The bye weeks are over and week 13 in the NFL starts the stretch run. More than half the league is engaged in a playoff push and that is evident with three meaningful Thanksgiving Day games on Thursday, including what could be an elimination contest between the Seahawks and Niners.
On Sunday, Baltimore and San Diego highlight the early contests, with a potential Super Bowl preview between the Patriots and Packers in the afternoon. Sunday Night Football will feature a monumental struggle between AFC West leaders Kansas City and Denver.
Let’s take a look at the full slate, complete with the early spread for each game.
Chicago (5-6) at Detroit (7-4) – Spread: Lions -6.5
The Bears have been better on the road than at home this season, going 3-3 straight up and against the number outside of the Windy City. Chicago has road wins over the 49ers, Jets, and Falcons, but has dropped games to the Panthers, Patriots, and Packers. The Bears are 16-13-2 all time on Thanksgiving but have not played on the holiday since 2004.
Detroit begins three straight at home after playing in the Motor City just once in the last five weeks. The Lions are 4-1 at home and 3-2 against the number. Besides a week 1 win over the Giants, each of Detroit’s home games has been decided by one score. The Lions are 34-37-2 on Thanksgiving but snapped a nine game losing streak last season with a blowout win over Green Bay.
Philadelphia (8-3) at Dallas (8-3) – Spread: Cowboys -3
The Eagles have faced a difficult road slate this year with mixed results. Philadelphia clipped Indianapolis in week 2, lost at San Francisco in week 4, fell at Arizona in week 8, won in Houston in week 9, and, most recently, got blown out by the Packers in week 11. Chip Kelly’s squad is 2-3 straight up and ATS on the road. The Eagles are 4-1 all time on Thanksgiving, but haven’t played on the Holiday since 2008.
Dallas is just 3-3 at home and 2-4 against the number. Without Tony Romo, the Cowboys lost to Philadelphia in Dallas last year in the final week of the season, sending the Eagles to the playoffs and ending the Boys’ season. After winning three straight at AT&T Stadium, Dallas has lost two in a row at home. The Cowboys are 29-16-1 on Thanksgiving, but an even 2-2 in their last four (each of which was decided by one score or less).
For a more in-depth early look at this game, check out our “Sneak Peek“.
Seattle (7-4) at San Francisco (7-4) – Spread: Niners -1
In their last meeting, the Seahawks beat San Francisco 23-17 in Seattle to win the 2014 NFC Championship. This is the first of two matchups in three weeks between these bitter rivals. If either team can sweep the pair of games, they will have an excellent chance to make the playoffs (while putting a nail in their nemesis’ coffin). After falling at Kansas City in week 11 and narrowly beating Carolina in week 8, the Seahawks are now 2-3 on the road and just 1-4 against the spread. Seattle is 1-2 all time on Thanksgiving.
San Francisco is playing a second straight home game, potentially a big advantage on a short week. The Niners narrowly beat Washington on Sunday improving to 3-2 at home and 2-3 against the number. The 49ers are 3-1-1 on Thanksgiving; most recently, Jim Harbaugh lost to his brother Jeff and the Ravens in 2011. San Francisco has won five straight against the Seahawks at home.
Washington (3-8) at Indianapolis (7-4) – Spread: Colts -10
For a second straight week, the Redskins are on the road. The Skins kept it close against San Francisco last week, but didn’t play particularly well. They are 1-5 on the road and 3-3 against the spread. Washington has one win in four tries in Indy since 1984 and has lost both meetings during the last decade and a half.
This is the third straight home game for Andrew Luck and his teammates, but they will finish the year with three of four on the road. Indy is 4-2 straight up and against the spread at home. The Colts are the best passing team in the NFL, while Washington ranks eighth defending the aerial game.
Tennessee (2-9) at Houston (5-6) – Spread: Texans -7
In week 8, the Texans won at Tennessee 30-16. Arian Foster rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns for Houston, while rookie QB Zach Mettenberger tossed two touchdowns for the losing Titans. Mettenberger also threw one pick and the Titans committed the only two turnovers in the game. Houston has won four of the last five in this series and the Titans only win during that span came last December amid a rash of Houston injuries and mistakes. In that lone Titans win, Arian Foster didn’t play, Matt Schaub threw two interceptions, and the Texans fumbled twice. Three of the final four games for Tennessee are at home while Houston travels to Jacksonville and Indianapolis during the next two weeks. The Titans are just 1-4 at home, while the Texans are 3-3 on the road.
Ryan Mallett has started the last two games at QB for Houston (going 1-1) but he was lost for the season to a pectoral injury and it is unclear who will be under center on Sunday. With the Texans still in the playoff hunt (to some extent), the smart money is on veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Cleveland (7-4) at Buffalo (6-5) – Spread: Bills -1.5
The Bills are hoping to play this game in western New York after their week 12 home game was moved to Detroit because of major snowstorms. Or perhaps they would prefer to take up residence in Michigan after blasting the Jets, 38-3, on Monday. In true home contests, Buffalo is just 2-3 overall and 1-4 against the spread. This is the second straight road game for the Browns who kicked a game winning field goal in Atlanta as time expired last week. The are 3-2 straight up and 3-1-1 ATS on the road. Last year, Cleveland scored 13 unanswered fourth quarter points to beat Buffalo at home, 37-24. The teams have split their last ten meetings and the last four in Buffalo.
San Diego (7-4) at Baltimore (7-4) – Spread: Ravens -4.5
In week 13, the Chargers will be playing their only road game in a six week stretch. San Diego is 2-3 away from home straight up and against the spread. They lost a tight game in Arizona during week 1, beat Buffalo easily in week 3, edged the Raiders in week 6, and lost to the Broncos and Dolphins badly in weeks 8 and 9.
The Ravens are 4-1 straight and up and against the number at home. Since losing on opening day against Cincinnati, Baltimore has reeled off home wins over Pittsburgh, Carolina, Atlanta, and Tennessee. None of the four were competitive. Seven of the nine all time meetings between these teams have taken place on the west coast, but Baltimore has held serve in the two east coast games, going 2-0 with a 16-13 win in 2006, and a 24-3 victory in 2000.
New York Giants (3-8) at Jacksonville (1-10) – Spread: Pick’em
In what could be the final season for Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, New York has been dreadful on the road. The G-men are 1-4 away from home both straight up and against the spread. They won at Washington in week 4, but were gutted on the road by Detroit, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Seattle.
The Jags are 1-4 straight up and ATS at home. Besides beating Cleveland handily in week 7, Jacksonville has lost lopsided games against the Colts, Dolphins, and Cowboys; they also dropped a 17-9 decision to Pittsburgh. Jacksonville is 2-0 all time against the Giants at home, though.
Cincinnati (7-3-1) at Tampa Bay (2-9) – Spread: Bengals -4
After playing three straight home games, this will be the last of three straight on the road for the Bengals. They will look to make it a perfect 3-0 road trip on Sunday after beating the Saints in New Orleans (27-10) and getting by the Texans in Houston (22-13) in weeks 11 and 12. The Bengals are 3-2 on the road straight up and ATS.
The Bucs are playing their only home game during a five week span. Tampa Bay is 0-5 at home both straight up and against the spread. However, of the five losses, only the 48-17 loss to Baltimore in week 6 was lopsided. Tampa Bay has recent history on its side, winning six straight against the Bengals dating back to 1989.
Oakland (1-10) at St. Louis (4-7) – Spread: Rams -7
The Raiders are coming off of their first win of the year, a 24-20 victory over Kansas City on TNF in week 12. That Thursday game means the Raiders have a little extra time to prepare for the Rams. While Oakland is 0-5 on the road, they have been competitive almost every week and are 4-1 against the spread. Most recently, the Raiders lost at San Diego, 13-6, in week 11 and dropped a 30-24 decision at Seattle in week 9.
The Rams have only played one home game over the past five weeks, stunning Denver 22-7 in week 11. Their previous home game, all the way back in week 7, was another surprise victory: 28-26 over Seattle. Part of what makes those victories so surprising is that fact that St. Louis went 0-3 (both SU and ATS) in its first three home games this season.
These two teams, which both used to call Los Angeles home, have split their last four meetings.
New Orleans (4-7) at Pittsburgh (7-4) – Spread: Steelers -3
After three straight home losses, the Saints travel to Pittsburgh in week 13. New Orleans is 1-4 outside of the Superdome and 2-3 against the spread. The Saints won at Carolina, 28-10, in week 9, but they have dropped games in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, and Detroit. Pittsburgh comes off of a bye having won four of their last five. They are 3-2 against the spread at home and 4-1 overall. Mike Tomlin is 8-1 following a bye since 2007.
Carolina (3-7-1) at Minnesota (4-7) – Spread: Vikings -2.5
Despite a 3-7-1 record, and the fact that they haven’t won since the first week of October, the Panthers are still in the race for a division title in the underwhelming NFC South. They will be coming off of a week 12 bye, but recent history tells us that won’t be of much assistance for the Panthers, who are 0-4 after bye weeks under Ron Rivera. Carolina is also just 1-3-1 SU on the road (and 2-3 ATS) this year.
This is the second of three straight home games for the Vikings. Minnesota fell to Green Bay 24-21 last week. They are 2-3 SU at home but 3-2 ATS. Last season, Minnesota was crushed at home by Carolina, 35-10. But this year’s Panthers look little like their 2013-14 counterparts, who finished the year 12-4.
Arizona (9-2) at Atlanta (4-7) – Spread: Cardinals -2
While these teams have drastically different records, both are fighting to host a playoff game. Arizona has the best mark in the NFL this year, while Atlanta leads dreadful NFC South by virtue of a perfect 4-0 intraconference record. Last year, the Cardinals rode 21 second-quarter points to a 27-13 victory over the Falcons in Glendale. But the Falcons have won six straight at home against Arizona dating back to 1994, and, at times, have even looked dominant at home this year (in particular, during an early-season rout of the Buccaneers). That said, the Falcons fell to Cleveland 26-24 on a last second field goal at home last week and are now 2-3 in Georgia and 3-2 against the spread. Arizona is 3-2 on the road after being dominated in Seattle last Sunday. The Cards are 3-2 ATS away from home.
New England (9-2) at Green Bay (8-3) – Spread: Packers -3.5
The schedule makers didn’t do New England any favors this season, pitting them against the Broncos, Colts, Lions, and Packers during a gruelling four-week stretch. However, New England has taken the first three of those games, all with relative ease. The week 13 game against Green Bay is being touted as a potential Super Bowl preview, as both teams’ offenses have looked unstoppable in recent weeks.
The Pats are 3-2 on the road (SU and ATS). They won at Minnesota, Indianapolis, and Buffalo, but dropped games in Miami and Kansas City. Green Bay has steamrolled opponents at Lambeau Field this year. The Packers are 5-0 at home and 4-1 against the spread. They outscored the Bears and Eagles by a combined 108-34 in wins during weeks 10 and 11. Only the Jets played a competitive game against the Packers in Green Bay, a 31-24 contest in week 2.
Denver (8-3) at Kansas City (7-4) – Spread: Broncos -1.5
The Broncos have a major opportunity to seize control of the AFC West in week 13. They lead the Chiefs and Chargers by one game entering the week and have beaten both teams once already. But Denver has looked like a drastically different team at home and on the road. The Broncos are a perfect 6-0 at home but, away from Mile High, are just 2-3 (both SU and ATS). This is their fourth road game during a five week span. In weeks 9, 10, and 11, Denver sandwiched a win in Oakland between losses at New England and St. Louis.
Kansas City is 4-1 at home straight up and against the number. After an opening day loss to Tennessee, the Chiefs have beaten New England, St. Louis, the Jets, and Seattle at home. The Broncos beat Kansas City 24-17 in Denver in week 2; the Chiefs need to repay the favor with a home win of their own in order to stay in the division-title conversation.
Miami (6-5) at New York Jets (2-9) – Spread: Dolphins -4
The Fins and Jets will get together in East Rutherford for the first of two meetings over the final five weeks of the year. This is the second straight road game for the Fins. Last weekend, they led the Broncos in the fourth quarter but, for the third time this year, gave up the winning touchdown in the final five minutes.
The Jets are playing a second straight Monday night game after their week 12 showdown against Buffalo was postponed a day due to snowstorms. In that game, which was relocated to Detroit, the Jets were pummeled by the Bills, 38-3. New York is 2-4 at home SU and 1-5 ATS. Miami is 3-3 on the road and 4-2 against the spread. The Dolphins have won two straight and five of the last six against the Jets in New York.
(Photo credit: Billy Bob Bain (http://www.flickr.com/photos/astros/2119626549/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)