NFL Predictions Week 13: Expert Consensus Projections
Week 13 kicked off with a bang. There was a battle for NFC East supremacy in Dallas and one for NFC West survival in San Francisco.
Throw in a potential Super Bowl preview in Green Bay on Sunday, and this week has no shortage of marquee matchups.
Bleacher Report has already given our game-by-game picks for Week 13, so here's a look at things from a different perspective, with some predictions from the National Lead and Division Lead Writers.
Note: This article was published before Thursday's games. Updates were provided to reflect Thursday's results.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5) over New York Giants (6 votes)
It's come to this for the New York Giants.
Granted, the way things have shaken out this season, it really wouldn't be that big a stunner if the 3-8 Giants lost to the 1-10 Jaguars in Week 13. However, the fact that it wouldn't surprise many people shows just how far the Giants have fallen in 2014.
The Giants' struggles this year have resurrected talk of head coach Tom Coughlin's job security (or lack thereof), with Bill Pennington of The New York Times opining that the next six games will go a long way toward clearing the air:
The answer will most likely reveal itself in the six remaining games. From Mara on down, praise was heaped on Coughlin for getting last year’s team to win seven of its last 10 games after an 0-6 start. If the reverse happens this year — a decent start followed by a numbing, embarrassing flop — it will be hard for the Giants to reassure fans unless the next off-season changes involve not only the roster but also the highest levels of the coaching staff.
A loss to the lowly Jags isn't going to help even a little bit.
Others receiving votes: New England Patriots (+3) over Green Bay Packers (3 votes), Carolina Panthers (+3) over Minnesota Vikings (2 votes), Oakland Raiders (+7) over St. Louis Rams (1 vote), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5) over Cincinnati Bengals (1 vote), San Diego Chargers (+6) over Baltimore Ravens (1 vote), Tennessee Titans (+6.5) over Houston Texans (1 vote)
Winner: Indianapolis Colts over Washington Redskins (7 votes)
Of course, things could be worse for the Giants. They could be the raging dumpster fire of a football team presently occupying the nation's capital.
The Redskins have a record every bit as bad as New York's, with the added bonus of four times the discontent. There's more backbiting in Washington than at the Turkey Day dinner table.
I'm not putting the blame all on Robert. It seems like that when you make a change like this at the quarterback position. Robert has done some good things at quarterback, but I just think he needs a little bit more time in this system with the verbiage and the plays to sit back, take a step back and learn, and when he gets back in there he'll be a lot more decisive, hopefully, and ready to roll. But right now, I just felt moving forward for Indianapolis that Colt would give us a better chance this week.
When you think Colt McCoy gives you a better chance to win, then your chances of winning aren't very good.
Others receiving votes: Miami Dolphins over New York Jets (6 votes), Seattle Seahawks over San Francisco 49ers (1 vote), Cincinnati Bengals over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1 vote)
Winner: Miami Dolphins defense vs. New York Jets offense (5 votes)
Apparently it's about to be a long weekend for quite a few folks across the NFL, as there were seven different candidates for the biggest mismatch of Week 13.
For two voters, including NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon, it's J.J. Watt against a banged-up offensive line for the Tennessee Titans:
Mettenberger was assaulted by the Eagles last week. Now, he and a line that is ranked 29th by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) when it comes to pass-blocking efficiency have to go up against the best defensive player in the game. This won't end well.
For what it's worth, they're right—it won't.
However, it wasn't Watt who received the most votes this week. No, that honor went to the Miami Dolphins defense, who get to pin their ears back Monday night and take out the frustrations from last week's crushing loss in Denver.
If last week's egg against the Buffalo Bills was any indication, it really doesn't matter if it's Geno Smith or Michael Vick under center for the Jets.
Their offense will be equally awful either way.
Others receiving votes: Detroit Lions defensive line vs. Chicago Bears offensive line (3 votes), New England Patriots run game vs. Green Bay Packers defense (2 votes), J.J. Watt vs. Tennessee Titans offensive line (2 votes), Denver Broncos defensive line vs. Kansas City Chiefs offensive line (1 vote), Lions wide receivers vs. Bears secondary (1 vote), Dez Bryant vs. Philadelphia Eagles secondary (1 vote)
Sleeper QB Performance
Winner: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (4 votes)
Given how Ryan Tannehill has been playing this season, it might be stretching it to even call the third-year pro a "sleeper" anymore.
While Robert Griffin has been imploding in spectacular fashion, Tannehill has quietly posted a very solid season, throwing for more than 2,500 yards and 20 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel thinks that Tannehill has justified the top-10 pick the Dolphins invested in him back in 2012:
Among the eight quarterbacks drafted in the first round since 2012, only four will start this week – Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck (No. 1 pick in 2012), Tannehill (No. 8 in 2012), Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles (No. 3 in 2014) and Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32 in 2014).
Brandon Weeden, selected No. 22 by Cleveland in 2012, is the backup in Dallas. Johnny Manziel, selected No. 22 by Cleveland this year, is the backup to Brian Hoyer.
Tannehill has his shortcomings, but two-plus seasons into his career it appears the Dolphins made the right choice in the draft.
AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz believes those good times will keep rolling Monday night against the Jets:
Pretty much any quarterback going against the Jets secondary this season has to be considered a sleeper candidate for a big week. Ryan Tannehill has been playing very well over the past month-plus, though, with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions in his past six games. There's no reason to think he will slow down against a pass defense that has allowed a league-high 27 touchdown passes and has picked off a league-low three interceptions.
That logic is hard to argue with—so I won't.
Others receiving votes: Drew Stanton, Arizona Cardinals (3 votes), Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (2 votes), Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans (2 votes), Colt McCoy, Washington Redskins (2 votes), Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (1 vote), Eli Manning, New York Giants (1 vote)
More Passing Yards: Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers
Winner: Aaron Rodgers (10 votes)
No sleepers here.
Sunday afternoon's game in Green Bay between the Packers and New England Patriots features two of the greatest quarterbacks of the past 25 years. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady also happen to be the two hottest quarterbacks in the NFL right now.
Of course, leave it to New England head coach Bill Belichick to throw a wet blanket on the hype-fest surrounding the quarterbacks in this game.
When asked if he saw any similarities between the two signal-callers, Belichick had this bit of wisdom to impart, as ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted.
"They both wear No. 12."
Well, we're allowing ourselves to embrace the hype a bit here at Bleacher Report. Call it the home-field edge (where Rodgers has been absolutely filthy in 2014), but two-thirds of our experts think "Grape Crush" will win the yardage battle with the Golden Boy.
Over/Under: 375 Passing Yards for Peyton Manning
Winner: Under (14 votes)
In 2013, this category probably would have gotten a chuckle and 11 "over" votes. This year, it's another story.
Mind you, Peyton Manning is hardly having a bad season. The number of NFL teams who would gladly switch quarterbacks with the Broncos remains firmly entrenched in the high 20s.
However, Manning hasn't posted quite the gaudy numbers in 2014 that he put up a season ago, and despite facing an injury-depleted Kansas City Chiefs secondary in Week 13, AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst doesn't them happening in Week 13, either:
Peyton Manning won't have over 375 passing yards against the Chiefs on Sunday, and the proof is in the numbers. Manning has just three games with over 375 passing yards this year. He had 242 passing yards versus the Chiefs, in Denver, earlier this season. He's averaging 272.8 yards on the road.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have the league's best passing defense, allowing 198.9 yards on average and 193.4 yards at home. Manning might be one of the greatest passers of all time, and he may find himself playing from behind this week, which should up his passing total as a result. But stack up his passing numbers this year against what the Chiefs have been allowing, and Manning could struggle to reach 300 yards, let alone over 375.
OK, so maybe I high-balled the over/under a bit. My bad.
Sleeper RB Performance
Winner: Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (6 votes)
Each of this week's vote-getters for breakout running back has plenty to be thankful for. Whether he was a castoff or an understudy, each player has been thrust into a prominent role for his team.
AFC South Lead Writer Rivers McCown was among those who thinks Alfred Blue of the Houston Texans is set for big things against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday:
The Titans have the worst run defense in the NFL, per Football Outsiders DVOA and your eyes. Arian Foster may very well be healthy enough to play in this game, but even if he is, Blue should see plenty of work and the Texans seem fairly likely to be running clock at some point in this game. If the game is unexpectedly close...well, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Thus, more Arian Foster and Alfred Blue.
However, it was another AFC South back who garnered the most votes.
The conversion from college quarterback to pro running back appears complete for Denard Robinson, who appears to have solidified his hold on a job no one expected him to have in 2014.
In fact, earlier this month Robinson told Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei, "I think I can be one of the top backs in the league."
For this week at least, our voters agree.
Others receiving votes: Alfred Blue, Houston Texans (4 votes), Anthony Dixon, Buffalo Bills (3 votes), LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots (2 votes)
More Rushing Yards: DeMarco Murray or LeSean McCoy
Winner: DeMarco Murray (13 votes)
If you're a fan of running the football, then Thursday's Thanksgiving games should be right up your alley.
It's especially true of the second contest, which features the leading rusher of this year taking on last year's rushing champ.
In 2014, it hasn't been close. While DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys leads the league in rushing by a staggering margin, LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles has struggled to get going.
In fact, McCoy was the first to admit that Murray has had a great season, while speaking with Todd Archer of ESPN:
I like his game. He runs hard, he finishes very well. They're a good team. They're giving him some lanes to run in. I think the way he finishes runs and how strong he is, that's what makes him an elite back. I think we have different styles, so I wouldn't want to take anything from his game. I like it how it is.
We'll see if McCoy is still feeling so jovial Thursday if our experts are correct and it's Murray who gains more yards on the ground in their crucial NFC East showdown.
Because it may well decide who wins the game.
Friday Update: As it turned out, McCoy outrushed Murray 159-73. Not surprisingly, with such a big rushing advantage, the Eagles prevailed 33-10.
Sleeper WR Performance
Winner: Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles (3 votes)
The vote for Week 13's sleeper wideout was all over the place. A full 10 players got the nod from at least one writer.
AFC South Lead Writer Rivers McCown stayed in the division, selecting Tennessee's Kendall Wright:
Despite how good Johnathan Joseph has played at times this season, the Texans have generally played very passive in the secondary, with a lot of zone and a lot of quarters coverage. Houston is allowing a league-worst 94.2 yards per game to the other team's No. 1 receiver, per Football Outsiders.
However, this week's leader was a rookie who has benefited from the gift of Sanchez.
Yes, Mark Sanchez.
And yes, that's the first time those words have ever been uttered about him.
With that said, there's no denying that since Sanchez took over at quarterback for the Eagles, he's been targeting Matthews with regularity.
His ascendance hasn't surprised head coach Chip Kelly, according to Martin Frank of The News Journal:
He was a prepared guy coming in. That's the one thing we felt about him when you saw him from the jump, how mature he was as an individual. [We] thought he could make an impact inside, and we really wanted to get bigger at the receiver position because of matchups in 1-on-1 situations.
Three writers look for that ascendance to continue on Thanksgiving Day.
Friday update: Matthews finished with four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in Philadelphia's 33-10 win.
Others receiving votes: Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (2 votes), Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins (2 votes), Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers (1 vote), Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers (1 vote), James Jones, Oakland Raiders (1 vote), Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans (1 vote), Stevie Johnson, San Francisco 49ers (1 vote), Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (1 vote), Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars (1 vote)
Sleeper TE Performance
Winner: Tim Wright, New England Patriots (5 votes)
Much like with the wide receivers, there were numerous candidates for this week's top sleeper tight end. There weren't quite as many nominees, but seven players made it into the mix.
NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter went the Thanksgiving game route with the Lions' Eric Ebron:
The Bears safeties have struggled to cover big tight ends all year; Ebron should have little trouble getting open down the seam. Whether he and Stafford can reliably connect is an open question, but I like Ebron's chances on Thanksgiving.
However, it was Tim Wright of the New England Patriots who received the most votes, and by a significant margin to boot.
It's not hard to understand why. Not only did Wright haul in two touchdown passes last week, his second straight game finding the end zone, but the 24-year-old played by far his most snaps of the season in last week's win over Detroit.
The Patriots are going to need all hands on deck to down the Packers at Lambeau.
Others receiving votes: Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills (3 votes), Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (2 votes), Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers (2 votes), Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars (1 vote), Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (1 vote), Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions (1 vote)
Best Defensive Performance
Winner: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans (7 votes)
Yes, J.J. Watt was the top vote-getter for best defensive performance—again. That's 12 times in 13 weeks.
I've said just about everything there is to say about Watt, so I'll let AFC South Lead Writer Rivers McCown take it from here:
I've picked J.J. Watt for this category in, I believe, every week except his bye week. Honestly, I'm not sure why we go through the motions at this point. He's always the best bet to have the best defensive performance.
But this week, where the Titans are without Taylor Lewan and just placed Brian Schwenke on IR, is an especially great week to predict Watt to have the best defensive performance. Tennessee's best healthy tackle right now is Michael Oher.
There you go. Great player plus great matchup equals great game.
And you can't argue with math.
Others receiving votes: Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals (2 votes), DeMarcus Ware, DE, Denver Broncos (1 vote), Jared Allen, DE, Chicago Bears (1 vote), Aaron Donald, DT, St. Louis Rams (1 vote), Calais Campbell, DE, Arizona Cardinals (1 vote), Aldon Smith, OLB, San Francisco 49ers (1 vote), Antonio Cromartie, CB, Arizona Cardinals (1 vote)
More Sacks: Seattle or San Francisco
Winner: San Francisco 49ers (8 votes)
Given that it's Thanksgiving, it seems only fitting that we wrap up this week's slideshow with a category featuring two teams from Thursday's games.
No Flop of the Week in Week 13—it's a holiday, so we'll play nice.
It's also fitting that since the NFC West is the purview of Sean Tomlinson, we'll allow him to explain why the San Francisco 49ers will have more sacks than the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night:
In 2013, four of Aldon Smith's 12 sacks (including playoffs) came against the Seahawks. He could be contained by Russell Okung, who hasn't given up a sack yet this season over 649 snaps. But even if he is, Aaron Lynch will be firing off the other edge. Lynch has emerged quickly with four sacks over the 49ers' past five games.
If nothing else, it's going to be a nice change of pace to close out Turkey Day with two teams that have some familiarity with playing defense.
Friday update: Both teams had four sacks, though the Seahawks led the passing yards category 222-100 in their 19-3 win.