Afraid of being too mean, the oddsmakers tend to give some NFL teams the benefit of the doubt when setting the early lines for the week's action.
That's apparent in a few of Week 12's matchups, where the spreads should be shattered in games that are unlikely to finish by a close margin.
Sure, all the tilts in question involve squads receiving points due to their home-field advantage, but the fans can't save them against clearly superior opponents. In all three instances, the road warriors are going up against struggling squads who cannot be trusted at this juncture of the season.
Don't anticipate many memorable finishes during these games.
Note: All spreads, as of Tuesday night, are courtesy of Vegas Insider.
|Away||Predicted Score||Home||Time (ET)|
|New Orleans Saints (-8)||34-13||Atlanta Falcons||8:25 p.m. (Thur.)|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||13-9||Cleveland Browns (-2)||1 p.m.|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||20-27||Detroit Lions (-9)||1 p.m.|
|Minnesota Vikings||16-24||Green Bay Packers (-5)||1 p.m.|
|San Diego Chargers||13-20||Kansas City Chiefs (-5)||1 p.m.|
|Chicago Bears||20-17||St. Louis Rams (-1)||1 p.m.|
|Carolina Panthers (-4)||17-6||Miami Dolphins||1 p.m.|
|New York Jets||10-20||Baltimore Ravens (-4)||1 p.m.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||9-24||Houston Texans (-10)||1 p.m.|
|Tennessee Titans||21-20||Oakland Raiders (-1)||4:05 p.m.|
|Indianapolis Colts||27-17||Arizona Cardinals (-2.5)||4:05 p.m.|
|Dallas Cowboys||34-26||New York Giants (-2.5)||4:25 p.m.|
|Denver Broncos (-2.5)||35-31||New England Patriots||8:30 p.m.|
|San Francisco 49ers (-5)||27-14||Washington Redskins||8:30 p,m. (Mon.)|
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens (-4)
First, let's preface this by saying there's also a solid chance the Jets limit Joe Flacco to 70 passing yards while Geno Smith switches his knob back to "good" en route to another victory. Based on New York's current season trajectory, a win is coming.
Eventually, the overlying numbers will win out, and the Jets will be exposed as a highly flawed, below-average team that has no business in the postseason.
Who will win?
The Jets own a minus-85 point differential, which is the league's second-worst rate behind the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their passing defense allows 250.8 passing yards per game, and a wide receiver will probably fly past Dee Milliner before this sentence ends.
Most importantly, Rex Ryan's squad is terrible on the road. The Jets are 1-4 outside of New Jersey this season while the Ravens are 3-1 at M&T Bank Stadium.
While the Jets are worse than their record suggests, the Ravens have dropped four games decided by three points or less. Some regression to the mean is in order this Sunday.
Then again, all Jets analysis might as well be a Philip J. Fry meme that says "Not sure if Jets are good, or really terrible."
Prediction: Ravens 20, Jets 10
Carolina Panthers (-4) at Miami Dolphins
The prevailing thought here might be that the Panthers will dictate the game's tempo but still win by a narrow margin in a bout dominated by defense. A look at their past victories, however, can debunk that sentiment.
While Carolina has won its last two games by a combined five points, those came against the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots. Over their previous four games, Carolina won by a combined 82 points.
The Dolphins may reside at .500, but they are much more on par with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or St. Louis Rams than the Patriots or 49ers. Their 20th-ranked defense is nothing special, while their 31st-rated offense is even worse.
Ryan Tannehill is going to take a crushing once Miami's offensive line meets Carolina's front seven, but Cam Newton should not fare as poorly on the other side.
Prediction: Panthers 17, Dolphins 6
San Francisco 49ers (-5) at Washington Redskins
It's absolutely time to rethink the 49ers' legitimacy as a Super Bowl threat, but they are well-skilled at beating down bad teams.
With losses to the NFC's top contenders (Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints), it's hard to see them making much noise out of the conference if they even salvage a Wild Card bid. But clobbering Washington? That they can handle.
Before faltering to Carolina and New Orleans, San Francisco was enjoying a four-game winning streak during which they outscored their opponents by a combined 113 points. Against teams that range from decent to mediocre, the 49ers dominated.
Sitting at 3-7 with the NFL's fifth-worst defenses, Washington is the definition of mediocre. Colin Kaepernick will play better against a dreadful passing defense while Robert Griffin III will seem like a piece of cake to contain after dealing with Drew Brees.
Prediction: 49ers 27, Redskins 14