Each week, we break down some of the underlying mismatches in the NFL, hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule. Here are four of the biggest betting mismatches from Week 12:
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (-6.5, 39.5)
Vikings’ sheltered road woes vs. Windy City weather
Forget about if Jay Cutler is ready to go or not – the one thing that should concern Vikings backers is the fact that this game is outside and on the road. Minnesota hasn’t been able to get the job done away from home this season, going 1-3 SU and ATS.
Minnesota has faced the elements only twice this year, losing outside at Washington and Seattle. The forecast for Soldier Field isn’t calling for sub-zero temperatures (low 40s) but the wind will be howling and the natural grass footing won’t be as fast as the Metrodome’s rug.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1, 50.5)
Falcons’ rush defense vs. Buccaneers’ RB Doug Martin
Things are starting to unravel for the Falcons, who nearly got handed their second defeat of the season against Arizona last week. Atlanta’s biggest weakness is its inability to slow down the run, ranking 26th versus the rush (130.5 yards against per game).
The Cardinals rumbled for 137 yards on 26 carries (over five yards per carry) and now the Falcons face Tampa Bay’s battering ram, Doug Martin. Martin is third in the NFL in rushing with 1,000 yards and has found paydirt eight times this season. Over the past four games, he’s totaled 592 yards and five touchdowns.
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints (1, 49)
Niners’ QB Colin Kaepernick vs. Saints’ weakness to dual-threat QBs
New Orleans is a much different team than the one that lost to Washington and Carolina right out of the gate this season. However, the Saints did struggle with dual-threat pivots Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton in those games, allowing the QBs to pick up some big gains when plays broke down. New Orleans even let Michael Vick do some damage with his legs in a win over the Eagles in Week 9.
San Francisco has the hottest dual-threat QB in the league right now in Kaepernick. Since Alex Smith went down with a concussion, the second-year man out of Nevada has thrown for 360 yards and two TDs while displaying his crazy legs in the crunch. Even with Smith on the mend, the 49ers are siding with Kaepernick against the Saints Sunday.
Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles (2.5, 40.5)
Panthers’ play for Rivera vs. Eagles’ tank for Reid
One look at the spread for this one tells you just how much faith oddsmakers have in the Eagles. It’s about as much faith as Philadelphia has in head coach Andy Reid right now. Reid’s seat is an inferno and a loss to Carolina on Monday Night Football would burn that mother to the ground. The local media is all over the Walrus for playing his starters last week when the game was long out of reach, leading to LeSean McCoy’s concussion in the fourth quarter. Don’t expect Andy’s guys to play for him in any quarter Monday.
Despite their 2-8 record, the Panthers have been a tough out for opponents this season. Carolina has come close to some big upsets, getting outscored by just under six points per game, and has suffered six losses by six or fewer points this season. Rivera is expected to stick out the rest of the season and will rally his troops for a big national TV stage.