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Week 12 NFL Sunday Action [UPDATED]: Picking with Emergent Underdog Bias

After our week 11 picks went 6-3-1, we took a spanking on Thursday to kick off week 12. We found ourselves on the wrong side of the Lions' shellacking of the Eagles, as well as Chicago's upset at Green Bay. We did, at least, get one right: the Panthers grabbed control at the Cowboys and never looked back.

On the year, we are a respectable 34-24-2 picking NFL games against the spread (before Thursday's disappointing 1-2 showing), and are an even better 17-11-1 handicapping totals. We hope to salvage the week with the following plays for Sunday, each of which is well supported by our quantitative methodology. As always we list our bets, including actual juice paid, along with our line estimate in brackets.

1. Minnesota Vikings +2.5 (-105) @ Atlanta Falcons [MIN +1.2]

2. Tennessee Titans +2.0 (-120) @ Oakland Raiders [TEN 0.0]

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Indianapolis Colts ML (-142) [IND -2.5]

4. Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs -3.0 (-145) [KC -6.1]

5. Miami Dolphins +4.5 (-108) @ New York Jets [MIA +4.3]

6. New York Giants @ Washington Redksins +3.0 (-120) [WAS +1.9]

7. San Diego Chargers +5.0 (-102) @ Jacksonville Jaguars [SD +3.8]

8. New Orleans Saints @ Houston Texans o48.0 (-105) [50.6]

9. New England Patriots ML (-138) @ Denver Broncos [NE -2.4]

10. New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos o42.0 (-126) [45.4]

Of interest, we are taking points in five of the eight bets where we are picking a side. This is rather comforting as underdogs have developed an edge for this year. Through the first half of the NFL season, favorites were 58-60, and there was virtually no discernable value to siding with dogs or favorites, generally speaking. Over the last three weeks though, underdogs have staged a 25-15 run, shifting the advantage to 85-73 their way year-to-date.

Research by academics, statisticians and others has uncovered betting biases toward favorites. Though betting spreads are (theoretically) set such that the win count between favorites and underdogs is approximately even, bettors tend to side with favorites against the spread about two times out of three. This predilection has been demonstrated to persist even when betting lines are intentionally skewed in the underdog's direction.

Our work hints that the nascent trend in favor of the longer shot to cover is likely to endure (at least through week 12), and our picks this week are in sync with this outlook.

Also of note, our totals work had consistently identified value on the under through the first seven weeks of the season (11 of our first 16 over/under picks backed the under). However, nine of our last 13 totals plays have supported the over. This newfound inclination is also evident in this week's totals plays.

In aggregate, the over is 77-79-4 on the season by our account, so there has not been an obvious benefit to leaning one way or the other. However, we can not help but wonder if our system is anticipating that betting markets are in the early stages of adjusting to participant biases -- as has been known to happen.

While we would certainly like to think that our approach inherently adjusts to the dynamics of the marketplace, only time will tell if this hypothesis holds. The results of Sunday's wagers might provide evidence one way or the other.

Happy betting!!

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