We’re not going to lie: Week 13 in the NFL doesn’t offer a ton of intriguing matchups.
Eight games have spreads of at least a touchdown, including three double-digit spreads. But there are plenty of playoff implications, and what else are you going to do on Sunday anyway?
NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian have plenty to play for with their against-the-spread picks, as they’re once again back to give their winners.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 4-11 (84-86-3 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 10-5 (88-82-3)
Andre Khatchaturian: 10-5 (94-76-3)
Here are their Week 13 picks, with lines courtesy of OddsShark.com.
THURSDAY, NOV. 29
(-7.5) New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Saints. The Cowboys are plus-5 in turnover margin over their three-game winning streak. Gonna be a little tougher to win the turnover battle against this Saints offense.
Ricky: Saints. Not going to get cute here. Initially thought about taking the Cowboys since it’s a Thursday night game in Dallas, but let’s face it: The Saints really don’t have any flaws. And while the Cowboys’ three-game winning streak is nice, there’s no way they can play catch-up if New Orleans jumps out to an early lead and forces Dallas to abandon the run.
Andre: Saints. Dak Prescott isn’t going to win many games with his arm. He only has three 300-yard games in his career. Ezekiel Elliott is going to have to have a big game if the Cowboys are going to make this a game, but that will be challenging because 1) the Saints allow the fewest yards per carry in the league, 2) Drew Brees is Drew Brees and he’ll put up points against a mediocre Dallas pass defense and 3) if the Saints take the lead, Dallas might get away from the run.
SUNDAY, DEC. 2
Arizona Cardinals at (-14) Green Bay Packers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. The Packers shouldn’t be favored by 14 points over anyone right now.
Ricky: Cardinals. This is just the eighth time since 1981 that a team with a losing record is favored by two touchdowns in December, per CBS Sports. (The favorites are 4-2-1 ATS in the previous seven instances.) It’s understandable, as the Cardinals are terrible no matter how you slice it. But the Packers have issues, too, namely coaching.
Andre: Packers. Arizona has cracked the 20-point mark just twice all year and that was against the Raiders and 49ers. The Packers are sixth in the NFL in yards per play differential and the Cardinals are dead last. Aaron Rodgers is in desperation mode (scary) and the Packers haven’t lost at home this season.
(-1) Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. So we’ve got a rookie quarterback making his first career road start favored over a former MVP? I feel like I’ve gotta take the Falcons out of principle.
Ricky: Ravens. The Falcons are the worst defensive team in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings. They’re terrible against the run and can’t tackle.
Andre: Falcons. Everyone keeps talking about how bad the Falcons secondary is, but they haven’t allowed a 300-yard game since September and that trend should continue against Lamar Jackson. Atlanta does allow a lot of yards on the ground, but Baltimore’s yards per carry numbers aren’t inspiring (25th).
Buffalo Bills at (-5) Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. Buffalo’s defense has been sneaky good this season, while the Dolphins rank 25th in points, 27th in passing yards and 20th in rushing yards. If this one is low-scoring, let me grab the points.
Ricky: Bills. Only two teams — the Jets and Buccaneers — have given away the football more than the Bills. But keep in mind: Buffalo turned the ball over 14 times during its four-game losing streak from Week 6 to Week 10. The Bills haven’t turned the ball over once during their two-game winning streak.
Andre: Bills. The Bills have been averaging more than six yards per play over the last two games. That’s a big deal considering they were averaging fewer than four yards per play for the first part of the season. Their defense continues to be a strength, especially against the passing game. They allow the second-fewest yards per pass attempt and should continue to thrive against a Dolphins team that’s 29th in yards per play differential.
(-3.5) Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. During their three-game losing streak, the Panthers are allowing 6.4 yards per play (fourth-worst in the NFL) and haven’t forced a turnover. I think Tampa Bay’s offense ends up being too much and the Bucs finally take care of the football and win outright.
Ricky: Panthers. Good news: The Bucs, owners of an NFL-worst minus-21 turnover differential, didn’t cough up the football last week. Bad news: That effort came against the 49ers, who’ve totaled an NFL-low five takeaways all season. Expect some mistakes from Tampa Bay this week to make up for lost time.
Andre: Panthers. I don’t care how great Tampa’s offense is, the Bucs always shoot themselves in the foot by turning the ball over. Their 29 giveaways are six more than the Jets, who have the second-most in the league. Defensively, they can’t force turnovers and they’ve allowed the second-most yards per play.
Chicago Bears at New York Giants (No line as of Thursday afternoon)
Cleveland Browns at (-6) Houston Texans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Texans. The Browns’ progress is nice, but last week’s win snapped a 25-game road losing streak, and it happened against a woeful Bengals team. Houston, meanwhile, has four home wins this season by an average of 11.5 points.
Ricky: Texans. The Browns have a little bit of swagger to them thanks to their quarterback, a coaching change and back-to-back wins over the hapless Falcons and Bengals. This week poses a stiff test, however, and Houston’s defense is equipped to take care of business at home.
Andre: Browns. The Browns averaged 4.9 yards per play with Hue Jackson. In the last three games, they’re averaging more than six. Their rejuvenated offense combined with their ability to create turnovers should keep this game a close one.
(-5) Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. The Bengals have nothing left to play for, and it doesn’t feel like Marvin Lewis is going to be able to turn his team around after an awful home loss to the Browns last week.
Ricky: Broncos. The Bengals can’t stop a nose bleed.
Andre: Broncos. Since Week 4, Denver has played the Chiefs twice (two losses by less than one score), the Rams (lost by three), the Texans (lost by two), the Steelers and Chargers (both wins.) That is a daunting schedule and the fact they’ve kept games against tough opponents close means this is a good Broncos team. Denver averages the second-most yards per carry and they go up against a Bengals team that allows the second-most yards per game.
(-4) Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Mike: Colts. Remember when the Jaguars’ defense was good? They have the worst sack percentage of any team in the NFL the last three weeks, and that’s bad news against a Colts team that’s allowed Andrew Luck to be sacked just once over their five-game winning streak.
Ricky: Jaguars. The Colts are 0-6-1 ATS in their last seven games against the Jaguars. Maybe firing offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and benching quarterback Blake Bortles will give the Jaguars the kick in the pants they need.
Andre: Jaguars. The Colts have beaten terrible opponents over their last five games. Jacksonville is another terrible opponent, but I do like the switch to Cody Kessler. As a starter for a terrible Browns team two years ago, he had six touchdowns, two interceptions and completed 66 percent of his passes. Jacksonville has kept it within a score in their last four losses, too.
(-10) Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Rams. The Lions’ defense just isn’t very good, and now they’re tasked with slowing down a rested Rams offense? As long as L.A. doesn’t get ahead of itself, the Rams should roll.
Ricky: Lions. Trap game? The Rams should be well-rested after their Week 12 bye, but this game comes on the road after matchups with the Packers, Saints, Seahawks and Chiefs and before a showdown with the Bears. Los Angeles is 1-5-2 ATS over its last eight games despite winning all but one of those contests straight up.
Andre: Rams. The Lions are third-to-last in yards per play differential and in the last five games they’ve averaged just 16.2 points per game, while Matt Stafford has just five touchdowns and five picks. The Rams have the third-best turnover differential and I don’t see any way the Lions keep up with the Rams’ explosive offense.
(-15) Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Chiefs. See what I wrote about the Rams-Lions game and just insert “Chiefs” for each mention of “Rams.”
Ricky: Raiders. I’ll probably regret this pick by the end of the first quarter. But it’s soooo many points, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that the Chiefs feel the lingering sting of their narrow loss to the Rams on Monday night two weeks ago.
Andre: Chiefs. The Chiefs average seven yards per play and the Raiders allow nearly seven. I’d be shocked if the Chiefs punt in this game.
New York Jets at (-8) Tennessee Titans, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Titans. Getting a read on the Titans is so hard, but they’ve been much better at home (3-1 vs. 2-5), and there was nothing I saw out of the Jets offense last week against the Patriots that inspired any sort of confidence.
Ricky: Jets. The Titans are nothing more than a mediocre football team. Sometimes, they’re good. Sometimes, they’re bad. Given that volatility, this is way too many points to lay, especially with the Jets having some talent on defense.
Andre: Jets. Marcus Mariota was nearly perfect and the Titans still were blown out of the water. The Titans are just way too unpredictable and I still don’t know what they are. Give me the points.
Minnesota Vikings at (-5) New England Patriots, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. The line keeps dropping, which has me wary, but Tom Brady has been surprisingly poor against the blitz this season, and no one blitzes more than Minnesota. The Vikings also have an edge on third down and in the red zone, two vital components to keeping the game close.
Ricky: Vikings. Minnesota might win this game outright. The Vikings have talent at all three levels of their defense, helping to explain why they’re effective against both the run and the pass. All-Pro safety Harrison Smith can blanket Rob Gronkowski while the Vikings bring pressure up front. Speaking of pressure, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has the best completion percentage (67.7) and best completion percentage on deep passes (77.9) of any QB with more than 42 dropbacks this season. Tom Brady, meanwhile, ranks 38th and 27th, respectively, in those areas.
Andre: Patriots. Minnesota doesn’t have a win against a team with a winning record. Its problem continues to be running the ball. The Vikings haven’t been able to establish the run and Dalvin Cook has been ineffective all year. This has put a lot of pressure on Kirk Cousins, who is 0-4-1 when throwing the ball more than 40 times this year.
San Francisco 49ers at (-10) Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. Seattle is such a front-running team; when the Seahawks get going, they’re hard to stop. Returning home after a big win with Nick Mullens on the other side isn’t going to be what slows them down.
Ricky: Seahawks. The 49ers have the NFL’s worst coverage grade, according to Pro Football Focus. They also don’t force turnovers and are horrendous at tackling. Seattle should light up the scoreboard in its own backyard. San Francisco is 0-6 SU and 2-4 ATS on the road this season. The Niners have lost six straight games in Seattle, going 1-5 ATS.
Andre: Seahawks. Not a bad stretch for Seattle. The ‘Hawks finish 2-2 against the Chargers, Rams, Packers and Panthers. Now they play the 49ers twice in three weeks and finish with four of their last five at home. The 49ers have a league-low two interceptions this season and have the second-worst turnover differential.
Los Angeles Chargers at (-3.5) Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. L.A. has one of the best red-zone defenses in the NFL, while only Blake Bortles and Case Keenum have worse red-zone passer ratings than Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers quarterback has also been way too sloppy with the ball, especially under pressure, which could mean a struggle against the Chargers’ pass rush.
Ricky: Steelers. James Conner has just 35 carries over the last three weeks, but the Steelers should call his number frequently Sunday night against a Chargers run defense that ranks 27th, according to Pro Football Focus. Another advantage for Pittsburgh: Third down. The Steelers rank No. 7 in third-down conversion percentage and No. 5 in opponent third-down conversion percentage, whereas the Chargers rank No. 22 in both of those categories.
Andre: Chargers. Sure, Melvin Gordon is gone. But Austin Ekeler has 409 rushing yards this year as a backup. He averages nearly six yards per carry and has been heavily used in the passing game, too. Roethlisberger is also a turnover machine lately, and in a big game where the smallest mistakes can change the game, I trust Rivers more than Big Ben. Finally, Joey Bosa is getting into form. He had two sacks in his second game of the year last week.
MONDAY, DEC. 3
Washington Redskins at (-6.5) Philadelphia Eagles, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Redskins. The Redskins just need to buy Colt McCoy a little bit of time. Then even he should find success against an absurdly banged-up Eagles secondary.
Ricky: Eagles. Philadelphia has the best pass rush in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, and that’ll prove problematic for Washington’s patchwork offensive line. The Eagles also rank fifth in defending tight ends, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings, meaning McCoy will have a more difficult time checking down to Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis this week.
Andre: Eagles. The Redskins were benefiting from mistake-free football from Alex Smith all year. That’s not going to continue with McCoy. Plus, Carson Wentz is quietly putting up a strong season. Aside from that disaster against New Orleans, he only has three picks this year to go with 16 touchdowns.
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images
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