NFL Picks Week 12: 4 Games with the Most Value To Wager on
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Which NFL games provide a good chance of wagering success when parity is clouding prediction accuracy, and every team from the Chicago Bears to the Denver Broncos seems bunched in a playoff-hunting pack?
Welcome to post-Thanksgiving football!
Did we all see the Detroit Lions self-destruct?
I devoutly hope that every parent in the football-watching country took Ndamukong Suh’s despicable behavior as a teaching moment.
It should be training film for the definition of unsportsmanlike conduct. Funny how the phrase we use isn’t “bad behavior” or “mean behavior.” That kind of complete loss of control is indeed the antithesis of sports: The “un” of sports.
I don’t know what the fallout is going to be, but if Suh played for me, he’d be immediately donating $100,000 to the charity of his choice and then spending the next three weeks working for that charity. Because he would not be on any football field.
How about them Miami Dolphins?
Yes, I know they lost. But the defense is big-time and QB Matt Moore is becoming more and more reliable. As long as you have a strong rushing attack.
I'm sure that most readers will think, as I did, that Moore surely is not in the same class as Tony Romo. Really?
Moore completed 19-of-32 passes for 288 yards and one TD. Romo's numbers? Twenty-two completions out of 34 attempts for 226 yards, two TDs and two INTs. See what I mean?
The difference in that game was DeMarco Murray having a better day than Reggie Bush/Daniel Thomas.
I hope you all caught Mike Mayock’s reporting on the difference between the two brothers. He found a man who had been an assistant to both Harbaughs, and this person said (paraphrasing Mike's paraphrase) that if you present both brothers with a brick wall, Jim will bust right through it and John will immediately find three ways around it. Cool.
Just a thought: I hope that Jim stayed in a hotel. Yikes.
Don't you just love Ray Rice? He looked right into the camera at the end of his sideline interview and said, "Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. I hope you enjoyed the game." Well, yes, Ray—we did.
As most of America recovers from too much turkey and pie (and hopefully gave thanks for having too much turkey and pie), we move onward to the NFL weekend proper.
How many of us made that “friendly wager” with the pompous brother-in-law over your Aunt’s sweet potato casserole? Yeah, I thought so.
Unless you live in Vegas, Atlantic City or somewhere else where monetary wagers are legal, I’m sure that your wager involved bragging rights, leaf-raking, car washing or something else that won’t get you into trouble.
Just in case you haven’t yet picked your winners, here are some of the best values available for Thanksgiving Sunday.
Houston Texans over the Jacksonville Jaguars
Ready or Not
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
As I’m writing this, the spread has dropped to Houston -3.5. This is the one you’ll go for with that cousin from Phoenix who hates Matt Leinart.
How much will head coach Gary Kubiak be asking the former playboy to do? Not bloody much. They’ll run Arian Foster. They’ll run Ben Tate. They’ll dump it off to both backs.
More good news for Matty L. is that both Pro Bowl TE Owen Daniels and the best WR in football, Andre Johnson, are probable. Bet that’s really annoying Matt Schaub over there on the bench.
So, Houston will ask Leinart to sling a couple to Daniels and one or two down the field to Johnson. And if they aren’t open, he’ll shoot for recently impressive WR Jacoby Jones.
The one drawback for No. 9 is an underrated Jacksonville Jaguars’ pass defense. They have only given up an average of 175 yards through the air recently. However, I’m sure Kubiak doesn’t expect Matt to put it up more than 16-20 times all day.
That really should be plenty against a Jacksonville team that is averaging 13.7 points in the last three weeks. That’s with one of the most productive running backs in the NFL.
Jag RB Maurice Jones-Drew may not have such a wonderful afternoon, since the Houston defense has only allowed 75 rushing yards per Sunday.
Another boost for the Texans is that the Jags have injuries at both D-line and DB. But those linebackers should all play. At least the ones left after Clint Session was put on IR with a concussion. And they scare me, even if nobody else knows their names.
Here are their names.
Paul Posluszny is a terrific MLB, and he's flanked by tackling-threat Daryl Smith and third-year man Russell Allen. Expect Tate and Foster to target Allen, because I certainly wouldn’t go within, well, a football field of the other two.
Cincinnati Bengals over the Cleveland Browns
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
This game might be worth a look.
Firstly, according to the New York Post, the spread has dropped to an even seven points.
Secondly, A.J. Green had a full practice and is probable, so Cincy QB Andy Dalton will have his favorite target available.
Thirdly, it’s going to rain. And that favors the running game. (And the under, by the way, if you want a double value on this game.)
I know that Browns’ new RB Chris Ogbonnaya has impressed us all since he burst on the scene a few weeks ago. But Bengal Cedric Benson is a full-grown man.
Do not be fooled by the fact that Cedric has only averaged 3.5 yards per carry this month. He has played against defenses from the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I am amazed he could run at all.
Now, the Browns’ run defense is absolutely respectable. I know, it doesn’t look good on paper, but they were facing Steven Jackson and Maurice Jones-Drew, so don’t overreact.
I still think Benson wins the matchup.
And that's great news for star-in-the-making Bengals’ QB Andy Dalton. Except, of course, for the shoulder injury. If he plays, this is a great value. If he doesn’t, run back to the Houston game.
The Browns have definitely improved the past couple of weeks. That means that they have gone from joke status to sporadic spoiler. Of course, they were playing the Jacksonville Jaguars and the St. Louis Rams. Yeah.
The Bengals, on the other hand, are a real team. They hung tough with both the Ravens, and the Steelers. In back-to-back weeks. See what I mean?
But don’t sleep on this contest, because the second it's revealed that Dalton is definitely playing, the spread will skyrocket. Not that I don’t think backup QB Bruce Gradkowski can win, but I certainly wouldn’t wager an afternoon of cleaning out your high school teammate’s garage on it. Or anything else.
Carolina Panthers over the Indianapolis Colts
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
I know that I’m picking another road team, here. But, I sincerely believe that the Carolina Panthers should defeat the lowly Indianapolis Colts by a touchdown—or more. I’m thinking more like 10 points.
So, I would go for a spread of -3.5.
The only thing to give you pause is the “they (Indy) have to win one sometime” factor. Yeah, they said that in Detroit, too.
The only reason that Carolina isn’t favored by more is that Cam Newton had a bad second half last weekend. He did. There’s no sugarcoating it. He had four INTs on the day. Ouch.
The first key to this game will be Cam plus WRs Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell versus a still decent Colts passing D. But the return of TE Jeremy Shockey should help there.
The second is whether that patchwork Panthers’ D can manage to hold Indianapolis to less than the almost 35 points Carolina has given up on average in the past three weeks.
Okay, let’s be fair, one of those losses was to the Atlanta Falcons.
On the other hand, the Indianapolis Colts have scored a whopping 6.7 points per Sunday for three weeks. Oh dear.
Did I mention that the Colts are starting Curtis Painter at QB, and that star Indy TE Dallas Clark is injured? Yeah.
Atlanta Falcons at Home over the Minnesota Vikings
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The New York Post still has this as the Atlanta Falcons -9.5.
If you have a Northern relative whom you really sort of like, and it wouldn’t bother you too much to lose and have to hear about it for weeks—this is the game for you.
I think the line will rise dramatically just as soon as it’s announced that Adrian Peterson can’t play. I don’t expect that to be until the very last possible minute, though. No. 28, just in case you haven’t seen any Minnesota Vikings’ games since he was drafted, is a pretty tough guy.
But don’t go over this spread.
The Vikings’ only remaining asset is their pass rush. But that is a pretty big asset against an offensive line that isn’t getting any Rolex’s from Matt Ryan this Christmas.
No offense to rookie Minnesota's Christian Ponder, who I think probably has “the right stuff” to play NFL QB, but there’s no O-line, the offense hasn’t been utilizing their only remaining good WR, and there are only so many times you can throw the ball to reliable pass-catching TE Visanthe Shiancoe.
Without super-talented Peterson as a rushing threat, there's no way this offense can move the ball. Even against a still-suspect Atlanta D.
However, with Michael Turner and Jason Snelling carrying the ball, the Falcons’ D probably doesn’t have to be the second coming of Buddy’ Ryan’s Bears.
NFL Wagers to Avoid at All Costs in Week 12
Where has all the blocking gone?
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Unless you have masochistic tendencies or want to throw someone a bone, under no circumstances should you get sucked into picking:
Yes, Gang Green should absolutely flatten the injury-decimated Bills. But I think Jets' offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer must have been listening to his dad and fantasizing that he has the LaDainian Tomlinson of 2006 in the backfield.
Plus, that Jets defense has gone way downhill.
If you do decide to watch the game, try to see if backup Buffalo RB (and former wasted first-round pick) C.J. Spiller has learned anything from watching Fred Jackson this season.
This is important, because there are no weapons left on offense for the Bills unless Ryan Fitzpatrick can get the ball to Steve Johnson (who is also less than healthy) when everyone on the football planet knows that he will be trying to do just that.
Both sides of this contest are having completely unpredictable seasons. The Titans should win and cover based on just about every facet of the game. But the Bucs darn near beat Green Bay last week. Danger, danger, Will Robinson.
You might want to take a look at this “under” at 37 points if it rains as expected (what a shock). But neither team has anything approaching a functioning unit (except for tremendous rushing ability for the ‘Hawks), so stay away.
I really want the Eagles to win, and I never cheer for the Eagles. But there's no way that I’d wager anything more than who gets up to get the next beer.
The Patriots should roll over the Eagles in terms of offensive cohesion alone. Not to mention head-coaching advantage and continuity.
But Juan Castillo has truly rallied that Philly D.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs
With Orton probably coming off the bench, I wouldn’t risk embarrassment here, although of course, Pittsburgh should crush KC.
For completely opposing reasons, these should both be interesting games. But I wouldn’t even think of wagering anything on any of these four teams right now.
The Saints are by far the most consistent offense, but you never know when Big Blue’s D will explode.
The Chargers need to slink away until the draft, and Tebow is always worth some fun, but you wouldn’t risk junior’s college fund on him, right?
Remember that wagering for the fun of gloating is safer and more legal. Besides, you can’t buy bragging rights.