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Tuesday, May 30 2017

NFL predictions 2013: Week 15

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I have to say, after a showing like last week I wonder if this might be my final year. It was rough. I’m just not used to missing this much. Sure, I went 13-3 straight up (136-71-1 overall) and that moves me to the 15 spot (13 if I eliminate the computers) for the media pickers. I don’t care. I was 8-8 against the spread (95-108-4 overall) and a miserable 5-10-1 on the over/under (107-99-4 overall) meaning Vegas is beating me on the season. Losing isn’t fun, and I’m running out of time to win.

 

 

San Diego (6-7) @ Denver (11-2): This is a fun game for TNF. On short prep there isn’t a far distance for the Bolts to travel and the teams are familiar because they are division rivals. Beyond that, they just met a month ago. It was a tough game for Peyton’s unstoppable offense, and yet they won 28-20 after putting up “only” 397 total yards. The bigger story was their defense, limiting Philip Rivers to 218 yards passing and sacking him 4 times.

 

In that one Demaryius Thomas was the receiving flavor of the week, catching 3 touchdown strikes and it might be more of the same in the rematch with Wes Welker out of the mix, and tight end Julius Thomas still on the mend. Last week San Diego didn’t play like a team out of the race, smoking the Giants 37-14. This is a better team than most people think, their problem is blowing a couple early games to the AFC South (Houston, Tennessee) by a field goal or at 8-5 this game would have been vital in the race for the second wild card.

 

I never count on Rivers in a potentially high scoring game. He just hung 41 on the Chiefs in their stadium. Manning has this offense doing that almost every week. Their “slump” was the first matchup with the Chargers scoring 28, followed by outputs of 27 and 31. All of their other games have produced 33-plus poings. It’s kind of silly to expect them not to score at least 35 then right?

 

On defense, the Broncos have been touched up for 34, 28 and 28 the past three weeks and twice they got away with it. I am looking for them to give up at least 24 here. It’s really a “how much” type of game. I don’t see any kind of shocking result here on a short week. Denver should come out and do their thing on offense at home where they have scored 37-plus against every opponent save Kansas City. I think they get this done, but might be feeling a bit of fatigue so I won’t call for a blowout: Denver 38, San Diego 27 (DEN -10/over 56)

Washington (3-10) @ Atlanta (3-10): It’s not often a matchup between teams with double digit losses warrants this much attention, but Robert Griffin III getting benched has created a firestorm. In fairness he really isn’t benched. Head coach Mike Shanahan shut him down to protect his asset, and I totally agree with the move on every possible level. Kirk Cousins gets a chance to show his worth against bad defenses down the stretch and possibly sucker a team into trading a second-round pick for his services.

 

The Falcons don’t have much interest in making him look good here. They have stunk this season, especially after Julio Jones went down. After playing in Canada and frigid Green Bay the past two weeks I think they’re happy to be back in their dome and it will show. Their play hasn’t been too bad over the past three weeks, and they have 6 losses by one score on the season. The Redskins have 5, but last week wasn’t one of them. They were blasted 45-10 by the Chiefs. It was a brutal way to end a three-game home set at 0-3.

 

Washington’s offense has been flat for the past four weeks, totaling 49 points. Atlanta’s offense at least somewhat has woken up with 21-plus in three of their last four although neither of these defenses is stopping anyone. I look for some scoring here, and generally speaking a defense with nothing to play for typically falls flat. The home field provides a charge for the Falcons who must know this is their last shot at a win this season. Next week they go to San Francisco for MNF before hosting Carolina to close out. They get it done: Atlanta 27, Washington 21 (WAS +7.5/under 51)

 

San Francisco (9-4) @ Tampa Bay (4-9): This is a harder game to call than it seems. The better record over the last five games belongs to the Bucs who are 4-1 compared to 3-2 for the 49ers. It’s not like Tampa Bay has played all dogs either. They beat Miami and Detroit who are in the thick of the playoff chase. San Francisco is also in letdown mode having just scored a big one over rival Seattle and now they have to travel across the country against a team with nothing to lose playing totally loose.

 

I still like the 49ers here because of their defense. Almost every team they have faced after week 3 has failed to get past 17 points. Looking at an offense led by Mike Glennon that has mostly been in the 20-24 range I can’t really see this going the home team’s way when I play the numbers game. On defense the Bucs shut down Buffalo last week in a 27-6 win and it was their finest effort on the year. They have been allowing in the 27-31 range over the past two months for the most part, and it will be interesting to see how the 49ers do on offense here.

 

Away from home, other than a dismal trip to Seattle, the Niners have put up 35, 31, 42, 20 and 27. I think they can get to the twenties here and power this win out. On paper this is a battle between two bad offenses and particularly unable to throw the ball. The defenses can stop opponents from moving the chains. Maybe it turns into a battle in the trenches and a test of wills. I’m certainly with the visitors if that’s the case. I guess I’m just not in love with the 49ers and I feel like this is a game they potentially could blow: San Francisco 23, Tampa Bay 17 (SF -5/under 41)

 

Seattle (11-2) @ NY Giants (5-8): There was a time not long ago when the Seahawks would be in trouble on the east coast, especially in poor weather late in the year. Now they eat games like this up. The Giants are out of it and just got their butts handed to them at San Diego. On the long flight home they probably mulled over their lost season. Next week in Detroit is a better spot for them to play spoiler, and the finale against Washington is a chance to get another win.

 

This game is looking to me like Seattle wanting to play well in a stadium they fully expect to return to with a Lombardi Trophy on the line. Last week in San Francisco was a loss everyone saw coming after a big MNF win over New Orleans. It was a flat spot. The loss took away their margin for error, so the odds of them falling into a trap here are pretty slim. They want to lock up the division as soon as possible and ideally clinch home field before week 17.

 

The Giants aren’t bad on defense, and their offense is just lacking balance and rhythm. Of course, this is the wrong opponent to have those shortcomings against. The Seahawks will pressure them and make Eli Manning’s life miserable. Russell Wilson is going to create offense and protect the football, letting the defense and running game take care of business. It’s a pretty simple formula when those things go well. Road games are always in an adventure in this league and even top teams can struggle. I don’t expect a walkover here because the Giants are a team playing for pride at home. They won’t win though: Seattle 27, NY Giants 17 (SEA -7/over 41)

 

Philadelphia (8-5) @ Minnesota (3-9-1): Both teams are probably fine playing indoors after being a part of wild weather games last week. The Vikings has the most exhausting couple minutes possibly in the history of the NFL while the Eagles were playing in the snow. In a controlled environment, I love Philly to open up their offense and light up the scoreboard. Minnesota goes with Matt Cassel at quarterback, but Adrian Peterson and backup Toby Gerhart are iffy. Their offense probably can’t keep up here, but I have learned they definitely have plenty of fight in them as a team.

 

These are two of the worst defenses in the league so the points should be flowing, or so it would seem. The Eagles have actually held up quite well in scoring defense since the first month of the season, never allowing more than 21 points in a game. I think they can maintain that or close to it here given the offense opposing them. The Vikings are a feisty offense, but I really don’t think Peterson plays and that changes their outlook dramatically. On defense Minnesota has been chewed up all year, and against Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson it’s hard to see that changing here.

 

There are always weird outcomes late in the year when a team out of the race plays out of their minds at home, and this is a candidate to be sure. However, the Vikings can’t do enough on defense to get this win over a team fighting for a division title. The Eagles are built for turf and while it’s never easy going on the road in a dome they can use team speed to put up a lot of points. I like them to run away with this win and keep their NFC East title dreams very much alive: Philadelphia 28, Minnesota 20 (PHI -4.5/under 51)

 

New England (10-3) @ Miami (7-6): Maybe I give the Patriots too much respect because they seem to play in the mud a lot. Nevertheless, they found a way to steal a win from the Browns last week and remain in position to clinch the AFC East by winning this game. Their sights should still be set on the top overall seed because if Denver loses and they win out it’s theirs. A loss here opens the door for Cincinnati to surpass them for the bye week. A trip to Baltimore next week is no sure thing, so this is a game they really want to win.

 

Of course, the Dolphins want it as well for their wild card hopes. The past two weeks they have gone on the road and taken out two contenders. They would be in position for a division title push if not for blowing a 17-3 halftime lead at Foxborough earlier this year. The Patriots outscored them 24-0 in the second half and won despite totaling just 252 yards. The Dolphins only had 301, but the key was a 3-1 turnover edge for New England. Neither quarterback played well in the first meeting. Most of the offensive damage was done by the running games.

 

For Miami, Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas combined for 136 yards on 27 carries but couldn’t find the end zone. Miller might not play due to a concussion. Stevan Ridley, Legarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden totaled 147 yards on 33 carries, but Shane Vereen was still on IR for that one. The edge definitely shifts to the Patriots here even if stud tight end Rob Gronkowski and their rookie wide receivers are out. Tom Brady should be able to distribute the ball just fine.

 

On the season, New England has been getting worn out trying to defend the run and that’s what losing Vince Wilfork does. Miami isn’t that much better and combined they have allowed 20 rushing scores. The pass defenses are pretty good though, combining for 30 interceptions and 76 sacks with low completion percentages allowed. Ryan Tannehill certainly has a reliable target in Brian Hartline and tight end Charles Clay can make plays, but overall they can be handled.

 

This feels like a low scoring affair. However, the Patriots haven’t been in a game totaling fewer than 44 points in any of their last eight contests. The Dolphins were in a high scoring affair last week (34-28 win at Pittsburgh) and a low scoring game the previous week (23-3 win at Jets) but the previous six game totals were 36-44. This seems like a game where 24 points will win it, and I trust Brady to get there first: New England 24, Miami 21 (NE +0/under 46)

 

Buffalo (4-9) @ Jacksonville (4-9): Barring a tie someone is going to hit double digits in losses here. The Bills are right back in Florida where they lost 27-6 to Tampa Bay last week. They haven’t won a game outside the AFC East since September. The Jaguars are home and rested off a TNF win over Houston. They have won four out of five, albeit over bad teams. Of course, this is another bad team they are facing off against.

 

Maurice Jones-Drew is likely out so Jordan Todman gets his first extended look at running back as a pro. I think he’ll do fine. C.J. Spiller is supposed to be healthy on the other side, but it didn’t show last week (11 rushes for 22 yards). Buffalo’s offense was a mess totaling 214 yards, turning it over 5 times and quarterback E.J. Manuel was sacked 7 times. Of course, they also made Mike Glennon look awful throwing the ball (9-of-25) so that was a bright spot.

 

Chad Henne is a veteran and while his offense has been dreadful this season, the team is finishing strong with momentum on their side. They obviously want to get a few more in the win column. Next week they host Tennessee, and maybe they will face Indy with nothing to play for in the final week of the season. A 7-9 final record isn’t out of the question. I don’t like the Bills on the road where they have lost by 13-plus points the last three times out. They also lost in Toronto. There isn’t too much left to say about this one. It’s not going to be a thriller, but it will be close: Jacksonville 21, Buffalo 20 (JAX +2.5/under 43)

 

Houston (2-11) @ Indianapolis (8-5): The Colts are really stumbling towards the AFC South title. Their problems are nothing in comparison to the Texans, who have now lost eleven games in a row. Still, in the first meeting it was looking great for Houston. They led 21-3 heading to the locker room when their head coach fell to the turf. Medically he is fine now, other than being fired. The team choked away the lead in that game, losing 27-24 despite piling up 483 total yards.

 

This time I expect Andrew Luck to be the one racking up the yardage, and not Case Keenum who has faded. He might need to if the defense is as soft as it has been over the past month or so, allowing 38, 40 and 42 points in recent weeks. Two of those came on the road, and this is a team playing with their defensive coordinator serving as interim head coach. Mostly because of Peyton Manning, the Colts own the Texans. They can lock up the division with a win and realistically are locked into the four seed because of last week’s loss to Cincinnati. This is a spot for them to ride Luck’s arm to a win over a defense that won’t be up for the fight: Indianapolis 27, Houston 20 (IND -5/over 45.5)

 

Chicago (7-6) @ Cleveland (4-9): The Bears were outstanding on MNF, blasting Dallas 45-28 but now they have to travel on a short week and deal with a feisty opponent. Plus, they might go back to Jay Cutler at quarterback. Either way, the defense they are facing is a lot better than what they just went up against. Joe Haden and this secondary are good, and they can rush the passer. It’s hard not to get excited about this team making a playoff push after a win like that, but this is a bad situation for them.

 

The Bears struggle on defense quite a bit, but it’s a bonus that the Browns don’t have anyone to hurt them running the ball. Still, Jason Campbell has Josh Gordon at his disposal and that’s trouble. Everyone scores 20-plus on Chicago, and if Cleveland can get there they have a fighting chance. They won their first three times they scored more than 17 points, only to lose the next three. All of those have come in the past four games. They were stunned late by Jacksonville and New England the last two outings, and could easily be 6-7 right now.

 

Oddly enough, if Josh McCown does start this is a battle of two quarterbacks who at one point were holding down the fort for the Oakland Raiders. Campbell was there in 2011-2012 and McCown in 2007. Now they have some talent around them and can function. Pass rush is a big deal here. The Browns have 37 sacks and the Bears have forced 15 interceptions. Cleveland has allowed 43 sacks and Chicago has thrown just 7 interceptions. I know those stats are jumbled, but the point is that I think both teams can get after the quarterback, but the turnovers should go the way of the visitors. I also like their ground game much better with Matt Forte and Michael Bush. This is a very close game, and the team that needs it finds a way just barely and possibly in overtime: Chicago 23, Cleveland 20 (CHI +0/under 45.5)

 

Kansas City (10-3) @ Oakland (4-9): Rivalry games are fun, and believe me the Chiefs won’t be able to just roll their helmets out in the Black Hole and win. The Raiders want to hurt their foes here, even if it’s not that significant in the grand scheme. Because of being swept by them, Kansas City is effectively two back of Denver with three to go. They aren’t catching them. The wild card on the other hand, is in the bag.

 

Last week isn’t always a great measure for this week, but I like the attitude of the Chiefs at Washington. They took a bad team and crushed their spirit. A 45-10 road win isn’t common in the NFL and I think they wanted to show everyone they are still a very good team, like the one that started 9-0 as opposed to the 0-3 stretch they endured. The Raiders are on the other end of this. They have lost five of six and the only win is over a Houston team that hasn’t won since week 2. They made the Jets look like a great offense last week, and have allowed 23-plus points in six straight.

 

I don’t feel like Oakland’s defense is holding up as the season wears on. When these teams met in week 6, it was 14-7 Chiefs with just over two minutes to play. Kansas City had just 216 total yards and 16 first downs. So forget the 24-7 final it wasn’t a blowout. Terrelle Pryor had an interception returned for a touchdown late, one of 3 turnovers Oakland committed on the afternoon. They held Jamaal Charles in check (22 rushes for 78 yards) but he scored twice and had 50 yards receiving. I look at this as a classic, bitter rivalry affair. The better team is going to win, but nothing is going to be easy for them coming in here: Kansas City 24, Oakland 17 (KC -4.5/under 42)

 

NY Jets (6-7) @ Carolina (9-4): The Jets refuse to be eliminated from the playoffs until someone drives a stake through their hearts. The Panthers might be the team to do it. Or they might not. This is a bad spot for Carolina actually. It’s in between two vastly more important meetings with the Saints, and although losing this one renders the rematch relatively moot it’s still hard for them to focus. New York is going to be putting it all on the line here. What’s left for them to lose? This is a team still in the mix with three weeks left that has been outscored by 111 points on the season! Only Jacksonville (4-9) and Washington (3-10) are more in the red.

 

If the Jets want to stay alive, they need to do what they have done well all year, win close games and score some points. In games they put up at least 18 points, they are 6-0 and in one-score games they are 5-1. It’s easier to stay close to Carolina than score on them. Until last week’s 31-13 loss suffered at New Orleans, the Panthers had gone 8 straight without allowing a team past 20 points. Only the Patriots got past 16 during that stretch.

 

In case you can’t tell, this is a fight waiting to happen. New York is scrappy and they gained some much-needed confidence beating up on Oakland. Carolina wants to run the ball and ride their defense. Both teams like to do that actually. Guess what? These are the best two run defenses going right now. The Jets are at another level though, giving up 2.9 yards per carry. It’s not like the Panthers are shaky (3.7) but after a while the difference in the average adds up. Plus, Jonathan Stewart is out and both DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert have been banged up.

 

If this game goes on the quarterbacks, Cam Newton has a big advantage in experience and mobility. These defenses can both sack the quarterback, so I’m counting on Newton to avoid a few more of those compared to the rookie Geno Smith. There’s a big disparity in touchdown passes allowed as well, 22 for the Jets and just 9 for the Panthers, who have double the interceptions (16-8). So while I do think this game can get ugly with both teams trying to pound the ball, on third down Carolina can get a few wins and chip away at field position to carve out a lead. Once they do it’s over and they take care of business: Carolina 20, NY Jets 10 (NYJ +12.5/under 41)

 

Green Bay (6-6-1) @ Dallas (7-6): No Aaron Rodgers and probably no chance for the Packers as they try to stay in a wild NFC North playoff race. It’s much simpler for the Cowboys who just have to win this game, beat a Washington team in absolute disarray, and then at worst they are hosting Philadelphia with the NFC East title on the line. I think it’s nice that Rodgers wants to play and help out his team, but in the long run better for him to sit out and get healthy for a legitimate title run next year when they will be among the conference favorites for sure.

 

This season, the Cowboys can’t stop anyone on defense. They are at home against a shaky quarterback so that’s good. It’s a short week, but they can’t look any worse than they did on MNF. The Packers have nothing to lose, but at home they barely scraped past an out-of-it Falcons team playing without a lot of their key parts. I just don’t see how they muster up the energy to win this one.

 

I look for Dallas to finally step up and execute. Their defense isn’t going to become awesome overnight, but they can get a pass rush and focus their energy on the running game to limit what Green Bay does offensively. On offense, it’s pretty easy to keep feeing DeMarco Murray to build a lead and then let Tony Romo make plays from a position of strength rather than desperation. When I look at a defense that has allowed 21-plus in six straight I have to assume the Packers will get some points here. The Dallas offense has scored 24-plus in five of six and seven of the past nine though, so they will get theirs.

 

On defense Green Bay was a run of six in a row allowing 26-plus before winning 22-21 over a limited Atlanta offense. Their offense has averaged 17 points over the past six weeks while Rodgers has been out, including the game he got hurt in. It feels like a 27-17 game to me, or thereabouts. I want to allow a little more scoring because in games with shaky teams I think there are bound to be extra points on each side so here we go: Dallas 30, Green Bay 20 (DAL -6.5/over 49)

 

Arizona (8-5) @ Tennessee (5-8): Right off the bat I want to say the Titans can win this game. If they had another win on their ledger and were in wild card contention I would be very inclined to take them. These are two competent defenses and a pair of average offenses hooking up. The Cardinals are hurting on offense with Michael Floyd and Carson Palmer nursing injuries, not to mention Andre Ellington making his comeback from injury last week. Still, Bruce Arians is familiar with the AFC South having just coached the Colts to a division crown last year. He’s 3-0 and looking for the sweep here, having dispatched the other teams last month.

 

On the road I feel decent about Arizona. They lost their first two in domes (St. Louis, New Orleans) and have split their last four although both wins came in Florida against teams who were in the process of starting the season 0-8 (Jacksonville, Tampa Bay) so there’s that. I guess I’m impressed with their ability to put up points of late, namely 20-plus in nine straight. I like teams that can score consistently. Tennessee has also found a scoring groove, posting 23-plus in five of their past six. Their defense, however, is wobbly. I understand giving up 51 last week to Denver, but nine teams in a row have gone 19-plus on them and five of the past seven have scored 29-plus. I don’t like teams that give up a lot of points consistently.

 

This is simple math really. One team allows too much and their opponent is likely to take advantage. I like Tennessee’s ability to shut down the pass (8 touchdowns) but they don’t do enough to rush the passer (31 sacks) and create turnovers (10 INT) which is the weakness of Palmer. Meanwhile, Arizona’s defense has 38/17 in those areas and can make Ryan Fitzpatrick look bad. I think the Cards can shut down the run here and then get after the passer. It’s a good recipe for success on the road if you can pull it off. On offense they should be able to stay balanced and get out of town with a nice win: Arizona 23, Tennessee 21 (TEN +3/over 41.5)

 

New Orleans (10-3) @ St. Louis (5-8): On the road this is a definite trap game for the Saints who have to fight looking ahead to the rematch with the Panthers. The Rams are just thinking about their spoiler role and loving it. Jeff Fisher will have his team in the right mindset, don’t worry about that, but it remains to be seen if they can do anything about it. St. Louis has a bad offense, and average defense. New Orleans counters with a top-6 unit on both sides of the ball. The crowd noise is an edge, but obviously Drew Brees knows how to operate in a dome. He also has far superior weapons around him compared to Kellen Clemens.

 

Rookie Tavon Austin might not be able to go here, and that puts a lot of pressure on Zac Stacy running the ball like the beast he has been for the Rams. Their offense has been awful the past two weeks, but that was on the road (San Francisco, Arizona). The previous two games were in domes and they scored 80 points combined. Can they create that kind of scoring here? I seriously doubt it. Their shot at the upset lies with the defense, which has given up 21-plus in four of the past five games. The Saints are going to get their points here.

 

I do think St. Louis can take advantage of a run defense allowing 4.6 yards per carry and keep Brees on the sideline for long stretches.  They can also pressure Brees and disrupt what he likes to do on offense. I don’t think this is going to be as easy as it seems on paper. Games rarely are on the road. If the Saints could run a little more it might be. They should still win going away, but there might be some anxious moments: New Orleans 24, St. Louis 20 (STL +7/under 47.5)

 

Cincinnati (9-4) @ Pittsburgh (5-8): Ugly matchup to be showing on SNF this late in the season, but flexing Packers-Cowboys wouldn’t make sense with Matt Flynn starting for Green Bay and since they will move the Week 17 Dallas home game against Philly to SNF. Patriots-Dolphins is an overkill deal because Brady is in primetime plenty although I could have seen that one assuming CBS didn’t protect it as they might have. Anyway, what we get is the Bengals trying to hold on for the AFC North title against the pesky Steelers in possibly snowy conditions.

 

I loved the “White Christmas” games last week personally. I’m not sure the losing teams would agree. At any rate, this figures to be another tough, physical fight in a division that top-to-bottom features teams that don’t go down easy. Pittsburgh lost the first meeting 20-10 way back in week 2, contributing to their 0-4 start. Cincinnati beat them more soundly than the score would indicate, with a 407-278 edge in total yards as Pittsburgh had the game’s only 2 turnovers. However, in that one the Steelers were using Felix Jones as their lead rusher. Now their rookie Le’Veon Bell is in action.

 

It’s not like the Steelers can really run the ball anyway. Only the Jaguars and Ravens are worse than them in yards per carry (3.4)  and only the Jags are worse per game (77.4) and only the Browns have fewer rushing scores than them (5). In a game where running might be a vital element, it’s hard to like the home team here very much. The Bengals have a pair of rushing options and at least a viable threat to move the ball on the ground. Neither defense is particularly stout defending the run, but the Bengals have allowed just 4 rushing scores while the Steelers have allowed 13. If Pittsburgh wants a touchdown it will likely come through the air.

 

The defenses are both competent against the pass. Cincinnati has a better pass rush and more interceptions (13-8). Offensively Pittsburgh is better on paper because they are more reliant on the pass to move the ball, but they have given up way more sacks (40-26) although fewer interceptions (10-16). Turnovers are what will keep the Steelers alive for the upset here. They lost the battle last time 2-0 and might win it 2-1 this time in the spoiler role. I do feel like there was a bit of karma biting them in the rear end when their hope for a miracle comeback died when their player stepped out of bounds after head coach Mike Tomlin’s shenanigans. They aren’t going to get a win here. The emotions aren’t in their favor: Cincinnati 26, Pittsburgh 20 (CIN -1/over 41)

 

Baltimore (7-6) @ Detroit (7-6): It’s not a Super Bowl preview, but nevertheless a great matchup for MNF. So often we get duds in this spot late in the year because there is no flex option, but these teams are both in the hunt fighting for the playoffs. The Lions are off a frustrating loss in the snow where placekicking was not an option. Their defense got run over. Back in the dome, the lack of elements will turn the tide back in their favor. The Ravens are also pretty exhausted following an insane final two minute-plus against the Vikings. They won the game though, and pending the outcome of SNF might be thinking more than wild card with another win here although it won’t be easy.

 

The Lions had to go without Reggie Bush last week and let’s face it he wouldn’t have been a factor. He should play here and is crucial to the offense because Joquie Bell isn’t going to run right over the Ravens. Bush creates offense. Calvin Johnson is his own offense and Matt Elam popping off really lit a fire under the usually mild mannered star wide receiver. He will go wild. Baltimore has really struggled on offense all season and while their defense isn’t bad, it’s not a dominant unit.

 

While clawing their way back into a potential title defense, the Ravens have won three straight at home, but all of those teams (Jets, Steelers, Vikings) are sporting losing records. Their past three road games produced losses and they are just 1-5 on the road. They also haven’t seen a dome this season. The Lions lost their last home game and only 4-2 here so it’s not like they are unstoppable, but this is their moment. I don’t see any scenario where this team comes out flat and chokes in this spot.

 

On Thanksgiving, granted against a Packers team without Aaron Rodgers, they absolutely crushed their opponent in a way few NFL teams have been crushed. It was impressive and I look for a similar defensive effort again here against a team without a lot of offensive punch. Joe Flacco has tight end Dennis Pitta back, and now Jacoby Jones is healthy, but he sure misses Anquan Boldin when it’s time to move the chains. Ray Rice has gone flat running the ball. As a team they average 3.0 yards per carry, and against a great run defense with a ferocious front line that’s really bad news. I don’t know how Baltimore can stay in this game unless Flacco plays the game of his life, and I’m not sure he has the weapons to help him do that. I like Detroit by a lot here. Matthew Stafford needs to avoid the pass rush and protect the football and all should be fine: Detroit 30, Baltimore 17 (DET -6/under 48.5)

 

 

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