Author's Note: Two stats that I will be referencing throughout this weekly matchups column are Yards Per Point (YPP). and DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average). The goal of YPP is for an offense or defense to make the most of their opportunities when it comes to scoring points, but there are some important things that YPP doesn’t account for that DVOA does. In fact, DVOA accounts for everything YPP does plus important factors like turnovers, field position (where your drive starts) and special teams. These stats not only play a big part in scoring/preventing points, but they also play a big part in winning/covering spreads. With these statistics, my goal is to help us figure out which are the teams that are the most efficient at scoring AND at preventing points. Now, without further adieu, let’s officially get into our new NFL Week 12 matchup breakdowns column!
A quick primer on YPP and its importance in our handicapping: One of, if not THE most powerful measuring statistics in football, to measure how great an offense or defense is (or isn’t), in my opinion, is Yards Per Point (YPP). Yards Per Point is effective because it measures how many yards an offense gains before they score a point. A different stat that is regularly used by handicappers isYards Per Play, which only takes into account how many yards an offense gains and not its scoring. Gaining yards is a good thing to measure, sure, but in this world, we need to score points, and it does us no favors if a team gains yards without producing those points. This is where YPP will come into play for us. For an offense, the lower the YPP is, the better. Between 10-13 is a very good YPP number for an NFL offense, while 14-15 is average and 16 or lower I consider to be below average for an NFL offense. For defenses, the higher the YPP number is, the better. A defense with a high YPP doesn’t give up a lot of points for the yards that are gained against them. Throughout our weekly matchups column I will reference this stat quite often here.
Cardinals (-2.5) @ Patriots **Best Bet**
The Cardinals have a little rest advantage coming off a mini bye and I expect will be playing with motivation to bounce back from Thursday’s lost to the Seahawks. The obvious headlines during the offseason was Tom Brady leaving the Patriots for the Bucs but not enough emphasis has been put on how many key defensive players the Patriots were losing from last years top ranked unit from players opting to not play because of COVID, to being traded or leaving in free agency and its showing this season with their defense being one of the worst in the league when it comes to defending the pass. The Patriots have especially struggled defending dual-threat quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson last week and now they’ll have to deal with Kyler Murray who’s showing he’s just as talented and more explosive using his legs. The Patriots allowed the previous three quarterbacks to average 289.3 YPG with a 9:1 TD:INT so I’m looking for Murray to take advantage of this defense in similar ways. This line opened as a PK and is currently -2.5 but I like it all the way up to -5 so I think there’s still good enough value on the road favorite at New England.
Best Bet: Cardinals -2.5
Browns (-6) @ Jaguars **Teaser Pick**
The Browns are expected to be without the sack leader in the NFL Myles Garrett for this matchup but they should be able to handle the Jaguars without him. This has been the best start through 10 games for the Browns since 1994 and they’re increasing their chances of ending their playoff drought so I do not anticipate a letdown spot for this game. The Browns also might’ve benefitted from playing 3 straight games at home where weather played a factor in the outcome but I think they’ll be able to get by this week against the Jaguars and we’ll get to see how for real the Browns are when they matchup against the Titans and Ravens. The return of Nick Chubb has taken a lot of pressure off of Baker Mayfield and the passing attack for the Browns as he went over 100 yards for the 2nd straight game and average over 5 YPC and should have no issues against this Jaguars defense that allowed the Steelers to go over 100 yards. The weather is projected to be nice in Florida so Baker Mayfield should be able to take advantage of this Jaguars secondary once they establish the run.
Like: Browns PK (**Tease by 6**)
49ers (+6.5) @ Rams
This season was supposed to be the 49ers “revenge tour” as they tried to get back to the Super Bowl and make up for blowing a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter but it was quickly derailed mainly by injuries to so many key guys on both sides of the ball. This week as their coming off a bye they’re expected get a few players back like Richard Sherman, Dre Greenlaw, Deebo Samuel and key guys that impact the running game which is the strength of their team in Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and Tevin Coleman. Getting those three guys back in the backfield should significantly help Nick Mullens even being without rookie standout receiver Brandon Aiyuk and one of the best tight ends George Kittle. Despite all the injuries the 49ers have dealt with they’re still moving the ball well ranking slightly above league average in Yards Per Play on offense with a 5.7 and on defense they’re right outside of the top ten with a 5.2 so as long as Nick Mullens limits his turnovers I like the 49ers to stay within this number. The Rams are coming off a upset win over the Buccaneers and while being on a short week and over the last three seasons they’re 1-2 SU and ATS when they’re coming off an upset win as an underdog so I’m expecting a letdown spot and a possible look ahead spot to next week when they face the Arizona Cardinals.
Like: 49ers +6.5
Dolphins (-7) @ Jets
The Dolphins were my best bet last week against the the Broncos and they disappointed as they were not able to win or cover the game and it was a bit surprising considering how well they had been playing up to that point. I’d have to chalk it up to a young team playing well for a few weeks in a row and feeling themselves a little bit and just laid an egg at least offensively. After Tua made the comments of expecting the adjustment to the NFL was easier than he thought the Broncos defense served up a nice piece of humble pie and he ended up being benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick so I expect Tua to refocus and have his best game so far against a weak Jets defense. The Jets was can’t defend the pass ranking 30th giving up 288.3 yards a game through the air and the secondary has given up 19 passing touchdowns to only seven interceptions and opposing quarterbacks have the second best quarterback rating with a 105.6. Joe Flacco had been pretty good over the last couple weeks but Sam Darnold is expected to get the start and he has been underwhelming. The Dolphins won 24-0 back in week 6 so with a motivated Miami team I’m looking for a bounce back performance here in Week 12.
Like: Dolphins -7
Bears (+8.5) @ Packers
Coming off a loss last week when they held a 14 point lead at halftime I’m looking for the Packers to bounce back against a division rival that struggles to do anything positive offensively whether it’s Nick Foles or Mitch Tribusky. The Bears have one of the worst offenses ranking 31st in total offense (300.9), 31st in Yards Per Play (4.7) and 31st in Points so a motivated Packers defense shouldn’t have any issues with this offense after not being able to close the game out last week with a 14 point lead. Aaron Rodgers has reminded us all this year why he’s been one of the best quarterbacks over the last decade and he has a huge advantage in this matchup. Rodgers is 55-32-3 ATS at home and 44-26 ATS inside the division but he’s even better at home in division games going 22-12 ATS (65%). The Bears are also in a tough spot even though they’re coming off a bye. Since the start of last season Bears opponents are 17-8-1 ATS and since Matt Nagy has been the coach they’re 0-2 ATS coming off a bye.
Like: Packers -8.5 (buy up to -9.5)
Titans (+3) @ Colts
With both teams coming off upset wins last week I think this matchup is gonna come down to who doesn’t come out flat. In both comeback wins both the Titans and Colts needed overtime to get the job done. This is also a battle for first place in the AFC South division and the Colts have regularly won this division over the years except for last year so they’ll be motivated to strengthen their chances of regaining the division crown. Both teams play pretty solid defense and look to establish their running games first so I would lean towards the total going under 51.5. My only concern is with both teams going into overtime last week for their hard fought wins how gassed will these defenses be?
Lean: Under 51.5
Panthers (+3.5) @ Vikings
After watching the Cowboys on Thanksgiving lose to the Washington Football team I’d have to consider the Vikings losing to them as seven point home favorites an embarrassing loss and should be motivated against a Panthers team without their best player in Christian McCaffrey being led by Teddy Bridgewater returning from missing last week due to injury. The Panthers did get a 20-0 win last week but it came against the Lions and the Vikings are much better and should be playing with some added motivation coming off the loss to the Cowboys. The Vikings want to establish the run with one of the best running backs in football with Dalvin Cook and the Panthers give up over 100 yards on the ground and rank in the bottom 10 allowing 4.6 YPC and even worse on the road at 5.2 YPC so the Vikings shouldn’t have any issues getting Cook going in the running game. The Panthers also aren’t that good defending the pass giving up 245.5 yards in the air with 16 passing touchdowns to only 5 interceptions and opposing quarterbacks with a 95.5 rating so Thelien and Jefferson should also have big days.
Lean: Vikings -3.5
Chargers (+4.5) @ Bills
Since Justin Herbert has become the starter he really hasn’t had a bad game. He did throw for less than 200 yards on the road against the Dolphins but he didn’t play bad. At some point you’d think he’s gonna have at least one bad performance right? I think this sets up to be that week. Herbert is coming off his best performance against a weak defense in the Jets now he’ll be up against a Bills defense that hasn’t performed well but before the season they were expected to at least live up to the reports being a solid defense and they’ve had extra time to prepare as they’ll be coming off their bye. The biggest reason why I’m leaning towards a poor performance from Herbert is this is a bad travel spot. Before last weeks home game the Chargers traveled east to play the Dolphins then headed back home to play the Jets last week and will head back east this week to play the Bills for an early game. As great as Herbert has been all season he hasn’t been in this situation before while facing a defensive minded coach in McDermott with extra time to prepare. Bills defense has given up 33 PPG over the last couple weeks but they’ve faced the two best dual-threat quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray. Herbert has some mobility but not to the elite level of Wilson and Murray.
Lean: Bills -4.5
Giants (-6) @ Bengals
The most important position in football is the quarterback and the Joe Burrow was the brightest spot for a Bengals team that is pretty bad outside of him but he tore his ACL and MCL last week and is out for the season and Brandon Allen is expected to get the start. Allen is nowhere near the talent of a Burrow and as talented as Burrow is he couldn’t make up for that horrible offensive line that Zac Taylor had protecting him. The Bengals offensive line allowed Burrow to be sacked 32 times which tied for 3rd most and was hit and pressured at a high rate as well so it was very impressive what Burrow was able to produce. The Giants come into this matchup off their bye week playing their best football of the season winning two of their last three games straight up and ATS. My biggest reason why this is more likely a lean than a like is everybody will be backing the Giants and they’re already receiving 70% of the tickets and no matter how good they’ve been playing lately they’re still just a 3-7 football team.
Lean: Giants (-6)
Raiders (-3) @ Falcons
The Raiders came within 1:43 seconds of sweeping the Chiefs so a let down spot could take place as they gave everything they had to try and pull out the win last week. Neither team can defend the pass and I’ll lean to Matt Ryan going over his passing yard prop as he has weapons to spread it around to and Julio Jones is the best receiver in football plus the Falcons struggle running the ball so if they want to move the ball it’s more than likely gonna come through the air. Ryan's prop for passing yards is currently set at 296 -117 to the over, and I believe there’s some value at that number as he’s averaging almost 300 passing yards a game.
Like: Ryan over 296 passing yards
Saints (-6) @ Broncos
In his first start filling in for Drew Brees, Taysom Hill surprised me with how well he was able to move the ball through the air downfield albeit come against the Falcons defense who can’t defend the pass and this week against the Broncos should be a little tougher. Alvin Kamara has been the best weapon this year out of the backfield and you have to account for him in the run game as well as the passing game. With Michael Thomas back to go along with Emmanuel Sanders, Hill proved the ability to throw the ball downfield so Kamara should be even more of a threat in the passing game when it comes to hitting the check down and dump offs. His receiving yard props is set pretty low at 31.5 (-115)., and I believe there’s a ton of value for him to go over that number as he’s averaging over 60 passing yards a game.
Like: Kamara over 31.5 receiving yards
Chiefs (-3) @ Buccaneers
This is a situation where it’s to difficult to pick a side as you don’t want to bet against Patrick Mahomes and you don’t want to bet against Tom Brady as a underdog especially when he underperformed the previous week. I think the over has some value at 56 with both teams averaging more than 28 points a game (Chiefs-32/Bucs-29) and both passing defense have shown they’re capable of giving points and yards. No matter how great a defense is it doesn’t matter once they step on the field to defend the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes because he will get at least 30. Tom Brady is dealing with growing pains trying to mesh Bruce Arians system with his strengths but I expect Brady to come out and play and clean game and put up 25+.
Like: Over 56
Seahawks (-5.5) @ Eagles
Doug Pedersen has spent weeks defending Carson Wentz and after this week if he isn’t able to play a clean game and put up good numbers in the passing game he might need to stop because just about every quarterback that has faced this Seahawks defense has put numbers up on this 32nd ranked passing defense. The Seahawks secondary has also allowed 18 passing touchdowns to 9 interceptions and a 98.4 rating to opposing quarterbacks. Wentz has had his compliment of wide receivers back for a couple games now so even with a banged up offensive line there should be no more excuses for the veteran quarterback. The Seahawks should be getting their starting running back Chris Carson as their coming off their bye and that should significantly help Russell Wilson and help the defense limit the amount of time they’ve been on the field. Both teams could look to establish the run and take pressure off of their quarterbacks so a play to the under 49.5 is where I’m where I’m leaning.
Lean: Under 49.5