Week 13 of the NFL season got underway on Thursday night with the Buffalo Bills earning a comfortable win over the New England Patriots, covering the 3.5-point spread as a road favorite in the process. With the calendar now reading December, there's no more time for putzing around. Teams have playoff pushes to make and we have holiday gifts to buy. Today, we're taking a look at three pairs of games on the Week 13 slate with similar point spreads and deciding which side we'd rather be on if we were forced to make a choice.
The Philadelphia Eagles have the best record in the NFL at 10-1, but it's safe to say they haven't been nearly as impressive in recent weeks compared to their early season performances. This week, the Eagles are 4.5-point home favorites against the Tennessee Titans. According to the betting odds, Philadelphia is neck-and-neck with San Francisco as to which team will come out of the NFC. The 49ers are 4-point home favorites over the Miami Dolphins as Mike McDaniel coaches against his mentor in Kyle Shanahan for the first time. Which home favorite would you rather back?
Greg: Several of the players this Titans-Eagles clash hinges on are in danger of missing this game, so it’s tough to pick a side at this point. Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry must play for Tennessee to stop a Philly run attack that leads the NFL in EPA and success rate. The Titans have been able to work around injuries all season, but those two are like my addiction to Ferrero Rocher – too big to overcome. I love the Eagles here if Jordan Davis is available to suit up. Nick Sirianni’s team is the most adaptable in the league and I think they capitalize on the opportunities provided to them by an ailing Titans defense.
Mike McDaniel versus Kyle Shanahan. Supercharged Jimmy Garoppolo versus regular Jimmy Garoppolo. What a bummer that Sunday night’s game is Colts-Cowboys instead of this gem. I’m so steamed, I probably won’t even sing along to the Carrie Underwood theme song. This is the first real test for Miami in months, and I’m leaning towards them passing it. McDaniel knows everything about Shanahan’s scheme and tendencies. That knowledge, along with his predilection for analytics, gives him the upper hand in this matchup. It can’t be understated, though, how important it is for the Dolphins that left tackle Terron Armstead is able to play. Tua Tagovailoa was swarmed by a very mediocre Texans pass rush last week when Armstead left the game. They absolutely have to have him out there against a Niners defense that expects to get defensive end Arik Armstead back. I’ll go with the Eagles.
Pete: I know it's being nitpicky to criticize the Eagles right now, but this team has looked beatable for about a month now. They got punched in the mouth by Washington. Indianapolis should have beaten them and the Packers scored 33 against them. Green Bay scored over 30 points once this season prior to last week. Tennessee can employ a similar gameplan that Washington did when it beat the Eagles. Mike Vrabel has constantly proven he can keep games against superior opponents close. I'm not seeing much from the Eagles in recent weeks that's making me rush to back them in this spot, especially with Tennessee coming off a loss.
McDaniel vs. Shanahan is captivating, but for some reason, it feels like the mentor always has the advantage over the disciple at the start of these matchups. Power rankings and analytics love the 49ers, but the on-field results haven't been as convincing as one might expect. Miami will be without Austin Jackson and could be without Armstead. That's a bad place to be if you are Tua Tagovailoa against this 49ers defense. Shanahan teaches his pupil one more lesson and the 49ers win by at least a touchdown. Give me San Francisco.
The Detroit Lions are on the outer fringes of the NFC playoff picture and absolutely need to win on Sunday if they want to stay "in the hunt" on the graphics come Christmas time. The Lions are 1-point home favorites over the Jacksonville Jaguars, who came out on the right side of a thrilling finish last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Elsewhere, the Las Vegas Raiders have won back-to-back overtime games to turn the heat down slightly on first-year head coach Josh McDaniels. Somewhat surprisingly, the Raiders are favored by a point at home over the Los Angeles Chargers. Which home favorite would you rather lay the point with?
Greg: If I’m a Chargers fan, I’m grabbing my Bolt rosary beads and praying to Zeus that Josh Jacobs misses this game. It feels like this franchise hasn’t had a prayer answered in years, but it’s worth a shot. This line couldn’t be screaming “Raiders” any louder if it were wearing spiked shoulder pads and fighting Niners fans. Vegas ranks 29th in points allowed per drive and Los Angeles ranks 27th, so I expect we’ll see a lot of points and maybe get a third straight overtime win for the Raiders.
How can you fade a scorching-hot Trevor Lawrence versus a terrible Lions defense? Over his last three games, he’s completed 76.9% of his pass attempts and thrown six touchdowns to zero interceptions. Jacksonville’s defense is good enough to get some key stops. Lawrence keeps it rolling in the Motor City. Give me the Raiders.
Pete: Man does this Raiders-Chargers line reek. If you think about it, it kind of does make sense as we're reaching the part of the year where the Chargers lose extremely winnable games and end up missing the playoffs in the most heartbreaking way possible. Good news for Jets fans. Justin Herbert had a big boy drive to pull off the win last week against the Cardinals, and it certainly feels like this will come down to the wire as well. The line is telling us the Raiders might be the right side, but I say that with as little conviction as one can possibly have.
The Lions have been playing well lately, and the Jaguars are better than their record would suggest. Jacksonville is coming off a big win, Detroit is coming off a longer week and a tough loss, plus Detroit is at home for a second straight week. This seems like a good spot for Detroit, so in this choice between two bets I definitely don't love, I lean towards the fighting Dan Campbells.
Commanders or Chiefs?
After starting the season 1-4, the Washington Commanders have won six of seven games with Taylor Heinicke under center for six of those games. This week, they visit MetLife Stadium where they are 2.5-point road favorites against the New York Giants. These teams play twice in three weeks in what could end up deciding a playoff spot in the NFC. Speaking of playoffs, we have a rematch of the AFC championship Game from last year. The Kansas City Chiefs are 2-point road favorites against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals beat the Chiefs twice last year, including the big one that sent them to the Super Bowl. Which road favorite would you rather back?
Greg: I understand everyone sleeping on the Bengals last year, but it’s time to wake up on this squad. They’re getting healthier and have as good a chance at winning the AFC as any other team. Cincinnati’s defense ranks fifth in EPA per play and their offense ranks seventh. Joe Burrow continues his success against the Chiefs and wins this one straight up, making it three in a row over Patrick Mahomes.
Saquon Barkley has 61 rushing yards on 26 carries in the two outings following the Texans game where New York ran him 35 times. That includes a 1.5 yards per carry performance against the Lions. Three days of extra rest will help him out here, but I wouldn’t count on him doing much versus a really solid Washington run defense. So much of the Giants’ success relies on Barkley, putting the Commanders in a prime spot to win and cover. I’m taking Command.
Pete: It's never a comfortable feeling betting against Patrick Mahomes, but me and Greg are on the same wavelength with this one. Ja'Marr Chase is expected back for Cincinnati, and that makes this dangerous team even more dangerous. Joe Mixon is also trending towards playing. Joe Burrow should have all his weapons at his disposal, which means he has the ammunition to keep up in a potential shootout with Mahomes. I trust the Bengals defense more than the Chiefs defense, so I'll roll with the home dog in Ohio.
Everyone knew the Giants weren't as good as their record earlier in the season, so this regression should surprise almost nobody. New York has lost three of four games as its lack of talent is starting to shine through. Once again, I agree with Greg. This Commanders team is built to shut down the run and if you take away Saquon Barkley, suddenly you just need to slow down Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins. I'll go with the Commanders here and hope both teams keep trending the way they're currently going.