If there is one situation you don’t want to find yourself in it’s facing the New England Patriots in December. Since Bill Belichick became coach of the team in 2001, the Patriots are 63-11 (85 percent) straight up and 44-29-1 (59 percent) against the spread. The oddsmakers took note and opened New England as 10-point favorites over the Miami Dolphins this week but have since moved the line to 7.5 points. Still, the Fins are an attractive home dog: from 2003 to 2017, underdogs getting seven points or more at home were 94-72-1 overall against the spread and that includes a 43-26-1 ATS record in December and January.
If the spread doesn’t move much further, or better yet widens back in New England’s favor, Miami could be a decent value play.
Here are some other prime picks to consider:
Prime pick success rate: 12-17-1
Denver Broncos (-4) at San Francisco 49ers
Pick: Denver Broncos -4
Denver, the fifth-best team this season per Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average metric, which measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent, is riding a four-game win streak despite starting Case Keenum, one of the least-valuable quarterbacks in the league per ESPN, under center.
Their opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, ranks 25th in DVOA due to scoring a lackluster 1.8 points per drive with the second-lowest red-zone efficiency of 2018 (45 percent).
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-4.5)
Pick: Houston Texans -4.5
The Colts are coming off a humiliating 6-0 loss at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville pressured Colts quarterback Andrew Luck 24 times in the game, sacking him three times with 18 hits and hurries, dropping his passer rating almost in half from 81.4 in a clean pocket to 43.5 under pressure.
The Texans pass rush, featuring J.J. Watt (11.5 sacks in 2018) and Jadeveon Clowney (seven sacks) is just as good, and it harassed Luck in the first matchup between these two teams, totaling four sacks, six tackles for a loss and seven hits. Clowney also added a touchdown on a fumble recovery. Watt, meanwhile, is tied with Chicago’s Khahil Mack for the second-most forced fumbles with five, trailing only the Dee Ford of the Kansas City Chiefs, who has six.
Note: You’ll see below that the Giants/Redskins game should fall among our prime picks, but our model does not adjust for injuries and Washington has been decimated by them. We’d steer clear of that one. Same for the Bengals, who will be without star receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton.
The games above represent my best plays of the week because my analysis shows the point spreads are divergent from what I expect to happen once the teams take the field. One reason the house wins so often is because bettors try to make too many plays when the odds aren’t in their favor. This makes trying to pick every single NFL game something of a fool’s errand. The odds should be in my favor in the games above, which is why I think they’re worth a bet. Below you’ll find our chart predicting the betting edge for every game.