December is when the NFL season starts to settle down: we have only two home dogs this week, and surprisingly neither are San Francisco or New Orleans, both of whom are facing the new class of their divisions, Seattle (11-1) and Carolina (9-3 but winners of 8 in a row).
Only Washington and the Bears are home dogs, and that Bears-Cowboys matchup is a see-saw. The Packers-Atlanta game isn't on the board at the moment, because of uncertainty about a return for Aaron Rodgers, but I'd like the Packers as home dogs if it were.
The beauty of the NFL season is the balance. Both games between top teams are tight, so too are the games between other winning teams, like Detroit at Philly. The teams with the outside shots at the play-offs are similarly tight, and who would want to bet on either the Raiders or Jets in their losers' bracket match-up unless you had a heavy-duty battery in your pacemaker?
Sure Thing: Kansas City (-3) at Washington
The Chiefs beat up on teams with back-up quarterbacks for a long time, and now have lost three in a row to teams with Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, and Peyton Manning at QB. RG3.1, the current version of RG3, isn't quite in their category, as a pocket passer who can simply target the weak points in the Chiefs' secondary, points which are exposed by the chances Bob Sutton takes with his blitzes. Plus the Redskins' receivers seem to have an allergy to pigskin which manifests itself in second halves; they laid down and died when the Giants came back on them in the second-half on our Channel 4 game last Sunday. I like the Chiefs to get back to their winning ways, by more than field goal.
Outside Bet: Seattle (+2.5) at 2.00 at San Francisco
Straight up I picked the Niners, thinking that they will be able to raise their game at home and expand their offense with Michael Crabtree back. But it's almost insane that an 11-1 team are dogs, even on the road, and you argue that, once their offensive line injuries were sorted out, the Seahawks have been playing well on both sides of the ball. Plus they are 2-0 against Colin Kapernick, and neither game has been pretty for the Niners, though both were in Seattle. Similarly, but more risky, is Carolina +3 at 1.95 at New Orleans, and 2.35 for a match bet to win. The Panthers aren't as good as Seattle, though they played them tough early in the season, and the Saints are coming off a beat-down by those same Seahawks. I have a certain amount of wariness of the Saints' ability to bounce back however. If you really fancy road dogs this week, match bets on Indy (3.30) at Cincinnati, St Louis (3.25) at Arizona, Miami (2.50) at Pittsburg, or even Detroit (2.20) at Philadelphia are not totally far-fetched, especially if you believe in a specific match-up.
Value Bet: Baltimore (-7) at 2.00 vs Minnesota
The Vikes go through quarter-backs the way women go through shoes, though with even less logic, and this week Matt Cassel gets the start, after playing well in relief against the Bears last week. Cassel also played well when the Vikes won at Wembley, but he appears to be a very short leash, and he tends to regress toward his mean, which is pretty mean, if you know what I mean. The Ravens' D ought to be able to push him toward that regression, and with Joe Flacco able to hit the occasional bomb to Torrey Smith or Jacoby Jones, the Ravens ought to win by more than a touchdown.
One To Avoid: New York Giants (+3) at 2.00 at San Diego
The Chargers looked awful against the Bengals at home last week, while the Giants tried hard to eliminate themselves in the first-half at Washington, before the Redskins decided they wanted to win even less, and rolled over in the second-half. I don't think Eli Manning can count on that in San Diego, but the Chargers' defense is awful, so they can put up some points, and the Giants' D showed signs of life, specially Justin Tuck's Back to 2008 four sack performance. But the Chargers can score too, and if you really must bet this one, maybe over on the 47 o/u would placate you. And as I said at the top, if you figure Oakland's relative stability is worth 2.5 points at the sideshow that is the New York Jest, feel free. If you don't, feel even freer.
Bet now on all the weekend NFL action
Follow Mike Carlson's NFL betting tips every day