Identifying Value and NFL Week 13 Underdogs
A 2-1 ATS result in Week 12, including the Falcons (+3.5) romp over the Raiders 43-6. The leading online sportsbooks cashed in big on that game as well with most bettors getting buried by the Raiders. Favorites went 11-5 SU, but just 5-11 ATS in Week 12 to continue the winning ways for online sportsbooks. We should be doing better with our underdog plays, but 6-1 ATS the past two weeks with four outright underdog winners moves the record to 17-19 ATS this season, with 11 outright underdog winners. The underdog picks on these pages over the past 3-plus years are now 94-73 ATS (56.3%).
We picked up a seemingly rare fortunate backdoor cover with the Buccaneers (+3.5), whose defense was torched by the Chiefs for 543 yards in a 27-24 defeat. We all know the Jets (0-11) are pathetic, and New York lost 20-3 to Miami last week. Teh Dolphins were not impressive with below average yards (345) and yards per play (5.1), but the Jets second half within striking distance to still win included three starting possessions near midfield and two in Miami territory without scoring. While bettors are piling on the Raiders with a rising line this week at New York against the winless Jets, I'd be very cautious laying the points and not teasing the Raiders either at this point with the line up to -9.5. Caution as well with the Dolphins, who are laying double-digits to the banged-up Bengals who have lost their way and rookie QB Joe Burrow out for the year.
My updated rushing numbers and other scoring and stats is provided in my Inside the Numbers article this week. You'll see the scoring decline the last three weeks and hopefully be able to use and project some of the point of attack play into more winners down the stretch.
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NFL Week 13 Underdog Picks
451 Detroit (+3) at Chicago - Lions Moneyline +150
453 Cincinnati (+11.5) at Miami - Bengals Moneyline +455
464 Atlanta (+3) vs New Orleans - Falcons Moneyline +140
465 Cleveland (+6) at Tennessee - Browns Moneyline +200
474 Los Angeles (+1) vs New England - Chargers Moneyline +100
Detroit at Chicago
Some leading online sportsbooks opened a bad line with Chicago a 6-point favorite and pro/sharp bettors clawed like a Lion to bet on Detroit. The Lions finally canned their coach Matt Patricia this past week and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell takes over as interim coach the rest of the season. The Lions (4-7) troubles started in Week 1 when they blew a big lead and lost 27-23 to the Bears (5-6). Mitch Trubisky was back at quarterback for the Bears last week in Chicago's embarrassing showing at Green Bay in a 41-25 loss that included a 3-0 turnover differential. Incredibly, Trubisky has tossed 21% of his career touchdown passes against the Lions in four games, going 4-0 with 12 TD passes and a 124.39 QB rating. Don't expect the Lions to continue in man-to-man coverage this week with Trubisky's struggles against zone coverage. Pro Football Focus says Detroit played more man coverage than any NFL team in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Concerning for Detroit is an injury list that includes WR Kenny Golloday, but rookie RB D'Andre Swift has cleared concussion protocol and should return if he overcomes a recent illness. The Lions looked like turkey's in a Thanksgiving Day loss, but extra rest, prep and a new outlook and coaching philosophy provides some hope. While Bears head coach Matt Nagy is 5-0 against the Lions, Chicago fits a poor late season situation returning home off a loss as a short favorite of 3 points or less. The Lions and Bears defenses both allow an average of 30 rushing attempts per game. But it's Chicago that is rushing a league-low 21.2 times per game and league-worst 82 rushing yards per game. You want to trust Trubisky as favorite after his two interceptions and strip sack touchdown last week? Lions roar back, at least for one week against a weaker division rival.
Cincinnati at Miami
We'll put an asterick (*) on this selection and make it official if Tua Tagovailoa is announced as the starting quarterback for Miami Sunday. I'll still have a half unit on Cincinnati if Ryan Fitzpatrick starts, but Miami's offense is without a running back, wide receiver and has shown little offense over their last five games averaging near 4.6 yards per play. The Bengals and QB Brandon Allen looked lost last week, and that's why the line has risen 2-points so far from last week's look ahead line. Tough to bet on the Bengals if the offense remains doormant, but betting on the Dolphins suspect offense at this price that has benefitted from turnovers, special teams and its defense is not a prudent play IMO.
New Orleans at Atlanta
The Falcons (4-7) are playing their best ball under new interim head coach Raheem Morris, and we had our easiest winner of the year last week in Atlanta's 43-6 romp over the Raiders. That makes it five of the last six games the Falcons have out-gained their opponent. The one game Atlanta fell flat was Week 11 against these Saints in New Orleans for Saints QB Taysom Hill's starting debut replacing Drew Brees (IR). We'll go for the daily double this week and expect a strong effort and more prepared team for Hill and a less than full strength Saints team knowing the Falcons were a 3.5- point underdog on the road two weeks ago in a 24-9 loss and are now a 3-point home 'Dog. The Falcons shut down the Raiders strong running game last week for 40 yards, and the Saints were one dimensional in last week's win at Denver with 229 rushing yards and just 63 net passing yards with Taysom Hill now at quarterback. That was a funtion of game flow and a fourth string quarterback for the Broncos. The Saints (9-2) are currently hold the best record in the NFC as they push for the playoffs and first round bye. But division rival Atlanta and QB Matt Ryan are 6-1 ATS as division home underdog and are trying for a similar push to the finish like last year's 7-1 SU run.
Cleveland at Tennessee
Both teams are 8-3 and likely going to the playoffs, which the Browns have not done in 17 years - longest current streak in the NFL. The lookahead line on this game was Titans -3, and we'll take the Browns as available at +6. Both teams are run heavy on offense averaging 32 rushing attempts per game as noted in this week's Inside the Numbers update. A better play may be 'under' 54 points on the total, as both teams should stay committed to the running game.
New England at Los Angeles
Clearly a coaching mismatch, but we'll still side with the Chargers (3-8), who have gone 0-5 ATS in their last five games with a pair of SU wins with continued exceptional play from Rookie-of-the-Year quarterback Justin Herbert. In fact, the Chargers have outgained five of their last six opponents. Betting against the Patriots (5-6) and QB Cam Newton seems right. Newton threw a pair of interceptions and produced 69 net passing yards and 179 yards offense at home last week. Yet New England won at the gun 20-17 over another suspect coach and the Cardinals. New England is 1-4 SU on the road and should have been beaten by the winless Jets. Long West travel and the unprecedented playoff appearance run by the Patriots ends this week in Los Angeles.
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