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Week Thirteen Picks

November 27th, 2019

I guess I can live with 10-4 straight up and 7-6-1 against the spread in week twelve. That was a tough slate of games.

And 120-55-1 (.685) straight up, 90-83-3 (.520) with the points for the season to date feels at least OK-ish.

And all of this means I’m on the verge of taking an outright beating over the last five weeks of the season.

Here’s what not to expect over the next five days.

Chicago (-2.5) at Detroit
You know what’s way more interesting than this game? Well, kinda everything. But especially turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and squash and cranberry sauce and gravy and … . Bears by a point. Something along the lines of 17-16 probably.

Buffalo (+7) at Dallas
This is the game of the day. The Bills are the better team. But I’m not sure they’re better by enough to overcome the difficulties of traveling on a short week. I expect an exciting game that ends in a narrow Cowboys victory. Dallas by three.

New Orleans (-7) at Atlanta
This should be a fun game to watch — if you’re a Saints fan. And a safe game to nap through for the rest of us. New Orleans clinches the NFC South title with a decisive road win. Saints by 21.

Green Bay (-6.5) at NY Giants
It looks like the difference between winning the NFC North title and falling to the conference six seed this season is going to be that the division champ gets to host the wild card team in the first round of the playoffs. That might not ultimately prove the difference between a one-and-done appearance and a second-round visit to New Orleans. But you definitely don’t want that game in Louisiana to be your second straight on the road. What does any of this have to do with this week 13 match? Just this: If the Packers win all of the games they should win over the last five weeks of the season, they can probably lose to the Vikings in Minnesota in week 16, which would mean splitting the season series, and still get to host the rubber match. I’m confident the Packers aren’t looking at this game in quite that context. But just the same, this is still one of those games they should win. And I suspect that’s just what they’ll do. Green Bay by six.

Washington (+10) at Carolina
The Panthers lose games because they don’t have a defense. But that type of weakness becomes a bit easier to manage when you host at team that doesn’t have an offense. Carolina by 13.

San Francisco (+6) at Baltimore
The NFL has to love the fact that the game of the week is crammed, apparently inextricably, into the mass of 1 p.m. Sunday games. The Ravens made a statement when they hosted the Patriots four weeks ago. Can they take down another top contender here? Probably. Though given that the 49ers are a good bit closer to full strength here than the Pats were in early November, it might prove a tougher statement to make. Ravens by three.

Tennessee (+2.5) at Indianapolis
It’s gonna be difficult for the team that loses this game to fight its way back into the race for the AFC six seed, let alone a division title. The winner, on the other hand, not only strengthens its spot in the wild card race, but can move back into a tie for the AFC South title if the Texans lose to the Patriots in the Sunday night game. The Titans are playing better football than the Colts right now, so I’m going with them. Tennessee by three.

Philadelphia (-9) at Miami
The number of games the Eagles can afford to lose over the final five weeks of this season is zero. The number of games the Eagles are going to lose over the final five weeks of this season is one. But it’s not this one. Not by a long shot. Philadelphia by 17.

Tampa Bay (+1) at Jacksonville
These are some seriously uneven football teams. I think the home team’s relative weaknesses line up comparatively well against the visiting team’s relative weaknesses. Jacksonville by four.

NY Jets (-3.5) at Cincinnati
The Jets may be riding a three-game winning streak, but that doesn’t make them a good football team. Fortunately for the Jets, you don’t have to be good to beat the Bengals. New Jersey by three.

Oakland (+9.5) at Kansas City
Nine and a half feels excessive in a game between division rivals. Plus, I think the Chiefs’ vulnerability to the run gives the Raiders an opportunity to make this an actual game. At least for a while. Kansas City by a touchdown.

LA Rams (-3) at Arizona
The Rams are done. The Cardinals are doner. Los Angeles by one.

LA Chargers (-2.5) at Denver
The Chargers are done. The Broncos are doner. But Denver’s taking this one just the same. Broncos by two.

Cleveland (-2) at Pittsburgh
The Browns are done. The Steelers are doner than they realize. But still not as done as the Browns. Pittsburgh by a field goal.

New England (-3) at Houston
I’m tempted to say I won’t know how to assess this matchup until I know which receivers the Patriots will have available to start. That’s mostly, you know, because it’s true. But it’s also true that the Patriots are winning with their defense this season. And it’s true that these are the big three predictive stats: passer rating differential, Patriots +18.6; scoring differential, Patriots +7.6; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +19. I’m taking New England to win and cover no matter who lines up at WR. If they’re down a few receivers, the Patriots maybe only win by four. If they’re at full strength (or what qualifies for it right now), they win by 10.

Minnesota (+3) at Seattle
You know what’s odd? I actually think the Vikings have a decent chance of coming out of this game with a win and the advantage in the race for the five seed. Yes, the Vikings can still win the NFC North. And I’m not writing them off there. It’s just that a win here keeps them in the division race, but puts them squarely in front of the Seahawks for the top wild card spot. And it matters. The six seed is going to travel to Green Bay (or Minnesota) in the wild card round. The five travels to Dallas or Philadelphia. And you have to believe the wild card team that gets to take on the NFC Least champion has the better chance of advancing. All that said, I’m picking the Seahawks. By a point.

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