Washington Football Team at Las Vegas Raiders: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Washington Football Team (5-6) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)

Washington has won three straight games to get their record up to 5-6, despite the fact that they have faced one of the toughest schedules in the league this season. However, there is more reason for concern with this team this week than there has been in recent weeks, as their three game winning streak has been largely the result of them finally having their offensive line healthy and playing well, which is no longer the case.

In this game in Las Vegas, Washington will be without their starting center and possibly their starting left guard, with all of their capable reserves also out with injury, which could leave them with two big holes upfront. Washington doesn’t have enough skill position talent to compensate for poor offensive line play and their defense isn’t good enough to compensate for their offense not playing well, especially with their two talented edge defenders Chase Young and Montez Sweat both out.

The Raiders have an injury concern as well, as tight end Darren Waller is expected to be out, leaving their offense without by far their best offensive playmaker, which especially hurts since they already lost top wide receiver Henry Ruggs for off-the-field reasons. However, I feel like this line takes into account the Raiders’ injuries much more than Washington’s, even though Washington is missing more key players. This line favors the Raiders by just 1-point, but as the slightly better team and the home team, the Raiders should be favored by at least a field goal. This is a small play, but I like the Raiders in a game in which they basically just have to win in order to cover the spread.

Las Vegas Raiders 20 Washington Football Team 17

Pick against the spread: Las Vegas -1

Confidence: Medium

San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (6-5) at Seattle Seahawks (3-8)

Typically, I like to fade significant week-to-week line movement, as it tends to be an overreaction to a single week of play. This game features one, with the 49ers going from 1-point favorites last week on the early line to 3.5-point favorites this week, a huge swing, considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by three points or fewer and 1 in 6 by exactly three. Normally I can at least understand why a significant swing happens, but, in this case, it’s hard to figure it out, as the 49ers won by 8 last week as 3-point favorites and the Seahawks lost by 2 as 1-point underdogs, two results that were well within the reasonable range of their point spread.

I have thought the 49ers are underrated for weeks and their efficiency ratings still show them to be a much better team than their 6-5 record suggests, as they rank 8th, 7th, 20th, and 7th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, but if anything, the line should have gone the other direction, as the 49ers have lost two key contributors to injury in the past week with both their top wide receiver Deebo Samuel and their top linebacker Fred Warner, two of the best in the league at their respective positions, going down with injuries last week. 

The Seahawks, meanwhile, should get something closer to 100% from Russell Wilson than they have gotten in his first three games since returning from injury, as he nears the original time frame for his injury recovery. They are just 3-8, but their defense ranks 16th in schedule adjusted efficiency, while their special teams rank 6th, so if they can get something decent from their offense, they could definitely pull the upset against a banged up 49ers team. 

The Seahawks are still missing top running back Chris Carson and starting left guard Damien Lewis, so even if Wilson is healthier, they are still not 100% on offense, but Wilson returning to form would be very significant and, even with Wilson factored in at slightly less than 100%, we are still getting line value with the Seahawks, as my calculated line is still where the early line was last week, favoring the 49ers by 1. This isn’t a big play and I still think the 49ers will win, but there is enough value with the Seahawks to bet them.

San Francisco 49ers 24 Seattle Seahawks 23

Pick against the spread: Seattle +3.5

Confidence: Medium

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (6-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-4)

Many people wrote the Chiefs off when they got off to a 3-4 start, but there were always reasons to expect they would turn around. For one, the Chiefs started the season with the arguably toughest schedule in the league. They also struggled mightily in the turnover margin, starting the season with a -11 turnover margin through their first eight games. Turnover margins are highly unpredictable on a week-to-week basis and common sense suggested that the Chiefs, with one of the top quarterbacks in the league, would not continue to rank among the league worst in turnover margin, especially since so many of their interceptions came off tipped passes. 

On top of that, the Chiefs’ offense was still moving the ball as well as they ever had, with their defense dragging down the team’s performance significantly, as they were arguably the worst in the league to begin the season. Defense is the less predictive side of the ball, however, and the Chiefs had significant injury issues on that side of the ball early in the season, with safety Tyrann Mathieu, edge defender Frank Clark, interior defender Chris Jones, and cornerback Charvarius Ward all missing time. 

Their defense is now healthy, with all four of those players in the lineup, as well as a key mid-season addition in Melvin Ingram. The Chiefs’ turnover margin has also stabilized (+4 their past three games) and now they get to an easier part of their schedule as well. The Chiefs are on a 4-game winning streak and, looking at their remainder of their schedule, it’s possible they don’t lose a game the rest of the way if they stay healthy and play turnover neutral football. 

Even if they do lose another game, I don’t expect it to be this one, at home, coming out of a bye week, against a mediocre Broncos team. Denver is 6-5, but three of their wins were against terrible teams early in the season, when the Broncos were a lot healthier. In total, they are missing edge defender Von Miller, middle linebackers Josey Jewell and AJ Johnson, right guard Graham Glasgow, running back Melvin Gordon, and slot cornerback Bryce Callahan, who all began the season as key contributors for this team. Even including their solid start, the Broncos rank just 21st, 4th, 29th, and 20th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency on the season.

The Chiefs, on the other hand, rank 1st on offense and 2nd on special teams, with their 31st ranked defense being much improved in recent weeks, but having their rank dragged down by how terrible they were to begin the season. If their defense can even be an average unit the rest of the way, the Chiefs are among the toughest teams in the league and should still be considered the favorites to come out of the AFC. My calculated line has the Chiefs as 12.5-point favorites, so we’re getting value with the Chiefs at -9.5. It also helps that Andy Reid has been one of the best coaches in NFL history when given extra time, going 34-21 ATS in week one games and games following bye weeks in his career. This is my top pick this week.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 Denver Broncos 20

Pick against the spread: Kansas City -9.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (5-6) at Detroit Lions (0-10-1)

The Lions are famously winless, heading into week 13 at 0-10-1, but winless teams actually tend to be a good bet against the spread this late in the season, as they tend to be undervalued by oddsmakers and the public, they tend to get overlooked by their opponents, and they tend to bring their best effort every week, in desperate pursuit of their first win. In all, winless teams cover at a 63.0% rate in week 9 or later.

The Lions also aren’t getting blown out every week either. They have been outscored by an average of 10.5 points per game, which gives them a point differential of -115, which is actually ahead of a couple teams (Texans and Jets), but even that suggests they are getting blown out more often than they are, with just three of their eleven games resulting in losses by more than 10 points, including a game against the Packers in which they led at halftime in Green Bay. 

The Vikings have not had any blowout losses, with their 8-point loss to the 49ers last week being their biggest margin of defeat of the season, but that seems to be a well known fact by the public, as many consider them a couple wins better than their record. However, that ignores that most of their wins have been close as well, including a few that could have gone the other way and just one win by multiple scores, relevant considering this is a 7.5-point line. Their point differential is +5 and their efficiency ratings don’t make them look any better, as they rank 14th, 30th, 5th, and 21st in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, suggesting this has been no better than an average team this season.

Making matters worse for the Vikings, they are dealing with some tough health situations that make them more of a below average team, at least slightly. Their defensive line figures to be healthier this week, with both starting interior defenders Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce likely to return from short-term absences, but they’re still without their two best edge defenders Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, while their secondary is likely to be without top cornerback Patrick Peterson and their linebacking corps is expected to be without top linebacker Eric Kendricks. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings will be without feature back Dalvin Cook and talented starting left tackle Christian Darrisaw, which are both big absences. 

My calculated line has the Vikings as just 5-point favorites in Detroit, so we’re getting good line value with the Lions at +7.5. The Vikings are also in a bad spot, having to play again in four days against the Steelers, as favorites have covered at just a 41.2% rate all-time before a Thursday game. With another game around the corner, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the Vikings overlook the winless Lions, which could lead to the Lions at least keeping it close, as they have many times this season, including a near win in Minnesota earlier this season, back when the Vikings were healthier. I like the Lions a lot at +7.5.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Detroit +7.5

Confidence: High

Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (7-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-6)

Both of these two teams lost on Thanksgiving a week prior to this matchup and in both cases injuries were a big part of the reason why. The Cowboys were without their two best wide receivers Ceedee Lamb and Amari Cooper, as well as their two best pure edge defenders DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, while talented left tackle Tyron Smith did not seem 100% in his first game back from a short absence. The Saints, meanwhile, were missing even more, as they’ve been one of the most injury plagued teams in the league this season.

Already without top wide receiver Michael Thomas for the whole season, the Saints have since seen quarterback Jameis Winston, running backs Alvin Kamala and Mark Ingram, stud offensive tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead, guard Andrus Peat, and edge defender Marcus Davenport suffer injuries that have kept them out for varying amounts of time, with only Ramczyk playing from that group last week. 

At least one of these teams figures to be a lot healthier this week and that team is the Dallas Cowboys. Both Cooper and Lamb are expected back and, while Randy Gregory is still at least a week away, the Cowboys should get DeMarcus Lawrence back for the first time since week one. On top of that, Tyron Smith is likely to be healthier this week than a week ago, having had another week to get better. With key players like Michael Gallup and La’El Collins also having returned from extended absences recently, the Cowboys are arguably as healthy right now as they’ve been since the beginning of the year.

On the other hand, while the Saints will get Mark Ingram back, he is the only player the Saints are guaranteed to get back this week and even Ramczyk, who played last week, is highly questionable. Neither Ramczyk nor Armstead practiced in the Saints’ final practice of the week and both are likely on the wrong side of questionable, while Kamara is also not a guarantee to return after getting limited practices in all week. All of the rest of the aforementioned injured Saints will be out at least another week and, if Ramczyk sits out, the Saints could be in even worse injury shape than they were a good ago.

With three key players like Kamara, Armstead, and Ramczyk all legitimately questionable, it’s impossible to confidently pick either side in this matchup and which side I end up going with will depend largely on who of those three end up being available. If all three play, the Saints have a good chance to keep it close or even pull an upset. The Saints are switching quarterbacks from Trevor Siemian to Taysom Hill, which should be an upgrade by default, as Hill can at least be a threat with his legs. 

If the Saints offensive linemen and top running back are available, they can utilize a run heavy, ball control offensive game plan, which, when combined with their talented defense, could allow them to pull the upset or at least keep this close. The Saints are also in a good spot in their second straight game as home underdogs, as teams tend to be much better in their second game after being uncompetitive in the first game, with teams covering at a 59.0% rate all-time as home underdogs after a loss by 14+ points as home underdogs the previous week. On top of that, the Saints could benefit from the Cowboys being without several coaches in the COVID protocol, although we’ve seen that have minimal if any impact in the past in many cases.

On the other hand, if the Saints don’t get their running back and offensive tackles back, it’s hard to see them having enough to be competitive with a suddenly healthy Cowboys team that has one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. Since it’s looking like Armstead and Ramczyk are both on the right side of questionable, I am making Dallas my pick for now, but it’s a no confidence pick until I know who is actually playing. I will almost definitely have an update before gametime. 

Update: Kamara, Ramczyk, and Armstead are all out for the Saints, while the Cowboys are healthy as expected, but we won’t be able to take advantage of the Cowboys’ significant health edge, with this line moving up to -6.5. My calculated line has the Cowboys favored by a touchdown, but when you factor in that the Saints are in a better spot, there really isn’t anything to be confident about the Cowboys with this week. I’m still taking them for pick ’em purposes because I think the most likely outcome is they win by a touchdown, but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Dallas Cowboys 24 New Orleans Saints 17

Pick against the spread: Dallas -6.5

Confidence: None