It is crunch time in the NFL regular season. A few teams have emerged as legitimate Super Bowl contenders but those same teams have already demonstrated that they can be beaten on any given Sunday.
It is safe to say that a rather high level of parity is alive and well throughout the league. The 0-11 Cincinnati Bengals and the 2-9 Washington Redskins are battling it out for the first overall pick in next year’s draft with the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants also in the mix. However, upsets have been a common occurrence all season long with favorites only winning 63.8 percent of their games straight-up.
The best bet in the NFL through the first 12 weeks of the season has been road underdogs against the spread. They have cashed winning tickets 59.8 percent of the time. Underdogs in general have covered in 56.1 percent of the games.
The big question for NFL bettors heading into the stretch run to the playoffs is where do these league trends go from here. If they hold up, then there is some tremendous value in betting underdogs when the actual matchup makes sense. On the other hand, this is the time of the year when the cream should start rising to the top adding value to strong favorites.
From an individual team standpoint, the New England Patriots appear to have the inside edge to winning their third Super Bowl title in four seasons. They moved to 10-1 straight-up on the year with Sunday’s 13-9 grinder over Dallas in the slop at Gillette Stadium. They failed to cover as 5.5-point home favorites to slip to 7-4 against the spread on the year.
New England’s quest for the top seed in the AFC begins this Sunday night in Houston as a 3.5-point road favorite. The Patriots will play host to Kansas City next Sunday in what could be an early preview of the AFC title game. It would also be a rematch of last year’s conference championship when the Patriots beat the Chiefs 37-31 in Kansas City as three-point underdogs.
The race to the top spot in the NFC took a very interesting turn in Week 12. The New Orleans Saints salvaged a 34-31 victory against Carolina as 10-point home favorites to improve to 9-2 SU on the year. They are 7-4 ATS after failing to cover in two of their last three games. The rubber will meet the road on Sunday, Dec. 8 with the 10-1 San Francisco 49ers coming into the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome.
The 49ers made another statement that they are the real deal with Sunday night’s 37-8 beatdown of the Green Bay Packers as three-point home favorites. They have another test this Sunday as 4.5-point road underdogs against Baltimore. If San Francisco goes on to earn the top seed in the NFC, it would have earned it. The final two games of the season are against the Los Angeles Rams at home and 9-2 Seattle on the road.
When looking for solid betting teams this time of the year, the 8-3 Buffalo Bills should be on the list at 7-3-1 ATS. They face Dallas on Thursday as seven-point road underdogs. The Cowboys are 6-5 SU with a 7-4 mark ATS.
So should the Arizona Cardinals. Coming off a Week 12 bye, they face the LA Rams this Sunday with a SU record of 3-7-1 while going 7-3-1 ATS. The early line has Arizona getting four points at home in that game.