Week 13 provided us the best Sunday of the 2020 season as the early slate was a wild ride of crazy comebacks and unforgettable finishes. The Jets nearly delivered a death blow to the Raiders’ playoff hopes, while simultaneously jeopardizing their own chances of landing Trevor Lawrence next April. The premier matchup of the day, Browns-Titans, was 38-7 at halftime, ended with a 41-35 final and was far from the day’s most dramatic game. The only low-stress game was the Dolphins’ 19-7 win over the Bengals, and even in that one, the point spread was hanging in the balance in the final seconds.
Let’s look ahead to the nail-biting that awaits us in Week 14. Here are my three NFL best bets:
Texans (-1) over Bears
It’s always a risk in 2020 to fire early, but I suspect this line will be heading north. If you like the Bears, then wait until closer to kickoff. If you like the Texans, now might be the best time. It’s simply two teams heading in opposite directions. The Texans had to endure a grueling start to their season, playing the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers and Vikings in the first four weeks. They’ve since had to also deal with the Titans, Packers and Colts — brutal. The Bears were once 5-1, a record we were all skeptical of at the time, and they now sit at 5-7. The Bears are not going to be in the playoffs and instead may be looking for a new coach. Deshaun Watson is an outstanding player at the most important position, and he surely will be out to stick it to the Bears, who not only passed on him in the 2017 draft but neglected to even interview him. The Texans have no draft picks to milk, so they will play hard the rest of the season and will win Sunday.
Patriots (+ 6) over Rams
Despite an ugly midseason stretch, during which COVID-19 disrupted practice time and the availability of key players, the Patriots are 6-5 when Cam Newton starts — the same record they had in Tom Brady’s last 11 games. One yard in Seattle and this team is 7-5 — the same record Tom Brady’s Buccaneers have now — and in the hunt for a playoff spot. The improving Patriots are fresh off a 45-0 thumping of the talented-but-hapless Chargers. Not only are they playing their best ball, but they have the key ingredient for beating, or at least competing with, the Rams — the ability to disrupt Jared Goff. The Super Bowl in the 2018 season is a perfect illustration of how Bill Belichick can make Goff uncomfortable and keep this game close for a Patriots team that has found its identity as a run-heavy offense. A close, low-scoring and perhaps ugly game is a good spot to be getting nearly a touchdown with the best coach in the sport. Field goal-type game, so take the points.
Vikings (+ 6.5) over Buccaneers
If you like the Vikings, you should wait and see if you can get this at 7, although I’m not sure this line will get there. The Vikings, one of the youngest teams in the league, were badly hampered by the lack of a preseason, and it showed as they started 1-5. As the season has progressed, so, too, have some of their young players. They have won five of their last six and have a tenuous hold on the NFC’s final playoff spot. The Buccaneers have been hot and cold, as Tom Brady and Bruce Arians do not always seem to be on the same page in terms of the offense they want to run. The Vikings, who have an outstanding trio of skill players in Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, will be able to hang around and shorten the game by running the ball. Despite the grief Kirk Cousins receives, he has played very well during the Vikings’ resurgence and has his team at .500 in what seemed like a lost year. The Vikings have been a touchdown underdog twice in this calendar year — against the Saints in last year’s playoffs and in Week 5 this season against the Seahawks. They covered both games, beating the Saints and leading the Seahawks until the end. The Vikings are improving and should be able to hang around to stay within the number in this pivotal game.