2016 Season: Week 16 Preview

We have reached the penultimate week in the 2016 NFL season and there are still a number of teams hoping to punch their tickets to the playoffs.  That list will likely be narrowed quite a bit after this week.  Who will end up taking home “W’s” following this week of action?  Here are my picks.

Matt Barkley

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 126-93

Thursday, December 22nd, 8:25 e.t.

New York Giants (10-4) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-9)

The Giants defense has been one of the most improved units across all of football and now it really has the team aspiring to make a bit of a run in January.  However, Thursday night in Philly seems like a upset special to me.  The Eagles could have easily won their last two games and this week they will get back their right tackle Lane Johnson.  With Carson Wentz better protected, I think he will cut down on the mistakes that plagued him the first time these two teams faced off.

Philadelphia 24, New York 17

Saturday, December 24th, 1:00 e.t.

Washington Redskins (7-6-1) @ Chicago Bears (3-11)

The Bears gave the Packers all they could handle last week at home coming back from 17 down only to watch the “W” slip away with a last second field goal.  Meanwhile, the Washington offense really struggled at home against a much maligned Carolina Panther “D”.  On the road in Chicago could be another upset for the Redskins.  Matt Barkley is actually the third graded QB in the league ever since he took over as the starter behind Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.  Who’da thunk it?

Chicago 28, Washington 25

Atlanta Falcons (9-5) @ Carolina Panthers (6-8)

The Panthers showed a lot of heart on Monday night on the road, but the Falcons are now coming to town and they are rolling.  It will be hard pressed for the Carolina corners to stand up to this high octane offense that will be looking for a playoff berth with a win and a lot of help.  Atlanta is getting healthy and they are quickly becoming a team that nobody wants to play in January.

Atlanta 37, Carolina 31

San Deigo Chargers (5-9) @ Cleveland Browns (0-14)

If the Browns are going to get a win this year, this will be their best shot at it.  The Chargers have fallen off the face of the earth following their devastating loss to Tampa Bay a couple of weeks ago and are playing some rather uninspired football.  I think they will get Cleveland’s best shot in a while this time out, but the Browns just don’t have the talent to get it done.  Their defense could get shredded.

San Diego 30, Cleveland 24

Tennessee Titans (8-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)

The Jaguars finally got on firing Gus Bradley and now Doug Marrone will step in to fill the head coaching vacancy.  The Titans are coming off of a great road win over Kansas City and have a good shot at locking up the AFC South with a win here and at home over Houston next week.  I like the Titans to get the job done on the road against an offense that is still a mess while the Tennessee defense is beginning to peak.

Tennessee 26, Jacksonville 10

Miami Dolphins (9-5) @ Buffalo Bills (7-7)

The Dolphins have actually won eight out of their last nine games and they had an impressive showing out of Matt Moore who had not passed the football in about half a decade.  He threw four touchdowns against Gang Green and was very accurate with ball placement.  I can see him regressing a bit on the road in a tough place to play.  The Bills are desperate for a win and I think they will play like it here.

Buffalo 24, Miami 19

Minnesota Vikings (7-7) @ Green Bay Packers(8-6)

If you stopped following football a month ago you would have sworn the Packers were dead in the water, yet here they are holding down the #6 seed in the NFC.  The Vikings defense is finally beginning to crack having to shoulder the weight of a pretty bad offense.  On the road at the Frozen Tundra without the ability to run the ball, I really don’t like the Minnesota Vikings’ chances.

Power Pick of the Week: Green Bay 45, Minnesota 17

New York Jets (3-11) @ New England Patriots (12-2)

The Patriots have already ensured themselves a first round BYE in the playoffs, and could secure the #1 seed this week if they win and the Raiders lose.  Of course, they cannot control what Oakland does, but I do think that they will easily be able to knock off the Jets with that greater goal in mind.  The New England defense is beginning to pick up their play and the Pats will really be tough to handle if Tom Brady is able to pick secondaries apart like he has for a majority of the year.  Also, Bill Belichick isn’t always to friendly towards younger quarterbacks.  Good luck Bryce Petty.

New England 34, New York 14

Saturday, December 24th, 4:05 e.t.

Indianapolis Colts (7-7) @ Oakland Raiders (11-3)

The Raiders are heading back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, which is exciting.  Meanwhile, the Colts managed to save their season in a dominant road win over the Vikings.  Can they do it again in the Black Hole?  I am feeling another upset.  Andrew Luck could go to town on this secondary as long as the Indy offensive line can somewhat slow down Khalil Mack and company.

Indianapolis 26, Oakland 23

Saturday, December 24th, 4:25 e.t.

San Francisco 49ers (1-13) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-10)

The Rams and Niners hardly screams must-see football, but this will serve as a good litmus test to see what Jared Goff can do.  If he can’t move the ball against a Niner team that surrenders 31 points per game.  And if Todd Gurley was ever to get going, this would be the time.  I do think that L.A. will have a decent game on offense, and for them that will net 20+ points.

Los Angeles 22, San Francisco 15

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) @ New Orleans Saints (6-8)

Didn’t I just cover this game?  Why yes, I did.  In Week 14, these two teams squared off and the Bucs held the Saints to a lowly 11 points.  New Orleans responded by throwing up 48 on the road against the league’s #1 defense.  How is that for a statement?  The Buccaneers hung in there with Dallas a week back, but were ultimately overwhelmed by the Cowboys’ offense.  I see this happening again with this pick hinging on the fact that the Saints will play like the Saints at home.

New Orleans 34, Tampa Bay 24

Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)

The Seahawks have not been overly explosive on offense lately, but their defense has been lights out at home for the most part.  The Cardinals scored 41 points a week ago, which will win you a game 98% of the time, but their defense was shredded by the Saints.  While I don’t think this unit will have a bad game here, I don’t think they will do enough to carry what I think will be a struggling Arizona offense in the Emerald City.  We could see a couple of random deep balls in this one, but otherwise I don’t see them putting together enough cohesive drives to get the job done.

Seattle 26, Arizona 17

Saturday, December 24th, 8:30 e.t.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1) @ Houston Texans (8-6)

Tom Savage came in and righted the ship for Houston a week ago against the Jaguars.  But, let’s be honest, this was the Jaguars and their offense was equally terrible.  The Texans do play a much better brand of defense at home, however, and the Bengals have not been great on the road.  If they can’t get a running game going, they could find it tough sledding in Houston.

Houston 20, Cincinnati 14

Sunday, December 25th, 4:30 e.t.

Baltimore Ravens (8-6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5)

This is a great game on Christmas that will essentially decide the AFC North.  The Steelers will lock it up if they can get the win, but the Ravens can put themselves a whole game up on Pittsburgh if they can yank out a road win.  Unfortunately this game will be played in the Steel City and the Steelers are hot right now.  This could be a signature win for their 2016 season because I think Ben Roethlisberger can make some plays outside the numbers in this one.

Pittsburgh 33, Baltimore 20

Sunday, December 25th, 8:30 e.t.

Denver Broncos (8-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

The last time these two hooked horns, it resulted in, perhaps, the best contest of the 2016 season.  The Chiefs are in good shape in the AFC playoff hunt and have a couple of different ways to lock up a playoff berth this week, the easiest being a win at home over a struggling Bronco team.  Denver’s offense seems broken and that does not bode well against one of the better “D’s” on the road in a hostile environment.  The Chiefs will likely be motivated to win this one after dropping one in frustrating fashion a week ago against Tennessee.

Kansas City 30, Denver 16

Monday, December 26th, 8:30 e.t.

Detroit Lions (9-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (12-2)

The Lions and Cowboys have engaged in some great battles over the years, and this game should be no different.  When it comes to picking this one, I have to say I trust the Dallas offense more than Detroit’s.  Yes, the Lions defense has been playing great lately, but they have not been tested on the ground that much.  That will change against Ezekiel Elliot and the Cowboys in Big D.

Dallas 35, Detroit 27

Week 16 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (12-2): New England over New York Jets

Upset of the Week: Indianapolis over Oakland

Offensive Player of the Week: Drew Brees, QB, Saints

Defensive Player of the Week: Aaron Donald, DL, Rams

Rookie of the Week: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears

Best Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Best Running Back: David Johnson, Cardinals

Week 15 Recap: New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Final: New England 16, Denver 3

Patriots Broncos Football
Dion Lewis racked up nearly 100 yards on the ground Sunday versus Denver.

The Denver defense fought valiantly, but in the end they did not produce enough pass rush and were outplayed by the Patriots at Sports Authority in a 16-3 loss.  It is easy to draw comparisons between this game here and the AFC Championship contest a season ago, but we are not going to do that.  Let’s break down this contest as its own entity.

The Denver offense was stuck in the mud for most of the game, especially in the second half.  They managed only five first downs after the midpoint of the second quarter and the offensive line was not very good.  Trevor Siemian did not have a lot of time to scan the field, and it did not help that the Pats had excellent coverage throughout the game.  Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were bottled up by Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, and Eric Rowe and did not have much of an impact in the game.  After a promising start in the first quarter, Justin Forsett was pretty silent for the second straight week.  Denver’s inability to run the ball really handicaps this offense, one that relies heavily on play action and bootlegs with the quarterback.  Siemian did try a couple of rollouts, but the New England pass rush and linebackers were quick to sniff them out and give him a tough time trying to find outlets.  Former Patriot A.J. Derby was probably the most consistent target in the game Demaryius Thomas finished with seven catches for 91 yards, but a lot of that came in garbage time.  A lack of a run game and decent pass protection really dragged down this Devner offense.

The New England offense was nothing special in this contest, but their offensive line was remarkable.  Facing the talented Denver “D”, the game plan was to run the ball and not allow the Broncos to hit Tom Brady all that much, and this worked.  They ran the ball 38 times and Dion Lewis nearly cranked out a 100 yard game.  LeGarrette Blount found the end zone for his 15th time this season, the most any back has this year and also in New England franchise history.  Marcus Cannon did a heck of a job containing Von Miller.  Miller was a virtual non-factor as he was chipped and double-teamed a majority of the game, but even the plays where he was not in two on one situations, Cannon was very good against him.  Tom Brady did tie a career worst start to a game missing on his first six passes, but he did eventually settle down and connect with Julian Edelman who was great against the man-coverage employed by Wade Philips’ “D”.  The Patriot offense was not spectacular, but it did not have to be since their defense was lights out.

Patriots Broncos Football
The Patriots passing game never got going until Julian Edelman got involved early in the second quarter snapping Tom Brady’s 0-6 mark to start the game.

Credit certainly has to go to the New England secondary in this game.  Eric Rowe made a couple of nice plays on PBUs.  Malcolm Butler completely blanketed Emmanuel Sanders as well.  Logan Ryan picked off a Trevor Siemian pass on the first play of the second quarter and brought it back 42 yards to thwart a Denver scoring chance.  The D-line of New England was pretty good as well.  They threw a lot of stunts at a struggling Broncos’ offensive line and were able to get home with three sacks, two of which went to the second year budding star, Trey Flowers who was a force in the middle of the field.  Not only did Logan Ryan have an excellent interception (with a fantastic read and break on the ball), but he also lead the team in tackles with seven unassisted.  The New England defense, which was very much the weak point of the team heading into this game, turned in their best effort of the season and really put a dagger in the Broncos’ playoff hopes.

Trevor Siemian
Trevor Siemian throwing the ball against the Patriots from 12/18/16.

The Denver defense did everything a fan could have wanted them to outside of getting significant pressure on Tom Brady and stopping the run.  That sounds like a lot of failure, but considering the way the Pats have been able to rip through opposing secondaries this season, the Broncos were great against the pass.  Aqib Talib and Chris Harris were solid in their coverage and the Denver “D” allowed just one play over 20 yards in this game, a 34 yard completion to Martellus Bennett in the fourth quarter.  Otherwise, they really limited the opportunities that New England had with some great zone coverage and a mix-in of the occasional press.  Jamming the Pats’ wide-outs was effective and the held Brady to a lowly 188 yards on a 50% completion clip.  Shane Ray accounted for one of the two Denver sacks and forced a fumble.  He and Todd Davis were the best players on defense after watching this game.  Davis did a great job filling in for Brandon Marshall at the Mike linebacker spot as he was in on 13 different tackles (seven unassisted).  Jared Crick was responsible for the other sack and really flourished with a lot of attention being focused on Von Miller.  DeMarcus Ware did not have a great game as he was unable to win a lot of his battles on the outside and failed to create much pressure against Tom Brady in this one.

The Patriots improve to 12-2 after a healthy 13 point win in Denver where their defense dominated.  This is important because earlier in the year it was easy to point out the New England defense as a major flaw and the reason why this team would not win the Super Bowl.  Now with this game, and their effort over the past couple of weeks, it is easy to see that they have turned the corner and could be a force against any team if their secondary is able to shut down their opposing receivers the way they did in this contest.  For the Broncos, this is their second straight game where their defense was solid but the offense failed.  Last year when they made their run to the Super Bowl, their offense wasn’t the greatest, but they were at least able to run the ball.  This year, that is not something this team can lean on and hence why they are now 8-6 and fighting for their playoff life.  Denver will hit the road and take on Kansas City in a must-win game next week on Christmas day.  The Patriots, in the meantime, have locked up the AFC East and a first round playoff BYE and will host the Jets next week with a chance to lock up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.  This was a dominant win for the Pats, and one they can build on as they hope for yet another Super Bowl run.

Tom Brady
The Patriots secure the AFC East as well as a first round BYE in the playoffs with a 16-3 win over Denver on Sunday.

The Skinny:

  • The New England offensive line holds up well as Tom Brady is only sacked twice in 32 dropbacks.  The running game for the Patriots really got cranking as well as the team ran it 37 times for 137 yards.
  • The Patriots corners were terrific in coverage completely shutting down both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in this game.  Denver’s greatest output in the passing game came from their tight ends.
  • LeGarrette Blount hammered his way into the end zone for his 15th time this season, a New England franchise record.  The Patriots were also able to secure a first round BYE and another win of the AFC East title with this victory.
  • The Bronco offensive line was pushed around in this contest.  Denver was unable to run the ball yet again and that really took away from the play action pass opportunities that a Gary Kubiak offense is predicated on.
  • The Denver pass rush was not much of a factor in this game which was a shame because the coverage on the back end was fantastic.  The Broncos’ secondary was very good in this game.
  • A Jordan Norwood muffed punt in the first quarter as well as a Trevor Siemian interception really hampered the Broncos as they contributed to a (potential) 10 point swing.  The Patriots were +3 in the turnover battle.

2016 Season: Week 15 Preview

Back at it again for the fifteenth week of NFL action.  There were a lot of good games last weekend and this slate of games should not disappoint either.  Here are my picks for the sixteen matchups on the docket.

Von Miller

Last Week: 10-6

Season: 115-88

Thursday, December 15th, 8:25 e.t.

Los Angeles Rams (4-9) @ Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1)

The Seahawks got crushed last week in Lambeau against a suddenly hot Packer team and it looked like the absence of Earl Thomas really affected them.  However, they draw an easy out on Thursday night at home (being the only team in the league undefeated in their own stadium) with the Rams coming to town after just having fired Jeff Fisher.  Going into a hornets nest is LA, I do not like their odds at even keeping this one close.

Seattle 29, Los Angeles 10

Saturday, December 17th, 8:25 e.t.

Miami Dolphins (8-5) @ New York Jets (4-9)

The Jets looked like they quit early on the road in San Fran, but Bryce Petty made some plays and got his team the W over a crummy Niner’s squad.  Now they will be hosting the Ryan Tannehill-less ‘Phins who are hit or miss on the road.  This is a tough matchup to pick because we don’t know what the quarterbacks are going to do.  In the end I actually like the Jets because I think that their run defense will play much better than they did last week against Carlos Hyde and really make things tough on Miami.

New York 20, Miami 14

Sunday, December 18th, 1:00 e.t.

Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) @ Baltimore Ravens (7-6)

The Ravens defense got blasted in New England Monday night, but they should have no trouble rebounding at home against an Eagle team that is in a tailspin.  Aside from what I thought was a great performance from Carson Wentz against Washington, nobody on the Eagles was all that great a week ago and a 1-6 road record is no mistake.  Plus, for whatever reason, Joe Flacco gets it done at home against NFC teams.  I’m taking Baltimore here.

Baltimore 26, Philadelphia 14

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) @ Houston Texans (7-6)

A week ago, everyone was talking about how bad the Texans were, but now they have a sweep of the Colts under their belts and a 4-0 record in their division.  Playing at home against a Jaguar team should be an easy win for them.  The Jacksonville defense was humbled by Minnesota last week and will probably bounce back here, but I just don’t like their offense against a Houston “D” that usually dominates at home.

Houston 20, Jacksonville 9

Tennessee Titans (7-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (10-3)

Can you believe that the Titans are 7-6?  They have been one of the more fun teams to watch this season and have a good shot at getting into the playoffs.  The Chiefs essentially ensured themselves of a playoff spot by completing the sweep of the Oakland Raiders last week.  Their defense was great in that contest and should be the key in this game.  Their pass rush should give Marcus Mariota headaches and they will not make mistakes on offense en route to a nice win.

Kansas City 30, Tennessee 19

Cleveland Browns (0-13) @ Buffalo Bills (6-7)

The Bills defense got ripped apart by Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers last week and are in desperate need of a win this time out.  Luckily they get the Browns who continue to find new ways to blow games.  Buffalo will likely end up feeding LeSean McCoy 25 times and also get the ball in the gut of Mike Gilislee, a very underrated back himself, and cram the running game down Cleveland’s throat here.  The Browns still have difficulties stopping the run which just so happens to be the Bills’ specialty.

Buffalo 27, Cleveland 17

Green Bay Packers (7-6) @ Chicago Bears (3-10)

Matt Barkley has been solid over the past couple of weeks, but I don’t see the Bears slowing down the Packers this week.  Green Bay has been in win or go home mode for a couple of weeks now and after crushing the Seahawks at home, going on the road to take on a three-win team should not be that difficult of a task.  Dom Capers’ defense deserves a lot of credit for their play lately and that should continue on Sunday.

Green Bay 41, Chicago 17

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-7-1)

Don’t look now, but the Steelers are peaking.  They have only three divisional games remaining and winning two will probably get them into the postseason (as long as one of those wins comes against Baltimore).  The Bengals have a cute little two game winning streak going but that comes to an end here.  Their secondary has some real problems and I can see Ben Roethlisberger picking them apart giving Le’Veon Bell’s legs a rest after he rolled up nearly 300 yards from scrimmage against Buffalo a week ago.

Pittsburgh 36, Cincinnati 20

Detroit Lions (9-4) @ New York Giants (9-4)

This is a nice little game in the Meadowlands pitting two playoff hopeful teams.  This is a litmus test for both squads because they will know if they are ready for January football based on their performance in this one.  The Lions have not played a game outside since Week 4, which is insane, and we will have to see how Matthew Stafford’s finger holds up in the cold.  The Giants’ defense has been great lately and thy just held the Cowboys to 7 points.  They should find some more success against the Lions who have struggled to protect Stafford lately.

Power Pick of the Week: New York 20, Detroit 16

Indianapolis Colts (6-7) @ Minnesota Vikings (7-6)

You don’t get any lollipops for beating the Jaguars, but the Vikings offense had one of its best efforts of the year against a pretty decent defense.  The Colts were unable to take control of the AFC South last week and now their offensive line has to stand up to a Vikings pass rush that can be brutal at home.  But the Colts have played some good football following losses this year and I can see them stealing a road win in Indy on the right arm of Andrew Luck.

Indianapolis 23, Minnesota 16

Sunday, December 18th, 4:05 e.t.

New Orleans Saints (5-8) @ Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1)

The Saints and Cardinals have been disappointments this year, and any hope that the Cards had at the playoffs was dashed with a loss on the road to Miami.  It is entirely possible that you see an uninspired team on Sunday at home, but I still think that their defense will make some plays.  Drew Brees has thrown no touchdown passes and six picks over the last two weeks.  He’s had it rough.  It will continue on the road in Arizona.

Arizona 25, New Orleans 16

San Francisco 49ers (1-12) @ Atlanta Falcons (8-5)

Ok, I’ll say it: the 49ers are the worst team in football.  How you choke away a 17 point lead at home to the Jets is beyond me, and they have a serious lack of talent up and down the roster.  The Falcons have no such problem in their corner and also have an excellent chance to go up by a game in the division with two to play.  Atlanta’s offense is going to be a nightmare for a poor Niners’ “D” to handle.

Atlanta 38, San Francisco 17

Sunday, December 18th, 4:25 e.t.

Oakland Raiders (10-3) @ San Diego Chargers (5-8)

The Raiders were handed their first loss on the road this year last week in Kansas City.  They will get a crack at their eleventh win a second time against the Chargers, a team that was held at bay in Carolina.  San Diego has been turning the ball over a lot lately and could have real problems on offense without Melvin Gordon.  The Raiders should be able to come to town and throw the ball on them.  Derek Carr usually plays well against the Bolts.

Oakland 34, San Diego 27

New England Patriots (11-2) @ Denver Broncos (8-5)

The Broncos have had a tough go of it lately having an impossible time running the ball.  Their defense has fallen from where it was last year and the beginning of this one.  However, they can erase a lot of woes with a win at home over the Patriots.  Denver is the only team in football that Tom Brady does not have a winning record against and that will continue this week.  Call me crazy but I think that the Broncos will get their offense going this week against a New England “D” that has not been that great this season.

Denver 19, New England 17

Sunday, December 18th, 8:30 e.t.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (11-2)

The Dallas offense has been pretty bad over the last two weeks and they draw a Tampa Bay opponent who has been balling out on “D” lately.  Teams have had a tough time throwing the ball against the Bucs, but after Dak Prescott struggled the way he did last Sunday night, I can see Dallas protecting him some this game by running the ball.  They won’t lose twice in a row in prime time.  They should be able to control the clock and win this game.

Dallas 26, Tampa Bay 17

Monday, December 19th, 8:30 e.t.

Carolina Panthers (5-8) @ Washington Redskins (7-5-1)

Kirk Cousins is getting better and better as a pro quarterback and the Redskins really need to pay this man, but that is a different story.  This week Washington could really use a win to keep pace in the Wild Card race.  The Panthers were able to run the ball a bit against the Chargers and that could serve them well here.  I was going to pick Carolina in an upset, but I don’t know if I can given the weapons that the ‘Skins have on offense and the injuries the Panthers of to their “D”.  Kirk Cousins could be in for another good game.

Washington 32, Carolina 24

Week 15 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (11-2): Atlanta over San Francisco

Upset of the Week: Denver over New England

Offensive Player of the Week: LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

Defensive Player of the Week: DeMarcus Ware, LB, Broncos

Rookie of the Week: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs

Best Quarterback: Kirk Cousins, Redskins

Best Running Back: LeSean McCoy, Bills

Week 14 Recap: New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Final: Tampa Bay 16, New Orleans 11

Jameis Winston
Jameis Winiston throws the ball against the Saints from 12/11/16

The Buccaneers continue their hot streak as the team picked up its fifth consecutive win for the first time since 2002 in a chippy win over the plummeting New Orleans Saints.  The Tampa Bay defense was marvelous in this game, holding their division rivals to just three field goals on offense and clamping down in the red zone on a couple of different occasions against what was the best scoring team within the 20 in football.  Here’s how they did it.

As stated above, the Buccaneer defense deserves almost all of the credit for this win.  Their cornerbacks were all over the New Orleans receivers for almost the entire game.  There was one instance where Brandin Cooks beat them deep in the second quarter for what should have been six, but otherwise the team let up nothing over their heads and were making solid tackles.  Kwon Alexander and LaVante David had big games at linebacker.  David shot the gap and made a nice tackle for a loss at one point in the game and was filling the hole with great regularity alongside his very underrated teammate.  The real star in this game was Gerald McCoy.  McCoy was double-teamed frequently, but still managed to get a couple pressures against what is regarded as one of the better offensive lines in football and he was helpful in slowing the run; something that the Saints have excelled at doing lately.  SS Kieth Tandy was a man on fire in the secondary.  He is the one who officially sealed the win for the Bucs with an interception on fourth down with less than a minute to go in the game, absolutely mugging Willie Snead, but he was all over his assignments all day and had eyes on Brees passes throughout the entire contest.  Holding the Saints to just two field goals in two red zone possessions was huge for Tampa Bay and the biggest reason as to why they won this game.

Saints vs. Buccaneers
Drew Brees threw three picks in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.

New Orleans was, by no means, dynamic on offense in this game, but they did have their chances to score.  There was a play in the second quarter were Brandin Cooks got loose in the secondary and Drew Brees overthrew him.  On that same drive, Travaris Cadet dropped a gimme touchdown that would have brought the Saints to within a point going into the half.  Later, at the end of the third quarter on a third down play, Brandin Cooks let a ball drop right out of his hands to the grass after it was initially ruled a touchdown in the end zone.  Playoff teams make these plays, and the Saints did not and that is why they are sitting at 5-8 with a nearly impossible climb to the post season.  Besides those mistakes, the team combined for a season-high 13 penalties and a disastrous three turnovers.  The offense converted just 30% of their third down tries (4/13) and was 1/2 on fourth down.  A huge reason for the lack-luster offensive performance was a mediocre effort turned in by the New Orleans O-line.  Drew Brees was not afforded great protection and they did not get much of a push for the running game.  The tackle combo of Andrus Peat and Terraun Armstead was not great in this game as they were getting beat one-on-one on the edges with double team focus being put on Gerald McCoy in the middle.  Tampa Bay played a lot of man-to-man early and then switched it up and played a ton of zone in the second half and the 180 in schemes under defensive coordinator Mike Smith really baffled the Saints.

We would be singing the praise of the New Orleans defense had their offense showed up today because they were actually quite good.  Cameron Jordan had his usual impact, completely bowling over Gosder Cherilus at one point in the game.  Delvin Breaux was awesome while he was on the field, although he did leave with an injury during the middle of the game.  The Saints did not bring a ton of pressure in most situations, but they did bring heat when they stuffed the run for the safety in the second quarter.  Keeping seven men in the box was their strategy to stop the run, and it worked well as the Bucs only rushed for an average of three yards per play on 35 tries.  Paul Kruger had a nice game, officially recording two tackles and a QB pressure.  He was a force when rushing the passer and made life tough on the Tampa O-line.  Nick Fairley was an animal in stuffing the run.  He finished the afternoon with six tackles.  In the secondary, the effort of Von Bell, Ken Crawley, Delvin Breaux, and Sterling Moore was remarkable.  Mike Evans, who typically struggles against the Saints, continued that trend as he was held to just four catches for 42 yards.  This was the same player that lit up one of the best secondaries in football a couple of weeks ago in Seattle.

Doug Martin,Stephone Anthony,Nick Fairley
The Saints defense stepped up on Sunday, but unfortunately their offense managed only three field goals in a 16-11 loss.

The Tampa Bay offense got off to a hot start but quickly fizzled out because they were unable to run the ball with great success or create many big plays with the passing game.  Jameis Winston did not score a touchdown in this game for the first time in (possibly) his entire life.  He did, however, make some nice throws under pressure and showed some more tremendous mobility and strength in the pocket.  This kid grows with each start and really seems to be blossoming into one of the league’s better passers.  Charles Sims was actually the better of the two running backs today.  He broke more tackles than Doug Martin and finished with 17 yards on four carries.  Nobody ran the ball particularly well, however, as the longest rush of the game belonged to Jameis Winston.  It officially went for 14 yards.

Special teams played a big role in this contest.  Newly signed Josh Huff did muff a kickoff and the ball squirted out of bounds at the one yard line, leading to the New Orleans safety.  Roberto Aguayo was 3/3 in the kicking game and hit his lone extra point try, which is news considering the awful start that the young Florida State product had to his career.  Brian Anger pinned the Saints inside the five twice in the fourth quarter with excellent punts (along with a brilliant save by Ryan Smith who sold out to keep a punt from going into the end zone).  This really put the New Orleans offense in a tough place and contributed mightily to their eighth loss.

Now that the Saints do have eight losses, the playoffs are nearly impossible.  They will have to win out and hope for a ton of help, so it seems as though they are cooked and will have to play spoiler going forward (perhaps in two weeks when they replay these Bucs).  Tampa Bay keeps pace with Atlanta, who also went to 8-5 with a blowout win over Los Angeles this week.  The good news for the Bucs is if they keep winning they will have a good shot at a wild card spot, if not the division.  They will be tested next week on the road as the team pits their five game winning streak against the team with the best record in football, the Dallas Cowboys.  New Orleans will head to Arizona to play the Cardinals in Week 15.

Ryan Smith
Special teams ace Ryan Smith saves a punt from going into the end zone Sunday versus New Orleans.

The Skinny:

  • The Buccaneers win their fifth straight game for the first time since 2002, largely because of their defense which has allowed an average of 12.8 points per game over that stretch.
  • Jameis Winston does not account for a touchdown for the first time in his career, but he did show some more impressive mobility within the pocket throughout the game.
  • Roberto Aguayo nails three field goals and an extra point without a miss as the rookie seems to be getting back on track for the Bucs.
  • Drew Brees, for the first time in his career, throws three picks in back-to-back games and was held without a touchdown pass for his second consecutive game as he appears to be falling into a bit of a funk.
  • New Orleans had their chances in this game.  Brees overshot Brandin Cooks on a deep throw which would have been six in the second quarter, and then Travaris Cadet dropped a would be touchdown on that same drive while Cooks botched one in the end zone that would have put the Saints in front going into the fourth quarter.
  • The New Orleans defense was not to blame for this loss.  After surrendering a quick 13 points to the Bucs, the Saints defense held Tampa to just three points over the team’s final six drives, including one safety.  They held Mike Evans in check as the star wide-out finished with a line of 4-42-0.

2016 Season: Week 14 Preview

It is Week 14 of the 2016 campaign and there are some quality matchups to look forward to as we forge into the final quarter of the season.  All teams have just four games left to prove themselves and unless your team is the Cowboys you are still shouting at your TV hoping your squad will make it to the dance.  Some teams can lock up playoff spots this weekend.  As for the games, how do I see them playing out?  Here are my picks.matt-ryan

Last Week: 10-5

Season: 105-82

Thursday, December 8th, 8:25 e.t.

Oakland Raiders (10-2) @ Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)

The first game of the week might just be the best matchup.  The #1 seed and AFC West could very well depend on the outcome of this contest.  It’s also a tough one to pick.  I think I will go with the home team here (as I continue to debate this in my own head).  I think they can get pressure on Derek Carr unlike many of the Raiders’ prior opponents, and let’s not forget that they did trail Buffalo 24-9 at one point last week.   That could say a lot.

Kansas City 24, Oakland 19

Sunday, December 11th, 1:00 e.t.

Houston Texans (6-6) @ Indianapolis Colts (6-6)

The AFC South’s fate could very well hinge on this game also.  The Texans, quite frankly, lucked into a win their first time around against the Colts at home but I don’t see that happening again on the road.  I think Indy has really found something with their tight ends and Andrew Luck has really begun to heat up.  The Texans are also struggling to score points, so in the end that will cost them and their team.

Power Pick of the Week: Indianapolis 27, Houston 6

San Diego Chargers (5-7) @ Carolina Panthers (4-8)

The Chargers are probably the better team here, but I think that their loss at home to Tampa Bay took a lot out of them.  It was essentially the needle for their balloon of a season and I see them coming out flat against a Panther team that is likely enraged after getting blasted by Seattle in prime time a week ago.  Injuries are finally starting to catch up to the Chargers and the Panthers could find success running the rock against them.

Carolina 20, San Diego 19

Chicago Bears (3-9) @ Detroit Lions (8-4)

The Lions can make a huge case for a playoff berth with an emphatic home win over the Bears who have actually been a little better lately with Matt Barkley himself leading the team.  Chicago inexplicably won the first contest between these two but that won’t happen twice.  Detroit’s defense has stepped up in a big way over the last month and really helped them get to their current four game winning streak.  I like them to make it five.

Detroit 31, Chicago 13

Washington Redskins (6-5-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

This was going to be my upset of the week but after their effort (if you can call it that) against the Bengals, I’m not sure I can pick Philly to win another game all year with their injured and talent-poor offense.  Their defense has really slacked lately, and even though they are home I’m not sure they can get enough pressure on Kirk Cousins to disrupt his game.  The ‘Skins should sneak out a victory.

Washington 17, Philadelphia 14

Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1) @ Cleveland Browns (0-12)

I’m looking at Cleveland’s schedule, and if they are going to get a win this year this is their best chance at it: at home against a banged up Cincy team in possible elements.  That said, I don’t know if it is going to happen.  Andy Dalton looked great at home last week and he should not have many issues passing it against the Browns’ secondary.  I do think they are going to want to establish the run after getting stymied last week, and they ran the ball down Cleveland’s throat the first time these teams hooked up.

Cincinnati 24, Cleveland 7

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) @ Buffalo Bills (6-6)

This game is, essentially, the Bills’ season and I think they will play like it.  At home Buffalo has been a very different team, and the Steelers are certainly not always the epitome of a great squad when they hit the road.  The Bills could have trouble running the ball against a very fast Pittsburgh team because they are good at stopping outside zone rushes.  That leaves it up to Tyrod Taylor to pass the ball and I’m not sure that that will be the Bills’ best option.

Pittsburgh 27, Buffalo 22

Denver Broncos (8-4) @ Tennessee Titans (6-6)

This is a sneaky good game being played in Tennessee and the great Titan running game will square up with a good Denver defense.  I am scared for the Broncos here because I don’t trust their offense.  Tennessee could pull off a victory here, but in the end I see the Broncos doing enough with their “D” to steal a win.  They might pitch in with a return TD against Marcus Mariota, who is certainly susceptible to giving those kinds of plays up.

Denver 28, Tennessee 21

Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) @ Miami Dolphins (7-5)

The Cardinals found a way to win at home over a good opponent and will now have to hit the road and do it all over again.  I say they get the job done with their #1 ranked defense.  The Dolphins have had a lot of trouble scoring points against decent “D’s” this year and that trend will continue here.

Arizona 35, Miami 14

Minnesota Vikings (6-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)

The Jags have become everyone’s cupcake each week and are really up against it again this time with another good defense coming to town.  Blake Bortles and company were bewildered by Denver a week ago and I think that will happen again.  The Vikings desperately need a win to keep pace with the Lions and I think they will get it on the road after ten-days rest.

Minnesota 20, Jacksonville 13

Sunday, December 11th, 4:05 e.t.

New York Jets (3-8) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-11)

So here’s an ugly game that is hard to pick.  The Niners looked awful on the road in snowy Chicago last week, but the Jets may have managed to look even worse at home against the Colts on Monday night.  Traveling across the country on a short week won’t bode well for a team that honestly looks like it quit on their head coach.  Also, Colin Kaepernick will be starting here and, before his horrible game against the Bears, he wasn’t awful.  I think the Niners will snap their eleven game losing streak here.

San Francisco 29, New York 19

Sunday, December 11th, 4:25 e.t.

New Orleans Saints (5-7) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)

This is a fun little matchup that has been flexed into the late=afternoon window on FOX.  Are the Bucs for real or are they just on an odd-ball hot streak?  This game will tell us a lot about Tampa Bay because if they are a legitimate threat in the NFC, there should be no problem with them putting N’awleans away.  Their defense has been much better lately and I think they will be the difference in what could be a good game.

Tampa Bay 24, New Orleans 23

Atlanta Falcons (7-5) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-8)

Remember when the Rams were 3-1?  That is ancient history now as the team has dropped seven of their last eight and have been close to unwatchable on offense.  Atlanta, on the other hand, have been a lot of fun to watch and can score points with anybody.  These days it only takes about 17 points to beat L.A. and the Falcons should have no problem going over that mark, even on the road.

Atlanta 34, Los Angeles 17

Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1) @ Green Bay Packers (6-6)

I was going to pick the Packers to win this game, but it is so hard to pick against the ‘Hawks in December, especially after seeing what they did last week to Carolina.  Russell Wilson should have time to stand in the pocket and pick apart this weak Green Bay secondary.  On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers may find it difficult passing on the Seahawks if their pass rush gets cranking.

Seattle 25, Green Bay 20

Sunday, December 11th, 8:30 e.t.

Dallas Cowboys (11-1) @ New York Giants (8-4)

The Cowboys have already clinched a playoff spot and could lock up the NFC East with a win on Sunday.  I think they will get it done, even on the road.  This pick is more on my concern with the Giants offense than anything else.  They have not looked great for most of this season and that does not bode well when you have proud owners of an eleven game losing streak coming to town.  Jason Pierre-Paul, who had really heated up over the last month, will now miss the rest of the regular season for New York.  They are in a tough spot now.

Dallas 30, New York 17

Monday, December 12th, 8:30 e.t.

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) @ New England Patriots (10-2)

Week 14 wraps up with a nice contest between the Ravens and Patriots, who seem to produce a lot of quality games.  Baltimore threw the ball at will against the Dolphins to the point where Joe Flacco had 27 completions in the first half alone.  Insane.  Anyways, they will have to find more balance if they want to hang with the Pats on the road.  Since it is a road game, I don’t like their odds at winning, but they could hang around.  The Patriots might just run the rock like it were the ’80s here also.  This should be a decent game.

New England 28, Baltimore 17

Week 14 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (10-2): Detroit over Chicago

Upset of the Week: Arizona over Miami

Offensive Player of the Week: Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers

Defensive Player of the Week: Harrison Smith, SS, Vikings

Rookie of the Week: Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Cowboys

Best Quarterback: Cam Newton, Panthers

Best Running Back: Carlos Hyde, 49ers

Week 13 Recap: Washington Redskins @ Arizona Cardinals

NFL: Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23 from the fourth of December.

Final: Arizona 31, Washington 23

The Arizona Cardinals improve to 5-6-1 after Patrick Peterson intercepted an errant Kirk Cousins pass late in the game, downing the Redskins.  There was good quarterback play taking place in this game despite woeful performances by both injury-riddled offensive lines.  Here’s how it all played out.

The Redskins defense was victimized by two players on defense: Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson.  These two players have carried the Cardinals’ offense all season long and certainly continued that trend on Sunday.  Fitz now has 1,104 catches in his brilliant career and sits all alone behind Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez in third place on the all-time reception list.  Fitzgerald hauled in ten balls for 78 yards and made a couple of key conversions, including one late in the game that allowed the Cards to march down the field and score the go-ahead touchdown.  David Johnson was a man on fire yet again for Arizona as he recorded 100+ yards from scrimmage in his twelfth straight game.  He ended the afternoon with 27 touches for 175 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving).  He was nearly uncoverable out of the backfield and did have opportunities to make a couple more grabs if the ball was delivered accurately.  This was a bit of a problem at times because the offensive line for Arizona continued to be an issue.  The interior was getting shoved backwards and the Redskins were getting pressure even on three step drops.  Luckily, Carson Palmer showed some of his best mechanics so far this season and was good with his feet, able to move out and make some decent throws.  Other tosses were inaccurate because he was not able to escape the pressure.  On the Cardinals’ final scoring drive of the game, Bruce Arians showed some guts by calling a run play on a fourth and one, inside of their own territory with less than four to play.  The call payed off with a 17 yard rush by David Johnson.  Later on, on a third down try, he let Carson Palmer take a shot for the end zone, and the veteran quarterback delivered the goods by dropping a perfect pass into the waiting arms of J.J. Nelson in the end zone for a 42 yard score.  The Cardinals were playing to win the game, and they were able to do just that.

Washington Redskins v Arizona Cardinals
Action from Sunday’s matchup between Arizona and Washington.

Conversely, the Washington offense held its own.  They were in a tough spot versus the league’s top defense on the road, and they did not look atrocious despite missing their best offensive player in Jordan Reed.  Kirk Cousins was great on the afternoon making quick reads and finding open men when he was afforded the time to pass.  This was the key, though, because there were a lot of occasions where he could not stand comfortably in the pocket and pick out his best option.  His best throw of the game came right at the beginning of the third quarter where he hooked up with DeSean Jackson on a 59 yard bomb.  This lead to a Rob Kelley score later on.  The 59 yarder was one of the rare times that Cousins had all day to throw.  The Redskins suffered injuries to their center John Sullivan and their right guard Spencer Long.  Arizona brought a ton of corner blitzes and spread the line out.  This allowed some men to run free on the interior and take shots on Cousins.  There was not much room for Washington to maneuver on the ground either as the Cardinals blitzed those looks as well.  It came down to the Redskins’ players beating their man coverage.  They did not do so on many occasions as the ball rarely went in the direction of Patrick Peterson who was all over DeSean Jackson for a majority of the game.  Jameson Crowder did not have a reception until the third quarter of play and without Jordan Reed to make plays in the middle of the field, Kirk Cousins was heavily reliant on quick hitches to the outside, which is not necessarily Washington’s game.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals
Kirk Cousins throwing the ball against Arizona from 12/4/16

This has already been touched upon quite a bit, but the Arizona defense was a huge reason why the team was able to keep their playoff hopes alive.  They were tremendous in man coverage when Kirk Cousins did have time to throw the ball and they were blitzing very frequently.  Deone Bucannon and Markus Golden shined as each made plays at the line of scrimmage all game long.  Golden recovered a fumble and ran it back deep inside of the Redskins’ territory late in the game that set up one go-ahead score.  Bucannon was excellent help in stuffing the run game and made some great open field tackles.  Tyvon Branch was a bit of a liability in coverage, and he was the guy who got beat deep by DeSean Jackson.  Otherwise, the secondary for Arizona was strong even without Tyrann Matheiu to help them out.  The Cardinals were just as aggressive without him and really got after a hobbled Washington offensive line.

The Redskins on defense found out what a lot of teams have already seen this season: the Arizona offense is run through the production of two guys, David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald had a lot of catches, but nothing terribly explosive.  The true challenge was with Johnson out of the backfield, something the Redskins have shown to struggle doing all season and that is covering running backs.  Their interior line was good and they held up well against the run.  Johnson himself did break some tackles and got on to the second level, but for the second straight week the Redskins’ held a potential #1 running back in the league to less than 100 yards rushing, which is not bad.  Washington did a great job at limiting explosive plays from the Cards until late in the game when J.J. Nelson grabbed his long touchdown.  Josh Norman was more of an impact player around the line of scrimmage as he was brought on CAT blitzes quite a few times and had a nose for stuffing the ball carriers.  He had a bad holding penalty later in the game that did extend an Arizona drive, however, and was not overly dominant in covering Larry Fitzgerald.  Bashaud Breeland actually had one of his better games in coverage for most of the game having primary assignments with Michael Floyd throughout.  He was beat on a touchdown pass, but Larry Fitzgerald drew him away from his primary receiver, so it is hard to blame him for that.

In the end, this turned out to be a signature win for the Cardinals.  They got back to their roots and were aggressive on both sides of the ball.  This was important for them since they are a squad whose identity is built on taking risks and this “W” is something that they can look back on for the rest of the year.  With this victory, they now jump above the Eagles and the Saints in the NFC Wild Card standings and now have a head to head win over the Redskins.  They will be heading on the road to the Dolphins next week trying to continue a late season renaissance.  The Redskins have a chance to bounce back with a struggling Eagle team next on their schedule.  That game will be on the road.

Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald is now third on the all-time receptions list with 1,104 following this weekend’s game.

The Skinny:

  • Arizona’s defense clamped down in the waning moments of the game when Patrick Peterson intercepted Kirk Cousins’ pass late with :41 to go, sealing a win for the Cardinals and keeping their season alive.
  • David Johnson had his twelfth straight game with over 100 yards from scrimmage while Larry Fitzgerald moved into third place all time with 1,104 receptions.  Arizona’s offense continues to run through these two players almost exclusively.
  • Carson Palmer had his best game since Week 2 versus Tampa Bay, throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.  He did all of this despite another poor performance from his offensive line and showed his best mobility of the season.
  • Washington’s offensive line suffered a couple of big injuries to the center and guard position and the Cardinals exploited that with blitzes.  Kirk Cousins was under pressure all game and was off the mark with a lot of his throws.
  • Until J.J. Nelson’s 42 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Washington secondary did hold up well due to the amount of pressure they were able to get on Carson Palmer.  The Redskin “D” did not hold when it counted most as they gave up that bomb late in the fourth quarter and allowed a fourth down conversion earlier on the drive.
  • The middle of the field was not as prosperous for the Redskins without Jordan Reed in the game.  Outside throws were contested by the Arizona corners and Kirk Cousins did not have much of a running game to work with.  The Washington offense was handicapped and exposed by a good defense.

2016 Season: Week 13 Preview

It is already December as the 2016 season hits its final leg which means that Week 13 is going to post a lot of do or die games.  Teams like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Green Bay, Buffalo, San Diego, and Carolina face must-win situations because a loss would likely sink their entire campaign.  Who will be the winners of the fifteen contests this weekend?  Find out below!snow-field

Last Week: 11-5

Season: 95-82

Thursday, December 1st, 8:25 e.t.

Dallas Cowboys (10-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (6-5)

The thirteenth week of the season gets kicked off with a dandy of a game.  Dallas takes its ten game winning streak on the road to a tough place in Minnesota against a desperate Viking team scratching and clawing to get into the big dance.  Normally I would take the team most needing of a win at home on a Thursday night, but both teams will have had a full week to rest up for this game so that edge goes out the window.  I really have a hard time picking against the Cowboys in this situation because of what they can do on offense and what the Vikings can’t do: protect their quarterback and run the ball.  I think that the ‘Boys will take the win on the road and keep rolling on Thursday.

Dallas 27, Minnesota 16

Sunday, December 4th, 1:00 e.t.

Denver Broncos (7-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9)

Denver is coming off of a heartbreaking loss in overtime against the Chiefs that came after their defense coughed away an eight point lead at the end of regulation.  Now, if you can believe this, they find themselves on the outside of the playoff bubble with the #7 seed.  It’s not like they are in horrible shape, but a road loss to the Jags would really clip their wings.  I can’t see this happening given Jacksonville’s struggles to throw the ball.  The Broncos should get back on track with a nice road win.

Denver 23, Jacksonville 10

Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1)

The Bengals played Baltimore tough on the road a week ago, but in the end it was clear that their injury riddled team just didn’t have enough talent to stand up to a rugged Raven defense.  This week the team draws a desperate Philadelphia team whose defense was pretty close to embarrassed by a surgical Aaron Rodgers on Monday night.  Look for the Iggles to play with a chip on their shoulder here.  Carson Wentz could have a nice day against a poor Cincinnati secondary.

Philadelphia 25, Cincinnati 13

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) @ Chicago Bears (2-9)

This is a hard game to call because both teams are bad, but each did look somewhat competent a week ago, albeit in losses.  I was going to lean towards the Bears at home, but it is going to be hard for them to stop San Fran’s running game.  Then again, the Niners have been more than bad at stuffing the rush themselves.  It will come down to quarterback play in what looks to be inclement weather.  I think I like Colin Kaepernick over Matt Barkley, even though Barkley had his moments a week ago.

San Francisco 17, Chicago 15

Miami Dolphins (7-4) @ Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

The Dolphins, after looking like the worst team in football after September, have ripped off six straight wins and are among the hottest teams in the league currently.  Sunday they will hit the road to Baltimore and face a very stingy Raven defense.  I like this unit to slow down Jay Ajayi and put pressure on Ryan Tannehill, who I am still not sold on.  Almost losing at home to San Francisco is not a good look for the ‘Phins and I can see their offense being frustrated on the road in Baltimore.

Power Pick of the Week: Baltimore 20, Miami 13

Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) @ Atlanta Falcons (7-4)

One of the best games of the week will go down in Atlanta and we see the gritty Chiefs taking on the high flying Falcons.  On Sunday night, the Kansas City defense was lights out in the first half when their pass rush was creating havoc, but as soon as it slowed Trevor Seimian shredded them.  Atlanta has a better offensive line than does Denver and a better QB to boot.  The Falcons should not have much trouble winning this game at home against a Chief team that may be a little lucky to be sitting at 8-3 right now.

Atlanta 34, Kansas City 28

Detroit Lions (7-4) @ New Orleans Saints (5-6)

This has potential to be the most exciting game of the week because it pits two teams that are always playing close, nail-biting contests.  It also features two poor pass defenses and two good gunslingers.  Points should flood the scoreboard on Sunday but I predict more on the side of the home team.  The Saints have played much better on “D” lately and the Lions have problems stopping people with their passing defense.  Drew Brees could throw for 375+ yards at home.

New Orleans 39, Detroit 35

Los Angeles (4-7) @ New England Patriots (9-2)

Jared Goff got off to a fast start on the road in New Orleans but was shut out in the second half against that middling (at best) defense.  The Patriots are in the same boat as their weakness this season has been their pass “D”, but I think they will be fine in this contest.  I could just copy and paste my synopsis from last week’s Saints/Rams game here because I think this game will go the same way.  I don’t see Goff being able to hang points with Tom Brady on the road.

New England 42, Los Angeles 28

Houston Texans (6-5) @ Green Bay Packers (5-6)

The Packers saved their season with a dominant win on the road over Philadelphia in a game where Aaron Rodgers looked like the Rodgers we have all come to know.  Heading home to host a dumpster fire of an offense in Houston should net good results for the Pack.  If Houston doesn’t pressure #12, they will get picked apart.  I like Green Bay to begin a small roll here.

Green Bay 37, Houston 20

Sunday, December 4th, 4:05 e.t.

Buffalo Bills (6-5) @ Oakland Raiders (9-2)

Okay, so I think that the Raiders have a very good team, but for whatever reason I continue to pick against them every week, and I keep getting burnt.  I was going to pick the Billikens to take a road win in an upset this week, but I think that Derek Carr (injured finger and all) could have a nice day against a very thin secondary.  The Oakland run defense is also stiffening up and that is the lifeblood of Buffalo’s game.  I might change my mind on this one, but for now I am going with the Raiders to get to 10-2.  Crazy, right?

Oakland 26, Buffalo 24

Sunday, December 4th, 4:25 e.t.

Washington Redskins (6-4-1) @ Arizona Cardinals (4-6-1)

Can I just say that I hate ties?  Just wanted to throw that out there.  Both of these teams have been caught up in those dreaded deadlocks and I just thought it was necessary to point out my hatred for them.  Now that we got that out of the way… the Redskins were in the game versus Dallas on the road on Thanksgiving.  A lot of people would pick them to blast the Cards who have not been the same team on offense, but I am smarter than that.  I think that the Arizona secondary can give Kirk Cousins headaches with blitzes and I see their offense waking up a bit against a, at times, challenged Washington defense.  I’ll take the Cardinals at home.

Arizona 30, Washington 23

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) @ San Diego Chargers (5-6)

The Buccaneers are coming off of back-to-back upset wins on the road over Kansas City and at home over Seattle.  Their defense has been one of the biggest factors to that as they held both of those teams to a combined 20 points on offense.  Keeping the third highest scoring team at bay could be a struggle on the road though as Philip Rivers knows how to throw up points.  I think you will see a well played game on both sides, but I will give an underrated defense in San Diego the benefit of the doubt on this one.  They will be the difference here.

San Diego 30, Tampa Bay 27

New York Giants (8-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)

The Giants have won five straight games, but they haven’t been facing the most quality of opponents over that stretch, and that will change on Sunday when they head to Pittsburgh to take on a Steeler team primed to make a run at the playoffs.  This looks like it will be a nice springboard game for Mike Tomlin and company to start building some steam down the stretch.  The way the Giants’ offense has looked lately has me wondering if they will even crack the 20 point barrier in this game.  I think the Steelers will have no problem doing that at home.

Pittsburgh 36, New York 17

Sunday, December 4th, 8:30 e.t.

Carolina Panthers (4-7) @ Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1)

If only this game were being played in Carolina, then it may have been more interesting.  Alas, it will be taking place in the Emerald City.  The Seahawks are the only team in the league that has not lost a home game this year and that will not change with Carolina coming to town.  It is very hard to beat Seattle two straight weeks as they have the most complete team in the league in my opinion.  With the Panthers’ problems running the ball, I just can’t see them pulling off a major upset on the road.

Seattle 34, Carolina 17

Monday, December 5th, 8:30 e.t.

Indianapolis Colts (5-6) @ New York Jets (3-8)

The Jets played the Patriots close last week, but I was not very surprised by that since they usually do.  This week should be a much different tale with Andrew Luck looking like he is ready to come back and play.  The Colts will have had a full ten days rest after dropping hard at home on Thanksgiving to the Steelers.  I like that to fuel them to a nice win.  Luck should not have any issues picking on what has turned out to be a very weak New York secondary.

Indianapolis 33, New York 16

Week 13 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (9-2): Pittsburgh over New York

Upset of the Week: San Francisco over Chicago

Offensive Player of the Week: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks

Defensive Player of the Week: Khalil Mack, LB, Raiders

Rookie of the Week: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears

Best Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

Best Running Back: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals

In this blog I will preview all NFL games and provide some weekly thoughts.