Being alive in your survivor pool in late November is a great accomplishment, but this is about the time when greed really sets in. Even though these contests get harder with each passing week, expectations grow and grow until it becomes “win or bust.”
Those who plan out the season had to have circled Week 12 as one of the most difficult. There just aren’t a lot of obvious considerations, and this is one of the weeks where the league’s parity creates some major challenges.
For the purposes of this article, we are following the traditional survivor rules, so one pick per week. I know that there are some variations out there, including the Circa Survivor here in Vegas, with a rule about picking a Thursday game. I’m not going to limit myself to that, but hopefully you’ve planned accordingly for it if you are in one of those situations.
The Browns narrowly beat the Lions last week, but it was a win all the same. The Titans lost as double-digit favorites, continuing that recent theme, so hopefully you opted for the Browns over the Titans if you had the choice. My Week 10 pick, the Bucs, lost in Week 10, so I’m 10-1 on the season. The games to consider went 2-1 and are 26-12 on the year.
This is a tough one. I’ll do my best to help.
GAMES TO CONSIDER
Dallas (-8) over Las Vegas
If you are in one of the aforementioned contests that forces a pick on Thanksgiving, hopefully the Cowboys are the team you have available. Dallas is actually the biggest favorite of the week at -8. With so many coin-flip games on the card, even if you aren’t forced to take a Thursday game, this may simply be the best pick on the board.
It feels like the Raiders have hit a wall. There was so much emotion in that 5-2 start, but a three-game losing streak has really changed Las Vegas’ prospects for the season. It isn’t just the losing streak. It’s the fact that the Raiders have scored just 43 points in the last three games and have allowed 96. They are missing the offensive genius of Jon Gruden. They are missing early-season Derek Carr. They are missing a lot and are down to 22nd in defensive DVOA.
After losing by 27 and 19 the last two weeks, the Raiders have to take on a very talented Cowboys team on a short week with travel. Dallas is used to this whole Thanksgiving thing. The Raiders haven’t played on Thanksgiving since 2013. They last played a road Thursday game in Week 9 of the 2018 season and lost 34-3 to the 49ers.
Times have changed. Players have changed. The difficulties of a short week with travel as a struggling team have not. Dallas hasn’t been great lately but should absolutely win this game.
New England (-6.5) over Tennessee
The Titans defense seems to be pretty legit, but this offense is also legitimately bad in the absence of Derrick Henry. Tennessee averaged 3.6 yards per play against the Rams, 4.5 yards per play against the Saints and 5.3 yards per play against the Texans in a game that featured 52 pass attempts by Ryan Tannehill.
Anything can happen in a defensive slugfest, which is what this game appears to be, but the Titans offense is reeling and A.J. Brown is hurt again, so Tannehill, who threw four interceptions last week, faces the prospects of another week with a watered-down skill-position group.
Teams coming off of the bye were 5-11 ATS going into Week 11, but the Bears, Bengals and Texans covered, with the Bengals and Texans winning outright. The Giants fell short, so we’re at 9-12 ATS.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots have had extra time to prepare coming off a Thursday night game. He may not have Tom Brady anymore, but rookie quarterback Mac Jones is playing very well and Belichick is still the GOAT.
Baltimore (-4) over Cleveland
The Ravens scored 85 points in the two games against Cleveland last season. One of them came in Week 1, so it’s fair to give the Browns something of a pass for that game, but Baltimore moved the ball at will in the second meeting, even as Lamar Jackson battled cramps.
Ultimately, this is a fade of Cleveland and a tumultuous situation. Baker Mayfield is hurt and playing very badly. Apparently a healthy Case Keenum would somehow be worse. The Browns can still run the ball effectively, but Baltimore’s run defense has been better than its pass defense.
Cleveland just doesn’t seem ready for this matchup with the injuries. On a week light on choices, maybe it’s as simple as that.
Philadelphia (-3.5) over New York Giants
The Eagles are not a perfect team by any means, but Nick Sirianni is doing some serious work on the offensive side. We’ve seen a lot of love in the betting markets for Philadelphia recently, based on their advanced offensive metrics. The Eagles are a top-10 offense by DVOA and a top-five rushing offense. The Giants have one of the league’s worst run defenses. This is a major mismatch in the trenches.
Taking a road favorite in a divisional game is a scary proposition, but most of the options this week are scary. The Eagles are playing really safe on offense, with only nine turnovers in 11 games. Jalen Hurts is really growing into this offense. The Giants don’t really have the offense to exploit Philadelphia’s defensive weaknesses. The Eagles offense has a major matchup advantage in this game.
Road favorites are trending in the right direction. The Giants were a misleading winner against the Raiders before the bye, getting outgained by 1.5 yards per play and were pretty bad against the Bucs. Freddie Kitchens will now be calling plays, as Jason Garret was fired on Tuesday.
Philadelphia’s recent improvements appear legit and the stats back it up. Plus, they’re just in a much better mindset for this game.
Pick: Philadelphia Eagles