Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 13 NFL Picks
The sailing continues to be un-smooth. It's been a weird, unpredictable NFL season, and after strong starts across the board, Bleacher Report NFL correspondents Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon, Kalyn Kahler, Matt Miller, Brent Sobleski and Master Tesfatsion have fallen from grace to various degrees when picking games against the spread.
Here's the damage:
1. Miller: 85-84-3 (8-7-1 last week)
T-2. Gagnon: 86-88-3 (5-10-1 last week)
T-2. Sobleski: 86-88-3 (10-5-1 last week)
4. Kahler: 85-87-3 (8-7-1 last week)
5. Tesfatsion: 82-88-3 (6-9-1 last week)
6. Davenport: 83-91-3 (6-9-1 last week)
Consensus picks: 73-76-2 (5-5-1 last week)
In their defense, picking every single game ATS using midweek lines is arguably a fool's errand. But the group was at one point 15 games above .500, so the hope is this is a slump and now the law of averages will be kind to our predictors down the stretch.
Regardless, here's another opportunity to either buy low or fade the crew in the first full week of December NFL action.
Cleveland Browns (8-3) at Tennessee Titans (8-3)
DraftKings Line: Tennessee -6
The Tennessee Titans won their first three games by a combined total of just six points, but each of the Titans' last five victories have come by six or more points, and a slim majority of our writers feel they can keep that trend rolling Sunday in a home matchup with the Cleveland Browns.
"In many ways, the Browns and Titans are similar," Davenport said. "Both teams have fantastic running backs. And stout offensive lines. And flawed defenses. But there is (in this writer's opinion) one major difference between the two—and that's at quarterback. When it comes to making plays through the air, it's a lot easier to trust Ryan Tannehill than Baker Mayfield—and that's going to be what spurs Tennessee to a seven-point win here."
Tannehill is the league's sixth-highest-rated passer, and he'll be going up against a bottom-10 pass defense in terms of DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average at Football Outsiders) which may not have top cornerback Denzel Ward as a result of a calf injury.
Mayfield is coming off a strong performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he hasn't been consistent this season. The third-year No. 1 overall pick has yet to post a single passer rating in the 90s this year, and the Tennessee pass defense has looked better of late.
Still, the Browns haven't lost since Week 8 and there's little reason to believe they won't fight here. This one isn't a no-brainer.
Consensus: Tennessee -6
Score Prediction: Titans 31, Browns 23
Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1) at Miami Dolphins (7-4)
DraftKings Line: Miami -11.5
Sunday's game against the struggling Cincinnati Bengals will mark the first time since 2006 that the Miami Dolphins have been favored by more than 10 points. But that isn't stopping the entire crew from backing Miami at home.
"The Bengals are completely lost at quarterback without Joe Burrow," Sobleski said. "Good luck against the Dolphins and their second-ranked scoring defense. Plus, Ryan Fitzpatrick should light up Cincinnati's 26th-ranked defense if the veteran continues to start thanks to Tua Tagovailoa's thumb injury. So, a two-score spread isn't much at all."
There's a chance the Dolphins could start Tagovailoa, but they appear to be erring on the side of caution. Regardless, the rookie has yet to throw an interception this season, so his presence wouldn't necessarily make life easier on a Bengals team that might stand its best chance to cover by capitalizing on offensive mistakes from Miami.
Cincinnati hung with the New York Giants at home last week but was outscored 56-19 in its previous two road games. Meanwhile, the Dolphins seem to have a knack for stepping on throats—four of their seven wins have come by at least 17 points this season.
Consensus: Miami -11.5
Score Prediction: Dolphins 31, Bengals 10
Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) at New York Jets (0-11)
DraftKings Line: Las Vegas -8.5
The Las Vegas Raiders are favored by more than one score on the road for the first time since their 2002 Super Bowl season, but that isn't scaring off the majority of the panel as Jon Gruden's team prepares to take on the winless New York Jets in East Rutherford.
"Even after Las Vegas' embarrassment last week," Kahler said, "this is a no-brainer. These Jets are not winning a game this year unless they play a team of backups that has already clinched a playoff spot, or a team without any quarterbacks."
Unfortunately for the Jets, Las Vegas has the league's seventh-highest-rated quarterback, and Derek Carr's 2020 numbers indicate his down performance in a shocking Week 12 loss to the Atlanta Falcons might have been an aberration. Now he'll get a chance to prove that against the league's worst pass defense in DVOA.
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold looked rusty coming back from injury in Week 12 and was the league's lowest-rated passer already. Now he'll have to deal with an improved pass defense, and it's doubtful the Jets' ineffective running game will be able to take advantage of the Raiders' struggles defending the run.
All that said, New York is 3-2 against the spread since Week 7, and it's possible the Raiders entered another late-season free-fall in Atlanta. When that happened to them last year, it all started against this bad Jets team. They also might not have standout running back Josh Jacobs due to an ankle injury, so it's not surprising we're far from a unanimous consensus here.
Davenport: Las Vegas
Gagnon: New York
Kahler: Las Vegas
Miller: Las Vegas
Sobleski: Las Vegas
Tesfatsion: New York
Consensus: Las Vegas -8.5
Score Prediction: Raiders 27, Jets 17
Indianapolis Colts (7-4) at Houston Texans (4-7)
DraftKings Line: Indianapolis -3.5
Last week, the vast majority of our experts shied away from laying a field goal plus a hook with the Indianapolis Colts favored over the Tennessee Titans. The gang made the right call there, and now it is again staying away from Indy minus-3.5 points in a divisional matchup.
"I don't trust the Colts," Tesfatsion stated. "Their defense gave up 45 points to the Titans, after surrendering 31 points to the Green Bay Packers the previous week. With the way Deshaun Watson is playing this season, the Houston Texans will keep this one close."
Somewhat quietly, Watson has 15 touchdown passes to zero interceptions and a 122.3 passer rating in his last six games, the Texans haven't lost by more than three points since Week 7, and their only straight-up loss since the start of November came in a weird, weather-impacted game against the Cleveland Browns.
They're also operating on extra rest against a team that is banged up with offensive linemen Anthony Castonzo and Ryan Kelly dealing with injuries. Throw in quarterback Philip Rivers' toe injury, and it's hard to justify giving up more than a field goal with Indy in this divisional matchup.
Still, the Texans aren't exactly trustworthy either, and the Colts haven't lost back-to-back games all season. It's not surprising that the group is close to a split here.
Consensus: Houston +3.5
Score Prediction: Colts 28, Texans 27
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) at Minnesota Vikings (5-6)
DraftKings Line: Minnesota -10
Our only deadlock from Sunday's early games comes between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings, who are laying 10 points against a one-win opponent following a season-saving comeback victory in Week 12.
Gagnon on the Jags: "Minnesota needs this and the Jags are a very bad football team, but the Vikes have been outscored 58-56 the last two weeks at home against mediocre opponents. They're hanging on by a thread, and now star back Dalvin Cook is dealing with an ankle injury. Throw in that three of Jacksonville's last four games have been decided by four or fewer points and account for a potential backdoor cover and this is an obvious one."
Miller on the Vikes: "This is a massive spread, but the Vikings are making a playoff push and the Jaguars are just trying to lose enough games to draft a quarterback early in the first round. Yes, the Jags have kept a lot of games close lately and the Vikes are playing with a worn-down Cook, but the connection of Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson will be too much for Jacksonville to handle, especially with Adam Thielen set to return for Minnesota. Defensively, the Vikings have the bulk up front to at least slow down what running back James Robinson can do on the ground."
For what it's worth, those two rank atop the pick standings this season. How appropriate that they see this game in opposite lights...
Score Prediction: Vikings 31, Jaguars 21
New Orleans Saints (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
DraftKings Line: New Orleans -2.5
You never know what you're going to get from an Atlanta Falcons team that is once again riding a hot streak after burying itself early in the season. That's become an Atlanta tradition, and nearly all of our correspondents have the Falcons continuing that trend by covering as a small underdog at home Sunday against the Drew Brees-less New Orleans Saints.
"Interim head coach Raheem Morris deserves ample credit for the Falcons' turnaround in recent weeks," Sobleski said. "The team is 4-2 since Morris replaced Dan Quinn. To be fair, one of those losses came at the hands of the Saints less than two weeks ago, and the division rivals are set to meet again Sunday. But the Falcons should be better prepared to handle Taysom Hill, who is hard to trust as New Orleans' starting quarterback. Atlanta's defense, meanwhile, has the league's ninth-best DVOA since Morris took the reins, per Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz."
Hill performed well against Atlanta two weeks ago, but that was his first career start. The utility offensive player still hasn't completed a touchdown pass in his NFL career and could be destined to hit a wall against that rejuvenated Atlanta D.
On the other hand, it's fair not to trust the Falcons, who may or may not have injured wide receiver Julio Jones against a Saints defense that has surrendered just one touchdown and 7.0 points per game in the last four weeks.
"The Saints admittedly didn't look great offensively last week," said Davenport, who broke from the pack by picking New Orleans, "but Hill said that New Orleans intentionally went with a conservative game plan against a Broncos team with no quarterback. The Saints and Falcons just locked horns two weeks ago, with the Saints winning easily at the Superdome. This game will likely be closer, but the Falcons blowing out a flawed Raiders team doesn't so change my view of them that I expect the outcome to flip in the rematch. Of course, I've been abjectly terrible the past couple of weeks with picks, so the Falcons will probably win by 40."
The counter there is Davenport is very much due, and plenty of lone wolves have had the last laugh in this exercise this season.
Davenport: New Orleans
Consensus: Atlanta +2.5
Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Saints 21
Detroit Lions (4-7) at Chicago Bears (5-6)
DraftKings Line: Chicago -3
It's difficult to predict how a team is going to react to the midseason firing of its head coach, but almost all of our pickers figure the Detroit Lions will rally around interim leader Darrell Bevell with extra time to prepare for a familiar and slumping opponent in Week 13.
The gang is generally surprised the Bears, who haven't won a game since the middle of October and are extremely banged up following a blowout loss to the Green Bay Packers, are actually favored by a full field goal against Detroit.
"Matt Patricia's firing wasn't exactly met with lamentations and wailing in the Detroit locker room," Davenport said. "Call it a hunch, but I expect to see one of the Lions' better efforts of the season in Week 13."
The Lions aren't exactly a picture of health, but Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Charles Leno Jr. have all missed practice time this week for the Bears, who suddenly look vulnerable defensively as well. Plus, Gagnon has a good feeling about a trend regarding Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
"Stafford posted an 83.3 rating in his first two games of the season and then bounced back with a strong performance in a victory. He then posted an 87.4 rating in the next two games before again bouncing back with a strong performance in a victory. He posted an 86.9 rating in the next two games before again bouncing back with—sing it with me—a strong performance in a victory. And now, he's again coming off a poor two-game stretch in which he posted a 78.4 rating. He's due for yet another strong performance in a Detroit victory."
Can't argue with that logic.
Consensus: Detroit +3
Score Prediction: Lions 23, Bears 21
Los Angeles Rams (7-4) at Arizona Cardinals (6-5)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -2.5
"This is an NFC West matchup we haven't seen yet," Kahler said, "and really anyone could win this game, which seems to be the theme of the division. The Los Angeles Rams are only averaging 23.9 points per game and haven't scored at least 30 since Week 5. It feels like Sean McVay will need to get more out of his offense starting now."
But Kahler and three of her five colleagues aren't confident that'll happen against the Arizona Cardinals, who are getting 2.5 points at home Sunday against a Rams team that outscored Arizona 65-31 in two 2019 victories.
"I think both of these teams are somewhat overrated," Gagnon said, "but the Cards hang with everybody, and it's odd they're getting points at home against an L.A. team that has a negative scoring margin since the start of November."
The counter to that is the Cardinals' only win since the beginning of November came on a Hail Murray against the Buffalo Bills. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray has struggled during that stretch, but the Cards offense has done a much better job than Los Angeles at taking care of the ball, and that's always a potential difference-maker.
It's clear this could go either way. If you're going to join our slim majority on Arizona, consider buying half a point to cover yourself in the event of a three-point loss, if possible.
Miller: Los Angeles
Tesfatsion: Los Angeles
Consensus: Arizona +2.5
Score Prediction: Cardinals 24, Rams 23
New England Patriots (5-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-8)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -1
Few would argue with the notion that the Los Angeles Chargers are a lot more talented than the New England Patriots, but so much of the betting game comes back to trust. Bill Belichick and the Pats have spent much of the 21st century earning the trust of NFL bettors, while the Chargers have done just the opposite.
After another debacle-level loss straight-up and against the spread in Week 12, most of our predictors are fading game-management stooge Anthony Lynn and the Bolts in what is essentially a pick'em in L.A.
"Even after last week's win over the Cardinals, my confidence level that the 2020 Patriots are actually any good isn't all that high," Davenport said. "But I have even less confidence in a Chargers team that has raised losing close games to a sort of perverse performance art. Justin Herbert will have a good game Sunday. He may well throw for well over 300 yards. But when the final whistle blows, the Bolts will somehow, someway, figure out how to lose by four. Book it."
In this case, they merely need to lose or tie for New England to cover as a one-point 'dog, and if the Pats can beat the Cards and Baltimore Ravens, they can beat the Chargers. Joey Bosa is a force in the Los Angeles defense, but Belichick will undoubtedly prepare for that in a must-win game. Bosa is also dealing with a shin injury, and it's fair to wonder if the Chargers will have much fire in their bellies after Lynn essentially threw in the towel on a playoff run this week.
Don't be afraid to give the Patriots at least one last shot here.
Davenport: New England
Gagnon: New England
Kahler: New England
Miller: Los Angeles
Sobleski: New England
Tesfatsion: New England
Consensus: New England +1
Score Prediction: Patriots 27, Chargers 20
New York Giants (4-7) at Seattle Seahawks (8-3)
DraftKings Line: Seattle -10
On the surface, a 10-point spread seems high for a matchup between two division leaders. But the Seattle Seahawks are a Super Bowl contender, they're at home, and their MVP candidate quarterback is healthy. The New York Giants, on the other hand, are leading the NFC Least by default with a 4-7 record and likely to be without quarterback Daniel Jones for a trip across three time zones.
With all of that in mind, it's not surprising that the crew is unanimously backing Seattle as a double-digit-point fave.
"Another 10-point spread on the NFL schedule," Miller said, "but this one is justified as the Giants head to Seattle to face a defense that has been much improved of late and an offense that is too explosive. The Giants, with or without Jones at quarterback, wouldn't be able to hang with the Seahawks' ability to score points. A healthy Chris Carson is one problem they can't handle, but add in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and you quickly realize Joe Judge's team has no answer for the offensive firepower in Seattle."
The reality is this number would be lower if Jones were healthy—the look-ahead line was in the seven-point range—because the sophomore first-round pick has addressed his biggest issue by committing just seven turnovers in his last eight games. Backup Colt McCoy has started just seven games in the last nine seasons and could be overwhelmed by a Seattle D that has indeed received a jolt with defensive backs Jamal Adams and Shaquill Griffin returning from injuries.
The backdoor cover is on the table, but it's hard to pass up the home team in this spot.
Consensus: Seattle -10
Score Prediction: Seahawks 31, Giants 13
Philadelphia Eagles (3-7-1) at Green Bay Packers (8-3)
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -8.5
Coming out of their Week 9 bye, the oft-mocked Philadelphia Eagles have scored just 17 points in three consecutive losses. Few expect them to suddenly wake up at Lambeau Field in Week 13, but half of our experts are laying 8.5 points with the Green Bay Packers.
Sobleski in defense of laying the points: "The Packers are the NFC's best squad, while the Eagles are coming apart at the seams. Some will see this contest as a potential trap game for Green Bay, especially with a rather large spread. However, Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz hasn't shown any signs in recent weeks of returning to form and being able to carry the Eagles toward competitiveness. Keeping games somewhat close against the Browns' and Seahawks' porous defenses over the last two weeks shouldn't impress anyone."
Gagnon on the taking the points: "The Eagles are desperate, the Packers have been prone to dud performances of late, and Eagles back Miles Sanders could go off against a bottom-10 run defense in DVOA. Throw in that Green Bay won't have center Corey Linsley, and this number is simply too high."
You can see why it might be tempting to take a shot at Philly with the backdoor cover on the table as well. Still, you won't be faulted for avoiding this one entirely.
Kahler: Green Bay
Miller: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Score Prediction: Packers 28, Eagles 20
Denver Broncos (4-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-1)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -13.5
"The Kansas City Chiefs have won three straight games by one possession," Tesfatsion said ahead of K.C.'s Week 13 divisional matchup with the Denver Broncos, "but I don't think this one will be close. The Chiefs already blew out the Broncos in Denver during Week 7. I'm expecting nothing less on Sunday night in Kansas City."
In fact, the Chiefs have outscored the Broncos 96-25 in three consecutive blowouts since the start of last season. And while the Broncos could at least be more competitive than they were in Week 12 now that they'll have real-life quarterbacks at their disposal, sophomore starter Drew Lock is the league's second-lowest-rated passer and both Jerry Jeudy and Phillip Lindsay are dealing with injuries.
The latter injury could make it hard for the Broncos to hang around by taking advantage of a Chiefs run defense that ranks last in DVOA.
Broadly, Denver might simply be deflated after last week's COVID-19-related debacle and one-sided loss to the Saints, and Arrowhead isn't an ideal place to travel under those circumstances.
And what are the odds the Chiefs win a close game for the fourth time in a row? This is a team that overwhelms its opponents—Kansas City has a handful of 14-plus-point victories this season—and you get the feeling it'll get back on that track here.
Davenport: Kansas City
Gagnon: Kansas City
Kahler: Kansas City
Miller: Kansas City
Tesfatsion: Kansas City
Consensus: Kansas City -13.5
Score Prediction: Chiefs 35, Broncos 17
Washington Football Team (4-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0)
DraftKings Line: Pittsburgh -8.5
Nearly half of the perfect Pittsburgh Steelers' 11 wins have come by five points or fewer, but with our lines, the Washington Football Team is 1-5 against the spread in non-divisional games this season. Even if the rest and preparation time favor the team getting more than a touchdown Monday evening, the majority of our correspondents are siding with Pittsburgh as an 8.5-point fave at home.
"Though the still-undefeated Steelers did not put on an impressive show on Wednesday Afternoon Football," Kahler said, "this should be an easy Pittsburgh victory."
Washington might simply lack the weapons on offense to keep pace in a matchup with the league's top defense in terms of DVOA, and rarely sacked veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has the ability to fend off a strong WFT defensive front.
Still, this is only a 4-2 decision. Gagnon sees it playing out very differently.
"I don't think Washington is winning this thing," he said, "but it is basically coming off a bye week against a Steelers team that constantly cuts it close and is now working on short rest following the loss of starting edge-rusher Bud Dupree. Washington hasn't lost by more than a field goal since Week 5, and this should also be settled by merely one score."
Consensus: Pittsburgh -8.5
Score Prediction: Steelers 30, Washington 20
Buffalo Bills (8-3) at San Francisco 49ers (5-6)
DraftKings Line: Buffalo -1.5
The San Francisco 49ers appear to have the Rams' number. Despite the fact their roster has been ravaged by injuries, the Niners just beat the Rams for the second time in a seven-week span. That's likely why they're only getting 1.5 points at a neutral site against the contending Buffalo Bills on Monday night.
The majority of our experts are under the impression that's a dynamic Bills backers can take advantage of.
Against teams not named the Rams who have winning records this season, the 49ers are 0-5 straight-up and against the spread with an average margin of loss of 14.2 points.
"The Bills have to be the NFL's quietest and maybe most disrespected division leader," Miller said. "That's the only way to explain a 1.5-point spread against the San Francisco—or is it Glendale now?—49ers. The Niners are still without George Kittle and Nick Bosa, right? Brandon Aiyuk alone isn't worth believing the 49ers can suddenly keep pace with the Buffalo offense or move the ball consistently on the Bills defense."
Still, Buffalo has laid some eggs against veteran teams this season and this is, again, far from unanimous.
Kahler: San Francisco
Tesfatsion: San Francisco
Consensus: Buffalo -1.5
Score Prediction: Bills 27, 49ers 23
Dallas Cowboys (3-8) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -7.5
The spread for Tuesday night's game between the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens that was postponed from Thursday wasn't available until after our Thursday evening pick deadline. That game remained off the board until then, it remains unavailable at most sportsbooks, and several have posted Baltimore as a 10-point favorite.
Therefore, there's potential value in the initial DraftKings line that has Baltimore laying just 7.5 points against a Dallas team that hardly showed up for a home Thanksgiving blowout at the hands of Washington in Week 12.
And so the Ravens are the pick here.
Baltimore is in rough shape coming off a COVID-19 outbreak, but the Ravens really need this game, and they did put together an impressive effort with a bare-bones roster against the undefeated Steelers in Week 12. Now, they should have reinforcements, although on Friday morning it was still unclear if reigning MVP Lamar Jackson would be available.
For now, the gang is willing to take that risk.
Miller: No pick
Tesfatsion: No pick
Consensus: Baltimore -7.5
Score Prediction: Ravens 28, Cowboys 17
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