NFL Picks and Predictions: Week 13

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

NFL CHICAGO BEARS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS PRESEASON.
Heck, I am already gearing up for playoff time.
And boy, this week offers so many matchups with playoff
implications. I can’t wait to see Lions at Saints, for example. If you
check out Detroit’s remaining schedule, you’ll notice that Jim
Caldwell’s bunch had better win this Week 13 matchup in the Big not
Easy in order to avoid potentially facing a rejuvenated (and
healthier) Pack in Week 17 for all the NFC North marbles. Of course,
Green Bay has to beat the first-place Texans to keep the pressure on
Detroit. A Packers win also would put the sputtering Texans in a
lurch, with both the Colts and Titans hot on their heels. With the
Cowboys on the road and the Giants facing a tough matchup in
Pittsburgh, count this week as more than relevant when it comes to
home-field advantage in the NFC. We could go on and on.
The Eagles travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals…..that’s
the only game this weekend where I don’t see any playoff implications.
OK, Niners at Bears, too. But we spun some yarn on those matchups
below, as well. Now, let’s get to it!
(Elliot Harrison went 11-5 on his predictions for Week 12, giving him
a record of 116-59-2 thus far.)

Dallas (10-1) at Minnesota (6-5)
Thursday, 7:25 NBC
Line: Cowboys -3 / 43.5
The Cowboys win their 11th in a row, extending a franchise
record while putting them further in the driver’s seat for home-field
advantage in the NFC. Ezekiel Elliott will find this Vikings front
almost as challenging to run on as the Ravens’ unit was, but the
Minnesota defense needs help from a punchless offense that refuses to
go downfield. If safety Barry Church is out for the Cowboys again,
that should at least help Sam Bradford test the waters. The Vikings
quarterback has impressed with a 134.2 passer rating on throws that
travel at least 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. Super cool,
except he never attempts passes that travel at least 15 yards past the
line of scrimmage any more.
Pick: Cowboys 29 Vikings 21

Kansas City (8-3) at Atlanta (7-4)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Falcons -4.5 / 49
Want to pick the Chiefs this weekend in Atlanta, but can’t get
past what Trevor Siemian was able to do to K.C. in the second half of
last Sunday night’s game. The Falcons did a nice job in protecting
Matt Ryan against both Khalil Mack and Von Miller earlier this season.
The rejuvenated Justin Houston (three sacks last week) will present a
new challenge. If he, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford are all healthy, Matty
Ice might get defrosted. Ryan has been mostly hot this year, posting a
114.3 passer rating. Would you be shocked to hear that he’s never
finished a season with a passer rating over 100 before? Don’t be. The
guy has been a bit overrated for most of his career. Just slightly.
Sorry, not sorry. Ryan’s been a stud this year, though, and deserves
much praise. He’s not giving the ball away, especially in the red zone
(like last year). Kansas City does lead the league in takeaways,
though.
Pick: Falcons 29 Chiefs 28

Detroit (7-5) at New Orleans (5-6)
Sunday, Noon FOX
Line: Saints -6 / 53.5
This should be an exciting affair down in New Orleans, holding
huge implications for both teams. With the second-place Vikings
hosting the 10-1 Cowboys on Thursday night, the Lions could have an
excellent chance to widen their lead in the NFC North. Meanwhile, the
Saints might have an opportunity to close the gap on the
division-leading Falcons, who are playing no gimme in the Chiefs. Will
Matt Stafford receive any help from a mostly-absent ground game?
Doubtful. Ever since Sheldon Rankins entered the lineup, this New
Orleans run D has tightened considerably. I’ve gone back and forth on
who should win this game, but am having trouble getting past a Lions
secondary that’s allowed opposing quarterbacks a 106.4 passer rating
this season facing Drew Brees.
Pick: Saints 30 Lions 28

Los Angeles (4-7) at New England (9-2)
Sunday, Noon FOX
Line: Patriots -13 / 44
The Patriots’ offense was far from lights-out in MetLife Stadium
against the Jets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean New England will
fall flat at home vs. Los Angeles. OK, this contest will probably go
one of two ways: Either the Rams will be so ticked off by their
performance in NOLA that they will play with their hair on fire at
Gillette OR Tom Brady will be so motivated from last week’s slow start
that he will torch the Rams’ secondary. Jeff Fisher’s group has drawn
two of the best offenses in the league, on the road, in back-to-back
weeks. As far as Jared Goff is concerned … well … he should be.
Since 2001, the Patriots are 7-0 against rookie quarterbacks. Those
freshmen QBs sported a shiny 4:14 TD-to-INT ratio in those games. In
the last two meetings between these two coaches, Belichick’s Patriots
have outscored Fisher’s team 104-7. The Greatest Slow on Turf.
Pick: Patriots 34 Rams 17

Denver (7-4) at Jacksonville (2-9)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Broncos -3.5 / 40.5
The Malik Jackson revenge game. Or something like that. Has
anyone outside of Jacksonville heard about Jackson this year? The
former Bronco is actually enjoying a much better season than another,
more-ballyhooed former Bronco, Julius Thomas. Jackson has 4.5 sacks,
24 tackles and two pass deflections to his name. His work up front has
helped a much-improved secondary in Jacksonville this year, although
it’s been lost in the swamp of a 2-9 record. Meanwhile, the Broncos
are 6-1 versus non-AFC West teams, with the only loss coming at the
hands of the Falcons in Week 5. The Jags are less biased about who
they give in to — and who they give the ball to! Their turnover
differential is minus-11 during this six-game losing streak.
Pick: Broncos 26 Jaguars 14

Houston (6-5) at Green Bay (5-6)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Packers -7 / 45
If you feel the score above represents a lack of confidence in
the Texans, you would be correct. Brock Osweiler will see a secondary
that many quarterbacks have taken advantage of thus far this season.
In a related — and highly pertinent — note: Many quarterbacks are
playing better than Brock Osweiler this season. Osweiler’s 72.2 passer
rating is the lowest among 32 qualifying quarterbacks. If he is to not
be characterized as a complete free-agent bust, Osweiler must take
advantage of a Packers’ secondary that is allowing opposing
quarterbacks over a 100 passer rating. Green Bay’s never finished a
season with that happening. Never in franchise history. Oh, by the
way: Green Bay boasts a very looong franchise history. Also worth
mentioning is how dominant the Packers have been at Lambeau in
December during the Mike McCarthy era.
Pick: Packers 34 Texans 22

Philadelphia (5-6) at Cincinnati (3-7-1)
Sunday, Noon FOX
Line: Bengals -1.5 / 42
Could this be the game the Bengals get back on track? Is Carson
Wentz due for a stinker? Thinking no and no. Granted, the Eagles’
defense has been far less intimidating on the road than at home, so
this might be a rebound game for a struggling Andy Dalton. But with no
A.J. Green and a running game that’s more of a power-walking
game, the Eagles shouldn’t have to score 30 to win. Then again,
picking Philadelphia to win here takes some guts. Doug Pederson’s
group is 1-5 on the road and has lost six of the last eight.
Pick: Eagles 27 Bengals 24

Miami (7-4) at Baltimore (6-5)
Sunday, Noon CBS
Line: Ravesn -3.5 / 40.5
Guessing the winning streak stops here for the Dolphins,
although this will be anybody’s contest. Joe Flacco must be effective
(no turnovers) for the Ravens to prevail. Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill
won’t really have Jay Ajayi to lean on, with a banged-up offensive
line facing the league’s top-ranked run defense. Both of these
ballclubs are gearing up for an important stretch run — especially
the Dolphins, given that they are behind the Patriots and already lost
the first head-to-head matchup. An AFC wild-card slot is going to
require at least 10 wins, considering the strength of the West. FYI:
Miami hosts the Patriots in Week 17.
Pick: Ravens 20 Dolphins 17

San Francisco (1-10) at Chicago (2-9)
Sunday, Noon FOX
Line: Pick / 43.5
If someone told you two months ago that this game would feature
Colin Kaepernick vs. Matt Barkley, you might have expected, oh, uh,
300 yards passing and two touchdowns combined. Football will surprise
you sumptimes, Sean. [Said in my best Jon Gruden voice.] Kaep just
tossed three touchdown passes in Miami, while Barkley’s 54 pass
attempts vs. Tennessee fell one short of the record for throws by a
quarterback making his first career start. Speaking of great
quarterback play, Blaine Gabbert delivered a win for the 49ers last
year in Chicago. Think the Bears’ defense, a solid unit which
unfortunately has been linked to the poor record, will have much to
say about that. And there is no way the guys on offense can drop as
many balls as they did last week. There is no way the guys on offense
can drop half as many balls as they did last week. Let’s be real here:
Both of these teams have been mostly awful since the start of the 2015
season (49ers: 6-21, Bears: 8-19) and are playing for draft
positioning.
Pick: Bears 24 49ers 16

Buffalo (6-5) at Oakland (9-2)
Sunday, 3:05 CBS
Line: Raiders -3 / 48.5
Can Derek Carr pull off the win in the “Return of the Jedi” glove
for a second straight week? Yep. Buffalo’s pass defense has been
viable (eighth in the NFL), but that doesn’t mean Carr won’t be able
to exploit the unit. His offensive line protects him better than any
other quarterback in the league, save for maybe Dak Prescott in
Dallas. Not to mention, the Bills have benefitted from facing Jacoby
Brissett, Case Keenum, and Colin Kaepernick (in his first start in a
year). If tight end Clive Walford shows up like he did versus the
Panthers, Dennis Thurman’s unit could find itself searching for
answers. Spoke with #BillsMafia superfan @PECrawleyNFL. He thinks
Buffalo wins this West Coast deal based on matchups (… before losing
next week versus the Steelers). As you can see, I respectfully
disagree. Who you got?
Pick: Raiders 29 Bills 24

NY Giants (8-3) at Pittsburgh (6-5)
Sunday, 3:25 FOX
Line: Steelers -4 / 48
The Giants’ win streak stops here. Big Blue has been getting
away with a much-hyped offense that’s really not putting up points in
bunches. Rather, it’s been an in-game struggle almost every week,
where Ben McAdoo’s attack either explodes for short bursts or
sleepwalks through 2.5 quarters. The fact remains that it’s the
defense that keeps New York winning. The front seven, in particular,
consistently thwarts opposing running games. Lev Bell presents a
completely different kind of monster than Isaiah Crowell, Jeremy Hill
or any of the running backs New York has faced this season (save for
maybe Ezekiel Elliott, though that was the rookie’s first NFL game).
One other interesting note on the G-Men: They’ve been escaping by the
hair of their chinny chin chin, earning all but one of their wins by
seven points or less. Do you give them credit for doing what it takes?
Or are they a middling team canvased by an 8-3 record?
Pick:   Steelers 26 Giants 24

Washington (6-4-1) at Arizona (4-6-1)
Sunday, 3:25 FOX
Line: Cardinals -2 / 49
Seeing a high-scoring game in the desert. Well, maybe not by
today’s standards, but certainly not a defensive struggle. For
Washington, the key will be not letting drives fail on the opponent’s
side of the field, something that happened too much in Dallas. Which
is why the Redskins piled up over 500 yards of offense with no
turnovers and lost. Arizona isn’t much different in this regard: Bruce
Arian’s offense is ninth in yards per game, yet the Cardinals are 20th
in points per game. As far as the Washington offense is concerned,
Kirk Cousins has been hell on wheels recently on throws of 10-plus
yards: 153.8 passer rating over the last two games. A perfect passer
rating is 158.3. Put in laymen’s terms, he’s lit on those deep throws.
Sorry, been on Instagram and Snapchat too much lately. Redskins win.
Pick: Redskins 34 Cardinals 30

Tampa Bay (6-5) at San Diego (5-6)
Sunday, 3:25 FOX
Line: Chargers -3.5 / 47.5
People are hot on the Bucs right now. The defense, which is
allowing 24 points per game, is improving. Yet, this is one long road
trip across the country for a team coming off of its most emotional
win in years. While I don’t see Jameis Winston losing focus, it
wouldn’t surprise me if Tampa came out flat in the first quarter. The
key matchup will be Philip Rivers’ pass protection versus a suddenly
legit (we think) Tampa pass rush. Was last week’s pummeling of Russell
Wilson a product of the Bucs’ front seven, or a talent-optional
Seahawks offensive line? Considering Rivers has been sacked 26 times
this year, the Bucs’ pass rush might not need to be legit. Melvin
Gordon, meanwhile, is a different beast entirely from the
RB-by-committee Tampa saw last Sunday. Gordon will be the difference.
Pick: Chargers 29 Bucs 23

Carolina (4-7) at Seattle (7-3-1)
Sunday, 7:25 NBC
Line: Seahawks -7 / 44.5
The Panthers are a desperate football team. The Seahawks are an
embarrassed football team. Well, at least the offense anyway. The
Sunday night game should be every bit as physical as the
Chiefs-Broncos classic last Sunday night, albeit with a hair less
scoring. Carolina must make the tough catches for Cam Newton, who was
under siege from a Mack truck late in Oakland. Ditto Russell Wilson,
who, one week after getting sacked over and over again in Tampa, faces
a defense that is tied with the Seahawks for most sacks in the NFC.
That’s why this feels like a Thomas Rawls contest, finally. Seattle
definitely would be catching a break if Luke Kuechly were to miss
another game, although A.J. Klein has fared well as Kuechly’s
replacement. Don’t be surprised if Wilson takes advantage, as the
fifth-year pro always picks it up during the winter months. His career
109.2 passer rating in the second half of the season is the highest in
pro football since the merger.
Pick: Seahawks 20 Panthers 17

Indianapolis (5-6) at NY Jets (3-8)
Monday, 7:25 ESPN
Line: Colts -1.5 / 48.5
One of Week 13’s toughest games to call. It looks like Andrew
Luck will suit up for the Colts on Monday — and he should benefit
from facing a weak Jets secondary. Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the nod
from Todd Bowles, despite the disappointing ending in the loss to the
Patriots. Matt Forte hit the skids in that game, but will find the
Colts’ front seven far more forgiving. Indy’s run defense allows
opposing running back’s a robust 4.6 yards per carry. That should keep
Fitzpatrick in favorable situations — so, in theory, he could go a
second straight week without an interception. Not fun note: Gang Green
is 1-7 this season when they’ve lost the turnover battle. Don’t think
the lovable Jets lose either battle this week.                                                                                                                                                                                                       Pick:  Jets 28  Colts 25

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