NFL Week 12 Expert Best Bets: Falcons Undervalued on Thanksgiving

As dominant as they are right now, the Saints have largely disappointed when positioned as heavy home favorites in recent years.
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This week's best bets include a play for the Thanksgiving night game, plus three more for Sunday's action.

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-13)

Thu. 11/22, 8:20 p.m. ET

Pick: Atlanta +13

While some might argue that only a fool would pick against a Saints team that has won nine straight and covered the spread in each of its past eight games, this appears to be the first time in 2018 that a case could be made for New Orleans being severely overvalued by oddsmakers. This marks the ninth time since the start of October 2014 that New Orleans has been favored by more than eight points, with all of those games having been played at home. Not only are the Saints 0-8 against the spread the previous eight times they've been favored by more than eight points, but they're also only 4-4 straight up in those games, with two of the four victories having been overtime wins. New Orleans has a differential of minus-5.0 points per game over those eight contests despite having been favored by an average of more than 10 points.

While the Saints have often exhibited dominance at home in recent seasons, the team’s most impressive wins have come outside the division when facing opponents that are far less familiar with the Drew Brees-led offense than NFC South opponents tend to be. The two divisional games New Orleans has played this season have resulted in an eight-point season-opening home loss to Tampa Bay and an overtime victory in Atlanta. The Saints have just one victory by more than 10 points over their past 14 divisional home games since the start of the 2014 season, with that win coming against Tampa Bay last season. A strong betting system that suggests New Orleans is overvalued here: NFL teams with a point differential of at least plus-10 on the season have gone 4-17 against the spread since the start of the 2014 season when coming off back-to-back games in which they allowed 14 or fewer points. — Scott Gramling

Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)

Sun. 11/25, 1:00 p.m.

Pick: Cincinnati -3

The Bengals have undoubtedly struggled as of late, but do you really believe they’re no better than the Browns, whose bark is worse than their bite? That’s what this three-point line at home suggests for Cincinnati, which came out of the gates at 4-1 but ran into Kansas City and New Orleans over the past four weeks. Vegas is excessively downgrading the Bengals in its ratings for those lopsided losses, and bettors should take note. Plus, A.J. Green should be back after two missed contests for what is nearly a must-win game for Cincinnati. The Browns, meanwhile, are coming off a bye, yet still managed to make headlines last week with a report that they’re considering Condoleezza Rice as head coach. Whether there’s any validity to the report is irrelevant—the Browns are a mess internally, and their 3-6-1 record reflects that. Cleveland is 0-3 straight up and 0-3 against the spread in its last three trips to Paul Brown Stadium, and both of those trends will continue. — Ed McGrogan

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Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens (-10.5)

Sun. 11/25, 1:00 p.m.

Pick: Baltimore -10.5

The Ravens needed a victory last week and got one, snapping a three-game winning streak with a 24-21 victory over Cincinnati. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson showed himself capable of leading the offense with 7.9 yards per pass attempt and, more significantly, rushing for 117 yards on 27 carries. He has plenty of room to grow—not surprising, given this was his first career start—but he injected new life into an offense that hadn't scored 24 points in a game since September. Now that they're able to move the ball, the Ravens could make a strong push down the stretch for a playoff spot in the AFC—their defense leads the entire league in allowing only 4.8 yards per play.

Those Ravens defenders will be licking their chops this week, as the lowly Raiders will be making the cross-country trip for an early-afternoon game in Maryland. Oakland snapped a losing streak itself last weekend but, unlike the Ravens, harbor no hope of a late-season run: The Raiders needed a last-second field goal to beat a terrible Cardinals team, and all five of their previous losses came by at least 14 points. In four of those losses, the Raiders scored 10 points or fewer, and on the season as a whole, the Raiders are allowing 6.6 yards per play, the most in the NFL. This spread may look too large on first glance, but it's reflective of a surging Ravens team that is going to win big at home. — Sam Chase

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers (-3.5)

Sun. 11/25, 1:00 p.m.

Pick: Seattle +3.5

While much has changed over the past couple years for both Seattle and Carolina, the last matchup between these two teams resulted in a 40-7 Seahawks victory in Dec. 2016. Behind a strong performance from star quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks racked up 534 yards of total offense in that game. That type of yardage won’t be easy to replicate, but there are still some reasons to believe Seattle can pull off the road upset. The first is that the Panthers are playing poorly right now. Carolina was blown out in a 52-21 loss to Pittsburgh two weeks ago, and the team followed it up with a 20-19 loss to Detroit last week. Meanwhile, the Seahawks are coming off a huge win over the Packers on Thursday night. The team also gets the luxury of having a few extra days to rest up and prepare for this one since it played so early last week. Also, Wilson will be getting a crack at a Panthers defense that is slightly below average this year. That means he could be in for a nice game. — Zachary Cohen