New Orleans has been terrific against the spread this year, compiling an 8-4 record that at one point included a six-game winning streak against the number, but the Saints haven’t faced a team with the pedigree of the 49ers.
With that in mind, here is how we expect the Week 13 games to shake out, starting with two prime picks against the consensus point spreads (as of Thursday morning) from multiple sports books in Las Vegas.
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints (-2½)
Pick: San Francisco 49ers +2½
Saints quarterback Drew Brees has played against one above-average pass defense this season: the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. He put up solid numbers that game, with a 114.4 passer rating, but was only pressured 10 times out of 41 drop backs.
San Francisco, on the other hand, leads the league in pass pressure rate (31 percent), likely forcing Brees into more uncomfortable situations. As you would expect, Brees’s touchdown rate and interception rate both get worse when facing pass pressure.
The matchup to watch is San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa, the front-runner for defensive rookie of the year, against New Orleans right tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Bosa has eight sacks, 22 hits, seven knockdowns and 39 hurries this season, giving him one of the highest pressure rates among defensive lineman (15 percent). Ramczyk, the highest-rated tackle of 2019 per the game charters at Pro Football Focus, has yet to surrender a sack this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-2½) at Arizona Cardinals
Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers -2½
The Steelers have won six of their last seven games and look to extend that streak with a third-string quarterback (Devlin Hodges) and without key starters at running back (James Conner) and wide receiver (JuJu Smith-Schuster). Fortunately for them, their opponent this week, the Arizona Cardinals, has lost five in a row.
Arizona struggles converting in the red zone (39 percent, the fourth-worst rate this season) and in goal-to-go situations (53 percent, fourth worst); at extending drives (three-and-out 37 percent of the time, sixth worst) and preventing opponents from scoring (2.5 points allowed per drive, second worst).
Season best bets record: 16-15-2
The two games above represent our best plays of the week because our analysis shows the point spreads are the most divergent from what we expect to happen once the teams take the field. Below are picks for the other games on this week’s schedule. However, trying to pick every single NFL game is something of a fool’s errand. The house wins so often partly because bettors try to make too many plays when the odds aren’t in their favor. Keep that in mind when evaluating the remaining games from the Week 14 slate.
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at Chicago Bears
Pick: Dallas Cowboys -3
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-3)
Pick: Atlanta Falcons -3
Baltimore Ravens (-5½) at Buffalo Bills
Pick: Buffalo Bills +5½
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns (-8)
Pick: Cleveland Browns -8
Washington Redskins at Green Bay Packers (-13)
Pick: Washington Redskins +13
Denver Broncos at Houston Texans (-9½)
Pick: Denver Broncos +9½
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (-13)
Pick: Detroit Lions +13
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (-5½)
Pick: New York Jets -5½
Indianapolis Colts at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers -3
Los Angeles Chargers (-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: Los Angeles Chargers -3
Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (-3)
Pick: New England Patriots -3
Tennessee Titans (-2½) at Oakland Raiders
Pick: Oakland Raiders +2½
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (Pick 'em)
Pick: Los Angeles Rams
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-9½)
Pick: New York Giants +9½
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