New York Giants at Chicago Bears: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

New York Giants (2-8) at Chicago Bears (4-6)

The Giants are just 2-8 coming out of their bye, but they could be better than people expect in the second half of the season. Turnover margin has been a big part of their problem, as they have the second worst turnover margin in the league at -12, but turnover margin is unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. In first down rate differential, they rank 20th at -2.18%, which obviously isn’t great, but it’s better than their record suggests. They’re also relatively healthy compared to the rest of the league and compared earlier this season, when they had six offensive starters all miss time with injury or suspension. Only tight end Evan Engram remains sidelined and he’s their only notable injury on either side of the ball right now, which is pretty good for this late in the season.

The Bears, meanwhile, have had an incredibly disappointing year, starting 4-6 after going 12-4 a season ago, but it’s not all that surprising. The Bears record last year was primarily the result of a defense that was the best in the NFL by a wide margin and a schedule that was the easiest in the NFL. This off-season, they lost a pair of starters on defense (Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos) and, most importantly, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who got career years out of players like Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller who have regressed mightily in 2019. They’re also without defensive end Akiem Hicks and middle linebacker Danny Trevathan due to injury. As a result, the Bears rank “just” 7th in first down rate allowed at 33.64%. Combine that with an offense that has regressed in Matt Nagy’s second season, ranking just 29th in first down rate at 30.74%, and the Bears rank just 23rd in first down rate differential at -2.90%, actually slightly behind the Giants.

I have these two teams ranked about even, so we’re getting significant line value with the visiting Giants, who are 6-point underdogs. This is also a bad spot for the Bears, who have to play on a short week next week (44% cover spot all-time for favorites) and who are also coming off of a tough and potentially season ending loss in Los Angeles last week. They might not bring their best effort for a 2-8 Giants team and the Giants could easily catch them off guard. This is only a medium confidence pick because the Giants are in a tough spot as well, with a tough home game against the Packers on deck (teams are 40-71 ATS since 2016 before being home underdogs of 4.5 or more), but the Giants are still worth betting as 6-point underdogs.

Chicago Bears 20 New York Giants 17

Pick against the spread: NY Giants +6

Confidence: Medium

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (5-5) at New Orleans Saints (8-2)

The Saints surprisingly lost at home to the then 1-7 Falcons a couple weeks ago and it wasn’t even really close, with a final score of 26-9. However, the Falcons were better than that 1-7 record suggested, entering that game 18th in first down rate differential at -0.29%, and the Falcons have also since gone on to defeat the Panthers 29-3, so that loss doesn’t look so bad anymore, especially since the Saints were able to follow it up with a convincing 34-17 win in Tampa Bay last week. 

With Drew Brees back under center, the Saints are currently the top team in my roster rankings. Their defense has been solid all season, ranking 8th in first down rate allowed at 34.00%, and their offense has been significantly better in games started by Brees than it has been in games started by Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater led this offense to a 34.15% first down rate, which is most comparable to the 23rd ranked Panthers on the season, while Brees has led this offense to a 38.10% first down rate, which is most comparable to the 10th ranked Colts on the season. Their offense could have even more room for upside, as they had a 43.48% first down rate in Brees’ starts last season. Even if this offense doesn’t improve any further, the Saints are arguably the only team in the league with both a top-10 offense and defense. 

The Panthers, meanwhile, have struggled mightily in recent weeks, with backup quarterback Kyle Allen unsurprisingly falling back to earth after a surprisingly strong start to the season. After Allen won his first 4 starts, the Panthers have lost 3 of 4, with their only win in that stretch coming against the Titans in a game they lost the first down rate battle by 3.95%, winning by 10 in a game the Titans missed 3 makeable field goals and lost the turnover battle by 2. On the season, the Panthers rank just 22nd in first down rate differential at -2.59%, which lines up with my roster rankings, which also have them 22nd. With the Saints at the top of my roster rankings, I have this line calculated at New Orleans -14, so we’re getting good line value with the Saints as 10-point home favorites.

Unfortunately, the Saints are in a much worse spot than the Panthers this week, which hurts their chances of covering. While the Saints have a rematch with the Falcons in 4 days on Thanksgiving, the Panthers have arguably their easiest game of the season on deck, at home against the Redskins, a game in which they are expected to be 9-point favorites. Underdogs of a touchdown or more are 64-41 ATS since 1989 before being favorites of a touchdown or more. The Saints will be favored next week as well, but there could still be some split focus with a team that just defeated them on deck, especially before a short week (favorites cover at just a 44% rate before a short week). The Saints should still be the right side, but we’re not getting enough line value to bet on it. If this line drops and/or cornerback Marshon Lattimore is active for the Saints, I may reconsider.

New Orleans Saints 34 Carolina Panthers 21

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -10

Confidence: Low

Oakland Raiders at New York Jets: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (6-4) at New York Jets (3-7)

The Raiders are 6-4 and very much in the mix for a playoff spot in the AFC, but they haven’t been as good as their record suggests, as their six wins have come by a combined 34 points, while the four losses have come by a combined 59 points. In terms of first down rate differential, the Raiders rank just 26th at -3.66%, not far ahead of the Jets, who rank 28th at -4.86%. Given that, we’re getting good line value with the Jets as field goal underdogs at home.

The Jets are also in a much better spot. While they have arguably their easiest game of the season next week in Cincinnati against the winless Bengals, the Raiders have arguably their hardest in Kansas City against the Chiefs and could easily look past the Jets with a key divisional matchup on deck. Underdogs are 71-36 ATS since 2016 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. On top of that, home underdogs are 44-23 ATS before being road favorites since 2012. I like the Jets a lot this week.

New York Jets 31 Oakland Raiders 30 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3

Confidence: High

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6) at Tennessee Titans (5-5)

The Titans are just 5-5 coming out of their bye, but they could go on a surprise second half run. They made the switch from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill under center 4 games ago and it has made a significant difference. After finishing last season 24th in first down rate at 34.12% and ranking 26th in first down rate through the first 6 games of this season at 32.69%, the Titans have a 40.69% first down rate in their past 4 games. The Titans are 3-1 in those games and that’s despite their defense underperforming due to injuries. 

After finishing last season 4th in first down rate allowed at 32.77% and ranking 4th in the NFL in first down rate allowed at 30.93% through 6 games this season, the Titans have allowed a 38.30% first down rate in Tannehill’s 4 starts, due to linebacker Jayon Brown and defensive end Jurrell Casey, pair of high level defensive players, both missing time due to injury. Brown and Casey return to action this week and the Titans also get wide receiver Corey Davis and center Ben Jones back on offense. They’ve also been without defensive end Jeffrey Simmons and left tackle Taylor Lewan for significant chunks of the season and have since gotten them back, so they’re much closer to full strength than they’ve been in a while. 

Perhaps their most important player returning from injury is kicker Ryan Succop, as the Titans have lost at least two games, if not three because of missed makeable field goals. Succop actually returned two games ago, struggling in his debut before not being tested in the Titans’ last game before the bye. Now after the bye, Succop should be much closer to 100%, which would be a big boost for this team. The Titans rank 14th in first down rate differential at +1.70%, suggesting they’ve played better than their record, despite starting Marcus Mariota for the first 6 games of the season and despite all their absences on both sides of the ball. My roster rankings have them 10th, so they could surprise down the stretch.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, rank 27th in first down rate differential at -4.05% and 24th in my roster rankings. Their offense, which ranks 25th in first down rate, doesn’t have the talent around the quarterback for either Gardner Minshew or Nick Foles to have much success, while their defense, which ranks 17th in first down rate allowed, is a shell of what it was in 2017, as they’ve lost 10 of their top-14 in terms of snaps played from that dominant defense. I have this line calculated at Tennessee -9, so we’re getting serious line value with the Titans as favorites of just 3.5.

There’s too much line value to not bet on the Titans, but I wouldn’t make a big bet because the Titans are in a very tough spot. While the Jaguars have a non-conference home game against the Buccaneers next week, a game in which they will likely be favored, the Titans have to go to Indianapolis for a big divisional matchup, a game in which they will likely be underdogs. Favorites are just 36-71 ATS since 2016 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. Making matters worse, divisional home favorites are just 30-65 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road underdogs. The talent gap between these two teams is too significant to not bet on the Titans, but this is a smaller bet.

Tennessee Titans 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -3.5

Confidence: Medium

Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (3-6-1) at Washington Redskins (1-9)

The Lions are arguably the most injury affected team in the league right now. The most visible absence is quarterback Matt Stafford, who will miss his third straight game with a back injury, but the Lions are also missing several other key contributors. Defensive end Trey Flowers, center Frank Ragnow, running back Kerryon Johnson, defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand, and safety Tracy Walker are all out for this game, while cornerback Rashaan Melvin is questionable after picking up a late week injury. The Lions only rank 25th in first down rate differential at -3.11% and, factoring in all their absences, they rank 30th in my roster rankings.

The Redskins rank 31st in first down rate differential at -8.21%, but they actually rank one spot better than the Lions in my roster rankings. With these two teams about even, I have this line calculated at Washington -3, so I genuinely don’t understand why the Lions are favored in this game by 3.5. Even if Stafford was healthy, I’d have the Lions favored by just 5 points on the road in this matchup, as their largest margin of victory this season was a 5-point home win over the Giants. The Lions are also in a tough spot with another game in 4 days on deck, a spot with a 44% cover rate all-time, so the Redskins are my top pick this week.

Washington Redskins 17 Detroit Lions 13 Upset Pick +160

Pick against the spread: Washington +3.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-7) at Buffalo Bills (7-3)

At first glance, the Bills are having a strong season, going 7-3 and ranking 6th in first down rate differential at +4.18%. However, they’ve played by far the easiest schedule in the NFL so far. Their seven wins have come against teams that are a combined 15-55 and their only win against a team with more than three wins came by a touchdown in a game in which the now 5-5 Titans missed four makeable field goals. Even the record of the teams that have defeated the Bills is not overly impressive, at 18-12. My roster rankings have the Bills 18th, which is think is a much more accurate representation of how the Bills stack up against the rest of the league. 

That’s just one spot ahead of where I have the Broncos, who also rank 19th in first down rate differential at -0.80%. Denver is 3-7, but four of their losses have come by four points or fewer on last-second drives, so they could easily have 5 or 6 wins right now. They’re down to third string quarterback Brandon Allen, but he hasn’t been much of a dropoff from Joe Flacco. The Broncos have compensated for their offensive issues all season with a defense that ranks 5th in the NFL in first down rate at 32.46%. 

Unfortunately, we’re not really getting line value with the Broncos, as this line has been bet down from Buffalo -6 on the early line last week to Buffalo -4 this week. I have this line calculated at Buffalo -3.5, which isn’t much different than the actual line. I still like the Broncos chances of keeping this game close, with the Bills having to turnaround and play again in 4 days on Thursday Night Football (a 44% cover spot all-time for favorites), but not enough to bet on it.

Buffalo Bills 20 Denver Broncos 17

Pick against the spread: Denver +4

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams: 2019 Week 12 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (8-2) at Los Angeles Rams (6-4)

The Ravens are the hottest team in the NFL right now, having won four straight games by 14+ points, making them the 24th team to do so in the past 30 years. The common thinking is that makes them a great bet, but in reality it’s much more likely to be the opposite. Of the previous 23 teams to do so, just 7 of them covered in their next game and 11 of them lost straight up, including 8 upset losses. Favorites are just 3-14 ATS in this spot in the past 30 years. Ironically, the last team to win four straight games by 14+ were the Patriots, who lost in this spot to the Ravens a few weeks ago. 

The problem is when a team is as hot as the Ravens are right now, oddsmakers know they can boost their spread significantly and casual bettors will still want to bet on them.That’s definitely the case here, as the Ravens are 3.5 point favorites on the road against the Rams. A week ago on the early line, this line was even, a drastic shift considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, and 2-3 weeks ago the Rams likely would have been favored by a field goal here at home. 

With the Rams, a lot of attention has been given to their underwhelming offense, which has fallen from 3rd in first down rate at 43.02% in 2018 to 18th in 2019 at 35.09%, due primarily to major issues on the offensive line, but their defense has quietly been one of the better stop units in the league this season, allowing a first down rate of 32.34% that is 4th best in the NFL. They’re not as good overall as last season, but they still rank 7th in first down rate differential at +2.75%, just a few spots behind the Ravens, who rank 3rd at +6.23%. I have this line calculated at Baltimore -1.5 and, while two points of line value might not seem like much, about 20% of games are decided by 2 or 3 points, so that’s a pretty significant two points. 

The Rams are also in a couple good betting spots this week. For one, they’re a west coast team in a night game against an east coast team, a spot that covers about 66% of the time due to differences in internal clocks. On top of that, the Rams only have a trip to Arizona on deck, while the Ravens have another tough game on deck against the 49ers. The Ravens are expected to be favored in that game, but there could still be a little bit of split focus for them this week with the league’s best team by record on deck next week. Meanwhile, home underdogs like the Rams are 25-53 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites, which they almost definitely will be in Arizona. I like the Rams’ chances of not just covering this spread, but winning this game straight up, so they’re one of my top picks of the week at +3.5 (and still betable at +3).

Los Angeles Rams 26 Baltimore Ravens 24 Upset Pick +145

Pick against the spread: LA Rams +3.5

Confidence: High