Last week: 13-3 including a turkey day sweep. 123-63 straight up on the season, four straight weeks of 10-plus wins.
The first weekend of December is normally a time where weather plays a huge role in many cities, but unseasonably mild and innocuous conditions in places like Green Bay and Baltimore make for optimal football conditions. No frozen tundra or slip-sliding away in Week 13.
- Washington at Dallas Cowboys (even): This relentlessly overhyped battle between NFC East also-rans does have some watchability factor. If your team is in search of a quarterback this coming offseason, Kirk Cousins is likely the biggest free-agent fish in the pond. Cousins should have a big night against a Dallas defense that has some punch but also a glass jaw, particularly with standout LB Sean Lee out. If you’re one who likes hearing canned, overwrought narrative stories that have little to do with the action on the field, this broadcast is for you, too.
Washington 30, Cowboys 23
- Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons (-3): For the teams below the Falcons in the NFC playoff race, this game is critical. An Atlanta win is a major blow to the aspirations of Seattle and Detroit, and the Falcons’ ability to win NFC games is outstanding. They’re 6-1 and that is a major tiebreaker advantage. I like the rediscovery of Julio Jones and the return of Devonta Freeman to help the home team keep up that sterling conference record. I also like their secondary to handle Minnesota’s offensive attack. Just have a feeling the Vikings are due for a letdown even with the added rest from their Thanksgiving win.
Falcons 32, Vikings 17
- Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens (-3): The Ravens have the worst passing offense of the last decade, and one of the most anemic downfield attacks of the last 25 years, yet somehow they keep winning. The Baltimore defensive front is a good one, and they’re capable of creating turnovers. If the Lions had any run game to call off the Ravens dogs and blitzes, I’d like them here. But the Detroit offense is one-dimensional and predictable, particularly in the first quarter, where the Lions have the league’s worst point differential over the last six weeks. One advantage for the Lions: they played last Thursday and the Ravens are coming off a Monday Night Football date with a very physical Houston team.
Lions 19, Ravens 17
- Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-7): Any real hope the Texans had of replicating the 57-14 beatdown in Week 4 went away when Deshaun Watson went down a few weeks ago. Adding to the growing list of Texans injury woes is the loss of left tackle Chris Clark. The Titans are flawed despite their winning record, but they’re healthy and poised to take advantage of the ailing Texans with a revenge game.
Titans 24, Texans 10
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers (NL): Jameis Winston returns for Tampa Bay, and he gets lucky in facing a Packers team that cannot rush the passer or cover the middle of the field. This has not been a good year for Winston but he’s still an advantage over Brett Hundley despite the latter’s relatively solid performance in the loss to Pittsburgh. However, the Bucs have no real answer if Hundley can find Davante Adams and Randall Cobb reliably. Despite the dilapidated roster, they’re still the Packers at home.
Packers 27, Buccaneers 21
- New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (+8.5): A peek behind the process…I’m writing this while watching a History Channel marathon on the presidents. As someone with a history degree, it’s shameful how little I know about Grover Cleveland. He looked like he could play offensive guard pretty effectively, too. The Patriots could use someone like that, though the Bills are not the team to challenge them.
Patriots 34, Bills 24
- Denver Broncos at Miami Dolphins (+1): Raise your hand if you know who is playing quarterback for both teams. No cheating! Yeah, I thought not…
Broncos 17, Dolphins 13
- San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears (-3.5): Jimmy Garoppolo gets his first start for the 49ers and he gets it in his hometown of Chicago. It will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure and intense media spotlight from both sides. He gets a decent matchup against a sinking Bears ship and could provide the final nail in John Fox’s coaching coffin in Chicago. This game features the two weakest wide receiving corps in the league.
49ers 20, Bears 17
- Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets (+3.5): You know it’s bad for Kansas City when you trust Josh McCown’s derring-do with Robbie Anderson more than you trust Alex Smith and all the weapons at his disposal…but I do. Part of that has to do with the overlooked decline in the Chiefs defense. I smell something upset brewing here, and it’s not the leftover stuffing in the back of the fridge.
Jets 28, Chiefs 20
- Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (-9.5): The Colts have lost three of their last four, but by a total of just eight points. The Indy defense is playing better. Losing CB Rashaan Melvin hurts the cause. Jacksonville’s lackluster loss last week in Arizona should prove a refocusing point to help them get right again, too.
Jaguars 26, Colts 9
- Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-4): A pair of 8-3 division rivals meet with the NFC South lead on the line. Even though the game is in New Orleans, that might not be an advantage; the Panthers have won 10 of the last 15 meetings in NOLA. Carolina’s offense is humming along nicely with 90 points in the last three games, all wins. They’re playing much better than the first meeting two months ago, when the Saints routed them in Charlotte 34-13. With stud rookie CB Marshon Lattimore battling a nagging ankle injury and Devin Funchess stepping up as the legit No. 1 receiver, I like the Panthers on the road.
(It's at this point where smart people run to the other position and take the Saints.)
Panthers 23, Saints 20
- Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (+7): I was impressed by the Rams’ resiliency last Sunday in shutting down the Saints after a bad loss to Minnesota a week earlier. The defense should have another strong effort against the Cardinals and their league-worst 3.0 yards per carry. Blaine Gabbert has looked competent at QB and scored what might be the apex of his career in beating his old Jaguars team last week. I’m not saying Gabbert can’t do it again, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Rams 31, Cardinals 15
- Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers (-14): The Chargers are the only team Browns coach Hue Jackson has beaten in his 27 games as Cleveland’s head coach. Don’t expect that to happen again, though the Browns defense should keep them within the 14-point spread. As long as DeShone Kizer doesn’t turn the ball over, I do like the Browns to make this a close one. Pay attention to the kicking battle here too, as both teams are struggling mightily.
Chargers 27, Browns 17
- New York Giants at Oakland Raiders (-7.5): How will the Giants respond to Geno Smith starting over Eli Manning? Will rookie Davis Webb see some action? Will any of it really matter for the visitors from New York?
The short answers:
Probably well at first, but wait for that first mistake from Geno that costs the team a possession. Given Smith’s history, it will happen.
Webb should play, if only so the Giants can see what they’ve got in the Senior Bowl MVP.
Heck no, this team checked out on oddly coiffed coach Ben McAdoo weeks ago.
Raiders 23, Giants 10
- Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks (+5.5): Jim Schwartz’s attacking Eagles defense against what’s left of the Seattle offensive line and running backs is perhaps the biggest mismatch on paper of any matchup all weekend. There are only so many hats and rabbits for Russell Wilson to pull out, and even then I’m not sure it can match what leading MVP candidate Carson Wentz will do to their diminished defense.
Eagles 34, Seahawks 20
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (+5.5): The most interesting aspect of this AFC North matchup is if hotheaded Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict gets ejected, and how many Steelers hit back and join him in the showers early. Awkward phrasing aside, that’s what I’m watching for. The Steelers aren’t as reliable on the road, so don’t be overconfident in them winning in Cincinnati.
Steelers 30, Bengals 27
Stanford 33, USC 24
UCF 39, Memphis 35
Oklahoma 30, TCU 21
Toledo 43, Akron 37
Clemson 30, Miami 13
Auburn 24, Georgia 20
Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 22