Welcome to one of the most hectic, stressful, least-healthy weeks of the entire year, folks. It’s Thanksgiving week, the holiday season is upon us, and it’s time to gorge ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally.
Luckily, football is there to ease the pain or awkwardness that comes with family get-togethers or class reunions, and it starts nice and early with a three-game NFL slate on Thursday that begins at 12:30 p.m. ET sharp.
Before stuffing their faces, NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian were kind enough to make their weekly against-the-spread picks.
Before we get to their picks, here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 6-8 (85-88-3 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 8-6 (97-76-3)
Andre Khatchaturian: 7-7 (87-85-3)
Here are their Week 13 picks.
THURSDAY, NOV. 28
(-3) Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions, 12:30 p.m.
Mike: Lions. Detroit’s defense isn’t good, but it has limited big plays on the ground. The Lions have struggled against big plays in the passing game, but that shouldn’t be a concern against Mitch Trubisky. If the Lions can keep the game in front of them, I like taking the points in what should be a low-scoring game (total of 39), and I like it even more knowing Detroit has a large kicking advantage, too.
Ricky: Bears. The uncertainty surrounding the Lions’ quarterback situation is concerning given the matchup, as the Bears’ defense, while not quite as daunting as last season’s unit, remains solid against both the run and the pass. Chicago’s offense would be wise to lean on its ground game against Detroit’s defense, which ranks 28th against the run, according to Pro Football Focus’ grades.
Andre: Lions. Both of these teams play a lot of close games. Ten of the Lions’ 11 games and seven of the Bears’ 11 have been decided by one score. With that said, it’s tantalizing to take the points at home for the Lions, especially in a game that’s expected to be low scoring.
Buffalo Bills at (-6.5) Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 p.m.
Mike: Bills. Buffalo’s defense gets a lot of credit, but the recent offensive improvements are why I like the Bills. Since offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has gone to the coaches’ booth, Buffalo is averaging 5.8 yards per play. They should push the pace here to negate the Dallas pass rush, and Buffalo has the advantage in coaching and special teams, two areas that killed the Cowboys last week.
Ricky: Cowboys. Sure, the Bills are 8-3, but the seven teams they’ve defeated own a combined 19-58 record. And of those seven teams, six rank in the bottom eight of Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA — the Cowboys rank second in the NFL, trailing only the Ravens.
Andre: Cowboys. The Bills have the 23rd-ranked rush defense on Pro Football Focus, which means Ezekiel Elliott will be fed well. Dallas is the more complete team. They’re first in yards per play, eighth in yards allowed per play and first in yards per play differential. Don’t look at that 6-5 record — this is a good team that hasn’t reached its true potential.
(-7) New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Saints. Pretty crazy stat from Action Network here: Favorites are 30-11 against the spread on Thanksgiving since 2003, and favorites of a touchdown or more are 16-3 ATS in that span. It’s also a big revenge game for the Saints, who are looking to avenge a Week 10 loss.
Ricky: Falcons. The Saints are missing the left side of their offensive line, as Terron Armstead (ankle sprain) and Andrus Peat (broken arm) — two Pro Bowl selections last season — both are dealing with injuries. This opens the door for the Falcons’ inconsistent pass rush, which showed life in Atlanta’s back-to-back victories before Week 12, to create some havoc around Drew Brees.
Andre: Saints. Atlanta is ranked 28th in coverage on Pro Football Focus, so Drew Brees shouldn’t have any trouble moving the ball down the field. Devonta Freeman is expected to return, but the Saints do a good job against the run, allowing the third-fewest rushing yards per game. Expect a high-volume game for Matt Ryan. Ryan has eight touchdowns and seven picks when throwing the ball 40-plus times a game.
SUNDAY, DEC. 1
(-2) Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. Quack, quack! Duck Hodges is under center this week for Pittsburgh because, as Mike Tomlin said, Hodges “has not killed us,” like Mason Rudolph has. But this pick has more to do with Pittsburgh having a stout defense looking for revenge following the Week 11 gong show in Cleveland.
Ricky: Browns. The Browns, to their credit, have cleaned things up a bit recently, committing only one turnover in their last four games. The pressure ramps up Sunday in Pittsburgh, perhaps paving the way for some regression, but the Steelers are dealing with too many injuries offensively to feel great about their chances of taking care of business at home.
Andre: Steelers. Pittsburgh getting points at home in a pivotal revenge game against the Browns? This is obvious. Hodges (8 yards per pass attempt) is an upgrade over Rudolph (6.2 yards per pass attempt). Pittsburgh allows 3.8 yards per carry. They’ll limit Nick Chubb and force Baker Mayfield to make dumb mistakes, which he’s done many times throughout his young career.
(-6.5) Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Packers. Green Bay typically bounces back in these situations — the Packers are 6-0 ATS following their last six ATS losses — and this is a good get-right spot against a bad defense and a banged-up Giants team expected to be without top wideout Golden Tate and defensive/special teams stalwart Jabril Peppers.
Ricky: Giants. The Packers continue to have problems against the run, ranking 28th in rush defense DVOA. That’ll be enough for Saquon Barkley to rip off a few big runs and stay within the number.
Andre: Packers. The Giants have allowed the second-most yards per pass attempt. This could be a nice get-right game for Aaron Rodgers.
(-3.5) New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. The Jets are feeling good about themselves right now, as they should, which typically is when things come crashing down for them.
Ricky: Bengals. Andy Dalton’s return to the lineup will spark Cincinnati’s offense for at least one afternoon. Prepare to tell your grandkids about it.
Andre: Jets. The Bengals’ only strength on offense is Joe Mixon, but New York allows just three yards per carry, the lowest mark in the league. Sam Darnold will feast on a pass defense that allows nine yards per pass attempt, the highest in the NFL.
(-9) Philadelphia Eagles at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. Philly averaged 25 points in its first nine games. In the last two games, the Eagles have scored 19 points total. A lot of that has been the competition (New England, Seattle), but much of it was injuries. They’re expected to get both Alshon Jeffery and Jordan Howard back this weekend, and a trip to Miami should make the Eagles look much better offensively.
Ricky: Dolphins. The Eagles’ offensive woes make it awfully difficult to lay this many points on the road, even against a team as defensively challenged as the Dolphins.
Andre: Eagles. Philadelphia seems a bit undervalued here after a couple of weak performances. The Dolphins are still 32nd in yards per play, 31st in yards allowed per play and 32nd in turnover differential.
San Francisco 49ers at (-6) Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. This is a tough train to slow down, even with Baltimore on the short week. The Ravens are the NFL’s best first-quarter team, and building an early lead can take San Fran out of its rhythm. It’s not like the Ravens haven’t shredded good defenses already this season, putting up a combined 82 points against New England and the Rams, the Nos. 1 and 8 DVOA defenses, respectively.
Ricky: Ravens. We already saw the 49ers’ defense struggle, relatively speaking, against two mobile quarterbacks in Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson. That’s troubling ahead of a matchup with Lamar Jackson, whose duel-threat ability is off the charts right now.
Andre: Ravens. This line went up from 4.5 to 6 after Jackson’s “Monday Night Football” performance. This kind of scares me, but the Ravens are the best team on the ground and they’re going up against a team that’s 25th in yards allowed per carry. Baltimore has also proven they can beat quality opponents, beating Seattle, Houston, New England and the Rams by a combined score of 153-49.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (-1) Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jaguars. These teams feel very equal, so I’ll just take the home team, I guess. And if we’re pitting two seemingly equal teams against one another, it seems prudent to side with the team that doesn’t have Jameis Winston and the obligatory two turnovers he delivers on a weekly basis.
Ricky: Bucs. We’ve seen how ineffective the Jaguars’ offense becomes when it can’t establish the run, something that’ll be difficult to accomplish this week against a Bucs defense that stops the run as well as any team in the NFL. Now, if only Winston would stop throwing the ball to the other team …
Andre: Jaguars. Winston is almost on pace for a 30-interception season. Only four quarterbacks since the merger have thrown more than 30 picks in a year and none since Vinny Testaverde threw 35 in 1988. The Jaguars’ pass rush (fifth in sack rate) will feast on the Bucs’ leaky offensive line that’s allowed the sixth-most sacks in football.
Tennessee Titans at (-2.5) Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. The advanced metrics love the Titans’ run defense, which is the most important thing when trying to stop this Colts offense. You should be able to pass against the Titans, but Indy is averaging 163 passing yards per game over its last five contests.
Ricky: Colts. Tennessee is riding a wave of momentum after back-to-back wins over Kansas City and Jacksonville. However, this week poses a different challenge: Let’s see if the Titans can take their new-look act on the road, where they’re 3-13 SU + ATS against divisional opponents since 2014.
Andre: Titans. Ryan Tannehill has completed more than 70 percent of his passes and has 10 touchdowns with just three picks since taking over as starter. For years, the Titans were one of the most boring teams to watch in the NFL, but that has changed in recent weeks because of Tannehill and the explosive Derrick Henry. Indy ranks 22nd in rush defense on Pro Football Focus, so Henry should be able to go off again.
Washington Redskins at (-10) Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. It’s hard to lay a big number with Carolina right now, but Christian McCaffrey’s production alone might be enough for the Panthers to cover.
Ricky: Panthers. No selfies for Dwayne Haskins this week. The Redskins will crash back down to earth because they’re the Redskins and finding a way to score points is always a chore.
Andre: Panthers. Not buying into Haskins. That was an extremely ugly win last week. He has three times as many picks as touchdowns. The Panthers are fifth in takeaways and sacks. I don’t see how Haskins succeeds in any way in this game.
(-3) Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Rams. Just about everything going against the Rams here, who are not only struggling but have to go on the road in the division on a short week against the Cardinals coming off the bye. But they’re the more talented team, and they should be pissed off after an embarrassing Monday night, so I’ll lay the points
Ricky: Rams. If a 45-6 ass kicking on Monday night isn’t a wake-up call, I don’t know what to tell you. I usually love the Cardinals in the underdog role — they’re 7-2-1 ATS as ‘dogs this season — but the Rams should be well prepared to face a mobile quarterback like Kyler Murray after just getting torched by Lamar Jackson in their own building.
Andre: Rams. The last four meetings between these two teams were all Rams wins by the scores of 33-0, 32-16, 34-0 and 31-9. One has to think that the Cardinals are overvalued here because of their ATS record and the Rams are undervalued because of recency bias from their piss-poor Monday night performance.
(-2.5) Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. It sounds like Drew Lock might get the start this week for Denver, which might (?) get the Broncos going. Don’t watch this game, though. It will be bad.
Ricky: Broncos. Only four teams (Bengals, Dolphins, Giants, Bucs — combined record of 8-36) have turned the ball over more than the Chargers this season. Not exactly a recipe for winning in Denver.
Andre: Chargers. L.A. does turn the ball over a lot, but the Broncos have the second-fewest takeaways. The Chargers rank 10th in yards per play differential, so if they’re not turning the ball over, this is a winnable game against a team who might be starting either the terrible Brandon Allen or a rookie in Lock.
Oakland Raiders at (-10) Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Raiders. The weather calls for some gusty conditions, which should affect the passing games. If that’s the case, and we’re looking at a game decided by the running attacks, that very much favors the Raiders, with Josh Jacobs going up against a weak Chiefs run defense.
Ricky: Chiefs. The Raiders have been bad on the road this season (1-4 SU), the Chiefs have dominated AFC West opponents dating back to 2015 (24-2 SU + 19-7 ATS) and Andy Reid’s teams almost always win after the bye (17-3 SU in his career). Plus, the week off could really benefit Patrick Mahomes as he continues to work back from a knee injury.
Andre: Chiefs. The Chiefs allow the second-most yards per carry, but that might be irrelevant in this game because the Raiders allow the third-most yards per pass attempt. According to Sharp Football, the Chiefs rank third in explosive pass plays, while the Raiders have allowed the most explosive pass plays with 55.
(-3) New England Patriots at Houston Texans, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. Don’t be surprised if this is the game that turns things around for the Patriots’ offense, especially Tom Brady, who should have success against Houston’s 26th-ranked DVOA defense that probably won’t be able to take advantage of Brady’s issue with pressure this year. And don’t sleep on the injury to Houston’s Dylan Cole, who does a lot on special teams and in coverage against running backs for the Texans.
Ricky: Patriots. The Texans have allowed the most receptions (78) and the second-most receiving yards (646) to running backs this season, which means the Patriots could lean heavily on James White and Rex Burkhead in the passing game. Houston also ranks 31st in special teams, per Pro Football Focus’ grades, so don’t be surprised if New England again capitalizes in that area.
Andre: Patriots. The Patriots have a huge advantage in the trenches. The Patriots are fourth in sacks and the Texans’ offensive line has struggled at times in protecting Watson, who has been sacked six times on three occasions this year. Houston, meanwhile, has the fourth-fewest sacks and the Patriots have the second-lowest opponent sack rate.
MONDAY, DEC. 2
Minnesota Vikings at (-3) Seattle Seahawks, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. Mike Zimmer’s teams typically do well with a rest advantage (12-6 straight-up), and the Vikings sure seem like the overall better team, despite Russell Wilson’s ongoing heroics.
Ricky: Vikings. A lot of trends point to the Seahawks, who are 18-2 SU and 15-4-1 ATS in home primetime games since Pete Carroll’s hiring in 2010. But the Vikings hold the edge defensively, and Kirk Cousins — three weeks removed from beating the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday night — has another chance to prove he doesn’t always fold under pressure.
Andre: Vikings. Give Cousins a break. People act like he’s Jameis Winston, but the dude has 19 touchdowns and just one pick over his last nine games. Sure, Wilson is an MVP candidate, but the Vikings have the more complete team. They’re fourth in yards per play and 11th in yards allowed per play.
Thumbnail photo via Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports Images