Plenty of people think the Kansas City Chiefs are going to keep winning and get the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Many others think the Cincinnati Bengals are going to rush past the Baltimore Ravens.
Maybe both things will happen, but the winner of Sunday’s game will feel a lot better about where they’re heading.
The Bengals and Chiefs meet in one of the better matchups for the NFL in December. The Chiefs are 9-2 with presumptive MVP Patrick Mahomes. The Bengals are 7-4, coming off a big win at the Tennessee Titans that tied up the AFC North race with the Ravens. The few teams chasing the Chiefs for the No. 1 seed and the Ravens will have a lot of interest in this game.
The Chiefs are 2.5-point favorites at BetMGM, which is an indication of how close this game should be.
The Bengals should be pretty healthy. Running back Joe Mixon (concussion) and receiver Ja’Marr Chase (hip) could both return to the lineup. That would be big for a Bengals team that won without them both last week.
The Chiefs have been rolling, especially on offense. And there won’t be too many other scary spots in the schedule. Football Outsiders and Tankathon rank the Chiefs’ remaining schedule as the easiest in the NFL, and that includes this road game against the Bengals. If the Chiefs win Sunday, teams like the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and Ravens might want to start focusing on the second and third seeds in the AFC.
The Bengals won’t be intimidated by the Chiefs. They beat them 34-31 in the regular season last year and had a historic comeback overtime win in the AFC championship game at Arrowhead Stadium.
This is a great matchup between two fun teams, and I’ll take the points with the home team. Hopefully this meeting looks a lot like the two games between them last season.
Here are the picks against the spread for Week 13, with the odds from BetMGM:
Bills (-3.5) over Patriots
This game has had some curious line movement, which we discussed in the Daily Sweat.
Steelers (-1) over Falcons
I don’t love the Steelers on the road, and definitely not on a short week. But the Steelers have played better in the three games since their bye week. T.J. Watt clearly makes a huge difference. The Falcons are still a mediocre team. I’ll ride the Steelers’ momentum.
Packers (-4.5) over Bears
I get the Packers aren’t great, but I don’t know how you can take the Bears. The Bears’ defense is awful after some personnel losses. The offense won’t be a lot better with Darnell Mooney done for the season and Justin Fields either missing another game or the Bears protecting him and his injured left shoulder. I don’t care if Aaron Rodgers plays or not, I’d be surprised if the Bears kept it close.
Lions (+1) over Jaguars
Everyone is excited about the Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence after they beat the Ravens. It’s understandable. I still think the Lions, who almost beat the Bills on Thanksgiving and have some extra rest, are battling hard and are the right side. The Jaguars have gotten our hopes up before.
Jets (+3) over Vikings
This is perhaps the toughest game on the board. I’m not sure if Mike White is going to be Kurt Warner 2.0 — his big game last week came against the awful Bears defense — but he’s certainly an upgrade for the Jets offense. And the defense will make life difficult for Kirk Cousins. But it’s still a good Vikings team laying only a field goal at home. I’ll take the Jets but do think the Vikings are being disrespected a bit.
Giants (+2.5) over Commanders
I get it, the Giants aren’t as good as their record. You know who else probably isn’t as good as their record? The Commanders. I don’t think Washington is bad, but it’s surprising to see them as road favorites here.
Titans (+4.5) over Eagles
Derrick Henry is in a bit of a slump, but I think he could go wild on an Eagles defense that isn’t good against the run. Many times I have no idea how the Titans will cover but they do anyway.
Ravens (-8.5) over Broncos
I know this line is probably too high. I just don’t want to pick the Broncos the rest of the season if I can avoid it. They’re really hard to watch.
Browns (-7) over Texans
The Texans look like a team that has given up. I think the Browns won’t let up because they’ll want to get Deshaun Watson going in his first game back. It is possible Watson is really, really rusty since he hasn’t played a regular-season game in about 23 months, but I don’t think the Texans can stop anyone.
Maybe there’s some sticker shock with laying a touchdown on the road against the Rams, but have you seen the Rams lately? Injuries have decimated them. They won’t even have Aaron Donald, who is out with an ankle injury. If the Seahawks don’t cover, they have some problems.
Dolphins (+4) over 49ers
This is a great test for Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense. If they can move the ball on the 49ers’ stellar defense, we have to start talking about them as Super Bowl contenders (if you haven’t already). I’ll take the points in what should be a fantastic game.
Chargers (+1) over Raiders
This seems like a trap, but I’ll trust the Chargers. They’ve let me down plenty through the years, and there’s a big issue in the Chargers’ leaky run defense trying to stop Josh Jacobs, but I still think they’re better than the Raiders.
Colts (+10.5) over Cowboys
At this time of year, I’ll reevaluate my approach of leaning toward almost any NFL double-digit underdog. Some teams have given up or are too banged up to compete by December. This one was close. I think the Cowboys are underrated, somehow. But still, the Colts aren’t in such bad shape yet that I want to take the Cowboys laying this many points.
This was supposed to be a good matchup. It’s not. Neither team is very good. The Bucs have the name-brand value to them, but if it hasn’t clicked by December it’s unlikely that it will happen at all. I don’t have much faith in the Saints but I’ll take the points.
Last week: 8-7-1
Season to date: 94-81-3
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