Analysis | NFL best bets for Week 11: Justin Fields keeps getting better

Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears have been on an offensive tear.
Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears have been on an offensive tear. (Washington Post illustration/Nam Y. Huh/AP)


So: Last week was not my best week. None of my picks — not the Dallas Cowboys, not the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams, nor Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — cooperated. In fact, you could argue they conspired against me. I won’t take it personally, but they should know that we know what happened.

Let’s start with Dallas, a best bet over the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys jumped out early and had a 14-point lead at the end of the third quarter, giving America’s Team a 95 percent win probability, per ESPN. Certainly they should have covered a 4½-point spread, right? After all, they were 180-0 all-time when leading by at least 14 points through three quarters — 195-0 if you include the playoffs. Dear reader, it pains me to say: They could not. The Packers scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, forced overtime and then walked off with a 31-28 win thanks to Mason Crosby’s 28-yard field goal.

Meanwhile, Arizona and Los Angeles went into halftime with a score of 17-3, giving us hope the under would cash. Nope. Backup quarterbacks Colt McCoy and John Wolford led their offenses to a combined 24 points in the second half, busting the under. The score was tied at 3 at the first half’s two-minute warning, at which point the under felt perfectly safe. Still, the total moved down in the days before the game, indicating that our process was sound. Finally, my player prop — Tagovailoa finishing with under 268½ passing yards — would bust with his 285-yard effort, despite the quarterback having just 42 passing yards in the first quarter.

The key numbers for NFL betting — and how to use them to your advantage

The lone bright spot was the Minnesota Vikings beating the Buffalo Bills outright in overtime, cashing the Vikings +6½ ticket advocated earlier in the week before the uncertainty around Bills quarterback Josh Allen was resolved. Allen did play but was not at his best, tossing two interceptions in the loss.

Picks were made against the consensus point spreads as of Tuesday morning; odds that have since changed have been updated in bold type, but picks are locked in at the earlier odds.

1. Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons (-3)

Pick: Chicago Bears +3 or +140 on the money line

Chicago’s offense has improved over the past three weeks, with each week better than the last. Quarterback Justin Fields is leading this charge, largely on the ground, where he has produced 128 rushing yards per game. He also has four rushing touchdowns in that three-game span.

I’d expect another big game against Atlanta. The Falcons are allowing 6.3 yards per carry to quarterbacks — the league average is 4.7 — and quarterbacks are producing 12 more points per game than expected on the ground after factoring in the down, distance and field position of each rush against Atlanta, per TruMedia. That gives the Falcons the NFL’s worst rushing defense against quarterbacks.

2. Detroit Lions at New York Giants (-3½)

Pick: Detroit Lions +3½, playable to +3

The Giants have scored 21 more points than expected off turnovers, the fifth-highest total in the league. The Lions have barely benefited at all from turnovers, scoring three fewer points than expected. Otherwise, despite their records, these have actually been similar teams. New York has been the 19th-best team after adjusting for opponent, per Football Outsiders. Detroit is No. 22. Pro Football Focus ranks the Giants 29th and the Lions 27th after looking at each play and judging them on their merits, not just the results.

My own power rankings have this game Giants -1, but I wouldn’t wager on Detroit getting fewer points than the key number of three. At less than that, I would back the Lions on the money line.

3. Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills (-8½)

Under 43½, playable to 40. For the game, the pick is Bills -8½, but it’s not a best bet.

This total has moved significantly since I started writing this blurb early Tuesday — it started at 47 — so proceed with caution, although I do think there is some room to work with. There is a chance for significant snow accumulation in the Buffalo area, with recent forecasts raising the possibility of several feet of snow. Also aiding a low total is the forecast of 20-mph winds, with the possibility of 37-mph wind gusts. It’s going to be tough to play efficiently in those conditions. There are not a lot of games to draw from, but since 2000, games played under similar conditions have gone over the total just two of 10 times, missing the over by an average of nine points.

I have a few plays working for this game, including under 47, under 44½ at +116 and under 30½ at +830. I also invested in longest field goal under 47½ yards at -115 and for the game to have zero or one total touchdowns at +4100. I’m also playing unders in the Akron at Buffalo college game Saturday.

The plays above represent our best bets of the week because our analysis shows their value is the most lucrative compared with what we expect to happen on the field. Below, you will find against-the-spread picks for all of the games on this week’s schedule. However, trying to pick every game is something of a fool’s errand. The house wins so often partly because bettors try to make too many plays when the odds aren’t in their favor. Keep that in mind when evaluating the remaining games from the Week 11 slate.

4. Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers (-3)

Thursday, 8:15 p.m. | Prime Video

Pick: Green Bay Packers -3

5. Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens (-12½)

Pick: Carolina Panthers +12½

6. New York Jets at New England Patriots (-3½)

7. Philadelphia Eagles (-6½) at Indianapolis Colts

Pick: Indianapolis Colts +6½

8. Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints (-4)

Pick: New Orleans Saints -4 or -6½ at +140 or better

9. Washington Commanders (-3½) at Houston Texans

Pick: Washington Commanders -3½

10. Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos (-2½)

Pick: Denver Broncos -2½

11. Dallas Cowboys (-1½) at Minnesota Vikings

Pick: Minnesota Vikings +1½

12. Cincinnati Bengals (-4½) at Pittsburgh Steelers

Pick: Cincinnati Bengals -4½ or -6½ at +120 or better

13. Kansas City Chiefs (-6½) at Los Angeles Chargers

Pick: Kansas City Chiefs -6½

14. San Francisco 49ers (-8) at Arizona Cardinals

Pick: Arizona Cardinals +8

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