Bettor’s Playbook: It’s Best Not To Ignore An Offense Or An Underdog In NFL Week 12

Written By Dave Bontempo on November 19, 2019

NFL Week 11 was the week sportsbook favorites were finally pushed too far. We head into NFL Week 12 with some interesting betting notes and tips.

It was also a showcase for the league’s offenses, with two Sunday games exceeding 60 points and five surpassing 50. Capping the fireworks was a wacky defensive touchdown on the last play of one game. It brought the point spread into full focus, created gift pushes, miracle covers and a Bad Beat of the Year candidate.

Yes, the Week 11 portfolio was entertaining, highlighting the game’s intricacies and hinting where the pendulum will swing at outfits such as DraftKings, FanDuel, PlaySugarHouse, William Hill and PointsBet.

The ensuing trend should produce closer spreads — probably less than a touchdown — for some of the league’s best teams in Week 12. It will also see more over-under totals posted above 45 as offenses continually gamble on fourth down and convert a reasonable amount of chances.

Punters may soon have to moonlight.

Here are some quick-hit lessons and notes to take with you into Week 12 of NFL betting.

Favorites faced uphill climb

The double-digit covering task for the San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders resulted in a performance split. They overcame early deficits to win the games but could not handle the steep spread.

Another top team, the New England Patriots, struggled but covered 3.5 points in beating the Philadelphia Eagles 17-10. Philadelphia’s chief NFC East rival, the Dallas Cowboys, outlasted even the late-moving line against the Detroit Lions to win 35-27.

Some books had the game off the board and others moved it from Dallas -4.5 to -7 when the absence of Lions quarterback Matt Stafford became official.

The Baltimore Ravens, meanwhile, look like the class of the NFL. The Lamar Jackson-led team annihilated a good Houston Texans squad, which came in at 6-3, in a 41-7 rout.

Jets are flying high and making big plays

In a battle of league also-rans, the New York Jets covered handily for the second straight week, pasting the Washington Redskins 34-17. After PointsBet forecast a game with split personalities — the Jets gaining more tickets but Washington obtaining heavier play — the Jets showed they can at least be formidable against the league’s weaker teams.

They have defeated the New York Giants and Washington on successive weeks with an offense that suddenly looks sharp.

Two interesting facts emerge for Jets bettors though. New York has notched eight touchdowns in its last two games, the same number it tallied in the first eight games of the season. And for four straight weeks, the Jets have scored on their opening possession of the game.

Keep that in mind for future in-game or first-quarter betting props.

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Eagles nearly provide a shock for NJ bettors

Let’s get back to that Eagles and Patriots kerfuffle.

The Eagles obtained their lowest betting support level of the year, 22% at PlaySugarHouse Sportsbook, against the defending champion Patriots. And they nearly rewarded the minority.

Although outhustling New England early and gaining a 10-0 lead, the Eagles could not land the dagger. New England did not score a standard touchdown, relying on a gadget play — a beautiful option pass from Julian Edelman to Phillip Dorsett in the third quarter — for its only trip to the end zone.

The Eagles also threatened late in the game to tie it. They were in it the whole way.

Although the Patriots improved to 9-1 with this triumph, they look increasingly vulnerable without retired tight-end stud Rob Gronkowski. Quarterback Tom Brady does not have that clutch bailout option and deep threat on third down. He threw several errant passes Sunday, including one that should have been intercepted in the end zone, and his offense lacked spark.

For the first time in Brady’s illustrious career, another member of his team (Edelman) threw more touchdowns in a full game than he did.

And more teams are also finding ways to clog New England’s passing lanes on crossing routes.

All of that said, New England is winning on guile. The Patriots defense kept them in this one and has only allowed more than 14 points just once this season. New England coach Bill Belichick has time to create some customary late-season wrinkles. He will need to. Brady does not look the same.

For the Eagles, the most encouraging aspects were a stout defense and the re-emergence of stud tight end Zach Ertz. Formations with a trio of receivers stacked to one side looked more sophisticated than recent weeks. The team should have scored more, but the New England defense applied heavy pressure on quarterback Carson Wentz.

Minnesota magic

The Vikings fell into a 20-0 halftime hole against the determined Denver Broncos as a 10.5-point favorite at most books. Their remarkable comeback produced a 27-23 triumph, marking the first time in five years that a team trailing by 20 points at the half came back to win.

The record of the other teams falling that far behind over that span, which includes playoffs? It’s 0-99, according to NFL officials.

This was an exhilarating moneyline save for the Vikings, and a nice win for Broncos cover bettors. Denver has blown several fourth-quarter leads this year but has a good offensive line and strong running attack that will keep it in most games.

Oakland Raiders — just enough to win

The Raiders failed to cover their 10.5 number at most books because of two plays. One was a fumble deep in the territory of their Cincinnati Bengals opponents early in the game. The second was the touchdown that looked imminent in the middle of the fourth quarter but didn’t happen.

The Raiders had first-and-goal at the one. Cincinnati jumped offsides, but the officials ruled Oakland had drawn the Bengals off. Five-yard penalty for Oakland, first-and-goal at the six instead of the one, different play selection and three attempts that went nowhere. Oakland kicked a field goal instead of the touchdown its bettors needed.

That’s not something that gets many post-game comments, but it was substantial to the gamblers. Oakland has won three straight, however, and will next battle the Jets in a meeting of two teams going in the right direction.

The Bengals remain winless.

San Francisco-Arizona revelation

Why wouldn’t two teams who put up 53 points just a couple weeks ago score a lot of points again? The answer: They did.

The Niners and Arizona Cardinals provided a pleasing offensive showdown and an ending that tested the faith of those who NJ sports betting fans.

San Francisco’s bizarre 36-26 triumph included a comeback from a 16-0 deficit. The Niners were favored by 11.5 at most books, but the line dropped to 9.5 and 10 at some establishments. Some bettors eked out a push or a cover for the ages when San Francisco scored twice in the final minute, including a crazy lateral-and-fumble circus from a desperate Arizona team on the final play.

Regardless of the wager scenario, San Francisco continues strutting with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and looks like an elite force.

On the flip side, Arizona has become a darling of underdog and over bettors. The Cardinals have covered three straight weeks, along with hitting the over, and quarterback Kyler Murray is nearly as exciting as Jackson, the MVP candidate from the Baltimore Ravens.

Cashing the Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills had an over-under season prop of 6.5 wins at most NJ sportsbooks. And the over has romped home in mid-November as Buffalo went to 7-3.

In knocking off the Miami Dolphins 37-20, Buffalo made some stops deep in its territory to preserve the win margin. The Bills ranged from a 5.5 to 6.5 favorite on this game at FanDuel and tore Miami’s defense to shred. Miami loses its king-of-the-hill status as the league’s hottest team against the spread. This was the first time in six weeks Miami did not cover.

Atlanta Falcons are rockin’ and rollin’

What got into the Atlanta Falcons? From 1-7, they have become 3-7 by allowing a total of 12 points to the division-leading New Orleans Saints and talented Carolina Panthers in securing two straight blowout road victories.

It would not be surprising if the team that was a 13-point underdog against New Orleans and a 5.5-point dog Sunday at most books becomes a solid favorite when it hosts Tampa Bay in Week 12.

Too bad the Falcons had the slow start because this was a convincing two-game stretch. And two nice moneyline scores. Atlanta was the biggest moneyline underdog to win outright.

In-game interludes

Sunday provided quite a ride for the fast and furious in-game wager world. San Francisco delivered the wildest.

When the 49ers fell 16-0 in the second quarter, as an 11-point favorite, one suspected an in-game opportunity to bet them.

But the books weren’t convinced. Belief that the Niners could rally to at least win the game was a viable hunch, but in-game lines on the William Hill app had already viewed it as a probability.

Despite the large deficit, San Francisco was still -125 as an in-game wager. It touched on -115 for one play, but as the 49ers moved into Arizona territory, the odds changed back to -125. This became the sweet spot for anyone who played the San Francisco in-bet moneyline, which was revealing.

When a team trails by 16 points and is still favored to win the game? That’s respect. And it was borne out.

The crazy final play gave San Francisco a 10-point win and no extra point was kicked. The NFL does not require it if a team scores a touchdown on the final play, if that tally won’t affect the outcome of the game. No, this touchdown did not impact THAT game, but it had a huge effect on the gamblers.

Not kicking the extra point in that situation is a gentlemen’s agreement among most NFL coaches. Eagles coach Doug Pederson did the same thing on Christmas night two years ago. The Eagles, favored at 9.5 points, led 13-10 with seconds remaining and scored on one of the desperado lateral and fumbles on the final play against the Oakland Raiders.

Eagles backers thought they’d gotten a Christmas miracle. But Pederson shocked them by electing not to kick the extra point.

Blink and you miss the Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore led Houston 14-0 at halftime Sunday, but the books suspected an offensive breakout.

As the Ravens moved downfield on the first second-half possession, the line blinking was off to the races at William Hill.

A second-down pass completion moved the chains… and the numbers. The over-under instantly went from 38.5 to 39.5. An incomplete pass followed. Back down to 38.5. And then Baltimore unloaded to score a touchdown. That’s when bettors had a decision to make.

The over-under went to 41, and Houston was doing nothing. It was not an easy call, but the Baltimore train steamrolled to 27 second-half points and rewarded the in-game over.

New Orleans Saints and the value of a TD

What is a score worth on an in-game proposition? One could sense the paranoia of Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans when the New Orleans Saints scored their first touchdown.

The DraftKings Sportsbook had the Bucs, a 5.5-point underdog, as +290 on the moneyline. When the Saints went from a 6-0 lead to 13-0, the line changed instantly, to +600. With a jump that big, you have to wonder if even the app knew something.

Tampa Bay never threatened in the game.

All told, NFL Week 11 kept bettors riveted. Will it be the same in NFL Week 12? Thursday Night’s matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Texans is only a couple days away.

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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others. He writes significantly about the emerging world of legal New Jersey sports betting.

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