Week 13 NFL best bets: Picks, odds for every game

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

December 4, 2021 09:45 PM
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Another exciting NFL Sunday is here, bringing with it a lot of games with tremendous importance for playoff positioning. After the Thanksgiving holiday, we're back to a normal schedule, as there will be 12 games on Sunday.

Our VSiN experts -- Adam Burke, Dave Tuley, Will Hill, Wes Reynolds and Matt Youmans, along with Ben Brown of Pro Football Focus -- combine to give their opinions on every Sunday game in Week 13.

Note: Lines are from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday night.

Here are our Week 13 best bets:

Minnesota Vikings (-7, 47) at Detroit Lions

Tuley: The Vikings are coming off a tough loss to the 49ers that dropped them to 5-6 and cost them what could be a key head-to-head tiebreaker in the NFC wild-card chase, but most people still think they’ll be a playoff team with a soft closing schedule that starts with the Lions. However, don’t forget that they beat the Lions only 19-17 in Week 5 and needed a 54-yard Greg Joseph field goal as time expired. The Lions have been competitive like that all season. 

Even though they’re still winless at 0-10-1, they’re 7-4 ATS, which is the fifth-best betting record in the league behind only the Packers (10-2), Cowboys (8-3), Cardinals (8-3) and Patriots (8-4). Besides, I certainly wouldn’t trust the Vikings laying a TD as they’re 0-1 ATS when laying a TD of more, which was the earlier non-cover vs. these Lions. And no matter how many great stats Kirk Cousins puts up with 23 TD passes to just three INTs, he doesn’t come through in the clutch, and I’m expecting this will be another game that comes down to a late field goal.

Pick: Lions + 7

Burke: Given the history of the Vikings, this may not be the smartest bet in the world. They tend to play a ton of close games that come down to the last possession or some sort of last-minute field goal. However, that perception may be what is keeping this line against the Lions a little bit lower than it should be.

The Vikings are better in just about every way and the one obvious strength with their defense should be enough to win this game by margin. Minnesota’s third-down defense hasn’t been as dominant as past years, but is still a unit that ranks in the top 10. Detroit ranks 31st in third-down conversion rate on offense, just one-tenth of a percent higher than the Seahawks.

Getting off the field on third down and winning the turnover battle are two ways to win games by margin. The Vikings have the second-fewest turnovers in the NFL with eight. Detroit only has 14, so the Lions have taken decent care of the ball, but not to the degree that the Vikes have.

Detroit ranks 27th in yards per play, a number helped by garbage-time offense from early in the season. Minnesota has a top-10 offense in YPP, along with a top-10 unit by DVOA, a metric from Football Outsiders that a lot of bettors use when breaking down games. Minnesota’s pass offense ranks second by that metric. Detroit has a bottom-five pass defense by DVOA.

Minnesota should have a lot of chances to put some distance in this game and I think they do.

Pick: Vikings -7

 

Arizona Cardinals (-7.5, 43.5) at Chicago Bears

Tuley: The Bears beat the Lions on Thanksgiving, but didn’t cover after closing as 2.5-point road favorites. I’m not taking them here in a similar spot getting more than a TD at home. The Cardinals are getting Kyler Murray back after showing in his absence that they’re still one of the most well-rounded teams in the league as they went 2-1 behind Colt McCoy. It’s a common narrative that people like to say a coach is being distracted by job offers — the Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury to Oklahoma is the rumor. But I don’t put much stock in that as I’m sure coaches have inquiries coming across their desks more than we hear about and they still can do their jobs. 

With that in mind, I’ll start this week’s teaser portfolio with the Cardinals teased down to -1.5. In Point Spread Weekly, I suggested pairing it with the Colts teased down to -2.5 as they were favored by 8.5 over the Texans, but that line has since gone up to -10 and out of teaser territory. Instead, I now would suggest using Cardinals -1.5 with Washington + 2.5, with a secondary consideration for the Patriots teased up to 8.5 at the Bills on Monday Night Football.

Pick: 6-point teaser on Cardinals -1.5/Washington + 8.5 (-120)

Burke: Kyler Murray returns for the Cardinals this week, but the NFL MVP hopeful will return to suboptimal conditions. We’ve seen rust be a factor for several quarterbacks off of the bye and others off of injury/COVID, like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Rust could be a huge factor for Murray, along with the fact that temperatures are expected to be in the low 40s with rain and wind at Soldier Field.

The forecast looks pretty bad for a dome team heading outdoors to the Windy City in December. Add Murray coming off of injury and it sure looks like the Cardinals offense could be kept in check during this one.

Arizona boasts a top-five defense by DVOA and ranks sixth in yards per play allowed. The Bears are 29th in yards per play on offense. One of the best attributes for rookie QB Justin Fields is his accuracy on downfield throws, but this won’t be the kind of day for throwing downfield.

The total on this game has gone down a bit, but should go down more as we get closer to kickoff and more bettors look at the weather forecast. Given the conditions, Murray’s potential rust and a dominant Cardinals defense, the under is a strong play here.

Pick: Under 43.5

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-10.5, 51) at Atlanta Falcons

Tuley: Here’s yet another home underdog, but this time we’re getting double digits. Big dogs aren’t the automatic play they once were, as double-digit dogs are just 12-11 ATS this season, but home double-digit dogs are 4-0 ATS, including outright upsets from the Jets (+ 11.5) against the Bengals 34-31 in Week 8 and the Jaguars (+ 16) against the Bills 9-6 in Week 9. 

So, you say, this is the mighty Buccaneers and the lowly Falcons. Well, the Falcons were hanging with these same Bucs in Week 2 in Tampa, trailing just 28-25 heading into the fourth quarter. They ended up not covering as 13-point road dogs, as the Bucs pulled away to a misleading 48-25 victory thanks to two pick-sixes thrown by Matt Ryan to Tampa’s Mike Edwards. As long as that doesn’t happen again, the Falcons should be able to cover this big number.

Pick: Falcons + 10.5

Brown: After going over his passing touchdown prop in four of the first five games of the season, Ryan’s passing touchdown production has dropped off dramatically, as he's bested his closing prop number in just one of the past five games. The Calvin Ridley loss has had a devastating impact on this offense, as it has the third-worst EPA per offensive play this season.

Things could be looking up in Week 13 even though the Falcons are facing a Buccaneers defense that is ranked third in PFF’s opponent-adjusted grades. The only other time Ryan has exceeded his passing touchdown prop in the past five games was against the Saints in another plus-price offering in Week 9.

PFF’s betting model sees value on this game going over the 50.5-point total, showing 0.5 percent value. This fits the narrative that Ryan will be productive through the air, as it’s difficult to see the Buccaneers offense pushing the game over its point total by itself. With little happening on the ground for the Falcons, Ryan should have plenty of opportunities to throw for multiple touchdowns in this divisional matchup against the Buccaneers.

Pick: Matt Ryan Over 1.5 Passing TDs ( 120)

 

Indianapolis Colts (-9.5, 45) at Houston Texans

Burke: This is a big number for the Colts to cover, but the Texans absolutely look like the worst team in the AFC and probably the second-worst team in football behind the Lions. Indianapolis lost a heartbreaker to the Buccaneers last week, but five turnovers were the deciding factor in that game. It was a continuation of the robust offense that we’ve seen the last few weeks from Indy, but also had too big of a helping of Carson Wentz mistakes.

Up until that point, Indianapolis only had 10 turnovers in 11 games. There is a strong narrative out there about Wentz and all the interceptions, but the reality is that the Colts were taking really good care of the ball until that outlier performance. Coaches and players can psych themselves out a little bit in big games and get away from what works. That may have happened last week to Frank Reich and his team..

This week, the Colts can get back to doing what they do well. They’ll be able to run the football on a Texans team that is very weak in the trenches. Houston has allowed the second-most rushing yards in the NFL and the second-most rushing touchdowns. The Texans also have the league’s worst offense with 4.5 yards per play.

The beauty of a dominant rushing attack is that the Colts can play from ahead, stay ahead and even add on. With the bye week on deck, the Colts can put everything into this game and make sure to be at 7-6 with the playoff push in mind. Houston’s paltry offense shouldn’t score enough to cover, even with the big number.

Pick: Colts -9.5

 

Philadelphia Eagles (-7, 44.5) at New York Jets

Hill: My favorite total this week is under 45 in this one. Jalen Hurts is on track to play, but is nursing a sore ankle and coming off of a game where he struggled throwing the football. He only had 14 completed passes, threw three interceptions and a couple more that the Giants defense let slip through their hands. I believe after a turnover-infested week, the Eagles will go into this game leaning even more heavily on their newfound running game, realizing that turnovers are the only way the Jets can steal the win.

On the other side of the ball, Zach Wilson came back from a knee injury last week, and like Hurts, also completed just 14 forward passes, for a whopping 165 yards against a dreadful Texans defense. Just how poorly did Wilson play last week? Earlier in the season, he threw four interceptions against the Patriots and his QBR that day was 10. His QBR this past Sunday against the woeful Texans was 9.6. In the games Wilson has started, the Jets have averaged 267 yards this season. In games Wilson does not start, the Jets are averaging 454 yards per game with the likes of Mike White and Joe Flacco filling in. I expect the tempo and game script to look similar to that of an Army-Navy game, and a dominant performance from an Eagles defense that is tied for fifth in the league at 5.3 yards per play allowed. The Eagles lost 13-7 last week in this same building and I expect another snoozefest.

Pick: Under 44.5

Burke: The Texans stink. That is relevant here because the Jets beat the Texans last week, but only scored 21 points and had just 4.3 yards per play. New York won the battle in the trenches because Houston was so overmatched there, but the Jets were 2-of-13 on third down and had under four yards per pass attempt.

The Eagles are a one-dimensional team right now because Hurts can’t throw a forward pass with any kind of efficiency. Philadelphia has, however, become very adept at running the football and had been able to ride that into playoff contention with wins in three of four games prior to last week’s setback against the Giants.

The Jets are a really methodical offense. Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, plays a very matter-of-fact style of football. You never see Green Bay pushing tempo and you won’t see the Jets do it either. This is a team that tries to shorten the game to protect its shortcomings all over the field and it isn’t a bad strategy.

What it should lead to in this game is the under. Wilson has not looked the part and has also missed valuable time due to injury. Long gone are the fun days of White slinging the ball all around the yard. Instead we get Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson and Austin Walter alternating carries while Wilson runs around for a while before getting sacked or throwing the ball away.

Philadelphia’s defense is sixth in yards per carry allowed, so the Jets have a low offensive projection here. The Eagles don’t have a lot of explosiveness to their offense and are going to run the ball a lot, which means a running clock in the Meadowlands.

Pick: Under 44.5 

 

Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals (-3, 50.5)

Brown: The Chargers offense seems to have fallen off of a cliff in its past six matchups, outside of one quality performance against a banged-up Pittsburgh Steelers defense. Over the first five games of the season, Los Angeles averaged the fifth-best EPA per offensive play but has dropped to 11th over the past six games. A lot of this can be attributed to Justin Herbert’s performance under pressure, which has flipped from an unsustainable rate in his rookie season to the fifth-worst passing grade for a quarterback under pressure this season.

Cincinnati ranks 29th in pressure percentage, so this looks like less of a concern in their Week 13 matchup. If Herbert performs well from a clean pocket, the entire offense will be elevated, including the running game. Austin Ekeler is often thought of as the pass-catching back in this offense but has handled at least 50 percent of the rush attempts in every game but one this season. Last week, he posted a season-high 92.3 percent of the team rush attempts but fell just short of this prop number with 12 carries. Ekeler hasn’t exceeded this prop number in three straight games, and his carries prop this week is tied for his second-lowest offering of the season. This looks like the perfect buy-low spot for Ekeler and the Chargers offense. The spread indicates a tight matchup, meaning everything is pointing toward Ekeler finishing comfortably over this 12.5 carry prop number.

Pick: Austin Ekeler Over 12.5 Carries (-115)

 

New York Giants at Miami Dolphins (-4.5, 41)

Tuley: A few weeks ago this game wasn’t too appealing, but the Dolphins have won four straight to get into the AFC wild-card conversation and the Giants have won two of three to show some life. I don’t put much stock in the Dolphins’ 33-10 rout of the Panthers, as the Giants crushed them 25-3 on Oct. 24. The Giants are getting healthy on offense, and I really think the fact that the defense just held Jalen Hurts and the Eagles to seven points will help prepare them for Tua Tagovailoa. This looks like a great spot for another upset.

Pick: Giants + 4.5

 

Washington Football Team at Las Vegas Raiders (-1.5, 49)

Brown: Derek Carr has scrambled on 2.7 percent of dropbacks this season and is relying even more on his legs in recent weeks. In the last four games, he has six scrambles to go along with nine rush attempts. If that continues, he should be able to eclipse seven rushing yards. PFF's betting model believes he will best his rushing yardage prop 62.3 percent of the time, which provides an 8.8 percent edge at the -115 price.

Washington is an ideal target for quarterback rushing props, as its pass rush unit ranks third in PFF’s opponent-adjusted grade. The Football Team has generated pressure at a league-average rate but is now forced to blitz more without Chase Young's presence. In a matchup that should remain tight throughout, expect Carr to escape the pocket two or three times for a first down or two. Just like last week, Carr could easily sail over this rushing yardage prop number again.

Pick: Derek Carr Over 6.5 Rushing Yards (-115)

 

Baltimore Ravens (-4, 44) at Pittsburgh Steelers

Youmans: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has promised “significant changes in a positive way” after his team’s 31-point loss at Cincinnati. There’s no way to trade Ben Roethlisberger for Patrick Mahomes, but Pittsburgh can make schematic changes on defense that will bother Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, who’s off a four-interception game. The Steelers swept the Ravens last year, winning 19-14 at home and 28-24 on the road, and these AFC North rivals typically play tight, ugly games. I’ll back Tomlin as a desperate dog off an embarrassing loss.

Pick: Steelers + 4

Tuley: I knew I was doomed with my play on the Steelers + 4.5 against the Bengals last week when it ended up as the No. 1 consensus play in the Circa Sports Million and Westgate SuperContest. That’s too much of a public play for me, though I didn’t expect it to go down in flames so badly in the Bengals’ 41-10 rout. Now they’re right about the same size underdog as the advance line was Ravens -3, but it increased to -3.5 after the Steelers’ embarrassing performance and the Ravens’ 16-10 win over the Browns. The line has since been bet up to 4 and even 4.5 at BetMGM and DraftKings, but I’m willing to fade the move and bet the Steelers again, this time as a contrarian play. We’ve certainly seen reversals of form after a blowout loss, and I expect this to come down to a field goal between these rivals. Besides, the Ravens have certainly let teams stick around all season, so give me the points.

Pick: Steelers + 4

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Rams (-12.5, 48)

Tuley: This is the game I probably waffled back and forth on the most this week. You know I love double-digit underdogs, and the Rams are struggling as they’ve lost three straight and gone 0-5 ATS in their last five games. That includes two non-covers in wins over the Lions and Texans, so it’s not like they’re just underperforming against top teams. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are still pretty bad, but they beat the Bills outright as 16-point dogs and covered as double-digit dogs against the Colts. Still, when looking at the overall talent and the matchups, it’s not hard to expect the Rams to get themselves right with a blowout. So, after much consideration, I’m taking the points with the Jaguars – though waiting to see if it continues to steam higher to + 14 – but didn’t include it with my Top 5 on the VSiN NFL Best Bets page.

Pick: Jaguars + 12.5 or higher

 

San Francisco 49ers (-3.5, 46.5) at Seattle Seahawks

Burke: The 49ers are surging right now and the Seahawks are floundering. We’ve seen a big adjustment in this line, which was priced as a pick-em on the lookahead, but was adjusted to -2.5 before going right through the key number of -3 and up to -3.5 at a lot of shops.

It is hard to count out underdog Russell Wilson at home, but the Seahawks have all kinds of problems right now. They’re failing to protect Wilson. They don’t have a running game. The defense has actually been pretty decent for most of the season, especially without much help from the offense, but everybody has to feel like some major changes are coming and that sort of uncertainty only makes things worse.

This division matchup with the change to play a little bit of spoiler feels like a last stand for Seattle. Unfortunately, it comes against a 49ers team that ranks third in overall offensive DVOA, while being one of four teams in the top 10 in both passing DVOA and rushing DVOA per Football Outsiders. Seattle is just outside the top 10 against the run, but 22nd overall and 28th against the pass.

These are two defenses that don’t force turnovers. The 49ers only have 11 takeaways in 11 games and the Seahawks have 10 takeaways in 11 games. Seattle only has seven turnovers on offense and the 49ers have 15. Both offenses rank in the top five of red zone efficiency and the 49ers actually lead the league with a TD percentage of 77.4 percent. Seattle’s defense is fourth in red zone efficiency, but San Francisco’s is 20th.

Points could be in the forecast here. The better offense with the better red zone efficiency has been clicking well of late. The Seahawks have had problems scoring points, but San Francisco’s defense has not been stellar and the pass rush hasn’t gotten to the quarterback much.

The weather forecast looks surprisingly tolerable for Seattle in December, as rain won’t come in until overnight. The Over 45.5 is a good look here.

Pick: Over 46.5

Reynolds: Two NFC West division rivals that are moving in the proverbial opposite directions meet up here. San Francisco has won and covered three straight and would currently be in a wild card spot. Meanwhile, Seattle’s season is over for all intents and purposes at 3-8. The Seahawks have lost and failed to cover in three straight games as Wilson continues to struggle after returning from finger surgery three weeks ago. 

The 49ers finally won and covered as a home favorite last week (1-4 SU and ATS this season). Now they take to the road as a favorite, where they are 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS thus far on the 2021 campaign. 

Back in Week 4, Seattle won in Santa Clara as a 2.5-point underdog and picked up its 13th victory in 15 tries against the 49ers despite massive first down (23-14) and yardage (457-234) deficits (+ 2 turnover margin). 

The revenge factor plus Seattle’s struggles that were well on display in front of a national TV audience on Monday Night Football have now been baked into the line. The 49ers had found something using receiver Deebo Samuel in the running game as he had four rushing TDs and one receiving during this three-game winning streak. This continues a pattern for the 49ers over the last season and a half of having key contributors produce and then get injured again. 

Seattle is 7-2 ATS in its last nine attempts in the home underdog role. Although the season is lost, this feels like the spot for the Seahawks to make one last stand. Keep in mind they were laying 5.5 at home two weeks ago to the division-leading Cardinals (although with Colt McCoy at QB) and now they are getting 3.5 from the same team that Arizona handled twice. 

Pick: Seahawks + 3.5

 

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5, 47.5)

Tuley: The NFL moved the 49ers-Seahawks out of the Sunday Night Football slot and subbed this one even before the Broncos knocked off the Chargers 28-13 to really tighten the AFC West race. The only thing giving me pause is that Andy Reid has such a long-established record of winning off a bye week, but I doubt he was laying close to double digits in many of those. Besides, Teddy Bridgewater has a better record as a road underdog, coming in at 20-2 ATS. The Broncos defense is No. 9 in the league at 330.8 yards per game and just got done containing Justin Herbert. That bodes well for facing Patrick Mahomes, who has basically been turned into a game manager compared with his previous Superman status.

Pick: Broncos + 9.5, though shop for + 10

Reynolds: This game is a trend player’s dream. On the Kansas City side, Reid is 19-3 SU in the regular season and 26-6 SU, if you account for the postseason, off a bye. In Kansas City, he is 10-4 and 7-1 with Mahomes as his starting quarterback. However, the Chiefs have failed to cover three of their last four in this role and teams are 8-13-1 ATS off a bye thus far this season. 

The Chiefs have won the last 11 meetings (8-2-1 ATS) against Denver. Bridgewater brings in his 24-5 ATS run as a road starter to see if he can stop that streak or at least keep it competitive. 

Kansas City is on a 2-11-1 ATS run at Arrowhead since November 2020. Mahomes is 7-13-1 ATS as a favorite of greater than a touchdown. 

From a matchup perspective, teams have had success against the Chiefs offense playing two deep safeties and some cover 2 zone. That is Dom Capers defense to a tee. Have the Chiefs figured out how to better attack this look during the bye week? 9.5 or even some 10s still in the market is a big price to lay in order to find out.

Pick: Broncos + 9.5

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