NFL Week 12 Picks: Will the AFC West Lead Change Hands?

Week 12 Edition


*Note – DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: It’s Football Outsiders’ primary efficiency statistic and I believe it to be the best and most predictive measure of assessing the strength of NFL teams

***Note – All betting odds courtesy of Vegas Insider

****Note –  Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread


Records Entering Week 12

Straight Up: 94-65-2 (.590)

Last Week: 11-3

Spread: 89-64-8 (.578)

Last Week: 8-5-1

Over/Under: 87-74 (.540)

Last Week: 7-7

Locks: 22-5 (.815)

Last Week: 3-0

Best Bets: 81-64 (.559)

Last Week: 6-8




Tennessee Titans (5-6) vs Chicago Bears (2-8)

Spread: TEN -5.5            Over/Under: 42.5
’16 DVOA: TEN (20) > CHI (23)
Public Betting: TEN 86%
Key Stat: Matt Barkley’s career quarterback rating is 34.6 (0 touchdowns, 6 interceptions)

With Jay Cutler doubtful, the Bears look like they’ll be hopeless against the Titans. But it’s not just Cutler’s absence that will hurt: receiver Alshon Jeffrey (suspension), tight end Zach Miller (foot), and offensive lineman Kyle Long (ankle) all will miss Sunday’s game as well. Chicago has enough trouble scoring as it is (they’re only 31st in offensive points per drive). The Titans should be ashamed of themselves if they can’t manage to win this one.

Tennessee 23, Chicago 10 




Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8) vs Buffalo Bills (5-5)

Spread: BUF -7.5             Over/Under: 45.5
’16 DVOA: JAC (29) < BUF (8)
Public Betting: BUF 70%
Key Stat: The Bills are first in the NFL in rushing DVOA 

The key to this game will be LeSean McCoy. He left Buffalo’s last game against Cincinnati with a thumb injury, but he appears ready to go against the Jaguars. That’s good news for the Bills offense because Jacksonville isn’t as strong against the run (23rd in rushing DVOA) as they are against the pass (5th in yards per pass attempt). I still think the Jaguars’ defense is good enough to keep them in the game; but I’m taking the Bills at home.

Buffalo 24, Jacksonville 17 




Cincinnati Bengals (3-6-1) vs Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

Spread: BAL -3.5            Over/Under: 40.5
’16 DVOA: CIN (18) < BAL (17)
Public Betting: BAL 69%
Key Stat: Baltimore has the league’s best run-stopping unit according to DVOA 

This is a bad matchup for Cincinnati. Without A.J. Green (hamstring), I don’t see how Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati passing offense gets going. Moreover, their rushing attack will rely solely on Jeremy Hill now that Giovani Bernard is out for the year. That’s problematic because Cincinnati’s rushing offense has been erratic as is this season, and now they’ll face the league’s stingiest run defense. I saw promise with Baltimore’s offense last week, too. I think they’ll win this game easily.

Baltimore 30, Cincinnati 17 




Arizona Cardinals (4-5-1) vs Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

Spread: ATL -5.5             Over/Under: 50.5
’16 DVOA: ARZ (19) < ATL (5)
Public Betting: ATL 65%
Key Stat: Atlanta’s offense is first in yards per play, while Arizona’s defense is first in opponent yards per play 

This is an intriguing matchup, and a trap game for the favored Falcons. Atlanta’s offense is terrific, but Arizona’s defense has quietly had an outstanding season. The Falcons also could be in trouble on defense since they struggle to defend pass-catching running backs like David Johnson. Moreover, the Cardinals have been plagued by turnovers more than any other team over the past three weeks, aside from Jacksonville. Could this trend continue? Perhaps. But turnovers are pretty random, so I think it’s unlikely that Arizona will continue to fall victim to these game-changing events.

With that said, I’m worried about Arizona being distracted due to Bruce Arians’ recent health scare as well as the fact that they’re playing another 1 pm game in a different time-zone. They’re 0-3 in these situations this year. I’ll side with Atlanta in a close game.

Atlanta 23, Arizona 20 




New York Giants (7-3) vs Cleveland Browns (0-11)

Spread: NYG -7             Over/Under: 44.5
’16 DVOA: NYG (15) > CLE (32)
Public Betting: NYG 87%
Key Stat: The Giants have the league’s sixth highest-graded defense according to Pro Football Focus 

Cleveland’s offense has failed to score more than ten points in each of their last three games. At least their defense has been better in recent weeks: They’ve only allowed 5.4 yards per play since Week 10. Nonetheless, I don’t like Cleveland’s chances again this weekend…what a surprise. The Giants aren’t a superpower, but they’re very solid in many facets. They’ll move to 8-3.

*New York 31, Cleveland 17 

*Denotes LOCK




Los Angeles Rams (4-6) vs New Orleans Saints (4-6)

Spread: NO -7.5              Over/Under: 45.5
’16 DVOA: LA (25) < NO (12) 
Public Betting: NO 72%
Key Stat: The Saints are averaging 31 points per game at home this season

Even with Jared Goff under center, it’s safe to assume that the Rams offense won’t generate many points. However, they do have a favorable matchup against a below-average New Orleans defense. But in fairness to the Saints, their defense has been better in recent weeks, surrendering only 5.2 yards per play. That means that in order to win, Los Angeles’ defense must put together another herculean effort. There’s a chance  that happens, but there aren’t too many defenses that can truly shut down the Saints at home.

New Orleans 28, Los Angeles 17 




San Francisco 49ers (1-9) vs Miami Dolphins (6-4)

Spread: MIA -7.5             Over/Under: 44.5
’16 DVOA: SF (28) < MIA (6)
Public Betting: MIA 64%
Key Stat: Jay Ayayi leads all running backs in yards per carry (5.6)

All you really need to know about this game is that Miami has a great ground attack while the 49ers have one of the league’s worst rushing defenses. Plus, San Francisco’s net yards per play differential pales in comparison to the Dolphins’ (-1.1 vs +0.5). Give me the Dolphins by at least two touchdowns.

Miami 32, San Francisco 17 




San Diego Chargers (4-6) vs Houston Texans (6-4)

Spread: SD -2.5            Over/Under: 46.5
’16 DVOA: SD (16) > HOU (30)
Public Betting: SD 59%
Key Stat: San Diego is only 23rd in yards per rush attempt

Melvin Gordon has had a breakout season, but the Chargers rushing offense isn’t as good as you think it is. They’re not only 23rd in yards per rush attempt, but they’re 24th in rushing DVOA as well. San Diego still has a good offense overall. Yet they’re in for a battle against a Houston defense that is solid in every facet. I’m not sold on the Texans in general, but I think this is a favorable matchup for them, particularly given the strides their offense has made in recent weeks.

Houston 23, San Diego 20 




Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)

Spread: SEA -6.5             Over/Under: 44.5
’16 DVOA: SEA (1) > TB (24) 
Public Betting: SEA 84%
Key Stat: Tampa Bay is 26th defensively in points allowed per game 

As usual, the Seahawks seem to be hitting their groove in the second half of the season. Seattle’s offense is second in the NFL in yards per play over the last three weeks. Russell Wilson has also posted quarterback ratings north of 97 in every game since Seattle’s last loss to New Orleans in late October. Plus, the Seahawks continue to be one of the league’s stingiest teams to score against. Even though they’ll be without a couple of key players like safety Earl Thomas, I don’t see them having much trouble against an erratic Buccaneers team.

Seattle 27, Tampa Bay 17 




Carolina Panthers (4-6) vs Oakland Raiders (8-2)

Spread: OAK -3              Over/Under: 49.5
’16 DVOA: CAR (21) < OAK (8)
Public Betting: OAK 55%
Key Stat: Oakland’s defense has only allowed 5.0 yards per play (8th in NFL) over last three weeks

Carolina’s playoff hopes will be squashed after this week. For starters, they’ll be without two of their more important players in Luke Kuechly and center Ryan Kalil. They’ll also have problems stopping Oakland’s prolific offense, which ranks in the top five in many of the most important offensive categories. I bet they’ll have trouble moving the ball against an improving Raiders defense, too. Carolina’s offense has tailed off in recent weeks, as they’re only averaging 4.2 yards per play in their last three games. Moreover, the net yards per play differential over the last three weeks between these two teams (+1.4 for Oakland vs -0.6 for Carolina) is staggering. All this leads me to believe Oakland wins in a blowout.

Oakland 38, Carolina 17 




New England Patriots (8-2) vs New York Jets (3-7)

Spread: NE -7.5             Over/Under: 46.5
’16 DVOA: NE (3) > NYJ (31)
Public Betting: NE 85%
Key Stat: The Jets defense ranks 30th against the pass 

This has the makings of a trap game for New England. They’re banged up, for one thing, and the Jets are home underdogs in a divisional game. Underdogs in those situations this year have gone an impressive 12-5 against the spread. Nonetheless, the Patriots should be able move the ball consistently against a pedestrian New York pass defense. The question will be whether Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets offense can keep pace. Given how shaky the Patriots’ defense has been in recent weeks, I think they can, but only to a certain extent. New England, as usual, will be too much.

New England 31, New York 24 




Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) vs Denver Broncos (7-3)

Spread: DEN -3.5             Over/Under: 39.5
’16 DVOA: KC (14) < DEN (11) 
Public Betting: KC 52%
Key Stat: The Broncos defense is first against the pass, but 25th against the run 

The key for Kansas City will be to establish the running game with Spencer Ware. I say this because the Chiefs passing offense has struggled in recent weeks (they’re only averaging 5.8 yards per pass attempt in their last three, good for 26th in the league) and they’ll be without wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (groin) once again. If they can’t move the ball offensively, this game could turn into a blowout. In Denver’s most recent games, Trevor Siemian has been hampered by a shoulder injury sustained earlier in the season. But after a bye week, I bet he’ll perform well in this matchup. Fortunately for the Chiefs, I think their offense will protect the ball and have success on the ground. It still won’t be enough to top the Broncos.

Denver 20, Kansas City 17 


And lastly, here are my best bets for Week 12…

  • Teaser: TENNESSEE (+2.5) over Chicago & BUFFALO (-0.5) over Jacksonville
  • JACKSONVILLE (+7.5) over Buffalo
  • BALTIMORE (-3.5) over Cincinnati
  • ARIZONA (+5.5) over Atlanta
  • Arizona vs Atlanta UNDER 50.5
  • NEW YORK (-290) over Cleveland
  • Teaser: NEW YORK (-0.5) over Cleveland & NEW ORLEANS (-1) over Los Angeles
  • San Diego vs Houston UNDER 46.5
  • MIAMI (-330) over San Francisco
  • Teaser: MIAMI (-0.5) over San Francisco & HOUSTON (+9.5) over San Diego
  • SEATTLE (-260) over Tampa Bay
  • OAKLAND (-3) over Carolina
  • DENVER (-180) over Kansas City

Posted by Mando

Co-Founder of Check Down Sports. Die-hard Boston sports fan: Patriots, Celtics, Bruins- in that order. I haven't been that interested in the Red Sox since they traded Manny. If you're a fan of Leslie Nielson movies and/or think Entourage is overrated, we'll get along.

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