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Sunday, May 20 2018

NFL Predictions 2006: Week 12

SportA little Thanksgiving triple header for your viewing pleasure.

Miami (4-6) @ Detroit (2-8): pick DET +3/under 40

All it took for the Dolphins to start playing like contenders was a 1-6 start and benching of their heralded free agent quarterback. Now the quiet signing of Joey Harrington is starting to look big as he makes his ominous return to the Motor City. Through six starts it is easier to blame the three losses on him than give credit for the three wins. However, after starting with 9 interceptions in four games he has just one the past two weeks and has yet to lose a fumble this season. In fact, he has only taken 7 sacks. Even if his QB rating has hovered from the mid 60's to 70's at least it is going up of late. The challenge will be to get the running game going again after Ronnie Brown was embarrassed by the Vikings just a few days ago. He nearly lost as many fumbles (1) as yards gained (2) on a dozen carries. Thank God the trainer pulled a groin injury out of the hat to save him a little face. Regardless of how Miami performs on offense their defense figures to keep them in the game. The stunning win in Chicago and last week's victory over Minnesota were both triggered by defensive play. Now the Dolphins have a chance to go 3-1 against the NFC North. Maybe that's all they needed to get straight, but sadly this is of course their final game against the division. Detroit is the worst of the bunch, and after flooring Atlanta 30-14 in one of the year's biggest upsets they have lost at home to a still weak San Francisco team and helped Arizona snap an 8 game losing streak last week. In the process their offense has stalled, scoring 23 points total. Kevin Jones is banged up and in the three game stretch ending with the win over the Falcons he was a big catalyst behind their success. Now it falls on Jon Kitna who has not had a turnover free game since opening day. For the year Kitna has turned it over 16 times and taken 33 sacks. If form holds he will probably be sacked at least three times and probably hand it over to the Dolphins twice. Right there you could have five drives stalled or stopped. I don't like either team offensively, but the momentum is clearly swinging towards Miami. Jason Taylor should keep their defense sharp and assuming Joey Harrington doesn't try to do too much he should do just enough to nose out a win.

Miami 19, Detroit 17

Tampa Bay (3-7) @ Dallas (6-4): pick DAL -11/under 39.5

This looked like a great one when the schedule came out, but the Bucs have been flat most of the year. Their defensive line has taken two hits recently with the trading away of McFarland and now Rice going on IR. Teams are no longer afraid to run right at them and I expect Dallas to do just that. Parcells might love his Romo, but he is smart enough to know that his duo can wear down just about any defense in the NFL. Jones and Barber have combined for 122.2 yards per game on 28.4 carries making them an effective tandem. With 302 touches and just one fumble lost between them it is easy to see why their numbers keep getting called. For Tampa Bay, Cadillac finally came out of the garage last week (as I predicted he would) with 27 carries for 122 yards. His total yards (156) nearly matched his previous three games against the Giants, Saints and Panthers. The bad news is that he won't be facing a weak Redskin defense at home this time around. The Bucs are a tired team with nothing to play for. This begins a stretch with four out of five on the road and I would not be terribly surprised if they fail to win any of their remaining games. Gradkowski will get an opportunity to steal the quarterback job from Chris Simms and Gruden can figure out his future. Other than that, Tampa Bay is heading into the toilet less than a year after hosting a playoff game as NFC South champs.

Dallas 26, Tampa Bay 6

Denver (7-3) @ Kansas City (6-4): pick DEN +1.5/over 37.5

This is being billed as big one in the AFC West and the records certainly support that. I for one believe the Broncos are a much better team overall and need to win this game to avoid falling back into the pack of muddled contenders. Certainly one has to wonder if Denver will be emotionally prepared to play after blowing a 24-7 lead to San Diego and in the process giving away the division lead. Meanwhile the Chiefs looked like they were sleeping against the Raiders, barely able to pull out a 17-13 win on this field last week. Perhaps they were looking ahead and it is tough to blame them faced with a short week of preparation. Thus far Kansas City has won with offense and defense, but rarely on the same day. Six of their ten games have been decided by a touchdown or less including four of their last five. The big issue right now is scoring. Miami and Oakland both shut them down, limiting the scoring to 27 points total. Trent Green had a very uneventful return to action with 9/16 passing for 102 yards against a pretty good defense. Now he gets a great one that is going to key directly on Larry Johnson. With Tony Gonzalez playing hurt I have to wonder where he will direct his passes. Champ Bailey can lock down Eddie Kennison one on one, leaving Samie Parker as the main threat. Denver should be creeping up to the line with plenty of guys capable of at least containing Larry Johnson. If he can't carry the Chiefs I don't believe they can win. For the Broncos the issue is two-fold. First they need to regain their defensive confidence, which shouldn't be too difficult. Only the Colts and Chargers have done much against them this entire season and both of them are killing the entire league. Second and most importantly they have to find a lead rusher capable of wearing down the defense. This is crucial given the fragile confidence of Jake Plummer. Last week Mike Bell answered the call with 20 carries for 90 yards, chipping in another 17 receiving. He also scored twice, but is banged up. So is Tatum Bell. That leaves Damien Nash getting far too many carries. The alternative is cutting Plummer loose. In 2006 he has yet to really take over a game. His two best efforts were against the Patriots and Steelers, throwing for a combined 483 yards with 5 touchdowns and no turnovers. The other eight games produced just 5 touchdowns, 13 turnovers and a paltry 161.9 yards passing on average. It might be time for him to step up, and with Javon Walker running routes under the lights this seems like just the right time. I expect a tight fisted game that is maybe lower scorin than what fans have grown accustomed to. In the end Denver is still more talented and won't allow a little home field disadvantage spoil their fun.

Denver 24, Kansas City 21

Arizona (2-8) @ Minnesota (4-6): pick MIN -6/under 39

 

Denny Greenís return to the Metrodome is overshadowed by questions that his job is in jeopardy. Thatís because a win to open the year and last weekís 17-10 victory served as bookends for an eight game skid. The losses canít really be hung on rookie Matt Leinart either. In his six starts he has turned it over a reasonable 7 times while taking 14 sacks. He has also thrown for at least 200 yards or more five times. However, the offensive line still canít block and Edgerrin James is getting his bell rung on a regular basis. Enter the #1 stifling run defense of the Vikings and you might see Leinart throw the ball 60 times. Still, even with that part of their team dominating play Minnesota has found a way to lose four games in a row, the past three by six points or less. This is definitely their season on the line and with it the future of Brad Johnson due to his poor play. In 10 games he has yet to throw for multiple touchdowns, has only three games with 250 yards and a season high of 267. Mix in 14 turnovers and the recent losing streak and fans are calling for the flashy rookie Tarvaris Jackson. That can wait for now because he should be able to hand off to Chester Taylor and let the secondary choose their spots to intercept Matt Leinart.

 

Minnesota 24, Arizona 10

 

Carolina (6-4) @ Washington (3-7): pick CAR -4/under 36

 

The Panthers are starting their typical late season charge while the Redskins are content to find out if their young quarterback Jason Campbell is the real deal. He certainly showed poise in Tampa Bay last week against a good defense, throwing two touchdown passes without a turnover in 34 throws and was stuck with just one sack. This is a better, hungrier team he is facing though. Since a bye week to absorb their crushing 35-14 loss to Dallas they have given up 10 points in two wins. Every road trip has been tight for Carolina, who has won or lost by no more than 3 points while going 2-2. Erratic Washington lost to a bad Tennessee team and then upended Dallas in their last two home contests. On offense it will be difficult to run Ladell Betts at Carolina and hope it carries them. At some point Campbell will be challenged, and weíll see if he is up to it. Quietly, the Panthers are struggling on offense themselves. Three of their last four games have produced 15 points or less and six overall with a high of 26. This could be their breakout game and they need to start wearing teams out on the ground. Rookie DeAngelo Williams finally cut loose last week with 20 carries and 114 yards. He should help them stay balanced while Keyshawn keeps the chains moving and Smith makes the big plays.

 

Carolina 20, Washington 10

 

Cincinnati (5-5) @ Cleveland (3-7): pick CIN -3/under 43

 

The battle of Ohio went to the Bengals in week 2 by a 34-17 count, rolling up 481 yards of offense in the process. Cleveland is out of contention, but has gone 3-4 since that loss helped them start 0-3. It was also their only defeat by more than 10 points all year, proving that despite a poor record there is progress under Romeo Crennel. On the other side of the state Marvin Lewis has been struggling to keep his players out of trouble so they can defend their AFC North title. Last weekís 31-16 walkover of New Orleans snapped a string of five games decided by 8 points or less. Four of them were losses including a painful blown lead against San Diego. Regardless, the offense came back to life in these past two games and Rudi Johnson joined the fun with 111 yards on 27 carries in their last win. Every game has been a struggle for them so I expect this rivalry contest to be just that. In the end, the Bengals have too much offense and a pretty upset defense. Charlie Frye is having a very unspectacular season with 18 turnovers against only 9 touchdowns and an average of 195.9 yards passing. The running game is no help either, mustering 83 yards per game good for #30 in the NFL. This is just what a beat up Cincinnati defense needs, an offense they can handle.

 

Cincinnati 24, Cleveland 17

 

Houston (3-7) @ NY Jets (5-5): pick NYJ -4.5/under 40

 

These teams are similar in a few ways. Both have struggling quarterbacks who might be benched before the season is over and neither has a notable feature back to speak of. David Carr hasnít thrown a touchdown pass for Houston in four consecutive games. He had the Texans in position to beat Buffalo last week before Losman led them to a game winning touchdown late. For Pennington, the season has been all downhill since the opening two weeks. After that he has a high of 207 yards and average of 157.9 per game with only six touchdowns against 11 turnovers in eight games. Even stumbling through the season, the time is now for New York to get on a roll. Their last six opponents are 4-6 or worse. Defensively they have shown signs of being able to do it, holding New England (14) and Chicago (10) in check the past two weeks. Still this is the NFLís #29 ranked defense overall and #29 against the run. I think that when the game works it way to the ground Houston wonít be able to beat them with Wali Lundy leading the charge. New York isnít exactly loaded in the backfield either, but they do have multiple options with Barlow, Washington and Houston. They have used that group to stay in the middle of the pack for rushing offenses at #15. Mix in home field, playoff aspirations and superior coaching to produce a grinded out win.

 

NY Jets 20, Houston 12 

 

Jacksonville (6-4) @ Buffalo (4-6): pick JAX -3/under 35

 

The Jaguars are actually a pretty good road team in inclement weather so there wonít be that big of a home field advantage for the Bills. As they start a stretch with four of five at home, Buffalo tries to gain some momentum towards 2007. After coming dangerously close to beating Indianapolis two weeks ago they passed by Houston 24-21 last week thanks to 265 yards receiving out of Lee Evans. To put that into perspective, the Bills are averaging 158.8 yards total per game this season and Evans had 205 in the first quarter. Was it enough to wake up their offense? Probably not, and rushing Willis McGahee back into the lineup could be a mistake if in fact he plays. The Jaguars have a stifling defense that has been pretty much on fire for seven weeks other than a 27-7 loss in Houston. Throwing that game out Jacksonville has allowed an average of 6.0 points per game over that span. Losing their safety Darius will hurt, but I expect them to rally this week in his honor, especially given the circumstances surrounding his injury. Garrard should be back to his conservative play at quarterback while the backfield has a good chance to beat a soft Buffalo front line. It wonít be pretty, but late season games in cold weather rarely are.

 

Jacksonville 17, Buffalo 13

 

New Orleans (6-4) @ Atlanta (5-5): pick ATL -3/over 47.5

 

The Saints are beginning to grip under the pressure of being a playoff contender. The good news is that their 1-3 record in the past month of games produced losses to the AFC North, keeping their tiebreakers in their favor. With Carolina playing well again this is a pivotal game in the division race. The Falcons have been terribly inconsistent, but can erase the sting of three consecutive losses with a victory here and find themselves right back in the mix. First they need to get the offense going. Scoring 14, 13 and 10 points as they have the past three weeks wonít get it done. They still possess the top running game in the NFL proving that statistics donít win football games. Their secondary has been beaten on a regular basis, bad news against the top ranked passing game in the NFL. Brees has averaged a stout 311.4 yards per game while setting a pace for 27 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards. Flashy rookie Marques Colston might not be healthy enough to play, but they still have Horn and Henderson not to mention the backfield of McAllister and Bush. Atlanta has to hope the return of Abraham at defensive end really sparks their defense. Clearly their strategy will be to keep Brees and company on the sidelines with a consistent running game. Despite their poor recent play, Atlanta is glad to be back at home after spending three of the past four weeks on the road. Meanwhile New Orleans is playing their third road game in four weeks and might be showing the effects on defense after allowing 38 and 31 the past two weeks. Vick is due for a big game and Brees is due to cool down.

 

Atlanta 27, New Orleans 23

 

Pittsburgh (4-6) @ Baltimore (8-2): pick BAL -3/under 39.5

 

It isnít January but it might as well be for the Steelers. If they want to defend their title this is a pivotal turning point. A win could leave them at 7-6 heading into the final stretch given that home games against Tampa Bay and Cleveland are on deck. The flip side of that coin is that the Ravens can assure the rematch on Christmas Eve at Heinz Field is meaningless by winning this game and then clinch the division with a road win over Cincinnati next week. Yep, the Ravens are two wins from wrapping up the AFC North before December hits. Offensively they have shown a steady production under veteran Steve McNairís leadership. Five weeks in a row they have scored at least 21 points, notable only because of their ability to hold teams down on defense. Pittsburgh has also gotten untracked on offense scoring 20, 38 and 24 the past three weeks. Roethlisberger has averaged 317.5 yards passing the last four weeks and thrown 5 touchdown passes during their current two game winning streak. The concern is turnovers. He has 18 on the season including 10 over the last month of games. Baltimore is ready to force the key mistake. As good as Pittsburgh made us think they were during the playoff run in January, they are not that good anymore. The Ravens realize how important this game is and wonít let it slip away on their home field. It isnít over yet for Pittsburgh, but they will have to run the table when they lose this one.

 

Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 16

 

San Francisco (5-5) @ St. Louis (4-6): pick SF +5.5/over 44

 

In week 2 it was a bit of a stunner when the 49ers beat the Rams 20-13. Now they are looking down at their long time rivals in the standings and even muttering the word playoffs after winning three in a row. Something got into their defense after allowing 89 points in a span of six quarters, finding themselves down 41-0 in Chicago. Since then, three and a half games have seen them give up just 30 points total. The Rams are known for scoring big, but are coming off a shutout loss in Carolina and have just two games with more than 24 points scored all season. Success on the ground should be the key to the game. Frank Gore faces a St. Louis team allowing 153.2 yards per game (#31 in the NFL) which could take pressure off of Alex Smith. Steven Jackson will be more of a dual threat attacking the 49ers who will see if they can keep up their recent defensive success. If not, the onus rests on the slumping Bulger at quarterback. He has just one touchdown over his last three starts and is coming off weeks with 215 and 142 yards passing despite throwing a total of 74 times in those games. I expect some of what the Rams have experienced lately is rugged competition during their five consecutive losses. Twice they were stung by last second field goals against division leading Seattle. San Diego and Kansas City are both top 10 teams while Carolina is looking like a team making a playoff run. All of those opponents are better than San Francisco. It is easy to look at momentum swinging for the 49ers, but Bulger leads a more capable offense than the three shut down by the 49ers in recent weeks. Thatís the difference.

 

St. Louis 28, San Francisco 24

 

Chicago (9-1) @ New England (7-3): pick NE -3.5/under 37.5

 

This is a far cry from the Super Bowl put on two decades ago, but nevertheless pits two contenders to win it all. The Bears won with offense and then defense in consecutive victories over the New York teams to start this east coast swing. Now they close it out against a Patriot team also coming off a shutout victory. New England probably needs this game more given that a loss would likely send them towards no better than a #4 seed in the playoffs and could spark life into the Jets chasing them for the division title. The Bears are a few games up on the rest of the NFC and will be heavily favored in their final five games, all against teams with losing records. It is going to be a battle of wills to be sure. Brady is facing the NFLís best defense hoping he can get big plays out of his no-name receivers. Maroney and Dillon will find tough sledding on the ground. On the other side Grossman is in big trouble against New Englandís defensive scheme. If he thinks it was tough last week against the Jets (11/22 for 119 yards) that will be nothing compared to what he feels this week. The punters will be busy on both sides, but the Patriots are going to win. They need it more and face a tired Bears team ready to get their road trip over with.

 

New England 16, Chicago 10

 

Oakland (2-8) @ San Diego (8-2): pick SD -13/under 43.5

 

Tomlinson is on one of the most historic runs in NFL history. Now he faces the team he logged a still season high 31 carries against on opening day to start what should go down as a record breaking season. Six weeks in a row LT has picked up at least 135 total yards and scored at least 1 touchdown, totaling 19 over that span. The Raiders have been playing extremely well on defense after allowing 27, 28, 24 and 34 points to open the season 0-4. After that their average points allowed has been a very respectable 14.2 points per game. Enter the NFLís most prolific scoring offense and trouble might ensue. In their current four game winning streak San Diego has averaged a healthy 38.5 points scored, saving their defense that has given up 29.3 over that same span. Oakland doesnít seem to have the offensive firepower to hurt them though. Their last six games have produced just 3 offensive touchdowns total. The offensive line has been shuffled around due to injuries all year and even if Aaron Brooks provided a little spark at quarterback last week in Kansas City they are far from potent. This isnít really a matter of how, but rather by how many. Schottenheimer hates the Raiders and wants to rub it in. He will have the opportunity to do just that.

 

San Diego 26, Oakland 6

 

NY Giants (6-4) @ Tennessee (3-7): pick NYG -3/over 44

 

New York is in trouble, and if they want to stay in the playoff hunt for retiring Tiki Barber they better not sleep on the Titans. Tennessee had the Ravens on the ropes two weeks ago and is coming off a rousing 31-13 victory in Philadelphia, taking advantage of McNabb being sidelined. Quietly they are 3-2 after scaring Indianapolis before succumbing 14-13 to open the season with five losses. Rookie Vince Young has yet to really have a breakout game and this could be his opportunity against a Giants team missing a few pieces on the defensive line. His legs could prove deadly if the linebackers donít keep him in check. Resurgent Travis Henry is another weapon capable of giving New York fits. He is coming off two weeks where he has run 45 times for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns. The next question is how long Eli Manning can continue to slump, and if playing in the city where his older brother dominated in college will wake him up. Last weekís 230 yards passing snapped a string of five games where he failed to break 190 but he hasnít been sharp since an October 8 win over Washington. This defense might be just what the doctor ordered. They allow yards left and right. Tiki Barber should be the catalyst after his poor showing last week in Jacksonville against a tough defense. He might need to have his number called more than 20 times on the ground though, just to protect Manningís confidence. Overall this is going to be a tough game, but the Giants should come out fired up and pull it off.

 

NY Giants 27, Tennessee 23

 

Philadelphia (5-5) @ Indianapolis (9-1): pick IND -8.5/under 44

 

The flexible schedule has been a great success so far, but NBC probably wishes they could bail out on this one after Donovan McNabb went out with a season ending injury last week. Now it will be Jeff Garcia trying to save the season for the Eagles. The outlook is not so good considering that this starts a stretch with four out of five on the road including three straight against their division rivals after they host Carolina next week. A once promising 4-1 start to 2006 could easily spiral into double digits in losses. The only issue for the Colts is overlooking a wounded Eagles team. Their string of narrow wins in search of an unbeaten season finally produced a loss last week in Dallas. Even before that they had narrow wins over less than stellar teams in Tennessee and Buffalo by one point each. They donít want to give Philadelphia life. One interesting aspect will be how Andy Reid approaches the play calling. His quarterback is hurt and he is facing the NFLís worst run defense. Westbrook is coming off consecutive games with 22 carries and not surprisingly over 100 yards rushing. He has also gone past 100 total yards in four straight games after shaking off injuries earlier this year. If he can keep Manning on the sidelines it could be interesting. However, the Colts are too dangerous on offense and can run right at this defense successfully with Addai and Rhodes. Their goal will be to take Philadelphia out of it early. Whether or not they succeed remains to be seen, but they will win one way or another.

 

Indianapolis 23, Philadelphia 13

 

Green Bay (4-6) @ Seattle (6-4): pick SEA -8.5/over 44

 

Storylines abound with Holmgren facing the first team he took to the Super Bowl and Favre facing his former understudy Hasselbeck in his return to action. It wasnít too long ago that the brash Hasselbeck predicted victory in a playoff game against these Packers in Lambeau, only to throw the losing ďpick sixĒ.  Now he can ostensibly end their season despite the fact that Green Bay faces only one more team with a winning record the rest of the way. Also in play is the health of Favre who was knocked out last week only to watch his new understudy Aaron Rodgers suffer a season ending injury. All of this is secondary to the matter at hand. Seattle is desperate to get back on track behind reigning MVP Shaun Alexander. The loss last week in San Francisco left doubts about their dominance in the NFC West, trimming their lead to a single game. They need to get out of the rut of being a mediocre team one year after dominating their conference in convincing fashion. If the Patriots can trash Green Bay 35-0 I donít think the Seahawks will have too much trouble with them. Favre is magical at times on MNF, but he wonít have enough here.

 

Seattle 28, Green Bay 17

 

 

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