Expert NFL Picks for Week 13 Including Ravens-Steelers, Broncos-Chiefs and Patriots-Bills
Kevin Rogers of VegasInsider, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights
This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Kevin Rogers, a veteran handicapper for VegasInsider.com, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on five Week 13 games, including Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City hosting the Broncos in a divisional matchup and the Raiders welcoming Washington to Las Vegas.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Los Angeles Chargers (-3, O/U 50.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
A compelling matchup because … better at home than on the road thus far this season, the Chargers and second-year QB Justin Herbert head to Cincy to take on the Bengals and their second-year signal-caller Joe Burrow. Cincinnati has one of the best defenses in the AFC but they may have their hands full against an offense that scored 41 points during their last game against an AFC North opponent (the Steelers). Currently in the final playoff spot in the AFC, the Chargers cannot afford to lose any ground. Neither can the fifth-seeded Bengals.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: This feels like a buy-low, sell-high spot to back the Chargers (6-5 SU, 5-6 against the spread). Los Angeles has lost two of three and just fell to the Broncos 28-13, losing outright as 3-point road favorites. Meanwhile, the Bengals (7-4 SU, 6-5 ATS) have won two straight in dominating fashion and just crushed the rival Steelers 41-10, easily covering as 3-point home favorites. This line opened with the Bengals listed as a -2.5 favorite and the public has pushed Cincinnati up to the key number of -3. Short road dogs +3 or less are 17-10 ATS (63%) this season. Road dogs off a loss are 32-21 ATS (60%). Give me Chargers +3.
Gable’s Guess: The Chargers are currently sitting in the No. 7 position heading into this week, which is pretty fortunate considering they’ve only won two of their last six games. It’s no secret they’re going to need Herbert to minimize his mistakes. He had two interceptions against Denver on Sunday. They are going to need more production out of Austin Ekeler too. But I think the defense has been the real issue for them, as they’ve allowed more than 20 points in each of their last seven games. They have the talent, but they just are not getting the stops they need. In particular, they just cannot seem to stop the run. The Bengals have won two in a row, including a dominant performance against Pittsburgh on Sunday. Burrow only had four incompletions in that game on 24 pass attempts. Joe Mixon continued his outstanding season with 165 yards rushing in the victory. The Chargers need victories to stay in the hunt, but they just can’t stop the run for the life of them. I’m going to lay the 3 here with the Bengals.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Cincinnati is coming off a resounding win over Pittsburgh last week to pull off the season sweep of the Steelers. The Chargers are looking to get on track after losing at Denver last week. The Chargers have won three of four games this season coming off a loss and are being listed as an underdog for the first time in six games. This is a good spot to fade Cincinnati as the Bengals are 0-2 ATS this season coming off a division win. Best Bet: L.A. Chargers +3.
Our Pick: The Chargers barely beat the Steelers and Cincy just killed them. Lay the points with the Bengals.
Washington Football Team (+2.5, O/U 49.5) at Las Vegas Raiders
A compelling matchup because … both teams enter this matchup in the desert coming off wins under the bright lights of national television. Washington’s defense looked dominant last week despite losing game-breaking edge-rusher Chase Young to injury last month, although that owed in part to Seattle’s inept offense. The Raiders have been extremely hit-or-miss this season and seem to win games when the odds are stacked against them. Washington has lost all previous out-of-conference games this season.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: Washington (5-6 SU, 4-7 ATS) just edged the Seahawks 17-15 on Monday night, winning outright as a 1.5-point home dog. Meanwhile, the Raiders (6-5 SU, 5-6 ATS) are just 1-3 over their last four games, although they did upset the Cowboys 36-33 on Thanksgiving as 7-point road dogs. This line opened with Vegas listed as a 3-point home favorite. Sharp money has leaned on Washington, dropping this line to 2 at some shops. Road dogs +7 or less are 53-22 ATS (71%) this season. Road dogs in which the line stays the same or moves in their favor are 30-25 ATS (55%). I would either grab the points with Washington or put the Football Team in a teaser (+2 to +8), which goes through multiple key numbers.
Gable’s Guess: If DeSean Jackson can stay healthy for Vegas, he’ll be a nice deep threat for Derek Carr moving forward. Washington’s on the short week and they’ve been running the ball effectively and controlling the clock, which is a typical Ron Rivera formula. The defense has been playing better. They’re still not on the level that they were a year ago, but they certainly are showing some improvement there. Vegas is probably going to be forced to throw the ball here, which they don’t really mind doing. So I’m going to take the over in this one.
Rogers’s Recommendation: The Raiders tripped up the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in overtime to halt a two-game slide. Washington heads west after holding off Seattle on Monday for a third straight win. Las Vegas has not been great at home this season and has lost three of the past four at Allegiant Stadium while going 0-2 ATS as a home favorite. Monday night winners have actually played well in their next game. Washington should cash here in the underdog role. Best Bet: Washington +2.5.
Our Pick: Both teams are wildly inconsistent, but believe in Washington more. We’ll take the points.
Baltimore Ravens (-4.5, O/U 44) at Pittsburgh Steelers
A compelling matchup because … a divisional matchup between two longtime rivals, this game marks the 30th time that Mike Tomlin of the Steelers and John Harbaugh of the Ravens will coach against each other. In their first 29 matchups, Tomlin’s Steelers are 15-14 against Harbaugh’s Ravens. Baltimore is currently the top seed in the AFC and a win for the Steelers would improve Pittsburgh’s playoff odds while simultaneously likely bumping the Ravens out of the No. 1 spot. These teams will meet again to close out the season in Week 18.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Ravens (8-3 SU, 5-6 ATS) have won two straight and three of their last four, most recently edging the Browns 16-10 and covering as 3-point home favorites. On the flip side, the Steelers (5-5-1 SU, 4-7 ATS) are struggling and have lost two straight. Pittsburgh just got rolled by the Bengals 41-10, failing to cover as 3-point road dogs. This line opened with Baltimore listed as a 3-point road favorite. The public is hammering the Ravens, which has pushed this line up to Baltimore -4.5. I’ll buy low on the Steelers as a super contrarian inflated line dog. Divisional dogs are 26-20 ATS (57%) this season. Dogs off a blowout loss of 20+ points are 14-9 ATS (61%). Mike Tomlin is 4-2 ATS as a dog this season and 42-21 ATS (67%) as a dog in his career. Give me the Steelers +4.5. You could also tease them up to +10.5, which goes through the key numbers of 7 and 10.
Gable’s Guess: I think it’s pretty much a do-or-die time for the Steelers. They could still make a playoff push, but it appears the clock is about to strike midnight on this team. Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t seem to be able to throw the ball downfield anymore, which makes this offense rather average. The defense is good, but definitely not great. I still believe Tomlin is a very good coach, but I just think the rest of the AFC has passed Pittsburgh by and I don’t know if they’re going to be able to challenge for the remainder of the year. The Ravens have been one of the more perplexing teams for bettors all season. Lamar Jackson came back from his illness and threw four interceptions against Cleveland. They still won the game with great defense that neutralized the Cleveland run game and forced Baker Mayfield to throw downfield. That worked out well for the Ravens. I don’t expect the Steelers to get embarrassed two weeks in a row, but they’ll be without TJ Watt, who’s on the COVID-19 list. And I expect Jackson to have a bounce-back week. I’m going to lay the points with the Ravens.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Baltimore is coming off an ugly victory on Sunday Night Football over Cleveland. The Ravens’ offense has been pedestrian of late by scoring 16 points or fewer in each of Baltimore’s past three games. The Steelers were rolled by the Bengals last Sunday, marking the second underdog loss of the season for Tomlin’s team. Pittsburgh is listed as a home underdog for the second time this season. The Steelers beat the Broncos in their first opportunity in this role. Best Bet: Pittsburgh +4.5.
Our Pick: We’ll look for the Harbaugh to equal Tomlin in their rivalry. Lay the points with Baltimore.
Denver Broncos (+9.5, O/U 47) at Kansas City Chiefs
A compelling matchup because … the Broncos will not go away in what was looking like a lost season in Denver. They head to one of the most difficult places to play in the NFL for a Sunday Night Football matchup with a chance to boost their playoff odds and take the streaking Chiefs down a peg. It won’t be easy, as Kansas City is playing well on defense and still has one of the best offenses in the NFL thanks to Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs have a better record, but the Broncos are actually slightly better than their divisional rivals in point differential.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Broncos (6-5 SU, 6-5 ATS) have won three of their last four games and just upset the Chargers 28-13, winning outright as 3-point home dogs. Similarly, the Chiefs (7-4 SU, 4-7 ATS) have won four straight and just dismissed the Cowboys 19-9, covering as 2.5-point home favorites. This line opened with Kansas City listed as a 9.5-point home favorite. The line reached 10 and that’s when sharp buyback hit Broncos +10, dropping it back down to 9.5. Teddy Bridgewater is 26-8 ATS (76%) as a dog in his career. Primetime dogs are 23-13 ATS (64%) this season and road divisional dogs are 18-12 ATS (60%). I’ll grab the Broncos and the points, ideally holding out for the +10 to pop back up. This is also a winder under bet. The total fell from 49 to 47 with the weather forecast expecting 15-20 MPH winds. When the wind blows 10 MPH or more the under is 35-20 (64%).
Gable’s Guess: Off their bye week, the Broncos put up a very solid effort in their win against the Chargers. They were playing backups in four of their five offensive line spots, but they still managed to run the ball effectively. If you want to bet on Teddy Bridgewater, you do it when he’s an underdog and not a favorite. That seems to be where he’s most successful, at least from a betting perspective. The Chiefs’ defense has been so improved from the beginning of the year, I’m sure they will be ready for him coming off their bye week. In their last four games, the Chiefs’ defense has allowed only 47 points. That’s the second-fewest in that timeframe in all of football. They had eight takeaways and 11 sacks, both of which are tied for fourth-most in that time period. As a whole, the team had a +46 point differential during that same Week 8 through Week 11. Everyone wants to talk about Mahomes, but the run game is very important to Kansas City. They’re 4-0 when they rush over 30 times in a game and they’re 6-2 when they control the time of possession. Don’t forget about Andy Reid, who’s 19-3 all-time off of a bye week. I don’t expect Denver to be able to duplicate their efforts two weeks in a row, but it’s a really big number. I’m actually going to take the under here and count on the Chiefs’ defense remaining solid for another week.
Rogers’s Recommendation: There has been plenty made over the years of the success of Bridgewater in the underdog role. Bridgewater is coming off a home ‘dog win over the Chargers last week, marking the second underdog victory in the last three games for Denver. However, Denver faces a Kansas City team that is hitting its stride now by winning four consecutive games while allowing 17 points or fewer in each of those victories. This line will attract Denver bettors, but Kansas City has returned to its status as the team to beat in the AFC and should take care of the Broncos here. Best Bet: Kansas City -9.5.
Our Pick: It’s a big number either way. We’ll bet Bridgwater keeps it going and take Denver and the points.
New England Patriots (-2.5, O/U 43) at Buffalo Bills
A compelling matchup because … the winner of this game will emerge with the top spot in the AFC East and a legit shot at taking home the No. 1 spot in the conference and its coveted first-round bye. The weather in Buffalo could be a factor as some forecasts have both high winds and precipitation on tap for Monday night in Upstate New York. Even in good weather, Buffalo is a tough place to play and the Bills would love the chance to put a beatdown on the Patriots, as they did during the teams’ final meeting last season. Look out for projectiles that aren’t penalty flags.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Patriots (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS) are riding a 6-game winning streak and just crushed the Titans 36-13, easily covering as 7-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the Bills (7-4 SU, 6-4-1 ATS) are a mediocre 3-3 over their last six games, but just beat the Saints 31-6 as 7-point road favorites. This line opened with Buffalo listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. Respected money has poured in on New England, dropping the line from 3 to 2.5. Short road dogs +3 or less are 17-10 ATS (63%) this season. Divisional dogs are 26-20 ATS (57%). We’ve also seen some under money drop the total from 44 to 43. The forecast calls for a temperature in the high 20s in Buffalo with 15 MPH winds. I’ll sweat the Patriots with the points.
Gable’s Guess: This has really evolved into an AFC heavyweight fight with the Patriots coming on strong in the last few weeks. They’re continuing to improve and Mac Jones is showing poise and maturity. They’re also playing really well on defense and special teams. I expect Buffalo to get creative in their blitzes and try to hurry Jones in his decision-making. I don’t think Buffalo is going to be able to beat New England by passing the ball with Josh Allen alone. We’ve seen the Buffalo offense struggle against physical defenses, which New England definitely is. I believe Bill Belichick is going to be very prepared and has studied what has worked against Buffalo this year. They just don’t seem to be tough on either side of the ball, so expect the Patriots to run the ball right down their throat. This by far, at least early, is the most heavily bet Monday night game of the year. I’m going to take the 3 points with the Patriots where it’s still available.
Rogers’s Recommendation: New England owned Buffalo when Tom Brady was the quarterback of the Patriots. Last season, the Bills pulled off the sweep of the Patriots after Brady departed for Tampa Bay. New England has been excellent since a slow start by winning six straight games, while Buffalo bounced back from an ugly loss to Indianapolis by pounding New Orleans on Thanksgiving night. Both these teams will likely be in the playoffs, but the Bills will grab the first meeting between these two AFC East rivals. Best Bet: Buffalo -2.5.
Our Pick: The Patriots have a decent shot at an outright win here, but we’ll bet on scoring and take the over.
Last Week: 0-3; Season: 28-29-1
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.
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