As the calendar turns to December, playoff races are heating up across the NFL, and Week 13’s results will have ripple effects across both conferences. With six weeks left to play in the NFL’s first 17-game season, which teams can catch fire down the stretch, and which ones are fading away as the cold weather intensifies?
Key matchups with playoff ramifications in Week 13 include:
- 6-5 Los Angeles Chargers at 7-4 Cincinnati Bengals
- 8-3 Baltimore Ravens at 5-5-1 Pittsburgh Steelers
- 6-5 Denver Broncos at 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs
- 8-4 New England Patriots at 7-4 Buffalo Bills
Both the Sunday Night and Monday Night Football matchups have division leads up for grabs, with the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs going head-to-head for first place in the AFC West and Mac Jones and Josh Allen meeting for the first time with the AFC East lead on the line.
To debate or discuss these picks, be sure to join the conversation with @SakSports on Twitter.
Week 1: 6-10
Week 2: 12-4
Week 3: 11-5
Week 4: 12-4
Week 5: 13-3
Week 6: 10-4
Week 7: 9-4
Week 8: 9-6
Week 9: 5-9
Week 10: 9-4-1
Week 11: 12-3
Week 12: 6-9
Overall: 109-56-1 (66%)
Ouch. I got smacked this week, incorrectly predicting 9 of Week 12’s 15 matchups. It started with a horrendous 0-3 start on Thanksgiving: I thought the Lions might squeak out a win and they nearly did, I figured the Cowboys were a solid pick, and in a selection I slightly regret, I thought Trevor Siemian and the Saints were due for a win.
Besides that, I also feel dumb for picking the Steelers and Panthers. Other results either just had me on the wrong side of a toss-up (Texans-Jets, Vikings-49ers,) or an unexpected upset (Giants over Eagles, Broncos over Chargers.)
In Week 12, I incorrectly predicted:
- Lions over Bears
- Cowboys over Raiders
- Saints over Bills
- Steelers over Bengals
- Eagles over Giants
- Texans over Jets
- Panthers over Dolphins
- Broncos over Chargers
- Vikings over 49ers
See Also: 2021-22 NFL Season Predictions
- AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West
- NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, NFC West
- Playoff Predictions and Super Bowl Matchup
- Midseason Predictions and Super Bowl 56 Matchup
- NFL 2021: Half Season MVP Watch
Thursday Night Football
Dallas Cowboys (7-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-6)
Line: Dallas Cowboys (-5.5)
The Dallas Cowboys were outplayed by the Raiders on Thanksgiving in a 36-33 overtime loss, and have dropped three of their last four matchups. Still, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are favored by 5.5 points on the road. The New Orleans Saints haven’t won a game since losing quarterback Jameis Winston for the season, and last week was a new low for New Orleans in a 31-6 loss to Buffalo on Thanksgiving.
The Saints will turn from Trevor Siemian to Taysom Hill to start on Thursday Night Football, which is certainly an X-factor. However, I doubt Hill can move the ball with enough efficiency to keep up with this Dallas offense.
Cowboys win 27-17, Cowboys win ATS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3) at Atlanta Falcons (5-6)
Line: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-11.0)
Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a comeback 38-31 over the Colts last week, and previously defeated the Atlanta Falcons 48-25 back in Week 2. Matt Ryan and the Falcons are just 1-4 at home this season, and while they did score 21 points in last week’s win over the Jaguars, they somehow only scored three points over two losses to the Cowboys and Patriots before that.
Buccaneers win 41-20, Buccaneers win ATS
Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) at New York Jets (3-8)
Line: Philadelphia Eagles (-7.0)
Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles had been heating up prior to last week’s unexpected 13-7 loss to the Giants. This week, the Eagles visit MetLife Stadium again, against a New York Jets team that won in Houston last week. But the Jets have yet to string together back-to-back wins this season, and the Eagles will have a chip on their shoulder after last week’s loss prevented Philadelphia from closing ground on the Cowboys in the NFC East.
Eagles win 24-17, PUSH ATS
Arizona Cardinals (9-2) at Chicago Bears (4-7)
Line: Arizona Cardinals (-7.5)
After missing three games and with the passing of the team’s bye week, Kyler Murray is finally set to return to the field for the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. While a sometimes-pesky Chicago Bears defense might not be the most welcoming opponent in his return, Chicago’s offense hasn’t put up more than 16 points in each of the last two weeks, and barely beat the Lions on Thanksgiving. If Murray can lead the Cardinals offense to score 17 points or more, this should be an easy win for Arizona.
Cardinals win 24-13, Cardinals win ATS
New York Giants (4-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-7)
Line: Miami Dolphins (-4.0)
The New York Giants weren’t very good offensively in last week’s win over the Eagles, but their ever-improving defense got the job done in a 13-7 win. New York’s defense has allowed just 15.2 points per game over the last five weeks, and that’s with a 30-point performance by Brady’s Buccaneers mixed in there. The Giants are 3-2 in that stretch, but the Miami Dolphins are also hot, coming off the heels of four straight wins.
This matchup could certainly go either way, and while Daniel Jones says he intends to play on Sunday, he is dealing with a neck injury. Even if Jones plays at full strength, Tua Tagovailoa has been a hotter passer. If New York’s defense continues to play well, this could be a low-scoring affair.
Dolphins win 17-13, PUSH ATS
Los Angeles Chargers (6-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-4)
Line: Cincinnati Bengals (-3.0)
Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers will go toe-to-toe with Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals in this important AFC matchup. Cincinnati currently holds the fifth seed (and is just a game behind in the AFC North) while Los Angeles currently sits seventh in the conference. The Chargers are tied with the Raiders and Broncos, and the Colts and Browns also have six wins on the season. Basically, a loss would throw the Chargers into a messy web in the standings, while a win would give them a little breathing room. The winner of this game will also have a head-to-head tiebreaker over the over, which could come in handy down the stretch.
Standings aside, what should we expect to see on the field in this one? The Bengals offense has scored 73 points over the last two weeks, and while Los Angeles laid a dud 28-13 loss to the Broncos in Week 12, they can certainly score in bunches, with a 41-37 win over the Steelers in Week 11. This could be a high-scoring game, but I would give the edge to Cincinnati on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Bengals win 33-27, Bengals win ATS
Minnesota Vikings (5-6) at Detroit Lions (0-10-1)
Line: Minnesota Vikings (-7.0)
Fun fact: I’ve never put the Detroit Lions on the bottom of my weekly Power Rankings, even though they have remained the only winless team in the league. They’re capable of playing close games against solid opponents, and even in the last three weeks with an 0-2-1 record, have only been outscored by five points.
But after being unable to overcome the Bears on Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t go out of my way to pick Detroit again this season. Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings need a win to keep up i the NFC playoff race, and the Lions aren’t going to stop them.
Vikings win 29-18, Vikings win ATS
Indianapolis Colts (6-6) at Houston Texans (2-9)
Line: Indianapolis Colts (-10.0)
Carson Wentz and the Indianapolis Colts had a 10-point lead on the defending Super Bowl champions last week, but ultimately fell 38-31. Still, I like this Colts team a lot, and they’re 6-3 in the past nine weeks after an 0-3 start. I see Wentz, Jonathan Taylor and company finding their way into the postseason, and beating the Houston Texans is the bare minimum to move forwards towards that goal.
Colts 33-22, Colts win ATS
Washington Football Team (5-6) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)
Line: Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5)
This is a tough one to pick: Taylor Heincke and Washington Football Team are coming in hot after three straight wins. The Las Vegas Raiders overall body of work is a bit better and they’re coming off a 36-33 Thanksgiving Day win over Dallas, but had previously lost tree straight before that.
I don’t really have any statistics, trends, or matchup advantages to point to here, but I’m going with Derek Carr and the Raiders to halt Washington’s win streak at three games. Las Vegas is just 3-3 at home this season, but they can break positive with a win here.
Raiders win 26-23, Raiders win ATS
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
Line: Los Angeles Rams (-13.0)
The Los Angeles Rams have suffered an incredibly disappointing three-game losing streak, but are still favored by 13.0 points at home against Trevor Lawrence and a Jacksonville Jaguars team I consider to be the worst in the NFL. The Rams can’t overlook anyone right now, even with a big matchup against the Cardinals next week, and I don’t think they’ll want to take their foot off the gas pedal at any point in this matchup.
Rams win 37-16, Rams win ATS
Baltimore Ravens (8-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1)
Line: Baltimore Ravens (-4.5)
The Baltimore Ravens 16-10 win over the Browns last Sunday night was anything but pretty, with Lamar Jackson throwing four interceptions, but Baltimore’s defense limited the damage and allowed the Ravens to improve to 8-3. This is usually a hard-fought AFC North matchup where records can be largely tossed out the window, but the Pittsburgh Steelers struggles can’t be ignored: they’re 0-2-1 over the last three weeks, with back-to-back games allowing 41 points to their opponents. I don’t think Baltimore will run away with this game, but they’re certainly my pick to win.
Ravens win 26-20, Ravens win ATS
San Francisco 49ers (6-5) at Seattle Seahawks (3-8)
Line: San Francisco 49ers (-3.0)
The Seattle Seahawks season has already been lost, even with six weeks left to play. It’s an unprecedented sight to see in the Pete Carol-Russell Wilson era, as is an uncharacteristic 1-4 record in Seattle. Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers are heating up, with a 3-1 record over their last four games and over 3 points scored in each win. I wouldn’t have predicted this coming into the season, but San Francisco over Seattle seems like a pretty easy pick.
49ers win 27-17, 49ers win ATS
Sunday Night Football
Denver Broncos (6-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)
Line: Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5)
While it doesn’t feel the Denver Broncos have been having particularly notable season, they would actually tie for and essentially claim the AFC West lead with a win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football. The Broncos are coming off a big 28-13 win over the Broncos, but Teddy Bridgewater is banged up with a shin injury and even if he can start on Sunday night, he won’t be 100%.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have won four in a row, and while they’re not completely immune to regressing back to their early-season form, they feel like the safer bet.
Chiefs win 31-23, Chiefs win ATS
Monday Night Football
Sak Sports Blog Game of the Week: New England Patriots (8-4) at Buffalo Bills (7-4)
Line: Buffalo Bills (-2.5)
There’s been some good games played on Monday Night Football this season, but none of them have had as much intrigue heading in as this AFC East clash between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills: with first place in the division on the line.
The Patriots have evolved from a 2-4 team that could only beat the Jets and Texans in to some kind of juggernaut, with the seventh-best offense in the NFL and the best defense in the NFL in terms of scoring. Mac Jones has been incredible over the Patriots six-game winning streak, and the Patriots are beating everyone: from the Chargers 27-24 to the Browns 45-7 and the Titans 36-13.
Could Josh Allen and a Bills team playing their best football compete in and possibly win this game? Of course. But Buffalo has struggled to beat good teams this season, with just one of their seven wins coming against a team currently over .500.
Ideally, the Bills show up at home for the biggest matchup of their season so far, and they play their hearts out in an instant Game of the Year candidate. I don’t predict the game will be that crazy (but please, prove me wrong) but I also don’t think the Bills will roll over like they did against the Colts two weeks ago.
Patriots win 27-20, Patriots win ATS
Teams on Bye
- The Cleveland Browns (6-6) have alternated wins and losses for seven straight weeks. This would put them in line to win a rare back-to-back matchup with the Ravens after losing in Baltimore in Week 12.
- Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (9-3) enter their bye week with a chance to claim the NFC’s best record before the season is over, and already has head-to-head wins over the Cardinals and Rams.
- After back-to-back losses, the Tennessee Titans (8-4) have the week off to regroup before a winnable matchup against the Jaguars in Week 14.
- Cam Newton was horrendous in last week’s loss to the Dolphins, but assuming he’s still the starter, the bye week will give him dedicated time to learn the current Carolina Panthers (5-7) offense.
- 2021-22 NFL Power Rankings: Post-Week 1, Post-Week 2, Post-Week 3, Post-Week 4, Post-Week 5, Post-Week 6, Post-Week 7, Post-Week 8, Post-Week 9, Post-Week 10, Post-Week 11, Post-Week 12
- 2021-22 NFL Picks: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12
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- NFL 2021: Midseason Predictions and Super Bowl 56 Matchup
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Header Photo: AP Photo/Winslow Townson