NFL Week 12 Picks for Every Game: Bets to Make for Seahawks, Ravens, Commanders, More
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images. Pictured: Terry McLaurin.
It’s Thanksgiving Week, and every NFL team is in action. A quarter of the league still has yet to take a bye week, but all 32 teams will play this weekend, including the three traditional Turkey Day games.
Could Thanksgiving be a bit tastier this year?
The Cowboys are 7-3 and coming off a monster 40-3 smack down of a one-loss team. That team, the Vikings, caps the night off against Bill Belichick’s No. 1 defense, according to DVOA. The Giants and Bills look like playoff teams, too. Heck, even the Lions are on a three-game winning streak!
No reason to waste time with a full slate and a busy holiday week. Let’s head around the league and make picks for every game like always. Picks are sorted by confidence level: Bet, Lean, Pass or Wait. I’ve also added a special section just for the Thanksgiving slate.
This is a playoff rematch that’s also a pivotal game in the AFC playoff picture. With so many good teams playing on Thanksgiving, it’s one of our top spots on Sunday.
At least it might be. The Bengals could be without one or both of Joe Mixon and Ja’Marr Chase, and the Titans defense — hampered by injuries got extra time off after a Thursday game. Let’s wait and see who looks ready to go before we go deep on this one.
THE PICK: Wait for the injury reports
For now, it’s unclear exactly who will start at quarterback for either team. This is supposed to be a showdown between two sophomore QBs, but Justin Fields picked up multiple injuries and looks like a question mark, while Zach Wilson continued to be awful.
I grabbed Jets -3.5 early since QB news can really only increase the value of that ticket, either with Fields out or Wilson benched for, frankly, anyone else. With that line gone now, we’ll wait.
THE PICK: Wait for decisions on both QBs
Remember that Monday night game a few years ago when these teams traded touchdowns in a 54-51 thriller? My, how the mighty have fallen.
The Rams‘ season is effectively over. They’re 3-7 and don’t even have their first-round pick next year — and now, they are without Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford for the foreseeable future.
The Chiefs lead the league in late-down offense by an absurd amount thanks to MVP-favorite Patrick Mahomes; the Rams rank 30th in DVOA on late down defense.
Mahomes is 2-1 ATS as a favorite of over two TDs with wins by 12, 26 and 32. The Chiefs should dink and dunk all over the Rams.
Kansas City averages 30.0 PPG with at least 27 in all but three games. Can the Rams score at least 13 with Bryce Perkins and Ben Skowronek leading the offense? Your guess is as good as mine.
THE PICK: Chiefs -14.5 (Pass)
I’m tired of waiting on injury news for both of these teams and writing about them every Saturday. We might get Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy or Trace McSorley for Arizona. We might get dudes off the street playing receiver or defensive line for the Chargers. And those guys off the street would probably call a better game for either side.
It didn’t work this week, but Kliff Kingsbury’s teams are still excellent as underdogs, and the Chargers have done nothing to earn our trust as serious favorites.
We could wait, but I just don’t need to play this one. Happy Thanksgiving to me.
THE PICK: Cardinals +4.5 (Pass)
Never has a game screamed under more loudly, but this total is already as low as 35 at some books. Notably, games with a total of 37 or below are still 14-7 to the under since the 2016 season.
With a total this low and a favorite that can’t score, every point is valuable. Carolina has actually been decent since firing Matt Rhule. Maybe the Panthers will do Denver a favor and beat them so the Broncos can follow in their footsteps. I may nibble at a Panthers cover and under parlay at +240 since the two seem correlated.
THE PICK: Panthers +2.5 (Pass)
I wrote a full preview for the early Thanksgiving game, so you can read more there.
The Lions are improving, but the Bills are still far better. Buffalo leads the league in DVOA and ranks top six on offense, defense and special teams. Non-Cowboys Thanksgiving favorites since 2006 are 28-8 ATS (78%), covering by more than a touchdown, and favorites against the Lions are 10-3 ATS (77%) during that span. Favorites of a TD or more are even better at 17-4 ATS (81%).
If you can wait to bet live, the Bills tend to start slow in the first quarter — you might be able to get a line below a TD. But traditionally these Thanksgiving games are circled on the calendar and that means we get the best version of each team — and the best version of the Bills should roll the Lions.
THE PICK: Lean Bills -9
There’s a reason we have to exclude the Cowboys in those trends above. Dallas is an awful 1-10 ATS on Thanksgiving since 2011, failing to cover by 12.6 PPG. The Cowboys are 5-3 ATS as at least a TD favorite, but that pales in comparison to 12-1 ATS for everyone else.
It’s even worse in division games. Non-Cowboys Thanksgiving division favorites are 13-5 ATS, but Dallas is an ugly 1-4 ATS in division games with three straight-up losses in the last decade alone.
There’s little question Dallas is the better team, but there’s just something about them on Thanksgiving. And this line is just far too long after last week saw a monster Dallas win coupled with an ugly Giants loss. New York has some big injury question marks at corner, but Micah Parsons looks banged up and he’s the most important player in this game, especially with New York’s pass protection so vulnerable.
Dallas is flying and has won 10 of 11 in this rivalry, and this could go sideways quickly. The Giants defense ranks last on first downs and the offense has started slow all season. If the Cowboys start fast, Ezekiel Elliott could be diving into that red Salvation Army bucket early and often.
Still, this is historically the spot to back Daniel Jones. He’s 14-5 ATS (74%) as a road underdog and 7-3 ATS (70%) as a division underdog. The Giants offense has been better on the road, and this line is probably a field goal too high.
Teams that win by 35 or more are 49-64-5 ATS (43%) the following game. Play the number and always bet against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
THE PICK: Lean Giants +9.5
The Vikings are one of those Thanksgiving favorites, and night favorites are 11-4 ATS (73%) all-time on Turkey Day. The holiday has also been a great occasion to bet public favorites. Teams getting over half the tickets are 25-8 ATS (76%) on Thanksgiving, and the Vikings are getting about two-thirds of them as of Wednesday morning.
The trends like Minnesota. But the trends don’t know Kirk Cousins is playing in primetime against a Bill Belichick defense.
The Patriots barely allowed 100 yards to the Jets and now rank top five in defensive DVOA on every individual down. They’re the best defense in football against the pass, best in the first half, best in pressure rate and best overall.
The pressure rate in particular could be a big problem since Minnesota’s line had no shot against Dallas on Sunday and will be without LT Christian Darrisaw (concussion), its best pass blocker. Cousins will be under pressure and off script all game, and you don’t need me to tell you that’s bad news.
Will the Patriots offense be any better? New England ranks last in DVOA offensively over the last five weeks, and it might be without a pair of offensive linemen. LT Isaiah Wynn and C David Andrews both sustained injuries Sunday and have not offered much in practice, so the short week could leave an already struggling offense even worse off. Minnesota’s defense has been atrocious when trailing by multiple scores at 29th in DVOA, but above average the rest of the time.
I don’t trust Cousins enough in primetime (11-17 ATS) despite the positive Thanksgiving trends, especially since Belichick covers 61% of the time against NFC foes — 65% as an underdog and 67% with four days of rest. As a Vikings fan, I don’t need a side here to ruin my holiday night.
Instead, the under looks like the best play. Those offensive line injuries on both sides will hinder already shaky QBs, and the Pats defense is on a roll. Thursday unders are 17-10 (63%) since the start of last season, and primetime unders are 20-13 (61%) this fall.
Then there’s this Thanksgiving treat: Turkey Night unders are 11-4 all time, a 73% hit rate with seven in a row. That tryptophan is kicking in early.
THE PICK: Patriots +3 (Pass)
OTHER ANGLES: Bet Under 42.5
The Bucs are coming out of the bye and have closed the season strong under Tom Brady, often making a leap after the week off. Few teams so badly needed the chance to rest and get healthy on both sides of the ball like Tampa. Hopefully that means better line play and more Rachaad White — that could come just in time against the league’s worst run defense.
Everyone remembers that Browns win over the Bengals on Halloween, but did you know that’s Cleveland’s only win since September? The Browns offense has been surprisingly effective, but the defense ranks 31st in DVOA. Even the Bucs should run on this team.
Brady is 8-3 ATS (73%) on the road after a bye, and he’s 7-2-1 (78%) after the week off as a TD favorite or less. Road favorites of a field goal or less after a full bye are an impressive 30-13-1 ATS, a 70% cover rate. And don’t forget, the Browns are a lame-duck team since Deshaun Watson has been practicing all week and this is Jacoby Brissett’s last start.
This was one of our Lookahead positions. The Bucs aren’t as good on the road while the Browns offense is far better at home, so that downgrades this from bet to lean if you missed the -3.
THE PICK: Lean Bucs -3.5
Could the Packers follow a similar script? Green Bay has been run-centric this season, and the Eagles run defense ranks 31st in the NFL in EPA per play. Philadelphia’s defense ranks 20th in DVOA in the first quarter, which portends a defense that’s elite as a front runner when opponents are forced to pass, but one that looks pretty beatable lately when teams hang around.
Green Bay’s run defense is pretty terrible itself. If the Eagles can recapture their rhythm in the run game, they could play on the front foot and keep Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines. But outside of run D, the Packers actually rank top 12 in passing offense and defense, as well as rushing attack. Green Bay has some fatal flaws but manages to hang around.
The Packers rank ninth in DVOA over the last five weeks. They had extra time after a Thursday game while the Eagles played a close, tough game on Sunday. Aaron Rodgers is 4-0 ATS lifetime as an underdog of 6.5 or more, winning two of the four outright.
It’s Sunday night and Green Bay’s season is on the line. I have to believe Rodgers gives his team a chance.
THE PICK: Lean Packers +7
This Monday night matchup didn’t look too enticing a few weeks ago, but both teams are playing better. Everyone’s talking about the Colts‘ improvement under Jeff Saturday. Indianapolis won Saturday’s first game, then nearly repeated the feat against the one-loss Eagles.
But the Steelers have been even better over their past two games, since it turns out adding T.J. Watt is a lot more meaningful than adding a high school coach.
The Colts are up to 20th in DVOA the last two games. That’s much better than their 30th ranking on the season and dead-last offense! But Pittsburgh ranks ninth over the same stretch, including top five in rushing attack and on defense. The Steelers fell short against the Bengals, but Watt really does make them an entirely different team.
The Colts defense has been pretty strong as well, so this game looks like another primetime under. I won’t bet a total, but that does tell us three points for the dog is too many — especially when Mike Tomlin remains 39-17-1 ATS (70%) as an underdog from Week 5 forward, including 17-4 ATS (81%) when he’s lost at least two of the last three.
The Colts are playing better — but so are the Steelers.
THE PICK: Lean Steelers +3
No team is hotter than the 49ers.
San Francisco leads the league in DVOA over the last four games — top four on both offense and defense. Christian McCaffrey has fit into the attack seamlessly, and the defense is getting healthy after an October swoon. The Saints defense has also played better of late, but the pass D is still very beatable if Jimmy Garoppolo is up for it.
Garoppolo is playing great ball, but he is still only 2-6-1 ATS (25%) as at least a TD favorite while Kyle Shanahan is 18-28-1 ATS (39%) as a favorite. Those trends didn’t work Monday night, but one international game against a battered and bruised Arizona roster shouldn’t sway us too much.
Shanahan and Garoppolo are 6-13-1 ATS (68%) as home favorites, but they’ve covered three of the last four after losing six straight outright. Maybe these two have finally figured things out, but I just don’t trust them yet.
This line is a touch high, and a low total portends a low-scoring game, which also favors the underdog on a long line.
Don’t shrug off the fact that the Niners just played in Mexico City either. We’ve only seen four teams play in Mexico and then again the next week, but they’re 1-3 ATS in the second half the following game, the one cover by a single point.
The extra travel and elevation exhaustion may be taking its toll, and the Saints have been a better second-half team.
THE PICK: Lean Saints +9.5
OTHER ANGLES: Saints 2H
The Texans shouldn’t be able to run much and don’t have the weapons to hurt Miami’s leaky pass defense. The Dolphins defense ranks 31st in DVOA on the road, but seventh at home.
The Dolphins should win with ease, but covering such a high line is another story. Miami has only two wins by more than six points all season, and Houston has only lost by more than 13 once.
Double-digit underdogs are 11-5 ATS (69%) this season and a perfect 5-0 in November. Lovie Smith is 16-8 ATS (67%) as more than a TD underdog, and underdogs of 12-plus who have scored 20 or fewer points in five straight games are 30-12 ATS (71%), including 12-2 ATS over the past decade.
THE PICK: Lean Texans +13.5
Oh, you better believe we’re going back to Seattle Island.
The island didn’t come through in Germany, but that plus a bye week might have bought us another few weeks to find value on this team. Seattle is good! The Seahawks still rank seventh in DVOA. They’re in the top quarter of the league on offense and special teams, and top half of the league — and improving — in defense.
This is also a team that should improve coming out of the bye, with a really young roster featuring five rookie starters in key positions. Seattle had won four in a row by double digits before losing in Germany, and this offense should eat against an awful Raiders defense.
Vegas ranks last in defensive DVOA on the season. The Raiders are last against the pass in EPA, and they’re not getting much pressure on opposing QBs, one remaining bugaboo for Geno Smith.
The Raiders offense has also been far worse on the road, and Seattle has one of the few real home-field advantages left in football with its 12th Man. The Raiders are 3-7. Those three wins came against the one-win Texans and twice against Nathaniel Hackett.
That team is barely a field goal underdog on the road against a genuinely good Seahawks team? I don’t buy it. Pete Carroll is 44-25-4 ATS (64%) after a loss, including 3-0 this season.
THE PICK: Bet Seahawks -3.5
I grabbed Ravens -3.5 on the Lookahead but still like them at -4.
The advanced metrics paint the Jaguars much closer to average than bad, but they don’t tell the whole story. Jacksonville was genuinely good in September, but are 1-6 since the start of October, ranking 27th in DVOA and 31st in defense.
The early mirage has passed. Jacksonville is bad.
On the other hand, Baltimore started a bit slower due to a slew of injuries, but it’s getting healthy and looking better and better. The Ravens rank third in DVOA on the season, and the defense is rising since the addition of Roquan Smith and the return of several starters. Baltimore is up to sixth defensively in DVOA the last five weeks, and second in two games with Smith.
The Jaguars are coming off a bye week, but the Ravens barely broke a sweat against the Panthers. Besides, Doug Pederson is just 1-4 ATS after the bye, while John Harbaugh is 10-4-2 ATS (71%) facing opponents with that extra week of prep.
If anything, Jacksonville’s bye and faux “home-field advantage” are buying us value on the number, especially since Baltimore’s offense has been far better on the road.
Road favorites of a TD or less facing an opponent off a bye week are 44-29-1 ATS, covering 60% of the time. When the road team is favored even with a rest disadvantage, the books are telling us to take the hint.
I like under 44, too. Unders for home underdogs are hitting at a 68% clip this season, and Pederson overs are 33-12 for his career (73%), including 5-0 this season. Baltimore games have gone over 44 only once since September, and the defense is hitting its peak.
THE PICK: Bet Ravens -4
OTHER ANGLES: Under 44
The Commanders were a late-week bet for us in Week 11, and I’m going back to the well. I love this matchup for them.
The Commanders have a top-five run defense by DVOA, and they rank second against the run on first down. No team is more committed to the run than Atlanta, and the Falcons offense has dropped to league average over the past month after a great start.
Atlanta’s offensive line isn’t holding up, and Washington has one of the league’s fiercest pass rushes and finally gets Chase Young back. The Falcons, meanwhile, lose Kyle Pitts. And as frustrating as he’s been for fantasy owners, his versatility at tight end is absolutely vital to what this offense does. The Falcons will struggle to score, especially if Washington stops Atlanta’s usually efficient first-down offense.
It might be even worse on the other side. The Falcons rank last defensively on the road, and newly-named starter Taylor Heinicke is now 10-2-1 ATS (83%) since the start of last November, in part because he’s getting the ball over 50% more often to Terry McLaurin than Carson Wentz did. Those two should have another big game with Atlanta’s secondary still banged up.
Washington has won five of six and is quietly in the playoff race at 6-5. The Falcons technically still are too, thanks to the NFC South, but these teams are moving in opposite directions.
THE PICK: Bet Commanders -4