If you read the VSiN betting recap on NFL Week 11 by Ben Fawkes and yours truly, you know that the vast majority of bettors had a bad week. We saw that coming as the top 5 most-selected plays in both the Circa Sports Million and Westgate SuperContest went 0-5. I’ve always said those serve as a solid barometer of how the public does against the sportsbooks as they show the most popular bets and tend to include the biggest line moves.
But if you’re a contrarian bettor like we are in the Tuley’s Takes home office, you probably fared better. I went 3-2 with my major contest picks and on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page. But we wish we had done a little better with our overall bets as I went 4-4 in this column (4-3 ATS and a loss on Falcons-Saints Over 51) to stand at a respectable 43-35 (55%) on the season. Our teaser recommendations didn’t fare as well as they had recently, going just 4-3, but that was a result of the overall market not faring as well.
So let’s jump into the Week 12 card, which has no byes and a full 16-game schedule, starting with the annual Thanksgiving tripleheader. Per usual, I’ll give my takes on each game. Even if I don’t have an opinion that I think warrants a bet, I’ll include my “pool plays” in which I give my level of confidence for SU and ATS contests, especially for those who have to pick every game.
Texans (-3) at Lions
The Turkey Day kickoff game was off the board last week because of Matthew Stafford’s uncertain status. Then he played with an injured right thumb and went 18-for-33 for just 178 yards as the Lions were shut out 20-0 by the Panthers. Meanwhile, the Texans upset the Patriots 27-20, and this line opened Texans -2.5 and has been bet up to 3. Stafford’s clearly not 100% (frankly, he hasn’t looked right since those COVID-19 close contact reports a few weeks ago) and I want no part of the Lions, not even teasing them up over a touchdown. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Texans in all my rare SU and ATS contests that include Thursday games).
Washington at Cowboys (-3)
This was Dallas -1 on the advance line last week, but it moved to -3 after the Cowboys upset the Vikings 31-28 as 7-point underdogs. Apparently Washington’s 20-9 win over the Bengals didn’t make a difference. I think the move has been in the right direction as the Cowboys are much better with Andy Dalton back in the lineup. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Cowboys in all my rare SU and ATS contests that include Thursday games).
Ravens at Steelers (-5.5)
Do you think I’m going to pass on all the Thanksgiving underdogs? Well, I probably would have if this line had stayed at Steelers -2.5 like it was last week on the advance line. But then the Steelers improved to 10-0 SU with their 27-3 rout of the Jaguars and the Ravens lost their second straight game (30-24 in overtime vs. the Titans). And this line went past the key number of 3, aided by reports of Ravens running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins testing positive for COVID-19 and the team shutting down its practice facility. It was sitting at -4 on Tuesday before going to -5.5 at most books on Tuesday afternoon. So, yes, we know all that, but if the game goes on as scheduled Thursday night, I still expect the Ravens to be prepared to face their most hated rival and at least stay within a field goal. Best Bet: Ravens + 5.5 or higher (pool play: Ravens in all my rare SU and ATS contests that use Thursday games).
Raiders (-3) at Falcons
I checked the really advanced lines from the summer and this was Falcons -3, so it has totally flipped. This would normally prompt me to take the home dog getting points, but I actually think this line is too short. The Raiders have gone toe-to-toe with the Chiefs and nearly swept them, so I’m not confident the Falcons to be able to keep up, even if the Raiders experience a bit of a letdown. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Raiders 60/40 in ATS contests and closer to 90/10 in SU pools).
Cardinals (-2.5) at Patriots
They’re certainly tempting us with the home dogs this week — nine of the 16 games this week have road favorites. However, as with the two previous cases, this number comes up too short based on how the teams are playing. But I do trust Bill Belichick enough to start here with my teaser portfolio recommendations for the week. The Patriots don’t have the weapons to outgun the Cardinals’ high-flying offense, but Belichick has enough tricks up his sleeve to keep the Pats within + 8.5. Other advantage teasers, which capture the key numbers of 3 and 7, are Titans teased up to + 9.5 at Colts, Dolphins teased down to -1 at Jets, Rams teased down to -1 vs. 49ers and Packers teased down to -2.5 vs. Bears. As I’ve written before, I usually stick to two- and three-team teasers. Mix and match depending on your own handicapping. Best Bet: Pass, except for Patriots in teasers (pool play: Patriots slightly more than 50/50 in ATS contests but Cardinals 67/33 in SU pools).
Giants (-5.5) at Bengals
This line has been all over the map as the Giants were -1.5 during the summer, Bengals -3 last week and now all the way to Giants -5.5 with Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow out for the season. I’m sure I’ll be on the Bengals at some point before the end of the season, but I can’t pull the trigger here after seeing how much the offense struggled without Burrow last week. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Giants 60/40 in ATS contests and around 80/20 in SU pools).
Browns (-6.5) at Jaguars
The Jaguars covered two games in a row for us against the Texans and Packers before letting us down in their 27-3 loss to the Steelers. With the Browns in the playoff hunt, I was hoping this line would get to at least a full touchdown. I don’t expect Jake Luton and the Jaguars offense to get shut down again like they did by the Steelers, so I think they’ll stay in this game, but I do want the + 7 for insurance. Best Bet: Pass for now but would take Jaguars + 7 (pool play: Jaguars 60/40 in ATS contests, including all that offer + 7 or + 7.5, though Browns around 75/25 in SU pools).
Panthers at Vikings (-4)
These teams have been among the most puzzling this year. The Panthers were the last team I tossed when making my picks on the VSiN NFL Best Bet page, so I still plan to bet them and will take them here. Teddy Bridgewater is expected to return to face his former team. We’re also waiting to get more details on Minnesota wide receiver Adam Thielen, the league’s touchdown receptions leader with 11, going on the COVID-19 reserve list. I think that’s the only thing keeping up from getting another point or two here on the spread. Best Bet: Panthers + 4, but wait to see if it goes higher (pool play: Panthers 67/33 in ATS contests but Vikings still in more SU pools around 60/40).
Titans at Colts (-3.5)
This is for the AFC South lead. These teams just met in the Week 10 Thursday nighter with the Colts pulling away to a 34-17 victory as the Titans lost their third in four games. However, the Titans showed in Sunday’s 30-24 overtime win at Baltimore that they’re still contenders. The Colts have the league’s top-rated defense, but the Titans have a balanced attack with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry, and we’re expecting coach Mike Vrabel to have a better game plan and turn the tables in the rematch. Best Bet: Titans + 3.5 (pool play: Titans 80/20 in ATS contests at anything over a field goal, plus taking a stand at 67/33 in SU pools).
Chargers at Bills (-5.5)
After a few winning weeks in a row, every game looks easy. A lot of people will fire away on all their picks, but I’ve learned that this is the time to be even more selective. So, yes, I think the Chargers are a live underdog in Buffalo, but again I’m taking a cautious approach as this is another line that comes up a little short for my liking. The Bills are coming off their bye after losing to the Cardinals on the Hail Murray, and I’m not willing to fade them at + 5.5. I’ll probably bite if it gets to + 6. Best Bet: Pass for now (pool play: Chargers 55/45 in ATS contests and higher if the line goes higher, but Bills still 70/30 in SU pools).
Dolphins (-7) at Jets
The Jets still stink and can’t find the way to the winner’s circle, but they’re not as hopeless as oddsmakers and the betting public continues to make them. They rallied to cover as 9.5-point road underdogs in a 34-28 loss at the Chargers on Sunday after covering as 9-point road dogs in a 30-27 loss to the Patriots on “Monday Night Football” in Week 9. Whether it’s Joe Flacco at quarterback or the return of Sam Darnold, the Jets can stay within a touchdown of the overrated Dolphins, who were upset 20-13 as popular 4-point favorites at Denver on Sunday. Best Bet: Jets + 7 (pool play: Jets 67/33 in ATS pools and all at + 7.5, but Dolphins 70/30 in SU pools).
Saints (-6) at Broncos
Here’s another home underdog offering a fair price. The whole world seemingly has fallen in love with backup quarterback Taysom Hill, especially fantasy players who were able to use him at tight end on Sunday. The Saints are obviously still an elite team even without Drew Brees, but I’ll still take the Broncos off their upset of the Dolphins, who came into Denver with similar hype. The Broncos defense bottled up Tua Tagovailoa last week and I expect coach Vic Fangio to have his defense prepared for Hill as well. Best Bet: Broncos + 6 (pool play: Broncos 67/33 in ATS contests, higher at + 6.5, but Saints still 65/35 in SU pools).
49ers at Rams (-7)
The Rams are playing as well as anyone right now, with a strong balance between offense and defense, though the offense relied more on the passing game than I expected in their 27-24 upset of the Buccaneers on Monday night. Meanwhile, the 49ers have lost three straight games and are trying to stay in the playoff race despite battling more injuries than any other team. I’ll wait to see how they come out of their bye week before I’m willing to back them the rest of the season. Best Bet: Pass, except Rams -1 in teasers (pool play: Rams 60/40 in ATS contests and all SU pools).
Chiefs (-3.5) at Buccaneers
Here’s yet another example of a home dog not getting enough points for me. I’m not as high on the Bucs as a lot of people, so that’s why this line is a little depressed and not where I think it should be. The Chiefs don’t tend to put teams away early, so I understand those who want to bet Tom Brady. It also makes sense for those who always used to bet Bill Belichick off a loss but are starting to wonder if Brady wasn’t the main reason for the Pats’ success all along. However, I would be more inclined to bet the Bucs on the first-half line, especially if it gets to + 3 as I suspect. I would recommend the Over, but it’s already been steamed to 56 as of Tuesday night. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Chiefs 60/40 in ATS contests and closer to 80/20 in SU pools).
Bears at Packers (-8.5)
The NFL’s oldest rivalry would be a more appealing matchup if the Bears offense hadn’t come to a grinding halt before their bye as they went from a 5-1 start to 5-5. It also doesn’t help that Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky are both nursing injuries, but it could be telling that Trubisky practiced Monday while Foles didn’t. I think it’s time for the Bears to go back to Trubisky, especially since he’s more of a threat when protection breaks down. The defense keeps the Bears in games, even during the losing streak, and I expect that to be the case Sunday night to at least keep this within a touchdown. Best Bet: Bears + 8.5, though also using Packers in teasers and hoping to catch a middle (pool play: Bears 75/25 in ATS contest as it’ll certainly be a contrarian play, but Packers 80/20 in SU pools).
Seahawks (-5.5) at Eagles
Here’s the ninth of nine home dogs on the Week 12 card, and again it’s one I’m passing on, though I hope I’m just holding a grudge because the Eagles let me down against the Browns on Sunday. Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz continues to make too many mistakes, and I don’t expect the Eagles to keep up with Russell Wilson in a shootout. Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Seahawks in all SU and ATS pools as I like to go all-in on “Monday Night Football” in case I connect all the dots in my pools where I have to pick all the games and want my strongest opinion working for me).