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2017 Season: Week 12 Preview

Thanksgiving is here and there are a lot of pundits out there that would argue that this is the point in the year where the NFL campaign actually begins.  We are all done with BYE weeks and are ready to hit the final stretch of the regular season.  Which teams will pick up crucial wins this week?  Here are my picks!

Last Week: 7-7

Season: 100-60

Locks: 5-6

Upsets: 2-9

Thursday, November 23rd, 12:30 e.t.

Minnesota Vikings (8-2) @ Detroit Lions (6-4)

One of the best games on the Week 12 slate takes place in the early Thanksgiving window as the Lions try to complete the season sweep of Minnesota.  I really think they have a shot here but their rush defense has been atrocious over the last two weeks and that will play right into the Vikings hands.  That said, I like Matthew Stafford to bring his team back with the game on the line and pull off the upset at home.

Detroit 23, Minnesota 21

Thursday, November 23rd, 4:30 e.t.

Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

Here is a hard game to pick.  These two teams have been going in opposite directions lately, but Dallas is home for this match-up and that could help.  However, if Tyron Smith isn’t in for this tilt then the Cowboys are really in trouble because the Chargers come at you with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.  Good luck to Dak who has gotten no help since Ezekiel Elliot was suspended.

Los Angeles 26, Dallas 19

Thursday, November 23rd, 8:30 e.t.

New York Giants (2-8) @ Washington Redskins (4-6)

The Redskins are the hard luck team of the league this season.  They have played some very good teams tight and Kirk Cousins has been on fire.  Sure, the Giants were able to upset the Chiefs last week but I don’t think they stand a chance here on the road.  The defense is still prone to miscommunications and I see Washington torching them.

Washington 35, New York 14

Sunday, November 26th, 1:00 e.t.

Cleveland Browns (0-10) @ Cincinnati Bengals (4-6)

The battle of Ohio sees its first installment of the season here.  The Browns have been playing competitive football lately against good teams but have fallen just short.  On the road in the division I can see them upsetting the Bengals but I don’t have the cajones to actually pick them.  The Cincy offense is due for a breakout game and this might be it for them.

Cincinnati 30, Cleveland 10

Buffalo Bills (5-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)

If this game had taken place three or four weeks ago it would have been the premier matchup of the week, but as it is it is another lame-duck contest with both teams flailing at the moment.  The Bills will go with Tyrod Taylor again after the disastrous start from Nate Peterman, but I don’t see him getting his team the “W”.  The Chiefs are limping into this game and will be looking to get off the mat.  This is still a good team and it will show on Sunday.

Kansas City 29, Buffalo 17

Carolina Panthers (7-3) @ New York Jets (4-6)

It is weird how nobody talks about the Carolina Panthers as one of the better teams in the league.  Their defense has been great and the offense is getting there as well.  The Jets have fallen off a bit after their surprising start and I don’t like their chances going against the Carolina “D” this week.  I don’t expect a blowout here, but with the Panthers getting their ground game going, I can’t see them dropping this one.

Carolina 25, New York 19

Chicago Bears (3-7) @ Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)

The Eagles were sleepwalking through the first half on offense in Dallas a week ago but really got it going after the break.  Their defense was strong throughout.  Meanwhile the Bears were busy blowing a chance to bring the Lions to overtime in Chicago.  Both “D’s” are solid but the Bears offense is not in the same class as is the Eagles.  That is going to make the difference in Philly.

Philadelphia 30, Chicago 16

Tennessee Titans (6-4) @ Indianapolis Colts (3-7)

So you wanna be a playoff team Tennessee?  Go win this game.  On the road against a division rival, this is a game that the Titans have to have if they want to remain relevant in the AFC.  Marcus Mariota had a tough outing against the Steelers’ defense a week back but this is the Colts’ defense this time around.  He should have a nice bounce-back game against that much weaker unit.

Tennessee 31, Indianapolis 20

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) @ Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

The Falcons put together one of their best efforts of the season in Seattle and look like they are about to go on a bit of a run.  The Buccaneers have won back-to-back games, but not against good opponents.  On the road in Atlanta, I do not like their odds at stopping the Falcon attack given that their defense is still a mess.

Atlanta 37, Tampa Bay 17

Miami Dolphins (4-6) @ New England Patriots (8-2)

The Patriots are headed for a 14-2 or 13-3 season in all likelihood and the Dolphins will prove to be nothing more than a speed bump for them.  The Miami offense his non-existent at times while New England’s is probably the best in the league.  That mismatch is something that I cannot get over.

New England 41, Miami 13

Sunday, November 26th, 4:05 e.t.

Seattle Seahawks (6-4) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-9)

This might be the week we get to see Jimmy Garappolo under center for the first time as a Niner off of their BYE.  On a short week the Seahawks will have to go on the road to deal with San Fran.  That said, I like them to pick up the “W” because their offense has been pretty good lately and I do not like the 49ers to slow Russell Wilson down.

Seattle 33, San Francisco 21

Sunday, November 26th, 4:25 e.t.

New Orleans Saints (8-2) @ Los Angeles Rams (7-3)

The game of the week takes place in L.A. and the Saints will ride their eight game winning streak into town to take on a Ram team fresh off of an embarrassing loss in Minnesota.  I like the Saints on the road because of their running game.  I can see them controlling the clock with it and keeping the explosive Rams offense on the sidelines, shortening the game.

New Orleans 30, Los Angeles 28

Denver Broncos (3-7) @ Oakland Raiders (4-6)

The Broncos season has taken a total nose-dive after they lost to the Giants and the defense has been gassed.  The Raiders have not been much better but they still have all of their players and are capable of making a run at that #6 seed.  If they are to do that, it will have to start here and I think it will.  This is a good chance for the Oakland offense to get right.

Oakland 27, Denver 13 ***LOCK OF THE WEEK***

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3) @ Arizona Cardinals (4-6)

We can call this the Blaine Gabbert Bowl since Blaine Gabbert will be taking on his former team.  The Jaguars have been hot and ride into town on a four game winning streak.  The Cardinals have not been good this year but I really like their chances at an upset here.  They are going to do it with their defense because I don’t necessarily like their offense to stand up to be league’s best “D”.

Arizona 14, Jacksonville 13 ***UPSET OF THE WEEK***

Sunday, November 26th, 8:30 e.t.

Green Bay Packers (5-5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2)

The Steelers offense finally looked like the one we all thought they were last week versus Tennessee and now they will draw the Brett Hundley led Packers in prime time.  With the Pittsburgh defense balling the way it is now I can see them really spanking Green Bay here.

Pittsburgh 34, Green Bay 13

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

Houston Texans (4-6) @ Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

The Ravens recorded their third shutout of the season on the road in Green Bay last week and will get to face Tom Savage’s Texans on Monday night.  Sure, Tom Savage played the game of his life against Arizona last week, but overall he is not a good quarterback and the Ravens have demolished most teams they’ve played without a good one.  That should happen again here.

Baltimore 24, Houston 10

Week 12 Recap: Tennessee Titans @ Chicago Bears

Final: Tennessee 27, Chicago 21

Marcus Mariota
QB Marcus Mariota taking off against Chicago’s defense.

The Titans looked to be running away with this game, at one point leading the game by 20 in the fourth quarter, but eventually had to gut a win out in crunch time handing the Bears their ninth loss of the season.  There were a lot of moving parts contributing to the nearly completed comeback out of Chicago’s corner.  Let’s take a look at them.

To begin, the Bear’s offense got off to a slow start but finished strong.  Chicago did manage a touchdown on their second possession of the game, but were then held out of the end zone until the fourth quarter.  Matt Barkley was very inconsistent over that (nearly) three full quarter stretch until catching fire later on.  He was inaccurate with the ball at times, failed to put a lot of air under many of his passes, and he made a couple of bad decisions.  When in rhythm he was just fine, but when he held the ball for more than three seconds, there was trouble.  Barkley would force it into coverage and ended up being picked off twice.  After his second pick, which was a horrible mistake throwing late into double coverage in the red zone, the USC product was much better getting the ball out fast and not allowing the Titans to build any kind of a pass rush against him.  The Bears’ offensive line was actually quite dominant in this contest.  They hardly allowed any pressures when the Titans did not blitz, and they paved the way for some nice runs out of Jordan Howard and KaDeem Carey.  Matt Barkley was not sacked.  The weak point of the Chicago offense was their receiving corps, specifically the wide receivers.  Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Jordan Howard, and Marquess Wilson all had bad drops and the team had at least seven of them officially.  They were winning a lot of their battles as far as route-running went, but when the ball was in the air they were not going up to catch it and the Tennessee defensive backs won all of those contests.  There was almost no production coming out of the tight end spot as compared to last week when Zach Miller was dominant in the seam versus the New York Giants.  It is clear that the Bears are hurting without their regular starters in Alshon Jeffrey and Zach Miller.

Matt Barkley
Matt Barkley in action from 11/27/16.

The Chicago defense was nothing special on the afternoon.  They were gouged in the middle of the field by Delanie Walker and Harry Douglass up the seams, and were frequently beat around the edges by Derrick Henry.  The one area they were good in was stuffing DeMarco Murray, who had almost no room to run in the middle of the formation.  Willie Young had a nice game creating tackle opportunities for his teammates.  He also made one stop behind the line of scrimmage.  There was not much of a pass rush mounted by Chicago.  Like the Titans, they also did not record a sack on the opposing pass-rusher.  Danny Trevathan ended up leaving the game with an undisclosed injury, predicted to be on his leg, but once he was gone it was apparent that the Bears’ defense had almost nothing left.  There was no leadership, and there were a lot of miscommunications in the secondary on the day.  The defense did look slow at times as well because they were beat around the edges by Derrick Henry on more than a couple of occasions and Marcus Mariota had a lot of green grass to take off with the ball in front of him.  Eddie Goldman was probably the closes thing the Bears had to a pass rush on the interior line this afternoon.

For the Titans, their offense looked sharp at times in this game.  Marcus Mariota was very good, and well protected.  He was making very accurate passes and throwing the ball away when it was not there.  Out of his eight incomplete passes, five of those were throwaways.  He was attacking the Bears up the seams with Harry Douglass and Delanie Walker and was able to hit a couple of passes deep down the field outside the numbers to Rishard Matthews.  Matthews found the end zone yet again in this game on an excellent diving 29 yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.  DeMarco Murray did not find a lot of running room in this game as the Bears loaded the box when #29 was in the backfield.  Derrick Henry, after not receiving a touch of the football last week in Indianapolis, was a very effective runner of the ball in this game.  He showed off why he was the number one pick for the Titans this year flashing his speed around the edge and power on the inside finishing all of his runs in impressive fashion.  The offensive line was solid in this game as well.  It is a good thing Taylor Lewan was healthy to go because he has been a stalwart for Tennessee on the season.  He and rookie counterpart Jack Conklin were constantly cracking down and sealing the edges.  Delanie Walker pitched in with some nice blocks as well.  He also made a nice touchdown grab in the second quarter of this game.  Overall the best player for the Titans was Marcus Mariota, but he had a lot of help from his toys, unlike Matt Barkley.  That was the ultimate difference in this contest.

Delanie Walker
Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker had a nice game making some catches, a couple of good blocks, and hauling in one touchdown pass.

The Titans’ defense was probably the worst unit on the field from Sunday.  Their corners were victimized on more than a few occasions and they allowed the Bears’ limited options to beat them down the field.  It started because they were unable to create much of a pass rush.  Yes, a lot of Matt Barkley’s passes were out quickly, but some of them weren’t, and to not record a sack on 54 dropbacks is not good for Tennessee.  This allowed their back seven to get exposed.  Jason McCourty had a rough game.  He was beat deep on a couple of occasions and ended up interfering with the opposing receivers on those plays.  LeShaun Sims ended up being a liability on the back end, looking very much the part of a rookie by letting his assignments beat him across his face.  The Bears were heavily undermanned in this game, yet Dick LeBeau let his corners play a lot of off coverage.  They also did not employ nearly as many blitzes as they should have against what was the equivalent of a rookie quarterback standing under center on the opposite side of the field.  Brice McCain was the lone player who did much of anything in coverage, but his most memorable plays were those where he was able to get some pressure on Barkley.  Overall, the Titans defense was not good and they allowed a talent-poor Chicago team hang around and almost pull off a surprising win.

The Titans did manage to win the game, but it was not as satisfying as it should have been since they nearly let a 20 point lead in the fourth quarter evaporate to an inexperience Matt Barkley with almost no weapons outside.  They will hit their late Week 13 BYE at 6-6 and a game in back of the Texans, who lost this week, for first place in the AFC South.  The Bears have nobody to blame but themselves for this loss.  Their receivers dropped way too many passes, including one in the end zone from Josh Bellamy with :47 left in the contest, one that if he caught it would have put the Bears in front without much time remaining.  Matt Barkley did at least prove to Chicago that he is capable of closing out the season for John Fox under center after looking atrocious early on.  He will likely get the nod next week against the 1-10 49ers when San Fran comes to town.

Titans vs. Bears
Matt Barkley threw his first three touchdown passes of his career Sunday versus Chicago

The Skinny:

  • Marcus Mariota played well yet again and set the Tennessee franchise record for touchdown passes in a season with 25.
  • The Tennessee defensive backs were torched all day.  A lot of off coverage allowed for underneath passing patterns and the secondary was, frankly, lucky that the Chicago receivers were not sharp enough in this game because they were not good.
  • Derrick Henry was, by a large margin, the best running back for the Titans after not touching the ball a week ago he ended this game with 60 yards on eight carries, showing great power running between the tackles and speed sprinting around the edge.
  • Matt Barkley was not awful in his first career start.  He threw the ball 54 times and tossed his first three touchdown passes in the league.  The longer he held the ball, however, the worse as he made a couple of bad decisions with the ball including a costly turnover in the red zone late in the third quarter.
  • The wide receivers for Chicago cost the team dearly in this contest.  They contributed for at least seven drops and were not winning their battles at the point of attack.  The absence of Zach Miller and Alshon Jeffery was clear.
  • Chicago’s defense was soft in the middle of the field and they got even thinner at linebacker when they lost Danny Trevathan to injury in this contest.  Their secondary was also beat deep on a few separate occasions.  They were fine in stuffing DeMarco Murray on the inside.

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)


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

Week 12: St. Louis Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals Recap

Dre Kirkpatrick celebrates from 11/29/15

Final: Cincinnati 31, St. Louis 7

It was a dominant performance by the home team on Sunday as the Bengals crush the Rams on a cloudy Sunday afternoon.  Andy Dalton was just fine in this game throwing three touchdowns, two to A.J. Green and the other to Tyler Eifert who now leads the league with twelve such catches.

As easy as the Bengals made this game look, the outcome may have more to do with the ineptitude of St. Louis than anything else.  It would be easy to blame Nick Foles for the loss, as he threw three interceptions, including one pick-six in the third quarter.  However, it was not entirely his fault.  The offensive line was awful in the game.  Geno Atkins embarrassed the interior linemen, beating them across their face on several occasions.  Foles did not have a lot of time to stand in the pocket and deliver an accurate throw down the field.  Todd Gurley was a no-factor for the most part as well since the Rams trailed for virtually the whole game.  St. Louis is a team that needs to play with the lead.  They need to lean on their

Nick Foles in action from the Week 12 affair.

running game and defense in order to have a chance.  They are not very good at coming from behind.

Jeremy Hill had a bit of a revival, although he was banged up a bit for Cincy.  He ran with great power and patience, which was something that had not been seen out of him much this season.  Giovanni Bernard out-shined him once again, though, with a couple of big receptions and some elusive runs.  The Bengals’ offensive line was great in the contest, and it allowed Andy Dalton to scan the field.  Janoris Jenkins was victimized a couple of times by A.J. Green, but for the most part he held up well in coverage.  The St. Louis defense couldn’t do much towards the middle of the game simply because they were too tired.  The Bengal offense was on the field a lot since the Rams’ offense could not piece together any solid drives.

The Rams fall to the Bengals 31-7.

The only good thing for the visitors in this game was one Tavon Austin.  He accounted for 99 yards of total offense and took off on a 60 yard run, setting up a touchdown in the second quarter which he scored himself.  He and Todd Gurley are the two play-makers on offense, but other than them, there is a serious lack of talent out there on the field.

So, the Bengals snap their two-game skid in convincing fashion and now gear up for a road date with the Browns who will be having to prepare on a shorter week.  The Rams will play another two-loss team for the second week in a row when the Cardinals come to town.  They really need to fix their issues with the O-line if the team is going to have any success.  Nick Foles was bad in this game, but it was not entirely his fault.  Just keep that in mind.

The Skinny:

Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes on Sunday against the Rams.
  • Tyler Eifert scores his league-leading twelfth touchdown (eleven coming within the red zone)
  • Todd Gurley was held out of the end zone for the first time in five games and he posted his lowest total yardage since becoming the starter (19)
  • A.J. Green notched his fifth career multi-TD game
  • Tavon Austin accounted for 99 total yards of offense and a touchdown for the Rams as he was the only threat on the field Sunday
  • The St. Louis offensive line was in shambles and the team committed bad penalties in a sloppy effort
  • Andy Dalton now has a career record of 22-9-1 in home starts at 1:00 e.t.

2015 Season: Week 12 Predictions

Last Week: 11-3

Season: 95-65

Thursday, November 26th, 12:30 e.t.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) @ Detroit Lions (3-7)

Philadelphia 21, Detroit 19

Thursday, November 26th, 4:30 e.t.

Carolina Panthers (10-0) @ Dallas Cowboys (3-7)

Dallas 24, Carolina 21

Thursday, November 26th, 8:30 e.t.

Chicago Bears (4-6) @ Green Bay Packers (7-3)

Green Bay 38, Chicago 19

Sunday, November 29th, 1:00 e.t.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) @ Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

Tampa Bay 26, Indianapolis 24

San Diego Chargers (2-8) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6)

Jacksonville 31, San Diego 17

New Orleans Saints (4-6) @ Houston Texans (5-5)

Houston 35, New Orleans 27

St. Louis Rams (4-6) @ Cincinnati Bengals (8-2)

Cincinnati 27, St. Louis 13

New York Giants (5-5) @ Washington Redskins (4-6)

New York 27, Washington 19

Minnesota Vikings (7-3) @ Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

Atlanta 19, Minnesota 17

Miami Dolphins (4-6) @ New York Jets (5-5)

Miami 20, New York 17

Oakland Raiders (4-6) @ Tennessee Titans (2-8)

Oakland 16, Tennessee 10

Buffalo Bills (5-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (5-5)

Kansas City 21, Buffalo 16

Sunday, November 29th, 4:05 e.t.

Arizona Cardinals (8-2) @ San Francisco 49ers (3-7)

Arizona 34, San Francisco 13

Sunday, November 29th, 4:25 e.t.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (5-5)

Seattle 28, Pittsburgh 17

Sunday, November 29th, 8:30 e.t.

New England Patriots (10-0) @ Denver Broncos (8-2)

New England 33, Denver 23

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

Baltimore Ravens (3-7) @ Cleveland Browns (2-8)

Cleveland 19, Baltimore 14

Week 12 Bonus Predictions

Upset of the Week: Atlanta over Minnesota

Sure Bet of the Week (9-2): Cincinnati over St. Louis

Rookie of the Week: Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders

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

Defensive Player of the Week: Ndomukong Suh, DE, Dolphins

Best Overall Offense: Houston Texans

Best Overall Defense: Arizona Cardinals

Feel free to leave a comment stating what you think will happen in this weekend’s games!

2014 Season: Week 12 Predictions

The NFL has never been more confusing.  Get this, the 4-6 Atlanta Falcons boast a 4-0 record within the NFC South and lead that division.  The Denver Broncos put up only seven points in a two-loss to the St. Louis Rams.  The Saints got bashed even worse, losing by 17 to a team that was crushed at home the week before in Cincinnati.  The Browns went from first place to last with their 23-7 loss versus Houston last week, and those Texans are only a game and a half out of first place in their division.  The Chiefs are now tied with the Broncos in the AFC West and the Seahawks are technically in third place here in Week 12.  The Lions still lead in the NFC North but the Packers are closing in quickly.  Try to wrap your head around all of this as I try to predict the outcomes of this week’s 15 contests.

Last Week: 8-6

Thursday, November 20th, 8:25 e.t.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) @ Oakland Raiders (0-10)

The Chiefs looked damn impressive in a home win over the defending Super Bowl champs last week.  Meanwhile, the Raiders played the Chargers tough (for the second time this season) on the road.  They still are in search of their first win, and I have a feeling it is coming soon.  Will it come this week at home against the Chiefs?  I’m not so sure about that one.  Oakland needs to generate big plays and Kansas City is not the optimal team to do this against.  Their defense has been stout over the past few weeks and the team will ride it again to a nice road win.

Kansas City 26, Oakland 13

Sunday, November 23rd, 1:00 e.t.

Detroit Lions (7-3) @ New England Patriots (8-2)

Last week the Jonas Gray train got rolling in a big way against the Colts on the road.  He toted the rock 38 times for 201 yards and four scores.  This week, the Pats play host to the Lions who are the proud owners of the #1 defense in the league.  They are also the stingiest when it comes to giving up rushing yards.  Because of this I see the host Patriots airing the football out some.  Detroit can be exposed in their secondary if the opposing quarterback has the time to stand in the pocket and scan the field.  Right now, nobody’s offensive line is playing better than New England’s, and since this is a home game, I like Bill Belichick and company to pick up their 9th “W” of the season.

New England 37, Detroit 20

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) @ Indianapolis Colts (6-4)

Andrew Luck has been the Colts’ offense to this point in the season.  He sports 300 yard passing performances in all but one game this year, and has had to since the running game has been stagnant at times.  Luckily this week Indy has a chance to get it all right against the lowly Jaguars.  Coming off of a BYE, the team will be well rested and prime to go on the road and play well.  However, this is an Indianapolis defense that has played extremely well against lower-level quarterbacks this season.  Blake Bortles, in his rookie season, fits this description.  I like Greg Toler and Vontae Davis to make life tough on him outside the numbers.  The rook will toss three interceptions and the Colts roll on for a large home victory.

Indianapolis 39, Jacksonville 18

New York Jets (2-8) @ Buffalo Bills (5-5)

Each team has had time to prepare for this game; the Jets coming off of their BYE and the Bills having been idle since last Thursday.  Buffalo will likely need to run the table if they hope to make it into the playoffs.  They have an extremely difficult schedule coming up (playing in New England and Denver, as well as hosting the Packers), so they absolutely need to take advantage of these types of games.  Playing at home should help here, and the Buffalo defense should be licking its chops as the Jets are quite careless with the ball.  The Bills should take advantage of this fact and run New York out of the stadium.  That said, I think this game will be closer than imagined, but the Billikens still win.

Buffalo 24, New York 18

Green Bay Packers (7-3) @ Minnesota Vikings (4-6)

After picking the Eagles secondary apart, Aaron Rodgers is likely at the top of everybody’s MVP ballot.  I know he is with mine.  The Packers are rolling right now, and save one ugly loss in New Orleans, I think this team would be looked at as the best team in the league by most experts.  If you ask me, I say they are the best team in the league currently.  This claim should be tested next week when the Patriots travel to Lambeau for a potential Super Bowl preview.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Oh, and the Pack wins this game too.

Green Bay 35, Minnesota 14

Cleveland Browns (6-4) @ Atlanta Falcons (4-6)

This is a sneaky good game.  It pits the team in last place from the AFC North and the team in first place in the NFC South.  Sure, on paper that sounds like it would be a mismatch, but if you look at how the season has played out for these two squads, you would know that such statements are a bit ludicrous.  Atlanta’s defense has been awful for the most part this year, and Cleveland should be able to take advantage of this.  I like the team to run Terrence West and Isaiah Crowell right at the Falcon front.  They should be successful in this endeavor and Brian Hoyer should find some targets open down the field.  With that being said, this is a game that the Falcons really need to win.  Somebody has to take control of this NFC South, and Atlanta is in prime position to do it with their 4-0 divisional record.  Matt Ryan will throw for 388 yards and three scores in this game leading his team to a much needed home victory in a great game.

Atlanta 28, Cleveland 24

Tennessee Titans (2-8) @ Philadelphia Eagles (7-3)

The Eagles were embarrassed on the road in Green Bay last week, but now they return home where the team is 5-0 this season.  The defense has been pretty good at the Linc also and they have accumulated 17 sacks over their past two home contests.  Zach Mettenberger looked good after throwing the early pick-six on Monday night against Pittsburgh, but things could get ugly for him in this game.  He holds the ball too long in the pocket, and with Philly’s “D” looking to avenge last week’s loss, I’d say he could be in some trouble.  The Zach Attack goes down five times and Mark Sanchez plays an average football game in a healthy Eagle win.

Philadelphia 35, Tennessee 16

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) @ Chicago Bears (4-6)

Mike Evans was outstanding last week against the Redskins with a final stat-line of 7-209-2.  The big receiver is paired well with the 6’3” Vincent Jackson on the outside.  And if you are a fan of big receivers, then what Chicago has will please you.  They have Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall on the outside to go along with Martellus Bennett in the middle.  Yup, it is going to be bombs away in the Windy City this Sunday.  Now here is the question: who wins?  The Bears have more weapons to distribute the ball to and I think Jay Cutler is better than Josh McCown in his given offense.  I say the home team wins in what could turn out to be the highest scoring game of the week.

Chicago 40, Tampa Bay 30

Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1) @ Houston Texans (5-5)

Cincy is a tough team to get a read on.  They will tear it up one week, but then be embarrassed the next.  The team really goes as Andy Dalton goes, so depending on how he plays, the win or loss for the Bengals will follow.  Dalton doesn’t always have the greatest numbers when he plays Houston, and his team tends to lose (I am, of course, referring to the two playoff games between these two back in 2011 and 2012).  I say this trend gets broken here.  Jeremy Hill has been great over the last month for the cats and he should be able to power for some hard yards in this game.  Also, Houston is that up-and-down team this year.  They are coming off of a win, so now I am thinking they are due to lose another game.  I’m taking the Bengals.

Cincinnati 27, Houston 21

Sunday, November 23rd, 4:05 e.t.

St. Louis Rams (4-6) @ San Diego Chargers (6-4)

Are you ready for the ultimate bold prediction?  The St. Louis front four gets to Philip Rivers early in the game, injuring him.  This brings out Kellen Clemens to face his former team in a match-up of epic proportions.  Okay, that isn’t going to happen…  Rivers is quite the iron man, and he will have to be in this game.  He will likely take a beating, but will keep getting up and firing down the field.  I really want to pick the Rams to win this game because the Chargers have not been good over the past month.  They managed only 13 points against the Raiders at home for Pete’s sake!  Anyways, this is a team that is capable of playing great football, and I think they manage to do that this week.

San Diego 23, St. Louis 13

Arizona Cardinals (9-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

In what is (arguably) the best face-off of the week, the team with the best record in the NFL takes on the defending Super Bowl Champs.  The Cardinal’s have ridden their defense to solid wins over their last three games, and have won their last six straight.  Meanwhile, the Seahawks have been getting their running game going over the past month and have played well (with their only loss coming on the road to the 7-3 Chiefs last week).  This is a game where the Seahawks will get back to doing what they do: running the ball and playing good defense.  That has been the key to success whenever they play anybody from the NFC West at home.  Even though Arizona is good against the run, I still see Seattle, the #1 running team in football, putting up 160 yards on the ground.  57 of these will come from Russell Wilson as I see his legs being a problem for the Cardinal defense.  Something tells me that the ‘Hawks are going to win in a landslide, so I have to pick them to win this contest.

Seattle 31, Arizona 14

Sunday, November 23rd, 4:25 e.t.

Miami Dolphins (6-4) @ Denver Broncos (7-3)

The Dolphins have played well lately, but they are heading on the road to a hornet’s nest.  The Broncos are one of the five teams in the league with a spotless home record (joining New England, Philly, Green Bay, and Arizona).  Miami does have the second best defense in the league, but we all saw what Peyton Manning is capable of doing to good defenses at home when the Cardinals came to town.  The Broncos won by 21.  They will do it again here in a romp.  Denver is too good to lose two straight games.

Denver 38, Miami 17

Washington Redskins (3-7) @ San Francisco 49ers (6-4)

The 49ers have gone from fighting for their lives two weeks ago in New Orleans to being legitimate playoff contenders here in Week 12.  They have a home game against the abysmal Redskins who are really in need of good quarterback play.  NFC East quarterbacks have been terrible against this San Francisco defense this season.  They have combined to throw two touchdowns against ten interceptions.  Good luck RGIII, you are gonna need it.

San Francisco 31, Washington 12

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

Dallas Cowboys (7-3) @ New York Giants (3-7)

Antrel Rolle has, once again, gone on record claiming that the Giants are going to win out to finish the season.  While that may be quite the bold statement, I do give the Giants a chance this week and here is why.  The defense did show signs of improvement last week against the 49ers.  Odell Beckham Jr. has quietly put up monster numbers since scoring twice against these same Cowboys.  And this game is being played in East Rutherford, not Dallas.  Actually, that final point could be an argument in favor of the ‘Boys since they have not lost a road game this year.  Anyways, I like New York’s chances going into this one.  However, Dallas is coming off of a BYE and they would really like a big win going into next week’s showdown with the Eagles.  It is unlikely that the Cowboys will lose, but I am going to pick the G-Men here simply because this just seems like a game with upset written all over it.  I think that Dallas should win, but I like the Giants to find a way at home.

New York 27, Dallas 22

Monday, November 17th, 8:30 e.t.

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) @ New Orleans Saints (4-6)

The Saints have lost their last two home games and really do not want to lose a third in a row.  The Baltimore Ravens come to town, and this is a team that will look like world-beaters one week, but then will fall flat the next.  This game will tell us a lot about both of these teams.  Joe Flacco should be able to find some plays down the field against a New Orleans secondary that has been pretty bad at times this year.  Steve Smith Sr. will score in this game and go for 89 yards.  He has been pretty dormant over the past month, so I say it is time for him to break back out.  On the flip side, Drew Brees has been fantastic on Monday Night Football.  His only loss came in 2008 against the Vikings in a close game.  In the dome, he should go bananas as the team looks to avoid falling three games under .500.  This one to me is a no-brainer.  There is no way the Saints lose again in the Big Easy.

New Orleans 38, Baltimore 24

Week 12 Bonus Predictions

Upset of the Week: New York Giants over Dallas

Sure Bet of the Week: Indianapolis over Jacksonville

Rookie of the Week: Odell Beckham Jr.

Offensive Player of the Week: Tom Brady

Defensive Player of the Week: Aldon Smith

Best Overall Offense: New England Patriots

Best Overall Defense: San Francisco 49ers

Feel free to leave a comment stating what you think will happen in this weekend’s games!

Week 12: San Francisco 49ers 27, Washington Redskins 6- Post Game Thoughts

It was an ugly night for the Redskins as they lose in blowout fashion at home to the 49ers on Monday Night Football.  Once again, Washington struggled to throw the ball.  Robert Griffin III had almost nowhere to go with the ball for a majority of the game, as most of his completions came on quick screens to his wide receivers.  The absence of tight end Jordan Reed also hurt the team’s cause, because the ‘Skins were unable to involve any of their other tight ends into the game plan.  Meanwhile, San Francisco played a brilliant game.  They got constant pressure on RGIII (a lot of it coming from Aldon Smith, who appears to be returning to 2012 form).  Also, Colin Kaepernick did not look like a dud throwing the ball.  He slung the rock for three touchdowns and was not intercepted.  The Niners didn’t mount a ton of offense on the ground, but they did stay dedicated to pounding Washington with the rock, which was important for their game plan.  Simply put, the Redskins were embarrassed by the 49ers defense on this night.  San Fran got back to playing their style of football and they looked good in the process.  The loss for Washington pretty much eliminates any playoff hopes that remained for this team.  They will try and take their season-long frustrations out on a disappointing Giant team at hom next Sunday night while the 49ers host the Rams in an important NFC West divisional match-up.

Week 12: Tennessee Titans 23, Oakland Raiders 19- Post Game Thoughts

The Titans take advantage of two Sebastian Janikowski missed field goals as they edge the Raiders in Oakland.  In the process, they have taken over the #6 seed in the AFC and if the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs.  Ryan Fitzpatrick played another turnover-free game and was able to lead Tennessee to victory with his last second touchdown pass to Kendall Wright.  Wright has played like a true number one receiver and is really living up to his first round status from the 2012 draft.  Coming out of Baylor, the Titans thought they had a deep threat, what with his blazing speed.  Instead, they have a smart player, a good route-runner, and a reliable option underneath in third down situations.  This is a man who is certainly earning his paycheck.  So the Titans do have to fell pretty good about their weapons on offense; they have a solid offensive line with a great running back in Chris Johnson, a smart quarterback, as well as a reliable pass-catcher.  The same cannot be said about the Raiders.  Their running back position has been a revolving door with Darren McFadden’s injury.  Rashad Jennings has stepped in and done a great job in his place, but since taking over, Oakland hasn’t won a ton of contests because of it.  Matt McGloin didn’t play horribly in this game, but I would personally like to see the Raiders go back to Terelle Pryor.  I think T.P. has awesome game-breaking potential.  He just needs to develop his passing game a bit more, and Oakland could help him do this in their final five games, seeing as how the playoffs are pretty much off the table for them.  Maybe the Raiders see something in McGloin that I don’t.  Perhaps the whole nation will see it this Thursday when the team tries their luck in Dallas on Thanksgiving.

Week 12: Arizona Cardinals 40, Indianapolis Colts 11- Post Game Thoughts

With the conclusion of this game, I have drawn two conclusions.  First of all, it is hard to win in Arizona.  The Cards have only lost one game at home all season and have downed (now) three playoff-calibur teams.  The second thing that popped into my head after seeing the score of this game is that it is quite possible that the Colts will be the team that makes the playoffs this year while the Cardinals are the team that may be axed.  It seems a bit ludicrous to think about following this dominant home win, but if you think about it, this is very possible.  The Colts are nearly penciled in to win the AFC South with their two and a half game lead over the Titans while the Cards are still listed as the #7 seed in the NFC.  Arizona has now won three straight games (which has been aided by great quarterback play from Carson Palmer, who was not intercepted in this game- his second straight mistake-free contest), but they are going to be tested in December.  Next week they head to Philly to take on the equally hot Eagles, and later in the month they square off against the Seahawks (in Seattle) and host the 49ers in Week 17.  With that being said, the Cardinals have a lot to prove and will get their chance with quality opponents coming up.  I love what this team has been doing as of late, but I’m not sure if they have the horses to compete with other top teams in the NFC.  Now the Colts are really struggling and they are looking like they are the very definition of a team that will back into the playoffs.  For them to turn things around, Andrew Luck needs to play better and these guys absolutely need to get a ground game going.  Just imagine how good Indy could be if Trent Richardson was playing like they thought he would when they acquired him from Cleveland.

Week 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24, Detroit Lions 21- Post Game Thoughts

The Lions reverted back to 2012 form as they lose a head-scratcher at home to Greg Schiano’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  This is especially confusing seeing as how Darrelle Revis had to leave the game early with a groin injury.  Plus, Detroit got their no. 2 receiver, Nate Burleson, back from injury.  Add him to a rampant Calvin Johnson and you would figure that the Lions could torch this Tampa secondary.  This did not happen though, thanks in large part to four Matthew Stafford interceptions, including one by Johnthan Banks on Detroit’s final drive of the game.  As a team, the Lions turned the ball over five times, thus accounting for their three point loss.  Tiquan Underwood had the game of his life in this one as well.  His three receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns were the biggest difference in this game.  Mike Glennon played yet another solid game as well.  He completed two thirds of his passes for 247 yards with those two touchdowns and, once again, no interceptions.  I really think that Tampa Bay has something with this youngster; there is a lot to like.  So Greg Schiano may be in the process of saving his job, his team has now won 3 straight games.  In the meantime, Jim Schwartz may be on his way to losing his job if the Lions don’t string together a few wins.  They really missed a golden opportunity to take control of the NFC North with a win at home this week and now have to turn around on a short week and defeat the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving (something that will be tough for them to do no matter if Aaron Rodgers is starting or not).