Early leans & analysis Wk 12
Early leans & analysis

Posted Saturday, November 26 at 10:45 AM EST. Odds are subject to change.

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NFL Week 12

What you see below is our early leans. Many of the selections below will stay the same and some will be moved into official plays with wagers on Sunday. However, there is also the possibility that we see, read or get a sense that something is not right with one of our selections and change our pick. There are several different criteria we use to grade a game and make it an official play and a lot of things can happen or change between Friday and Sunday. We’re intent on providing our We’ll have all write-ups (except Monday Night Football) posted on Friday but our actual wagers won’t be posted until Sunday morning between 10 AM and 12:00 PM EST

Sunday, November 25

NFL Week 12

Baltimore -3½ @ Jacksonville

1:00 PM EST. Depending on where one got the Jaguars in their last game depended greatly on their view of their 27-17 loss in Kansas City in Week 10. Anyone that snagged the Jags at double digits pushed, which sometimes is just as good or valuable as a win. When you combine that result with Duval Country’s 27-20 win over the Raiders in Week 9, it looks like the Jaguars are playing some decent ball. However, that 10-point margin of defeat to the Chiefs flatters the Jags greatly.

Jacksonville was outclassed greatly by Kansas City, as the Chiefs took a 20-0 lead into the half, and then took their foot off the gas. When the Jags got cute and made the score 20-10 with just under six minutes to play, the Chiefs marched right back down the field and shoved a 7-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce right down the Jags' throats. It was just a matter of going through the motions after that. Perhaps the best thing for the Jaguars market presence was sitting out last week on their bye.

We backed the Ravens last week as a 13-point favorite at home against the Panthers. If you are curious about how that went, there were 13 total points scored in a 13-3 Baltimore win. Wins matter little to us and the market when they do not come with a trip to the pay window, and so we are back on the Ravens this week. All offense to the Jaguars, but this change in venue and opponent does not justify a double digit swing from one week to the next. Gauging over and under reactions week to week is a big part of our process, and so we are very mindful of these swings. We are also mindful of this opening line of -3½. It’s what we call a “favorite” number because the oddsmakers are enticing an unsuspecting market to back the underdog. The Ravens are severely discounted here, as they are an elite team that the analytics continue to stand by. The prudent play from our perch would be to stick with Baltimore. Recommendation: Baltimore -3½

Atlanta +4 @ Washington

1:00 PM EST. The Falcons finally got back on the board with a win and cover over Chicago last Sunday, but it was not convincing. At one point, the Dirty Birds were the hottest team at the pay window. They were gushing profits like a broken slot machine with covers in six straight games to start the season. Atlanta would come crashing back to earth with four straight losses Against the Spread (ATS), and we doubt that their razor sharp advantage across the finish line last week will have much of an influence when considering the Commanders current turn.

The former Football Team is on a burner, as the Commanders are winners of five or their last six, and most importantly, they are 4-0-1 against the spread. Washington is paying out like a lobby group to your favorite corrupt senator.

Taylor Heineke has been the biggest benefactor of Washington’s mid-season resurgence, but forgive us if we can’t get excited about this Great Value Brett Favre. We’ve suggested in the past that Heinicke isn’t much better than your average run of the mill pivot, but after last week's 23-10 win over Houston as a 3-point favorite, G.V.B.F. has now crossed the Mendoza line and is not just barely better than your average run of the mill pivot, as his DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) is now 57 yards to the good. Dude still sports a negative QB DVOA of -8.3%, which has Heinicke slotted with the likes of Zach Wilson, but you gotta take the positives when they come, ya know?

Set everything aside here and what you are left with is a Washington team whose stock hasn’t been this high in years. They are cashing like crazy and doing so with ease. We cannot overemphasize how big a liability Houston was last week to books world-wide. You talk about a Thanksgiving feast and that was the game that had the market smoking cigars after cashing their tickets. Vegas reported it was one of their five highest losses in a single game all year in all sports combined. Now the market has an 11 against a dealer’s 6 in a game of blackjack and trust us when we suggest they are about to double down. If you bet Washington here, you may win but you are too late to the party. All the value is gone with the more likely scenario being that Washington loses outright and maybe by a wide margin. The party is over, friends. Recommendation: Atlanta +4

Tampa Bay @ Cleveland +3

1:00 PM EST. We vowed weeks ago to never wager another dollar on Thomas Patrick Edward Brady Jr. and we are not going to reverse course in light of Tampa Bay’s 21-6 win over the Seahawks in Germany in Week 11. The Buccaneers were off last week, but we would not be surprised if Brady shacked up with a German supermodel and took his sweet time coming back to North America.

While the G.O.A.T. was chasing tale abroad, the Browns were in Detroit to play the Bills after their game was moved from Buffalo because of Mother Nature. Cleveland dropped that one, 31-23, and has now lost six of their last seven games. Help may be on the way, as Desahun Watson is set to return from suspension next week, but that isn’t going to give the Browns much of a lift here, as Jacoby Brissett is going to make at least one more start. That presents an opportunity to back Cleveland while its stock is in the tank.

With market perception being what it is, The Buccaneers may look like they are being offered up at a discount, but that is simply not the case. When looking at the goods under the hood, the Bradys and Browns are much closer to each other than one might think. The Bucs are the #12 ranked team by weighted DVOA, while the Brownies are 16th. Perhaps most surprising is that the Cleveland offense is fourth, while the Bucs’ is 17th. Cleveland is a run first team that is built for this time of the year. The weather is supposed to be wet and chilly, which only further plays into the Browns’ strengths. The Bradys also host Monday Night Football next week, which checks another box, as the Browns catch Tampa in a potential lookahead spot with the bright lights of prime time on deck. Recommendation: Cleveland +3

Denver @ Carolina +1½

1:00 PM EST. We know the Panthers are not an appealing team to back, but it’s not as bad as it looks. The Cats are taking crap for their failure to score a touchdown last week in a 10-3 loss in Baltimore, but that game was played in blistering conditions that were not conducive to one putting up points. Moreover, the Panthers are going to once again make a move at quarterback, sending Baker Mayfield to the bench (again) in favor of Sam Darnold.

It’s hard not to like Darnlold. He presents himself well and he says and does all the right things. Dude just can’t catch a break. A fresh start in Carolina looked to be just what he needed to get his career back on track, but injuries and the inexplicable trade for Mayfield have limited his chances to make an impact on the field. However, Darnold will now finally get his chance here.

In a 24-hour football world, it’s easy to forget that Darnold is just 25. He’s a former first round pick (#3) that was thrown into the fire with the Jets when they were run by morons. On paper, Darnold has it all. He’s 6’3,” and he’s chomping at the bit to get back on the field, “I’m excited to be able to go out there and play with the guys. The biggest thing for me is playing consistent, and taking what they give me. I think that’ll kind of be the story of the day on Sunday, and I’m excited to go out there and do what I can to help this team win.” Darnold has reason to be excited. He’s playing with house money here and really, he has nothing to lose. With PJ Walker hurt and Mayfield sulking in the papers, this is Darnold’s job.

We’re not going to spend a bunch of time on the Broncos, but we are ready to call the Russell Wilson experiment in Denver a failure. That’s official. We know it's a bold statement, but we stand by it. While our tongue is planted firmly in cheek, we’ll note the Broncos are a total disaster that can’t move the ball five yards. They’ve looked like crap every week. Seriously, find one positive. We’ll wait. Notta. Nothing. Zippo. The Broncos get outplayed by every team they meet. Most recently that was against the Raiders in a 22-16 OT defeat that flatters Denver greatly. The Raiders out-everything’d the Broncs in that game. Based on that result and the rest of their putrid performances, the idea of Denver spotting road points to anyone but a JV flag football team is mind blowing to us. Comical, even but we can take advantage of the market looking at Darnold as a downgrade or a third string QB that hasn’t started a game in almost a year and that lost eight of the last nine games he did start. That plays to our advantage or as we like to call it, a house inefficiency. Don’t be surprised if Darnold thrives after sitting and watching for a full year and getting his golden arm ready for this moment. Recommendation: Carolina +1½

Chicago +6 @ N.Y. Jets

1:00 PM EST. The status of Bears quarterback Justin Fields looms large here, but the fact that the oddsmakers posted a number like this tells us all we need to know. Fields is unlikely to play and even if he does, the books don’t give a shit about getting caught with their pants down. Fields is “questionable” with a sore shoulder which he injured in the Bears loss at Atlanta last Sunday, and although he did take a few reps in practice head coach Matt Eberflus said, "My preference is to play if he's 100% ready to play.” Fields’ injury is to his non-throwing shoulder, but he separated and partially tore ligaments in it so we’re not going to hold our breath on his return. In fact, we hope he’s out. Trevor Siemian would get the nod if Fields can’t go.

The injury chasers are buzzing here, but the Jets are not the kind of team one should be spotting points with. New York has its own problems, as starting quarterback Zach Wilson will be in street clothes after getting benched this week. Wilson was brutal in the Jets’ 10-3 loss in New England on Sunday, and did not handle himself well at the post game press conference. When asked if the offense was letting down the defense, Wilson answered with a simple, “no,” which did not sit well in the Jets locker room. Jets’ coach Robert Selah made the call that Mike White would start at QB this week, but he made it clear that Wilson wasn’t done in New York, “The full intent is to make sure Zach gets back on the football field this season. When that is, I'll make that decision. I'll take it day-to-day."

Mike White has not thrown a pass this season, but he is now tasked with running a limp offense that is spotting a touchdown to the Bears. Is White really that much of an upgrade over Wilson? Is Siemian really a significant downgrade over Fields? This line is inflated by those perceptions. Even if Joe Namath was suiting up for the Jets, Gang Green can be favored in this range over anyone in this league. Recommendation: Chicago +6

Cincinnati -2½ @ Tennessee

1:00 PM EST. Beating the Steelers is always nice, but the Bengals are having to answer questions about their defense after allowing Pittsburgh to rack up 30 points on them last Sunday. Quarterback Joe Burrow is also facing the heat, as he threw two more interceptions in that game, bringing his season total to eight. Those turnovers tell the story of just how the Steelers were able to once again hang with the Bengals, but you won’t read that anywhere else. Instead, you’ll read that Burrow needs to make better decisions and that the Steelers “have his number.”

The Bengals are not priced like it, but they have almost returned to their elite form from a year ago. When looking at their ranking over at Football Outsiders, Cincy is now the #8 club by weighted DVOA. Moving into that top-10 might not have seemed possible after their horrible start, but those poor efforts from earlier in the season aren’t as important as more recent outings. The stats back that up. In addition to pulling the nose up on their season, the Bengals have also played a tough schedule that ranks just outside the top-10 (11th).

The Titans are coming off a big Prime Time win over the Packers on Thursday Night Football that kicked off Week 11. That 27-17 final is going to resonate, as a win over Aaron Rodgers and the Pack in Green Bay still has value, even if the Packers are down. We discuss every week that stand alone prime time games have great influence in the market because they are seen by more eyes and therefore have more wagers than your typical Sunday afternoon fare. That is no different here.

The Titans are 8-2, and they are a market pleasing 7-3 against the spread. Despite those positive results, Tennessee is not as good as advertised. The Titans have lived a charmed life. After starting the season 0-2, Tennessee has won seven of eight, but only two of those wins were emphatic. The Titans were a popular fade in the market on TNF, as the Packers had just whacked the Cowboys, so now would not be the time to “zig-zag” back onto them in this spot. The whole world saw the Titans pound Green Bay so it’s time to sell. Recommendation: Cincinnati -2½

Houston +14 @ Miami

1:00 PM EST. What are going to say that is going to get anyone excited to back the Texans? Houston gets its ass handed to it on a platter week in and week out. We know this because we’ve backed the Texans in three straight games, including their 23-10 loss to Washington last Sunday and their 24-16 downing by the Giants in Week 10. At 1-8 it's bad, but it’s no bother, as the Texans' plight gives us another opportunity to “stick with it” by siding with a team that nobody wants to touch with a 10-foot pole.

We’re not going to sugarcoat the Texans' season, but we will point out just how much further their stock has fallen in recent weeks. Prior to dropping those games to the Commanders and Giants, the Texans were a 14-point pooch against the then-undefeated Eagles. Now Houston is a similar price here against the Dolphins. That’s a little rich, no?

Miami’s stock is back to its late September high after winning four straight games, but we’re not buying. For some perspective of just how quickly a team’s value can rise in the market, look no further than the lines the books have put out on the Fish in recent weeks. Miami was a 7-point favorite at home to the Steelers, 3½-point chalk in Detroit, a 4-point favorite in Chicago and then a 3-point favorite at home to Cleveland last week. Now the Dolphins are spotting double digits? We’re not saying that Miami isn’t a good team, but don’t be a bit surprised if the Fish bring their “C” game here. You see, these guys are on social media more than we are. They read and hear the same things we do. All the Dolphins players are reading how good they are and that this week is a cakewalk. Furthermore, after this game the Dolphins will play three straight on the road at SF, the Chargers and finally the Bills. Point is, they’ll very, very likely treat this as a glorified practice, as they mentally prepare for much bigger prey. Recommendation: Houston +14

L.A. Chargers -3 +106 @ Arizona

4:05 PM EST. The Chargers have lost three of four to drop their record to a middling 5-5, but this selection has little to do with L.A. and everything to do with the returning Kyler Murray to the Cardinals lineup. However, the Chargers provide us with some fine fodder, as they are better than their record would have you believe. They also have the superior quarterback in Justin Herbert.

Arizona got whacked on Monday Night Football in Mexico, but that was with the combination of Colt McCoy and Trace McSorley at the helm. The return of Murray has negated that outing, as the market pounced on the Cards when it was confirmed their star pivot would be back under center.

Depending on where you shop, the Chargers were a 4½-point choice early in the week, but that number is on the way down and now sits at the deflated price you see now. We can understand the excitement to a degree, but not to the point where it is driving prices down. Are the Cardinals better with Murray? Sure? Are they exceptionally better with Murray? Of course not. Arizona was struggling with Kyler in the lineup. Prior to going down, the Cards had lost two straight and four of five with Murray as the starter. Hell, until Murray went down, head coach Kliff Kingsbury was the next coach to be fired. Truth be told, he still might be. We talk about overreactions to injuries in the market, well this is the same, but different. There has been an overreaction to Murray’s return. That’s our cue to attack. Recommendation: L.A. Chargers -3

L.A. Rams @ Kansas City -15½

4:25 PM EST. The Chiefs need little introduction here, you know all the big names. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce did what they always do in a win over the Chargers last Sunday night, with Kelce hauling in three TDs and the AFC’s Offensive player of the week honors. Rookie runner Isiah Pacheco racked up 107 yards on the ground. Had that game been played any other time and place than on Sunday Night Football, the Chiefs would likely be getting as much love from the market as they are the oddsmakers. However, Kansas City has now needed a late score to win in their last two prime time showings, with the other being a 20-17 OT win over Tennessee. You may remember the Titans were a 14-point pooch in that game back in Week 9. The Titans, while they have their warts, are a well coached team that is now 7-3. Yet the severely depleted Rams are now priced in a similar range here and the Titans were then. That can’t be. Should this line not be closer to 20?

Nobody is going to make a case that the undermanned Rams are the better team here, but that is why the point spread is the great equalizer. You will not find any X’s and O’s here to back up the case for Los Angeles in this spot, but we will point to the Chiefs matchup with the Bengals next Sunday, as a potential “look ahead” spot for Kansas City. In case you forgot, the Chiefs fell to Cincy in the AFC Championship game last season in a 27-24 overtime thriller. Those are the kinds of losses that sit with a team all season. When you are just one play away from the Super Bowl, it stings. There are enough red flags here and better games on the board. If forced to make a pick, we’d swallow the points. Recommendation: Kansas City -15½

Seattle -3½ over Las Vegas

4:05 PM EST. The Seahawks have been market darlings, as they were a popular pick in recent games against the Chargers, Giants, Cardinals and Buccaneers. Seattle won three of those games with ease, but ran into trouble overseas in a 21-16 loss to Tampa Bay in Germany in Week 10. The Seahawks sat idle last week on their bye, but the bad taste they left in the mouths of the market is not going to be easy to rinse. As tempting as it might be to fade the Seahawks after they disappointed abroad, that would be the wrong move. “Zig-zagging” is one of the cardinal sins of wagering and is something we preach against.

We’re not going to put too much stock into a game that was played over 4000 miles away nearly two weeks ago. Instead we are going to focus on the Seahawks season as a whole, which has been as surprising as it’s been impressive. Of all of the teams you will find in the top-10 of weighted DVOA over at Football Outsiders, Seattle is the one that stands out. That the Bills, Cowboy, Eagles and Chiefs are highly ranked is not a shock, as their quality is reflected in their records. Not so with Seattle, who is just 6-4. The underlying numbers suggest better days may be ahead, as the Seahawks will play just the 26th ranked strength of schedule down the stretch. That opens up the door for Seattle to make some noise. The volume is going to get cranked up here with the lowly Raiders limping into the Emerald City.

The Raiders finally got off the schneid and won a game last week, but that they beat the Broncos means very little around these parts. Maybe it was a nice win over a bitter rival for the fans and players, but on our end, the only good that win does is shine up that turd. Do not forget that the Raiders are still an organization that saw an All-Pro linebacker walk away in the middle of the season to focus on his Pokemon card collection. They are a team that is in financial peril, which is so bad, they can’t even fire their first year head coach because they simply can’t afford it. When you hear owner Mark Davis endorsing and backing up his decision to stick with Josh McDaniels despite the disappointing season, just know it’s because Davis has nowhere else to turn. Big Al sure would be proud.

We’ll close by pointing out that the oddsmakers hung a “hook” on the key number of 3 when they opened this line up. The reason they did this was to entice an unsuspecting market to back the Raiders. Do not get sucked into that wager, especially if you backed the Seahawks in Germany. Instead, the prudent play here is to spot the points, as they are totally deflated based on recent results. This might be the last time we get a deal this sweet on a team as good as Seattle and we’re not going to pass it up. Recommendation: Seattle -3½

Green Bay +6½ @ Philadelphia

8:20 PM EST. The Packers have been a tough team for the market to get a handle on the last two weeks, as they were a popular fade in a home game against Dallas in Week 10. Green Bay would edge out the Cowboys in overtime after overcoming a 28-14 deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Dallas would not score again, as the Packers won 31-28 in OT. With a big Thursday night date against the Titans to kickoff Week 11, the market shifted to Green Bay, as the Packers moved from a pooch against Dallas to favorite v Tennessee. We warned of the market’s ability to rally behind a blue blood team like Green Bay on whim after a win, and thankfully that warning was heeded, as the Packers fell 27-17 to the Titans. Now 4-7 Green Bay is once again an underdog to the 9-1 Eagles. We think you know where this is going.

Rarely do we discuss injuries, but we’d be remiss if we didn't talk about Aaron Rodgers’ broken finger. Rodgers had been keeping the injury a secret, but that secret is now out and it’s going to attract the injury chasers. We believe Rodgers when he says that the injury is no big deal, but now that the news is out, the oddsmakers have to adjust. That leads to inflated points.

The Eagles are soaring, but they have a target on their backs. Philadelphia has also been flying close to the sun in recent weeks, as their cracks begin to show. Most concerning is that the Eagles have normalized playing down to their competition in recent weeks. Since whacking the Steelers 35-13 to close out October, Philly has had its handful with Houston, Washington and Indianapolis. The Eagles suffered their first loss of the season to the Commanders two weeks ago, and they barely escaped Indy with a 17-16 win last Sunday. If the Eagles were playing anybody else at any other price, they would be up for consideration today. However, this number tells us all we need to know about this game.

A breakdown of Xs and Os is not necessary here, as this modest number tells us all we need to know. When an underdog opens at 6½, there is a very good chance that they are going to cover. Moreover, those pooches priced in this range have a great shot to win outright. We’d like to thank the oddsmakers, zig-zaggers and injury chasers for these inflated points. Recommendation: Green Bay +6½

Our Pick

Leans & analysis (Risking 0 units - To Win: 0.00)