Football Picks For December 16-18

I'm getting a little sad, because football season is now far closer to its end than its beginning, and those games thin out from regular season slates bursting at the seams to bowl games and playoff games that fade away like melting snow.

So let's try to make some money while we still have time. All lines courtesy of Bovada:

Friday, 7 PM EST: North Dakota State -9.5 over Incarnate Word

You probably already know that NDSU is a FCS Powerhouse, with nine FCS championships since 2011. This year, their only losses were by 3 to Arizona, and by 2 to No. 1 FCS South Dakota State. UIW, on the other hand, has made it here to the FCS semis on the strength of a fluky win over Sacramento State — they were outgained by over 150 yards, but won the turnover battle 4-0.

Worse for the Cardinals: since then, their head coach has bolted to take the job at Texas State. It's hard to see anything happening here besides Incarnate Word getting their doors blown off.

Sunday, 1 PM EST: Cowboys -5 over Jacksonville

This game screams "regression to the mean." That is to say, Jacksonville in general, and Trevor Lawrence in particular, played great last week in their win over Tennessee. Lawrence has put up a few great games, but he has a hard time stringing them together and the Jags are still but 5-8.

The Cowboys and certainly capable of shooting themselves in the foot, and they have a tendency to play down to their opponents, but I think their escape over the lowly Texans will be like a cold shower for them. Cowboys to win by 6 or more? Yes, please.

Sunday, 1 PM EST: Chiefs -14 over Texans

This is the flip side to the same coin as Cowboys/Jacksonville. Last week, the Texans showed a lot of grit in hanging right with the Cowboys till the end. But they still couldn't finish off the job, and that was likely their Super Bowl (in-state rival and no chance at the playoffs and all that).

The Chiefs are as good as and probably better than the Cowboys, and seem less prone to laying an egg. I think Houston returns to being on the wrong end of blowouts this week.

Sunday, 1 PM EST: Lions (PK) over Jets

I talked about regression to the mean a lot already, but at some point, you have to believe a trend. The Lions really seem like they have figured something out. They've won five out of their last six and have won six in a row against the spread, by an average of almost 11 points per cover.

The Jets haven't been terrible, either lately or throughout the season, but they have lost three out of four and I just don't think it is safe to bet against the Lions until they lose against the spread again.

Bonus pick:

12/30, 8 PM EST: Tennessee +6.5 over Clemson (Orange Bowl)

These are two teams with similar trajectories. They spent big chunks of the season in playoff contention, but lost crucial games late, and they both are without the quarterback that took them most of the way.

For Clemson, the quarterback change is seen as a good thing, because Cade Klubnik kicked ass in the ACC Championship Game and has the entire Clemson fan base asking why he didn't replace an uninspiring D.J. Uiagalelei sooner.

For Tennessee, the quarterback change is seen as a bad thing, because their pivot, Hendon Hooker, was a Heisman hopeful before getting injured.

For me, though, I'm going to need more than one good game from Klubnik before giving Clemson credit for being 6.5 points better than Tennessee as currently constructed. The Vols' backup is Joe Milton, and he has some experience (remember him at Michigan?). He has 7 TDs and 0 interceptions thus far on the year.

Finally, it was announced mere hours ago (as I write this) that Clemson star DE Myles Murphy has declared for the draft and won't play. I think this number is going to fall farther than 6.5, so grab it now.

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