ATLANTA. With Thanksgiving in the books and the December holidays right around the corner, time remains to express still another reason to be thankful. What makes football in the National Football League the greatest of all games is its most important hallmark: a commitment to winning.
Every week, a bad team goes on the road and gives a good team the fight of its life. “Any Given Sunday” still exists in this league.
Other sports have been compromised by various teams’ commitment to tanking. In Major League Baseball, analytics experts have convinced owners that it is acceptable to sacrifice an entire season. In the National Basketball Association, tanking has been as annoying as flopping.
But there is no tanking or acceptance of tanking in football. Even the worst teams in the NFL desperately want to win and keep on winning.
The NFL’s winning tradition
In 1976, Oakland Raiders Coach John Madden reacted angrily to media reports that the Raiders would purposely lose a Monday Night Football game. Losing that game would eliminate the hated Pittsburgh Steelers from playoff contention. Madden demanded that his players win, and then beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs. That is exactly what they did. Madden said that his players had to try to win — winning “for the sake of football, for the sake of what’s right.”
This year, the New York Giants started 1-7. Then they won two straight games — actually, nearly three straight before a fourth quarter collapse last week. The Indianapolis Colts started 1-5, and have since won five straight games. The Denver Broncos started 3-6 and have now won two straight. That includes a stunning road win over a Chargers team that had won six straight games.
The Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals are both 2-9. When they played a couple weeks ago, the Cardinals mounted a stirring fourth quarter comeback before the Raiders won on the final play of the game. Both teams were trading blows to the final bell.
No shame in losing, but never sick of winning
There is no shame in losing. Losing is part of life. There is only shame in quitting. There are 32 teams in the NFL, and some of them are not very good. What is guaranteed is that none of them have quit. There is not one coach or player who would deliberately lose games to gain better draft picks. That is unthinkable in football.
So let’s resolve to enjoy lucky Week 13, knowing that on any given Sunday, a pretty bad team will shock the football world. As ESPN’s Chris Berman used to say, “THAT’s why they PLAY the games.”
The NFL’s commitment to winning. That is why we watch the games.
With that said, here is CDN’s NFL 2018 Week 13 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by OddsShark and all times Eastern.
Thursday, November 29, 2018, 8:20 p.m.
New Orleans Saints (-7) at Dallas Cowboys — In 2009, the Saints started 13-0 before getting belted by Dallas. The Saints won the Super Bowl anyway. Dallas has won three straight and is running the ball, but this Saints team may be the most balanced team Drew Brees has ever had. Saints win but fail to cover.
Sunday, December 2, 1:00 p.m.
Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers (-14) — The Cardinals are terrible, but Green Bay’s offense is not playing well enough to justify the high spread. This used to be the type of game Green Bay won easily. Packers win but fail to cover.
Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans (-4.5) — The Browns are vastly improved and Baker Mayfield threw four touchdown passes last week. However, the Texans have won eight straight games. Houston never blows anyone out, but trust DeShaun Watson at home. Texans cover.
Baltimore Ravens (-3) at Atlanta Falcons — These might be the most disappointing underachievers in the league. Lamar Jackson looks good in place of injured Joe Flacco, but give Atlanta one final chance at home to show they have not given up. Upset special, Falcons win outright.
Carolina Panthers (-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Carolina lost a heartbreaker at home last week to Seattle, but Tampa Bay still has no defense. Panthers cover.
Chicago Bears (-4) at New York Giants — Chase Daniel starts again for the injured Mitchell Trubisky, but it is Chicago’s defense that is powering this team. The Giants were a fourth quarter collapse away from their third straight win, but they lack the talent to keep pace here. Khalil Mack will introduce himself to Eli Manning often. Bears cover.
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (-7) — Neither of these teams are going anywhere, but this might be the week Ryan Tannehill finally shows flashes of potential. The spread is too high given how boring Miami’s offense is. Dolphins win but fail to cover.
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals (-1.5) — Denver has won two straight, but in the battle of average up and down teams, this is one to go with the home field. Bengals cover.
Los Angeles Rams (-7) at Detroit Lions — Indoors is a perfect place for the Rams pinball offense to rack up yards and points. Detroit lacks the firepower to stop them and Detroit’s Thanksgiving loss at home is a sign that they need more help. The spread is high, but the Rams score at will. Rams cover.
Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars — The Colts have won five straight. The Jaguars have lost seven straight. Blake Bortles has been benched, and Doug Marrone is on the hot seat. This is not the same Jacksonville defense as last year. Andrew Luck will continue his winning ways. Colts cover.
Sunday, December 2, 4 p.m.
Kansas City Chiefs (-13) at Oakland Raiders — The spread is sky high for a road team, but the Chiefs are that good and the Raiders are that bad. Usually division matchups cause analysts to say “throw out the records,” but not this time. However, the Raiders often get a strong start before collapsing. That might be just enough to beat the spread. If the Chiefs were at home, this spread would be too low. Chiefs win but fail to cover.
New York Jets at Tennessee Titans (-9.5) — The spread is high for a Titans team that is inconsistent, but the Jets lack the talent to win this game. Todd Bowles may be on his way out. Titans win but fail to cover.
Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots (-4.5) — Minnesota’s defense has looked good in recent weeks, but New England is in typical late season form. At home, trust the Patriots to roll. Patriots cover.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-8) — The 49ers are awful and the Seahawks are brimming with confidence after a tough road win at Carolina. Outside of watching Richard Sherman against his former team, this game lacks excitement of years past. Seahawks cover.
Sunday, December 2, 8:20 p.m.
Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) — Both off these teams suffered stunning home defeats to lowly Denver, and Pittsburgh barely survived a reeling Jacksonville team. This will be the type of game where we will see if the Chargers finally live up to the hype. This is Pittsburgh cold weather football, but it might be the game where the Southern California boys finally break through. Upset special, Chargers win outright.
Monday, December 3, 8:15 p.m.
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-7) — The Redskins are done without Alex Smith and the Eagles somehow avoided an embarrassing loss to the Giants. Even at 5-6, if the Eagles win this game they will be tied atop the NFC Least. They will. Eagles cover.
— Headline image: NFL collage, public domain art via Pixabay.com.