NFL Week 13 Picks for Every Game: Bets for Titans vs Eagles & Jaguars vs Lions
Emilee Chinn/Getty Images. Pictured: Jared Goff.
December football is here, and though Thanksgiving is behind us, we've got quite a tasty buffet of football in Week 13.
Bengals–Chiefs! Dolphins–49ers! Titans–Eagles! Jets–Vikings! Meaningful division rivalry games for Bills–Patriots, Commanders–Giants, Chargers–Raiders, and Saints–Bucs! Deshaun Watson's Browns debut! Week 13 looks like a full and entertaining slate.
Unders and underdogs continue to rule. Unders are 102-78 on the season, hitting 56.7% of the time, while underdogs are 100-76-4 (56.8%) against the spread (ATS). If you just blindly bet $100 on every underdog and every under this season, you'd be up $3,094 after three months — not bad!
This week, I'm taking the under and underdog trends to the next level. Many of these unders are hitting because underdog defenses keep games close and low-scoring. If I like a game to go under an already-low total, that's all the more reason to consider an underdog cover, especially if it's an inflated line.
Four of my plays this week are correlated Same Game Parlays with an under and an underdog cover in the same game following a similar script: play defense and keep it close. We'll go for the extra payout by playing both.
This is a huge game and one that was very fun both meetings last year. Ja'Marr Chase was huge against Kansas City, but we don't know if he's back yet. Joe Mixon is trending toward playing, but his status is a question mark, as well.
This line is also still settling a bit, and frankly, I need a little more time to analyze the matchup and look for an edge. Let's circle back Saturday and give this one some more shine.
THE PICK: Wait for more info and a deeper dive later this week
I know, I know, these are the two games I'm most excited for too. Think of it this way — by waiting to decide on both of these marquee matchups, we'll get a deeper dive on both on Saturday with the freshest lines and injury reports. Dolphins LT Terron Armstead and 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey are the key names I'm watching.
Both Armstead and RT Austin Jackson are question marks. When Armstead went out against Houston, Tua Tagovailoa was sacked four times in one (admittedly meaningless) quarter. McCaffrey is the star who's unlocked San Francisco's star upside of late, and he's even more important since Elijah Mitchell is out indefinitely.
Let's circle back Saturday and make a decision then.
THE PICK: Wait for McCaffrey and Armstead news
I grabbed Green Bay on the Lookahead but that was before Aaron Rodgers got hurt. Now, it's unclear whether either starting QB plays, since Justin Fields missed Week 12. Obviously, both Jordan Love and Trevor Siemian are huge downgrades, so we'll wait for more news.
THE PICK: Wait for QB news
This game feels as unpredictable and "coin flippy" as it gets. Six of the last seven in this rivalry have been one-score games, and 17 of the teams' 22 combined games this season have been one-score affairs. Tease the Raiders to +8, and you just need a one-score game.
I'm just not sure the Chargers are particularly good. They're bottom five in first-down DVOA on both offense and defense, consistently burying themselves early. They can't run or defend the run. They're 27th in DVOA the last six weeks, while the Raiders offense is humming and better at home.
The Chargers are +130 to miss the playoffs, implying 57% to make versus just 30% at Football Outsiders. If you think Los Angeles could lose here, with the Dolphins and Titans up next, this is your spot.
I don't trust either team. I don't trust either coach. Justin Herbert is 12-29-1 (29%) ATS in the second half, including 3-8 this year, and Vegas has a knack for coming through late. I'll look to play the Raiders from a trailing position late.
THE PICK: Raiders +2 (Pass)
OTHER ANGLES: Tease Raiders to +8, Back Raiders live late from behind
Mike White was great against the Bears, but that was basically a scrimmage against backups. He was great in his first start last year too before struggling some the next game and falling apart in his third outing.
It should insult the 9-2 Vikings to be a mere field goal favorite against a Jets third-string QB making his second road start ever, and that line makes it seem like it's begging us to take Minnesota. But the Jets defense is the best unit on the field, and Sauce Gardner has a chance to wrap up Defensive Rookie of the Year if he can put the clamps on Justin Jefferson.
I just don't see much of an edge either way. I lean Vikings at -3 but no further.
THE PICK: Vikings -3 (Pass)
Hopefully you tailed on The Lookahead, where we're already sitting on a Seahawks -3 ticket. That line never made any sense with the Matt Stafford and Cooper Kupp injuries, and now Allen Robinson is out for the season while Aaron Donald is a question mark too. When you build a stars and scrubs roster and the stars all get hurt, it gets bleak in a hurry.
The Rams are 0-5 against teams above .500, losing by 16.2 points per game and failing to cover this line in any of them. Seattle is way better and should take care of business, but this is probably a safer teaser at this point. I don't mind a Seahawks play and it's Seattle or nothing, but I'll just ride our Lookahead.
THE PICK: Seahawks -7.5 (Pass)
It's still hard to know what to make of this Buffalo team. The Bills were a juggernaut in September and October, but they looked rather ordinary in November, losing to Zach Wilson and Kirk Cousins and beating Jacoby Brissett and Jared Goff by one score.
The numbers tell us Buffalo is still very good but no longer elite. Over the past six weeks, the Bills defense has fallen outside of the top five in DVOA and the defense is barely top 10 and sliding. The defense just can't get healthy. Right as Tre White finally returned, now the team loses stud pass rusher Von Miller. That's a huge loss, Buffalo's one true defensive star.
New England is the better defense right now, but Buffalo's attack is still better by a huge margin. The question is whether it's enough better to be sizable favorites, and this line feels too high with Josh Allen still making killer mistakes each week and now facing an elite pass rush.
We know how Bill Belichick plays these underdog games against high-powered attacks. Expect the usual underdog script. The Pats should run the ball early and often, shortening the game and keeping Allen on the sidelines, and they'll surely look to take the big plays away and force Buffalo to prove itself on long sustained drives against a great D.
The Bills have been a poor first quarter team, so New England has a chance to establish itself early and get on the front foot. A game script in New England's favor leans under, and we know how good unders have been in primetime games, especially on Thursday nights. Bills unders are 8-3 this fall too.
Belichick has a remarkable record after a loss when he's anything short of a touchdown favorite at 41-10-1, a whopping 80% ATS all-time, covering by 7.1 points per game. I like the Pats, and I'm playing them with the under as a correlated parlay around +272. If New England does cover, it's likely because they kept it low-scoring and close.
THE PICK: Lean Patriots +4.5 and Under 43.5 together around +272
Both teams have had this game circled since the start of the season for the exact same reason: Deshaun Watson.
The Browns will finally debut their new QB after an 11-game suspension. It's Watson's first game in exactly 700 days, and we have no idea how he'll fit into this team or reshape the offense. The truth is this offense has been pretty great without him. Jacoby Brissett has done more than enough, and the rushing attack has been lethal and consistent.
It feels like this line has moved significantly to account for Watson, and I'm not sure it should have. Cleveland's offense can't be much better than it's already been, and it could actually end up worse if the team loses its identity and doesn't focus on running the ball against a bad run defense. Watson is only 9-15-2 (38%) ATS as a favorite, and -7 would tie his biggest ever spread as a road favorite. How does that make sense in a debut after 700 days off?
Besides, don't forget the other side of this matchup.
This is Houston's Super Bowl. Watson's time in Houston ended … let's say "poorly." You know the Texans would like nothing more than to spoil Watson's Cleveland debut and effectively end the Browns' long-shot playoff hopes before Watson can even get them started.
Never underestimate motivation. Motivation means an extra push on fourth and short, more aggressive on late downs, that special teams fake or trick play you've saved all season. Houston is 1 1/2 games "ahead" of every team for the No. 1 pick so the Texans have no need to tank. Actually they help themselves by beating Cleveland since they own the Browns' first-round pick from the Watson trade.
I'm taking the Texans on principle. Watson doesn't get to do what he did, disappear 700 days and come back as the biggest road favorite of his career.
THE PICK: Lean Texans +7
The Broncos are terrible. They're embarrassing, one of the biggest disappointments in recent history. The offense has been awful. Russell Wilson has been a bust. Nathaniel Hackett should not have a job. No matter how you slice it, Denver has been awful.
And as bad as they've been, the Broncos still have only two losses all season by more than a touchdown.
This tragic offense is coupled with a Super Bowl-caliber defense, one that's been an under machine at 10-1 on the year. There's little reason to expect that to change with Baltimore's offense struggling. The Ravens should grind out a win, but the game will be a grind and this is a very high line in a game where every three points will be tough to come by.
Underdog trends back Denver. Dogs that have lost and failed to cover three in a row are 92-62-3 (60%) ATS. Dogs that have scored 16 or less in three straight are 29-17 (63%) ATS since the start of 2018. Russell Wilson is 66% ATS as an underdog, including 4-0 ATS as a 7-point dog or longer.
Every Denver game is the same — low scoring, ugly, and close. I'll take the Broncos to cover and hit the under, another clearly correlated parlay at +264.
THE PICK: Lean Broncos +8.5 and Under 38.5 together at +264
The Commanders are flying high, winning six of seven and overtaking the Giants in playoff odds. The Giants won six of seven to start the year but have lost three of four since. It feels like these teams are trending in opposite directions, but the truth is that they're both just very average teams getting average, largely random results in mostly close games.
I'm not ready to make Washington a road favorite against a quality team. The Commanders offense hasn't been much better under Taylor Heinicke and can't punish a beatable Giants defense, though New York's offense is faltering and will likely struggle against a stout Washington D. Both teams could struggle to move the ball consistently, since each defense rushes the passer well and each offensive line struggles to pass protect.
I like the under 40.5 best. Eight of the last 10 Washington games (80%) have gone under that number, and the Giants offense is actually better on the road. Unders this season for home underdogs are 49-23 (68%), including 15-5 (75) in division games, 26-8 (77%) in spreads of three or less, and 10-2 (83%) in games with a total at 41 or below. Home unders have also been profitable for Daniel Jones at 18-7 (72%) lifetime.
Jones is also profitable as a division underdog at 8-3 ATS (73%). The Giants are at home playing to save their season and come in with extra rest after Thanksgiving. I'll take the points but prefer the under, and I'll skip the correlated play on this one.
THE PICK: Lean Giants +2.5
OTHER ANGLES: Bet Under 40.5
Let's just keep riding the Steelers.
There are no more underdog trends this week, not after Pittsburgh won again Monday night and this line flipped from Atlanta -1.5 to the Steelers as rightful favorites. These are two teams trending in opposite directions.
The Falcons started the year well but have been fading as good defenses solve their attack. Pittsburgh ranks top four both running the ball and stopping the run the last three games since T.J. Watt returned, playing like a top 10 team by DVOA on both sides of the ball during that stretch. The Falcons are also dead last pressuring the passer so that should make life easy on Kenny Pickett.
Really, the Falcons are the before picture and the Steelers are the after. Pittsburgh made the tough choice early to turn things over to a rookie QB, and now they're starting to reap the benefits. We're still waiting on Atlanta moving on from Marcus Mariota to Desmond Ridder, but maybe a home loss here will do the trick.
THE PICK: Lean Steelers -0.5
This line was too long Sunday, and it's only lengthening after Monday night. That's a puzzling and incorrect takeaway for me since the Colts mostly played the Steelers even, and since Pittsburgh is a quality opponent now.
The Colts have clearly improved under Jeff Saturday, winning once and leading two good opponents late before losing by one score. The defense has played well all season and matches up pretty well with Dallas, so that should help keep this game close.
As bad as the Colts have been, they've only lost twice by double digits. Double-digit underdogs are 13-6 ATS (68%), and oddly enough, teams on short rest like the Colts against opponents on extra rest are actually 54-40-1 ATS (57%).
Saturday's Colts have kept these games low-scoring and close. Colts unders are 9-3, and if you like the under, you have to feel good about the team getting double-digit points. It's another correlated play. I'll take the under and the points at +272, and you know what? I'll sprinkle the +450 moneyline too.
THE PICK: Lean Colts +11.5 and Under 43.5 together at +272
OTHER ANGLES: Sprinkle Indianapolis ML +450
The Bucs are winning a terrible division. The Bucs also are playing bad football. Both things can be true at once.
Tampa's defense has carried the team but ranks bottom five against the pass over the last six weeks and bottom 10 overall. The offense has failed to run the ball all year and doesn't seem to have any rhythm to its playcalling, even coming out of the bye. This team gave one away in Cleveland, and even worse, letting the game get to overtime cost the Bucs in a big way with injuries to RT Tristan Wirfs and S Antoine Winfield Jr., two of their most important players.
Wirfs is out, another body missing on the offensive line, and the defense has been much worse without Winfield, a question mark. The Saints defense has found its way midseason and always seems to give Tom Brady issues. Remember, New Orleans is 4-1 against Brady's Bucs in the regular season, and these games have averaged just 38.6 points per game.
I smell another under. Bucs unders are 9-2 this year, and the Saints have gone under 40.5 in four of the last five. The defenses are good enough to force long sustained drives, and right now neither Brady or Andy Dalton look good enough to beat a good defense consistently. The Bucs did beat the Saints in Week 2 but are 3-6 since with a trio of one-score wins.
Brady's legacy trends haven't hit this year, and he's just 2-10 ATS (17%) in primetime with the Bucs. Division road dogs of four or less on Monday nights are 24-13-1 ATS (65%), and teams coming off a shutout loss as an underdog are 52-38-5 ATS (58%) the following game.
This line has dropped from 6.5 Sunday night and killed off most of the value, but I still like the Saints and I'll pair it with another correlated primetime under and hope New Orleans keeps it close and low scoring. If you think the Saints can pull the upset, you should consider them at +1100 to win the division too.
THE PICK: Lean Saints +4 and Under 40.5 together at +264
The Eagles haven't looked the same since losing their unbeaten season. They've basically played the last three opponents even, and considering that was the Commanders, Colts, and Packers, that's not great. Philadelphia ranks league average by DVOA during that stretch. The defense has slipped, and the run D has been one of the worst in the league lately. Jordan Davis is eligible to return from injured reserve but it would be a surprise to see him in a big role.
A bad run defense against Derrick Henry sets up for the perfect underdog script for Tennessee. Henry could run all over this bad run D, and the Titans are an even better first-half team than the Eagles and should come out strong and play on the front foot. The Titans are also the league's best run defense and should limit Philly's deadly rushing attack.
The Eagles are tremendous front runners but look surprisingly vulnerable when teams hang around. That's exactly what Mike Vrabel's teams tend to do as underdogs. Vrabel as a dog of three or more is 21-7 ATS, covering an impressive 75% of the time. The Titans are 19-9 straight up in those games, with a 98% ROI on the moneyline, including 8-3 SU since the start of last season.
This could go sideways. The Eagles have been great at home and the Titans won't have a good second gear to play from behind if this starts out poorly. But if the Titans can start strong like they have all season, they have the perfect underdog script with Henry and a great defense.
I smell an upset. I'll take the Titans, and I'm playing the moneyline too.
THE PICK: Bet Titans +5.5 and ML +205
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Thanksgiving gave us a trio of one-score games, and most of the attention focused on the five teams that look headed for the playoffs, but it was the one non-playoff team that caught my attention. The Lions were a trendy sleeper coming into the season before starting out 1-6, but they're starting to look the part and are a late Buffalo comeback away from a four-game winning streak.
Detroit's defense has quietly improved in a huge way since the bye, from one of the NFL's worst to around average against both the run and the pass these last six games. The offense has also been great with a healthy Amon-Ra St. Brown. The attack sputtered with St. Brown injured Weeks 4 through 7, but the Lions rank 8th in Passing DVOA and 6th overall the rest of the season with a great top-five rushing attack.
St. Brown has become this team's Cooper Kupp, and Jared Goff is quietly playing well too, especially on third downs. The Lions rank 6th on offense with St. Brown and 14th on defense since the bye — that's a good football team! For comparison, the Bengals rank 7th and 12th respectively for the season, the No. 6 overall team in the DVOA rankings. Pretty good!
The Jaguars are getting all the buzz after their Ravens upset, and Trevor Lawrence was tremendous down the stretch, but Jacksonville needed 10 or 15 things to go exactly right to upset Baltimore. They did, and the Jaguars get credit! But this team's defense has cratered after a good start, and don't forget Jacksonville also trailed Baltimore by nine with six minutes left and by seven in the final minute, and those parts count too.
The Jaguars buzz has pushed the line in their direction, badly mispricing this game. I'd make the Lions at least a field goal favorite. Detroit is playing good football, and they're just a better team than the Jags on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars are coming off an emotional win while the Lions had extra rest after Thanksgiving, and Jared Goff is 24-13 ATS (65%) in these early kickoffs at 1pm Eastern or earlier, versus 26-29-2 ATS (47%) in all other games.
The wrong team is favored. Gimme the Lions and the moneyline.
THE PICK: Bet Lions +1.5 and ML +110