NFL Week 12 Betting Preview & Picks: Underdogs Should be Barking Sunday
Thanksgiving Recap: I hope everyone got their fill of turkey and stuffing, as well as enjoyed time with friends and family on Thursday. I went 2-1 with my picks on Thanksgiving, with both wins coming via the spread (Cowboys -7 and Saints -13) and the loss via a total (Falcons/Saints over 59.5).
Dallas nearly allowed a backdoor cover in the closing minutes but hung on, while I never felt that the New Orleans play was in doubt despite the game staying somewhat close in the third quarter. Unfortunately, my confidence in the Saints covering was also tied into Atlanta being allergic to the end zone, which subsequently meant the over didn’t stand a chance despite New Orleans reaching pay dirt on the opening possession of the game.
The 2-1 day leaves me at 38-18-3 against the spread this NFL season. Below are my picks for Sunday and you’ll notice that a theme has developed this week.
263 Seattle Seahawks at 264 Carolina Panthers
- Spread: Panthers -3.5
- O/U: 46.5
- Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Depending on which sportsbook you view, the Panthers opened as either a 3.5 or 3-point home favorite and remain a 3.5 or 3-point favorite. In other words, if you shop around, you can find Carolina and only give up a field goal, or if you like Seattle, you can grab the hook at some shops. As for the total, it opened at 47 but was dropped to 46.5.
While 51 percent of the betting tickets are on the Seahawks, 64 percent of the money wagered at online sportsbooks is on the Panthers. The total is also split, with 54 percent of the betting tickets on the over but 64 percent of the money is coming in on the under.
The over is 4-0 in the last four meetings between these two teams but the under cashed in five of the last six meetings in Charlotte. The home team is also 4-1 against the spread in the last five meetings between these two teams.
The topic surrounding the Panthers this week was whether Ron Rivera should have gone for two last Sunday in Detroit. (Cam Newton’s errant pass fell incomplete, and Carolina lost by a point.) That said, had Kerryon Johnson not left the game with a knee injury after only 15 carries, the Lions may not have needed a goal-line stand to win by only a point. Johnson gashed the Panthers for 5.8 yards-per-carry and 87 yards with a touchdown on those 15 carries.
Carolina ranks seventh in rushing yards allowed, surrendering just 98.5 yards per game on the ground this season. That said, the Seahawks, who own the league’s No. 1 rushing offense, will certainly look to exploit the Panthers run defense after watching what Johnson did a week ago.
The formula for Seattle this year has been simple: Run the ball effectively, play good defense and get a couple of big plays out of Russell Wilson. That formula has led to five victories and the Seahawks staying competitive in their five losses (all by a combined 25 points).
Seattle is also 24-11-3 against the spread as an underdog since 2011 and has covered three straight road games. Seeing as how this game could come down to the wire, I like knowing Rivera didn’t trust his kicking unit last week after Graham Gano shanked two kicks, including an extra point. Just make sure you get the hook in case the ‘Hawks keep the game to within a field goal.
Pick: Seahawks +3.5
259 Cleveland Browns at 260 Cincinnati Bengals
- Spread: Bengals -3
- O/U: 46.5
- Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
The Bengals opened as 3-point favorites and the line hasn’t budged. The total, however, dropped from 48 down to 46.5.
Both the betting tickets (55 percent) and money (55 percent) is on Cincinnati to cover the spread. Both the betting tickets (65 percent) and money (87 percent) is on the over as well.
The Browns are winless against the spread in their last seven games against the Bengals and are 1-4-1 against the number in their last six games played in Cleveland. The favorite is also 6-0 against the spread in the last six meetings between these two teams.
The historical trends favor the Bengals in this matchup but I see the Browns winning this game outright. For starters, Cleveland is coming off its bye, the Browns play better defense and they looked motivated two weeks ago in dispatching the Falcons as a 6.5-point home dog under interim coach Gregg Williams.
As for Cincinnati, the Bengals return home having dropped four of their last five games despite starting the year off 4-1. A.J. Green is expected back this week, but Cincinnati’s biggest problem resides on the other side of the ball, where the Bengals have allowed 38 points per game and 522 yards per contest at home over their last three games. They also surrendered 400-plus yards for a fifth consecutive game last week in a narrow loss to the Ravens.
Now, before anyone reminds me, I know the recently fired Hue Jackson joined Marvin Lewis’ staff in Cincinnati. But it’s laughable to think Jackson would effectively strategize a way to beat his former team when he clearly couldn’t put together successful game plans in Cleveland. Plus, motivation goes both ways. Baker Mayfield and Co. should be equally as motivated to beat Jackson as Jackson is to beat the Browns.
After playing a handful of overtime games earlier in the season, Cleveland should benefit greatly from having its bye last week. I also don’t think it’s a stretch to say they’re the better team in this matchup.
Pick: Browns +3
255 San Francisco 49ers at 256 Tampa Bay Bucs
- Spread: Bucs -3
- O/U: 54
- Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
The Bucs opened as 3-point favorites and that’s where the line currently sits at most sportsbooks. The total, meanwhile, has stayed steady at 54.
Most of the betting tickets (57 percent) are on the Bucs as of Friday morning but 61 percent of the money is coming in on the 49ers. The total is also split, with 60 percent of the betting tickets listed with the under but 67 percent of the money on the over.
The over is 4-1 in the last five meetings between these two teams while the home team covered the spread in seven of the previous 10 games in this series.
The Bucs are horrendous defensively, ranking 28th in total yards allowed (395.9), 28th in passing yards allowed (282.3), 19th in rushing yards allowed (113.6) and 32nd in points allowed (32.9). Not all the faces are the same, but Kyle Shanahan is familiar with this Tampa Bay defense after coordinating the Falcons offense for two years, so he should have a great game plan for Nick Mullens.
While the Bucs also rank No. 1 in total yards per game offensively, they’re a mess on that side of the ball, too. For the second time this season, Ryan Fitzpatrick was benched and replaced by Jameis Winston. All the flip-flopping and losing will likely cost Dirk Koetter his job and if the Bucs lose at home Sunday to Niners, perhaps Koetter will receive his pink slip as soon as Monday.
Motivation is difficult to predict but I have to believe the Bucs are ready to pack it in following four straight losses. The Niners watched their season go down the drain months ago but Mullens sparked the offense the last two weeks and San Francisco doesn’t appear to be a team that has given up on Shanahan. If the wheels are about to fall off in Tampa, this could wind up being an easy cover for the Niners.
Pick: 49ers +3
271 Green Bay Packers at 272 Minnesota Vikings
- Spread: Vikings -3
- O/U: 47.5
- Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Most of the betting tickets (72 percent) and money (57 percent) are on the Packers to cover while 61 percent of the betting tickets and 78 percent of the money wagered online is on the over.
The home team covered the spread in four of the last five meetings between these two teams and the Packers are just 2-5 against the spread in their last seven road games against the Vikings. That said, the underdog is also 6-2 against the number in the last eight meetings between these two teams.
Mike McCarthy’s time in Green Bay is seemingly coming to an end, especially following a rough night last Thursday in Seattle. He and his coaching staff failed to challenge a Tyler Lockett catch in the second half that may have been overturned by replay. The Seahawks scored a touchdown three plays later to take a lead that they would never relinquish.
On the Packers ensuing possession, McCarthy also decided to punt the ball on a fourth-and-two from Green Bay’s 33-yard line. Given that there was still over four minutes remaining in the game, the call was somewhat justified, but the bottom line is that Aaron Rodgers never got the ball back and Green Bay fell to 4-5-1 on the season.
That said, after fading Rodgers and Co. a week ago, I’m hopping back on the Packers’ bandwagon for their date with the Vikings on Sunday night. My reasoning is simple: I get Rodgers over Kirk Cousins, who tends to shrink in big moments. Allow me to rephrase: I get Rodgers, plus a field goal, over Cousins, who tends to shrink in big moments.
The Green Bay defense wilted in the second half last week versus Seattle, but the Packers still rank second in the league in sacks per game at 3.4. They have struggled against the run this year, but the Vikings can’t run the ball anyway (30th in the league) so that isn’t concerning. Plus, with how much Minnesota’s offensive line has struggled in general, I see the Packers harassing Cousins into mistakes like Chicago did last Sunday night when the Vikings turned the ball over three times (including two interceptions thrown by Cousins).
I do believe there’s a rift between Rodgers and McCarthy, one that will likely cost the coach his job at the end of the year. That said, this is a division rivalry and the Packers aren’t completely dead in the NFC wild card race. If Green Bay is going to turn around its season, it’s going to be Sunday night in Minnesota. It’s desperation time for the Packers.
Pick: Packers +3
ATS Season Records
- Week 1: 5-0
- Week 2: 3-2
- Week 3: 4-1
- Week 4: 3-1-1
- Week 5: 3-2
- Week 6: 4-1
- Week 7: 2-3
- Week 8: 3-2
- Week 9: 4-1
- Week 10: 3-2
- Week 11: 2-2-2
- Week 12: 2-1
- Overall: 38-18-3
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.