NFL Week 13 best bets: Two games with intriguing early odds

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  • Dallas Cowboys
    Dallas Cowboys
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  • Indianapolis Colts
    Indianapolis Colts
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Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) scrambles before throwing a pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott scrambles before throwing a pass against the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday. (Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press)

With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, the calendar flips to December for Week 13 and the playoff race is clear as mud. It was a great week for the two teams on byes, as Arizona and Kansas City both reaped the rewards of what the other teams in their respective divisions did on Sunday.

It was not a good week for the Titans, Colts, Eagles, Steelers, Chargers, Vikings or Rams. Once again, we head into another slate of NFL games with a low degree of confidence in so many teams around the league. It is tough to find teams to trust.

With four teams on byes this week (Panthers, Browns, Packers, Titans) and a traditional schedule with only one Thursday game, let’s try to find some early line value.

Dallas Cowboys (-5.5, 47.5) at New Orleans Saints

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper carries the ball after a reception against the Falcons on Nov. 14.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper carries the ball after a reception against the Falcons on Nov. 14. (Matt Patterson / Associated Press)

The Saints offense is really lacking at this point in time. Trevor Siemian is a fine stopgap in light of the Jameis Winston injury, but he has very little to work with. Over the last four weeks, the Saints have scored 16 first-half points. They’re likely going to be trailing early in this game and the offense doesn’t have the ability to play catch up.

Dallas may get back some wide receivers, as Amari Cooper should be cleared after COVID and CeeDee Lamb should be ready to return from a concussion as well. The Saints defense has performed about as admirably as possible, but has still allowed 71 points in the last two games and at least 27 points in four of the last five.

The Dallas defense isn’t stellar, but the Saints have no weapons on the outside and don’t have any downfield threats. Even if New Orleans somehow slows down the Dallas offense, how many points do the Cowboys realistically need to score to cover this spread? If they get to the upper 20s, they’ll have a very good shot and this line implies about a 26.5-21 score.

Pick: Cowboys -5.5

Indianapolis Colts (-7.5, 46.5) at Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz passes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz passes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. (AJ Mast / Associated Press)

The Colts could have had a better outcome against the Buccaneers, but five turnovers proved too much to overcome. It was also a weird day on the play calling side for Frank Reich, as Jonathan Taylor only had 16 carries in the contest. Carson Wentz threw 44 times. The Colts managed 5.4 yards per carry, but didn’t rely on the run enough, which is the strength of the team.

The Buccaneers are not a team that you want to turn the ball over against and they turned the five turnovers into 21 points. Houston ’s offense is nowhere near that level. The perception is that the Texans offense is better with Tyrod Taylor, but Houston had fewer than four yards per play for the second straight week. David Culley’s game management leaves a lot to be desired and the team struggles to adjust over the course of a game.

The Colts can get back to the “bully” role this week, which means more of the running game and more Taylor. That cannot possibly be a bad thing.

Pick: Colts -7.5

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.