Christmas best bets gift bag: What to pick for Vikings vs. Saints and NBA Christmas Day, plus an NFL parlay


Well, well, well, would you look at that? It’s a surprise Christmas gift for you. That’s right, Santa Claus isn’t the only person handing out gifts this time of year. You didn’t think I’d let you head into the weekend without a bunch of picks, did you? Never.

It’s a long holiday weekend, and the only thing better than a long holiday weekend is a long holiday weekend with a lot of sports for you to bet on. So let’s stop wasting time talking about how great a job I did wrapping this present and just rip that sucker open to find out what’s inside.

But first, let’s catch up on some reading:

Now, let’s stuff some stockings with winners.

All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook

🔥 The Hot Ticket

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Vikings at Saints, Friday, 4:30 p.m. | TV: Fox
The Pick: Under 51 (-110)
: It’s a spotlight game, so my original instinct was to fade Kirk Cousins, but the truth is he hasn’t been all that bad in prime-time games lately. Plus, I’m not all that excited about betting on Drew Brees right now because he’s a shell of his former self. It was while considering this that a light bulb flashed over my head.

Why not bet the under? The Saints offense is a dink-and-dunk operation without a lot of big-play potential aside from Alvin Kamara doing something incredible. Then there are the Vikings, who have big-play potential thanks to Justin Jefferson, but Mike Zimmer still coaches them. He still wants to win with defense and running the football. Only four teams run the ball more often than the Vikings have this season, but they’re going up against a Saints defense that ranks sixth in the league in success rate against the run and second in DVOA. All of which tells me that this isn’t going to be a high-scoring thriller.

Key Trend: The Under is 9-6 in Minnesota‘s last 15 games as a road dog.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model has been crushing the NFL this season and has a play for this game.

💰The Picks


Pelicans at Heat, Friday, 12 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 222 (-110) — 
Reader, let me introduce you to a principle you might not be aware of. This principle is known as Christmas Day Unders. It’s quite simple. The NBA plays multiple games every Christmas, and this year is no different. When they do, you want to bet the under, especially in the early games. It has proven to be very profitable. It’s pretty simple, really. Think about how you would feel if you had to get up on Christmas morning, leave your family, and go play a basketball game. You’d probably be a little bummed. At the very least, you’d be tired. The first game on Christmas day is always an exercise in missed jump shots. I have a feeling that playing in an empty stadium won’t do much to lift the players’ spirits, either.

Key Trend: Christmas Day Unders are 15-10 over the last five seasons.

It’s more NBA picks you want? Check out our experts on The Early Edge podcast — download and subscribe on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or listen below:


Bears at Jaguars, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Jaguars +7.5 (-110) — 
Yeah, I’m not falling for it. When the Jets won last week, the world reacted by crowning the Jaguars the lucky recipient of the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. This reaction ignored the fact the Jaguars were playing the Bears this week, and the Bears are suddenly back in the playoff hunt after winning two straight against mediocre teams. My lifetime as a Bears fan lets me know that the Bears are more than capable of losing this game. That said, the Jags do stink, so I’m not going to pick them to win. Instead, I’ll take the points as the Bears are not the kind of team anybody should be trusting as more than a touchdown favorite on the road. Not with Mitch Trubisky at the helm.

Key Trend: The Bears are 1-3 ATS as road favorites since the start of last season.

Panthers at Football Team, Sunday, 1 p.m. | TV: CBS
The Pick: Panthers +1 (-110) — 
Honestly, I just love betting on Teddy Bridgewater as an underdog. He’s rewarded me plenty of times before. As a starter, Bridgewater’s teams are a ridiculous 24-6 ATS as an underdog. This season the Panthers have gone 7-3 ATS as dogs with Bridgewater, and that 7-3 record is his worst single-season performance. To take this a step further, when he’s a road dog, Bridgewater’s teams are 19-2. That includes six straight covers this season against teams like the Saints, Chiefs, and Packers, just to name a few. Washington‘s been playing better in recent weeks, but they’re nowhere near as good as those teams. If Teddy can cover against them, he can cover against Washington.

Key Trend: Teddy Bridgewater is 19-2 ATS as a road dog.

🏈 College Football

No. 12 Coastal Carolina vs. Liberty, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Libery +7 (-115) — 
One factor you have to consider during bowl season is how much more public action there is on games than you might find in a typical week. The fan who might bet on their favorite team during the season and maybe a couple of other games suddenly finds a desire to bet on bowl games because they’re on constantly during the holiday season. This fan will be drawn to teams with numbers next to their name like Coastal Carolina. A team that has become something of a critical darling, and a team I like a lot. It’s just, it’s also a team being overvalued in this spot because of it. Also, when it comes to motivation, I can’t help but feel Hugh Freeze has a point he wants to make. Hugh probably thought he’d have a much better chance at landing one of those open SEC jobs this winter and was passed up by both for Shane Beamer and Bryan Harsin. Freeze might want to show those schools that they made a mistake in passing on him. I don’t know if that’s enough to pull off an upset, but it should be enough to cover.

Key Trend: Hugh Freeze teams are 4-1 ATS in bowl games.

Want more bowl picks for the weekend? Check out my column, The Six Pack.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: Legendary NFL handicapper Hank Goldberg is on a 45-27 run with his best bets. Here are his top three plays for Week 16.

💸 NFL Sunday Parlay

A four-leg parlay paying +170.


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