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Best last-minute NFL bets ahead of Week 13

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) scrambles out of the pocket in the first quarter of the NFL Week 12 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021. Pittsburgh Steelers At Cincinnati Bengals

Late-week betting action isn’t the best approach if long-term profitability is the goal. Game spreads and totals become increasingly sharp moving closer to kickoff, which is why betting game lines early in the week is the best approach. 

If betting early in the week isn’t an option, then targeting other markets where lines aren’t stale is key. Beating these markets takes a different approach than those focused solely on the game lines. We can take cues from bookmakers pricing the entire portfolio of offerings on a particular matchup. They arrive at the most likely path the game will travel and then use market dynamics to sharpen the number. In some way, game lines feed derivatives, player props and most other offerings under that matchup umbrella.


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We can start by seeing if there are any game lines we disagree with and utilize a couple of different approaches if so.

Mispriced scenarios should have even worse mispricing further downstream as errors compound. If the game line is only subtly off, it's smart to find where its errors are the most drastic.

Week 12 continued to twist the knife, as we went 2-2 on this article's plays but missed both parlays. Sometimes parlays can turn a breakeven pick percentage into a losing week. This article's betting record moves to 9-18 on the season, but the plus price targets continue to provide money, as we are up +.19 units this season. Using the approaches above, let's get back on track and find the best last-minute NFL bets ahead of Week 13.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS

The bettors are all over this game due to a West Coast team traveling across the country to play in an early window matchup. Los Angeles hasn’t exactly exceeded expectations either, covering one of its last six games after a 4-1 against the spread (ATS) record to start the season. 

PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

Cincinnati sits 10 spots above Los Angeles in PFF's ELO ranking and is the much better team in this matchup, so it’s not surprising to see one sided-action on the spread and moneyline in its direction.

PFF’s betting model agrees with this market direction and actually sees a more efficient spread at -4. Because of this discrepancy, PFF Greenline finds 0.8% value on the current field goal spread. Since the full-game spread sits on the most important number from a betting perspective, we know from prior research that targeting the first-half spread offers better value, as books can’t price on a key number for both the first half and full game spread effectively. Starting with the Bengals’ -1.5 first-half spread is the perfect starting point based on the betting model's output for this game. 

The total continues to favor the over after a 48-point lookahead line drifted out to an opening week number of 50.5. This direction doesn’t fit well with the trends being discussed in this game, as most would expect the Chargers to start slow if travel and rest are primary factors in this game's outcome. PFF’s betting model seems to agree more with the lookahead total, finding 1.1% value on the under side of the 50.5-point game total. Neither defense ranks in the top half of the NFL in PFF’s opponent-adjusted grades. 

Both offenses have also struggled to generate EPA from either the run or pass in early game scripted plays. Los Angeles had some bright spots to start the season but has seen its production take a drastic hit during the past five weeks. 

The Bengals have been one of the worst teams in the NFL to start games offensively and will need a slow start from the Chargers to cover their first-half spread. Given the model's direction on both the spread and total, parlaying the Bengals' first half spread with the under 24 first-half points is a correlated offering that provides an uncorrelated payout. 

Pick:  Bengals -1.5 First Half and Under 24 First Half Points (+264 Caesars)

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