Week 13 of the 2020 NFL season is now officially in the books, and we are exactly three quarters of the way through the regular season. Last week, in my picks, I went 9-6. I’ll review the picks I got wrong here, before taking a look at the current playoff races in each conference and predicting the division winners and wildcard teams, then close with my pick for tonight’s Thursday night game. It’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
The Picks I Got Wrong
Detroit 34, Chicago 30
My pick… Chicago 19-16. The Bears (5-7) have now lost six games in a row. They finally got the offense going for this game, but their defense let them down as they could not hold on to a 10 point 4th quarter lead. The Lions (5-7) have played better on the road than at home this season, and it was a divisional game.
Cleveland 41, Tennessee 35
My pick… Tennessee 27-24. This game wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. The Browns (9-3) dominated right from the start, jumping out to a big lead over the Titans (8-4) as they exposed their inefficiencies on defense and took running back Derrick Henry out of the game plan.
NY Giants 17, Seattle 12
My pick… Seattle 28-16. The Giants (5-7) won their fourth game in a row, defeating Russell Wilson and the Seahawks (8-4) on the road with a strong defensive effort. I underestimated just how much New York has improved as the season has gone on. They are going to be tough to beat if they make it to the playoffs.
LA Rams 38, Arizona 28
My pick… Arizona 33-31. The Cardinals fell to 6-6 with the loss at home to the Rams (8-4), their third consecutive loss after a strong start. They probably over-achieved a bit in the first half of this season, but it looks as if opposing defenses have figured them out.
Buffalo 34, San Francisco 24
My pick… San Francisco 24-20. The 49ers (5-7) have been ravaged by injuries all season long and although they’ve gotten a number of players back… they were no match for the Bills (9-3), who appear to be rolling towards their first division title in 25 years. I thought San Francisco could control the tempo with their ground game… but they trailed for most of the game as Buffalo moved the ball downfield well, scoring early and often.
Baltimore 34, Dallas 17
My pick… Dallas 20-16. I wasn’t even close on this one. The Cowboys (3-9) may have had the advantage with the extended rest since they last played, but they’re just not very good. The Ravens (7-5) piled up nearly 300 yards on the ground and quarterback Lamar Jackson didn’t appear to show any ill effects from his recent bout with Covid-19 as he accounted for 94 of those rushing yards as well as two touchdowns.
The NFC Playoff Race
NFC East… All four teams in this division remain under .500, but we’re starting to see some separation. The New York Giants and Washington are currently tied for the division lead at 5-7, with the Giants owning the tiebreaker by virtue of a two-game sweep over their rivals. They’ve both gotten here with good coaching and stellar defense. The tiebreaker advantage will be the difference, and I expect New York to win the division with an 8-8 record.
NFC North… This one should be easy. The Green Bay Packers are currently 9-3 and have a three-game lead over the next closest team. They should have no trouble winning their second consecutive division title with a 13-3 record.
NFC South… The New Orleans Saints have won nine in a row and are currently 10-2, one win away from clinching the division. They’ll get that win on Sunday in Philadelphia, and finish the season on top of the South with a 13-3 record.
NFC West… The Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks are currently tied for the division lead at 8-4. The Rams won the first meeting between these two, and I expect them to win again when they meet in week 16 at Seattle. Los Angeles has a Super Bowl caliber defense, and that will carry them to an 11-5 finish and the division title.
Wildcard Race… Seattle and Tampa Bay currently hold the top two wildcard spots, with Minnesota and Arizona tied for the 7th and final seed. There are four teams currently right on the outside looking in, at 5-7. I expect all four teams to eventually fall out of the picture along with the Arizona Cardinals. My picks (and final records)…
Tampa Bay (9-7)
The AFC Playoff Race
AFC East… The Buffalo Bills currently lead the division with a record of 9-3. The Miami Dolphins are one game behind and have remained in contention throughout the season, but are coming up against a very tough slate of games to close the season. The Bills should win their first AFC East division title since 1995, finishing with a record of 11-5.
AFC North… The Pittsburgh Steelers lost for the first time all season on Monday night and they’ve got a couple tough games down the stretch, but I think they can stay on top of the division and win it with a record of 14-2.
AFC South… The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts are tied atop the AFC South standings at 8-4. The Colts have the better defense, but the Titans have an easier remaining schedule. If they both win out, Tennessee would own the tiebreaker with a better division record. I’ll give the edge to the Titans, to win the division at 11-5.
AFC West… The Kansas City Chiefs are 11-1 and have a four-game lead over the Raiders. I expect them to easily take home another AFC West division title, finishing the season at 14-2.
Wildcard Race… Cleveland has the top spot right now, with Indianapolis in second place. I expect both to maintain their places in the wildcard standings, with four teams (New England, Miami, Baltimore, and Las Vegas) all finishing the season tied for the 7th seed at 9-7. In that scenario, the New England Patriots would win the tiebreaker with a perfect record against the other three. The picks…
New England (9-7)
Thursday Night Football
Finally, this brings us to tonight’s game between the New England Patriots (6-6) and the Los Angeles Rams (8-4) to open up week 14. The Patriots have won four of their last five to get back to .500, capping off that stretch with a 45-0 beatdown over the Chargers right here in southern California on Sunday. The Rams will present a much tougher match-up for them, however. This is a rematch of the Super Bowl of just two years ago in which New England won, but this is an entirely different looking roster. The Patriots will play hard and keep this one close, but the Rams will lean on their defense and running game to win the physical battle and pick up their ninth win of the season. The pick… Los Angeles 20, New England 17
Stay tuned as I’ll post picks for the remaining 15 games later Friday or Saturday.