NFL Week 13 picks and predictions: Will Carolina suffer its first loss?

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It happens one time, every year. After eleven weeks of following a set of rules and riding it to the top of the standings for experts picking games against the spread — according to NFLPickwatch — a cacophony of mistakes were made. Most notably, in an effort to over-think the validity of the rules that carried us here, we began to stray.

Rather than accept the story the spreads were telling — namely, the Packers and Patriots were about to walk into traps — we tried to rewrite our own. For this, a humble apology is offered. Games are inherently risky and missing on a handful, every week, is a guarantee, but there is no justification in simply combating the guidelines.

SEE MORE: Last week's picks against the spread

When this same issue arose last season, it actually became the catalyst for an extended winning streak that concluded with a first-place finish for the combination of regular season and postseason against the spread picks. Of course, as the saying goes, "past history is no guarantee of future success," but the important takeaway is that the system, as a whole, works. When we stray, we fail.

In addition to ignoring the rules, Week 12 also coincidentally featured a smaller number of opportunities, anyway. With nine favorites covering their spreads, and the Panthers — largely considered one of the 'easiest picks' of last week — cruising in Dallas, the overall state of the week was more conducive to those who lean towards favorites.

NFL POWER RANKINGS:

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NFL Week 13 picks and predictions: Will Carolina suffer its first loss?

32. Cleveland Browns (2-9)

Last week: 32

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

31. Tennessee Titans (2-9)

Last week: 31

(AP Photo/James Kenney)

30. San Francisco 49ers (3-8)

Last week: 29

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

29. New Orleans Saints (4-7)

Last week: 27

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

28. San Diego Chargers (3-8)

Last week: 30

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

27. Miami Dolphins (4-7)

Last week: 24

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

26. Baltimore Ravens (4-7)

Last week: 28

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

25. St. Louis Rams (4-7)

Last week: 23

(AP Photo/Frank Victores)

24. Philadelphia Eagles (4-7)

Last week: 18

(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

23. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)

Last week: 22

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

22. Dallas Cowboys (3-8)

Last week: 21

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

21. Detroit Lions (4-7)

Last week: 26

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

20. Chicago Bears (5-6)

Last week: 25

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

19. Oakland Raiders (5-6)

Last week: 19

(AP Photo/James Kenney)

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)

Last week: 17

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

17. New York Giants (5-6)

Last week: 10

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

16. Buffalo Bills (5-6)

Last week: 12

(David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)

15. Washington Redskins (5-6)

Last week: 20

(Photo by Toni L. Sandys/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)

14. New York Jets (6-5)

Last week: 16

(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

13. Atlanta Falcons (6-5)

Last week: 13

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

12. Indianapolis Colts (6-5)

Last week: 15

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

11. Houston Texans (6-5)

Last week: 14

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)

Last week: 8

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

9. Green Bay Packers (7-4)

Last week: 6

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

8. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)

Last week: 11

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

7. Seattle Seahawks (6-5)

Last week: 9

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

6. Minnesota Vikings (8-3)

Last week: 7

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

5. Cincinnati Bengals (9-2)

Last week: 4

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

4. Arizona Cardinals (9-2)

Last week: 3

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

3. Denver Broncos (9-2)

Last week: 5

(Photo by Steve Nehf/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

2. New England Patriots (10-1)

Last week: 1

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

1. Carolina Panthers (11-0)

Last week: 2

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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Naturally, this sets the stage for underdogs to recover. With that, five games now have spreads of a touchdown worth of points or more. Not surprisingly, we are taking the points in almost all of them.

Below are predictions for each game against the spread. Spreads have been taken from various websites and are subject to change. The spread in parenthesis denotes the selected team. An asterisk denotes a confidence pick.

*Confidence Picks – 2015 Season: 48-31-1 (Last Week: 2-5)

(2014 Season: 61-46-2)

All Picks Against Spread – 2015 Season: 94-78-4 (Last Week: 5-11)

(2014 Season: 149-114-4)

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (+7)*

Is there a game, this week, that could possibly look more one-sided than a matchup between the 9-2 Bengals — coming off a blowout victory — facing the 2-9 Browns with a backup quarterback and less than one week removed from a heart-breaking loss? In fact, has there been a game, all season, with such an 'obvious' outcome?

Whenever a conclusion appears to be prematurely written, we tend to go against it. In addition to how 'easy' the Bengals look, on paper, they fit the bill as the division road team simply giving too many points to a franchise that has clearly hit rock bottom. In fact, is this not a nearly identical setup as last week's game between the Cardinals and 49ers?

Like the Panthers and Vikings, the Bengals have reached rarefied air in 2015. According to TeamRankings, Cincinnati is an unprecedented 9-1-1 against the spread, good for a success rate of 90 percent. Dating back to 2004 — the last year TeamRankings has listed for against the spread statistics — no team has finished a season at 90 percent or better against the spread.

Cleveland, outscored by a total score of 61-10 in its last two meetings with Cincinnati, is simply getting too many points at home for a division team. The Bengals win by a field goal as Cleveland plays an inspired game, beating the spread.

Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills (-3)

As the Houston Texans continue to tear through AFC opponents on their current four-game winning streak, one question must be asked: How is it possible that a 2-5 team continues to win one game after another?

Houston's strength is clearly its defense, allowing a total of 35 points and two touchdowns in its last four games. A matchup with the Bills appears to suggest another low-scoring affair, but, in addition to the natural regression for the defense — the Texans allowed an average of 28.4 points-per-game in their first seven games — the specific strength of the Bills offense is the biggest weakness for Houston.

The Buffalo Bills favor their rushing attack — with the fourth-most rushing attempts, but the fourth-fewest passing attempts — and they have the fifth-most rushing yards and second-most rushing touchdowns in the league. Houston, although allowing the sixth-fewest total yards in the league, ranks 23rd in defensive rush-yards-per-attempt. On offense, although Houston does not hesitate to put the ball in the air — the second-most passing attempts in the league — the Texans are the seventh-worst offense in net-passing-yards-per-attempt.

Buffalo controls the action on Sunday, winning by six and covering the spread.

San Francisco 49ers (+7)* at Chicago Bears

It is undeniable that the Chicago Bears have played much better in the past eight games — 5-3 with no loss by more than a field goal — than in the first three — 0-3 by an average margin of victory of 19.7 points-per-game. However, it is also undeniable that the 49ers have played their best football in their last three games — highlighted by the change at the quarterback position from Colin Kaepernick to Blaine Gabbert.

If the Bears are being rewarded for their recent 3-1 stretch — punctuated by a win in Green Bay — with a large spread, why are the 49ers being punished? Have the Bears — still with a losing record — ascended to the level where a touchdown worth of points is enough to give, especially against a team that is also coming into its own?

Despite the success the team has had, Chicago has failed to reach the 20-point barrier in each of its last four games. While San Francisco has the league's worst offense — in both yards and points — it won't take much to outpace the Bears.

San Francisco wins by a single point and beats the spread.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-2.5)

In the sequel to what was one of the most unwatchable football games of the season, the Titans and Jaguars will meet for the second time in three weeks. This, on the heels of both AFC South bottom-dwellers losing in Week 12.

With both matchups being so close chronologically, little has changed besides the venue and sixty short minutes of football against their respective opponents. What is different — albeit, slightly — is that Tennessee has finally figured out a method to put some points on the scoreboard. Granted, with the league's third-worst offense in both points and yards, the Titans won't be lighting up too many teams, but they broke the thirteen-point barrier for the second time in eight weeks with what could only be considered an 'outburst' of 21 points in Week 12.

While both teams have shown complete ineptitude, at times, the franchise two games worse in the standings — Tennessee — arguably played a better game than the Jaguars in Week 11, only to implode at the end. The same could be said for the team's Week 12 loss to the Raiders, where Tennessee had a win locked up, only to have a questionable defensive penalty extend Oakland's chances. In addition to the recipe for success that almost worked, the Titans have a top-ten defense — in yards allowed — while Jacksonville gives up the third-most points-per-game.

Tennessee avenges its loss from two weeks ago with a six-point victory, covering the spread.

Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams (+5.5)*

The Arizona Cardinals are beginning to perform exactly as their numbers suggested they would. That is, the 9-2 Cardinals — every bit as good as their record — are slowing down.

A few short weeks ago, Arizona led the league in point differential, suggesting that it was flying too high. Naturally, the team regressed and, while it has now won five consecutive games, the last three have all been by a touchdown or less. In Week 13, against a Rams team that looks completely lost, the trend of close games will continue.

St. Louis shocked the Cardinals in Week 4 with a win in Arizona, and the odds of a repeat performance are incredibly low. However, the Rams play some of their closest games against division opponents — despite a 4-7 overall record, St. Louis is 3-0 against NFC West rivals.

The Cardinals feature an absolutely deadly passing attack — despite the thirteenth-fewest attempts, they have the most net-yards-per-pass-attempts in the league — but, unfortunately for Arizona, this plays into one of St. Louis' few strengths. The Rams actually tout a quietly successful defense, allowing the eighth-fewest passing yards, while sitting in the top-half for both total points and yards allowed.

With each team moving so violently in the opposite direction — the Rams are riding a four-game losing streak while Arizona has a five-game winning streak — a quick return to the norm should be in the works. The Cardinals win by four, but St. Louis beats the spread in a surprisingly competitive game.

Baltimore Ravens (+4) at Miami Dolphins

The Baltimore Ravens are having a completely absurd 2015. From season-ending injuries to quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr., and running back Justin Forsett to last-second losses to walk-off blocked field goals returned for touchdowns, the fact that every one of Baltimore's games have been decided by no more than one score should not be a surprise. The way this season has gone, if Baltimore wins its last five games in blowout fashion, it would be par for the 'ridiculous' course.

In reality, Baltimore's persistence and ability to stay in each of its games is impressive, especially as the calendar turns to December. Most teams that start the year 2-7 eventually cave in, but the Ravens — even following a completely improbable loss that featured a penalty-aided game-winning field goal drive by the Jaguars — refused to quit.

Miami, on the other hand, has looked like a team ready to move onto 2016 since 2015 began.

The Dolphins have consistently been such an utter disappointment that labeling any of their games as 'rebound opportunities' is a waste of time. To date, the only two games that Miami has won following a loss were aided by a bye week and an injured quarterback in Philadelphia in a game the Dolphins basically lost, had it not been for a late interception.

Baltimore isn't going anywhere in 2015, but it appears determined to prevent the season from being a complete loss. The Ravens grab their third consecutive game, winning by a touchdown and beating the spread.

SEE MORE: Ranking the best uniforms in football

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NFL Week 13 picks and predictions: Will Carolina suffer its first loss?
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At one time, Tampa Bay has a good look. When Warren Sapp was in town, the Buccaneers had the pewter look with a cool logo and some pretty standard font. Now? The logo is massive, the numbers look digital and the uniform is too jumbled. A word of advice would be to return to the days of Bucco Bruce. What’s old is always new again, and those original Tampa Bay uniforms are sweet as sugar. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

31. Cincinnati Bengals

This team has never really gotten it right. Originally, the Bengals had the word “BENGALS” across the helmet from their inception in 1967 until 1981. Then, they shocked the football world by going for stripes on their helmets, which they still have today. Look, the helmets are alright, but the pants are brutal. Please stop will all the stripes and get a cleaner appearance. It might help Andy Dalton play respectably in the playoffs. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

30. Atlanta Falcons

Another uniform which needs an overhaul. The helmet is one of the worst in the league. Why not get an angry Falcon on the side or maybe some color in that bad boy? Go back to the red helmets and change the number font to something readable. Also, those pants. Either commit to the stripe or completely change the pants. Stop sitting on the fence. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

29. Arizona Cardinals

So much of what was said above for Atlanta can be said here. The helmet for Arizona is beautiful, but the jersey is a wreck with all the lines and little details. Get rid of the damn logo on the neckline. We don’t need it. Also, the same complaint as above with those freaking pants. Stop it. You aren’t a high school team. Just give us a stripe to break up the color and move on. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

28. Carolina Panthers

Alright, the Panthers are a team that values tradition. Normally, that gets big points in my book, but not these uniforms. The Panthers need to ditch that all blue top forever and use that only as an accent. The black and white tops are fine, and the logo isn’t bad. However, the helmet stripe is terrible and the colors are too passive. Give me a deeper blue and something to catch the eye. Just a bland look. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

27. Jacksonville Jaguars

The complete opposite of a bland look, taken way too far. Jacksonville has nice colors, but the helmet is ridiculous and the pants are atrocious. Teams are always trying to be edgy and hip, and it ends in total disaster most of the time. The Jaguars looked good in the days of Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith. They also won back then. Don’t be afraid to have a basic helmet with some pizzazz in the top. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

26. Houston Texans

Houston is basic, but gets downgraded for that huge collar they are totting around. The Texans could also try to spice up the helmet a bit. It seems like they wanted to be really conservative and didn’t want to make any errors. While Houston succeeded on that front, the uniform lacks anything to remember it by. Overall, it’s simply another jersey that nobody wants to buy except hardcore fans. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

25. Tennessee Titans

Tennessee has a weird uniform. They have alternating shades of blue and a helmet that doesn’t really display who they are as a team. The Titans would do better to alter the helmet, especially with that crappy stripe. When you have a stripe that goes halfway, it’s like you didn’t commit. Don’t be a quitter, Titans. Figure out the helmet and then work on getting the blue shades figured out. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

24. Philadelphia Eagles

This uniform has the simplest fix in the world; go back to the original shade of green. Look at those old shots in the 1950’s and 60’s of Chuck Bednarik. See that? It’s beautiful. The green pops and shimmers in the sun, giving life to those uniforms. Now, the uniform looks dark and sometimes doesn’t even appear green. The sleeve patches also need to go. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

23. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have great colors, but the pants and sleeve piping knock it down some. Minnesota has enjoyed the same purple and gold color scheme since coming into the NFL in 1961, changing the look just a bit over the years. Still, the pants have that nonsense striping and the sleeves look strange. It would be nice to see the Vikings fix these issues so we can get them back into the top half of the league. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay, File)

22. New England Patriots

The Patriots may be the Super Bowl champions, but the uniforms aren’t getting the job done. The logo is alright, neither great nor terrible. The colors are fine, although there really isn’t much to write home about. The piping on the sides needs to be eradicated as well. However, the pants are solid and the numbers look nice, so they get style points there. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

21. Cleveland Browns

This would be much higher except for two things: the asinine “BROWNS” on the pants and “CLEVELAND” across the chest. Did anybody see those uniforms and not realize it was the Browns, who happen to play in Cleveland? I hate that. It’s like when people have empty space on the wall and jam a crappy picture up there. LEAVE IT ALONE. We all like a little wall space. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

20. Denver Broncos

Denver has a decent uniform, although those pesky pants once again hurt the grade. You need to commit, folks. The helmet logo is pretty cool and the blue and orange colors are excellent. While the old helmet logo of the horse jumped through the “D” was awesome, these uniforms are solid. So why 20th? The stripes are garbage and the numbers are bulky. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

19. Baltimore Ravens

The purple and black is a really solid look, but the number font is very odd and the pants are a tire fire. Instead of having all black with some “B” logo, get rid of that craziness and put a nice accent on them. The helmet is nice for the most part, giving us a raven who looks like he means business. Still, there is work to be done in the other aspects of the uniform. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

18. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have some really cool lime green parts to the uniform. It also has a great helmet, one of the best in the NFL. The bird looks appropriately angry and takes up the right amount of space. However, I really have issues with the team when it goes blue-on-blue. It just looks washed out and like a pair of pajamas. Get rid of that combo and move up the list. (AP Photo/Matt York)

17. Miami Dolphins

I loved the look when Dan Marino was there. Now? The helmet has that ridiculous stripe down the middle and the pants have a futuristic look to them. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel and just go simple. The Dolphins have a nice teal look with a hilarious dolphin on the helmet wearing a non-matching helmet. It was great. Today, it’s just another face in the crowd. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

16. Buffalo Bills

The Bills have taken massive steps forward since the days of Drew Bledsoe. They got rid of the ugly piping, changed the helmet from red to white and made the numbers much more simplistic. Buffalo would move into the top 10, without question, if it decided to go back to the rogue, grazing buffalo on the side of the helmet instead of the bootleg logo it has now. (AP Photo/Gary Wiepert)

15. San Francisco 49ers

This is a great uniform. The logo is great. The colors are great. The pants are great. So why the ranking? Because of the f*****g alternate uniform they rolled out. Why? Why would you ruin such a great thing with those ridiculous black and red things that should be donated to the Salvation Army? Please, somebody step in and stop the madness that is those ugly rags. (AP Photo)

14. New Orleans Saints

The Saints have always had one of the better logos in the league on their helmets. It is understated yet makes a statement about where the team is from. New Orleans needs to do something about the lack of gold in the jersey, though. The Saints have gotten away from having a stripe on their pants and the jersey has too much black. This is a uniform with ample potential.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

13. Detroit Lions

For the most part, this is a jersey that has never changed. The lion looks happy and ready to play (maybe not what you want as an NFL team, but I digress), the silver and blue is terrific together and the pants are generally solid. The Lions could make the numbers a little less funky and the get rid of some of the excess lines, but overall there is little to complain about. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

12. Washington Redskins

Washington is in controversial discussions all the time because of its name, but the jersey is an absolute beauty. The helmet is classic and has the best striping in the league. The jersey has awesome colors in burgandy and gold, something that shows up throughout the socks, pants and tops. It is one of the few things the Redskins have gotten right in recent years. (AP Photo/Richard Lipski, File)

11. New York Giants

Back in the glory days of the 1950’s and 60’s, the Giants wore their current uniforms and looked classy. Fast forward to now, and they are still great. The “ny” on the helmet has a certain timelessness, and the blue uniforms are simply fantastic. The Giants could get rid of those red jerseys for the rest of time and probably never be criticized, although they haven’t worn them recently. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

10. New York Jets

The Jets had great uniforms when they were busy winning the Super Bowl in 1968 with Joe Namath at the helm. Then they were to a ton of dark green and the “JETS” logo on the helmet for 20-plus years, before finally going back to the originals under Bill Parcells and almost winning a title. There is nothing special, but the green and white colors are terrific along with the logo. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

9. St. Louis Rams

The Rams were the first team to have a logo painted on the side of their helmets. Betcha didn’t know that. St. Louis has kept the look through the years, changing the horns from white to yellow to gold over the years. Still, it is a beautiful scene. Also, the blue and gold of today has class and pizzazz, something that is hard to pull off. It needs to be appreciated. (AP Photo/Whitney Curtis)

8. Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have done it right since the days of Johnny Unitas and Lenny Moore. There is nothing more clean and crisp than the blue and white color scheme along with the horseshoe on the helmet. It should also be acknowledged that the Colts haven’t panicked for some extra sales and created a crappy alternate uniform. These are truly one of the best. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

7. San Diego Chargers

If the Chargers would ever do the right thing and make the powder blue kits their actual, full-time jerseys, there would be no need for a power ranking. Instead, they continue to insist on the nice but not-as-perfect dark blue uniforms with gold trim. San Diego also has lightning bolts down the pants, something I’m not totally against. I like the look, but would love it with the powder blues. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

6. Chicago Bears

The Bears have done a great job with their uniforms over the years. The “C” on the helmet has gone from white to orange over the years, and the GSH has been added since the death of founder George Halas in the early 1980’s, but those are the only changes. In fact, the initials are absolutely fantastic, adding class and substance to an already glowing uniform. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

5. Kansas City Chiefs

Speaking of class, the Chiefs uniform exudes it. Kansas City has a wonderful helmet and the shade of red throughout the uniform is perfect. The white and red pants are both good, and the numbers/letters are clean and legible. The Chiefs also have a sublime patch to honor both their founder and the creator of the American Football League, Lamar Hunt. It’s right over the hearts of the players. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

4. Dallas Cowboys

If you walked up to a random person who knows nothing about sports and showed them the Cowboys’ helmet, they would know which team it belonged too. Dallas has done an incredible job of coming up with a perfect uniform and marketing the heck out of it, getting itself known as America’s Team. Give the Cowboys all kinds of credit for getting the job done. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

3. Oakland Raiders

The Raiders have been really, really bad since going to the Super Bowl in 2002. Yet, they have been able to continually look good with those classic silver and black uniforms. Oakland is known as the renegade stop for football players, and those colors embody that. The Raiders also have a fantastic helmet, showcasing the angry raider ready for battle. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are so unique by only having one logo on their helmet. Additionally, the black and gold is just awesome, playing off each other so well. It would be great if the uniform numbers went back to the Terry Bradshaw-era style, but that probably is just a pipe dream. The pants and tops are perfect, and the number on the front of the helmet is a really cool touch. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

1. Green Bay Packers

The Packers are tops. Green Bay has a classic look that has not changed, at all, through the years. The pants are simple, the helmet has a traditional logo and the jerseys are easy to read and beautifully done. The best part? The incredible combination of green and yellow. It is perhaps the best uniform in all of sports, looking amazing against the backdrop of Lambeau Field. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

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Seattle Seahawks (PK) at Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings and Seahawks enter Sunday's contest as the perfect pair of teams suffering from constantly shifting perceptions. For Seattle, its constant struggle to return to the form of its counterparts from 2012-2014 has left the team as, technically, a disappointment. Conversely, Minnesota continues to impress on a weekly basis, with its only recent blemish coming from a divisional showdown with the Packers.

What's lost in the overview of the two teams' records is how each has played in games that are largely considered 'high-leverage.' While it took the Seahawks twelve weeks before it earned a winning record for the first time, this season, the level of play is undeniably excellent. Seattle has only one loss by more than a touchdown, and the combined winning percentage for the five teams that beat the Seahawks is an incredible .727.

Minnesota has been thoroughly impressive through its first eleven games, losing only once since its Week 5 bye. The loss, however, is telling for a team on the rise but without the success and experience that comes from being at the top. When Minnesota had something to lose — that is, sole possession of first place in the NFC North — it did.

Seattle's record gives the suggestion that the team is barely above average, but it just completed one of the most difficult victories of the season, has won back-to-back games, and is heating up to the tune of a 4-1 stretch. In addition, Seattle has a top-five rushing defense, providing the perfect antidote for a Vikings team that survives by running the football, but has the second-worst passing attack when forced to put the ball in the air.

Seattle secures another clutch victory, winning by ten and beating the spread.

New York Jets (-2) at New York Giants

Although they share MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Jets and Giants enter Sunday's matchup with less fanfare than expected for two geographical rivals. Instead, the only focus remains on the team's respective playoff races, where each franchise is a tiebreaker outside of a playoff spot.

While the Giants let their NFC East lead slip in a Week 12 loss in Washington, the Jets were desperately trying to stop a string of poor play that resulted in four losses in five games. The Jets rebounded with an 18-point home victory against Miami, finally reestablishing a running game that had reached 100 total yards only once since Week 6.

When the Jets enter MetLife Stadium as the 'visiting team,' they likely won't be utilizing the same offensive gameplan against their in-house rivals. The Giants' defense has allowed the most passing yards in the league, and the Jets — although not known to be a pass-heavy team — feature wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker with a combined 17 touchdowns.

On the other side of the ball, the Giants will almost certainly abandon the running game from the start, as their rushing attack is the sixth-worst in yards-per-attempt — and the Jets' rushing defense is downright impenetrable. When the Giants turn to the air — probably out of necessity between the lack of a run game and the Jets ability to move the ball on offense — they will face a Jets defense that allows the third-fewest net-yards-per-pass-attempt.

The Jets — featuring a top-ten scoring offense and defense — have the right matchups in place to win an orthodox 'road' game. They beat the Giants by a touchdown and cover.

Atlanta Falcons (+2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While this column tends to focus on 'traps' and games that feature misaligned spreads, there are always the occasional matchups where the numbers are irrelevant. Such is the case in the divisional showdown between the Buccaneers and the Falcons.

Simply put, are the Falcons really about to squander starts of 5-0 and 6-1 and fall back to .500?

Tampa Bay had been heating up for the past few games prior to entering its Week 12 game in Indianapolis. Promptly, the Buccaneers' meteoric rise was wiped away, and they were, once again, exploited. Concurrently, the Falcons were caught in a battle against the upstart Vikings that Atlanta was not prepared to fight.

Despite their recent trends, the Falcons' initial winning streak of five games is worth more than Tampa Bay's back-to-back wins against the Cowboys and Eagles. Furthermore, Atlanta's rushing defense — allowing the sixth-fewest yards-per-attempt — is the worst possible matchup for the Buccaneers' run-heavy offense.

The Falcons grab a much-needed division victory, winning by two touchdowns and beating the spread.

Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5) at Oakland Raiders

The Kansas City Chiefs are currently in the middle of a potentially historic comeback. Once 1-5 and dead-to-rights in the AFC, the Chiefs enter Week 13 on a five-game winning streak and currently the fifth seed in the playoff picture — thanks to tiebreakers. While an extended winning streak and a road game against a division opponent usually sends up a red flag, the Chiefs have a few trend-breaking matchups in their favor.

Kansas City has just avoided two potential letdowns when traveling to San Diego, then hosting the Bills. After dismantling the Chargers, a natural regression was expected against Buffalo. It actually happened, as the Chiefs fell early to the Bills, and trailed by nine points with minutes remaining in the first half. To their credit, the Chiefs persisted and won the game.

Now that Kansas City has been thoroughly tested, it will be less likely to sleep on an opponent. This is especially true when facing a Raiders defense that ranks in the bottom-six for allowing points, total yards, and yards-per-attempt. The Chiefs have the sixth-best scoring offense and the seventh-best run game.

Kansas City wins by ten and covers.

Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (+4)*

The Denver Broncos are already beginning to enter a dangerous territory. With only two starts in his entire career, quarterback Brock Osweiler is not only being thrust into the spotlight by attempting to lead a two-loss Broncos team, but getting publicly praised for his back-to-back victories in relief of Peyton Manning.

Can we wait just a little longer before erecting a statue in Osweiler's honor?

When Osweiler was named the starting the quarterback, Peyton Manning and the top-notch Denver defense had already spotted him seven wins. With that, all Osweiler needed to do was hold down the proverbial fort as the still-fantastic defense limited opponents, and the rushing attack was finally unleashed — the past two weeks featured Denver's best total yards in the running game, all season. In addition, the Broncos barely edged a 5-6 Bears team, and beat New England in a contest that featured a game-altering fumbled punt, a driving snowstorm, a few key injuries, and a string of inexplicable moments that still needed overtime to decide a winner.

Brock Osweiler is not ready to cruise through the National Football League on a weekly basis. Playing a division rival on the road is far too much to ask an inexperienced quarterback already placed in a high-leverage situation.

The Broncos return to earth, and the Chargers take advantage. San Diego wins by a field goal and beats the spread.

Philadelphia Eagles (+10)* at New England Patriots

For the sake of the spread, the Patriots and Eagles could not possibly be meeting at a better time. The Eagles, coming off an embarrassing blowout on Thanksgiving are traveling Foxborough to face a Patriots team that just suffered its first loss of the season in a heart-breaker on nationally television. Has there ever been a more perfect setup for a potential rebound blowout?

As always, the apparent one-sided nature of the game forces it to deserve a second look. After all, this is neither the same Eagles nor Patriots team that started their respective Week 12 games.

For the first time since Week 10, the Eagles are expected to start Sam Bradford at quarterback. While Bradford's injury history is always a cause for concern, Philadelphia clearly struggled in his absence.

As critical as Bradford is to the success of the Eagles, tight end Rob Gronkowski is arguably worth more to the Patriots. Gronkowski was knocked out of Week 12's matchup late with a knee injury, although reports have indicated that it is not a season-ending ailment. It does, however, leave Gronkowski either 'questionable' to start on Sunday, or at least, a slightly lesser version of himself. Either way, Gronkowski at 100 percent is currently the target for the Patriots.

New England is notorious for bouncing back from tough losses, and the 2015 team will follow suit. But the injury-riddled Patriots offense that took the field for the final two drives in Denver is undoubtedly the worst version New England has shown, all year. The Patriots win by a touchdown, but Philadelphia stays in the game to the end and beats the spread.

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (+7)*

It is basically the same story, every week — the Carolina Panthers are bound to lose. At least, they are bound to lose against the spread.

As noted numerous times in this year's columns, there are a few rules and indicators that almost always result in a specific pick. The Panthers have continued to elude most of the pitfalls that strike a team in their over-extended position, but they are neither perfect nor immune.

The Carolina Panthers will not go 16-0. It simply doesn't happen — of course, the 2007 Patriots are the exception, but to compare today's Panthers with one of the best teams to take the field in last twenty years is ludicrous. Much like a hitter in baseball on pace for what is realistically an unobtainable milestone — a .400 batting average or seventy home runs — a regression is a near-guarantee. For Carolina, in addition to a perfect winning percentage, the team is 9-2 against the spread, good for covering 81.8% of its games.

As noted in the breakdown of the matchup between the Bengals and Browns, such a high percentage of accuracy is nearly impossible to maintain. Only one team — the 2012 Seahawks — finished a season above 70 percent against the spread, let alone 80 percent. The last team to beat 80 percent against the spread for an entire season was the 2004 San Diego Chargers.

In addition to the Panthers thriving over the course of the season, they are also reaching a level of unsustainable play over a shorter span. Until Week 12, the Panthers had increased their margin of victory in each game since Week 8, and still thrashed the Cowboys by 19 points. It is worth noting that fourteen of Carolina's 33 points came directly from interceptions returned for a touchdown — a completely unreliable and circumstantial method of putting points on the scoreboard.

The Saints, recently known to disappoint, are quickly being cast aside as a non-factor. However, New Orleans, coming off back-to-back road losses and only 1-3 in its last four meetings with Carolina, is as due for a return to the mean as the Panthers. New Orleans has a total of 20 combined points in its last two games, yet still ranks thirteenth in the league in points scored. Most notably, the Saints have scored more than 22 points only once in their six road games — with a 1-5 record — but have 26 or more points in four of the five home games — not surprisingly, with a 3-2 record.

New Orleans ends Carolina's bid for a perfect season, knocking off its division rival with a field goal win, beating the spread.

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7)

While the state of their quarterback position lies out of their hands, the Colts cannot continue to play with fire and avoid getting burned. Quite frankly, the fact that Matt Hasselbeck has been able to win all four games that he started — despite Indianapolis still featuring the same holes throughout the team — is nothing short of miraculous.

Enter Pittsburgh to right the ship.

Coming off one of their most hard-fought losses, the Steelers will take their high-flying offense home to unleash the league's sixth-best passing attack against a team that has coincidentally allowed the sixth-most passing yards, this season. Facing a Colts offense that has scored more than 27 points only once, the Steelers will not need to look back as they pull away from Indianapolis.

Pittsburgh wins by three touchdowns and covers.

Dallas Cowboys (+4.5)* at Washington Redskins

Another week, another NFC East leader put to the test. After knocking off the Giants in Week 12 and supplanting them as the top dog in the worst division in football, the Redskins find themselves in the unfamiliar position of 'favorites' on a nationally-televised game. Surely, if the Redskins hadn't already made a statement to the league that they are far better than many realized, there is no better opportunity than closing out Week 13 with a Monday Night Football win.

If the NFC East has taught us anything, this year, it is that nothing will come easy to any of its participants.

The Dallas Cowboys lost quarterback Tony Romo to another injury on Thanksgiving — this one officially ending his season. Amazingly, the Cowboys are only two games out of first place in the division, but they remain a nearly impossible long-shot to make a full recovery. At least, in the long run. They are certainly capable of formulating a dangerous gameplan on extended rest — playing its last game on a Thursday and its next game on a Monday, Dallas basically has a de facto bye week — especially against a division rival suddenly with something to lose.

While Washington's defense has been a sneaky surprise for the team, it still ranks in the bottom-half of the league in most per-game statistics. Most importantly, it allows the fourth-most rushing-yards-per-attempt, and will be facing a Cowboys team that will likely rely on its running game — averaging the tenth-most rushing-yards-per-attempt. In addition, Dallas allows the seventh-fewest total yards defensively, and it should have no issue stopping a Redskins team that has scored more than 24 points only twice, all season.

The Cowboys throw another wrench into the NFC East playoff picture, winning by six and beating the spread.

A LOOK AT LAST WEEK'S FLOPS:

National Fail League: Week 12 Flops



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