Week 13 Picks

Posted: 11/30/2014 by levcohen in Football

Even though today is a slightly lighter slate of games given that six teams already played on Thanksgiving, we have a great slate of games today. We’re lucky in that it seems that most of the bad teams are playing each other this week. The Giants are playing the Jaguars, the Raiders are playing the Rams, the Titans are playing the Texans, and the Panthers are playing the Vikings. That’s eight of the 12 worst teams in football (Washington, Chicago, Jets, Bucs are the others), and none of them are playing against a good team this week. That means, of course, that we are set to have some games between two teams fighting for the playoffs. The marquee matchup, of course, is Patriots-Packers in Green Bay. Dubbed by many as the Super Bowl preview, both teams have to be considered favorites to win the top seed in their respective conferences. It’s a game between Rodgers and Brady, weapons vs. weapons, etc. It could also help determine who wins homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and who eventually goes to the Super Bowl in Glendale. So yeah, it’s important. Also important are games between Denver and Kansas City, Arizona and Atlanta, New Orleans and Pittsburgh, San Diego and Baltimore, and Cleveland and Buffalo. The loser of the final two games will have a really tough time making the playoffs, while the Broncos can basically lock up the AFC West and come a step closer to clinching a BYE with a win over the Chiefs. The Cards and Falcons are both atop their divisions, even though one is 9-2 and the other 4-7. It’s a particularly important weekend in the AFC, where seven teams outside the AFC South are either 6-5 or 7-4 and only one (at most) will win its division. That means the wild card race is extremely muddled, and with the aforementioned head-to-head matchups coming up today, we should get some clarity. On to the picks.
*= upset pick

Washington Redskins (3-8, 4-7) at Indianapolis Colts (7-4, 8-3):- Lock of the Week
Spread: Colts favored by 8.5
Over/under: 50
My prediction: Yeah, I’m not picking the trainwreck that is the Washington Redskins here. I picked them against the spread last week because they were playing the 49ers, but this week they play a more explosive Colts team who has won the three games they’ve been favored in 6+ points in by an average of 24 points. Colts win 31-14.
Colts cover
Under

Tennessee Titans (2-9, 3-7-1) at Houston Texans (5-6, 6-5):
Spread: Texans favored by 7
Over/under: 43
My prediction: Do I pick Ryan Fitzpatrick or a terrible Titans team? This is the question I’m faced with, and I’m going to pick the Texans to win but the Titans to cover. Not planning on watching a second of this game, though. Texans win 21-16.
Titans cover
Under

Cleveland Browns (7-4, 6-3-2) at Buffalo Bills (6-5, 5-6):*
Spread: Bills favored by 3.5
Over/under: 41.5
My prediction: This is interesting because it’s a matchup between two of this season’s biggest overachievers. I’ve been picking against both teams pretty much all season, and I’m torn about which to pick against this week. I normally like taking the home team, and have thought in the past that the Bills have a pretty decent homefield advantage. But they are just 2-3 at home this year, and a frightening 1-4 against the spread. It’s sad that I have to pick Brian Hoyer, but pick Hoyer I will. Browns win 23-16.
Browns cover
Under

San Diego Chargers (7-4, 5-6) at Baltimore Ravens (7-4, 6-4-1):
Spread: Ravens favored by 6.5
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: This is the classic case of an inflated spread. The Ravens are coming off back to back wins over the Titans (comfortably) and Saints (by seven, but still fairly comfortable), while the Chargers lost three straight and then beat the Raiders by seven and the Rams by three, both at home. The Chargers are better than they’ve played in the past five games, but I’m losing patience with a team that covered its first five and hasn’t covered any of its past six. I think this game comes down to the wire, with the Ravens winning it at the end because they really are good at home. Ravens win 27-23
Chargers cover
Over

New York Giants (3-8, 4-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10, 2-8-1):
Spread: Giants favored by 2.5
Over/under: 44
My prediction: The Giants are at a low point right now, but I don’t think they will lose to the Jaguars. That’s not to say I would be shocked if they did, because they are a really bad team. Just not as bad as Jacksonville. Another game nobody should be watching. Giants win 28-17.
Giants cover
Over

Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1, 6-4-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9, 4-7):
Spread: Bengals favored by 5
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: As I’ve mentioned before, the AFC North has dominated the NFC South this season. In a matchup between the leaders of the AFC North and the worst of the NFC South, I don’t think we’ll see anything different. In fact, I’m surprised the line is only five points. Yes, the Bengals have had some low points, with the Thursday Night Football game against the Browns chief among them. But the Buccaneers are 0-5 against the spread at home, and I expect that to become 0-6 after this week. Bengals win 27-14.
Bengals cover
Under

Oakland Raiders (1-10, 6-5) at St. Louis Rams (4-7, 5-6):*
Spread: Rams favored by 6
Over/under: 42
My prediction: Riding the Raider train! No, I don’t think the Raiders are extremely likely to win this game, but I’m going to pick them to win anyway. It would be fun if they won their second straight, and they aren’t exactly playing a powerhouse in St. Louis. The Rams were destroyed by the Vikings in their only game as a favorite, and are 0-4 against the spread in games in which they have been less than a four point underdog. Raiders win 20-17.
Raiders cover
Under

New Orleans Saints (4-7, 4-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4, 5-6):
Spread: Steelers favored by 4
Over/under: 55
My prediction: Yup, I’m picking the team that has lost three straight home games against the team that has put up 124 points in its last four home games. I don’t have a great explanation. The Steelers have looked tremendous offensively at home and have seemingly gone back to the basics (get the ball to LeVeon Bell and Antonio Browns). Meanwhile, the Saints have struggled defensively and are only in the playoff race because they are in an all-time bad division. So why am I picking the Saints? I’m probably focusing on Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, and the Saints’ recent history more than I should be. I’ve changed my mind: there’s no rational reason to pick the Saints. Steelers win 34-31.
Saints cover
Over

Carolina Panthers (3-7-1, 6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (4-7, 6-5):
Spread: Vikings favored by 2.5
Over/under: 41
My prediction: Bleh. This is somehow a meaningful game for the 3-7-1 Panthers, who are just a half game out of first in the NFC South. So the Panthers could play with more urgency than the Vikings, who are out of the playoff race and have a bigger problem- Adrian Peterson- than this game on the horizon. But I don’t buy that, and I think the Vikings have played better this season. I’ll take the Vikings- hesitantly- 24-21.
Vikings cover
Over

Arizona Cardinals (9-2, 8-3) at Atlanta Falcons (4-7, 4-7):
Spread: Cardinals favored by 1.5
Over/under: 45
My prediction: Another surprisingly low spread. I guess people just aren’t sold on the Cardinals. I guess I’m not either, but I think they are a lot better than the Falcons. Whenever a 9-2 team is favored by less than a field goal over a 4-7 team, I’m going to jump on the 9-2 team. Cardinals win 31-24.
Cardinals cover
Over

New England Patriots (9-2, 7-4) at Green Bay Packers (8-3, 6-4-1):*
Spread: Packers favored by 2.5
Over/under: 57
My prediction: I’m picking the Patriots, because I think they are the better all-around team, because they’ve won seven straight, and especially because we know how well they play as underdogs. They’ve won their four games as underdogs by an average of 21.25 points. That’s incredible, and while I think this one is closer, it should have the same outcome. Patriots win 37-31.
Patriots cover
Over (somehow)

Denver Broncos (8-3, 5-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-4, 8-3):*
Spread: Chiefs favored by 1
Over/under: 49
My prediction: I’m surprised the Broncos are home underdogs here, as they were favored at home against the Chiefs by 13 points in week two. Yes, the Chiefs are more well-regarded now, but a 14 point swing? I think the Broncos are the better team, and they’ll win this one on the road. Broncos win 27-20.
Broncos cover
Under

Miami Dolphins (6-5, 7-4) at New York Jets (2-9, 2-8-1):
Spread: Dolphins favored by 7
Over/under: 42
My prediction: The Jets are a mess, while I think the Dolphins are better than their record and perhaps one of the seven best teams in football. I’m petrified of picking the Dolphins as seven point road dogs, but I’m going to do it. The Dolphins are out with a loss, while the Jets have no incentive to win this game. Dolphins win 28-10.
Dolphins cover
Under

Upset picks:
Browns over Bills
Raiders over Rams
Patriots over Packers
Broncos over Chiefs

Lock of the week:
Colts over Redskins

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