NFL Week 13 Picks

Let’s not waste any time looking backwards on last week (or the last few weeks for that matter). We’ve got a whole host of interesting lines this week. Four games currently on the slate feature a double-digit favorite — one of them being the Rams who are on the road in Detroit. A fifth game is at more than a touchdown — the Saints giving the Cowboys 7.5 in Dallas. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a mere one game where the teams separated in Vegas by less than a field goal — Baltimore giving 1.5 to the home team, Atlanta.

From the look of things, it doesn’t appear to be some greatly competitive week as far as the match-ups go. So maybe I’ll have an easier time picking games this week after the mess I made all over myself a week ago: 9-6 straight up and 5-10 against the spread. For the year, we’re a healthy 106-53 straight up, but have now fallen into the red with a nasty record of 75-77-8 ATS. Let’s see if we can get some much needed help this week.

Super Watchable

Minnesota (+6) at New England

The Vikings have all the pieces in place to beat the Pats — speed on offense and a defense that can get to the passer. But don’t forget who their quarterback is. Also, the Patriots are 29-3 at home in their last 32 December games. Plus, they will have Gronk, Sony Michel, and Julian Edelman out there. This isn’t a “let-down” game for New England. They’ll be fired up. Patriots, 27-24

Chargers (+3.5) at Pittsburgh

I think I’d be all-in on the Chargers if Melvin Gordon was playing. I read this week that the Steelers haven’t lost consecutive games since 2016 — but I just don’t think they’re as good as L.A. But geez, it scares me when Anthony Lynn is roaming the sidelines. Speaking of the HC, what in the world was Melvin Gordon doing playing against the Cardinals, up 28-10 in the 3rd quarter? Screw it, the Chargers defense and pass rush is plenty reason alone to take them here — despite Lynn. Chargers, 31-27

New Orleans at Dallas (+7.5)

It’s impossible to not love the Saints and their offense. They’ve got one of the most accurate passers of all time, a dynamic running back duo that also may be the greatest ever, and a WR in Michael Thomas, who’s quickly becoming top 5 at his position. Hard to imagine any defense slowing this machine up. Enter the Cowboys. They play the perfect style to combat the New Orleans offensive attack: run the ball, limit the Saints time of possession, and rush the passer. They’re capable of all three of those things. The question is can they execute. Saints, 27-20

Cleveland (+5.5) at Houston

Who would have guessed this would be a headline match-up? But the Browns are exciting and have playmakers on both sides of the ball; while the Texans have only gone ahead and won 8 straight after an 0-3 start. Can the Browns win another road game? My gut says no, but this seems like a nice spot for them to steal one against the Texans, who got off to a shaky start on Monday night against the Titans. Browns, 34-31

Throw on the Game

Baltimore (+1.5) at Atlanta

The Falcons defense has been a stepping stone for offensives all season. Lamar Jackson comes in with a chance to put up some nice numbers against a pass defense that is ranked in the bottom quarter in the league. In addition, the Ravens have run the ball for over 250 yards in Jackson’s two starts — not a good sign for Atlanta, as their run D is tied for 3rd worst in yards per rush. Ravens, 23-20

Carolina (-3.5) at Tampa Bay

Carolina needs to fix their pass defense. They’ve been getting torched and the Bucs are more than capable of moving the ball through the air. If Carolina is going to make a push for the postseason, they’ve got to turn things around now. Panthers, 31-27

What Else is On?

Chicago (-4) at Giants

The Giants offensive line is, well, offensive (that’s too easy). And the Bears have a guy named Khalil Mack. He should feast on Sunday. Bears, 24-16

Denver at Cincinnati (+5)

Two words: Jeff. Driskell. Road games are tough and Denver enters this one with some expectations for the first time all season. If they want to be a playoff team, they show it in here. Broncos, 24-20

Washington at Philadelphia (-6)

Philly’s pass rush should get after Colt McCoy with the dinged up offensive line he has in front of him. Eagles, 23-16

Rams (-10) at Detroit

Two simple questions: how do the Lions score and how do the Lions stop the Rams from scoring? The Rams can score at will and that won’t change at Ford Field. Rams, 38-13

Kansas City at Oakland (+15)

Will the Raiders be able to keep it “close-ish”? I’m probably going to feel like an idiot when the Chiefs are up 35-10 halfway through the 3rd quarter. Chiefs, 31-17

Throw the TV Out the Window

Arizona (+14) at Green Bay

The Packers aren’t ever completely dead as long as Aaron Rodgers is their quarterback. By no means are they in the driver’s seat, but if they can win out (and the schedule isn’t difficult), they’ll at least give themselves a shot at the playoffs. Are they motivated to put a whoopin’ on the Cardinals? Packers 34-19

Indianapolis (-4) at Jacksonville

My one worry is how the Colts play in a game on the road that they should dominate. It’s clear as day that the Jags are done this season, and I don’t expect the players to show any ounce of fight over the final 5 weeks, except for Cody Kessler and whoever else ends up playing QB for them. But that’s why this is tricky — the Colts are not an established team yet and I’m not sure they are ready to cut a team’s throat. Colts, 24-17

Buffalo (+5) at Miami

Do I seriously need to break this game down? Buffalo always plays tough. I don’t know if the Dolphins care or not. Bills, 20-12

San Francisco at Seattle (-10)

These NFC West divisional games always seem to be closer than they should be. That being said, I don’t think the 49ers have the personnel up front to stop what Seattle wants to do and what they do best, which is run, run, run. And then, oh yeah, there’s Russell Wilson who should be able to take advantage of the Niners pass defense. Seahawks, 27-10

Jets (+10.5) at Tennessee

Geez, Vegas hates the Jets. How can the Titans give anyone 10.5 points? I don’t know who’s showing up for Tennessee. As for the Jets, I don’t hate them — they’re not great, but they don’t embarrass themselves usually. Titans, 24-20


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NFL Predictions for 2018

NFC North

GB            11-5

MIN        10-6

CHI          7-9

DET          7-9

NOTES: Green Bay has it’s guy back and that’s the difference in the division. Davonte Adams will be fantasy’s top WR. The run game is a question mark but it will sort itself out – Rodgers makes everyone
better. The defense will be good with Mike Petine as DC. Can the young CBs make an impact in rookie year? That would put them over the top. PREDICTION: Rodgers  looks as good as we’ve come to expect him to every year, but the defense finishes in the top 10 — and that’s the difference. Mike Petine is a head coaching candidate next offseason.

Minnesota has a lot of pressure. They have a potentially great running game, the WRs are excellent, and the defense is stout. But the new QB has to be the savior and take them to the Super Bowl. PREDICTION: Expectations are too much, coupled with Aaron Rodgers’s return in GB. 

Chicago has all the right pieces around their young QB, including an offensive-minded head coach in Matt Nagy. The Bears have time to get better – it won’t all happen in one year. Next year could be a big season for Chicago. PREDICTION: Mitchel Trubisky makes the leap forward (not quite like Carson Wentz) with one of Wentz’s former weapons, Trey Burton.

If all goes perfectly, the Lions still may only win 9 games. New HC Matt Patricia needs time to build the culture he wants. The defense is still questionable at best and if they cannot be better against the run, there will be lots of player turnover going into 2019. The offense should be fun to watch. PREDICTION: The run game will finally break out with rookie Kerryon Johnson topping the 100-yard mark half a dozen times. 

NFC South

N.O.        12-4

ATL          10-6

CAR         8-8

TB             2-14

NOTES: New Orleans has all the talent and has pushed all their chips into a 2 to 3 year window, centered around Drew Brees’s 2-year contract and the 3 years Sean Payton has left. They were a fluke play away from a trip to Philly for the NFC title game last year. PREDICTION: Alvin Kamara goes for 2,000 yards from scrimmage and is recognized as a stud RB after this season – in real football and in fantasy.

I have a lot of questions about the Falcons coaching staff and the playcalling on the offensive side of the ball. But Matt Ryan should be better in ’18 than he was in ’17, but not as good as he was in ’16. The defense is still fast and athletic. And Julio should be happy. Plus, Atlanta can still run the ball with anyone in the league. PREDICTION: Julio Jones scores 10 touchdowns.

Of the three south teams that made the playoffs last year, the Panthers are the one who won’t in ’18. It should be interesting to see how OC Norv Turner gels with Cam Newton throughout the season. Cam has weapons, but they’re young and unproven. Christian McCaffrey is the wildcard for me. If he’s great, then Carolina could win 10 games. If he’s mediocre, then the team will follow suite. PREDICTION: Cam and Norv have a blow up on the sideline by week 5, and rumors surface the Turner is contemplating retirement before Turkey Day.

Here we go. I can’t find a single nice thing to say about the Bucs so I won’t say anything at all. PREDICTION: They’ll be picking number 1 in next Spring’s NFL Draft and Dirk Koetter will be unemployed before the first snowfall in the Midwest.

NFC East

PHI          9-7

NYG         8-8

WAS        6-10

DAL         5-11

NOTES: Philadelphia won’t sneak up on anyone this year. The roster is deep, again, and they bring back a healthy and potential MVP candidate in Carson Wentz. But playing with a target on your back is a lot different then chasing one. PREDICTION: It will be a dogfight to win the division, and Carson Wentz won’t be in the MVP conversation at any point during the year.

If the Giants don’t turn things around, people will question their passing of a QB at two overall in last year’s draft. I expect the offense to be really good. However, the defense is where this team will earn it’s stripes. Landon Collins shows signs of being the leader of the unit, but they’ll need a consistent pass rush to show up every week. PREDICTION: Saquon Barkley wins Rookie of the Year, the Giants’ offense is explosive, but Eli Manning ‘s play will make fans long for his replacement.

Alex Smith won’t hurt the Redskins at all. The running game lost a big piece when rookie Derrius Guice went down, but if the offensive line can stay healthy, that will make a big difference in 2018. The defense needs to be faster and play more lively than it did last year. PREDICTION: Alex Smith outperforms Kirk Cousins.

Dallas seems fine with having lost Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. I’m not arguing they needed to keep them, but no WRs stand out to me that will get Dak Prescott back to the way his played in his rookie season in 2016. Ezekiel Elliott is an animal, but he can’t do it alone. I think Dallas is trending down. PREDICTION: Jason Garrett is fired, and Dak Prescott gets benched down the stretch.

NFC West

LAR          10-6

SF             8-8

SEA          5-11

ARI           3-13

NOTES: Let’s get the obvious out of the way out West – the Rams made all the offseason moves like a serious contender would. Now all that’s left is to actually go and perform on the field. As I’ve said on podcasts, multiple times, the Rams are in fine shape with all these shorter term contracts even if 2018 isn’t their year. However, let’s not mince words – they’re in it to win it. The biggest question is how this locker room responds to the bumps in the road that it will face. PREDICTION: Jared Goff isn’t as good as his 2017 season showed. His mistakes will be the difference between the Rams being the one seed and them having to play in the Wild Card round.

If the 49ers had given Jimmy G. a few more weapons on offense, I’d be okay with touting the Niners as a playoff team. Instead, they are lacking in too many spots. But Kyle Shanahan knows what he wants and is building this roster his way. Defensively, they have the pieces, but now is the time for high draft picks like DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Solomon Thomas to come into their own. They’re a year away. One year. Then watch out. PREDICTION: I love the value of Jerick McKinnon in fantasy, but on the field, Alfred Morris will prove to be the most productive and important offensive piece for SF.

The re-build is on – whether folks in Seattle want to admit it or not. And now their top draft pick is banged up. Before that this offensive line is not good, they lost Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin is dealing with an injury, and the Earl Thomas drama is hanging over the team. PREDICTION: Russell Wilson will have to be a one-man wrecking crew if this team is going to be anywhere near 8 wins. Also, Chris Carson is not the answer at running back.

Age and injuries will derail Cardinal fans of a successful season. The good news is Josh Rosen will probably play a lot. PREDICTION: Sam Bradford starts less than 4 games – have you SEEN this o-line??? And DJ falls at least 500 yards shy of his 2,000 yards from scrimmage goal.

AFC North

BAL          9-7

PIT           8-8

CIN          7-9

CLE          4-12

NOTES: The Ravens won 9 games last year and were a week 17 Andy Dalton 48-yard TD pass away from being back in the postseason. The wide receiving weapons aren’t deadly, but Michael Crabtree may be looking to prove he’s got something left and John Brown showed flashes of excellence in his years with Arizona. Willie Snead will also be a nice deep threat for Joe Flacco, who loves to throw the deep ball. Alex Collins at running back is also a solid piece. The question is if Flacco and the offense stalls, will Lamar Jackson get his shot? PREDICTION: Lamar starts more games than Flacco.

When it’s over for Big Ben, it’s going to end quickly. All the off-the-field drama (Le’Veon Bell’s contract issue and his past tweets) plus the things we’ve seen happen on the field and in the locker room (blowout playoff loss at home to the Jaguars, Mike Tomlin’s comments) could be too much. Listen, talent-wise on offense, the Steelers are outstanding – 2-time Super Bowl winning QB and the NFL’s best RB and best WR. But the team has no defense, Tomlin doesn’t have control, and these personalities are starting to fray at the franchise’s culture. PREDICTION: Roethlisberger gets benched, Bell gets run into the ground, and AB misses at least 4 games due to injury.

Cincinnati should be better in ’18 than they were in ’17 – the offensive line is better and Joe Mixon showed he can be a bell cow running back – and this year he’ll get carries right off the bat. It’s hard to get behind Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton, but they’ve proven they are more than capable of winning 7 games in a season. PREDICTION: AJ Green is great but no other WR gets more than 60 catches and 700 yards.

When Cleveland fires Hue Jackson, we can seriously talk about the Browns making a turnaround. The talent seems to be there in spots, as does depth in spots, as well. But Hue will wreck any chance this team has of winning 6 or 7 games. PREDICTION: John Dorsey fires Jackson before Christmas and Todd Haley takes over.

AFC South

TEN          13-3

HOU        10-6

JAC           7-9

IND          6-10

NOTES: Mike Vrabel will make an immediate impact in Tennessee.
This team will play tougher. Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry will be a
fantastic 1-2 punch. This offensive line is outstanding. PREDICTION: Marcus Mariota will have an MVP season and Corey Davis will break out.

The weapons on offense will make Houston one of the most explosive and fun to watch in the league. There are questions defensively – mostly injury-related. Oh, and the offensive line is one of the the worst in the NFL. That said, the differences in Houston and Tennessee should make for an interesting race for the divisional crown. PREDICTION: Jadeveon Clowney, JJ Watt, and Whitney Mercilus will all finish in the top 8 for Defensive Player of the Year – with Clowney winning the award.

Expect a few setbacks for the Jags, who were very fortunate in 2017. Blake Bortles will make some mistakes and the ground game won’t be able to carry the load week in and week out. And the defense will get tested. Jalen Ramsey ran his mouth in the GQ article – those things have a way of coming back to haunt you. The talent is there, but the maturity is not. PREDICTION: No WR reaches 800 yards receiving and the defense finishes out of the top 10.

Andrew Luck’s health is the elephant in the room. But even if he’s healthy, how good can this team be? PREDICTION: Newly acquired Ryan Grant will put up the best numbers of any offensive player on the Colts roster.

AFC East

NE            12-4

NYJ           9-7

BUF         4-12

MIA         4-12

NOTES: The Patriots faced an offseason filled will questions and anxiety. On the field, they will face some issues – the WR battle needs to work itself out, the offensive line is beginning to lack depth, the linebackers still aren’t fast, and they have a 41-year old quarterback. I know, much of that will end up being just fine and wrapping up the division by early December wouldn’t be a surprise at all. But will any of these items hurt them come January? PREDICTION: Chris Hogan will have over 1200 yards receiving and Jeremy Hill will be the Pats best running back.

The J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets have their quarterback!!! But no offensive line will affect Sam Darnold. In the end, his talent will shine through and he’ll do more with less than anyone else in the league. PREDICTION: Darnold throws for 25 touchdowns and 3800 yards.

Buffalo was bad before AJ McCarron broke his collarbone. Pencil in Josh Allen at QB. He’s talented but not ready – especially with no offensive line and unproven wideouts. PREDICTIONS: LeSean McCoy takes a huge step backwards and the Bills end up starting 3 different QBs over the course of the year.

How can a team be worse than Buffalo this year, you ask? Enter the Dolphins. Limited weapons across the board at practically every playmaking position will make it hard for Miami to score points. PREDICTION: Miami scores the fewest points in the conference.

AFC West

LAC          10-6

KC            8-8

OAK        6-10 (9-7 before the Mack trade)

DEN         6-10

NOTES: The Chargers are so snake-bitten. Injuries kill this team year after year. But this defense has the playmakers to keep them in every game and can even win a few alone. PREDICTION: Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will be top 5 Defensive MVP candidates.

The biggest concern was how Khalil Mack’s contract situation would impact the locker room. Now, since the trade, we are starting to see how current Raiders feel about the move — and it’s not positive. I thought John Gruden would be able to get more out of Derek Carr than any other coach has to this point in his young career. And perhaps the offense will still be good, but the defense is atrocious. The thing here is that good teams don’t trade away guys like Khalil Mack. Gruden clearly doesn’t like this roster and is churning it and twisting it to get draft capital so he can build his team how he wants. Might work later, might not. But it definitely won’t pay dividends this year. PREDICTION: Amari Cooper will catch 90 balls for 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns, and the defense will give up 30 points on a routine basis.

Everything in me says Andy Reid’s history of producing very productive QBs will make the Chiefs good in 2018. And maybe Pat Mahomes will indeed put up very good numbers. But they may not lead to wins. More importantly, the defense must be better than it was a year ago – especially the linebackers and the pass rush. PREDICTION: Sammy Watkins will again disappoint.

Denver’s choice of Case Keenum this offseason was not a bad decision. But the offense is getting older, the running game has been questionable at best for years, and now the defense will feel the need to once again carry the team. PREDICTION: Bradley Chubb will be great, but the defense will struggle to dominate as the offense won’t be able to stay on the field.

PLAYOFFS

NFC

  1. New Orleans
  2. Green Bay
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Atlanta
  6. Minnesota

NFC Championship

New Orleans over Green Bay

AFC

  1. Tennessee
  2. New England
  3. Los Angeles
  4. Baltimore
  5. Houston
  6. Jets

AFC Championship

New England over Tennessee

Super Bowl

New England over New Orleans: Pats won’t lose two SBs in a row. This sends the organization into post-Brady era quickly, as the QB retires.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

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