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RANDALL THE HANDLE

Randall the Handle's Week 13 NFL picks

Randall the Handle

By Randall The Handle

Having Ryan Mathews back from injury makes Philip Rivers a better QB for the San Diego Chargers .

Having Ryan Mathews back from injury makes Philip Rivers a better QB for the San Diego Chargers .

Bengals (7-3-1) at Buccaneers (2-9)

LINE: CINCINNATI by 3½

The Buccaneers should have covered for us last week in this slot but failed. That’s not why we’re hopping right back on them. It’s more because they are in a favourable scheduling position and we’ve also seen a notable improvement on defence. Cincinnati will play its third consecutive road game after winning previous two. However, the Bengals were underdogs in both of those games and are now being asked to spot better than a field goal under these adverse conditions. Cincy could get caught napping here as they have a challenging December ahead that begins with a home game with the Steelers, one of four teams in a near dead heat in the AFC North. Following that one, the Bengals are at Cleveland, home to Denver and then finishing in Pittsburgh. In addition, starting right tackle Andre Smith was put on IR this week and the Bengals are in a bit of a scramble to replace him on the offensive line. That is sure to have effect on both pass protection and the running game. The Bucs aren’t winning but they play hard and this is their only home game in a month.

TAKING: BUCCANEERS +3½

Panthers (3-7-1) at Vikings (4-7)

LINE: MINNESOTA by 3

Each time it appears that the door is about to slam shut on the Panthers’ season, it suddenly swings open again. As despicable as it may sound, a win here could put Carolina in sole possession of first place in the NFC Gone South division. With the Saints traveling to Pittsburgh and Arizona visiting the woeful Falcons, it very well could happen. The Panthers have had an extra week to heal some of their wounded and while they had been struggling defensively, they encountered some stiff competition prior to the break having faced Cincinnati, Green Bay, Seattle and Philadelphia. These Vikings are more their speed. Minnesota can play some defence but its offence is one of the least potent in the league, ranking slightly above the lacklustre offences of Jacksonville and Oakland. Rebuilding teams such as the Vikes are much better to get behind when receiving points. Spotting points is foreign to them. Getting wins is challenging enough, let alone by a margin. Minny has been favoured twice this season but only by one point each time, losing by 14 and winning by three.

TAKING: PANTHERS +3

Dolphins (6-5) at Jets(2-9)

LINE: MIAMI by 7

Are the Jets a crummy team? Answer: Yes. Are the Dolphins better than their 6-5 record would indicate? Answer: Yes. Are we willing to give away a converted touchdown to support those affirmations? Answer: Not on your life. This is a prime-time game that the Jets hardly deserve, but one they’ll be hosting for all the land to see. We saw Gang Green deliver a stellar performance on a Thursday night in New England, coming up just short in a 27-25 battle. The Jets were a 9½-point dog in that one and while things have not gone well for Rex Ryan’s club, should Miami really be a seven-point choice on a cool night up in New Jersey? The Fish have had trouble stopping the run recently and that happens to be New York’s bread and butter (perhaps not by choice) ranking fifth in the NFL. Geno Smith returns to pivot the Jets and, after learning from the bench for a few weeks, New York is hopeful he can execute at his position. Even if he’s mediocre, we’ve got plenty of room for a cover here.

TAKING: JETS +7

Redskins (3-8) at Colts(7-4)

LINE: INDIANAPOLIS by 9½

Robert Griffin III is benched and now Colt McCoy will face the Colts. While this may seem like a lot of points, the current mental makeup of Washington has to be considered and that shies us away from the visitor. Washington’s quarterback carousel now has its third-stringer starting in the back end of consecutive road games after a tasking affair in San Francisco last week. While Americans will be feasting on Turkey this holiday weekend, the Colts feast on these type of opponents regularly. In their five games against losing teams, Indy has outscored its opposition by 181-89. Indianapolis’ top-ranked passing game should have little trouble disposing of its gloomy guests.

TAKING: COLTS -9½

Titans (2-9) at Texans (5-6)

LINE: HOUSTON BY 7

When these two met one month ago, it was Tennessee rookie quarterback Zack Mettenberger’s first career start. The Texans won that game with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm for Houston but he was benched shortly thereafter in favour of Ryan Mallett, the latter gone for the season now. So Fitz is back and that’s a good thing, if you’re backing the Titans of course. The win against Tennessee was Fitzpatrick’s only victory in his past five games as starter. It was also the only time in seven starts that the turnover prone QB didn’t give the ball away. The law of averages is heavily on our side here, both statistically and just from having observed the lame Houston quarterback.

TAKING: TITANS +7

Browns (7-4) at Bills (6-5)

LINE: BUFFALO by 2½

Cleveland’s record is better than they are and that has discounted this pointspread to a level that warrants our attention. The Browns have played only one winning team in the past six weeks. That was that Thursday night game when they clobbered a Cincinnati team that forgot to show up. While Buffalo may not be elite, they are certainly more formidable that the Raiders, Jaguars, Bucs, Texans and Falcons. The Bills have struggled offensively, but they put it all together on Monday night when they hammered the Jets. They now return to home where they are best and their strong defence should have no trouble keeping this ragged Cleveland offence in check.

TAKING: BILLS -2½

Chargers (7-4) at Ravens (7-4)

LINE: BALTIMORE by 6

San Diego has not covered in six straight, but these are the most points being offered this season other than a trip to Denver. With some of its offensive players back in the lineup, the Chargers managed 27 points last week against a stingy Rams defence after the Bolts suffered a power outage during several weeks prior. Having RB Ryan Mathews back on the field and being productive, QB Philip Rivers is at his best. The Ravens are on a short week after winning in New Orleans and while they looked rather sharp in that win, they have been terribly inconsistent over this campaign. Prefer the generous points.

TAKING: CHARGERS +6

Giants (3-8) at Jaguars (1-10)

LINE: NY GIANTS by 2½

We catch the Giants in a vulnerable spot here after failing in an exciting one against hated Cowboys on Sunday night. The G-men are being asked to rebound in this lost season while having to give away road points at the same time. This New York squad has managed just five covers in past 17 road contests and have just one cover in past six games overall. Granted, they’ve faced much stiffer competition but the fear here remains to be a letdown, despite a 3-8 record. Jacksonville’s defence has seen improvements and they get one of their pass rushers back as Andre Branch returns after missing four games.

TAKING: JAGUARS +2½

Raiders (1-10) at Rams (4-7)

LINE: ST. LOUIS by 7

Have you looked at St. Louis’ schedule during the past couple of months? We’ll save you the trouble. In order since Sept. 21: Dallas, at Philly, San Fran, Seattle, at Kansas City, at San Francisco, at Arizona, Denver and San Diego. How did New England and Green Bay not get in there? While the Rams lost the majority of those games, they still managed wins against the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks and almost defeated San Diego last week. While some teams don’t get up for the meagre Raiders, St. Louis will welcome an opportunity to strut its stuff against a weak visitor. Raiders finally won a game, but don’t expect lightning to strike twice.

TAKING: RAMS -7

Saints (4-7) at Steelers (7-4)

LINE: PITTSBURGH by 4½

The Saints arrive here demoralized after dropping an unheard of three straight in the Superdome. Meanwhile, the Steelers had quietly won four of five before having last week off. Now they are the beneficiary of the late bye week and New Orleans could feel the wrath of that. The Saints can’t stop the pass as they are down a couple of key secondary guys and Ben Roethlisberger is more than capable of taking advantage with his speedy and shifty offensive playmakers. Pittsburgh’s defence gets a boost as some of its wounded return, namely LB Ryan Shazier and CB Ike Taylor. New Orleans’ only road win this season was in Carolina. Doubtful they can pull this one off.

TAKING: STEELERS -4½

Cardinals (9-2) at Falcons (4-7)

LINE: ARIZONA by 2½

While some question how good the Cardinals really are, they certainly lay over this blundering opponent. The Falcons have not won a game outside of their division, a current 0-7 run. Much can be attributed to a gruesome offensive line that should have Arizona frothing at the mouth with their talented array of pass rushers. Atlanta won’t be able to run either as no team can run against the Cards and the Falcons couldn’t even run on the 29th-ranked Cleveland run stoppers last week. As for coaching, we get Bruce Arians — who is a strong candidate for coach of the year — against Mike Smith, coach most likely fired on Dec. 29.

TAKING: CARDINALS -2½

Patriots (1-10) at Packers (8-3)

LINE: GREEN BAY by 3

Doesn’t get much better than this as both are the current favourites to take their respective conference, perhaps making this a Super Bowl preview. Both Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have been on fire lately and picking between them is a futile exercise. Both are great and the game will be won on which defence can make a stop or two on the opposing team’s offence. While fading New England as an underdog has proven to be an unprofitable undertaking, the Packers have been so dominant at home this season that we are giving them the nod here. Green Bay is 5-0 at Lambeau, outscoring its visitors by an astonishing 219-85 in the process. Expect lots of points in what sets up as the game of the year.

TAKING: PACKERS -3

Broncos (8-3) at Chiefs (7-4)

LINE: DENVER by 2

With Kansas City’s last game being a loss to the then 0-10 Raiders and now facing the mighty Broncos, the ‘sheeple’ will be all over Denver at this cheap price. That could prove costly. Firstly, the line is telling you something. Denver was a 13-point favourite when these two first met in early September. Granted, K.C. had lost its opener to Tennessee and that was just their second game, but here we are some nine weeks later and Denver is just a two-point favourite? It just doesn’t pass the smell test. Secondly, let’s not forget the Broncos had dropped two of three before squeaking by the Dolphins at Mile High last week. This one has warning signs all over it and we’re taking notice.

TAKING: CHIEFS +2

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