Week 12's Upset Watch will be delivered in two parts this week, with a Thursday game update on Thursday afternoon, and a later evaluation of the other games on this week's slate released at the weekend to accomodate injury news and line changes.
We are also now very close to relaunching our statistic Game Hubs and this means a minor delay on Upset Watch this week. Normal service will resume in week 13.
Thursday Night Football
Indianapolis (+3.5) @ Houston
I'm not a big fan of a Thursday night pick.
Favorites this season are 3-8 on Thursday night, a staggeringly bad performance given that 7 of those games have had a favorite with a spread of -3.5pts or less. The Texans are also incredibly poor against the spread this season, coming off a 3 game streak of not covering.
Perhaps most importantly, the Colts are still suffering from a public mistrust of the team which is unjustifiable with Jacoby Brissett back and TY Hilton set to play tonight. The last time these two teams met was in week 7 when Brissett torched the Texans D for 4 TDs and zero INT's. The reality is that with these two players back in the mix, this is a closer game than it looks on paper.
Not only are we picking the Colts to cover, but we're also looking for them to win outright.
Stats and methodology
With 6.6 underdog covers on average in week 12, we’re back to normal service, at least for a week. With one underdog cover on Thursday that we correctly predicted (Indy), that leaves 6 teams that we need to pick from the remaining 13 games…
Our biggest tip? It’s still road teams facing a spread of +4.5. They’re covering 65.3% of the time, and with that in mind, we’ll take all three teams in that situation this week, picking on the basis that statistically, we should at least nail 2 from 3.
Road underdogs: 65.8%
Home underdogs: 32.91%
Road teams +4.5 or greater: 65.3%
Road teams +4 or less: 54.0%
Home teams +4.5 or greater: 33.3%
Home teams +4 or less: 62.9%
Miami (+10.5) at Cleveland
Our stance on road dogs over 4.5pts is unchanged. This year they’re still covering at an inordinately high rate, and the Dolphins are 4-1 over the last 5 weeks. With Ryan Fitzpatrick likely to play, and the Browns still somewhat in drama mode, this might be the game that pushes the Browns into full crisis mode. It’s hard to see a Miami win, but a cover? We’re taking these points.
Detroit (-3.5) at Washington
Isn’t it crazy that if you’d have described the Lions 5 years ago, you’d have basically been describing them this season too? Anonymous running backs, poor defense and an over-reliance on their passing game.
As much as we don’t like the Lions without Stafford, they are competent enough to beat the league’s worst team, aka: the Redskins. They’re done, and actually this spread is mildly insulting to Detroit, even with Jeff Driskel playing.
Oakland at NY Jets (+3)
Time to anoint Oakland as legit? They’re winning games that they should win now, and with three wins on the spin, you’d certainly think momentum was with them. It is worth noting, however, that they are 1-3 on the road this season and all three of their last 3 games were at home. The Jets are who we think they are, but they’ve played better football over the last 3 weeks too, and this could be a sneaky contender for inconsequential game of the week.
NY Giants (+6) at Chicago
Strong probability that Mitch Trubisky plays = take the Giants. In all seriousness, both of these teams are 3-7 vs the spread this year, but the Giants are sporadically better. Both of these teams can’t lose… can they?
Carolina (+9.5) at New Orleans
Here we go, this one is a good one. The Saints are excellent and the Panthers are terrible, losing their last 6 games vs the spread. There’s absolutely no reason to pick the Panthers… OR IS THERE? Again, we have to think logically. The stats say that these teams cover more often than not, and the Panthers, despite losing vs the spread in those games, have covered in their 3 games of +6 or more. In fact, they also won two of those games...
Seattle (+1) at Philadelphia
Nice and simple: The Seahawks are the better team and although they love a narrow victory (they’ve only won one game by more than a single score all season), a +1 spread is a bonus point for a team that should win this game, having won 6 of their last 7.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-4)
Atlanta have been resurgent since the bye. The fact that their two game winning streak has come at the expense of divisional rivals will not be lost on them, as there is still a remote possibility of a playoff run IF they can beat the Bucs. Tampa Bay have been so untrustworthy that it’s impossible to give them any love vs the spread until they prove otherwise after 6 straight failures vs the points. They didn’t cover against the Saints last week, and they likely won’t again here.
Denver at Buffalo (-4)
This one worries me. The Broncos are looking a lot better than they were and have covered three straight, but the Bills are also back on track and hitting form at the right time, also 2-0-1 in their last 3 games. It’s strength vs strength, but we’re on the Bills here.
Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Cincinnati
As we said above, teams who face big spreads at home are invariably the worst teams to back. They’re so bad that even the public recognizes their huge flaws, and in the Bengals’ case, those flaws are there for all to see. At 0-10, there is no confidence in or out of the building, and the Steelers, even without JuJu and Roethlisberger should have enough to win easily.
Jacksonville at Tennessee (-3.5)
Now here is the calm before the storm. There are three great games this week, but none of them are this one. I always hate backing the Titans, but they have become somewhat more reliable over the last few weeks, covering 3 of the last 4. Meanwhile the Jags still need some work with Nick Foles under Center and he does seem to need some games to shake off the rust. It all points to a Titans win.
Dallas (+6.5) at New England
We love this one vs the spread. The Pats have been shaky against anyone good, while the Cowboys have also generally under-performed against good opposition. The difference? The Cowboys haven’t lost heavily in their 4 losses, with only one game going over a 4 point margin of loss. The Pats do generally win big, but not against good opposition. The ATS stats would have led us to this anyway, but the way these two teams are made up just confirms it. Pats win, Cowboys cover. \
Green Bay at San Francisco (-3)
This is sneaky. The Packers are terrible on the west coast, as we pointed out before the loss to the Chargers earlier in the season. They’ve lost their last 3 in the Pacific time zone, against the Rams, Seahawks and Chargers. All three were good teams, and their only wins since 2012 came against the terrible Niners and the terrible Raiders of 2015. They’re playing better, but the Niners of this year are worthy 3 point favorites.
Ravens (-3) at LA Rams
Oh this is nice. ESPN get a big Monday night game that frankly, everyone should want to watch. We’re about to learn an awful lot about these two teams. Are the Ravens able to go on the road as favorites and take down a playoff team on the west coast? Can the Rams up their game against a big team? We’ll definitely find out the legitimacy of both of these teams, but how can we pick against the Raven? They’re headed in the opposite direction, scoring 30+ points in the last 4 weeks, while the Rams have not scored more than 24 in that time. Road win and cover.