NFL Week 14 Upset Alert: Home Sweet… Nope!

When is a favorite not a favorite? When the home-field advantage gets involved. Traditionally, the best sportsbooks have set the NFL home-field advantage at about three points. That means that whatever the expected point spread between two teams would be on a neutral field, they’ll swing an extra three points in the home team’s favor. Actually, data shows it is closer to 2.8 points, and it’s gone down over time, but since we deal in half points, it’s essentially three.

So if, on paper, the Bills were favored by seven over the Browns, but the game was in Buffalo, the line would be Bills by 10. And if it were in Cleveland, the line would be Bills by four, with the home team getting an extra three points.

That means, if a home team is listed as a favorite by fewer than three points, oddsmakers actually think the visitors are the better team, and the favorite/underdog status has flipped solely due to home field.

This matters late in a season for a number of reasons: Weather is growing colder and the holiday season is a busy time. Fans of a home team that’s been struggling may decide to stay home, or take care of December obligations, rather than spend the day watching their team lose. So the home crowd may be smaller and less enthused, eroding that advantage.

So we look at some teams favored by the grace of the home-field advantage in this week’s upset alert.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions

Sunday, December 11, 2022 – 01:00 PM EST at Ford Field

Teams Analysis

This is a bit of a surprise. Even with the home field in their favor, the Lions have the look of an underdog, but they are favored by two points, meaning oddsmakers have the Vikings as better by a point on the home field. The moneyline odds are closer but you can still get the Vikings as a dog.

Minnesota is 10-2, has won two straight and nine of 10. Detroit is in second place in the division at 5-7, and a win this week will clinch the NFC North for the Vikings. The game matches up the two worst defenses in the league on a yardage basis, although the Lions are worse at scoring defense, ranking dead last in the NFL, while the Vikings are 23rd.

Minnesota has three defensive starters on this week’s injury report in Harrison Smith, Patrick Peterson, and Danielle Hunter, but they may get back cornerback Cameron Dantzler.

The Pick

Look for the Vikings to win a shootout for your NFL picks. They have the more reliable set of offensive weapons in a game that has plenty on both sides.

NFL Pick: Vikings ML (+105) at Caesars Sportsbook

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, December 11, 2022 – 01:00 PM EST at Acrisure Stadium

Teams Analysis

It’s a rivalry game between two AFC South foes. The Ravens are tied for the division lead at 8-4, while the Steelers are tied for last at 5-7. Yet Pittsburgh is listed as the 2.5-point favorite at the NFL odds, thanks to playing in the Steel City.

The Steelers have won three of their last four and are putting together a nice late-season run. Baltimore has won five of six, but the offense has shown signs of sputtering, as the Ravens managed just 13 points against the Panthers three weeks ago and 10 against the Broncos last week.

There’s a strong chance that the Ravens will be without dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson this week, which is the main driver of the tight odds. He sprained a knee ligament and is expected to miss one to three weeks, although coach John Harbaugh declared him day-to-day.

Of course, Pittsburgh’s defense may not be in position to fully capitalize on that advantage, since their best player on that side of the ball, T.J. Watt, may also miss the game. He has a partially torn pectoral muscle and injured ribs and has been limited in practice.

The Pick

The difference may be the Ravens’ defense. Baltimore won both of those low-scoring games in its last three outings thanks to a defense that’s held three of the last four opponents under 20 and two of the last three without a touchdown.

It’s doubtful that up-and-down rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett will solve that puzzle.

NFL Pick: Ravens (+120) at Bet365