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NFL’s biggest betting mismatches: Week 12
By Jason Logan
Each week, Jason Logan breaks down some of the underlying mismatches in the NFL, hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule and setting your daily fantasy lineup. Here are four of the biggest betting mismatches from Week 12:
St. Louis Rams at Cincinnati Bengals (-8, 42)
Rams’ defensive starting field position vs. Bengals’ average starting field position
The Bengals have plenty of weapons on the return squad and are among the top teams in terms of starting field position, starting their offensive drives from an average of almost the 31-yard line – fourth best in the NFL this season. That’s helped kick start an offense that is fifth in points scored, with 26.6 points per outing, and seventh in total yards with 376.2 gains per game.
The Rams have given their opponents a head start this season, allowing teams to start their drives just past the 28-yard line – ranked 26th in the league. St. Louis has been able to shut the door in the red zone but can’t afford to give the Bengals any breaks, especially the way the Rams have struggled to score in recent weeks. St. Louis has put up just 44 points the past three weeks. They simply don’t have the firepower to keep pace if this turns into a shootout.
Daily fantasy watch: QB Andy Dalton
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons (-1.5, 45.5)
Vikings’ passive defense vs. Falcons’ football follies
Turnovers have transformed the Falcons from one of the most feared teams in the NFL to a one-team blooper reel. Atlanta has fumbled the ball seven times and QB Matt Ryan has thrown six interceptions during the last five games, in which the Falcons are just 1-4 SU and 0-5 ATS. Atlanta had four turnovers in a crushing loss to Indianapolis last week, but may be off the hook against the Vikings in Week 12.
Minnesota has undergone a defensive renaissance under head coach Mike Zimmer and currently ranks ninth in yards allowed and is averaging only 18.4 points against per game – third lowest in the NFL. However, the main premise of Zimmer’s schemes is to play positional defense and not risk going for the interception. That passive approach has Minnesota ranked 28th in takeaways with only six interceptions. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Vikes were 2-2 with eight takeaways out of the gate but have since going 5-1, snatching only three free footballs in that six-game span. While they’re winning with this approach, it may be taking the gun out of the hands of the Falcons before they can shoot themselves in the foot.
Daily fantasy watch: QB Matt Ryan
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-6, 41.5)
Bills’ penalty problems vs. Chiefs laundry-less games
The Bills have adopted Rex Ryan’s aggressive swagger, and it’s been good and bad for Buffalo. The negative is the amount of penalties the Bills have committed, entering Week 12 with 95 accepted flags – according to NFLpenalties.com. That’s totaled 852 yards, which is the most in the NFL. Now, Buffalo heads to Arrowhead – the loudest venue in the AFC – where false starts and delay of game calls can be credited to the Kansas City faithful. The Bills have 24 pre-snap penalties this year, 10 coming on false starts and four on delay of game whistles.
Not only are the Chiefs benefiting from an extreme home-field edge, but Andy Reid has his team playing very disciplined football. Kansas City boasts the seventh fewest penalties in 2015, getting flagged for only 61 infractions for a total of 536 yards against. At home, it’s been even tighter with the Chiefs committing just 21 penalties compared to 40 on the road. With the holidays on their way, Buffalo may be in the giving spirit– in terms of free yardage – but K.C. is taking the Grinch approach.
Daily fantasy watch: TE Travis Kelce
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (+3, 43)
Patriots’ poor protection vs. Broncos’ bad-ass pass rush
So, football fans don’t get another chapter in Brady versus Manning, but for football bettors the spread wouldn’t be all that different if No. 18 was under center for the Sunday nighter. The short field-goal line doesn’t have much to do with who’s making the throws for Denver but rather the Broncos defense, which has kept this team competitive all year. The Patriots are their most daunting test, but this pass rush – which tops the NFL in sacks with 34 – could be getting New England at the right time.
Tom Brady was peppered with pressure in last Monday’s game against the Bills, get sacked only once but feeling the force of 13 hits from nine different pass rushers. The week before, the Giants were able to record three sacks on Brady and forced some errant throws thanks to their ability to hurry Mr. Bundchen. Injuries have forced the Pats to juggle their offensive line all season, hurting the cohesiveness of the pass protection. Those struggles were on display last week, when Brady lashed out at his o-line on the sideline. Penalties to the offensive line have also mounted, and no team in the league has reeked more havoc on pass protectors than the Broncos.
Daily fantasy watch: Denver D/ST