Week 12 NFL Picks – Picks and Predictions by TJ Calkins
27 November 2020
The NFL Week 12 Sunday slate got bolstered a bit with the Steelers vs Ravens game being moved form Thursday to Sunday. More on this game later, but there is a chance this game could be moved again due to the Ravens COVID-19 issues. This is one of the marquee matchups we get in Week 12 NFL Picks, and there are others that will certainly have bearing on both playoff chances and seeding for a number of teams.
The AFC South crown could very well be decided on Sunday, as the Colts host the Titans, and one of these 7-3 teams will take full control of their own destiny atop their division.
The matchup between the Vikings and Panthers is not necessarily a game circled for playoff implications, but the loser of this game will see their hopes extinguished.
The Bears are in a dire spot for their divisional hopes. They currently trail the Packers by two games in the NFC North, and travel to Lambeau this week in an absolute must win spot on Sunday night if they are to remain in that race.
Last but certainly not least, the Chiefs travel to Tampa on Sunday afternoon. This will be a required bounce back spot for the Bucs if they are to remain alvie in their divisional race, which they currently trail by 1.5 games and see the Saints having a probable win in Denver this week. We will be diving into that game later, but let’s jump to the four plays for this week right now.
Las Vegas Raiders at Atlanta Falcons
Opening Line: pick em and 55.5
Current Line: Raiders -3 and 54
We have not seen as many shootouts in Atlanta as we have come to expect this season, and that is to say only three of the five Falcon home games have hit the 55 point mark needed for the over in this matchup. The good news for us watching (and wagering) is that the Raiders have somewhat flown under the radar as a team that plays in shootouts quite regularly. The winning team in every Raiders game, save for the windy weather disaster at Cleveland, has scored at least 30 points. Seven of those ten matchups saw the winner hit 34 points and the average point output for Raider games this season is 57.2 points. If we remove that Browns game that was decimated by weather, knowing the weather won’t be an issue in the dome, that average jumps to 61.1 points per contest.
Further analyzing the particular matchup, the Raiders defense has struggles with the higher end passing games in the league. In their six games against teams ranked top six in passing, they are allowing 32 points per game, with the floor game being 24 points, all the way back in Week 2 against the Saints. Enter the third ranked Falcons, at home, and we will see another game in which the Raider secondary gets scorched again. The Raiders do not have a strong pass rush, which has been a real path to slowing the Falcon passing offense, and it will be a bounce back spot for them after the Saints pass rush made their week a tough one last week. We should see both Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones at or nearing full heath and can project them to have similar output to those previous comparable matchups. How do the Raiders respond in such matchups? In those six games, they are happy to go to shootout outcomes. They average 29.2 points scored in those contests and the total points scored in those games averages 61.3. If we take just the most recent four games in our comparable sample, the total point output average jumps all the way to 65.5 points per game.
We know the Falcons defense can be quite friendly, and the Raiders will attack with balance, and we will once again see a scoring pace. When we are looking to check boxes for an over play in a Raiders game, we want to see a subpar defense overall and a high end passing attack. We get exactly that and all signs point to another game played in the sixties for the Raiders. Take the over in this one.
Betting Play: Over 54
Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Opening Line: Chiefs -3 and 53
Current Line: Chiefs -3.5 and 56
The Buccaneers started their season with a loss in New Orleans, but bounced back to win six of their next seven, but are now on struggling a bit, dropping two of their last three, with the most daunting opponent in the league coming to town. Tom Brady, after looking fully elite for most of the season, has had some struggles with deep balls of late. This might be a get right spot for him, and it may just be an uber fun mega fun shootout. The Chiefs struggled a bit with deep balls last week against the lesser Raiders, and have allowed 31 points in each of their last two games. Both have been wins, and fortunately for viewers, they have been wins of the fun variety. The Chiefs are not a team that can be stopped, instead they are a team that must be outscored. Patrick Mahomes and company have scored at least 23 points in every single game this season, and are truly in stride right now. They have scored at least 33 points in each of their last four games, all wins, en route to a 0-1 record. While they have played some fun games, the schedule has not often matched them up with higher end passing attacks in the league, but that will improve down the stretch. After the matchup with the Bucs this week, they still have matchups with the Saints, Flacons and Chargers remaining on the schedule, and we will be in for more fun, much like in this one.
We have established with current trends, that even though the total sits at a very high figure, we will be attacking the over in this game. I touched on the Chiefs already, but I think they are a prudent side to play as well. Since their Week 5 loss to the Raiders, they are 5-0 with an average point differential of +13.4 per game. Against all non divisional opponents, the Chiefs are 6-0 with an average point differential of +13.5 and only the Panthers have come within a field goal. It should also be noted that was the lone game Christian McCaffrey played since his injury and the Panthers scored very late to get it that close. With the nature of this game being the elite Chiefs at the good Buccaneers, the tighter line makes the Chiefs more attractive than many other spots, in which the lines end up much, much wider. We get two plays out of this fun afternoon game, in the Chiefs and the over.
Betting Plays: Chiefs -3.5 and Over 56
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Opening Line: Steelers -4 and 45
Current Line: Steelers -4.5 and 45
The biggest breaking news for this game is that Lamar Jackson is one of a large group of Raven players to test positive for COVID-19. This group includes both of their top two backs in JK Dobbins and Mark Ingram, and we are going to see Robert Griffin III and Gus Edwards in the backfield against the high end Steeler defense in Pittsburgh. Another note for the Raven offense that simply cannot be understated is that they have lost Nick Boyle for the season. While the tight end is not a prolific pass catcher, he was essentially an extra lineman as a blocker and was a huge key to the rushing aspect of their offense. Without him, they are at least somewhat forced to be more of a passing team. There are pros and cons to that. The biggest pro is that high end pass catching tight end Mark Andrews is playing more snaps running more routes. The con is that whether it is Griffin or Jackson under center, their quarterbacks strengths do not lie in their passing appeal, and are most effective as runners. Even though Andrews is likely to offset the net negative to some degree with some big plays, their offense is going to struggle in Pittsburgh, and likely with turnovers as the Steelers have many opportunistic playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.
On the offensive side of the ball, the pass happy Steelers have the best group of wide receivers in the league. They know this to be true and steadily move the ball with one on one dominance. Diontae Johnson (stop me if you’ve heard this from me ad nauseum already) remains the most unsung and underrated wide receiver in the league. He is the life blood of the offense with big volume and consistent movement of the ball. It can easily be argued he is an extension of the running game, winning his one on one matchups and having prolific run after catch ability. He is perfectly complemented by the huge playmaking ability of Chase Claypool and the steadiness of tight end(s?) Eric Ebron and Juju Smith-Schuester. That is just a joke on the usage of Smith-Schuester being most like a tight end, I am quite aware he is actually a wide receiver. In any event, the recipe for the Steelers has worked perfectly, as they are the league’s only undefeated team, and that will continue in this home matchup.
It is somewhat curious that the Lamar Jackson news has not moved the line at all, but he has certainly not played well nor been a difference maker this season, particularly as a passer. Even still, Griffin is no upgrade, and it would be surprising if the Steelers didn’t jump to a lead and slowly but surely expose him as a passer. In any event, this line is not nearly as wide as it should be, and I believe it will be a blow out despite the divisional nature of the matchup. Take the Steelers to roll.
Betting Play: Steelers -4.5
Other Game Predictions
Cardinals win and cover at Patriots, over
Giants win and cover at Bengals, under
Browns win and cover at Jaguars, over
Vikings win and cover against Panthers, over
Titans win as underdogs at Colts, over
Dolphins win and cover at Jets, over
Saints win and cover at Broncos, over
Rams win and cover against 49ers, over
Packers win but no cover against Bears, under
Be sure to check back Saturday for prop plays and Sunday for a look at the Monday Night matchup!
NFL Week 12 – 2019
Thanks for stopping back for week 12. For a slate this late in the season, there aren’t a plethora of match-ups this week with real playoff implications on both sides, but there are a few.
Week 12 NFL Picks
The Panthers are second in the NFC South, two games back of the Saints, and they will need to beat the Saints this week to have any hope for a divisional crown. The second place Eagles host the second place Seahawks that will be key in deciding their respective divisions and could have true wild card implications. Most notably, the Sunday game features the 49ers hosting the Packers in a matchup of first place teams holding the conference’s best records. As far as the other games go, we have some ugly ones as there’s a whopping five games with totals under 42 points, and just one for the week cracking the 50 point mark.
Let’s sort them out game by game.
Play of the Week
Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams
8:15PM EST, Monday Night
Opening Line: Pickem and 49
Current Line: Ravens -3 and 46.5
We all know what Lamar Jackson and offensive coordinator Greg Roman are doing to opposing defenses, and this is the last matchup a flailing Rams team needed to run into at this juncture. Jackson and company appear matchup proof at this point and they are the only ones who can get in their own way. The Ravens defense and secondary has also picked it up a notch since the acquisition of cornerback Marcus Peters from… uhh, well this is awkward, from the Rams. Peters has scored multiple touchdowns with his new team and you can bet he’ll be itching to get another one from Jared Goff, who has had this entire season be a struggle. To make matters worse, the Rams could be without two of their top three wide receivers in this game and will have a truly difficult time keeping pace. This spread will only continue to climb and it might be prudent to get this bet in early in the week.
Betting Pick: Ravens -3Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills
Opening Line: Bills -5.5 and 35
Current Line: Bills -4 and 37.5
The Broncos last week came into Minnesota and attempted to compete as the Vikings thought they were simply being handed a win in the first half. The Vikings inexplicably allowed a 20-0 first half lead before realizing they still had to play a football game and ultimately beating the lowly Broncos 27-23. The Bills got an easy win in Miami and now get to return home against an arguably worse team and laying fewer points than the previous week. Josh Allen has been effective on the ground of late with four rushing touchdowns in the last three games and he has been efficient and safe as a passer. In the five games since the bye, he has an 8/0 touchdown passing touchdown to interception ratio and is in a good spot to keep that streak going. The Broncos defense has had zero takeaways in six of ten games this season. The Bills defense matches up perfectly against the limited Broncos offense. Brandon Allen makes his third career start and has completed just 29 of 59 passes through two games. Making matters worse, his favorite target, Courtland Sutton will be smothered in the coverage of Tre’Davious White. Sutton has caught over a third of Allen’s completions and there simply isn’t another reliable pass catching option for the Broncos. The Bills should roll in this one and the line has moved in the wrong direction.
Betting Pick: Bills-4Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed
New York Giants at Chicago Bears
Opening Line: Bears -7 and 41
Current Line: Bears -6 and 40.5
The opening line and current lines are both very much head scratchers in this one. Sure, the Giants are a lower end team in the league, but the Bears absolutely fit that bill as well, namely because Mitchell Truisky will be under center. After being pulled late in the game with the game on the line last week, the team put a cover story of an injury on the move, but Trubisky was a full practice participant early in the week. The Bears have lost five of their last six games and have not scored more than 20 points in any of their last four. The offense is fully anemic and even great matchups like the Giants are just mediocre for them. On the defensive side of the ball, they are still without run stuffer Akiem Hicks and they can very much be beaten on the ground, a bad sign as Saquon Barkley comes to town. Assuming Daniel Jones doesn’t turn the ball over three or more times, the Giants will be competitive in this one and are in play on the money line if you so choose, but +6 is a beautiful spot in any event.
Betting Pick: Giants +6Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed
Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns
Opening Line: Browns -9 and 45
Current Line: Browns -10.5 and 44.5
The Miami Dolphins came back down to Earth last week as they were handily beaten by the Bills at home. The Browns secured an easy but now infamous division win at home on Thursday night, but lost their best defensive player for the remainder of the season. If you’ve been living under a rock this week, Myles Garrett lost the remainder of the season to suspension after giving in to instigator and cheap shot artist Mason Rudolph. Rudolph threw a temper tantrum late in the game and Garrett’s egregious overreaction was the aim of the punishment while Rudolph got off free and clear. With a situation like this and a head coach in Freddie Kitchens that’s clearly not had firm control of his team for the duration of the season, it is difficult to project how the Cleveland Browns might come out. They are very much better than the Dolphons on both sides of the ball, and this is set up to be a blow up spot for Odell Beckham Jr against the Dolphins secondary. Also working in the Browns favor is the Dolphins simply cannot run the ball as the worst back in recent memory Kalen Ballage plods back to the line of scrimmage. In a favorite or pass spot, this home town Clevelander doesn’t remotely trust th Browns enough laying double digits, and it is a pass.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Opening Line: Steelers -7 and 40
Current Line: Steelers -6.5 and 39
The movement on the total is a good glimpse of what to expect in this AFC North matchup. The Bengals are currently in a two way tie with the Redskins for the team currently playing the worst football, but at least we can say the Bengals are probably not actively trying to win. The Steelers are likely to be without both of their top two wide receivers in this one and could potentially be without top running back James Conner. There isn’t a great deal to break down in this game as we have a straightforward situation with the Bengals. They appear to have no interest in winning another game and securing the top overall pick in the 2020 draft, therefore betting on the Bengals is not at all in play. With the Steelers offensive injuries and overall limitations with Mason Rudolph under center, we can’t play them laying nearly a full touchdown on the road. The epitome of a game to stay away from.
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
Opening Line: Raiders -3 and 47
Current Line: Raiders -3 and 46.5
The Raiders travel east for a 1PM EST start time which is never an ideal situation for west coast teams. The Raiders are just 1-3 on the road this season but get a winnable matchup against the Jets, albeit one that they don’t match up perfectly in. The strength of the Jets defense is stopping the run and that is generally the path Oakland needs to take to find their wins. The outcome of this game likely hinges on how effective Derek Carr can be against the Jets secondary as it is questionable how effective the run will be and what the game script will look like. The Jets will use a balanced attack and will find some level of success against the Raiders defense. The Raiders have allowed at least 24 points in each of their road games this year and in every game overall not against the Broncos or Bengals. The Jets offense has clicked in two consecutive very soft matchups and put up 34 points in consecutive weeks. In a dog or pass spot we need to hold our nose and take the dog in this one.
Betting Pick: Jets +3Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed</stron
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Opening Line: Saints -7 and 48
Current Line: Saints -9.5 and 47
I have been burned by the Panthers in consecutive weeks. One was on egregious refereeing, but the most recent last week was simply from peak inefficiency from an otherwise effective offense. Last week the Panther offense gained 347 yards but mustered only three points on the back of four interceptions and two turnovers on downs. Points were lost on at least four of those drives. Kyle Allen played his worst game as a pro but this, simply put, should not be the expectation in each week going forward. The Saints played the same Atlanta team one week earlier and were far more inept on offense, they just didn’t have the ugly turnovers. This line opened slightly too wide but was bet far wider and the Panthers are an extremely live dog here with their divisional title hopes hanging in the balance. This will be a competitive matchup and points on the cusp of double digits are extremely attractive. Let the Panthers give you one back.
Betting Pick: Panthers +9.5Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Opening Line: Falcons -3 and 54.5
Current Line: Falcons -4.5 and 51.5
As the Saints and Panthers look to decide the top of the AFC South, these two teams look to decide wh the worst of the division is. The Falcons have played two games since their bye week and what was the worst defense in the league has not allowed a touchdown in either of those games. There were not any notable personnel changes, just some shifts in the positional coaching staff, and it feels like a massive anomaly. In the first of those games, poor third down play from Drew Brees was, at minimum, a large contributor to that outcome. In the second, unforced errors on poor throws by Kyle Allen was the sole factor in allowing 3 points instead of 30 against a Panther offense that was moving the ball effectively. The Bucs passing offense is overwhelming and will gain yardage and score points in just about every matchup, with forcing turnovers often being the only recipe for slowing them down. For reference, Jameis Winston has thrown for at least 300 yards in seven of his last eight games, but has multiple turnovers in four of those games. The Bucs will score points on an Atlanta defense that will show its “improvement” to be a mirage. The Bucs secondary simply can’t stop anyone and the Falcons wide receivers should be in for a high output afternoon. This will be a fun, competitive, high scoring matchup that I want the points and the over in.
Over 51.5Bet at Unibet and get $20 Free – no deposit needed
Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins
Opening Line: Lions -1.5 and 41
Current Line: Lions -3.5 and 41.5
What a world we live in when a Jeff Driskel lead Lions team opens as a favorite on the road and then that line is bet upwards! While it does make sense, the Lions are just a low level team while Matthew Stafford recovers from his back injury on the sidelines. The Redskins are pitifully bad on offense with Dwayne Haskins under center, but they could find success with a run heavy game plan in this matchup. The name of the game will be hiding Haskins and only calling on him for the bare minimum. The Lions will have a similar task, and protecting the football will be key. If the game were in Detroit I might have a stronger stance on this one, but with the Lions being so susceptible to the run, it has to be a pass in a favorite or pass spot.
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles
Opening Line: Eagles -3 and 49
Current Line: Eagles -1.5 and 48
This one will be a fun one to watch, and if you follow this column on a weekly basis, you can guess how it will play out. Seahawks games are just so maddeningly predictable for 58 minutes, the guessing comes in the last two minutes and who gets the ball last. With the Eagles being so stout against the run, it’s fair to wonder if the Seattle staff will unleash Russell Wilson any sooner than is necessary… HAHAHAHA just kidding! We will get the same maddening inefficient run game with the team turning to their all world quarterback time after time to dig them out of a hole instead of just unleashing him to begin with and *gasp* unthinkably playing from ahead. The Eagles secondary is exploitable and I don’t believe this game would be close if the Seahawks came in with a pass heavy game plan, but alas, they will do what they do. The Eagles will keep it competitive with a balanced offensive attack that could see big days from their high end tight ends. As we know, the Seahawks play nearly exclusively one score games and we generally want the underdog, but with a tight line like this, it’s better to watch this game for entertainment value and sit out on the betting side.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
Opening Line: Titans -2.5 and 41
Current Line: Titans -3 and 41
With the top two teams in the AFC South playing Thursday night, this game is a divisional crown eliminator of sorts, particularly if Houston wins Thursday. The Jaguars had a fairly ugly loss to the Colts last week as breakout wide receiver DJ Chark was the lone bright spot in the return of quarterback Nick Foles. Coach Doug Marrone pledged this week to get running back Leonard Fournette more involved, but this might not be the week to do it. Fournette was wholly bottled up in the week 3 matchup between these two teams and airing it out for another week, or at least keeping it balanced will be a better recipe for the Jags. The Titans have been vastly improved since making the quarterback change to Ryan Tannehill who has gone 3-1 as a starter. The offense has balance and is far more difficult to defend as Tannehill has accounted for nine touchdowns in those four games after Mariota accounted for just seven touchdowns in the first six games. This is a tight divisional matchup and one that could go either way. Stay away and go for the better spots.
Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots
Opening Line: Patriots -7 and 47
Current Line: Patriots -6.5 and 45
This will likely be an extremely long afternoon for the small sect of folks inexplicably touting Dak Prescott as an MVP candidate. The matchup with the Patriots secondary is the most difficult in the league and if Prescott (and not Ezekiel Elliott) is the focal point of the offense, the Cowboys will be in a world of hurt. Teams are able to run on the Patriots and the Cowboys *should* opt for a run heavy game plan, but this is a coin flip. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots offense is quite mediocre this season and the team has truly been carried by the defense so far. It should improve weekly as trade acquisition Mohammed Sanu gets more acclimated with the offense, but the ceiling is definitely capped while they struggle to effectively run the ball. This is a spot to stay away from with a wide range of outcomes.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
8:20 PM EST
Opening Line: 49ers -3.5 and 44
Current Line: 49ers -3 and 47.5
These two teams are currently the top two seeds in the NFC and we get quite a meaningful game on Sunday night. It is fair to say the strength of schedule, or lack thereof, are big contributors to the success of both teams. The Packers were gifted wins from poor officiating against the Lions and Panthers and this point spread might look a little different without those occurrences. The 49ers certainly have the better defensive unit, but the running back heavy approach from the Packers is better when attacking the 49ers than a pass heavy approach. The same approach will likely come on the other side as well, as the Packers have real difficulty defending a ground attack. I fully see this game playing out as the winner of the early portion of the game holding on and securing the win. Both teams are built far better to play from ahead and the pass rush if the 49ers is just hell to deal with as teams try to catch up. The defensive line edge of the 49ers is probably the most significant in the game and it makes it a favorite or pass spot for me, but opting to sit this one out.
TJ Calkins was raised in a gambling loving household. He knew how to handicap horse races and follow line movements well before his tenth birthday.