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Week 13 on the NFL docket includes a divisional battle for first place among two teams that finished below .500 last season. Covers checks in on the opening lines for a quartet of contests, with insights from Scott Cooley, odds consultant for offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-4)
New Orleans went 7-9 SU last year and lost its first two games this season, then made an impressive about-face with eight consecutive victories (7-1 ATS). However, the win streak came to an end Sunday for the Saints (8-3 SU, 7-4 ATS), who lost to the Los Angeles Rams 26-20 as a 2.5-point road underdog.
Carolina, which reached the Super Bowl two seasons ago before a dismal 6-10 SU campaign last year, has won and cashed each of its last four. The Panthers (8-3 SU, 7-4 ATS) were 5.5-point chalk at the New York Jets on Sunday and covered when a late field goal finished off a 35-27 victory.
“It’s tough to trust either of these teams, in my opinion, but they are both quality clubs,” Cooley said. “Obviously a ton on the line, given the division climate, and we know that the public will look to back New Orleans, so we wanted to be a step higher on that side. Don’t be surprised to see this finish at -3.”
Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks (+3)
Without question, Philadelphia is the class of the NFC and perhaps even the whole league. The Eagles (10-1 SU, 9-2 ATS) have won nine in a row on the field and eight straight against the oddsmakers, including Sunday’s 31-3 rout of Chicago as a 14-point favorite.
Seattle (7-4 SU, 4-6-1 ATS) is always a playoff threat, but with its depleted defense – no Richard Sherman or Kam Chancellor, among others – and a surprising Rams squad in the NFC West, things won’t get any easier. The Seahawks weathered the injuries Sunday to notch a 24-13 victory at San Francisco laying 7 points.
“This is the first time Seattle has opened as a ‘dog in a long time, but it’s certainly warranted here,” Cooley said. “Philadelphia is playing like the second-best team in the league, and the Eagles are not far behind the Patriots in our power ratings. Early action indicates this will get past the key number sooner than later.”
And indeed it did, as Philly moved to -4 for this Sunday night prime-time showdown.
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys (-1)
The loser of this Thursday night meeting can probably start thinking hard about next season. Dallas has lost its last three games, all without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who still must sit out three more games. The Cowboys (5-6 SU and ATS) got dumped by the Los Angeles Chargers 28-6 as a 1-point home pup on Thanksgiving Day.
Washington, also 5-6 SU and ATS, played the Turkey Day Thursday nighter and came away with a 20-10 win over the New York Giants giving 7 points at home.
“Despite an early move to -1.5, I’m sure we’ll see some sharp money on Washington at some point,” Cooley said. “The Cowboys have had their backs against the wall for two weeks, and they’ve come out flat each time. I’d be hard-pressed to bet on this Dallas squad right now.”
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons (-3)
Minnesota has been far more stout than expected this season, with third-string quarterback Case Keenum proving quite capable, complemented by a solid defense. The Vikings (9-2 SU, 8-3 ATS) are on a seven-game winning streak, besting Detroit 30-23 on Thanksgiving as a 2.5-point road chalk to cover for the sixth straight week.
Defending NFC champion Atlanta continues to look up at Carolina and New Orleans just within the South Division. The Falcons (7-4 SU, 5-6 ATS) have won and cashed three straight, though, topping Tampa Bay 34-20 as a 10.5-point road favorite Sunday.
“My gut feeling is that this will come down a decent bit. Some of the team wanted to see -1 or -2 here, instead of the field goal, but that’s what we settled on,” Cooley said. “The Falcons are certainly no cakewalk for opponents, but it will be interesting to see how they handle that vaunted Vikings defense.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.