The focus of last Sunday was on the Denver Broncos and the spectacle of them having to use a practice squad receiver, Kendall Hinton, at quarterback. He completed one pass and the Broncos lost 31-3.
Had Denver been using a regular quarterback, we might have focused more on what was happening with the Saints’ offense.
Taysom Hill was 9-of-16 for 78 yards. He threw one interception and had a 43.2 passer rating. Until a 24-yard pass to Michael Thomas in the final seconds before halftime, Hill had just 14 passing yards in the first half.
There’s more nuance to Hill’s quiet passing day than just the stats. The Saints clearly were conservative, knowing the Broncos wouldn’t score much. They had a run-heavy approach, and Hill helped them there as usual. Hill had also passed his first test as a starter with a very good game running and throwing against the Atlanta Falcons a week before. Maybe there’s nothing to worry about.
But if we assume Drew Brees might not be back — regardless of any optimistic reports, hearing “11 broken ribs” doesn’t sound like a short-term injury — it’s fair to wonder what the Saints’ ceiling is with Hill.
The Saints will likely have a playoff game against an Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson and they’re going to have to put up points. They’re not going to be able to survive Hill posting a 43.2 passer rating. Hill will be put in some spots in which he’ll need to put up a big number, and it’s no sure thing he can. The Saints are also in a race for the No. 1 seed and the lone NFC bye in the expanded playoffs. The Packers are just a game behind but have the tiebreaker over the Saints. Before we even worry about the playoffs, Hill needs to help make sure New Orleans won’t have to go to Lambeau Field in January.
We just don’t know what Hill is as a quarterback. Hill is a good football player but has just two starts at quarterback. One was good, one wasn’t. On Sunday Hill gets to face the same Falcons team he picked apart two weeks ago. I’ll pick the Saints -3, considering how thoroughly they outplayed the Falcons last time. But another bad game from Hill might have New Orleans nervously wondering how quickly Brees can return.
Here are the picks for Week 13 (even though Week 12 isn’t done ... ), with spreads from BetMGM:
BONUS: Steelers -10 over Ravens
A Wednesday afternoon NFL game? The circumstances are rough, but hey, midweek football is pretty fun. I picked the Ravens last week but am changing after the news of the past week — the challenge they’re facing is a lot to overcome, and if an angry Steelers team is still focused, this could get ugly.
Lions (+3) over Bears
I’d change my mind if Kenny Golladay and D’Andre Swift are still out, but I like backing a team that just fired a coach it doesn’t like. And it seems there’s little doubt the Lions didn’t like Matt Patricia. Meanwhile, the Bears are just a mess.
Bengals (+11.5) over Dolphins
The Dolphins should blow out the Bengals, but Cincinnati usually finds ways to keep it close and 11.5 points is a lot for a Miami team that isn’t going to blow out many teams (other than the Jets).
Colts (-3.5) over Texans
I still think Indianapolis is a good team. They just got steamrolled by Derrick Henry last week. It happens. Meanwhile, Houston isn’t great and losing Will Fuller V will be a huge problem. Deshaun Watson is running out of guys to throw to.
Vikings (-8.5) over Jaguars
The Vikings are playing some good ball. Consider that they won last week despite giving up a fumble return touchdown on back-to-back plays. The returns were fluky, the way Minnesota played the rest of the game is not.
Raiders (-7.5) over Jets
Last season, the Raiders started well, took a blowout loss to the Jets and fell apart. This season, they were playing well and took a blowout loss to the Falcons. What comes next? I don’t know that the Raiders are going to fold but last week’s loss was troubling. Still, I’ll stick with my approach of never picking the Jets.
Titans (-5.5) over Browns
It’s hard to lay 5.5 points against an 8-3 Browns team, especially since underdogs are covering at such a high rate this season. But the Titans are coming off back-to-back strong performances and maybe they’re what I thought the Colts were: An AFC South team that is peaking as we get close to the postseason.
Giants (+10) over Seahawks
I don’t love backing Colt McCoy here (assuming Daniel Jones doesn’t play), but this is a big spread for a Giants team that plays hard and covers more often than not. Also, the Seahawks seem to make every game a little closer than it should be.
Cardinals (+3) over Rams
I don’t know what to make of the Rams anymore. No idea. And the Cardinals are coming off a loss at the Patriots that they just gave away. They had no business losing that game. When in doubt, just take the points and hope.
Packers (-9.5) over Eagles
I can’t take the Eagles. They are a mess, they’re no fun to watch, and if you take Philadelphia it seems like you’re just betting on a backdoor cover at the end.
Patriots (+1) over Chargers
The Patriots’ lack of offense worries me. But it’s Bill Belichick against a rookie quarterback, and the Patriots are finding ways to win. The Chargers are the opposite of “find ways to win.”
Broncos (+13.5) over Chiefs
The Broncos will have most of their quarterbacks return, so this game shouldn’t be the mess that Sunday’s game was. It’s always hard to fade the Chiefs but this line feels too high. It’ll feel nice for Denver to run a real offense this week.
Bills (-2.5) over 49ers
This line feels like a referendum on the Bills. Their only losses are to the Titans, Chiefs and Cardinals on a Hail Mary. They have beat the Rams, Seahawks, Dolphins and Raiders, and all of those teams could find themselves in the playoffs. The 49ers are playing hard and are getting players back, but Buffalo at less than a field goal seems to be a dare from the sportsbooks to take them. I like the Bills and am willing to take that dare.
Off the board: Washington-Steelers, Cowboys-Ravens
There won’t be a line on these games until the Steelers-Ravens play on Wednesday. Based on what lines I expect, I’ll probably take Washington and the Ravens. I’d bet heavily on the NFL having another odd week coming up. Let’s just hope we get to the end of the season without any major disruptions.
Last week: 5-10
Season to date: 84-88-3