With New England’s loss to Denver on Sunday night we are left with one undefeated team: The Carolina Panthers. All jokes of 10-1 aside to be the last undefeated team is a great achievement, and even more so when projections had the Panthers in the 8-10 win range and nothing more. Now they look like a leading contender thanks to truly elite defensive play and Cam Newton’s development as a passer. What is more impressive than their record against the rest of the NFL, though, is their record against the spread. Carolina are a wonderful 9-2, covering their last 4 in a row and and only falling short against Indianapolis and New Orleans. But for an 11-0 team their spreads have been remarkably low this season – no line has been over 8 – and it looks like the bookies are still suspect of their prowess since this week they are 7-point favourites going against an Saints team that is in a brutal tailspin. It should surprise no one that I’m going to be taking the Panthers as a best bet this week. Last weeks best bets went 2-1, with Jacksonville letting me down. I guess I got a small taste of what their fans have been through these last few years. With the rest of the bets there were some close-run losses. The Bills missed a 2 point conversion late that would have given me a push. The Steelers looked to have the better of Seattle in a shootout until Mike Tomlin’s ever-changing short yardage strategy came back to bite them – and me – in the arse. Then there is the frisky 49ers who have covered 2 of their last 3 games against 3 of the best NFC teams going. Once again this weeks lines are from William Hill and the home teams are in capitals…
Week 13 Best Bets
Carolina Panthers (-7) over NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
That tailspin I was talking about? It only seems to be picking up steam. The offense has been getting worse and worse in recent weeks, the defense has been dreadful all season, which is disappointing because there’s a lot of talent there – from DE Cam Jordan to FS Jarius Byrd – but it just seems to be deployed in completely the wrong way. As for Carolina… well if you read our “Team Of The Week” feature you’ll often see Panthers defenders crop up. Luke Kuechly is putting on a truly masterful display at middle linebacker this season while Josh Norman has propelled himself into the conversation of best corners in the NFL. As the last unbeaten team the Panthers have a target on their back for the rest of the season, but I think they can more than handle a trip to the Superdome, where they won 41-10 last season.
Kansas City Chiefs (-3) over OAKLAND RAIDERS
Kansas are on a roll. After having a brutal opening schedule and going 1-5 they have won 5 straight and sit in pole position for a wildcard spot. Injuries to Jamaal Charles and then Charcandrick West haven’t slowed the ground game – always a key to Andy Reid’s offense – and Alex Smith has been finding receivers down field far more often this year than he has previously. While the Raiders aren’t the pushover they’ve been in recent years, they are still a flawed team with few bright spots. They can stick around in this one if Derek Carr has a good day, but I don’t think they have enough to consistently move the ball on the Chiefs defense.
Denver Broncos (-4) over SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Taking a third road favourite maybe isn’t the best idea, and Denver could be drained after their emotional upset win in the snow against New England, but then a relaxing weekend in the San Diego winter sun could certainly recharge them. There’s also the fact that the Chargers fans are starting to abandon their team as it seems more and more likely they’ll be moving up the road to Los Angeles. All semblance of home field advantage has gone for the Chargers, they’ve lost their last 4 home games and 2 of them have been utter disasters. The Broncos have their ground game rolling now that they can go under center more frequently with Osweiler and that’s why I think they’ll take this match. The Chargers allow the most yards per carry in the NFL (4.9) and average 1 rushing TD allowed per game. That will be the key to this game – Denver controlling the tempo and forcing Rivers to pass frequently against a top passing defense.
Rest of the Picks:
TNF: Detroit (+2.5) New York Jets (-2) over NEW YORK GIANTS Arizona Cardinals (-6) over ST. LOUIS RAMS Cincinnati Bengals (-9.5) over CLEVELAND BROWNS MINNESOTA VIKINGS (PK) over Seattle Seahawks BUFFALO BILLS (-3) over Houston Texans San Francisco 49ers (+7.5) over CHICAGO BEARS TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (-1) over Atlanta Falcons Baltimore Ravens (+3.5) over MIAMI DOLPHINS Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5) over TENNESSEE TITANS Philadelphia Eagles (+10) over NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS WASHINGTON REDSKINS (-4.5) over Dallas Cowboys No line on Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh due to the Roethlisberger injury status. Last Week: 7-9-0 (2-1-0) Overall: 82-85-7 (17-18-1)