Things got particularly messy for the N.F.L. in Week 12, when the Denver Broncos were forced to play a game against the Saints without a single established quarterback and the coronavirus-ravaged Baltimore Ravens needed to have their game postponed by six days, all the way to Wednesday. All 16 games managed to be played, but things were tenuous enough to make the rest of the season seem far more uncertain than it did a few weeks ago.
Perhaps Baltimore’s struggles to field a roster will lead to tougher N.F.L. protocols to control the spread of the virus, but expect the league’s schedule going forward to be remarkably fluid, with changes possible at any point before game days. With that in mind, here is a look at Week 13, with all picks made against the spread. And while you wait for the action, and for any schedule changes, get lost in the possibilities for the rest of the season with The Upshot’s playoff simulator.
Last week’s record: 7-8-1
Overall record: 86-86-5
Sunday’s Best Games
Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. CBS
Line: Titans -5.5 | Total: 54
There’s no such thing as a hollow win — they all count the same in the standings — but the Browns (8-3) have certainly not faced much premier competition in recent weeks, which included wins over Cincinnati, Houston, Philadelphia and Jacksonville. The Titans (8-3), to put it mildly, are a far bigger challenge.
To contain Tennessee, Cleveland will need to slow down running back Derrick Henry while making sure not to give quarterback Ryan Tannehill any time with which to work, as he is more than capable of stretching the field when the opportunity presents itself. The first part of that challenge might not be as difficult as it sounds, considering the Browns have the N.F.L.’s ninth-ranked run defense. But even with some recent improvement in the Browns’ secondary, it is hard to believe that Cleveland could simultaneously stack the box for Henry and adequately cover Tennessee’s receivers.
Tennessee has its own problems on defense, and the Titans will undoubtedly struggle to contain running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. But Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has a tendency to be his own worst enemy, and all it would take is a turnover or two to let this game get way out of hand. Pick: Titans -5.5
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: Rams -3 | Total: 48.5
A few weeks ago, there was a tie at the top of the N.F.C. West, but after both the Rams (7-4) and the Cardinals (6-5) lost last week, the division lead belongs exclusively to Seattle. With an expanded playoff field, both of these teams look as if they will qualify for the postseason anyway, but division bragging rights are a real thing, and that will add some spice to this game. Arizona has lost three of its past four games, and there has been some speculation that the league’s defenses are figuring out quarterback Kyler Murray. If Murray wants to quiet that talk, a win against Aaron Donald and the Rams would help. Pick: Cardinals +3
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Even | Total: 47
In a fairly ugly game at home, the Patriots (5-6) got 84 yards passing (and two interceptions) from Cam Newton and just 47 yards rushing from Damien Harris, but thanks to some tremendous work from the team’s defense, and to the powerful leg of Nick Folk, New England was able to beat Arizona on Sunday. That gave the Patriots three wins in their past four games, but extending run that to four in five will be tough if the offense has a similarly quiet day, which will not work against the Chargers (3-8). Pick: Chargers
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:20 p.m., NBC
Line: Chiefs -14 | Total: 51
After struggling through a quarterback-less loss to New Orleans last week, the Broncos (4-7) will have Drew Lock, Blake Bortles and Brett Rypien all available for this game. Before they get too excited, the Broncos will need to remember that a full quarterback room did not make much of a dent the last time they played the Chiefs (10-1): Kansas City walked away with a 43-16 win in Denver on Oct. 25.
If the Chiefs really want to win by 27 points again, they probably will. But expecting even a 14-point margin of victory from a team that has won by an average of just 3 points in its last three games seems a bit unrealistic. Pick: Broncos +14
Giants at Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m., Fox
Line: Seahawks -10 | Total: 47
The Giants (4-7) have won three consecutive games, pulling into a tie with Washington at the top of the N.F.C. East. The Giants’ defense has been improving on a weekly basis — a process that started even before the win streak — and the offense was reducing its mistakes and clearly building some momentum under quarterback Daniel Jones. Much of the optimism over those improvements fell away last weekend when Jones injured a hamstring. The team managed a few field goals without him, but there is no question that a switch to Colt McCoy has made the already-remote chance of an upset of the Seahawks on the road (8-3) seem almost absurd.
Seattle fans lovingly mock the Seahawks’ tendency to keep games far closer than they need to be — eight of the team’s 11 games this season have been decided by a single score — but without Jones, the Giants will be hard-pressed to score. Pick: Seahawks -10
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m., CBS
Line: Packers -8.5 | Total: 46.5
Carson Wentz got a little lucky on a Hail Mary near the end of Monday’s loss to Seattle: The ball was swatted toward the ground in the end zone, but tight end Richard Rodgers, who wasn’t even the targeted receiver, made a great play to scoop it up for a touchdown. That score, along with a 2-point conversion, gave the Eagles (3-7-1) a respectable 6-point loss. Keeping things that close against the Packers (8-3) will be a much more difficult task. Pick: Packers -8.5
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Colts -3 | Total: 51.5
With defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on the Covid-19 reserve list last weekend, the Colts (7-4) looked like a different team. Tennessee took full advantage, with running back Derrick Henry racking up three first-half touchdowns in a blowout win. Now the Colts will try to rebound against the Texans (4-7) and that shouldn’t be all that difficult with the expected return of Buckner and the suspension of Houston wide receiver Will Fuller V, who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Pick: Colts -3
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Vikings -10 | Total: 52
The Vikings (5-6) have improved drastically after a horrible start to the season, winning four of their last five games while looking much improved on defense — not all that impressive considering how bad they were in their first six games. The Jaguars (1-10) have lost ten straight, with an atrocious defense, and they plan to give the journeyman quarterback Mike Glennon a second straight start. Double-digit point spreads are always risky, but this game certainly has the makings of a blowout. Also, it would be wise to make sure Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and wide receivers Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are active in your fantasy football lineups. Pick: Vikings -10
Las Vegas Raiders at Jets, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Raiders -8 | Total: 47.5
The Raiders (6-5) didn’t just lose to Atlanta last weekend, they were humiliated. The game started slowly, seemed to go off the rails after a roughing-the-kicker penalty extended a drive that resulted in a touchdown and got continually worse until time ran out. Though it’s possible that Las Vegas has been a bit overestimated in recent weeks, this loss shouldn’t erase all the optimism the Raiders built before their loss to the Falcons. But given that running back Josh Jacobs might miss this game with an ankle injury, the Jets (0-11) could at least cover the spread. Pick: Jets +8
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Saints -3 | Total: 46
Because Taysom Hill will continue to start at quarterback in place of the injured Drew Brees, the Saints (9-2) will stick with a run-heavy approach. But the versatile Hill has demonstrated a strong connection with wide receiver Michael Thomas, and that could help should New Orleans need a big play at some point. At their best — as they were last week — the Falcons (4-7) can certainly give a contender trouble, but it would be a lot easier to believe in them if wide receiver Julio Jones’s availability wasn’t questionable because of a lingering hamstring injury. Pick: Saints -3
Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Dolphins -11.5 | Total: 42
After missing last weekend’s game against the Jets, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa practiced on Wednesday, so despite fears that he would miss multiple starts, he might play for the Dolphins (7-4). Getting playing time for Tagovailoa is a big part of Miami’s plans for the future, but the truth is that Ryan Fitzpatrick should give the team just as much a chance at winning this game. Cincinnati (2-8-1) was dealt a crushing blow two weeks ago with the season-ending injury to the rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, and while keeping the score close against the Giants last weekend was a welcome surprise, the prospect of their doing something similar this weekend seems far-fetched. They can probably keep the game tighter than the 11.5 points that oddsmakers have predicted, but that doesn’t mean the Bengals have a chance to win. Pick: Bengals +11.5
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Bears -3 | Total: 44.5
The Bears (5-6) have lost five straight since their 5-1 start to the season, and the Lions (4-7), after picking up their fourth loss in five games, fired their coach and their general manager last weekend. Even the team that wins probably won’t walk away with heads held too high, but Detroit’s interim coach, Darrell Bevell, has reportedly been pushing for the Lions to pick up their pace, which would be a welcome change from the team’s sluggish approach. Pick: Lions +3
Buffalo Bills at San Francisco 49ers, 8:15 p.m., ABC and ESPN
Line: Bills -2.5 | Total: 48
The 49ers (5-6) got running back Raheem Mostert and cornerback Richard Sherman back from injuries last weekend and proceeded to give the Rams their first loss at SoFi Stadium. This matchup is even more difficult because San Francisco must get used to its temporary home at the Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium while hosting the Bills (8-3), a solid playoff contender that on a good day is extremely effective on both sides of the ball. Buffalo is favored for a reason, but the 49ers seemed to enjoy the role of spoiler last week, and they will undoubtedly be looking for a repeat. Pick: 49ers +2.5
Washington Football Team at Pittsburgh Steelers, 5 p.m.
Line: Steelers -9.5 | Total: 44.5
The Steelers (11-0) are the first team to get this far into a season without a loss since the 2015 Carolina Panthers, and they have had more than their share of hiccups along the way: Coronavirus outbreaks among both the Titans and the Ravens forced Pittsburgh to repeatedly juggle its schedule and play on odd amounts of rest. At some point, the various changes — and the fact that the Steelers will not get a genuine bye week this season — could catch up to them, and that may have been part of the reason for Pittsburgh’s somewhat sluggish 19-14 win over Baltimore at home on Wednesday.
Does that create an opportunity for the Footballers (4-7)? Probably not. Washington has steadily improved, and the team’s offense is clearly stronger with Alex Smith under center, but while that might lead to a closer game than oddsmakers are predicting, the result should still be a Pittsburgh victory. Pick: Footballers +9.5
Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens, 8:05 p.m., Fox, NFL Network and Prime Video
Line: Ravens -7 | Total: Off
There are so many unknowns in this game for the Ravens (6-5). Will quarterback Lamar Jackson return? What about running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins? How serious are the offensive problems that the team was displaying even before the coronavirus took hold of its roster? Playing at home will certainly help, and the Cowboys (3-8) are not the toughest opponent. Baltimore’s roster uncertainty should make this a tossup, but from what we have seen of both teams, even the depleted Ravens roster that lost to Pittsburgh would be able to beat Dallas handily. Pick: Ravens -7
How Betting Lines Work
A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Titans -5.5, for example, means that Tennessee must beat Cleveland by at least 6 points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.
Bye weeks: Tampa Bay, Carolina
All times are Eastern.