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2016 Season: Week 17 Preview

It is the end of the road for 20 teams after this week, and with the AFC all sealed up team-wise there is only seeding left to determine.  For the NFC, however, there is a lot to sort through still as the Packers, Lions, Buccaneers, and Redskins will all be fighting for the final two spots in the playoffs.  It should be exciting.  For the final time in the regular season, here are my picks.

Antonio Brown

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 135-100

Sunday, January 1st, 1:00 e.t.

Baltimore Ravens (8-7) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-9-1)

The Ravens fought hard but the Steelers stole a win and the AFC North away from them last week at Heinz Field in the final seconds.  Now Baltimore hits the road with a bad taste in their mouth.  That could mean motivation, but now this team has nothing to play for and I think they will come out deflated and the Bengals can take advantage of this playing at home.

Cincinnati 20, Baltimore 14

Cleveland Browns (1-14) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5)

Cleveland finally has a win this year, and it took them 15 games to get it.  That was a good thing too because if they didn’t win that game this one wasn’t a great bet for them.  Although the Steelers essentially have nothing to play for, I think they will go out and get the “W” because that is the Mike Tomlin way.  Call this a warm-up game before they host Miami next week.

Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 9

Houston Texans (9-6) @ Tennessee Titans (8-7)

The Titans were stabbed multiple times in the chest last week losing their quarterback Marcus Mariota and their season all in one day.  This game could have been for all of the marbles, but instead it is a rather meaningless affair with everything decided between these two squads.  Still, with a decent defense and an offense that has shown a bit of a shriek with Tom Savage at the helm, I see the Texans walking away from this game with the season sweep.

Houston 29, Tennessee 17

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) @ Indianapolis Colts (7-8)

The Colts were finding somewhat of a rhythm on defense until they headed out to Oakland and got hammered.  This week should provide them with a good bounce-back opportunity against a Jacksonville team that is very inconsistent across the way.  Their defense should keep them in this one though but I certainly like Indy’s offense over the Jaguars’.

Indianapolis 22, Jacksonville 17

Carolina Panthers (6-9) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)

The Panthers, and specifically Cam Newton, have been a mess this year as the 2015 MVP is completing just 45% of his passes over the past month.  On the road against a Tampa Bay team that needs to have this one seems like a tall task, but I’m smelling an upset.  Doug Martin will not be in this game due to a drug suspension and that could take some wind out from behind Tampa’s sails.

Carolina 30, Tampa Bay 22

Chicago Bears (3-12) @ Minnesota Vikings (7-8)

Matt Barkley showed us all that he is still Matt Barkley when he threw five picks against the Redskins last week.  Sure, the Bears were in come from behind mode and he had to force the issue a bit but it doesn’t change the fact that he can be reckless with the football.  On the road against a Viking defense that has been humbled lately, I like Minnesota to bounce back and play well.  Their offense has been watchable lately, even against some decent defenses.

Minnesota 18, Chicago 13

Dallas Cowboys (13-2) @ Philadelphia Eagles (6-9)

The Eagles looked like a different team with Lane Johnson in at right tackle and their defense played the prototypical bend but don’t break style last week against the Giants.  The Cowboys ride into town having nothing at all to play for.  Jason Garrett won’t be resting his starters, but at the same time there won’t be a huge sense of urgency.  Playing at home, I think the Iggles can drop a NFC East foe for the second straight week.

Philadelphia 27, Dallas 17

Buffalo Bills (7-8) @ New York Jets (4-11)

Rex Ryan was shown the door Tuesday and now it will be Anthony Lynn taking over as head coach.  Remember when this guy was the running back coach at the beginning of the year?  Funny how he’s been on the rise while the only thing the Bills do well is run the ball.  The Jets can stop the run, but I just don’t think their offense has enough firepower to hold off the stampeded from Buffalo.

Buffalo 20, New York 10

New England Patriots (13-2) @ Miami Dolphins (10-5)

The Patriots and Dolphins are headed to the playoffs and in this game Miami won’t have anything to play for since they are locked in at the #5 seed.  New England, however, will have the #1 seed in their sights as a win will bring that to them.  Matt Moore has been solid in relief of Ryan Tannehill, but I don’t see him standing up to Tom Brady.  I also think the Pats will be able to run the ball against the ‘Phins which won’t bode well for the home team.

New England 35, Miami 21

Sunday, January 1st, 4:25 e.t.

Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) @ San Diego Chargers (5-10)

A Chiefs win and a Raiders loss will bring the AFC West crown to Kansas City so they should be playing with a lot of heart on Sunday.  This KC team can be scary because they have a suddenly explosive and playoff level offense to pair with their opportunistic defense.  The Chargers will likely be playing for the final time in San Diego on Sunday so they should be fired up, but I don’t like the mistakes their offense is prone to making and that prevents me from picking them here.

Kansas City 31, San Diego 24

Arizona Cardinals (6-8-1) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-11)

The Cardinals shocked the world and clipped the Seahawks for the first time at home last week and will finish their season on the road against a Rams team that struggles to break 10 points most weeks.  David Johnson has his eyes set on breaking 100 scrimmage yards for each game in the 2016 season here also, and I think he will.  Arizona’s offense has gotten up off the mat over the last few weeks while the Rams continue to be stuck in neutral.

Arizona 31, Los Angeles 13

New Orleans Saints (7-8) @ Atlanta Falcons (10-5)

I was going to pick the Saints in an upset here, but this is a different Falcon team that is winning all of the games they should be when they have to.  They have a shot at reeling in the #2 seed, and I don’t think they will pass up that chance at home against the Saints who have nothing to play for besides spoiler.  Their defense has regressed some and that is not good news facing the best offense in football.

Atlanta 38, New Orleans 28

Oakland Raiders (12-3) @ Denver Broncos (8-7)

On the road in Denver with Mr. Matt McGloin doing his thing under center, it is tough to see the Raiders walking away with a win, but I think this Bronco team is in a horrible funk right now.  Their offense has been atrocious the last couple of weeks, and the defense has seemingly given up at times.  With noting to play for, don’t be surprised if they come out flat, even against a backup QB.

Oakland 23, Denver 12

New York Giants (10-5) @ Washington Redskins (8-6-1)

The Giants were able to move the ball against the Eagles, but three Eli Manning interceptions doomed the G-Men on the road.  Now they will be facing one of the better offenses in the league this week.  If Kirk Cousins passes for more than 370 yards, he will have a 5,000 yard season believe it or not.  I don’t think it will happen, but I do see Washington playing a good game and scoring some points against a Giant team that has still been showing struggles keeping up on offense.

Washington 26, New York 18

Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1) @ San Francisco 49ers (2-13)

The Seahawks did have a minor hiccup last week at home against the Cardinals, but they will get an easy game on the road against the 49ers who can’t beat anybody outside of the Rams this year.  I think that Seattle will keep it held back on offense and try to win this game with their “D”.  They should get that running game cranking against a team that has been horrible in that department as well.

Seattle 24, San Francisco 13

Sunday, January 1st, 8:30 e.t.

Green Bay Packers (9-6) @ Detroit Lions (9-6)

This game could be a loser goes home scenario in addition to a battle for the NFC North title.  Ford Field should be rocking early, but I don’t think they will be late because this Packer storm is coming on strong and each week they are looking more and more like the 2010 team that won it all.  Aaron Rodgers has fought his way back into the MVP conversation and after seeing the bad effort put forth out of Detroits’ defense on Monday night, I don’t have much confidence in them being able to get the job done with all the marbles on the line.

Power Pick of the Week: Green Bay 34, Detroit 21

Week 17 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (13-2): Arizona over Los Angeles

Upset of the Week: Carolina over Tampa Bay

Offensive Player of the Week: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons

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

Rookie of the Week: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs

Best Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Colts

Best Running Back: LeGarrette Blount, Patriots

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

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

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

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

2016 Season: Week 12 Preview

It can’t already be Thanksgiving can it?  The NFL Season keeps chugging along whether we like it or not and the race for the playoffs are really heating up now that there are only six weeks left to the regular season.  Six more chances for teams to pave their way (five if you are the Titans or Browns).  Who is going to win the cruddy AFC South or highly competitive AFC West?  Can anybody catch the Seahawks or Cowboys in the NFC East and West?  Are teams like the Giants, Dolphins, Redskins, and Lions actually playoff calibur?  Oh, the fun is just beginning.  As always, I like to start the preview of the week off with a fun little list, and this time I want to vent about the top ten overrated players.  We will then preview and pick all of this weekend’s games, including the three appetizing Thanksgiving day contests.  Let’s get to it.

Top 10 Overrated Players in the NFL

#10- Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: We begin our list with a Super Bowl champion and former league MVP.  A lot of people still look at him as an elite quarterback, which he is still capable of being (just look at last Sunday night), but there are things in his game that bother me and ban me from placing him among the upper-echelon of quarterbacks.  He can certainly get back on that pedestal, but until then he will need to improve some mechanics in his game.

#9- Victor Cruz, WR, Giants: I place Cruz on this list simply because of the media and how they hype him up to be some sort of game-breaker when in all reality he is just another receiver for the New York corps.  He has played well since returning from a nearly two year hiatus, but there is some phantom misconception that he is returning to elite form since coming back.  I blame the NYC market for this one.

#8- Rey Maualuga, LB, Bengals: It blows my mind when people still say that Maualuga is one of the better linebackers in the league.  He hasn’t been for a long time.  Too many missed tackles and blown assignments for my liking.  He has name value among many Bengal fans, but in terms of on-field ability he is average at best.

#7- Richard Sherman, CB, Seahawks: Don’t get me wrong, I love Richard Sherman.  He is one of the very best in the league at his position but is constantly touted as a shutdown corner.  He handles himself well against those “almost-there” wide receivers, but can get beaten by the smaller, quicker guys and was destroyed by Julio Jones this year.  He is a great player, just not as great as the media wants him to be.

#6- Jason Peters, LT, Eagles: There was once a day when you could argue that Peters was the best tackle in the league.  Those days have passed, but a lot of people still praise him like he is great.  To me, he is slow off the line of scrimmage and is more easily beat around the edge than ever before due to him aging.  He also leads the NFL in false start penalties which doesn’t help his stock either.

#5- Sebastian Janikowski, K, Raiders: It might be crazy to include a kicker on this list, but it has to be done.  If you ask people on the streets who the best kicker in the league is, some might throw his name into the mix, but he has only made 75% of his field goals this year.  Yikes!  That would put 25 kickers ahead of him that have attempted at least 15 FGs this season.

#4- Darrelle Revis, CB, Jets: I wasn’t going to put Revis on this list originally, but I pretty much have to given the sharp decline in his play.  While he has fallen out of favor with most of the media as he has become (in his own words) too old, there are still some writers out there who are making excuses for him and still believe he is one of the best.  I am not one of them, so it seems fitting to include him on this list.

#3- Joe Flacco/Eli Manning/Colin Kaepernick:  This spot is less for the players and more for the term “elite”.  I hate using that word as it is overstated.  These three guys were at one point or another deemed as “elite” and clearly never were.  They all got hot at important times, but were simply never on par with players like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning at their best.

#2- Clay Matthews, LB, Packers: I remember when people would call Clay Matthews one of the best players in football.  These days he is struggling to stay healthy and is not getting the rush on passers that he used to.  Furthermore, he misses a lot of tackles and is constantly over-pursuing.  It’s crazy to think that some people would still call him one of the best LBs in the league.

#1- Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: I could get burned at the stake for this one as it is slightly unfair to peg him as overrated due to the weapons he has at his disposal but to me this guy has everything any quarterback could ask for: a great offensive line and running game, a defense that limits the other team’s scoring chances, and some decent talent to throw it to.  The fact that he is receiving buzz for MVP is mind-boggling because I think most quarterbacks in this league could do what Dak is doing if they were in his advantageous situation.

Now, on to a lighter topic: the game previews!

Last Week: 10-4

Season: 84-77

Thursday, November 24th, 12:30 e.t.

Minnesota Vikings (6-4) @ Detroit Lions (6-4)

Our Week 12 odyssey begins with a huge matchup in Detroit for the annual Lions’ Thanksgiving day game.  This is a battle between the top two teams in the NFC North, and the two squads who will likely be the only ones competing for that division (more on that in a bit).  The last time these teams hooked horns was a couple of weeks ago in Minnesota i a thriller when Matt Prater blasted a 59 yard field goal at the end of regulation allowing the Lions to settle the score in overtime with a long, mythotical drive orchestrated by Matthew Stafford.  Matthew StaffordThat has been the recipe this season for Detroit, which is why a lot of their games breeze by.  Control the ball and the clock and keep that lack-luster defense off the field.  Things did not go so well for them last week against Jacksonville, however, as their D was able to stifle Jim-Bob Cooter’s attack.  In fact, this has become a constant issue for them as they continue to fall into offensive lulls game after game.  That has to catch up to them at some point and I think it will this week.  The Vikings finally snapped their four game losing streak with a narrow home win over Arizona a week ago.  While it was not an impressive showing from their offense, the defense did manage a return touchdown while special teams mustered a kickoff return for a touchdown.  Given that the Lions’ defense has not been that great this season, I can see the Vikes making more plays than they have at any other point over the last month.  Their defense should be able to slow down Detroit’s offense as well because I don’t think that Matthew Stafford can carry this team forever without the help of a running game.  Minnesota has no help on the ground either, but they have a terrific D and that will be the difference on Thursday.

Minnesota 23, Detroit 10

Thursday, November 24th, 4:30 e.t.

Washington Redskins (6-3-1) @ Dallas Cowboys (9-1)

Cowboys Redskins Football

Second up on a great Thanksgiving slate is a streaking Washington club versus the proud owners of a nine game winning streak in their own right (which started against these very Redskins).  This NFC East bout has produced some thrillers over the years, and America is hoping to see another this week.  Lately, the Cowboys have been blowing the doors off of their opponents by running the ball and playing turnover-free football on offense.  Their defense has held serve and been good enough to hold the adversary to just 18.7 points per game.  The offense has put up 400+ yards in eight straight contests, the longest streak since the 2013 Denver Broncos.  It is not hard to see why Dallas has dominated lately.  Meanwhile, the Redskins have gotten hot on offense in their own right.  Kirk Cousins has been playing lights out and finally beating teams with winning records and looking good in the process.  “Fat Rob”, as the kids call him, Robert Kelly just got done ripping the Packers for over 100 yards and three touchdowns as well so Washington could not be on a better roll than they are as they travel to Dallas.  However, they may be running into a buzz saw here if their “D” cannot hold America’s Team back.  The Redskins will have to beat the Cowboys at their own game if they hope to win this one, and that means running the ball, scoring points, and holding Dallas to three instead of seven when the ball in in the red zone.  I certainly think that Kirk Cousins is capable of hanging around later on, but in the end I don’t see Washington’s defense doing enough on the road to deliver them a third straight win.

Dallas 27, Washington 20

Thursday, November 24th, 8:30 e.t.

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) @ Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

The final game of the juicy triple-header pits two .500 teams against one another.  At first blush, it is easy to say that this one lacks firepower of two first place AFC powerhouses like the schedule makers thought it would back in April, but then you look at the standings and realize that both teams are only one win away from getting their season back on track.  Both clubs are hungry for a victory, and that could make for an entertaining game.  Indianapolis’ defense has not been great overall this season, but they have certainly picked it up quite a bit as of late.  They will have to be good against the Steelers offense, that is capable of dropping 40 burgers out of thin air.  Pittsburgh’s offense did struggle on the road in Cleveland, however, which is the fuel I need to make this pick.  While I doubt that Ben Roethlisberger produces a second straight stinker, I don’t think that his elevated play will be enough while traveling to Indy.  The Colts have taken some huge losses to the Steelers lately, but those all came in Pittsburgh.  This time around the game is being played inside Lucas Oil Stadium.  Andrew Luck is in concussion protocol following the win against Tennessee last week and is a huge question mark heading into this contest.  That bears watching because the outcome of this game hinges on whether or not #12 will play.  On the Pittsburgh side, Le’Veon Bell has somehow managed to put up good numbers but not look dominant over the past two weeks.  Against a Colt “D” that did a nice job stopping the Tennessee rushing attack, I can see him going for 85 yards and a score, which I predict to be not enough.  This just seems like it would have been a classic Andrew Luck show on Thanksgiving, and I would have picked them if he was going to be in.  Unfortunately we may be stuck watching a Scott Tolzein versus Ben Roethlisberger showdown.  Of course, I reserve the right to change this pick if Indy ends up clearing Luck to play in the end.0501489001458781173_filepicker

Pittsburgh 35, Indianapolis 14

Sunday, November 27th, 1:00 e.t.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8) @ Buffalo Bills (5-5)

The Bills brought their overall record back to .500 with a gritty win in Cincinnati against a desperate Bengal team.  Their defense probably played their best game of the season while the offense was held down a bit by Cincy’s “D”.  In the end they were able to defeat the hapless Bengals and stay relevant in the AFC.  Honestly, they missed their chance to play a statement game on the road and it has me wondering if they are capable of being a playoff team at all.  They will have a second crack at making a statement against the lowly Jaguars who are coming off of yet another loss due to some poor quarterback play out of Blake Bortles.  Although Bortles did play much better than he has played for a majority of the season, he still made some awful decisions and bad throws in the game last week against Detroit.  On the road in Buffalo he is going to have to be nearly perfect if he wants his team to pull off an upset.  The one thing the Jags do have going for them is the fact that their run defense has been good as of late, and impenetrable last week.  They will certainly be tested this week against Buffalo whose entire offense is predicated on them being able to run the ball.  LeSean McCoy is hopeful to play in this one despite having to receive surgery on a dislocated finger during the week.  If he can play the Bills should not have any trouble doing what they want on offense.  Even if he is a scratch, I’m not sure that the team is hung out to dry with Mike Gillislee, who has been bowling through opponents this season. Dallas Cowboys v Buffalo Bills As long as Tyrod Taylor can avoid turning the ball over multiple times (easier done than said for him) then Buffalo should be in great shape for a sixth win.

Buffalo 36, Jacksonville 17

Arizona Cardinals (4-5-1) @ Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

Last week the Falcons were dormant, watching the Cardinals offense playing sloppy football against the Vikings.  The issues with Arizona start up front because their offensive line has not been good this season.  It is amazing that they are able to run the ball at all on the season, but that is a huge credit to David Johnson who is one of the best players in the league.  When heading on the road to Atlanta I would say the magic number for them is 28.  If the Cards can score 28 points or more, I think they can win the game.  If not, then things are gonna go downhill fast for them.  The Falcon offense is the best in the league, and even though Arizona boasts a great defense of their own I don’t know if I can trust them to hold up well on the road.  Patrick Peterson’s kryptonite seems to be Julio Jones and the Alabama product went off for 181 yards the last time he faced PP in Atlanta.  That year the Cardinals were heavy favorites to win, and ended up losing pretty big.  It seems pointless bringing up a game from two years ago to pick this game, but I do think that Peterson will have his hands full with Julio in this contest.  The Falcons should be getting healthy on offense in other areas, though.  Tevin Coleman will be back for this game and you can bet the Matt Ryan will be trying to slip the ball to him out of the backfield.  This is something that Arizona has struggled to stop over their last couple of seasons.  Ultimately, the matchup that has me worried for the Cardinals, and is the reason I am picking against them, is their shaky offensive line against a suddenly competent Atlanta pass rush.Vic Beasley

Vic Beasley has been a beast lately and should live in the backfield and make life rough on Carson Palmer in this one.  I think that Palmer faces a lot of heat in this game and makes a mistake or two like he did last week.  There is also a severe step up in the offense from their adversary from Minnesota to Atlanta.  That difference will be felt.  The Falcons get back on track after their BYE in a nice home win against a crippled Cardinal team.

Atlanta 27, Arizona 23

Tennessee Titans (5-6) @ Chicago Bears (2-8)

The Titans can’t seem to get over the .500 hump, or beat the Colts for that matter, as they fell by seven on the road to Indy last week.  Their defense was unable to stop Indianapolis early, and was frankly lucky to only give up 24 on the road as the Colts receivers contributed with a couple of big drops as well as a missed field goal.  Luckily for Tennessee they have a perfect opportunity to rebound in Chicago against a Bear team that has shown almost nothing on offense outside of Jordan Howard.  Howard is currently carrying the offense and that is not normally a good sign if your team’s success is dependent on how a rookie plays.  That means that there is a serious lack of talent elsewhere.  The Bears almost stole a victory on the road in East Rutherford last week, but the Jay Cutler remembered he was Jay Cutler and threw a horrible pick to Landon Collins in crunch time.  To make matters worse, Cutler is reported to have suffered torn labrum injury, which will likely sideline him for the rest of the season. RIP Jay Cutler

I had a hard time deciding whether or not the Chicago defense was good in that game or if the Giants offense was just that bad, and I think it was a combination of both.  Jerrell Freeman has played at an all-pro level for the Bears, but they did suffer a devastating loss of Leonard Floyd in the middle, a player who was finally playing to his potential.  That does not bode well for them as they get ready to host a Titan team that can score points and move the ball.  Tennessee has a funky grove of winning a game and then losing one.  They will be taking on Denver following a BYE, which could produce an L, but there is no reason they should fall to the Bears, whose defense is very inconsistent.  I like them to wear Chicago down with their running game, which should include more of Marcus Mariota who can be dynamic with the ball in his hands.

Tennessee 41, Chicago 17

New York Giants (7-3) @ Cleveland Browns (0-11)

So Cleveland, with their eleventh loss, is officially eliminated from playoff contention this season.  It is hard looking at the Browns schedule and determining where their win will come from.  I think there is a chance it could be against these Giants because I have little faith in their offense, but the New York defense that is getting better each week may have other ideas.  The Browns’ quarterback situation has been a revolving door to say the very least this season and with Cody Kessler’s status in the air.  We will likely see Josh McCown take control of the offense for the umpteenth time and McCown has been hard to watch lately.  He has turned the ball over much more than his rookie teammate and that does not bode well for them in a game against a Giant team that has been forcing more picks lately.  Landon Collins has lept into the stratosphere if you compare his play this season to last.  The $200 million that New York spent on their defense was all fine and dandy, but the funny thing is that the two players that are making that unit run are those who were already on the team: the aforementioned Collins and Jason Pierre-Paul.  JPP has been pressuring opposing QBs and knocking down passes like it were 2013 all over again and is really benefiting from having Oliver Vernon lining up opposite of him.  Jason Pierre-PaulI expect the New York defense to ravage the Browns in Cleveland.  Outside of that, it will be a battle of weaknesses on the other side of the ball.  The Cleveland defense has been bad all season while the Giants offense has been just as ugly.  The Brownies did play much better last week against the Steelers, and were actually in that game until late when McCown fumbled the ball away.  Meanwhile the Giants have had a lot of trouble running the ball, which has negatively impacted the deep passing game.  I do think that Rashad Jennings and friends will get right on the road here and Big Blue should come away with a win.

New York 26, Cleveland 12

San Francisco 49ers (1-9) @ Miami Dolphins (6-4)

Don’t look now, but the Dolphins have won five in a row and are propelling themselves right into the thick of things in the AFC wild card race.  At the end of this week they should be tied with either the Chiefs or Broncos (depending on the outcome of that game) for the sixth seed.  Yes, I am picking them to beat the Niners at home and here is why: the 49ers might very well have the worst defense in the game right now.  They are not stopping anybody from running the ball and the Dolphins have a gem in Jay Ajayi toting the rock for them.  This has helped alleviate pressure from Ryan Tannehill throwing the ball and having to carry the team offensively.  Sure, Miami did not play well at all on offense last week in Los Angeles and had to rely on two very late scores to drop the Rams, but their defense was playing very well.  Of course it was against a rookie quarterback in his first start of his career, but I digress.  Miami’s D has been playing very well lately and they just won two games on the west coast.  They will return home where the team is actually 4-1 on the season if you can believe that.  The last time San Fran traveled to Miami in 2008, they fell 14-9.

Niners vs Dolphins 08

We could be in store for another knuckleball type game, but I do see the ‘Phins putting up more than 14.  We’ll say 24.  That should be enough against a Niner team that has been embarrassing for the most part this season.

Miami 24, San Francisco 7

Los Angeles Rams (4-6) @ New Orleans Saints (4-6)

It may surprise you to see that the Saints have as many road wins this year as they do home wins.  In fact, they are only 2-3 in the Big Easy this season but that will change on Sunday.  Jared Goff looked very nervous in the pocket and rushed a lot of throws against the Miami Dolphins a week ago and will now be tasked with putting up points against Drew Brees and the Saints.  Sure, I can see the Rams squeezing out a couple of touchdowns, but on the road in New Orleans, the Los Angeles defense will be tested.  Sean Peyton’s team’s season is on the line in front of the friendly home crowd and that should prove to be motivation enough for them.  Last week against the Panthers, the Saints were unable to make a lot of big plays on offense.  They did, however, find success running the ball with Tim Hightower who was making cuts and running hard.  I like them to feed him the rock at least 15 times this week with a sprinkling of Mark Ingram.  It will also be interesting to see who Drew Brees targets down the field in the L.A. secondary.  E.J. Gaines could be under fire in this contest and that is not good news if he has to guard Willie Snead or Michael Thomas.  I expect Brandin Cooks to be shadowed by Trumaine Johnson for the most part so that could be a fun one to watch.  Cameron Jordan continued his streak of good play last week against the Panthers and I think he can have a huge game against the Rams hunting down their rookie quarterback.  Goff did not throw a pick last week, and I think he makes up for it by tossing two or three this time out.  He should also get a couple of touchdown passes in, one of which will go to Kenny Britt who has been the Rams’ best offensive player this year. Kenny Britt In the end it won’t be enough because no sane man is picking Jared Goff to win a shootout with Drew Brees.

New Orleans 35, Los Angeles 18

Cincinnati Bengals (3-6-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

The Bengals are in a lot of trouble and may not win more than five games this season with the horrible news of A.J. Green tearing his hamstring.  He may be out for the year, but that is still up in the air.  One thing we know is that he will not be playing against the Ravens who were pushed around in Dallas.  Their defense came out and played very well against the Cowboys, but eventually they were run out of the building as the ‘Boys figured them out.  That team had a lot of talent whereas the Bengals do not without Green and now Geo Bernard also.  Bernard ended up tearing his ACL against Buffalo last week and without either of them I find it hard to believe that Cincy will be able to muster much against the Ravens on the road.  Baltimore is desperately looking for answers on offense right now.  Ray Lewis is calling Joe Flacco out for not being a good enough leader, 38 year old Steve Smith is their best player, and the running game is inconsistent.  In other words, the Raven offense is a mess.  Luckily for them they won’t have to be that great in order to beat the Bengals.  I do love that Terrance West has shown some passion on that side of the ball which is great because we know that Steve Smith won’t be the emotional leader in Baltimore at all after this year.  Terrance West

All the Ravens have to do to stifle the red-rifle is stop the Cincy running game which will consist of Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead.  Andy Dalton won’t be able to make plays to Tyler Eifert alone.  If it comes down to him having to make plays with his arm then the Bengals are in trouble because there is now a serious lack of talent on offense.

Power Pick of the Week: Baltimore 19, Cincinnati 10

San Diego Chargers (4-6) @ Houston Texans (6-4)

The Texans have been a different team at home this season than they have been on the road, but that has almost nothing to do with their offense as they have been pitiful no matter where they have played this season.  There is no doubt that the Chargers like to engage in thrilling battles since nine out of their ten games have come right down to the wire.  Hitting the road after a BYE to take on the Texans could prove to be more of the same.  If the Texans can ball out on defense then this will be another classic 20-17 win for them.  However, if Philip Rivers can avoid playing like he did in the fourth quarter against the Dolphins, I like the Chargers to pull an upset on the road.  Melvin Gordon versus the Houston front will be a big matchup to watch here.  The Texans have had problems slowing down the running attack from their opponents this season while they have been much better against the pass.  Play-action should be a big thing for San Diego here.  They will have an opportunity to attack the Texans vertically if they can run the ball effective enough between the tackles.  This should set guys like Antonio Gates up for big games.  Antonio GatesTyrell Williams may be limited with A.J. Bouye covering him.  The middle of the field might be open though.  The same should ring true for Houston, but I don’t know if I trust Brock Osweiler to attack anybody past the sticks.  In the end I think that the Chargers and their underrated defense will do enough to win the game on the road and also hand the Texans their first home loss of the season.

San Diego 28, Houston 24

Sunday, November 27th, 4:05 e.t.

Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)

The Buccaneers are coming off of a nice win on the road in Kansas City to bring their record to 5-5, but they are going to have their hands full against the Seahawks this week.  Seattle looks primed to make a mad dash to the Super Bowl after taking apart the Eagles last week.  Their offense is more explosive than ever with Russell Wilson transforming into more of a pocket passer and their defense is still attacking like we all have become used to.  These guys are still the class of the NFC in my opinion and they will prove it on Sunday against the Buccaneers.  Jameis Winston had a big game last week against a good defense on the road, but the Chiefs have struggled on offense for the last few weeks and the Bucs were able to hold them to 17 points because of it.  This defense is very fickle because they can come out and play so well one week and then play terribly the next.  Against the Seahawks at home, I don’t like their chances.  If Seattle can jump out to an early lead, then it will fall on Jameis to make plays and that is where he can get into trouble and make mistakes.  If you begin turning the ball over against the ‘Hawks, things can avalanche quickly as Carson Wentz found out last week.  The one thing that Seattle has struggled with this season on defense, if I had to pick something, would be their rush defense.  Doug Martin should be fed early and often to take advantage of this.  Thomas Rawls on the other side will probably get a steady diet of balls in his belly.  Thomas RawlsHe is one of the only healthy backs that Seattle has to work with, but I’m sure they will find someone else because that is what they do best.  The Seahawks should have no problem taking it to the Buccaneers this week because I think they are peaking and a good defense always travels well.

Seattle 37, Tampa Bay 20

Sunday, November 27th, 4:25 e.t.

New England Patriots (8-2) @ New York Jets (3-7)

patriots_vs_jets

The Patriots did bounce back after a tough home loss to Seattle with a win over the hapless 49ers last week, but it was not the most impressive of wins.  It looked like the Pats were going to trounce the Niners early on, but their offense slowed through the middle of the game and it appeared as though the absence of Rob Gronkowski hurt them more than what was initially thought.  Alas, they did pull off the 13 point victory and Tom Brady won in the Bay for the first time in his career.  Now the Patriots will head to East Rutherford to face a Jet team that is coming off of a loss at home two weeks ago to the Rams when the team was only able to score six points behind first time starter Bryce Petty.  I guarantee that they won’t be putting any pressure on New England if they are only able to score six points.  So, how can New York be better?  Well, they can start by getting the ball into Matt Forte’s hands more often.  They need to be a better running team because it would help that listless passing attack quite a bit.  The Patriots defense has been a weak point for them this season and teams are certainly not afraid to run it on them.  The problem is that they have an offense that is capable of torching any defense if Tom Brady is afforded time to throw the ball.  New York has to get pressure on Tom if this game is going to be anything short of a blowout.  I think the Jets will play New England tough because they always seem to, especially at home.  With that being said, I do think that the return of Dion Lewis to the lineup alongside James White creates matchup nightmares for any team.  Also, the Jets still struggle to stop the big play down the field and Tom Brady has been lighting secondaries up with one of the prettiest deep passing games we have seen from him ever.  I like the Pats to keep rolling on the road.

New England 27, New York 19

Carolina Panthers (4-6) @ Oakland Raiders (8-2)

The Panthers managed to save their season with a three point win over New Orleans at home last Thursday night.  It did not come without a scare.  They entered the fourth quarter with a 20 point lead and were one drive away from letting the game slip away.  Now they have to travel across the country to take on a red hot Raider team who has won four straight games.  I think this is an obvious trap game for Oakland, however.  They just got done playing a game in Mexico City at elevations 2,000 feet higher than that of Denver.  On a short week their team may show signs of fatigue, specifically their defense.  The Raiders “D” has slowly improved on the year, but is still clearly the weak point of the team.  After all, they let the Texans actually look like a real offense on Monday night.  That tells you all you need to know about them.  The Panthers are a team that just seems like it is lurking in the shadows ready to make a random run at the playoffs.  They may be too far out at this point to be any serious threat, but there is a chance they can make things interesting, especially if they can pick up a road win in Oakland.  One of the main reasons why the Panthers are nowhere neat the team they are last year is because their running game has not been on point, and a lot of that is because of the offensive line.  Khalil Mack could get his licks in on Cam Newton also as their pass protection has been shoddy also.  That said, I can see the Panthers piecing together a team win on the road against what will be a tired Raider club.  The only thing that has me shying away from making this pick is that Carolina may be without Luke Keuchley in the middle of the field as well as their unfavorable matchups outside.  Luke KeuchleyNevertheless, I am going to take a chance on the Panthers this week because I think they will be able to get back to running the ball and that will help the offensive line out in a big way.

Carolina 30, Oakland 23

Sunday, November 27th, 8:30 e.t.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) @ Denver Broncos (7-3)

One of the best matchups of the week comes in Denver on Sunday night as the Chiefs and Broncos grapple for the #5 seed in the AFC.  The loser of the game will still be in decent shape and have hold of the #6 seed, but could risk losing it to surging teams like Miami or Buffalo, or a possible Raven/Steeler mix.  Of course, I’m also talking like these two teams are playing for second place in an ultra-competitive AFC West when I just picked the Raiders to lose.  If Oakland does fall, then the winner of this game will tie them in first place.  Denver should be well rested coming off of the BYE following a thrilling win in New Orleans.  Their defense showed me something in that contest because I didn’t think that they were going to fare well slowing down Drew Brees, but they did and they were able to force a couple of turnovers in the process.  Meanwhile, we have the Chiefs who have not looked very good ever since Alex Smith injured his head and ear.  Quite frankly, they were lucky to win at home against Jacksonville and were outplayed by Carolina in Charlotte.  Then, last week the Buccaneers came to town and took them out.  That loss has me nervous if I am a Chiefs fan because it proved that they can fall to anybody.  Managing only 17 points at home versus the Bucs is not a good look, especially when heading to Denver to take on this defense.  Kansas City’s “D” under Bob Sutton will have to be great if they want to steal a “W”.  I think they have a great defensive unit, but it is worth noting that Justin Houston was not too impressive in his season debut.  Rusty would be the perfect word to describe him.  Anyways, I think that the Broncos return home will serve them well in a big prime time clash with KC.  Simply put, I don’t think that the Chiefs will be able to make enough plays against this Denver defense to win them the game.

Von Miller

Denver 17, Kansas City 9

Monday, November 28th, 8:30 e.t.

Green Bay Packers (4-6) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)

The final game of Week 12 takes place in the City of Brotherly Love when the Eagles play host to the Green Bay Packers.  Green Bay could not have looked any more lost than they did on the road the last two weeks defensively and that does not bode well for them heading into Philly where the Eagles have not lost this year.  The Packer offense has made some plays over the past few weeks, and the return of Jared Cook to the lineup did look to be very helpful to Aaron Rodgers last week, although he did have a bad drop.  The problem with Green Bay is that they have not been able to run the ball at all since Eddie Lacy dropped with an injury.  The Eagles run defense has been much better at home than on the road, so I don’t expect that to get much better.  The real reason why I don’t like the Packers’ chances on the road here is because of that awful secondary.  Carson Wentz has come back down to earth since his hot start, but if you look at the secondaries he has played, they are no slouches.  He should have a big day against the Packers at home.  Also, don’t expect Aaron Rodgers to just chill in the pocket forever in this game.  The Eagles have one of the best sack percentages across the entire league at home.  If he looks anything less than comfortable in that pocket the Philadelphia could be primed for a big win.  Offensively for the Eagles, they were beaten up by the Seahawks in Seattle last week, but that same thing can be said by a lot of NFL teams over the past few years.  Nelson Agholor had a horrible illegal formation penalty called against him that wiped out a 55 yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz.  He also made a bone-headed drop.  This has prompted Doug Pederson to send him to the bench this week in an alarming turn of events for the former first round pick.  Philly calls up Paul Turner who could have an immediate impact against the terrible and injury plagued Green Bay secondary.  Paul TurnerBryce Treggs may catch some deep passes as well.  Basically, I have no faith that the Packer secondary will be able to save the team’s season in Philadelphia because they are practically looking like a Pop Warner team back there.  It looks like an injury-riddled mid-season is about to sink Mike McCarthy and friends.

Philadelphia 37, Green Bay 16

Week 12 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (8-2): Buffalo over Jacksonville

Upset of the Week: Carolina over Oakland

Offensive Player of the Week: Carson Wentz, QB, Eagles

Defensive Player of the Week: Von Miller, LB, Broncos

Rookie of the Week: Wentz

Best Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

Best Running Back: Jay Ajayi, Dolphins

2016 Season: Week 11 Preview

It is Week 11, and after last week the world is eager to see what the NFL has in store this time around.  There were a ton of classic games and a lot of upsets.  Going by the Vegas line, eleven out of the fourteen scheduled contests ended in an upset.  That wreaked havoc on the picks from yours truly, but that is what makes the game so fun to watch.  There wouldn’t be any sense in predicting outcomes if we all knew what was going to happen.  Anyways, I’ve been handing out superlatives in this column, talking about who the best players are, those who are deserving of awards, those who are fun to watch, and the greatest games of the year.  Now it is time to go down a darker path: head coaches on the hot seat.  Who are the top ten head coaches in trouble this season?  I have that list compiled below as well as all of my picks for the week.

10- Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans:

We will touch on this one a bit later in this article, but a lot of the offseason moves he and the Houston braintrust have made have not worked yet.  He is 6-3 and is only in hot water if his team has a major collapse.

9- Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers: 

A couple of weeks ago McCoy would have fallen much lower on this list, but his team has rallied to make some nice wins lately.  Still, the Chargers should be much better than 4-6 right now and part of the problem begins with the head coach and his ability to keep the team mentally tough.

8- Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions: 

Widely regarded as the worst head coach in football, you get the feeling that Jim Bob Cooter is going to overtake him at some point.  His team is winning now, but that may be despite him.  Caldwell is a great offensive mind and an underwhelming head coach.

7- Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles Rams: 

Jeff Fisher is a good coach, but his stubbornness can be leading him towards trouble.  He has shrugged off making obvious changes to his roster in favor of holding the same 7-9 team from year to year.  Things will have to change quickly or he could find himself looking for employment elsewhere in the coming year(s).

6- Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers: 

Mike McCarthy’s offensive system has run very stale (much like someone else appearing on this list) and it may be time for Green Bay to make a change on top.  They have the players, but sometimes a firing of the head coach is necessary to shake the culture of the lockeroom.  It happened to Andy Reid in Philadelphia and it can happen to McCarthy in Green Bay.

5- Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills:

Ryan seems to always be on this list, but often comes up with a big win to save himself from embarrassment.  If his team goes on a run to end the year, then he is going to be just fine, but if the team falls flat there are going to be a lot of people calling for his job in Buffalo.

4- Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: 

We all know the story: Lewis and the Bengals cannot win a playoff game.  After years of so much promise, Cincinnati has been one of the more disappointing teams in the game this season and a changing of head coach could motivate them to play even better in the future with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green in the prime of their careers.

3- Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers: 

Chip Kelly’s offense has been figured out and because of his schemes, the defenses have been terrible.  Look at what Jim Schwartz is doing in Philly with virtually the same players.  If your entire persona is built on an amazing offensive scheme that ends up doing nothing, there isn’t a whole lot left to hang your hat on.  Kelly could be one and done in San Fran.

2- Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts: 

Much like the Bengals, Indianapolis has a problem with their head coach.  He has not made good decisions in games and has a talent-poor team around him, save for Andrew Luck.  A better coach could help the Colts quite a bit.

1- Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars: 

This one was easy to place.  Gus Bradley and his Jags have not been winning games.  They were supposed to take the leap forward this season, but have instead taken five or six steps back.  This game is all about winning, and Bradley has not done that since coming to Jacksonville.  This team needs a change at head coach worse than any other team in the league.

Now, on to this week’s exciting games!

Last week: 5-9

Season: 74-73

Thursday, November 17th, 8:25 e.t.

New Orleans Saints (4-5) @ Carolina Panthers (3-6)

The eleventh week of the season kicks off with a game between two desperate teams who are likely going to be forced to look towards next year with a loss.  In other words, the season will be over for the loser of this game (lock that one in).  Both are coming off of horrifying fourth quarter losses at home to playoff-calibur teams and have to do everything they can to bounce back and save their seasons in the Queen City.  Cam Newton was chirping about not receiving protection from low hits while in the pocket, and rightfully so, and since that time he has not been under too much duress.  The offensive line has played slightly better than it did early on but one of the problems is that Newton is holding the ball too long, inviting big hits.  Luckily the Saints, save for Cameron Jordan, have no pass rush and he can afford to scan the field and go through all of his reads. Cameron Jordan

Hopefully this will help guys like Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn Jr. get involved in the passing game; hey have been silent as of late.  While the Panthers offensive line has been much maligned all year, the Saints’ has been the opposite.  Drew Brees has had a lot of time to pick opposing defenses apart and if he is afforded excellent protection here he should be able to throw up close to 41 points against this porous secondary like he did back in Week 6.  What a game that was, by the way with the two teams combining for 79 points and a thriller requiring a last second field goal from Wil Lutz to seal a W for New Orleans.  NFC South games this year have seen points scored in bunches and this week should prove no differently.  I’m still holding out hope that the Panthers can get on a little roll here in the second half of the season and if that is to happen it will start here.  They cannot afford to drop two games to the Saints if they hope to make any kind of playoff run.  I’m taking Carolina because their defense has been playing much better lately and I think they ride that momentum to a key fourth win.

Carolina 36, New Orleans 28

Thursday, November 20th, 1:00 e.t.

Chicago Bears (2-7) @ New York Giants (6-3)

Coming off of what has to be their most satisfying win of the season, the Giants get ready to hit a two game stretch that will see them face some of the worst teams in football, one of them being these Bears.  Chicago was flat out pushed around by Tampa Bay on the road last week and will be facing a much better defense this time around.  Jason Pierre-Paul seems to be getting back to his all-pro form and the secondary of New York is finally beginning to play up to their bill.  Eli Manning certainly hasn’t looked great lately, but he doesn’t need to if the D can continue to ball out like it has.  Jay Cutler is good for a solid performance every now and again, but I don’t see it happening this week.  The Bears’ real key in this contest will be their rookie running back Jordan Howard.  He continues to knife through defenses and if New York has one weakness on that side of the ball, it would be defending the quick trap run game.  Pounding the middle of formations with the rookie running back may be the way to go, but the G-Men probably know this.  Chances are they’ll pack the box and force Cutler to beat their solid secondary.  Without Alshon Jeffrey to throw the ball to, being lost due to suspension, the Bears have a limited arsenal to attack with.  That does not bode well for them against a team that is peaking right about now.  I’m going with the home team in a rout.Landon Collins

New York 35, Chicago 13

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-5) @ Cleveland Browns (0-10)

Antonio Brown Savage

The Steelers enter this game having lost four straight contests and are in desperate need of a win as a pick-me-up to their season.  Luckily they run into the Browns who looked every bit the part of a winless team in an embarrassing loss to the Ravens in Baltimore last Thursday night.  Their offense was held to 144 total yards and they turned the ball over three times.  Cody Kessler was not awful, but was yanked after the first half of play (a half that the Browns won, by the way, being up 7-6 after two quarters).  The switch to Josh McCown may seem puzzling to some, but it is becoming apparent that Hue Jackson is simply trying to decide which quarterback is best to run this offense.  If you’re asking me, I say you stick with the rookie Kessler.  He has looked a bit gun-shy for sure, but he has not been a liability for the offense.  He has tossed six touchdown passes to only one interception and has one of the best completion percentages when under pressure.  Whether or not he starts remains to be seen, but in the end it won’t matter.  Ben Roethlisberger returned to form last week against Dallas and did everything he could to propel his team to a win.  The defense choked the game away in the final seconds by letting Ezekiel Elliot run for a 32 yard touchdown, but Pittsburgh did play the once-beaten Cowboys tougher than almost any other team this season.  Offensively, the Steelers seem to have awoken after getting shut down by Baltimore, but as we are finding out now, the Ravens have an excellent defense.  Cleveland does not.  They are still allowing too many busts in coverage and their secondary has been shaky at best.  That does not bode well with Antonio Brown and company coming to town.  On the verge of desperation, I expect the Steelers to come out and play some inspired football.  The ground game has all but disappeared for the Brownies, and they will desperately need it to come back if they hope to slow down their division rivals by keeping that explosive offense off the field.

Pittsburgh 43, Cleveland 17

Buffalo Bills (4-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1)

This game, much like the Thursday nighter, promises to be one of the better contests of the week simply because it pits two teams desperate to make a push for the playoffs who, if they lose, will likely fall out of contention entirely (possibly putting their head coach in a lot of trouble, but that’s another topic for another day).  I give the visiting Buffalo the edge here.  It goes much further than the fact that the Bills will have had 13 days rest while Cincy will have only had 6.  Rex Ryan’s boys are running the ball well and their offense has been preforming lately whereas the Bengals have struggled to put drives together and have not been so fundamentally sound on defense, especially when forced to tackle in space.  The Bills have two of the best make-you-miss players on offense with LeSean McCoy and quarterback Tyrod Taylor.  Tyrod Taylor

Cincinnati will have to keep within its own means in this game, which means no over-pursuing and better gap play, something the team has had a lot of trouble with lately.  If Cincy can find a running game against a Buffalo defense that is average in that category, then they stand a chance.  The Bills have not been great defending tight ends either, so in will step Tyler Eifert who seems to be almost all the way back.  He should get his targets in the middle of the field.  With that being said, I am not a fan of the unit that Paul Geunther is throwing out on the field and ultimately I think they will be the downfall here.  Buffalo was fun to watch and very crisp on offense in Seattle against a much better D, so if they play anywhere near that level in this contest they should leave town with a win.  I expect Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, and company to keep this one interesting however.

Buffalo 23, Cincinnati 21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (7-2)

Don’t look now but Tampa Bay is in second place in the NFC South.  They are coming off of a thrashing of the Chicago Bears at home and will head to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs who continue to win despite their injuries or criticism from the media.  Kansas City is one of just four teams who are undefeated at home while the Buccaneers are actually 3-1 on the road.  The are, also, 0-2 in games against the AFC West so far this year and are facing a team that is very opportunistic on defense, something that could hurt a gun-slinger like Jameis Winston.  Coming off of a BYE, the Tampa Bay defense played very well and should continue to do so this week if the Chiefs are down a handful of their play-makers like they were last week in Carolina.  We thought that Justin Houston was going to suit up for the first time all year against the Panthers, but he was given an extra week to recuperate.  He should be a go here against the Bucs and if he is, he can provide an immediate spark alongside Dee Ford who continues to dominate in his playing time.  The Tampa Bay offensive line has been up and down all year and will have to be great if the team is going to win this game on the road.  It is going to take some fundamentally sound team defense and a mistake-free offense.  This is something that the Bucs are not and is something that the Chiefs are.  Marcus PetersKansas City tends to feast on these types of teams, and with the Buccaneers still not running the ball all that well, I don’t like their odds to go on the road and control this game.  I do want to go on record by saying that I gave an upset a thought here.

Kansas City 21, Tampa Bay 12

Baltimore Ravens (5-4) @ Dallas Cowboys (8-1)

Having both come off of impressive wins a week ago, this game will be the only one all week that will pit two lone division leaders against one another (the Raiders are co-division leaders with Kansas City, so we aren’t counting their game with Houston).  The Baltimore defense has been lights out this season, but at the same time slightly less than itself on the road, as many teams are.  Dallas, on the other hand, continues to tear teams apart with their running game and play action from Dak Prescott.  To this point in the year, the only teams who have had any success at slowing the Cowboys offense (divisional foes in the New York Giants and Eagles) have done so by stopping the run.  Baltimore is not just the #1 ranked offense in the league, but it is also the #1 defense against the run.  We have pointed this out before, however, when the Cowboys and Packers played a few weeks ago.  All Dallas did was go ahead and run 191 yards in that Week 6 affair.  Zeke Elliott

The Ravens offense has not been very good this season, and has not looked much better since Marty Morhinweg was promoted to offensive coordinator a short time ago.  That was to be worrisome for Baltimore against a team that can wear you down and out with their running game.  The Cowboys are scoring almost 29 points per game, and that is a direct compliment to their offensive line and what they have been able to do running the ball.  If the Ravens cannot slow down Zeke Elliot, then they will have to hope that their offense can score more than 30 points against a defense that is doing enough to hold teams back from doing just this.  I don’t have confidence in Joe Flacco being able to shred a defense.  He did not look too impressive against one of the worst defenses in the league at home last week so I don’t see him making a miraculous turnaround on the road in Big D.  IF the Ravens can dominate at the line of scrimmage like they have been able to lately, they they just may be able to pull an upset.

Dallas 26, Baltimore 17

Arizona Cardinals (4-4-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (5-4)

This Minnesota Viking ship is sinking, and fast.  I have been going down on that ship over the last few weeks and refuse to continue down that path.  No, Arizona has not looked impressive in almost any of their games this year, but I do think they have the better team and here is why: they are actually able to run the ball on offense.  If you look at both of these defenses, it is easy to say that they are basically a wash.  The Cardinals have one of the best, if not the best secondaries in football.  If the Vikings are unable to run the ball as has been the common trend so far this year, it will come down to their offense throwing the ball against Patrick Peterson and pals.  Peterson will be matched up with Stefon Diggs in what could be the best match-up of the week.  I’ll bet you didn’t know that Diggs can make history in this game.  He is the only player in NFL history to record at least 13 receptions in back-to-back games, and can be the first player ever to have three straight games with 11+ catches. Stefon Diggs I don’t see him doing so against one of the best cover corners in the league, however, but I did want to mention that bit of historical trivia.  David Johnson was bottled up last week by an atrocious 49er defense, but I try not to read too much into that since it was a divisional game and those can often be wacky.  The Minnesota defense has been exposed over the last couple of weeks and teams have gotten to them by delivering quick passes over the middle and not letting that great pass-rush get going.  With the offensive line in shambles for the Cardinals, I think they will do everything they can to limit Carson Palmer’s game.  He should throw a lot of slants and quick hitches when the Vikings play off coverage and take his shots when they are there.  In the end, I can’t see Minnesota winning this game being a one-dimensional offense.  If they cannot run the ball and have to throw it, it will be playing right into Arizona’s hands as their secondary can create turnovers and make plays.

Arizona 19, Minnesota 13

Tennessee Titans (5-5) @ Indianapolis Colts (4-5)

Both of these teams enter this game having just pulled off big wins over the Green Bay Packers (of course, Indy’s came two weeks ago before their BYE).  Now they are looking to make a push for the AFC South with a win in Indianapolis.  The Titans have been alternating wins and losses all season long, and if that trend continues then they are due for an L on the road against the Colts.  Tennessee has not beaten the Colts since 2011, as they have rattled off ten straight wins against them; the longest such current streak by any divisional rivals in the league.  The Titans have been rolling on offense lately, having scored over 35 points in three straight games.  Their offense could do no wrong against the Packers as it all started with a 75 yard touchdown run from DeMarco Murray.  Marcus Mariota started 10/10 for 192 yards and two scores and the Titans just did whatever they wanted against Green Bay at home.  It certainly was, as Mike Mularkey would say, a statement win for his team and one that they can really build off of.  Mike MularkeyThe Colts and Andrew Luck can say the same thing, but it is easy to forget about what they did on the road in Lambeau as that game did take place two weeks ago.  Luck made some great throws under pressure and carried his team to a late win in that game.  The Indy defense has been up and down throughout this entire season.  They will be tasked with stopping the Titans from running the ball against them.  If they can do this then there should be opportunities to force Marcus Mariota into mistakes, something the young sophomore QB has been prone to this season.  This is a really tough game to call, but for the second time this year I am going to take the Colts.  They will have the home crowd in their corner and have had a BYE to think things over.  That Tennessee defense has not been great lately and I think that bites them hard on the road.

Indianapolis 35, Tennessee 31

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-7) @ Detroit Lions (5-4)

The Lions are returning from their BYE in a great mood because they suddenly find themselves in first place in the NFC North with both Minnesota and Green Bay losing a week ago.  Now the get an apparent cupcake at home when the Jaguars come to town.  Blake Bortles continued to struggle early on in the game a week ago against Houston, but something tells me that he won’t in this one.  The Detroit defense has been bad for much of this season and I think that Bortles will have opportunities for big plays down the field.  With that being said, it will come down to their defense and whether or not I think they can slow down Matthew Stafford and the Lions.  I was going to go with them in an upset, but then I remembered that Stafford is clutch in the fourth quarter.  Steve Smith Jalen Ramsey FightJalen Ramsey versus a rejuvenated Golden Tate should be a fun one, but the real key here will be on the other side.  Prince Amukamara continued to struggle last week and should have his hands full with Marvin Jones this time around.  Add in a highly physical Anquan Boldin and you have a lot of matchup issues across the board for Jacksonville.  Their running game will have to get chugging like it did on the road in Kansas City two weeks back.  The key sounds like it would be to keep their offense on the field, but that never works since they are prone to mistakes themselves.  I expect a competitive game out of the Jaguars, however, but in the end I am trusting Matthew Stafford to make enough plays to win his team the game.  If the Lions can’t beat Jacksonville at home, they are certainly not worthy of being considered a playoff team, so this contest serves as a huge litmus test for them.

Detroit 28, Jacksonville 27

Sunday, November 20th, 4:05 e.t.

Miami Dolphins (5-4) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-5)

Jared GoffFinally the Rams have decided to go with Jared Goff as the starter, and a lot of people think this is way overdue.  Personally, I don’t think the rookie will bring much to the table that Case Keenum did not already do but he should draw more fans to the stadium and make this team more fun to watch.  The Rams were held without a touchdown in three of their first nine games.  Surprisingly, they won two of those, but that is not a formula that should be followed in today’s NFL.  Goff will immediately be expected to produce since his compatriots in the rookie QB class are already out there doing big things.  Opposing him will be a Miami defense that has improved week to week.  Last time we saw them, they were picking Philip Rivers off four times in the fourth quarter to help the whole squad win the game.  They did give up a couple of big plays in that one, but luckily for them the Rams’ are not exactly known for getting that chunk yardage.  Todd Gurley sports a 3.1 yards per carry average and has a long run of 18 yards on the year putting him dangerously close to Trent Richardson territory.  It is easy to say that teams are loading up the box to stop him from tearing through them (which they are, since Los Angeles has not had any kind of passing attack to scare people so far) but I’ve notice that he is pushing to hard on tape and missing possible cut-back opportunities.  If Goff can come in and be effective throwing it, that will take some of the pressure off of Gurley’s shoulders.  They should use him more in the passing game, by the way, as he can be a very effective outlet.  For the Dolphins, they have rejuvenated their season behind a strong running game and much better play out of their secondary.  That has, in turn, made things much easier for Ryan Tannehill since he is not having to win the games all on his own.  That said, this is not a favorable matchup for him.  The Miami offensive line is going to have its hands full with Aaron Donald and friends and Tannehill may not be able to get rid of the ball in time.  Also, call this a stretch if you want, but I can see Jared Goff actually making plays in this game.  I think the Rams should take this one in an upset due to their mismatches that they will create for the Dolphin offense.

Los Angeles 20, Miami 17

Sunday, November 20th, 4:25 e.t.

New England Patriots (7-2) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-8)

The New England Patriots are coming off of a narrow loss to the Seahawks and are likely going to come into San Fran fired up to play.  Tom Brady returns to the area where he grew up as a Niners fan and now has a chance to tear that team apart.  Tear it apart he shall as the Frisco defense has been awful to this point in the season.  They have not stopped the run worth a darn, and the Patriots come in with back LeGarrette Blount who already has twelve rushing touchdowns on the year.

LeGarrette Blount

You can add another one or two in this game.  I’ve stated before that the 49er defense has been the worst unit in the league ever since their stud linebacker Navorro Bowman was lost for the year.  I don’t see them doing enough to slow New England down.  Even if they do, do we have confidence that their offense is going to do anything to help the team win the game.  It comes down to this: if the 49ers are to win this game in miraculous fashion, they will have to score at least 35 points.  That is five touchdowns.  I certainly don’t see that one happening.  San Fran loses its ninth straight because the Patriots are simply too much for them to handle, especially coming off of a loss.

New England 34, San Francisco 12

Philadelphia Eagles (5-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (6-2-1)

The premier late-window game features two teams with solid defenses throwing down in the Emerald City.  To be honest, I really wish this game were being played in Philly, because that defense is other-worldly at home while it is more vulnerable on the road.  Since the Eagles are traveling to Seattle, they will have a distinct disadvantage due to the crazy loud crowd.  That could give rookie quarterback Carson Wentz a lot of problems.  Philadelphia’s defense is also very average on the road.  That is not going to get it done against a Seahawk team that seems to have found a groove with their offense.  Russell Wilson is playing just as well as any other quarterback in the league right now and is becoming a great pocket passer.  Doug Baldwin is on fire also and should be a handful for a banged up and inconsistent Eagle secondary.  Jimmy Graham is also elevating his play and that will be something to see because Philly typically plays opposing tight ends very well. Jimmy Graham In other news, the ‘Hawks cut Christine Michael, so they will be going forward without him.  Thomas Rawls should be back for this game, but his role should be limited so as to ease him back into the game.  The one thing that really hurts the Eagles in this game is the fact that their corners don’t fight for the ball very well, and that is something that Seattle’s receivers do better than any other team in the league.  Big plays should be there for the Seahawks as long as their offensive line can fend of a vicious pass rush for just long enough.  Brandon Graham, who typically rushes from the right side of the formation, my find some playing time on the left against rookie George Fant.  If that is the case, then Seattle will likely have to keep backs in for protection.  It shouldn’t matter because I think that Russell Wilson is playing great right now and him being hot should carry through this battle.  If this game were being played in Philly I’d think differently, but in Seattle there is no way that the Eagles lackluster receivers will be able to do enough against the Legion of Boom to lead the team to a win.  They will have to lean on their defense heavily and that is a bad strategy in this situation.

Power Pick of the Week: Seattle 31, Philadelphia 17

Sunday, November 20th, 8:30 e.t.

Green Bay Packers (4-5) @ Washington Redskins (5-3-1)

What in the world is wrong with the Green Bay Packers?  For starters, their defense could not have possibly turned a worse effort than they did a week ago.  The fact that their offense was stuck in the mud did not help either.  When diagnosing Aaron Rodgers game and trying to determine what is wrong, it looks like he is shouldering too much of the weight on offense.  The Packers have had almost no running game to fall back on since losing Eddie Lacy and James Starks.  Starks came back last week, but was not much of a factor since the Pack trailed big early on and they were immediately in catch up mode.  To help their running game, the team signed Christine Michael but that should not have that big of an impact on this Sunday night affair.  Rodgers is holding the ball too long, and would really be much more effective if he could get rid of it quicker. Aaron Rodgers

The Washington Redskins pass defense was shaky last week against Sam Bradford when he dumped the ball off rapidly, so I would say that part of their game was exposed.  The Redskin offense did look very impressive against a great defense, though, scoring 26 points.  Kirk Cousins has been playing some good football lately and has more weapons on offense that most QBs have, including one of the best tight end tandems in the league with Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis.  Against a Green Bay defense that allowed Delanie Walker almost 100 yards receiving after the first quarter, you can expect them to be fed.  The Washington ground game has gone a bit silent lately, and I don’t think it will pick up much in this game.  If you consider defense and the running game a wash, then it will come down to who plays better quarterback when determining a winner.  I like Aaron Rodgers still.  He’s been on this stage before and is still capable of delivering a gem (just look at what he did in Atlanta this year without any of his favorites healthy).  I’m going with Green Bay because they will be the more desperate team without a doubt and because I believe in Rodgers over Cousins.

Green Bay 29, Washington 22

Monday, November 21st, 8:30 e.t.

Houston Texans (6-3) vs. Oakland Raiders (7-2) (in Mexico City)

The final game of the season will be played south of the border in Mexico City when the Texans take on the Raiders.  The two teams have a combined 13-5 record, but only one of them looks deserving of a playoff spot right now.  Houston’s defense is not too shabby, but their offense is unwatchable at times.  Oakland, on the other hand, is a lot of fun to watch with Derek Carr playing great football with good outlets and a productive running game.  It all starts with their top five offensive line; they are protecting their QB and allowing him to make big plays with his arm.  The Raiders throw down field effectively which is something that the Texans have not been able to do.  This is a shame because they spent a majority of their offseason trying to improve upon that facet of their game and it has only regressed if anything.  Brock Osweiler is not very eager to chuck the ball down the field, and that is one thing that has hurt Oakland this season.  If you cannot attack an opponent’s weakness then you are in for some trouble and that is what Houston is headed for.  I am looking very forward to seeing what Michael Crabtree will do.  You have to assume that A.J. Bouye is going to be match up with Amari Cooper for most of the game, and Carr will probably be looking elsewhere to guys like Crabtree if that is the case.  Bouye has had his finest season to this point by far and is the number one ranked CB per Pro Football Focus.  He has dominated in man-to-man situations and has been a good tackler.  Take away Cooper and the Raiders will be forced to see what their other guys can do.  I have no faith right now in the Texan offense since they have lacked big plays all year.  They did pick up their first road win of the year last week over Jacksonville, but that didn’t exactly prove anything since it was the Jaguars after all.  A win over the Raiders would show a lot, but I don’t see it happening because Brock Osweiler has the ability to make bad defenses look good.  Jack Del Rio’s team has a very balanced offense that will make things tough on the Texans in this game as well.  But, would it be so Raider-ish for them to lose this game?  Perhaps so, but I am not predicting it to happen.A.J. Bouye

Oakland 30, Houston 14

Week 11 Bonus Predictions

Sure Bet of the Week (7-2): New England over San Francisco

Upset of the Week: Buffalo over Cincinnati

Offensive Player of the Week: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers

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

Rookie of the Week: Jared Goff, QB, Rams

Best Quarterback: Tom Brady, Patriots

Best Running Back: LeSean McCoy, Bills