NFL Football Best Bets: Week 12 (2021)

Ryan’s Season Totals

Assigned Games: 14-13-1 

Best Bets: 20-11, Up 1058%

Sitting at about 2 winners for every 3 selections we put up, we’re feeling pretty good this year. Here is what our research finds this week.

Best Bet #1: New York Giants to win SU (+140) over the Philadelphia EaglesWe haven’t picked a straight-up underdog win in sometime, but we believe this is as good a spot as any.

Let’s start with the high-level stuff: This is a game between 2 intra-divisional rivals, which tends to balance out performances and create situations ripe for upsets. Especially, when the underdog is at home.

Beyond this, and frankly, the biggest reason for this play has to do with one of our favorite psychological factors: the  “I told you it was him, and not us” play. Beyond the “win one for the gipper” (when someone close to or on the team dies), this is the second strongest psychological factor we have observed: how a team plays the week after a coach is fired. Think about it for a second, at a human level. Your team stinks, your coach gets fired, and you are still there. Don’t you want to prove that “it was the coach’s fault, not yours”? Beyond this play’s typical level of magnitude, longtime readers know how we view Jason Garret (as one of the worst coaches in the last 10 years of football), meaning there could even be some OBJECTIVE truth/additional weight to this play.

Couple this strong psychological play with a few tactical ones:

Anything can happen on any Sundays, but if you have an appetite for underdogs, this looks as good as any opportunity.

Bet: New York Giants to win SU (+140) over the Philadelphia EaglesBest Bet #2: Baltimore Ravens -4 (-105) over the Cleveland Browns.
The reasoning with this play stems mainly from matchup advantages. Specifically, from the Raven’s QB, Lamar Jackson, that our model points out.

For one, not surprisingly given Lamar’s affinity for the middle of the field, he has a strong stat split vs MFO (2 deep safety, or Middle Field Open) defenses instead of MFC (Middle Field Closed, or 1 Safety). Sitting at the 4th best QB in EPA/play vs MFO defenses, almost 15% better when he sees 2-deep, he’ll enjoy the fact that the Browns use the 5th most MFO defenses in the NFL.

Secondly, Lamar Jackson has one of the most stark QB performance splits in the NFL when vs the blitz/NO blitz. Currently, he is the #1 rated QB when not blitzed, yet #28 when blitzed. Fortunately for Jackson and the Ravens, the Brown blitz about 20% of the time, or 4th least frequent in the NFL. Combine these elements, and Jackson is expected to have his “MVP-type environment” he enjoyed in years past.

Beyond this QB tactical advantage, there are these reasons supporting the pick:

  • The Ravens come in simply as the better team (by DVOA, PFF ranking and SIS EPA/play)
  • The Ravens are playing at home (with a top 5 referee advantage with Jerome Boger heading their crew)
  • The Ravens have a 7 to 15 advantage in Coach Ranking according to EDJ Sports 

Bet : Baltimore Ravens -4 (-105) over the Cleveland Browns.
Best Bet #3: Minnesota + 3 (+100) The similarities between these squads extends beyond both boasting a top 5 consistency rank. Besides the obvious: use of wide zone runs, pre-snap motion and play-action matched to the run game, both teams are known for the heavier personnels on offense, both using 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE) 45% of the time (5th least in the NFL). Also, both teams are early down run first, and the two rank 1st and 2nd in the league in undercenter snaps (vs. shotgun). Both coaches also own some interesting betting trends: Vikings HC Mike Zimmer owns the 2nd best ATS since he took over as HC at 59% (in season), while 49ers HC Kyle Shannahan has won 73% of their games with Jimmy Garapolo and Shannahan together.

Now that we know how similar these teams are, how do they match up against each other? The first item that jumps out is the 49ers strong net pass rush advantage (on both sides) based on PFF rankings. This may be offset by how often the 49ers send the blitz (8th most in the league) and the fact Cousins actually performs better when faced with a blitz (17th in EPA when NOT blitzed, yet 8th when blitzed by SIS Data Hub). Lastly, from a tactical standpoint, Cousins has performed far better vs MFC defenses (about 7% points better by SIS Data), and the 49ers use the 8th most MFC/Single-High defenses in the league.

Given the marginal tactical advantages in the Vikings favor, and the feeling they are just hitting their stride, we are going to side with Minnesota in this game.

Bet: Minnesota + 3 (+100) 

Leave a Reply