Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 13 NFL Picks
Week 12 gave NFL fans plenty to be thankful for, and Week 13 should be no different with a great set of games on the schedule.
It all starts with one of the best Thursday night matchups of the year as the Atlanta Falcons host the one team that has kept them from perfection—the New Orleans Saints. Our crew thinks this game might end up looking a little different than last time.
The fun doesn't end there, oh no.
Last time the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams played, they needed an extra session and still couldn't figure out who the better team was. Now, with the Niners rolling and Colin Kaepernick likely under center for the duration of the year, this game could have an entirely new look to it as well.
Add to those great matchups a number of great rivalry games: Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants-Washington Redskins.
Who comes out on top in those games as well as the rest? Our experts make the call!
Our B/R Panel of Experts
Note: All betting odds are for informational purposes only and courtesy of Statfox.com. Although spreads are provided, all picks are straight up.
Week 12 was a tough week for the consensus picks as one of our unanimous picks went down (Miami beating Seattle) and six more teams bucking our predictions and winning (Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta, Jacksonville, San Francisco and the New York Giants).
Best mark of the week goes to AFC West Lead Blogger Chris Hansen, who dropped a 12-spot on the rest of our crew. Andrew Garda, Eric Frenz and I all tied for second with 11 wins.
New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
B/R Consensus: Falcons (Unanimous)
Vegas: Falcons (-3.5)
Things looked to be coming up roses for the Saints, but the Niners just punched them right in the mouth, and the Falcons have a shot to effectively end the Saints' chances at an NFC South title.
The Saints were flying high when they took down the Falcons last time, but now they're back down to earth, and the better team will win.
The Falcons have mastered the ability to play close and win. They'll do that again in Week 13 as they move to 11 wins.
The Saints' brief dreams of making a late run to the playoffs come to a screeching halt after dropping a game to their hated division rival.
Matt Ryan doesn't have to be perfect, just efficient, which he will be vs. the Saints defense.
These two teams hate each other, and the Atlanta Falcons are fresh off a character-building win in Tampa. New Orleans was trounced by San Francisco and has very little hope for the playoff picture.
Both teams are a little banged up, and the short week won’t help there. Look for Atlanta to protect its house and become the first team in the NFL to 11 wins.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills
B/R Consensus: Bills (9-2)
Vegas: Bills (-6.5)
After watching what Chad Henne was able to do with this offense against the Texans and the Titans, it's hard to pick against the Jags (even on the road) versus a Buffalo team that is just now starting to find its defensive identity.
Mario Williams is heating up and will probably pad his stats against the Jags offensive line, but the Jags receivers should run wild through the Bills secondary.
The Bills pass rush is too dynamic in this one. C.J. Spiller and Stevie Johnson will be enough on offense to carry Buffalo to victory.
The Jaguars have had a bit of a resurgence with Chad Henne at quarterback, but Buffalo late in the year is a tough place to play for the best of teams.
The Jaguars do not qualify for that distinction. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson power a Bills win.
Neither of these teams are very good. I don't buy that Chad Henne transforms Jacksonville's offense. Buffalo wins a squeaker.
The Bills aren't a good team, but they have beat bad teams this year (Browns, Chiefs, Cardinals, Dolphins).
They are playing much better up front in recent weeks, and that should be more than enough to stifle Jacksonville's offense.
Also Picking the Jaguars: Hangst
Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears
B/R Consensus: Bears (9-2)
Vegas: Bears (-4)
Seahawks on the road? OK then, Bears win. Simple as that.
After watching Chicago play in Week 12, it's impossible to pick against it this week. Jay Cutler will get the job done against a defense that could be without its two starting cornerbacks.
The Bears were embarrassed out in San Francisco and then beat down in victory at home against the Vikings. The Seahawks will roll over a beaten up Bears team.
Even though it looks like Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will be available for this week's game against the Bears, Chicago still has the upper hand.
Jay Cutler is back under center, its defense looks energized and the Seahawks are 1-5 on the road. Not to mention the Bears are 5-1 at home. Chicago improves to 9-3 on the season.
In many ways, this flies in the face of convention. Seattle isn't good on the road—at all—but the Bears offensive line is in bad shape.
Losing Chilo Rachal and Lance Louis is a real problem, especially when faced with the defensive front of the Seahawks, which is going to create a ton of issues for Jay Cutler. On top of it, Russell Wilson has really been playing well, and the Seahawks offense will put some points on the board.
The Bears came away with a decisive win over Minnesota, but too many players ended up banged up—most notably, Peanut Tillman. If he misses this game, that could be the deciding factor. Either way, this won't be a high-scoring game, and at the end of the day, Seattle makes the big play to win it.
San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams
B/R Consensus: 49ers (Unanimous)
Vegas: 49ers (-7)
I put the Niners on "upset alert" last time around because I thought the Rams defense matched up nicely with what San Francisco has on offense.
That still (largely) applies, no matter who is under center, but the Niners are going to be awfully teed off in this one and will avenge their tie.
Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers are sure to be upset after their tie with St. Louis. Now that Colin Kaepernick is leading the charge, the 49ers can outscore the opposition. Big win for the 49ers.
It doesn't matter who the quarterback is.
The 49ers are the best team in the league right now, and the moral victory of the tie the Rams played to a few weeks ago will have faded long before the end of this beatdown by San Francisco.
Vic Fangio's defense is playing lights out, and Colin Kaepernick looks like the real deal on offense. San Francisco simply has too much firepower on both sides of the ball to be slowed down by the Rams.
Let's just hope Sunday's game doesn't end in a tie. There should never ever be a tie in professional football.
New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
B/R Consensus: Patriots
Vegas: Patriots (-7)
The Pats haven't always made it look easy this season, but they're capable of beating teams through the air, on the ground and defensively.
The Dolphins are improving, but New England is going to harass Ryan Tannehill and win in a blowout.
Traveling to Miami is always tough, but the Patriots are rolling right now. With the run game and Tom Brady's arm clicking together, New England is the most dangerous team in the AFC.
The Patriots are clicking on offense and are improved on defense over where they were at this point last year. The Dolphins have an exciting young quarterback and a defense that can get after the passer.
This will be a great game, but New England is just better in nearly every phase.
The only way to beat the Patriots is to avoid turnovers at all costs. Tom Brady has played some of his best football this year, and this is the Dolphins' first true test in the form of an offensive juggernaut.
New England manages to keep its offense moving at a ridiculous pace even without Rob Gronkowski.
Arizona Cardinals vs. New York Jets
B/R Consensus: Jets (9-2)
Vegas: Jets (-4.5)
The Jets can still do one thing relatively well, and that's stop the pass. Arizona won't be able to move the ball through the air, and when it does, Antonio Cromartie and Co. will be going the other way with it.
It's tough to believe the Jets could win a game after watching their Thanksgiving night performance, but that goes to show just how bad the Arizona Cardinals are.
I can't believe I'm picking a team whose starting quarterback fumbled the ball after running into his lineman's butt last week, but I am.
Both of these clubs are on a downward spiral as of late. Arizona has lost its last seven games in a row and have resorted to third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley.
New York just lost its best cheerleader, Fireman Ed, and has quarterback problems like the Cardinals. The Jets win an ugly matchup, 9-7.
One tailspin meets another in this clash of players playing and coaches coaching for their jobs.
The Cardinals have been the cure for the common train wreck this year, but the Jets are not your average train wreck. They do, however, always seem to play their best football under the most adversity.
**AGAINST THE GRAIN**
The Jets are busy tearing themselves apart, and there is very little hope that it stops. The offense is atrocious, the defense isn't much better and the coaching staff most closely resembles a chicken running around sans head. It's so bad, Fireman Ed quit.
Normally, this would be a get-right game for them, but you need veteran leadership for that—leadership the Jets lack. It breaks my heart, but Arizona's defense will destroy this offense and, frankly, the Cardinals offense might look pretty darn good against a demoralized defense.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Detroit Lions
B/R Consensus: Lions (9-2)
Vegas: Lions (-4.5)
The biggest difference here is the venue, as the Colts haven't had quite the same magic on the road. Still, the Lions are extremely beatable, and Andrew Luck is going to push them to the brink.
Andrew Luck just keeps getting it done. The Colts will be tested up front by the Lions pass rush, but Luck's pocket presence and football IQ are the difference.
The Colts are the exciting young team with the golden boy at quarterback, but this week they run into the schoolyard bully that is just talented enough beat them up and to make it hurt along the way.
The Lions defensive line in particular will make things miserable up front for the Colts.
The Colts have no answer for Calvin Johnson, who could easily post 150 yards passing on them. Indy isn't the same team on the road.
The Colts are playing, for the most part, better than anyone expected. The Lions are playing far worse.
The loss to the Vikings sealed their divisional fate, and the loss to Houston capped their chance to make it into the playoffs as a wild card. All that said, this is a team with a huge chip on its shoulder facing a quarterback who, for all his skill, can be rattled.
I expect Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and the gang to get after Andrew Luck early and often, cause him to make mistakes and help lead this ragtag group of miscreants to a win for pride. Luck had best strap on his jock, because Suh and Co. are coming for him.
Also Picking the Colts: Frenz
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
B/R Consensus: Packers (Unanimous)
Vegas: Packers (-9)
The Vikings can't push the ball down the field, and the Packers are going to make them pay for that. Love Adrian Peterson, but in today's NFL, the Vikings are pretty much bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Bouncing back from the Monday night loss to the Giants will be easier if key players are back from injury. Either way, the Vikings defense isn't good enough to stop the Packers, and their offense can't keep up with Aaron Rodgers and Co.
The Packers bounce back against a divisional foe they know extremely well and that they match up well against. Adrian Peterson will get his yards, but Aaron Rodgers gets back into a groove in Lambeau.
You can't trust the Vikings right now—apparently not even Adrian Peterson, who coughed up the ball twice against the Bears. Yes, the Packers offensive line is banged up and vulnerable, but so was Chicago's, and Minnesota failed to take advantage.
Peterson will gash the Packers early and often, but this could end up in a shootout between Aaron Rodgers and Christian Ponder. As much as I like Ponder, there is just no way I can back him in that gunfight.
Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans
B/R Consensus: Texans (Unanimous)
Vegas: Texans (-4.5)
The Titans are in disarray, and the Texans might send them into a full-blown cleaning house. The offensive tackle tandem for the Titans can slow Houston down, but it won't be enough.
Jake Locker will get rattled, and this one will be over almost before it starts.
Win No. 11 is on the docket this week, and the Texans will get it so long as they can slow down Chris Johnson. That shouldn't be a problem.
After two weeks of enduring late scares, the Texans finally put a team away early. The Titans have fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer—as if that was the problem.
The Texans haven't been playing well on defense, but 10 days off should reinvigorate them. The Titans are too Jekyll and Hyde to trust from week to week.
Carolina Panthers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
B/R Consensus: Panthers (7-4)
Vegas: Panthers (-1)
Ultimately, the Panthers are better on paper than they've played (so are the Chiefs), but they have some systemic issues that could cause them problems in this one.
If they let the Chiefs run right up the gut like the Eagles were able to, Kansas City could put it away. In the end, however, Cam Newton should be able to make plays against that defense rather easily.
A shocker, but is it really? Despite sporting a 1-10 record, the Chiefs are improving. This game could very well help determine who has the first pick overall in the 2013 NFL draft.
The Panthers are bad. The Chiefs are worse. This will be a showcase for the teams that will end up vying for position in the top five of next April's draft.
The Panthers have played a lot of close games this season and not come out on the good end of the scoreboard.
They’ve battled top teams like Atlanta and Chicago and given them every bit the fight of a playoff contender. There will be no playoffs for Carolina, but it should be able to travel to Kansas City and pull out a win.
Kansas City was once a feared road venue; now it has become a slump buster for visiting opponents. The Chiefs have played more disciplined football over the past few games, but the results have been the same.
The Panthers are hardly a quality opponent, and the Chiefs could earn their second win, but it's hard to predict at this point. With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft on the line, the Chiefs win if they lose this game.
Also Picking the Chiefs: Frenz, Gagnon and Langland
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Denver Broncos
B/R Consensus: Broncos (Unanimous)
Vegas: Broncos (-6.5)
I was surprised the Broncos were such a heavy favorite (as I'm sure some Tampa-area commenters will take issue with), but Denver has been on a tear for almost two months and has only lost one game at home all season.
The Broncos defense will shut down Doug Martin and keep Josh Freeman from ever getting comfortable.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos almost dropped one to the Chiefs last week, but they will be back on target against a very poor Tampa Bay defense.
The home-field advantage helps, as does the suspension of Eric Wright. Denver wins.
Tampa's flickering playoff hopes take another hit as it runs into Peyton Manning and Co.
The Buccaneers can keep up on the offensive side of the ball, but that Buccaneers secondary, especially now without Eric Wright, will be lit up by Manning.
The worst thing for a team reeling from a disastrous loss that, quite frankly, should have been a win is to travel to face a top-notch quarterback like Peyton Manning and the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos.
Manning should prove to be too much for the Bucs secondary, and Tampa Bay may fall from playoff contention with two losses in a row.
Peyton Manning has come back to earth a little bit over the past two weeks, but the Broncos keep winning. The defense and special teams are giving Manning some help and contributing to each win.
The Broncos are playing for playoff seeding, and Manning isn't likely to let off the gas anytime soon. The Buccaneers have one of the worst pass defenses in the league, and Manning should have a big day against them.
If the Broncos score early through the air, they will be able to turn their formidable pass-rusher loose. Von Miller will put the heat on Josh Freeman, and he will not have time to get the ball deep to Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams like normal. The Broncos win again.
Cleveland Browns vs. Oakland Raiders
B/R Consensus: Browns (7-4)
The Raiders do very little well, but I like them at home against a team that doesn't know who will be playing quarterback on Sunday.
Carson Palmer should put up a decent amount of yardage (and make a few trademark mistakes), and the Raiders win in a close one that no one will watch.
Even if Colt McCoy is asked to come in at quarterback, the Browns are winning this week. The Raiders are just that bad.
The Raiders are in the midst of a massive rebuilding project, while the Browns are playing hard trying to convince new ownership they don't need to be blown up.
No matter if it's Brandon Weeden or Colt McCoy under center, the Browns are the more talented team and get it done on the road for once.
The Cleveland Browns have kept most of their games close this year, even those they ultimately lost, while the Raiders have laid bare a blueprint to defeat them—put up points early and dare them to catch up (they can't).
The Browns have in fact shown they can get to a two-touchdown lead early in games, and though it may be hard for them to do it on the road this week, every aspect of Cleveland's team is better than Oakland's, which convinces me the Browns could build a two-game win streak.
The Raiders are getting worse, and that's difficult to do after starting as poorly as they did. With Brandon Weeden concussed, the Raiders might face a bad team at its weakest point.
The Raiders have played marginally better at home and could get Darren McFadden, Mike Goodson and Richard Seymour back from injury.
The Raiders have issues everywhere, but they should be able to put together enough offense and get enough stops to get another victory. A victory will probably hurt their draft stock, but that's the least of the Raiders' concerns right now.
Also Picking the Raiders: Langland and Bardeen
Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Diego Chargers
B/R Consensus: Bengals (8-3)
Vegas: Pick 'Em
I worry about the Bengals heading west, but they've shown some signs of maturity (gasp!) in the past few weeks, and I just don't see anyone on the Chargers who is going to man up with A.J. Green.
San Diego is once again in a free-fall, and the Bengals are hitting their stride. A.J. Green and Andy Dalton should enjoy big days on offense while Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson destroy the Chargers offensive line.
The Bengals continue their march toward back-to-back playoff appearances since forever, while the Chargers continue their march toward the offseason and finding out who their new head coach is going to be.
Oh, the San Diego Chargers. The Cincinnati Bengals have built a cottage industry over the past few weeks of thoroughly dispatching lesser teams, the ones they "should" beat, and that streak will stay alive this week against the error-plagued Chargers.
The Bengals can now both run and pass the ball well, and they possess one of the more brutal defensive front fours around. That spells doom for San Diego and quarterback Philip Rivers in terms of both containing Cincy's offense and making any real gains against its defense.
The Chargers haven't been able to close out games, and that has been a determining factor in three of their seven losses. If the Chargers had won those games, they would currently be in a wild-card spot in the AFC over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Chargers haven't beaten a team other than Kansas City since Week 2, but there's never a bad time to get a win.
The Chargers will force the Bengals to stay in the air, and the game could come down to the play of Philip Rivers again. Rivers is bound to make a play instead of throw an interception, right?
Also Picking the Chargers: Dunlevy and Langland
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
B/R Consensus: Ravens (Unanimous)
If Ben Roethlisberger plays here, it will be a much more enjoyable game to watch, but I'm not 100 percent sure that it would change the outcome.
The Ravens have found ways to win as their defense has been sidelined and their offense has gone through some growing pains. It might not be pretty, but Ravens win here.
Bitter rivalry, hated opponents and a ton of injuries. Ben Roethlisberger's health makes a big difference in this one, and as of Monday night, I'm doubtful he can play. Advantage, Baltimore.
This is the game where the Steelers bottom out after spending the last two weeks fighting the good fight.
The Ravens will have to work against the Steelers defense, but Ed Reed and Co. will feast on the Steelers offense.
Astricks, ahoy. There appears to be a chance that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could play in this game, which does give the Steelers a greater chance to win.
Although, it's also a foolish proposal, considering even a win here isn't going to help the Steelers leapfrog the Ravens and win the AFC North title. For that reason, this is a tentative pick for Baltimore.
However, I also don't think the Steelers will ultimately choose to risk Roethlisberger's health, no matter how badly he wants to be back on the field.
This game is in Baltimore, and without Roethlisberger, we'll again see Charlie Batch under center. That basically says it all.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys
B/R Consensus: Cowboys (Unanimous)
I mean, ugh, have you been watching the Eagles? They're almost inventing ways to turn the ball over. It's bad.
The Cowboys have done nothing in recent weeks to make me think they deserve to win a football game, but against Philadelphia? It could be a blowout.
Jason Garrett may do just enough to save his job. Winning at home against Philadelphia is a must to keep an impatient Jerry Jones at bay. The Cowboys should do that easily.
The Eagles have quit on Andy Reid. It seems, in that context, a minor miracle that the Cowboys haven't quit on Jason Garrett.
Even with all the injuries on defense, the Cowboys will handle a Philadelphia offense that has completely lost its identity, if it ever had one in 2012.
I don't think Dallas has a lot of gas left in the tank with Bruce Carter out and that deflating loss to the Redskins.
Still, the Cowboys will be well rested and at home against an Eagles team on a short week and in even worse shape on the road.
New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins
B/R Consensus: Giants (8-4)
Vegas: Pick 'Em
What we saw last time is probably how this one plays out as well. Neither defense matches up well with their opponent, so it comes down to who is going to make a play.
When backed up against a wall and officially in the playoff hunt, Eli Manning gets that bet every time.
The Giants made a statement by beating the Green Bay Packers, but they dominated a team depleted by injury.
The Redskins offense will be a bigger challenge for a New York defense that hasn't been as consistent this year. I'm taking Washington in an upset.
RGIII and the Redskins almost pulled one out when these two met at MetLife, and they get it done this time around.
The Giants looked revived against the Packers, but the Redskins won't back down and will match the G-Men blow for blow. Their phenom rookie quarterback will make a play at the end.
I still think the Giants take care of business in the NFC East, but not before one more hiccup against a Washington team that has arguably outplayed them the last three times these division rivals have met.
Both teams have a lot of momentum, but I'll take the equally as well-rested 'Skins at home.
Also Picking the Redskins: Frenz
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."