Here are my NFL Week 12 Picks
(10-4 last week, 101-59 for the season)
Bye teams: none
Phi @ Det – Thanksgiving is here, and that means football. This year, the Eagles are the chosen team to travel to Detroit, and for Philly, the timing could not possibly have been worse. Although nothing has really gone right for the Eagles in 2015, things are worse lately, with Sam Bradford injured, Mark Sanchez playing horribly (of course) in relief, Chip Kelly’s job almost definitely lost, a two-game losing streak keeping them from claiming a weak division, and everyone in the media saying that this team has completely given up. And you thought YOU had a bad few days. To make matters worse, this Detroit team is hitting their stride as we speak, with big wins over the Packers & the Raiders the last two weeks, starting a winning & scoring streak that seemed unlikely to happen this year, after starting the season 1-7. Well, the Lions now seem at least competitive if not exactly stellar, and they get to host their annual Turkey Bowl, looking for their third straight win. I think they do it, behind an offense that’s playing well, a defense that’s improving, and a group of guys who were apparently tired of being laughed at.
Car @ Dal – Speaking of a tough matchup with some bad timing, look no further than the Carolina Panthers in our other traditional Thanksgiving game. The Panthers have been near perfect all season, going 10-0, scoring at will, holding opposing offenses to low totals, running the ball with efficiency, and tossing it around when the occasion calls for it. That brings us to Cam Newton, who just threw 5 TDs in one game, which is a frightening, unexplored dimension of a team that’s already arguably the best in the NFL. But that bad timing I spoke of early, it comes in the form of a man named Romo, and it could bring Carolina their first loss of the season. Dallas was horrible without Tony, going 0-7 in his absence. The games he’s started though; 3-0. Romo is the leader & life of this team, just ask Dez Bryant who is happy to be back catching touchdowns from his boy. Romo knocked off some rust last week, should look sharp at home on a day his team is used to owning, and would make a frightening opponent to any club coming in. All that said, I guess I can’t pick against Cam until he shows me a reason to.
Chi @ GB – Out third & final Thanksgiving game, though not an annual one but a late night extra, is a classic rivalry; Bears vs Packers. The Bears were just embarrassed at home vs a backup QB in a game that Cutler & Fox desperately wanted to win. They came close, but Osweiler (unlike Peyton) didn’t make any mistakes, and the Broncos walked away with the W. People had begun to talk about Chicago’s improvement, Langford’s running ability, their strong road record, how this team could actually compete. But they’re winless against the division, have only gone 1-5 vs the conference as a whole, and won’t be good enough to beat the Pack in Lambeau. Green Bay had been looking beatable until last week, with three straight losses and a surprising lack of offensive execution. So I benched Aaron Rodgers from by fantasy lineup, started Derek Carr, and was frowned upon by the football gods. I won’t make that mistake again, Rodgers is back in, and he should shine here. The Packers played convincingly well in Minnesota last week, a game they had to win, and they should light up the scoreboard at home in Week 12.
Min @ Atl – The Vikings found themselves inexplicably on top of the NFC North, after the Packers lost three games in a row. They then found themselves facing Green Bay in a game to decide the leader of the division. Put to that test, they failed, and the Pack returned to the top where we are all used to seeing them. I really thought that Minnesota’s defense was good enough to slow down a poorer-than-average Aaron Rodgers, but they proved to be not quite there yet. That’s not to say that they can’t win games, and I think they find themselves in a winnable spot right here. There’s no team colder than the Atlanta Falcons, not including the Browns & the Chargers, who are just plain bad, not cold. The Falcons were flying high before a 3-game skid, but even before that they showed a lot of weaknesses and were winning games by too little a margin. I think they have the talent to turn things around, but the Vikings aren’t the 49ers, and this might not be the game to do it. The Falcons are only average at home, rely too heavily on Julio Jones, and seem to shut down when the game is tight; not a great combination.
STL @ Cin – How anyone missed Case Keenum being completely out of it on the field last week is beyond me. The video shows his teammate dragging his limp body to its feet, and not under some scrum, but completely out in the open after a big hit. The guy was woozy and should not have been allowed to play until he got checked out. The NFL put rules & people in place to make sure stuff like this didn’t happen anymore, and yet it did, under the eyes of millions of people. Perhaps that just exemplifies the problems the NFL is having with its officials, as this season has been one giant problem after another. Refs need to be full time, players need to practice more period, but also with officials on hand, and everyone needs to get their act together before the product that is the sport I love is completely ruined. Geesh. Anyway, the Rams offense has been terrible no matter who their QB is, concussed or not, and they don’t stand up to the quality that is the 2015 Bengals. Cinci was always gonna lose that game in Arizona, and it doesn’t mean they’ve lost their magic. Look for an easy, big, rebound win here.
NO @ Hou – Boy did the Saints need a bye week. They’ve lost two straight after it seemed like they were figuring a few things out, they fired their defensive coordinator after becoming the only team to allow 300+ points this season, and rumors are swirling in the Big Easy that the days of Payton & Brees are soon to be over. Also, this is a team that’s 1-4 on the road in 2015, making this game in Houston seem like a foregone conclusion. The only aspect keeping their hopes alive is that bye week, something fans will be hoping helped astronomically, which may be too far-reaching. Meanwhile, the Texans are headed in the opposite direction, with three straight wins and a tie atop the AFC South. With Indy hurting, Houston knows that this is the time to make a move, grabbing the division away before Andrew Luck gets back healthy. The Texans play well at home, will get Brian Hoyer back this week, and will look to pressure Drew Brees into taking sacks & throwing interceptions. The Saints can still put up points, so this game could come down to the wire, but I have to go with the better team here.
TB @ Ind – These two teams are almost identical, the question is, do you pick new blood or old? Records: both 5-5. Points: 236, 224, respectively. Points allowed: 254, 248. Non-conference record: both 1-2. Win streak: both 2 games. Home record: both 2-3. Away record: both 3-2. There is literally nothing to differentiate these two teams except, currently, one has a 21-year-old leader and the other has a 40-year-old backup pressed into service. Now, lately Famous Jameis has been playing better than a rookie, with 5 TDs in his last game, and a solid season going overall. And while I don’t like the Bucs to make the playoffs but think the Colts still have a great shot, I think I have to go with the kid here. Hasselbeck has filled in admirably for Luck, and he has Indy winning games. But you’ve got to think that the magic will wear off, that the other shoe will drop, that his body will catch up to him sooner rather than later. And so I’ll go with the good, young road team over the mediocre, old home team in this matchup, and we could see Houston as the sole leader of the AFC South going into Week 13.
SD @ Jax – The mystery of Phillip River & the Chargers has finally been solved, and America is finally understanding what Broncos fans have known for about 10 years; they suck. And please don’t think I’m jumping off some bandwagon because of their surprisingly bad record; I’ve always seen San Diego as a team that fails every year to make the necessary changes that will get them pointed in the right direction. They did it over & over with Norv Turner, allowing his team to save him in December, only to watch him lead his team into the basement every single season. And now they’re doing it again, holding on to Rivers even after he continually proves that he doesn’t have that It Factor present in the great ones. It’s time to give up, SD, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. On the other hand, as weird as it is to say, Jacksonville might actually be improving. Bortles is playing well, they’re scoring points, and they’ve won two games in a row, albeit against bad teams. But that’s the first step, beating the teams you should beat, like the Chargers. The next step can wait until next year.
Buf @ KC – Boy was Rex Ryan bummed that the Bills didn’t beat the Patriots last week. I’m sure he hates losing any game his team loses, but this one was special, this one was hyped, and this one stung. Rex & Tyrod just aren’t the same caliber combination as Bill & Tom, even though the Bills are scoring surprising amounts of points, 24 per week. It’s their defense that’s the real shocker, how little they sack the opposing quarterback, when last year they were so proficient at it. Well, the AFC East has only one dominator, and that’s New England. Also at 5-5 but headed up, not down, are the Chiefs. They’ve won four in a row, and will look to keep it going with games against the Bills, Raiders, and Chargers. Coming off their bye week, Kansas City destroyed the Broncos & the Chargers, making a serious run at the Wild Card, if not the division. Now, I think Denver will hold on to the AFC West and KC will have to settle for a road playoff game, but I think they’d be happy with that. And I think they’ll be happy after this one, winning against a tough Buffalo team, but one that is definitely beatable.
Mia @ NYJ – I like the direction in which the Dolphins are headed; new team logo, a young QB, a great receiving corp, a defense that can be improved upon, a hard-headed interim head coach. And they’re a good road team, going 3-3, playing solid football almost every week, showing that they’ll be around for years to come. But while I like the idea of Miami becoming a strong team, I don’t think the magic is there this year. I loved them in the preseason, thought they might win the division with an easy early schedule and Brady suspended 4 games. But that wasn’t realized, and although they’re pointed in the right direction, an 0-4 record against the AFC East shows exactly where they’re at. The Jets are only slightly better off this season, one game ahead in the standings, have a bit less of a sustainable core of young players, but are definitely more likely to reach the postseason this year. I like the way Fitzpatrick is playing, his two receivers are one of the best duos in the league, the run game is producing, and the Jets’ defense is good if not great. A home win should be in order here.
Oak @ Ten – The Raiders relish the spoiler role, but were unable to play it in Detroit last week. Carr laid an egg, and a team that had been doing very well on the road in games they were kinda counted out of failed to stop the team with the worst record in the league. Well, maybe the Lions aren’t all that terrible, or maybe the Raiders had a bad week. Either way, they’ll need a win here away from Oakland if they want to reenter the playoff conversation. As it is, they’ve fallen to 4-6, with a loss here perhaps pushing the out of the postseason. Luckily, they get to face the Titans. I don’t know what happened, or why the team fired their coach so quickly, but things have gone from bad to worse in Tennessee. They’re 2-6 overall, 0-6 vs the AFC, and 0-5 at home, a stat that is almost unfathomable. Mariota has yet to win in from of his home crowd? He only has three more opportunities this year, with this week being one of them. But I don’t think they can do it, not even against a mediocre Raiders team. Tennessee scores the least points in the AFC, even less than the Browns, and that’s saying something.
NYG @ Was – I’m even starting to annoy myself with my constant reassuring comments that the Giants will win the NFC East. They have had every opportunity, but have kinda squandered it while the Cowboys got Romo back & the Redskins found a way to follow Cousins. The Eagles are still around for Pete’s sake, only one game out of first place. If the Giants don’t win this division, it will be the poorest attempt I have ever seen; what do they want, gift wrap? Romo is back and Dallas is back to winning, Cousins is playing semi-well, at least against bad defenses at home; enter Week 12. Washington is a surprising 4-1 at home, though a terrible 0-5 on the road. Luckily for them, they get the G-Men at home, while New York is only 2-3 away from East Rutherford. I still think that the Giants have the best shot at winning the division, even with Dallas playing better, the Redskins hanging around, and even the Eagles putting in their two cents. But I have to go with Washington here at home, where hopefully they can put a terrible game vs the Panthers behind them and realize that the postseason is still within reach.
Ari @ SF – The Cardinals proved they were one of the best, if not THE best team in the NFL with a solid win over the Bengals last week, preceded by another difficult win Week 10 in Seattle. The Cardinals may not be as visible as the Patriots, Broncos, Packers, or Panthers, but they can legitimately be called a Super Bowl contender. After all, no team in the league has scored more points or logged more touchdowns. Arizona also has the highest net point total in the league except for New England, meaning that their defense is almost as good as their offense. And with one loss at home and one loss on the road, this is a team that knows its own weaknesses, which may be the biggest asset to a championship team. I can hardly waste time here talking about their opponent, a Niners team who scores the least points in the league and has the least net point total. They are 3-2 at home (0-5 on the road), so perhaps there’s a bit of a trap game scare in San Francisco. But my money is on the Cardinals, who I think should easily be playing in January, if not February.
Pit @ Sea – Pittsburgh & Seattle, this season, have become mirror images of each other. They got to this point from different paths, but the result is the same. They score about the same, they allow about the same, they both hover around .500, and they both have enough of a history to keep folks believing that the playoffs are still an option. But for the Steelers, the injury to Big Ben has led them to this point. With him, and Le’Veon Bell for that matter, the season would have gone very differently, and perhaps today we talk about Pitt being a shoe in for the Wild Card spot, of even a contender for the division. The Seahawks though, they’ve gotten where they are by bad O-line play, poor coaching, and bad game plans. Why don’t they use Jimmy Graham? No one knows. Why did they trade away the keystone of their line for a guy they don’t utilize? No one knows. And it’s this uncertainty that has turned into frustration and has some ready to write off Seattle as a failed experiment, at least for 2015. Stat to know: the Steelers are 3-0 vs the NFC this season, while the Seahawks are 0-1 vs the AFC.
NE @ Den – I keep saying about these good teams that I won’t pick against them until they show me a reason to, but I’m about to buck that trend. Bronco buck it actually, but that’s a bad joke, and we’ll move right along. I know that the Patriots are undefeated, that they score at will, that they defend better than people give them credit for, that Tom Brady is playing to prove something, that Belichick is a master of original game plan, and that (hey, let’s be honest) they’ve cheated a little to get ahead where they can. But it’s all about to catch up with them when they face a momentum they can’t resist. New England has had so many injuries, they’re coming off an emotional game, Brady doesn’t play well in Denver; the signs are there for the reading, but the most telling might be this; that nothing gold can stay. The Pats will lose at some point, and this could very well be the week. Osweiler stepping in for Peyton did great, the defense rose to the occasion, and this team is on a high right now knowing that they’ve gone 8-2 mostly behind a QB who couldn’t play the game. Now they have a new stud horse; watch out Tom.
Bal @ Cle – Is this game really going to go ahead as scheduled? Can’t they just call it a tie and save us all from watching two terrible teams bludgeon each other to death? Or, actually, would they just let them bludgeon each other to death for real? That might be more entertaining. As if the Ravens’ season couldn’t get any worse, both Joe Flacco & Justin Forsett get put on IR, completely ending Baltimore’s year. This is a 3-7 team that can’t win on the road and yet I’m still going to pick them to win; that should tell you something about the Browns. Cleveland, if possible, is in an even worse spot, a game behind and light years away from being a competitive franchise. Recently, their newly sober QB Johnny “Football” Manziel, who promised to behave on the team’s bye week, got drunk and let himself be filmed. Well, he’s now on the bench, so in comes Josh McCown, the least likely candidate to do something spectacular that I have ever seen. The Browns are a mess, the Ravens aren’t much better, but someone has to win this game, I guess. God, what a terrible Monday Night Game; even Gruden must agree.