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Week 13 round-robin underdog parlay: Determining teams' motivation

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It wouldn't have resulted in a windfall. Still, Jake Elliott's 59-yard squeezy cut 4-iron inside the right upright on a rainy Philadelphia evening eventually kept us from another winner in our weekly guilty pleasure. The Raiders fell short of a 17-point lead on a missed indoor kick that probably rattled many others. However, our favorite underdogs again went 3-2 against the spread, negating much of the loss.

As we hit December, one of the main throughlines for our selections will be motivation. Betting underdogs early in the season is advised because the perception built during the offseason has a shaky foundation. Then, in the middle of the season, the small sample size of 8-11 games creates overreaction in the market. In December, big favorites are more likely to win outright because the underdogs - confirmed bad teams - lack the desire to win by any means necessary.

How it works

We parlay five underdogs together - which we also bet against the spread - in 10 different three-team parlays. Using every combination of a three-team parlay is called a round robin, so we'll use a total of 1.1 units to make 11 different bets: 10 three-team parlays and one five-team parlay, each for .1 units. You'll likely double your money if three teams pull off the upset. If four teams win, you're connecting on four separate parlays and will be very pleased with the return. If all five teams win, you'll be diving into a gold doubloon silo like a young Scrooge McDuck.

Who to play

Broncos (+155) over Texans

We start with a team on a five-game winning streak getting over a field goal against a squad still rated below average in the market.

It seems like Sean Payton has coached Russell Wilson to remove the turnovers from his game. Payton wants Wilson scrambling forward and not side-to-side, which led to fumbles and dangerous throws. Meanwhile, a look at the NFL landscape shows that if you don't turn the ball over, a well-coordinated defense can take advantage of opponents' sloppy play. It's not a coincidence that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has seen his unit take advantage of inexperienced and veteran quarterbacks while limiting explosive plays.

The Broncos drag this game into a lower-scoring affair, something they've been comfortable with in beating five teams in the top 14 of opponents' yards per pass attempt. But Wilson faces the Texans this week, a club that ranks third-last in the same category.

Patriots (+200) over Chargers

The Patriots had a clutch loss to the Giants last week and now have some leeway to get a top-three pick, even if they beat the Chargers, whose season ended Sunday night versus the Ravens.

At 4-7 with a bad defense, Los Angeles' offense is also approaching below-average status. The team's most dangerous weapon - Keenan Allen - isn't 100% and should have Bill Belichick's attention.

None of the Patriots' last three losses have come by more than four points, as the defense has played well enough to win games. By all reports, Mac Jones needs a reset, so we'll hope for Bailey Zappe to start. That doesn't sound enticing. However, Zappe is 2-0 as a starter, suggesting he might be better after appropriate practice reps than constantly getting thrown in when no one can watch Jones any longer.

Saints (+167) over Lions

The Saints should be without Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, and Rashid Shaheed, and the market has soured - rating New Orleans as low as it has all season - after losing a pair of coin-flip games on the road. The issue for the Saints isn't getting into the red zone but scoring touchdowns once they get there.

Luckily, New Orleans welcomes the third-worst defense in allowing red zone touchdowns Sunday. The Lions also allowed 7.8 yards per pass attempt to the Packers, Bears, and Chargers - far worse than what those teams have managed in their other November games. Expect a better-than-anticipated offensive effort, keeping the Saints in the contest late as they try to stay in the NFC South hunt.

Panthers (+200) over Buccaneers

Call it a "fired coach bump" if you like, but we're looking at a banged-up Baker Mayfield as a significant favorite against a defense that's top 10 in yards per play this season and might get multiple starters back in the secondary.

Interim head coach Chris Tabor took over from Frank Reich and immediately fired offensive assistants Duce Staley and Josh McCown. Since it can't get worse for Bryce Young's unit, we'll consider this a step in the right direction as the Panthers take on the Buccaneers, losers of six of their last seven games. Tampa Bay also has a defense tied with the Chargers and Texans in opponents' yards per pass attempt.

Packers (+225) over Chiefs

What if the Packers pull off another upset?

The Cheeseheads likely know that winnable games with the Giants, Buccaneers, and Panthers follow Sunday night's visit from the Chiefs. A 9-6 record heading to Minnesota isn't out of the question, so motivation should still be high in Green Bay. That's what we need from our underdogs.

The Packers' defense is just outside the top 10 in opponents' yards per pass and among the leaders in preventing touchdowns when the opponent gets in the red zone. We'll hope Green Bay can get a lead like the Raiders but do a better job closing out Kansas City in what should be a sneaky-good game between a contender and a team finally starting to meet preseason expectations.

How the odds look this week:

DEN+NO+NE +2000
DEN+NO+CAR +2100
DEN+NO+GB +2200
DEN+NE+CAR +2400
DEN+NE+GB +2400
DEN+CAR+GB +2500
NO+NE+CAR +2400
NO+NE+GB +2500
NO+CAR+GB +2500
NE+CAR+GB +2800

Who are your five underdogs for a football betting lottery ticket?

Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.

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