Oh, those pesky divisional rivalries. With how many games each week are played between division rivals, it is unreasonable to think survivor pool contestants can avoid them all season long. However, those that thought the Titans were a lock to beat the Texans last week became the latest casualties in what has been a month-and-a-half littered with huge upsets. As a whole, favorites went 11-4 SU the previous week, with the four losses coming from Tennessee (-500), Buffalo (-300), Carolina (-174), and Green Bay (-142).
A glance at the Week 12 slate suggests survivor pool contests are in for a brutal week, as there are no favorites bigger than seven-point favorites. As a reminder, there are three Thanksgiving Day games this week, so be sure to get your survivor pool selections in early if your league rules require you to make a pick by the first kickoff of the week.
Like last week, my selections for this week will be broken down into the following categories: safest picks, riskier plays that will be popular, and contrarian plays to beat a large pool. Even though survivor pool rules say you cannot pick the same team twice, I will outline multiple scenarios if bettors wish to navigate their own path.
Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their matchups in Week 12 (odds courtesy of FanDuel).
Dallas Cowboys (-330), Baltimore Ravens (-190)
The Dallas Cowboys make our “safest picks” section by default, but we are not thrilled about it. The Cowboys already know they will be without wide receiver Amari Cooper, who will not clear COVID-19 protocols in time for this game. In addition, fellow wide receiver CeeDee Lamb’s status is in jeopardy after he suffered a concussion last week. Furthermore, the Cowboys are coming off their first game without scoring an offensive touchdown, and now their ceiling offensively is limited as they are potentially without their two best pass-catchers. Thankfully, they can rely on a solid running game with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard and face a Raiders team that has lost three straight games, and the last two by a combined 46 points.
While we want to put the Baltimore Ravens in the “riskier plays” section since they are facing a divisional opponent, the fact that they land in our safest picks reinforces how difficult of a week this is. The Ravens have to feel good about stealing a game on the road with Tyler Huntley at quarterback, who replaced Lamar Jackson. As long as Jackson is over a non-COVID-19 illness that kept him out last week, Baltimore should prove to be too much offensive for a Browns team that has scored 17 or fewer points in five of their previous six games. And with how admittedly beat up Baker Mayfield is, this does not appear to be the week where Cleveland has an offensive breakout.
Riskier Plays That Will Be Popular
New England Patriots (-250), Chicago Bears (-190), Philadelphia Eagles (-174), Atlanta Falcons (-122)
This week, many will back the New England Patriots, as their five-game winning streak has bettors believing they are legitimate AFC contenders. However, they still face an 8-3 Titans team that is still the No. 1 seed in the AFC at the moment. Thus, do not let one bad loss to the Texans fool you into believing the Titans do not know how to win football games, as they have won seven games against playoff teams from a year ago.
The Chicago Bears will likely be a popular pick in survivor pools, as the allure of advancing in your pool by the time you sit down to eat your turkey is appealing. However, quarterback Justin Fields left last week’s game with a rib injury, and Chicago’s defense remains decimated by injury. This play would be a much safer pick if Tim Boyle once again starts in place of Jared Goff for Detroit, but a divisional game on the road on a short week is one I would avoid.
The Philadelphia Eagles are mauling opponents with their running game. They have rushed for at least 175 yards in four straight games, which is the first time their franchise has done that since 1950. However, the Eagles have put together back-to-back wins for the first time this season, which suggests they are not a team prone to long winning streaks. While they have a scheduling advantage over the Giants, who played on Monday night last week, this is still a tricky divisional game on the road.
Survivor pool contestants who pick the Atlanta Falcons over the Jacksonville Jaguars would do so as a blind fade on the Jaguars. Such a pick would give no thought to how the Falcons have looked lately, but bettors should be reminded of their 25-0 snoozefest against the Patriots on Thursday. Atlanta has lost three of their last four games, including their previous two games by a combined 68-3. That does not exactly breed confidence at the moment.
Contrarian Play To Beat a Large Pool
Houston Texans (-146)
The Houston Texans are the quintessential “contrarian play,” as they host a Jets team on a three-game losing streak. While the Jets played “better” defensively in a 24-17 loss to Miami last week, New York had allowed 43.8 PPG over the four games prior. Zach Wilson should be rusty at quarterback after missing the last four weeks. If you do not like the other options you have, we would confidently back the Texans, who are coming off the momentum-building win over the AFC’s best Titans last week.
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