The 2022/23 National Football League (NFL) regular season has officially entered its final third, and with only six weeks remaining to decide the play-off participants, this weekend will be pivotal.
Of the 15 games slated to be played in Week 13, there are six with teams who both have winning records and no matter which of these 12 teams lose, they will still have more wins than losses, but the standings in their respective divisions could shift — some significantly.
The New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills kicked off this crucial week last night, but the weekend ahead is chock-full of potentially season-defining action — let's have a look.
The New York Jets (7-4) visit the Minnesota Vikings (9-2) with both teams riding high from wins last week. The Thanksgiving night 33-26 win over the New England Patriots was a crucial one for the Vikings, following the embarrassing blow-out loss to the Dallas Cowboys four days earlier. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson was once again at the heart of almost everything for the Minnesota offence, finishing with nine catches for 139 yards and a touchdown.
The Jets benched quarterback (QB) Zack Wilson last Sunday and inserted Mike White, who played well in his first start this season, to zoom the Jets past the Chicago Bears 31-10, completing 22 of 28 passes for 315 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Sunday's win was their third game with 30+ points and 450+ total yards of offence in the last four seasons —White started all three games. The Jets are 4-1 on the road this season and if White plays they have a real chance to beat Minnesota, but the defence is still going to have to figure out how to stop Jefferson. Minnesota can clinch the National Football Conference (NFC) North Division with a win over these Jets (and a Detroit Lions loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars) on Sunday, but it will not be a cakewalk.
The Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) welcome the Tennessee Titans (7-4) into Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday for what promises to be a ding-dong battle. Eagles' QB Jalen Hurts had a monster performance last week against the Green Bay Packers and showed what a difference-maker he can be in the 40-33 win. Hurts broke Michael Vick's franchise QB record with 157 rushing yards and also became the first NFL QB since at least 1950 with 150 rush yards, 150 passing yards and at least two passing scores in a single game. The Eagles nearly made team history as well, rushing for 363 yards, falling just 13 yards shy of the franchise record, set way back in 1948.
The Philadelphia offence can suck the life out of a defence on the ground and obliterate it through the air, when necessary, while their defence leads the league in takeaways (23) but has been susceptible against the run. They have already beaten the NFC's top contenders in the Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, so the Titans will have their hands full this weekend. The Titans win games by imposing their will on opponents, but their rushing attack has been pedestrian over the past three weeks. If running back Derrick Henry can get going in this matchup, he should get much more than the 38 yards amassed in the 20-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
The Titans have played five teams this season that currently have a winning record and they've gone 1-4 in those games, albeit very narrow losses. They will need maximum effort this week to dent Philadelphia's chase to greatness. There may be an upset looming.
The Washington Commanders (7-5) travel to New York to tackle the Giants (7-4) in a huge NFC East clash. The Giants started the season 7-2 and that afforded them some wiggle room, but they have been brought down to earth since then. They lost to the Cowboys last Thursday with running back Saquon Barkley gaining only 39 rushing yards, continuing to cool off after an All-Star beginning to the year. The Commanders, on the other hand, started the season 1-4 but has lost only one game since. This game is crucial for both teams, especially for Washington, whose final five games include four teams with winning records — Giants twice, San Francisco 49ers and Dallas. The Commanders are surging while the Giants appear to be on the decline — Can 'Big Blue' step up at home?
The encounter between the San Francisco 49ers (7-4) and the Miami Dolphins (8-3) provides intrigue on various levels and one level is the fact that Miami's Head Coach Mike McDaniel spent five seasons with the 49ers (2017-21) before being hired in January for this current stint. Since being hired, McDaniel has basically converted the Dolphins into the AFC version of the 49ers and literally stole his running backs from this said West Coast team. Raheem Mostert spent five seasons in San Francisco before signing with the Dolphins prior to the 2022 season and Miami also acquired Jeff Wilson from the 49ers just before the trade deadline this year.
If there's one advantage the 49ers have in this game, it's that they have one of the best defences in the NFL. However, through 12 weeks, the 49ers have had the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL. Their opponents have a combined winning percentage of just .397, which is ridiculous when you consider that no other NFL team is even at .420 (The Dolphins' strength of schedule through 12 weeks has been .496). The 49ers have played four teams this year that currently have five wins or more and they're 2-2 in those games. They did get Christian McCaffrey to bolster their offence and they have not allowed a second-half point during their current four-game winning streak, with opponents averaging a meagre 10 points per game in that span. The 49ers enter December as the No 1 defence in the NFL in both yards and points allowed — they will need all that for this opponent on Sunday.
For the third time in 11 months, the Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) are facing the Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) and for the third time in 11 months, the Chiefs are favoured by JustBet to win. In the AFC Championship last January, the Bengals trailed by 18 points, and as they did in Week 17 last season — where they trailed by 14 — somehow managed to win. The Chiefs have struggled to stop the pass this year and Bengals' QB Joe Burrow has averaged 348 passing yards per game with a 6-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the previous two matchups. On the other hand, Chiefs' QB Patrick Mahomes averaged 267 yards per game with a 5-to-2 ratio in the same games.
The Chiefs have the best record in the conference, but the Bengals are the defending conference champions and are finding form as they enter December. The Cincinnati defence remains a solid unit, and the offence is one of the best in the league, but Mahomes has thrown for over 300 yards in six straight games. This is a must watch if ever there was and the winner will be anybody's guess — Are you ready for some football?
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Kansas City Chiefs 4.90
Buffalo Bills 5.00
Philadelphia Eagles 6.40
San Francisco 49ers 7.00
Dallas Cowboys 9.40
Miami Dolphins 15.00
Baltimore Ravens 16.00
Minnesota Vikings 17.00
Cincinnati Bengals 19.00
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21.00
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