Week 12 in the NFL is in the books, but as NFL fans come out of the Thanksgiving Break into December, nothing is set in stone. Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and Arizona won games to open up the lead in their respective divisions, but Dallas and Tennessee needed Philadelphia and Indianapolis to lose in excruciating fashion to maintain their leads, Denver’s win over the Chargers left all four AFC West teams within a game of each other, and New England and Buffalo picked up wins to set up a pivotal AFC East matchup next Monday Night.
The AFC North gained some clarity as the Ravens beat the Browns and the Bengals beat the Steelers to pull away in the division; Cleveland is on their bye in Week 13, while the Steelers face a must-win game against Baltimore at home and the Bengals host the unpredictable Chargers in a matchup of two quarterbacks from the top of the 2020 NFL Draft. There’s plenty to get into, so let’s break down some division races. All odds are provided by DraftKings.
Missed Opportunities for Philadelphia, Indianapolis
Philadelphia has one more game remaining against Dallas, the NFC East leader, which could allow them to draw even in the head-to-head; as Indianapolis has already lost twice to Tennessee, their meltdown may be the more disappointing loss.
The Eagles outplayed the Giants in most facets of the game, but turnovers consistently prevented them from converting yards into points. It’s a tough loss, particularly for quarterback Jalen Hurts, but the Eagles still have one of the NFL’s softest remaining schedules with games against the Jets, Giants, Football Team (2x), and Dallas the rest of the way. Philadelphia would have had the opportunity to go into their bye over .500 if they had beat the Giants last week and the Jets this week; now the Jets game becomes close to a must-win if they are going to stay in the races for the NFC East and Wild Card. They’ll need to get the offense back on track and score points at a higher clip to make that happen.
Scoring wasn’t an issue for the Colts as they got out to a 24-14 halftime lead over Tampa Bay; instead, turnovers once again doomed Indianapolis as they allowed the Bucs to pull off a second-half comeback. Bucs edge rusher Shaquill Barrett got things started with a strip-sack on Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, and it was downhill from there.
Tennessee has put receiver A.J. Brown on IR, eliminating the projected “Big Three” of running back Derrick Henry, Brown, and receiver Julio Jones, which may mean the Titans fall off enough to lose at least three of their final five games. Indianapolis would need to run the table if the Titans go 2-3 to finish; the Colts’ matchups against the Patriots, Cardinals, and Raiders make that a daunting task. It’s more likely that the Colts need the Titans to go 1-4 or 0-5 to make up the lost ground in the AFC South; if the Titans do hang on, they will be a favorable matchup for one of the AFC’s three Wild Cards.
Dallas remains the strong favorite in the NFC East at -1000; as favorable as the schedule is for Philadelphia (+1200), the Cowboys face similar competition and won the first game in the head-to-head matchup. The more interesting bet is Indianapolis at +1000 in the AFC South; Tennessee is at -2500, but the Titans are taking on water after losses to the Texans and Patriots in the last two weeks. The Colts will need to win some games for it to matter, but if the Titans lose to the Jaguars at home this Sunday, the door will be wide open.
Will the Chiefs Run Away with the AFC West?
A week after putting together one of the more impressive performances of the NFL season, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert turned in a clunker against Denver. Herbert threw two critical interceptions to Broncos rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain II, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Denver’s win, coupled with the Raiders’ upset of the Cowboys, means that the three teams behind Kansas City are more likely to battle each other for Wild Card spots than compete for the AFC West crown.
Herbert can be an MVP in the NFL but the second-year signal-caller is still working to find game-to-game consistency. Even in games like Sunday’s loss, his talent is obvious, but teams rarely win games in the NFL when the quarterback throws a red-zone interception and a pick-six. Those two throws caused at least a ten-point swing; Herbert needs to clean that up in next week’s road matchup against draft classmate Joe Burrow and the Bengals.
Kansas City is now the heavy favorite in the AFC West at -225, with the Chargers at +350, the Broncos at +800, and the Raiders at +1200. Los Angeles still has a home game against the Chiefs, and sweeping the head-to-head matchup would give them a chance, but with similar schedules down the stretch, The Professor anticipates the Chiefs will finish strong, even the score against the Chargers on the road, and take home the AFC West.
Who gains advantage in the AFC East?
New England and Buffalo took care of business to set up a premier matchup on Monday Night Football in Week 13 of NFL action. The teams are evenly matched from a basic results standpoint: New England is 8-4 with a +146 point differential, Buffalo 7-4 with a +144 point differential.
It’s quite the stage for Pats rookie Mac Jones and Buffalo’s Josh Allen to have their first matchup in what should become a long-running quarterback rivalry. Allen is signed to a long-term extension in Buffalo while Jones has done more than enough to cement himself as the starter for the duration of his rookie contract and beyond in New England. Adding interest to the matchup is the fact that the two quarterbacks could hardly be more different; Jones is an ultra-quick decision-maker who beats defenses with ball placement and intelligence, while Allen brings physical tools that rival any quarterback in the NFL history.
Both teams posted dominant wins in Week 12 and their Week 13 matchup is currently set at BUF -3. For those looking to back the Patriots, the AFC East odds available on DraftKings should be of interest; The Professor would say these teams are neck-and-neck entering this game but New England is at +115 and Buffalo at -140. Even if the Patriots lose on Monday Night, they will have the same number of wins as Buffalo and a chance to avenge that hypothetical loss when the teams meet in New England in Week 16.
It’s also worth noting that the Miami Dolphins, who have ripped off four straight wins, are back in the thick of the AFC Playoff race. The AFC East is almost certainly out of reach, but Miami is currently 5-7 with a favorable remaining schedule: the Giants, the Jets, at the Saints, at the Titans, and the Patriots. This team has been notably more competitive with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback and faces a far easier schedule than their competition for the AFC Wild card; it’s not difficult to imagine that the Dolphins win their next four to enter the New England matchup at 9-7 on an eight-game win streak. Miami is +1000 to make the playoffs on DraftKings; the Dolphins might not be as good as the teams they need to jump in the AFC Wild Card race, but they have a favorable path to make the rally happen.
This article recapped developments from around the NFL this weekend. For more of The Professor’s content check him out on BeerLife Sports!
Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.
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