Oh, hello there. Welcome back from your post-Thanksgiving nap.
If you needed a few days to sleep off your turkey, you missed a wild weekend of football — and Week 13 doesn’t look to be any tamer. It kicks off with as crucial a regular-season game as it gets for the scuffling Green Bay Packers and ends with a chance for the Washington Redskins to earn a stranglehold on the NFC East.
As always, NESN.com’s expert panel of pickers is here to guide your way. Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Ben Watanabe unanimously picked both Jacksonville and Tampa Bay last week, but don’t let that misfire fool you. Two of our three still are killing it against the spread on the season.
Take a gander at the season standings:
Ben Watanabe: 95-72-4 (Last week: 10-5). Was thankful to go 3-0 on Thursday to start Week 12 on the right foot.
Mike Cole: 92-75-4 (Last week: 10-5). Baltimore’s freakish win Monday night kept him from losing another game on Ben.
Ricky Doyle: 80-87-4 (Last week: 4-11). Another rough week for the rookie, who tumbles further into the hole.
Now on to this week’s picks.
THURSDAY, DEC. 3
(-3) Green Bay Packers (7-4) at Detroit Lions (4-7), 8:25 p.m. ET
Ricky: Packers. Green Bay has lost four of its last five games and looks like crap. Detroit, meanwhile, has won three straight, including a Week 10 victory at Lambeau Field. But I refuse to believe the Packers now are just three points better than the Lions. Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn.
Ben: Packers. Never thought I’d see an Aaron Rodgers-led offense in this much trouble. Detroit’s won three consecutive games against the spread, but I can’t pick against Rodgers in an NFC North matchup where he’s giving up just a field goal. Maybe that’s dumb.
Mike: Packers. Laying an egg on Turkey Day at home against the Bears had to have been rock bottom, right?
SUNDAY, DEC. 6
Houston Texans (6-5) at (-3) Buffalo Bills (5-6), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Texans. Houston’s defense looks legit. The Bills have a good rushing attack, but they could find themselves running in circles come Sunday.
Ben: Texans. Houston’s the hottest squad this side of Kansas City, and its defense is getting points against Tyrod Taylor? Yes, please.
Mike: Texans. Hammer the under here, but I think Houston’s got too much at stake to not show up for this one. Give me the points.
San Francisco 49ers (3-8) at (-7) Chicago Bears (5-6), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Bears. Can’t trust San Francisco’s offense to score points, especially against a Chicago defense that’s been very stingy lately.
Ben: Bears. How about both these teams still playing hard like they have something to play for? Good for them, which makes this a hard one to pick. Still torn between San Fran’s scrappy D and Chicago’s feisty O.
Mike: Bears. The 49ers are 5-12 ATS in their last 17 games, and they covered last week, so the law of averages say they won’t this week. Sounds good to me.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-9), 1 p.m.
*No line as of Wednesday morning
Baltimore Ravens (4-7) at (-4) Miami Dolphins (4-7), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Ravens. Baltimore is banged up, but Miami’s issues go well beyond injuries. The Ravens will hang tough and probably return an extra-point attempt for the win. On a bad snap by the Dolphins, of course.
Ben: Dolphins. Listen, Ryan Tannehill is bad, but he’s not preseason-backup-to-god-awful-Nick-Foles Austin Davis bad.
Mike: Dolphins. Matt Schaub can’t do it two weeks in a row, can he?
(EV) Seattle Seahawks (6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (8-3), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Vikings. Minnesota (9-2 ATS) remains an excellent team to side with. The Seahawks have been playing much better of late, winning four of their last five games, but three of those victories have come against the 49ers (twice) and Cowboys, who own a combined 6-16 record.
Ben: Seahawks. The Vikings have been machines at home, but Seattle’s looked solid the last three weeks against three opponents (Arizona, San Francisco, Pittsburgh) who are playing decent football at the moment.
Mike: Seahawks. If we operate under the assumption Matt Ryan isn’t very good (because he’s not), then the Vikings really haven’t beat an upper-echelon QB this season. I bring this up because Russell Wilson is playing out of his mind right now with a 148.0 passer rating the last two weeks.
(-1) New York Jets (6-5) at New York Giants (5-6), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Jets. Eli Manning has thrown five interceptions over his last three games after throwing four picks in his first eight contests of the season. That’s significant because he’ll likely need to throw the ball a lot Sunday, when the Jets should be able to bottle up the Giants’ lackluster ground game.
Ben: Giants. The Giants get up for matchups like this in-building showdown and suck against everybody else. They also own this series of late, going 4-0-1 ATS in their last five in the Swamp Bowl.
Mike: Jets. No offense has allowed fewer sacks this week than the Jets, and no defenses have fewer sacks than the Giants. Add it up, people.
(-5.5) Arizona Cardinals (9-2) at St. Louis Rams (4-7), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Cardinals. Jeff Fisher’s right. The Rams’ issues aren’t due to lack of effort. They just stink.
Ben: Cardinals. Words don’t adequately describe how bad St. Louis’ offense is. Foles might not even start for a CFL team. (Congratulations on your Grey Cup victory, Edmonton Eskimos!)
Mike: Cardinals. Arizona’s issues with the 49ers aren’t ideal, but whatever. Have you seen the Rams — more notably Foles — lately?
Atlanta Falcons (6-5) at (-1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Bucs. Tampa Bay really had a letdown game last week against Indianapolis. Fortunately for the Bucs, they’ll play a quarterback south of 40 years old this week.
Ben: Bucs. Atlanta holds all the numerical edges in recent history against the Bucs, but this version of the Dirty Birds is absolute garbage.
Mike: Bucs. The Bucs are still very much alive, and a win here would be huge. This could be their official “We’re here” moment.
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) at (-2.5) Tennessee Titans (2-9), 1 p.m.
Ricky: Jaguars. Jacksonville is 8-1-1 ATS in its last 10 games against Tennessee. The Titans also are 1-9 ATS in their last 10 games against divisional opponents, which is amazing because the AFC South blows.
Ben: Jaguars. Taking the Jags for a third straight game blew up in my face last week, so what do I do? I take them a fourth time. They’re 5-2 ATS in their last seven on the road and 4-1 ATS in their last five in Nashville, though, so this pick isn’t merely made on a prayer.
Mike: Jaguars. The Titans might be better than their record indicates — five of their nine losses have been by a TD or less — but there’s an unending list of stats that tells me to bet against them here.
(-2.5) Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) at Oakland Raiders (5-6), 4:05 p.m.
Ricky: Raiders. The Chiefs are 5-0 ATS in their last five games. But I need to make up ground in the standings somewhere, right?
Ben: Chiefs. Right now, you can’t bet against the Chiefs, who are rolling. They’ve won five in a row, all of them against the spread, and Spencer Ware became the latest plug-and-play running back to rush for 100 yards for K.C. last week.
Mike: Chiefs. Seems like every week there’s an AFC West game that you look at the spread and think “What does Vegas know that I don’t?” Although this is that game, I can’t go against the Chiefs, who are arguably the NFL’s hottest team.
(-4) Denver Broncos (9-2) at San Diego Chargers (3-8), 4:05 p.m.
Ricky: Broncos. I’ll ride the Brock Osweiler hype train for one week, at least. Mostly, however, this comes down to Philip Rivers versus Denver’s defense. I still don’t think Rivers has enough around him.
Ben: Broncos. Not only does Denver finally look like it’s onto something offensively, there’s also the matter of San Diego’s persistent impotence at home ATS.
Mike: Broncos. This kind of feels like a bad matchup for the Chargers, who likely will find it a little more difficult to move the ball against the Denver defense than it did last week in Jacksonville.
(-7.5) Carolina Panthers (11-0) at New Orleans Saints (4-7), 4:25 p.m.
Ricky: Panthers. I really want to pick against the Panthers each week based on the belief they’ll lose a game at some point this season. That strategy clearly isn’t working for me, though.
Ben: Panthers. The Saints have only looked respectable against the league’s very worst defenses, and Carolina, which now stands 9-2 ATS this season, doesn’t have one of those.
Mike: Panthers. The Saints’ defense is atrocious, and not even firing Rob Ryan could fix it. So who does Sean Payton blame now?
Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) at (-10.5) New England Patriots (10-1), 4:25 p.m.
Ricky: Patriots. This smells like a classic “everyone relax” game in Foxboro. Chip Kelly probably shouldn’t have been so quick to buy that new house in the Philadelphia area.
Ben: Patriots. The Pats certainly have their problems, but the last three halfway-respectable opponents the Eagles have played each beat them by at least 11 points — and that’s stretching the definition of “halfway respectable” to include Tampa and Detroit.
Mike: Eagles. The loss of Dont’a Hightower is huge. The Patriots undoubtedly will bounce back, but I’m not sure they can cover that high of a spread when Philadelphia should be able to establish a running game.
Indianapolis Colts (6-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5), 8:30 p.m.
*No line as of Wednesday morning
MONDAY, DEC. 6
Dallas Cowboys (3-8) at (-4.5) Washington Redskins (5-6), 8:30 p.m.
Ricky: Redskins. The Cowboys had a puncher’s chance at the division with Tony Romo back and the NFC East in shambles. Then they got punched in the mouth on Thanksgiving and reminded everyone why they’ve been laughable this season.
Ben: Redskins. With Tony Romo now gone, the Cowboys are in “Get Smacked for Jack” or “Get Boffed for Goff” mode, while the Redskins control their destiny in the NFC East.
Mike: Redskins. The Cowboys are a joke, and the Redskins actually have something to play for. The only thing that makes me apprehensive here is that it’s an NFC East game, and anything can happen because everyone stinks.
Thumbnail photo via Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports Images
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