Identifying Value and NFL Week 12 Underdogs
We finally hit paydirt in Week 11 with a 4-0 sweep including three outright winners with only the Raiders failing to hold on in the final minute against the popular and powerful Chiefs. All four plays were contrary selections and bets as the betting public lined up on the other side including more than 90% of the bets and money on the Dolphins. But the Broncos buried the overrated and overachieving fish. Denver pounded the ball for 189 rushing yards and outgained Miami 459 to 223. My buyer and bettor beware signal on these pages was, I wouldn't bet on it or rookie QB Tua this week. Broncos plus the points, moneyline and teaser in play.
A good week moved our record on these pages to 15-18 ATS this season and improved the 3-plus year mark to 92-72 ATS (56%) selecting underdogs.
Running to Profits
Some noteworthy stats last week showed the power of the running game, as teams that out-rushed their opponent by at least 30 yards went 10-2 SU and 11-1 ATS. As the temperatures fall and the wind blows a bit more at selected stadium sites, the significance of the running game and point of attack play will prove more important during December football. We cashed in on the Redskins over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving day with the WFT boasting the better running game, defense and run stop unit as underdog. The 'Skins' out-rushed the poorly coached Cowboys 182 to 60 with 36 rushing attempts to just 18 for Dallas. Not all worked out well in the Football Teams 41-16 win, as I bet the 'under' and also the second half total under only to see some mystifying (terrible) coaching decisions by Dallas and a pair of ugh ugh late TD's by Washington, breaking off a 37 yard TD run, and then a pick-6 to send the 2H and game over the total.
For the season, teams that outrush an opponent by at least 30 yards in a game are 75-30 SU and 77-28 ATS (73.3%), just below the long term two decade performance I have tracked and kept in a weekly spread sheet. Also of significance is rushing attempts, as both Washington and Dallas showed on Thanksgiving day. Teams that run the ball at least 30 times in a game went 8-0 SU/ATS last week and are 89-15-1 SU and 83-20-2 ATS (80.6%) this season. Teams that run the ball less than 23 times per game are 15-73-1 SU and 18-70-1 ATS (20.5%).
In looking at the Week 12 card before digging deep into injuries, coronavirus and key player personnel issues into the weekend (see Ravens), these teams appear to have some edges at the line of scrimmage and in the running game, or slowing the run.
Cleveland, Baltimore, NY Giants, Las Vegas, Minnesota, NY Jets, New Orleans, Tampa Bay. Three of those teams are underdogs in the Ravens, Jets and Buccaneers, which make them worthy of support this week. Other teams and games have injuries (CIN - QB Burrow) or coronavirus (Ravens, Raiders) and scheduling situations that prevent plays like on the Raiders, who come off the emotional loss to division rival Kansas City.
For the season, these teams are running the ball at least 30 times per game on average - a record nine teams at this stage of the season.
Ravens (32.7), Patriots, Browns, Chargers, Titans, Raiders, Cardinals, Saints and Rams (30.0). The Vikings (29.7) round out the top-10 and the Colts (29) are also close.
The bottom teams in rushing attempts per game are the Jaguars (21.7), Bears (21.7), Texans, Jets and Lions (23.7). Notice none of those teams are going to the playoffs, and all five of those teams also rank in the bottom quartile of defensive rushing attempts per game. So do the Kansas City Chiefs, and we're counting on the Buccaneers to run the ball more this week to control the ball, clock and chains and allow their top-5 defense to be fresher and on the field less to contain QB Mahomes and the Chiefs high powered offense playing back-to-back road games.
With some of the reasoning explained, we'll limit the rest of the analysis on Thanksgiving weekend and suggest shopping the best lines at the leading online sportsbooks for your bets. Home underdogs had their second best result last week going 4-1 ATS, and we're lining up on three home underdogs this week.
NFL Week 12 Underdog Picks
252 Atlanta (+3) vs Las Vegas - Falcons Moneyline +140
266 New York Jets (+7) vs Miami - Jets Moneyline +285
272 Tampa Bay (+3.5) vs Kansas City - Buccaneers Moneyline +170
Note the Ravens and Steelers game was moved from Thursday to Sunday, and QB Lamar Jackson tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday and the game was taken off the board at online sportsbooks. Jackson joins up to a dozen other Ravens players and staff to test positive this week, and there is the potential for the game to be postponed again. Jackson will officially go on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday, and he'll also miss next Thursday's home game against the Dallas Cowboys. I had already bet the PIT/BAL game under the total, and had the Ravens on the radar as an underdog this week. The line got as high as -5.5 favoriting the Steelers before Jackson's coronavirus news, and now will go higher with QB Robert Griffin III to start if the game goes as scheduled for Sunday. Check the status and lines and take the best number on Sunday if you decide to bet on the Ravens.
I also bet some favorites, like the Browns last week and Colts this week, which is why the Titans and some other competitive underdogs are not listed on our 'Dog log this week. We'll review weather and turnovers impact as December football arrives next week.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay