NFL Week 13 Picks: Raiders visit Chiefs in key AFC West showdown

Jason Ence

November 30th, 2019

With just five weeks left in the NFL season, teams are beginning to fight for the final playoff spots. Most of the teams in the late afternoon slate on Sunday are either playing for pride or fighting to keep their slim hopes alive. The Chiefs and Raiders are the only matchup with real playoff implications, but it is also the only game in the time slot that is expected to be decided by more than a field goal. We break down the 4:00 p.m. Eastern games and give you a free pick to run with for each matchup.

Los Angeles Rams (-3) at Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 p.m. ET (FOX)

Neither of these teams are in great shape at the moment. The Rams must win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive, especially with the daunting schedule that faces them after this game. They are coming off a blowout loss to the Ravens, where the defense was ripped to shreds by Lamar Jackson. Their offense has scored a total of 35 points in November, with Jared Goff having thrown zero touchdowns and five interceptions in those three games.
They will look to bounce back against an Arizona Cardinals defense that ranks near the bottom of the league in multiple categories. The Cardinals have had the definition of a streaky season, alternating winning streaks with losing streaks. Their current streak sees them having lost four games on the trot, but they are coming off a much-needed bye week that allows rookie QB Kyler Murray to get some extra film study and practice in. The biggest problem for the Cardinals in this game will be their offensive line, which is quite banged up and will be facing a very angry Aaron Donald.

In a game like this, with two QBs who will struggle, I give the advantage to the team with the better running game. The Rams are in the bottom fourth of the league in rushing, and Todd Gurley looks nothing like his past self at the moment. The Cardinals are in the top half of the league in running the ball, and they have had a week to rest up. I’ll take the home team to cover in this matchup for the first time in five attempts.

NFL free pick: Cardinals +3

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-10), 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

This is as close to a “must-win” game as it gets for the Raiders, who currently sit one game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. A loss to their rivals would put them two games back with only four games remaining and would all but clinch the division for the Chiefs, leaving the Raiders to fight a large group of teams for the final wild card spot. As such, they come into Kansas City knowing they must pull out all the stops to stay alive.

They will look to rebound from a terrible performance against the New York Jets, where they were embarrassed 34-3 by one of the worst teams in the NFL. Their top-ten rushing attack failed to gain any traction, but that shouldn’t be an issue this weekend against the league’s third-worst run defense. Even so, they will need Derek Carr to improve on his career QB rating of 15 (that’s not a typo, folks) in five games at Arrowhead Stadium if they hope to get out with a win.

The Chiefs come off a bye week after their 24-17 win over the Chargers in Mexico City two weeks ago, which has allowed Pat Mahomes to rest and rehab. He will want to repeat his performance from Week 2 against the Raiders, where he had arguably the best quarter a player has had in this decade as he threw four touchdown passes in the second frame. The Raiders defense ranks 28th in passing yards allowed, and a healthy Mahomes should be able to take what he wants with all of his weapons in the passing attack finally healthy.

The last two weeks have seen the Raiders face two very bad teams as favorites, and they have scored a combined twenty points against the Bengals and Jets. Oakland’s defense has allowed 55 plays of twenty or more yards this season, the most in the league, and I expect that number to increase with Mahomes picking them apart. The Chiefs will cover the spread for the fifth straight meeting between the two, and the fourth straight in Kansas City.

NFL free pick: Chiefs +10

Los Angeles Chargers (-3) at Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)

There is little to play for between a pair of teams that are going to finish with losing records, but we may be seeing the end of an era. After throwing four interceptions in his last outing against the Chiefs two weeks ago, many believe this will be the last season for Philip Rivers, whose fourteen interceptions have contributed to the Chargers having an NFL-worst minus-nine turnover margin.

They should be in the playoff hunt, but instead have seven losses on the year—all of which have been by seven or fewer points. One of those losses was a 20-13 defeat to the Broncos back in October, when Denver’s fifth-ranked pass defense picked off Rivers twice and held him under 215 yards passing. Now, with Mike Williams possibly missing the game this weekend, there will be immense pressure on Rivers to turn things around.

The Broncos aren’t the same team they were in that game, and may be on their third quarterback of the season when the two teams face off, as Drew Lock is expected to get the start. His first career start will see him having to deal with the Chargers’ dangerous pass rush duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, which isn’t helped by the fact that two of his starting offensive linemen may miss this contest.

There is little reason to think that either offense is going to be great in this game, and temperatures will be just above freezing in the Mile High City when these two teams kick off. With two uninspiring defenses facing two solid pass rushes, the under is the smart way to go.

NFL free pick: Under 38.5

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