Early NFL bets for Week 13
Week 13 brings us a slew of interesting games, beginning with the Thursday Night Football matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots. That isn’t the only game with a lot of intrigue, but it is one of just a handful of division rivalry games and certainly the best of the primetime games on paper.
Only two teams are on a bye this week, as the Cardinals and Panthers are both idle. With the playoff picture very jumbled in the AFC and less so in the NFC (aside from the NFC East), there are a lot of compelling games and storylines. There are also some very good early-week bets to consider.
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The Bills just don’t look right with Josh Allen’s elbow injury looming large over the offense. Allen had the big throw to Stefon Diggs on the final drive to set up the game-winning field goal, but the Bills mustered just 5.4 yards per play against a terrible Lions defense, specifically against the pass. Buffalo methodically moved the chains with 28 first downs, but there weren’t a whole lot of explosive plays with Allen unable to muster a whole lot of deep balls. He was also the team’s leading ball carrier with 10 rushes for 78 yards.
The Patriots hadn’t shown much of an offense for a while, but Mac Jones threw for 382 yards in the losing effort against the Vikings last Thursday. New England outgained Minnesota by two full yards per play, but struggled in the red zone and went just 3-for-10 on third down. The Patriots deserved a better fate, but didn’t get it, despite racking up 7.4 yards per play.
The Patriots have arguably the best defense in the NFL and the second-best pass defense in the NFL, trailing only the Eagles. They lead the league in EPA/play (expected points added per play) against by a wide margin. The Bills are down to 11th and have fallen all the way to 24th in Dropback Success Rate. New England may not win here, but looks like a good bet to keep it close.
Pick: Patriots +5.5
The Commanders and Giants match up in one of those division rivalry games this week and I’m expecting a tight, low-scoring game. What Washington does really well on defense should be a big positive against what the Giants do well on offense and the Commanders don’t really create a lot of explosive plays when they have the ball.
The Commanders are sixth in the NFL in Rushing EPA against and fifth in Rushing Success Rate against. The Giants have a top-10 rushing offense and tons of injuries at wide receiver, so this is a team that relies heavily on the run in most instances. Daniel Jones has thrown more lately out of necessity because the Giants have been trailing, but they should be able to stick to the script in a closer game here.
On the Washington side, this is an offense that ranks 27th in EPA/play overall. Since Taylor Heinicke took over, things have been a little better, but the Commanders are still 21st in that department. They are above league average running the ball since Week 7, but the Giants are a better unit against the run than the pass. Expect a lot of play between the 20s and limited chunk plays here.
Pick: Under 41
Matthew Stafford’s timetable for a return is very much up in the air, as the Rams have zero incentive to rush him back or bring him back at all. The elbow injury he had in the preseason can now get all the attention it needs and the two concussions in a short period of time are very scary. Whether it will be Bryce Perkins, John Wolford or somebody else, the Rams will be at a tremendous disadvantage at the most important position on the field again this week.
The Seahawks offense has leveled off a little bit after a hot start to the season, but there are a lot more dynamic skill players for Geno Smith than there are for the Rams. Allen Robinson joined Cooper Kupp on the injured list, so the Rams have no chance at canceling out what Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf can provide, let alone the performances that Seattle has been getting from Kenneth Walker III.
The Rams defense has been stout against the run, but ranks in the bottom five against the pass. Los Angeles also has zero incentive to do anything other than get a high draft pick. After playing a ton of football with four playoff appearances and two Super Bowls in the last five seasons, this is a team that looks to be running on fumes in a lost season.
Pick: Seahawks -4.5