DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA, December 2, 2015 — The Thanksgiving weekend is over and December football has arrived. Next week begins the home stretch. This is unlucky Week 13, where bad teams officially look toward the 2016 NFL Draft. Most of the season is spent looking at the good teams. This week will be dedicated to the sad sacks. Sad sacks come in different forms, but here are four teams that have had plenty of futility, and what lies ahead.
Cleveland Browns — The franchise that suffered through the drive, the fumble and Red Right 88 now have the blocked field goal. This 2-9 team may never let their supposed newest franchise savior ever start again. They have not made the playoffs since 2002, and will not in 2015.
Oakland Raiders — The Raiders also have not made the playoffs since 2002, but their futility is slightly worse since they have not had a winning season either. Cleveland missed the playoffs with a winning record during their stretch while the Raiders went no better than 8-8 in 2010 and 2011. This year they are 5-6, and a tough schedule down the stretch most likely means another year out of the playoffs with a non-winning record. However, their future is very bright. Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray and Khalil Mack are building blocks. The 2016 Draft will be used to upgrade the secondary.
Buffalo Bills — The Bills have had winning seasons, including going 9-7 last year. However, they have not been to the playoffs since 1999. That was when they made the crazy decision in the playoffs to bench Doug Flutie for Rob Johnson. The Music City Miracle propelled Tennessee to the Super Bowl and Buffalo into over 15 years of futility. This year they are 5-6. They have a defense, and Tyrod Taylor can play quarterback. They most likely miss the playoffs this year, and next year will determine if Rex Ryan is for real or all bluster.
Cincinnati Bengals — It seems silly to put them on this list. They are 9-2 and have been to the playoffs for four straight years. Yet while they are far removed from being the Bungles, they have not won a playoff game since 1990. Andy Dalton has been one and done for four straight years. Yet while Marvin Lewis knows defense, Hue Jackson has revitalized the offense. He had the Raiders moving in the right direction in 2011, and lost his job only because Al Davis died. This is the year the Bengals win a playoff game, since their first playoff game will be at home against a weaker opponent.
There are plenty of other sad sacks in NFL history, but let us focus now on what matters. This is the NFL 2015 Week 13 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by ProFootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
Thursday, December 3, 2015, 8:30 p.m.
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Detroit Lions — Green Bay started 6-0 but has since lost four of five games. Detroit after a 1-7 start has won three straight. Detroit even beat Green Bay in Green Bay. People are just starting to trust the Lions. For that reason, and because Green Bay went into Minnesota and beat them, look for the Packers to rebound. Packers cover.
Sunday, December 6
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears (-7) — Forget that the 49ers almost beat Arizona at home. They are going on the road with Blaine Gabbert against an improving Chicago team. Jay Cutler should be able to throw the ball at will. Bears cover.
Cincinnati Bengals (-8.5) at Cleveland Browns — The Brown suffered one of the most gut-wrenching losses in team history last week, which says a lot for this team. The spread is high, but the Bengals are a very good team and the Browns are starting their third string quarterback rather than their benched party boy. Bengals cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-2.5) — Both teams are awful, and they both lost last week at home to teams with losing records. The Titans are at home and Marcus Mariota has been playing better than Blake Bortles. Titans cover.
Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills (-3) — Houston has won four straight to get to 6-5 while Buffalo is on the edge at 5-6. Both teams have defensive stars, but we will the desperate Bills should be given one more chance only because they are at home. Bills cover.
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins (-4.5) — Baltimore won a miracle last week, but this is a game between awful 4-7 teams. The Browns have their backup quarterback Matt Schaub, who can always be counted on to throw a pick six touchdown to the opposing defense. Dolphins win but fail to cover.
Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings (Pick) — 6-5 Seattle faces 8-3 Minnesota in a game loaded with playoff implications. Seattle is known for the Legion of Boom, but this year that is more reputation based than performance based. Minnesota has a stout defense and Adrian Peterson is punishing opposing defenses. Vikings win.
Arizona Cardinals (-5.5) at St. Louis Rams — The Cardinals are a complete team while the Rams disappoint far too often. However, the Rams play well against division opponents, they are at home, and they have a defense. Cardinals win but fail to cover.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2) — Atlanta has collapsed after a 5-0 start, losing five of six games. The Buccaneers have vastly improved under Lovie Smith to get to 5-6. These teams are moving in opposite directions, Jameis Winston has been playing well, and the Buccaneers are at home. Buccaneers cover.
New York Jets (-2) at New York Giants — The 6-5 Jets and 5-6 Giants are fighting for their playoff lives. Big Blue is technically the home team, but Gang Green will not be fazed by that. Between Eli Manning and Ryan Fitzpatrick, give Eli Manning the benefit of the doubt. Upset special, Giants win.
Carolina Panthers (-7) at New Orleans Saints — Oddsmakers had the unbeaten Panthers underdogs against Dallas, and will not make that mistake twice. These are not the same Saints. The Sean Payton and Drew Brees pinball machine offense is gone. The Carolina defense is nasty and Cam Newton can pray on the vulnerable Saints defense. Home field has not helped the Saints. Despite all of that, the spread is high and a garbage touchdown could beat the spread. Panthers win but fail to cover.
Denver Broncos (-4) at San Diego Chargers — Peyton Manning has had some of his worst games against San Diego and New England, while Brock Osweiler just knocked off the unbeaten Patriots. Denver’s defense could overwhelm San Diego. Philip Rivers will throw a ton of passes, which could lead to a turnover or two. Broncos cover.
Kansas City Chiefs (-3) at Oakland Raiders — The Chiefs started 1-5 and then won five straight. The Raiders barely survived last week at woeful Tennessee to get to 5-6. If the Raiders want to prove they are not the same old Raiders who have had 13 straight miserable seasons, they must win this game. The Raiders have the better offense but the Chiefs have the better defense. The only reason to give the Raiders one last chance is the home field. Upset special, Raiders win outright.
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots (-9.5) — Forget the injuries to all the New England Players. One of the worst teams in the league is going on the road to play one of the best teams in the league. The Patriots are angry after having their unbeaten season ruined. The all-time greatest blowout is 73-0 in 1940. This could be uglier. Patriots cover.
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5) — Old man Matt Hasselbeck has played well in place of Andrew Luck, while Ben Roethlisberger is just tough as nails. Both teams are 6-5 and fighting for their playoff lives. The Steelers have the better defense. Expect them to shut down Hasselbeck. Steelers cover.
Monday, December 7, 8:30 p.m.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (-4) — Dallas is done while Washington is a very different team at home. Washington is 5-6 but has won their last five home games. Kirk Cousins plays very well at home. Redskins cover.