The Frontdoor Cover: Week 12
Week 12 features a mediocre slate with large spreads, but limited underdog appeal.
By: August Bottorf and Hershy Kulkarni
Welcome to the first installment of Unculture’s football betting column. Here, Hershy and August will discuss every game of the week, the lines we like, and finally, our card for the week. We’re betting our money on the card, so rest assured, if you lose money on our picks, we’ll be losing our money too. Starting next week, we’ll reflect on our picks from last week, as well.
Without further ado:
Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots—1:00 P.M.
Spread: Arizona -2; O/U: 48.5
AB: The Patriots are kind of a tricky team to bet against, and for that reason, I’m always a little apprehensive about putting money on Belichick to lose. I was burned by their upset win over the Ravens earlier this year. However, with only a 2 point spread, I think Arizona should take this one — even with Belichick calling plays, New England just doesn’t have the defensive personnel to slow down Kyler Murray and Arizona’s high-powered offense. Expect a game similar to last week’s loss to Houston. Arizona -2.
HK: The Patriots are in the top 5 for most yards allowed per passing play. Not a great situation against a Kingsbury Air-Raid offense. Their D, with many of their key starters opting out due to COVID, is decimated. It’s likely Kyler comes back this week and, with WR Andy Isabella back, this offense should put up some big plays downfield. The only thing preventing a clear over bet is that the Patriots play a similar strategy to the Titans — ball-control, time of possession football. This won’t be a close game. Arizona -2.
Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings — 1:00 P.M.
Spread: Vikings -3; O/U: 50
HK: The Vikings lose Ezra Cleveland, Adam Thielen, and Irv Smith this week. Cleveland’s absence will hurt Dalvin Cook’s potential here, but on the whole, he should continue to play like the best RB in the league. The Vikings will definitely win, but the Panthers have looked frisky all year and Mike Davis looks like a genuinely good running back. It will come down to who can run the ball better. Either way, the O/U remains too high for what will be a ground-and-pound game. Panthers +3 and Under.
AB: Minnesota looked to be building a late-season push before being rocked by an unexpected loss to a truly dismal Cowboys team. The Panthers have been a stingy and well-coached team all season, and even when they lose, they don’t often get blown out. I would expect a Vikings victory, but Carolina should keep the game close enough to cover. Panthers +3.
Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars—1:00 P.M.
Spread: Browns -7; O/U: 48.5
AB: Mike Glennon seems to oscillate wildly between “fine for a backup” and “worst quarterback you’ve ever seen” and there’s no way to tell which version will be facing the Browns on Sunday. What is certain, though, is how banged up the Jaguars defense will be in Jacksonville. Even if Glennon performs passably well, a Jags defense missing starters at almost every level should be powerless to stop the Browns’ ruthless rushing attack. Browns -7 (LOCK)
HK: The Jaguars have looked below-average to garbage all year, and with Mike Glennon starting, this will get ugly quick. Glennon is a statue that refuses to throw the ball to his team and won’t even have DJ Chark or Chris Conley to bail him out. On defense, Sidney Jones, CJ Henderson, DJ Hayden, Josh Allen, and countless others are hurt. It’s a team with decent talent but zero availability. The Browns should easily cover and a blowout should keep point totals low. Browns -7 & Under.
Las Vegas Raiders at Atlanta Falcons—1:00 P.M.
Spread: Raiders -3; O/U: 53.5
HK: The Raiders are my dark-horse favorite for a deep playoff run. Their two performances against the Chiefs have been extremely impressive and the team is well positioned against any team with strong-nose, physical football. Gruden and Mayock have assembled a real winner in Las Vegas. While the loss of Richie Incognito will hurt, up against a Falcons team giving up the 2nd most passing yards in football, it might not matter. Derek Carr continues to play strong and the emergence of Agholor as well as Darren Waller’s continued dominance has helped the Raiders push the ball downfield. The Falcons offense will continue to be entertaining, even without Hayden Hurst’s presence. The combination of Matt Ryan, Julio, and Calvin Ridley will be enough to grab points. Take the Raiders and the over in a high scoring affair. Raiders -3 (LOCK) & Over.
AB: Honestly, I was shocked when I saw the spread for this game. The Raiders have managed to keep pace with and even beat some of the best teams in football this season, and the Falcons have clearly run out of whatever motivation they had to prove themselves after the firing of Dan Quinn. Las Vegas should have no trouble taking down an exhausted Falcons squad with an interim head coach clearly out of his depth. Raiders -3.
Los Angeles Chargers at Buffalo Bills—1:00 P.M.
Spread: Bills -4.5; O/U: 51.5
AB: Buffalo is a great team, no doubt, but they haven’t been consistently great. They got their doors blown off by Tennessee and nearly dropped a game to the Patriots, proof positive of that. The Chargers are equally hard to predict, and are experts at blowing winnable games, but in order for that to happen, the game has to be close enough to be blowable in the first place. I think LA keeps it close enough to cover before some hilarious 4th quarter screw up hands the Bills their eighth victory. Chargers +4.5.
HK: The Bills are an excellent passing team and, while the Chargers have a strong pass defense, they’re also in the lower quartile of sacks and interceptions. Under Herbert, the Chargers have been playing competitive ball before collapsing at the end, as strategy that has them doing their best Falcons impression. That takes the moneyline out of the equation. However, the return of their premier RB Austin Ekeler also helps their cause. The loss of Bills WR John Brown this week should make a significant dent for Josh Allen, given their reliance on deep ball offense. In the end, this feels like a classic trap game. Give me the over and the Chargers in what should be an offensive chess match. Chargers +4.5 & Over.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets—1:00 P.M.
Spread: Dolphins -6.5; O/U: 44.5
HK: The New York Jets will continue to New York Jets for the rest of the season. 0–16 isn’t out of the question at this point and a Dolphins defense that ranks 5th in rush defense will continue to shut them down. This is easy. Don’t overthink it. Dolphins -6.5.
AB: In all my years watching football, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team as uniquely pathetic as Adam Gase’s New York Jets. This is a squad with no real identity on either side of the ball and seems to have already given up. The Jets are the worst team in football by a significant margin and I think a team like the Dolphins aiming for a playoff spot should have no trouble blowing their doors off, looking to recoup after an ugly loss in Mile High. Dolphins -6.5.
New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 P.M.
Spread: Giants -5.5; O/U: 44.5
AB: The Bengals had only managed to scrounge together 2 wins and a tie due to the play of their superstar young QB. With Burrow gone, not only is the team arguably the least talented in the NFL, but the fight seems to be totally extinguished from Cincinnati (the Bengals failed to score a single point against the Washington Football Team in the entire second half.) The Giants aren’t a great team, but they still have a real path to the playoffs and should have little trouble dispatching a Bengals squad missing its most important player. Giants -5.5.
HK: The Backdoor King, Joe Burrow, was lost last week to an absolutely devastating injury. Burrow’s Herculean effort, week after week, to prop up an abysmal roster was the only thing keeping this team in relevance. Brandon Allen will replace him under center. He’s an awful backup and will only start because Ryan Finley is that much worse. Neither should be in the NFL and, yet, here we are. If we’re being honest, this game should not be played. It will barely qualify as NFL football. This is another easy pick and, given the ineptitude of both offenses, the under is attractive. Giants -5.5 & Under.
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts — 1:00 P.M.
Spread: Colts -3; O/U: 51.5
HK: The Colts have covered 87% of their last 15 games against the spread. That’s your stat of the week. The Colts are coming off a thriller against the Packers and two weeks from absolutely trashing the Titans. The Titans offense simply isn’t as good as we all expected, coming out of 2019, and everyone has been waiting for Tractorcito to truly emerge. The Colts have a tendency to give up a lot of pass yards, but remain relatively strong against the run with a sneaky good front 7. If the Titans win this game, it’ll be with Tannehill’s arm. I don’t think that happens. Colts -3.
AB: A fantastic game featuring two divisional opponents coming off of statement victories in overtime, I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for going either way for this matchup. However, I do think it is worth mentioning that the Titans held a steady lead over the Colts prior to not just one but two fluke special teams plays that allowed Indianapolis back into the game. Tennessee has certainly cooled down after their red hot start, but in a game this tight, I put my money on the better quarterback. Titans don’t just cover: they win outright. Titans +3.
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams—4:05 P.M.
Spread: Rams -6; O/U: 44.5
AB: With San Francisco hopelessly battered and the Rams defense playing like one of the best units in football, all signs should logically point to a big victory for Los Angeles. Despite that, I think a big divisional showdown against Sean McVay is inspiration enough for a beat-up Niners squad to at least keep the game close. Shanahan is one of the best offensive minds in football, and even with a ton of players missing, he should be able to scheme some plays open for his offense. I don’t like betting on voodoo or hunches at the expense of any kind of real analysis, but I just have a feeling this game ends up a nailbiter. 49ers +6.
HK: Sometimes, when it seems too good to be true, it’s just really good. Just observing the swath of injuries that Niners have undergone at this point, it’s very likely that they don’t have the manpower to stay in this game. The Rams have cruised over the past couple games, beating strong Seahawks and Bucs squads and look like a genuinely good team. It’s hard to imagine the Niners overcoming injuries to key positions (RB, WR, CB, SS, and DT). Jimmy G’s return will be helpful, but he’s liable to underwhelm without significant talent around. Plus, with distractions around where the Niners will practice and play for next two weeks, Rams -6.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers—4:25 P.M.
Spread: Chiefs -3.5; O/U: 56.5
HK: The Buccaneers continue to be frustratingly inconsistent week after week, while Tom Brady shows clear signs of regression. Here’s a fun stat: Over the past month, Tom Brady is 0–19 on pass attempts over 20+ yards. Did someone say washed? On top of that, the Bucs expect Shipley to be out with a career-ending neck injury, while Donovan Smith remains questionable. This patch-work O-Line will struggle against a strong Chiefs pass push. Not much to say about the Chiefs offense, who will continue to field a generationally-strong offense and their presence alone threatens any O/U line that is set. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Gronk should be enough on the other side to put some upward pressure on a 56.5 line. Chiefs -3.5.
AB: Tom Brady’s stint with the Buccaneers has been reasonably successful overall, but, good lord, has the team struggled in primetime. The Bucs loss to a Bears team without a functioning offense is only the second most humiliating game that Tampa has handed away on national television this year. You could argue that a 4:25 slot isn’t technically primetime, but Tampa has come up short against strong teams quite a few times this season. With a spread this close, against a Chiefs team that looks nigh unstoppable, I expect Tampa to flounder and stall out. Chiefs -3.5 & Under.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers—8:20 P.M.
Spread: Packers -8.5; O/U: 44
AB: Full disclosure: both Hershy and I are Bears fans, so our bias will, without a doubt, influence our picks here at least a little. With that being said- Matt Nagy has played the Packers 4 times in his head coaching tenure, and never lost by more than 8. The Bears are a wretched slog of a team to watch right now, and it’s highly unlikely that the switch to Mitch will solve the offense’s issues- but I think the Bears defense is good enough to at least keep the game close. Bears +8.5.
HK: First, let me voice my frustration that the NFL refuses to flex the Bears out of prime-time. We stink and Goodell wants the whole world to see. It’s messed up. Second, there’s simply no way I can see the Bears 8.5 points with a dumpster fire situation at OL and QB. However, the Bears defense continues to impress and Roquan Smith will show out big in prime time. Expect the Packers to target rookie CB Jaylon Johnson all night and I expect very few of those passes to work. Seriously, he’s that good. The same tired story every week of the 2020 Bears season dictates that, while the Bears defense will be up to the task to limit MVP front-runner Aaron Rodgers’s lethality, this offense will refuse hold up their end of the bargain. The only way the Bears stay competitive here is if this defense channels ’85 Bears energy and shut down Rodgers for an entire 60 minutes. It won’t happen. 44 points also remains too high with a Bears offense involved that struggles to score even field goals. The smart play is the under. Pick it and, for the love of God, don’t watch this game. Packers -8.5 & Under.
Seattle Seahawks vs Philadelphia Eagles—8:15 P.M. (MNF)
Spread: Seahawks -5.5; O/U: 49
HK: Both teams have serious flaws at this point, a surprise few expected coming into the season. While Russell Wilson has played exceptionally well all season, his penchant for turnovers as they attempt to “Let Russ Cook” has hurt his MVP bid and his play has certainly slumped in recent weeks. The Eagles have their own QB problem — theirs flat out stinks. There’s not much else to say and it’s been a disappointing year for a QB I had high hopes for. Simply put, Wentz continues to make bad decisions, show poor pocket presence, and has no talent around to lean on. If Seattle plans on going anywhere this year, the expectation is that they will cleanly handle Wentz and a porous Eagles defense. Pick the Seahawks and, given what is collective ineptitude in both offenses, pick the under too. Seahawks -5.5 & Under.
AB: For those who don’t make a habit of watching Eagles games- there is something very wrong with 2017 MVP frontrunner Carson Wentz. The repeated injuries have clearly taken a major toll on the briefly-great quarterback, and the Eagles look utterly lost even in a division race that they could still win. Seattle’s defense, meanwhile, has played surprisingly well the past few weeks, coming up clutch in their week 11 defeat of the Cardinals. It’s possible the Eagles keep it close on primetime, as they sometimes do, but I expect Russell will be cooking more than just one bird this Thanksgiving holiday. Seahawks -5.5.
Our Week 12 Card:
Parlay: Giants -5.5, Browns -7
Parlay: Raiders -3, Seahawks -5.5
Parlay: Raiders, Bills, Chiefs ML