Welcome to our second installment of the PFF spread picks for Week 12. Thanks to a nice, slow, low-scoring New York/Washington nightcap, our Thursday picks went 1-1, bringing our season record to 32-22-3 (59.3%). We’re 66-56-3 (54.1%) against the spread overall through eleven weeks and Thanksgiving, and on over/unders we’re 81-62-3 (56.6%). In Week 11, said picks we were 7-5 and 7-6, respectively, and on Thursday they were 0-2 and 2-1, respectively.
Each week provides an exciting slate of games, along with the knowledge generated from an additional week’s worth of PFF data. In our remaining three picks we’re going to go back to the well with New England (laying 16 points), while we’re expressing our disgust at the Browns inability to cover the last two weeks in Detroit and against the Jaguars. Finally, we can’t stop ourselves from picking an over in another Jets game. For what it’s worth, our prop bet on returning kicks from the end zone was won by George, as one of the four kicks returned from the end zone Thursday was successfully brought back beyond the 25 (the league average was 24.2 percent).
Each of the five feature picks below comes with a point/counterpoint analysis, including a deeper dive into our “Lock of the Week” that is heard on the PFF Preview Podcast that comes out each Friday morning. The Lock of the Week is 8-3 so far (72.7%). For the remainder of our spread and over/under picks, check out PFF Elite and the PFF Elite Facebook Group. For our thoughts on Thursday Night Football’s spread and over/under, follow us at @PFF_George and @PFF_EricEager on Twitter each week. The Thursday night graphics have been 9-2 (81.8%) so far this season, after we correctly picked the Steelers against the spread and the over in last Thursday night’s game.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-16)
Pick: Patriots 31 – 13 (Patriots cover)
Point (George Chahrouri): Remember when Jarvis Landry said Miami would sweep New England this season? I doubt anyone in Foxboro has forgotten. Adding injury to insult, Adam Gase will either start Jay Cutler (67.4 – 34th) despite not practicing all week or a guy who couldn’t beat Cutler for the starting job. This one seems like a lose-lose. The Miami offensive line is without its best player in Ju’Wuan James and has only one starter grading above 50.9 (Laremy Tunsil – 66.7). The _olphins have allowed a passer rating of 122.4 on deep passes this season which is worse than everyone but the Rai_ers and let me be the first person to say that Tom Brady throws a decent deep ball (he leads the league with 16 “Big Time Throws” 20-plus yards downfield). Brady will undoubtedly look to hit Brandin Cooks on a few long ones, as Cooks leads the NFL in yards gained on deep throws and has 11 catches when targeted 20-plus yards downfield (tied for the most). Bill has put on a game-planning clinic these past few weeks and no team understands the importance of sustained precision and dominance like the Patriots. The Patriots send the Miami Canned Tunas back to South Beach, 42-donut.
Counterpoint (Eric Eager): This is the biggest number we’ve seen so far this season, and while New England would be the team to cover such a spread, I’m a bit uneasy about laying so many points. The Dolphins defensively have players in Ndamukong Suh (90.7), William Hayes (85.6) and Cameron Wake (84.6) that can take advantage of a New England offensive line that has had some injuries of late. New England’s defense (despite giving up 17 points or less in every game since Week 4) are the second-lowest rated team defensively by our metrics, meaning that if Cutler gets hot (I know), this could be closer than we think. That said, this entire discussion has been a stretch.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5)
Pick: Bengals 24 – 16 (Bengals cover)
Point (EE): The last two Cleveland games have had “cover” written all over them, only to be thwarted by characteristic ineptitude on the part of the Browns. At some point you just have to make a team like Cleveland beat you (we’re not holding our breath). While the Bengals aren’t a great side (they’re in the bottom half of the league in both our offensive and defensive rating systems), they’ve been able to cover the last two weeks, leveraging a defensive line of Geno Atkins (91.2), Carl Lawson (82.2) and Carlos Dunlap (81.8) and a secondary allowing the third-fewest net yards per pass attempt allowed. While I don’t see the Bengals scoring a ton of points, they have A.J. Green (2.41 yards per route run – fifth among wide receivers), to pop a big play or two and get them to the end zone enough to win by multiple scores.
Counterpoint (GC): DeShone Kizer has more interceptions from a clean pocket (12) than any other QB has in total (11). More bad decisions could mean another Kevin Hogan sighting and a backdoor cover when no one on the Bengals sideline realizes the QB change. The QB on the other side just so happens to be Andy Dalton – did you just start feeling nauseous? – and his favorite target Green (86.6 – sixth) figures to see a lot of Jason McCourty (93.2 – third) who has allowed a passer rating of just 51.1 (ninth) and has six passes defensed, three interceptions and just one touchdown surrendered. This pick is all about the Bengals defense taking advantage of the Browns offense but there is a definite chance that the Bengals offense derails this one and causes stomach pain the likes of which are not possible without eating Skyline chili or staring at the ESPN cover shot of Orange Dalton before making a wager.
Carolina Panthers at New York Jets (over/under 39.5)
Pick: Panthers 23 – 19 (the over hits)
Point (EE): We’ve had varying levels of success going with the over in Jets games so far this year, but in a game where the number is less than 40 (and against a team that put up 45 themselves the last time they played), this is the right side. While the Panthers are 11th in yards per play allowed defensively, they’re doing it with a trio of cornerbacks without a PFF player grade above 50 so far this year, all of whom are allowing more than a 90.7 passer rating into their coverage. Robby Anderson (1.84 yards per route run) has emerged as a legitimate threat for Josh McCown, and should be able to help the Jets put up their end of the bargain, while the Panthers (who have improved since trading Kelvin Benjamin) should be more than up to the task against a Jets team that’s allowed 20 or more points to 7-of-10 opponents this season.
Counterpoint (GC): Cameron Newton appears to have a sore thumb on his throwing hand, probably from all the thumb wars he had at his annual Thanksgiving Children’s dinner. This is a bit worrisome since he ranks 20th in adjusted completion percentage this year. On the other end of things, McCown is tied with the aforementioned Kizer for most “Turnover-Worthy Plays” and has more of those bad throws than he does of the “Big Time” variety. If Cam can’t take advantage of the Greg Olsen return and the McCown turnovers don’t result in defensive points we could be in for a forgettable field goal disaster.