Home NFL N.F.L. Week 13 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread – The New York Times

N.F.L. Week 13 Predictions: Our Picks Against the Spread – The New York Times

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There are quite a few interesting games this week, but nothing can compare to the fireworks expected when Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens offense face off against Nick Bosa and the San Francisco 49ers’ defense. That game should get Sunday started off with a bang, and the action can continue unabated all day and night, with the New England Patriots traveling to Houston to face the Texans in a Sunday Night Football game with upset potential.

Here is a look at N.F.L. Week 13, with all picks made against the point spread.

Last week’s record: 9-5

Overall record: 94-80-2

49ers at Ravens, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Ravens -6 | Total: 46.5

As the 49ers (10-1) got off to a ridiculously hot start, they knew this brutal stretch of games was looming. Facing Green Bay, Baltimore and New Orleans in consecutive weeks, with its division rival Seattle (9-2) staying close, means that any misstep from San Francisco could lead to a change at the top of the N.F.C. West.

The 49ers started their three-game trial by fire in style, crushing the Packers, 37-8, but now they face a far more difficult task in trying to slow down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens (9-2).

Predicting how teams will fare against Jackson’s offense is fairly impossible, as no other teams play anything like Baltimore. Jackson rushes more than any modern quarterback, which is a problem for defenses in and of itself, but he has also been terrifically efficient as a passer. Over his last three games, he has thrown 12 touchdown passes and only 14 incomplete passes. He has not thrown an interception since Week 5, and his team has produced more than 400 yards of offense in six of its 11 games.

San Francisco would seem like the ideal opponent to slow Jackson considering the 49ers’ primary strength — its defensive line. But if there is a weakness to that star-studded group, it is the fact that it focuses its pressure in the interior, which allows mobile quarterbacks to run their way out of broken plays fairly easily. Arizona’s Kyler Murray ran for a combined 101 yards in two surprisingly close games against San Francisco, and Seattle’s Russell Wilson burned the 49ers for 53 yards (including a key 18-yard scramble in overtime that helped set up a game-winning field goal).

Baltimore was dealt a fairly serious blow to its running game when center Matt Skura was lost for the season with a knee injury. Still, it seems preordained that there will be a series of plays in which San Francisco blankets Baltimore’s receivers, creates a ton of interior pressure, and still fails to keep Jackson from finding his way to the edge.

San Francisco can do its fair share of scoring as well, especially with tight end George Kittle, and wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel all likely to play despite lingering injuries. But while this game has the feeling of a Super Bowl preview, the relative strengths of these teams seem to heavily favor the Ravens at home. Pick: Ravens -6

Browns at Steelers, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Browns -2 | Total: 39.5

Much will be made of the animosity between these teams, but it is worth remembering that the only central figure from the Week 11 melee expected to play in this game is Pittsburgh’s Larry Ogunjobi. Maurkice Pouncey and Myles Garrett are still suspended, and Mason Rudolph has been benched in favor of Devlin Hodges, so the lingering effects of the incident should be rather muted compared with what they could have been had Rudolph and Garrett shared the field once again.

In terms of the players who will actually play, things have been trending in a far better direction for the Browns (5-6) than for the Steelers (6-5). Cleveland has won three straight games and has cleaned up its inefficient offense quite a bit along the way. Pittsburgh is always a threat to force turnovers, especially with safety Minkah Fitzpatrick hunting for errant passes in the middle of the field. The Steelers, in contrast, have been bad enough on offense that they would need Fitzpatrick to run some of those interceptions back for touchdowns to make them a dangerous team. Pick: Browns -2

Patriots at Texans, 8:20 p.m., NBC

Line: Patriots -3 | Total: 45

Having the N.F.L.’s stingiest scoring defense has paid fairly huge dividends for the Patriots (10-1), who are tied for the best record in the N.F.L. despite having an offense that seems to regress a bit more each week. But even New England’s defensive credentials were somewhat in doubt for its first 10 games, as it only faced two teams with winning records (and lost one of those games, 37-20). Any doubt that existed, however, evaporated last week when the Patriots completely shut down the high-powered Dallas offense in a 13-9 win. That game simultaneously solidified New England’s defensive reputation while emphasizing its offensive shortcomings.

The Texans (7-4) are not as explosive as Dallas, and not as good over all as Baltimore, but they represent a fairly stiff road test for the Patriots. Barring New England’s offense figuring out what has gone wrong, this game has upset potential. Pick: Texans +3

Titans at Colts, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Colts -2.5 | Total: 43.5

It seemed like an odd move at the time, but when the Titans (6-5) promoted Ryan Tannehill to starting quarterback, things immediately turned around for Tennessee. The team is 4-1 with Tannehill under center, and the last two weeks have seen the Titans find the right mix of a power running game led by Derrick Henry and an efficient passing game by Tannehill, which has resulted in a whopping 77 points. The team’s defense has not appeared to be nearly as impressive, but there are underlying indicators that suggest that the Titans have it in them to defend the run, which could be a problem for a Colts team (6-5) that relies so heavily on its ability to grind games out on the ground. Pick: Titans +2.5

Raiders at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Chiefs -10 | Total: 51.5

In the second year of Coach Jon Gruden’s comeback, it is hard to deny that the Raiders (6-5) have improved a great deal, even after accounting for last week’s shellacking by the Jets. The improvement can be traced back to the draft, where Oakland managed to snag five players (Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs, Maxx Crosby, Foster Moreau and Hunter Renfrow) who all immediately became huge contributors.

If there is one notable weakness, however, it is the defense’s propensity for allowing big plays, with Oakland having allowed an N.F.L.-high 55 plays that went for 20 or more yards. Kansas City’s ultrafast wide receiver Tyreek Hill is expected to be back for the Chiefs (7-4) this week, so that number could grow by quite a few.

That big-play potential should make Kansas City a big favorite at home. But when considering the 10-point spread, it is worth noting that the Chiefs have outscored an opponent by 10 or more points only once in the nine games they have played since beating Oakland, 28-10, in Week 2. Pick: Raiders +10

Packers at Giants, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Packers -6.5 | Total: 45

With losses in two of their last three games, including a particularly ugly one against San Francisco, the Packers (8-3) have established that they are good but not great. They appear to be almost assured of a playoff spot, and with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback they will always be dangerous, but right now they are simply not on the same level as San Francisco, Seattle or New England, regardless of their impressive record. That may seem like a pessimistic assessment, but last year at this point they were 4-6-1 on the way to a 6-9-1 finish, so the improvement in Year 1 under Coach Matt LaFleur has been palpable. A win over the Giants (2-9) would give Green Bay a 96 percent chance of making the playoffs, and for now that will simply have to be enough. Pick: Packers -6.5

Eagles at Dolphins, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Eagles -10 | Total: 45

The playoffs seem like a remote possibility for the Eagles (5-6), even accounting for their soft upcoming schedule. They are a game below .500, they trail Dallas by half a game in the N.F.C. East, and they have scored a total of 19 points over the last two weeks. Several key players on offense are nursing injuries, which certainly doesn’t help, but they can at least stay alive with a win over the Dolphins (2-9), which according to The Upshot would result in Philadelphia having a 44 percent chance of qualifying for postseason play. Winning certainly seems attainable, but winning by 10 would require a lot more offensive production than the Eagles have shown over their last three games. Pick: Dolphins +10

Buccaneers at Jaguars, 1 p.m., Fox

Line: Buccaneers -1 | Total: 48

The Buccaneers (4-7) only gave up 280 passing yards in last week’s win over Atlanta. That may seem like a lot, but Tampa Bay has given up 300 or more six times this season (and allowed 490 against the Rams in Week 4). Going on the road to face the Jaguars (4-7) presents Tampa Bay with an interesting challenge: The Buccaneers’ front seven is more than capable of shutting down running back Leonard Fournette, but its secondary, even after last week’s minor success, seems ripe to be shredded by Nick Foles, who should be rounding into form in his third game back from injury. Pick: Jaguars +1

Rams at Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., Fox

Line: Rams -3 | Total: 47.5

The Rams (6-5) bottomed out last week. They have struggled for much of this season, looking like a shell of the team that played in the Super Bowl in February, but none of their previous losses could compare to the embarrassment of having Lamar Jackson and the Ravens beat them, 45-6, at home. The Cardinals (3-7-1), on the other hand, seem to have an upward trajectory, even amid a four-game losing streak. Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense has shown repeatedly that it can put a healthy amount of points on the board, and Arizona’s last three losses (two to San Francisco and one to Tampa Bay) have come at a total margin of 16 points. On talent the Rams should be expected to win, even on the road, but the same was true in several of their recent losses. Pick: Cardinals +3

Jets at Bengals, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Jets -3.5 | Total: 41

With quarterback Sam Darnold hitting his stride (against fairly weak competition), the Jets (4-7) have scored 102 points over their three-game win streak. The Bengals (0-11) have only scored 157 this entire season. Add in the Jets’ defense having suddenly started to produce turnovers (five in the past three games) and Cincinnati seems destined to continue its losing streak. Pick: Jets -3.5

Chargers at Broncos, 4:25 p.m., CBS

Line: Chargers -2.5 | Total: 39

The Chargers (4-7) have lost two in a row, but more important is how they lost. Philip Rivers essentially handed the Chiefs and the Raiders wins by throwing an outrageous seven interceptions combined in those two games (while having a few more erased by penalties). Los Angeles has a solid defense and two strong running backs, but there is little the team can do when Rivers short-circuits, forcing his defense back out onto the field. The Broncos (3-8) are not the toughest opponent and the Chargers could get a huge boost on defense this week from the expected return of safety Derwin James. If Rivers can stop shooting himself in the foot, they could come away with a win on the road. Pick: Chargers -2.5

Redskins at Panthers, 1 p.m., CBS

Line: Panthers -10 | Total: 40

The Redskins (2-9) were set up with nearly ideal conditions for a win last week — the game was at home and the Detroit Lions are awful — and they delivered. It was not the kind of win that convinces you a team turned a corner as much as a case of relatively few games ending in ties. This week they are on the road to face the Panthers (5-6), a team that is better than them in nearly every way. Covering the point spread is about as much as Washington can hope for. Pick: Redskins +10

Vikings at Seahawks, 8:15 p.m., ESPN

Line: Seahawks -3 | Total: 50

Considering the amount of attention San Francisco has received this season, you would think the Seahawks (9-2) were much farther out of the race for the N.F.C. West. The Seahawks won an overtime thriller against the 49ers two weeks ago and followed it up with a bruising win over Philadelphia. With a win over the Vikings (8-3), the Seahawks would keep the screws to San Francisco even if the 49ers find a way to beat Baltimore.

The only thing Seattle can control is how well it plays against Minnesota. Both teams feature balanced offenses which can run and throw with ease. In a sharp turn from previous seasons, Seattle does not have a defense that can claim to be nearly as strong as Minnesota’s.

The Seahawks’ bend-don’t-break approach has largely worked, thanks mostly to a brilliant season by quarterback Russell Wilson, who has made the opponents’ score largely irrelevant. Playing at home in prime time, it seems like that will once again be the recipe for success, especially once you factor in Minnesota’s historical issues with outdoor road games. Pick: Seahawks -3

For the N.F.L.’s three Thanksgiving games, we picked Bears -3.5, Cowboys -6.5 and Falcons +7. Chicago took care of business, getting a 90-yard go-ahead drive in the final three minutes from Mitchell Trubisky, but the faith in both Dallas and Atlanta was unwarranted. The Cowboys lost handily to Buffalo at home, 26-15, and Coach Jason Garrett got the dreaded vote of confidence from team owner Jerry Jones. In the night game, the Falcons kept things interesting against the New Orleans Saints by recovering two onside kicks in the fourth quarter. But Atlanta was ultimately undone by its lack of pass protection, with quarterback Matt Ryan enduring nine sacks and committing three turnovers. Thanks to the 26-18 victory, the Saints (10-2) clinched their third consecutive N.F.C. South division title.

A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Colts -2.5, for example, means that Indianapolis must beat the Titans by at least three points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.

All times are Eastern.

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