Between the Lines: Betting the NFL Week 13 Edition

NFL Betting Week 13

Every Monday during the NFL season, I’ll compare game spreads to my own power ratings and give my perspective on whether I think the betting lines are accurate. Paying attention to the NFL market is one of the single most important aspects of successful wagering. With all the variance and volatility of pro football, placing a bet on the most advantageous side of a number is often the only difference between a winning or losing ticket. 

All lines are consensus numbers across the U.S. Sportsbooks as of Monday morning. Some may not be out yet. Early lines that show great disparity with my own are highlighted in red

Bills at Patriots (+5.5), Total: 44.5

Where I set the line: Patriots +6, Total: 44

Mac Jones is looking more and more like the quarterback we saw last season. In the last two weeks, Jones threw for 246 yards against an elite Jets’ pass defense and then dropped 382 yards and two touchdowns on the Vikings. Jones wasn’t the reason New England fell short against Minnesota. The Patriots’ defense experienced some true regression, allowing Kirk Cousins and the Vikings to go up and down the field with efficient, short passing plays. Minnesota controlled the flow of the game, holding the ball for more than 36 minutes and maintaining a margin on New England.

The Bills almost found themselves on the wrong end of a huge Thanksgiving upset, but Josh Allen’s dynamic playmaking ability proved too much for the feisty Lions. In a back-and-forth battle, Buffalo survived and found its second straight win, its eighth of the season and now they find themselves back atop the AFC, just one game below the mighty Chiefs. 

I think this line is right. Both of these defenses are due to improve, and even though Jones has looked better in command of the Patriots’ offense, a stingy divisional battle might not give way to many points. I’ll be curious to see where this line moves as the week progresses. I have a feeling that sharps will favor New England, which means we could get better value on Buffalo. 

Steelers at Falcons (-1.5), Total: 42

Where I set the line: Falcons -1.5, Total: 43

This is one of those games where it’s tough to assess what it’ll look like when these two teams clash. A Steelers defense that’s getting feistier with T.J. Watt back will face a Falcons’ offense only scoring 18 ppg in November. On the other side, the Falcons’ defense is the definition of “average,” while the Steelers’ Kenny Pickett and company are a difficult to predict volatile, young group.

As you can tell, I’m a tad befuddled. The Falcons ran the ball well in Week 12, again (167 yards against the Commanders), but they only tallied 13 total points. A rainy, ugly game seemed to benefit Washington. The Steelers will be coming off a short week on Monday Night Football with less to play for. Atlanta deserves to be a short favorite at home, but this is a literal coin-flip. Expect the unexpected in this affair. I would avoid betting on this game.

Broncos at Ravens (-7.5), Total: 38.5

Where I set the line: Ravens -7, Total: 37.5

Imagine me yelling when I type this: I will not be betting on the Denver Broncos for the remainder of the season. Two weeks in a row, yours truly took a shot on Denver; needless to say, it didn’t pan out. This week was another huge letdown in a nice response spot against a Carolina team with little to play for this season.

Carolina deserves credit for limiting Denver on Sunday, but Nathaniel Hackett’s Broncos somehow only found three points until late into the fourth quarter. They only gained 246 total yards in Week 12, and Russell Wilson’s head-scratching nature certainly appears to be affecting his teammates

The Ravens should be ready for liftoff after a disappointing loss at Jacksonville. Lamar Jackson couldn’t find chemistry with his receivers for most of the contest. He turned to his legs (14 carries for 89 yards) often, but it wasn’t enough. Two Baltimore turnovers gifted the Jaguars early scoring opportunities, and the Ravens’ defense devolved down the stretch. 

Many of these Broncos games end with low totals for a reason. I’d consider that in this matchup, too. However, I could see Denver’s defense giving up on their season. I expect the Ravens to control this game early in a nice spot for a turnaround win at home. 

Packers at Bears (+2.5), Total: 41.5

Where I set the line: Bears +3.5, Total: 43

I’ll make this one quick. Firstly, no one should be betting on the Bears without Justin Fields. That’s especially true when they oppose a decent defense. There’s a chance Fields may play on Sunday, but I’m guessing he does not. Why would they want to risk re-aggravating a shoulder injury? The kid’s upside is just too much of an asset. If I’m the Bears’ coaches, I may consider shutting down his season. In any case, Chicago only mustered 292 total yards and 10 points on Sunday against the Jets. We’ll monitor Fields’ injury designation heading into Sunday.

The Packers fought hard in a high-scoring game on Sunday night, falling short in a 37-30 loss to Philadelphia. Aaron Rodgers left the game early after an apparent rib injury. Jordan Love played well in Rodgers’ absence, confidently throwing darts in the middle of the field and showing command of their offense. What we saw in the preseason from Love is carrying over into real football. That’s a good sign for the future Green Bay starter.

If Fields doesn’t play, I’ll probably play on the Packers. I like how Love played, and this is still a divisional contest with a lot of pride on the line. The Packers can limit the Bears’ subpar offense without Fields, and the Green Bay offense should roll right over Chicago’s porous defense. We’ll hit the pause button for now.

Jaguars at Lions (-1.5), Total: 51.5

Where I set the line: Lions -2.5, Total: 50

The Lions fought hard in a close loss on Thanksgiving. Dan Campbell, who I rightly doubted and proposed his future in coaching could be in jeopardy before November, has his squad playing better football. Their defense is more tenacious, and their offense has that downhill confidence we saw early in the season. Going toe-to-toe with the Buffalo Bills and only losing by three points is nothing to be ashamed of.

The Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Baltimore Ravens thanks to a phenomenal fourth-quarter drive by Trevor Lawrence and a gutsy two-point conversion call to cap it off. Lawrence finally looked like the sharp, hyper-talented No. 1 draft pick we couldn’t wait to watch. Rewatch the film to see what I mean – his precision and decision-making on their game-winning drive were spectacular. Doug Pederson has to feel good after the way his team came off the bye. The Jaguars’ defense played fast and hit hard for all 60 minutes, too.

Even with how well Lawrence played, the Lions will be coming off extended rest, and at 4-7, they’re still in playoff contention. Detroit can match Jacksonville’s tenacity with their explosive speed on offense, especially on their home turf. Since I have the Lions power-rated two grades higher than the Jaguars, and they’re at home, I’m pulling the trigger on Detroit. 

Browns at Texans (+7), Total: 45.5

Where I set the line: Texans +6.5, Total: 46

The Houston Texans looked terrible on Sunday. In one of the most dominant first halves I’ve seen in a long time, the Dolphins crushed the Texans 30-0 at the break. The second half?  I can’t talk about it (I bet on Miami’s team total of over 30.5 points, which may be part of my refusal to acknowledge the final 30 minutes). Miami’s offense looked entirely different when they removed Tua Tagovailoa, and even though Houston moved the ball and closed the distance, I can’t take much from it. When the game mattered, they were obliterated. 

The Cleveland Browns snagged a nice win against Tampa Bay on Sunday using their rushing attack to play ball-hawk and sustain long drives at home. Tom Brady played well, but the Bucs’ opted to run on only 20 of their 66 plays. Tampa’s defense was on the field too long, and eventually, they broke in overtime. 

Regardless of how these two teams played last week or even all season, this game is more about the return of Deshaun Watson. Watson returns on Sunday to face his former team. That’s why I show some value on the Texans. Houston probably wants to beat Watson more than Watson cares to beat his former team.

Plus, although Watson has looked like a superstar in previous seasons, he’s coming in cold. It’s been nearly a year since the 27-year-old played a snap in the regular season. Advantage, Houston. Remember, they’re still a professional football team, even if they did look less than that in Week 12.

Jets at Vikings (-3), Total: 43.5

Where I set the line: Vikings -3.5, Total: 44

In a dramatic shootout to close the Thanksgiving NFL slate, the Vikings won against the Patriots. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense committed to a dink-and-dunk approach, compiling 358 yards on 66 plays. That’s an average of only 5.4 yards per play, but it amounted to more than 36 minutes of possession.

It was a nice win in response to their embarrassing blowout loss to Dallas a week prior. Their defense, well, they further proved why they’re a unit Minnesota can’t rely on week-to-week. Jones had his best performance of the year against the Vikings, throwing for 382 yards and two touchdowns.

The Jets beat up on the Bears without Fields winning 31-10 and improving to 7-3 this season. Mike White was the story of the game, whizzing passes confidently to his wide receivers and compiling 315 yards and three touchdowns. Even against a bad Bears defense, it was a near-perfect performance for his first start this season. 

Bettors need to respect the Jets’ defense, and, who knows, maybe they even found their quarterback to lead them through the rest of the season. Minnesota is in a great spot, staying home with an extended 10 days off before this battle. I give the Vikings slightly more value because of the spot, but the line and total make sense. I’ll wait to see where this line goes.

Commanders at Giants (+1.5), Total: 41

Where I set the line: Giants +2.5, Total: 43

Well, here I go again, back to betting against my Giants. Lately, we’ve seen more of what we’ve come to expect from the New York Giants in the last few years. Daniel Jones hasn’t been a travesty, but their offense is getting clunkier. The Giants having three wide receivers on IR and Kadarius Toney being traded to the Chiefs isn’t helping. New York’s offense is becoming a little too predictable. The Cowboys held the Giants to 300 yards on Thanksgiving, including only 90 yards on the ground. I fear the Commanders may give Big Blue similar problems. 

The Washington Commanders, who are only allowing 15 ppg during their last six contests, beat the Falcons in a slop fest in Landover, Maryland, on Sunday. More big plays from their defenses, including four “tackles for a loss” and a game-winning interception, were too much for a struggling Atlanta offense. 

The Commanders should be considered a live dog in this matchup. Washington has now won six of their last seven games, and they’re playing well on both sides of the ball. The Giants have struggled to stop the run all season (they allow 5.2 yards per carry, 30th in the NFL), something the Commanders can readily take advantage of.  Washington’s interior defensive line can give New York’s offense problems all game. The Giants may still make the playoffs, but I don’t like them in this NFC East showdown. 

Titans at Eagles (-6), Total: 44.5

Where I set the line: Eagles -3, Total: 46

I show value on the Titans in this big Week 13 battle.

In a hard-hitting clash between two playoff teams, the Titans played host to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday and, in the end, fell short. Joe Burrow showed more flashes of brilliance, but the Bengals’ run defense was the story of the game. They held the Titans to only 63 yards on the ground, including only 38 yards from Derrick Henry

The Eagles continue to assert themselves in the trenches. Every week, their front men barrel down the field and stampede over defenses in clinical fashion. Although their defense certainly showed some holes against Green Bay, permitting 30 points and 19 first downs, their ball control, and 500 total yards ended up being too much for the visiting Packers.

The Titans can succeed on the ground against the Eagles. The Eagles can succeed on the ground against the Titans. Jalen Hurts and Ryan Tannehill can both make things happen in the air when they need it most. It should be a fascinating trench battle between two teams that never lack toughness. Either way, the Titans aren’t a team that will often get beaten by the margin. I like a close contest and love the Titans as 6-point dogs.

Seahawks at Rams (+4.5), Total: 42

Where I set the line: Rams +4.5, Total: 44

Every game the Los Angeles Rams are in for the rest of the season will be marked as an “ugly” contest for yours truly. This game is no different. 

The Rams and Chiefs Week 12 battle was competitive in the first half. Then, the inevitable happened. Kansas City more than doubled the Rams’ total yards (437 to 198) and achieved 29 first downs compared to the Rams’ 13. It was complete domination by Kansas City at home.

The Seahawks fell short in overtime against the Las Vegas Raiders. In a high-scoring game where the teams combined for well more than 900 yards of total offense, Josh Jacobs broke loose on an 86-yard touchdown run to seal Vegas’ victory. It’s the second straight loss for the Seahawks. They would miss the playoffs if the postseason began today.

Even though I don’t show much of a disparity in the line, I could only look at Seattle in Week 13. They’re the most desperate team, the more capable team and the Rams’ have little to no home-field advantage in what feels like a season to forget for last year’s Super Bowl Champions.

Dolphins at 49ers (-3.5), Total: 46.5

Where I set the line: 49ers -3, Total: 47.5

I’m not going to red-ink anything, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dolphins won this game straight up. Miami is coming off a dominant performance against the Texans. They shut out Houston and obliterated its defense in the first half, and Miami went up 30-0 in the first two quarters. The game ended 30-15, much to the chagrin of over-bettors, but Miami was impressive when it mattered.

The same could be said of San Francisco. The 49ers shut out the Saints 13-0 at home. It was a sleepier spot for the 49ers, so I’m not too deterred by their lack of production. Limiting a talented Saints’ offense to only 260 total yards and keeping them out of the endzone for all 60 minutes is not something many defenses can do. As long as they can avoid injury, the 49ers’ defense is in championship form as we near winter football.

The 49ers should be favored at home with a dominant defense, but this will be their greatest challenge all season. This feels like a coin flip between two surging franchises, and because of that, I lean toward the Dolphins’ side.

Chiefs at Bengals (+3), Total: 51.5

Where I set the line: Bengals +1.5, Total: 49

This is a big-time matchup between two Super Bowl contenders. Last postseason, the Bengals shocked the world by knocking off the Chiefs in overtime to win the AFC Championship. The Bengals were 7-point underdogs on the road in that contest. 

Now they’re 3-point underdogs at home in Week 13. The Bengals and Chiefs are both at the height of their powers, but I give Cincinnati more value on their own turf. At “the Jungle,” they haven’t lost since their Week 1 trip-up against the Steelers, they’re averaging 34.6 points per game and they covered against the spread in all three of those games.

The Chiefs are easily one of the best, if not the best, teams in football, but Mahomes’ squad rarely wins by the margin on the road. Teams with above-average passing offenses (like the Chargers in Week 11) can succeed and keep these games close.

I think the Bengals might win this game. Their defense is improving every week, and they’ll be highly motivated to limit Kansas City in front of their fans. I’m betting Cincinnati, and I lean under.

Chargers at Raiders (+2.5), Total: 50.5

Where I set the line: Raiders +3, Total: 50

Both of these squads eked out important wins on Sunday. The Chargers outlasted a fiery Cardinals team in Arizona. They still have real issues defending the run (Arizona ran for 181 yards), which could be bad news going up Jacobs in Week 13. Still, ultimately Justin Herbert’s superior quarterback play was too much for the Cardinals. The third-year quarterback was sacked four times and hit an astounding 13 times on Sunday, but a late fourth-quarter drive and a gutsy two-point conversion sealed LAC’s victory. 

In one of the more surprising results on Sunday, the Raiders beat the Seahawks 40-34 in overtime. They exploded on offense, totaling 576 yards and earning 27 first downs. Jacobs ran for 229 yards on his own as the Raiders leaned on their run game to catalyze their passing attack. I can’t count on consistency from the Raiders every week, but that’s a promising sign for a talented offense that’s looked mediocre far too often this year. 

My line is almost exactly where the sportsbooks have it, so I’ll wait and dissect more angles on this game as the week goes on. At first glance, the Raiders may be getting too much credit. The over is probably a good bet, but I’m not there yet. 

Colts at Cowboys (-9.5), Total: 43.5

Where I set the line: Cowboys -8, Total: 44

The Colts are playing on Monday Night Football, so we don’t have anything to add on their behalf. They’ve looked better under Jeff Saturday’s leadership, though. Wild, but true.

The Cowboys beat up the Giants at home in a game where Dallas probably should have won by more. New York couldn’t take advantage of some early Dallas turnovers, and the home-team defense was too much for the Giants to handle. Besides two early interceptions by Dak Prescott, the Cowboys’ offense was smooth and efficient for all four quarters. 

I give the Colts a little more credit in this position since they played better the last two weeks, but I’m not pulling the trigger. The Cowboys will be coming off extended rest, and the Colts’ offense is the perfect matchup for a Dallas defense that can get constant pressure on Matt Ryan. A blowout wouldn’t surprise me – this is probably a stay-away game for yours truly.

Saints at Buccaneers (-5.5), Total: 40

Where I set the line: Bucs -4, Total: 42

Again, the Bucs couldn’t find their rushing attack, and the Saints couldn’t score a point against the 49ers. What’s to like about these two teams going into next week’s showdown on Monday Night Football?

The answer: not much. The Bucs must be overvalued, though, right? Even at 4-8, the Saints are still in a position to win the NFC South. The Falcons and Bucs both lost on Sunday, leaving every AFC South team under the .500 mark.

Both of these offenses will look to get right after their lackluster production in Week 12, which is why I have this total slightly higher than the sportsbooks. I also show value on the Saints, but I’m not going to bet against Brady at home in an equally desperate spot. For now, I don’t see many betting opportunities in this game. 

WATCH MORE: Week 12 Fantasy Recap

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