Week 12 picks

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Week 12 picks

Bengals (+2) at Texans

A good situational spot for Cincinnati here, which has proved over the last two weeks just how difficult of a team it is to handicap. To begin Week 10, the Bengals were undressed by the Browns at home in primetime. They then proceeded to hammer the Saints in New Orleans, a rare occurrence, 10 days later. So how do you quantify this team? Here’s an attempt: The Bengals, and specifically Andy Dalton, simply aren’t cut out to perform when the spotlight is shining. They’re 0-3 in the playoffs over the last three years, and have time and again underwhelmed in primetime, going 2-6 in standalone regular-season games in that same time frame (vs. 25-8-1 in all other games). The takeaway? Fade the Bengals in primetime, play them in standard kickoff slots. This game lines up well for Cincy in other respects as well. Arian Foster is still hobbled by a groin injury, and his effectiveness figures to be limited even if he does play. Ryan Mallett enjoyed a solid starting debut vs. Cleveland, but he had a distinct advantage in that the Browns had no film of Mallett they could use for their preparations. A quarterback’s second start is when he tends to come back to earth because defenses know what they’re looking for. Finally, the Bengals have a personal stake, having seen two of their last three seasons end at NRG (formerly Reliant) Stadium. In both of those postseason losses, the Bengals arguably outplayed the Texans but made too many mistakes and were hindered by some terrible coaching decisions by Marvin Lewis. With the stakes low and a 1 p.m. kickoff, this is shaping up as a very Bengals-esque revenge game.

Browns at Falcons – over 47

These teams are riding a combined 12-0 stretch to the under. Cleveland has run six straight since starting the season 4-0 to the over, while Atlanta is on the same run after a 3-1 start to the over. So why lean away from the under in this matchup? First, as evidenced above in respect to their cumulative 7-1 mark to the over early on, the market always finds a way to correct itself. Thus the total is probably shaded slightly toward the under, as streaks like the ones they’re currently riding are unsustainable long term. Second, neither defense is very good, and that’s generous. The Falcons are allowing 4.0 yards per rush (14th in the NFL), and the Browns 4.6 (29th). Atlanta is surrendering 12.7 yards per completion (31st), and Cleveland 10.8 (17th). Which is another way of saying both teams have trouble stopping the advance of their opponents. Given the array of receiving weapons Matt Ryan has at his disposal and the return of Josh Gordon from suspension for Brian Hoyer, both quarterbacks should be able to move the ball with relative ease through the air. As for finishing drives, Atlanta ranks third in the league with a 66.67 percent red-zone touchdown conversion rate, while Cleveland isn’t too far behind at 58.82 percent (11th). Throw in the unfamiliarity between the two teams (which usually benefits the offenses), and bettors could be looking at the seeds of a shootout.

Colts (-13.5) vs. Jaguars

Wiseguys traditionally play numbers, not teams. Therefore whenever they see a team catching well into double digits, it’s of no consequence who they’re betting on and against. The number is all that’s relevant. While that strategy has historically been profitable, this season has seen an inordinate number of blowouts. The Jaguars, despite going 2-2-1 ATS over their last five, have lost by at least 14 points six times already in 10 games. The last three times they’ve played the Colts, they’ve been routed by 34, 20 and 27. Indy, conversely, has consistently found itself on the other side of those lopsided scores this season, with four of its six wins coming by at least 16 points. The Colts’ average margin of victory is 17.7 points, while the Jaguars’ average margin of defeat is 21.4 points. The Colts are also mad after getting tuned up by the Patriots at home last Sunday night. This one could get ugly.

Last week: 4-1
Overall: 16-18-2

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