Week 13 line moves and picks

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Week 13 line moves and picks

As December knocks in the NFL, the sharp guys start to form stronger opinions on teams and matchups. Recreational bettors, meanwhile, maintain their steadfast support of public teams and favorites. Not surprisingly, that pronounced divergence creates more opportunities to find value on underdogs. Bettors who are willing to go against the grain this week can take their pick of road teams catching points in favorable situations. Among them:

Titans (at Colts) – Tennessee opened as 4.5-point ‘dogs and the wiseguys pounced, pushing the line down to 3.5 (favorable because Indy has been down by at least 14 points in each of its last four games).
Jaguars (at Browns) – Cleveland opened as 7-point favorites and the line hasn’t budged, meaning the sharp money has mainly stayed away (favorable because any team with Brandon Weeden as its quarterback should never be giving a touchdown).
Cardinals (at Eagles) – Philly has generally held as a 3.5-point favorite throughout the week, although some books have started to move the line onto the key number of 3, indicating an influx of some wiseguy money given the 56/44 Philly/Zona ticket split (favorable because Arizona is playing as well as anyone right now).
Dolphins (at Jets) – The line has inched up in favor of the Jets, from 1.5/2 to 2/2.5 (favorable because Geno Smith has been a turnover machine of late).
Rams (at 49ers) – Giving well over a touchdown when the line opened, San Francisco has been bet down to 7.5 across the board (favorable because St. Louis has played the Niners tough the last few years, and teams coached by Jeff Fisher are 89-58 ATS all time).
Saints (at Seahawks) – Seattle, which opened as 6-point favorites, is currently giving anywhere from 4.5 to 5.5. That’s in line with the 60/40 Saints/Seahawks ticket ratio, meaning the wiseguys haven’t bitten hard on New Orleans (favorable because there are worse things than catching points with Drew Brees).

Onto the post-Thanksgiving Week 13 picks.

Patriots (-7) at Texans

Laying a touchdown on a road favorite is usually an immediate stay away, but the circumstances surrounding these teams are special. After beginning the season as nominal Super Bowl contenders, the Texans now find themselves in the thick of the “race” for the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft. Houston is banged up, dealing with a quarterback controversy and generally has quit on the season. In other words, New England is the last team the Texans want to be facing in this spot. With Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen all healthy and fully integrated, the Patriots offense has finally reached that other gear that’s been its trademark in recent years. Over the last three weeks, Tom Brady has thrown for 1,072 yards and eight touchdowns. New England has averaged over 36 points per game in that span. Houston, on the other hand, hasn’t scored more than 24 points since Week 2. Not to be lost in the mix is the fact the Patriots have eaten the Texans’ lunch twice in the last calendar year. As an 11-1 team last December, Houston was trounced, 42-24, in Foxborough before dropping the rematch in the playoffs, 41-28. If there were ever a recipe for a blowout, this is it.

Buccaneers (+7.5) at Panthers

After highlighting the benefits of situational handicapping last week, this game represents a good spot for another situational play. Second meetings between division opponents always come with added value, as the team that lost the first matchup is usually motivated to put forth a stronger performance in the rematch. The Bucs fit that mold and then some, as they pretty much bottomed out in the first meeting with Carolina, losing 31-13 despite only being outgained by 27 yards. Since that game, Tampa Bay has taken the Seawhawks to the brink in Seattle (led 21-0 before losing 27-24 in overtime) and ripped off consecutive wins over the Dolphins, Falcons and Lions (each more impressive than the previous). The Bucs also look to be catching Carolina in a lookahead spot, as the Panthers can’t help but have an eye toward their showdown in New Orleans next week. Even when the Bucs were losing games, they were almost always competitive. Expect more of the same in this one.

Bears vs. Vikings – over 50

The first rule of betting an over is answering the following question in the affirmative: Can the losing team be expected to score its fair share of points? This game is pretty much a tossup (as evidenced by the pickem line at most shops in Vegas), but it’s hard to find a case for either of these teams failing to reach at least the mid-20s. The Vikings can’t stop anyone – 22nd in opponents yards per play, 30th in yards per game, last in opponents red zone scoring attempts per game – particularly at home, where they’ve given up at least 27 points in every contest this season, and an average of 32.8. Minnesota is surrendering a league-high 31.5 points per game overall. On the other side are the Bears, who had a porous defense before losing Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman (arguably their two best players on that side of the ball). Then there’s Chicago’s run D, which is especially awful (4.9 yards per attempt and 145.2 yards per game, both worst in the league; 14 rushing touchdowns allowed, 29th). It probably goes without saying, but the last guy this unit wants to see is Adrian Peterson, who’s been up to his usual this year (4.4 yards per carry) and is almost unstoppable on turf (4.9 YPC, nine of his 10 touchdowns). Their first meeting ended 31-30. The numbers would indicate another shootout is imminent.

Cardinals vs. Eagles – under 48.5

By virtue of the high total in this matchup, the bookmakers are already deeming it an “over” game. Two of the hotter teams in the league, both the Cardinals and Eagles have been putting up hefty amounts of points during their respective surges. But what shouldn’t be overlooked is it’s been each team’s defense that has stepped up. Since giving up a combined 66 points in setbacks to the Niners and Seahawks, Arizona has held its last four opponents (Atlanta, Houston, Jacksonville and Indy) to an average of 15.5 points per game, winning all four. The Eagles have enjoyed a similar defensive resurgence during a three-game win streak, surrendering a total of 49 points to the Raiders, Packers and Redskins. Prior to that, Philly dropped defense-heavy games to the Cowboys (17-3) and Giants (15-7). With both offenses clicking lately, there will certainly be points scored in this matchup, but the game feels like it will settle in the 24-21 range.

Overall picks: 21-12

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