Picking NFL games against the spread is a lot like predicting movies.
Some of them follow the traditional structure that a few of the studios like to adhere to. However, plenty love to mess with the audience's mind and take numerous unexpected twists before arriving at some unforeseen destination.
Isn't that exactly what all of us prognosticators are up against?
We can crunch the numbers, but straight logic and math won't get it done. You have to take the intangibles into account. That's what it's all about. That's why it's so fun.
Click through for the NFL's Week 12 picks against the spread.
Last Week's Record: 8-7
Season Record: 73-85-2
All lines provided by bovada.lv, sportsbook.ag, and footballlocks.com.
I'd love to say that the special atmosphere provided by the traditional Thanksgiving crowd will exude enough energy to carry the home team.
I'd also love to tell you that the Detroit Lions were this close last week and did an excellent job versus the Green Bay Packers offense for the large majority of the game. And that they did it without Louis Delmas, who is playing this week.
Then there is a Houston Texans defense that got scorched by Chad Henne and Justin Blackmon.
And, well, this Lions team is fighting for its season.
Screw it. Call it a homer pick. Call it a half-point gamble.
Just give me all 3.5 of those points.
What about the Dallas Cowboys would make you trust them?
Tony Romo? The offensive line? The depleted linebacking unit?
The secondary and DeMarcus Ware? Actually, I'll buy those two.
But we have a grudge match between two divisional rivals, Robert Griffin III and the points.
It's certainly not a no-brainer, but the Cowboys aren't exactly awesome in Jerry's World (.500 winning percentage, minus-12-point differential).
The series sits at 53-52-1. Since 2000, 15 of the games between the New England Patriots and New York Jets have been decided by more than seven, while only 12 have been equal to or less than such a spread.
Rob Gronkowski isn't playing.
The Jets played well against a tough St. Louis Rams defense and all is quiet on the Tim Tebow front.
Wait. Belichick isn't vindictive, is he? How does Tom Brady take to affronts? Is this a chance for the Pats to put the AFC East in a sleeper hold?
I smell Belichick and Co. keeping the train rolling against the hated Jets.
Do you know any Cincinnati Bengals fans? I do.
They're not much different than a Lions fan. Right now, their hopes are up. All of the AFC, save for a select few, is reeling. The door is wide open for the Bengals to sneak into the playoffs.
That sounds like the perfect time for a Cincy/Detroit-style letdown.
Plus, the Oakland Raiders are the perfect team to do it. They've been getting worked and nobody believes in them. And Marcel Reece is really good (193 total yards last week).
The Raiders might not win, but A.J. Green and his nine-straight-games-with-a-touchdown streak is only worth seven.
The line is eight.
With all the pains the Pittsburgh Steelers are enduring right now, this pick should obviously be the Cleveland Browns.
Right? Eh, have you seen what the Browns have been doing? At best, they stake out to an early lead only to blow it late.
I know Pittsburgh is starting Charlie Batch, but the Browns are starting Brandon Weeden. Call it a wash.
Plus, the Steelers are a proud defense. All the season-is-over talk won't fly here.
This Buffalo Bills against the Indianapolis Colts game is something straight out of the Saw series. There are multiple outcomes available and most of them are ugly.
Neither defense offers much resistance, although the Colts seem to get a few more timely stops.
While I'm terrified of C.J. Spiller setting records, I find it hard to believe Andrew Luck has two bad games in a row. Especially at home.
Peyton Manning is officially not messing around.
Now, neither is his defense. In the last two games, the defense has accumulated 10 sacks and given up 37 points. And, the Denver Broncos get to play the Kansas City Chiefs this week.
Yikes. While 10.5 is a lot of points, I couldn't think of a better place to lay them.
Also, forget the Steelers/Chiefs game. That was the exception, not the rule.
There's absolutely nothing to feel great about in this game. I had to take antacids just to write this slide.
That's when I knew what to do—take the points. There's no real fun in placing your money in Chad Henne's hands. But I'm going to do it.
Weird as it sounds, I'll take him over Chris Johnson in the occasional-performer category. Besides, I simply can't trust the Tennessee Titans to pound both the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars on the road in consecutive games.
I went from the antacid tabs to the Maalox. My stomach is doing back-flips now.
The Chicago Bears are well aware of what they need to do to be successful: neutralize Jared Allen. Not easy, but this isn't exactly the San Francisco front seven we're talking about.
Lastly, that defense is like the Steelers version. It's just too good to put on two shaky performances in a row.
Chicago tumbled late last year. Consider this a sequel with a twist ending.
I'm riding this gravy train until those beautiful biscuit wheels fall off. I did my part. Now, have a great Thanksgiving!
Back to the game, this Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense is rolling and the Atlanta Falcons defense still isn't on that high of a level. It's good, but it's not top-tier.
Yes, Atlanta shouldn't have too much trouble scoring, either. But I'll take the Bucs' edge in the rushing game since they can at least control the tempo.
I know how good Russell Wilson is, but he's still a rookie quarterback. He's going to be inconsistent. It's a fact.
And this game would make sense for an off-game since he won't be in his comfy Seattle nest (see what I did there?).
Although the Miami Dolphins have a very shaky secondary, the front seven will make for tough sledding for Marshawn Lynch.
On offense, I don't expect Ryan Tannehill to be terrible again. Basically, I'm playing the inconsistency on the flip side.
Plus, you get the points with the Phins.
Gut-check time for the New Orleans Saints. And, unfortunately, it's against the toughest team in the league.
The Saints have the offense rocking, but they haven't faced a defense like the San Francisco 49ers. Nor a complete team like the Niners.
It doesn't matter who starts at quarterback (Kaepernick, it appears) against the Saints. The Niners will win this game because they have the look of a Super Bowl contender.
Ed Reed is playing. That's all I needed to know.
The ball-hawking safety is going to love floating around opposite Philip Rivers. There should be plenty of opportunities to build on his 60 career interceptions.
Additionally, Ray Rice and Co. will score with the short field they'll be given by all those turnovers.
This is one home dog I will definitely pass on.
The St. Louis Rams had their let-down game after San Francisco, and they'll be ready to get back to business.
Are the Rams a better team than the Arizona Cardinals? I wouldn't touch that question with Ryan Lindley's arm.
However, three points versus a quarterback-less team seems suitable. Here's betting Chris Long makes a few plays against the terrible Arizona offensive line. And I'll take Greg Zuerlein over Jay Feely.*
*Unless Kevin Kolb comes back.**
**Can't believe I said that.
This game runs on the same script as a Sly Stallone movie.
Guy is the best in the business. Guy retires. Guy is persuaded to come out for one last job.
Only, this version stars Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
They're giving three in a semi-must-have game versus a red-hot Green Bay Packers team. This has loss written all over it.
Then, once the Giants are proclaimed dead (retired) next week...
Feel free to take your significant other out on Monday. Absolutely nothing to see here.
There's little to go on with this game, but I trust a Carolina Panthers team getting two points more than the opposite.
No LeSean McCoy. And Nick Foles starting behind that excuse of an offensive line. What's to like?
Ugh. I just put money on Cam Newton on the road.