Week 12 featured the most underdogs of 3.5 points or less since the first week of the season. There were plenty of opportunities on the board to cash in on a moneyline parlay as seven of eight underdogs, including five short dogs, ended up winning and paying out at plus-money prices. The Raiders were the most profitable dog earning a +290 payout for their bettors while beating the Cowboys. The only underdog of the entire week that covered the spread without winning outright was the Detroit Lions. It's always the Lions that come up just a little bit short.
This week's NFL card offers fewer options which is not always a bad thing. I circled two road teams immediately, expecting them both to be the better football team on the field this weekend. One has consistently been the superior team over the past month, and the other we are catching at a great price due to them traveling on the road after a lackluster effort. The two-team moneyline parlay pays out at +405. We will have to wait until Monday night to collect our winnings, but it could be a great way to cap off the weekend with a win.
New England Patriots (+115) at Buffalo Bills
Bill Belichick as a road dog seems too good to be true. Bills quarterback Josh Allen has been inconsistent of late as defenses try to force the MVP candidate to beat them five yards at a time. If many other defensive coordinators are frustrating him this season, wait until he sees what Belichick has waiting for him. The Patriots have covered in six straight and are currently ranked No. 2 in overall team DVOA by Football Outsiders.
The lockdown defense and strong running game is a staple of Belichick teams. However, it's the Patriots offense that has everybody running to bet their Super Bowl futures. Over the last six weeks, the Patriots have averaged 35 points per game while Mac Jones is ranked No. 2 in EPA per dropback. The Bills defense allowed Jonathan Taylor to rush for 185 yards and four TDs just two weeks ago and has lost its best cover corner to a season-ending injury. Belichick smells blood in the water. Anything at plus money is a bet.
LA Chargers (+135) at Cincinnati Bengals
An epic battle between two of the NFL's most promising young quarterbacks should provide plenty of scoring. Both Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow have led their teams right into the playoff hunt. The Chargers failed to cover as favorites for the third straight week in a 28-13 loss to Denver. Now, we get to bet them at underdogs where they are 2-1 ATS this season.
Let's make sure we put last week's loss in the proper context. The Chargers were coming off an emotional, last-second 41-37 win against the Steelers that saw 41 points scored in the fourth quarter alone. Then it was off to play Denver in altitude off a Sunday night game. Now they get to regroup against a Bengals team on cloud nine after throttling the Steelers, 41-10. The perfect storm for a Chargers upset.
My on-field handicap concedes the Cincinnati offense is going to continue to have success against one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. However, LA's struggles on defense have overshadowed a very effective offense that ranks fifth in yards per play. They are also fourth-best on third downs, which will be critical in extending drives to keep pace and go blow for blow with Burrow. I expect a back-and-forth battle determined by which young gunslinger makes the big plays late in the game. In a coin-flip game, the moneyline of +135 looks like a discount to me. I am willing to wager Herbert delivers more late-game heroics to get his team to 7-5.