2017 NFL Picks Week 13: Christmas Came Early! Geno Smith is Back to Bet Against!
Now that's more like it! Last week was extremely successful, bringing us to a new world: above .500 on the season. Rather than pulling back and choosing conservatively, we're going in extra and picking another 12 games this week. Let's get to it!
Washington Redskins -1.5 at Dallas Cowboys
This one didn't go so well, but I didn't anticipate Dallas remembering how to play offense and defense after losing three straight games by an average of 23.3 points per game. Let's all just keep hoping Kirk Cousins can make Dan Snyder consider a $30M+ franchise tag next season.
Chicago Bears -3 vs. San Francisco 49ers
You may have noticed I don't have a lot of faith in my team, and for the most part is has paid off. They did a fantastic job failing to cover a 14-point spread last week, and I made out well picking the Brett Hundley Packers to beat them straight up just a few weeks ago. Giving the standard home team's three points against the 1-10 49ers feels insulting, though. Their offenses are about the same (Chicago is 27th in DVOA, San Francisco 28th) but the Bears have a big advantage on defense. In a game full of incompetence, I'll take the team with one NFL-caliber unit over the team with none.
Cleveland Browns +14 at Los Angeles Chargers
Somehow the Chargers are back in the AFC West playoff race after starting the season 0-4, and their line play is a big reason why. Los Angeles has the NFL's 3rd-best adjusted sack rate allowed and 7th-best adjusted sack rate. Neither of those would seem to bode well for the visiting Browns, but this pick is more about the line than anything I expect to see on the field. Cleveland has an oddly effective run game (5th in DVOA) and the Chargers struggle to stop the run (30th). If they can pretend to be an NFL team for half of this game, they should be able to cover two touchdowns.
Baltimore Ravens -2.5 vs. Detroit Lions
Baltimore is probably the least-fun team to watch this season, and that's coming from a Bears fan who was raised on stellar defenses compensation for putrid offenses. Still, when you lead the league in defensive DVOA by a wide margin and also lead the league in special teams DVOA, you're tough to beat. For some reason the Ravens are giving less than a field goal to a 6-5 Lions team who ranks firmly in the "meh" range in every available metric. I'd advise against watching this game, but if you're committed, prepare yourself for a 13-10 slog.
Oakland Raiders -7.5 vs. New York Giants
Geno Smith is back! I don't know if there's a better gift we could have received this holiday season. I feel bad for Eli Manning given the way his iron-man streak came to an end, but not bad enough to pass on this opportunity. Look, the Raiders are bad at defense: they rank 32nd overall and against the pass, and just 21st against the run. It doesn't matter. Geno Smith's career completion percentage is below 60%, the Giants still don't have any healthy wide receivers, and the Raiders need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Derek Carr and co. shouldn't have any trouble putting up points on the NFL's 22nd-ranked defense.
Houston Texans +7 at Tennessee Titans
This line just seems weird for two teams so statistically similar. The Texans rank 18th in total DVOA while the Titans rank 22nd. You absolutely need to make an adjustment for the games in which Deshaun Watson was making Houston good, but I think that just puts them on even ground. The Texans' defense is good despite their injuries (15th in DVOA) and Tom Savage has actually been okay, pulling out a win over the Cardinals and losing close games to the Ravens and Colts since taking over. Tennessee still hasn't delivered on their preseason hype, and their last win by more than 7 points came way back in Week 2. Take the points!
Philadelphia Eagles -4 at Seattle Seahawks
This would have been a fantastic playoff preview if the Seahawks could keep any of their players healthy. Instead, you have the Eagles' 3rd-ranked offense taking on a Seahawks defense without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, a fearsome Philly pass rush going against a bunch of injured or unqualified Seattle offensive linemen, and Russell Wilson left as the man who has to work miracles. It isn't impossible; we've seen Russ pull off some incredible feats before. But it seems much more likely that Philadelphia continues its recent run of dominance.
Los Angeles Rams -7 at Arizona Cardinals
The Rams are the top-ranked team in the NFL by DVOA. The Cardinals are 23rd, with Blaine Gabbert playing quarterback and David Johnson still injured. When these teams met a little over a month ago, Los Angeles came away with a 33-0 victory. I don't see much reason to think this one will go differently.
Minnesota Vikings +3 at Atlanta Falcons
I'm a bit confused by all of the "Falcons are back" talk. In the last three weeks they've beaten the Cowboys soundly in a game that should be recorded as criminal coaching malpractice, an injury-riddled Seahawks team by 3 points, and the atrocious Tampa Bay Buccaneers who never thought to change up their coverage of Julio Jones. Somehow that makes them Super Bowl contenders again? The Vikings, meanwhile, are 9-2 with losses to the Steelers and Lions in the first three weeks of the season. They come into this game ranked 4th in offensive DVOA and 6th in defensive DVOA with no glaring weaknesses, and they're underdogs. I'm riding with you, Case Keenum!
Pittsburgh Steelers -5.5 at Cincinnati Bengals
The Steelers-Bengals "rivalry" has been as one-sided as any in the NFL that doesn't involve the Browns. Pittsburgh doesn't always win by a lot, but they seem to take a perverse satisfaction in reminding Cincinnati of their place in the AFC North hierarchy. I know Roethlisberger struggles on the road, but I can't see a world in which the Bengals win this game. Pittsburgh should get a little redemption after an oddly close victory over the Packers last week.
Green Bay Packers -2.5 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Why does anyone think the Buccaneers are good? Is this still being influenced by their appearance on Hard Knocks? Their four wins this year came against the Dolphins, Jets, Giants, and Bears, who are all ranked 25th or worse in total DVOA. The Packers, even with Aaron Rodgers' extended absence, are 14th in total DVOA and a respectable 17th in defensive DVOA. All they have to do is lean on their 4th-ranked run game against the Bucs' 30th-ranked run defense and they should come out with their 6th win of the season.
New Orleans Saints -4.5 vs. Carolina Panthers
The Saints are still very good, and they protect Drew Brees well enough (4th in adjusted sack rate allowed) to mitigate one of Carolina's biggest strengths (4th in adjusted sack rate). The Panthers are definitely capable of beating New Orleans, even in New Orleans, but I'm not comfortable picking a team who goes from hanging with the Eagles to losing to the Bears in consecutive weeks. Sorry, Cam - please prove me wrong and help me get a big win in fantasy.
That's all for this week! Kick back, grab a drink, and feel free to blame me if you put money on these picks and come out behind. I won't compensate you, but maybe your significant others will send their wrath in my direction instead of yours.