NFL WEEK 13: This Week 13 kicked off with the best Thursday night game we’ve seen all season, as the Cowboys held off the Seahawks in a 41-35 thriller that was particularly notable because it became only the fifth regular-season game in NFL history with zero punts. That’s right, neither punter took the field as the teams combined for nine touchdowns, four field goals, and only one turnover in a game that was a real treat to watch. The loss drops Seattle to 6-6, which is right in the thick of the NFC Wild Card race, while the Cowboys improved to 9-3 and kept alive their chances for the NFC’s top seed and the accompanying first round bye.

Two of the teams that Dallas is battling atop the NFC standings, San Francisco and Philadelphia, will do battle on Sunday in what is surely the week’s premier matchup. Surprisingly, the 10-1 Eagles are actually a home underdog, though perhaps that shouldn’t be so surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to San Francisco’s trajectory lately. Here are my thoughts on that one and three more:

Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints (DET -4, 46.5)

Recommendation: New Orleans +4 at 2.02

Though Detroit still has a comfortable lead atop the NFC North, some cracks have begun to emerge, and last week’s loss to a bad Green Bay team was really a culmination of some of the problems and weaknesses that surfaced in close wins over the Bears and Chargers. For starters, the Lions defense has been one of the worst units in the league over the past month, and the issues are especially pronounced in the secondary, where they’ve been shredded by passing attacks with far less talent than what they’ll see in this game. The Saints offense may have struggled with inconsistency, but they have a legit elite wideout in Chris Olave (assuming he clears concussion protocol), an excellent tight end in Juwan Johnson, a dangerous weapon out of the backfield in Alvin Kamara, and one of the most unique all-purpose threats in the league in Taysom Hill. In other words, they have more than enough to give this Detroit defense fits, and on the other side of the ball New Orleans has a ball-hawking secondary that will look to capitalize on Jared Goff’s recent turnover issues (6 TOs in last 2 games). This feels like a sneaky-dangerous spot for the Lions… I like New Orleans and the points here.

Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans (HOU -3, 46.5)

Recommendation: Denver +3 at 1.96; Denver moneyline (to win) at 2.44

The Texans have been the most surprising team in the league and C.J. Stroud is the clear frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, but it’s important to remember that they’re still a team with obvious weaknesses, particularly on the offensive line and in the defensive secondary, and as a result they continue to call on their rookie QB to bail them out with late-game heroics. They may be able to get away with that against teams like Tampa Bay and Arizona, but when you face the better teams, as we saw in last week’s loss to Jacksonville, these critical weaknesses are difficult to overcome. The Broncos have quietly rattled off five straight wins to completely change the complexion of their season, and they’re undeniably one of the best teams in the AFC right now. The defensive turnaround has been especially impressive– after getting embarrassed in early-season losses to the Dolphins and Jets some tweaks to the scheme were made, and over the past month Denver has held the opposition to just 18 points per game and has been especially good in the secondary. Combine that with some mistake-free football from Russell Wilson and a conservative, run-based gameplan on offense, and you have a winning formula. The Broncos have found it, and I don’t think a trip to Houston is going to break their stride.

San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles (SF -3, 47.5)

Recommendation: San Francisco -3 at 2.02

The marquee game of the weekend is a potential preview of the NFC Championship Game, and I’m sure NFL geeks around the world nearly choked on their Cheerios on Monday morning when they saw the Eagles, the mighty Eagles, the team with the best record in the league by 2 games, listed as a 3-point home ‘dog. And while it’s undeniably strange to have a 10-1 team with no significant injury issues getting points at home, I think the line has a lot more to do with the Niners than it does the Eagles. Since their loss to Cincinnati in late October the Niners are unbeaten and have looked nearly unbeatable, completely dominating good teams like Jacksonville (34-3) and Seattle (31-13). Quarterback Brock Purdy has emerged as an MVP frontrunner and tailback Christian McCaffrey is the league’s most dangerous offensive weapon. Defensively, the 49ers lead the league in points allowed (15.5 ppg) and rank 5th in yards allowed (295.3). They are simply a juggernaut right now, and you can be sure that no one in that locker room has forgotten about last season’s NFC Championship game, when Purdy left with an injury in the 1st quarter and the Eagles went on to win in blowout fashion. This time around I expect Purdy to exploit a vulnerable Eagles secondary and walk off the field victorious.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Jacksonville Jaguars (JAX -9, 39)

Recommendation: Jacksonville -9 at 1.93

While Jacksonville isn’t necessarily known for a raucous homefield environment, you can be sure that Everbank Field will be rocking for the city’s first Monday night game since 2011 (yes, that’s not a misprint… there hasn’t been a Monday night game in Jacksonville in 12 years). That might not be much of an issue for a Joe Burrow-led Cincinnati team, as Burrow is one of the coolest customers in the game and has lots of experience in high-stakes, high pressure situations. Burrow was lost for the season two weeks ago, however, and now the Bengals will roll into Duval County with unproven Jake Browning under center, a young player making his second career start who looked awfully shaky in a loss to Pittsburgh last week. Browning will be facing a Jaguars pass rush that is coming off its best game of the season, producing 21 pressures and 4 sacks in last week’s win over Houston. Moreover, the porous Cincinnati defense, which ranks last in the NFL in yards per play allowed and next-to-last in yards per game allowed, will have to deal with the Trevor Lawrence-led Jaguars offense, a unit that is both balanced and explosive and has averaged 29.2 ppg in the team’s last five victories. Look for Lawrence to lead the Jags to a feel-good win in front of the home fans… this one has BLOWOUT written all over it.

THE EDGE IPL Tues: Chennai Super Kings v Lucknow Super Giants
DAQMAN Mon: Pontefract NAP
DAQSTATS Mon: Pontefract NAP
THE ULTRA Mon: Serie A Preview
THE EDGE IPL Mon: Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians
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