Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. It is with great pleasure that I begin my third season writing this column. As someone who has won and lost their fair share of money on the NFL (and many other sports), this is bound to be a fun and unpredictable ride. Join me, won’t you?
As with the format in previous years, this article will help those of you who compete in confidence pools and in ranking selections, which may come in handy on those Las Vegas trips. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as totals or over/unders) with 1-3 “Stars”, which basically highlight the best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars are not preferred one way or the other, but will still be covered, discussed and a winner will be predicted for those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools.
Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com
(Thanksgiving) CHICAGO (-3) at DETROIT (Over/Under 42)
The Bears trundle into Thanksgiving off a disappointing loss to the Ravens, a game during which things seemed to be falling into place. Andy Dalton will make the start here, affording franchise quarterback Justin Fields the chance to recuperate his rib injury.
Defensively, Chicago didn’t do much wrong last week. That should translate in a match-up against a Detroit offense that could have Tim Boyle at the controls. While Boyle heated up at times in Cleveland (no pun intended), it would take a controlled and mature performance to best the Bears on national television. Interestingly, the line here is just -3 in the road team’s favor. Despite the Lions’ fighting spirit, it is hard to take the points.
(Thanksgiving) LAS VEGAS at DALLAS (-7) (Over/Under 51)
A smothering effort by the fired-up Bengals defense effectively muzzled the Raiders attack on Sunday, and a very similar game script could be in the offing here. The short week tends to favor the home teams – and especially on Thanksgiving. This will be an early body clock game for the visitors, whose spark after Jon Gruden’s resignation has quickly turned into listless efforts. Money should start coming in on the Cowboys before Thursday.
Despite the defeat in Kansas City, there was a lot to be encouraged about defensively for Dallas. Micah Parsons registered numerous pressures and dominated the game at times, while other defensive stars continue to make their presence felt. Injuries to CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper will prevent this offense from getting into high gear, but their rushing attack should be able to get on track against a poor Raiders front seven. Jump on this game while it is at -7. Expect a Thanksgiving feast for the Cowboys.
(Thanksgiving) BUFFALO (-4) at NEW ORLEANS (Over/Under 47)
Blink and you might have missed it: the Bills are now in second place in the suddenly intriguing AFC East. It is, sadly, déjà vu for the Buffalo faithful as the Patriots are out in front and looking menacing. Sean McDermott’s team, meanwhile, has shrunk in stature of late and looks every bit like a mediocre team that has been riding its reputation from last season a little too often. Josh Allen is still capable of magical moments, but those moments have been fewer and farther between. The defensive struggles against Indianapolis were not an aberration, but a concerning pattern.
New Orleans’ coaching staff could be studying the tape of Jonathan Taylor running wild on the Bills and thinking of the possibilities. Whether Alvin Kamara returns or not, the game plan for the Saints will undoubtedly focus on a rushing attack first and foremost, supplemented by Trevor Siemian's controlled passing. The deck may be stacked against New Orleans here, but getting four points at home in a must-win spot is a good bet.
Pick: New Orleans
TENNESSEE at NEW ENGLAND (-5.5) (Over/Under 44)
The Sunday action begins with the Titans, who will be chastened coming off the improbable loss to Houston, visiting the No 1 seed contender New England Patriots. At 7-4, the Patriots are just one game back on the 8-3 Titans and should have the game plan and nous to pull off a victory at home. Mac Jones’ involvement may not matter given how likely it is the Patriots will put the shackles on the Titans offense. However, should Jones be called upon, he has demonstrated he is more than able of stepping up.
Given the Patriots are on a five-game winning streak and the Titans have been creaking lately, the question is this: is -5.5 enough points to be laying? And yet we have the Mike Vrabel factor. Bill Belichick’s former defensive leader player has a good read on what the veteran coach likes to do and could pose some problems for Jones with a solid defensive scheme. It is hard to look past the home team here, so even the current spread is not enough to put us off.
Pick: New England
NY JETS at HOUSTON (-3) (Over/Under 43.5)
The Jets are 0-5 on their travels this season, so even a road trip to the lowly Texans isn’t one they can chalk up as a win. Indeed, no game can be chalked up for New York, with first-year head coach Robert Saleh doing his level best to keep this ship afloat. As long as rookie passer Zach Wilson remains out, the Jets are in a holding pattern – neither here nor there – as Joe Flacco tries to rub two sticks together and make the offense go. Flacco was respectable last week, though, and could repeat the feat in Houston.
After all, the Texans are fresh off the win of their season over the Titans and ripe for the picking here. There were some elements of luck to the victory in Nashville, but Tyrod Taylor’s performance was solid, and he deserves credit for that. The standard three-point home team bump here speaks to how even these teams are; on a neutral field, this would be a pick. Given the mediocrity of both units, the best play here is to take the points.
Pick: New York
PHILADELPHIA (-3.5) at NY GIANTS (Over/Under 46)
Winners of two in a row, the Eagles are no longer a team on the periphery of the playoff picture. Indeed, all it might take for Nick Sirianni’s team to make the postseason is a little bit of consistency. Given the muddle that the NFC wildcard situation is shaping up to be, the momentum that Jalen Hurts and the offense has gathered is well-timed. The rushing attack has been the strength of this team and they should lean on that against the Giants.
For Big Blue, the short week will feel especially long after a lackluster and dispiriting performance against the Bucs. It is not every week you have to face Tom Brady, but some of the defensive angles and tackling were concerning. Joe Judge has a lot of work to do to save his job. A home win here would be an excellent start, but it is difficult to have any faith in Daniel Jones to deliver a solid performance.
TAMPA BAY (-2.5) at INDIANAPOLIS (Over/Under 51.5)
Tom Brady looked like a man possessed on Monday night, a bad omen for the rest of the NFC that he is about to hit top form for the stretch run. The rest of the offense – and indeed, the defense – played their parts perfectly as well. What stood out most about the Bucs was their rhythm. That rhythm and flow will be crucial this week on defense to fill the gaps occupied by the nigh on unstoppable Jonathan Taylor.
Taylor’s run has been special this season, with many mooting him for Most Valuable Player. While that may be a little farfetched, his talent is a handful for opposing defenses. If Indianapolis chooses to challenge the Tampa Bay front seven on the ground, that will be the key match-up to watch. Expect Frank Reich to stick to the script that has worked, but Carson Wentz will need to make some plays as well.
Pick: Tampa Bay
ATLANTA at JACKSONVILLE (pick) (Over/Under 46.5)
Getting shut out at home was an embarrassing point of the season for the Falcons, but it shouldn’t have been that much of a shock. After all, the offense has been hamstrung by injuries and other factors, limiting Matt Ryan’s efficiency. On defense, there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer for the problems they are facing. What is clear is that hitching our wagon to Atlanta is not a sound strategy for profit.
The Jaguars continue to baffle with their performances, putting more heat on Urban Meyer in what is feeling like a lost season. Trevor Lawrence has produced some good performances throughout the year, but none that would make us jump out of our seats in glee. Neither of these teams will be gracing our screens come the playoffs, so this is more of a test for each to put in a performance to make their fans and ownership happy.
CAROLINA at MIAMI (pick) (Over/Under 42)
After getting off to a flying start, Cam Newton slowed down in the later stages of the Washington clash on Sunday. Indeed, Newton’s lack of familiarity with the playbook showed and he was often forcing balls underneath when they were simply not there. A swarming Miami defense is set up to feast on that type of conservative attack, so Newton will need more than just dump-offs to Christian McCaffrey to record a win in south Florida.
The Dolphins have a reasonably soft schedule ahead and could stack some wins if they play their cards right. The stakes are high for Tua Tagovailoa as well, who could seal up another year as the starter with a good display. The Carolina rush defense looked feeble at times against Washington, so the strategy for Miami might be simple: run, run and run some more. Jaylen Waddle will have opportunities downfield against a secondary that surrendered big plays to Terry McLaurin frequently.
PITTSBURGH at CINCINNATI (-4) (Over/Under 46.5)
Despite the injury issues they were facing on Sunday night, the Steelers managed to keep it close and could have even pulled off a victory in Los Angeles. In the end, it wasn’t enough. At 5-4-1, they are very much still in the race but will need to put a few wins together to seal a place in the wild postseason in the AFC. Ben Roethlisberger has typically dominated when visiting Ohio in his career; this week’s game would be timely to reprise that role.
But the Bengals are not the same old Bengals we are used to. Quite the opposite, in fact; Zac Taylor’s team has grit and physicality on their side and could match the Steelers for defensive quality on their best day. Concerns remain over the hits Joe Burrow takes, but the balance continues to be good offensively. The fact that the Bengals are laying four points certainly speaks to the faith the market has in them, but that might be a point too far.
LA CHARGERS (-2.5) at DENVER (Over/Under 48)
The Chargers have a negative point differential overall but find themselves two games above .500 and in a good position to make the postseason. The sheen has come off them somewhat, however, and we can’t get away from the fact that their home games are essentially road games due to the lack of Chargers fans in house. There will be no such problem in Denver this week. Justin Herbert will be challenged against a solid Broncos defense, so the fact that the home team is getting points is, to say the least, curious.
Perhaps it is simply the lack of momentum the 5-5 Broncos have had as of late. The loss before the bye to the Eagles suddenly doesn’t look so shocking. While Vic Fangio’s team can be inconsistent overall, the defense is usually reliable for a good performance. Given the Chargers’ penchant for losing close games, getting the +2.5 points here seems like a good option.
MINNESOTA at SAN FRANCISCO (-3) (Over/Under 48.5)
This should be a fascinating battle between two teams vying for playoff positions. If we take it one level further, it could be crucial in terms of tiebreakers as we look down the line. The Vikings have been better than their record suggests this season, with the narrow victory over Green Bay another example of how they can beat anyone on their day. Kirk Cousins seems to be playing with, if not reckless abandon, certainly more freedom. His downfield shots to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen should continue to be a feature of the offense this week.
A healthier San Francisco defense might be able to hold down the Vikings offense for a while, but it will be up to Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense to match points. With a dynamic receiving corps of their own, the 49ers have reason to be confident. In games pitting two teams of similar talent levels against each other, the smart play is generally to take the points.
LA RAMS at GREEN BAY (pick) (Over/Under 49.5)
What Rams team are we expecting to get in this intriguing match-up of number one seed contenders? That is a tricky question to answer, but Sean McVay will have had the bye week to reconsider his approach on both sides of the ball – and perhaps shore some things up. Matthew Stafford has been on a bit of a skid, and he will not find much joy against a ferocious Packers defense, a unit he has faced many times before as a Lion. It will be worth keeping an eye on how Odell Beckham Jr Jr. is used after the bye.
For the Packers, the loss to the Vikings was not a disaster by any means. A couple of plays here and there would easily have changed the outcome. At 8-3, they are in total control of the NFC North and should be able to seal it up sooner than later. What they need in this Lambeau Field clash, however, is a return to form. Defensive solidity has been one of their calling cards this season; the Vikings offense made a mockery of that. Expect a strong response here in an excellent spot for the home team.
Pick: Green Bay
(Sunday Night) CLEVELAND at BALTIMORE (-4.5) (Over/Under 45.5)
The Browns and Ravens will meet twice over the next three weeks, a stretch that will have a huge bearing on who comes out on top in the division race. Complicating that path, of course, are the Bengals and Steelers, so nothing is guaranteed. For the visitors, the game plan will be a familiar one, with a reliance on Nick Chubb and the ground game. Baker Mayfield took some flak from the home faithful last week for his poor play; one has to wonder if Kevin Stefanski would consider giving him a rest if this game gets out of hand.
Baltimore typically performs well in primetime games, so laying 4.5 points makes sense in a high-profile spot such as this. Lamar Jackson should be over his illness, taking some of the pressure off the defense and kicking game to perform. Cleveland’s defense has not exactly been a dominant unit this season, so Baltimore’s offense will like their chances of building a lead early and forcing a negative game script for their rivals.
(Monday Night) SEATTLE at WASHINGTON (-1) (Over/Under 46)
What started off as Seattle by -2.5 has switched all the way over to Washington -1, undoubtedly a reaction to the Seahawks’ poor performance last week. More than that, though, it is Seattle’s dismal run over the past few weeks. Russell Wilson and the offense seem to be at a loss, while the defense is not capable of picking up the slack. Primetime games have been good to the Seahawks over the Wilson-Pete Carroll era, but perhaps not this time.
Even after losing Chase Young for the season, the Washington defense did enough to keep the Panthers at bay. Ron Rivera will fancy his team’s chances of complicating the NFC playoff picture further with a signature win with the football world watching. Taylor Heinicke may never play a better game than he played last week, but he is trending up – and that may be enough to edge a tight one here.
Once again this year this article will give out not only the Best Bets but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 Star scale. The more stars, the bigger the emphasis on that side of the game.
This week, we will focus our bets around the following lines:
- 1 DALLAS (-7) vs LAS VEGAS
- 2 NEW ORLEANS (+4) vs BUFFALO
- 3 MINNESOTA (+3) at SAN FRANCISCO
- 4 DENVER (+2.5) vs. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
With these likes in mind, here are the Week 12 selections:
* ONE STAR GAMES *
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.61-1 ODDS)
- MINNESOTA (+3)
- DENVER (+2.5)
** TWO STAR GAMES **
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.42-1 ODDS):
- DALLAS (-7)
- NEW ORLEANS (+4)
*** THREE STAR GAMES ***
- 4-TEAM MONEY LINE (7-1 ODDS)
- DALLAS – FOR THE WIN
- MIAMI – FOR THE WIN
- NEW ENGLAND – FOR THE WIN
- DENVER – FOR THE WIN
PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Dallas, New Orleans, Minnesota, Denver
Last Week / Season
- LAST WEEK: 8-7
- SEASON OVERALL: 71-92-1
- BEST BETS: 22-22
- PICKS OF THE WEEK: 22-27
Good luck this weekend!
Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to email@example.com