The NFL playoffs are almost here, and we have some tantalizingly important games on deck this week. The Chiefs and Broncos face off in a battle for first place in the AFC West, the Bills and Patriots finally meet, and sophomore quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert match up for the first time in a game that carries a ton of weight. With so much at stake this week, it should be a fun week of football. Let’s take a look at the odds.
Teams on bye: Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans
My Week 12 record: 10-5 SU, 10-5 ATS, 10-5 O/U
My record overall: 108-70-1 SU, 100-80-1 ATS, 93-86-1 O/U
Thursday, December 2
Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints
Typically, Thursday Night Football features teams playing on a short week, but both of these teams will have had a full week to rest up following their Thanksgiving games last week. Dallas certainly would have hoped for additional rest as Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Ezekiel Elliott are all question marks moving forward, and the offense wasn’t quite the same last week despite scoring 33 points. Dak Prescott had a solid game, but the Cowboys went just 3-13 on third down and racked up the penalties with almost 200 yards. Las Vegas controlled time of possession with 39 minutes and the Dallas defense struggled to get off the field as they allowed Derek Carr to throw for almost 400 yards. Whether it’s Trevor Siemian or Taysom Hill under center for the Saints this week, they certainly don’t have that same passing upside, but the Dallas defense clearly needs to get its pass-rushers back; DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory appear to be on track to play this week.
The Saints were giving Taysom Hill first-team quarterback reps on Monday, which certainly seems to make a lot of sense after Siemian finished with a QBR of 20 or worse for the third time in four weeks. Hill’s new contract extension suggested the Saints saw him as their potential starter, but he’s been dealing with a plantar fascia injury as well as a scary concussion following a big hit a few weeks ago. The Saints are hoping to get back offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk back this week, which would be especially important if Dallas’s pass-rushers return. Regardless, Micah Parsons has been a game-wrecker lately who the Saints will need to account for. Alvin Kamara’s potential return would be extremely important, particularly as Mark Ingram missed last week’s game, and the Saints’ lack of depth in terms of pass-catching talent emphasizes the need for Kamara to play a major role. New Orleans’s defense is coming off one of its worst games of the season in allowing Josh Allen to throw for four touchdowns, and their limited pass-rush has exposed a weaker secondary than we’re used to seeing from them.
Normally, I’d be expecting to write about the Saints’ defense as a brutal matchup for Dak Prescott as he’s struggled lately, but their secondary hasn’t held up this season. I’ll be back to update this pick based on who ends up being healthy from the Dallas offense, but I’m rolling with the Cowboys to get the big win against a New Orleans team without an identity right now.
Dallas Cowboys: WR CeeDee Lamb (concussion) Q, RB Ezekiel Elliott (knee) Q, WR Amari Cooper (illness) IR/COVID-19, DE DeMarcus Lawrence (foot) IR
New Orleans Saints: RB Alvin Kamara (knee – MCL) Q, RB Mark Ingram (knee) Q, DE Marcus Davenport (shoulder) Q, OT Ryan Ramczyk (knee) Q, QB Taysom Hill (foot) Q
Matchup To Watch: CeeDee Lamb (DAL WR) vs. Marshon Lattimore (NO CB)
My Pick: Cowboys win 26-17, Cowboys cover, under 46.5 points
NFL Week 13 Betting Picks Video
Sunday, December 5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
Tom Brady hasn’t had a big game in a while, and his final stats last week against the Colts didn’t look great as he finished with just 226 passing yards and one touchdown with an interception. However, the last time he played the Falcons, he threw for five touchdowns in a 48-25 rout. Rob Gronkowski is back in the lineup, which is huge for the offense; he has 13 catches for 194 yards in the two games since his return. Ali Marpet missed last week’s game, but the offensive line has held up very well overall and it’s led to some excellent offensive production for the team. The Colts effectively shut down an impressive Buffalo offense the week prior but allowed Tampa to compile 359 yards of offense. Leonard Fournette had one of the biggest games of his career with a whopping four touchdowns while the defense did its part in picking off Carson Wentz twice and holding Indy to ten total points outside of a 21-point burst in the second quarter.
The Falcons are clearly a different team with Cordarelle Patterson in the lineup, and it’s hard to fathom the impact he’s had on Atlanta given our low preseason expectations for him. Patterson’s nine touchdowns this season are already by far a career-high and he’s done it in just ten games. Patterson has been a Pro Bowl return man four times in his career, and he could make the Pro Bowl for the fifth time, but this time as an offensive specialist as he can contribute at running back and wide receiver. Calvin Ridley remains away from the team as he deals with mental health issues and Kyle Pitts has had under 30 yards in three of his last five teams, so Atlanta is incredibly reliant on Patterson at this point. Matt Ryan has been hot and cold all year, but the offensive line has not held up well and he was under fire all game the last time these teams played.
The MVP award is there for the taking, and Tom Brady has a great chance at a statement game this week to grab hold of it. The Atlanta secondary is not good enough to keep him in check, especially with Gronk healthy, and this one should be a rout like it was the first time these teams played.
Buccaneers -11, O/U 50.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Antonio Brown (ankle) Q, OG Ali Marpet (abdomen) Q, LB Devin White (hip) Q, CB Jamel Dean (shoulder) Q, CB Carlton Davis (quadriceps) IR, CB Richard Sherman (calf) IR
Atlanta Falcons: LB Deion Jones (shoulder) Q, OG Josh Andrews (undisclosed) IR/COVID-19, WR Calvin Ridley (personal) NFI-R
Matchup To Watch: Cordarelle Patterson (ATL RB/WR) vs. Sean Murphy-Bunting (TB CB)
My Pick: Buccaneers win 37-20, Buccaneers cover, over 50.5 points
Arizona Cardinals @ Chicago Bears
It’s hard to know what to make of the Arizona offense as I write this on Monday, as Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins are still question marks for this week. The star quarterback and wide receiver haven’t played in over a month, but Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals deserve a ton of credit for maintaining a 2-1 record in their absence. That’s just one piece of what I believe has been a Coach of the Year season for a guy who I had serious doubts about prior to the season. Colt McCoy has been surprisingly good in relief of Murray while James Conner continues to dominate with 13 total touchdowns in 11 games. Arizona’s defense also ranks top five in both points and yards allowed this year in addition to holding teams to just a 32.6% third-down rate, the third-lowest in the NFL. A run-heavy approach combined with that elite defense has kept them afloat, and they could get their top quarterback and wide receiver back this week.
The Bears got a win on Thanksgiving, but a two-point win over the winless Lions doesn’t feel like it’s much to celebrate. Matt Nagy should be on his way out sooner rather than later, and the fact that the Bears had to threaten to fire him just to get the team fired up enough to beat Detroit is frankly quite sad. It’s unclear if the Bears plan to push Justin Fields back this week, but it probably doesn’t matter much against one of the best defenses in the league. One of the bright spots for Chicago this season has been the play of second-year wideout Darnell Mooney. He caught another five passes for 123 yards last week for his second-straight 100-yard game. Whether or not the Bears’ offensive line can buy their quarterback enough time to get him the ball is a real question, especially against this elite pass rush, but Mooney deserves props.
We haven’t quite seen it play out on the field yet, but the Bears’ defense is starting to fall apart with some critical injuries, including to All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack. The Cardinals have stayed afloat without Murray and Hopkins and could get both back this week. Arizona is 8-3 ATS, and Chicago is 4-7 ATS; I’ll bet on those trends continuing this week.
Arizona Cardinals: QB Kyler Murray (ankle) Q, WR DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) Q, OG Justin Pugh (calf) Q
Chicago Bears: QB Justin Fields (ribs) Q, WR Allen Robinson (hamstring) Q, DE Akiem Hicks (ankle) Q, LB Roquan Smith (hamstring) Q
Matchup To Watch: Jason Peters (CHI OT) vs. Chandler Jones (ARI OLB)
My Pick: Cardinals win 31-10, Cardinals cover, under 46 points
Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals
I had the Bengals winning last week over the Steelers, but I certainly didn’t expect it to be that kind of a 41-10 beatdown over a divisional rival. Joe Mixon had his second straight 100-yard, two-touchdown effort and has been an absolute workhorse with 58 carries over the past two weeks. Joe Burrow completed 83% of his passes against Pittsburgh and wasn’t asked to do much as the defense and run game led the way. Cincinnati’s offensive line has been one of the most-improved units across the entire NFL. Riley Reiff’s ankle injury is one to watch, but Jonah Williams has finally been healthy and has been a stalwart at left tackle. The line did an excellent job of keeping the pocket clean for Burrow against what should be one of the most fearsome pass-rush units in the NFL, and as the days go by, it looks like more and more of the right decision to go with the high-flying Ja’Marr Chase over an offensive lineman in the draft. Chase is coming off a quiet game as the Bengals didn’t throw the ball much, but we’ve seen the rookie break off huge plays time and again this season.
The Chargers are coming off an ugly loss to a divisional rival in the Broncos in one of Justin Herbert’s worst games as a pro. His final stats looked decent, but he threw two interceptions and had plenty of other throws that could have been picked off. Mike Williams got back to the quiet player he had been the past several weeks as he finished with just four catches for 39 yards. This team needs more from him or at least needs to get him the ball more if they’re going to score more than 13 points this week. Austin Ekeler has had an excellent season with 14 total touchdowns, and he’s been one of the best running backs in the NFL. However, the Bengals have been very solid against the run this season. Los Angeles’s offensive line lost another starter in Matt Feiler on Sunday and what should have been one of the best lines in the league is now highly suspect due to the injuries – Herbert was hit ten times on Sunday.
The Broncos reminded the rest of the NFL that there is a clear formula to beating the Chargers last week – put pressure on Justin Herbert to force him into bad decisions and control time of possession through the run game. Cincinnati is building a new identity as a run-heavy, defensive juggernaut, and that’s a formula that should be a winning one against this Los Angeles squad.
Update: I was already a bit back-and-forth on this game, but the updated injury reports have me on the Chargers’ side of things. The absence of Riley Reiff and Trey Hopkins will leave Joe Burrow vulnerable against Joey Bosa and the LA pass rush while I’m not sure if their defense has the pieces to keep up with Justin Herbert after the stellar performance he put together last week.
Los Angeles Chargers: OG Matt Feiler (ankle) Q, CB Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion) Q, DT Linval Joseph (illness) IR/COVID-19, OT Bryan Bulaga (back) IR
Cincinnati Bengals: OT Riley Reiff (ankle) Q, C Trey Hopkins (knee) Q
Matchup To Watch: Rashawn Slater (LAC OT) vs. Trey Hendrickson (CIN DE)
My Pick: Chargers win 27-24, Chargers cover, over 50.5 points
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions
Dalvin Cook is reportedly day-to-day, and MRIs showed he actually didn’t tear his labrum as was originally suspected. That’s better than the Vikings could have hoped for after a gruesome-looking injury left both Minnesota and San Francisco’s players taking a knee as Cook lay on the field in pain. Kirk Cousins had an uneven game with some crucial mistakes, including one moment where he appeared to line up behind the team’s right guard instead of the center and attempted to snap the ball on a critical fourth down – no, seriously. Cousins has had much better games than that this season, and he should get back on track against a pretty putrid Lions’ secondary. The Vikings are one of the most injured teams at the moment, however, and they’re missing four key players from what had been one of the best defensive line rotations in the NFL. That may not be a backbreaker against the Lions, but it certainly was against the 49ers last week.
The Lions also suffered a key injury to their starting running back in D’Andre Swift in Week 12, and Dan Campbell said, “it’s hard to say that you’d see him playing” against the Vikings this week. In his absence, Jamaal Williams will be asked to shoulder a heavy burden, particularly with the Lions’ lack of consistent pass-catching outside of T.J. Hockenson. Swift’s 984 yards from scrimmage will be difficult to replace. The last time these teams played, Minnesota struggled to pull away, be it from poor play-calling, two turnovers, or 74 yards of penalties. The truth is, Dan Campbell constantly has his players more fired up than the other team’s guys, and that’s difficult to quantify in terms of evaluating these games. On paper, the Vikings should be able to ride a balanced offensive approach with a heavy dose of Alexander Mattison (or Dalvin Cook, if he plays) and a few game-breaking plays from Justin Jefferson on their way to a dominant win.
I had more confidence in Kirk Cousins this week prior to a bit of a mental collapse against the 49ers, and the Vikings are facing a lot of attrition at the moment. The loss of D’Andre Swift is huge, however, for an offense that had already been struggling mightily. The Vikings should be able to do enough to cover in this game, as much as I’d love to pick the Lions for another gutsy cover in a game they have no business being in.
Minnesota Vikings: LB Anthony Barr (hamstring) Q, OG Wyatt Davis (ankle) Q, RB Dalvin Cook (shoulder – labrum) D, DT Dalvin Tomlinson (illness) IR/COVID-19, DT Michael Pierce (elbow) IR, DE Danielle Hunter (pectoral) IR, DE Everson Griffen (personal) NFI-R
Detroit Lions: RB D’Andre Swift (shoulder) Q, LB Trey Flowers (knee) Q
Matchup To Watch: T.J. Hockenson (DET TE) vs. Harrison Smith (MIN S)
My Pick: Vikings win 24-10, Vikings cover, under 47 points
New York Giants @ Miami Dolphins
Don’t look now, but the Dolphins are not out of the playoff hunt in the AFC. Miami has won four straight games, including an upset win over the Ravens and last week’s dominant victory over a borderline playoff Panthers team. Tua Tagovailoa is one of the most underrated passers in the NFL right now, and he’s completed 84.3% of his passes over his last two starts. Myles Gaskin hasn’t been the model of consistency this season, but he ran for two touchdowns last week and was an important part of the win. More important was rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle who is coming off his first career 100-yard game. The Dolphins had been limiting Waddle’s average depth of target early in the season, but he’s getting more deep targets lately and has become more productive as a result. Miami’s defense has been stepping up, as well, during this impressive stretch as they’ve held their last four opponents to an average of 11.5 points per game. They’ve looked more like the Miami defense from last year recently.
The New York defense has also looked much better lately, and they held the Eagles, who had been one of the hottest offenses in the league, to seven points last week. It was an ugly game overall, and it’s up for debate whether Philadelphia’s four turnovers said more about how lost their offense was than the Giants having an elite defense. New York could be missing three key secondary players in Adoree’ Jackson, Darnay Holmes, and Logan Ryan this week, which would obviously hurt the defense. In addition, they are still working on finding a way to get their full complement of skill position players on the field at the same time. Last week, it was Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard who missed the game. Saquon Barkley was active, but he had just 13 carries for 40 yards as the Giants were held to just 2.6 YPC as a team. Miami’s defense should be able to smother this New York offense, regardless of who is active among their skill players.
Both of these defenses have been playing improved football lately, but the Dolphins are the more convincing of the two and I have more faith in Tua Tagovailoa than Daniel Jones at this point, particularly with how excellent Waddle has been. This could be an ugly game with neither offense moving the ball much, and I’m tempted to take the under on the lowest points total of the week. I’ll lean a slight over for now, but I expect the Dolphins to take care of business here.
Update: With Daniel Jones out and Mike Glennon the starter, I’m shifting to the under here. I expect the Dolphins’ defense to handle the Giants and play an imposing brand of football on both ends.
New York Giants: WR Sterling Shepard (quadriceps) Q, WR Kadarius Toney (quadriceps) Q, TE Kyle Rudolph (ankle) Q, CB Adoree’ Jackson (quadriceps) Q, CB Darnay Holmes (chest) Q, S Logan Ryan (illness) IR/COVID-19
Miami Dolphins: WR DeVante Parker (shoulder) IR, WR Will Fuller (finger) IR
Matchup To Watch: Jaylen Waddle (MIA WR) vs. James Bradberry (NYG CB)
My Pick: Dolphins win 20-13, Dolphins cover, under 41.5 points
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Jets
It’s hard to know what to make of the Eagles’ ugly road loss to the Giants. I was finally buying into Jalen Hurts as a passer, and he came out with his worst performance of the season with three interceptions and an awful 17.5 passer rating. The run game was still highly effective with 208 yards on 33 carries (6.3 YPC), but Hurts’s turnovers and horrific 45% completion rate held the offense in check. Hurts had completed 64+% of his passes in three of his prior four games. The Eagles didn’t escape that game without significant injuries, as well. Hurts tweaked his ankle, Miles Sanders is dealing with ankle soreness, and it doesn’t sound like Jordan Howard will play this week. Jason Kelce has a knee issue while Jack Driscoll went to IR this week. The Eagles’ run game is facing significant attrition this week, but luckily their streak of 175+ rushing yards in five straight games is likely not going to stop against the Jets who allow the sixth-most rushing yards per game.
The Jets’ offense has been taking significant strides lately, which is all the more impressive when you consider they’ve seemingly had a different starting quarterback every week. Zach Wilson got the start last week, but the rookie finished with a paltry QBR of just 9.8. He’s arguably given them the worst chance to win games, and yet they knocked off the Texans one week after they upset the Titans. Elijah Moore has been the one major consistency for the Jets as the rookie wide receiver has come on strong lately with 40+ receiving yards in five straight games. Two weeks ago, he broke through with eight catches for 141 yards and a touchdown against an increasingly tough Miami defense. With Michael Carter sidelined, Tevin Coleman got the nod as the primary ball carrier over Ty Johnson, although Austin Walter was the touchdown scorer. New York will get a big boon to the run game when Mekhi Becton is able to return, although it’s unclear if that will be this week.
It’s hard to imagine a better team for a bounceback performance to come against than the Jets, and this lines up nicely for the Eagles to get back on track. Keep an eye on the injury report for both teams, but more importantly, Philadelphia with Jalen Hurts still in question for this week. If he plays, the Eagles should deliver another dominant win on the back of a strong run game and suffocating secondary.
Update: With Jalen Hurts out and Gardner Minshew in, this game takes on a different light. I still like the Eagles to win, but I don’t think it will be a runaway like I did before. Minshew is very capable, but we haven’t seen him start a game in a year. The Jets have made some strides as of late, and I’ll take them to push the Eagles to the brink. The Philadelphia defense and run game should win out, however.
Philadelphia Eagles: QB Jalen Hurts (ankle) Q, RB Miles Sanders (ankle) Q, RB Jordan Howard (knee) Q, C Jason Kelce (knee) Q, OG Jack Driscoll (ankle) IR
New York Jets: QB Zach Wilson (knee) Q, WR Corey Davis (groin) Q, LB Quincy Williams (calf) Q, DT Sheldon Rankins (knee) Q, OT Mekhi Becton (knee – MCL) IR
Matchup To Watch: Elijah Moore (NYJ WR) vs. Darius Slay (PHI CB)
My Pick: Eagles win 20-17, Jets cover, under 45 points
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
There was plenty to be impressed by in the Colts’ almost-win over the reigning Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers last week, but the one lasting takeaway for me is Jonathan Taylor simply wasn’t involved enough. Up 24-14 in the third quarter, the Colts ran 30 consecutive pass plays that resulted in Taylor heading into the fourth quarter with just eight carries. For most teams, that type of stylistic change can be warranted. Most teams don’t have Jonathan Taylor. The borderline MVP candidate has been the most efficient running back in the NFL against loaded boxes (9+ defenders) and the week prior had crushed a Buffalo defense for 185 yards and four touchdowns that allows fewer yards per carry than Tampa’s run defense. Nonetheless, Taylor is sure to be more involved this week against a Houston defense he racked up 158 yards from scrimmage against last time these teams met. Carson Wentz completed just over 50% of his passes in that game, but the play-action was alive and well with a few massive plays to the team’s wide receivers.
The Texans’ win over the Titans a couple of weeks ago had more to do with Tennessee reaching its breaking point with the injuries piling up and exhaustion a major factor after running through a gauntlet of playoff teams. Houston went right back to its losing ways last week in an embarrassing loss to the Jets who were starting thus far unsuccessful rookie passer Zach Wilson. The Texans’ offensive line had no hope of keeping Tyrod Taylor upright as he was sacked five times, and the continued absences of offensive tackles Marcus Cannon and Laremy Tunsil have been massive. It’s hard to find much to be excited about from the team’s performance last week, and that may have been the lowest point of the season for Houston. If this game happened a week after the Titans-Texans game, I’d have some pause about picking the Colts to cover.
There isn’t a ton to contemplate from this game, and Jonathan Taylor should feast against Houston’s pitiful run defense. There is really no reason the Colts, suddenly one of the healthiest teams in the NFL after a ton of early-season injuries, shouldn’t be able to run away with this game against their pathetic division rival.
Indianapolis Colts: K Rodrigo Blankenship (hip) IR
Houston Texans: OT Marcus Cannon (back) IR, OT Laremy Tunsil (thumb) IR, C Justin Britt (knee) IR
Matchup To Watch: Eric Fisher (IND OT) vs. Jacob Martin (HOU DE)
My Pick: Colts win 38-14, Colts cover, over 46 points
Washington Football Team @ Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders were public enemy #1 of the betting public as they salvaged a 3-point win over the Cowboys while the NFL world prepared for Thanksgiving dinner. Derek Carr threw for 373 yards, 134 of which went to Hunter Renfrow who has had seven or more catches in four of his last five games. I had written about the absence of Henry Ruggs leaving the Raiders without enough juice in terms of the ability to stretch the defense vertically. DeSean Jackson changed that on Thursday as he had three catches for 102 yards and a touchdown along with many drawn pass interference penalties that sank the Cowboys’ chances throughout the game. The Raiders’ bounced back in a way I didn’t think they were capable of after losing three straight games, and there’s no reason this team can’t grab a Wild Card spot in a wide-open AFC.
It’s been great to see the Washington offense get back on track lately, and Antonio Gibson has been a huge piece to the puzzle. He got 29 carries on Monday, his third straight game with 19+ carries, and caught seven passes despite J.D. McKissic also being heavily involved. Terry McLaurin had a relatively quiet game by his standards with just four catches for 51 yards and now has to play a Raiders’ pass defense that has excelled against WR1s with Casey Hayward providing strong coverage play. Taylor Heinecke has been very solid during this three-game win streak and has completed over 72.7% of his passes despite being sacked nine times over that span. Washington’s offensive line isn’t healthy, but it hasn’t seemed to matter with Heinecke getting rid of the ball quickly. However, the losses of Chase Young and Montez Sweat have to catch up with the Washington defense eventually, and this may be the week that happens.
These two teams have a lot of similarities, but the biggest disparity is in terms of their expected level of preparation for this game. Rich Bisaccia has impressed plenty of people with his poise amidst a litany of off-field issues for Las Vegas, and I did not expect them to bounce back like that against a top team last week. With ten days to prepare for Washington and the Football Team coming off a short week after playing on Monday night, I’ll take the more prepared, better-rested team to win.
Washington Football Team:
Las Vegas Raiders: TE Darren Waller (knee) Q, DE Carl Nassib (knee) Q, LB Nick Kwiatkoski (ankle) Q, CB Trayvon Mullen (toe) IR
Matchup To Watch: Terry McLaurin (WAS WR) vs. Casey Hayward Jr. (LV CB)
My Pick: Raiders win 30-23, Raiders cover, over 49 points
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford’s final stat line looks decent from Sunday’s loss to the Packers, but his game included a few critical mistakes including a costly fumble in the first half and a late pick-six that sealed the win for Green Bay. Somehow, that was Stafford’s third-straight game with a pick-six. Aaron Rodgers only has three career pick-sixes, for some context. Odell Beckham Jr. had a solid game in his first full showing with the Rams, catching five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown, while Van Jefferson caught a 79-yard pass for a touchdown early in the game. Cooper Kupp was somewhat held in check by his standards, meanwhile, with seven catches for 96 yards. Stafford made some solid throws in the game and overall handled the situation decently well, but the Rams had three turnovers that essentially cost them the game and those mistakes overshadowed what should have been a solid afternoon for Stafford and the offense. They should be able to bounce back this week against a beatable Jacksonville defense.
Jacksonville had a mistake-filled game of their own on Sunday with six penalties and two turnovers including an interception by Trevor Lawrence and an uncharacteristic fumble by James Robinson. Trevor Lawrence was held to under a 60% completion rate for the sixth time in his rookie season, and the Jaguars did a poor job again of scheming plays to Marvin Jones Jr. and Laviska Shenault Jr., their top two pass-catchers. Somehow, Laquon Treadwell was their leading wide receiver in the game with four catches for 53 yards. Dan Arnold, often the team’s top target since being traded there from the Panthers, sprained his MCL on Sunday and will miss 4-6 weeks, leaving Jacksonville down another pass-catcher after already losing D.J. Chark and Travis Etienne. The Rams’ defense has been hit-or-miss lately, but this could be a perfect opportunity for Aaron Donald and Von Miller to start to gel against a vulnerable offensive line.
The Rams have beat up on some of the worst teams in the NFL this season, and this is another opportunity for them to do that. They need to prove they can beat the top teams in the league at some point if we’re going to take them seriously as a Super Bowl contender, but for now expect this to be a game where Stafford and the Rams’ offense starts to gel without Robert Woods for the first time.
Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Shaquill Griffin (concussion) Q, TE Dan Arnold (knee – MCL) D
Los Angeles Rams: LB Justin Hollins (pectoral) IR, WR Robert Woods (knee – ACL) IR
Matchup To Watch: Andrew Whitworth (LAR OT) vs. Josh Allen (JAX DE)
My Pick: Rams win 38-13, Rams cover, over 48 points
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Ravens participated in one of the worst football games in recent memory, and I basically think we can throw out everything we saw in that game. That is, except for the fact that the Ravens still have one of the best run defenses in the NFL and completely shut down a ground-based Cleveland offense. Najee Harris is likely going to have a tough time finding yardage against this defense that allows the second-fewest rushing yards per game this season. Patrick Queen was added to the injury report with Calais Campbell and Jimmy Smith already there. However, we’ve seen players step up across the board on defense for Baltimore starting with Marcus Peters’s preseason injury and this team finds a way to win games. Lamar Jackson will have much better games ahead where he doesn’t throw four interceptions, but this defense proved itself in a way it needed to after allowing the Bengals and Vikings to drop 30+ points on them in recent weeks.
I don’t like throwing around the word washed, but Ben Roethlisberger might be done at this point. That may have been the worst performance he’s put together this year as he completed just 58% of his passes and threw two interceptions as the Steelers were pummeled 41-10. Pittsburgh had plenty of garbage time to work with, and Roethlisberger still couldn’t move the ball at all. More eye-opening, however, was the complete no-show from the defense. Even the less talented Mike Tomlin defenses have always fought hard, so this was a surprising outcome. The week prior, the Chargers scored 41 points on the Steelers, and I was willing to let it go as they were without Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt. Those players were active this week, though, and they couldn’t stop a nosebleed against the Bengals. There are real concerns about this defense moving forward.
The Steelers proved in Week 12 that they can’t compete with the top teams in the division in their current form, and the Ravens may be an even worse matchup for them. Lamar Jackson should feast against this floundering defense and the run defense will force Roethlisberger to throw the ball far less than he’ll be comfortable with. Baltimore is in a nice spot here.
Baltimore Ravens: DE Calais Campbell (concussion) Q, CB Jimmy Smith (neck) Q, LB Patrick Queen (ribs) Q
Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Joe Haden (foot) Q, TE Pat Freiermuth (concussion) Q, DE Stephon Tuitt (undisclosed) IR
Matchup To Watch:
My Pick: Ravens win 27-13, Ravens cover, under 44 points
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
I don’t know how you can possibly have any amount of confidence in Russell Wilson with the way he’s looked since returning from his injury. Completing 55% of your passes and throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions over a three-game stretch won’t get it done against most teams, but it certainly won’t get it done against a quickly improving 49ers’ defense. After a slow start to the year, San Francisco is finding its defensive identity under new coordinator and former player DeMeco Ryans. Regardless of if Maurice Hurst can return this week, Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead should decimate a Seattle offensive line that allowed Wilson to be hit ten times on Sunday despite Washington missing Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Tyler Lockett had a couple of huge plays on Monday, but he and DK Metcalf combined for just four catches. This version of Wilson isn’t scaring anyone, and the San Francisco defense will be licking its chop to get another shot at him this season.
The biggest takeaway from the 49ers’ win over the Vikings was the loss of Deebo Samuel, the do-it-all wide receiver/running back who has compiled 1,209 yards from scrimmage in 11 games this season. Samuel will likely be sidelined for a couple of weeks, as will stud linebacker Fred Warner with a hamstring injury. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Brandon Aiyuk or George Kittle who stepped up in his absence on Sunday but Elijah Mitchell who tied his career-high with five catches to go with 27 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown. Kyle Shanahan is capable of engineering this offense without Samuel for a week, but his absence will hurt the team in the short term. Still, Jimmy Garoppolo has been playing winning football lately even if his stats don’t make you jump off the page. The Seattle defense is allowing the second-most passing yards per game this season, and Garoppolo should fare well in this game.
Deebo Samuel is a significant loss for the 49ers, but the continued lack of health for Russell Wilson is the bigger deal in this game. San Francisco’s defense will be fired up to get a shot at a less than 100% Wilson, especially after the Seahawks took the first game in the season series.
San Francisco 49ers: WR Deebo Samuel (groin) Q, DT Maurice Hurst (calf) Q, LB Fred Warner (hamstring) Q
Matchup To Watch: Brandon Shell (SEA OT) vs. Nick Bosa (SF DE)
My Pick: 49ers win 27-23, 49ers cover, over 46 points
Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs
If you told me in the midst of the Broncos’ four-game losing streak earlier this year that they would be competing for first place in the AFC West a few weeks later, I would have laughed in your face. And yet, here we are. All-Pro offensive tackle Garret Bolles missed last week’s game with COVID-19, but his absence wasn’t a huge issue as Teddy Bridgewater was held without a sack. Denver’s defense suffocated Justin Herbert and the Chargers with constant pressure and a smart coverage scheme that took away Herbert’s confidence. Patrick Surtain had two interceptions including one pick-six in the midst of an impressive rookie season. Outside of a five-touchdown game against the Raiders, Patrick Mahomes has just two passing touchdowns and three interceptions across four of his last five games. Denver has allowed opponents to just a 58.6% completion rate this season, the second-lowest in the NFL. However, facing Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce coming off the Chiefs’ bye week could prove to be too much for this secondary. It will likely come down to who can win the battle in the trenches, the Broncos’ ascendant pass rush or the Chiefs’ young offensive line.
The Denver offense wasn’t tasked with doing much last week. Still, the running back duo of veteran Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams has been impressive all year. At the same time, the team’s wide receivers are all capable of beating opposing teams’ single coverage. Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Tim Patrick are all capable of big games depending on who the defense is keying in on. Kansas City’s defense has been getting much better, however, as they haven’t allowed a team to score more than 20 points in any of their last four games. After an abominable stretch to open the season, this improvement has been quite promising for the team’s Super Bowl chances. Melvin Ingram has been a welcome addition in the pass rush and key players have gotten healthier as the season has gone on. Rashad Fenton is currently PFF’s 11th-best cornerback and he’s had an excellent season in coverage while Chris Jones had 3.5 sacks against the Cowboys and could be too much to handle for the Broncos’ offensive line.
The Chiefs are still just 1-5 ATS at home with some of the most inconsistent play of any team this season. Meanwhile, the Broncos are trending up after a dominant win over the Chargers on Sunday. I’m surprised this line opened as high as 10 points, and I’ll happily take Denver to keep this game within a touchdown. I’m not suggesting you bet on the Broncos, but if Teddy Bridgewater shows up, an upset win would not be outlandish with some of the upsets we’ve seen this season.
Denver Broncos: QB Teddy Bridgewater (shin) Q, S Kareem Jackson (neck) Q, DE Shelby Harris (ankle) Q, OT Bobby Massie (ankle) Q, OG Dalton Risner (back) Q, OT Calvin Anderson (knee) D, OT Garett Bolles (illness) IR/COVID-19
Kansas City Chiefs: OT Lucas Niang (ribs) Q, CB Rashad Fenton (knee) Q
Matchup To Watch: Garrett Bolles (DEN OT) vs. Chris Jones (KC DE)
My Pick: Chiefs win 23-20, Broncos cover, under 47 points
Monday, December 6
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills
After opening the season 2-5 with a near-loss to the Texans, the Patriots have rattled off six straight wins and are the hottest team in the NFL. Mac Jones’s play during this stretch has been awe-inspiring, and he’s playing as well as any quarterback in the league right now. The Patriots are gradually letting him open up the offense more and more, and his lights-out accuracy in college has carried over to the pros. Jakobi Meyers has an absurd catch radius and is a magnet for the ball, which is starting to take on more of a downfield role. Meanwhile, the running back duo of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson has been an awesome release to take pressure off Jones and keep the opposing defense honest. The Bills have been elite defensively against the worst teams in the NFL, but they also allowed the Colts to score 41 points and the Titans to score 34 points. Tre’Davious White is going to miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury, and it will take some time for the secondary to adjust to the loss of the former All-Pro cornerback.
It was good to see the Bills’ offense get back on track last week as Josh Allen picked apart the Saints’ secondary with four touchdowns, but Allen has been diabolically inconsistent during this rollercoaster stretch for Buffalo. Stefon Diggs has scored six touchdowns over his past six games, but teams seem to have figured him out a bit as he isn’t making the same impact as he did last year. Buffalo’s complete lack of a run game has held back the passing offense, and in the case of the Bills, having three “capable” running backs really means you have none. The Bills have shuffled around their offensive line a ton lately with the absences of Jon Feliciano and Spencer Brown, and the Patriots’ defensive line is playing excellent football with Matthew Judon, a fringe DPOY candidate, and Christian Barmore a leading DROY candidate. Dawson Knox is back in the lineup for Buffalo, returning a critical red zone piece, and the Bills have more pass-catching weapons than the Patriots have faced since their loss to the Buccaneers earlier in the year.
Josh Allen ripped through the Patriots last season with 320 passing yards and four touchdowns, and you just know the defense will be hungry for revenge after that game. The Bills have a bit of a rest advantage, but the Patriots are the healthier team right now with more impressive momentum. I like New England to go on the road and get their most important win of the season and maintain first place in the AFC East.
Update: The weather for this game is going to be GROSS. If there’s one bet I’m confident in, it’s the under, and I expect everyone to be betting that side on the total. I’ll take the Bills to get a close win at home as I trust Josh Allen more than rookie Mac Jones in this type of a brutal game environment, although I do think the New England run game could be a significant factor. The loss of Tre’Davious White is huge, but both defenses have the upper hand in this matchup, and my gut call is the Bills win here.
New England Patriots: LB Jamie Collins (ankle) IR
Buffalo Bills: CB Tre’Davious White (knee – ACL) O, DT Star Lotulelei (undisclosed) IR/COVID-19, OT Spencer Brown (undisclosed) IR/COVID-19, OG Jon Feliciano (calf) IR
Matchup To Watch: Stefon Diggs (BUF WR) vs. J.C. Jackson (NE CB)
My Pick: Bills win 17-14, Bills cover, under 41 points