Week 13 NFL odds, picks: Eagles edge Redskins, Texans beat Browns for ninth straight, Steelers top Chargers
The playoff picture is starting to take shape
It's crunch time, folks. There are five weeks left in the regular season and we're having serious conversations about the 4-6-1 Browns (the Browns!) having a chance at the playoffs. What a world.
Meanwhile, the NFL's best teams are jockeying for the right for home-field advantage -- no one in the NFC wants to go to New Orleans and in the AFC, playing in Gillette Stadium is a death sentence. (stream Vikings-Patriots and all Sunday's games on fuboTV, try it for free, and stream the CBS games on CBS All Access).
Alright, let's get to all the games, and the playoff implications, below.
LAST WEEK: 14-1-0
OVERALL RECORD: 112-62-2
New Orleans (-7.5) at Dallas
The Saints are arguably the best team in football the the Cowboys have ridden a three-game winning streak to the top of the NFC East. New Orleans may be 10-1, a full four games clear of Dallas (6-5), but the conference is so tightly packed that there can be no trap games. The Rams are also 10-1 and whoever ends up with the No. 1 seed immediately becomes the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Cowboys, currently the No. 4 seed, will find out just how good they are in a Thursday night matchup in which both teams are coming off six days' rest.
Pick: Saints 31, Cowboys 21
Result: Cowboys 13, Saints 10
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Denver (-4.5) at Cincinnati
We owe the Broncos an apology. We let that humiliating Week 5 loss to the Jets taint our perception of this team. The reality is they're really, really good. We saw that on Sunday when they outlasted the high-powered Steelers offense, and we saw it the week before when they beat the Chargers. Football Outsiders ranks Denver sixth overall -- just behind the Chargers and just ahead of the Steelers -- and it's not just because of their third-ranked defense; the offense, which features the NFL's third-best rushing attack, ranks ninth overall. The Bengals, meanwhile, were just smoked by the Browns, Andy Dalton's season is over, and Hue Jackson has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Marvin Lewis. So yeah.
Pick: Broncos 20, Bengals 6
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Arizona at Green Bay (-14)
The Packers' playoff hopes aren't officially dead but it's uncomfortably close. The team looked out of sorts in Sunday night's loss to the Vikings, and they're currently 10th in the NFC, four spots out of the final wild-card spot. In front of them: Seattle, Philadelphia, Carolina and Atlanta. Put another way: A lot has to go right over the next five weeks. A good start: Facing the Cardinals in Lambeau Field.
Pick: Packers 35, Cardinals 17
Los Angeles Rams (-10) at Detroit
We say it every week: The Lions had back-to-back 9-7 seasons with Jim Caldwell, including a playoff appearance in 2016, and he was fired. The team is currently 4-7, is 13th out of 16 teams in the NFC, and looks completely lost on both sides of the ball. The Rams are at the other end of the spectrum. And at 10-1, they're looking to keep pace with the Saints to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Pick: Rams 40, Lions 21
Carolina (-3.5) at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers won on Sunday to snap a four-game losing streak. Of course, it came against a 49ers team that was starting a third-string quarterback and had cut its starting linebacker just hours before, following his arrest. But hey, a win's a win and it was a much-needed one for Tampa Bay. That said, their playoff hopes are just about nonexistent at this point. Not so for the Panthers, however, who desperately need a win after dropping three straight. They're eighth in the NFC with the Seahawks and Redskins between them and the final wild-card spot and have a one in four chance of making the postseason.
Pick: Panthers 24, Buccaneers 20
Indianapolis (-4) at Jacksonville
The Colts and Jaguars are going in different directions. Indy has now won five straight and Andrew Luck has been sacked just once in his last six games. And in his last eight games, he's thrown at least three touchdowns. Jacksonville just fired their offensive coordinator and benched Blake Bortles, and executive vice president Tom Coughlin is mad as hell about all of it. Maybe Cody Kessler is the jumpstart this team, now losers of seven straight, needs. More likely: The Jags' downward spiral will continue and the Colts will make a run at a playoff spot.
Pick: Colts 24, Jaguars 18
Baltimore (-1) at Atlanta
The Ravens have been revitalized by Lamar Jackson, the rookie quarterback who is now 2-0 as a starter. He'll face his biggest test on Sunday in Atlanta, where the Falcons have not been good this season, but at 4-7 they remain in the playoff chase. Atlanta's offense ranks 10th and Matt Ryan is fifth in value per play, which means Baltimore's defense may need a big afternoon. Currently the No. 6 seed, the Ravens have a 41 percent chance at the postseason while the Falcons are long shots at 4 percent.
Pick: Falcons 28, Ravens 24
Chicago (-4.5) at New York Giants
The Giants have played better in recent weeks, even winning two straight before gifting the Eagles a victory last Sunday. Still, questions remain, mostly about Eli Manning and what his future holds. After facing the league's best defense this week, that future might become clearer; the Bears are 8-3 primarily because their defense dominates just about every week. It starts with Khalil Mack, but Akiem Hicks, Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson are all balling out. It's unclear if Mitchell Trubisky will return to the lineup after injuring his shoulder but if not, the offense is in good hands with veteran Chase Daniel, who knows Matt Nagy's offense almost as well as Nagy himself.
Pick: Bears 17, Giants 9
Buffalo at Miami (-5)
The Bills have done more with less than any other team in the league. The quarterback situation was a disaster with Nathan Peterman, but rookie first-rounder Josh Allen has returned from injury and he helped Buffalo beat Jacksonville last Sunday. The Dolphins aren't the Jags, who are one of the NFL's biggest disappointments, but it's hard to think of them as anything more than a replacement-level club. Yes, they're eight in the race for the final wild-card spot, but they're also 5-6 and according to Football Outsiders rank 18th overall, 21st in defense and 23rd in offense -- basically replacement level or slightly worse. That said, Miami has a 4.3 percent chance at the postseason though, honestly, that sounds high.
Pick: Dolphins 14, Bills 13
Cleveland at Houston (-6)
Here come the Browns! Fresh off whupping up on the Bengals, Cleveland has now won two straight for the first time since 2014, which also the last time they won at least four games in a season. The Browns are currently 4-6-1 and are looking at a 2.9 percent chance at a playoff spot. The last time they made the playoffs: 2002. The problem is that their schedule over the final five weeks isn't easy, starting with Houston, then Carolina and then Denver. Meanwhile, the Texans have now won eight straight and their most convincing victory came against the Titans on Monday night. If the running game continues to have its way, life will be immeasurably easier for Deshaun Watson.
Pick: Texans 27, Browns 20
New York Jets at Tennessee (-9)
The Titans aren't a bad team. They're inconsistent as they find their way under first-year coach Mike Vrabel, but they're not bad. The Jets are awful. Sam Darnold missed the last two games with injuries and mentally it felt like few of his healthy teammates showed up; New York lost by 31 to the Bills in Week 10 and by two touchdowns to the Patriots on Sunday. They've now dropped five straight and the only positive we can say is that there are only 300 minutes left in this otherwise forgettable season.
Pick: Titans 30, Jets 12
Kansas City (-15) at Oakland
The rest of the season for the Raiders is going to be one long audition for which players Jon Gruden will want to bring back in 2019. It's easy to forget that this team was 12-4 just two seasons ago but now they're in full-on rebuilding mode. The worst thing you can say about the Chiefs is that their defense isn't very good. But the offense more than makes up for it, which is why they're one of the NFL's most exciting teams. Kansas City has to avoid late-season trap games because home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is key; no one wants their shot at a Super Bowl to go throw Gillette Stadium.
Pick: Chiefs 48, Raiders 30
San Francisco at Seattle (-10)
The 49ers have been decimated by injuries and second-year coach Kyle Shanahan is making his best chicken salad until he can get everyone healthy. Unfortunately, that won't happen until 2019. The Seahawks are one of the biggest surprises of this season. In fact, we owe them an apology; over the summer we were convinced that Seattle would be the NFC West's worst team -- they broke up the Legion of Boom, didn't address the offensive line early in the draft and instead took a running back. Turns out, Pete Carroll is smarter than we are, and now the Seahawks are making a playoff push. And God help the team that should have to face them if they find a way in.
Pick: Seahawks 24, 49ers 12
Minnesota at New England (-5.5)
The Vikings are going to need to be able to win on the road if they have any designs on returning to the NFC Championship Game. They're currently the No. 5 seed in the NFC, which means they'd play in Dallas if the playoffs started today. Their schedule is tough down the stretch, starting with the Patriots (they go to Seattle next week and finish at home against the Bears) where it's nearly impossible for the opposing team to win. The Vikings have lost four straight to the Pats, and haven't won in New England since the 2000 season back when Daunte Culpepper, Robert Smith and Randy Moss were leading Minnesota's offense and and Drew Bledsoe was still the starter for the Pats. We'd love to see a Vikings upset here but it ain't happening.
Pick: Patriots 20, Vikings 17
Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh (-3.5)
After the Chiefs, the Chargers, Steelers and Patriots are all jockeying for the second-best team in the AFC. On Sunday, Los Angeles goes to Pittsburgh in a matchup that the Steelers need to win to keep pace with the Pats, who currently have the No. 2 seed, and one the Chargers have to win as they try to run down the Chiefs in the AFC West. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers were drafted in 2004, and in that time these two teams have faced off seven times. The Steelers are 5-2, though the Chargers prevailed in Pittsburgh in 2015 in a Week 14 matchup. It was 45 degrees on that afternoon and it's expected to be in that range this Sunday too.
Pick: Steelers 35, Chargers 31
Washington at Philadelphia (-6.5)
The Redskins need to find a way to win a football game. Alex Smith's season is over, Colt McCoy is now the starter, the team has currently lost three of four and nothing seems to be working. The good news is they're 6-5, currently the sixth seed in the NFC, and have a 41.4 percent chance to make the playoffs. It could be worse; the Eagles are 5-6, have been one of the most confounding teams to watch this season, and need a miracle to find their way back to the postseason. After Washington, the Eagles face the Cowboys, Rams and Texans before playing the Redskins in the regular-season finale. Still, there's a 21.8 percent chance they're playing January football, which seems high given what we know about this team.
Pick: Eagles 24, Redskins 21
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