NFL Week 12 betting market report: How bettors perceived all 32 teams
Closing lines are the best way to take the pulse of the betting market. They show how teams are viewed by entities willing to back their opinions with money. However, using only the closing line of a point spread to analyze results can be wildly misleading.
Very few people should have bet the Bills at +2.5 considering Buffalo was available all week at +3.5 and +3, and only mere minutes before the game did the line move to Eagles -2.5. So when you see someone post a GIF about Buffalo bettors losing on +2.5 as the Bills failed to cover the closing line, don't pour one out for them. Many Bills bettors were likely happy holding a +3.5 ticket.
How ratings work
Every week, we'll look at what the betting market thinks of each team based on the closing lines from that week's games. The "rating" column is an educated guess at the oddsmakers' rating to create a point spread, with the specific number being the percentage chance that the team beats an average opponent on a neutral field. Ratings aren't rankings. The closing line is considered a better reflection of a team's value than one game.
The range column is my evaluation of what each team is capable of. It's our job as handicappers to determine where, within its range, a team will play based on factors like on-field matchups and roster/injury issues. The earlier it is in the season, the wider the range a team may have.
Market ratings and our range
If a team drifts to the high side of its range, it's probably time to fade it. When, like the 49ers, a team pushes historic heights of 80/100 - reserved for the best regular-season teams of all time (2007 Patriots, 2013 Broncos, etc.) - you definitely should be skeptical. San Francisco covered easily in Seattle and now finds itself a road favorite in Philadelphia in Week 13.
The Cowboys are outpacing market expectations differently. Futures positions on Dallas are gaining equity by the week, as no spread seems too high with a 127-37 scoring margin against bottom-tier teams in the Cowboys' last three games. This week's question is whether the Seahawks should be lumped in with the Giants, Panthers and Commanders.
A pretty significant gap is developing between the top nine teams in the league and the rest. That should make for larger point spreads in the wild-card round. The alarming part for Bills fans is that Buffalo's the only one of those teams in grave danger of missing the playoffs. The Bills were expected to play to the top end of their range in Philadelphia. They delivered, but still came up short thanks to a 59-yard field goal from Jake Elliott.
It's always something with the Chargers. Without Mike Williams, Joey Bosa, and Corey Linsley, L.A. lacks upside, and each week, the roulette wheel of failure stops on some element of play - defense, the running game, turnovers, dropped passes, negative fourth-down variance - making the Chargers no better than an average team.
As we discussed regarding the Bears on Monday night, the Packers are also getting back to where they were rated coming into the season, as Jordan Love has been excellent in his last three games. Green Bay's rise will be put to the test as the Chiefs visit Lambeau. Chicago and Minnesota both got bumps after close Week 11 losses and then subjected everyone to ... whatever that was in Week 12's prime-time finale.
The Falcons had the second-biggest drop due to the well-known rule that if you lose to the Cardinals, you plummet in the market. Credit the low rating or the Saints going 0/5 in the red zone with a fumble and a pick-6, but Atlanta snapped its losing streak.
Of course, the Joe Burrow-less Bengals took the biggest tumble. Despite a good record, the Steelers are widely considered a below-average team. Otherwise, they wouldn't have fired their offensive coordinator. Still, the market thought so little of Cincinnati that the Bengals were home underdogs of nearly a field goal to Pittsburgh - and they didn't do anything to disprove that evaluation, either.
If a team drifts to the low side of its range, it's probably time to hold your nose and bet it. The Giants were again rated below our artificial floor of 20/100 as home underdogs of over a field goal, but they've now covered and won outright in back-to-back games. We'll see what the market says about New York when the Giants return from their Week 13 bye.
Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.