Last week was a 9-7 week for me. I missed on Philadelphia, Seattle, San Diego, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Atlanta and Denver.
– Philadelphia demonstrated, once again, the firepower they possess on offense. Dallas couldn’t control time of possession enough to keep them off the field and we saw the limitations of the Dallas defense on display. This isn’t over in the NFC East, but Dallas may have a hard time matching up with the Eagles. Some teams just seem to be another’s kryptonite.
– Seattle played well on the road? Seattle has been more consistent than San Francisco this season, but I had thought the home-field advantage might have been enough to turn the tides in favor of the 49ers. That wasn’t the case. Seattle seems to be rising, playing better and better with each passing week.
– San Diego got a huge win in Baltimore. The AFC North is still impossible to predict and it will clearly go down to the wire. Huge win for San Diego, potential season-killer for the Ravens depending on how the divison and AFC wild card shake out.
– The Giants led 21-0 in the second quarter and 21-3 at halftime. Give credit to the Jaguars for clawing back, but the Giants should have been able to finish this game.
– Pittsburgh lost, at home, to the Saints. I would understand if this was one of the Saints teams that was above .500 and had been playing well all season. Instead, we are left wondering… how good, or bad, is this Steelers team and why can’t they win at home?
– I went with the upset as I thought Kansas City would have the perfect recipe for the Broncos. Close, but no cigar.
No byes this week. The gif this week is Coby Fleener dropping a pass from Andrew Luck. Wide open and… drop. It’s nice that Washington is so bad a play like this doesn’t hurt them in the end though… on the plus side.
Thursday, 12/4 – 8:25 pm ET
Dallas Cowboys 8-4 @ Chicago Bears 5-7
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
Dallas didn’t look good last week against Philadelphia. Even at home, their defense’s lack of playmakers doomed them from the start at the hands of the Eagles high-powered offense. It’s not like Dallas is the first team to let Philly run over them, but it is a glaring weakness of this surprising Dallas team. Chicago has the firepower, on paper, to torment Dallas defensively, but I think the Cowboys rebound. The success of the Cowboys is based around a power run game offensively and limiting the time the Dallas defense remains on the field. I think DeMarco Murray and the Dallas offensive line will be able to control the line of scrimmage and control the pace of the game. This should keep Chicago on their heels and help Dallas outlast Chicago. Plus, I imagine we will see an interception or two from Jay Cutler, which may be too much to overcome.
Sunday, 12/7 – 1:00 pm ET
Pittsburgh Steelers 7-5 @ Cincinnati Bengals 8-3-1
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
I’m picking Cincinnati because I see these teams splitting their matchups this season. With this one being in Cincinnati, I’ll take the Bengals in a tight one. Both teams have been up and down all season and have been near impossible to predict, but both have the ability to compete into the playoffs, if they can get there. Pittsburgh has had Cincinnati’s number for years and for that reason, I expect this to be a very close win for Cincinnati. Watch out for Pittsburgh though. If they get hot at the beginning, this will be a blowout in their favor. Look for Ben Roethlisberger to play well and for Le’Veon Bell to run wild. I just expect the Bengals to make enough big plays to win this one at the end.
St. Louis Rams 5-7 @ Washington Redskins 3-9
Prediction: St. Louis Rams
People are going to be talking about the Redskins problems heading into this week with the “is Robert Griffin III coming back to Washington” and “is Colt McCoy the answer”, but let’s take a moment to look at St. Louis. They are hot and dangerous. The Rams are young, talented and playing with a lot of confidence. I expect that to continue and for them to win this one on the road. St. Louis, if they can keep this up, has the makings of a playoff team next season. A strong finish leading into an offseason can make a huge difference.
New York Giants 3-9 @ Tennessee Titans 2-10
Prediction: New York Giants
Come on New York… The Giants had a 21-0 lead in the second quarter on the 1-10 Jaguars last week, but then ended up falling, 24-25. There really isn’t much to say, but this Giants team has some firepower offensively, but lacks the team talent to be consistent or… good. Now, New York travels to Tennessee to take on another reeling team with another rookie quarterback. The Giants should win this one. Tennessee’s defense can’t stop the stars for New York and their offense isn’t explosive enough to take advantage of the New York defense. The big killer for Big Blue is the turnovers with fumbles dooming them last week and Eli Manning’s five interceptions costing them a game against San Francisco a couple weeks ago. I’ll say they won’t turn the ball over and win this game.
Carolina Panthers 3-8-1 @ New Orleans Saints 5-7
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
Part of me wants to see the Panthers pull this out. I just want to see how bad the record of the NFC South winner can be. As a division, there is little to no defense and the offenses are inconsistent. New Orleans is the best of the bunch, despite currently being behind Atlanta in the divison standings, but Carolina could surprise and wouldn’t that just complicate things even further. As for this game, I think the Saints win this. Their offense appeared to turn a corner last week on the road in Pittsburgh, winning a hard-fought game. Carolina is playing terrible with no offense to speak off (maybe the “don’t target wide receivers” offseason strategy doesn’t work) and their defense, that was so solid a year ago, is nothing to brag about. Don’t rule out Carolina, because this is the sort of stuff that happens in the NFL, but New Orleans should win and win big.
New York Jets 2-10 @ Minnesota Vikings 5-7
Prediction: Minnesota Vikings
New York has been fighting over the past couple weeks, but I’m taking Minnesota. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater is playing better and the offense is starting to find a bit of a rhythm. The Minnesota defense has been pretty solid all season long, which expected given head coach Mike Zimmer’s track record. They can pressure the quarterback and force turnovers. The Jets struggle avoiding turnovers and their defense is still a bit of a “one-trick pony” as they play great rush defense (third in the NFL), but tend to give up yards in the passing game, despite ranking 13th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game. New York will work their run game, but I think Minnesota has enough to limit them and move the ball offensively.
Baltimore Ravens 7-5 @ Miami Dolphins 7-5
Prediction: Miami Dolphins
Baltimore lost a close one last week to San Diego, which could have huge playoff implications as we reach the final stretch. Now, they must travel to Miami to play a Dolphins team that has everyone on their heels. Miami uses an explosive run game and then maximizes Ryan Tannehill’s abilities through the air while relying on a top-notch defense. The defense is enough to contain the visiting Joe Flacco and company. Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan will make it hard to move the ball through the air while the Miami front-seven holds up to the Baltimore run game. Miami will need to be mistake-free, but if they take care of the ball and limit big-plays, particularly by Baltimore’s Justin Forsett, the Dolphins will get a huge win to further their playoff chances.
Indianapolis Colts 8-4 @ Cleveland Browns 7-5
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
This isn’t an easy pick. I love what the Colts do offensively, but Cleveland, playing at home, can be a hard team to move the ball on. I’ve been saying this for a couple weeks now, but the Browns are a solid defensive team. They have just recently began to show more of that talent, but they can continue to improve. The Colts will move the ball, but the Browns will stop the run game and force Andrew Luck to beat them. I personally believe Luck does, but it won’t be as easy for him as it has been in recent weeks. The Browns offensively have opted to roll with Brian Hoyer at quarterback instead of Mr. Johnny Manziel. I’m fine with it. I understand that Manziel has the higher ceiling and Hoyer has been average this season, but Cleveland is in a precarious situation. Roll with Hoyer and know that he earned a 7-5 record and wins over both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati? Or… take a chance on a rookie who has the ability to make some big plays, but may “sink the ship”, so to speak, with rookie mistakes? Despite the fanfare, Manziel isn’t a “Luck quality” rookie quarterback option. He may turn into one, but he isn’t a solid option at this point. If Cleveland loses this week though, they will likely have to play him as they will need a high-risk, high-reward option back there instead of Hoyer moving forward.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-10 @ Detroit Lions 8-4
Prediction: Detroit Lions
Tampa Bay threw together a valiant effort against Cincinnati last week, but feel short at the very end. Now, they travel to Detroit to play the Lions who remain in the thick of things among the top teams in the NFC playoff race. I expect Detroit to rely on their top defensive unit to suffocate the Buccaneers offense, particularly with their pass rush, and for the Lions to throw the ball as they wish through the Tampa Bay secondary. In past years, Detroit my have lost this game, but this year’s model is built on a defense and offensive model that should avoid the surprising letdowns to inferior opponents.
Houston Texans 6-6 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 2-10
Prediction: Houston Texans
I think this comes down to one big thing. Turnovers. Houston can force Jacksonville into them, with rookie quarterback Blake Bortles throwing 15 interceptions this season. Jacksonville needs to force turnovers of their own to win this one, but I think Houston will take care of the ball, run the ball with authority and J.J. Watt will cause problems for the Jacksonville offense.
Sunday, 12/7 – 4:05 pm ET
Buffalo Bills 7-5 @ Denver Broncos 9-3
Prediction: Denver Broncos
I like what Buffalo brings to the table and I think we can all agree that Denver has their problems, but I have to pick Denver here. Buffalo has the defense to limit Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense. Buffalo also has an offense that may not strike fear into opponents, but does have the playmakers to put up some points on Denver’s defense that has been struggling, despite a litany of playmakers. The matchups are there for Buffalo to give the Broncos a scare, but even at 7-5, a win for Buffalo at Denver would be an upset. I think the Broncos emphasize a running attack and then attack through the air, scoring enough to win this game. Buffalo just doesn’t have the firepower offensively, even though their defense will keep this game close.
Kansas City Chiefs 7-5 @ Arizona Cardinals 9-3
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals
Now Arizona should be concerned. The Cardinals burned me last week, falling to Atlanta, but I’m going right back to them this week and it’s because of the matchup. Don’t get me wrong, Kansas City is a quality team that could make some noise if they reach the playoffs, but their success is based on their ability to run the ball. Arizona and their defense is based around stopping the run and then getting good games out of cover corners Antonio Cromartie and Patrick Peterson. I think the cover guys will do their job and that the run defense will do theirs. Arizona still needs to figure out what it takes to get their offense moving again, but playing at home should help remedy that. I also think head coach Bruce Arians is still trying to figure out how to adjust the offense to Drew Stanton and that can take some time. I’ll take Arizona in this one. If they can stifle Kansas City’s offense, which I think they will, they can find enough offense of their own to win this one.
Sunday, 12/7 – 4:25 pm ET
Seattle Seahawks 8-4 @ Philadelphia Eagles 9-3
Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles
This one will be fun to watch. Seattle’s defense is looking better and better with each passing week and now they have to matchup with one of the hardest offenses to stop in Philadelphia. Let me be clear, this game is mostly centered around the environment for me. Seattle’s defense and Philadelphia’s offense, I think, are tremendously influenced by environment. If this game was in Seattle, I would take Seattle. Since this game is in Philadelphia, I’m taking the Eagles. Seattle traditionally excels at home, but struggles when they travel east. The Eagles offense can play well anywhere, but playing at home against a defense of Seattle’s caliber makes a huge difference on the outcome of this matchup. On the other side of the ball, if the Seahawks pound the ball on the ground, the Eagles will have trouble stopping them as the Seahawks would use up clock and control the game, keeping the Eagles off the field. If Seattle tries to turn this into a shootout, I’m liking the Eagles.
San Francisco 49ers 7-5 @ Oakland Raiders 1-11
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco can’t afford to lose to Oakland. I don’t see it happening, but have you been watching the NFL this season? Not totally out of the question. I’m taking the 49ers though in a big win.
Sunday, 12/7 – 8:30 pm ET
New England Patriots 9-3 @ San Diego Chargers 8-4
Prediction: New England Patriots
New England lost, on the road, in Lambeau Field, against the hottest team in the NFC last week. San Diego doesn’t present the same daunting task, so I like the Patriots to pull this out. The Chargers won’t be able to stop both the run and the pass. Their defense isn’t good enough and their offense won’t be able to keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands long enough. I’m taking New England.
Monday, 12/8 – 8:30 pm ET
Atlanta Falcons 5-7 @ Green Bay Packers 9-3
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
Atlanta… a notoriously bad road team has to travel to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in primetime to play against the Packers, who just beat, arguably the best team in the NFL a week ago? I’m taking Green Bay. This could be another 50+ points for the Packers offense.