Author's Note: Two stats that I will be referencing throughout this weekly matchups column are Yards Per Point (YPP). and DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average). The goal of YPP is for an offense or defense to make the most of their opportunities when it comes to scoring points, but there are some important things that YPP doesn’t account for that DVOA does. In fact, DVOA accounts for everything YPP does plus important factors like turnovers, field position (where your drive starts) and special teams. These stats not only play a big part in scoring/preventing points, but they also play a big part in winning/covering spreads. With these statistics, my goal is to help us figure out which are the teams that are the most efficient at scoring AND at preventing points. Now, without further adieu, let’s officially get into our new NFL Week 13 matchup breakdowns column!
A quick primer on YPP and its importance in our handicapping: One of, if not THE most powerful measuring statistics in football, to measure how great an offense or defense is (or isn’t), in my opinion, is Yards Per Point (YPP). Yards Per Point is effective because it measures how many yards an offense gains before they score a point. A different stat that is regularly used by handicappers isYards Per Play, which only takes into account how many yards an offense gains and not its scoring. Gaining yards is a good thing to measure, sure, but in this world, we need to score points, and it does us no favors if a team gains yards without producing those points. This is where YPP will come into play for us. For an offense, the lower the YPP is, the better. Between 10-13 is a very good YPP number for an NFL offense, while 14-15 is average and 16 or lower I consider to be below average for an NFL offense. For defenses, the higher the YPP number is, the better. A defense with a high YPP doesn’t give up a lot of points for the yards that are gained against them. Throughout our weekly matchups column I will reference this stat quite often here.
Saints (-3) @ Falcons **Best Bet**
When these teams met for the first time back in week 11 it was the Saints first game without Drew Brees this season and going into halftime it was a one point game then the Falcons were held scoreless in the second half but since then they’ve put up 43 points on a Raiders defense that was playing pretty good coming into last weeks game and I think that offensive rhythm continues for another week in this division rival showdown. The Saints are dealing with injuries to the offensive line with a couple key guys Terron Armstead out indefinitely with an illness and Andres Peat listed as questionable dealing with concussion protocol. A big advantage that the Saints had over the Falcons in the first matchup is that the Falcons were expecting the Saints to start Jameis Winston and when the Saints chose to go with Taysom Hill the Saints had an advantage with his ability to be a runner and a passer so the Falcons didn’t have enough time to prepare for his skill set. Now after facing Taysom Hill and seeing what the Saints like to call with him as the quarterback the Falcons are way more prepared to play Hill to his weaknesses. Since Hill has taken over as the starter the Saints are 2-0 but he still hasn’t thrown for a touchdown and one of those wins came against a Broncos team with no quarterback. I have this line set at 2 so grab the 3 points while you can and if the Falcons can go up by 10 or more early I like their chances to win straight up so a live bet might be in play as well.
Best Bet: Falcons +3
Jaguars (+9.5) @ Vikings **Teaser Pick**
The Jaguars are coming off one of the better games this season last week against the Browns with Mike Glennon making his first start since he’s been signed by the Jags. Something that we see often in football is when there’s a significant change at quarterback or a team fires the coach, the team will rally for at least one week around the new quarterback or coach and play above their expectations and I think that’s what happened last week against the Browns and I don’t expect the Jaguars to play that well against the Vikings. Mike Zimmer is not only one of the better coaches in the league he’s also amazing ATS and especially in key situations. Since 2014 Mike Zimmer is 66-40-1 ATS, at home he’s 34-19-1 ATS, as a favorite he’s 38-23-1 ATS and outside the division he’s 45-21-1 ATS and this spot this week may be his best spot to bet on his Vikings. As a non-divisional home favorite Zimmer is 19-7-1 ATS covering 73% of the time. Nick Chubb ran wild against this Jaguars defense with 144 yards and 7.6 YPC while Kareem Hunt averaged 6.2 YPC so I don’t expect Dalvin Cook to have any issues against this Jacksonville run defense.
Like: Vikings (-3.5) **Tease by 6**
Patriots (PK) @ Chargers **Teaser Pick**
Even though Justin Herbert is having an amazing rookie year by putting up the numbers and making the plays we’ve seen him make every week it’s not amounting to wins and that’s due in large part to not being able to overcome bad coaching and seeing Anthony Lynn’s decision making late in the ball game and at the end of the first half last week against the Bills was probably the worst I’ve seen from him. Now Lynn and the Chargers will be up against arguably the best coach in NFL history and definitely one of the smartest ones. As great as Herbert has been Bill Belichick dominates rookie quarterbacks with a record of 19-5 against them and Herbert won’t be able to depend on Lynn as the Chargers are 8-19 since the start of the 2019 season and 4-16 in one score games during that same time. Cam Newton only completed 9 passes last week but this week he should be much better and the Patriots should be able to get back to establishing the run with only 3 opponents that faced the Chargers not going over 100 yards rushing and the Patriots will be the most efficient run heavy team the Chargers face so far.
Like: Patriots (+6) **Tease by 6**
Lions (+3) @ Bears
After being embarrassed by the Texans on Thanksgiving losing by 16 the Lions finally fired Matt Patricia and the general manager and I think this a motivational spot for the Lions as we’ve routinely seen teams that fire their head coach the following week they come out and play above expectations. Their best running back rookie DeAndre Swift is also expected to be back from injury so he should help improve the offense against this tough Bears defense that ranks just outside the top 10 in total yards allowed and probably would be even better if their terrible offense could help them out by not being on the field so much and in short field situations. Whether it’s Nick Foles or Mitch Tribusky it doesn’t really matter because this Bears offense just simply can’t move the ball or score points ranking second to last in offensive total yards and 29th in points per game with 19.6. This line opened at four and has been bet down to three and with the added motivation I expect the Lions to play with I think they have a shot at winning this game outright.
Like: Lions +3
Raiders (-9) @ Jets
I bet against the Raiders a couple weeks leading up them being blown out last week against the Falcons expecting them to have the flat spot that they showed last week but I was a couple weeks early. Now after being embarrassed after everyone was buying them as a legit playoff team I think they’re primed for s bounce back performance against 0-11 Jets. The Jets had their best chance to win their first game of the season when they rallied against the Chargers and made it a one possession game and now with five games left in their season the season be over soon enough. The Jets rank last in just about every relevant statistical category on both sides of the ball so a motivated Raiders team shouldn’t have any problems on the ground or in the air against this defense. The Jets are losing by 15.5 PPG and are just 2-9 ATS. With the Raiders being a public team I see this lean easily reaching double digits closer to game day so grab the Raiders early.
Like: Raiders -9
Bills (PK) @ 49ers
If this 49ers team didn’t suffer from so many injuries to key guys I think they would still be the best team in the toughest division NFC West and best team in the NFC with the strongest odds to make it back to the Super Bowl. Kyle Shanahan is still proving to be the best young coach in football and his players are still playing hard as they are coming off an upset win over their division rival the Rams last week. Even with three turnovers the 49ers were still able to pull off the win in large part because of the defense holding the Rams to 20 points and forcing four turnovers of their own. The 49ers are also getting healthy late in the season with Richard Sherman, Deebo Samuel Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and Trent Williams returning last week and should be getting Brandon Aiyuk back from the COVID list for this matchup as well. The 49ers still face some adversity with not being able to play their two home games and moving their operation to Arizona so that could have an impact on their play. The 49ers have struggled defending mobile quarterbacks and Josh Allen is having his best season of his career recording a 75.4 QBR (ranks 6th), 275 YPG (ranks 8th) with 22 passing touchdowns and 6 rushing touchdowns.
Lean: 49ers PK
Browns (+6) @ Titans
The Browns are 8-3 and in a great position to make the playoffs but they’ve only beat one team with a winning record in the Colts and they’ll be facing a team that they’re pretty comparable to in the Titans but the Colts have proven to beat good teams. Both teams are at their best when they can establish the run with Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb so I think the winner will come down to who as able to move the ball through the air without committing turnovers and since Baker Mayfield and the Browns have yet to be able to do that against good teams I’d lean to Ryan Tannehill and the Titans. Since it’s no secret that both teams want to run the ball both defenses will look to stack the box which will open up the passing game so I’m looking for Ryan Tannehill to go over his passing yards player prop. The Browns give up 246 passing yards per game to opposing quarterbacks so I like Tannehill to go over 240 passing yards, up to 243.
Lean: Ryan Tannehill over 240 passing yards
Bengals (+11.5) @ Dolphins
The Bengals played their first game last week without franchise quarterback Joe Burrow against the Giants and with all the money against them the defense was able to keep them within the number and lose by two but this week I expect a flat spot against a tougher opponent in the Dolphins. The Dolphins coming off a road win and cover as big favorites against the Jets but they have yet to have a explosive offensive day as they only average 311.9 YPG of total offense ranking 30th. With Brandon Allen likely getting his second start for the Bengals the Dolphins defense should do what they’ve done all season and force a couple turnovers out of him which would allow their offense to take advantage of short fields whether Fitzpatrick or Tagovailoa gets the start. Since Brian Flores has been the head coach for the Dolphins the team has gone 17-10 ATS and if you remove his first month taking over the team when he was experimenting with new players and establishing a culture they improve to 17-6. Joe Burrow was proving to be a franchise quarterback and the Bengals were able to move the ball and put up points before he went out but head coach Zac Taylor is only 7-10 ATS without him and Brandon Allen was 17/29 for 136 yards and a 67.6 quarterback rating.
Lean: Dolphins -11.5
Colts (-3.5) @ Texans
Deshaun Watson is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league but he’s not being talked about enough because he plays for the poorly run Texans and they’re 4-7. The Texans also opened the season up with a brutal schedule but as it’s lightened up during the month of November they managed to win three out of four games including their 16 point over the Lions on Thanksgiving. Now December brings another tough challenge facing the Colts defense twice and the Bears. Against other respected defenses this year like the Vikings, Ravens and Chiefs they weren’t able to score more than 23 points in either contest and the Colts present a similar challenge if not tougher as they only allow opposing teams to score 23 PPG. The Texans also depend heavily on Deshaun Watson and the passing attack but it’ll a tough ask for him to move the ball through the air on this defense that only allows 209.9 YPG that ranks 6th best and the Texans will also be without Watson’s best wide receivers Will Fuller as he was released and suspended for PED use.
Like: Texans under 23.5 points
Rams (-3) @ Cardinals
This is a huge division games for both teams as they both try to strengthen their chances of locking up a wild card spot for the playoffs as the Seahawks continue to pull away with the division lead and have easy opponent against the Giants with a backup quarterback. Kyler Murray had a hot start to the season but he cooled down a little bit and suffered s shoulder injury over the last couple weeks that limited the play calling that would have him use his legs but was a full participant in their last practice. Sean McVay wasn’t pleased with Jared Goff’s turnovers last week against the 49ers and this could be a run heavy spot for the Rams and limit the amount of opportunities Goff could have for turnovers. DeVry Henderson hasn’t been producing at the level to take over the role of being a lead back and Cam Akers has shown the ability to make explosive plays. Last week against one of the better defenses, Akers in a limited role went for 84 yards on 9 carries and a touchdown so I’m looking for his role to increase a little more and a play on his rushing yards total to the over has value with it being set at a pretty low number.
Like: Cam Akers over 32 rushing yards
Giants (+10) @ Seahawks
The Giants hold the top spot in the weak NFC East division but it’ll be tough for them to hold onto that with Daniel Jones expected to miss some time with a hamstring injuries and going up against one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Russell Wilson. When Seattle’s running backs were banged up the Seahawks “Let Russ Cook” for a couple weeks but then he started to commit turnovers at a high rate but now that Chris Carson is back along with Carlos Hyde the Seahawks can be a little bit more balanced and it’s not all on Wilson to carry the team as much. The Giants do have s strong run defense only giving up 3.9 YPC and holding opposing teams under 100 yards rushing per game but Wilson should be able to move the ball through the air as the Giants do not have the personnel in the secondary to slow down DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
Lean: Seahawks -10
Eagles (+8.5) @ Packers
Each week that goes by when Carson Wentz continues to struggle you just have to wonder if Doug Pederson will make the move to Jalen Hurts. It was reported that leading up to last weeks game Hurts took snaps with the first string but he only played one snap in the game which leads me to think we may see more of Hurts this week if Wentz continues to struggle. The offensive struggles isn’t entirely on Wentz’s poor play. Before the season started the Eagles dealt with multiple guys on the offensive line being out for the season with injuries and also multiple players being out for some weeks in their skill positions but at some point Wentz was a high draft pick and once played at an MVP level so you’d expect better play than his 58.1 completion percentage, 49.6 QBR and 16:15 TD:INT ratio. With the Packers drafting Aaron Rodgers’ potential replacement this past offseason he’s played all season with a chip on his shoulder and regained his MVP form completing 68% of his passes for 3100 yards that ranks 6th and an amazing 33:4 TD:INT (leads the NFL in touchdown passes). The Packers also look to be balanced by adding the running game led by Aaron Jones and I see value in him going over his rushing total that’s set at 59 yards and he averages almost 70 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles also allow opposing teams to rush for 128 yards per game ranking 24th in the league.
Like: Aaron Jones over 59.5 rushing yards
Broncos (-14) @ Chiefs
The Chiefs are playing like they’re just coasting through these regular season games and play hard just enough to lock up the win and get to the next week. Last week against the Bucs they were in control for large part of that game and were easily covering the 3.5 point spread then they let up and secured the win by getting a couple first downs and won by three. I see the Chiefs taking the same approach for this matchup with the Broncos as they’ve went 10-0 straight up and 7-3 ATS against them. The Broncos are coming off last week playing with no quarterbacks so they’ll obviously get better play this week from that position but I don’t trust it’ll be enough to stay within the number. Pass on this one.
Washington (+9) @ Steelers
Washington is gonna have a huge rest advantage with their last game being played on Thanksgiving blowing out the Cowboys and the Steelers playing a weird Wednesday afternoon game so this could be a potential flat spot for the Steelers. The Steelers normally present a tough defense that can stop the run as they only allow 105 yards on the ground (95 at home) but they lost a key defensive starter in Bud Dupree on top of not having Devin Bush also so I expect Washington to have a run heavy game plan because the Steelers do allow 4.4 yards per carry and there’s gonna be value on Antonio Gibson going over his prop for rushing yards. He’s coming off a career game, rushing for 115 yards and three touchdowns on only 20 carries on Thanksgiving. I anticipate him getting more than 20 touches which will help him go over his rushing prop total.
Like: Antonio Gibson over 55 rushing yards