LAS VEGAS -- The roller-coaster ride that is my NFL season continued as I followed up my 6-1 ATS record in Week 15 with a 3-6 ATS mark in Week 16.
It was particularly frustrating in terms of the Las Vegas Hilton SuperContest, as I went 3-2 and remained in contention for a shot at the mini-contest over the last three weeks of the season with a record of 8-2 (though I'll probably have to go 5-0 in Week 17 and hope those at 10-0 and 9-1 stumble in order to split the $15,000 pot). I felt like I should have gone 5-0 for the second straight week, but the Texans let me down, trailing the Broncos 16-13 heading into the fourth quarter while getting 10.5 points, as did the Raiders as Marcel Reece dropped a spread-covering TD on the final play of their loss to the Chargers.
Still, it felt like a good week except that every other game went the wrong way. I found it easier to stomach losses by the Vikings, Browns and Bears, as those were clearly the wrong sides, though the other heart-breaker was the Saints, who, getting 3.5 against the Panthers, led 13-10 in the closing minutes but were unable to hold off the Panthers as Cam Newton hit Domenik Hixon on a 14-yard TD pass with 23 seconds to play to win by four points.
It has been that kind of season, but hopefully things will fall our way this week as we shoot for another 6-1 week to get us back to .500 heading to the playoffs. There are a number of inflated lines this week, with oddsmakers adjusting for teams battling for playoff position. It's just a matter of finding the right ones to fade and which ones to avoid.
Last week: 3-6 ATS | Year to date: 52-57-3 (48 percent) ATS
Programming note: I'm no longer eligible for ESPN.com's "Streak for the Cash" contest, but they've asked me to suggest some plays. This is different from picking games against the spread (especially because they mostly have you pick games straight up, and the games are closer to pick 'em), but it's all about win percentages/odds, so I'll tackle those at the end of the column.
Note: Consensus pick percentages from ESPN PickCenter as of Thursday morning.
Matchup: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
Spread: Panthers minus-6.5
Public consensus pick: 57 percent picked Panthers
Public perception: The top game on the betting board kicks off the trend of the public backing the playoff-bound team. The Panthers are 11-4 and have been good to backers at 9-5-1 ATS, and certainly picked up some more followers with their dramatic win and cover over the Saints.
Wiseguys' view: Sharps grabbed all of the Falcons plus-7's earlier in the week, and as of Thursday morning we're even seeing the line dip to Falcons minus-6 at some books. Carolina WR Steve Smith is out with a knee injury.
Tuley's take: The Falcons are certainly playing better than they were when the Panthers blew them out 34-10 on Nov. 3. They have covered four of their past five games, and the way they matched up with the 49ers on Monday night in San Francisco shows me they can play with the Panthers, too.