NFL Week 13 picks, predictions & best bets from NFL expert Jared Smith: Texans can spoil Deshaun Watson comeback

Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns
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Jared Smith

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Jared Smith, a versatile host and analyst with over 10 years of experience in sports media and two decades as a sports bettor, has joined the Pickswise team as a lead betting analyst. Smith will serve as a full-time content creator, producing informative and engaging content every day across multiple platforms.

It was another successful week for the column, going 4-1 and improving our record to 7-1 over the last 2 weeks. Of course the 1 loss was our “best bet” on Titans +3, but if you allocated all 5 picks evenly — which is what was suggested in the portfolio — then you should have turned a profit of about 5.7 units. But that’s all in the past now as we journey onward into Week 13.

As usual, our oddsmaker pal Casey Degnon from Superbook offers his expertise as we highlight some of the most impactful injuries, trends and key matchups to watch this week. Please check my portfolio at the bottom for the official column plays.

Don’t miss our NFL Week 13 predictions

Week 13 market update: Which games have seen noteworthy line movement?

Packers at Bears: Windy City woes

Aaron Rodgers owns the Bears. We all know the narrative. The numbers are also equally impressive: 23-5 straight up and 21-7 against the spread since Rodgers took over as the starter in 2008. But this particular matchup is tough to cap, as both Rodgers and Bears starting QB Justin Fields are battling injuries — which has caused a lot of fluctuation with the number this week.

“We’ve been anywhere from 4 to 2.5,” Degnon noted. “Seems like Rodgers is going to go, and we don’t know about Fields. I don’t see the benefit in playing him, but you never know. I agree; tough situation to cap.”

I also view this situation with an extra layer of scrutiny after the bizarre situation with the Bears last week against the Jets, when both Trevor Siemian and Nathan Peterman were announced as the starter at one point due to a pregame injury to Siemian. Based on the practice reports this week it appears Fields is set to return, but this spot is still a pass for me.

Jaguars at Lions: Jacksonville jolly following comeback win

When I first saw this line my initial thought was I liked Detroit. Situationally, I always look to fade teams coming off big emotional wins and the Lions have been feisty this season at home — plus they are on extra rest. However, since the line was a pick’em, I felt comfortable waiting to see what the sharps thought before locking in my bet. To my surprise it was Jacksonville receiving the early money, which forced me to reconsider my position.

“We took some sharp money earlier in the week on the Jags +1,” Degnon said. “Trusting (Trevor) Lawrence this year consistently has been hard to do. Every time I think they turn a corner they lay an egg the next game. Even with that said I have a small lean-to Jacksonville here but don’t like either side enough to play it.”

I agree with Casey; trusting Lawrence has been tough this season. We got burned on them in Week 7 against the Giants and I don’t think I’m ready to trust them in this spot as a road favorite, albeit a slight one. The one angle I might still get to the window on is the over. Both teams feature defenses outside the top 20 in schedule adjusted efficiency and offenses that have talent all over the field. I wouldn’t consider it a “best bet” and it didn’t even make the column as an official play, but if you want to get involved in this game over is the way I’d play it.

Jets at Vikings: Sold on Saleh

Every week I try to poke extra holes in my Jets handicaps to ensure I’m not analyzing my favorite team through rose-colored glasses. Well, this week I finally relented and am willing to admit this Jets team is for real. They have a borderline top-5 defense and the best cover corner in the NFL. I’m obviously not sold on Mike White long term, but for the short term it’s clear the team has rallied around him — and he has another favorable matchup this week against a bad Vikings secondary.

“Initially, we opened this game 3.5 on Sunday and got bet down to 3 pretty quickly,” Degnon commented. “Since then we’ve taken sharp money on both sides at 3. I think anything lower, and you will see a little buyback on Minnesota. Feels like the market is not very high on the Vikes despite their 9-2 record as they were only laying 2.5 at home to New England on Thanksgiving.”

Minnesota is 27th in DVOA against the pass and has suffered a ton of attrition with veteran CB Cam Dantzler and rookie safeties Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth all on IR. Despite winning the game their performance last Thursday against the Patriots was truly alarming, allowing Mac Jones to register his highest QBR of the season. Hello, Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson!

On the other side, obviously Justin Jefferson is dangerous and I’m fascinated to see how he matches up with Sauce Gardner in this game. If Gardner can lock up Jefferson — or even keep him below his season average — then I have faith the Jets can win this game outright.

Talking Totals: How market perception is affecting the numbers this week

Seahawks at Rams: Rams perking up

I have nothing nice to say about this Rams offense except I’m excited to watch the Bryce Perkins experience for another week. The numbers weren’t great on Sunday, but considering the circumstances of his first NFL start being at Arrowhead Stadium against the likely MVP of the league this season I’ll give Perk the benefit of the doubt.

Perkins will likely get at least one more bite at the apple this week with Matthew Stafford still nursing a concussion. If he plays marginally better than he did last week in much easier conditions against a much worse defense than I think this game has a chance to sail over the total.

“I would be shocked if Stafford played in this one, but I do agree that it would be hard for Perkins to play worse,” Degnon explained. “No (Aaron) Donald is big and yes it does seem like Seattle’s defense has come back to earth a little bit. Not much action on the total here yet but we have come down half a point since the opener.”

Even if the Rams struggle again to score and the Seahawks defense does its job, Geno Smith is more than capable of helping us clear this total. The Seahawks’ offense is 8th in EPA/play this season and Geno has the highest CPOE (completion percentage over expectation) of any QB in the NFL.

Update: After publication on Friday afternoon Sean McVay announced that John Wolford will start at QB for the Rams on Sunday with Bryce Perkins also available to play if needed. If anything this makes me feel better about my handicap. Both players will be aggressive competing for the starting job down the stretch after Matthew Stafford was officially placed on IR, effectively ending his season. I also trust McVay to play the hot hand. 

Dolphins at 49ers: Trouble in the trenches

I think this is my favorite game of the week to handicap because of all the nuance involved with the coaches. Miami head coach Mike McDaniel made his name working under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco and now the prodigal son returns in his first year with a new team that has a better record and plays in a tougher conference.

Because of all the familiarity between the benches, my initial lean is always under. Then when I dove into some of the matchups at the line of scrimmage it reinforced my handicap.

I’m very concerned with the situation at tackle for Miami. Both starters, Terron Armstead and Austin Jackson, are banged up and highly questionable for this game. The backups have not performed well, either, which is of particular concern this week considering the strength of the Niners front, most notably Nick Bosa.

Meanwhile, on the other side the San Francisco offense could be without Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell, who all missed practice time this week with various injuries.

“I like the angle here,” Degnon said. “With Jimmy G expected to do more I could see some more conservative play calling especially if they can keep Miami in check for the first few possessions. Banged up offensive lineman always seem like an underrated factor. Plus, you have the familiarity with Shanahan and McDaniel.”

If all 3 weapons for the Niners are ruled out in this game I can see this total ticking down a half-point or so. If it doesn’t or I’m able to beat the market when news breaks, I might add to this position on Sunday morning.

Teaser Time: Finding value with a classic Wong Teaser

Ravens -8 to -2 vs Broncos

This is a prime bounce-back spot for Baltimore after another late collapse cost them a win last Sunday in Jacksonville. Say what you want about Lamar Jackson’s inconsistent play this season, but he’s playing infinitely better than Russell Wilson, who cannot be trusted to go on the road and win a game against a top tier defense like the Ravens.

Giants +2.5 to +8.5 vs Commanders

This checks all the boxes of an ideal teaser leg. Home divisional underdog through both key numbers in a low total game. The trench battle favors Washington as I see their defense doing a good job against Saquon Barkley and the running game. But New York is getting a little healthier up front this week with the expected return of LT Evan Neal among several other starters. They also might be getting back TE Daniel Bellinger who was one of their leading receivers before a gruesome eye injury has kept him sidelined the last 5 weeks.

Jared Smith’s NFL Week 13 Best Bet: Texans +7 (-106) 

I’m sure a lot of you are thinking this person must be nuts for making the Texans his “best bet” of the week. Well, sure, if you do what I do for a living you have to be a little crazy. But this bet does have some logic behind it, so please let me explain.

First of all, this is the Super Bowl for Houston. Obviously Deshaun Watson will dominate the narrative this week, and rightfully so, but personally I see a lot of variance with this situation. Sunday will be Watson’s first professional football game in 700 days, having last played in the final week of the 2020 regular season with the Texans.

The ceiling is obviously much higher than Jacoby Brissett, but early in his tenure I also believe the floor is much lower while Watson rounds into game form. If you believe he will hit the ground running and show no rust at all, then this bet isn’t for you.

The game-plan here seems relatively simple for Kevin Stefanski: get the run game going early and try to get Watson comfortable. Houston’s defense is 25th in schedule adjusted efficiency this season and 30th in DVOA against the rush, but Cleveland is ranked 27th and 31st in those same categories — so it’s fair to say Kyle Allen will show much better in his 2nd start and Dameon Pierce could also be in store for a big game.

Since 2017 when the Browns went winless, there has only been 1 other team in the NFL that has posted fewer than 2 wins in the regular season (2020 Jaguars). Houston currently has just 1 win (and 1 tie) to their name with only 6 games left on their schedule, and while I’m not advocating to play the money line in this specific spot, I would not be surprised if Houston stole another win down the stretch, especially considering the record number of 1-score games in the league this season.

With all the craziness that’s happened already this season would it really surprise you if Houston covered or won this game outright? I didn’t think so. Not so crazy anymore, I guess.

Please note I will be taking the same bankroll management approach I did last week, so Texans +7 is my “best bet” but I will be allocating all 5 wagers equally in terms of risk and return as detailed in the portfolio below.

Check out our Browns vs Texans preview

Week 13 portfolio:

Texans +7 -106 (risk 2.12u at FanDuel)
Jets +3 -110 (risk 2.2u at BetMGM)
Seahawks/Rams o41 -110 (risk 2.2u at BetMGM)
Dolphins/49ers u46.5 -110 (risk 2.2u at BetMGM)
6-pt Teaser -120: Giants +8.5, Ravens -2 (risk 2.4u at William Hill)

NFL 2022 best bets: 6-6, -3.75u (-13.8% ROI)

Week

Best Bet

Result

P/L

1

Bucs/Cowboys u51 -110

Win

+1.36u

2

49ers -8.5 -108

Win

+1.39u

3

Commanders +7 -110

Loss

-1.50u

4

Cardinals +1.5 -110

Win

+1.36u

5

Bucs -8 -110

Loss

-2.20u

6

Colts -1.5 -110

Win

+2.00u

7

Jaguars -3 -110

Loss

-2.20u

8

Patriots -1.5 -110

Win

+2.00u

9

Raiders -1 -110

Loss

-3.30u

10

Colts/Raiders u42.5 -112

Loss

-3.36u

11

Cowboys -1.5 -110

Win

+3.00u

12

Titans +3 -115

Loss

-2.30u

NFL 2022 column: 24-17-0, +8.20u (+10.7% ROI)

Week

Record

P/L

1

2-0

+3.36u

2

2-3

-1.75u

3

4-3

+0.83u

4

1-1

-0.14u

5

1-2

-2.05u

6

1-2

-1.45u

7

0-3

-5.65u

8

3-0

+5.00u

9

1-1

-1.30u

10

1-1

-1.36u

11

3-0

+7.00u

12

4-1

+5.70u

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