After taking Thanksgiving week off, the column is back for another week. It’s Christmas season and December is the stretch run for these playoff teams.
Heading into Week 13, we have some pretty significant storylines.
We have Kansas City in a revenge game against Cincinnati. The Jets are looking to make their first playoff appearance in 11 years. The Chargers have their playoff hopes hanging in the balance in a game in Sin City, we will talk about if Justin Herbert can deliver this time around. A win against Minnesota on the road would get them there, we will have playoff football in the Meadowlands?? Also, it’s been a dreadful season for the Super Bowl champions but let me tell you why I have a lot of optimism for them this week. How can I forget the game of the week between the Dolphins and 49ers.
Before we get to the picks, a quick reminder: All picks are presented by the Betfred Sportsbook, where you can bet $50 on any game this weekend and get $250 in free bets. Take advantage of the offer in the Betfred Sportsbook.
Without further ado, here are the picks.
New York Jets at Minnesota
Spread: Minnesota (-3)
The New York Jets find themselves in uncharted territory playing meaningful football in December. The Jets have failed to make the postseason in the last 11 years. Mike White has been a rejuvenation at quarterback with the benching of Zach Wilson.
White threw for four touchdown passes last week against the Bears, all while the Jets defense has been one of the best units in the NFL. They rank fourth overall in DVOA and top ten in pressure rate. Rookie corner Sauce Gardner is the number two ranked corner according to PFF. Now they have to go on the road to Minnesota.
The Vikings have a chance to clinch the NFC North with a win and a Detroit loss here.
Still, the stats haven’t loved the Vikings. They rank 31st in yards allowed and dead last in yards per play on defense. But thankfully they are playing a lackluster Jets offense. The Vikings have continued to win close games. They have been good at home.
I have the Vikings ranked ahead of the Jets in my power rankings and the line seems short here. While the Vikings give up tons of yards they make up for it by making big defensive plays. They are in the top 10 in both pressure rate and interception rate. This is a tough task to expect Mike White to play at the same level on the road. The Jets backfield is banged up as well. I think Minnesota can get Dalvin Cook involved; they will be able to put up enough points offensively.
The Jets have been a great story but Minnesota is the overall better team. I’ll take the Vikings here.
The pick: Minnesota (-3)
Washington at New York Giants
Spread: Washington (-2)
Did you know Taylor Heinicke is 8-0-1 against the number over his last nine games? The Commanders have had a major turnaround since Heinicke has been under center. Now they are gearing off for a late playoff push.
Still, this is a must win game for both teams. Washington has one more game until the bye and then they play New York right after the bye. As far as weird trends, teams playing in a divisional game two weeks prior to their bye week are 6-0 this season and 48-13 over the last six seasons against the spread.
I like Washington to control the line of scrimmage on both sides. New York has been a great story, but they aren’t a good football team. The Giants rank 16th in DVOA on offense and 28th on the defensive side of the ball. Washington’s defense ranks fourth in the NFL in pressure rate and New York’s O-Line is banged up. They don't have the receivers to win on the outside. This is going to be a nightmare game for Daniel Jones.
I like Washington to keep the mojo going. Willing to lay the two points on the road.
The pick: Washington -2
Pittsburgh at Atlanta
Spread: Pick 'em
Everyone saw Pittsburgh’s big one against Indy on Monday Night Football. Kenny Pickett is getting comfortable. They are playing an Atlanta team that just lost their best offensive weapon and they have lost three out of their last four.
So why back to Atlanta here?
I think there is value in the home team. Despite the three losses, Atlanta has given up less than five yards per play in three out of those games. They were a possession away from beating a good Washington team. They had the Chargers on their heels at home as well. There has been a lot of bad luck. I’ll take Mariota as the more stable quarterback, especially since the Steelers defense has struggled against mobile quarterbacks.
This is sort of a game where the tides favor the Falcons. Give me Atlanta in a close one.
The pick: Atlanta ML
Miami at San Francisco
Spread: San Francisco (-4)
This is probably my favorite game of the week. Mike McDaniel going back to the Bay Area to face his old mentor. Both of these coaching staffs know each other extremely well.
With the offenses having the focal point going into this matchup, the defenses are going to shine. Both defenses practice against the offense 200 days out of the year. They know the audibles, alignment cues, calls, and etc. Both offenses want to run the ball but both defenses are stellar against the run. San Francisco ranks second in rush defense DVOA while Miami ranks 12th. While Miami will try to beat San Francisco with their weapons, I’m not sure Tua is going to have a lot of time to throw the ball. San Francisco ranks seventh in pressure rate. The defense is going to be flying all over the place.
Miami has been an over team all year, but that trend stops Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo is going to have to show he can push the ball downfield. McDaniel knows all of Jimmy G’s weaknesses. We are going to see them on display Sunday. This is going to be a hard-fought grind it out game that ends in a score around 21-17. Which gives us an under.
The pick: Under 45.5
Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas
Spread: Pick 'Em
The last time these two teams met in Vegas, the Raiders sent the Chargers home and clinched their first playoff berth in more than half a decade. Now the stakes are the same. The Chargers need to win this game to keep their postseason chances alive.
They are going to do it, as always, on the back of Justin Herbert, because the Chargers defense isn't stopping anyone. Los Angeles ranks 22nd in overall DVOA and is 29th in rush DVOA. They are giving up a league worst 5.1 yards per rush. They are facing Josh Jacobs who is running like a mad man. Jacobs ran for 222 yards against Seattle and then went for 105 against the league’s best run defense in Denver. Then you have to factor in Davonte Adams on the outside too.
Thankfully for Los Angeles, the Raiders have the worst defense in the league ranking 32nd in defensive DVOA. If we get the Raiders to get out to an early lead, the Chargers are going to be ultra-aggressive. We can see Justin Herbert slinging the rock 40+ times. Even with a depleted receiving corps, LA is going to move the ball all over the Raiders. I can’t believe this total is below 50. I’ll gladly ride out over here.
The pick: over 50
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
Spread: Seattle (-7)
The Rams have been putrid all year while Seattle has been another surprise playoff contender in the NFC. Former Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins is making his second career start. He has a lot of progress to be made from his first outing at Kansas City.
I think Perkins being in there gives this team a boost. The Rams defense had one of their better performances holding KC to just 26 points despite losing the field position battle the whole game. Seattle is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Las Vegas at home. Seattle’s defense ranks 26th in DVOA.
Sean McVay has been extremely successful against Pete Caroll in his coaching tenure. You can’t go wrong with a divisional home dog.
I like the Rams to keep it close here.
The pick: Rams (+7)
Follow Austin on Twitter - @AMontgomeryLive