B/R Expert Consensus NFL Picks for Week 12
It's been a struggle, and now Bleacher Report analysts Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon and Brent Sobleski have started in-fighting. It might not be a coincidence that they agree unanimously on only six Week 12 selections.
It's been a wild, injury-filled, unpredictable season, and this is a tough week to get a bead on. But it can't get much worse for two of our three predictors.
Here's the damage so far (last week's records in parentheses):
1. Brad Gagnon: 81-80-1 (6-8)
2. Brent Sobleski: 76-85-1 (6-8)
3. Gary Davenport: 71-90-1 (7-7)
Consensus picks: 73-88-1 (5-9)
Moneyline consensus: 105-56-1 (11-3)
And here are 14 fresh shots at redemption.
Lines from Caesars as of 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Indianapolis Colts (6-4) at Houston Texans (6-4)
The Houston Texans haven't defeated the Indianapolis Colts in regulation in each of their last five meetings. Indianapolis is coming off an impressive victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Houston is coming off a deflating loss against the Baltimore Ravens.
And yet the Texans are laying more than a field goal Thursday night.
The majority of our experts aren't comfortable laying those points.
"The Texans might have the more capable quarterback," Gagnon said of Deshaun Watson in comparison to Jacoby Brissett. "But the Colts are a better team in pretty much every other way, especially if T.Y. Hilton is able to return from a calf injury (he practiced Wednesday).
"The Colts might miss top running back Marlon Mack, but backup Jordan Wilkins is good, and the Texans defense is a mess anyway. That unit has surrendered 24 or more points in five of Houston's last six games."
Indy has also performed well in road victories over the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs this season, while the Texans lost their two home matchups with teams that currently have records of .500 or better.
Still, the Colts offense does have its limitations, and Watson is an MVP candidate. Sobleski's decision to roll with Houston against a banged-up opponent traveling on short rest isn't unreasonable. And it's worth noting that those picking against the majority as lone wolves are 51-42-1 this season.
Davenport: Indianapolis (+3.5)
Gagnon: Indianapolis (+3.5)
Sobleski: Houston (-3.5)
Consensus: Indianapolis (+3.5)
Score Prediction: Texans 24, Colts 21
Carolina Panthers (5-5) at New Orleans Saints (8-2)
The shine has come off Carolina Panthers interim starting quarterback Kyle Allen, who looked like a future franchise leader in September but has thrown three touchdown passes to nine interceptions while posting a 60.3 passer rating in his last four games.
The Panthers lost three of those four games by a combined 72 points, and they're now heading to the Superdome for what could be a deadly matchup with the increasingly healthy New Orleans Saints.
With that in mind, all three of our panelists are willing to predict a double-digit New Orleans victory.
"These NFC South teams are hurtling in opposite directions," Davenport said. "After stumbling two weeks ago against the Falcons, the Saints got back on track last week in Tampa. On the other hand, the Panthers are in free-fall after imploding against Atlanta at home in a Week 11 loss in which Allen threw four picks. The Saints are a legit Super Bowl contender. The Panthers have been exposed as pretenders. In the Superdome, a superior Saints team will cruise. Or at least they would have had we not put a hex on them."
It isn't just about Allen vs. Drew Brees, who is coming off a stellar performance in a blowout win. The Saints running game also looked crisp in that 34-17 victory over a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that possesses one of the league's best run defenses. Alvin Kamara has shaken off the rust in his return from an ankle injury, and he'll now get a chance to dominate the league's worst run D when it comes to DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), per Football Outsiders.
Davenport: New Orleans (-10)
Gagnon: New Orleans (-10)
Sobleski: New Orleans (-10)
Consensus: New Orleans (-10)
Score Prediction: Saints 31, Panthers 17
Denver Broncos (3-7) at Buffalo Bills (7-3)
Five weeks ago at home, the Buffalo Bills trailed the tanking Miami Dolphins in the fourth quarter. Four weeks ago, they were hammered at home by the limping Philadelphia Eagles. In Week 4, they lost to the New England Patriots in Orchard Park, and they beat the winless Cincinnati Bengals by only four points there the prior week.
That has the majority of our analysts wondering why Buffalo is giving more than a field goal at home to the road-savvy, defensively stout Denver Broncos.
"The Bills are the least respected seven-win team in the NFL, but this pick isn't an affront to them," Davenport said. "It has a lot more to do with the Broncos and how well they've played away from Mile High this season. Denver hasn't lost an away game by more than four points since a Week 3 defeat in Green Bay. In a game with two good defenses, this one will stay close enough that I'd rather take the points than the team I believe will win straight up."
The Broncos aren't a bad team, period. They led the Minnesota Vikings 20-0 at halftime on the road last week, and they've held fourth-quarter leads in seven of their 10 games. It's hardly ideal that they've choked a lot, but there's little reason to anticipate a blowout loss to an opponent that has a bottom-10 offense in terms of DVOA.
Still, it's fair to wonder if the Broncos will be demoralized after blowing that huge lead in Minnesota. If they're defeated, this could get ugly, and Sobleski could be the victor in dissent.
Davenport: Denver (+4)
Gagnon: Denver (+4)
Sobleski: Buffalo (-4)
Consensus: Denver (+4)
Score Prediction: Bills 17, Broncos 16
Detroit Lions (3-6-1) at Washington Redskins (1-9)
The Detroit Lions haven't won a road game since the end of September, but the Washington Redskins haven't won at FedEx Field in more than a calendar year. So while it can't be easy to lay more than a field goal with a team using a backup quarterback away from home, it's important to keep in mind just how bad Washington is right now.
Except for a mere one-point victory over Miami, every game the Redskins have played since Week 2 has been a multi-score loss. And while the Lions certainly miss quarterback Matthew Stafford, they've remained competitive without him.
"Washington is an unmitigated disaster," Sobleski said. "When a rookie quarterback is on the sideline pleading with his linemen and asking how he can help them, the offense won't be better anytime soon. Even if Stafford can't play Sunday, the Lions offense hasn't been awful with Jeff Driskel leading the way. The group managed 312 yards last weekend against the Dallas Cowboys. The idea Detroit can move the ball to some degree gives it the edge over hapless Washington."
However, the Lions have been gutted by injuries, lack offensive balance, have struggled immensely on defense and could fall into a trap four days ahead of their big annual Thanksgiving game. They've won only one game by more than a field goal this season, and Washington might be even more due than they are.
So it's probably for the best that we lack a unanimous consensus here.
Davenport: Detroit (-3.5)
Gagnon: Washington (+3.5)
Sobleski: Detroit (-3.5)
Consensus: Detroit (-3.5)
Score Prediction: Lions 23, Redskins 16
Miami Dolphins (2-8) at Cleveland Browns (4-6)
The Miami Dolphins are coming off an ugly loss to the Bills, but they beat the Colts on the road two weeks ago. They're playing hard for first-year head coach Brian Flores, and they have nothing to lose against a shorthanded Cleveland Browns team Sunday.
That being the case, the majority of our analysts are unwilling to lay 10.5 points with the mistake-prone, 4-6 Browns.
"The Browns are clearly the better team and are far more talented overall," Sobleski admitted. "Cleveland also had a few extra days to prepare for this contest after Thursday's memorable affair with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even so, the Browns have legitimate question marks on defense due to Myles Garrett's suspension and the loss of strong safety Morgan Burnett to a season-ending Achilles injury. Miami should be able to move the ball."
The Dolphins have averaged a not-embarrassing 20.7 points per game over the last three weeks, and the loss to Buffalo was their first non-cover since September. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick still has his moments, and he should greatly benefit from the absence of Garrett and Burnett. Meanwhile, a Browns offense that has scored more than 21 points only three times all year isn't likely to run away with this.
Look for a close game, but don't overspend. Davenport is on the Browns, and it's fair to say that both teams are untrustworthy.
Davenport: Cleveland (-10.5)
Gagnon: Miami (+10.5)
Sobleski: Miami (+10.5)
Consensus: Miami (+10.5)
Score Prediction: Browns 26, Dolphins 20
New York Giants (2-8) at Chicago Bears (4-6)
The New York Giants have covered only one spread since the end of September, and that was a backdoor cover in a Week 8 loss to the Lions.
So while the Chicago Bears haven't done much to earn anyone's trust as of late, two of our three experts are still backing them minus six points at home.
"I went back and forth on this one," Gagnon said. "I strongly considered the Giants just because that number seems too high. While the Chicago defense has the ability to ruin Daniel Jones' world, Mitchell Trubisky is also a mess, and the Giants have a decent defensive front. I also don't trust Chicago's run defense sans Akiem Hicks, but I'm not sure Saquon Barkley is positioned to take advantage of that. The reigning Offensive Player of the Year is badly banged up, and he's averaging only 2.6 yards per carry since returning from an ankle injury.
"I know, laying six points is still terrifying. But the Bears have won three games by more than six points this season. That defense still has lights-out ability, and every time I closed my eyes, I saw Khalil Mack picking on the turnover-prone Jones. I'll roll the dice."
As with the Miami-Cleveland game, you're taking a big risk with a bet here either way. Jones at least has more upside than the oft-maligned Trubisky, and he and his team have had two weeks to prepare.
That might explain why Sobleski is on the other side, and it's why you'd be better off watching this one strictly for entertainment purposes.
Davenport: Chicago (-6)
Gagnon: Chicago (-6)
Sobleski: New York (+6)
Consensus: New York (+6)
Score Prediction: Bears 21, Giants 20
Oakland Raiders (6-4) at New York Jets (3-7)
"I'm almost guilty about doing this," the struggling Davenport joked about his decision to take the Oakland Raiders to cover a 2.5-point spread as a road favorite Sunday against the New York Jets. "By picking the Raiders to win their fourth game in a row on the road in New York this weekend, I have effectively doomed them to defeat, as I have been victimized by the millennia-old curse of Garykhamen. It's the only rational explanation for why my picks have been so miserable in 2019.
"With that said, the Oakland pass rush has peeled off 10 sacks over the last two games, while the Jets have allowed 41 sacks this year. And I trust Oakland's offense a lot more than New York's."
What's more, the Jets offensive line could be shorthanded after left tackle Kelvin Beachum aggravated an ankle injury in Week 11. The Raiders look as though they've turned a corner on defense, while the Jets continue to be without star linebacker C.J. Mosley.
Still, we again lack a unanimous consensus because Gagnon isn't ready to buy into the Raiders, nor is he prepared to write off the resurgent Jets.
"The Jets were never as bad as they looked earlier this season when they were plagued by injuries and adjusting to a new offense," he said. "I don't think Adam Gase is a good coach, but Gang Green is talented enough to go toe-to-toe with the Raiders at home after consecutive impressive victories. The Raiders are streaking, but the defense still lacks top-end talent and makes a lot of mistakes, and all of their recent success has come at home. They've still been outscored by 2.5 points per game this season, and it wouldn't be surprising at all if they lost outright in this spot."
If you're going to go against the consensus and follow our picks leader on this one, consider buying up to a field goal.
Davenport: Oakland (-2.5)
Gagnon: New York (+2.5)
Sobleski: Oakland (-2.5)
Consensus: Oakland (-2.5)
Score Prediction: Raiders 26, Jets 21
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-10)
The Pittsburgh Steelers are running out of players.
They're already without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt, both of whom are on injured reserve. But now veteran center Maurkice Pouncey is suspended, while receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (head, knee) and running back James Conner (shoulder) were out of practice to kick off the week.
Their Week 12 opponent is by no means a picture of health, but they're in much better shape. And with Pittsburgh's offense struggling immensely with Mason Rudolph under center, none of our experts are willing to lay nearly a touchdown in the Steelers' favor.
"Rudolph is a reindeer in headlights," Gagnon said. "See what I did there? Dad jokes aside, the Pittsburgh offense was a train wreck in Cleveland and will have fewer parts for the second-year quarterback to utilize in Cincinnati. And while the Steelers defense is easily the best unit in this game, they've been roughed up on the ground a few times this year, and Joe Mixon is finding his groove in the Bengals' backfield. Cincy will keep this close."
Mixon has rushed for 200 yards over the last two weeks, while the oft-mocked Cincinnati defense had a few takeaways and held a decent Oakland offense in check last week. So rookie Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley isn't completely lacking in support.
Even if that isn't enough for the Bengals to win their first game of the season, they have a good chance to cover for the fifth time this year.
Davenport: Cincinnati (+6.5)
Gagnon: Cincinnati (+6.5)
Sobleski: Cincinnati (+6.5)
Consensus: Cincinnati (+6.5)
Score Prediction: Steelers 21, Bengals 20
Seattle Seahawks (8-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)
When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to fade the public. But in this case, our predictors are so perplexed by the roughed-up Philadelphia Eagles being favored against the rested Seattle Seahawks that they're still backing Seattle even though it's attracting more than 80 percent of public bets.
"Three important things happened for Seattle during its bye week," Sobleski said. "First, the team activated tight end Ed Dickson from injured reserve to give the offense a boost. Second, wide receiver Josh Gordon received extra time to work himself into a bigger role. Finally, the extra preparation is always a bonus.
"The Eagles, meanwhile, are coming off a hard-fought loss to the New England Patriots, and they're dinged at right tackle (Lane Johnson has a concussion), wide receiver (both Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor are nursing injuries) and linebacker (Nigel Bradham has an ankle issue)."
The Seahawks are healthier, especially with top receiver Tyler Lockett back at practice after suffering a scary leg injury before the bye. And while traveling across the country is disadvantageous, they've at least benefited from an extra week off. They crushed the Lions on the road after their 2018 bye, they hammered the Giants away from home after their off week in 2017, and they're a perfect 5-0 on the road this season.
Davenport: Seattle (+1.5)
Gagnon: Seattle (+1.5)
Sobleski: Seattle (+1.5)
Consensus: Seattle (+1.5)
Score Prediction: Seahawks 27, Eagles 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7) at Atlanta Falcons (3-7)
The Atlanta Falcons have completely turned their season around with back-to-back blowout victories over division rivals coming out of their Week 9 bye, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have seen their season go down the drain with five losses in their last six games.
And while neither team has been consistently good or bad enough for anyone to reliably back the Falcons as a 4.5-point home favorite Sunday, that number isn't high enough for our crew to get behind the road 'dog.
"With Dan Quinn's job on the line, the Falcons came to play with two consecutive wins," Sobleski said. "They've done so in impressive fashion as well. Atlanta beat the Saints and Panthers by an average of 21.5 points. Considering how poorly the Buccaneers are operating on offense with Jameis Winston turning the ball over right and left, the Falcons should continue their winning streak and cover that number."
Davenport has a more unorthodox take, but he's backing the same team.
"I think I've figured out what happened to the Falcons," he said. "Over the bye week, the team was abducted by aliens and replaced by extraterrestrial doppelgangers who actually play defense…think Space Jam meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Unfortunately for the Bucs, Winston has not been abducted by aliens and replaced by an extraterrestrial doppelganger that knows that interceptions are bad. Enough said."
That lack of trust for the real Jameis Winston is the key. He's always been a pick machine, but the fifth-year quarterback has committed a ridiculous 17 turnovers in Tampa Bay's last five games.
Davenport: Atlanta (-4.5)
Gagnon: Atlanta (-4.5)
Sobleski: Atlanta (-4.5)
Consensus: Atlanta (-4.5)
Score Prediction: Falcons 31, Buccaneers 20
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6) at Tennessee Titans (5-5)
The Tennessee Titans have won five consecutive home games against the division rival Jacksonville Jaguars, and they've covered the spread in each of the last four of those outings. Now they're coming off a big win and a bye week, while the Jaguars look like toast after being outscored 59-16 in back-to-back divisional losses.
Jacksonville has struggled particularly against the run, and it just so happens the Titans are picking up steam on the ground following a 188-yard, two-touchdown performance from Derrick Henry in Week 10. Oh, and the best game of Henry's career came at this same site against this same team last year.
Put it all together, and our panelists are confident the Titans can avenge an early-season loss to Jacksonville with at least a three-point victory on Sunday.
"Ryan Tannehill's addition to the lineup has made a much bigger impact for Tennessee than initially expected," Sobleski said. "The Titans have been one of the best red-zone offenses in recent weeks. Tennessee has scored 10 touchdowns in 10 red-zone trips since Tannehill took over as quarterback. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are middle of the pack in both total and scoring defense."
It feels as though there's a high likelihood of a push here, but everything says the Titans are the pick with only three points in struggling Jacksonville's back pocket.
Davenport: Tennessee (-3)
Gagnon: Tennessee (-3)
Sobleski: Tennessee (-3)
Consensus: Tennessee (-3)
Score Prediction: Titans 24, Jaguars 20
Dallas Cowboys (6-4) at New England Patriots (9-1)
In three games against teams that had winning records when New England faced them this season, the Patriots offense has averaged only 15.3 points per outing, while quarterback Tom Brady has completed only 56.1 percent of his passes for 4.9 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 65.6.
The Patriots' record might be inflated because they've played the second-easiest schedule in the NFL when it comes to DVOA. And the majority of our experts believe they're laying too many points as a 6.5-point favorite against the Dallas Cowboys, who possess a winning record.
"Picking against the Patriots in Gillette Stadium might be a sign of head trauma," Davenport said. "Or possibly an indicator that all the losses I've endured this year have finally caused me to snap. Or it might be that New England's offensive struggles as of late (and Dak Prescott's red-hot play) make laying upwards of a touchdown too rich for my blood. The Pats are going to win this game, because it's Foxborough and they're the Patriots. But this feels like a back-and-forth affair that comes down to the wire and ends up being 24-20."
But a nice run on unanimous decisions is over, because Gagnon can't get on board.
"While the Patriots have failed to impress against quality opponents this season," he said, "so have the Cowboys. They're 0-3 against teams that currently have winning records. And while two of those losses came by fewer than five points, they're in the toughest spot in football Sunday. In their last 20 home games (regular season and playoffs), the Pats are 20-0 straight-up and 16-4 against the spread. And they won 18 of those 20 games by at least seven points, which is the margin they need for a cover on Sunday."
This might be the game of the week, but that doesn't mean it's a good bet.
Davenport: Dallas (+6.5)
Gagnon: New England (-6.5)
Sobleski: Dallas (+6.5)
Consensus: Dallas (+6.5)
Score Prediction: Patriots 23, Cowboys 20
Green Bay Packers (8-2) at San Francisco 49ers (9-1)
The San Francisco 49ers haven't covered a spread since they crushed the Panthers four weeks ago, and now they're running into a healthy and rested team led by one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
Two of our three analysts aren't willing to spot the Green Bay Packers a full field goal Sunday night.
"I think San Francisco is coming back to earth a bit," Gagnon said. "The 49ers struggled more than expected to beat the inferior Arizona Cardinals twice in the last three weeks, and those underwhelming performances sandwiched a home loss to Seattle. The running game has practically disappeared over the last few weeks, while quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown three interceptions and taken seven sacks in his past two outings.
"The 49ers' opportunistic defense is always a concern when you're backing their opponent, but the Packers haven't turned the ball over since the middle of October. And they're well-rested coming off their bye week, while key 49ers players such as Joe Staley, George Kittle, Matt Breida, Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel and Dee Ford are all hurting. The Niners are running into the wrong opponent at the wrong time."
With that said, this isn't a good matchup for a Packers defense that has allowed 120 or more rushing yards in seven games this season. That run D is soft, while—despite the aforementioned recent struggles—the 49ers have the league's second-ranked running game.
Consider that along with Green Bay's dud performance when it was in California a few weeks ago, and you wouldn't be faulted for fading our majority alongside Davenport.
Davenport: San Francisco (-3)
Gagnon: Green Bay (+3)
Sobleski: Green Bay (+3)
Consensus: Green Bay (+3)
Score Prediction: Green Bay 24, San Francisco 24
This scoreline is not a typo. We believe this game has overtime potential and that the defenses could hold when it matters most.
Baltimore Ravens (8-2) at Los Angeles Rams (6-4)
The Baltimore Ravens haven't won a game by fewer than 14 points since they were backdoored in a 23-17 Week 6 victory over the Bengals, and their margins of victory have increased on practically a weekly basis since the start of October. They might eventually hit a wall, and that could happen three time zones from home against a desperate defending conference champion led by the game's best defensive player.
But the Los Angeles Rams are remarkably flawed on offense right now, and our panel is surprised Baltimore is laying only a field goal for its Monday Night Football matchup with L.A.
"Wait, the Ravens are only giving three points on the road against the Rams?" Davenport said. "Has Vegas watched these two teams play of late? That the public money so overwhelmingly favors the Ravens is a tad distressing, but there's no getting past a few key points. The Ravens are playing better than any team in the NFL right now, while the Rams, um, are not. If the Ravens don't easily cover here, then the ancient curse that has plagued my picks all season long will have ratcheted up to a whole new level."
"The Ravens are the NFL's best team at the moment, and they completely turned around their defensive performance after a woeful start," he said. "This is especially important because the Rams have numerous offensive issues, especially along their offensive line. The ability to shut down Los Angeles' receivers while pressuring Jared Goff should give Baltimore a significant advantage."
He's right that the Ravens are more than just MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson. The defense has given up 20 or fewer points in five consecutive outings. They've registered 10 takeaways and scored five defensive touchdowns during that stretch, while the Rams have averaged only 12 points per game against pass defenses that rank in the top six in the league in terms of DVOA.
Davenport: Baltimore (-3)
Gagnon: Baltimore (-3)
Sobleski: Baltimore (-3)
Consensus: Baltimore (-3)
Score Prediction: Ravens 28, Rams 17