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Wednesday, August 15 2018

NFL Predictions 2013: Week 14



In a couple paragraphs I will outline how my seemingly horrific (vs. Vegas) week wasn’t so much a matter of bad picks as it was coming close without the results. More on that later, but first let’s look at the results. I was 12-4 straight up (123-68-1 overall) and stand in the 20 spot on the big board of media pickers. The high mark is 131 shared by two humans. The computers are 129 and 127.


Against the spread I went 6-9-1 (87-100-4 overall) and things are getting desperate. Then again I did have a 19-3 playoff season against Vegas a couple years back so there’s that to look forward to possibly happening again. I was 5-10-1 on the over/under (102-89-3 overall) and all of this means I’m dead even, which sucks.



Now, let’s look at a few misses. I picked Denver over Kansas City 28-24. They won 35-28, but I lost against the spread. I had San Francisco 23-20 and they beat St. Louis 23-13, another loss against the spread. The most frustrating for me was picking Philadelphia 27-23 and having to settle for a push against the spread when they won 24-21. Of course, I also had Chicago 28-27 and they lost 23-20 in OT after some missed field goal shenanigans.


Was it awful that I picked Dallas 27-17 over Oakland? They won 31-24 basically because there was no camera angle on a “fumble” and ultimately that gave 7 points to Oakland. Or should I say 10 because there’s no way they kick a field goal down 31-14 late. I lost both Vegas “bets” on that one. I lost the over/under on Carolina beating Tampa Bay 27-6 because I called it 27-17. Likewise I lost the over/under on Baltimore winning 22-20 when I called the game 20-19. In other words, calling a game pretty close to the actual outcome means nothing.


Houston (2-10) @ Jacksonville (3-9): The Texans haven’t won in a really, really long time. It looked like they were set up to roll over these guys in the first meeting and in fact I predicted them to do it. Instead, the Jags beat them 13-6 in their building and now look for the season sweep. Case Keenum had a quiet game throwing for just 169 yards, and probably more importantly Ben Tate wasn’t running the ball. The visitors were. Maurice Jones-Drew and Jordan Todman combined for 115 yards on 25 carries to pace the win.


I suppose I can point out that head coach Gary Kubiak was calling the action from the press box as another reason for Houston to be better in the rematch. All things being equal I totally think they can win this game. All things aren’t equal. They are traveling on a short week having just spent a ton of energy trying to shock the Patriots. They come in pretty worn out, staring at a schedule with three road games and a visit from Denver. I hate to say it, but they have the top overall pick squarely in their sights at this point.


For Jacksonville, they are a little tired too having just spent three of the past four weeks on the road following their bye week. They won all of those games though, and if you’re good at math like I know you are it’s easy to figure out those are their only wins on the season. What does this mean? Yep, no wins at home. This is TNF and players care. Next up for them are home visits from losing teams (Buffalo, Tennessee) before a trip to Indianapolis. It’s not unrealistic for this team to finish 6-10 after their horrific 0-8 start.


I like what the Jaguars are doing on offense in two of their last four games (29, 32) but obviously not in the first meeting with the Texans. However, that’s the only team they have really shut down defensively. I think this is an offensive game. Guys are tired on both sides and really don’t want to tackle too much. There’s going to be successful running games and that will open up the passing games. I see a lot of points. It could go either way, but I like momentum, home field and the more experienced quarterback to win out: Jacksonville 23, Houston 21 (JAX +3/over 43)


Indianapolis (8-4) @ Cincinnati (8-4): Two pretty good teams here and both appear to be heading for division titles. It’s a little more critical for the Bengals to win here because they are only up two and still have to deal with their nearest chaser, the Ravens. The Colts are three up plus a tiebreaker having swept the second place Titans. A magic number of 1 leaves them very little pressure here, especially with the Texans visiting them next week with an interim head coach.


I know Indy wants to win this game and return to the form they seem to have left prior to their bye week. Their 5-2 start to the season featured wins over Seattle, who no other team has beaten, as well as AFC favorite Denver plus a road win at San Francisco in convincing fashion. Since then, albeit facing three road games, they are just 3-2 including two losses by a combined 59 points. Division champions aren’t supposed to be blowout losers. The wins are over Tennessee (twice) and Houston with all of those contests close.


Cincinnati came out of their bye week and pulled out a win in California, beating the Chargers 17-10. They want to get this win in the books ahead of next week’s dangerous visit to the Steelers. I don’t see them letting this lead slip away entirely because they get the Vikings at home in Week 16 before hosting the Ravens to close the season, but I sense this is one they will feel they have to get and the effort level will show.


The Colts just can’t run the ball right now, and the Bengals are awesome defending the pass. It’s really that simple. Cincinnati is going to rush Andrew Luck something fierce and leave him nowhere to go with the football since obviously Reggie Wayne took the passing game with him when he was lost to injury. It’s no contest for me. There is no path to victory I see for the visitors in these icy elements. I’m only concerned with the final margin.


At home Cincinnati has put up huge totals the past two contests, winning 49-9 and 41-20, while earlier in the year posting a 34-30 result. I can see them getting over 30 here against Indianapolis who has given up 33-plus three times in their past six games. I don’t feel like Indy can keep up with that kind of scoring, so I have to call for a relatively easy victory even though it rarely happens in the NFL: Cincinnati 31, Indianapolis 17 (CIN -6/over 42.5)


Cleveland (4-8) @ New England (9-3): Looking at this matchup it’s hilarious to look back at the last meeting in 2010 to see the Browns beat the Patriots 34-14 with Colt McCoy at quarterback and Peyton Hillis running the ball. I’m sure Bill Belichick would prefer not to let his former team do that to him again with a similarly weak backfield. I don’t know who will start at quarterback for the visitors and who they expect to get the ball at running back, but I do know Josh Gordon is going to be battling Aqib Talib all day. I also know the Pats are soft on defense. It won’t matter too much here.


It’s getting to the time when New England needs to put a bad team down early and keep them down. They let weak teams hang around them far too often. This is a nicely put together defense Tom Brady is facing, but he has his skill players pretty healthy around him with a couple exceptions. Rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson is out injured and running back Stevan Ridley has the fumble/doghouse situation going on. All that matters is Brady being protected and playing in rhythm. I think at home he will get enough time to get the ball down the middle to tight end Rob Gronkowski a lot and when necessary check it down to running back Shane Vereen.


I like the Patriots a lot in this game. The Browns have been a spunky opponent this season, with three of their losses by a single score, but this is a fading team that has lost six of their past seven games. Last week they gave it up against Jacksonville at home. I see them coming in pretty deflated after that loss. It’s not like 5-7 would have made them a wild card contender, but they weren’t too far out of it. Now they’re totally done and there just isn’t the leadership around to fire them up for this road trip. I assume Jason Campbell starts at quarterback although I doubt he finishes the game. They have given up 41, 27 and 32 in their last three so I’m looking for around 30-plus for the home team. Meanwhile they mostly struggle to hit 20 points on offense and that’s where I expect them to be here: New England 34, Cleveland 16 (NE -10/over 44.5)


Oakland (4-8) @ NY Jets (5-7): The weather outside figures to be frightful for this one, probably not as frightful as an offense led by rookie Geno Smith. Smith, who was once thought of as a possible first overall pick, could be upstaged by Matt McGloin who was not taken in the same draft. Neither offense is dangerous, particularly throwing the ball. The defenses are pretty good and in this weather I’m thinking points are going to be at a premium. It will be interesting to see if either kicker can handle the conditions when it matters or if crucial points will sail wide.


The Jets have pretty much not come back from the bye week. At 5-4 they were very much in the AFC playoff hunt, but three losses by 23, 16 and 20 points have taken them pretty much out of it. If they aren’t eliminated here, next week in Carolina certainly will mark the final nail in the proverbial coffin. It’s not like great teams have knocked them around either. Those three teams are collectively 12-20 against the rest of the league.


Now the Raiders also dropped out of the race in the span of five days losing close games to the Titans and Cowboys, the latter of which on Thanksgiving. Both games could have gone their way and left them 6-6 with a shot at a wild card. Perhaps the extra rest works in their favor giving a little time to reset their motivation for the meaningless stretch run, but this is still an early start in the east where they have lost 12 straight.


On the field I like Oakland quite a bit though. They can score enough to win a game like this. Their offense is a little better with McGloin and since the bye week they have scored 19-plus points in six straight. It’s not much, but in a tight low-scoring game I think they can get what they need. Their defense is better than the point totals they have allowed, namely 23-plus points in five straight. I think they show up here, particularly against the run where they need to be strong.


New York has the top run defense, and they could be facing an Oakland team without their top two rushing options. The pass defenses are both below average with almost identical stats across the board although the visitors allow a higher completion percentage. Offensively, the teams can’t protect their quarterback and it leads to a lot of turnovers. Again, I’ll take McGloin in this spot over Smith because I think the pressure is on Smith to perform and he feels it. McGloin is playing with house money. I’m taking the visitors because I think their kicker is better, that’s how much defense I see being played in this one. I’m not wild about this pick: Oakland 16, NY Jets 13 (OAK +3/under 40.5)


Kansas City (9-3) @ Washington (3-9): The Redskins are a mess, but the Chiefs come in similarly struggling with three straight losses. Of course, they lost twice to Peyton Manning sandwiched around a loss to Philip Rivers. Finally faced with stud quarterback play the defense folded and it didn’t help to lose key pass rusher Justin Houston. I do look for them to bounce back here, but it’s not going to be easy. I would have no problem picking the home team to win this game. They are 2-1 against the AFC West this season and a lot better than their record indicates. Washington is just a few players away from contending, and unfortunately traded those draft picks for the rights to Robert Griffin III.


Griffin is playing at less than full strength, and the offense is less effective as a result. Lately it has really shown up with outputs of 17, 6 and 17 the past three weeks. The defense has consistently allowed 24-plus points and it’s too much for the offense to keep up with. On the other side, Kansas City’s offense has shown some spark the past two outings (38, 28) when the defense faded (41, 35). They went from doing just enough to win, never exceeding 28 during their 9-0 start, to firing on all cylinders.


I look for a game right in between low and high scoring. I think both teams could be fighting for like 21-24 points here. On paper the better offense is Washington, and they are barely the inferior defense thanks to Kansas City’s slide the past few weeks. If the Redskins can control the clock running the ball it will allow Griffin to just be loose and not feel as though he has to win by himself. Alex Smith might be starting to feel like he has to do more, but he has Jamaal Charles by his side. It’s a very even game and if I wanted to pick a shocking upset this would be it. Instead I think Andy Reid does what he did to the rest of the NFC North early in the season (3-0) and helps his team squeeze out a win: Kansas City 23, Washington 21 (WAS +3/under 45)


Minnesota (3-8-1) @ Baltimore (6-6): The Ravens are one of six teams with extra rest off Thanksgiving, and they need it for the stretch run. Every game is must-win for them and at home I don’t there is any way they are looking past this opponent. The Vikings have done well in the spoiler role and since their 1-7 start have gone 2-1-1 losing only to the Seahawks. I see them coming in motivated to show well, especially with talk swirling about Adrian Peterson taking his talents to the state of Texas.


A playoff team last year, Minnesota hasn’t gotten over the hump this year. Three close losses helped create the aforementioned poor first half of the season. It hasn’t been a dreamy year for the defending champions Baltimore either, but they have battled back to win three of their past four and are at least competing for the second wild card. It won’t be easy because they close at Detroit, vs. New England and at Cincinnati. In a league littered with mediocrity, they play three 8-4 or better teams at the end, so that’s rough.


I don’t expect the Ravens to play their way into a title defense, but I don’t expect the dream to end here either. Their scrappy offense tends to find a way. In eight of their last nine games they have posted 16-22 points so that’s the range we have come to expect, but a bad defense could boost their output. The Vikes just turned in their best defensive performance of the year by allowing 20 points in regulation and most of an extra quarter against the Bears. Prior to that, they were usually good for allowing 26-plus points having done so 10 times this year.


Since everyone knows Adrian Peterson is coming, I find it hard to believe Minnesota’s offense keeps scoring 20-plus (six straight, ten overall) considering their erratic quarterback play and limited receiving threats. This week I see it coming to a screeching halt in this environment with Matt Cassel starting. I look for the Ravens to gang tackle Peterson. They have a good run defense as it is, so this isn’t a good spot to look for an upset with “All Day” going off. It’s the result you would expect to happen: Baltimore 26, Minnesota 16 (BAL -6/under 43)


Atlanta (3-9) @ Green Bay (5-6-1): I probably should have picked the Falcons last week playing in a dome, but I’m definitely not on their side this week in the snow. The Packers might not have Aaron Rodgers, but they do have Eddie Lacy and James Starks going against a defense that really has no interest in tackling them. Football is so physical and people tend to forget that effort is required to bring someone down. Teams out of it late in the season just don’t want to make that effort.


I don’t know if Rodgers should play again this season and that makes this result bittersweet for the Packers and their fans. It would be easier to have them out of it, avoiding a decision like the one that has wrecked this season for Washington. Atlanta has an awful run defense. Green Bay has a shaky run defense too, but they aren’t going up against Steven Jackson in his prime. It’s going to be run, run and run again for both teams in all likelihood until the game dictates otherwise.


Matty Ice didn’t get his nickname for playing well in cold weather, or outdoors period. They have already been thumped on the road by Arizona, Carolina and Tampa Bay by 13-plus points. It was nice to get a win over Buffalo (in Toronto) but that also relieves them of the pressure to win this game. Maybe they can beat Washington next week and avoid the NFC South cellar, but expecting them to come out in freezing temps and beat up a team in the playoff hunt desperate to stop a losing streak is too much to ask.


Other than a huge TNF effort against New Orleans, Atlanta’s defense has been trash all season allowing 23-plus points in every other game. Their offense has scored exactly 10 or 13 points in four of their past six. It actually seems like a good spot to put up just about that much here although I think Ryan can do some damage through the air to help them to a higher total. Weather is the huge factor here, and motivation: Green Bay 27, Atlanta 20 (GB -3/over 44.5)


Buffalo (4-8) @ Tampa Bay (3-9): This is all about which team cares about winning. These teams are out of it, but things are going quite differently for them of late. The Bills haven’t beaten a team outside of their division since September. The Bucs had won three straight until running into a buzz saw at Carolina last week. They haven’t lost to a bad team since October 20. I like their arc quite a bit more. Greg Schiano might get fired, but the team is playing as if they don’t want him to be.


On the year both passing offenses have been horrific and both defenses have been pretty average. The thing is, the Bucs have talent in the secondary and that makes it tough on rookie E.J. Manuel in his return to Florida. Of course, the Bills have 43 sacks and can get after rookie Mike Glennon. The respective run defenses have been relatively effective considering their poor season records. Teams usually would pile up yards on teams with losing marks. Combined they have also given up just 13 scores on the ground.


Of course, through the air the teams have allowed 47 touchdowns. Is Glenon or Manuel going to get hot and take over this game? Maybe, but I don’t really like Buffalo’s pass rush on the road. Tampa Bay can simply cover up the receiving options and get by fairly well. I look at this game and see some points, with both teams getting 24-plus. The Bucs have given up 27-plus in six of their past eight while the Bills have allowed 23-plus in six of eight. Let’s make it a close game with some scoring. I am rolling with the home team without a lot of confidence: Tampa Bay 27, Buffalo 24 (TB -1.5/over 42)


Miami (6-6) @ Pittsburgh (5-7): There is a playoff feel to this one, especially if the snow falls. Maybe the Steelers are a little distracted by the Mike Tomlin situation, but I look at it as almost helpful because the attention is on their coach instead of their erratic play. The Dolphins know about distractions too, and managed to put those aside the past few weeks and get a couple wins to stay very much in the wild card race. Their offense still can’t do very much, and for the eleventh time posted a total within the 16-23 range last week. Perhaps Mike Wallace is going to be inspired coming back to the Steel City, but Lamar Miller is more important when it comes to making their offense move.


This isn’t a great Pittsburgh defense, but they are decent against the run. Miller finally has the backfield all to himself and needs to play like his career depends on a big game. Meanwhile, the Steelers are even worse running the ball even with rookie Le’Veon Bell in the fold. This is not your father’s offense. The weight of this game is going to be on Big Ben and Ryan Tannehill. These teams have allowed a combined 82 sacks so I’m counting on a few from both sides here. Tannehill is at a disadvantage on the road and we know he is shorthanded on the offensive line.


As this stacks up I think a rested Pittsburgh team is in a much better spot. Maybe they don’t have a shut down defense right now, but at various points they have turned in some good efforts (16 points or fewer five times) and their offense has scored 20-plus in fives straight. It’s going to be close, and it’s going to be ugly. Both teams need this game and quite frankly it looks like the AFC might have a wild card come in at 8-8 after a result like this: Pittsburgh 21, Miami 17 (PIT -3/under 41)


Detroit (7-5) @ Philadelphia (7-5): I wish this game could be in the dome because these offenses aren’t really built for cold, possibly snowy conditions. It will be interesting to see how it impacts the result. The Lions are notoriously bad outdoors, but Calvin Johnson is unstoppable in any weather. The Eagles also bring a bad defense to the table in a battle between two of the most prolific offenses in the league.


The key for Philly’s run has been quarterback Nick Foles protecting the football. He has yet to throw an interception and I keep waiting for the bottom to fall out on that. Unlucky FFL owners might find a 3-pick lump of coal in their stocking during one of these fantasy playoff weeks, and quite frankly this could be it if Detroit’s pass rush comes to party. Detroit protects their quarterback very well, leading the NFL giving up just 15 sacks. Compare that to Philadelphia giving up 35. Both pass defenses have been touched up this year.


The Eagles bring a running game, and I think in this spot it’s a key factor. The Lions have Reggie Bush nicked up and he doesn’t play as well in conditions like this meaning Joique Bell is the guy they will lean on quite a bit to the chagrin of Bush fantasy owners. The run is that Detroit has been awesome stopping the run this season and as I said their front line could show up ready to dominate here. Philadelphia has an average run defense.


It’s also a factor that the Lions had a couple extra days after Thanksgiving, but prior to destroying an offense led by Matt Flynn (the equivalent of an offense that stops itself) had allowed 24-plus in four of their previous five games. The offensive onslaught also followed up a stretch scoring a less exciting 21, 27 and 21 points the prior three weeks. The Eagles came out of their bye week and contained an Arizona team making a playoff push. Their defense has not allowed more than 21 points since September and with the rules these days that’s very impressive. Their offense has scored 24-plus in four straight. I like the home team with an assist from Mother Nature: Philadelphia 27, Detroit 23 (PHI -2.5/under 54)


Tennessee (5-7) @ Denver (10-2): This looks like an easy win for the Broncos, but that’s deceiving. They come in after an exhausting three-game stretch, the past two on the road, trying to get up for a team with a losing record. The Titans enter with nothing to lose and at least mathematically a shot at wild card. They will have their guns blazing, and might need those guns to keep warm. Ironically, the snowy weather probably hurts their own quarterback Peyton Manning who thrived most of his career playing in a dome.


Another thing working for Tennessee is their defense. It’s a top-10 unit in case no one noticed. They have given up too many points in certain spots, and that’s why they don’t have a winning record. The five times they allowed 26-plus points they lost the game, and that doesn’t bode well here against a record-setting offense that has scored 27-plus every time out and gone 31-plus ten times. For me, it looks like Manning is going to have his way and the deliver the win. It’s just a matter of how close Ryan Fitpatrick can keep his team in garbage time.


I like Denver’s rushing defense to hold down Chris Johnson, as most teams seem to do lately. Knowshon Moreno won’t crush Tennessee, but the key thing hurting them this season has been rushing touchdowns. They have allowed 16. Manning fantasy owners might want to consider him going up against a team that has given up an NFL low 8 passing scores. Meanwhile the Broncos have allowed 23 and an unruly 284 passing yards per game. I think the home team finishes drives with touchdowns on the ground, but allows plenty of action the other way before finally securing the closer-than-expected win: Denver 34, Tennessee 24 (TEN +13/over 49)


St. Louis (5-7) @ Arizona (7-5): The Rams have to feel as though it could be them in the position the Cards are in right now, and after beating them 27-24 in Week 1 the season just hasn’t panned out that way. They lost a close game at Atlanta who hadn’t yet collapsed and dropped a heartbreaker to Seattle on MNF. If those two games go the other way this is a really big game. The problem is that they have been kicked around a lot, losing four times now by double digits. Arizona has lost three times by that much, but all of them were against top teams (New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle). They are also the last team in the league to beat Carolina, and have won four straight at home.


The first meeting can almost be thrown out because it seems like the league either schedules division foes to meet twice in a three-week span or months apart. It seems like a long time since Sam Bradford has been quarterbacking the Rams as he of course was in the opener, and back then Zac Stacy wasn’t featured. He ran just once. They are probably the more improved team since then. More than that, while Carson Palmer has controlled his turnovers more lately he isn’t certain to play (elbow) in this one. Drew Stanton vs. Kellen Clemens is a distinct possibility, and now you know why the league is so adamant about protecting its quarterbacks.


Consistency is good, but mediocrity isn’t so much. Arizona generally has scored 20-27 points (nine times). Palmer is ailing and their spunky running back Andre Ellington is as well. I don’t know what to make of their offense this week. On defense they have tightened up of late, allowing 13, 14 and 11 points in various games over their past five and exactly 24 in the other two. St. Louis is all over the map. Five times their offense has scored 7-15 points, and four other times they have scored 34-42. On defense they have been pretty good since giving up 31-plus in three straight back in September.


I look at this as a toss-up game, but the home field is a huge factor. It’s tough to go to the desert. Patrick Peterson is going to take away one star all game long whoever that might be on an offense without any real studs. Maybe St. Louis gets their defense going and keeps this close, but Stacy is not going to run over the Cardinals who play some of the best run defense in the league. Rashard Mendenhall might be a slug, but he’ll get looks and it helps having guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd running pass patterns on opposite sides of the field. I like the home team here and I’ll say it with confidence because it would be a pretty big shocker for me to see the Rams put it all together here and win. The quarterback situation does make me nervous: Arizona 24, St. Louis 20 (STL +7/over 41.5)


Seattle (11-1) @ San Francisco (8-4): The schedule makers screwed up by not making this the last regular season game at Candlestick Park, and as it looks right now the final NFL game there period might be the 49ers playing the woeful Falcons. Oops. The Seahawks enter this game with some motivation wanting to lock up the NFC West and keep a stranglehold on the first overall seed in the playoffs. They won the first meeting in a rout 29-3 although in fairness it’s not like they went off. The edge in first downs was 19-12 and in total yards it was 290-207. San Francisco lost the turnover battle 5-1 and that was the story. Neither quarterback completed even 50-percent, with the pair going a combined 21-of-47 for 169 yards, a touchdown and 4 interceptions while taking 7 sacks.


It was the Seattle running game that kept them going. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin combined to carry the ball 34 times for 129 yards. Frank Gore got it only 9 times (16 yards) and two other backs carried it once apiece. San Francisco had to abandon the run and they were swamped as a result. Will this game be any different? I think it has a good chance to be. The Seahawks are probably overconfident, and travel on a short week against a team that just played at home.


Neither run defense is perfect, but the Seahawks have allowed just 4 rushing scores. The 49ers will be looking to impose their will while hoping their left tackle Joe Staley can go. They have 16 rushing touchdowns on the year. Seattle brings a better passing offense to the table, obviously, since no team is statistically worse than San Francisco. The 49ers just got Michael Crabtree back so that helps, and while it didn’t show last week the visitors have to miss their two cornerbacks who are out. These are two of the top three pass defenses in the league, and since it’s now a passing league that’s the measure of great stop units.


Sometimes I will pick a game on “feel” instead of what logic tells me and this is looking like one of them. San Francisco hasn’t allowed any offense to score more than 23 points on them since opening the season giving up 28, 29 and 27 while starting 1-2. They appear to be working their way into playoff form on defense. Offensively they certainly looked bad against Carolina who is of course another top defense, but in a game like this it could come down to special teams because the offenses are going to struggle. Seattle had their one hiccup on the road losing at Indy, but also looked shaky in St. Louis. I think they let this one get away but I still like them for the Super Bowl: San Francisco 16, Seattle 14 (SEA +3/under 41.5)


NY Giants (5-7) @ San Diego (5-7): It’s two losing teams, but there is some intrigue because Eli Manning was a Charger for a little less than an hour. He might not “remember” why he worked his way onto another team, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who do. Philip Rivers is certainly going to use it as motivation to put the Giants down. He has the vastly better offense in this matchup, but his defense is also quite a bit worse. Of course, I’m not sure how well New York’s defense is going to travel in this spot. Are they really in the hunt, and can they get up for this game? I would favor them a lot more if they were in their stadium.


I do like the way New York is playing having won five out of six since their horrific start, but they are running out of time. Next week is Seattle, and then a trip to Detroit. Winning two of these three is about the best they can hope for and realistically I would say they are done. San Diego is in a better spot even though they visit Denver next week. They have shown an ability to pull an upset, and with Oakland after that it’s not beyond reason for them to get on a roll here. Their issue last week was going up against a Cincinnati defense that shuts down opposing passers.


This week, the Giants are a little more forgiving through the air and definitely lack the pass rush the Chargers saw a week ago. Of course, Manning goes up against a defense that has just 7 interceptions and allows 268 yards a game. He might go off because his issues usually arise when a team rushes him and forces turnovers. On the ground San Diego has been vulnerable, allowing a silly 4.9 yards per carry. Andre Brown has the potential to hurt them. New York has given up just 3.8 and isn’t afraid of Ryan Mathews. Danny Woodhead is the “X” factor of course.


This is a pretty even game. I’m considering the travel a lot here. San Diego just played at home and of course New York is going across the country. The Giants have played four straight with points totals of 40-45 points and will be used to tight games without a ton of scoring. The Bolts have played five in a row decided by one score, but lost four of them. They are a lot better than their record and simply let some games get away from them, going 2-6 in games decided by no more than 8 points. This time they pull it out for the home folks who have yet to see them win a close one: San Diego 24, NY Giants 20 (SD -3/under 48)


Carolina (9-3) @ New Orleans (9-3): This is a huge game. It’s more important for the Saints because if they lose, then they have to find a way to win outdoors in a couple weeks against these guys to regain the division lead, which would come to them based on superior conference record assuming both teams win all other games. No one really talks about the Panthers as a great defense, but they have allowed 157 points or for perspective 29 fewer than Seattle and 40 fewer than San Francisco. They can bring the heat.


Last week New Orleans saw a great defense and got swamped, but it’s a different deal in the elements on the road. They play a different way at home in their dome where they have already beaten four teams by at least 18 points. Their defense indoors is pretty good too having allowed 17, 7, 17, 17, 17 and 20 points on this field while going 6-0. Carolina’s dome experience went well in Minnesota where they won 35-10, but this is a way better opponent and totally different environment on SNF with the division lead at stake.


I love what the Panthers have done during this winning streak holding every team they have faced not led by Tom Brady (24-20 win) to 16 points or less. This is a tough spot though against a team that is really mad after getting blown out, and really frustrated. Sean Payton knows how to tweak things and most of what went wrong last week in a noisy outdoor stadium is not going to go wrong this week in a dome with the crowd supporting them. I think it’s a tight, low scoring affair and I absolutely believe this is going to be a different result in the rematch. My feeling about defenses in domes on the road is that they tend to loosen up, so Drew Brees gets the nod: New Orleans 27, Carolina 21 (NO -3/over 45.5)


Dallas (7-5) @ Chicago (6-6): This is a really tough game to call because the Bears have to know their season is on the line and it’s MNF where they tend to pull out some wins. Plus, Tony Romo is awful in December historically. All of that makes me want to take the home team, but I don’t even know which quarterback they are using and the defenses in this game are horrific. It could turn into a high scoring game and then I have a hard time going against Romo.


My main concern with Chicago is their dreadful run defense. No one is close to as bad as they are and while DeMarco Murray isn’t the same type of back as the other former sooner who just chewed them up (Adrian Peterson) he can still do plenty of damage. Of course, Dallas also struggles to stop the run quite a bit and Matt Forte has Michael Bush to take over when he gets tired. I could see the home team controlling this one on the ground all night.


Factoring in the passers is tough. Defensively the Cowboys have been getting shredded and they aren’t sacking the quarterback. The Bears aren’t piling up sacks either and while they don’t allow a ton of yards it’s not like they are dominant in the secondary. Both teams have avoided throwing interceptions (16 combined) and taking sacks (49 combined) and actually Chicago has the better passing offense on paper. It seems odd though.


One thing working for Dallas is rest. They have a few extra days coming off Thanksgiving. They have to feel pretty good in first place although generally their problem is laying an egg when they are supposed to win. It’s like they are their worst either against great teams or terrible teams. Chicago is neither though. If the Cowboys can just get through this game, they get Green Bay next week likely without Aaron Rodgers, then a trip to struggling Washington so 10-5 with a shot to win the division (at worst) by beating Philly at home in the finale seems reasonable. Looking ahead is their problem. The Bears are still in it, but are fading. It feels like they just don’t have the winning edge, so I can’t take them here: Dallas 24, Chicago 23 (DAL +1/under 49.5)



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