Betting News & Analysis

NFL Week 12: Best spread bets for Sunday's games, including fading overvalued 49ers at home

Mexico City, MEX; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) celebrates his touchdown reception against the Arizona Cardinals during the fourth quarter at Estadio Azteca. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Bet Saints +9.5 at 49ers: As a regular-season home favorite, QB Jimmy Garoppolo's 49ers are 6-13-1 ATS.

• Niners also 1-8-1 with Garoppolo when favored by 6+ points. They've historically let down in this spot, and the numbers suggest they are being overvalued once again. 

Bet Colts -2.5 vs Steelers: Pittsburgh is averaging fewer than 10 points in three road games led by rookie Kenny Pickett; Colts revitalized on ground, No. 10 in rush success rate since Jeff Saturday was named interim HC.

Last updated: Nov. 25, 9:10 a.m.

Estimated reading time: 6 mins

There's arguably no sport more difficult, nor exciting, to bet on than NFL football. Information is both scarce in utility, and abundant in opinion. Markets are so finely tuned and so heavily wagered that there are few opportunities to gain an edge over the oddsmakers.

Enter a model capable of making ATS picks with long term success.

A majority of the most profitable NFL bettors use some kind of projection tool to help guide their wagers. Such a tool will be provided to the reader today, and for the rest of the NFL regular season. It is important to note that these projections are not a gospel, but merely a compass toward identifying an edge in a razor-thin market that is betting NFL spreads.

The purpose of this article is to identify model picks which coincide with current trends, and mismatches on the field. The hope is that in deliberately doing so, long term profitability will follow. 

Week 12 Best Bets:

Cleveland Browns (+3.5) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Model Line — Buccaneers (-3)

• Weakness vs weakness: Cleveland’s most glaring weakness is their run defense, and thankfully for the Browns, the Buccaneers own one of the NFL’s least efficient rushing attacks. The Buccaneers are 31st in PFF defensive grade (65.2) and rank 30th in Rush DVOA, and 32nd in Offensive EPA / Rush. Tampa’s own ineptitude should favor Cleveland’s defense, and level the playing field for the Browns. 

• Common opponents: The Browns and Bucs have faced four common opponents on the season: Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, and the Carolina Panthers. Against these opponents, Tampa Bay is 1-3 SU and 0-4 ATS, whereas Cleveland is 2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS. Admittedly, this should not be the foundation of a bet, but it reinforces the notion that Tampa Bay is overvalued in this spot. 

• Bottom line: I’m not yet convinced that Tampa has solved their issues on offense, and the talent gap between these two teams is not so large. The market has overvalued Tampa Bay all season, and continue to do so in this spot. This projects to be a low-scoring game, and Cleveland should be able to keep the score tight. The line being at +3.5 is a gift.

Washington Commanders vs Atlanta Falcons (+4.5)

Model Line — Commanders (-3)

• Regression spot: At some point, the party has to end for the Commanders. In their past six games, Washington has a pristine 5-0-1 record ATS, and the team has emerged as a legitimate playoff contender. However, such streaks tend to break as the oddsmakers compensate for them, and the numbers suggest that Washington is receiving far too much credit versus Atlanta. 

• Slight QB disparity: Atlanta QB Marcus Mariota is by no means elite (20th rated QB per PFF), but he has been better than Taylor Heinicke. Among qualifying QB’s, only Zach Wilson has a lower PFF grade than Heinicke, and no player has a higher Turnover-Worthy Play Percentage than the Washington signal-caller. If the Falcons can capitalize on errant Heinicke throws, they’ll have the edge on Sunday.

• Bottom line: This line is inflated as the Commanders continue to roll, and this would not be the first time Washington disappointed at home. Heinicke has been marginal, at best, and this is too many points for him and a middling offense to cover. It’s gross, but it has to be done — bet Atlanta +4.5. 

San Francisco 49ers vs New Orleans Saints (+9.5)

Model Line — 49ers -6.5

• Inflated Line: The 49ers were favored by 8.5 on the lookahead line, and the ensuing line movement is heavily influenced by the team’s throttling of Arizona on “Monday Night Football.” 

While impressive, the win over backup QB Colt McCoy should have no pertinence on the spread. Further, the blowout victory was equally a result of the Cardinals defensive woes— don’t expect New Orleans’ defense to be gashed in a similar fashion.

• San Francisco Fade: As a regular season home favorite, QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers are 6-13-1 ATS. If we zoom in a little further, we see the Niners are 1-8-1 as a home favorite of 6 points or more with Garoppolo as the QB. Admittedly, a trend itself is never a good enough reason to make a bet. It is, however, a useful signal to identify opportunities in the betting market. This record indicates that the 49ers are often overvalued at home, and the model suggests that they are being overvalued once again on Sunday. 

• Bottom Line: The coronation of the 49ers has been premature, as their current résumé should prohibit them from being favored to such a degree. San Francisco has historically let down in this spot, and the numbers suggest they are being overvalued once again. 

Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) vs Pittsburgh Steelers

Model Line — Colts (-4.5)

• Bad spot for the rookie: Since rookie QB Kenny Pickett took over as Pittsburgh’s starter in Week 5, the Steelers have played three road games, and are averaging less than ten points per game. And, while Pittsburgh did enjoy its best offensive performance last week, the circumstances of this game are drastically different. The Colts' defense is No. 11 in PFF defensive grading (70.9), 9th in the NFL in DVOA, and should afford the Steelers no layups. Further, the Colts historically have one of the greatest HFA’s in the NFL, and the team has been playing above expectations of late. 

• The past two weeks: The hiring of Interim HC Jeff Saturday, and the reinsertion of QB Matt Ryan into the starting lineup, has breathed new life into the Colts. Indy has covered consecutive games at home, and nearly knocked off the Philadelphia Eagles a week ago. Further, the team has revitalized its run game to a degree. The Colts are tenth in Rushing Success Rate over the past two weeks, and should continue to find success opposite a middling Steelers run defense. 

• Bottom line: For all of Indianapolis’ faults, the defense is not one of them. The team has tempered better offenses than the Steelers’, and expectations should be low for Pickett. It’s hard to win in the NFL. It’s even harder on the road, and with a rookie QB. This is a great number to get behind the Colts. 

How PFF contributor Tommy Jurgens' Projections Work:

A myriad of both objective, and subjective ratings are employed in a logistic regression model to determine the likelihood that each team will win the game outright. By this determined win-probability, a spread is assigned to each game and compared to the consensus line.

This model has successfully identified the outright victor at a near 67% rate, and has chosen the ATS winner at an efficiency greater than 53% since 2006. 

One can find all of the projected picks for Week 12 here


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