There are some big games scheduled for this week in the NFC with playoff contenders playing each other, with the Vikings visiting the Falcons, the Saints hosting the Panthers and the Eagles meeting the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. The week starts, however, with a matchup of disappointing NFC East teams when the Cowboys host the Redskins. I went 7-9 last week, giving me an overall record of 95-81 for the season. I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red
Thursday Night Football
Redskins at Cowboys (-1.5) – It’s surprising to see the Cowboys favored in this game. They have failed to score more than nine points in each of their last three games, and the Dallas offense has not looked good without RB Ezekiel Elliott, who is in the midst of serving his six-game suspension. Even though it’s a Thursday game, neither team is on a short week because both teams played on Thanksgiving so being on the road midweek shouldn’t be an issue for the Redskins. I expect Washington to win outright, so I’ll take the points.
Sunday 1PM games
Vikings at Falcons (-2.5) – The Vikings take a seven-game win streak into Atlanta to take on the defending NFC champion Falcons, who haven’t been the same team this season. The Vikings offense has performed well behind QB Case Keenum, but the defense has also played a big role in the team’s success this season. On the other side, Falcons WR Julio Jones had his best game of the year, with a 253-yard, two-touchdown performance. The teams are pretty evenly matched, but I think the Vikings may be slightly better so I’ll take the points.
Patriots at Bills (+8.5) – Tyrod Taylor is back at quarterback for the Bills, but that won’t help them much against the Patriots, with QB Tom Brady leading the offense and a strong defense. I expect the Patriots to win big so I’ll take,the road team.
49ers at Bears (-3.5) – The 49ers have announced that QB Jimmy Garoppolo will make his first start for the team, which is a difficult task against a pretty good Bears defense. The Bears offense, on the other hand, has struggled this season behind QB Mitch Trubisky. With Garoppolo getting the start for the 49ers, though, I think the Bears will be able to score enough to win and barely cover.
Broncos at Dolphins (-0.5) – This is a meeting of two teams who have not done well this season. Dolphins QB Jay Cutler is out of the concussion protocol and is expected to start after Matt Moore played last week. QB Brock Osweiler is expected to draw the start once again for the Broncos, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for them. I’ll give the home team the advantage and go with the Dolphins.
Lions at Ravens (-2.5) – The Ravens beat the Texans on Monday night but face a better offense this week with the LIons and QB Matthew Stafford. I don’t think Ravens QB Joe Flacco will be able to score enough to keep the Ravens in the game so I’ll take the LIons with the points.
Buccaneers at Packers (-2.5) – Packers QB Brett Hundley played perhaps his best game of the season last week, barely losing to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. For the Buccaneers, QB Jameis Winston has been named the starter, returning to action after Ryan Fitzpatrick has started in his absence for the last few games. I don’t think the Bucs are very good right now and Winston will probably be rusty and not at 100% so I’ll reluctantly take the Packers at Lambeau.
Texans at Titans (-6.5) – With injuries to QB Deshaun Watson and DE J.J. Watt, the Texans aren’t a great team right now and they’re facing the first-place team in their division this week. Titans QB Marcus Mariota hasn’t been good this year, but he’s still better than his counterpart, Tom Savage, so I expect the Titans to win and I think they can be a touchdown better so I’ll give the points.
Colts at Jaguars (-9.5) – The other two AFC South teams are meeting in this game, with the Jaguars nearly double-digit favorites. After losing to the Cardinals last week, I’m not confident that Blake Bortles and the Jaguars will be able to cover that type of spread despite having one of the best defenses in the league. I’ll go with the Colts.
Chiefs at Jets (+3.5)- The Chiefs have lost three straight and five of their last six after beginning the season 5-0. I think they get back on track against the Jets. The defense should be able to keep the Jets offense from scoring a lot, which means Chiefs QB Alex Smith won’t be much of a handicap for the team if he keeps playing the way he has been of late. Give me the Chiefs on the road.
Sunday 4PM games
Browns at Chargers (-13.5) – It’s Week 13 but the Browns are still looking for their first win of the season. A few weeks ago, I would have thought they could get it against the Chargers, but they have been playing better of late so I’m not so sure the Browns will be able to pull off the win on the road. One thing working in Cleveland’s favor is the fact that they will have WR Josh Gordon for the first time since Week 16 of the 2014 season. With nearly three full years since the last time he played in a regular season NFL game, I’m not sure if Gordon will be able to play at the level he did before he started facing suspensions by the league. I think QB Philip Rivers will lead the Chargers to victory, but I don’t think they can win by two touchdowns to cover the spread so I’ll take the points despite expecting the Browns to fall to 0-12.
Giants at Raiders (-6.5) – This will be the first regular season Giants game since Week 10 of the 2004 season to be started by a quarterback other than Eli Manning after the team announced that it will bench the veteran — ending his consecutive starts streak at 210, the second longest in NFL history behind Brett Favre — in favor of Geno Smith, making his first start since Week 7 of last season. The Raiders will be shorthanded on offense, with WR Michael Crabtree suspended for the game and WR Amari Cooper likely missing the game due to injury. If the receivers can’t go, that gives the Giants a better shot to win the game, but I don’t think Smith can be trusted to play well enough to win. I’ll go with the Raiders.
Rams at Cardinals (+6.5) – Both teams are coming off of wins last weekend, but the Rams’ victory over the Saints was more impressive than the Cardinals barely pulling off the upset of the Jaguars. The Rams are clearly the better team and I don’t think the game will be that close. I’ll give the points.
Panthers at Saints (-3.5) – It’ll be a tough test for Panthers QB Cam Newton to keep up with the strong Saints offense led by QB Drew Brees and impressive rookie RB Alvin Kamara in this key game in the NFC South race. The Saints are the better overall team and I think they’ll be able to cover.
Sunday Night Football
Eagles at Seahawks (+5.5) – The Eagles, who are among the best teams in the league, head to take on a Seahawks team with a defense that has been depleted by injuries. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson will have to have a tremendous game to be able to keep up with Eagles QB Carson Wentz, and I don’t think he’ll be able to do it.,Go with the Eagles.
Monday Night Football
Steelers at Bengals (+6.5) – The Steelers barely got passed the Packers last week but I don’t think they’ll have such troubles with the Bengals on Monday night. I think Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell are too good and the Bengals offense won’t be able to score enough points to keep the game close, despite last week’s breakout performance by RB Joe Mixon. I’m giving the points on the road.