So, last week was a rough one… I pulled out a 7-7 record on my picks in Week 11 with a strong finish, but missed on Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, San Francisco and Arizona.
– Chicago is a better team than their 4-6 record and last week you finally saw glimpses of that… and then more of the 4-6 variety, but hey, it was against Minnesota, so it worked out.
– Houston was convincing against Cleveland on the road. Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are the hardest teams to gauge on a week-to-week basis. Baltimore could be thrown in there too. Yep, that’s the AFC North.
– See above. Who are you Cincinnati? Or… why can’t New Orleans just play well? I’m not quite sure who is actually more to blame for that outcome.
– Tampa Bay has talent, they just haven’t been able to use it. Washington has locker room problems and that’s how you get beat by an 1-8 team, 27-7, at home.
– My hat’s off to you St. Louis. Well played game that showed off the talent that St. Louis has. It was more a fluke for Denver… and my predictions.
– I keep giving the Giants hope and then they keep showing the lack of talent on their roster. Well… okay… last week was more due to Eli Manning’s five interceptions. That’s ridiculous.
– Arizona is more formidable with Drew Stanton at quarterback than many, including myself, thought. They are still very deserving of their 9-1 record and should be taken seriously as a deep playoff contender.
The byes this week are Carolina and Pittsburgh. The gif this week is the Saints fan who elbows the Bengals fan out of the way for the football Jermaine Gresham threw into the stands following his second touchdown. I get that footballs that have seen game-action are cherished, but come on… no need to fight the lone Bengals fan there for the football from the Bengals player. The good news is that she did end up getting a ball courtesy of the Saints organization and then Gresham sent one to her that he signed.
Thursday, 11/20 – 8:25 pm ET
Kansas City Chiefs 7-3 @ Oakland Raiders 0-10
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City is coming on strong after a rough start and now are threatening Denver for the AFC West crown. A power run game, a strong quarterback in Alex Smith and a solid defense led by their pass rush? That’s a great combination going forward and Oakland is just an all-around bad team. I’m taking the Chiefs, but I will say this… I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Oakland somehow pulls this off. Kansas City is coming off a big win over Seattle last week and has a short week to prepare for a road game in Oakland before a home matchup with Denver. That’s the makings of a potential trap game if I’ve ever seen one. If the Raiders find a way to limit the Kansas City run game early on and make this close, this could be the crowning achievement of Oakland’s season. That said, I can’t back my pick here on a fool’s errand.
Sunday, 11/23 – 1:00 pm ET
Cleveland Browns 6-4 @ Atlanta Falcons 4-6
Prediction: Cleveland Browns
For weeks I have been saying that the Pittsburgh Steelers are the hardest team to project on a week-to-week basis, but I may have to extend that to the entire AFC North, including the Browns. While they remain right in the thick of the AFC North race, they look the least convincing on paper, though their wins over their division foes have been impressive. Now, they return receiver Josh Gordon and still feature a solid run game, despite Ben Tate being waived this week. I’ll take the Browns in this one with Gordon’s return, at least, keeping the Falcons defense off-balance, thus opening up the run game for Cleveland. Atlanta should put up some points, but I think Cleveland’s defense is better than they have shown much of the year and I expect them to do enough to further complicate the AFC North divisional race.
Tennessee Titans 2-8 @ Philadelphia Eagles 7-3
Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles
Philly looked awful at Lambeau last week, but really? Who doesn’t from time to time? The Eagles are still high-powered offensively and incredibly opportunistic defensively and special teams. Tennessee is led offensively by rookie Zach Mettenberger at quarterback, meaning Tennessee will either turn the ball over, or struggle to keep up, even with a Mark Sanchez-led Eagles offense. Philly at home should pull this one off.
Detroit Lions 7-3 @ New England Patriots 8-2
Prediction: New England Patriots
Detroit is having an impressive season, despite their loss at Arizona last week, but New England is on a different level. They are unstoppable offensively with an emerging power run game, their use of the nearly unstoppable Rob Gronkowski and a defensive unit that has frustrated the likes of Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck this season. The Patriots just don’t have many weaknesses, and while I think Detroit’s defense and offense should pose as better matchups than even the Colts a week ago, I don’t see anyone beating the Patriots given their current play. Plus, the Patriots hardly ever lose at home in November and December and that’s been teams that haven’t looked as formidable as this one.
Green Bay Packers 7-3 @ Minnesota Vikings 4-6
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
Green Bay is too good. Playing on the road shouldn’t impact the Packers and Aaron Rodgers is playing incredibly well right now. No way the Vikings keep up offensively.
Jacksonville Jaguars 1-9 @ Indianapolis Colts 6-4
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
Under different circumstances I may put the Colts on upset alert, even against the lowly Jags, who continue to play hard. This isn’t one of those weeks though. The Colts are coming off a tough home loss and while the injury to Ahmad Bradshaw hurts, it isn’t enough to derail their season. Andrew Luck will get back on track and put up points on the Jaguars. I expect Jacksonville to play tough, but the discrepancy in talent is too wide in Indianapolis.
Cincinnati Bengals 6-3-1 @ Houston Texans 5-5
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
What is Cincinnati this season? They play like the best team in the league over the first three weeks of the season, give-up that distinction to New England in Week 5 and then sleepwalk their way through the next couple weeks before beating Baltimore, falling on their face against Cleveland and then thoroughly handling New Orleans in the Superdome. This is a team that has dealt with a litany of injuries thus far, so I expect them to continue trending up, but it’s hard to tell which team we will see. The same goes this week. The ceiling for Cincinnati is much higher than Houston’s, but Cincinnati hasn’t played well in Houston in years with quarterback Andy Dalton having some of the worst play of his career at the hands of the Texans. This will be close, but I’ll take Cincinnati. It may not be pretty though.
New York Jets 2-8 @ Buffalo Bills 5-5
Prediction: Buffalo Bills
The Jets surprised everyone with an impressive win two weeks ago against the Steelers before heading into their bye. I believe that was more telling of Pittsburgh’s inconsistency than Michael Vick and company “righting the ship”. Buffalo isn’t a pretty team, but they play very good defense and their offense is enough to air-it-out against the Jets. That said, Buffalo’s loss to Miami last week likely puts them outside the playoff picture, so a letdown could occur. This all, of course, depends on if this game even happens. With snow pounding the Northeast and the Buffalo area, mother nature could be the most formidable opponent of the week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-8 @ Chicago Bears 4-6
Prediction: Chicago Bears
Lovie Smith returns to Chicago to show off his “look-alike” offense with rookie Mike Evans and veteran Vincent Jackson emulating Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Evans has been lights-out for the last two weeks and should continue to do so against the Bears defense. That said, I’m taking Chicago. I think Matt Forte, in the run game, diversifies the Chicago attack enough to take advantage of the Buccaneers defense. It will be an interesting game to watch, but I think Chicago wins in a similar fashion as they did last week, at home, against Minnesota.
Sunday, 11/23 – 4:05 pm ET
Arizona Cardinals 9-1 @ Seattle Seahawks 6-4
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals
Is this an upset pick? Arizona is 9-1, but people are afraid to put trust in Drew Stanton at quarterback. While that is warranted (him technically being a backup and all), I like Arizona this week because of the other matchups. The “Legion of Boom” isn’t as frightening as they were a year ago and the Arizona receivers should be able to matchup. Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald are both capable of finding the same creases other receivers have been finding all season after all. The Cardinals struggle running the ball, but I think they will have an effective gameplan to attack the Seattle defense. Seattle’s offense will matchup with Arizona’s top-notch rush defense, which could mean the Seahawks are too reliant on Russell Wilson through the air. Playing in Seattle is still arguably the hardest place to play, but Arizona was the only team to win their just a season ago, so I’ll take my chances on the 9-1 team.
St. Louis Rams 4-6 @ San Diego Chargers 6-4
Prediction: San Diego Chargers
St. Louis beat Denver. Like really beat them. They contained the Broncos offense to seven points and put up 22 themselves. The Rams are a team that for a couple seasons has been stacked with talent, yet lacked the consistency or quarterback play to take the next step. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rams finish strong this season and slingshot that into a playoff run next year, but that’s down the road a bit. For this week, I am looking at the Chargers, who have suddenly crashed back down to earth after a 5-1 start. I think San Diego’s 5-1 start was more the outlier than the 1-3 stretch against playoff contenders, but I’ll take the Chargers. Their back is against the wall and they are playing at home with Ryan Mathews another week healthier to help solidify the run game and control the pace of the game.
Sunday, 11/23 – 4:25 pm ET
Miami Dolphins 6-4 @ Denver Broncos 7-3
Prediction: Denver Broncos
This pick is based on talent. Denver’s loss last week in St. Louis was eye-opening, but is more a “blip on the radar” as opposed to a “season-altering loss”. Miami is a dangerous team with a talented defense and offense that has been running the ball well and letting quarterback Ryan Tannehill take advantage through the air. The Miami defense will keep this closer than you might expect looking at these teams on paper, but Denver just has too much talent and is playing at home. Plus, I view Peyton Manning like a machine of sorts. You may get lucky and throw something at him he doesn’t recognize or struggles with, but he just adds it to his memory and that is just one more defense that can’t surprise him again. Point is, I don’t see a repeat of last week for the Denver offense.
Washington Redskins 3-7 @ San Francisco 49ers 6-4
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers
I don’t feel like this really warrants a lot of time. The Redskins are facing internal turmoil with mumblings about the quarterback situation and Robert Griffin III’s future in D.C. That alone makes the 49ers a favorite as those sorts of locker room issues permeate on-field play in most cases. Throw in that the 49ers are playing at home, with tremendous pressure to stay in the wild card hunt with the likes of Green Bay, Seattle and Dallas (at this moment in time) and you have a desperate, talented team playing at home against a team in shambles. I’m taking San Francisco.
Sunday, 11/23 – 8:30 pm ET
Dallas Cowboys 7-3 @ New York Giants 3-7
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
This one will require some “Tony Romo magic”. The Dallas run game will fare well against the Giants, but these teams tend to clash with close outcomes. The Giants will find a way to keep this close, particularly if Eli Manning doesn’t throw five interceptions again, but the run game will allow Dallas to control the pace of this game and Romo will have his opportunity to win it late. I think he will do so. I’m taking Dallas.
Monday, 11/24 – 8:30 pm ET
Baltimore Ravens 6-4 @ New Orleans Saints 4-6
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
New Orleans is just bad. I don’t know how or really why, but they are. We aren’t talking Jacksonville or Oakland “bad”, but for most the season we all assumed that New Orleans was just dealing with a “rough stretch” and that they would figure it out soon, They have played 10 games this season and we still can’t explain why they couldn’t get back on track, at home, against a Bengals team ravaged by injuries, who just came off a blowout loss to the Browns in Cincinnati. Now I understand why you looked back at my prediction. I am taking the Saints this week. I’m picking them because this is the last week I can back on them getting the train back on the tracks. Playing at home isn’t an instant-win for the Saints this season, but playing in primetime coming off an embarrassing loss in front of the home crowd may be enough. Baltimore, on the other hand, is coming off a bye. I expect them to play well, but, again, I’m thinking the Saints somehow get things going. This is the week! Check back in next Thursday…