We've reached Week 13 in the NFL and Mike Carlson returns with his best bets ahead of Sunday's action, but not before talking about some 'heavyweight' touchdowns...
"The Ravens' D could make things tough for Jimmy G: but with Emmanuel Sanders and George Kittle both healthy, they can open things up, and if Matt Brieda can play, that adds another level."
I wonder how many of you had Star Lotulelei at 1000/1 to score a TD in the Buffalo-Dallas game on Thanksgiving? I feel sorry for you, because after Dak Prescott's ill-judged pass fell into Star's substantial breadbasket, his TD 'run' was overturned because a Cowboy's player had casually touched him as he lay on the ground cradling his unexpected gift. It was the ultimate Bad Beat.
Of course none of you actually lost, because I'm just kidding, but Fat Guy Touchdowns really ought to be a category. We see the occasional offensive lineman playing tight end near the goal, like Dennis Kelly last week for the Titans, and sometimes you get a big lineman playing fullback and getting the goal line carry, like the Colt's Quenton Nelson a couple of weeks ago, whose great celebration went for nowt as the score was eventually overturned on replay.
But it's when the defensive tackles get involved, the biggest of the Big Beefs up front, that it gets interesting. Lotulelei is listed at a flattering 315 lbs, but Tampa's Vita Vea goes 347, but it doesn't specify a margin of error or whether that actually is avoirdupois or metric. Vea caught a TD pass last week, becoming the heaviest player (however you measure) in NFL history to do so. It would be great to have odds on that, with the payout expressed as a factor of the scorer's weight.
On a serious level, I did okay on Thanksgiving, if you were watching our @betfair podcast - all three picks covered, similarly in my patreon.com column picking straight up the Bills beat me but the Bears and Saints held up. We are reaching the point in the NFL season where the big match-ups are coming upon us, and this week offers one of the biggest, as the 10-1 49ers travel to Baltimore where they are underdogs to the 9-2 Ravens.
Ravens on a roll
This is the first time since something like 1970 a 10-1 team has been an underdog, and there are two reasons why. One is recency bias: the Ravens are on a roll, while the Niners' big win over Green Bay is somehow dismissed as an aberration. The other is the Ravens are at home, and the Niners are making the Red Eye flight from West to East coast, which means with the 1PM Eastern kickoff they could be slow starters.
But the Niners may have the best D line in the NFL, they have a fast MLB in Fred Warner, so they may be able to control the run game which flows from the amazing speed and shiftiness of Lamar Jackson. The Niners' other strength, two shut-down corners, isn't that important here because the Ravens don't rely on their outside receivers.
The Ravens' D could make things tough for Jimmy G: but with Emmanuel Sanders and George Kittle both healthy, they can open things up, and if Matt Brieda can play, that adds another level. If this spread goes much higher I'd flip to the road dogs, but I think it's more than field goal to the Ravens, and they also have the best kicker in the game.
Titans can edge a tight game
I like the Titans to win this one because of the way Ryan Tannehill is playing and Derrick Henry is running, but the Colts are at home, well coached, and sneaky-good on defense, so if you wanted to hedge your bet and take the Titans +2.5 at 10/11 that might be the better bet (though I'd like it better at 3). But there aren't any bets against the spread at evens or better this week, so going to the moneyline is really the only way to find value.
With Derrick Henry running and a tough D keyed by their two inside linebackers, the Titans may be on an arc of achieving that they haven't been able to do consistently during the Mariota era (indeed, all the way back to Jeff Fisher). The AFC South is a three way bottle neck right now.
Packers can prevail against 'not very good' Giants
I hesitate to take a road team giving almost a touch down, especially when it's the Packers coming off a West Coast road trip on a Sunday night where they got creamed by the Niners, but the Giants aren't really very good, probably won't threaten the Pack defense too much, and aren't likely to hold Aaron Rodgers in check the whole game.
If you want a real outside bet, buck the trend and take the Texans +3.5 at home against the Patriots (I really like the under (45.5 at 10/11) for this one too). It's never beyond their ability to make mistakes and throw a game away, but the Pats are not very good up front and at receiver on offense, which means their run game is slowed and Tom Brady suddenly looks old. Half the Pats team came down with flu like symptoms Wednesday, which Thanksgiving turkey does not cure, so this might be the outside path to follow.
Watch out mid-season review podcast ahead of this week's NFL action below: