This is the week to give thanks, and we certainly believe in doing that here at the Tuley’s Takes home office.
First, we’re thankful for friends and family. We’re obligated to say that, right?
But we’re also thankful for readers of Point Spread Weekly and our daily Tuley’s Takes Today columns at VSiN.com.
Of course, we’re also thankful that underdogs have been coming through for us this whole football season and hope readers have been reaping a cornucopia of profits.
We went 4-2 ATS last week on the VSiN CFB Best Bets page and 4-2 ATS in the NFL — 3-2 ATS on the VSiN CFB Best Bets page and in this column, plus a win on the Steelers + 6.5 at the Chargers on “Sunday Night Football” that we added in Tuley’s Takes Today.
We’re also thankful for our health, which reminds me of a final point I’d like to make before getting to the NFL Week 12 card. ESPN’s “NFL Live” had an interesting fact the other day: The NFL has had 45 different starting quarterbacks the last four weeks, the highest of any four-week span since 2010. Some of those are due to COVID-19 protocols and some to coach’s decisions, but I believe most are due to QBs running with the football at an all-time rate. And I’m not just talking about scrambles, as designed running plays and run-pass options are putting QBs in harm’s way more than we’ve ever seen.
They certainly open up the offenses, but I’m starting to ask: At what cost?
I’m considering it when looking at future-book bets. Will Kyler Murray be able to stay healthy after returning? The Eagles are improving, but can Jalen Hurts go the rest of the season without getting hurt? And you have to at least include it as a small factor when looking at individual games.
So I’ll channel my inner old guy like the one in every “Hill Street Blues” episode: “Let’s be careful out there!”
Let’s go over the Week 12 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. Also, we update our best bets during the week depending on how the market is moving, so check out those columns each morning.
Chicago Bears (-3.5) at Detroit Lions
I’m a lifelong Bears fan and love watching football on Thanksgiving, but I have no misgivings about offering to help prepare the turkey and sides this year as I won’t be hanging on every play of this matchup. It appears we’re going to get Andy Dalton vs. Tim Boyle. The edge goes to Dalton, but I won’t lay more than a field goal. The knee-jerk square play would be the Under, as the Bears average 16.3 points per game while the Lions average 16, but the oddsmakers have already set the total low at 41.5. The problem with that is I like to bet Overs when two teams are playing out the string, as there’s no real incentive for the defense to step up, so these often turn into playground football games.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Bears 55/45 in rare ATS contests that include Thursday games, and closer to 67/33 in SU pools).
Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys (-8)
Will the real Raiders please stand up? And the real Cowboys, for that matter? These teams have looked like Super Bowl contenders one week and trash the next (of course, that can be said of nearly every team in the league). The Raiders are on the longer extended slump with losses of 23-16 to the Giants, 41-14 to the Chiefs and 32-13 to the Bengals, but they still have enough weapons to keep up with the Cowboys, who are thin at wide receiver and have more injuries on the defensive side of the ball. This line was looking solid at Cowboys -7 on the advance line and earlier this week, but it was steamed Tuesday to Cowboys -8, so I’ll gladly take the added point.
Best Bet: Raiders + 8 (pool play: Raiders 75/25 in rare ATS contests that include Thursday games, but Cowboys still 67/33 in SU pools).
Buffalo Bills (-5.5) at New Orleans Saints
Has any team’s stock fallen more in the past couple of weeks than the Bills’? The 9-6 loss to the Jaguars was bad enough, but then they had a chance to step up against the Colts and got run over 41-15. It looks like bettors are thinking they’ll rebound against the Saints, as this line has been bet up from -4.5 to -5.5 at most major books, but I’m not so sure. The Saints certainly have their flaws, but their run defense should make Josh Allen one-dimensional, and that’s never good. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot more of Taysom Hill running the ball as he’s getting healthier.
Best Bet: Saints + 5.5, or wait to see if it goes higher (pool play: Saints 67/33 in rare ATS contests that include Thursday, but Bills still 60/40 in SU pools).
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (-6.5)
The Patriots (7-4) are the flavor of the week. They’ve won and covered five straight and will enter this game no worse than tied for first in the AFC East, depending on what the Bills do on Thanksgiving. Last week’s advance line was Patriots -3 before the Titans inexplicably lost 22-13 to the Texans as 10-point home favorites. If this game were played just a few weeks ago, the Titans would probably have been short road faves. So this is a classic case of buy low/sell high. The Titans (8-3) still have the top record in the AFC and are getting nearly a TD against an overrated Patriots team in a game that should come down to a late field goal. To be on the safe side, wait until Sunday to see if the public continues to jump on the New England bandwagon and bets this up to 7.
Best Bet: Titans + 6.5 (pool play: 75/25 in ATS contests and Patriots just barely over 50/50 in SU pools).
New York Jets at Houston Texans (-2.5/-3)
If you thought the Bears-Lions matchup on Thanksgiving was unappetizing, we have some Sunday games that are downright vomit-inducing. If not for betting, the draftniks would be the only ones interested in watching this game (well, maybe some fantasy owners, too, as I’ve been relegated to using Joe Flacco and Elijah Moore on one of my teams). Anyway, as far as betting this, the only way would be to tease the Jets up over a touchdown and hope for a close one-score game. The number is too short for me to take just a field goal with the Jets, especially as the Texans are better with Tyrod Taylor running the offense. My boss wants me to specify my top teaser play for grading purposes, so I’ll go with Jets + 8.5 (or + 9 if your book is dealing Texans -3/Jets + 3) with the Colts + 8.5 vs. the Buccaneers. The other advantage teasers I’d consider would be the Dolphins + 7.5 vs. the Panthers and Broncos + 8.5 vs. the Chargers.
Best Bet: 6-point teaser with Jets + 8.5 or better/Colts + 8.5, plus other teasers (pool play: Jets 55/45 in ATS contests, but Texans 55/45 in SU pools).
Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) at New York Giants
Sharp bettors have been backing the Eagles every week for the last month. They’ve won three of the last four weeks, with the one loss being 27-24 at the Chargers as 1.5-point road dogs. The Eagles don’t have any more West Coast trips, so they’re in great shape for a playoff run. The Giants showed some promise Monday night as they were playing the Buccaneers to a 10-10 tie in the second quarter and were moving the ball. It’s tempting to be getting more than a field goal in a divisional game, but I just can’t pull the trigger. I’m sure the time is coming soon to fade the Eagles, as they’re also becoming more of a public team. I just hope this isn’t the one bet I regret not making.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Giants 55/45 in ATS contests, but Eagles around 75/25 in SU pools).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5) at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts were my top Super Bowl futures bet after last year’s title game (I bet them at 35-1) and over the summer in numerous reports in PSW. I didn’t reload when they started 0-3, but they’re finally playing the way I expected all along with a solid defense and Carson Wentz working off play-action with Jonathan Taylor. I’m certainly cheering for a win here to help them on their wild-card pursuit, but the line is too short for me to bet ATS, so I’ll tease them over the touchdown.
Best Bet: Pass, except for Colts in teasers (pool play: Colts 55/45 in ATS contests — higher if offered + 3 — though Buccaneers slightly more than 50/50 in SU pools).
Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars (pick-’em)
Here’s another Week 12 dud. It makes sense that this is pick-’em, as I’m not looking to back either of these teams as dogs. Some books have gone to Falcons -1, but that doesn’t make the Jaguars any more attractive. And, no, I’m not waiting to see if the line gets into teaser territory.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Falcons 55/45 in all SU and ATS contests).
Carolina Panthers (-1.5) at Miami Dolphins
This would be in the dud category if there were three worse games on the Week 12 card. At last these teams have a prayer to get a wild-card spot as the Panthers are 5-5 and the Dolphins are 4-7 with three straight wins. This line has bounced all over the place. The Panthers were -2.5 on the advance line last week, then lost 27-21 to Washington while the Dolphins beat the Jets 24-17. Cam Newton looks great on the highlight reels but doesn’t make the plays needed in crunch time. Again, the line is too short for me to bet ATS, but let’s tease the Dolphins over a TD.
Best Bet: Pass, except for Dolphins in teasers (pool play: Dolphins 55/45 in ATS contests and flip to Panthers 55/45 in SU pools, but basically a coin flip).
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (-4.5)
The Bengals beat the Steelers 24-10 in Pittsburgh earlier this season, and it looked like they might run away with the division. Since then, the Bengals have come down to earth while the Steelers won four straight (and tied the Lions when Ben Roethlisberger was out) to get back into the AFC North race. I expect the rematch to be much closer, even with Cincinnati having home-field advantage. The Bengals have failed to cover their last three home games (non-covering 27-24 win vs. the Jaguars, 25-22 loss to the Packers and 41-16 blowout loss to the Browns). So, no, I don’t see a problem with the Steelers going on the road and at least getting the cover like they did Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Chargers.
Best Bet: Steelers + 4.5 (pool play: Steelers 67/33 in ATS contests, though Bengals still 55/45 in SU pools).
Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) at Denver Broncos
Like a lot of teams, we’re wondering what version of the Broncos will show up — the one that ran over the Cowboys 30-16 or the one that was run over 30-13 by the Eagles. The Broncos, with Teddy Bridgewater in the preferred underdog role after failing as a short fave vs. the Eagles, are certainly capable of knocking off the Chargers. Justin Herbert is great and the Chargers have a big upside, but they still tend to let teams stick around — especially if the Broncos take advantage of the Chargers’ No. 32 run defense with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. But, again, the oddsmakers have shaded this line a bit too low, so we’ll just go the teaser route again.
Best Bet: Pass, except for Broncos in teasers (pool play: Broncos 55/45 in ATS pools, though Chargers still 55/45 in SU pools).
Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers (-3)
Both teams are 5-5 and firmly in the NFC wild-card chase, so this is a pretty important non-divisional game. Both teams have won two straight, including the 49ers snapping their yearlong home losing streak to the Rams. The 49ers ran over the Jaguars 30-10 on Sunday. The Vikings’ current run is more impressive, as they’ve beaten the Packers 34-31 and the Chargers 27-20 (on the road after a similar long trip out west) and should have beaten the Ravens in a 34-31 loss. The 49ers’ defense has certainly stepped up, especially against the Rams, but I still think Kirk Cousins (21 TD passes, 2 INTs), Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen will be too much for the 49ers to overcome. Some books have gone to 49ers -3 and added juice, so wait to see if we get the hook at + 3.5, though I’m counting on the outright upset.
Best Bet: Vikings + 3, plus Vikings in teasers (pool play: Vikings 75/25 in ATS contests — higher at 3.5, lower at 2.5 — and also 60/40 in SU pools).
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (-1)
A lot of people see this as the marquee game of Week 12, and it will certainly attract a ton of handle, but it’s a pass for me. The Rams would be a small favorite on a neutral field, but I guess you still have to give the Packers a few points for home-field advantage. I certainly don’t trust the Packers’ defense, so it was tempting to take the Rams when they were short dogs, but it’s too much of a toss-up for my taste. When the line was Packers -1.5, I did have this marked as a teaser play on the Rams, but that looks long gone.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Rams 55/45 in all SU and ATS contests).
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-4)
Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson, who was out last week with supposedly a non-COVID-related illness, needs to see Aaron Rodgers’ homeopathic doctor to raise his antibody levels. Baker Mayfield is also less than 100 percent. Assuming both are able to start, this shapes up as a great Sunday nighter in the up-for-grabs AFC North, where all four teams are separated by 1.5 games. Except for the occasional outlier, such as the Browns allowing 45 points to the Patriots and Ravens having a 34-31 shootout against the Vikings, both defenses are playing better than the offenses right now. Both teams want to run the ball and grind out wins, so I’ll take the dawg in what looks like another FG game. I also like the Under 46 as a bonus play.
Best Bet: Browns + 4 and Under 46 (pool play: Browns 65/35 in ATS contests, but Ravens still 60/40 in SU pools).
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team (-1)
The Football Team came through for us Sunday in its 27-21 win over the Panthers after upsetting the Buccaneers 29-19 the week before. So when this line opened late Sunday afternoon with the Seahawks favored, I thought this was going to be one of my best bets. However, it quickly went to pick-’em, and Washington had been bet to favoritism as of Tuesday morning. I’ve liked the Seahawks as dogs for a long time, but I’m not likely to be tempted with the way Russell Wilson and the offense has been playing in a 17-0 loss at the Packers and a 23-13 loss to Colt McCoy and the Cardinals. The only bet I would consider would be teasing the Seahawks over a TD if this line continues to climb, so (one final shameless plug) check out my Tuley’s Takes Today column every morning at VSiN.com.
Best Bet: Pass (pool play: Washington 55/45 in all SU and ATS contests)