I was 11-5 last week with my picks, only missing on Pittsburgh, Carolina, Baltimore, Seattle and Oakland.
– Pittsburgh always seems to have the Bengals number. That’s the team you expect to see week-in and week-out, but they still lack consistency. Look out for their matchup in Week 17 at Pittsburgh. Will likely be huge for the playoff picture and Cincinnati still has talent even if Andy Dalton appears to be their kryptonite at times.
– I don’t even know what has happened to the Saints this season. Carolina looked great last week in New Orleans. The Saints are normally so good at home, but are only 3-4 there this season. I’ll take a little pride in saying Carolina had the ability to shock the world and take down the Saints in last week’s predictions.
– Baltimore is the most consistent of the AFC North teams. Miami is still dangerous, but that’s a huge win for the Ravens.
– Seattle is returning to form and a hard-fought win in Philly demonstrates that they are a dangerous playoff team, assuming they make it.
– Oakland beat San Francisco. Well… what are you going to do?
No byes this week. The gif this week is from the Jets and Vikings game. You see these sorts of catches from time to time and each time it is amazing when you think about how many things needed to happen just right for this to occur.
Thursday, 12/11 – 8:25 pm ET
Arizona Cardinals 10-3 @ St. Louis Rams 6-7
Prediction: St. Louis Rams
The Rams are hot right now. Their defense is playing well and their offense has found a rhythm that we didn’t see in the first half of the season. Now, Arizona’s talent is certainly worth mentioning as the Cardinals are a team that has dealt with injury after injury and still sits at 10-3, but I think the Rams will win this one. A short week is hard for the road team, in most cases, and with the Rams playing like they are, I expect this to come down to the Rams ability to keep the Cardinals out of the endzone and pick away at the Cardinals defense offensively. The Cardinals have seemingly “found a way” this season, but the Rams have beaten both the 49ers and the Seahawks this season. I think the Cardinals are added to their list this week.
Sunday, 12/14 – 1:00 pm ET
Pittsburgh Steelers 8-5 @ Atlanta Falcons 5-8
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons
Looking on paper, you have to like the Steelers. They have Le’Veon Bell playing out of his mind and the passing attack in Pittsburgh is formidable in it’s own right with rookie Martavis Bryant complimenting star Antonio Brown and providing another big-play threat. The Steelers defense isn’t what it has been in recent years, but it isn’t bad enough to doom the Steelers. All that said, there is something weird about Pittsburgh this season as they are terribly inconsistent. After beating Cincinnati on the road last week, I think the Steelers could struggle with Atlanta, particularly if Julio Jones plays for the Falcons. The Falcons can’t stop the run and they can’t stop the pass, but their offense can put up points and at home, I believe that could be the difference this week. Atlanta leads the way in the NFC South, on the cusp of a playoff berth, and I think they will pull off a close win against a superior team this week.
Washington Redskins 3-10 @ New York Giants 4-9
Prediction: New York Giants
Robert Griffin III is back for the Redskins – if Colt McCoy isn’t cleared to play after suffering a neck sprain last week – so let the conversation pick up again about his issues, and vice versa, with head coach Jay Gruden. While that takes place, I’m taking the Giants. This certainly isn’t a gimme pick, as this will likely be very close, but I think Odell Beckham Jr. is becoming incredibly dangerous for the Giants, which dramatically improves New York’s offense. The Giants win in a close one and more talk about Griffin and Gruden will quickly follow, even if McCoy suits up.
Miami Dolphins 7-6 @ New England Patriots 10-3
Prediction: New England Patriots
The Dolphins are a very dangerous team, making this a close one to call. Miami has a defense that has already terrorized the Patriots once before this season and their offense based around a solid run game and opportunistic passing makes them a tough opponent each week. That said, this game comes down to the Patriots. This is a home game in December for them, which are the types of games they hardly ever lose and the last time these teams played, in Week 1, was around the time the media was questioning if Tom Brady should be sitting the bench. My point is, it was a very, very long time ago before the Patriots found their groove offensively and before their defense began to click. The Patriots should win this one behind, what I would imagine, will be a run-focused attack. The Dolphins will struggle to move the ball offensively, but may have just enough defense to keep this close. I’m taking the Patriots though. Things fall their way at home this late in the season.
Oakland Raiders 2-11 @ Kansas City Chiefs 7-6
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs
Kudos to the Raiders for earning a couple wins as the season comes to an end and against the likes of the Chiefs and the 49ers, no less. That said, I’m not picking the upset this week in Kansas City. The Chiefs are still in the playoff picture and playing in one of the most hostile environments in the NFL. The Kansas City defense and the crowd will disrupt rookie quarterback Derek Carr and the Chiefs offense will move the ball. Divisional games are traditionally close than other matchups, but I like the Chiefs to win. They learned a lot from their earlier loss to the Raiders and I expect their adjustments to pay huge dividends.
Houston Texans 7-6 @ Indianapolis Colts 9-4
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
Houston’s defense has been carrying their team for most of the season, but now the offense seems to be carrying their own weight in the past couple weeks. Those games were against the Titans and the Jaguars, but still… there’s more offense in Houston right now. The Colts are coming off a close win in Cleveland, which was what I thought would happen, so I’m not too concerned about the Colts momentum moving forward. Instead, I like the Colts to get back on track offensively and for their defense to force the Texans into a couple turnovers. Andrew Luck will likely giveaway a couple of his own, but I like the Colts to win this one at home.
Cincinnati Bengals 8-4-1 @ Cleveland Browns 7-6
Prediction: Cincinnati Bengals
This is a hard one to pick. I thought, heading into the season, that Cleveland would steal a game from each of their two divisional clashes with Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati this season. I thought Cincinnati’s fall-up would be this week, in Cleveland, because as we saw last week, even teams like Indianapolis can run into the occasional buzzsaw that is Cleveland’s defense playing up to their skill level, particularly at home. Now, Cincinnati is coming off a home loss to the Steelers and Cleveland is going with more razzle-dazzle and starting rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. So, what are we getting from a Bengals team that has a gauntlet of games to finish the season and what are we getting from the polarizing Manziel in his first start? I think the Bengals win a close one. The Manziel vs. Brian Hoyer pick was easy for the Browns. They need something electric to keep them in the AFC North race. Being safe with Hoyer wasn’t going to surpass Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and/or Baltimore. As you know, I’m not crazy about Manziel’s career prospects, but he will have his moments, starting this week, that will keep him in the media for weeks to come. Expect the Browns to run the ball often, use a lot of read-options and then set up easy passes for Manziel. That will be enough to win, but I think rookie mistakes will undermine Cleveland this week. The Bengals defense has been bad, and isn’t going to get much better, but they can take advantage of rookie mistakes. This could be sacks, interceptions, fumbles and other instances of “trying to make too much happen”. Manziel will have his moments, but it may not be enough. The Bengals will try to run the ball and, once again, take the ball out of Andy Dalton’s hands until they need to with A.J. Green likely being quiet with Joe Haden matched up on him. I’ll call one or two plays where Manziel buys time in the pocket, throws a jump ball deep to Josh Gordon and it works. As a bonus, I’ll call that those plays will haunt your dreams for weeks to come if you are tired of hearing about Manziel already because those will be discussed and shown on every news outlet next week.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2-11 @ Baltimore Ravens 8-5
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens
I wrote a lot for the Browns and Bengals game above, so I’ll keep this brief. The Ravens will win. They are at home. They need to win for their playoff chances and they are the most consistent of the AFC North teams. The Jaguars will likely get down early and claw back making it close, but not having enough to pull off the upset.
Green Bay Packers 10-3 @ Buffalo Bills 7-6
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
Buffalo’s defense is still underrated in the NFL and they should be able to limit Aaron Rodgers and company to a point, but nobody outright stops the Packers. So, an explosive offense is necessary to have a chance against Green Bay. Buffalo doesn’t have that. They will have cheeseheads on the edge of their seats into the fourth quarter, but Green Bay will win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-11 @ Carolina Panthers 4-8-1
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina smacked the Saints in New Orleans last week and still remains in the playoff hunt, but now Cam Newton is likely out of this game after begin involved in a two-car accident earlier this week. Luckily Newton is going to be okay, but he probably isn’t suiting up for this one. Even if he was, there are no guarantees in the NFC South this season. I think the Buccaneers pull off an upset in this one, on the road. Look for rookie receiver Mike Evans to remain unstoppable for the Bucs.
Sunday, 12/14 – 4:05 pm ET
New York Jets 2-11 @ Tennessee Titans 2-11
Prediction: Tennessee Titans
This game could be painful to watch if you aren’t a fan of these teams. Geno Smith is playing out the season for the Jets and the Titans have turned back to Jake Locker with rookie Zach Mettenberger’s season coming to an end due to a shoulder injury. Both Locker and Smith have accuracy issues, but I would rather have Locker. The Jets still can’t stop the ball through the air, not that the Titans are much better, but I think Locker will come out firing. If injuries hadn’t derailed his season, Locker would likely still be starting and now with him healthy, we should get to see some of development we expected to see this season. I’ll take the Titans behind Locker. Look for Smith to giveaway a turnover or two that swings the game in favor of the Titans.
Denver Broncos 10-3 @ San Diego Chargers 8-5
Prediction: San Diego Chargers
Denver is too easy to pick when making these predictions. They have an underperforming defense (that you always feel will figure it out), but an offense that has become more run-focused, which doesn’t put as much pressure on Peyton Manning and the passing game. The shift is great for the playoff prospects of the Broncos, but I don’t think it will be enough this week against the Chargers. San Diego has their back against the wall after a close loss to the Patriots last week. San Diego has given Manning trouble in the past and I think Manning will struggle again this week in front of the San Diego crowd. Philip Rivers will play well for the Chargers and the AFC playoff race will become even more complicated. It’s an upset, but the Chargers are known to finish strong and divisional games between good teams are anything, but clear-cut. I’m taking the Chargers.
Sunday, 12/14 – 4:25 pm ET
Minnesota Vikings 6-7 @ Detroit Lions 9-4
Prediction: Detroit Lions
Rookie Teddy Bridgewater is coming into his own as the season progresses, but Detroit presents a steep challenge. The Lions defense excels at stopping the run, which will force Bridgewater to beat them. On the other side of the ball, the Lions offense has brought Calvin Johnson back into the fold after his struggles with injuries and now the Detroit offense is very balanced and hard to stop. Minnesota’s defense has played well this season, but Johnson is too much. This Detroit team is as balanced as ever on both sides of the ball and I expect that to be the difference against a young Vikings team.
San Francisco 49ers 7-6 @ Seattle Seahawks 9-4
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
I’ve said for a couple years now that I never felt I could trust Colin Kaepernick to lead a team and now, we are beginning to see it as the talent around him begins to fall away. Traveling to Seattle won’t do anything to remedy that as the Seahawks are playing more and more like the Super Bowl Champions from a year ago. Playing in Seattle is the real kicker here for the 49ers. I’m taking the Seahawks.
Sunday, 12/14 – 8:30 pm ET
Dallas Cowboys 9-4 @ Philadelphia Eagles 9-4
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
The Philadelphia offense is explosive and this same pick burned my on Thanksgiving day, but hear me out. Dallas can’t stop the Eagles with their defense. The Cowboys just don’t possess the talent to matchup, like most of the NFL. The only way Dallas can stop the Philly offense is to limit their touches by running the ball and controlling the clock. That was the recipe I thought they would use in the first matchup of these teams, but it didn’t happen. Now, with the tape from their last matchup to refer to, I expect the Cowboys to make the changes to control the time of possession, which means a lot of DeMarco Murray. Dallas also happens to be a perfect 6-0 on the road and I like how Tony Romo has been playing this season at quarterback. Murray will carry the Cowboys, but Romo will win the game.
Monday, 12/15 – 8:30 pm ET
New Orleans Saints 5-8 @ Chicago Bears 5-8
Prediction: Chicago Bears
Let’s call this the “Could Have Been Bowl”. Two teams, loaded with talent and yet both undeserving of playoff consideration. Lucky for the Saints, they play in the worst division in the league where none of the teams really warrant a playoff berth, meaning the Saints still, somehow, have a chance. All this said, one of these teams needs to win this one. I’m taking Chicago, despite the points I expect the Saints to put up. Look for Jay Cutler to play well and win this game as the Chicago defense does everything in their power to let this turn into a shootout.