Here's hoping the dogs are barking once again this week
Bye weeks are over in the NFL as we enter Week 13 and the final stretch of the regular season. I've said it several times already, but this is the time for situational plays to come into focus. Outside of a few teams, everyone has got something to play for whether it's playoffs, free agency or draft picks. I'd also like to point out that if you have been a regular reader of my NFL picks there are still some teams that are criminally under or overrated by Vegas.
Record: 34-21-2 (53-32-3 last year)
Note: All times are ET and all games are on Sunday, Dec. 2 unless indicated otherwise.
Here are this week's best NFL picks against the spread:
New Orleans Saints (10-1) at Dallas Cowboys (6-5), 8:20 p.m. (Thurs.)
New Orleans is absolutely steamrolling opponents lately and it's hard to get in front of that train, but I am going to on Thursday. The Saints have had a very tough stretch of teams with the Vikings, Rams and Eagles among their opponents since the end of October. Now they are beginning the first of three away from home with the Cowboys. I know the Saints have to keep winning with the other teams closing in on them atop the NFC. Dallas has won three straight and I've tried to fade the Cowboys the last two weeks to no success so now I'm going to back them. New Orleans has a very good run defense, but I argue the Saints haven't faced too many teams committed to it as much as Dallas. Dak Prescott is playing a little better now that he has Amari Cooper to throw to. The defense also has been an underrated part of this recent resurrection. The corners are pretty solid and rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is a star in the making. To me, this is a little bit too big of a spread for a game that could be played once again in the playoffs. Dallas is 4-1 at home against the spread and haven't been a home underdog of this much in quite a while. SELECTION: Cowboys +7.5
Buffalo Bills (4-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-6), 1 p.m.
The Dolphins have been a very profitable team for me and in a way, I think they will continue that trend. Miami has lost four of its last five with the win being at home against the Jets in a 13-6 game that took place almost a month ago. This team is rather underwhelming on offense with Kenyan Drake not at 100 percent and the receiving corps really banged up. I do like Ryan Tannehill but he's about to face a really good defense. The Bills have won two straight and are really glad to have Josh Allen back under center. He instantly made a difference last week against the Jaguars and will do so here too. Buffalo won in Miami last year and I think there's a good chance it happens again on Sunday. SELECTION: Bills +4.5
Cleveland Browns (4-6) at Houston Texans (8-3), 1 p.m.
This is one of those situational plays that I'm always talking about. Houston has won eight straight since an 0-3 start but is faced with a short week to prepare for a suddenly hot Browns team. Much like my Dolphins selection last week, the Browns are the cozy little team in the middle of a divisional game sandwich for Houston, who will host the Colts next week. There's a lot to like about the home team, but I think the Texans won't be as focused for this one as they have been. Cleveland has won two straight, beating the Falcons and Bengals. Their offense is smoking hot and Baker Mayfield is playing really well. The defense scares me a bit, but that unit has stepped up a little the past two weeks as well. Pretty much every trend you could think of backs the home team... so I'm going the other way with Cleveland. SELECTION: Browns +6
Denver Broncos (5-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-6), 1 p.m.
The Broncos are playing some good football now and have an outside shot at the playoffs with the remaining schedule that they have left. Next up is the Bengals, who couldn't be any lower than they've been as of late. Andy Dalton is out for the rest of the season leaving Jeff Driskel as the starting quarterback, and I actually like that. Driskel may not be as good, but maybe things won't be as stale on offense. It looks like A.J. Green could return from a toe injury, which would be a big boost. Denver is not the same team on the road as it as home. Cincinnati's defense has been horrendous lately, but the Broncos' offense is really inconsistent with Case Keenum at quarterback. This is a little bit of a feel play that will feel awful when the Bengals lay another egg. SELECTION: Bengals +5.5
Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1), 8:20 p.m.
This is an important game for seeding in the AFC. Both of these teams have solid offenses with very good defenses. Vegas is telling you that this will be a shootout and I don't necessarily agree. Pittsburgh has scored just 37 points the last two games, but has held six of the last seven opponents to 21 points or fewer. I don't think the Steelers' D gets enough credit for what it has done this season after a rough start to the year. The Chargers' offense broke a four-game streak of 20-25 points last week when it put up 45 on Arizona. That probably won't happen here with Melvin Gordon now dealing with a knee injury. Without him, Philip Rivers and Austin Ekeler have to pick up the slack. Five of the Chargers' last seven games have gone under the total. Unders in this league are tough to get, but I'll take a shot here. SELECTION: Under 52
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.