New York Giants at Washington Redskins: 2015 Week 12 NFL Pick

New York Giants (5-5) at Washington Redskins (4-6)

I’m torn on this one. On one hand, the Giants have always been a very good road team in the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era, since 2004, going 60-39 ATS on the road over that time period, including 51-32 ATS as underdogs or favorites of 3 or fewer, as they are here (favorites of 3 points). On top of that, they’re coming off of a bye and road favorites of 3+ are 42-13 ATS coming off of a bye, including 22-5 ATS in a divisional matchup.

However, the Giants are also overrated. This line was a pick ‘em a week ago and has since jumped to a field goal, a significant line movement considering that close to 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. Despite that, the public is still all over the Giants. I love fading the public whenever it makes sense because they always lose money in the long run and I love fading a significant line movement whenever it makes sense because they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play. By taking Washington here, I’d be able to do both.

The line moved as a result of the Redskins 44-16 loss in Carolina last week. That was bad and the Redskins aren’t a great team or anything, ranking 24th in rate of moving the chains differential, but the Giants rank 23rd, so they’re not any better. They’ve been able to go 5-5 despite that, because they’ve won the turnover battle by 13 on the season (best in the NFL), but turnovers are hard to rely on every week. The correlation between a team’s turnover margin in one game and its turnover margin in the next game is virtually non-existent. There’s a very good argument to be made that the Giants don’t deserve to be 3 point road favorites here (especially with Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, two key offensive linemen out with injury), despite how good they typically are on the road, which would nullify the aforementioned trend about significant road favorites off of a bye. I’m still taking the Giants, but I’m not confident at all.

New York Giants 24 Washington Redskins 20

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -3

Confidence: None

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New England Patriots at Denver Broncos: 2015 Week 12 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (10-0) at Denver Broncos (8-2)

This line was 5.5 a week ago on the early line, in favor of New England in Denver, but now New England is only favored by a field goal. I typically like to fade significant week-to-week line movements because they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play and where these two teams rank in rate of moving the chains differential suggests that New England should be favored by at least a little bit more than this, as the undefeated Patriots rank 2nd and Denver ranks 14th.

However, the Patriots are so banged up right now. After losing Dion Lewis for the season with a torn ACL 3 weeks ago and Julian Edelman for the regular season with a broken foot 2 weeks ago, Danny Amendola went down with a knee sprain last week against the Bills, a big loss considering he was having a great game in Edelman’s absence before he went down. Amendola’s injury is far less serious than the other two, but he’s considered a gametime decision at best for this game.

Even if he does play, the Patriots’ offense really didn’t seem the same without Lewis and Edelman last week at home against the Bills. Going to Denver to play the Broncos, who might have the best defense in the NFL, isn’t going to be any easier. And if Amendola is out, the Patriots would be left with Brandon LaFell, Chris Harper, and Keshawn Martin as their top-3 wide receivers. They obviously still have tight end Rob Gronkowski, but he becomes a lot easier to cover if there isn’t anyone else on the field you have to worry about one-on-one. On the defensive side of the ball, key linebacker Jamie Collins is expected to miss his 4th straight game, as he recovers from an illness.

The Broncos do have some injuries of their own, as outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware will miss his 3rd straight game and guard Evan Mathis is expected to be a gametime decision, but their injuries are nowhere near as debilitating as the Patriots’ injuries. And, of course, quarterback Peyton Manning is out with a foot injury, but he was playing so poorly before the injury that backup Brock Osweiler is an upgrade for an offense that hasn’t really been able to do much to support their dominant defense thus far this season. Osweiler probably isn’t anything more than a competent quarterback at this stage in his development, but he showed enough in the first start of his career last week in Chicago to suggest he’s an upgrade over the aging Manning and someone who gives the Broncos the best chance to win now. Because of that and the Patriots injuries, the line movement down to a field goal is legitimate.

The Broncos are also in a great spot, with a trip to San Diego on deck. They’re expected to be 6 point favorites, according to the early line, and teams are 73-52 ATS since 2010 before being road favorites of 6+. On top of that, home underdogs are 74-44 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites, since 2002. I don’t really love the Broncos in this one or anything, but we’re getting a field goal with them and close to 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, so I’m confident enough to put money on the Broncos.

Denver Broncos 17 New England Patriots 16 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Denver +3

Confidence: Medium

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Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers: 2015 Week 12 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (8-2) at San Francisco 49ers (3-7)

The Cardinals were favored by just 8 points in this game against the 49ers on the early line last week, but the line has since moved to 10. Ordinarily, I like to fade significant week-to-week line movements because they tend to be overreactions to a single week, but I still don’t think this line is high enough, even with the Cardinals being the first double digit road favorites of the season. The Cardinals rank 1st in rate of moving the chains differential, while the 49ers rank dead last by a wide margin. This is a matchup of easily the worst team in the league and possibly the best so even 10 points isn’t enough to scare me off of taking the Cardinals on the road.

The Cardinals are also in a way better spot, as they go to St. Louis next, where the early line has them as 6 point favorites, while the 49ers have to go to Chicago, where the early line has them as 6.5 point underdogs. Teams are 73-52 ATS since 2010 before being road favorites of 6+, which the Cardinals are expected to be. On top of that, favorites of 6+ are 113-73 ATS before being favorites of 6+ again, since 2010.  On the other side, 6+ point underdogs are 73-101 ATS before being 6+ point underdogs again, since 2010. Combining everything, 6+ point favorites are 36-13 ATS since 2010 before being 6+ point favorites again when their opponent will next be 6+ point underdogs. While the 49ers could definitely be distracted with another tough game on deck, the Cardinals have a very easy game on deck and should be completely focused to blow out a significantly inferior opponent this week. I’m confident enough in Arizona to put money on them.

Arizona Cardinals 31 San Francisco 49ers 13

Pick against the spread: Arizona -10

Confidence: Medium

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St. Louis Rams at Cincinnati Bengals: 2015 Week 12 NFL Pick

St. Louis Rams (4-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-2)

The Bengals were favored by just 7 points in this game against the Rams on the early line last week, but the line has since moved to 9.5. Ordinarily, I like to fade significant week-to-week line movements because they tend to be overreactions to a single week, but I still don’t think this line is high enough. While the Bengals rank 3rd in rate of moving the chains differential, the Rams rank all the way down at 28th, so this is really a matchup between one of the worst teams in the league and one of the best. The Bengals should be at least double digit favorites. The Rams have a strong defense, but their offense is easily the worst in the NFL as they have a below average starter at every position except for running back and arguably the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. On top of that, they could be without defensive end Robert Quinn for the 3rd straight game. Their defense has unsurprisingly not been the same without him.

The Bengals are also in a way better spot, as they go to Cleveland to play the lowly Browns next week, while the Rams host the division leading Cardinals. The Bengals are expected to be favored by a touchdown in Cleveland, according to the early line, and teams are 73-52 ATS since 2010 before being road favorites of 6+ and 47-25 ATS before being road favorites of 7+. On top of that, favorites of 6+ are 113-73 ATS before being favorites of 6+ again, since 2010.

Meanwhile, the Rams are expected to be home underdogs of 6 against the Cardinals, according to the early line. Teams are 41-86 ATS since 2010 before being 6+ point home underdogs and 6+ point underdogs are 73-101 ATS before being 6+ point underdogs again, over that same time period. Combining everything, 6+ point favorites are 36-13 ATS since 2010 before being 6+ point favorites again when their opponent will next be 6+ point underdogs. While the Rams could definitely be distracted with a huge home game on deck, the Bengals have a very easy game on deck and should be completely focused to blow out a significantly inferior opponent this week.

The only thing the Rams have going for them is that they are in their 2nd straight road game, following their loss in Baltimore last week. Teams are 125-88 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 102-60 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. Historically, teams cover at about a 65% rate in that situation.  This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 217-215 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.33 points per game, as opposed to 304-424 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.93 points per game. Still, as long as this line is single digits, I’m confident enough in Cincinnati to put money on them.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 St. Louis Rams 10

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -9.5

Confidence: Medium

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Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans: 2015 Week 12 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (4-6) at Tennessee Titans (2-8)

The Raiders have lost 3 straight games since their 4-3 start, as player losses have caught up with them. They lost defensive end Justin Tuck for the season to injury before their bye week and have been without him for the past 5 games. Center Rodney Hudson is expected to miss his 2nd game in the past 3 weeks with an ankle injury. And outside linebacker Aldon Smith was suspended for the season before last week’s game and will miss his 2nd straight game this week. Those were 3 of their best players. The Raiders rank 15th in rate of moving the chains differential, but their talent level is much less than that without Tuck, Smith, and Hudson.

Tennessee, meanwhile, ranks 25th, but they have been significantly better offensively when talented rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota has been healthy. In the 8 games he’s played, they’ve moved the chains at a 72.27% rate, as opposed to 57.41% in the 2 games he missed. They also get top wide receiver Kendall Wright back from a 3 game absence this week and cornerback Perrish Cox returned last week, after missing 3 games. They’re missing cornerback Jason McCourty for the season and could be without outside linebacker Derrick Morgan, though McCourty has already missed 6 games and Morgan is expected to play. They’re missing fewer players than the Raiders and should not be home underdogs here by any amount, even only a couple points.

The Titans are in a much better spot than the Raiders too, hosting the lowly Jaguars next week, while the Raiders have to host a surging Chiefs team. Favorites are 96-166 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs (which the Raiders will be next week) when their opponent will next be favorites (which the Titans will be next week). On top of that, road favorites are 79-123 ATS before being home underdogs since 1989, including 8-23 ATS when their opponent will next be favorites. While the Raiders could be distracted this week by a tough, upcoming home game, the Titans should be focused. Because of that, they should be able to beat the banged up, slumping Raiders. Despite that, the public is all over the Raiders as road favorites. The public always loses money in the long run so I like to fade the public whenever it makes sense, which it does here. This has all the elements of a Pick of the Week.

Tennessee Titans 24 Oakland Raiders 17 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +2

Confidence: Pick of the Week

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Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks: 2015 Week 12 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) at Seattle Seahawks (5-5)

The Seahawks are favored by 3.5 points here at home, where they are 21-4 straight up (outscoring opponents by an average of 11.38 points per game) in their last 25 games, since the start of the 2013 season. Over those 25 games, they were favored by fewer than 4 points just twice. They were favored by just 3 points at home over the Cardinals 2 weeks ago, a loss by a touchdown, but the Cardinals are much better than the Steelers, as the Steelers rank 12th in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Cardinals are 1st.

The Steelers have been better offensively in games where Ben Roethlisberger plays, moving the chains at a 75.14% rate in the 6 games he’s played, as opposed to 63.64% in their other 4 games, but they’re far from healthy offensively, missing running back Le’Veon Bell, left tackle Kelvin Beachum, and center Maurkice Pouncey for the season. Those are 3 key starters from last year’s dominant offense. They looked good offensively in their 2 last games before the bye, but that was at home against Cleveland and Oakland. On the road in Seattle is much tougher and they could easily struggle, much like they did three games ago, at home for Cincinnati.

Seattle isn’t quite as good as they have been in recent years, thanks to poor offensive line play, but they’re better than their 5-5 record. Four of their five losses came by a touchdown or less and they’ve lost to teams like Green Bay, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Carolina. The Seahawks of years past definitely would have won a couple of those games, but the Seahawks still rank 6th in rate of moving the chains differential against a tough schedule.

They’re going to be missing a couple of players with injury, running back Marshawn Lynch and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, but Irvin is largely a part-time player and rookie phenom Thomas Rawls has run much better than Lynch this season, as Lynch has been banged up all year . I’m confident in the Seahawks covering, especially since the public is all over the underdog. The only reason this isn’t my Pick of the Week is because close to 1 in 4 games are decided by a field or goal or less and I’m very worried about a backdoor cover. If this line does move down to a field goal, I may reconsider.

Seattle Seahawks 23 Pittsburgh Steelers 13

Pick against the spread: Seattle -3.5

Confidence: High

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Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys: 2015 Week 12 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (10-0) at Dallas Cowboys (3-7)

Carolina is undefeated and Dallas is 3-7, but the Cowboys are the ones favored here in Dallas (albeit by 1 point). That’s because 5 of the Cowboys’ 7 losses have come by less than a touchdown and they’re finally healthy offensively. Tony Romo made just his 3rd start of the season last week (after missing 7 games with a broken collarbone) and the Cowboys are 3-0 in his 3 starts, moving the chains at a 75.25% rate, as opposed to 70.23% in their other 7 games. Considering how close a lot of their losses were, it’s reasonable to suggest that this team could be at least 6-4, if not 7-3 if Romo were healthy all season, like he is now.

With Dez Bryant also back from injury, this team is similar to last year’s team that was one of the better teams in the league. Obviously running back DeMarco Murray left as a free agent (as did more minor contributors like defensive tackle Henry Melton, cornerback Sterling Moore, and outside linebacker Justin Durant) and they’re still without cornerback Orlando Scandrick with a torn ACL, but they’ve added defensive end Greg Hardy and got outside linebacker Sean Lee back from injury.

Still, Carolina ranks 4th in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Cowboys rank 20th, and Carolina gets a key player back this week, guard Andrew Norwell, who was one of the better guards in the league before missing the last 3 games. The Cowboys don’t deserve to be favored by any amount of points here, especially since they are 8-25 ATS as home favorites since 2010. I can’t put any money on the Panthers unless I’m getting a field goal, especially considering that the public is all over them, but they should be able to continue their undefeated season here and they are my pick.

Carolina Panthers 23 Dallas Cowboys 20 Upset Pick +100

Pick against the spread: Carolina +1

Confidence: Low

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