We head into Week 13 of the NFL season, and now that all 32 teams have had their bye week, we are into the pleasant home stretch part of the calendar where everyone has played the same number of games, thereby making it easy for me to do basic standings arithmetic. If the season ended this weekend, the Texans would be the 3-seed in the AFC, getting ready for a 6-5 Steelers team that just benched their starting quarterback (who was actually their backup entering the season) mid-game on Sunday. The AFC is weird this season.
More importantly, we are hitting the home stretch on all of my season win total recommendations that I made for you before the season. Let's take inventory with five games to go and see how likely it is that I make you some money this holiday season:
CARDINALS UNDER 5 (+105)
CURRENT RECORD: 3-7-1
REMAINING SCHEDULE: vs LAR, vs PIT, vs CLV, @ SEA, @ LAR
CASH LIKELIHOOD (1 to 10): 4.5
DOLPHINS UNDER 4.5 wins (+110)
CURRENT RECORD: 2-9
REMAINING SCHEDULE: vs PHI, @ NYJ, @ NYG, vs CIN, @ NE
CASH LIKELIHOOD (1 to 10): 7.5
TITANS UNDER 8 (-130)
CURRENT RECORD: 6-5
REMAINING SCHEDULE: @ IND, @ OAK, vs HOU, vs NOLA, @ HOU
CASH LIKELIHOOD (1 to 10): 2.0
REDSKINS UNDER 6 (-135)
CURRENT RECORD: 2-9
REMAINING SCHEDULE: @ CAR, @ GB, vs PHI, vs NYG, @ DAL
CASH LIKELIHOOD (1 to 10): 9.5
RAIDERS UNDER 6 (+105)
CURRENT RECORD: 6-5
REMAINING SCHEDULE: @ KC, vs TEN, vs JAC, @ LAC, @ DEN
CASH LIKELIHOOD (1 to 10): 0.0
So, a lot of reasons to watch games down the stretch (which is code for "I took way too many that are coin flips or worse.") Just in case, let's try to make some holiday scratch this weekend:
Saints -6.5 over FALCONS
The Falcons pulled off one of the most unexpected upsets of the season a few weeks ago, when they went into New Orleans as a two touchdown underdog, with a 1-7 record, and knocked off the Saints soundly, 26-9. The Falcons followed that up with a road trouncing of the Panthers, 29-3. The Falcons were knocked back down a peg by the Bucs, of all teams this past weekend. In an odd scheduling quirk, this will be the fourth straight division game for the Falcons. That catches up to teams, and the Saints have to have this win to stay in the race for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. (The Niners are 10-1, the Saints are 9-2.)
GIANTS +7.5 over Packers
The Packers have been world travelers over the last three weeks, and it has not gone well when they've had to hit the road. Three weeks ago, they got worked by a mediocre Chargers team in LA, 26-11. They then came back home and beat the Panthers, before getting rolled by the Niners this past Sunday night by 29 points. Now, the Packers have to go from the West Coast, back to Green Bay to practice on a holiday week, then head out east. This feels like a sloppy Green Bay win, thanks to an ill-advised Daniel Jones turnover, but I'll take the points as long as the spread is over a touchdown.
Buccaneers +1.5 over JAGUARS
In the last three weeks, Jaguars have lost by an average margin 22 points to three divisional foes. Even worse, the defense has given up 160 yards to Carlos Hyde, over 100 yards to two Colts in the same game, and 159 yards to Derrick Henry this past Sunday. Nick Foles seems to have no sense of urgency as the starting quarterback, citing a lot of religion and annoying pragmatism to stay above the hand wringing over the ship sinking in Jacksonville. The Buccaneers are still playing hard for Bruce Arians, and if Jameis Winston can keep from making it a turnover fest, the Bucs should win this game outright.
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COLTS -3 over Titans
The Titans are 4-1 with Ryan Tannehill as the starting quarterback, since he took over for Marcus Mariota last month. They're one of the hottest teams in the NFL. The thing about the Titans under Mike Vrabel is that you have to know the exact time to sell high. Usually, they are at their best when there aren't huge expectations, and they flounder when there is finally buy in. I trust Frank Reich more, especially at home, in this situation. This is a defect elimination game, as the loser will be 6-6 with a tough uphill climb for the last wild card spot. The winner is likely tied with the Texans after this weekend for the division lead.
Raiders +10 at CHIEFS
The Chiefs are coming off of a bye, and the Raiders looked terrible going to New York and losing by four touchdowns to the Jets. I expected that Jets win, as we gave it out as one of out top picks last weekend. I think the Raiders have enough offensively to keep this a game for a while, and stay within double digits in a crucial game to keep their wild card hopes alive. The Chiefs are still a very mediocre team defensively.
Patriots/TEXANS UNDER 44
There will be more on this game tomorrow here on the site, but let's just say that, between the Patriots' offensive struggles this season and the things they will do defensively to confound Deshaun Watson, I am expecting a low scoring game in the latest "BIGGEST GAME OF BILL O'BRIEN'S WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE!!"
LAST WEEK: 3-3
SEASON NFL ATS RECORD: 35-37 (48.6 percent)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.