Playing either on the road or against playoff contenders, some of the league’s best teams are only slight favorites in Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season. That could lead to a lot of Super Bowl hopefuls winning straight up and covering the spread on the upcoming schedule.
The Dallas Cowboys have the NFL’s best record, but they are only favored by a field goal against a team that appears to be in a freefall, according to the latest betting odds at Las Vegas sportsbooks. The defending Super Bowl champions are small favorites against a two-win team, and the team tied for the AFC’s best record is only giving three points to a team that’s likely to miss the postseason.
There’s no such thing as a “sure thing” when it comes to gambling, but here are the five best bets for Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season:
Dallas Cowboys (-3)
The Cowboys are the NFL’s best team, and they could end the regular season with 14 or 15 wins. While they might slip up once or twice before the playoffs, it won’t happen when they visit the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night.
Since their season-opening loss to the New York Giants, Dallas’ offense has been unstoppable. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are the frontrunners for MVP, helping the Cowboys average 29.7 points per game during their 10-game winning streak. Dallas hasn’t scored fewer than 24 points in any of their victories, and that should be more than enough to defeat Minnesota. The Vikings can’t move the ball, ranking last in total offense and scoring 20 or fewer points in five of their last six games, all of which have been losses for Minnesota. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer won’t be on the sidelines because of eye surgery, and Thursday could mark the unofficial end of the team’s playoff hopes.
Denver Broncos (-4)
The Broncos are currently out of the playoffs, but they are still among the AFC’s best teams. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the conference’s worst team, aside from the winless Cleveland Browns, and they have little chance to defeat the defending champs.
Denver has beat up subpar competition, defeating the likes of Indianapolis, Houston and Cincinnati by double-digits. Jacksonville still hasn’t beaten a good team, going 0-7 against teams with a .500 record or better. Blake Bortles hasn’t performed like a reliable starting quarterback, only posting good numbers when facing bottom-10 pass defenses. He’ll struggle against Denver’s No. 1 ranked pass rush and the Broncos’ elite secondary, making it difficult for Jacksonville to remain competitive.
Oakland Raiders (-3)
Favored by three points at home against the Buffalo Bills, the betting line indicates that Oakland and Buffalo are equal on a neutral field. But the Raiders are the better team, making them the easy choice in Sunday’s game.
Oakland has won a lot of close games, including five victories by either a field goal or in overtime, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are due for a loss. Derek Carr has played like an MVP candidate, and he could have a big day against a defense that hasn’t faced many formidable offenses. Prior to defeating two offenses that don’t even rank in the top 25 in points scored, Buffalo allowed 100 combined points in consecutive losses to Miami, New England and Seattle. The Raiders should be able to outscore the Bills in a shootout, putting them closer to clinching a first-round postseason bye.
Green Bay Packers (-6.5)
The Houston Texans sit atop the AFC South, but they are in trouble for the rest of the season. With one of the NFL’s worst starting quarterbacks, the Texans will have difficulty beating anyone on the road, including the Packers Sunday.
The Texans have been awful away from Houston, losing to Denver, New England, Minnesota and Oakland by an average of 17.5 points per game. Green Bay has had their own struggles, specifically on defense, but that shouldn’t matter against the Texans. After throwing for no touchdowns and three interceptions in last week’s loss to San Diego, Brock Osweiler still hasn’t had one impressive performance in 2016. That won’t change in the cold weather at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers has thrown at least two touchdown passes in six straight games, and he could put this game out of reach with just a couple of scores.
Washington Redskins (+2.5)
After 12 weeks of bad football, it’s clear that the Arizona Cardinals are not a playoff team. The Washington Redskins, on the other hand, look like one of the NFC’s top teams, and Arizona could be in for their third loss in as many games.
All four of Washington’s losses have come against winning teams, including two close defeats to the 10-1 Cowboys. Three of Arizona’s four wins have come against teams with three or fewer victories, and they have been unable to keep pace with teams that have high-powered offenses, like the Redskins. It’s what happened in Week 12 when they lost 38-19 to Atlanta, as well as in their losses to Buffalo and Carolina, which saw top-10 scoring offenses put up 30-plus points against the Cardinals. With the NFL’s No. 2 ranked offense and a quarterback that is the No. 6 rated passer, Washington could put on an offensive performance that Arizona can’t match.