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I hate Week 12.
In 2004, my father and I entered into a large survivor pool together, as we did most years, and we were sprinting toward a large payout. A field of nearly 10,000 had been whittled down to less than 100, as we rounded the final turn.
With aplomb, we locked in our pick. The 7-3 Denver Broncos were hosting the 3-7 Oakland Raiders, whom they had already beaten 31-3 in California. They were 11-point favorites. We were one step closer to retirement.
During what had become a game of runs, Jake Plummer and the Broncos had taken a 24-13 stranglehold midway through the fourth quarter. Time to check the Week 13 schedule, right?
Kerry Collins then hit Ronald Curry for a short touchdown before finding Jerry Porter in the end zone just past the two-minute warning to give the Raiders the lead. Now down by one, Plummer brought the Broncos into field-goal position, but Jason Elam's 43-yard attempt was blocked in quite spectacular fashion. I'll never trust a kicker again.
Fast forward to 2008. It's Week 12 again. The 6-4 Broncos were home to the miserable 2-8 Raiders, this time as eight-point favorites. But Jay Cutler buckled like only he could, and JaMarcus Russell - yeah, that guy - led Oakland to a 31-10 win. Denver never sniffed a lead.
The moral of the story: exercise caution. This isn't the time to get comfortable and start spending your winnings; you haven't won anything yet. Do your due diligence. Take it game by game, quarter by quarter, play by play. And never bet on Jay Cutler.
1. New Orleans Saints (vs. Carolina Panthers)
The Saints faced a tricky test in Week 11, going into Tampa Bay coming off a disappointing loss to the Falcons. They responded excellently. The defense bounced back and, even more importantly, Drew Brees looked like his old self.
A win here would give the Saints a four-game lead in the division over Carolina, with the Panthers having dropped off significantly since their bye. They earned just one win in the last four weeks, but most concerning has been the play of their second-year quarterback. Kyle Allen has just three touchdowns to nine interceptions in the team's last four contests after throwing seven TDs and zero picks in his first four starts.
Carolina's defense has also stumbled, allowing 13 rushing touchdowns and an average of 29.8 points over the last five games. The Panthers boast the league's 27th-best rushing defense and sit 25th in points allowed. Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas will feast for the Saints, while Allen will struggle against New Orleans' defense, which should be boosted by the return of Pro Bowl corner Marshon Lattimore.
2. Cleveland Browns (vs. Miami Dolphins)
The Browns might have topped this list if it wasn't so hard to fully trust head coach Freddie Kitchens, but this is a great spot for them in Week 12.
Teams that are playing in a third successive home game and are favored by at least a touchdown are 24-0 straight up since the start of the 2014 season. Teams favored by double digits in this spot are 17-1 SU since 2007 and 17-4 against the spread.
The Browns have turned a corner over the past couple of weeks and, led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, should be able to run all over the Dolphins' 31st-ranked rushing defense.
3. Buffalo Bills (vs. Denver Broncos)
There might not be an easier NFL team to figure out than the Bills. They beat bad clubs and lose to good ones. The teams that Buffalo has beaten this year own a combined 13-47 record. With a home date against the 3-7 Broncos on tap, you know what to do.
Don't be fooled by Denver's performance last week in Minnesota. It was a letdown spot for the Vikings, who were still able to close out the contest on a 27-3 run and secure the win. Now, the Broncos face a second straight road game and the league's third-ranked defense, with rookie quarterback Brandon Allen completing less than 50% of his passes.
4. New England Patriots (vs. Dallas Cowboys)
The Patriots have won 20 consecutive home games, while the Cowboys are 0-3 this season against teams with winning records. Based on the coaching matchup alone, you should feel confident in a New England win - Jason Garrett couldn't even hold Bill Belichick's clipboard.
Dallas is 1-7 SU versus teams outside of their division when listed as road 'dogs of six or more, while the Patriots are 96-10 as home favorites of 6.5 or more in the Belichick-Tom Brady era.
Safety rankings (SR) are out of 10 based on the author's picks
|AWAY||HOME (SPREAD)||WINNER (SR)|
|Carolina||New Orleans (-9.5)||NO (9)|
|Miami||Cleveland (-10.5)||CLE (8)|
|Denver||Buffalo (4.5)||BUF (7)|
|Dallas||New England (-6.5)||NE (7)|
|Indianapolis||Houston (-4)||HOU (5)|
|N.Y. Giants||Chicago (-6.5)||CHI (4)|
|Oakland||N.Y. Jets (+3)||OAK (4)|
|Green Bay||San Francisco (-3)||SF (3)|
|Jacksonville||Tennessee (-3)||TEN (3)|
|Pittsburgh||Cincinnati (+7)||PIT (2)|
|Detroit||Washington (+3.5)||DET (2)|
|Seattle||Philadelphia (-1.5)||PHI (2)|
|Baltimore||L.A. Rams (+3.5)||LAR (1)|
|Tampa Bay||Atlanta (-4.5)||ATL (1)|
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.