournette 1+ TD/Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Win (1/1 Paddy Power)
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals – BTTS 1+ Rush TD (8/11 SkyBet)
Miami Dolphins @ Las Vegas Raiders – M. Gaskin Over 50.5 Rush Yards (9/10 Unibet)