It was a busy weekend in the NFL, but amidst tone-setting victories by the Bengals, Eagles, and Cowboys, the biggest news of Week 13 was the season-ending injury to 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. San Francisco still pulled out a win over Miami behind Nick Bosa’s dominant performance on defense and rookie Brock Purdy’s steady relief performance, but it remains to be seen whether Purdy can continue to win games moving forward.
We will get into the fallout from the Garoppolo injury, as well as the state of the NFC Wild Card race and an AFC field that could pull away by mid-December, but before we do, be sure to sign up for The Oracle’s Picks! With Bowl Season approaching and the NFL, NHL, and NBA in full swing, it’s a great time to start getting the best action texted directly to your phone.
Now, on to the NFL Week 13 Recap; all odds are from DraftKings.
Can Brock Purdy Keep the 49ers Afloat?
At first glance, the season-ending foot injury to Jimmy Garoppolo, which comes on top of the season-ending broken ankle that Trey Lance suffered in the second game, makes this a remarkably bad season for the 49ers to have gone all-in on a trade for running back Christian McCaffrey.
The odds at DraftKings, however, indicate that the market is not seeing the situation that way. Purdy might have been Mr. Irrelevant in the 2022 NFL Draft, but after Garoppolo exited after throwing only four passes, the rookie went 25 of 37 for 210 yards and threw for a pair of scores. That, coupled with another dominant defensive performance, was enough to keep the 49ers at +550 to win the NFC behind the Eagles (+190) and Cowboys (+300), who both won comfortably this weekend. San Francisco’s +1200 odds for the Super Bowl relative to the +550 to win the NFC indicate that the 49ers would be underdogs against the AFC Champion, but those odds are still tied for 5th-best in the NFL with Cincinnati behind the Bills, Eagles, Chiefs, and Cowboys. In past years, we’ve seen 49ers coach Kyle Shannahan get productive stretches out of Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard, but the team has ultimately suffered in the W-L column when those scenarios played out for too long. Those 49ers teams didn’t have the skill-group quartet of McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle all in the mix, or a defense playing at as high a level as this one, so perhaps Purdy can keep them rolling through a relatively mild December.
With eight wins banked and a closing slate of Tampa Bay, Seattle, Washington, Las Vegas, and Arizona, the 49ers are -1400 to make the playoffs, reflecting their near-lock status. The NFC West is a bit more in play, with the 49ers at -450 and the Seahawks at+350 two weeks ahead of their pivotal second matchup, but the bigger question over the next month is whether the 49ers can still compete with Philadelphia and Dallas with Garoppolo down, or if San Francisco will be a team opponents hope to get matched up with on Super Wild Card Weekend.
Do the Giants, Commanders, or Seahawks Get to 9 Wins?
With Atlanta’s loss yesterday, seven of the NFC’s sixteen teams are already at eight losses, leaving the field open for an unlikely late-season run to the NFC’s 7th seed.
As it stands, there is a two-win gap between the seven-win Giants, Seahawks, and Commanders and the five-win Lions, Falcons, and Packers, but it’s still possible that two of the three seven-win teams fail to reach nine wins. Yesterday’s tie between the Giants and Commanders only enhanced this possibility, as the difference between 9-8 and 8-8-1 may prove to be the difference when all is said and done.
Seattle narrowly averted disaster against the John Wolford-led Rams yesterday, but while the performance creates more concerns about their ability to contend come playoff time, their remaining schedule of the Panthers, 49ers, Chiefs, Jets, and Rams offers is manageable, particularly after Garoppolo’s injury and the news that Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford will not return this season. Barring an upset to Carolina next week, Seattle’s playoff spot should fairly safe, as their -400 odds to make the NFL playoffs indicate.
The Giants (-120) and Commanders (-165) don’t have as certain a path. New York finishes with Philadelphia, Washington, Minnesota, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia, while Washington finishes with the Giants, 49ers, Browns, and Cowboys after next week’s bye. These teams could face downgraded versions of the Eagles and Cowboys in the final week, but if Dallas beats the Eagles and the NFC East is up for grabs on the final weekend, the Giants and Commanders have few easy outs besides each other. If Washington beats the Giants but loses their three other contest, and the Giants can only manage to beat Indianapolis, both teams could finish 8-8-1, with Washington holding the tie-breaker by virtue of their 1-0-1 head-to-head record against New York.
The Lions are heating up and the Packers get a much-needed bye to get healthy before playing the Rams, Dolphins, Vikings, and Lions to close out the NFL slate. As their respective +700 and +1100 odds to make the playoffs indicate, both Detroit and Green Bay need everything to go right for their Week 18 contest to be meaningful, but with the Commanders and Giants trending the wrong way, fans of both NFC North teams can hold out hope.
Does Current AFC Playoff Field Pull Away or does an AFC East team fade?
As it stands, the AFC Playoff field has a clearer line of demarcation, with the Chargers’ loss to the Raiders leaving seven teams with at least seven wins.
The Jets nearly had their eighth win, as they were in range for a go-ahead touchdown against Minnesota when quarterback Mike White threw a game-ending pick, or the AFC Playoff field would be even clearer. Tennessee is the other seven-win team, but as the Titans are on track to win the AFC South after the Colts’ latest loss, that won’t be much help to the five and six-win teams hanging on to hope for a Wild Card.
Cincinnati’s schedule made them a candidate to fall out, but after Sunday’s 27-24 win over Kansas City, it’s hard to imagine the Bengals missing out, even if they do finish against five potential playoff teams in Cleveland, Tampa Bay, New England, Buffalo, and Baltimore. Unless Deshaun Watson improves dramatically on his debut performance this week, it’s far more likely that the Bengals knock off the Browns this week, ending Cleveland’s hopes of a late-season run while solidifying their own position in the AFC Playoffs.
That leaves that the upcoming matchup between the Dolphins and Chargers as the most critical in determining whether the AFC field is sewn up ahead of Week 18. Miami will have to play a second consecutive West Coast game, a less-than-ideal situation with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa battling an ankle injury, but a pivotal game given that the Chargers finish with the Titans, Colts, Rams, and Broncos. Nothing should be taken for granted after the Raiders pulled away from the Chargers yesterday, but their final three games are very manageable.
The Dolphins, on the other hand, finish with their three AFC East rivals and the Packers, so a loss to the Chargers could create a scramble for the final two Wild Card spots, especially if the Jets lose in Buffalo this weekend. Much like the Lions and Packers in the NFC, the Patriots (+275), Chargers (+140), Raiders (+700), Browns (OFF), and Steelers (OFF) all need a varying degree of things to go right to get in the tournament, but there are more than enough cross-over matchups for any of those teams to help themselves on that road. For those of you who like chaos, cheer for wins by the Chargers (MIA), Browns (@CIN), and Steelers (BAL), as that would set up bedlam for the AFC’s final month.
Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.