NFL Betting Guide: Week 13
Do you think you know a lot about NFL football? Try regularly picking five games against the spread.
Even with all the information and advanced stats, elite sports bettors are lucky to get about 53% to 54% of -110 (even probability) bets correct. It's essentially flipping a coin.
That being said, people -- myself included -- try. There are plenty of contests, media personalities, and other casual games at work or with friends that pick five games each week against the spread to see how they fare.
Using NFL odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, here are my five picks against the spread and a couple of totals I like this week. Play or fade as you please.
Week 12 Recap
Last Week: 4-1
Year-to-Date Record: 34-26-0 (56.7%)
In case you missed it, I swapped out the Jets for the Cardinals from last week's guide on Friday via Twitter. The line in my personal contest (based on FanDuel) ballooned in Justin Fields' absence, and I pivoted. Luckily, you went 4-1 with or without the update.
It was a solid -- but sweaty -- week. The Jaguars, Raiders, and Bengals all needed some late-game heroics to find the right side of the number despite scripts that felt how we thought they would. Arizona -- or New York -- was actually the only sweat-free cover.
A late field goal spoiled the spunky Rams' bid to cover a lofty spread in Arrowhead, so we're still searching for that first perfect week. Maybe this is the one.
Pick #1: Bengals (+2.5) vs. Chiefs
I'm flabbergasted the surging Bengals aren't getting more activity on this line.
They beat Kansas City in both matchups last year, they're a league-best 8-3 against the spread (ATS), and they're likely getting back Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Mixon for this pivotal contest. I usually don't find value in teams with this many arrows pointing in the right direction.
It's because the public is lining up behind the minus-money favorite for MVP, Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs are getting 82% of the wagers and 89% of the money on this spread.
This handicap is going to feel like deja vu. It's the same as both games between these two last year that we cashed with Cincinnati. There's no denying Mahomes and the league-best K.C. offense, per our model. This is a story about defense -- where the Chiefs are our 14th-worst defense, and they were bottom 10 last week before drawing Bryce Perkins.
The Bengals package our 3rd-best offense with our 10th-best defense. That's a huge difference. They're a more complete team factoring in both sides of the ball, so I'd be a bit surprised if the result wasn't the same as both contests in 2021 -- a close Cincinnati win.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Bengals 26-23
Pick #2: 49ers (-3.5) vs. Dolphins
It's also a bit bizarre this game is a "buy-low" spot given the 49ers covered a 9.0-point spread last week, right? They just looked anemic offensively.
But, I just can't trust this Miami defense on the road given San Francisco's litany of playmakers. Similarly to Kansas City, Miami was our 6th-worst defense coming into last week before a date with Kyle Allen, and I wouldn't be shocked if they're back in the bottom 10 next week. Meanwhile, the Niners' defense, fresh off a shutout, is finally healthy. They're numberFire's sixth-best unit overall.
To no one's surprise, the Dolphins -- and their high-flying offense -- are a public favorite, so they feel they're getting a gift here with the 3.5-point hook in a game of two "great" teams. The problem is I'm not sure they're both great.
Tua Tagovailoa has faced only three top-10 defenses (by our nERD model) and posted 0.26 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back against them. That's still a very good mark, but the lethality of this one-dimensional 'Fins offense hasn't been the same in those tougher matchups. He's posted 0.47 Passing NEP per drop back on everyone else.
Especially since DeMeco Ryans is well familiar with the concepts his 2021 colleague Mike McDaniel is trying to execute, don't be surprised if one of Tua's worst efforts of the year occurs in Santa Clara.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: 49ers 27-17
Pick #3: Raiders (-1.0) vs. Chargers
The Raiders will hold this third spot until they lose a game.
I'm kidding about that, but for the third straight week, the public is fading Josh McDaniels and creating value on Vegas. On the spread, 65% of tickets are with the visiting Chargers, but 56% of the money is backing Las Vegas at home, setting up a good ol' "Pros vs. Joes" spot.
Obviously, the Raiders' offense is red-hot through Josh Jacobs at the moment, and Los Angeles is our fifth-worst rush defense. Jacobs is primed for a huge another huge Sunday, but L.A. should also put up points in this one. Vegas is our worst overall defense in numberFire's metrics.
The Raiders were 0-6 in one-score games to start the year and have since won back-to-back in overtime. There is an element of luck and randomness in one-score contests that generally evens out over large samples.
I think the public thinks the Raiders have been "lucky" the past two weeks, but the way they started the year, it was quite literally due. I have no idea where they go in those contests from here, but I will take a chance with the better offense (per our ranks) in a home shootout when they're getting pounded with sharp money.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Raiders 33-30
Mike Vrabel is an incredible coach.
He's 22-16 straight up as an underdog during his time in Tennessee, so I'm interested just about any time I get points with him. This is over that critical number of 3.5 points, and there's an obvious recipe for success for Tennessee.
The Eagles can't stop the run. They're numberFire's fourth-worst rushing defense, and Derrick Henry will be opposite them this weekend. Henry has averaged 180.0 scrimmage yards this year against run defenses in the bottom 10 by our metrics.
Philadelphia is also numberFire's top rushing offense, but they'll be up against numberFire's 10th-best rushing defense. Philly is 2-2 straight up and 1-3 ATS facing top-12 rushing defenses this season.
With Tennessee in a stellar matchup with a tremendous underdog coach, this is also a buy-low spot after the Titans were thwarted last week as a popular underdog while the Eagles covered and scored 37 points in primetime.
I love the value on this line in what seems sure to be an ugly, field-goal game I'm going to start calling "The Vrabel Special."
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Titans 23-20
To me, this game comes down to one team that does one thing exceptionally well against a team that doesn't. The Jets have one of the best defenses in the NFL, rating out fifth in our power rankings. Their 35% pressure rate is fifth-best in the league and should wreak havoc on the Vikes' offensive line. Minnesota has allowed a 28% pressure rate (tied for fifth-worst).
Minnesota has plenty of talented pieces, but when we put it all together, there's a lot lacking. They're just 13th in our offensive ranks and 16th in our defensive ranks. Their skill talent on offense is significantly undercut by their offensive line, and we saw Mac Jones look like Tom Brady last week against the Vikes' secondary.
The tough part of handicapping this game is pinpointing what New York's offense will look like. White averaged 0.74 Passing NEP per drop back last week, and he's not going to be triple the league leaders all year. Still, can he be functional enough to undo the damage that Zach Wilson did en route to making Gang Green the 10th-worst offense overall, according to our numbers?
I think so, and that would be all the difference.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Jets 22-21
Totals of the Week
Pick #1: Browns at Texans (Over 46.5)
Never in my life would I be one of 78% of the bettors lining up to back the under with these two awful defenses, but I kind of get it.
The Texans' offense is pathetic. When Miami was trying last week in the first half, Houston posted -0.82 Offensive NEP per play. That's right; their actions cost them nearly an expected point per play. However, the reality is the total in that one would have soared over if Miami had scored a single second-half point.
One of the reasons they didn't was the Dolphins' offense is numberFire's fifth-worst rushing offense. Once they went into clock-eating mode, Miami couldn't move the football. Cleveland, as numberFire's third-best rushing offense, won't have that same issue.
These are two of numberFire's bottom-six overall defenses, and this game has a pretty average situation-neutral pace. I'm not expecting I'll need a ton of offense in return from the Texans given Cleveland should soar into the 20s, but if there's any defense that can make Kyle Allen look better, it'll be this underachieving Browns crew.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Browns 31-23
Pick #2: Commanders at Giants (Under 40.0)
I'm not sure if that's more stunning or the fact it's for third place in the division, too. Regardless, these two teams figure to limit each other's scoring potential quite a bit.
New York has lost three of their past four, and in no coincidence, Saquon Barkley fell short of 60 rushing yards in all three losses. If they can't run the ball, Big Blue is toast offensively. That's not great for this week as New York is facing numberFire's top-ranked rushing defense.
As for Washington, they're an under machine with Taylor Heinicke at the helm. They've scored an average of 19.7 offensive points per game under Heinicke, and they haven't crossed the 20-point threshold other than his out-of-body experience against Philadelphia.
This is another Pros-Joes battle. A nice amount of bets (69%) are on the over, but 72% of the cash here is on the under. When in doubt, follow the money.
Swami Swaim's Score Prediction: Commanders 19-16