NFL Football Predictions: Week 13 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 11/25/2014
You want NFL parity? I'll give you NFL parity. Entering Week 13 there are 16 teams with at least seven wins, the most ever through 11 games. All four AFC North teams sit on seven wins, and it's the first division in league history to have every team at least three games over .500 at any point in a season. To me this NFL season has been like the NCAA version in that there are probably 10-12 teams good enough to win it all with no clear-cut favorite. I could see three AFC North (not Cleveland) and three NFC West teams (not St. Louis) winning a Super Bowl, the Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC East, the Packers in the NFC North, the Patriots in the AFC East, the Colts in the AFC South and Broncos in the AFC West.
Here are a few games and interesting opening WagerWeb Week 13 lines. This week I will preview two Thanksgiving Day games, Eagles-Cowboys and Seahawks-49ers, Patriots-Packers on Sunday and Dolphins-Jets on Monday. Thus I won't touch on those here. I hit on four of my five picks in this space last week, only missing the Chargers covering vs. the Rams. I loved the Seattle line perhaps more than any other this season, and the Seahawks easily covered against Arizona.
Chicago at Detroit (-7, 47.5): This is the first Thanksgiving Day game, and it's really a must-win for both. At 5-6, the Bears simply can't afford to lose another game all season to have any legitimate wild-card hopes. I don't have much faith that struggling offense will do much against the Lions' No. 1 defense, however. Speaking of struggling offenses, Detroit has totaled 15 points in back-to-back losses, both on the road. To be fair, those were against the Cardinals and Patriots, the teams with the best records in their conference. But every time I think Matthew Stafford is ready to step into the elite of the elite, he has a few bad games in a row. The Lions actually have a pretty easy schedule and could still win the division, although it likely will take a Week 17 victory in Green Bay. Detroit ended a nine-game Thanksgiving Day losing streak last season. The pick: Lions (6.5-point alternate line) and under.
Washington at Indianapolis (-9.5, 51): During the 2012 season, you could have found some NFL executives who perhaps would have taken Robert Griffin III over Andrew Luck if asked. Now? They would laugh at that question. Of course, Luck and RGIII went No. 1 and No. 2 overall in the 2012 draft, and they face off for the first time Sunday. Luck is the definition of a franchise quarterback, while Griffin appears close to losing his job. He hasn't been the same since hurting his knee in that 2012 playoff loss to Seattle. The Redskins are a mess overall. The pick: Colts
Tennessee at Houston (-6, 42.5): I liked the Texans' trade for Ryan Mallett, but we won't really find out if he's any good because Mallett has been lost for the season. It only cost Houston a seventh-round pick to get him from New England. The Texans could opt to re-sign him as a free agent, but I think it's more likely that Coach Bill O'Brien takes a QB in the first round of the 2015 draft (ditto Titans). Someone will take a shot on Mallett, who has a huge arm. The pick: Houston. Still prefer Ryan Fitzpatrick to Tennessee's Zach Mettenberger.
Cleveland at Buffalo (-2.5, 41): This game will be played in Buffalo after the Bills' Week 12 home matchup with the Jets had to be moved to Detroit and Monday night after an unthinkable amount of snow paralyzed Buffalo last week. If anyone knows how to attack the Bills' defense, one would think it would be Browns head coach Mike Pettine, who was the Buffalo defensive coordinator last season before Cleveland surprisingly hired him. The Browns frankly were lucky to win in Atlanta on Sunday, and I'm not sure how much longer a leash Brian Hoyer has as he appears to be regressing. He had three picks vs. the Falcons, including two late ones. But Atlanta coach Mike Smith bailed him out. The pick: Buffalo.
New Orleans at Pittsburgh (-3.5, 52): I have to admit I had the Saints winning at home Monday night against Baltimore, but they instead lost their third straight at the Superdome. Do you realize that if New Orleans loses here and Atlanta does at home vs. Arizona, the Panthers could be in first place in the NFC South with a 4-7-1 record if they beat the host Vikings? I can easily see all three results happening. Please, please someone win the division with five victories then host a 10-win wild card team in the playoffs! The pick: Steelers off a bye as they are getting several defensive reinforcements back from injury.
Denver at Kansas City (+2, 49.5): I can't believe this line isn't at least 3 points. Maybe I'm overvaluing Denver and undervaluing the Chiefs, but how can Kansas City be less than a 3-point dog after losing to winless Oakland last time out? Sure it was a trap game, but still. The Broncos are pretty banged up on defense. And maybe the Chiefs rally around Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry, who was just lost for the season perhaps because of a form of cancer. A win here pretty much wraps up the division for Denver, while a Chiefs win not only ties them for the lead but also brings San Diego back into play. The pick: Denver.
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