Week 13 Edition
*Note – DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: It’s Football Outsiders’ primary efficiency statistic and I believe it to be the best and most predictive measure of assessing the strength of NFL teams
***Note – All betting odds courtesy of Vegas Insider
****Note – Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread
Records Entering Week 13
Straight Up: 105-70-2 (.599)
Last Week: 11-5
Spread: 99-69-9 (.585)
Last Week: 10-5-1
Over/Under: 94-83 (.531)
Last Week: 7-9
Locks: 23-5 (.821)
Last Week: 1-0
Best Bets: 92-68-1 (.575)
Last Week: 11-4-1
*Note- Thursday Night Prediction for Cowboys/Vikings was Dallas 20-17; no best bets were placed for this game
Denver Broncos (7-4) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)
Spread: DEN -3.5 Over/Under: 39.5
’16 DVOA: DEN (17) > JAC (29)
Public Betting: DEN 77%
Key Stat: The Broncos and Jaguars both rank in the top five of pass defense
The big storyline in this game is that Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian is out with a foot injury, which means that rookie Paxton Lynch will start in his place. Lynch was shaky when he made a spot-start against the Falcons earlier in the season, finishing with a quarterback rating of 80 against a relatively soft Atlanta defense. But Sunday really didn’t project to be a good day for the Broncos passing offense, anyway. Led by rookie Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville quietly has had one of the stingier pass defenses in the league this season. Unfortunately for the 2-9 Jaguars, their offense shouldn’t have much success, either. Denver certainly must know what’s at stake at this point in the season: A couple more losses and they could find themselves out of the playoff picture come January. For that reasons, I bet Denver’s 2nd-ranked defense rises to the occasion.
Denver 16, Jacksonville 13
Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) vs Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
Spread: ATL -5.5 Over/Under: 49.5
’16 DVOA: KC (8) < ATL (2)
Public Betting: ATL 54%
Key Stat: Atlanta has the NFL’s second best offense according to DVOA, despite having played the league’s toughest slate of defenses
The Falcons offense does not get enough credit. I mean, where do we begin? They’re ranked in the top five in both passing and rushing DVOA. They lead the NFL in points per game. They’re tops in yards per play. And, as I referenced in the key stat, they have played the toughest slate of defenses according to Football Outsiders.
On Sunday, they’ll face a Chiefs team not as good as advertised. Yes, they just knocked off Denver. But they needed some fortunate plays from their defense and special teams to make up for a rather poor offensive showing (they averaged a horrific 3.6 yards per play). Moreover, Kansas City’s net yards per play differential over their last three games (-0.9) pales in comparison to Atlanta’s (+0.5). The Chiefs have needed miraculous fortune to win a few of their games this year (e.g. San Diego in Week 1, at Carolina in Week 10). They won’t be as lucky against a superior Falcons team.
*Atlanta 30, Kansas City 19
Houston Texans (6-5) vs Green Bay Packers (5-6)
Spread: GB -6.5 Over/Under: 44.5
’16 DVOA: HOU (31) < GB (19)
Public Betting: GB 76%
Key Stat: Green Bay’s offensive line ranks number one in pass-blocking efficiency, according to Pro Football Focus
A hamstring injury shouldn’t effect Aaron Rodgers too much in this matchup. Without J.J. Watt, the Texans have struggled to pressure quarterbacks this season, ranking only 21st in adjusted sack rate. The Packers offense really hasn’t been the problem over the past month, either. They should turn in another solid performance. However, their defense, which has given up a league-high 7.0 yards per play over the past three weeks, might allow Houston to hang around. Nonetheless, Green Bay should still take this one at home.
Green Bay 23, Houston 17
Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) vs Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1)
Spread: CIN -1.5 Over/Under: 41.5
’16 DVOA: PHI (4) > CIN (22)
Public Betting: PHI 50%
Key Stat: Cincinnati is 29th in points per game over the past three weeks
Both Philadelphia and Cincinnati have played very poorly of late, making this game very difficult to call. The Bengals offense has been noticeably worse since A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard suffered season-ending injuries a couple of weeks ago. But the Eagles are dealing with injuries of their own, as running back Ryan Matthews and wide receiver Jordan Matthews both could be out with injuries. This is truly a toss-up, so I’ll go with the home team by a field goal.
Cincinnati 23, Philadelphia 20
Detroit Lions (7-4) vs New Orleans Saints (5-6)
Spread: NO -6.5 Over/Under: 53.5
’16 DVOA: DET (25) < NO (11)
Public Betting: DET 60%
Key Stat: Detroit’s pass-defense has allowed a 74% completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks this season
We got ourselves a shootout on tap in New Orleans. The Lions and Saints have two of the NFL’s worst defenses, although New Orleans’ has been better of late. Both Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees should take turns picking each side apart; but the edge ultimately goes to Brees. He’s going up against the weaker defense and the Saints as a whole are rated as the superior team according to DVOA. Saints hold serve at the Superdome.
New Orleans 37, Detroit 27
San Francisco 49ers (1-10) vs Chicago Bears (2-9)
Spread: SF -1.5 Over/Under: 43.5
’16 DVOA: SF (27) < CHI (24)
Public Betting: SF 58%
Key Stat: San Francisco’s defense has allowed the most passing touchdowns per game (2.4)
Colin Kaepernick has played pretty well of late and the Bears have had multiple key players go down with injuries in recent weeks. That explains why the lowly 49ers are favored, but let’s not forget that they are, well…lowly. Pro Football Focus has them graded as the league’s worst team through twelve weeks. Chicago, on the other hand, isn’t quite as bad as their record says: Their net yards per play differential is actually above even (+0.0), which suggests they’re a middle-of-the-pack team. Even with Matt Barkley at quarterback, the Bears still hung around against a solid Titans team last week. I’ll side with Chicago at home.
Chicago 27, San Francisco 23
Los Angeles Rams (4-7) vs New England Patriots (9-2)
Spread: NE -13.5 Over/Under: 44.5
’16 DVOA: LA (26) < NE (3)
Public Betting: NE 69%
Key Stat: The Rams has allowed 26.5 points per game on the road compared to only 15 at home
The Rams’ defense deserves enough respect for them to at least give New England a game. As we know, Rob Gronkowski is out for the season; and though the Pats are 3-0 without Gronk in 2016, their offense has had a noticeable drop-off in performance without him in the past.
Even with Tom Brady at less than 100 percent as well, New England should still do enough to win this game. Their offense has a plethora of weapons, especially now that Dion Lewis is back, and their defense shouldn’t have much trouble containing a Rams’ offense devoid of talent. The Patriots have also done a great job against the run this season, which bodes well considering LA’s top weapon is Todd Gurley. Nonetheless, this game will be closer than many experts are predicting.
*New England 24, Los Angeles 16
Miami Dolphins (7-4) vs Baltimore Ravens (6-5)
Spread: BAL -3.5 Over/Under: 40.5
’16 DVOA: MIA (7) > BAL (12)
Public Betting: MIA 54%
Key Stat: Baltimore as the NFL’s top-ranked rushing defense
This is a clear strength v strength matchup. Baltimore has been tremendous against the run, but Miami has used Jay Ajayi and their ground-attack to propel them to a six-game winning streak. One x-factor in this game could be health. The Dolphins’ injury report this week is long, which makes me wonder if they can withstand a physical matchup with the Ravens. I hesitate to side with Baltimore because their offense is so lethargic, but with health being one of the primary factors, I’ll pick the Ravens.
Baltimore 24, Miami 20
Buffalo Bills (6-5) vs Oakland Raiders (9-2)
Spread: OAK -3.5 Over/Under: 48.5
’16 DVOA: BUF (13) < OAK (9)
Public Betting: OAK 68%
Key Stat: The Raiders rank 27th against the run according to Football Outsiders
The Bills have to make one of those vaunted cross-country trips to visit the 9-2 Raiders this week. It will be challenging for Buffalo to pull off an upset, but I actually think they have a shot. Buffalo has a great ground attack with LeSean McCoy, and Oakland’s run-defense leaves a lot to be desired. The Bills don’t tend to control the clock too often, but I think if they can pound McCoy and provide Tyrod Taylor with manageable throws, Buffalo can keep Oakland’s stout offense off the field. I’ll stop short of calling an outright upset, but don’t be surprised if the Raiders fall.
Oakland 27, Buffalo 24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) vs San Diego Chargers (5-6)
Spread: SD -3.5 Over/Under: 47.5
’16 DVOA: SD (16) < TB (15)
Public Betting: TB 62%
Key Stat: Tampa Bay has had a turnover margin of +1.7 over their last three victories
I’m not as high as others on the Bucs. Yes, they’ve looked impressive over their past three weeks; but they’re an erratic squad who has benefitted big-time off turnovers in recent weeks. I’m not sure if that’s sustainable. Both teams rank in the bottom tier of opponent yards per play, so it should be high-scoring. I’ll side with Phillip Rivers to out-duel Jameis Winston.
San Diego 28, Tampa Bay 24
Washington Redskins (6-4-1) vs Arizona Cardinals (4-6-1)
Spread: ARZ -2.5 Over/Under: 48.5
’16 DVOA: WSH (10) > ARZ (23)
Public Betting: WSH 69%
Key Stat: The Redskins have allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the league (16)
Despite allowing 38 points to Atlanta last week, a part of me thinks Arizona’s defense, which still ranks tied for 1st in opponent yards per play, can stifle Washington. The Cardinals have also been very unfortunate when it comes to turnovers this season, as evidenced by the fact that they’ve had the 6th most giveaways in the league this year. Yet I suppose at this point, Carson Palmer’s interception woes aren’t a fluke. If the Cardinals can avoid the same pitfalls that have plagued them in many of their losses this season, they can beat Washington. But I’ll still side with the Redskins, who have been playing very well offensively and are underdogs despite having the superior DVOA.
Washington 24, Arizona 21
New York Giants (8-3) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
Spread: PIT -6.5 Over/Under: 48.5
’16 DVOA: NYG (14) < PIT (6)
Public Betting: NYG 55%
Key Stat: New York’s offense ranks just 17th in yards per play
I think the Giants could be dangerous come playoff time, yet they’re rather lucky to be 8-3. Until last week, each of their seven wins had come by one touchdown or less. The G-Men have also been pretty pedestrian offensively this season, Odell Beckham’s dominance aside. Pittsburgh’s defense has played better of late, too: They’re allowing only 5.1 yards per play in their last three games, which is right in line with what New York’s offense is averaging on the season. In short, I think the Giants’ defense will need to step up. That burden will be too much against Antonio Brown and company.
Pittsburgh 31, New York 20
Carolina Panthers (4-7) vs Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1)
Spread: SEA -6.5 Over/Under: 44.5
’16 DVOA: CAR (21) < SEA (5)
Public Betting: CAR 51%
Key Stat: Cam Newton ranks just 20th in Total QBR this season
Without Luke Kuechly last week, Carolina’s defense surrendered 35 points to the Raiders. Granted Oakland has a great offense, but that unit has been nowhere near as good as it was a year ago. Yet what I want to know is how come more people aren’t talking about Cam Newton and the Panthers’ struggling offense? Sure, they ultimately put up 32 points against Oakland, but it took Cam Newton a while to get going. He ranks in the bottom half of many key statistics this season, and the Panthers as a whole are averaging just 4.9 yards per play in their last three games. With Newton not playing anywhere near his MVP-level from 2015, the Seahawks’ defense will propel them to victory.
*Seattle 23, Carolina 16
Indianapolis Colts (5-6) vs New York Jets (3-8)
Spread: IND -1.5 Over/Under: 49.5
’16 DVOA: IND (28) > NYJ (30)
Public Betting: IND 64%
Key Stat: The Jets’s defense has allowed the second-fewest yards per play over the past three weeks
While the Jets have played musical-quarterbacks in recent weeks, their defense has made serious strides. They’ve launched up the leaderboard in many key categories such as opponent yards per play and DVOA. Their secondary is certainly still a weakness; and that could be their downfall against a Colts team fighting to stay in the playoff hunt. But how about Indy’s secondary? They’ve been even worse against the pass this year. Assuming Ryan Fitzpatrick starts, I expect him to torch the Colts’ defense and lead the Jets to a minor upset victory.
New York 27, Indianapolis 20
And lastly, here are my best bets for Week 13…
- Teaser: Denver vs Jacksonville UNDER 46 & Green Bay vs Houston UNDER 51
- ATLANTA (-5.5) over Kansas City
- GREEN BAY (-270) over Houston
- NEW ORLEANS (-265) over Detroit
- San Francisco vs Chicago OVER 43.5
- Los Angeles vs New England UNDER 44.5
- Buffalo vs Oakland OVER 48.5
- Tampa Bay vs San Diego OVER 47.5
- Teaser: PITTSBURGH (-0.5) over New York & SEATTLE (-0.5) over Carolina
- Seattle vs Carolina UNDER 44.5
- NEW YORK (+1.5) over Indianapolis