Point spreads are from VegasInsider.com and are accurate as of this writing.
So far in 2021, there have been a constant rotation of teams that have possessed the top seed in the AFC. This week, one team that held that spot earlier in the season will face-off with another team that’s looking to reclaim it after a season out of the spotlight. It will make for an epic, Monday Night Football showdown.
Nostrathomas Predicts: NFL Week 13
That puts me at 109-64-1 straight-up and 85-87-2 against the spread for the 2021 season.
Time to fill the crystal beer mugs and get to work on Week 13.
Game of the Week
New England Patriots +2.5 vs Buffalo Bills (Monday Night Football; Highmark Stadium, Buffalo, NY)
This game features the top two teams in my statistical power rankings. The Buffalo Bills took over the title as king of the AFC East last season but the New England Patriots have climbed back into first place in 2021 and are threatening to retake the division crown.
Buffalo was riding high until Week 9 when they dropped a 9-6 humbler to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Bills followed up by dominating the New Orleans Saints and New York Jets but in between those wins they were crushed by the Indianapolis Colts.
The New England Patriots stumbled out of the gate this season but have won six straight games and seven of their last eight. The one constant for New England during this streak has been their defense.
The Patriots gave up 355 yards of total offense last week to Tennessee but were able to create four turnovers, one interception and three fumble recoveries. Throughout their six-game win streak, New England’s defense has taken the ball away at least once a game, 17 in total.
That’s where the difference in this game might be found. Buffalo has turned the ball over 11 times in their last four games. The Bills will also need to find a way to shut down New England’s running game.
The Colts rushed for 264 yards in their victory over Buffalo. The Patriots have rushed for at least 100 yards in each of their last eight games. The Bills are going to have to find a way to tighten up against the run to have a chance in this game.
Sharp money has been coming in on the Patriots for this game. In a contest that promises to be this close, that’s a good enough reason for me to recommend taking New England plus the points.
New England Patriots 27 Buffalo Bills 25
Arizona Cardinals -7.5 vs Chicago Bears (1PM ET; Soldier Field, Chicago, IL)
Let’s put aside that the Arizona Cardinals have the best record in the NFC and take a look at what the Bears bring to the table in this contest.
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields will still be out with his injured ribs so veteran Andy Dalton will get the start. For the season, in three starts and the second half of the game against the Baltimore Ravens where he subbed in for the injured Fields, Dalton has completed 72 passes in 112 attempts for 788 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 89.4.
Not counting the Roquan Smith pick-6 in Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bears have put 53 of their 179 total points with Dalton on the field. That averages out to a hair over 13-points per game or more accurately, four-points per quarter for 13 quarters played.
Because of injuries, the Bears will be going into this game with a receiving group of Darnell Mooney, Damiere Byrd, Jakeem Grant and Isaiah Colter. Teams have been successful running on the Cardinals this season but it will be a long afternoon for Chicago if the only consistent weapons they have on offense will be David Montgomery and Khalil Bell.
For the fourth game in a row, Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury has declared that quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins starting will be game-time decisions. That’s not a negative for Arizona. They’ve won and covered the last two weeks with McCoy under center.
For this game, it doesn’t matter if it’s a rusty Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, comedian Bill Murray or Starfleet doctor Leonard McCoy playing quarterback. The Cardinals win and cover the smaller than expected spread.
Arizona Cardinals 23 Chicago Bears 13
New York Giants vs Miami Dolphins -6 (1PM ET; Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL)
The New York Giants are 1-4 on the road this season and will be playing a rejuvenated Miami Dolphins team at Hard Rock Stadium this week.
Since the passing of the trade deadline and abrupt end to the Deshaun Watson trade rumors, Miami has won four straight games. The Dolphins defense has tightened in that time. Up to Week 8, Miami was giving up an average of 24 points per game. That number has dropped to 11.5 points per game over their winning streak.
As has been the case most of the season, New York is heading into this game with a long, injured list that will make it tougher for them to compete. The worst of these is quarterback Daniel Jones being out with a neck injury. Wide receivers Sterling Shephard and Kadarius Toney are also expected to miss this game.
The fact that Mike Glennon will be starting at quarterback should tell you all you need to know about the Giants chance to cover, much less win this game. Take Miami to win their fifth straight while covering.
Miami Dolphins 24 New York Giants 10
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Los Angeles Rams -13 (4:05PM ET; SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, CA)
Yes, the Los Angeles Rams have been struggling mightily during their three-game losing streak. Those three games were also against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season had ended after Week 12. The Jacksonville Jaguars have been the cure for what ails many of their opponents this season.
Los Angeles is still 10th in total points this season and also 10th in yards per points scored. The Jaguars are last in turning yards gained into points. The Rams are also sixth in points per play and eighth in points per drive.
On defense, Los Angeles is in the top 10 in the league in net passing yards per attempt allowed, passer rating allowed and rushing yards per attempt allowed.
There has been a lot of speculation that the Rams could be looking ahead to their Week 14, Monday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals. That’s highly unlikely though. Los Angeles is two games behind the Cardinals in the NFC and one up on San Francisco. The Rams have also lost to the 49ers this season, in Week 10.
They can’t risk falling to third in the division behind San Francisco with only five games left to play. The Jaguars will have their full attention in this game.
Los Angeles Rams 28 Jacksonville Jaguars 10
Best of the Rest
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +10.5 vs Atlanta Falcons (1PM ET; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA)
This is another game with a double-digit spread where it’s difficult to see how the home team can even cover, let alone win outright.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have scored the most points in the NFL this season and have plenty of weapons on offense for quarterback Tom Brady to work with, even with Antonio Brown on suspension.
The Atlanta Falcons have faced three teams this season with records currently over .500 and have been crushed by all three.
In their Week 2 game, the Falcons were only down by three points heading into the fourth quarter before turnovers turned it into a rout. Heading into this game, Atlanta’s defense struggles to bring pressure and create turnovers, both keys to competing with the Buccaneers. They also struggle to generate any consistency on offense.
Tampa Bay is going to jump out to an early lead, then shorten the game behind running back Leonard Fournette. Under those circumstances, it’s tough to see how the Falcons keep this game within reach.
Tampa Bay wins and covers the two-score spread.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34 Atlanta Falcons 20
Philadelphia Eagles vs New York Jets +6.5 (1PM ET; MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)
The Philadelphia Eagles are playing their second straight game at MetLife Stadium with the Jets playing host this week.
Jalen Hurts is listed as questionable this week after playing one of the worst games of his career against the Giants. To be fair though, Hurts wasn’t the only Eagles player to send a stench of failure across the swamps of eastern New Jersey.
Hurts plays a big part in Philadelphia’s running game so a sprained ankle drastically reduces his effectiveness. With running backs Jordan Howard out and Boston Scott questionable, that leaves Miles Sanders as the only healthy part of the Eagles rushing offense.
Hurts doesn’t strike fear into any defense as a purely passing quarterback so, if he can’t run effectively, don’t be surprised if Gardner Minshew starts in his place.
As for the Jets, Zach Wilson continued his struggles as a rookie quarterback last week, even though New York came away with a 21-14 win. The one positive for the Jets on offense is that Elijah Moore is turning into a reliable NFL receiver. That is important considering that running back Michael Carter will be out for this game. Wilson connected with Moore four times last week for 46 yards.
Philadelphia desperately needs to win this game or risk falling completely out of the NFC playoff race. With Hurts injured though, it’s too much to expect them to cover this spread. Eagles win, New York covers.
Philadelphia Eagles 21 New York Jets 17
Minnesota Vikings -7.5 vs Detroit Lions (1PM ET; Ford Field, Detroit, MI)
In Week 5, the Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 19-17 on a last second, Greg Joseph field goal. The top running backs for both teams have been ruled out for this game, Dalvin Cook for the Vikings and D’Andre Swift for the Lions.
Minnesota is too tough on defense for the Lions if they don’t have Swift in the lineup. They are also still in the thick of the NFC playoff race. Look for the Vikings to come out of this game with a more convincing victory and cover.
Minnesota Vikings 26 Detroit Lions 17
Indianapolis Colts -10 vs Houston Texans (1PM ET; NRG Stadium, Houston, TX)
The Houston Texans followed up a Week 11 win over the Tennessee Titans with a 21-14 loss to the New York Jets. In both games, Houston managed 392 yards of total offense.
Houston beat the Titans because of the five turnovers Tennessee handed them. The Colts are first in the NFL in turnover differential. It would be unthinkable that Indianapolis will be careless enough with the football to keep the Texans in this game.
Take the Colts to win and cover.
Indianapolis Colts 28 Houston Texans 14
Los Angeles Chargers vs Cincinnati Bengals -3 (1PM ET; Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH)
The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off of a blowout victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. The Los Angeles Chargers travelled to Denver last week and fell to the Broncos 28-13.
This game will have two of the best young quarterbacks in the league in Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. What Los Angeles doesn’t have is a defense that can get off the field with any reliability.
Look for running back Joe Mixon to have a big game as the Bengals win and cover.
Cincinnati Bengals 27 Los Angeles Chargers 23
Baltimore Ravens -4.5 vs Pittsburgh Steelers (4:25PM ET; Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA)
The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost their last two games, a close 41-37 contest against the Chargers and by a 41-10 blowout to Cincinnati last week.
The Baltimore Ravens are currently holding down the top seed in the AFC conference. Don’t look for them to ease up against a team that is slowly coming apart on both sides of the football.
Baltimore Ravens 25 Pittsburgh Steelers 20
Washington Football Team +1.5 vs Las Vegas Raiders (4:05PM ET; Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV)
The Football team is on a three-game hot streak while the Las Vegas Raiders finally broke through in Week 12 with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
The problems that the Raiders have is a suspect run game with Josh Jacobs as their lead back and a depleted passing game with Darren Waller declared out.
Sharp money is coming in on Washington for this game and it’s usually smart to follow the sharps.
Washington Football Team 23 Las Vegas Raiders 20
San Francisco 49ers -3 vs Seattle Seahawks (4:25PM ET; Lumen Field, Seattle, WA)
Since their bye week and the return of quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks season has been spinning slowly down the drain. In the meantime, the San Francisco 49ers have won four of their last five games and are currently holding the sixth seed in the conference.
The 49ers are averaging 29 points per game over their five-game run which has temporarily quieted the calls for Jimmy Garoppolo’s head.
Wilson came back too early from his hand injury and it’s kept him from playing to his usual, elite level. It’s going to give the Seahawks more trouble this week.
San Francisco 49ers 26 Seattle Seahawks 20
Denver Broncos vs Kansas City Chiefs -9.5 (Sunday Night Football; GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO)
Unfortunately for the Denver Broncos that this game wasn’t played about five weeks ago. At that point, the Kansas City Chiefs couldn’t get anything figured out on defense and lost a couple of games that you wouldn’t have expected the defending AFC Champions to lose. The Chiefs are past that now.
The Denver Broncos have won three of their last four games based on the strength of their running game.
Denver beat the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers by scoring first and controlling the game behind Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. They lost to the Philadelphia Eagles because they let the Eagles strike first and had to play from behind. Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t have the arm to play a come from behind game.
Kansas City has jumped out to early leads in each of the games during their four-game winning streak. I expect them to do the same in this game. That means they finish with a win and cover.
Kansas City Chiefs 30 Denver Broncos 17