NFL best bets for Week 13 from Steve Makinen

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NFL Week 13 Best Bets

The Thanksgiving Weekend set me back a bit with my NFL best bets as I went just 3-5 to drop my season record to games with a 49-33-1 ATS, good for 59.8% on the season. I would take that record any given season, but it is disappointing when you have been over the 62% mark for the entirety of the last six weeks and then fall below. Time to get it back hopefully.

I knew I was in some trouble last week in watching the three teams I bet in the early Sunday games score 27 points combined. There are just some awful offenses with awful quarterback play out there right now, and I am going to do my best to avoid them going forward unless some really good info pops up. After going through another edition of the NFL Analytics Report, I have come up with eight more plays for Week 13, including one total.

LA Chargers at New England

I mentioned just above that I wouldn’t be backing poor offenses any longer unless there was some significant system or numerical data backing them. Well, in the case of the Chargers-Patriots game, I see enough to go back to the well with head coach Bill Belichick’s team on Sunday. First off, this is a very tough travel situation for Los Angeles, playing a 1 p.m. game cross-country in the Eastern time zone.

It’s not like the Chargers have demonstrated a grit and vigor that would suggest they’ll play better than they have been. They were dominated by Baltimore and haven’t been sharp at all during their three-game losing skid. NFL teams that have lost at least their last thre games outright have gone 48-32 SU but 29-48-3 ATS (37.7%) when favored by three points or more since 2013.

Also, the Patriots have had their way with the Chargers lately, winning the last seven head-to-head games ATS, with the latter scoring just 17.1 PPG on average. I lost with this same angle last week, but 18-3 is too hard to resist as New England comes off its 10-7 loss to the Giants: NFL teams that lose while allowing fewer than 12 points have also fared well in their follow-up game, going 15-6 SU and 18-3 ATS (85.7%) since 2015. The difference this week is they are catching points, not laying.

Lets…gasp…take the 5.5 points (+/-1.5) with New England        

Arizona at Pittsburgh

One of the better DK Betting Splits systems that we track weekly in the NFL Analytics Report surrounds totals, and it reads as follows: The magic mark for supermajority on the handle for betting overs was 64% or higher, and this group has performed miserably in ’22 & ‘23 with a record of 55-93 (37.2%).

For whatever reason, it seems like a bunch of money has come in the over in the Arizona-Pittsburgh contest. I don’t know about you, but watching the Steelers lately, there is nothing that comes to mind about thinking the games could be high-scoring. They can’t throw the ball consistently and thus have developed a patience for running the ball and dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides. Much to head coach Mike Tomlin’s liking no less.

I can assure you that Tomlin does not want his team getting into a shootout and seeing QB Kyler Murray scurrying all over his defense. That said, since Murray’s return netted 25 points three weeks ago, the Cardinals have put up just 30 points combined in the last two. They’ve averaged just 16.7 PPG in three meetings with the Steelers since the Super Bowl duel in 2009. If none of that were ugly enough, Arizona is scoring just 11.2 PPG in six road outings this season. I think the only thing that could take this one Over would be defensive/special teams scores.

Let’s go UNDER 41 (+/- 1.5) in Arizona-Pittsburgh

Indianapolis at Tennessee

Only one of seven road favorites is not getting a whole lot of respect from bettors at DraftKings this week, and I mean it is the only team getting less than 60% of the handle action as of this writing. That team is Indianapolis, and strangely, the Colts enjoy one of the bigger offensive scoring margins over the opponent of the games.

Head coach Shane Steichen’s offense currently ranks eighth in the league in points per game, yet is laying just 1 point to a Tennessee offense that is struggling. Even after getting up 17-3 at half over Carolina last week, the Titans mustered nothing in the second half. They have now scored just 13.3 PPG in their last four outings.

Head coach Mike Vrabel’s team is going to have to make this game really ugly against an Indy team that has actually played better football on the road this season, going 3-1 SU and ATS. I wrote prior to the season that I like the Colts’ chances this year of going Over their season win total, particularly if they rode with QB Gardner Minshew. That’s what they are doing and that’s why they are winning. I look for them to extend the favorites’ current record of 5-1 ATS in the last six of the IND-TEN series at Tennessee.

Let’s go Indianapolis -1 at Tennessee, with +/-1 ok too

Miami at Washington

Even in ugly losses like the one at Dallas on Turkey Day, the Washington offense still puts up some numbers. They actually gained 376 yards that day, and usually, you can count on that producing more than 10 points. Furthermore, the Commanders haven’t been held below 356 yards in any of their last five games.

Why do I say this? Well, even if Sunday’s game versus Miami should turn into a shootout, Washington has the type of offensive attack to keep up right now. With almost 80% of the handle and bets at DraftKings thinking the opposite and backing the heavily favored Dolphins in an unfamiliar environment as a heavy favorite, I have to like my chances. I also recognize that there is currently some turmoil with the coaching staff for the Commanders, but as the Raiders have proven, making changes in that regard isn’t always a negative.

As head coach Ron Rivera’s team heads into its bye week, it will be backed by a very strong but simple betting system: Play on home underdogs heading into their bye week. (Record: 36-18-2 ATS since ’15, 66.7%, +16.2 Units, 30% R.O.I., Grade 68). We’ve won with this on several occasions this season. After last week’s routs produced opposite results for these teams, it would seem very tough to back Washington right now. In the NFL, that line of thought usually loses.

Let’s go Washington +9.5 (+/-1)

Denver at Houston

It’s rare when public bettors back a road underdog, but over 80% of the handle and 60% of the bets at DraftKings were on Denver +3 as of this writing. Perhaps they are seeing the same thing I am, that this line, good for what would typically apply to when two 6-5 teams meet, doesn’t factor in enough of what has occurred lately with the clubs.

Denver, since a 1-5 start, has rallied for five straight wins, and the team seems more together than at any time in the QB Russell Wilson era. It’s not like the Broncos haven’t played anyone either during the stretch, as all five opponents are currently in the hunt for the playoffs. Plus, even when threatened last week in the 29-12 win by Cleveland, Wilson & Co. responded immediately. It seems HC Sean Payton has finally taken hold of what this team is about and what it needs to do to win.

Houston on the other hand, since its eye-opening victory at Cincinnati a few weeks ago, has floundered a bit the last two weeks, going 1-1 SU but 0-2 ATS. At this point, with a young but talented nucleus, I’m not sure I am comfortable backing them in difficult games they are expected to win. It is of note that the Texans are 0-4 ATS as a favorite in 2023. Throw in the head-to-head trend that road teams are on a 5-1 ATS run in the DEN-HOU series, and I think we have the makings of a nice underdog spot.

Let’s go with Denver +3 with some moneyline action as well

San Francisco at Philadelphia

Surely you recall the cries of 49ers players last year after the NFC title game loss to Philly regarding how they would have won had they had their quarterback situation in order. It was injury chaos for those struggling to recollect and head coach Kyle Shanahan actually put Brock Purdy back in the game at one point even though he couldn’t throw. Well, the rematch comes Sunday, and San Francisco has its chance to prove its beliefs, and I can assure you that they had this game circled on the calendar.

The chip on the shoulder is probably even bigger now with the Eagles sitting at 10-1 atop the NFC. I’ve seen a lot of novices scoff at the notion of there being a road favorite in this contest, but I’ll tell you this…it is warranted. In my Power Ratings on VSiN, SF is 4.5 points better. In my Effective Strength Ratings, the difference is 5.9 points, and in my Recent Ratings, the 49ers are 11.6 points better. I can’t recall in all my years where a 10-1 team that was on a 5-0 SU & 4-0-1 ATS stretch and was the defending conference champ being a home dog.

However, I think it’s right, and DK bettors are right for backing SF: In another rare winning record, when the majority of the handle has backed the team with fewer season wins in a 2022 or 2023 NFL game for an ATS wager, this majority group is 38-29 ATS (60.3%).

Let’s go with SF -3 (+/- 1) to flex its muscles in a statement game

Kansas City at Green Bay

For whatever reason, I am just having trouble buying into this version of the Chiefs. They just don’t look as formidable as their predecessors, and the statistical numbers show it. That said, they were able to rally from 14-0 down last week to both win and cover the number at Las Vegas, and oddsmakers are still treating them as the team to beat.

Here they are a Sunday night heavy favorite against a Green Bay team that has some renewed vigor after back-to-back underdog wins. Much of the Packers’ success is being credited to QB Jordan Love’s improvement, but not enough is given to what else the league’s youngest team has been doing well, which is just about everything. They’ve been balanced on offense, are getting after the passer on defense, and forcing turnovers. Since their late September loss to Detroit, the Packers have allowed just 18.3 PPG. That could prove key, as KC has had trouble scoring this year, averaging just 23+ and it could take more than 20 points to get the job done here for bettors.

There are some favorable SNF trends backing the Packers here as well. Home underdogs have been competitive on Sunday night football, going 16-16 SU and 20-10-2 ATS (66.7%) dating back to 2017. And momentum has been big for hosts overall, as home teams on SNF coming off a loss in their last games are just 12-15 SU and 11-15-1 ATS (42.3%) in their last 27, but those coming off a win are on a current 17-3 SU and 13-7 ATS (65%) surge.

And finally, the best defensive teams in the league, or those allowing less than 19 PPG (KC allows 16.5), have gone just 10-21 SU & 11-20 ATS (35.5%) against worse defenses on SNF since ’19. It should be an electric environment for a fan base energized by its team’s recent play.

Let’s go Green Bay +6 as the home dog (+/-1.5)

Cincinnati at Jacksonville

Like the Sunday night game this week, there are a couple of pretty strong systems for MNF indicating that laying big points might not be the way to go, despite the injury to Bengals QB Joe Burrow. Simply, laying seven points or more has for long not been a good strategy on MNF, as favorites of seven points or more are 43-12 SU but just 19-34-2 ATS (35.8%) since 2012.

Adding to this, won/lost records have mattered on MNF, as teams with the better record are 30-24 SU but just 19-33-2 ATS (36.5%) in the last 54 MNF games not matching teams with identical records. While recognizable that Jacksonville is an improving team, how rare of a situation are we in that the Jaguars are over a TD favorite? It’s only happened three times since the 2018 playoffs, and they are 1-2 SU & 0-3 ATS as such, including a 37-17 loss to Houston earlier this season.

We are also aided here by a pretty strong streak system. NFL teams that have lost their last three games ATS are 18-60 SU but 48-28-2 ATS (63.2%) when playing as road dogs to non-divisional conference foes since 2003.

I’m lukewarm on Cincinnati’s chances to win, but I’ll take the +8.5

For more system matches and key trends, check out the Week 13 NFL Analytics Report.

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As one of the original founders of StatFox, Steve Makinen has been in the business of sports betting and data analysis for almost 25 years now. In his time in the industry, Steve has worked in a variety of capacities on both sides of the betting counter, from his early days of developing the StatFox business, to almost a decade of oddsmaking consulting for one of the world's leading sportsbooks, to his last seven years as Point Spread Weekly and Analytics Director with VSiN. Steve has always believed that number crunching and handicapping through foundational trends and systems is the secret to success and he shares this data with VSiN readers on a daily basis for all of the major sports.