The margins are so thin in this league, which is why we see so many weekly spreads that are tight (less than seven points). It's not that the sportsbooks are afraid of taking a side -- it is that we are truly talking a game of inches. It is exactly that train of thought that makes underdogs in such spots an increasingly profitable venture.
From 2013-17, these small dogs covered at a 49.8% clip and won outright 37.5% of the time. Those aren't bad numbers, but the cover rate is a net loss and the outright number needs to flirt with +170 for a projected profit over time. Again, not bad, but nothing really to follow. In the four-plus years since, however, the cover rate has spiked to 55% and the outright win rate to 42%. That cover percentage very much clears the 52.4% number that it takes to be a profitable bettor, and the outright number requires only +138 number on the moneyline to draw interest. You'll notice there are more than a small underdogs on the Week 12 slate with a moneyline price tag north of +138. Consider me interested.
As for specific team records and trends:
Thursday, 12:30 p.m.
Buffalo Bills (-9, 53) at Detroit Lions
Bills ATS: 4-4-2
What we know about the Bills: The Bills snapped their two-game outright losing streak in Week 11 with a win over the Browns, but they pushed the number and thus have not covered a number since Week 6.
Lions ATS: 6-4
What we know about the Lions: Four of five Lions home games this season have gone over the total, and it's not as if this is unfamiliar ground for the Bills, as they were the home team on this field last week.
Thursday, 4:30 p.m.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-9, 44.5)
Giants ATS: 7-3
What we know about the Giants: Five straight New York games have finished within five points of the projected total.
Cowboys ATS: 7-3
What we know about the Cowboys: After an ugly Week 1 effort against the Bucs (19-3 loss as a 2.5-point underdog), the Cowboys are a perfect 4-0 ATS at home, covering by at least 10 points in each of those games.
Thursday, 8:20 p.m.
New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings (-2.5, 42)
Patriots ATS: 6-3-1
What we know about the Patriots: The Pats have covered three straight away from Gillette Stadium, with two of those games going well over the total.
Vikings ATS: 4-5-1
What we know about the Vikings: Minnesota's four game unbeaten ATS streak ended in spectacular fashion last week. The Vikings lost 40-3 as a two-point underdog.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Atlanta Falcons at Washington Commanders (-4, 42)
Falcons ATS: 7-4
What we know about the Falcons: After three straight home covers to open the season, the Falcons have failed to cover their past two at home, and they weren't even close, failing to cover the number by more than 11 points in each of those instances.
Commanders ATS: 6-4-1
What we know about the Commanders: Four of five Washington home games this season have finished within six points of the spread (most recently was a push in Week 9 as a three-point underdog to Minnesota).
Chicago Bears at New York Jets (-5, 41.5)
Bears ATS: 4-6-1
What we know about the Bears: Five straight overs is fun, but the Bears have covered just one of their past four games.
Jets ATS: 6-4
What we know about the Jets: The Jets have seen four of five home games go under the total. In fact, in all five of those games, the losing team failed to eclipse 17 points.
Cincinnati Bengals (-1.5, 42.5) at Tennessee Titans
Bengals ATS: 7-3
What we know about the Bengals: The Bengals opened the season 0-2 ATS with five straight unders and have been 7-1 ATS and 4-0-1 to overs since.
Titans ATS: 8-2
What we know about the Titans: You thought tackling Derrick Henry was tough? Try doing it when he is rested. The Titans are 8-1 ATS in their past nine games played on long rest.
Denver Broncos (-2.5, 35) at Carolina Panthers
Broncos ATS: 3-7
What we know about the Broncos: Sports bettors know by now that Denver games rarely see many points scored these days, yet their past three road games have gone under the total. In fact, those three games have seen a total of 25.5 fewer points scored than sportsbooks projected.
Panthers ATS: 5-6
What we know about the Panthers: The Panthers have covered three home games this season, and the total has gone under in each of those instances. It's a low number this week, and it might not be low enough!
Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins (-12.5, 45.5)
Texans ATS: 4-5-1
What we know about the Texans: The Texans battled on the road early in the year (2-0-1 ATS), but they have fallen on tough times lately, failing to cover their past two.
Dolphins ATS: 5-5
What we know about the Dolphins: Unders are 4-1 in Dolphins home games this season and 4-1 when Miami plays on the road.
Baltimore Ravens (-4, 43.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Ravens ATS: 4-5-1
What we know about the Ravens: The Ravens have seen six of their past seven games go under the total, a trend that was never more clear than last week in their 13-3 win over the Panthers with a 41.5-point over/under.
Jaguars ATS: 3-7
What we know about the Jaguars: The Jagus have seen four straight games go under the projected total (1-3 ATS in those games).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3, 43) at Cleveland Browns
Buccaneers ATS: 3-6-1
What we know about the Buccaneers: The past four times that the Bucs have gotten extended rest, their game has gone under the total (under by an average of 8.0 PPG).
Browns ATS: 4-5-1
What we know about the Browns: The next Cleveland home game that goes over the total will be the first of the season.
Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Las Vegas Raiders at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5, 47.5)
Raiders ATS: 4-6
What we know about the Raiders: The Raiders opened the season with three straight losses ATS. They followed it with three straight covers. Next up? You guessed it: three straight ATS losses. With a cover in Denver last week, they are looking to keep this weird pattern alive.
Seahawks ATS: 6-4
What we know about the Seahawks: Think Seattle covers? Bet them big. Their average cover margin in their six ATS victories is 11.3 points.
Chargers ATS: 7-3
What we know about the Chargers: The Bolts have lost two games outright at home but are a perfect 5-0 ATS in those contests (four of those five games have been decided by six of fewer points).
Cardinals ATS: 5-6
What we know about the Cardinals: Arizona enters this week on short rest, and that means one of two outcomes: Cover and over or no cover and under. That may sound simple, but it's held for each of their past six games played on a short workweek.
Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Saints ATS: 4-7
What we know about the Saints: The Saints have yet to cover a road game, failing to cover by an average of 7.3 points in the process.
49ers ATS: 5-5
What we know about the 49ers: Like the home team this week? Back them. Three of San Francisco's four home games have been decided by at least 15 points.
Los Angeles Rams at Kansas City Chiefs (-14.5, 44)
Rams ATS: 2-7-1
What we know about the Rams: It's been over a month since the Rams covered a spread and just shy of 11 months since they covered a regular season game that went over the total.
Chiefs ATS: 4-6
What we know about the Chiefs: Four ATS losses and four unders in Kansas City's five home games, but at least the cover (barely) came in their most recent home game -- a 27-17 win over the Jaguars in Week 10 as 9.5-point favorites.
Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles (-7, 46.5)
Packers ATS: 4-7
What we know about the Packers: The Packers have yet to have extended rest for a game until this weekend. Green Bay has covered five straight such games, and over tickets have cashed in four of those instances.
Eagles ATS: 5-5
What we know about the Eagles: The ugly loss to the Commanders is fresh in our minds as the most recent home game, but that game did go over the total, something each of Philadelphia's past four games in front of its faithful fans has done.
Monday, 8:15 p.m
Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5, 39)
Steelers ATS: 4-5-1
What we know about the Steelers: Vegas knows how to handicap the Steelers on the road on Monday night. Each of Pittsburgh's past seven games in such a spot saw the total finish within five points of the projection.
Colts ATS: 5-6
What we know about the Colts: For the first time since Week 5, the Colts covered a game that went under the total in Week 11.