Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (Thursday Night Football)
The longstanding bettors at FanDuel Sportsbook and elsewhere have had a field day with picks on the Bills in 2022. Much like those who pick Man City to win its first Champions League crown ever, or users inspired to pick Brazil at 2-to-1 World Cup odds despite over a decade of frustration for Little Canary, there was no sober argument or historical factoid capable of swaying their bets elsewhere. The Bills’ regular season threatens to wholly vindicate Buffalo’s preseason futures odds at 8-3 overall.
However, Buffalo is also in danger of becoming the “Gonzaga” of NFL betting boards, a talented team for whom speculators have grown tired of the sudden episodes and downturns. The Bills snapped a midseason losing streak by winning tight games against a pair of 4-7 clubs at Ford Field, chosen as a satellite venue for Buffalo in Week 11 after powerful lake-effect snow struck in upstate New York. But the news out of Motor City was not all positive, as linebacker Von Miller’s injury suffered on Thanksgiving seems destined to cause the Bills’ linchpin more problems than Miller believes it will.
The Bills and Chiefs’ odds to win Super Bowl 57 are now in a virtual dead heat, as the steady, retooled Chiefs can boast healthy difference-makers on both sides of the pigskin. More immediately to bettors’ Week 13 concerns, well-traveled Buffalo is only (-4) point-spread picks over the 6-5 Patriots in Foxboro this Thursday.
Thursday Night Football’s Over/Under line remains pretty cautious at (43.5) total points, given the mildness of Allen’s current right-elbow injury and the prospect of Bill Belichick game-planning against a visiting Buffalo defense without its best QB hunter. Speculators may be torn between the promise of TDs scored, foul weather in Boston, and the specter of sloppy, low-scoring TNF bouts that seem to occur often in late fall.
Boston will be miserable with rain, cold, and heavy wind through Thursday eve. But if the breeze dies down in the 2nd or 3rd quarter, it will not be the first time. Indeed, predictions indicate that TNF might just enjoy calmer weather than first expected. Additionally, the Turkey Day slate has given both clubs a longer week of practice.
WagerBop’s Pick: Over (43.5)
Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, December 3)
NFL point-total odds for Week 13 are an unspoken reminder from bookmakers, translated easily into “We’ve heard this number before.” For example, NYC is practically bonkers over the Jets’ upgrade at QB as Mike White takes over for the struggling, internally disliked QB Zach Wilson. Pro handicappers can remember, though, when Sam Darnold and other quarterbacks were hailed as saviors for Gang Green after performing well for 4-to-8 quarters at a time, causing bettors and bookmakers alike to whiff wildly. Las Vegas is choosing to stand pat on White with sub-40-point O/U lines on New York Jets picks for now.
The Ravens and Broncos’ O/U (38.5) point-scoring line for Sunday isn’t a surprise, until you see that Baltimore is a whopping (-8.5) pick on the point spread. Those market lines don’t seem to be correlated, given that a windy, cold home game would be a chance for the Ravens to shake off last weekend’s frustrating loss with a solid 21-14 victory; there’s no reason for Baltimore to try to blow out any opponent at risk of playing in an unpredictable, wide-open game, not with the AFC standings so tightly packed and the threat of missing out on even a Wild Card berth starting to look very real.
That offense of Lamar Jackson‘s can switch into a 90% running-oriented game and remain a big-play factor, an angle that almost gives Baltimore’s “Graduated Flexbone” playbook an unfair advantage on breezy days. Yet the cause for Ravens-Broncos’ blow-out needles going red is the midseason problems of the Broncos, with Russel Wilson’s low-ranked offense barely able to make a dent in the Panthers’ blue-collar defense last Sunday. Latavius Murray’s rushing ability for the Broncos may ironically be one of the angles “Under” gamblers can count on in Maryland, as Denver’s drives may be time-consuming enough to blunt a trend of crazy field-flipping plays in Ravens games. But as is the case in New England this week, fairer weather than anticipated could actually be bad news for the visitors, given Jackson’s potential to out-play his aging counterpart, in addition to the backup cornerback named “Lamar Jackson” who Denver coincidentally signed to a contract on Tuesday.
WagerBop’s Pick: Ravens ATS (-8.5) or (-400) (With Parlay)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions (Sunday, December 3)
It is easier to understand Week 13’s point spread out of Motor City, where Detroit is (+106) on the money-line and playing the underdog to Jacksonville, in spite of going toe-to-toe with Buffalo on the same field a week ago. Each opposing team has won just 4 games and needs a miracle run through December to challenge for a Wild Card berth. Why are the athletic, improving Lions substantial underdogs on home turf?
One finds the answer in just 2 words: Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence had a coming-out party in the Jaguars’ come-from-behind win over the Ravens on Sunday, overcoming a meek Jacksonville ground game while taking-down a betting favorite with one of the league’s most dynamic ground-and-air attacks in its arsenal. The Clemson phenom found unheralded WR Zay Jones for nearly 150 yards while tossing 3 touchdown passes with no picks, displaying an ability to scramble out of sacks that belied Lawrence’s 0.5 yards-per-carry stats.
All things being equal, the prospect of a Jared Goff vs Trevor Lawrence duel at indoor Ford Field makes it hard to see the Jaguars going flat in a battle for pride, while helping the Over/Under line on Lions-Jaguars rise to (51.5) total points at FanDuel Sportsbook. But there’s something to be said for Goff’s veteran moxie in an evenly-matched bout, and the home team’s rarely a bad pick at plus moneyline odds to win a “50-50” contest.
WagerBop’s Pick: Lions (+106)
Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, December 3)
Sunday’s other generous point-total lines are inspired by Cincinnati’s kickoff, as Joe Burrow and the Bengals host Sin City’s new Super Bowl 57 favorite KC Chiefs. Bookmakers at FanDuel are offering O/U picks on a whopping line of O/U (52.5), as Week 13’s surging home team spends its autumn proving that the Rams are The Shield’s 2021-22 conference winner with the genuine hangover. Whether it’s been mad coffee, better defense, or, most likely, Burrow’s uncanny leadership and determination, the Bengals are now poised to reach the playoffs again after exploding from the .500 mark to reach 7-4. Cincy is handicapped as only a (+2.5) underdog vs the Chiefs on Sunday.
Kansas City’s offense is certainly capable of scoring TDs on Cincinnati’s blue-collar defenders. But no matter how much hype is attached to the KC defense with Pat Mahomes’ club standing atop the conference standings once more, remember that the Bengals utilize a very flexible game plan. Burrow is nonplussed about handing off to tailback Joe Mixon in a low-scoring game, but he’s always ready to execute a 2:00 drive for points. The Bengals may not have Mixon as an option against Kansas City with the rusher now in concussion protocol, but that means Cincinnati may rely on Burrow’s arm in both halves, not just in crunch time.
Envision the Cincy offense as a rope-climber who perpetually climbs as high as she needs to and rarely any further. If the KC Chiefs are destined to produce 30+ points on Sunday, then the Bengals are probably going to put a similar total on the scoreboard.
WagerBop’s Pick: Over (52.5)
Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football)
Simpler predictions apply to the Dallas Cowboys’ (-10.5) chance to cover ATS on Sunday Night Football. The Colts’ midseason hire of Jeff Saturday as head coach is among the least creative, and probably least effective, of the recent high-profile front-office changes in NFL and Premier League competition. In fact, Indianapolis’ latest controversial move can be compared to Georgia Tech giving Brent Key, an interim coach from a poor prior staff, the keys to the castle in Atlanta going forward. Saturday is already under fire for sketchy clock management at the end of the Colts’ 17-16 loss to the Steelers on Monday night.
Indy should perhaps be grateful for Saturday’s 1-point outcomes after a season in which everything’s gone badly for the Colts. But in truth, last Monday’s performance represented the up-side of a coaching change made to someone other than an “interim” steward while late in a losing season. Players were auditioning for the new regime, a motivational factor that temporarily overwhelms the specter of Indianapolis’ 4-7 season and slim-to-none chances to surpass New York or Los Angeles and reach the postseason.
Battling the surging Silver Star is a recipe for the other shoe to drop. It’s true that Dak Prescott’s team often gets itself into Sunday episodes against overmatched rivals, causing the outcome to stand in doubt for 60:00 while Jerry Jones frowns at the effort from a luxury suite on high. However, that’s not as likely to happen on Sunday night with a frustrated, backpedaling Indianapolis in town … a club that could easily give up by Quarter 4.
WagerBop’s Pick: Cowboys ATS (-10.5)
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Monday Night Football)
Is the dull supporting cast of Tom Brady actually doing Hall-of-Famers a favor, even in posterity, in 2022? Brady’s season may be viewed as the final, inevitable decline of an aging signal-caller by fans who merely peruse NFL records and find the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 5-6. But the reality is nothing like that, as Brady’s polished skill-set continues to be a model for all other NFL passers to follow. The Bucs are saddled with an extremely low-ranked running game and the difficult schedule of an NFC Divisional Playoff Game representative, yet Tom Terrific has been nothing but superb while battling through the doldrums.
The fact that legends Johnny Unitas, Ken Stabler, and even Russell Wilson now appear less responsible for having lost while playing for poor teams at their careers’ end doesn’t make Brady and the Buccaneers a good betting pick in prime-time. However, on Monday night, Tampa Bay hosts an opponent ripe for the picking in the division-rival Saints, who also happen to be cast as a (+3.5) point-spread pick for MNF in Week 13.
The Bucs could win the NFL’s weakest division with a .500 record, something that’s surely not lost on Brady’s never-say-die psyche. But if there’s a team destined to catch Tampa Bay and become the NFC South’s only playoff bid, it’s not likely to be downtrodden New Orleans, whose recent win over the wounded L.A. Rams is sandwiched between convincing losses to Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. The Saints’ awful run-defense statistics are exaggerated by New Orleans’ many late-game deficits in 2022, but Old Gold’s 4.5 YPC surrendered gives the Bucs a chance to put Brady in better down-and-distance.
WagerBop’s Pick: Buccaneers ATS (-3.5)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.