James Hernandez has more than 15 years in the sports handicapping industry and will contribute weekly for FOXSports.com as our betting expert. Have comments or questions? Make sure to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the NFL season, I will attempt to guide you to the winner’s circle more often than not. I consider a combination of statistical trends, my own personal player ranking system, and meticulous attention to various wagering techniques that allow me to analyze and formulate a plan of attack each week.
Each week I will post my five favorite plays in order of preference, best on top and so on. All right, let’s get into it:
Baltimore Ravens (-3) over New York Jets
After last week’s disaster in Orchard Park I shudder to think what might happen to Rex and his guys when they attempt to get a road win in one of the toughest venues in the NFL.
Say what you will about the inconsistent play of the defending champs, but a home win Sunday will put that talk on the back-burner for the time being and vault Baltimore back in the AFC playoff mix.
After consecutive overtime games, the Ravens must be ecstatic to welcome Geno Smith and his conference-leading 16 interceptions to town especially since the defending champs seem to be hitting their stride defensively. T-Sizzle and Elvis Dumervil are putting together the kind of pass rush Ozzie Newsome envisioned the whole time and young defensive backs Jimmy Smith and Matt Elam are infusing a once-suspect secondary with the youth and enthusiasm that was missing earlier in the year.
After 10 weeks on a milk carton, Ray Rice decided to reappear with authority last week, putting up 131 yards and a touchdown. Despite facing a tough Jets run defense Sunday, Rice at least has Rex and his staff game planning for something other than Joe Flacco and the passing game.
Expect a hard-hitting, back-alley fist fight to break out and look for the Ravens to emerge victorious as they inch back into the wildcard hunt and become a factor down the stretch.
Indianapolis Colts/Arizona Cardinals over 44
One of the most consistent betting trends all year has been playing the over in inter-conference matchups.
Cashing at nearly a 70 percent clip, this matchup falls right in line with that thought process.
After looking like world beaters by handing Denver and Seattle their only losses of the year, the Colts have come back to the pack a bit despite a 7-3 overall record. Indy has allowed 89 points in its last three games (29.8 ppg) and all three teams they played had losing records.
No such issues exist for Bruce Arians and his crew as they bring a three-game winning streak into this matchup and look to move closer to the franchise’s first playoff berth since the 2009 season.
Both teams have had a deficiency in their running games and that may lead us to a shootout in the desert that pushes both teams well past the posted total of 44.
With playmakers on both sides of the ball, the defenses will be hard pressed to contain the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and TY Hilton as both passing games thrive under the roof at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The early line movement appears to favor the over so get this number as soon as possible or you might be looking at a total of 45 or 46 by the time this game kicks off Sunday afternoon.
Dallas Cowboys (+3) over New York Giants
After losing six straight games to start the year and being left for dead, the G-Men have gotten back on track in a big way.
Seeking a fifth consecutive win that can put them just a game behind division leader Philly, the stakes are once again raised for two teams that truly have no love lost for one another.
Believe it or not Dallas comes into this Week 12 matchup tied with Carolina for the best record against the spread in the NFL at 7-3. If you combine that with a 3-0 division record, it’s the Cowboys — not the Eagles — who still have the inside track to a division title and home playoff game.
With that being said, we are talking about the NFC Least here and for all we know the Redskins can still make a run and win this division with a 7-9 record.
Dallas has been an exceptionally strong play as an underdog this year going 4-1. Demarco Murray can ease Tony Romo’s work load by delivering another 100-plus yard performance and bringing some much-needed balance to an offense that is still scoring 27.4 ppg despite its inconsistencies running the football.
The Dallas secondary may get a confidence boost knowing that they are facing a quarterback who is leading the NFL with 17 interceptions. Eli Manning already gift wrapped three picks for a struggling Cowboys secondary the first time these two teams got together.
Look for Dallas to come away with another division victory and improve to 8-3 against the spread this season as they continue to keep pace with the Eagles for the division title.
New England Patriots ( +3) over Denver Broncos
Welcome to the 14th installment of Brady vs. Manning.
Just like the great rivalries of the past, any time these two legends of the game face off there is more than just bragging rights at stake.
By now we have heard and seen it all from these two future Hall of Famers, but just as the old adage goes "only steel sharpens steel" and these two gunslingers never fail to bring out the best in one another.
Following a crushing Monday night loss at Carolina, the Pats return home to an even more daunting task when the Denver Broncos and old pal Wes Welker make their way to Foxborough for the first time since his unpleasant exit as a free agent following last season.
Don’t think for a second that the Hoodie and the Golden Boy haven’t had this matchup circled on the calendar since the schedule was released.
Although Brady might not publicly admit it, he has to feel slighted by Welker and his comments towards his coach and the entire Patriots organization. This is exactly the kind of motivational fuel that both the coach and quarterback run on. And let’s face it, nobody makes in-game adjustments better then Bill Belichick.
If the Pats can slow down the Denver rushing attack and generate a pass rush to disrupt Peyton, they may just do enough to neutralize an offense that has been less than stellar the past few weeks.
The Patriots’ three-headed rushing attack along with the big-play ability of Gronk provide Brady with enough ammo to win his ninth career game over Manning.
San Francisco 49ers (-5) over Washington Redskins
After two consecutive losses, the 49ers find themselves holding on for dear life to the final wildcard spot in the NFC.
Luckily for San Francisco a trip to the nation’s capital may exactly be what they need to get back on track.
By now it’s apparent that the Washington defense can’t stop a nose bleed. With a suspect secondary waiting to be exposed, this seems like a golden opportunity for Harbaugh to loosen the reigns a bit and let Kaep put the ball in the air early and often.
With a stellar ground attack carrying the load it would be nice to see Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin step up for their young signal caller and provide him with some big-play opportunities down the field.
The fiercest linebacker unit in the game is rounding back into form. They can take another huge step forward if Aldon Smith is able to get closer to his 2012 form that had him in the discussion for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Expect no mercy from a Jim Harbaugh team coming off back-to-back losses as they completely dismantle an overmatched team and regain the swagger necessary to be a factor down the stretch and into the playoffs.