NFL Week 12 was a rough roller-coaster here in the Tuley’s Takes home office and for a lot of bettors.
Thanksgiving weekend actually started great as I hit with my best bet on the Raiders + 7 at the Cowboys in a 36-33 outright upset in OT. But then, after the breaks went my way most of the season with underdogs coming through time and again, my dogs went 0-4 ATS on Sunday with the Titans, Steelers, Vikings and Browns failing to cover and dropping me to 1-4 ATS for the week. The Steelers were clearly the wrong side, but the others had their chances yet came up short.
It’s very small consolation that I wasn’t alone as the consensus plays in the Circa Sports Million and the Westgate SuperContest went 1-4 and 0-5, respectively. The frustrating thing is I usually like to be contrarian with my underdog plays, but the Steelers, Colts and Vikings ended up on those lists of Top 5 consensus plays as popular public dogs. That’s usually not a good sign, but unfortunately I was already pot-committed as I had made my picks well before knowing the public was overloading the bandwagon.
I won’t make an excuse about having to make my picks earlier due to the holiday because I was still making them Tuesday as in any other week. It was just a matter of the books catching up to us. And it wasn’t like favorites dominated. Dogs actually led 8-7 ATS for the week, but the fact is I just picked the wrong dogs.
At least I cut my losses with my teaser portfolio. (We hope readers have been following those plays all season as they’ve saved us a few weeks like this.) Our top 6-point teaser play was on the Jets + 8.5 and Colts + 8.5, and both came through, as well as our other combos using the Dolphins + 7.5 and Broncos + 8.5.
Let’s try to get back on the winning track as we go over the NFL Week 13 card from my dog-or-pass point of view. Per usual, even if I don’t have a strong opinion on a game, I’ll give my pool-play strategy for those in contests in which they have to pick every game.
My takes on college football and other sports appear in “Tuley’s Takes Today,” the daily version of this column, at VSiN.com. We update our best bets during the week depending on how the market is moving, so please check out those columns every morning.
Dallas Cowboys (-4.5) at New Orleans Saints
I can’t tell you how many times in the past I would have been all over the Saints as home underdogs in this spot. However, even though the Cowboys’ allegedly improved defense allowed 509 total yards to the Raiders on Thanksgiving, I just can’t trust Trevor Siemian to take advantage. The Saints have lost four straight since their Week 8 upset of the Buccaneers, and I can’t take them with such a short line. I hate to say it, but the Saints miss Jameis Winston — and probably regret not committing to Teddy Bridgewater and letting him get away.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Cowboys in my rare ATS contests that include “Thursday Night Football”).
Minnesota Vikings (-7) at Detroit Lions
The Vikings are coming off a tough loss to the 49ers that dropped them to 5-6 and cost them what could be a key tiebreaker to the 49ers in the NFC wild-card chase, but most people still think they’ll be a playoff team with a soft closing schedule that starts with the Lions. However, don’t forget they beat the Lions only 19-17 in Week 5 and needed a 54-yard Greg Joseph field goal as time expired. The Lions have been competitive like that all season. Even though they’re still winless at 0-10-1, they’re 7-4 ATS, which is the fifth-best betting record in the league behind only the Packers (10-2), Cowboys (8-3), Cardinals (8-3) and Patriots (8-4). Besides, I certainly wouldn’t trust the Vikings laying a TD as they’re 0-1 ATS when laying a TD of more, which was the earlier non-cover vs. these Lions. And no matter how many great stats Kirk Cousins puts up with 23 TD passes to just three INTs, he doesn’t come through in the clutch, and I’m expecting this will be another game that comes down to a late field goal.
Best Bet: Lions + 7 (pool play: Lions 75/25 in ATS contests — higher if offered + 7.5, lower at + 6.5 — though the Vikings still 70/30 in SU pools).
Arizona Cardinals (-8) at Chicago Bears
The Bears beat the Lions on Thanksgiving but didn’t cover after closing as 2.5-point road faves, and I’m not taking them here in a similar spot getting more than a TD at home. The Cardinals are getting Kyler Murray back after showing in his absence that they’re still one of the most well-rounded teams in the league as they went 2-1 behind Colt McCoy. It’s a common narrative that people like to say a coach is being distracted by job offers — the Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury to Oklahoma is the rumor. But I don’t put much stock in that as I’m sure coaches have inquiries coming across their desks more than we hear about and they still can do their jobs. With that in mind, I’ll start this week’s teaser portfolio with the Cardinals teased down to -2 and pair it with the Colts teased down to -2.5 at the Texans, with other possible candidates including the Washington Football Team teased up to + 8.5 at the Raiders and the Patriots teased up to + 9 (or at least + 8.5) at the Bills on “Monday Night Football.”
Best Bet: 6-point teaser with Cardinals -2/Colts -2.5 (pool play: Cardinals 55/45 in ATS contests and at least 90/10 in SU pools).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11.5) at Atlanta Falcons
Here’s yet another home underdog, but this time we’re getting double digits. Big dogs aren’t the automatic play they once were, as double-digit dogs are just 12-11 ATS this season. But home double-digit dogs are 4-0 ATS, including the Jets (+ 11.5) upsetting the Bengals 34-31 in Week 8 and the Jaguars (+ 16) upsetting the Bills 9-6 in Week 9. So, you say, this is the mighty Buccaneers and the lowly Falcons. Well, the Falcons were hanging with these same Bucs in Week 2 in Tampa, trailing just 28-25 heading into the fourth quarter. They ended up not covering as 13-point road dogs as the Bucs pulled away to a misleading 48-25 victory thanks to two pick-sixes thrown by Matt Ryan to Mike Edwards. As long as that doesn’t happen again, the Falcons should be able to cover this big number.
Best Bet: Falcons + 11.5 (pool play: Falcons 67/33 in ATS contests, but Bucs still 80/20 in SU pools).
Indianapolis Colts (-8.5) at Houston Texans
Here’s yet another tempting home dog, but I’m trying to be very selective in which ones I take. I would need double digits to consider taking the Texans here as a best bet. They’re better with Tyrod Taylor at QB, but they couldn’t beat the Jets at home and still rank dead last in total offense at 264.8 yards per game while the defense is No. 29, allowing 378.1 yards per game. The Colts deserved better in a 38-31 loss to the Buccaneers and should bounce back here. Since I’m not going to lay 8.5, we’ll go the teaser route in case it’s a little closer than expected.
Best Bet: Colts in teasers, led by Cardinals -2/Colts -2.5 (pool play: Texans 55/45 in ATS contests on principle, but Colts at least 90/10 in SU pools).
Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5) at New York Jets
As we’ve written and South Point’s Chris Andrews has mentioned on a couple of VSiN shows, wise guys have been backing the Eagles lately in anticipation of them going on a run. They were 3-1 ATS before Sunday’s 13-7 clunker against the Giants. I wasn’t on the Eagles, but I’m still trying to figure out what happened there. I do believe Jalen Hurts takes off running far too often and is at high risk of injury. The Jets are coming off a 21-14 win over the Texans in Zach Wilson’s return, but it’s not like he lit up the scoreboard. The Eagles’ defense is still playing great and is keeping me from taking the Jets. The number seems too short — how is this not over a TD?
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Eagles 55/45 in ATS contests and at least 80/20 in SU pools).
Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals (-3 -120)
This is one of the top games of the week with Justin Herbert vs. Joe Burrow and both teams in the playoff hunt. After a 4-1 start, the Chargers have lost four of their last six games and two of their last three (and are 1-5 ATS during that run). So momentum is certainly on the Bengals’ side as they’ve rebounded from their midseason slump to win their last two games easily over the Raiders and Steelers. The number is steaming toward 3.5, so it’s getting out of teaser range, as that’s how I was expecting to play this game. For now, it looks like I’ll be watching this matchup for entertainment purposes only (well, and future handicapping purposes).
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Bengals 60/40 in ATS pools — lower at 3.5 — and 75/25 in SU pools).
New York Giants at Miami Dolphins (-3)
A few weeks ago this game wasn’t too appealing, but the Dolphins have won four straight to get into the AFC wild-card conversation and the Giants have won two of three to show some life. I don’t put much stock in the Dolphins’ 33-10 rout of the Panthers as the Giants crushed them 25-3 on Oct. 24. The Giants are getting healthy on offense, and I really think the fact that the defense just held Jalen Hurts and the Eagles to seven points will help prepare them for Tua Tagovailoa. This looks like a great spot for another upset.
Best Bet: Giants + 3 (pool play: Giants 75/25 in ATS contests — even higher at 3.5, slightly lower at 2.5 — and I’ll go with them 60/40 in SU pools).
Washington Football Team at Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5)
It looked like we’d be getting + 3 with the Football Team here, but then Washington went out and beat the Seahawks 17-15 on Monday night and this line was lowered to 2.5. I still think Washington is the right side, but I’ll pass on the best bet without having the + 3 in case the Raiders do win by exactly a field goal. But they’re still a prime teaser play as I’m more confident in them staying within a TD.
Best Bet: Washington in teasers (pool play: Washington 55/45 in ATS contests, but Raiders still about 67/33 in SU pools).
Baltimore Ravens (-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers
I knew I was doomed with my play on the Steelers + 4.5 against the Bengals last week when it ended up as the No. 1 consensus play in the Circa Sports Million and Westgate SuperContest. That’s too much of a public play for me, though I didn’t expect it to go down in flames so badly in the Bengals’ 41-10 rout. Now they’re right about the same size underdog as the advance line was Ravens -3, but it was increased to -3.5 after the Steelers’ embarrassing performance and the Ravens’ 16-10 win over the Browns. The line has since been bet up to 4 and even 4.5 at BetMGM and DraftKings, but I’m willing to fade the move and bet the Steelers again, this time as a contrarian play. We’ve certainly seen reversals of form after a blowout loss, and I expect this to come down to a field goal between these rivals. Besides, the Ravens have certainly let teams stick around all season, so give me the points.
Best Bet: Steelers + 4 (pool play: Steelers 67/33 in ATS contests, but Ravens just 60/40 in SU pools).
Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Rams (-13)
This is the game I probably waffled back and forth on the most this week. You know I love double-digit underdogs, and the Rams are struggling as they’ve lost three straight and gone 0-5 ATS in their last five games. That includes two non-covers in wins over the Lions and Texans, so it’s not like they’re just underperforming against top teams. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are still pretty bad, but they beat the Bills outright as 16-point dogs and covered as double-digit dogs against the Colts. Still, when looking at the overall talent and the matchups, it’s not hard to expect the Rams to get themselves right with a blowout. So, after much consideration, I’m taking the points with the Jaguars — though waiting to see if it continues to steam higher to + 14 — but not including it with my Top 5 on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page.
Best Bet: Jaguars + 13 or better (pool play: Jaguars 65/35 in ATS contests, but Rams still at least 90/10 in SU pools).
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) at Seattle Seahawks
These NFC West teams seem to be heading in opposite directions. The 49ers have won three straight to get back into the wild-card chase, as they’ve gone back to relying on the running game. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have lost three straight even with the return of Russell Wilson. The advance line was 49ers -2.5, but it looks like it’s steaming through the key number of 3 to -3.5. I would normally be on a home dog when that happens, but I just can’t pull the trigger with the way these teams are playing.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: 49ers 60/40 in ATS contests and 75/25 in SU pools).
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (-10)
The NFL moved the 49ers-Seahawks out of the “Sunday Night Football” slot and subbed this one even before the Broncos knocked off the Chargers 28-13 to really tighten the AFC West race. The only thing giving me pause is that Andy Reid has such a long-established record of winning off a bye week, but I doubt he was laying double digits in many of those. Besides, Teddy Bridgewater has a better record as a road underdog. I don’t have an exact record and I see all kinds of records posted online, but it’s in the neighborhood of 20-2 ATS. The Broncos’ defense is No. 9 in the league at 330.8 yards per game and just got done containing Justin Herbert. That bodes well for facing Patrick Mahomes, who has basically been turned into a game manager compared with his previous Superman status.
Best Bet: Broncos + 10 (pool play: Broncos 75/25 in ATS contests, but Chiefs still 75/25 in SU pools).
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (-3)
Not only is this the Monday nighter, it’s also the game of the week. The winner will have the inside track in the AFC East as the Patriots come in with a half-game lead, though these teams will meet again in Week 16 in Foxboro. The Patriots are the hot team on the six-game winning streak, and it seems everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. In fact, the advance line was Bills -3.5 and it was lowered to -3, but as of Tuesday afternoon I’m seeing that Circa Sports and BetMGM are among the books that have dropped the line to 2.5. That’s too short for me, especially after seeing how the Bills bounced back in their 31-16 rout of the Saints on Thanksgiving night. I was going to recommend the Patriots as a teaser play from + 3 to + 9 and now believe that’s the right way to approach this game if most bettors are only going to be getting + 2.5 on the spread. That can be teased over a field goal to + 8.5.
Best Bet: Patriots in teasers (pool play: Patriots 55/45 in ATS contests — flipping to Bills 55/45 at -2.5 — with Bills about 60/40 in SU pools).