Paul Higham has the pick of the latest NFL Sunday with the Patriots, Ravens and Packers all worth siding with in week 13.
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San Francisco 49ers @ Baltimore Ravens
Undoubtedly the game of the weekend and a hugely intriguing match-up between the two best teams in the NFL currently, with the free-wheeling Ravens hosting the surprising San Francisco 49ers.
Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson has elevated his play to an extraordinary level – his 876 yards ranks 10th in the entire NFL, while his 7.1 yards per run tops the league. He’s also tied for the top with 24 touchdown passes as a genuine dual-threat, and now the odds-on MVP favourite.
Trying to stop him is the toughest defensive unit in football and league leaders with 44 sacks, coming off a game where they shackled Aaron Rodgers – but Jackson and this Ravens side is a different proposition altogether.
Some of the stats are frightening. Jackson is the first player ever to record 3,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in his first two NFL seasons, and the first to have at least four passing TDs and 50 rushing yards in consecutive games.
Baltimore have beaten four straight play-off teams and are the first team to ever win three straight games by 34 points or more – they’ve been so good that Jackson hasn’t been needed to play in the fourth quarter of the last three games.
It won’t be a blow out this time, but throw in the cross-country trip and the Ravens should have enough at home to win by a touchdown.
Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants
Sometimes it's just a case of a good team playing against a bad one - no real need to go digging around for nuggets or factoids about how one team, or player, usually plays against the other. In short, we're getting a decent price here on Green Bay because the Packers were beat up in San Francisco last week.
The other caveat is that they're going coast-to-coast to now face the Giants, but they will have travelled angry, and let's be honest the Giants are not the 49ers with their top-ranked pass defence. They're a bad team with just two wins under their belt who may yet get the first pick in next year's draft.
Green Bay's defence has been a bit dodgy, but they face one of the worst attacks in football here so should be able to contain them enough to let Aaron Rodgers torch Big Blue's inexperienced secondary.
They NFC North leaders are easily a touchdown better than the Giants so we'll take that and run.
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
It's a surprise to see that a win at Arrowhead for the visiting Raiders would actually put Oakland alongside Kansas City tied for the AFC West lead, which is a miracle in itself for a team that was battered by the Jets last week.
A loss though, and it's basically all over for Jon Gruden's men, and as 10.5-point underdogs they're not fancied to do anything much against MVP Patrick Mahomes and a well-rested Chiefs side coming off a bye week.
Oakland could get some joy from Josh Jacobs and their running game, but that'll only be relevant if they keep pace with the Chiefs from the start - you can't run the ball too much if you're behind and the Raiders' struggles to limit big plays could see them fall behind big and early.
Kansas City also get the likes of Tyreek Hill back healthy and in the face of all the weapons at their disposal there just seems too much firepower for the hosts - who even hold an advantage in the weather as the Raiders have lost nine straight games played in 50 degrees fahrenheit or colder.
New England Patriots @ Houston Texans
New England have an emphatic 10-1 record against Houston, and bagging an 11th win could book them a pay-off spot depending on other results as they return to the scene of perhaps Tom Brady’s finest moment.
Pulling out one moment from Brady’s long and illustrious career is saying something, but the comeback the Patriots produced in Houston against Atlanta to win Super Bowl LI is the biggest and best in the sport’s history.
They’ve hardly been producing champagne football of late though, they’ve got back-to-back wins after losing to Baltimore but scored just 30 points combined in those contests – instead leaning on their mighty defence to get the job done.
They’re second in yards allowed and lead the league in interceptions, and we’re backing that high-class secondary to cut off Deshaun Watson’s supply route to DeAndre Hopkins. The Pats can be run on, but it’s a big ask for Carlos Hyde to do all the damage – Watson may have to do some heavy lifting in that department as well to get any success.
After a muddling win in the rain over Dallas last week, Brady can bounce back to something like his best indoors at NRG Stadium – even more so if receivers Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu are back full fit.
Odds correct as of 1935 GMT on 29/11/19
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