I’m thankful for a 16-game slate of NFL action, which is the case in Week 12 with no one on the bye. There’s also one extra game on Sunday after Baltimore-Pittsburgh was pushed back from Thanksgiving night.
Favorites went 7-7 against the spread (ATS) last week and are 70-82-5 for the season. Home teams went 9-5 straight up and 9-5 ATS, bringing their season totals to 85-75-1 and 75-80-5.
My three most confident picks this week are Buffalo, San Francisco and Kansas City. Avoid Arizona-New England, and bettors beware on the Giants game.
GAME OF THE WEEK
KANSAS CITY (9-1) AT TAMPA BAY (7-4)
TV: Ch. 2, 4:25 p.m.
Kansas City by 3; O/U: 56
Good news for the Bucs: This game isn't in prime time, when Tampa Bay is 1-3 this season. Now, for the bad news: The opponent is Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City. The defending champs have looked unbeatable this season against everyone not named the Raiders. Tom Brady has as many INTs as TDs (five) the last three games, and even though this should be close, laying the small number with Mahomes feels as if it’s the only choice.
The pick: Kansas City
GIANTS (3-7) AT CINCINNATI (2-7-1)
TV: Ch. 5, 1 p.m.
Giants by 6; O/U: 44
The Giants gained on the Eagles during their bye week and now won't have to face Joe Burrow. This feels like such an obvious pick, which usually means the exact opposite, so be careful. Still, the Giants have bought into Joe Judge's system and I don't see them taking the Bengals and a backup QB for granted or resting on their laurels after a two-game win streak. They are 3-7, after all. With Dallas or Washington having a fourth win by Thursday night, the Giants will grind out a low-scoring win to keep pace in the NFC East.
The pick: Giants
MIAMI (6-4) AT JETS (0-10)
TV: Ch. 2, 1 p.m.
Miami by 7; O/U: 44
The Dolphins will get back in the win column after their five-game win streak was snapped, but the Jets should be competitive unlike a 24-0 loss at Miami in Week 6. The Jets are 3-1 ATS since then and have shown some fight. Listen, players DO NOT want to tank. Many won’t be on the Jets next year and care nothing about the No. 1 pick and everything about not being part of a winless season. Just go back and read Frank Gore's postgame quotes from last week.
The pick: Jets
1 p.m. Games
BALTIMORE (6-4) AT PITTSBURGH (10-0)
TV: Ch. 4
Pittsburgh by 4.5; O/U: 45
A Thanksgiving night main course that had lost some juice with Baltimore losing three of four added some intrigue when the NFL postponed the game because of the Ravens’ COVID-19 positive tests. The Steelers weren’t happy with the decision, which favors Baltimore, but it shouldn’t change the outcome. Pittsburgh won at Baltimore, 28-24, in Week 8 and the rematch of the NFL's best rivalry surely will be close again. But the Steelers are rolling at 10-0, lead the league in sacks and getting Lamar Jackson and a Ravens OFF-ense at the right time.
The pick: Pittsburgh
TENNESSEE (7-3) AT INDIANAPOLIS (7-3)
Indianapolis by 3; O/U: 51.5
Both are coming off overtime wins, and this is as big a game as it gets for the AFC South. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Titans won, but I’m going with the Colts for a few reasons: 1) They just beat them two weeks ago, 34-17, and have won four of five in the series; 2) Philip Rivers is 8-2 in his career vs. Tennessee, with an 18-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio; 3) Indy’s run defense allows the third fewest yards per game (89.2) and held Derrick Henry to 103 in the first meeting. Indy wins a close, high-scoring game.
The pick: Indianapolis
LOCK OF THE WEEK
L.A. CHARGERS (3-7) AT BUFFALO (7-3)
Buffalo by 5.5; O/U: 53.5
The last we saw Buffalo, three defenders were being posterized by DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone on the "Hail Murray" pass in Arizona. Now, after two weeks of stewing over that loss, the Bills will take it out on an underachieving Chargers team whose three wins are against the winless Jets, one-win Jaguars and two-win Bengals. Josh Allen has another big day for Buffalo, which is 4-1 at home with the lone loss to Kansas City and wins over the Rams (35-32) and Seahawks (44-34).
The pick: Buffalo
ARIZONA (6-4) AT NEW ENGLAND (4-6)
Arizona by 2; O/U: 49.5
Arizona followed up the win of the year with a loss at Seattle on TNF in which Kyler Murray didn't look right after taking an early hit. The extra rest should help, and he has the better team than Cam Newton in a battle of former No. 1 overall picks wearing No. 1. Give me the Cards, but I don’t expect the Pats to fold, so don't bet the house.
The pick: Arizona
LAS VEGAS (6-4) AT ATLANTA (3-7)
Las Vegas by 3; O/U: 54
The Raiders were a late Patrick Mahomes drive away from being 2-0 against Kansas City, so this feels like an easy bet, right? Anyone who follows the NFL knows those don’t exist. I'll still roll with Las Vegas but this will be close in the fourth quarter.
The pick: Las Vegas
CLEVELAND (7-3) AT JACKSONVILLE (1-9)
Cleveland by 6; O/U: 49.5
Before the season, I tweeted my survivor pool advice: Just pick against the Jaguars every week. Naturally, they won in Week 1 but have since lost nine in a row. I don't expect them to snap their skid, but Cleveland’s last three wins have been by 3, 3 and 5 and the backdoor cover could be in play.
The pick: Jacksonville
CAROLINA (4-7) AT MINNESOTA (4-6)
Minnesota by 3.5; O/U: 51
For Carolina, being 4-7 is an accomplishment in a rebuilding year. For Minnesota, at 4-6, not so much. After last week's home loss to Dallas all but knocked it out of playoff contention, will the players be up for this game? Matt Rhule has gotten a lot out of his team, and you can expect that again with a Week 13 bye on deck.
The pick: Carolina
4 p.m. Games
NEW ORLEANS (8-2) AT DENVER (4-6)
New Orleans by 6; O/U: 43.5
New Orleans is 6-0 with a backup QB the last two seasons. Taysom Hill will get the job done again as the Saints win their eighth straight. Remember, only the top seed gets a first-round bye this season, so don't expect any letup.
The pick: New Orleans
SAN FRANCISCO (4-6) AT L.A. RAMS (7-3)
Los Angeles by 6.5; O/U: 45
The 49ers won the first matchup, 24-16, in Week 6. Kyle Shanahan has had an extra week to prepare and the Rams are on short rest after a MNF win at Tampa Bay.
The pick: San Francisco
CHICAGO (5-5) AT GREEN BAY (7-3)
TV: Ch. 4, 8:20 p.m.
Green Bay by 7.5; O/U: 44.5
The Bears have lost four in a row after a 5-1 start and are averaging just under 16 points per game during the skid. They won't be able to keep up with Aaron Rodgers but I'll take the points with a desperate team off its bye. The last five meetings have been decided by 8, 7, 7, 1 and 7 points.
The pick: Chicago
SEATTLE (7-3) AT PHILADELPHIA (3-6-1)
TV: ESPN, 8:15 p.m.
Seattle by 5; O/U: 50
Seattle won at Philadelphia twice last season, including in the wild-card round, and both were 17-9 finals. The Eagles have given you no reason to back them, which is the main reason I’ll do just that in the always unpredictable NFL. With two fellow NFC East teams likely getting that fourth win before they play, the extra sense of urgency should carry over. Is a 17-13 loss asking too much, guys?
The pick: Philadelphia
STAFF STANDINGS AND PICKS
(best bets in bold)
75-81-5 overall, 6-5 best bets
Last week: 5-9
Giants Dallas Pittsburgh Buffalo Arizona
Indianapolis Las Vegas Jacksonville Carolina
Kansas City New Orleans San Francisco Chicago Philadelphia
Last week: 4-10
Giants Jets Pittsburgh L.A. Chargers Arizona
Tennessee Las Vegas Cleveland Minnesota
Kansas City New Orleans L.A. Rams Green Bay Seattle
Last week: 8-6
Giants Miami Pittsburgh Buffalo New England
Tennessee Las Vegas Cleveland Carolina
Kansas City Denver L.A. Rams Green Bay Seattle
Last week: 7-7
Giants Miami Pittsburgh Buffalo New England
Indianapolis Las Vegas Cleveland Minnesota
Kansas City New Orleans L.A. Rams Chicago Seattle