I hope everyone had a restful and fun Thanksgiving weekend. While we were all stuffing our faces, we got treated to a bizarre, backup-QB-driven, dramatic-but-strange Week 12 in the NFL. We’ve now seen several head coaches (and GM’s) lose their jobs, and with more than a month to play it seems like more teams than usual are thinking about next year.
This is an interesting climate in which to handicap NFL games because teams are going to be less elastic. By that I mean, in the NFL value can frequently be found in betting on teams that “bounce back,” using certain statistical markers or box-score analysis. Underdogs, and visiting underdogs, tend to be inherently valuable early in the season, and in the middle of the season, but that starts to wane as we get late in the year. Why? Because the bad teams stop bouncing. They just…stay where they are, in the pits, and play awful.
The last month tends to behave differently than other parts of the NFL season when looking at a variety of ATS splits for that reason. In such interesting handicapping conditions, even more critical thinking (somehow) is required. Here are a couple bets I’m looking at for Week 13:
All lines as of Monday afternoon.
Miami Dolphins (-11) vs Cincinnati Bengals
I know, it’s a big number. But it’s also Brandon Allen (likely) again, or Ryan Finley at quarterback. You may be thinking that Cincinnati just looked extremely feisty at home against the Giants, so this is quite a foolish bet.
Well, first off, the Bengals had a 103-yard kickoff-return for touchdown in a low-scoring game. That is going to improve their cover probability tremendously. Next, the Giants play “sticky” games against literally everyone.
New York is a limited, low-octane offense, with an above-average defense, and they’re extremely well-coached. This lends itself to them playing close games against EVERYONE (including when they’re a big underdog, where they’ve been great ATS this year). The Dolphins are are higher rated than the Giants, at least in my ratings, and are hosting this game. My number is -15.5. I don’t think that’s crazy.
Cincinnati just scored one offensive touchdown with Allen, and it was when they were trailing. They had 155 total yards and averaged 3.4 yards per play. Miami’s defense, when clicking, just eats up offenses like this. The Giants were also unable to put any pressure on the quarterback, something Miami should be able to do far more in this game. Anything under 13, I like the Dolphins (regardless of whether Tua comes back or not).
Don’t be fooled by the final score in Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bengals are exactly as terrible as we thought coming into that game.
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New England Patriots (+1.5) at Los Angeles Chargers
Here’s another one where you’re just like “oh no…really?” New England had somewhat of a box score miracle against Arizona, meaning that despite poor numbers from their quarterback, running backs, and…kind of everyone, they managed to beat the Cardinals.
How did they do it? Because their coach, the greatest coach of all time, was going up against the overmatched Kliff Kingsbury. The Patriots excelled on special teams in the game, creating great field position for them and pinning the Cardinals deep on almost every drive. They found a way to win.
And now the greatest coach of all time gets to face Anthony Lynn. I could tell you what my number is, but I mean…isn’t that enough right there? Did you watch the 4th quarter of the Chargers game vs. the Buffalo Bills? There are great times to bet on Anthony Lynn (huge dog) and great times to fade him (favored against anyone), because the Chargers tend to play a LOT of one-possession games, and lose most of them.
And more importantly, my number is Patriots -2. I saved that to the end because honestly the coaching mismatch here is so staggering, you could probably bet blind at anything under a field goal either way. I’m being a little facetious. Still, there is value on the Patriots until we get to New England -2/-2.5.