It had already been a rough year for NFL underdogs, with point-spread pups covering at a 48% clip in the first 11 weeks of play. And then Week 12 happened.
The Thanksgiving Week slate was “Judgement Day” for dogs — like a skeleton clinging to a chain-link fence, T2 style. When the smoke settled, teams getting the points finished 4-12 against the spread in Week 12.
It was one of the worst weekly records for NFL underdogs in the history of tracking ATS results. That made for a fine run for the betting public — which gravitates toward the favorites — but served as a kick to the junk for anyone taking the points.
I guess I should consider myself lucky to escape with a 1-2 ATS finish for my NFL Underdogs column bets last week, but it has me wondering what’s in store for Week 13’s NFL picks?
Usually, the betting universe balances itself out with a little help from overzealous action on that trending topic, skewing the NFL odds just enough to tip the scales.
When NFL dogs flopped to an identical 4-12 ATS record in Week 12 of the 2017 season, they came barking back with a 9-7 ATS showing in Week 13, and six of those pups won outright.
Are NFL underdogs destined to repeat that history? Or, like Terminator taught us, is there no fate but what (picks) we make?
Last week: 1-2 ATS
Season: 19-15-2 ATS
NFL Week 13 picks and predictions
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Seahawks (+9) at Cowboys pick
Are the Seattle Seahawks a good team or a bad team?
Seattle’s recent form would lean toward the latter, given it’s won just once in the past four outings, but when measured against some of the other foes the Dallas Cowboys have dominated this season, the Seahawks aren’t that bad.
The Cowboys have feasted on a fluffy schedule, blowing away bottom-tier teams with ease and puffing up their power ratings with an 8-3 ATS record.
Dallas has smashed the likes of the Jets, Giants (twice), Patriots, Rams, Panthers, and Commanders (7-0 ATS vs. those teams) while coming up short against elite competition like the Eagles and 49ers (0-2 ATS). There hasn’t been much middle ground, outside of a 20-17 road win over the Chargers in Week 6.
Despite their recent swoon, the Seahawks bring much more to the table than most of the Cowboys’ competition.
Geno Smith and the Seattle WRs are a step up in terms of passing prowess when compared to the quality of QBs in past matchups. Dallas’ secondary hasn’t been tested much but is susceptible to big plays and the Seahawks have home-run hitters in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
And while the Seahawks rank 22nd in Defensive DVOA, their athletic secondary has been dangerous and creating takeaways with 12 forced turnovers in the past eight games. Seattle has been able to generate solid pressure on passers (13th-highest rate) without needing to blitz, allowing them to drop into coverage and clog up the passing lanes.
Dallas QB Dak Prescott is playing some of his best ball in the past six games, stirring up MVP conversations among the media. He’s thrown only two interceptions in this span, which means Dak is due for a dog shit showing. Trust me, I’m a Cowboys fan. I know.
On top of the market mispricing the Seahawks, this is a mid-week matchup that breeds weirdo results and the Cowboys could get caught looking past Seattle and to a massive meeting with Philadelphia at home in Week 14.
PICK: Seahawks +9 (-110 at bet365)
Colts at Titans (+1.5) pick
The Tennessee Titans snapped a three-game skid with a ho-hum win over Carolina last week, jumping out to a 17-3 halftime lead and holding on tight for a 17-10 final score, covering as 4-point faves.
It was Tennessee’s first home game in 28 days and just its fourth stop in Nashville in the first dozen weeks of play.
The Titans stay in the Music City to host the rival Indianapolis Colts in Week 13, with Indianapolis playing just its second true road game since Week 7 (and that was a trip to Carolina to pound on the Panthers).
Indy has run hot and cold all season, bringing a three-game winning streak into Sunday’s AFC South showdown. That success has a lot to do with the defense — or perhaps more the awful offense of opponents — with the Colts giving up just 49 total points in that span.
This is a major turnaround from Indianapolis’ recent three-game losing skid, which spanned Weeks 6 to 8. The Colts coughed up 114 collective points during that slump. The difference, as mentioned above, has been the quality of opposition.
Indy has taken down quarterbacks Bryce Young, Mac Jones, and Baker Mayfield (on one good ankle) during those wins. And while Tennessee rookie quarterback Will Levis isn’t lighting scoreboards on fire, he’s a much more formidable foe in terms of pushing the ball downfield.
Levis averages 10.2 intended air yards per attempt (vs. those last three QBs who sit at 8.5, 6.9, and 6.4 IAY/ATT) and before a modest effort versus Carolina (185 passing yards), faced some very stingy defenses in his first four starts as a pro.
As for the Colts, not only does their offensive output dip significantly away from home (10th in points per play at home vs. 18th on the road), but they’ll be without RB Jonathan Taylor for a few weeks following a thumb injury.
This market is moving toward a pick’em and could close with Tennessee as a short home chalk before Sunday, so grab the points on the home side now.
FYI: Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is 12-5 SU and ATS as a home underdog during his tenure in Tennessee (since 2018), including 3-0 SU and ATS as a home pup this season.
PICK: Titans +1.5 (-115 at FanDuel)
49ers at Eagles (+3) pick
What could have been, what should have been. The San Francisco 49ers still have hurt feelings about their fortune in last year’s NFC Championship Game.
San Francisco lost 31-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles, due in large part to injuries to quarterbacks Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson which left the Niners without a QB for most of the game.
Sure, had Purdy not blown out his arm, the NFC title game would have been more competitive, but let’s not assume the 49ers would have beaten the Eagles or even covered as 2.5-point road underdogs with Purdy at the wheel.
And with Purdy healthy and under center in Week 13, I’m not so sure San Francisco can come through as a field goal fave at the Linc this Sunday.
I get why the market has moved toward the “motivated” Niners, given they’ve had a 10-day break after playing on Thanksgiving Thursday while Philadelphia is coming off a wild overtime win against Buffalo last weekend.
The Eagles are in the midst of one of the nastiest stretches of schedule of the entire 2023 NFL calendar but have already bested a number of QBs far better than Purdy.
Philadelphia has withstood MVP contenders in Tua Tagovailoa, Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen, along with NFL passing leader Sam Howell.
Philly has also put up points on some solid defenses during the streak. The Cowboys, Chiefs, and Dolphins all sit Top 10 in EPA allowed per play and the Bills aren’t too far back at No. 14.
The Eagles offense ranks No. 2 in the flip of that advanced stat since Week 7, proving extremely potent in the passing game, but it’s Philly’s ability to run the ball that will anchor its Week 13 win.
The Eagles’ rushing game can control possession and pace facing a Niners defense that sits in the bottom fourth in terms of EPA allowed per run and success rate per carry to opponents. This is the top run-blocking offensive line going up against a defense rated No. 13 in run-stop win rate.
Philly marched for 148 yards on the ground in the NFC Championship Game and if we look at the Niners’ three-game slump last month, they gave up a total of 368 rushing yards — 4.49 yards per carry — which had nothing to do with their injuries on the offensive side.
With this spread jumping to a field goal, I’m grabbing the points with the best team in the NFL.
PICK: Eagles +3 (-115 at Betway)
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