NFL
December 2, 2020
BY Bryan Zarpentine

NFL Best Bets: Week 13

With Thanksgiving behind us, we’ve made it to the final five weeks of the NFL season. Even in a season that’s been completely unpredictable in many ways, this is the time of year when bettors should be at their best.

For starters, we’ve seen enough from each team to know exactly who they are, meaning what they’re good at and what they’re bad at. Plus, virtually every team should be motivated to finish the season strong, especially since most teams are still in the hunt for one of the 14 playoff spots.

We’re also hoping to finish the season strong and make some winning picks during the final month of the season.

Here are our five best bets for the Week 13 slate. 

Cleveland Browns +5.5 at Tennessee Titans

The Titans were undoubtedly impressive in last week’s 45-26 win over the Colts. But that was just the second time this season that Tennessee pulled away and won by a wide margin. It won’t be easy to do that for a second straight week against another team that looks like it could be playoff-bound. Keep in mind that the Titans' defense has been rather average for most of the season, which can sometimes make it difficult to cover more than a field goal.

Meanwhile, the Browns are a good choice as an underdog. As much as teams fear the Titans because of Derrick Henry, Cleveland has the best rushing attack in the NFL behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Chubb has been sensational in the three games since returning from injury, averaging 128 yards per game. Between Henry and Chubb, both teams are going to lean on the running game, which will limit possessions and lead to a close and competitive contest. Not to mention, the Browns have only lost one game that Chubb has played this year, making them a smart underdog pick in this game.

Jacksonville Jaguars +9.5 at Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are just killing us. Two weeks ago, they blow a game against the Cowboys that they should have won, and last week, two fumbles that get returned for a touchdown keep them from covering the spread and nearly cost them the game. Needless to say, we don’t feel comfortable siding with Minnesota right now. And the Lions are the only team the Vikings have beat by double digits this season, making 9.5 points a lot to cover, even against the lowly Jaguars.

The key here is the Minnesota defense. Granted, that unit only gave up one touchdown and two field goals last week. But the Vikings have only held one team below 20 points this season. That means the Minnesota offense will have to score a minimum of 30 points to cover. Despite his improved play over the last month, we don’t trust Kirk Cousins that much. As for the Jags, they finally got half-decent quarterback play last week from Mike Glennon. Rookie running back James Robinson has also had a great stretch over the last month. That should be enough to put some points on the board and prevent the Vikings from pulling away. It’s obvious that Jacksonville isn’t giving up late in the season, which is part of the reason why we like them to beat the 9.5-point spread.

Arizona Cardinals +3 vs Los Angeles Rams

There’s a lot to like about the Rams, but there’s still something a little suspicious about them being three-point road favorites against Arizona. Last week’s loss to the 49ers is the perfect example of why Los Angeles might be good enough to make the playoffs but their imperfections could prevent them from advancing too far.

When the offense gets rolling, they can look unstoppable. But Jared Goff is still prone to some poor performances, which he showed last week with three terrible turnovers.

In fairness, the Cardinals have lost three of their last four games. If not for that “Hail Murray” against the Bills, it’d be four straight losses for Arizona. That’s obviously a concern, especially since Kyler Murray has faced a lot more pressure in recent weeks and couldn’t find his rhythm last week against the Patriots.

But all three of Arizona’s recent losses came by one possession and could have easily gone the other way. Plus, the Cardinals lost on the road in Seattle and in New England in the last two weeks. Nobody’s hitting the panic button, especially since the Cardinals have scored at least 30 points in five of their last seven games.

That’s going to make it difficult for the Rams to win and cover, so we like Arizona to get back on track with a win this week.

Philadelphia Eagles +9 at Green Bay Packers

We’re not naive enough to think that the Eagles are going to visit Lambeau Field and come away with a win. But Philadelphia is the kind of team that never gives up and always tries to make things interesting. Just look at last week when they scored a meaningless touchdown with 12 seconds left and converted the two-point conversion to beat the 6.5-point spread.

We can’t deny that it’s been an ugly year for Carson Wentz, nor is he always to blame for his team’s struggles. But he plays all four quarters (for now), and that makes the Eagles a good underdog pick when the spread is more than a touchdown.

Also, the Philadelphia defense isn’t nearly as bad as you’d expect from a 3-7-1 team. The Rams, Steelers and Ravens are the only teams to score 30 points or more against the Eagles this year. They’ve actually done a nice job of containing the Cleveland ground game and the Seattle passing attack in recent weeks.

It’s not a given that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are going to cut through the Philadelphia defense like a hot knife through butter. And don’t forget the Eagles are very much in the NFC East race, so we think they’ll play hard and keep this game closer than the spread indicates.

Kansas City Chiefs -13.5 vs Denver Broncos

It’d be a little unfair to put much stock in last week’s quarterback-less loss for the Broncos. In fact, they deserve a little credit for not just forfeiting the game. The Denver defense even gave the Saints some trouble, keeping them under 300 yards, which is impressive considering New Orleans had the ball for over 35 minutes and the Broncos had just six first downs.

However, even with Drew Lock and the other quarterbacks returning this week, the Broncos are still facing an uphill battle on the road against one of their biggest rivals.

Remember that Lock has completed just 55.6% of his passes this year with more interceptions than touchdowns. He struggled against the Las Vegas defense and couldn’t do anything against the Falcons until garbage time. That doesn’t bode well for the Broncos against a team that held them to 16 points in October.

To be fair, the Broncos played well defensively despite losing 43-16. But even if you take away Kansas City’s pick-six and a kickoff return for a touchdown in that game, the Chiefs would have won by 13 points. It’ll be hard to limit Patrick Mahomes to a mere 200 passing yards and one touchdown again, which is why the Chiefs are a good bet to pull away and embarrass the Broncos in primetime.

Photo: Getty Images