Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (3-6-1) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

Already in the middle of a down year, the Bengals suffered two major injuries last week, as running back Giovani Bernard went down for the season with a torn ACL and #1 wide receiver AJ Green went down for an extended period of time with a strained hamstring. In addition, the Bengals will also be without starting safety Shawn Williams this week with injury. On the other side, the Ravens have gotten healthier in recent weeks, as the guys like Marshal Yanda, Steve Smith, CJ Mosley, Terrell Suggs, and Elvis Dumervil, who missed time earlier this year, are all healthy now. They are now without top cornerback Jimmy Smith, but, all in all, they’re healthier now than they’ve been for most of the season. All that being said, I don’t have a strong opinion either way. This line, at -4 in favor of the hometown Baltimore Ravens, is pretty reasonable. I’m taking the Ravens, but it’s hard to be confident in them as 4 point favorites because I don’t know just how bad the Bengals will be without Green and Bernard.

Baltimore Ravens 22 Cincinnati Bengals 17

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -4

Confidence: None

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Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (4-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)

I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I want to put any money on the Packers this week. They should be the right side, but they’ve been so inconsistent this season that it’s tough to be confident in them. Early in the year, it was their offense that was disappointing. Now, their offense has picked up, but their defense has been atrocious, allowing a ridiculous 12 touchdowns in their last 2 games. They’re getting healthier on defense, with middle linebacker Jake Ryan and cornerback Damarious Randall returning this week and outside linebacker Clay Matthews returning in a limited role last week and set to play a full set of snaps this week, but none of those three players were playing particularly well before getting hurt, so I’m not sure how much it’ll help. The rookie Ryan was playing the best of the three, but his return coincides with fellow middle linebacker Blake Martinez getting hurt and missing this game, so Ryan’s return might not be anything more than a wash.

Typically, the Packers have done well after a loss in the Aaron Rodgers era, going 27-16 ATS off of a loss with Rodgers under center, but if their defense can’t get it together that won’t matter. We are getting some line value with the Packers as 4 point underdogs, as these teams are more or less even, meaning the hometown Eagles should be favored by a field goal at most at home. The Eagles are also not nearly as good offensively as the Titans and Redskins, the Packers’ last two opponents. I’m going to hold out for this line to move to 4.5 at some point before Monday night, but I might ultimately end up putting money on the Packers at 4 if the line doesn’t move.

Monday Update: Holding out for 4.5 worked, as I was able to get it this morning. If you can get it, I’d recommend a bet, but I think avoid betting on the Packers at 4. Normally I’d be all over the Packers in this spot, but they’ve been too inconsistent this year.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Green Bay Packers 23

Pick against the spread: Green Bay +4.5

Confidence: Medium

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Carolina Panthers at Oakland Raiders: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-6) at Oakland Raiders (8-2)

Along with Denver/Kansas City, this is another game where I’m holding out hope that the line drops to a field goal before gametime. This line is currently 3.5 in favor of the hometown Oakland Raiders, but 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal so that’s a critical half point. The Raiders are a significantly better team, especially with Carolina missing middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and center Ryan Kalil with injury, and they’re in a better spot (they host Buffalo next week, while Carolina has to go to Seattle), but there’s not enough here for me to be confident in the Raiders at 3.5.

Oakland Raiders 23 Carolina Panthers 17

Pick against the spread: Oakland -3.5

Confidence: Low

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Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) at Denver Broncos (7-3)

The Chiefs are 7-3, but they’ve been overly reliant on close wins (4 of 7 wins by a touchdown or less), winning the turnover margin (+13 on the season, best in the NFL), and return touchdowns (+4 return touchdown margin). Those things tend to be very inconsistent from week-to-week, so they’re very tough to rely on long-term. In terms of first down rate differential, they enter this game 25th, suggesting that if we assume turnover neutral football for them going forward, they’re going to have far less success in the win/loss column. We already saw this in their home loss to Tampa Bay last week, as they lost the turnover margin by 1 and subsequently lost the game to an inferior team against whom they were favored by 7.5.

They’ve been worse in recent weeks, scoring just 3 offensive touchdowns in their last 3 games and losing at home to the Buccaneers last week. That’s no surprise, considering all of the injuries they have right now. They’re expected to get cornerback Marcus Peters back from a 1-game absence and Justin Houston should see more snaps after making it through his season debut setback free last week, but top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin remains out, as does starting defensive lineman Jaye Howard. Joining them on the sidelines this week is Dee Ford, their sack leader this season in the absence of Houston.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are as healthy as any team in the league right now coming out of their bye week, as key defenders Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib return from injury. They’ve also been significantly better than the Chiefs this season, entering this game 11th in first down rate differential. Despite a mere +5 turnover margin, the Broncos have a +50 point differential on the season, as opposed to +35 for the Chiefs. On top of that, Denver is in a better spot, as they head to Jacksonville next, while Kansas City has to turn around and go to Atlanta, a much tougher opponent than Jacksonville. There’s not enough for me to put money on the Broncos as 3.5 point home favorites, but I’m holding out hope this line falls to 3 before gametime. About 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, so it’s a very important half point.

Denver Broncos 19 Kansas City Chiefs 13

Pick against the spread: Denver -3.5

Confidence: Low

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New England Patriots at New York Jets: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (8-2) at New York Jets (3-7)

The Patriots are right in the middle of a very cushy stretch of their schedule, as they play the 49ers, Jets, and Rams in back-to-back-to-back weeks. Those are three of the worst teams in the league. As a result, they have no upcoming distractions and should be able to cruise through those 3 games. They got a 13-point win in San Francisco last week and could easily get another big win here in New York this week as 8 point favorites. Favorites of 6+ are 93-51 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business when they don’t have any upcoming distractions. The Patriots are 14 point favorites on the early line for next week’s home matchup with the Rams. However, it’s tough to be confident in them as favorites of this many points with Rob Gronkowski reportedly a gametime decision at best, after missing last week with a chest injury. The Patriots are the pick in pick ‘em pools, but I wouldn’t recommend betting on them.

New England Patriots 27 New York Jets 17

Pick against the spread: New England -8

Confidence: None

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San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (1-9) at Miami Dolphins (6-4)

The Browns haven’t won a game this season, but there’s an argument to be made that the 1-9 49ers are the worst team in the league this season. They don’t rank dead last in first down rate differential, but that’s only because of a 28-0 blowout win week 1 over the Rams. The Rams have not been good this year (one of two teams with a worse first down rate differential than the 49ers), but that win looks like a complete fluke given what’s happened since. Since that week 1 win, the 49ers have lost 9 straight games by an average of 15.22 points per game with all but 1 loss coming by double digits.

The Dolphins are a solid team that has a 6-4 record and that ranks 12th in first down rate differential, so they should be able to hand the 49ers another big loss. However, it’s tough to be confident in the Dolphins when they’re going to be missing at least their top-2 and maybe their top-3 offensive linemen. Center Mike Pouncey and left tackle Branden Albert remain out, while Laremy Tunsil is a gametime decision at best. Tunsil has played well this season at left guard and has also played left tackle well when Albert’s been injured, so that would be a huge loss for them if he can’t go. The Dolphins are the pick in pick ‘em pools, but I wouldn’t bet anything real on them.

Miami Dolphins 24 San Francisco 49ers 16

Pick against the spread: Miami -7

Confidence: None

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San Diego Chargers at Houston Texans: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (4-6) at Houston Texans (6-4)

The Chargers are just 4-6, but they’ve been significantly better than their record this season. All 6 of their losses came by 8 points or fewer, so they’ve been competitive in every game. Their +14 point differential is solid and they rank 7th in first down rate differential thanks to a +24 first down differential. They’re also healthier coming out of the bye, getting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, wide receiver Travis Benjamin, and safety Jahleel Addae back from injury this week. The Texans, meanwhile, are not nearly as good as their 6-4 record. Their 6 wins have come by a combined 36 points, while their 4 losses have come by a combined 70 points, giving them a point differential of -34 that ranks 26th in the NFL. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 27th in the league.

Neither of these teams’ records are indicative of their talent level or how they’ve played thus far this season. However, this line seems to take that into account, as the Chargers are 1.5 point road favorites. As a result, we’re not really getting any line value with them. I’m still going to take the Chargers because they’re in a better spot than the Texans (the Chargers host the Buccaneers next week while the Texans go to Green Bay) and because they’ve been a good road team over the past two seasons (9-4 ATS), but there’s not enough here for me to be confident in them.

San Diego Chargers 20 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: San Diego -1.5

Confidence: Low

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New York Giants at Cleveland Browns: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

New York Giants (7-3) at Cleveland Browns (0-11)

The Giants haven’t won a game by more than a touchdown all season and have a 7-2 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. Ordinarily, I like to pick against teams that are regularly squeaking out victories, especially as big favorites and especially as big road favorites, as the Giants are here (7 point favorites in Cleveland). However, I actually find it more impressive that the Giants have a 7-3 record despite a -7 turnover margin that is 3rd worst in the NFL, even if many of their wins could have gone either way. In fact, the Giants have 4 wins in games in which they lost the turnover battle this season. No other team has more than 2 wins in which they’ve lost the turnover battle. The Giants are 4-2 this season when losing the turnover battle. The rest of the league is 28-94 (.230).

Turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so I love teams that are able to win despite not consistently winning the turnover battle. If the Giants can play turnover neutral football going forward (very possible), they could go on a real run down the stretch. They enter this game 5th in the league in first down rate differential, thanks primarily to an outstanding defense that allows the 3rd lowest first down rate in the league. Their defense hasn’t gotten a lot of attention because they only have 11 takeaways, but the takeaways should come and, if they do, look out for this team.

This week, it helps the Giants that they’re playing the worst team in the league, the winless Cleveland Browns, who rank dead last in first down rate differential by a wide margin. Typically, betting on winless teams this late in the season is a good idea because they tend to be undervalued, as teams that are 0-8 or worse are 34-18 ATS since 1989. In addition, the Browns are in a good spot here as home underdogs are 75-52 ATS off of a loss as home underdogs the previous week. However, considering the Browns were 9 point home underdogs last week for Pittsburgh, a team that’s inferior than the Giants, the Browns are not undervalued here. If either team is undervalued this week, it’s the Giants. There’s not quite enough here for me to put money on the Giants at 7, especially since they will be without top offensive lineman Justin Pugh for the 3rd straight week, but they are the pick here. They should be able to get their first big blowout victory of the season.

New York Giants 24 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: NY Giants -7

Confidence: Low

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Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (4-5-1) at Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

I picked the Cardinals as 2 point underdogs in Minnesota last week and they outplayed the Vikings for most of the game, but ultimately lost 30-24 thanks to not one, but two 100+ yard return touchdowns by Minnesota, the first team to do that in a game in 50 years. The first one was a pick six from end zone to end zone, at least a 10 point swing considering the Cardinals had 2nd and goal and could have at least made a chip shot field goal if they held onto the ball. The second one was a kickoff return touchdown coming out of the half. In a 6-point loss, the 17+ point swing on those 2 plays were obviously pivotal in Minnesota’s victory. Between that game and Jacksonville/Buffalo, I had 4 return touchdowns go against me in 2 games that I had big plays on. Hopefully I will have better luck this week.

The good thing about Arizona’s loss last week is we’re getting great value with the Cardinals, as this line has shifted from 3 in favor of Atlanta to 6 in the past week. Outside of those 2 fluky plays, the Cardinals outplayed the Vikings last week and they actually rank 1st in first down rate differential on the season. That might sound crazy considering they are 4-5-1, but they still have a point differential of +36 on the season (9th best in the NFL) despite a -3 return touchdown margin. Those 3 plays, they have a point differential of +57, which would be 3rd best in the NFL. They could easily be 8-2 if not for last week’s two return touchdowns and special teams mistakes against New England, Seattle, and Los Angeles. They have won the first down rate battle in 9 of 10 games and their +67 first down differential is easily the best in the league. In terms of offensive touchdowns, their +9 differential is 4th best in the league.

This week, they get defensive back Tyrann Mathieu back from a 2-game absence with a shoulder injury. He’s a huge part of a defense that allows the lowest first down rate in the league by a good margin (over 1.5%). With Carson Palmer struggling and stud left tackle Jared Veldheer out for the season, the Cardinals’ offense is a far cry from what it was last season, but their defense is even better this year. The Falcons, meanwhile, have a great offense (2nd in first down rate), but their defense has struggled mightily (30th in first down rate allowed). Overall, they rank 8th in first down rate differential, so we’re getting a ton of value with the Cardinals at 6. The Falcons also could be without cornerback Desmond Trufant again this week and he’s easily their best defensive player.

The other good thing about Arizona’s loss last week is it put them in a good spot this week. Teams are 138-104 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 110-71 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. 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 232-246 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.80 points per game, as opposed to 330-462 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.01 points per game. This is one of my favorite picks this week. The money line is also a great value at +200.

Arizona Cardinals 23 Atlanta Falcons 20 Upset Pick +200

Pick against the spread: Arizona +6

Confidence: High

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Tennessee Titans at Chicago Bears: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (5-6) at Chicago Bears (2-9)

Despite 5-6 record, the Titans enter this game 6th in first down rate differential. They’ve been competitive in every game and have a +6 point differential on the season, despite being -7 in return touchdown differential. Aside from those 7 plays, they have a +54 point differential (which would be 4th best in the NFL). They have 35 offensive touchdowns on the season, as opposed to 24 allowed by their defense, a +11 differential that is only behind New England and Dallas (both at +13).

This line opened at 2.5 in favor of the visiting Titans, but it has since jumped to 5.5. That’s for good reason though, as the Bears have been absolutely decimated by injuries and suspension in recent weeks. They were as healthy as they had been pretty much all season coming out of the bye, but since then they’ve lost starting quarterback Jay Cutler, tight end Zach Miller, guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton, and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd for extended period of time with injury, while wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman are both out with suspensions.

Already missing backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, the Bears will turn to 3rd string quarterback Matt Barkley, who will make his first career start and who struggled mightily in relief duty earlier this year in the first significant action of his career. In addition to being without Long, Sitton, Jeffery, and Miller, the Bears were already without wide receiver Kevin White, who opened the season as the #2 receiver, and could be without slot receiver Eddie Royal, who opened the season as the #3 receiver.

That means Barkley will make his first career start without his best two offensive linemen and his top 3 or 4 targets in the passing game. It figures to be an offensive nightmare. Things are better on the defensive side of the ball, but the losses of Floyd and particularly Freeman will hurt this defense. Better than people think and facing a skeleton crew Bears team, I’d have no problem laying the 5.5 with the Titans here, though I was lucky enough to snatch this at 2.5 on Tuesday before Cutler’s injury came to light.

Tennessee Titans 23 Chicago Bears 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -5.5

Confidence: Medium

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