2019 Week 12 NFL Picks

Pick of the Week

WAS +3.5 vs. DET

High Confidence Picks

LAR +3.5 vs. BAL

NYJ +3 vs. OAK

Medium Confidence Picks

IND +3.5 @ HOU

TEN -3.5 vs. JAX

GB +3 @ SF

NYG +6 @ CHI

Low Confidence Picks

DAL +6.5 @ NE

PHI +2 vs. SEA

NO -10 vs. CAR

TB +4 @ ATL

DEN +4 @ BUF

CIN +6.5 vs. PIT

No Confidence Picks

MIA +10.5 @ CLE

Upset Picks

WAS +160 vs. DET

LAR +145 vs. BAL

NYJ +150 vs. OAK

GB +135 @ SF

PHI +115 vs. SEA

Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (2-8) at Cleveland Browns (4-6)

Even though the Browns got off to a 2-6 start, there was some optimism they could go on a second half run and compete for a playoff spot in the weaker AFC. That optimism came from the fact that their schedule, which was one of the toughest in the league in the first half of the season, suddenly became one of the easiest in the league in the second half of the season. The Browns also looked to be trending towards being closer to 100%, with players like cornerback Denzel Ward, safety Damarious Randall, and running back Kareem Hunt returning after missing significant time in the first half of the season.

The Browns’ second half is off to a good start in the win/loss column, as they’ve won a couple of home games against a pair of easier opponents, the Bills and Steelers, to improve to 4-6. However, they’re now very much trending away from being 100%. After losing defensive end Olivier Vernon to injury in the game against the Bills, the Browns lost safety Morgan Burnett to injury in the game against the Steelers and also lost defensive end Myles Garrett and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to suspensions of indefinite length and one game respectively, for their roles in the on field brawl with the Steelers at the end of the game. The absences of Vernon and Garrett are the biggest, as not only are they two of the better defensive ends in the league, but the Browns also completely lack depth behind them. 

The good news for the Browns, at least for this week, is that their schedule is about to get even easier, with the Dolphins coming to town. The Dolphins have managed a pair of wins, but they still rank dead last in the NFL in point differential (-166) and first down rate differential (-8.72%), as well as in my roster rankings. They’re better offensively with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but they completely lack talent around him on both sides of the ball. Still, it’s a question whether or not the Browns can cover this 10.5-point line. Without Garrett and Vernon, I have the Browns calculated as just 9-point favorites. It’s hard to be confident in the Dolphins at all without a lot of line value, but they’re my pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Cleveland Browns 34 Miami Dolphins 24

Pick against the spread: Miami +10.5

Confidence: None

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (8-2) at San Francisco 49ers (9-1)

This is one of the biggest regular season games of the year, with the 8-2 Packers going to San Francisco to take on the 9-1 49ers in a game that could decide the #1 seed in the NFC. Despite their similarly impressive records, the 49ers have statistically been the much better team this season, ranking 1st in first down rate differential at +8.58%, while the Packers rank 15th at +1.51%.  The Packers have had five wins by 8 points or fewer and have just a +45 point differential with a +9 turnover margin, while the 49ers have a +140 point differential with a +5 turnover margin. 

Turnover margins are unpredictable on a week-to-week basis, so it’s very notable that the 49ers have been much more impressive on the scoreboard than the Packers despite having less help from turnover margins. However, the Packers have faced a much tougher schedule, as they have faced the third toughest schedule in terms of DVOA, while the 49ers have faced the third easiest. When you adjust for schedule, the statistical gap between these two teams decreases significantly. 

The 49ers also come into this game very banged up. They’re tentatively expected to get top receiving threat George Kittle back from a two-game absence, but he’s expected to be less than 100%, as are wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel, their second and third best pass catchers. They also remain without franchise left tackle Joe Staley, their most explosive running back Matt Breida, impressive rotational defensive end Ronald Blair, top linebacker Kwon Alexander, and starting cornerback Akhello Witherspoon, who will be joined on the sideline this week by dominant edge rusher Dee Ford. Meanwhile, the Packers are relatively healthy right now. 

As a result of all the 49ers’ injuries, the Packers actually have a pretty significant edge in my roster rankings, despite the 49ers having a significant edge in first down rate differential. The Packers are also in a much better spot, with only a trip to New York to play the Giants on deck, while the 49ers have another tough game in Baltimore. Underdogs are 71-36 ATS since 2016 before being favorites when their opponents will next be underdogs. We’re not getting a ton of line value with the Packers at +3, as I have this line calculated at San Francisco -1.5, but they’re worth a bet in a good spot.

Green Bay Packers 27 San Francisco 49ers 26 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: Green Bay +3

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (8-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)

The Seahawks have three more wins than the Eagles, but these two teams aren’t far apart talent wise. Many of the Seahawks’ 8 wins could have gone the other way, with a 7-1 record in games decided by 7 points or fewer and a 5-0 record in games decided by 4 points or fewer. They have just a +21 point differential, 11th in the NFL, and rank just 13th in first down rate differential at +1.71%, only slightly better than the Eagles, who rank 17th at +0.52%. 

My roster rankings also have these two teams close, with the Eagles just one spot behind the Seahawks. The Eagles will miss injured right tackle Lane Johnson, but he’ll be replaced by first round pick Andre Dillard, who started for Jason Peters earlier this year and held up well, and they are expected to get wide receiver Alshon Jeffery back from injury, while the Seahawks are expected to be without dominant defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. 

The Eagles are also in a much better spot than the Seahawks. While the Seahawks could have a little bit of split focus this week with a big Monday Night Football matchup against the Vikings on deck, the Eagles have an easy game in Miami that won’t be a distraction at all. Teams are 64-43 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 7 or more and the Eagles are currently favored by 9 points against the Dolphins on the early line. Unfortunately, we’re not getting much line value with the Eagles as 1-point home favorites, as my calculated line is Philadelphia -2.5. The Eagles should still be the right side, especially since the home team winning by a field goal is the most likely outcome of any game, but there’s isn’t enough here for me to bet on them.

Update: Alshon Jeffery surprisingly was ruled out after warm ups, but the line has shifted to Seattle -2 overnight. This is still a low confidence pick because only about 8% of games are decided by 1-2 points, but I like the money line value at +115, as this game as no worse than a toss-up for the Eagles, even without Jeffery

Philadelphia Eagles 23 Seattle Seahawks 21 Upset Pick +115

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +2

Confidence: Low

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-10)

The Bengals are six games away from becoming the third team all-time to lose every game in a 16-game season. Ordinarily, winless teams tend to be good bets this late in the season, going 56-32 ATS in week 9 or later in the past 30 seasons, as they tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and hungry for a win. The Bengals have faced the toughest schedule in the league by DVOA and 5 of their 10 losses have come by 7 points or fewer. That being said, it’s hard to get excited about betting on the Bengals with fourth round rookie Ryan Finley under center.

When the Bengals benched Andy Dalton for Finley, it was not a move the Bengals made to give themselves a better chance of winning in 2019. In a lost season, it was all about giving Finley a chance before deciding whether or not to use their upcoming high draft pick on another quarterback. Dalton had the worst quarterback rating of his career before being benched, but he also had by far the worst supporting cast of his career. Even in a down statistical year for Dalton, his QB rating is 26.4 points higher than Finley’s and his YPA is 2.1 yards higher.

Even still, we’re getting some line value with the Bengals, as the Steelers are missing their top-2 offensive skill position players, running back James Conner and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers have a solid defense, ranking 10th in first down rate allowed, but they haven’t been as good as they’ve appeared, as they’ve been overly reliant on takeaways (26, 2nd in the NFL), which are unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. The Steelers are also in a tough spot, with this game sandwiched between last week’s emotional rivalry game against the Browns and next week’s rematch. They might not bring their best effort for a 0-10 Bengals team. I wouldn’t bet on the Bengals, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Pittsburgh Steelers 22 Cincinnati Bengals 17

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +6.5

Confidence: Low

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7) at Atlanta Falcons (3-7)

The Falcons were just 1-7 coming out of their bye week two weeks ago, but they were better than that record suggested, as they ranked 18th in first down rate differential at -0.29%. Since the bye, the Falcons have won their past two games as big road underdogs against divisional opponents by scores of 26-9 over the Saints and 29-3 over the Panthers. As a result, they now rank 16th in first down rate differential at +0.83%. 

Unfortunately, we’re not getting much line value with the Falcons anymore, especially against a Buccaneers team that is also better than their 3-7 record (18th in first down rate differential at -0.65%). Now favored by 4, the Falcons were favored by 2.5 on the early line a week ago and prior to the New Orleans game I imagine this line would have been around even. Considering 30% of games are decided by 4 points or fewer, including 1 out of 6 by exactly a field goal, that’s a pretty significant shift. I have this line calculated at Atlanta -4.5, so we’re not getting any real line value with the Falcons.

With that in mind, I like the Buccaneers a little bit this week, since they’re in a much better spot. While the Buccaneers have a non-conference game on deck against the last place Jaguars, the Falcons have another game against the Saints, this time in Atlanta on Thanksgiving on a short week. Favorites only cover at about a 44% rate before Thursday Night Football and teams are also just 40-71 ATS since 2016 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more (Atlanta is +5.5 on the early line). There isn’t enough here to bet on the Buccaneers, but they should be the right side.

Atlanta Falcons 34 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +4

Confidence: Low

Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (6-4) at New England Patriots (9-1)

The Cowboys lead the NFC East at 6-4 and they’ve been even better than their record suggests. While their four losses have come by a combined 18 points, their 6 wins have come by a combined 107 points, giving them a point differential of +89 that actually ranks 4th in the NFL. They rank similarly in first down rate differential, with the 4th best in the NFL at 5.69%. They haven’t faced a tough schedule, with the 4th easiest schedule in the NFL so far in terms of DVOA, but, while their schedule gets a lot tougher this week, going on the road to the 9-1 Patriots, the Patriots are actually one of the three teams that have faced an easier schedule than the Cowboys thus far.

That’s not to say this game won’t be hard for the Cowboys, but the Patriots don’t rank that much higher than the Cowboys in first down rate differential (2nd at 7.44%), despite facing a slightly tougher schedule, so it should be a competitive game. My roster rankings have these teams ranked similar as well, as the Patriots rank 2nd, while the Cowboys rank 3rd. Given that, this line seems too high, favoring New England -6.5. My calculated line only has the Patriots favored by 3.5 at home. 

That being said, it’s never a smart idea to bet against Tom Brady at home unless he’s favored by more than a touchdown, as he is 47-17 ATS all-time as at home when he’s not favored by 7 points or more. This line was a touchdown a week ago on the early line, but all the +7s are long gone at this point. If we were getting +7, the Cowboys would be worth a bet, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Patriots were able to pull out a win by a touchdown even if this game is close throughout. 

The Patriots’ offense also gets what could potentially be a big boost this week with left tackle Isaiah Wynn set to return from injury. Their defense is dominant, leading the league with a 27.27% first down rate allowed that is impressive who they’ve played, so if their offense, which ranks just 20th in first down rate despite an easy schedule, can even start to resemble what it has looked like in past years, the Patriots are still a very tough team to play, especially at home. I think the most likely outcome of this game is a New England win by 3 or 4, but I’m not confident enough to bet Dallas at +6.5.

New England Patriots 24 Dallas Cowboys 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas +6.5

Confidence: Low