We’ve moved into December, and that means time is growing short in the NFL season. With just over a month to go until the playoff field is set, teams are returning to divisional play, and that means danger for the favored teams.
Many of them are facing familiar opponents for the second time this season, or else they’re preparing to face the same divisional foe twice over the next few weeks. Either way, it’s likely that familiarity will breed upset. We look at some likely candidates where it will happen in Week 13 for our NFL picks.
New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Monday, December 5, 2022 – 08:15 PM EST at Raymond James Stadium
The Saints and Bucs meet for the second time this season for Monday Night Football in Tampa. The Bucs won in New Orleans, 20-10, in Week 2 in a game marred by a second-half fight between the two teams.
Tampa is favored at the NFL odds to get the sweep over the Saints. Tampa leads the NFC South—aka football’s worst division—with a 5-6 record, while New Orleans is tied for last at 4-8. Neither team is coming in hot. The Bucs were upset by the Browns last week, while the Saints were shut out by the Niners.
It looks to be a defensive struggle. Neither team has been scoring. In addition to their first shutout loss in more than 300 games, the Saints rank 21st in the NFL in scoring. Tampa has been even worse, at 27th.
The Saints’ defense hasn’t been terrible. They recorded a shutout of their own, over the Raiders, earlier this season and allowed just 13 to San Francisco last week.
The Saints haven’t lost in Tampa since 2017, and in two home games against New Orleans with the Bucs, Tom Brady hasn’t led his offense to a touchdown.
It could be an ugly slog of a Monday game with points in short supply. Tampa has failed to cover in eight of their last nine. Look for the Saints to tighten up the division by earning a season split with the Bucs.
NFL Pick: Saints (+164) at FanDuel
Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears
Sunday, December 4, 2022 – 01:00 PM EST at Soldier Field
We have a divisional rematch with a home dog, a recipe for trouble if ever there was one. The Packers have struggled through their worst year in a generation and enter the game at 4-8, just a game ahead of the last-place Bears in the NFC North. Green Bay is favored, however, thanks to Aaron Rodgers’ history of dominating Chicago.
Green Bay won the first matchup, in Week 2, 27-10, and the Bears enter on a five-game losing streak. The Packers have lost two in a row, and seven of the last eight, however.
The big news is that Justin Fields was cleared to practice on Thursday and was a full participant for the Bears, meaning he’s likely to start at quarterback after missing last week’s game with a separated shoulder.
He has been a bright spot for the Bears this season and is a major reason Chicago is fourth in the NFL in rushing offense. He’ll be especially valuable against a Packers defense that allows more than 150 rushing yards a game, 31st (second to last) in the NFL.
Green Bay gave up 363 rushing yards to Philadelphia last week, including a team-record 157 by quarterback Jalen Hurts, so look for Fields to have a … well … Field Day.
NFL Pick: Bears (+152) at FanDuel
Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, December 4, 2022- 04:05 PM EST at SoFi Stadium
The Seahawks and Rams haven’t played yet this season, but they’ll get to know each other well the rest of the way, playing twice in the next six weeks.
Los Angeles has struggled all year and is in last place in the NFC West at 3-8, while Seattle is a game out of first at 6-5. Geno Smith has been a surprisingly effective quarterback for Seattle, although back-to-back losses have brought the team back to earth a bit. The Rams enter on a five-game losing streak.
The consensus seems to be that the Rams are doomed. Top defensive player Aaron Donald has been ruled out for the game, quarterback Matthew Stafford is in concussion protocol and coach Sean McVay said it was “safe to say” he likely wouldn’t play. The line put the Rams as a 4.5-point dog when it opened at the best sportsbooks, and it’s gone even further in Seattle’s favor as the week has gone on.
So why the upset alert? In addition to the divisional home dog rule, there’s the other phrase favored teams hate to see: illness making its way through the locker room. An undisclosed “itis” hit the Seahawks, and eight players sat out Thursday’s practice with it.
Usually, these things get worse before they get better. So look for the sluggish Seahawks to drop a game to a Rams team ready to come together without its best player on each side of the ball.
NFL Pick: Rams (+275) at FanDuel