The main problem I have when picking NFL games over the course of a season is I stretch for outlandish upsets in an attempt to skyrocket the leader board from Week 1.
It’s a better approach for short stretches, such as with the NCAA basketball tournament.
The downside to this strategy in football is that by December, I am in the unwanted position of needing to rely on such upsets just to claw my way back.
Why do I never learn? Luckily, Week 13 contains a few games with upset possibilities.
I’m not suggesting these are sure-fire wins to base your dominance on, but if you need some long-shot picks to close the gap with, try these four games.
Don’t be fooled by Dallas’ four-game win streak. Though they are in good position to win the NFC East at 7-4, their recent stretch has not impressed me.
The Cowboys needed overtime to beat Washington two weeks ago, and on Thanksgiving, they needed a last-second field goal to beat Miami by one point at home.
They are only 2-3 on the road, including an ugly 34-7 loss in Philadelphia.
The Cardinals are back home after three straight road games, from which they emerged 2-1. They have also won three of their last four.
While none of the wins were truly impressive, they did win in Philadelphia.
Kevin Kolb is set to start at QB after four weeks out of action, but the X-factor will be Beanie Wells. He rushed for 228 yards and a touchdown last week against St. Louis and will need another big game against the Cowboys.
It’s hard to tell which Jets team we’ll see from one week to the next. They are very streaky.
After losses to New England and Denver, the Jets handed the Bills a deflating fourth straight loss last week.
In New York’s case, their six wins are against mediocre and bad teams.
The only winning team they’ve defeated is Dallas way back in Week 1. Their losses have come against better opponents such as the aforementioned Patriots and Broncos, plus the Raiders and Ravens.
This formula should have us picking the Jets over Washington, but the Redskins stand a chance.
After six straight losses, they finally got a win over a resurgent Seahawks team in Seattle last week. This doesn’t make them a powerhouse in the NFL, but a road win should provide some confidence as they return home.
Rex Grossman has thrown for 292 and 314 yards in the last two weeks and could provide a spark if he limits the interceptions. Yes, it’s a big “if.”
He’ll be joined by Roy Helu at RB, and I’m taking the Redskins out of desperation.
The Oakland Raiders lead the AFC West at 7-4 with the Broncos on their heels. Hue Jackson’s team has overcome injuries to win three straight games.
But as with Dallas, they are not impressive wins. They won at San Diego by seven, at Minnesota by six and at home against Chicago by five last week.
The Bears were led by Caleb Hanie in his first start of the season, and the Raiders still almost blew it.
Carson Palmer can put up good yardage, but Oakland’s difference-maker right now is Michael Bush.
He’s a very reliable back, but he’ll be a facing a Dolphins defense that is seventh in the NFL in rush defense (97.5 YPG).
Miami has had a tough season, but their 3-8 record is misleading.
After starting 0-7, the Dolphins picked up three straight wins and gave Dallas all they wanted on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys left their home stadium breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Other than an 18-point loss to the Jets and a 14-point loss to the Patriots, Miami’s six other losses are by a combined 28 points. They have had chances to win plenty of games and just haven’t finished.
If they adjust properly from last week’s loss, they may be in good position to top Oakland.
Matt Moore has thrown seven touchdowns and one interception in his last four games, and Reggie Bush is always an all-purpose threat.
The Titans over the Bills is not a huge upset pick, but Buffalo’s slide this half of the season makes the Titans look like a no-brainer.
Tennessee has a chance to steal the AFC South if they can pick up some wins and if Jake Delhomme fails with the Houston Texans.
But the Titans have traded off wins and losses for six straight games, and last week they won. Naturally, they should lose this week in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Bills look ugly right now, and this is definitely a stretch pick.
They have lost four straight and five of six. They were demolished by both Dallas and Miami but hung in against the Jets last week.
One small piece of good news is the Bills’ last three losses were on the road, and now they are finally back home. At Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills are 4-1 this season and will need the crowd to help.
Buffalo’s defense is susceptible to getting roughed up, and Titans RB Chris Johnson is probably licking his chops. He just carved his way through Tampa with 190 rushing yards, so the Bills must be on high alert when he gets the ball.
But I’m going with the home team for a variety of ill-advised reasons—hope and need being the main ones. These are very possible outcomes, though, so take my e-hand and jump.
Josh Greller has been an editorial intern for Bleacher Report since September. He is a Bay Area resident and has written for various sports sites and startup companies.