Last week: 9-6 on the Thanksgiving weekend and the final week of byes this year. 112-63 for the season forecast. 

Thursday Night

- New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys (+7.5): The high-flying Saints offense meets the stingy Cowboys defense, led by NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month Leighton Vander Esch. New Orleans loves to distribute the ball all around the field, and that gives Drew Brees an advantage. He consistently finds the best matchup, even against defenses where there aren’t many to be found. Underrated here is the Saints run defense, best in the league in yards per attempt allowed. That makes for some tough sledding for Zeke Elliott, and the Dallas offense doesn’t work when he’s not great. 

Saints 27, Cowboys 21

Sunday Games

- Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans (-6): The Browns have their first win streak in over four years, but they face a much stiffer test in the Texans. Houston has won eight in a row, though their strength of schedule in the streak isn’t exactly impressive. I’d like the Browns a lot more here if I thought their offensive tackles could handle Jadeveon Clowney, J.J. Watt and a creative defense attack from former Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel. This might be the most entertaining watch of the Sunday slate, and I’m not just saying that because I cover the Browns for USA TODAY and covered the Texans last year, too.

Texans 30, Browns 24 

- Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers (-14): The Packers are not a good football team. Yet here they are favored by 14 points at home. I know Arizona is struggling badly in just about everything an NFL team can struggle with, but the Packers team I’ve watched the last few weeks isn’t two TDs better than anyone. 

Packers 27, Cardinals 17

- Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons (-1): The betting lines are all over the place on this game. Bovada, where all the lines here are taken from, is joined by several sportsbooks by favoring the home Falcons by a point. There are other books who have the game as a pick ‘em, and a couple of online houses actually have the Ravens favored by a point.

In short, nobody really knows what to expect from two enigmatically disappointing teams. I expect a big game from Julio Jones and the Atlanta defense, as wretched as it typically is, to make adjustments and slow down Lamar Jackson now that there’s game tape on the rookie QB to study. 

Falcons 32, Ravens 28

- Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5): Carolina is but 1-4 on the road and has losses to teams of the Buccaneers caliber mixed in there. For whatever reason, the Panthers turn into pussycats on the road. I trust Jameis Winston as far as I can throw a cluster of king crab legs, but they are the tepid pick at home. 

Buccaneers 33, Panthers 30

- Chicago Bears at New York Giants (NL): There was no line here because of the then-questionable status of Mitchell Trubisky. Now that the Bears QB is ruled out once again, it gives the Giants a more reasonable chance to win. Lost in the bullish hawking of Chicago’s Thanksgiving win over the Lions is how mediocre the team looked and how awful they ran the ball with Chase Daniel at QB. The Giants would be the pick for the upset here but methinks they breathed out their death gasp in choking away a win against the Eagles after the vultures were already descending on the defending champs. 

Bears 20, Giants 17 

- Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (-5): Miami was once 3-0. They’re 2-6 since, and I see them being favored here as bookmakers clinging to the delusional illusion that the 3-0 start is somehow more prescient in picking them than their terrible record since. Buffalo’s defense is the best unit on either squad in this matchup and that carries them to the road upset.

Bills 19, Dolphins 13

- Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals (+5): Jeff Driskel gets his first NFL start for the Bengals. He’s in the lineup because Andy Dalton is on IR after getting hurt trying to recover an errant snap that sailed some 25 yards behind him last week. Driskel played reasonably well in the loss to the Browns and his mobility could pose a problem. But the hilariously tragic nature of Dalton’s injury epitomizes the doomed fate of Marvin Lewis and his Cincinnati team. 

Broncos 28, Bengals 21 

- Los Angeles Rams at Detroit Lions (+10): Watch this one to check out how Detroit’s future offensive coordinator fares against the team that will hire him away after they can Jim Bob Cooter. Shane Waldron and Zac Taylor are both going to be hot candidates for their work in helping guide the Rams dynamic offense. After seeing this Detroit offense without Marvin Jones, Golden Tate and perhaps impressive rookie RB Kerryon Johnson (on the doubtful side of questionable with a knee sprain), Waldron and Taylor might be encouraged to stay with the powerhouse Rams.

Rams 30, Lions 10

- Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars  (+5): Cody Kessler takes over for Blake Bortles at quarterback for the Jaguars. Jacksonville fans wondered if things could possibly get worse than Bortles. To channel Hans Gruber from Die Hard, “You ask for miracles, I give you Cody Kessler.” Be legitimately surprised if the Jaguars score more than once. 

Colts 23, Jaguars 6 

- Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders (+15.5): Since I made my decree to pick against the Raiders every single week, I’ve been wrong once in 6 tries. This will not be the 2nd. I’d take the Chiefs at +25... 

Chiefs 54, Raiders 13 

- New York Jets at Tennessee Titans (-8): Marcus Mariota has been hyper-accurate with his passing in 2018, but it’s not producing points for the Titans offense. I think that oddity gets a bit rectified with the woebegone Jets visiting Nashville. The Titans are coming off a short work week, so be careful in being overconfident.

Titans 26, Jets 17

- Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots (-6): In Week 13, the Patriots are going after their 13th consecutive home win. The Vikings remain among the most disappointing teams despite being 6-4-1, and their bad luck continues with a bad case of triskaidekaphobia.

Patriots 23, Vikings 13 

- San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-10): Things as likely as the 49ers winning this game in Seattle:

  • Gene Simmons saying “no” to any offer that would earn KISS a dime
  • Mariah Carey wearing a top that doesn’t reveal her ridiculous cleavage
  • Me willingly eating at Burger King 

Seahawks 31, 49ers 9

- Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5): Philip Rivers set the NFL record for passing accuracy in a single game last week. That doesn’t happen by accident. Pittsburgh’s secondary will fare better than Arizona’s against the LA aerial attack. I also believe the Pittsburgh pass rush will disrupt the Chargers offense, which will be handicapped without RB Melvin Gordon. The Los Angeles defense will keep this close, but in the end a late TD from Ben Roethlisberger to Juju Smith-Schuster catapults the home team to victory.

Steelers 29, Chargers 27

Monday Night

- Washington at Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5): This is a critical game in the NFC playoff race and the NFC East title chase. If Washington can somehow win, it puts the Eagles 2 full games back with 4 to play...and that’s regardless of what happens with Dallas on Thursday night. I don’t like being “that guy”, but the negative karma of the Skins claiming bad boy LB Reuben Foster will bite them hard in Philly. The Eagles stay alive and get back to .500 with the win. Somehow… 

Eagles 24, Washington 20

College Games 

Washington 25, Utah 20

Northwestern 33, Ohio State 30

Oklahoma 34, Texas 24

Fresno State 24, Boise State 21

UCF 46, Memphis 38

Alabama 27, Georgia 10

Clemson 40, Pittsburgh 14