Week 13: Didn't pick games
Houston Texans (2-10) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9) (HOU -2.5)
This has to be the biggest insult to the Jaguars. They have won three out of four, including a win in Houston, and are now underdogs at home to a team that has lost ten games in a row. The Jaguars still don't have much talent. It is a mystery how they've won any games, but alas they have. I think they get another, improbably giving them four when they looked like a shoo-in for 1-15 at best after losing Justin Blackmon for the season a month ago. I believe the Texans will have a big letdown after losing last week to New England when they seemed to give a whole lot in that game.
Texans 17 Jaguars 23 (JAX +2.5)
Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) @ Washington Redskins (3-9) (KC -3)
The Chiefs went through a string of games late in their 9-0 start where they were favored by very little against bad to mediocre teams. After three straight losses to the two best QBs in the AFC this season (yes, I still believe Philip Rivers has been better than Tom Brady in this here 2013 season), they can get back to being who they were: a good defensive team that makes enough offensive plays to beat its overmatched opponent. The Redskins might have some fight at home, but I think most of that fight ended with their loss last Sunday Night.
Chiefs 27 Redskins 20 (KC -3)
Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (6-6) (BAL -6)
This is one of the handful of games that could be severely impacted by weather this weekend. The Vikings are probably better suited to be playing in freezing rain than Baltimore on offense, with a running game capable of taking over for a passing game that can do nothing, but the Ravens defense is so much better, and at home. The Ravens have been dominant at home for three seasons now, and picking them to cover against a bad team by less than a TD is a pretty safe bet.
Vikings 13 Ravens 23 (BAL -6)
Oakland Raiders (4-8) @ New York Jets (5-7) (NYJ -2.5)
I want no part of this game. I enjoyed the brief Terrelle Pryor inspired renaissance the Raiders enjoyed in their 3-4 start, but watching Matt McGloin week after week is killing me. He's an absolutely average QB, and I hope to dear God the Raiders don't think he's a better option for 2014 than Pryor. The Raiders could easily finish 4-12, but I really hope they let Dennis Allen get more time to work with that team. This was a long rebuild, and I think Dennis Allen should be a part of it. I don't know why I turned this game pick into a long story about the Raiders, but I hate talking about the Jets. I really don't care in this game.
Raiders 17 Jets 20 (NYJ -2.5)
Buffalo Bills (4-8) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9) (TB -3)
Another game I really don't care to pick, but I'll try to give it more effort than I did with the Raiders vs. Jets pick. The Bills are a perfectly OK team that will keep most games close, and that is a nice recipe to beat the Buccaneers. Greg Schiano probably knows well how to stop a college-inspired offense like what Buffalo runs. This is probably the best opportunity for the Bucs to get a win in thei remaining games, but I really don't think that is going to happen. They got fortunate in their win in Detroit, but that team never should have won a 3rd game, let alone winning a 4th.
Bills 27 Buccaneers 21 (BUF +3)
Atlanta Falcons (3-9) @ Green Bay Packers (5-6-1) (GB -3)
Scott Tolzein again, and just like every game he or anyone not named Aaron Rodgers has started, I think it won't go too well. The Falcons have some pride. Matt Ryan is quietly having a very good season. His DVOA and DYAR has stayed pretty even with what he was last year, despite losing Julio Jones for a period of time and Roddy White being hobbled all year long. The Packers without Rodgers really aren't much more talented than Atlanta without all the guys they've lost. Yes, the Packers are playing for their lives right now, but I think they realize getting into the playoffs is an extreme improbability, and a loss here allows the Packers to do the smart thing and shut Rodgers down for the season.
Falcons 31 Packers 23 (ATL +3)
Cleveland Browns (4-8) @ New England Patriots (9-3) (NE -11.5)
So, it isn't the doomsday scenario of Alex Tanney starting against the Patriots. Instead, it will be Jason Campbell instead, who is 1-3 when he's started so far. He's definitely likely better than Tanney. Anyway, this is a high line, and I've all season rolled against double-digit favorites to good success apart from Jacksonville in the early season. On the other hand, I just can't see how they prevent the Patriots from scoring enough points to cover this line. This is an opportunity for the Patriots to flex their muscles ahead of two road games that will make or break their playoff seeding. They can't afford to make this even somewhat close to a loss, and I don't think they will.
Browns 13 Patriots 34 (NE -11.5)
Indianapolis Colts (8-4) @ Cincinnati Bengals (8-4) (CIN -6.5)
Weather is impacting a lot of games this weekend, including this one, with forecasts for high winds and a wintry mix. What you need to win these types of games: a good running game, a good talented defense, and dominant receivers that can run short routes that are easier to complete. Guess what? The Bengals have all three of these things, and the Colts barely have any of them. The Colts have gotten up for games against good opponents in the past, but this might be one task too hard. The bigger key is if they can win by a TD? I think they can, but if the Colts can pull something together to win this game or keep it close, I'll be more impressed than when they beat the 49ers when they were at their healthiest.
Colts 16 Bengals 27 (CIN -6.5)
Detroit Lions (7-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (7-5) (PHI -3.0)
Another game that could be destroyed by bad weather, with snow showers. The forecast isn't nearly as bad as it is in Baltimore or Cincinnati, but it could still impact this game. The Lions should win the battle at the line of scrimmage, and honestly, if they avoid making mistakes they should win the game. I think the Eagles are riding a little too high right now, as their four game win streak includes three wins over bad teams, and a close win over Arizona. Detroit is better than those teams. I think Foles throws his first interception in this one, and the Lions end the win streak and effectively end the NFC North race.
Lions 31 Eagles 24 (DET +3)
Miami Dolphins (6-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) (PIT -3.5)
Big game in Pittsburgh and I'm feeling a bunch of mixed emotions about this one. On the one hand, the Dolphins are probably the better team, with an offense that has run really well in recent weeks, and a defense that is quite underrated and solidly in the top 10 of the NFL. On the other hand, it's the Steelers, who are still the Steelers, playing at home in a game they have to have. On the one hand, the Dolphins biggest weakness (o-line) is something that the Steelers haven't been good at taking advantage of (pass rush). On the other hand, I have no idea. I really have no idea.
Dolphins 20 Steelers 23 (MIA +3.5)
Tennessee Titans (5-7) @ Denver Broncos (10-2) (DEN -13.0)
This line is high, the forecast for Denver is mid teens (no snow). The Titans offense will probably be able to do about nothing, as I think the Broncos defense should take advantage of an offense that really cannot push the ball downfield (the easiest way to beat Denver offensively). The Titans have some nice pieces on defense, but Jurrell Casey's impact should be mitigated by the Broncos better part of their O-Line (interior line). The line is still high, but if I'm going to take the Patriots to cover their 11.5, I'll take the Broncos to cover this one.
Titans 13 Broncos 31 (DEN -13)
St. Louis Rams (5-7) @ Arizona Cardinals (7-5) (ARZ -6.0)
They played a good game back in Week 1 (a 27-24 OT win for the Rams), but both teams are quite different now. The Cardinals defense has realized every bit of its defense and has become one of the best defensive teams in the NFL, particularly at home. The Rams defense has been good on the whole, but has struggled more often than Arizona's has. What I definitely see here is a low scoring game. What I also have a hard time seeing is Kellen Clemens doing well against that Cardinals defense at home that has stopped basically everyone they've played in that buildiing.
Rams 13 Cardinals 20 (ARZ -6)
New York Giants (5-7) @ San Diego Chargers (5-7) (SD -3.5)
Both teams have essentially played their way out of the playoff picture, though the Chargers are definitely close to somehow stealing a playoff spot. The Giants offense should have time to operate against the Chargers defense that hasn't played well for a while now. The Chargers offense should also have good success against the Giants defense. This is a really close game on the whole, with no clear advantage for either side. If there weren't better options (or if both teams were 6-6 instead), this game could be a marquee game of the week. Instead, it will be shoved to the background. I have no particular position on this game, so I'll go with the slightly more desperate team to cover its low number.
Giants 23 Chargers 27 (SD -3.5)
Seattle Seahawks (11-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (8-4) (SF -2.5)
The big rematch. What I've learned about Seattle is when they play 'Games of the Year' at home, those games suck because the Seahawks get up for night primetime games at a level I've never seen. However, when they play big games on the road, those games are often fun and interesting. Take their only loss in Indianapolis, which was about as entertaining a game as we've had this season. Or how about their playoff game in Atlanta, or even their entertaining win in Arizona earlier this season. The public is backing Seattle big right now, but I think the Seahawks might be riding a little too, coming off of a short week, and this game really has no meaning for Seattle anymore. The 49ers have far more to play for, and this is a huge test for them to show people they still hold some of the toughness that defined the 2011-12 49ers.
Seahawks 20 49ers 23 (SF -2.5)
Carolina Panthers (9-3) @ New Orleans Saints (9-3) (NO -3.5)
Great game. I like the fact that the 2nd game is in Carolina, but I also don't like it since if the Saints win each of their next two games, the Panthers game is meaningless, since the Saints can lose in Carolina and still win the division with a win against Tampa. The Panthers defense has the ability to do what the 49ers defense did to them. They are great at tackling, allow little YAC, and can get consistent pressure. On offense, they can control TOP against a bad run defense. They match up really well with New Orleans, but those matchups are stronger at home. The fan in me wants the Panthers to win this game because I love their style of play, and it makes that Week 16 game more meaningful, and I think it happens. Teams playing a 2nd straight prime-time game have a pretty bad record ATS (Denver losing to New England, Washington losing to the Giants in the last two weeks) over the past few years, and that might hurt the Saints here.
Panthers 27 Saints 24 (CAR +3.5)
Dallas Cowboys (7-5) @ Chicago Bears (6-6) (DAL -1.5)
The Bears are a proud team. Their receivers are a matchup nightmare for this Cowboys defense. They have an outside shot at the division (and if the Bears lose on Sunday, they can tie the division on Monday). The Bears probably should be favored here. In many ways, the outcome of that Detroit @ Philadelphia game the day before impacts the importance of this one, and that is how I'll take it:
If the Lions win: Cowboys 27 Bears 20 (DAL -1.5)
If the Eagles win: Cowboys 20 Bears 27 (CHI +1.5)
Enjoy the Games!!