Tips for making Week 12 NFL picks: A surprising west-to-east travel trend, teaser of the week and more

A popular situational play for bettors is to fade the West Coast team traveling east for a 1 p.m. ET game, whatever the spread is and particularly whatever the first-half line is. We have three such games this week: Raiders at Ravens, Seahawks at Panthers and 49ers at Buccaneers. The thinking is that these teams that are used to playing 4 p.m. ET games or later will have issues playing during what is essentially a morning game for their body clocks.

But it turns out that fading the full game spread is a bad call in this situation. I went back and looked at the seven teams who are used to playing home games at 4 p.m. ET to see how they've performed since 2011 against the spread on the road at 1 p.m. ET. And I found out the road team is actually 94-82-4 against the spread!

That's pretty stunning. What may be happening is that bettors are playing the situation to hit way more than it actually does and it's affecting the line. The Chargers were one-point underdogs -- underdogs! -- in Cleveland earlier this year with the Browns coming off back-to-back overtime games. Philip Rivers and Co. won that game 38-14. The Seahawks have won and covered four of their last five 1 p.m. ET games on the road (excluding this year's London game), with their four wins all being by double digits despite the team not being favored by more than 1.5 points in any of those games.

The 49ers this week are an interesting case, as they get to play a road 1 p.m. ET game coming out of a bye. The sample size for that situation is obviously a lot smaller, but that group of seven teams is 7-4-1 after a bye when playing a 1 p.m. ET game on the road since 2011. In fact, over the last five years that situation is 5-0 ATS, including the Cardinals covering in Kansas City and the Seahawks winning as three-point 'dogs in Detroit earlier this year.

If you want to know which sides I like this week, you can find that info at the SportsLine link below, where all my rated plays appear during the season along with my five SuperContest picks each week and plenty of great analysis from a fantastic collection of experts. You can also check out where all our CBS Sports staff lands on each game each week right here.

Each week in this space, I'm going to go behind the lines and picks to bring you a bit of a deeper dive into what you should know before locking in your plays. Let's get to it.

Listen to R.J. break down the entire Week 12 slate with Will Brinson and Pete Prisco on the Pick Six podcast:

My picks

Over at SportsLine, I already have picks up for this weekend, and I'll likely have more coming on Friday. Join now and use promo code WHITE for $1 on your first month and you can get mine and every SportsLine expert's picks throughout the year, as well as my SuperContest picks each Saturday.

However, you can get one free pick with my teaser of the week at the end of this article. Enjoy!

Jaguars (-3) at Bills

Home-field advantage: 2 points
Power rating line: Jaguars -1
Lookahead line: Jaguars -3.5

Record vs. spread 3-5-24-6
Yards per play differential 0.1 -0.7
Points per drive offense rank 2831
Points per drive defense rank 1214
Weighted DVOA -5.2 -26.5
Pass offense DVOA rank 2832
Pass defense DVOA rank 71
Run offense DVOA rank 24 29
Run defense DVOA rank 810

If you like ugly football, have I got a game for you. The Bills are still the worst offense in football per DVOA, but rather than being miles behind every other team, the Cardinals are starting to give them a run for No. 32. They also figure to get rookie Josh Allen back here, and that should help; of the team's five games scoring in single digits, Allen started just one of them.

The Jaguars don't inspire confidence either, and the Bills bring the No. 2 defense per DVOA into this matchup, one that's been better against the pass than anyone, even the Bears. Blake Bortles has to face this unit on the road. How are the Jaguars scoring points in this game if it's not with defensive TDs? The total for this game is 37.5, and that feels like it's giving these offenses too much credit.

Game info: 1 p.m. ET, CBS (stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV, try it for free) 

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Raiders at Ravens (-10.5)

Home-field advantage: 3.5 points
Power rating line: Ravens -9.5
Lookahead line: n/a

Record vs. spread 3-74-6
Yards per play differential -1.1 0.4
Points per drive offense rank 29 15
Points per drive defense rank 292
Weighted DVOA -29.111.6
Pass offense DVOA rank 1710
Pass defense DVOA rank 3212
Run offense DVOA rank 25 17
Run defense DVOA rank 255

The Raiders are coming off a last-second win against one of the teams that's challenging them for the No. 1 pick. The stats offer no glimmer of hope that this is a good team; at best, they have middle-of-the-pack numbers in pass DVOA, but good luck finding something else positive to say about them.

The Ravens are a much better team, but if Joe Flacco can't go again due to his hip injury, should they be laying double digits with a quarterback who isn't that much of a threat to throw the ball? Lamar Jackson had just 19 passes to go with his 27 carries in his first game as starter, with the Ravens running the ball 54 times in all against a defense that can be exploited through the air. The formula worked as Baltimore got the win, but it was by just three points at home against a Bengals team that has looked pretty bad over the last few weeks.

We said at the top not to count out West Coast teams traveling east for 1 p.m. ET games, and this is a situation where I can see the Ravens scoring 20-24 points and getting out of there with a closer-than-expected win.

Game info: 1 p.m. ET, CBS (stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV, try it for free) 

49ers at Buccaneers (-3)

Home-field advantage: 2 points
Power rating line: Buccaneers -2
Lookahead line: Buccaneers -4.5

Record vs. spread 3-7 3-6-1
Yards per play differential 0.2 0.2
Points per drive offense rank 17 12
Points per drive defense rank 2230
Weighted DVOA -18.4-26.2
Pass offense DVOA rank 2314
Pass defense DVOA rank 2130
Run offense DVOA rank 2823
Run defense DVOA rank 1427

The line says the Bucs are the better team, but the stats say the 49ers have the edge. Tampa Bay is right among the worst teams in the league per weighted DVOA, while the 49ers are a step better. San Francisco hasn't been completely sunk by the Jimmy Garoppolo injury, as they've lost by more than four points just twice since the starter went down.

The 49ers also come into this game with extra rest and two weeks to prepare, and I think that matters with a coach like Kyle Shanahan, who already has a massive coaching edge in this matchup. The 49ers have been leading with a minute to go in their last three games but won just one of them. They also led with two minutes to go in Green Bay and held a fourth-quarter lead over the Chargers on the road, all since the Garoppolo injury. This team could be better than we think.

Game info: 1 p.m. ET, Fox (stream on fuboTV, try for free)

Giants at Eagles (-6)

Home-field advantage: 3 points
Power rating line: Eagles -5
Lookahead line: Eagles -9

Record vs. spread 4-5-13-7
Yards per play differential -0.3 -0.6
Points per drive offense rank 1923
Points per drive defense rank 2519
Weighted DVOA -7.6 -13.2
Pass offense DVOA rank 19 22
Pass defense DVOA rank 2719
Run offense DVOA rank 1918
Run defense DVOA rank 20 22

One of these teams is the defending Super Bowl champion; one picked second in the draft after going 3-13. And yet, the Giants are the better team right now, whether you go by weighted DVOA or yards per play differential. The Eagles rank in the 20s in net yards per pass attempt and yards per carry on both offense and defense, while the Giants are in the teens in both categories on offense and in yards per carry allowed on defense.

You can also argue that the Giants defense didn't play well in either of their wins coming out of the bye, while the Eagles are at their absolute lowest point after getting blown out in New Orleans. But the Eagles still have a bunch of injury issues at cornerback, so I'm not sure how they maintain a 10-point lead late in the game. Even with Eli Manning at quarterback, the Giants have proven capable of keeping games close on the road.

Game info: 1 p.m. ET, Fox (stream on fuboTV, try for free)

Browns at Bengals (-3)

Home-field advantage: 2.5 points
Power rating line: Bengals -1
Lookahead line: Bengals -3.5

Record vs. spread 6-45-5
Yards per play differential -0.6 -0.6
Points per drive offense rank 26 11
Points per drive defense rank 1132
Weighted DVOA -15.6 -8.6
Pass offense DVOA rank 2918
Pass defense DVOA rank 218
Run offense DVOA rank 2116
Run defense DVOA rank 2630

It'll be interesting to see if the Browns come out of the bye with any new wrinkles on offense now that they've had a chance to take a breath with their new coaching staff. Even with their issues on offense, the stats say these teams are pretty even overall, though the Bengals do their damage on offense and the Browns have a shutdown pass defense to lean on.

The Browns held the Falcons under 100 yards rushing in their last game before the bye, but they've typically struggled against the run, so this should be a game where the Bengals lean on Joe Mixon. With Hue Jackson now working for Cincinnati, we'll see if he can give his new team any intel on where the weaknesses are on both sides of the ball. 

Game info: 1 p.m. ET, CBS (stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV, try it for free) 

Patriots (-10) at Jets

Home-field advantage: 3 points
Power rating line: Patriots -7.5
Lookahead line: Patriots -7.5

Record vs. spread 6-43-7
Yards per play differential -0.1 -0.5
Points per drive offense rank 930
Points per drive defense rank 1710
Weighted DVOA 11.7 -20.6
Pass offense DVOA rank 730
Pass defense DVOA rank 2014
Run offense DVOA rank 9 27
Run defense DVOA rank 1117

The stats will tell you what you already know: the Patriots are better than the Jets. But the Pats haven't been rolling on the road, with their 2-3 record including a seven-point win in Chicago that included two special teams touchdowns and a blowout win over the Bills and a quarterback who hadn't been on their roster two weeks.

The Jets stumbled into their bye with losses of 20, 14, 7 and 31 points, the last a particularly embarrassing one against a Bills team that scored 41 against the Jets after scoring 46 points in its previous six games combined. But should the Patriots be laying this many points on the road in a division matchup? Sure, they obliterated the Dolphins (at home) and the Bills (in Buffalo) this season, but they're just 3-6 in their last nine divisional road games when favored by seven or more. If the Patriots cover here, I don't think it'll be by much.

Game info: 1 p.m. ET, CBS (stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV, try it for free) 

Seahawks at Panthers (-3.5)

Home-field advantage: 2.5 points
Power rating line: Panthers -2.5
Lookahead line: Panthers -4.5

Record vs. spread 5-3-25-5
Yards per play differential -0.40.2
Points per drive offense rank 137
Points per drive defense rank 13 24
Weighted DVOA 8.65.3
Pass offense DVOA rank 913
Pass defense DVOA rank 925
Run offense DVOA rank 64
Run defense DVOA rank 1912

This matchup features two teams with strong rushing offenses, but if you asked people who had the better passing offense, most would probably say the Panthers. And that's probably true; there's a reason Seattle has the lowest amount of pass attempts and the highest amount of runs in the league. But DVOA thinks the Seahawks are a top-10 passing offense based on efficiency, so the opportunity could be there to take advantage of a mediocre Panthers passing defense.

Both these offenses are excellent in the red zone, but while Seattle's defense is 18th in red zone scoring, the Panthers rank just 31st in the same metric. If Seattle can turn its red zone trips into touchdowns, it has a good chance of winning this game in Carolina, like it has done in all three previous road trips against the Panthers in the regular season since Russell Wilson was drafted.

Game info: 1 p.m. ET, Fox (stream on fuboTV, try for free)

Dolphins at Colts (-7.5)

Home-field advantage: 2.5 points
Power rating line: Colts -7
Lookahead line: n/a

Record vs. spread 5-55-4-1
Yards per play differential -0.70.1
Points per drive offense rank 275
Points per drive defense rank 21 20
Weighted DVOA -10.210.9
Pass offense DVOA rank 2412
Pass defense DVOA rank 2223
Run offense DVOA rank 1514
Run defense DVOA rank 216

The Dolphins are getting Ryan Tannehill back for this game, but it sounds like he'll be playing at less than 100 percent as he said this week he's still experiencing pain in his shoulder. I'm not sure how much of an upgrade the Dolphins deserve with him back, even considering how badly the offense struggled under Brock Osweiler in the last two games before the bye.

There are no concerns with the Indianapolis offense, as the Colts have won four straight. Andrew Luck can't stop throwing touchdowns, with his 29 scores ranking second in the league. The Dolphins haven't given up big yardage totals through the air but they haven't faced as many passes as a normal team, and they rank 23rd in pass DVOA and 28th in net yards per attempt on defense. All five of Miami's losses have come by double digits as well, and if the Colts offense continues to hum, this could follow suit.

Game info: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS (stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV, try it for free) 

Cardinals at Chargers (-12.5)

Home-field advantage: 3 points
Power rating line: Chargers -9.5
Lookahead line: Chargers -13

Record vs. spread 5-4-15-5
Yards per play differential -0.91.2
Points per drive offense rank 326
Points per drive defense rank 158
Weighted DVOA -29.820.0
Pass offense DVOA rank 313
Pass defense DVOA rank 513
Run offense DVOA rank 317
Run defense DVOA rank 1518

The Arizona offense has looked better at times under Byron Leftwich, but it has yet to put together a full game. The Cards are 2-0 against the 49ers this year and 0-8 against everyone else. The Chargers are coming off a tough loss, but they've shown the ability to take care of bad teams like the Raiders and Bills this season.

The Cardinals defense has played pretty well this year, ranking ninth in DVOA, two spots higher than the Chargers' stop unit. But they'll probably need to hold the Chargers offense to 24 or less to have a shot at covering here, as I'm not sure they can score more than 14 points in this one. And that'll be hard against a Chargers offense that ranks fourth in DVOA behind the Chiefs, Rams and Saints and in the top five in both net yards per attempt and yards per carry.

Game info: 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox (stream on fuboTV, try for free)

Steelers (-3) at Broncos

Home-field advantage: 4 points
Power rating line: Steelers -1
Lookahead line: Steelers -5.5

Record vs. spread 6-3-14-5-1
Yards per play differential 1.20.1
Points per drive offense rank 820
Points per drive defense rank 918
Weighted DVOA 21.916.4
Pass offense DVOA rank 6 20
Pass defense DVOA rank 174
Run offense DVOA rank 113
Run defense DVOA rank 1316

The Steelers look like the clearly better team when you measure by yards per play and points per drive, but DVOA really likes this Denver team and has these two teams much closer than conventional wisdom. Throw in Denver's excellent home-field advantage and this one could be ripe for an upset.

The Steelers defense had been excellent against the run coming into last week, but the Jaguars nearly won the game with their run game and defense alone last week. That could be a formula that works for Denver, a team that ranks third in rush DVOA and first in yards per carry. The Broncos have lost three straight at home, but all three were against division leaders (as this one is) and none of those losses were by more than four points. The Steelers have played much better at home than on the road, so it makes sense this line has tightened off the lookahead number of 5.5.

Game info: 4:25 p.m ET, CBS (stream on CBS All Access or fuboTV, try it for free) 

Packers at Vikings (-3.5)

Home-field advantage: 4 points
Power rating line: Vikings -6.5
Lookahead line: Vikings -4

Record vs. spread 4-5-15-4-1
Yards per play differential 0.70.4
Points per drive offense rank 1422
Points per drive defense rank 163
Weighted DVOA 15.37.4
Pass offense DVOA rank 815
Pass defense DVOA rank 156
Run offense DVOA rank 232
Run defense DVOA rank 244

This matchup pits the NFL's No. 6 offense against the No. 5 defense, per DVOA, in a rematch of two teams that tied back in Week 2. The Packers have struggled against the run over their last five games, but the Vikings could only muster 22 rush yards against the Bears and bring the league's worst rush DVOA into this game.

This might come down to injuries, as the Packers limped out of their Thursday night loss to the Seahawks with injuries to Jimmy Graham and Mike Daniels to go along with the other players that are banged up. Throw in Minnesota's excellent home-field advantage, and I'd make this spread a couple points higher.

Game info: 8:20 p.m., NBC (stream on fuboTV, try for free)

Titans at Texans (-6.5)

Home-field advantage: 3.5 points
Power rating line: Texans -5.5
Lookahead line: Texans -4

Record vs. spread 6-44-6
Yards per play differential -0.60.6
Points per drive offense rank 2521
Points per drive defense rank 64
Weighted DVOA -13.05.9
Pass offense DVOA rank 2716
Pass defense DVOA rank 2410
Run offense DVOA rank 2230
Run defense DVOA rank 92

Houston keeps finding some way to win and has stretched its win streak to seven games in a row. It's easy to want to fade the Texans every week, and their 4-6 ATS record shows they've had issues covering, but their quality yards per play differential and DVOA suggest they aren't a total fluke.

Tennessee has been held to 12 points or fewer in four of its 10 games, and it's facing DVOA's No. 3 defense on the road in this one. The Titans will need to find a way to keep the Texans' passing game out of the end zone, but they do rank second in red zone percentage on defense, so it's not out of the question. 

Game info: 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Teaser of the Week

Colts -1.5 vs. Dolphins
Seahawks +9.5 at Panthers

This might be one of the weakest teaser slates of the season, as I don't feel good enough about the Eagles to tease them down, nor are their any short 'dogs to tease up through three. The Colts are an easy first leg with how well the offense is playing and with Ryan Tannehill returning at less than 100 percent. Of the underdogs in the 3-4 point range, I have the most confidence in Seattle to not get blown out.

The teaser of the week is 7-4 after the Saints rolled all over the Eagles and the Chiefs didn't get blown out by the Rams in Week 11.

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