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Week 12 picks, predictions against the spread

Dallas Cowboys v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Being over .500 was fun while it lasted. Week 11 featured the worst collection of picks in this space and by an embarrassing amount. Here’s to being thankful for not putting any real money on these picks.

Remember these picks are strictly for fun and entertainment purposes and please for your sake do not take these picks as gambling advice. Lines used here come from the Westgate Las Vegas via OddsShark. Home team in CAPS.

Chicago (-3) over DETROIT

Chase Daniel is starting at quarterback for the Bears, but it’s tough to see how far of a dropoff it is for Chicago. Outside of rushing, which boosts him to third in Total QBR, he hasn’t been particularly impressive on his own — he’s just 13th in Expected Points Added from passing, Chicago’s success has been more about the offensive scheme of Matt Nagy — up against a Detroit defense ranked 30th in DVOA — and a dominant defense in an era when those no longer exist.

DALLAS (-7) over Washington

In the other backup quarterback scenario, Colt McCoy might not be a big dropoff from the 2018 version of Alex Smith. The problem is the 2018 version of Alex Smith wasn’t very good. On defense, Washington has been much better against the pass (eighth in DVOA) than the run (28th). Normally that’s a split you can still work with, but it becomes a problem against a team like the Cowboys who will run Ezekiel Elliott forever.

Atlanta (+12.5) over NEW ORLEANS

New Orleans blew through Philadelphia because the Eagles defense had no answer to what the Saints ran out on offense. That’s likely to still be the case against the Atlanta defense (32nd in defensive DVOA and still without Deion Jones), but the Falcons also have an offense (seventh in DVOA) that can take advantage of the Saints’ defense (24th), which should make this a much closer matchup than the spread would indicate.

[Update: 2-1 on Thanksgiving games. Not a bad start to the week.]

Cleveland (+3) over CINCINNATI

There are so many levels to that response from Baker Mayfield and there’s also this:

Cleveland’s defense has gotten slightly worse since Gregg Williams transitioned to head coach, but the offense has gotten much better. The other team just hired Hue Jackson. Take those points.

Seattle (+3.5) over CAROLINA

There are a few teams this season that just don’t make much sense. The Carolina Panthers are on top of the list. One week they look amazing, the next they’ll lay an egg. They rank 27th in variance, per Football Outsiders, which measures the week-to-week consistency of teams. They’re just too volatile to trust. They’re also facing a team that has played well despite the record. Seattle is 14th in offensive DVOA and 10th on defense.

Jacksonville (-3) over BUFFALO

Josh Allen against the Jacksonville defense. Blake Bortles against the Buffalo defense. If it was possible for a game to have negative points, this would be it. But while it’s hard to trust Bortles to cover, it’s harder to trust Allen and even harder to trust Allen coming off an elbow injury who hasn’t played since Week 6.

BALTIMORE (-10.5) over Oakland

Lamar Jackson wasn’t asked to throw much against the Bengals, but he didn’t really have to. He can absolutely throw the ball though, so don’t let that narrative get you — he had a higher Adjusted Yards per Attempt last season than Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen (and a lot higher than Josh Allen) — and if there’s a defense to air it out against, it’s Oakland’s. Also, try imagining the Raiders’ non-existent second level chasing after Jackson if he does run. Add in a Baltimore defense against a continually struggling Raiders offense and a double-digit win isn’t hard to envision.

San Francisco (+3.5) over TAMPA BAY

Kyle Shanahan scheming against this Tampa Bay secondary? The Niners could put up 30 points with you at quarterback. No offense to you, I’m sure you’re a wonderful athlete.

Giants (+5.5) over PHILADELPHIA

This was a 34-13 game just six weeks ago, but neither team is still what it was then. The Giants’ offense has been able to put a few more drives together and the Eagles’ secondary has completely fallen apart, mostly injury related. That alone should keep the game close, whether the Giants can actually pull out a win or not.

New England (-9.5) over JETS

Bill Belichick toys with rookie quarterbacks and that works even when the New England defense is bad. They might not even have a chance for that to matter because Sam Darnold’s status is uncertain even after he returned to practice. This season the Pats are 17th in defensive DVOA and they’ll whoever is at quarterback for the Jets will lead an offense ranked 30th in DVOA.

CHARGERS (-12.5) over Arizona

I want to like what Arizona is doing, but the results just haven’t been there. When you lose to the Raiders, it’s hard to pick you to cover against one of the league’s best teams on the road. The Chargers lost to the Broncos, but they’re still fifth in overall DVOA and fourth on offense. This is a team that’s been able to put up big plays at will with the ball — third in big-play rate — oh and Joey Bosa is coming back against a team ranked 30th in offensive pressure rate allowed.

INDIANAPOLIS (-7.5) over Miami

In case you haven’t paid attention lately, the Colts are a legitimately good football team. They rank 11th in DVOA, three spots higher than the 7-3 Texans. The offensive line has come together — though they did just lose Ryan Kelly to a knee injury that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time — and Andrew Luck hasn’t been sacked since Week 5. This is the same guy who had a 7.0 percent sack rate last season. After a nice start, Miami has completely self-imploded to a team that’s only competitive because of its special teams.

DENVER (+3) over Pittsburgh

Denver is also a sneaky good team despite the 4-6 record — seventh in overall DVOA, fourth on defense, and 11th on offense. That overall rank is just one spot behind the Steelers. Pittsburgh came through with a win during its annual egg on the road, so maybe it won’t happen two weeks in a row, but also going to Denver after that isn’t an easy task. They could keep it close.

Green Bay (+3.5) over MINNESOTA

As disappointing as the Mike McCarthy offense can be, it’s still quite good — sixth in DVOA. Also, they’re fifth in standard down success rate and eighth in big play rate. Minnesota is fifth in defensive DVOA, but also 28th in variance. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been AARON RODGERS, but he’s still been enough of Aaron Rodgers to pull a game like this out — if that sentence made any sense. It’s hard to see this game coming down to more than a field goal either way.

HOUSTON (-6.5) over Tennessee

Marcus Mariota was limited in practice on Wednesday, so this could be Blaine Gabbert starting against Houston’s defense. If that’s the case, this line can’t get high enough. The Texans are a fluky 7-3 — though still a respectable 14th in DVOA — but that doesn’t matter if Gabbert is the opposing quarterback on Monday night.

Last week: 3-10
Season: 75-80-6