NFL Week 13: Sunday’s Five Best Bets

Carson Wentz communicating with his running back.
Can Carson Wentz overcome his toughest test yet: a Sunday night matchup in Seattle. (By Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License)

Laying some bets during an NFL Sunday has become about as American as apple pie. But wagering your hard-earned money blindly is not going to result in many wins, which is about as un-American as borscht. So before diving into the action this week, allow us to offer our five best bets to make this Sunday.

We’ve scoured the moneylines, the spreads, the totals, and all the props to find the closest things we can to locks. We’ve also dredged the depths of the underdogs to find this week’s upset special. Here’s what we have for Week 13 in the NFL.

New Orleans Saints vs Carolina Panthers

THE PLAY: OVER 48 (-110)

WHERE: This bet can be found at MyBookie. Most sports betting sites have the total set at 48.5, and most others who list it at 48 don’t offer -110 odds.

The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints are set to square off for the second time this season, with the first matchup ending in a 34-13 victory for the Saints in Week 3. The 47 points scored in that game should be very encouraging for the OVER in this one.

First of all, that first game was played outdoors in Carolina. Drew Brees and the Saints offense have consistently proven to be much more explosive on their home turf. Second, Alvin Kamara had not become a focal point of the Saints offense by Week 3. The rookie only touched the ball five times against the Panthers, whereas Adrian Peterson received 11 touches. Third, Cam Newton was clearly still hampered by his offseason shoulder surgery. Newton’s passer rating through the first three weeks was 69.7, and has been 84.7 in eight games since. Fourth, in the three games since trading Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills, the Panthers are averaging 33.3 points per game, compared to just 18.5 through the first eight weeks of the season. Without Benjamin, Carolina has been able to get more speed on the field, making them much more explosive offensively.

If all that isn’t enough to have you loving the OVER, here’s a look back at the last six matchups between these two teams in New Orleans:

  • January 1, 2012: 62 total points
  • December 30, 2012: 82 total points
  • December 8, 2013: 44 total points
  • December 7, 2014: 51 total points
  • December 6, 2015: 79 total points
  • October 16, 2016: 79 total points

On top of that, the OVER is 13-7-1 when New Orleans has played at home since 2015. With serious playoff implications on the line, neither offense will be holding anything back.

Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots

THE PLAY: PATRIOTS -410 (MONEYLINE)

WHERE: While some books have the Patriots at -500 to beat the Bills straight up, BetOnline is offering a little more value at -410.

The spread in this game is anywhere between -8 to -9.5 in favor of New England, which is a little hefty for a divisional matchup where the Patriots are headed to Orchard Park. (The Bills are currently 4-1 straight up this season at home.) Although it doesn’t offer a very big return on investment, betting the Patriots on the moneyline is the closest thing to a lock you’ll find this week.

Since 2015, the Bills have defended their home field pretty well, posting a 13-8 record. But you certainly cannot say Buffalo has fared well against the Patriots at home. Have a look at the last five meetings between these two teams in Buffalo:

  • December 30, 2016: NE wins 41-25
  • September 20, 2015: NE wins 40-32
  • October 12, 2014: NE wins 37-22
  • September 8, 2013: NE wins 23-21
  • September 30, 2012: NE wins 52-28

You have to go back to the 2011 season to find the last time Buffalo defeated New England in Orchard Park. And if you keep looking for the next Bills victory at home, you’ll be scrolling all the way back to the 2003 season.

Brady warming up pregame.
Tom Brady has owned the Buffalo Bills throughout his career. (By Keith Allison (Flickr) CC License)

Tom Brady has simply owned the Bills throughout his career. The five-time Super Bowl champion is an astounding 26-3 straight up against Buffalo with a 101.5 passer rating. Brady is quietly having one of his best seasons, as he leads the league in passing yards (3,374) and passer rating (111.7), having thrown 26 touchdowns to just three interceptions. In spite of losing Julian Edelman before the season even started, the Patriots offense has not missed a beat, ranking first in total yards and third in points scored. Add in a defense that has only allowed 92 points in its last seven games (13.1 per game), and the 2017 Patriots look poised to defend their championship.

The 6-5 Bills, on the other hand, have overachieved this season. The offense is not having the same success on the ground as it did a year ago. They’ve been able to stay above .500 because Tyrod Taylor is protecting the ball and allowing the defense to win the battle for field position. However, the Bills defense is starting to crumble. After a hot start to the season, Buffalo has allowed 145 points in the last four games (36.2 per game). While some of those points can be attributed to the five first-half interceptions Nathan Peterman threw in Week 11, there is no excuse for the 693 rushing yards the defense has allowed in that time (173.2 per game).

There are just too many holes on this Bills roster for Brady to exploit. New England will leave Buffalo with a win this weekend.

Miami Dolphins vs Denver Broncos

THE PLAY: BRONCOS (-2)

WHERE: Many sports-betting sites have the spread at -2 in favor of Denver, but you can get a half-point in exchange for -125 odds at GTBets. I’m comfortable laying two points for -110 odds, though.

I’m going to warn you immediately, this pick goes against a lot of trends. For starters, the Broncos have only won one game in Miami. It was the last meeting between the two (2011) and overtime was needed to decide a winner (18-15). Prior to that game, the Dolphins had won the previous seven by a combined score of 186-106. But those games were played a long time ago, when the Dolphins fielded respectable teams. The 2017 Dolphins are not that.

Another trend you’ll have to overlook is Denver’s 0-5 record against the spread (and straight up) as a visitor this season. Let’s have a closer look at those games:

  • Week 3 at BUF: Bills win 26-16
  • Week 7 at LAC: Chargers win 21-0
  • Week 8 at KC: Chiefs win 29-19
  • Week 9 at PHI: Eagles win 51-23
  • Week 12 at OAK: Raiders win 21-14

The first loss is the most inexcusable of the bunch. Trevor Siemian turned the ball over twice and Von Miller took a really silly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to end Denver’s hopes of a comeback. But Buffalo has been pretty good at home this season, sporting a 4-1 record straight up. Miami is 2-3 straight up at home this season.

Looking to the next two losses, the Broncos offensive line simply couldn’t block any of Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, or Justin Houston. That has been a common theme for all teams this season, though, as the three edge rushers have combined for 27.5 sacks this season. The Dolphins defense has combined for just 18 sacks in 2017, which is third-fewest in the league.

Simply put, the Eagles are the best team in football, and Carson Wentz carved up the Broncos secondary. Miami is 4-7 and has Jay Cutler at QB.

The final game on the list can be chalked up to Denver needing to get Paxton Lynch some playing time. It is quite obvious the former first-round pick is still a ways away from being ready to lead an NFL team, but the Broncos’ hands were tied with the way their season has gone. Lynch is not going to start this game due to an ankle injury, putting the best QB on the roster (Trevor Siemian) back under center.

Miami’s offense ranks 30th in both total yards and points scored. They average just 3.6 yards per carry (27th) and have committed 20 turnovers this season (29th). The Dolphins defense ranks 30th in points allowed, 25th against the run, and 27th in takeaways with a paltry ten on the season.

The Broncos certainly have many issues of their own, and will also be playing without Aqib Talib, who is serving a one-game suspension for his altercation with Michael Crabtree last week. But the Broncos are still allowing a league-low 3.2 yards per carry, and Von Miller is playing at a high level. Defense will decide this one, and I trust Denver’s to break out of its slump.

Seattle Seahawks vs Philadelphia Eagles

THE PLAY: OVER 47 (-110)

WHERE: This bet can be found at Bovada.

Week 13’s edition of Sunday Night Football features the NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles and the 7-4 Seattle Seahawks. The Eagles head into Century Link field as anywhere from 4.5 to six-point favorites. But that’s an awful lot of points to lay on a visitor in Seattle. The better bet here is the OVER on the 47-point total.

At first glance, the trends would suggest the UNDER. Both defenses rank in the top ten for points allowed, and the OVER is just 6-5 in Eagles games and 4-7 in Seahawks games this season. But let’s have a closer look at each.

Starting with Philadelphia, three of their last four games have gone UNDER. But it hasn’t been due to their offense. Eagles opponents have struggled mightily to put points on the board, with the last four only managing a total of 45. Those teams were the Bears (29th in points scored), Cowboys (22 points in their first three weeks without Ezekiel Elliott), Broncos (26th in points scored), and 49ers (28th in points scored). The Seahawks rank tenth in points scored, and will hardly be affected by Philadelphia’s fierce defensive front, since Russell Wilson is used to not getting any protection already.

Richard Sherman hugging Pete Carroll
Richard Sherman has been lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles. (By Anthony Quintano (Flickr) CC License)

When playing at home, the OVER is 3-2 in Seahawks games this year. Dating back to last season, the OVER is 8-6 in that same scenario. But the defense Seattle will put on the field against the Eagles Sunday night is much different from the one we have become accustomed to. Both Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor were lost in a Week 10 victory over the Cardinals. Without the two key pieces of the Legion of Boom, Seattle allowed Atlanta to come to C-Link in Week 11 and put up 34 points. The Eagles offense they’ll host this week ranks first in points scored and possess the MVP-favorite at quarterback.

Carson Wentz is going to carve up a weakened Seahawks secondary, while Russell Wilson and the Seahawk offense do their part towards the total.

UPSET OF THE WEEK

Tennessee Titans vs Houston Texans

THE PLAY: TEXANS +255 (MONEYLINE)

WHERE: These odds can be found at SportsBetting.ag.

The Titans enter Week 13 as 6.5-point home favorites over the Texans. While taking Houston to cover the spread is a good bet, the moneyline presents an opportunity for a home run.

In spite of their 7-4 record, and first-place standing in the AFC South, the Titans have not impressed lately. Their first two wins of the season (in Jacksonville and at home against the Seahawks) were great wins, but the Titans have fallen apart since. It’s no coincidence this coincides with Marcus Mariota injuring his hamstring in a 57-14 loss to Houston back in Week 4. Mariota was forced to miss Tennessee’s next game, but has been in the lineup since. Even with Mariota back under center, though, the Titans have averaged just 22 points per game over their last six, most recently posting 20 against the Colts’ league-worst scoring defense.

What has been most concerning for the Titan offense is its struggle to run the ball. In the six games since Mariota’s return, Tennessee has recorded fewer than 93 yards on the ground in four of them. This is largely thanks to defenses not respecting Mariota’s legs. The third-year pivot galloped for 116 yards on the ground and three touchdowns in the 3.5 games before getting injured, but has only managed 74 rushing yards and one TD in six games since the hamstring injury. The 24-year-old’s new lack of mobility has also led to him taking a lot more sacks since returning (12 in Tennessee’s last four games). This is bad news as they prepare to host Houston, which ranks seventh against the run and can still get after the passer even without JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus (17th in sacks).

There’s no question the Texans offense is far inferior with Tom Savage under center as opposed to Deshaun Watson. In Savage’s first two games under center after Watson’s season-ending knee injury, the Texans only scored 21 points. But in his last two games, the 27-year-old has moved the ball much better and put 47 points on the board against two good defences (the Cardinals and Ravens). One major factor in the improvement has been the fact that he’s no longer force-feeding the ball to DeAndre Hopkins. Savage targeted Hopkins 30 times in Weeks 9 and 10, but has limited that to 19 in the last two weeks. The trust Savage is showing in his other receivers will be beneficial against a Titans defense who ranks 29th in DVOA against no. 2 wide receivers.

Focusing on the matchup, the Texans have won nine of the last 11 meetings. Savage isn’t going to shred the Titans secondary for 57 points the way Watson did earlier this season, but he will be able to exploit its holes while his defense forces Mariota to beat them from the pocket.