Lucky Week 13 rings in December on the NFL’s schedule this week as postseason berths remain up for grabs and divisional titles are still available for teams making their second half playoff push. One slip up for those hoping to host a playoff game could mean an unwanted road trip in January or worse, a long trip home for the winter. With that, every team and fan knows that every game counts in the NFL, and with only a handful left, every win is even more valuable. Here, as we turn to the last page of the 2021 calendar, are my previews and predictions for Week thirteen in the NFL.
Dallas (7-4) at New Orleans (5-6): Both of these NFC team come off Thanksgiving Day home losses with the traveling Cowboys making their trip for this game without head coach Mike McCarthy, who tested positive for Covid earlier this week. Thanks to a Dallas two-game losing streak during Thanksgiving week and a three-game winning streak posted by Washington, the Cowboys are slowly losing their firm grip on the NFC East while New Orleans is one of four NFC teams at 5-6 and in the mix for the seventh playoff seed. The Cowboys’ season may rest on the health of wide receivers CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper, both who have missed time in recent weeks, making it difficult for QB Dak Prescott to throw the ball and Ezekiel Elliott to run the ball effectively. It will probably be a game-day announcement on if Lamb and Cooper return to the lineup, making this game difficult to predict. New Orleans is a 4.5-point home underdog against Dallas, and with both teams struggling on offense, seeing either of these teams break the 21-point barrier will be a mild surprise. The public likes Dallas because, well, they are the Cowboys; but I think New Orleans knows it is put up or shut up time this week, so I am taking the Saints +4.5.
Arizona (9-2) at Chicago (4-7): The first thing I did before checking the line on this game was to look up the weekend forecast in the Windy City to see what the Cardinals would be up against. Early in the week they are seeing temps in the low 40s at kickoff with a chance of some rain as the game is played, which means that Arizona’s biggest opponent, Mother Nature, may be held in check on Sunday afternoon. The Cardinals are a perfect 6-0 on the road this season, and this trip to Chicago may be another notch on their belt as they make the trip as a 7.5-point favorite and the public taking them by an 8-to-1 margin. Arizona knows Green Bay is on their bye and a loss would slide them out of the top spot in the NFC, so unless Mother Nature finds a Bears fan to give her a ticket, I expect the Cardinals (-7.5) to fly high over the Windy City and get a win.
Indianapolis (6-6) at Houston (2-9): The Colts are still on the outside of the playoff picture looking in heading into December; but with a game in Houston before their bye week, their chances of improving their position in the AFC are high in this game. The Texans struggled to stop the Jets last week and lost a game against the team that has struggled to find their own bench at time on offense, let alone the end zone. That is why Indy heads to H-Town as a 9-point favorite in this AFC South game with early bettors willing to lay the wood in order to get the cash. If Houston can’t beat the Jets on their home field, a team with little talent, facing Jonathan Taylor in the Colts’ backfield spells disaster for the Texans this week; so, taking Indianapolis -9 is the only play here.
LA Chargers (6-5) at Cincinnati (7-4): This is a matchup of two of the AFC’s current Wild Card holders, with the Chargers heading to Cincy as the seventh seed and the Bengals as the fifth seed. LA’s QB Justin Herbert is having an up and down season, thus the near .500 record this year. The Bengals are probably a year ahead of schedule in their rebuilding process thanks to their QB Joe Burrow; however, the Heisman Trophy winner from LSU has had a few bad games, which is why Cincy is currently a Wild-Card team and not leading the AFC North. Oddsmakers and computers are in a battle over this game since the betting line is Cincinnati -3; but the hard drives see a two-score win for the hosting Bengals with those laying down their money taking the Cats and the Over in a big way. I think the Chargers are what we though the Bengals were going to be this year, and Cincy is what many felt LA would be … as a result, the hometown team should prevail and giving up just a field goal is easy to do. Cincinnati -3 to win and cover in this AFC showdown.
Minnesota (5-6) at Detroit (0-10-1): Yes, believe it or not, this NFC North game does have some playoff implications for the Vikings since, as one of those teams at 5-6, they are the first team out of the postseason behind Washington. Those playoff dreams could be bolstered this weekend with a win over the Lions, returning to .500 and seeing where they are by the end of play. Oddsmakers are making bettors give up 7-points on the road with Minnesota, that, while the computers see a close game and Detroit battling for their first win at home. The Vikings will be without RB Dalvin Cook, who suffered a torn labrum in his last game, putting more pressure on QB Kirk Cousins, who is having a hard time getting along with his WRs in recent weeks. The Lions’ defense is holding the opposition under 20 points often this year and these teams played to a 19-17 outcome in mid-October. That, along with the Vikings needing Kirk Cousins to perform makes me run, not walk away from Minnesota in this game. Taking the Detroit Lions +7 to keep in close again.
NY Giants (4-7) at Miami (5-7): With Old Man Winter crashing many people’s Thanksgiving Day weekend in the New York Tri-State area, the Giants are not the only ones heading to South Beach to being December. Big Blue will probably be well represented when they take on the suddenly streaking Dolphins, winners of four in a row and closer to a playoff berth than many expected them to be at the start of October. Oddsmakers are weary of what the Giants may do in this game, which is why the Dolphins are just a 3-point home favorite; something that flies in the face of the computers, who see an easy victory for the Fish in this game. I am siding with the hard drives here since the Giants’ defense often makes mistakes and there is no one on their side of the ball who can control Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa if he chooses to run for a few first downs. Unless New York can win the turnover battle and give their offense some short fields; Miami is the play here, so I am taking the Dolphins -3 to win and run their hot streak to five games by Sunday night.
Philadelphia (5-7) at NY Jets (3-8): The Eagles’ lackluster performance against the Giants last week hurt their playoff hopes as they enter December a half game behind four teams for the final NFC Wild-Card berth. The Jets hurt their chances of picking high in the draft after defeating the Texans last week in their first road win of the season as Zach Wilson posted a W in Texas. Despite last week’s poor showing, Philly is a 6.5-point road favorite this week with the computers agreeing with the bettors, who have the Jets falling by a 3-to-2 margin in early wagering. New York’s defense has been stout with head coach Robert Salah coaching up his side of the ball better than the offense this season. This does not bode well for an Eagles’ team that had a hard time finding the MetLife Stadium end zone last weekend and is likely to do so again this week. That’s why I am taking the New York Jets +6.5 points to cover if not win the game outright.
Tampa Bay (8-3) at Atlanta (5-6): Yes, the Falcons are one of those six-loss NFC teams vying for a Wild-Card spot entering December; and this week they will need to go through the reigning Super Bowl champs in order to reach .500 and become a real playoff contender. It took all that Tom Brady and the Bucs’ offense had last week to defeat the Colts in a road shootout; but this week Atlanta isn’t expected to pose as much of a threat with the ball in Matt Ryan’s hands. That’s why the Falcons are an 11-point home underdog this week with three bettors in four willing to give up the two scores and are taking Tampa Bay to move into a tie with idle Green Bay in the NFC playoff standings. This win will also help the Bucs move one game closer to clinching the NFC South, something they didn’t need before their Super Bowl championship run began last season; but will help them this year a great deal. Taking the Buccaneers -11 to win and cover.
Jacksonville (2-9) at LA Rams (7-4): The all-in Rams have not won a game since picking up Odell Beckham, Jr. and trading for Von Miller, having dropped three straight games, pushing them two games south of the Cardinals and within one game of the third-place 49ers in the NFC West. This week, however, the schedule makers smiled on Matthew Stafford and his mystery injury by flying in the Jaguars into town for a little scrimmage to help Sean McVay feel like an offensive genius again. The problem with the Rams is that everyone knows that they want to run on offense and their head coach has not adjusted with the times yet; and if Stafford is hurt as Fox Sports’ Troy Aikman hinted recently, then LA’s offensive options are even more limited. Nevertheless, the only true question here is will the Jags cover the 13-point spread they are facing against the Rams; and I worry for the physical safety of Jacksonville’s QB Trevor Lawrence, but one thing LA’s defense has proven is they can be bullies when they are ahead, and they will be leading in this game. Taking the LA Rams -13 to win and cover, and at least for one week, right their ship.
Washington (5-6) at Las Vegas (6-5): The last time we saw the Raiders, the will stealing a victory on Thanksgiving in Dallas, while Washington ran their winning streak to three games on Monday night with a home win against Seattle. So much for competitive balance as Washington needs to fly to The Strip on a short week and play a team with three more days off since their last game. Despite the scheduling advantage, the Silver and Black are only a 2.5-point home favorite in this game, must less than the touchdown advantage the spreadsheets see the Raiders having Sunday. The four AFC West teams are all in the top nine record wise, with the Las Vegas tied with the Chargers and Broncos at 6-5 all sitting on that final playoff berth. I really think the Raiders turned the corner with their Thanksgiving Day win against the Cowboys, and I am with the three-quarters of the bettors in this game who are taking Las Vegas -2.5 to win and cover in a close game.
Baltimore (8-3) at Pittsburgh (5-5-1): Normally this AFC North blood feud is an NBC flex game this late in the season; but the network probably ran the other way after the Steelers posted a tie against the Lions and the Ravens are playing must closer games than their record indicates. It is, however, almost as sweet to mess up a rival’s season by handing them a loss than it is to win yourself, and when you have a chance to do both at the same time, as Pittsburgh can do here, all bets are off. That doesn’t mean that oddsmakers still don’t like Baltimore, who are a 4.5-point road favorite in this divisional matchup with four-in-five bettors giving up on the Steelers and taking the Ravens this week. As much as I think Pittsburgh’s season is done, seeing those purple jerseys in Heinz Field will, for whatever it might be worth, fire them up one more time this season, and maybe enough to keep this game close. Baltimore has played close games all year and pulled most of them out of the fire despite shaky play from QB Lamar Jackson. If the Ravens want to impress me and show they are worthy of the top seed in the AFC Playoffs, they need to win this game with style points as well as points on the scoreboard. Baltimore -4.5 to do just that this week.
San Francisco (6-5) at Seattle (3-8): The disaster that is the Seahawks season is forced to play another primetime game after falling short in Washington Monday night. This time it is their NFC West rivals from Northern California who are placing a house call. The ‘Niners are looking to hold on or even improve their sixth seed in the conference’s playoff picture in this game while also looking to add another page on Seattle’s miserable season. This is another week when the hosting Seahawks are a home underdog, getting 3.5-points and the public saying, “Yes, please give us San Francisco” in this game. In a league where lost seasons happen every year for a few teams, 2021 is Seattle’s lost season as the 49ers win and cover in this game.
Denver (6-5) at Kansas City (7-4): Has every primetime game Kansas City played this year been at home? It sure feels like it to me, and in this game, first place in the AFC West is on the line as the Broncos make an appearance on Sunday Night Football. Denver is in a three-way tie for second in their division, with everyone one game behind KC for the AFC West lead, making this divisional matchup a major game for many teams. The Broncos are getting 10-points on the road, but the bettors like seeing the double-digits and are jumping on the number nearly as often as they are laying it. That doesn’t mean Denver fans should believe a win is coming Sunday night, just that maybe the Broncos can keep things close. With a limited offense, KC’s defense should be able to play the field position game and give their offense some short field to pepper the scoreboard with points most of the night. Yes, ten is a big number, but under the lights, at home and knowing that a win keeps them in first play, it is not too much to ask for in this spot. KC -10 to win/cover.
New England (8-4) at Buffalo (7-4): The AFC East’s top two teams go primetime on Monday night as the NFL’s hottest team visits the Bills in their first of two meetings over the next three weeks. The Patriots head to Western New York on a league-high six-game winning streak, while Buffalo has not been able to keep up, allowing New England to take a half game lead in the division. The oddsmakers and computers are in lockstep as each sees a close game, and despite how each team is entering this game, are still favoring Buffalo with the token 2.5-point home point spread. Nearly four out of five early wagerers are taking those 2.5 points with the Patriots, perhaps noticing that New England is 5-0 on the road this season. Despite their season so far, this is a redemption game for Buffalo, needing to let the rest of the NFL know they are the best team in the division and perhaps the conference … for New England, with a rookie QB in Mac Jones, they are exceeding expectation in a big way already, and a team that believes in themselves and the system can be very dangerous this time of year. With that said, the Bills need this game more and will be at home, so I am taking Buffalo -2.5 to win a close one and slide back into the AFC East lead.
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NFL Week Thirteen Previews And Predictions | TooAthletic.com