NFL 2021 Week 13 Preview and Bettor’s Guide: Cardinals vs. Bears
LOS ANGELES, December 1, 2021 — Of all the games on the first NFL Sunday in December, the Arizona Cardinals taking on the Chicago Bears is not the most compelling. The Cardinals at 9-2 have the best record in the NFL. The 4-7 Bears snapped a five-game losing streak by defeating winless Detroit on the game’s final play. While an upset is possible, the Cardinals have the talent to win easily.
Yet football, like life, is about history. It is impossible for true leatherheads to think about this game without smiling about the past.
These teams once both played in Chicago before the Cardinals fled to St. Louis and then the Phoenix desert.
Yet any matchup between these teams must bring us back to 2006. That year the 5-0 Bears would eventually reach the Super Bowl faced off against a much weaker Cardinals team. While the game itself was quite good, the post-game press conference was one for the ages.
Rookie Matt Leinart had the best game of his young career. He was spectacular in leading the Cardinals to a 20-0 halftime lead over a shellshocked crowd at Soldier Field. With the Cardinals leading 23-3 in the third quarter, Coach Dennis Green took his foot off the gas pedal. He tried to just run out the clock. He became way too conservative and way too cautious.
Leinart had shackles put on him as the Cardinals ran the ball nearly every play in an attempt to just not lose rather than go for the kill shot. With the Bears’ offense unable to do anything, Green’s strategy only required that the offense not give the game away.
A simple handoff led to a fumble that the Bears returned for a defensive touchdown. Then Leinart was hit and fumbled, and the Bears returned it for another defensive touchdown. All of a sudden the Cardinals only led 23-17. In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals managed to avoid fumbling and lined up to punt. Yet they violated the one special teams rule that every head coach screamed for several years.
Hester fielded the punt, and the result was inevitable. The greatest return man in NFL history gave the Bears a special teams punt return touchdown. Despite not having a shred of offense, the Bears led 24-23. Cardinals backup quarterback Kurt Warner was overheard telling Leinart, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
At this point, Green had to take the shackles off of Leinart. The rookie led a great two-minute drill, moving the Cardinals in position for a very makable 42-yard field goal try for the win on the game’s final play. The kick was no good. The Cardinals lost and the Bears remained undefeated en route to the Super Bowl.
Dennis Green’s postgame press conference turned into one of the all time great sports tirades.
“The Bears are who we thought they were!” Green said this several times, without ever explaining who he thought they were. At this point Green was screaming at the media and banging his fist against his microphone.
“You want to crown them? Then crown their ass!”
The media sat stunned as Green offered one final moment of rage before storming out of the press conference.
“The Bears are who we thought they were! We let ‘em off the hook!”
Green was fired after the season. Leinart regressed and lost his job to Warner in 2007. Warner would lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl in 2008, while Leinart became a journeyman who was out of football by 2012. His path from boom to bust started with that second half meltdown in Chicago. Speaking of meltdowns, Coach Green is gone but his tirade will last forever.
Whoever wins the 2021 regular season, one thing is certain. Neither Kliff Kingsbury or Matt Nagy will offer a postgame press conference anywhere near as awesome as Denny Green did.
With that, here is the NFL 2021 Week 13 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by SportingNews.com and all times Eastern.
Thursday, December 2, 2021, 8:00 p.m.
Dallas Cowboys (-4.5) at New Orleans Saints — The Cowboys started 7-1 and lost three straight. The Saints started 5-2 and lost four straight. Both teams have been devastated by injuries, but at the quarterback position Dak Prescott is far better than Trevor Siemian. The spread is a little high given for a road team that has lost recently. Cowboys win but fail to cover.
Sunday, December 5, 1:00 p.m.
New York Giants at Miami Dolphins (-3) —
The Dolphins started 1-7 but have quietly won four straight games by beating up on patsies. The pants have won two of their last three games, but those wins were both at home. Daniel Jones still fumbles too much. Neither he or Tua Tagovailoa inspire much on offense, as both of these teams rely on their defense. Take the hot team and the home field. Dolphins cover.
Indianapolis Colts (-9.5) at Houston Texans —
The 2-9 Texans did go on the road a couple weeks ago and shock Tennessee, but Tennessee plays smash-mouth. The Colts throw the ball and then set up running lanes for Jonathan Taylor. Carson Wentz has been revived and is playing well. The Colts are the better team, but the spread is too high for a road team given that Tyrod Taylor is a decent quarterback. Colts win but fail to cover.
Minnesota Vikings (-7) at Detroit Lions —
It is really hard to trust a winless team, but the Lions are losing games in heartbreaking fashion. The Vikings at 5-6 are fighting for their playoff lives. Kirk Cousins has been playing better than Jared Goff. Dalvin Cook runs better than anyone on the Lions. The Lions are desperate, and the spread is high for a road team. The Lions may lose another heartbreaker, but they will no get blown out. Vikings win but fail to cover.
Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5) at New York Jets —
Neither of these teams inspire, but Jalen Hurts and Zach Wilson both have potential. The Eagles offense looked awful in a loss to the Giants, and now play a road game in the same stadium as last week. The Jets have the home field and the 5-7 Eagles need to run the table to have a shot at the playoffs. Upset special, Jets win outright.
Arizona Cardinals (-7.5) at Chicago Bears —
The Bears are still who we thought they were, but this time it is the 9-2 Cardinals who have the best record in football. The Bears barely survived against winless Detroit to snap a five game losing streak. The Cardinals are superior, but the spread is high for a road team given that the Bears do have a decent defense. The Bears anemic offense is inconsistent, but Red Rifle Andy Dalton can play. Cardinals win but fail to cover.
Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals (-3) —
The 6-5 Chargers and 7-4 Bengals are both one game back in their respective divisions. Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow can both sling it, but the Bengals have the far superior running game with Joe Mixon. The Chargers have been floundering in recent weeks. The Bengals just blasted rival Pittsburgh by 31 points. The weather is starting to get colder, so go with the home field and the running game. Bengals cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-10.5) at Atlanta Falcons —
The Buccaneers looked terrible in their loss against Washington, but the Falcons inspire nobody. The Falcons beat bad teams and lose to good teams. Five years after shocking Matt Ryan in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady is prepared to win easily against a far worse Falcons team. A garbage touchdown could barely defeat this spread. Buccaneers win but fail to cover.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Rams (-13) —
The Rams started 7-1 and lost three straight. Three of the four Rams losses have come against the best teams in the league. The Jaguars are among the worst teams in the league. Forget the high spread. This is the week the Rams explode and show us what a preseason Super Bowl pick looks like. Matthew Stafford will fire at will and Von Miller will be unleashed. This game could be over by halftime. Rams cover.
Washington Omicron Variant at Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5) —
Washington has been quietly winning games. Last week they won without a kicker when Joey Slye was injured on a blocked field goal. The Raiders offense finally came back to life in a big Thanksgiving win at Dallas. The Raiders have had 10 days to prepare for this game while Washington played on Monday Night Football. Home field has not helped the Raiders, but the addition of Desean Jackson has. The Raiders are one game back in the AFC West. Give Derek Carr the benefit of the doubt in the Black Hole. Raiders cover.
Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers —
The Steelers suffered a humiliating 31 point loss against Cincinnati while the Ravens barely survived a brutal matchup against Cleveland. The Ravens are the better team, but this rivalry is one where the records are thrown out. John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin have teams that are often mirror images of each other. Home field means nothing in this series, but the 5-5 Steelers are desperate and will play like it. The 8-3 Ravens may be a bit beaten up from their last brutal win. Upset special, Steelers win outright.
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) at Seattle Seahawks —
The 49ers have quietly gotten to 6-5 while the Seahawk have fallen to 3-8. This is another one of those rivalries where records matter little. The 12th man will be maxed to capacity for this one. Russell Wilson still has Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf to throw to. The Seahawks have never had a losing season with Russell Wilson, but they need to run the table to keep that streak going. Jimmy Garoppolo is playing well, but go with the home field and the desperation. Upset special, Seahawks win outright.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (-10) —
The 6-5 Broncos are only one game back of the 7-4 Chiefs in this critical AFC West showdown. The Broncos defense looked very impressive against the Chargers, while the Chiefs are starting to round into the form we have expected of them the last few years. The Chiefs offense still has kinks to work out, and the Broncos defense is good enough to keep the game close. Teddy Bridgewater will not outdoes Patrick Mahomes, but the Chiefs are not winning blowouts as often as in recent years. Chiefs win but fail to cover.
Monday, December 6, 8:00 p.m.
New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (-3) —
Last year the Bills ended the Patriots 10 billion year or so year hold on the AFC East. Yet this year the Patriots are 8-4 and the Bills are 7-4. This game will tell us whether the torch truly gets past or if Evil Hoodie Bill Belichick reigns forever. Belichick’s Patriots have won six straight games with hard-nosed running and defense. Mac Jones manages games and makes few mistakes. The Bills have stumbled in recent weeks. If Josh Allen and company want to show they are for real, this is the game that matters. The crowd will be jacked up to capacity. The defense will be ready. This could go down to the wire. Go with the home field, the home crowd, and an energized Buffalo defense. Bills cover.