Situational betting/Week 12 picks

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Situational betting/Week 12 picks

After touching on situational handicapping last week, it’s worth diving a little deeper into the concept heading into Week 12. By this point in the season, it’s clear which teams are good, bad and mediocre. Given the grind of a 16-game schedule, it’s simply not possible for players to be locked in physically and mentally on a week-to-week basis. Certain games, therefore, take on added significance. Others not so much.

The circumstances surrounding a game, consequently, can often foreshadow outcomes on the field. Terms such as “sandwich game” (a team playing a game of lesser significance in between two more important contests), “letdown” (when a team is fresh off either a statement win or hard-fought triumph over a rival), “lookahead” (applied to teams that have one eye toward a future opponent and thus may not be sufficiently prepared for the present one) and “revenge game” (when a team is either seeking to avenge a prior loss to its present opponent or is seething after enduring a bad beat the week before) become increasingly applicable as the cold-weather months set in. Those bettors able to identify situational plays will have an additional arrow in their handicapping quiver down the stretch.

With that in mind, let’s highlight the primary situational matchups and corresponding picks this week.

Patriots +115 over Broncos (sandwich/revenge game)

There are so many situational elements to this matchup, it’s tough to parse them all. First, this is the definition of a sandwich game for Denver, which just handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season on Sunday night and is set to travel to Kansas City for Round II in Week 13. With both the Broncos (TEN, SD, at HOU, at OAK) and Chiefs (at WAS, at OAK, IND, at SD) looking at manageable schedules down the stretch, next Sunday’s clash will likely decide which has home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs and which is banished to the road as a 12- or 13-win wild card team. Compounded by the location of this game – New England, somewhere Peyton Manning has notoriously struggled – and it’s almost impossible to envision a top-notch performance from Denver. The Patriots, conversely, at 7-3 find themselves in a dogfight with Indianapolis (7-3) and Cincinnati (7-4, tiebreaker over New England) for the AFC’s No. 2 seed and all-important bye/home divisional game that comes with it. And while the Patriots may not be looking for revenge against the Broncos, they’re furious after being robbed of a chance to beat Carolina on Monday night. Thus you have a primetime matchup featuring an angry New England team catching points at home for the first time since 2005 in a virtual must-win scenario. Expect the best from Tom Brady’s side.

Cardinals -155 over Colts (lookahead game)

Any late-season interconference contest has a situational angle, because one team is always going to have more to play for than the other. For Arizona, which finds itself in the thick of the NFC wild-card race thanks to a three-game win streak, this is a opportunity for it to stamp its status as a bona fide playoff contender. In addition to being one of the better blind situational home teams to bet (50-38 ATS over last 10-plus seasons), the Cardinals have a tactical ace up their sleeve, as head coach Bruce Arians spent the bulk of last season at the helm of the Colts while Chuck Pagano was being treated for leukemia. If anyone knows the ins and outs of Indy personnel, it’s Arians. For the Colts, this has the makings of a potential lookahead game, as they will host the Titans next week with a chance to formally lock up the AFC South crown. Finally, the Colts’ tendency to get down early in games (they’ve faced at least 14-point deficits each of the last three weeks) won’t fly vs. Arizona, which boasts one of the league’s strongest and most opportunistic defenses (No. 8 in scoring, tied for fourth in takeaways).

Dolphins (+4.5) vs. Panthers (letdown game) 

Wiseguys love when a team’s market value reaches a peak, because that’s when everyone else dives in with both feet and opens the door for the sharp guys to aggressively fade the public. Even as the Panthers began stringing together wins, there were detractors who wanted to see them beat a team of substance. So Carolina proceeded to go into San Francisco and outslug the Niners before enjoying a true coming-out party in the Monday night win over New England. That’s a pair of back-to-back statement wins that served to put the entire league on notice. The Panthers are officially contenders, but how will that work for them going on the road for a 1 p.m. game against a non-conference foe without star defensive end Charles Johnson and his 8.5 sacks? The Dolphins are no pushovers, having dropped just two of fives home games by a combined five points. And Carolina can’t help but be heading to glitzy South Beach on its high horse. The line and action on this game illustrate the public’s sudden infatuation with the Panthers, as they were three-point favorites before Monday night before opening at -4 on Tuesday. The ticket count throughout the week was a full 4-to-1 in favor of the Panthers, yet the line moved just a half-point higher to -4.5, meaning the sharp money is coming in heavy on Miami. Given the physical and emotional nature of their last two wins, it’s not a question of if the Panthers will experience a letdown, but how drastic it will be.

 Overall picks: 16-12

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