NFL best bets for Week 13: Trust the Seahawks (and the Bengals’ offense)

Tee Higgins and the Cincinnati Bengals have a balanced, dangerous squad. (Washington Post illustration/Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

A week full of thanks ended with some of my best reads of this NFL season. The Cleveland Browns seemed mispriced against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Washington Commanders’ defense appeared to be more than legit heading into a game with the Atlanta Falcons. Both teams took care of business, even if there were some dramatics, giving us two solid winners as the month of November winds down.

The Commanders’ defense didn’t have its best game of the season against the Falcons on Sunday but it managed to produce a timely red-zone interception to keep Atlanta’s offense under the 19½-point threshold. The Falcons were trailing by six points with under a minute left when Marcus Mariota’s pass was deflected by Daron Payne and picked off by Kendall Fuller to seal the game for Washington. The final score: 19-13.

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Cleveland also managed to cash our +3½ tickets with its 23-17 overtime victory against the Buccaneers. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw for 210 yards plus a touchdown and interception while all-pro defensive end Myles Garrett had 1½ sacks, helping the Browns’ defense hold the Bucs scoreless on their final seven possessions. Here’s hoping you took my advice and bet on the Browns’ money line, too, a number that looked off as soon as it was published.

This is also my last week making public picks until the Super Bowl. I am restarting my paternity leave and will be spending some time with my family. I hope you enjoyed our enhanced sports betting coverage this season. We went over a lot of ground and tried to provide you with tools and insights to make you better bettors. Remember: Key numbers are very important when evaluating NFL point spreads; the look-ahead lines often offer value; and the hype of trends can often be a distraction from the underlying principles that truly matters.

The key numbers for NFL betting — and how to use them to your advantage

Best bets record: 12-12-1

Player props record: 6-2

Picks were made against the consensus point spreads as of Tuesday morning; odds that have since changed have been updated in bold type, but picks are locked in at the earlier odds.

Seattle Seahawks (-7½) at Los Angeles Rams

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. | Fox

Pick: Seattle Seahawks -8 (As of Wednesday morning, the spread was down to Seahawks -7½)

Seattle quarterback Geno Smith is experiencing a renaissance. After holding the clipboard as a backup for six straight seasons, he is thriving as the starter, rising to No. 5 in ESPN’s Total Quarterback rating (64.2), which measures how valuable a passer is on a scale of 1 to 100. To put that number in perspective, we would expect a quarterback with a similar rating to pilot a team to a 10-7 or 11-6 record. (The Seahawks are 6-5.) He also obliterated Cover-3 pass coverage (a zone defense with the cornerbacks and safeties splitting the deep part of the field in thirds) against the Raiders last week, completing 12 of 14 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns, per the NFL’s Next Gen stats. This week’s opponent, the struggling Rams, are using Cover-3 at the highest rate in the NFL this season: on 50 percent of defensive snaps, per data from TruMedia.

Los Angeles, meanwhile, could be without its starting quarterback (Matthew Stafford), two of its top wide receivers (Allen Robinson II and Lance McCutcheon) and two starting offensive linemen (Brian Allen and Ty Nsekhe). Rams backup quarterback Bryce Perkins only threw for 100 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in a feeble losing effort against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Knowing the Rams’ offense could be in disarray, I alerted my Twitter followers to the mispriced Seahawks money line last week at -155 (wager $155 to win $100) on the look-ahead line. It is now between -345 and -385.

Kansas City Chiefs (-2½) at Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. | CBS

Pick: Cincinnati Bengals over 25½ total points, playable to over 26½. You can also find over 27 at +112, a bet I have made. For the game, the pick is Chiefs -2½, but it’s not a best bet. If the Bengals get back to +3 or +3½ I would play that instead.

There is no denying the Chiefs have the most potent offense in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes and his squad are scoring almost 13 points per game more than expected after accounting for the down, distance and field position of each play, per data from TruMedia. That’s more than double the Buffalo Bills, who rank second, producing 5.5 more points per game than expected. The Kansas City defense, however, is suspect, ranking 22nd per Football Outsiders after adjusting for opponents faced.

The Bengals are a much more balanced team than the Chiefs — with the eighth-best offense and 13th-best defense, per Football Outsiders — and should have little trouble putting points on the board. How many points? Using Cincinnati’s season-to-date touchdown and field goal rates, adjusted for opponent and scaled to Kansas City’s defensive rates, suggests the Bengals have a 53 percent chance at scoring at least 27 points.

The plays above represent our best bets of the week because our analysis shows their value is the most lucrative compared with what we expect to happen on the field. Below, you will find against-the-spread picks for all of the games on this week’s schedule. However, trying to pick every 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 13 slate.

Cleveland Browns (-7) at Houston Texans

Sunday, 1 p.m. | CBS

Pick: Cleveland Browns -7

Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens (-8½)

Sunday, 1 p.m. | CBS

Pick: Denver Broncos +8½

Green Bay Packers (-3½) at Chicago Bears

Sunday, 1 p.m. | Fox

Pick: Green Bay Packers -4, pending injury report. (By Friday morning, the spread had moved down to Packers -3½.)

Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions (-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m. | Fox

Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars -1½. (As of Thursday morning, the spread was Lions -1.)

New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings (-3)

Sunday, 1 p.m. | CBS

Pick: New York Jets +3

Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles (-4½)

Sunday, 1 p.m. | Fox

Pick: Tennessee Titans +5½. (As of Thursday morning, the spread was Titans +4½.)

Pittsburgh Steelers (-1½) at Atlanta Falcons

Sunday, 1 p.m. | CBS

Pick: Atlanta Falcons -1 (As of Thursday morning, the Steelers had become slight favorites.)

Washington Commanders (-1½) at New York Giants

Sunday, 1 p.m. | Fox

Pick: Washington Commanders -1½

Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers (-3½)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. | Fox

Pick: Miami Dolphins +3½

Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders (-1)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. | CBS

Pick: Los Angeles Chargers -1½ (By Friday morning, the Raiders had become slight favorites.)

Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys (-10½)

Pick: Dallas Cowboys -10½

New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3½)

Pick: New Orleans Saints +3½3.

Buffalo Bills (-3½) at New England Patriots

Thursday, 8:15 p.m. | Prime Video

Pick: New England Patriots +4½