NFL Betting Predictions: Week 13 Opening Line Report and Picks
It's very rare for a team to start 5-0 and miss the playoffs - since the playoff field expanded to 12 teams in 1990, better than 90 percent of 5-0 teams made the postseason. The 2016 Minnesota Vikings were the last to not, losing eight of their last 11. It's also rare these days for a quarterback drafted in the first round to not play at least some in his rookie season.
I mention those two things because they both pertain to the Kansas City Chiefs. They started 5-0, Alex Smith was an NFL MVP candidate and Kareem Hunt was an Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite. However, the Chiefs have dropped five of six following Sunday's 16-10 upset loss at home against Buffalo, which had allowed a total of 101 points in its previous two games. Smith struggled again by throwing for just 199 yards and had an interception for the third straight game. That pick was in the final two minutes as the Chiefs were driving for the potential winning touchdown. Hunt had just 17 yards rushing on 11 carries.
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While Hunt is in no danger of losing his job, might Smith be? Of course, the Chiefs traded up in this year's draft to take Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes at No. 10 overall. They gave up their No. 27 overall pick in this year's draft and a 2018 first-rounder to Buffalo, so the Bills won twice in a way Sunday.
Andy Reid has been in this spot before, yanking Philly's Donovan McNabb in a late November 2008 game in place of expected heir apparent in Kevin Kolb. The change only lasted that one half. Kolb wasn't good and McNabb would eventually lead the Eagles to another NFC title game. Reid said following Sunday's loss that he didn't consider replacing Smith with Mahomes and isn't thinking about a change for this week's game against the Jets, who are +3.5 at home: "That's not where I am at right now. We've got a couple other things to take care of."
Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter doesn't believe Reid, tweeting out Sunday that "Alex Smith has thrown his last pass as a KC Chiefs." One has to think that Smith would be on a short leash against the Jets at a minimum. His dink-and-dunk style just isn't working at the moment. And it's probably a done deal now that Smith isn't with the Chiefs in 2018. He is signed to a pretty team-friendly deal, and Kansas City is expected to shop Smith and hand the keys over to Mahomes. You don't sit first-rounders for two straight seasons.
Here are some Week 13 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday night's game (Redskins-Cowboys), my in-depth Sunday matchup (likely 49ers-Bears)or the Monday night game (Steelers-Bengals) as I will be previewing them here individually.
Vikings at Falcons (-3, 47): Potential playoff preview here with Minnesota atop the NFC North at 9-2 and on a seven-game winning streak, while Atlanta (7-4) is starting to resemble its 2016 version and on a three-game winning streak. The Vikings are on extra rest as they took care of business in Detroit on Thanksgiving, 30-23, to basically win the division. Case Keenum continued his fairy-tale season by completing 70 percent of his passes for 282 yards and two scores with no picks. He has had a passer rating above 100 in each of his last three games. It's the longest single-season streak of 100-plus rating games for a Minnesota starting quarterback since Brett Favre had four straight in November 2009. The seven-game winning streak is Minnesota's longest since 2000. Atlanta beat Tampa Bay 34-20 on Sunday. Julio Jones blew up with 12 catches for 253 yards and two scores. Tevin Coleman rushed for 97 yards and two TDs with Devonta Freeman missing a second straight game due to a concussion. The Pick: Atlanta.
Browns at Chargers (-13, 42.5): If I could make betting guarantees, well, I'd obviously be a very wealthy man. So, it wouldn't be accurate to say I was 100 percent sure that the 0-14 Browns would beat the visiting San Diego Chargers in Week 16 last year, but I was darn close to sure. That was the true definition of a trap game for the Bolts. They were already out of playoff contention, playing a cold-weather game and ahead of their finale in the city of San Diego in Week 17. Cleveland won 20-17 and hasn't won since. It lost 30-16 in Cincinnati on Sunday. The Bengals came into the game with the worst rush offense in the NFL, making it to 100 yards only once before Sunday. They had 152 against Cleveland. This should be the season debut of Browns receiver Josh Gordon. Because of drug suspensions, he last played an NFL game on Dec. 21, 2014, a loss to Carolina. Gordon is eligible for the first time starting this week. He returned to practice last week. The Bolts are just a game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West and on some extra rest after a 28-6 win in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Philip Rivers became just the second QB in NFL history to throw for 400 yards on the road on the holiday. He had 434 and three scores. The Pick: Cleveland.
Panthers at Saints (-4, 48): This is the game of the week and was flexed from 1 p.m. ET to 4:25. New Orleans looked like it was one of the worst teams in the NFL the first two weeks this season in losing handily at Minnesota and home to New England. Carolina looked like a Super Bowl contender the first two weeks with defensively-dominant victories over San Francisco and Buffalo the first two weeks. Thus, naturally, the Saints went to Charlotte and laid a 34-13 beatdown on the Panthers. Drew Brees threw three TD passes and New Orleans held Carolina to 188 yards and picked off Cam Newton three times. Now these teams are tied atop the NFC South at 8-3, although obviously New Orleans would win the tiebreaker with another victory here. The Saints' eight-game winning streak was snapped Sunday at the Rams, and there's no shame in that this season. Alvin Kamara is you new Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite as he had 188 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Carolina won a fourth straight Sunday, rallying for a 35-27 victory at the Jets. However, in his first game back following foot surgery, Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen had to leave with soreness in that foot. You'll want to monitor that, although Olsen thinks it's nothing serious. The Pick: New Orleans.
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