Week 13 NFL Picks: Thanksgiving Uncertainty

old-man-crystal-ball

Well that wasn’t so bad, was it? An 8-6 record against the spread in week 12!! Sure, it’s not nearly good enough to get me back above .500 by season’s end if I keep going at this rate, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. Unfortunately this week’s slate of games seems very tough to pick. There are almost no home underdogs that we can blindly back (13 of 16 games feature the home team as the favorite). Injuries to guys like Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler make it difficult to know what you’re getting out of certain teams. Teams that we were betting against with great success early in the year (Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, the Giants) have suddenly found their winning groove…but we’re still leery of when they’ll do yet another 180 and start to suck again. Even the newly announced suspensions in Seattle throw some doubt on the Seahawks’ chances to keep that home winning streak alive. I would just say that if you normally bet $100 on each of my picks, maybe drop it down to $50 per pick this week. Just to be safe.

Since last week’s “don’t think, just pick” strategy worked pretty well, I decided to take it one step further. I made all of the following picks while flying from Los Angeles to Boston on Tuesday night. That means even if I wanted to look up some key info about a matchup, I didn’t have a chance. It’s all instinct and the knowledge I’ve collected from the first 12 weeks that are driving these week 13 picks.

From a scheduling standpoint, you should have very low expectations of any week 13 recap that might come on Monday or Tuesday of next week. Thursday through Sunday of this week are shaping up to be the “rage a lot, sleep a little” kind of days that I’m now used to when I return to Massachusetts. Monday and Tuesday will likely be recovery days. And then there’s the little matter of me scheduling my flight back to LA to interrupt the afternoon games on Sunday. My actual focus on the games this weekend will probably be at an all-time low.

But that’s the price I pay for my family demanding me and my hilarious hijinks make an appearance for Thanksgiving.

Let’s go to the week 13 picks:

Green Bay @ Detroit (-6.5)

Incredible that we’ve come full circle on the Matt Flynn career. It was a game against Detroit almost two years ago where he went off for 480 yards and six touchdowns, which set events in motion for Seattle, then Oakland, to pay him big bucks to be their starter. So is Flynn poised to parlay another start against Detroit into yet another chance to be some desperate team’s starter next year? In a word….no. I just don’t see the short turnaround from playing Sunday to being ready for a Thursday afternoon game being a good thing for a guy like Flynn. As down as we all are on Detroit, I think they cover this line. The Lions get Thanksgiving started with a 34-24 win.

Oakland @ Dallas (-9)

One thing to keep in mind is that these are still Thursday games, even if it’s a special Thursday. That doesn’t change the fact that most Thursday games seem to be ugly, closely-contested, unpredictable affairs. I can’t take the Cowboys to win by this many points. Give me Oakland to cover while Dallas takes the four-point win, 27-23.

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-3)

Cleveland finally ruined our ability to blindly pick the home team to win in these AFC North matchups by losing to Pittsburgh last week. But that’s because the Browns have now rounded into “let’s get the best possible draft pick since the playoffs are out of reach” mode. For this classic Steelers-Ravens matchup, I’m falling back on the home team wins model. And everyone’s saying that the winner of this game will have the inside track for the #6 seed in the AFC. That’ll be momentarily true, of course, but with the way the season has gone for all these 5-6 teams, couldn’t you see the team occupying that final AFC spot changing 56 more times between now and week 17? What’s going to be comical is when all the media types start telling us not to take whoever gets the #6 seed lightly because “as we’ve seen so many times in the past, it’s often an overlooked team who gets hot right as the playoffs start that goes on to win the Super Bowl.” And while that’s true, I think we already have that team and they’re in the NFC (San Francisco). Anyway, Baltimore covers and wins, 30-20.

Tennessee @ Indianapolis (-4)

This is the stay away game of all stay away games. I could see the Colts winning by 20. I could see the Colts losing by 20. I could see the Colts winning by three. I could see the Colts losing by three. I could see a tie. I could see Ryan Fitzpatrick leading Tennessee to an improbable win that pulls them to within one game of the AFC South lead. I could see Fitzy throwing up all over himself while throwing 5 interceptions. You just don’t know with these two teams. Tennessee started the season 3-1, then lost Jake Locker right as they entered the rough part of their schedule (Seattle, San Francisco), got him back temporarily, lost him again, and have clawed their way to 5-6. Indianapolis started the season looking sketchy as fuck, then rattled off wins against Seattle, San Francisco and Denver, and then proceeded to fall behind by at least two touchdowns in each of their next five games. Who are they? What I’m trying to say is…flip a coin. My coin flip resulted in a Tennessee cover. I think the Colts win by only three, 23-20.

Jacksonville @ Cleveland (-7)

Does Vegas set the line for this game thinking millions of people are still blindly betting against the Jaguars? Like we haven’t seen them win two road games in a row? That’s the only reason I can think for Cleveland giving so many points. If these teams played each other 100 times on a neutral field, I’m not even sure the Browns would come away with a 50/50 split. They’re bad. Is the line as high as it is because the Jags are from Florida and Cleveland in November is probably cold? Doesn’t matter to me. No way you can back the Browns giving a touchdown. Let’s take the Jaguars to get their third consecutive road victory with a 33-27 win.

Tampa Bay @ Carolina (-9)

I miss the good old days of five weeks ago when a game like this would have seen Carolina favored by only six or so. I made so much money off them during those glory weeks. But now the public is all over the Panthers, which means this line is inflated by at least a couple points. I’m taking the Bucs and the points…and you know what? I’m taking the Bucs to win outright, 28-23.

Chicago @ Minnesota (-1)

The Vikings just allowed Matt Flynn to rally the Packers back from a double-digit hole in the second half last week, right? But the Bears got killed by St. Louis while giving up a ton of rushing yards yet again. Which of these terrible teams will rise to the occasion? I don’t have a god damn clue. While the Bears may soon find themselves officially out of the playoff race, the Vikings are actually playing for something: They still have a great shot at getting the 1st pick in the 2014 draft (at which point they can boggle everyone’s minds by not taking a quarterback). I like the Vikings to tank…Bears win 29-17.

Arizona @ Philadelphia (-3)

I’m frustrated because Dallas and Philly could both be improving to two games over .500, and we were promised an NFC East that would never have a single team doing that well all year. The half point is roping me into taking the Cardinals on the road. I already went against them on the road when they were at Jacksonville a few weeks ago, and they made me look stupid. I don’t know that they can win this road game, but I know they can keep it close. Arizona covers, but Philly wins 30-27.

UPDATE: I wrote that paragraph when the line was Philly -3.5. Now that it’s come down a half point…I’m stumped. Let’s change it up: Philly covers with a 31-27 win.

Miami @ NY Jets (-1) (CONFIDENCE PICK)

This should be a three-point line. The Jets have only really gotten embarrassed on the road this year. They’re decent at home, and Miami is no better than decent whether they’re home or on the road. The Jets D going after that Miami offensive line should negate any awfulness from Geno Smith (I doubt Matt Simms is really going to get a start for the Jets). The Jets win 23-15.

New England (-9) @ Houston (CONFIDENCE PICK)

From a Patriots fan’s perspective, you couldn’t make this line high enough. After that Sunday night comeback over Denver, I’m ready to bet my life savings (currently $43.26) on the Pats to win out…and blowout a lot of the shitty teams left on the schedule. The Patriots will have the opposite of a letdown game this weekend…that’s just how they operate. Big big win for New England, 38-10.

Atlanta @ Buffalo (-3.5) (CONFIDENCE PICK)

If I was Arthur Blank (that’s the Falcons’ owner, for all your jerks who don’t take the time to learn every owner’s name), I would tell Mike Smith that this specific game will determine whether he keeps his job or not. This is the type of game that you don’t show up for if you’ve quit on your coach…in Canada, in the likely freezing weather, against a team that’s also not fighting for a playoff spot…just nothing to “get up” for in this one for Atlanta. If they play a good game, he keeps his job next year. If not, he’s free to seek employment from whichever team wants an ultra-conservative coach who looks like Ari Gold’s nemesis agent colleague from Entourage. I say he’s gone. Buffalo wins 30-10.

St. Louis @ San Francisco (-8.5) (CONFIDENCE PICK)

It’s very tough to gauge this 49ers team off of last game because the Redskins are really really terrible. I mentioned above that San Francisco may very well be that team this year who we don’t ever consider as a Super Bowl contender because they had a rough middle of the season and they’re being overshadowed by some other noteworthy teams in their conference (Seattle, New Orleans, Carolina). The defense is healthy, the offense got a healthy Vernon Davis back recently and it sounds like Michael Crabtree is playing in this game. The weapons are back, this game is at home and don’t forget it’s Kellen Clemens playing QB for St. Louis. Let’s take San Francisco to cover with a 32-20 win.

Denver (-5) @ Kansas City

The Patriots fan in me wants to create so many reasons why the Broncos will lose this game. The truth is neither of these teams is nearly as good as we thought in the first two months of the season. But the Chiefs are due for a bigger fall than the Broncos. The sudden injuries on defense hurt badly since getting pressure on Peyton Manning seems to be the only way to slow him down (other than the combination of epic winds and a god-like coaching performance from Bill Belichick). I’m taking Denver to cover, pretty much sealing up the AFC West title with a 31-17 win.

Cincinnati @ San Diego (-1.5)

It seems like the Bengals haven’t really felt the impact of losing Leon Hall and Geno Atkins yet. I’m sure they’ve lost at least one game since those guys went down (I’d look, but you know, plane), but I’m waiting for a big meltdown from this team. On the road against a potent offense seems like a good time. Or…is this typical San Diego setting me up. They stun everyone by winning a huge road game against the Chiefs. We base their next game off of that performance. But instead they revert to that crappy team we should have remembered all along. I’m torn. I’m leaning towards the team with the above average quarterback. San Diego wins 30-21.

NY Giants (-1) @ Washington

We’re at the point of the season where it’s tough to care about certain matchups. A game featuring two teams essentially eliminated from playoff contention like this would be one of those matchups. You may think that Atlanta is the NFC team that most closely resembles the Houston Texans this year, but I’d contest that it’s the Redskins. I don’t feel like Atlanta fans are waiting to pounce on their team’s poor performance with boos and vitriol. But Washington fans have entered that zone…where if anything goes poorly during a home game, they jump all over it and send expletive-laden jeers down at their team. That’s a tough position for any team to be in because you just can’t ignore that. You go into a game knowing, for instance, that if RGIII throws a pick in the 1st quarter, the fans are going to go nuts (and maybe even chant for Kirk Cousins…yes, we’ve entered that zone with Washington). That’s why I’m picking the Giants to cover. Because the ‘Skins need to play almost perfect football to get the support of their fans. I’m not even a fan, and I’m still disappointed at how bad things have gotten in D.C. The Giants win 37-24.

New Orleans @ Seattle (-6) (CONFIDENCE PICK)

Why is this line so high? Whenever there’s a game featuring two teams that would be pretty evenly-matched on a neutral field, the line is always -3 in favor of the home team. Well I feel pretty positive the Saints and Seahawks would be pretty much a PICK on a neutral field. So why the extra three points? No idea. And now that Brandon Browner is out, this secondary is thin. They’ll only be able to take away one weapon on the New Orleans offense. I think the Saints have lots of weapons to throw out there. The logical thing is to take the points but expect Seattle to win. But I hate the Seahawks so let’s go ahead and hand them their first home loss since the Truman administration. New Orleans wins 28-24.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 13 I’m taking:

  • 10 Favorites & 6 Underdogs
  • And all 6 of those happen to be Road Dogs

Good luck in week 13. I hope the Magical Thanksgiving Turkey brings you something awesome (for me, that would be a 13-3 or better week against the spread).

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