By now, women and men across the country are stuffing turkeys in preparation for houses full of family and friends and a whole lot of football. Meanwhile, I hope I can play the role of the partygoer and not the turkey after last week’s debacle.
For the first time all season, it was a complete losing week in my best bets, but I have gone to the recipe book and picked out my favorites. In other words, I fully expect us to be back, although I am not certain the tryptophan will allow me to make it through all these winners.
What’s in those recipes, you may ask? We went back and looked through all those winners from the first half of the season, and we found that Robert Frost was right: The road less traveled is indeed the path to take.
In other words, if something looks obvious, it’s likely because it isn’t. If something seems fishy, it’s likely because it is. A month means much more than a week, and in most cases even more than an entire season.
So that’s the road we’re taking this week. As long as leads me to the buffet, that is. Eat up, America. And, oh yeah … Happy Thanksgiving!
Any comments, questions, gratitude or hate mail is welcome at [email protected].
NOTES: All spreads, money lines and over/under totals (as of Wednesday on all weeks except Thanksgiving week, which is as of Tuesday) are provided by Caesars Sportsbook. We started the season with a mythical bankroll of $1,000. Our totals for the past week and the season are at the bottom of this column.
THE WEEK 12 BEST BETS
HOME TEAM in CAPS
1 / Teaser, TENNESSEE +7.5 over Cincinnati and PHILADELPHIA -1 over Green Bay
WHEN: Bengals at Titans, 1 p.m. on Sunday; Packers at Eagles, 8:20 p.m. on Sunday. THE BET: $36 to win $30.
How many times do I have to shout to the mountain tops the Titans are being disrespected? It’s now eight straight weeks in which Tennessee has covered, winning seven outright.
They haven’t lost at home since Week 1 in a shocker against the New York Giants, and now the oddsmakers are giving us more than a point against a Bengals team that has been a different team without Ja’Marr Chase, who is questionable and hasn’t played since injuring a hip in Week 7.
Even if Chase plays, one would expect this to be a tight game, which leans perfectly toward taking this in a teaser as we get past the key numbers of 3 and 7.
Also, Cincinnati has given up at least 100 yards rushing in five of their past six games, which should mean big things for Derrick Henry on an overcast, cool, 50-degree Sunday in Nashville.
SCORE PREDICTION: Titans (+1.5) 27, Bengals 23. (Over 42.5.)
OK, so last week wasn’t the greatest week we have ever had, but one thing we were right about is the Packers are far from back simply because they had one good quarter against the Cowboys two weeks ago. Now, they are all but eliminated from the playoff race following a loss to Tennessee last Thursday.
Philadelphia has been shaky and needed a solid final drive at Indianapolis last week, but one can bet after losing their previous home game to Washington two Mondays ago to end their undefeated string, they will be focused and ready not to rile up the people who once tossed snowballs at Santa Claus.
The Eagles’ strength has been their passing defense, in which they are second in the league. Meanwhile, despite allowing just 56 yards rushing to Tennessee last week, the Packers had given up a total of 521 yards on the ground in the three previous weeks. (A great night for Jalen Hurts on the ground?)
SCORE PREDICTION: Eagles (-7) 24, Packers 13. (Under 46.5.)
2 / WASHINGTON -4 over Atlanta
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $22 to win $20.
You did it, Ron Rivera. You finally got me to believe your team is not a one-week (or two-week) wonder. It happened when you were asked why you were sticking with Taylor Heinicke over the higher-profile and (much more) higher-paid Carson Wentz, and your answer was the perfect seven-letter word: “Winning.”
Some coaches actually understand the importance of how winning trumps stubbornness. What an amazing concept.
And while I thought last week’s spot was a bad one after the big upset, the Commanders proved they could fight right through it. Now, they’re back at home against an Atlanta team that is beginning to falter and will have a tough time running against Washington, which has allowed an average of 68.8 yards on the ground the past five weeks.
Also, the Falcons have the third-worst overall defense in the league, and they have an overall turnover differential of minus-3 the past four weeks.
SCORE PREDICTION: Commanders 22, Falcons 10. (Under 42.)
3 / Tampa Bay at CLEVELAND under 43
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $22 to win $20.
I so wanted to pick the Browns to cover the -3.5 here, but they have burned me previously in best bets, and I simply couldn’t do it. That being said, I do think this will be an ugly, ball-all-over-the-place kind of game, where the wind is supposed to be swirling at about 20 mph or more.
In other words, this one is going to be all about the running game and the clock tick, tick, ticking away.
Hence why I like Cleveland – let’s face it, Tampa is not the Tampa most of you think they are – but I like a low-scoring game even more.
PS – The Bucs have the worst rushing attack in the NFL and the 15th-ranked rushing offense. Cleveland? Fifth in run offense and 23rd on defense. If Nick Chubb can’t have a field day in this one, I don’t know when he will.
SCORE PREDICTION: Browns (+3.5) 19, Buccaneers 16.
4 / SEATTLE -3.5 over Las Vegas
WHEN: Sunday at 4:05 p.m. THE BET: $22 to win $20.
Let’s try this again, Part I. We were against the Raiders last week in Denver, but don’t we think the win and cover was more the Broncos screwing things up in a game they had in hand late over Las Vegas being any good?
The fact is, the Seahawks are one of those teams I have just come around to, previously being too stubborn in giving them any credit, which is what I always blast the sharps for doing. This team actually is better than average with an offense that is ranked 11th in the NFL and 13th in both rushing and passing.
No doubt Seattle is a tough place to play, and they have been waiting a while for their Hawks to come back home, as they haven’t played in the house of the 12th Man since Oct. 30. Also, despite losing the past two seasons following their bye week, they won six out of seven before that and covered in five of seven.
Geno Smith should have a productive day, as Seattle has been money against bad teams this season.
SCORE PREDICTION: Seahawks 26, Raiders 17. (Under 47.5.)
5 / Houston +13 over MIAMI
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. THE BET: $11 to win $10.
Let’s try this again, Part II. Hindsight most definitely is 20-20, and betting against a Washington team with that kind of defense was probably not real smart. … So betting on a 1-8-1 team against one that has won four in a row is a better choice? Well, hear me out.
First off, this is as much fading the public as it is anything else, as almost every bettor out there will either take Miami and lay the points or won’t touch it with a stick. We have a very big stick.
By no means do we think Houston actually will win this game, but the Dolphins have not been very convincing in three wins against sub-par teams (Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago) before their last game two weeks ago against Cleveland.
The Texans’ biggest weakness clearly is their run defense, but Miami likes to throw it with Tua, and Houston is above average against the pass. Conversely, they like to run it with rookie Dameon Pierce, who will be looking to redeem himself after an extremely poor week vs. Washington, and the Dolphins are 22nd in run defense.
Don’t be surprised if Houston hangs around and gives those remaining in knockout a little scare.
SCORE PREDICTION: Dolphins 26, Texans 19. (Under 46.)
WHEN: Sunday at 4:25 p.m. THE BET: $0.
Let’s get right to the point: This might be the worst possible matchup for the Saints all season long – except possibly the Eagles, and that’s coming up on New Year’s Day.
We have said this before: When New Orleans plays a team that doesn’t allow much against the run – and San Francisco is No. 1 in the NFL in rushing defense – that puts the game squarely on the shoulders of Andy Dalton. And that ain’t good for the Black and Gold.
In the three games Dalton has won as a starter this season, he has averaged 26.3 pass attempts. In the five games the Saints have lost with him at the helm, he has thrown 32.6 passes. That means the Saints do well when Dalton doesn’t HAVE TO pass, and unless Pete Carmichael can find a way to mix in the run and get Taysom Hill more involved for a second consecutive week, this is a no-win situation.
The Saints also are a familiar foe for Christian McCaffrey, who will go against them for the second time this season and 10th time in his career, which obviously was spent mostly in Carolina. In the past four games he has played against New Orleans, McCaffrey has 483 yards from scrimmage with four touchdowns.
Clearly, San Francisco (+300) has joined Philadelphia (+220) as co-favorites to win the NFC, and it’s easy to see why they haven’t lost in a month. And they won’t come close to losing here, either.
SCORE PREDICTION: 49ers (-9) 28, Saints 16. (Over 43.)
(No bets for the following)
Thursday at 12:30 p.m.
Buffalo (-9.5) 44, DETROIT 26: I was going to say this will be one of the most entertaining games of the season, but then I remembered the Bills have a good defense, although they haven’t really shown that to be the case for a little bit.
It’s not a surprise Buffalo has been far from dominant in November, as this is almost identical to the poor stretch they went through last year. But even in moments of showing they’re human, they still have moments of ridiculousness.
This could be one of those ridiculous offensive days for Josh Allen against a really bad Lions defense. And it doesn’t hurt they played at Ford Field last week and are more than comfortable with their surroundings. Don’t worry about taking a nap in the second half – it should be long over by then, although you will miss quite a few points being scored. (Over 54.)
Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
DALLAS 30, NY Giants (+9) 24: Don’t think it doesn’t scare the bejeezus out of me to take the G-Men in this spot after last week’s performance. Now that they have been exposed after an incredibly better-than-anyone-expected start, things could go south quickly for new coach Brian Daboll, but I believe in this guy. More importantly, I believe his guys believe in this guy.
And let’s face reality: Dallas isn’t nearly as good as they looked last week in exposing a battered and bruised Minnesota offensive line. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have the seventh-worst run defense in the NFL, which should open up lanes for Saquon Barkley, who inexplicably rushed the ball only 14 times in the first matchup in Week 3 for 81 yards and a touchdown.
All that being said, I must put the disclaimer up here to bet with caution: Dallas has covered 10 of the past 11 games in the series, which kept this out of my best bets. (Over 45.5.)
Thursday at 8:20 p.m.
MINNESOTA (-2.5) 27, New England 24: There were three games I originally typed in my best bets, and this originally was one of them. But then as I went through the analysis, there are so many things that go in the Patriots’ favor here:
Bill Belichick’s ridiculous record against rookie head coaches. (It’s 25-6, but he has now lost both games this season against Miami and Chicago.)
Kirk Cousins’ well-documented poor record in prime time, where he is 10-18 (6-9 with Minnesota).
And about 70 percent of the tickets will be on the Vikings.
Still, I too am on Minnesota at home in a rebound spot, although I am only willing to lay a piece of pecan pie – and only if it’s not the last piece. (The one about Cousins gives me the biggest pause, even more than Aunt Mabel.) (Over 42.5.)
Sunday at 1 p.m.
CAROLINA (+2.5) 13, Denver 10: Call this a hunch, call this hating on the Broncos, call this a revival with (gulp) Sam Darnold … call it dumb. Just call it a winner.
Look, as bad as the Panthers are, they have been decent at times and have shown when Baker Mayfield IS NOT the quarterback, they sometimes can move the football. (We almost put this in the teaser at +8.5 with Tennessee.) Denver proved its defense might not be as good as everyone thought they were when they had a game in hand against the Raiders last Sunday. (Seriously, what is up with Russell Wilson?)
And in a spot where they now are certain their season is over, we could easily see Denver now rolling over and playing dead, right?
Lastly, as low as it is, we might actually like the under (even in beautiful weather) more than we like the Panthers. It’s the lowest total since 2019 and only the third time since 2012 there has been a total of 35 or fewer. (Under 35.)
Baltimore 21, JACKSONVILLE (+4) 20: I am trying not to overreact to one game, but something clearly is wrong with Baltimore. It could be that Mark Andrews isn’t quite right, and it is just as likely the Ravens have NO running game outside of Lamar Jackson.
Whatever the case, this just smells like a game the Jaguars lead most of the way only to experience heartbreak again. (And besides, the overwhelming public is on Baltimore here, and I already have had second helpings of turkey.)
Disclaimer (another reason not to bet on this game at all): Want to know the last time the Jags defeated a team with a winning record the week following their bye? Try 1998 (against Jimmy Johnson and the Dolphins). And the time before that? Try never. In other words, trends favor Baltimore. Betting against Mabel favors Jacksonville. (Under 43.5.)
Chicago (+4.5) at NY JETS: I am going to do something I think I have only done two or three times since I started this column eight years ago, and that’s a complete no play and no pick. On this Tuesday night, I simply cannot even guess whether Justin Fields will play or not, and obviously, that means everything.
If he plays, I will revisit and potentially put it in our Daily Best Bets picks on Sunday. Check back then.
Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
LA Chargers 30, ARIZONA (+4.5) 27: This pick is solely based on the assumption Kyler Murray plays. If he doesn’t, this is a no play and no pick.
That being said, neither one of these teams is going anywhere, which leads me to think it will be a fun one to watch even if it won’t be broadcast on many media devices (except on the Red Zone Channel).
Like the Jaguars, we could easily see the Cardinals leading throughout most of the game only to lose in the waning moments.
The Chargers are getting healthier, but not enough for me to believe they can win in a runaway on the road. (Over 47.5.)
Sunday at 4:25 p.m.
KANSAS CITY (-14.5) 34, LA Rams 13: It used to be when a team was favored by two or more touchdowns, it was an auto pick for the underdog. No longer is that the case. In fact, since the start of last season, a favorite of 14.5 or more points has covered or pushed in nine of 11 games.
Since the start of the 2014 campaign, the favorite has covered in 23 of 39. Before that, the dog had covered or pushed in 19 of 26. Things have changed in the past decade.
Here, while I won’t play this in any fashion, there’s no way anyone can bet on the Rams. Even if Matthew Stafford plays for LA, and that’s a big IF, the Chiefs have fought through the gauntlet of a ridiculous schedule and now have some cupcakes coming up. (Which will solidify their hold on the top seed in the AFC.)
Look for the team on a mission to begin quite the roll. Oh, and if you want to bet them to win the Super Bowl, do it before Sunday or what little value is left (+450) will be long gone. (Over 44.)
Monday at 8:15 p.m.
Pittsburgh (+2.5) 23, INDIANAPOLIS 20: Although the Colts have been revived a bit with Jeff Saturday in as interim coach, does anyone think this can be sustained? Especially after the heartbreak loss to Philly last week.
One thing we know is Mike Tomlin knows how to beat Indy, as his Steelers have done so seven consecutive times dating back to 2011 – AND they have covered in five of those games.
The Steelers continue to get better. The Colts continue to disappoint. That’s enough for me to bet on the better coach. (And that isn’t even kind of debatable.) (Over 39.)
HOW WE DOIN’?
Note: TIES ARE NOT COUNTED IN MY RECORD, which could result in a different total of games in the “straight up” and “against the spread” categories, as well as with totals.
AGAINST THE SPREAD
Week 11 best bets: 1-3 (-$81). Season best bets: 35-19 (.648; +$189.50 on season). Week 11 all picks against the spread: 5-7. Season all picks ATS: 83-75 (.525)
STRAIGHT UP (no spread)
Week 11: 9-5. Season: 92-71 (.564).
Week 11: 7-7. Season: 89-74 (.546).
(click on week to view)
Week 11: 1-3 best bets (-$81); 5-7 ATS; 9-5 straight up; 7-7 over/unders.
Week 10: 2-3 best bets (+$16); 7-7 ATS; 6-8 straight up; 6-8 over/unders.
Week 9: 4-1 best bets (+52.40); 9-2 ATS; 9-4 straight up; 5-8 over/unders.
Week 8: 4-1 best bets (+$69); 9-6 ATS; 13-2 straight up; 6-9 over/unders.
Week 7: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-9 ATS; 6-8 straight up; 9-5 over/unders.
Week 6: 4-1 best bets (+$62.60); 9-5 ATS; 8-6 straight up; 6-8 over/unders.
Week 5: 3-2 best bets (+$2); 10-5 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
Week 4: 4-1 best bets (+$37); 9-6 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 10-6 over/unders
Week 3: 3-2 best bets (-$5); 5-11 ATS; 8-8 straight up; 8-7 over/unders
Week 2: 4-1 best bets (+$57); 7-9 ATS; 9-7 straight up; 12-4 over/unders
Week 1: 3-2 best bets (-$15); 8-8 ATS; 6-9 straight up; 10-6 over/unders