Once considered a prime buying opportunity for NFL bettors, home underdogs have been hit or miss in recent years. In 2018, they went 45-41-2 against the spread. In 2017, they were just 46-50-4 ATS. In 2016 they had another losing season at 39-42-1, while in 2015 they were 41-45-2. In 2014, they managed just a 38-41-1 mark.
Why did I want you to know about recent trends having to do with home underdogs? Because this week is chock full of all the home 'dogs you can handle. After featuring an average of five home underdogs a week over the first 12 weeks of the season, which covered at the near-50 percent rate of 29-31, there are a whopping 10 home underdogs on tap for Week 13, including two from Thursday.
Even though there doesn't appear to be any clear lean when it comes to betting home underdogs ATS in recent years, there is one place where we have opportunity, and it comes on the total. I took a look at games that took place in Week 13 or later that involved home underdogs over the last four years, and while the ATS record is pretty close to 50-50, there's a clear trend with those games going under their totals.
Last year, the under was 21-10 in games with a home 'dog and 18-13 in 2017. An off-year for the under in 2016 resulted in a 10-15-1 mark from Week 13 or later, but the previous two years also delivered on the trend, with the under 15-11-2 in 2015 and 21-7-1 in 2014. Add it up, and we're talking about an 85-56-4 record over the last five years, a cover rate of 60.3%. We'll certainly take that over the last five weeks of the season, starting in Week 13, if the trend holds up.
There are a lot of big games in Week 13, but which teams will cover the spread? Pete Prisco and R.J. White join Will Brinson on the Pick Six Podcast to break it all down. Listen below and be sure to subscribe here for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
Each week, I break down what you need to know about each game from a betting angle before you lock in your picks. I'll talk about big line moves, teasers and parlays to consider and more.
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Big line moves (lookaheads)
Lookaheads are lines that are posted for matchups before the previous week's games. Analyzing the biggest movers is beneficial for smart bettors, who have a chance to examine those moves to determine whether there's value in playing against a potential overreaction. Last week, fading the big moves went 2-1.
This week brings us some truly bizarre line moves. You won't find many people that think Devlin Hodges is a significant drop-off from Mason Rudolph, and some who think he may be an upgrade. But while the lookahead line of Steelers -3 was in line with the Thursday night line from two weeks ago that saw the Browns as three-point favorites, here we see the Browns as two-point road favorites in Pittsburgh. That means a combination of the QB change for the Steelers and the Browns beating up on the Dolphins has somehow swung the line five points.
In Jacksonville, people are all over fading the Jaguars after the Titans did what the Titans do to the Jags, while the Bucs managed to beat up on what's now a 3-8 Falcons team. That was enough to swing that line 4.5 points, making the 4-7 Buccaneers road favorites in Week 13.
A Broncos team that had been feisty in recent weeks completely fell apart in Buffalo, losing 20-3. For that, the line swung 4.5 points, a move related almost solely to Denver's performance in that game, as the Chargers were on a bye (maybe the news Derwin James is expected to return had a minimal effect as well).
In all, these are three huge line moves for what seem to be curious reasons.
Who should you back against the spread, on the money line and the total in every Week 13 NFL game? And which Super Bowl contender goes down? Visit SportsLine to see their Week 13 NFL cheat sheet, all from the model that is up almost $7,000 on its top-rated NFL picks.
Where DVOA disagrees with line
Part of my research each week is calculating the DVOA as tracked by Football Outsiders and seeing where the metric has a significant disagreement with the market. For this section, I employ the weighted DVOA statistic, which puts more emphasis on more recent games.
Based on Carolina's struggles in recent weeks, the metric indicates this line should be more like Panthers -6.5, but there are a few issues with that analysis. One, even though the metric is weighted toward recent performances, it still includes games from before Washington switched to Dwayne Haskins, a move that has turned the offense completely stagnant. Two, the Panthers have had some very difficult opponents recently, having to face the Packers, Saints and 49ers on the road, and while DVOA accounts for the defense you play, it's understandable why Carolina has stumbled lately.
Typically when you see a big number included in this section, it's because the line is too large, but DVOA suggests the Raiders-Chiefs line isn't big enough. The large gap between the two teams is more indicative of a matchup that would be more like 10 points on a neutral, so our metric puts the matchup at Chiefs -13 in Kansas City.
Weighted DVOA has the Bucs as slightly better than the Jags, but with Jacksonville earning a three-point home-field advantage from me, that still makes the projected line around Jaguars -2.5, a number that falls in between the lookahead line and the current market.
The Jets have worked their way back to about average in weighted DVOA, and with the Bengals not having much of a home-field advantage, my projected line here is Jets -6. However, the Bengals' most recent run features Ryan Finley at quarterback, so the offense figures to play much better in this matchup than the overall weighted number would indicate.
Weighted DVOA has the Cardinals as the slightly better team in their matchup with the Rams, yet the market is willing to make the road team a field goal favorite. If DVOA is correct, this line should be Cardinals -2.5 even if you don't give them a full three points for home-field advantage.
The Steelers also don't get the full three points from me in home-field advantage in general, but I'd bump it to that number considering the environment we're likely to see for this rematch of the nasty Thursday night game. With that in mind, the metric projects a line of Steelers -2 rather than the other way around.
And finally, the Texans have not earned positive marks from DVOA for their recent run, with their weighted number coming in below zero. With the Patriots sporting the second-best number in the league, the metric projects a line of Patriots -7.5 here.
Fading the public
Packers -6.5 at Giants
Chargers -3 at Broncos
Patriots -3 at Texans
If 80% of the action or more is on one side of a line, you want to be thinking about taking the other side, a practice commonly known as fading the public. If the consensus thinks it has a game figured out, that should be flashing warning signs for you. All betting trends data is from Sports Insights as of Wednesday night.
The Packers check in with a whopping 88% of the action as the public expects a big rebound effort from Aaron Rodgers and Co. after last week's smackdown by the 49ers. It's hard to think of any reason to like the Giants, but the sheer force of the market on the other side might be one. The Chargers are also above the mark as everyone lines up to fade the Broncos following a no-show in Buffalo, while the Patriots are grabbing 80% of the tickets as well.
Two sides close to joining the 80% club for this week are the Bucs -1 and Jets -3.
Underdog parlay of the week
Cardinals +140 vs. Rams
Steelers +110 vs. Browns
Bengals +150 vs. Jets
We went 1-1 with our ugly 'dog parlay last week, as Washington pulled off the upset but Cincinnati couldn't take care of business in the second half. If you want to chase a small payout here at around +400, I love taking the first two teams in this week's parlay. We showed above that DVOA thinks the Cardinals and Steelers should be favored in their divisional games, and backing the Steelers also lets us fade a big line move from the lookahead number. I'm including the Bengals as well, because they clearly want to win after putting Andy Dalton back in the lineup, and their quality red-zone defense could give them a chance at finally getting the elusive W. This parlay would cash +1160 if you play all three legs.
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Teaser of the week
Packers -0.5 at Giants
Panthers -4 vs. Redskins
I absolutely love throwing the Steelers in a tease as well to bump them up to plus-8, but rather than double up with our underdog card, I'll look to these two favorites to take care of business. The Packers have performed well against the spread coming off a loss since Aaron Rodgers joined the lineup, and knocking them down to just needing a win helps protect against any bad calls or bounces that could keep them under the number. While the Panthers aren't getting through the key number of 3, there should be no reason to worry about them rolling against a Washington offense that hasn't scored a touchdown in four of its last five games (their one TD last week came on special teams).
The teaser of the week is just 6-6 this year after a 12-5 run in 2018, as we nailed a Pats-Seahawks play last week.