This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Paul Bovi, a sports betting expert from Bet-NJ.com who’s been handicapping games for three decades, and Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, share their opinions on five games on the NFL’s slate of Week 12 matchups, including Sunday’s showdown between NFC powerhouses when the Packers visit the 49ers in San Fran.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
5-5 Panthers (+375, +9.5, O/U 47) at 8-2 Saints
Led by running back MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers come into this game on a two-game losing streak and have lost three of their last four overall to fall out of the NFC playoff hunt. To get back into it, they’ll have to knock off a Saints team that has only lost a single game at home this season and is 6-2 against NFC opponents. It won’t be easy.
Bovi’s take: “The Saints come in fresh off a 34-17 bounce-back win over the Bucs in which they were the beneficiaries of four Jameis Winston interceptions. Tampa actually outgained the Saints but could not overcome their own futility. They face a Panthers team that also victimized themselves as Kyle Allen also threw four picks which led to a 29-3 win for the resurgent Falcons, now winners of two in a row. The Saints will once again be without their top cornerback in Marcus Lattimore. We’ll look for a better effort from the Panthers here as they stay within the number.”
Gable’s take: “Last weekend, the Falcons really took advantage of the Panthers through the air and were able to pass the ball on them and move the ball. It sets up well for the Saints because it looks like Drew Brees has found his rhythm. The Panthers obviously have issues now again at quarterback with Kyle Allen. He’s had two horrible games in a row. I think he showed why he’s a backup quarterback and probably is going to be a backup to stay. The Saints’ defense has been pretty decent. This should be an easy, easy victory for the Saints. I see a lot of bettors just putting this in parlays on the money line. But I’m sure there’ll be quite a few takers with the Saints laying the points.”
Our Pick: Take the Panthers and McCaffrey with the points.
8-2 Seahawks (Even, +1.5, O/U 48) at 5-5 Eagles
Needing a win last week to stay tied for the top spot in the NFC East, the Eagles came up short against the Patriots in Philadelphia. At home once again in Week 12, they’ll play host to one of the hottest quarterbacks in football in Russell Wilson. Undefeated in five road games this season, the Seahawks fly into Philly on a three-game winning streak after going on their bye last week.
Bovi’s take: “The Seahawks continue to win while rarely lacking for intrigue as seven of their eight victories have been by a touchdown or less. They come in on the heels of an overtime victory over the previously unbeaten Niners that kept them in the hunt for the division crown. The Eagles squandered a 10-0 lead to the Patriots as New England reeled off 17 straight points. The Eagles could muster little on offense as they rang up only 295 total yards against New England. We’ll look for a close game as is the norm for these Seahawks with the visitors getting a 23-20 win.”
Gable’s take: “When you talk about the Eagles, the thing everybody brings up is all the injuries that have decimated them. Now you add offensive lineman Lane Johnson and Jason Peters to the list of injured players. Carson Wentz has not been the same guy since he came back from his injury. Their defense seems to have found something, but the secondary still is a question mark for them. I think Tyler Lockett right now is questionable on the Seahawk side. It may give Wilson one less target to pass to. So the Eagles laying points is really due to this being a home game for the Eagles. Basically, this is a pick ‘em. The Seahawks play great on the road so I could see a lot of bettors taking the Seahawks in this game.”
Our Pick: Bet on Wilson and take the Seahawks with the points.
6-4 Cowboys (+220, +6.5, O/U 45) at 9-1 Patriots
Winners on the road last week in Detroit, the Cowboys and their top-ranked offense come to New England to take on a Patriots team that is ranked at the top of the NFL in defense. The Pats rarely lose at home and are 5-0 this season in Foxborough. It’s a good matchup on paper as New England’s stout defense has been vulnerable against the run this season and Dallas may be able to exploit that weakness with a heavy dose of tailback Ezekiel Elliott.
Bovi’s take: “At 9-1, questions still loom regarding the Patriots’ efficiency on both sides of the ball. New England ran for less than 3.5 yards per carry while Tom Brady could manage only 216 yards on 47 pass attempts against the Eagles. The Patriots did sack Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz five times. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott led his team to a come-from-behind, 34-26, spread-covering victory as he threw for 444 yards on 29-of-46 pass attempts along with three touchdowns. This will be the best offense the Patriots have faced all season and the feeling here is that the Cowboys will keep this one very competitive with a field goal deciding it. Take the points.”
Gable’s take: “The key for the Patriots is going to be stopping the run and one of the best running backs in the league in Ezekiel Elliot. That being said, quarterback Dak Prescott has been having a very good year and has entered into the conversation for MVP. The issue with the Cowboys is really going to be their schedule here from here on out so they kind of have to take every win they possibly can get. It could very well be that only one team is going to make the playoffs from the NFC East. So the Cowboys really need this game. Tom Brady was not happy with how he played in Philly on Sunday so he’s going to look to have a bounce-back game for himself here. I think the Cowboys are capable of beating them outright, but it’s going to come down to gameplan and execution. Those, unfortunately, aren’t two of [Dallas coach] Jason Garrett’s strengths.”
Our Pick: Look for both defenses to play well and take the under.
8-2 Packers (+140, +3, O/U 47.5) at 9-1 49ers
Coming off their bye week, the Packers head to San Francisco to take on a Niners team that has only lost a single game this season but has looked fairly beatable in its last three games. The top seeds in the NFC, both the Packers and 49ers could use a win to help keep them a step ahead of their second-place divisional foes.
Bovi’s take: “The 49ers overcame numerous injuries as they got a rousing 36-26 win over Arizona. Niners’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo paved the way as, despite the lack of a running game, he tallied 424 yards passing to go along with four TD passes, though he did throw two interceptions. The Packers have gotten healthier of late and star wide receiver Devante Adams is back to full strength. The Niners have injury issues as the status of wide receivers Emanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuels is in question as is that of tight end George Kittle. Running back Matt Breida probably will not play. Have to side with the Packers to get the road win.”
Gable’s take: “This is another NFC game with big playoff implications. I saw the Packers had all 53 players practicing, so they should be in good shape injury-wise. The 49ers haven’t looked as dominant over the last couple of weeks but the one good thing for them here is they lead the NFC in rushing and the Packers have had trouble stopping the run this year. I would expect to see the 49ers continue to try to run it on them and slow this game down a little bit. San Francisco’s defense gave up two great games to mobile quarterback Kyler Murray. I don’t think Aaron Rodgers is as mobile as Murray, but he also doesn’t make bad decisions. If Murray had two good games against them, you’d have to say, logically, Rodgers should at least be able to do what Murray did against them.”
Our Pick: The 49ers have been shaky so take the Packers with the points.
8-2 Ravens (-175, -3.5, O/U 46.5) at 6-4 Rams
Winners of six in a row with MVP favorite Lamar Jackson under center and on pace to break Michael Vick’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback, the Baltimore Ravens are the NFL’s hottest team. Though they won last week in a slugfest with the Chicago Bears, the Rams are not. Still, it was a much-needed victory for LA and kept them in contention for first place in the NFC West. They’ll need a win on Monday Night Football to stay there.
Bovi’s take: “The Rams got a much-needed win last week over the offensively challenged Bears. Todd Gurley had his best outing of the year yardage-wise with 97 to go along with 173 yards passing from Jared Goff. The Ravens ran for 256 yards while holding Deshaun Watson and the Texans in check as they easily manhandled Houston 41-7 in Week 11. The Rams get back Brandin Cooks for this one, who sat out the last two with a concussion. That should help what has been an anemic offense. We’ll look for an upset here as the Rams hold the Ravens to 23 and win by a field goal.”
Gable’s take: “LA’s defense has been pretty good, especially the rushing defense. They finally decided to use Todd Gurley more in the offense last week, but I don’t know if that was kind of a one-off. Last week was not what I’d call a defining victory by any means. So it’s tough to say they found anything in that. Jared Goff has not looked very good and certainly hasn’t had a great year by any stretch. The Ravens defense has been very good and they’ve just been dominating opponents and putting up a lot of points. I would expect the betting public to be all over the Ravens in this. Looking at the early numbers, what action we’ve taken so far, that certainly is the case. Almost all the money is on the Ravens already on this.”
Our Pick: This number seems low. Take the Rams with the points.
Last Week’s Picks: 3-2, Season: 30-25
Editor’s note: Lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.