We're heading into December, which is the most exciting time of year for NFL fans. The playoff races are heating up around the league, and some are already white hot.
Just consider the following: The New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams both sit at 10-1 atop the NFC. The Kansas City Chiefs have just a one-game lead for the AFC's top seed over both the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers. The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins are tied at 6-5 atop the NFC East, while the 5-6 Eagles are nipping at their heels.
There are plenty of tight races around the league, and there will be no shortage of games with playoff implications in Week 13. This is going to make for an exciting and unpredictable week.
How do the experts see things unfolding in Week 13? That's what we're going to examine here. We'll also run down the latest odds and over/unders from OddsShark and provide our own score predictions.
Week 13 Odds, Over/Unders and Predictions
New Orleans Saints (-7.5, 52.5 O/U) at Dallas Cowboys: Saints 34, Cowboys 20
Arizona Cardinals (+14, 44.5 O/U) at Green Bay Packers: Packers 28, Cardinals 18
Cleveland Browns (+6, 48 O/U) at Houston Texans: Texans 30, Browns 28
Baltimore Ravens (+1, 48.5 O/U) at Atlanta Falcons: Ravens 27, Falcons 24
Carolina Panthers (-3.5, 55.5 O/U) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Panthers 30, Buccaneers 28
Chicago Bears (-4.5, 45 O/U) at New York Giants: Bears 22, Giants 17
Buffalo Bills (+5, 40 O/U) at Miami Dolphins: Dolphins 21, Bills 17
Denver Broncos (-5, 44 O/U) at Cincinnati Bengals: Broncos 31, Bengals 18
Los Angeles Rams (-10, 55 O/U) at Detroit Lions: Rams 31, Lions 21
Indianapolis Colts (-4, 47 O/U) at Jacksonville Jaguars: Colts 26, Jaguars 17
Kansas City Chiefs (-15, 55.5 O/U) at Oakland Raiders: Chiefs 38, Raiders 22
New York Jets (+8, 40.5 O/U) at Tennessee Titans: Titans 26, Jets 20
Minnesota Vikings (+5, 48.5 O/U) at New England Patriots: Patriots 28, Vikings 26
San Francisco 49ers (+10, 46 O/U) at Seattle Seahawks: Seahawks 33, 49ers 16
Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5, 51.5 O/U) at Pittsburgh Steelers: Chargers 22, Steelers 21
Washington Redskins (+6.5, 44 O/U) at Philadelphia Eagles: Eagles 24, Redskins 20
If you're looking for what the media experts think, you can find a compiled list of predictions at NFLPickWatch.com.
As of Thursday morning, most of the predictions are pretty unanimous. There are three exceptions, though, which we're going to take a closer look at here.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At first blush, the game between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers doesn't look like one that should be all that close.
Carolina is sitting at 6-5 and in position to make a possible playoff push. The Buccaneers, on the other hand, have just four wins on the season and have next to zero chance of reaching the postseason.
This is a division rivalry game, though. There's probably some cliche about throwing records out in such games, though one doesn't come to mind. Nevertheless, it applies here.
This isn't the only reason this game could go either way, though. Tampa, which recently reinstated Jameis Winston at starting quarterback, has home-field advantage and possesses enough offensive weapons to threaten anyone. Let's not forget that the Buccaneers are the only ones who have beaten the Saints this season.
The Panthers are in full stumble mode, having lost three consecutive games.
Our guess is that the Panthers manage to halt their slide against the rival Buccaneers, but it will be close.
Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons
Like the Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons are reeling. They got embarrassed by the Cleveland Browns back in Week 10, and they haven't managed to win a game since. At 4-7, they're likely out of the playoff race, and they'll need a win over the Baltimore Ravens this week to maintain their slim hope.
The Ravens have won two in a row and have catapulted themselves back into the AFC North race. Both wins have come with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson under center. Both wins have also come at home against Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals teams that are terrible in their current incarnations.
The Falcons, who at least have the offensive firepower to remain competitive, present a bit more of a challenge. Atlanta will also have home-field advantage.
The Ravens will be starting Jackson for a third straight game.
Atlanta will have a good chance in this game if it can have some offensive success against Baltimore's stingy defense (18 points per game allowed) while also slowing the Ravens run game. This one will be close, though we expect Baltimore to keep its playoff push going.
Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday night's matchup between the Chargers and the Pittsburgh Steelers is going to be a good one. Both teams are involved in close divisional races—and both have managed to slip up against the Denver Broncos in the past two weeks.
Pittsburgh has an edge here because of home-field advantage. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the Steelers in general, are much more reliable at Heinz Field. However, the Steelers also seem to have stumbled on some of that locker-room drama they regularly find this time of year.
Roethlisberger criticized teammates and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner after the Denver loss, and he's refused to back down over it.
"I think I have earned the right to be able to do that with as long as I have been here," Roethlisberger said, per Chris Adamski of TribLive.com.
If the Steelers are distracted at all, they could easily blow this game in a big way. Regardless, the Chargers are going to be a tough challenge. They're one of the better teams in the conference, and they've recently seen the return of star pass-rusher Joey Bosa.
Our guess is that the Chargers squeak out a much-needed win.