Sean Pendergast

College Football, Week 12 and NFL, Week 11 — This Weekend's Best Bets

It's time to start winning again this weekend.
Photo by Jack Gorman
It's time to start winning again this weekend.
Hideous. Embarrassing. Forgettable. There are a hundred adjectives that I can drop on you to describe my handicapping performance last weekend, a wretched 1-4-1 ATS performance, in which my one win (thank you, Colts!) was by a half a point, and my four losses all missed by double digits, including a 51-14 Bengals loss to the Saints in which I idiotically backed Andy Dalton and the Bengals +5.5.

Yuck. I need to go vomit....

(Vomits... vomits again...)

OK, I'm back. I feel better, and now I'm ready to get this train back on the tracks, just in time for the Black Friday sales next week. Let's all go get paid. It's a strange weekend, with nearly the entire SEC playing junior varsity teams in college football, and with six teams on a bye in the NFL. However, finding six games I like is not difficult. Here is this weekend's dance card:

Utah -7 over COLORADO
This is a case of two teams headed in opposite directions. It's hard to believe that Colorado was a team that showed up on my first College Football Playoff radar of the season, five weeks in, undefeated and in the Top 25. It's been a train wreck since then for the Buffaloes, with five straight losses (1-4 ATS), including a disastrous collapse a couple weeks ago against awful Oregon State. Colorado looked like a spent team losing by 24 to Washington State last weekend. Utah, meanwhile, still has a potential division crown on their radar, and looked pretty solid last week in a win over Oregon with their backup quarterback and running back carrying the load. Utah's defense is always their strength under HC Kyle Whittingham, and that should travel just fine to Boulder.

UCLA +3.5 over USC
I don't know if I can remember a time in my adult life when this particular rivalry game has meant less — so, what do we do? We make it mean something! WE BET ON THE GAME! We all knew that the first year for Chip Kelly at UCLA would be challenging, and at 2-8 right now, they'll finish with a record that should be an extreme outlier for Kelly when his Bruin head coaching career is all said and done. It appears his team is starting to "get it." Meanwhile, the buzzards are swirling around USC head coach Clay Helton, whose team is banged up, and has lost three of their last four. One more win gets the Trojans bowl eligible, but I'm not even sure this team wants to play in some low level pre-Christmas bowl. Motivation is all with UCLA, for whom this IS their bowl games.

Syracuse +10 over Notre Dame (at Yankee Stadium)
The only matchup of ranked teams this weekend takes place in a baseball stadium, with the undefeated third-ranked Fighting Irish taking on surprising Syracuse, ranked 12th in the latest CFB Playoff rankings. The nation seems to be waiting for Notre Dame to lose, and for good reason — Brian Kelly's teams have been bad (9-12) in November, and really bad (4-11) against Power Five schools in November, over the last five seasons. This Irish team feels a little different, with two SU and ATS wins so far at Northwestern and home against Florida State in November, but a 10-point spread is a lot. QB Ian Book is back for the Irish after a week off to protect banged up ribs, but his health has to be a bit of a question mark, especially with an injury like that in cold weather. If nothing else, this game is ripe for a backdoor cover by a capable Syracuse offense in the fourth quarter.

SEAHAWKS -2.5 over Packers
I took the Seahawks a couple weeks ago at home against the Chargers, largely based on the Seahawks' home field advantage, and got burned, but this is a spot where I MUST go back to that handicap. Unlike the Chargers, who basically play road games every week since their home city hates them (what up, LA?!), the Packers have not won a road game this season. They're 0-4 on the road. The Seahawks are going to look to pound the football on the ground, and the Packers really struggle to stop the run (26th in rushing DVOA). The loser of this game has their season pushed to the brink, so I'll take the desperate home team laying less than a field goal against the bad road team.

Panthers -4 over LIONS
I have no idea what happened to the Panthers last Thursday in their 52-21 loss to the Steelers, and I certainly don't want to overreact to one outcome. The Panthers are still very much in the NFC playoff picture. They're probably not catching the Saints, but the Panthers will likely be a dangerous wild card team. The Lions, on the other hand, are a hot mess. Ever since the frumpy Matt Patricia decided to begin critiquing media posture at press conferences, the Lions have been abysmal. They've lost three in a row, all by double digits, and there's no end in sight, with home games against the Panthers, Bears, and Rams coming up the next three weeks. The Panthers can run the football (3rd in rushing DVOA), and the Lions can't stop, well, ANYTHING (30th in overall defense DVOA, 25th against the run).

BEARS -2.5 over Vikings
This game has been flexed into prime time on Sunday evening, and should be a lot of fun. (NOTE TO SELF: Bet against the Bears NEXT week, as they play the early game on Thanksgiving on the road, which means they basically have like 20 minutes of rest between this Sunday's game and their next game.) This handicap for me comes down to a lack of trust of Kirk Cousins in big spots. I backed the Vikings against the Saints a few weeks ago, and was done in by Cousins' subpar football IQ. I won't let that happen again. I think Cousins is always going to be a .500 who throws for 5,000 meaningless yards every season. I'll take another home favorite of less than a field goal. (FUN FACT: The last time the Bears played a Sunday night game at home? 2012, against the Houston Texans!)

Last Week: 1-4-1
Season Record: 35-29-2 (54.7 percent)

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