Best bets – or at least compelling longshots – for NFL week 13

Friday, 29 November 2019 14:00 EST

Probably Thanksgiving, which this year featured another quality episode of the Jason Garrett reality sitcom plus the Benny Hill-esque sequence of three consecutive successful onside kicks by the Atlanta Falcons that’s got NFLbets tempted into covering some longshots in week 13’s three marquee games. So let’s get the insanity started with…

New England Patriots -3½ at Houston Texans

Patriots backers have reasonable cause for optimism here: During the tyrannical reign of the Dark Lord In Bill Belichick’s time as New England head coach, the Patriots are 8-1 SU (6-3 ATS) against Texans teams of all stripes. In this era, the Pats are also 3-1 SU (2-2 ATS) at Houston, with the last meeting a 27-20 win over DeShaun Watson’s guys in week 1 of 2018.

But you know how NFLbets generally feels about history stretching back too far, i.e. such stats are fun to play with but mostly belong in halls of fame or museums. So we’ll learn back on our old favorite, regression to the mean.

The truth is that, going into the weekend, the Patriots are a nice 7-4 ATS, bettered only by the Buffalo Bills (8-4 ATS after the win at Dallas), New Orleans Saints (8-4 ATS after the win at Atlanta) and Arizona Cardinals (7-3-1 ATS). The Texans are a pedestrian 5-6 ATS, including a poor 1-4 ATS mark at home. These numbers all suggest to NFLbets that the pendulum is swinging away from New England and into the favor of Houston.

Now let’s talk that historically statistically incredible Patriots defense. Sure, numbers like “four passing TDs allowed in 11 games” are freakin’ bloody impressive, but just look at the schedule: The Pats have face one team – one! – currently at better than .500, and the was the playoff-bound Baltimore Ravens in week 9. In fact, the week 9 game represented the only week in which the Pats faced a top-10 offense and have enjoyed seven meetings with a bottom-12 offense. (OK, statistically the Cowboys are still a top-10 offense, but that 12-9 game in Foxborough may have represented the beginning of the statistical end for a side that might not even win the NFC East after all…)

Combine these numbers with the extremely poor performances the New England OL line has been turning in (they resemble the traditional Texans line more than anything) and the loooooooooooong list of injuries that Belichick is looking at, and we’ll back the healthier, more-driven Texans this week. Take the Houston Texans +3½ vs New England.

Minnesota Vikings +3 at Seattle Seahawks

This one is relatively simple. Firstly, NFLbets strongly believes that these Seahawks could well be playing in this season’s NFC Championship Game – even if it requires beating the San Francisco 49ers three times in a single season. Russell Wilson may actually be more valuable to his team than is Lamar Jackson to the Ravens, though his stat line isn’t nearly as gaudy.

Exactly why the Carroll-Wilson combo isn’t hyped on the level of Belichick-Brady or at least Payton-Brees is beyond us – these Seahawks have pulled one W after another out their proverbial butts this season with half the talent (of the Saints, at least). Seattle has eight wins of 8 points or fewer, four wins of 3 points or fewer, and two OT victories.

Most compelling of all, though, is the incredible fact that the NFL’s second-biggest home field advantage of the last 10 years has led Seattle to an 0-4 ATS mark at home thus far in 2019. This anomaly simply makes no sense and should be eradicated this week. Take the Seattle Seahawks -3 vs Minnesota.

San Francisco 49ers +6 at Baltimore Ravens

That’s right: We’re backing the West Coast going east and the still-evolving Jimmy Garoppolo over the football machine Lamar Jackson: Take the San Francisco 49ers +6 at Baltimore.

We won’t be offended if you don’t side with us on this one: Our sub-.500 mark in these “Best Bets” speaks for itself – but just hear us out.

Unlike, likesay, the Bills and Patriots, the Ravens haven’t necessarily benefitted from an easy schedule. In the past five games, the Ravens have averaged a 24-point win in the past five games at Seattle, vs New England, at Cincinnati, vs Houston and at the L.A. Rams. (Interestingly, this 5-game ATS win streak chased a 5-game ATS losing streak run up in weeks 2-6.) Such wins are likely what’s keeping the line so high against a 10-1 SU club.

On the field, Lamar Jackson has captured the collective imagination of sports media and fandom alike was his electrifying, mutant statistic-generating play – stuff like how Jackson and the Ravens are 31st in pass attempts but *number 1* in passing TDs. Like how four times in 2019 has Jackson run for more yards than the opposition’s “skill players” combined, highlighted by a 152-33 outrunning of Cincinnati in week 6.

Baltimore’s defense meanwhile is a tad overlooked by the hypesters, particularly in this game. This is a top-10 unit in most areas, though the rushing defense stats (tops in attempts against, no. 3 in yardage allowed) can be deceiving because opposing teams so often are forced to go to the pass early in blowouts.

The truth is that the Ravens D has yet to face anything like the trio of Tevin Coleman, Matt Breda and Raheem Mostert. These three have created an old-fashioned rushing attack in 21st-century by-committee fashion, giving the 49ers the NFL’s no. 1 rushing offense – not to mention the no. 2 offense in scoring. And as is well-known, San Francisco is no. 2 in overall defense and defensive DVOA, but what’s going undiscussed is the reality that Jackson et al have faced one defense of note in 2019: the Patriots, whose own numbers are slightly suspect for reasons detailed in the Patriots-Texans writeup above.

The point of all this analysis and/or rambling is that the game appears a lot tighter than the public consciousness and this point spread would have us believe – and should finish with less than a touchdown difference. NFLbets loves the 10-1 “underdog” San Francisco 49ers here…

NFLbets’ Best Bets last week: 2-0.
NFLbets’ Best Bets this season: 12-13.

–written by Os Davis

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