Merry Thanksgivingmas to all, and I’m very thankful to all of you who read this column. Make sure you try to do it all this weekend. Spend time with the family, play football in the backyard, eat, drink and of course place some bets. For better or worse, betting on Thanksgiving football has become a legitimate part of the holiday — even if the games aren’t great.
While Thanksgiving may not gift us with the best day of football, this Week 12 slate is very underrated. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit the red-hot Indianapolis Colts, Mac Jones goes up against one of the best defensive lines in football in the Tennessee Titans and then Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers face off. Sunday is going to be great.
Let’s jump into the picks. Peep the season stats below.
Top five picks record: 30-25Overall ATS record: 75-89-1Straight up record: 101-63-12020 ATS record: 125-120-9 (2 official picks missed due to COVID rescheduling)
All NFL odds are via Caesars Sportsbook
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
The Bills should be embarrassed with what happened last Sunday against the Colts. To be honest, I don’t even know where I would have them in my power rankings at this point. However, Josh Allen says they are fortunate to be playing on a short week, and I agree. Because the Saints are a team the Bills can dominate while quickly changing the national narrative surrounding them.
Trevor Siemian is not a legitimate starting quarterback, Alvin Kamara is banged up, the offensive line is banged up and Mark Ingram missed practice on Tuesday with a knee injury. The Saints have a defense that can keep them in the game, but New Orleans can’t win just off of that. Additionally, according to TruMedia, the Saints have lined up in man coverage on 36 percent of their defensive snaps this season, which is the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. Allen has been one of the best quarterbacks against man coverage this season, as he has a completion percentage of 63 percent (ninth-highest among 34 qualified quarterbacks), 7.7 yards per pass attempt (10th-most among qualified quarterbacks), and has thrown eight touchdowns against man coverage (tied for seventh-most among qualified quarterbacks).
Bottom line, I like the Bills to bounce back.
The pick: Bills -6Projected score: Bills 28-20
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Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)
So Cam Newton’s Charlotte homecoming didn’t go according to plan. While his offense turned the ball over on downs on two potential game-winning drives, the defense’s failures stood out to me. Taylor Heinicke had the upper hand on the No. 2 defense in the league all game, as the former Panthers backup threw three touchdowns, Terry McLaurin went for 103 yards and a score and Antonio Gibson put up 95 yards rushing despite being benched for the entire second quarter due to a fumble. It was definitely one of the Panthers’ worst defensive performances of the season, but I still have faith in this unit. I still think they are juiced up, and they should have an easier time against Tua Tagovailoa.
We had the Dolphins -3 as a best bet last week and they covered against the New York Jets, but they didn’t look good doing it. The Panthers are now on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs, and they know this is a must-win game. This line has moved 1.5 points towards Carolina since I first looked at it, grab it now.
The pick: Panthers -1.5Projected score: Panthers 24-17
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
A large facet of NFL gambling is being able to pick what I call “spots.” Letdown spots or spots where one team can make the other uncomfortable. The 49ers cashed for us big last week, but I’m fading them this go-around. They thrive off of their defense and run game. What happens when they go down by a touchdown or more? The Vikings have now led by seven or more points in every game they have played this season, and they are the only team in the NFL to do that. Kirk Cousins has an NFL-high 10.5 TD/INT ratio and Justin Jefferson is thriving. Does the Minnesota run defense have to step up to contain San Francisco’s ground game? Of course. But I expect this to be a close game and I really think the Vikings win.
Additionally, eight of the 10 games the Vikings have played this season have had their results determined on the final play. The Vikings are 3-5 in those games, but you can still get a push out of this number. Of course, that’s worst-case scenario.
The pick: Vikings +3Projected score: Vikings 28-24
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
The Ravens won on the road with Tyler Huntley at quarterback last week. I feel like we all didn’t really spend enough time on that. For the Ravens, I’m not sure how “sold” I am on them, but they are a solid team and facing off against a divisional opponent that is trending downwards.
What’s worse: Losing to the New England Patriots by 38 points, or beating the Detroit Lions by three points? The Browns really should have lost that game, but my man Jonah Jackson couldn’t stop himself from insulting Jadeveon Clowney’s mother. No, seriously that’s a real story. Click on the link. I get that Baker Mayfield is injured, but his ego has to be hurt as well. He’s heard the fans booing him, and delivered a weird dig towards Cleveland’s faithful this week:
“Those are probably the same fans who won’t be quiet on offense when we’re trying to operate. So (I) don’t really care.”
What does that mean? Is Mayfield attributing some of the blame for the offense’s struggles on the handful of fans who won’t be dead silent in FirstEnergy Stadium while his offense is on the field? Is he saying their opinions don’t matter because they don’t know when to be loud and when to be quiet? I don’t know. What I do know is that things have looked bad for the Browns as of late, and I’m going to guess Lamar Jackson returns and balls out.
The pick: Ravens -3.5Projected score: Ravens 31-17
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Washington Football Team
The Seahawks look broken. This defense is the worst in the league if you don’t count the Jets, and they made Colt McCoy look like a fringe MVP candidate last week even with the backing of their home crowd. As for Russell Wilson, he looked better than he did against the Green Bay Packers in his return, but still not near the same quarterback we know he is. The Seahawks were held to 16 first downs and went 2 of 10 on third downs. Seattle has now dropped five out of its past six games and has scored just one touchdown over its past 20 offensive possessions. The Seahawks take on another NFC opponent this week, and they are 1-5 within the conference. The only team with a worse NFC record is the winless Lions.
As for Washington, they are playing good football. In fact, Heinicke and Co. have won back-to-back games for the first time this season. This offense had the upper hand on the Panthers’ No. 2 defense all afternoon and WFT’s defense made stands when it mattered most. One of these teams is playing well on both sides of the ball, and the other is not.
The pick: Washington -1Projected score: Washington 29-27
Other Week 12 picks
Bears (-3) 24-20 over LionsCowboys (-7.5) 30-21 over RaidersTexans (-2.5) 21-17 over JetsEagles 27-26 over Giants (+3.5)Falcons (PICK) 26-23 over JaguarsBuccaneers (-3) 28-21 over ColtsPatriots 27-24 over Titans (+6.5)Steelers (+4.5) 24-21 over BengalsChargers (-2.5) 30-23 over BroncosRams (PICK) 31-27 over Packers