Which underdogs are Jenny Vrentas and Andy Benoit taking in NFC rivalry games? Their picks and more in MMQB's best bets of the week.
It's Thanksgiving week, and we're here to boost your holiday with our best bets in Week 12's action.
Green Bay Packers (+3.5) at Minnesota Vikings
My NFC North pick didn't fare so well last week, but I still think the Packers have a shot to win this division—and to do so they'll have to beat Minnesota. Green Bay is coming off a tough loss at Seattle, in which both coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn't have their best nights. Coming off 10 days of rest, I like the Packers to bounce back. — Jenny Vrentas
Atlanta Falcons (+13.5) at New Orleans Saints
The Saints are soaring, but nearly two touchdowns is a lot when facing a foe that has played you tough over the years and is better than its 4–6 record suggests. — Andy Benoit
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-3)
At some point the Browns have to win a road game, but they haven't done so in more than three calendar years, and they're 1-3-1 against the spread (and 0–5 straight up) as a road underdog of four points or less since the beginning of the 2015 season. They also haven't covered in the first game off their bye week since 2012.
I'm not going to argue that Hue Jackson is secretly a brilliant tactician, and I realize he was not part of installation sessions this past summer, but there's no chance he brings zero intel to the Bengals regarding a team he was coaching a month ago. On top of that, the Browns showed their hand as far as the smashmouth approach under Freddie Kitchens when they defeated Atlanta two weeks ago. The Falcons might have been caught off-guard (Cleveland had to abandon that tactic early when it fell behind K.C. in Kitchens's first game as offensive coordinator), but the Bengals shouldn't be. And after facing Drew Brees then going into Lamar Jackson's first career start with no regular-season tape on the QB, the Bengals should be ready for anything that can be thrown at them at this point. — Gary Gramling
Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts (-9)
There are a ton of huge lines this week, with six teams favored by more than a touchdown, and on paper this might be the most confusing of all as two 5-5 teams face off. But these teams could hardly be more different. Andrew Luck is back to being a top-10 QB, and the Colts offense has quietly put up the fifth-most points this year, with just one fewer than the Steelers so far. Miami, meanwhile, is 26th in points per game. With Ryan Tannehill starting, this line has shrunk by a point, but that just means a little more value on the right side of what will be a romp. — Jacob Feldman
Green Bay Packers (+3.5) at Minnesota Vikings
This line suggests that these are basically even teams, with the Vikings getting the three points generally assigned for home-field advantage. That’s perfectly fair, but I don’t think the home field is worth that much to Minnesota, freeing up Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams to get things going on a fast track indoors. To me, these are generally even teams regardless of where they play, so I’ll happily take the points to back Rodgers and the Packers.
In the NFL, you are what your record says you are, but I have little doubt that this team is better than its 4-5-1 record. Green Bay held fourth-quarter leads over the Rams and Seahawks on the road in two of their last three losses, and were tied with the Patriots in New England at the start of the fourth quarter in the other. In the loss to the Rams, a fumble by Ty Montgomery robbed Rodgers of the opportunity of a comeback attempt with two minutes left. A fumble by Jones at the start of the fourth quarter in New England took the ball away from Rodgers and the offense in a tie game as it entered the red zone. If neither of those fumbles happen, we could be talking about a 6-3-1 team that owns wins over the Rams and Patriots. Green Bay’s defense may not be able to slow down Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota offense the way Chicago did in Week 11, but the Packers’ offense has found a rhythm over the last month with Rodgers getting healthy and Jones taking over as a workhorse back. They’ll at least keep this within a field goal, and I think they have a great chance of winning outright. — Michael Beller
Seattle Seahawks (+3.5) at Carolina Panthers
This line was either written two weeks ago, or they’re just expecting a regression back to how Carolina was playing at that time. A few weeks ago the Panthers looked like a real challenger in the NFC, but they have since gotten blown out by the Steelers and lost after the late two-point conversion attempt against the Lions. Seattle, meanwhile, was not predicted to reach the playoffs by a single MMQB writer before the season but would take over a spot in the playoff picture with a win.
I could definitely see Carolina winning this game, but it surprised me that the Panthers were favored by more than a field goal. The Seahawks have kept games close even in their two losses to the Rams (by two and five points respectively).
The Seahawks are on the road, but also have a few extra days of rest and preparation after playing last Thursday. I’ll take them as 3.5-point underdogs. — Mitch Goldich
Washington Redskins (+7.5) at Dallas Cowboys
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving tradition? Maybe it's devouring your aunt's green bean casserole, or watching "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" with the entire family after the big meal. Mine is betting against Jason Garrett on Turkey Day. With Garrett as full-time coach, the Cowboys are 0–7 against the spread on Thanksgiving, failing to cover those games by an average of 10.44 points per game. It makes sense: Garrett is a subpar coach, and subpar coaches tend to struggle with fewer days to prepare. Meanwhile, the line is a bit inflated with Alex Smith's season-ending injury, but are we sure Colt McCoy is that big of a drop-off? No NFC East team should be favored by more than a touchdown over another NFC East team this season (remember the Cowboys upsetting the Eagles as eight-point underdogs just two weeks ago?), and I will gladly add these points to my Thanksgiving plate. — Max Meyer