Week 13 features three games between first-place teams and a whole heap of matchups pivotal to playoff futures. It’s also where the punishing grind of the N.F.L. season begins to affect outcomes. Promising teams turn into M.A.S.H. units. Bubble teams face difficult choices about who to play and who to rest. Others get boosted by the return of a starter.
Fans tend to overreact when handicapping how the absence of star players will affect the spread, but an injury to a single skill player doesn’t actually impact the point spread more than a point unless it involves a starting quarterback. Deshaun Watson’s debut for the Browns this week isn’t having much of a market impact at all so far, probably because it’s so hard to predict the effect of his extended absence. Watson served an 11-game suspension after facing allegations of sexual misconduct and did not play during the 2021 season as the Texans sought, at his request, to trade him.
Clusters of injuries matter a great deal, such as those along the Rams’ offensive line, which is currently rated the worst in the league. Even though most linemen never touch a football, they have a major effect on the game. This week, key offensive-line players for the Bills, Dolphins and Chargers are out or hurt, and it could give their opponents an edge.
Last Week’s Record: 7-8-1
Overall Record: 92-82-5
All times Eastern.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Thursday’s Game
- Sunday’s Best Games
- Sunday’s Other Games
- Monday Night’s Game
- How Betting Lines Work
Buffalo Bills (8-3) at New England Patriots (6-5), 8:15 p.m., Amazon Prime
Line: Patriots +4.5 | Total: 44
Josh Allen has more passing yards than anyone in the N.F.L. not named Patrick Mahomes, leads the league in yards per rush attempt and is the Bills’ leading rusher. Buffalo tends to rise or fall based on Allen’s heroic efforts or tragic turnovers, and his load becomes even heavier because the team this week added three more defensive players to the injured list, where they join the star linebacker Von Miller. Center Mitch Morse is also hurt but questionable for Thursday night. Left tackle Dion Dawkins has been ruled out.
The Patriots enter the matchup one game out of playoff contention and have a defense (allows the fourth fewest yards, ranked second in sacks) that could get them there. Against a Bills offensive line that’s got issues, the Patriots could eat. A win would increase their postseason odds from 43 percent to 61 percent, according to the Times’s playoff simulator. Pick: Patriots +4.5
Sunday’s Best Games
Washington Commanders (7-5) at Giants (7-4), 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Giants +2.5 | Total: 40.5
Every N.F.C. East team has a winning record and would be in the playoffs if the regular season ended at Week 12. It doesn’t. The Giants and Commanders play each other twice in the next three weeks, and their games should help put some separation between the teams in the division. The Commanders are 6-1 over the past seven weeks, but their record has obscured Taylor Heinicke’s turnover troubles (five interceptions and two fumbles) and how hard receivers have been working overtime to make his wild passes look clean. Washington’s momentum owes a lot to the defense, which has allowed an average of just 15.4 points per game and leads the league in forced turnovers over the last seven games.
The Giants have lost three of their last four but may be getting a few injured players back this week, including tight end Daniel Bellinger (fractured eye socket), offensive tackle Evan Neal and edge rusher Azeez Ojulari. The Commanders are playing better right now, but that’s why the Giants get the points. Pick: Giants +2.5
Tennessee Titans (7-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-1), 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Eagles -5.5 | Total: 44.5
Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders each set career rushing highs, and the Eagles ran for 363 total yards against the Packers last week. It would be hard to repeat that effort against the Titans, who have the third-best rushing defense in the league and have held every opponent after Week 3 to 20 or fewer points. The Tennessee offense has lately gotten a lift from the rookie receiver Treylon Burks, who had a combined 181 receiving yards over their last two games. Of course, the Titans’ first option will most likely be Derrick Henry, who should do well against an Eagles defense that is giving up 4.7 yards per rush attempt. Pick: Titans +5.5
Miami Dolphins (8-3) at San Francisco 49ers (7-4), 4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: 49ers -3.5 | Total: 46.5
This matchup between the top teams in the A.F.C. East and N.F.C. West should be a test for the Dolphins’ juggernaut offense against the 49ers’ league-best defense. Miami is on a five-game winning streak during which Tua Tagovailoa has thrown 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions. But left tackle Terron Armstead strained his pectoral in the second quarter of last week’s game and might out against the 49ers. That could be enough of an edge for San Francisco. Pick: 49ers -3.5
Kansas City (9-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-4), 4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Bengals +2.5 | Total: 52.5
This game is nominally a rematch of Cincinnati’s wild win in the A.F.C. Championship game, but it may be more appropriate to think of it as a rematch of their regular season meeting in Week 17 last season. The Bengals were a middling 5-4 at midseason and hardly looked like a Super Bowl contender until beating Kansas City, 34-31.
This season, Cincinnati was 5-4 again after Week 9 and is on another confidence building second-half tear. The team also may get Ja’Marr Chase back from hip injury. They’ll need him to help keep pace with the Kansas City offense, the league’s top-scoring team, averaging the most yards per play (6.5), and yards per game (430). But last week against the Rams, Kansas City showed a crack in its armor: In six trips to the red zone, the team scored only one touchdown. To cover as home underdogs, the Bengals will need to pick at that flaw. Pick: Bengals +2.5
Sunday’s Other Games
Jets (7-4) at Minnesota Vikings (9-2), 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Vikings -3 | Total: 45.5
For the second time in two seasons, Mike White swooped in for a game and upgraded the Jets offense. White had 22 completions on 28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns last week against the depleted Bears, but this is a Jets team that beat Miami and Buffalo this season behind Zach Wilson, thanks to talent around the field including the league’s fourth-best red-zone defense. The Vikings have weapons of their own, including Justin Jefferson, who has one fewer receiving yard (1,232) than the league leader, Tyreek Hill. Minnesota’s defense, however, is second only to Detroit in yards allowed per game and per play, so White could have another showcase. Pick: Jets +3
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7) at Atlanta Falcons (5-7), 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Falcons -1 | Total: 41.5
Atlanta had a shot to beat the Commanders last week, but Marcus Mariota’s pass from the 4-yard line was picked off with 58 seconds left in the game. It was a familiar ending for the Falcons, who have lost five games by 6 points or fewer this season. Still, Atlanta is only a half-game back of the Buccaneers in the N.F.C. South, and their remaining schedule has just one team with a winning record. The Steelers are not that team. Despite Kenny Pickett having perhaps the best game of his season in a 24-17 win over the Colts on Monday night, the Steelers still average the second-fewest yards per play of any team in the N.F.L. Pick: Falcons -1
Green Bay Packers (4-8) at Chicago Bears (3-9), 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Bears +4 | Total: 43.5
There are still questions about who will play quarterback for both of these teams. Aaron Rodgers, already playing with a broken thumb, left last week’s loss with a rib injury. He said he expected to be ready for Sunday’s game though Jordan Love took the snaps in his absence and completed 6 of 9 passes for 113 yards, leading the Packers to 10 points in two possessions.
For the Bears, Justin Fields sat out last week with a separated shoulder and Coach Matt Eberflus had not said, as of Wednesday, whether Fields would play this week. The Bears have lost eight of their last nine, and seven of those losses came despite Fields’s putting up impressive numbers. If he’s out, it’s hard to picture Chicago covering this number. If he’s in, the Packers should still have an advantage with either of their quarterbacks under center. Pick: Packers -4
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) at Detroit Lions (4-7), 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Lions +1.5 | Total: 51
Trevor Lawrence threw for an astounding 173 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of the Jaguars’ 1-point upset over the Ravens last week. It would be foolish to expect a repeat, especially given the Jaguars’ struggles on the road, where the team has lost 21 of 22 games.
They match up well, though, with the Lions: The two teams can move the ball on offense, and their defenses are similarly atrocious. The market was nearly evenly split by midweek. In an even contest, take the points at home. Pick: Lions +1.5
Denver Broncos (3-8) at Baltimore Ravens (7-4), 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Ravens -8 | Total: 38.5
In every one of the Ravens’ four losses this season, they were ahead by 9 or more points in the second half. If there’s one team they should be able to close against, it’s the Broncos. Denver is averaging 14.3 points per game, the team’s lowest average since 1966 and an offense so bad that the under is 10-1 in Broncos games this season. Not only has more than 75 percent of the money come in on the under for this game, but bettors are laying the points at about the same rate. Pick: Ravens -8
Cleveland Browns (4-7) at Houston Texans (1-9-1), 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Texans +7 | Total: 47.5
The Texans traded Deshaun Watson in 2022 as the league investigated allegations from more than two dozen women that he sexually harassed and assaulted them during massage appointments. (He settled 23 lawsuits with accusers and two grand juries declined to indict him.) Since signing a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract with the Browns, Watson’s return to play has been anticipated as a flash point between critics of the N.F.L.’s handling of his case and a team that banked its future on the former Pro Bowl quarterback.
This week, Watson is expected to start for a Browns team that needs to win at least five of their last six games to have a shot at the playoffs. Cleveland seemingly gets a layup this week against a dead-and-buried Houston Texans team, whose best offensive player, running back Dameon Pierce, has been neutralized in the past few weeks as defenses homed in on him. The Texans came close to covering the 13-point spread against the Dolphins last week only because Miami decided to pull their quarterback in the third quarter and eased up ahead by 30. Cleveland, at least on paper, is capable of putting up big numbers in Houston. Pick: Browns -7
Seattle Seahawks (6-5) at Los Angeles Rams (3-8), 4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: Rams +8 | Total: 42
Seattle looked like it had figured out their defensive issues but have fallen out of the playoff picture after having lost their last two, including a Week 12 overtime defeat in which they allowed the Raiders to score 40 points. Playing the Rams twice in the next six weeks should offer the Seahawks a chance to get right.
Los Angeles’s injured reserve list is massive and expected to grow: Receiver Allen Robinson is out for the season with a foot injury, Cooper Kupp isn’t expected to play again in the regular season, Matthew Stafford is questionable for Sunday and Aaron Donald is being evaluated for a high ankle sprain that may see him shut down for the remaining schedule. Their backups have been trying to tread water as the team has attrited and nearly covered a 15-point spread against Kansas City last week. This game opened at 4.5 and has been adjusted all the way to 8 in an effort to get somebody — anybody — to take the Rams. We volunteer as tribute. Pick: Rams +8
Los Angeles Chargers (6-5) at Las Vegas Raiders (4-7), 4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Raiders +2.5 | Total: 50
The Chargers have given up at least 157 rushing yards in each of their past five games, and their average of 5.4 yards allowed per rush is the worst in the league. This week, they have to figure out how to stop not only the run, but also a whole freight train. Josh Jacobs has been on a heater and took the top spot among running backs last week after an 86-yard touchdown run against Seattle helped vault his total yards for the season to 1,159. In that overtime game, he set a team record with 303 yards from scrimmage, including 74 receiving yards, and led the Raiders to their second-straight win.
Chargers center Corey Linsley left last week’s win against Arizona with a concussion, and the Cardinals were able to pressure Justin Herbert on every play after he went out. Linsley is expected to sit this one out, and if he does the Chargers will have a tough time again. Pick: Raiders +2.5
Indianapolis Colts (4-7-1) at Dallas Cowboys (8-3), 8:20 p.m., NBC
Line: Cowboys -11 | Total: 43.5
Matt Ryan beware: The Cowboys defense is first in quarterback pressure rate and fewest passing yards allowed per game, and they’ve bagged a league-best 45 sacks. The Colts, despite having the most expensive offensive line in the league, have allowed 43 sacks, the most of any team this season. This line opened at 9, and one way action on the Cowboys moved it to 11. That’s nearing the upper limits of what the Cowboys can stand. They failed to cover 9.5 against the Giants for us last week, but we’re not about to pick the Colts. Pick: Cowboys -11
Monday Night’s Game
New Orleans Saints (4-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6), 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Line: Buccaneers -3.5 | Total: 39.5
These N.F.C. South rivals tend to play rough, with the Saints’ having won the past four meetings in Tampa Bay. But the Buccaneers, coming off a painful overtime loss to the Browns, still sit atop the division and have the more recent victory. In their Week 2 meeting, the Buccaneers picked off Jameis Winston three times and won, 20-10. Marshon Lattimore, who was ejected in that game for a scuffle with Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans, returns to the lineup for New Orleans just in time for the rematch, though the Saints have settled on Andy Dalton as the starter.
The Buccaneers always get a lot of support in the betting markets no matter the opponent, and especially when facing a team struggling as much as the Saints are. But this line opened at 6.5, and the money has been all New Orleans, moving the line a full field goal in the Buccaneers’ favor. At this number, the market may want to take a second look at the home team. Pick: Buccaneers -3.5
How Betting Lines Work
A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Buccaneers -2.5, for example, means that Tampa Bay must beat the Seahawks by at least 3 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, which is whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.
Betting-market data is taken from Action Network’s Public Betting data, and lines are taken from Unabated’s real-time-odds tracker.