Minnesota Vikings: 2013 Week 13 NFL Power Rankings (#31)

Last week: 31 (+0)

Record: 2-8-1

The Vikings blew their chance at a win last week as Green Bay came back to tie it, but it might have been more beneficial to lose that game at this point. Tying essentially locks them out of the #1 pick unless Houston, Jacksonville, and Atlanta can all win one more game. The Vikings probably don’t need to worry about winning any more games though as their final 5 opponents all have .500 or better records right now.

Week 12 Studs

FB Rhett Ellison

RT Phil Loadholt

RE Jared Allen

DT Kevin Williams

CB Xavier Rhodes

Week 12 Duds

LE Everson Griffen

LOLB Chad Greenway

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Jacksonville Jaguars: 2013 Week 13 NFL Power Rankings (#32)

Last week: 32 (+0)

Record: 2-9

The Jaguars may have won 2 games, but make no mistake about it, this is still one of the all-time bad NFL teams. While their two wins have been close by a touchdown or less, all 9 of their losses have come by double digits. They have easily the worst point differential in the NFL at -182. No one else is worse than -101. Their -14% rate of moving the chains differential is also easily the worst in the NFL, with no one else worse than -7%. In terms of DVOA, they are not only the worst team in the NFL by far this season, but they 4th worst team in terms of DVOA through 11 games since Football Outsiders started keeping the stat in 1991. The Jaguars desperately need a franchise quarterback to help them right the ship as fast as possible, but if they keep winning like this, they may be blowing their chances. They’ll need to lose to Houston in the rematch next week, in the Teddy Bridgewater bowl.

Week 12 Studs

RB Maurice Jones-Drew

Week 12 Duds

LT Cameron Bradfield

RT Austin Pasztor

LG Will Rackley

RG Uche Nwaneri

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Miami Dolphins at New York Jets: 2013 Week 13 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (5-6) at New York Jets (5-6)

The Jets snapped their streak of alternating wins and losses by losing in Baltimore last week and now sit at 5-6. Geno Smith seems to have hit a rookie wall, completing 25 of 64 (39.1%) for 345 yards (5.39 YPA), no touchdowns, and 5 interceptions over the past 3 weeks. So they suck and should be avoided at all costs right? Well that seems to be what the public thinks as they want no part of the Jets as favorites, making the Dolphins a public underdog.

Well, there’s some truth to that. Geno Smith is easily playing like a bottom-3 quarterback right now and the Jets actually have the 2nd worst point differential in the NFL at -101, only better than Jacksonville. They are moving the chains at a mere 66% rate, as opposed to 71% for their opponents, which ranks 27th in the NFL. However, the Dolphins might actually be worse. They are moving the chains at a 70% rate, thanks to large part to a dysfunctional (in more ways than one) offensive line. Defensively, they are allowing opponents to move the chains at a 76% rate, as their retooled defense has not lived up to expectations.

That’s 30th in the NFL and suggests that the Jets should actually be favored by more than two points. They still have a phenomenal defensive line with 3 players who are all deserving of Pro-Bowl consideration (Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson). They can overwhelm the weakness of the Dolphins, their offensive line, and force the Dolphins’ offense down to the level of the Jets’ offense.

I also like how the Jets have dealt with adversity and the public and the media thinking they’re terrible over the past 2 years. This could be a real statement game for them as they seek to stay alive in the playoff race. The Jets have also been better at home this season, going 4-1 including wins over New Orleans and New England, as opposed to 1-4 on the road, where they’ve dropped their last two. Geno Smith’s quarterback rating is close to 20 points higher at home than on the road, but the Jets could win this game even if he doesn’t play well. Teams are more than just quarterbacks, especially this one. Smith completed just 8 passes in their win over the Saints. I’m taking the Jets and fading the public underdog as long as this line is 3 or lower, but I’m not that confident.

New York Jets 13 Miami Dolphins 10

Pick against spread: NY Jets -2

Confidence: None

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New York Giants at Washington Redskins: 2013 Week 13 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-7) at Washington Redskins (3-8)

I’m torn on this one. On one hand, this line seems pretty off at first glance. The Giants aren’t significantly better than the Redskins, which is what this line would suggest, as the Giants are favored in Washington. The Redskins were favored by 1.5 points last week in the early line, so the line has essentially shifted 3 points in a week as a result of the Redskins’ very public blowout loss to the 49ers at home. The Redskins didn’t look good, but they still might be a better team than the Giants.

They are moving the chains at a 75% rate, as opposed to 78% for their opponents, a differential that is 22nd in the NFL. The Giants, on the other hand, are moving the chains at a 68% rate, as opposed to 73% for their opponent, which ranks 28th. This suggests the Redskins should be favored by 4.5 points. Even if the Giants are a better team than the Redskins, it’s hard to make the argument that they’re 4.5 points better, which is what them being favored by 1.5 points on the road suggests. Football Outsiders backs this up as the Giants are just 26th in DVOA, while the Redskins are 29th. That’s pretty even.

The Redskins didn’t play well against the 49ers last week, but the 49ers are a very good team, especially off of a loss. They’ve been blowing out sub-.500 teams all season, beating them by about an average of 20.3 points per game, which is about what the Redskins lost by. There’s not a ton of shame in that. That loss also puts them in a good spot as home underdogs are 65-45 ATS since 2002 off of a loss as home underdogs. The Giants are also in a bad spot going on the road off of 3 straight home games as favorites. Teams are 26-41 ATS in that spot since 1989, including 18-31 ATS as road favorites. The Giants aren’t used to being away from home.

On the other hand, the Redskins seem to be self-destructing a little bit. On the season, they might be the better team than the Giants, but maybe not right now. They seem to be getting worse by the week, while the Giants have solved a lot of their turnover issues and are getting key players healthy. The Giants might not be 4.5 points better than the Redskins either way, but consider that NFC East teams usually are much better on the road than at home.

The NFC East is 43-75 ATS at home, as opposed to 67-54 ATS on the road. As a result, the home team in divisional matchups is just 17-27 ATS over that time frame and 26-44 ATS if you expand the sample size back to 2008. The Giants in particular are 52-32 ATS on the road since Tom Coughlin took over in 2004. Winning on the road, especially against still a small line, might not be that big of a deal.

While the Redskins are in a good spot as home underdogs off a loss as home underdogs, they’re also in a bad spot as home underdogs before being home underdogs as the Chiefs come to town next week. Teams are 67-91 ATS in that spot since 2002. Since 1989, teams are 8-16 ATS as home underdogs before being home underdogs after a loss as home underdogs, so that trend would seem to nullify the previous trend and then some.

There is also a trend that benefits the Giants as teams are 47-31 ATS as road favorites off of a loss by 1-3 points as home favorites. The Giants lost by 3 to the Cowboys last week, in another example of NFC East road supremacy. The Giants might just continue that this week, against a small line. Gun to my head, I’m taking the Redskins and fading the heavy public lean on the Giants, but I’m not confident at all.

Washington Redskins 23 New York Giants 20 Upset Pick +100

Pick against spread: Washington +1.5

Confidence: None

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Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles: 2013 Week 13 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (7-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)

The Eagles snapped their 10 game home losing streak before the bye against the Redskins, beating them 24-16 in a game that wasn’t really even as close as that final score. The big difference was they had Nick Foles under center. Foles proved his first home start of the season, against the Cowboys, was a fluke. That game is clearly the outlier of his season, as he completed 11 of 29 for 80 yards against the Cowboys’ terrible defense there.

On the season, he’s playing out of his mind, completing 63.6% of his passes for an average of 9.59 YPA, 16 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. He’s the real deal. He might not consistently go 162 attempts without throwing an interception and 7 of his 16 touchdowns did come in one game, but he’s proven himself as a legitimate NFL starting quarterback. His coaching situation doesn’t hurt. Like he did with Michael Vick, Chip Kelly is getting the most of Foles.

On one hand, I don’t want to lose more money going against Nick Foles (Washington was my Pick of the Week last week). However, I also don’t want to overcorrect and be all over Nick Foles. Foles could struggle, by his 2013 standards, off of the bye now that he’s officially been anointed the starter and now that he’s had two weeks to hear how good he is. Arizona is also by far the toughest defense he’s faced thus far this season. There’s a big difference between Arizona and Washington, who has one of the worst defenses in the NFL and has since proven themselves as one of the worst overall teams in the NFL. The Eagles’ win over them doesn’t seem as impressive now. There also still might be something to the Eagles’ home struggles.

On paper, the Cardinals appear to be the better team, which is not what this line would suggest. The Cardinals rank 9th in the NFL, moving the chains at a 73% rate, as opposed to 70% for their opponents. The Eagles, meanwhile, rank 20th, moving the chains at a 76% rate, as opposed to 77% for their opponents. The Eagles are better than that now that Foles is under center, but I’m still concerned about their defense and I’m concerned about how Foles will handle Arizona’s tough defense, especially now that he’s had two weeks to hear how great he is.

The Cardinals are also in a good spot as they are a distraction free underdog, hosting the Rams next week. Teams are 114-85 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional road underdogs before being divisional home favorites. Again, I don’t want to lose anything else betting against Foles and I really wish we were getting more than a field goal with the Cardinals because I think this could be a field goal game, but I’m taking the Cardinals for a no confidence pick.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Arizona Cardinals 23

Pick against spread: Arizona +3

Confidence: None

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Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: 2013 Week 13 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1)

The Vikings are favored here for the 3rd time this season. The first two times didn’t go well. They lost straight up at home as touchdown plus favorites over the Browns week 3 and then they got blown out as small home favorites over the Panthers 35-10 during week 6. The Vikings are nowhere near the team they were last year. Adrian Peterson has been much more human this season, exposing their lack of a passing game, while their aging defense has suffered significantly more injuries and is missing the retired Antoine Winfield. They never should have been favored against Carolina and they never should have been favored by over a touchdown over the Browns.

The Vikings are favored here once again. Everyone knows they aren’t good, so we’re not getting the kind of line value with the underdog as we were in those first 2 games, but I still think we’re getting line value. The Vikings are currently 2-8-1. Teams who finish 2-14 or worse are 2-17 ATS as favorites since 2002. The Vikings might not necessarily finish that poorly, but all of their remaining games come against opponents who are currently .500 or better, including the Bears here, so they could. In terms of rate of moving the chains, they are moving the chains at a 73% rate, as opposed to 80% for their opponents, which is a differential that is 31st in the NFL, so they’re certainly bad enough to finish with just 2 wins. Either way, I don’t think they deserve to be favored anyone, with the exception of a few. I don’t think the Bears are one of those exceptions.

The Bears have had injuries all over their team, especially on defense. Henry Melton and Charles Tillman are both out for the season, while Lance Briggs remains out indefinitely. Those aren’t their only problems defensively, as age and the departure of defensive coaches Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli have reduced their once proud defense to one of the worst in the NFL. If they can’t force a takeaway, they generally can’t keep their opponents from scoring, as they have forced a league worst 40 punts. It’s tough to rely on takeaways. They are allowing opponents to move the chains at a 78% rate, a rate that is increasing as injuries derail them more and more.

Fortunately, their offense is doing enough to make up for it, also moving the chains at a 78% rate. This is in spite of the injury to Jay Cutler. Josh McCown is playing out of his mind right now, completing 65.5% of his passes for an average of 7.47 YPA, 7 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He has a 100.8 QB rating, leads the NFL in QBR, and is ProFootballFocus’ 7th ranked quarterback, despite just 3 starts and 2 relief appearances. The Bears don’t deserve to be underdogs here.

The Vikings could also be exhausted off of last week’s tie. They essentially played 5 quarters of football last week. You saw how bad the Packers looked this week against the Lions off of that tie last week. The Vikings aren’t on a short week here, which helps, but teams are now 4-9 ATS off of a tie since 1989. It’s not a huge sample size, but it makes sense and it’s worth noting.

There are reasons this isn’t a bigger play, however. I don’t know how much I trust Josh McCown. All of this is coming from a guy who is 34 years old, has a career QB rating of 73.6, and hasn’t posted a QB rating higher than 70 since 2005. He didn’t suddenly become a starting caliber quarterback. I have no doubt that Marc Trestman is a fantastic offensive coach who is making him look better than he is, but I don’t have a ton of faith he can keep this up continually. If he can’t, that would expose their defense.

Also, this kind of feels like a trap line. The public is all over the underdog because they know the Vikings suck. I normally like to stay away from public underdogs. What if this is the week Josh McCown shits the bed? What if Adrian Peterson rushes for 200+ yards on Chicago’s skeleton crew run defense? I still think the Bears are the right side, but I’m not that confident.

Chicago Bears 27 Minnesota Vikings 23 Upset Pick +100

Pick against spread: Minnesota +1

Confidence: Low

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2013 Week 13 Fantasy Football Pickups

WR Nate Burleson (Detroit)

Percent owned (ESPN): 3.0%

Nate Burleson returned from injury last week and didn’t waste any time, catching 7 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He might not do that every week, but he’ll be the #2 option in an explosive passing offense from here on out and he’ll see plenty of one on one coverage opposite Calvin Johnson. He’s worth owning in all leagues and could be worth a start this week against Green Bay’s weak secondary.

RB Benny Cunningham (St. Louis)

Percent owned (ESPN): 0.7%

Zac Stacy sustained a concussion in a win over the Bears. Cunningham came in and rushed for 109 yards and a score on 13 carries. If Stacy doesn’t play this week, Cunningham will be the starter and feature back. Temper your expectations for him though. He won’t get to face Chicago’s pathetic run defense again. San Francisco has one of the best run defenses in the NFL and held Cunningham to 6 yards on 4 carries in a backup role in their matchup earlier this year and that was without Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith.

RB Dennis Johnson (Houston)

Percent owned (ESPN): 0.4%

Arian Foster is done for the season and Ben Tate is struggling, getting benched in the middle of a 7 carry, 1 yard performance against the Jaguars for Dennis Johnson, who promptly came in and rushed for 74 yards on 13 carries. Even if Tate does get his starting job back against New England this week, Johnson could still see an increased role and we all saw how bad New England’s run defense is last week. Johnson could also see an increased role over the end of the season as well.

TE Tim Wright (Tampa Bay)

Percent owned (ESPN): 2.6%

Tim Wright has been inconsistent this season, but he’s coming off of an 8 catch for 75 yard performance against Detroit and the Buccaneers have all sorts of injuries at tight end. Wright could be an every down player going forward, which should lead to increased targets for him. He’s their #2 passing options after Vincent Jackson and the surging Mike Glennon seems to love throwing to him. He’s a deep league tight end option.

RB Chris Ogbonnaya (Cleveland)

Percent owned (ESPN): 12.5%

Ogbonnaya once again led the Browns in rushing. Granted, that was with 26 yards on 4 carries, but he’s their best all-around running back and a matchup with Jacksonville this week should lead to increased rushing attempts for the Browns. Ogbonnaya is also a good pass catcher with 36 catches on the season and could see 10-15 touches this week. He’s a desperation play and worth picking up in deep leagues.

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns: 2013 Week 13 NFL Pick

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Cleveland Browns (4-7)

One of the most powerful trends in betting is known as the six and six trend, meaning teams who finish with 6 wins or fewer are 25-69 ATS as favorites of 6 or more since 2002. There are two issues with this trend. One, it’s very rare (it only happened 7 times all last season, going 2-5 ATS). Two, it’s even rarer that a situation will come up in which you can confidently use the trend. The Eagles were 8.5 point favorites in Cleveland last year week 1 (they didn’t cover), but at the time there was no way to know that the Eagles would finish 6-10 or worse.

Does this trend apply this week to the Browns? Well, it could. They currently sit at 4-7 and would need to go 3-2 over their past 5 games to finish better than 6-10. For a team who plays 3 of its next 5 on the road and who is 1-7 on the season without Brian Hoyer under center, that could be really tough. Aside from this one, their other home game is against Chicago, which isn’t going to be easy. Even if they win that one, they’ll have to pull a road upset in either New York against the Jets, Pittsburgh, or New England to finish above 6-10. That could be really tough, especially if Brandon Weeden is under center for an extended period of time, but even if the struggling Jason Campbell returns next week.

One trend that’s definitely in play here says that teams are 34-69 ATS since 2010 before being double digit underdogs and the Browns definitely will be next week in New England. They could completely overlook the lowly Jaguars with that game coming up, much like the Texans did last week in an eventual Jacksonville win. Going off of that, favorites of 7 or more are 9-25 ATS before being double digit underdogs since 1989.

Of course, the Browns could be justified as touchdown favorites. The Jaguars may have two wins, but they were both close. Meanwhile, their nine losses all came by double digits and they have by far the worst point differential in the NFL. Also, in terms of DVOA, not only are they by far the worst team in the NFL, they are the 4th worst team through 11 games since Football Outsiders started DVOA in 1991. In terms of rate of moving the chains differential, they are also dead last, moving them at a 64% rate, as opposed to 78% for their opponents. No one else has a differential worse than -7%.

This game has had a big line movement since last week, going from 9.5 in favor of Cleveland to 7, largely as a result of a fluky Jacksonville win making everyone forget how awful they’ve been this season. Teams are 46-68 ATS off of a win as double digits underdogs since 1989, including 25-44 ATS as dogs off of a win as double digit underdogs. You could argue we’re actually getting line value with the Browns and the public is actually all over the dog here.

On the other hand, you could argue some of the line movement had to do with the fact that the Browns have to play Brandon Weeden under center this week. Weeden has been a special kind of terrible this season, completing 51.5% of his passes for an average of 6.00 YPA, 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. This is probably the first game the Jaguars have played this season where they have the better quarterback. At the end of the day, I’m going to fade Brandon Weeden as touchdown favorites over anyone and go with the 34-69 ATS and 9-25 ATS trends, but I’m not that confident because the Jaguars are one of the worst teams of the past 20 years.

Cleveland Browns 17 Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Pick against spread: Jacksonville +7

Confidence: Low

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Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts: 2013 Week 13 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (5-6) at Indianapolis Colts (7-4)

What the hell happened to the Colts? The same team that knocked off the Broncos, 49ers, and Seahawks before the bye has been playing terrible football in the four weeks since the bye, barely beating Tennessee and Houston by a field goal (after trailing early in both games), and getting blown out in Arizona and at home by St. Louis. The obvious answer is to blame it on Reggie Wayne’s absence and that would have some basis. Wayne tore his ACL in the Denver game before the bye and in the 4 games since, Andrew Luck has completed 55.6% of his passes for an average of 6.29 yards per attempt, 5 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions.

However, I don’t think that tells the story. I think, in addition to that, there are proving that the start of their season was a bit of a fluke and now they are really the team I thought they’d be to start the season, a team that, because of their offensive line and defensive struggles, would not make the playoffs. Last season, this team won 7 games by 7 points or less against teams that won 7 games or fewer and they ranked 25th in DVOA. They’re playing like that again. Their home blowout loss to the Rams compares to their loss to the Jets last week. Their near losses to Houston and Tennessee bring back memories of all of their close wins over inferior competition last year. And their blowout loss in Arizona is similar to every single time they went on the road to a competent opponent last season.

The defense was amazing to start this season, but now is allowing opponents to move the chains at a 76% rate. The offensive line really hasn’t ever been good. They can’t run the ball, just like last season. And now the passing offense is struggling as a result of Wayne’s absence. They are moving the chains at exactly the same rate their opponents are, a differential that is 16th in the NFL. And the most troubling part is they are plummeting so things could only get worse. In terms of DVOA, they are 17th.

Unfortunately, the odds makers seem to have caught on. This line was 3 points 2 weeks ago in Tennessee, which would translate to 9 in Indianapolis, and even last week, the early line on this game was Indianapolis -6, but because of the Colts’ struggles, it’s now down to 4. That’s a huge shift. That being said, the line is totally justified. I mentioned the Colts were 16th in rate of moving the chains differential (and plummeting), the Titans are 18th, moving the chains at a 73% rate, but allowing opponents to do so at a 74% rate. They’ve been a decent team all season and haven’t really skipped a beat without Jake Locker because he wasn’t why they were winning and because Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the best backups in the NFL.

They’re also in a good spot, 2 weeks removed from that loss to the Colts. Since 1989, teams are 16-5 ATS as underdogs two weeks after losing as underdogs to the same divisional opponent. These two teams are going to be so familiar with each other and that’s one of the great equalizers. That favors the underdog. I just wish we were still getting more line value and that Tennessee didn’t have to go to Denver next week. Teams are 34-69 ATS before being double digit underdogs since 2010. The Titans should be the right side, but I’m not confident.

Indianapolis Colts 23 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against spread: Tennessee +4

Confidence: None

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Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers: 2013 Week 13 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) at San Diego Chargers (5-6)

I’m pretty torn on this one. On one hand, the Chargers could be completely flat off of last week’s insane last second win in Kansas City. Favorites generally struggle off of close road wins as underdogs, going 27-51 ATS off of a win by 3 or fewer as road favorites since 2002. However, they are only favored by 1 point and the Chargers probably won’t overlook the division leading Bengals when they need every win they can get to stay in the playoff race. The Chargers usually do well with must win games late in the season. They are 32-10 straight up during weeks 13-17 in the Philip Rivers era and, given that, it’s no surprise that they are 11-4 ATS in situations where they essentially need to just win, as underdogs or favorites of 3 or less.

The Bengals, meanwhile, are not the same team on the road as they are at home. They’ve lost in Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, and Baltimore (3 of those losses came as favorites) and won by just a field goal in Buffalo and Detroit. All 6 of those teams have worse records than they do. They are 1-4-1 ATS on the road this season. They’re also coming off of a fluky game in their last game, a home win over the Browns. In that game, they scored 41 points despite just 10 first downs, the first time in at least the last 25 years that a team had done that. They won’t be able to dominate the turnover battle, block 2 punts, and have multiple return touchdowns every week. Since 1989, teams are 16-34 ATS off of a game in which they scored 21+ points despite 10 or fewer first downs. Teams tend to be overconfident and overvalued in that scenario.

However, the Bengals have had a bye in between so maybe that will nullify some of that. I also don’t think they are overvalued. They are moving the chains at just a 72% rate, but their defense has held up despite injuries and opponents are moving the chains at a mere 68% rate. They may have some trouble with the Chargers’ explosive offense, which leads the NFL, moving the chains at an 82% rate, but, as good as the Chargers’ offense is, their defense might be equally bad, allowing opponents to move the chains at an 80% rate.

If Alex Smith and the Chiefs can have an explosive offensive performance against them, so can Andy Dalton and the Bengals, even on the road. The Chargers get into a lot of shootouts and this could be another one. I think this line is actually right where it should be with San Diego favored by just a point. At the end of the day, I’m going with the Philip Rivers and the Chargers at home in December over the Bengals on the road, but it could really go either way.

San Diego Chargers 27 Cincinnati Bengals 24

Pick against spread: San Diego -1

Confidence: None

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