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November 29, 2021

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Vegas pick’em: NFL Week 11 winners against the spread

1114_AP_RaidersChiefs

Associated Press

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws against the Las Vegas Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

The betting market has favored the AFC champion over the NFC champion in each of the last five Super Bowls, but the streak is projected to end this year.

The AFC is currently a 2.5-point favorite over the NFC at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook in Super Bowl 56, scheduled for Feb. 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. That may be a surprise based on the current standings, where the AFC team records are stronger based largely on a 24-16-1 season record against the NFC.

But that success is representative of the AFC featuring more parity. When it comes to making a Super Bowl line at this point, the overall competitiveness is secondary to the top-tier teams.

And most of this season’s top-tier teams play in the NFC. Betting market ratings, based solely on the closing lines of every game so far this season, indicate that the NFC includes five of the top seven teams in the league.

The Buffalo Bills, first, and Kansas City Chiefs, third, are the only AFC representatives but they’ve both shown flaws of their own. It’s a logjam overall with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys all in the same vicinity.

There’s a long way to go but with so many potentially strong NFC teams shooting for a championship, the NFL’s balance of power appears to have shifted. The current Super Bowl line is just one illustration.

I’ll keep trying to navigate it in the column, which had another steady 7-7 showing in Week 10 to bring the season record picking every game against the spread to 76-73-1.

Read below for picks on every Week 11 game. Picks are separated into three confidence categories and listed in rough order of confidence. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side.

Plays (29-21)

New Orleans Saints +1.5 at Philadelphia Eagles Trevor Siemian has proven more than capable as the Saints’ quarterback, leading them to a 109-yard edge over the Titans last week in a game they were extremely unlucky to lose. The Saints’ defense, meanwhile, remains the strength of the team, and a better unit than any Philadelphia has encountered this year.

Seattle Seahawks +2.5 vs. Arizona Cardinals Give Russell Wilson a mulligan for his poor performance in last week’s 17-0 loss to the Packers after rushing back from finger surgery. The real possibility of him going up against Colt McCoy or Chris Streveler this week makes 2.5 a must-take with a still-undervalued Seahawks team.

Washington Football Team +3.5 at Carolina Panthers Carolina’s offense had a one-game awakening in a 34-10 victory at Arizona last week, but it’s ranked 30th in the NFL by both Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings and EPA (expected points added) per play — ahead of only Houston and Detroit. Cam Newton’s return is a fun story, but he’s no savior at this point of his career.

Dallas Cowboys +2.5 at Kansas City Chiefs Are the Chiefs truly back after looking like a vintage version of themselves in a 41-14 blowout win over the Raiders last week? The larger sample of the entire season indicates not. The breakout seemed to be more about a stubborn and flawed Raiders’ defensive game plan, a trap Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn won’t fall into.

Tennessee Titans -10 vs. Houston Texans Tennessee won yet another game it shouldn’t have last week — benefitting greatly from a terrible roughing-the-passer call in a game where it was outgained by nearly 1 yard per play — but patience is a virtue. There will come a time to fade the Titans, but it’s not here against a listless Texans team they should beat by two touchdowns.

San Francisco 49ers -6.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars Does Jacksonville have a single on-field advantage in this game? Doesn’t seem like it, as San Francisco presents mismatches all over the place. This spread should be on the other side of 7.

Leans (24-26)

Detroit Lions +10 at Cleveland Browns Cleveland’s pass defense is struggling every bit as much as Detroit’s passing offense; it’s just not getting the same amount of attention. A team as beaten-up and flawed as the Browns shouldn’t be laying double digits to anyone.

Buffalo Bills -7 vs. Indianapolis Colts The Jaguars soundly outplayed the Colts last week despite a 23-17 loss, putting together a near 1 net yard per play advantage. Now Indianapolis’s offense has to go up against the best defense in the league while its own defense is dealing with a cluster injury in the secondary.

Las Vegas Raiders +1 vs. Cincinnati Bengals This number was as high as Las Vegas -2 before the Raiders’ current two-game losing streak, and as troubling as the 41-14 defeat to Kansas City was, that large of a move still feels like too much. The Raiders’ +0.7 net yards per play on the year is better than the Bengals’ +0.5.

Miami Dolphins -3 at New York Jets The Jets’ two wins have somehow shielded just how truly horrendous they’ve been this season, as bad as any team in the league. They’ve nearly got the market cornered on last-place standings, as they’re last in the league in allowing 6.3 yards per play and Robert Saleh is last in edjsports’ coach rankings, which judges how decisions affect win probability.

Los Angeles Chargers -5 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers It seems like a majority of the Steelers’ best players are dealing with some sort of injury, meaning there’s a good chance they roll a skeleton crew out at SoFi Stadium. Traveling East to West for a primetime game is difficult enough without having to deal with weakened roster.

New England Patriots -6.5 at Atlanta Falcons Not only do the Patriots possess the better roster and much stronger on-field numbers, but first-year coaches like the Falcons’ Arthur Smith have also traditionally struggled in their first Thursday Night Football appearance. New England’s Bill Belichick, on the other hand, is renowned for his ability to prepare on a short week.

Guesses (23-26-1)

New York Giants +11 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers This would be a fair price, if not an easy spot to lay the points, if the Buccaneers were at full strength but it looks like they won’t be for at least one more week. The Giants, meanwhile, should have a cleaner injury report coming out of a bye.

Minnesota Vikings +2.5 vs. Green Bay Packers Efficiency metrics like EPA per play and DVOA paint these two teams as a lot more evenly matched than the betting market indicates. Still, the improvement of Green Bay’s defense is worrisome enough to only get involved if a Minnesota +3 becomes available.

Baltimore Ravens -6 at Chicago Bears This number is right, but it’s still easier to get behind a relatively consistent Baltimore team despite last week’s shocking 22-10 loss in Miami. That defeat seems more likely to prove an anomaly in the long run, caused by some strong schematic tweaks by the Dolphins, than a true cause for alarm.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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