Thursday, February 22, 2024

NFL Week 13 odds, picks, best bets: Jaguars roll over Bengals; Panthers, Titans, Broncos are live dogs

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So, quick confession: I started to write a whole post with my best bets for the Thanksgiving week. I included one pick for every single Thanksgiving game and for the “Black Friday” game and then six more for the rest of Week 12. However, because I’m an idiot and was traveling a ton I don’t think it ever got published. So that’s neat of me for being stupid. 

The good news is my turkey and Amazon picks were TERRIBLE so you didn’t miss out on them at all. I went 1-3 on those games. The bad news is the rest of my picks from Week 13 were GREAT. I went 6-0! 

Now, normally I would have put those on SportsLine too. But, I only got the holiday picks in, making me look quite dumb. Again, travel, family, turkey, tryptophan, etc.

Fortunately the best news is if you ever want my best bets in their entirety, they will always be available on the PICK SIX PODCAST. If you already listen and you happen to listen on Spotify, send your Wrapped screenshots to @PickSixPod on Twitter/X or to me personally @WillBrinson on the same platform.

Let’s try and stay hot with a six pack of Pick Six picks for Week 13.

The Broncos are the hottest team in football, winning five straight games — for the first time since 2015-16 — after starting out 1-5 and coming off a five-win season in 2022. At 6-5 and very much “in the hunt,” they’re trying to become the fifth team in the Super Bowl era to start 1-5 and make the playoffs. Sean Payton is trying to become the first coach in NFL history to inherit a team with 12 or more losses the previous year and take them to the playoffs (the 2005 Saints went 3-13). This is a MASSIVE game: according to our SportsLine projection model, a Broncos win gives them a 20% increase in their odds to make the playoffs (up to 45%) and a 14% dip if they lose. The Texans have a similar bump: they have a 68% chance to make the playoffs with a win and just 31% if they lose. This is a de facto wild card game of sorts. The Broncos have been playing outstanding defense over this stretch, giving up just 16 points to opposing offenses the last five games after hemorrhaging 33.3 points/game over the first six weeks. Russell Wilson’s playing his best football since he left Seattle (and really since before his final season with the Seahawks). This feels like a field goal game with Payton’s coaching advantage tilting my pick toward the Broncos maybe even winning outright.

Tennessee is 4-7 and largely an afterthought in a crowded AFC playoff hunt, especially with the other three teams in the AFC South sitting above .500. But quietly — very quietly even — the Titans are undefeated at home this year, beating the Chargers, Bengals, Falcons and Panthers in Nashville for their quartet of wins this season. They’ve got three other one-score losses this year; Tennessee’s not that far from being in the mix for the postseason. That’s how Mike Vrabel rolls, even with a rookie quarterback under center and a weakened roster. Derrick Henry absolutely destroys division opponents, especially late in the year, and this home game against a turnover-prone Gardner Minshew feels like a spot where he could find the end zone multiple times again. The Colts are gettable on the ground, having given up a bunch of yards to bad running teams over the last month or so. Henry might eat here.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me 10-plus times, shame on David Tepper. Or something: every pick of the Panthers that I make is on me for going back to this well of disgrace. Carolina is an AWFUL football team. I don’t want to back them at all. But I also am a huge believer in the Dead Cat Bounce Game, where a head coach is fired and his team immediately responds in a big way. Frank Reich, Duce Staley and Josh McCown are all fired, so there’s a ton of pressure on these players to perform, because everyone’s job is on the line when the big boss gets fired. You saw it with the Raiders and I think we see it again here, especially since Thomas Brown and Jim Caldwell should incorporate a ton of RPO-style plays to accentuate what Bryce Young does best against a Bucs pass defense that has been ravaged by quarterbacks like Desmond Ridder, C.J. Stroud, Brock Purdy and Gardner Minshew. Bryce Young Breakout Game?!?!

A three-game losing streak going into the bye caused the entire world to write off the Rams. The larger underlying problem was a thumb injury suffered by Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp battling injuries as well. This team is very much like a Jenga tower thanks to the roster build. But I’ve been pounding the table for their playoff chances the last two weeks and now they are very much alive: even at 5-6 the Rams have better playoff odds than the 6-5 Seahawks because their schedule is much friendlier. Kyren Williams is back and looks like a running back who could a much-needed engine for this offense. Cleveland’s defense is elite, and the Browns are a desperate team, without a quarterback and with their playoff chances starting to get a little dicey. Cleveland’s still at 68% to make the postseason but losses to the Rams and Jags the next two weeks would sink them below 50% and they certainly won’t be favored in either game. Aaron Donald is going to be a problem for the Cleveland quarterbacks on Sunday.

AWESOME matchup here on Sunday between the two best teams in the NFC and maybe the two best teams in all of football. The Niners have been extremely dominant in every single game where Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel were available and not so much when they didn’t have them on the field. I do NOT like laying -2.5 on the road against the team with the best record in football, but the Niners are coming off a mini-bye courtesy of playing on Thanksgiving night, the Eagles defense was on the field for 92 plays against the Bills last week in an emotionally taxing win and Philly’s dealing with several key injuries, Lane Johnson and Fletcher Cox most notably. Missing your right tackle when Nick Bosa and Chase Young are involved isn’t good news. The 49ers will want revenge for last year’s NFC Championship Game and actually have a healthy quarterback on their depth chart this time around with Brock Purdy.

Jaguars (-8.5) vs. Bengals

The low total in this game is terrifying when it comes to laying a ton of points with the Jaguars, but I don’t really care. These two teams are going in polar opposite directions: the Jaguars are surging like they did in the second half of last season, except this time around they had a good record to begin with and are in pursuit of the AFC’s top seed. The Bengals are starting Jake Browning and coming off a tough home loss to a division rival and can’t possibly believe they’re in the hunt for the playoffs. Even though they’re just 5-6, they have less than a 2% chance at making the postseason, according to our SportsLine projection model. Similarly the Upshot gives them a 3% chance. The AFC is too crowded and Joe Burrow is done for the season. It’s hard to fight back against a better team in a ROWDY environment — Jacksonville hasn’t hosted “MNF” since 2011, the team is good and the fans will be loose as hell — when you know your season is essentially over. 

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