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Week 13 NFL Picks Against the Spread

In a Sunday slate loaded with great games, we like the underdog Bengals and Dolphins to cover in this week’s marquee matchups. Here are our picks for every game.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

We’re back, baby! After a rough stretch, I just needed a little holiday spirit to get on track (I hope).

Week 13 offers a fantastic slate of NFL games, starting with Bills-Patriots on Thursday night and continuing on Sunday with tremendous matchups like Chiefs-Bengals, Eagles-Titans, and Dolphins-49ers.

Lines are from FanDuel as of Wednesday night. Stats are from TruMedia/Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted. Now, on to the picks:

Week 12 record: 10-5-1

Season record: 93-81-6

Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (+4)

It’s hard to look at this game and not think about last season. In Week 16, the Bills had seven true offensive possessions against the Patriots. They scored four touchdowns, made two field goals, and had a turnover on downs. Then, in the wild-card round, the Bills scored touchdowns on all seven of their real possessions in what was as close to a perfect offensive performance as we’ve ever seen.

Josh Allen is currently dealing with an elbow injury, so maybe he won’t be quite as good as he was in those games. But the Patriots are also not as good as they were last year. Mac Jones showed signs of life on Thanksgiving against the Vikings, but the Patriots were still uncharacteristically sloppy in that game. The defense has beat up on terrible quarterbacks, but Kirk Cousins looked plenty comfortable against New England. And Cousins is no Allen.

It’s always risky to bet against Bill Belichick as an underdog, but there’s a significant talent discrepancy between these two teams, and the Bills have the division and postseason seeding to play for. I think they take care of business again.

The pick: Bills (-4)

New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings (-3)

How good was the Jets’ offensive performance last week against the Bears? It was their most efficient game of the past two years, according to expected points added (EPA) per drive. In terms of EPA per pass play, Mike White’s performance was the best for a Jets quarterback in the past two seasons. This Vikings defense doesn’t do a whole lot schematically to make life hard on opponents. It’d be no surprise to see the Jets move the ball well once again.

Meanwhile, New York’s defense is all the way up to fourth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. Sauce Gardner versus Justin Jefferson might make the film grinders pass out from excitement when the All-22 comes out.

I think these are two pretty evenly matched teams, and White could easily come back down to earth and start turning the ball over. But I like the possibility of the Jets defensive line dominating and keeping them in this game.

The pick: Jets (+3)

Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens (-8.5)

Let’s check in once again on how the Broncos’ season is going:

Just want to make one thing clear to any of my Ringer colleagues who are reading this: If my wife ever throws me a birthday party, you 100 percent do not have to come. Scratch that. You 100 percent should not come. And you should also tell her to cancel the party so I don’t have to pretend I’m happy about getting old and dealing with mysterious neck pain every other month.

Sorry for the detour. Back to football. The Broncos are terrible. If the season ended today, they’d have the fourth overall pick, and of course that pick goes to the Seahawks. The Broncos have also been a terrible 3-8 against the spread.

The advanced metrics love the Ravens, despite their 7-4 record. For example, they are second in overall DVOA behind only the Bills. Ben Solak and I had a spirited discussion on Extra Point Taken this week about the Ravens. He says they’re Super Bowl contenders. I don’t trust them.

I’m going to go with a bit of a hedge here and take the Ravens. If they cover, great. I get the pick right. If they don’t, that’s OK too. I’ll have more ammo to crush Solak with next week. A true win-win.

The pick: Ravens (-8.5)

Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons (+1.5)

I still can’t believe Arthur Smith called for Marcus Mariota to pass inside Washington’s 5-yard line with the game on the line last week. Are we sure Ron Rivera didn’t hijack Smith’s headset and imitate his voice when calling in the play to Mariota? There’s no other reasonable explanation. The result, of course, was a tipped interception and a Falcons loss.

The Steelers, meanwhile, looked pretty good in their Monday night win against the Colts. Kenny Pickett was far from perfect, but he looked competent and had some moments when his talent flashed, which is all you can really ask from a rookie. T.J. Watt was pretty quiet in that game. I don’t see that happening two weeks in a row.

The pick: Steelers (-1.5)

Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions (-1)

A few weeks ago, I said I wanted more from the Trevor Lawrence experience. We got more last week. He was brilliant in the fourth quarter of the Jaguars’ upset win over the Ravens.

The Lions hung tough against the Bills on Thanksgiving, but saw their three-game win streak come to an end. This is a toss-up game between two pretty evenly matched teams, but I trust Doug Pederson and Lawrence more than Dan Campbell and Jared Goff. I could see the Jaguars piling up some wins here down the stretch.

The pick: Jaguars (+1)

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles (-5.5)

An underrated aspect of Jalen Hurts’s 2022 season: his accuracy as a passer. Next Gen Stats measures the likelihood of a completion on every pass, using tracking data for how long the pass is, how open the receiver is, whether the quarterback is pressured, and other factors. It then measures a quarterback’s actual completion percentage to what’s expected. By this completion percentage above expectation metric, Hurts ranks third among current starters.

The Eagles will likely need Hurts to make plays through the air, given that the Titans defense ranks first in rushing DVOA. Tennessee is coming off of a tough loss to the Bengals, but Derrick Henry should find success against an Eagles run defense that has had some issues. I think the Titans keep it close and wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled off the upset.

The pick: Titans (+5.5)

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans (+7)

The idea that Deshaun Watson is going to come in and save the Browns’ season feels misguided. The offense ranked fourth in DVOA through 12 weeks with Jacoby Brissett. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Browns were efficient on that side of the ball without Watson. The defense? Well, that’s a different story. The Browns rank 29th in defensive DVOA. And Watson isn’t going to help them there.

It’s hard to have much faith in the Texans to be competitive against any competent team. They’ve been outscored by 73 points during their current six-game losing streak.

The pick: Browns (-7)

Washington Commanders at New York Giants (+2.5)

Shout-out to the Giants for the backdoor cover against the Cowboys last week. That was a true Thanksgiving miracle.

As for the Giants and Commanders, we’ve seen a shift in playoff odds this week. The Giants are more likely to miss the playoffs (-122) than make the playoffs (+100) according to FanDuel. The Commanders, meanwhile, are more likely to make the playoffs (-152) than miss them (+132) after winning their third straight last week.

In a weird scheduling quirk, these two teams play again in Week 15. The Commanders have a bye in between, while the Giants have a matchup with the Eagles.

I don’t see a whole lot separating these two. Given that the Giants are at home and coming off of extra rest, I’ll go ahead and take the points.

The pick: Giants (+2.5)

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (+5.5)

As of this writing, we don’t know who’s starting at quarterback for either team. Aaron Rodgers left last week’s game against the Eagles with a rib injury, but indications Wednesday were that he’ll try to give it a go. Even if it’s Jordan Love under center, the Packers might not see a significant dropoff. It was a small sample last week, but Love looked poised and comfortable when he came into the game.

As for the Bears, we’ll see whether Justin Fields returns after missing last week’s game with a shoulder injury. If I knew Fields was healthy and set to start, I’d take the Bears here. But I don’t, and Chicago might have the worst defense in the NFL right now. Give me Green Bay.

The pick: Packers (-5.5)

Seahawks WR DK Metcalf
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (+7.5)

The Seahawks got lit up for 576 yards against the Raiders last week and still came close to winning the game. I am a big believer in Seattle’s offense, but their pass rush has been nonexistent recently.

The Rams will be without Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Allen Robinson II in this game. They put up a valiant effort last week against the Chiefs but still lost by 16. If the season ended today, the Rams would be handing the no. 3 draft pick over to the Lions.

I like this matchup for Seattle. This feels like a “get right” game for their defense, and the Seahawks should be able to move the ball offensively.

The pick: Seahawks (-7.5)

Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5)

I can’t wait for this game. The Dolphins offense has looked flat-out unstoppable. They’ve scored 30 or more points in four straight games. Granted, it hasn’t been the stiffest competition during that streak: the Lions, Bears, Browns, and Texans. But this will be a measuring-stick game for Miami. The 49ers rank fifth in defensive DVOA. They shut out the Saints last week and have held opponents to under 17 points in four straight. This is clear strength on strength.

As of this writing, it’s unclear whether the Dolphins will have left tackle Terron Armstead for this game. But given how good that offense has looked and the fact that Kyle Shanahan is generally conservative with his in-game decision-making, I’ll take the points here.

The pick: Dolphins (+3.5)

Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders (+1.5)

How do you sum up that performance by Josh McDaniels last week? On one hand, the offensive game plan and execution were both brilliant. The Raiders went up and down the field against the Seahawks, amassing 576 yards and 27 first downs. On the other hand, McDaniels had some of the most conservative in-game decisions we’ve seen by a coach this year.

He had his team kick a field goal on fourth-and-1 from Seattle’s 7-yard line in the third quarter. He elected to not even try to score with 40 seconds on the clock and the game tied at the end of regulation. And he opted to attempt a 56-yard field goal rather than go for it on fourth-and-2 in overtime. Even Todd Bowles thought McDaniels should’ve been more aggressive!

As for the Chargers, they beat the Cardinals with a last-minute touchdown and two-point conversion. But they have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL once again this season. There’s no reason to trust either team in this spot. But since I pick every game …

The pick: Raiders (+1.5)

Kansas City Chiefs at Cincinnati Bengals (+2.5)

The Chiefs and Bengals are both on the short list of teams that can win the Super Bowl. Kansas City has far and away the best offense, statistically, in the NFL.

The Bengals, meanwhile, put the clamps on Derrick Henry last week and escaped Tennessee with a victory. As of this writing, it’s unclear whether they’ll get Ja’Marr Chase back for this game.

In the AFC championship game last year, the Bengals’ strategy of dropping eight into coverage and forcing Patrick Mahomes to be patient worked brilliantly. But Mahomes has had answers for just about every defensive tactic he’s seen this season.

Mahomes in a revenge game is scary. It’s possible he goes off and lights the Bengals up. But I love how flexible Cincinnati’s defense can be week to week, and the Bengals offense is balanced and efficient. I’ll take the points and wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Burrow and Co. win outright.

The pick: Bengals (+2.5)

Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys (-10.5)

Listening to how disgusted Troy Aikman was with the Colts passing game on Monday Night Football was one of the highlights of this season. He literally described it as “dreadful” at one point and couldn’t understand how any team could design a scheme that never pushed the ball downfield. I loved every minute of it.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, continue to look like one of the NFL’s most complete teams. They’ve got so much riding on the final six weeks of the season. If the Cowboys can pick up a game on the Eagles in the next three weeks, the matchup between the two teams on Christmas Eve could very well be for first place in the NFC East and a first-round bye (assuming the Vikings slip up somewhere along the line). Football Outsiders gives the Cowboys a 15.7 percent chance to earn the top seed, compared to 79.5 percent for the Eagles. But if the Eagles lose to the Titans and the Cowboys win here, the gap there will shrink significantly.

I feel like I say the same thing about the Colts in this space every week: They stink. I see a blowout on Sunday Night Football. Maybe Cris Collinsworth will be as disgusted as Aikman was.

The pick: Cowboys (-10.5)

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5)

The Bucs’ performance against the Browns last week was flat-out embarrassing. I’m completely out on them as a potential contender in the NFC. The overly conservative way that Todd Bowles and Tom Brady handled the clock at the end of regulation was mind-boggling. The Bucs had so many chances to put Cleveland away but failed to score on their final seven possessions of the game.

Do I believe in this Saints team? Of course not. But their defense has pretty consistently given Brady problems. I think they keep it close.

The pick: Saints (+3.5)