Look Between the Lines: Handicapping Week 12 in the NFL
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 or follow him on Twitter @jhern81.
Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5) over Oakland Raiders
The Thursday night matchup features a team looking for its sixth consecutive victory versus a team hoping to avoid its 17th straight defeat.
It has been over a calendar year since the Oakland Raiders last tasted victory and the now infamous streak is the longest in the NFL since 2009. The Kansas City defense could be in for another dominant performance vs. Oakland, which is by far the worst offensive team in the league, averaging only 276.4 yards per game. The Raiders are the only team in the league with a mark below 300.
Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles have very fond memories of their last trip to Oakland, when Smith threw a career-high five TD passes (four to Charles) in a 56-31 blowout win last December. Be sure to bet this game early for the best spread as the public is sure to hammer the Chiefs early and often, which will force this spread up a point or two in favor of Kansas City.
Houston Texans (-1) over Cincinnati Bengals
When you have a team's number, funny things happen along the way to piling up the victories. According to Marc Lawrence at vegasinsider.com the Houston Texans are 5-0 straight up and against the spread versus Cincinnati, with two of those victories coming in the postseason.
Even without the presence of Arian Foster, who is questionable for Sunday's game, Houston's running game has been on point with the emergence of rookie running back Alfred Blue, who went for a career high 156 yards on 36 carries last Sunday. I don't expect J.J. Watt to become the target of choice for Ryan Mallett while Andre Johnson still calls Houston home, however numbers don't lie and at this point in the season Watt has 2 receiving TDs (4 total TDs, including defensive scores) to Johnson's 1. Lay the small number with the Texans until the Bengals prove they can actually defeat Houston in a game that matters.
Cleveland Browns (+3) over Atlanta Falcons
The Browns come into Atlanta a game out of the final playoff spot in the AFC and help is on the way. The 2013 All-Pro and NFL receiving yardage leader Josh Gordon is on track to return Sunday and give the Cleveland passing attack a bona fide deep threat for the first time this year. Atlanta has struggled all season against the pass, allowing an eye-popping 8.2 yards per completion while ranking dead last in pass defense.
After putting the "Johnny Drama" situation in his rearview mirror, Browns starter Brian Hoyer has put together a solid season that will undoubtedly earn him some cash in the offseason. With a win Sunday, the Browns will be one step closer to their first winning season since going 10-6 in 2007. Take Cleveland and the points as the Falcons come crashing back down to earth and continue their winless ways vs. teams outside the mediocre NFC South.
New York Giants (+3.5) over Dallas Cowboys
I know what you are thinking. Somehow, some way this must be a typo. Did he really just pick the punchless G-Men to defeat the mighty Cowboys?!
Before you have me committed, check out these mind-blowing stats courtesy of Marc Lawrence at vegasinsider.com. Dallas is 0-6 SU and ATS when favored vs. a divisional opponent playing with triple revenge-exact (which is losses in the last three meetings), and also 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS on Sunday nights vs. an opponent off a pair of SU losses (which New York is).
If that isn't enough to sway you, the Giants are a stellar 8-1 SU and ATS on Sunday Night Football off a pair of SU losses. Anytime you have two divisional foes match up, you can generally throw the records out the window. Also, let's not forget that Dallas already coughed up a divisional home game as 10-point favorites earlier in the year to the Redskins. Take the home dog and thank me later as New York finds a way to cover vs. the first-place Cowboys Sunday night in East Rutherford.
Baltimore Ravens (+3.5) over New Orleans Saints
John Harbaugh and his Ravens have made winning ugly an art form, and the fans in Charm City couldn't be happier with their efforts. After putting the Ray Rice drama behind them, Baltimore finds themselves right in the thick of the AFC North divisional race.
Recently, the Ravens have taken care of business on Monday night going 7-1 SU and ATS vs. NFC opponents. At 4-6 it would appear as if the Saints were in a must-win situation at home, but with the futility shown by the entire NFC South it's conceivable that the winner of the division will have a sub-.500 record.
If Terrell Suggs and Co. can put consistent pressure on Brees they should be able to neutralize the passing attack of New Orleans and have success getting the Saints off the field on third down, keeping time of possession in their favor. This is an evenly matched game, so take the points with the hotter team as Baltimore looks for its first win in the Big Easy since defeating the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.