NFL Predictions 2019: Week 12

I feel okay about last week’s picks. I was on point picking winners at 12-2 (105-56-1 overall) and I don’t regret either miss. Pittsburgh had two game changing offensive players exit the lineup in their loss, and I don’t think anyone anticipated Atlanta following up their shocking win. I was 7-7 against the spread (83-76-3 overall) and definitely took too many chances on teams covering the points. I was 8-6 on the over/under (77-83-2 overall) and the +2 there made me +2 on the week moved me to +1 on the season against Vegas. Climbing out of the hole was difficult and it only gets harder now down the stretch when it’s hard to figure out what teams will be motivated and how injuries are impacting the lineups. Don’t gamble kids, the house always wins, mostly because they get 10% either way.

Indianapolis (6-4) @ Houston (6-4): The AFC South is far from over and if any team should get red hot then all bets are off. Still, this is for the lead and if the Colts are able to pull out the road win they really have the edge because it will mean they swept the Texans. The Titans and Jaguars are trailing and play each other on the weekend. It’s short week and the home team is coming off a humiliating loss at Baltimore. They were destroyed 41-7. The visitors won big over Jacksonville and continue to defy the odds in a season thought to be lost when Luck retired. Brissett had a great game in the 30-23 Indy win the first time these teams met. Both quarterbacks completed two-thirds of their passes for north of 300 yards, but he had 4 touchdowns and was sacked just once. Watson threw two picks and was sacked 3 times. Mack was contained in that game (18 carries for 44 yards) and won’t be available for the rematch. Even though he didn’t produce statistically, that’s a huge difference. Last week was only the second time this season he failed to reach 20 touches and he’s been a beast. Hilton is iffy to return and that could factor in. Ebron is also a question mark. It feels as if the Colts have too many uncertain factors on offense here against a team that is ticked off. Indianapolis played their first game decided by more than a single score last week and isn’t a dominant force. They have little margin for error. Houston is 4-3 in close games and draws the Patriots next week. They could be 6-6 in a hurry. They have the clear edge in passing offense. Indianapolis is among the worst in the league although they have done a better job protecting their quarterback. In pass defense the rankings flip and the Texans have allowed 22 TD passes against only 5 interceptions. It’s fair to say they miss a defense that included Watt and Clowney. Both rushing offenses are top five, but minus Mack it will be tough for the visitors to hold that up. While both run defenses are in the upper half they allow high per carry averages. It’s an even matchup. Primetime under the lights raises the stakes. I favor the Colts for coaching and the Texans at quarterback and of course home field. Watson delivers: Houston 28, Indianapolis 21 (HOU -3.5/over 46.5)

Denver (3-7) @ Buffalo (7-3): This is one of those games where the records don’t really indicate how the teams are playing right at this moment. The Broncos are 3-3 since their winless September, and could have been 4-2 if not for becoming the first team of the past 100 to blow a 20-point halftime lead last week in Minnesota. They are now 2-5 in one score games and that comes down to coaching and quarterback play. The Bills are 2-2 after their hot 5-1 start and the wins were over teams with a combined 17 losses. They were hammered by Philadelphia and lost to a Browns team that was in a free fall. It’s astonishing to think they are only two games back in the AFC East, but the schedule should fix that. They are in Dallas on Thanksgiving, then host Baltimore and later go to New England so while they probably still get a wild card it will be a limp to the finish if they do. In the battle of the Allens, Josh has the experience and home field in predicted snowy conditions. His mobility factors in if it does snow. Brandon is playing really well out of nowhere at age 27, but this is a tough spot against a competent defense in inclement weather. Both passing offenses are below average and Denver has issues protecting the passer having allowed 32 sacks. They also have just 9 passing touchdowns. Both teams are falling short of 63% completions as well. Buffalo is third in pass defense and has given up just 7 aerial scores while the visitors are fifth and have allowed only 10. Messy weather complicates it all. The Bills are eight in rushing offense while the Broncos are average although they bring in a competent young tandem of runners. Denver’s run defense is better and the stats favor them overall. I absolutely believe they can compete here in what figures to be a big time defensive struggle. Who knows what could happen if weather mucks up missed field goals or random fumbles? I have to stick with the team that has something to lose: Buffalo 17, Denver 14 (DEN +5.5/under 38)

NY Giants (2-8) @ Chicago (4-6): The weather outside is frightful and both teams are used to it so it’s a matter of which side is more prepared to deal with that type of game. The Bears have crashed out of the playoff picture after starting the season 3-1. Trubisky is being compared to a trash can on Instagram and the best the team can do is blame a sore hip for his ineptitude. It’s amazing to consider they passed on much better players and gave up a ton of draft assets so recently and are now in such bad shape at the position. The Giants dealt with skeptics when they chose Jones over Haskins, but the early returns on that is they made the right move. For the moment he appears at least capable of being the future. Chicago’s defense has held strong even during the miserable 1-5 run, holding foes to no more than 24 points in five of those games. New York can’t say that. Coming out of their bye week they have allowed 27-plus points in six straight and 34-plus in three of those, all six were losses. They couldn’t block a soul in the loss to the Jets. On paper the Giants have a much better passing offense, but the teams have combined to allow 64 sacks and they have thrown more interceptions (10 to 6). The Bears are tenth in pass defense and have allowed far fewer TD passes (9 to 17) but both teams let opponents complete over two-third of their throws. Neither team runs the ball well, but New York has been better overall and Barkley is an elite talent although not currently playing at full strength. The Bears are eighth in run defense and the Giants are below average but a lot of that comes from being behind during all the losses. It figures to be a close game and probably low scoring. These teams are out of the race. I think Chicago has pride and their defense cares, so that’s a big advantage. New York does as well, but it’s different on the road: Chicago 19, NY Giants 14 (NYG +7/under 41)

Pittsburgh (5-5) @ Cincinnati (0-10): The Steelers have had extra rest for this one as they play three consecutive games against Ohio teams. Their fledgling wild card hopes were dealt a severe blow at Cleveland even before the fight that cost them Pouncey’s services until mid-December. Their offense is quite frankly decimated by injuries and if any other opponent was on the schedule I would probably already be considering how much they would lose by. However, the Bengals are winless and have not scored more than 17 points in eight of their games this season. Last week in Oakland they did show fight in a 17-10 loss, and even while getting beaten by double digits in half their games only twice have they allowed more than 27 points. This team lacks leadership and is several pieces away from contending. In the first meeting the Steelers won 27-3. Rudolph was almost perfect going 24/28 with a pair of scores and no sacks or turnovers. Dalton was starting on the other side at that point in what was a battle of 0-3 teams. It was a fairly thorough win with the victors almost doubling the total yards (326 to 175). Now it’s going to be interesting to see how Pittsburgh responds from a tough loss and massive distraction. They probably benefit from being on the road actually. It should help them focus. The irony about the Garrett incident is that they protect their quarterback really well having allowed only 15 sacks. Cincinnati has given up 36. On the flip side the Steelers on defense have 34 sacks and the Bengals have 13. The visitors also have a huge edge in interceptions (14 to 4). Both rushing offenses have struggled and rest in the bottom 6. Pittsburgh has injuries on top of that, but Cincinnati is dead last in rushing defense. They are getting crushed. I know the Steelers can hold up against the run and stop an inexperienced quarterback. They should be dialed in here and keep their wild card hopes alive in bitter cold conditions: Pittsburgh 26, Cincinnati 17 (PIT -6.5/over 38)

Miami (2-8) @ Cleveland (4-6): The talk here should be about the Browns potentially surging for a surprise wild card run, as they did last season. Instead, Garrett’s idiotic behavior has robbed them of their best defensive player and they show up for this one two guys short and fully distracted. The Dolphins apparently were not tanking and won a couple games before getting spanked last week. It was their seventh loss by double digits on the season and in all of those games they allowed 27-plus points. Cleveland has the schedule lined up to make a move, with the volatile rematch in Pittsburgh next followed by a visit from winless Cincinnati. They can push to 7-6. I’m unsure about their psyche at this point and also how the defense responds without an elite talent. It will be cold and that’s a huge advantage for them with visitors from warm weather. Neither passing offense has been effective with a combined 25 interceptions thrown and awful completion rates. Miami has allowed way more sacks (42 to 26) and while Fitzpatrick gives them a better chance to win, Mayfield has been showing signs of recovering from an awful start. Cleveland has the wide edge in sacks on defense (30 to 13) and while they rank a lot better in yards allowed they have given up plenty of passing scores (17) just not as many as the visitors (23). The Dolphins are dead last in rushing offense and in cold weather that’s a killer. The Browns are picking up just shy of five yards per carry and Hunt paired with Chubb is a great combo down the stretch. Both run defenses are struggling and allowing too much on the ground. I think the home team has the better offensive weapons and it’s a revenge game for Landry. Mayfield is going to show some leadership and bring this home: Cleveland 23, Miami 20 (MIA +10.5/under 45.5)

Tampa Bay (3-7) @ Atlanta (3-7): Inclement weather is a factor across the league this week, but not here. The Falcons are playing like the season resets after the bye week. If only teams could secure a playoff bid for what they do in each half of the season they would have a chance. After dispatching two division foes on the road while allowing a total of 12 points they have looked like a totally different team. If they somehow went 6-0 within the division and missed the playoffs it would be a trivia question answer for the ages. The Bucs have had no such luck having allowed 27-plus in now eight straight games. Yes, these teams have identical records but momentum is clearly with the team coming home after two routs on the road. Both teams are top four in passing offense, but Tampa Bay has thrown way more interceptions (18 to 10) and allowed more sacks (36 to 25) while completing 11% fewer passes. Winston is way too wild and Ryan is historically great at home. The pass defenses are both bad and if not for recent history I’d say this figures to be a shootout. The Bucs are ordinary running the ball and the Falcons are awful. Tampa Bay is second in rushing defense while Atlanta is average. On paper the visitors probably should win this game. Something happened though and it happened again. These guys woke up and I can’t see them misfiring at home: Atlanta 33, Tampa Bay 17 (ATL -3/under 54.5)

Carolina (5-5) @ New Orleans (8-2): The NFC South is over and this is really just to finish the job. The Saints can’t clinch with a victory here, but just about. Last week’s win at Tampa Bay made the prior week’s loss to Atlanta look like a fluke. They will get another shot at them next week with a chance to officially lock up the division title. The Panthers thought they were in the playoff hunt entering their bye week at 4-2. Then they got rolled 51-13 at San Francisco to start a 1-3 stretch. This is pretty much must-win territory for them or close to it. Allen isn’t the answer at quarterback and that’s usually the case with new faces at the position. The film piles up and teams adjust. In the recent three losses they have totaled 32 points. I don’t think they can keep up here. The Saints are clearly a lot better in passing offense and Thomas is having a monster season. They complete over 10% more of their throws and have taken considerably fewer sacks (19 to 34). Both pass defenses are competent and the Panthers have more sacks (39 to 27) but in the dome with the crowd noise I don’t know if they can really get after Brees the way their guy is going to be harassed. Two of the best backs in the league lead these teams and while Carolina is better on the ground overall, I think in terms of overall offense I’ll take the home team. New Orleans has been a lot more effective stopping the run and while McCaffrey is an elite talent they can focus a lot of their attention on him. The hosts have a lot of weapons. I think they get this done fairly comfortably: New Orleans 28, Carolina 17 (NO-7/under 48)

Seattle (8-2) @ Philadelphia (5-5): In the NFC even though there are six weeks of games left it sure looks as if eight teams are in contention for six spots. If the Seahawks can’t beat San Francisco again to contend for the West title they will still be in good shape for a wild card. The Eagles are really relegated to either the East title or nothing with 8-3 Minnesota resting in the second spot, especially if they lose this game. Seattle is coming off a bye week and plays those Vikings next week in a game that could decide wild card positioning. This was supposed to be maybe a rebuilding season for them until the Clowney acquisition and suddenly they look like they are for real. However, it’s important to understand they have won five times by 4 points or less and have only one win by more than a touchdown all season. Wilson has been clutch and led them to a 7-1 mark in one score games. It’s hard to sustain that, especially on the road. The Eagles suffered a tough loss to New England last week coming out of their bye week and get three cupcakes after this game. If they can pull this out their path to 9-5 before the rematch with Dallas is very plausible. Wilson is having an MVP season thus far and Seattle is clearly the better passing offense. Their pass defense is worse on paper, but they haven’t allowed as many touchdowns (12 to 17). Both teams have been able to run the ball, and both defenses have shown the ability to stop the run. Philly allows fewer yards per carry (3.8 to 4.5) and this game is on their defense. If the effort is what it was last week I like their chances. I can’t really call this game with confidence. I think the Eagles are capable of putting this together, but the Hawks have proven all season they pull out wins: Seattle 20, Philadelphia 16 (SEA +3/under 49)

Oakland (6-4) @ NY Jets (3-7): The Raiders were one drive in Mexico by the Chargers away from being atop the AFC West. As it stands, they are stuck in a textbook trap situation against a losing team on the road a week ahead of their rematch with Kansas City for the division lead. If they choke here, it might not be a battle for first place. They moved to 6-1 in one score games last week and while Carr isn’t being mentioned as an MVP candidate that’s a record that compares favorably to Wilson who is 7-1 in such games. The “Just win baby!” days might be back. The Jets have scored 34 points in back-to-back wins and finished the season 3-1 against the NFC East. Unfortunately they play in the AFC East. Let’s also not forget losing to then 0-7 Miami preceded the wins. This team has talent in spots it’s a question of whether or not they can put it together and beat a team with something at stake. Oakland has survived rigorous travel this season and managed to get a couple wins during a bizarre stretch of 6 calendar weeks without a home game. Now they are rested having played three straight at home and while this isn’t a short plane ride I think they will be okay. It’s a concern not to look ahead. The Jets have absorbed 41 sacks this season and thrown 13 interceptions while amassing more passing yards than only the Redskins. The Raiders are above average and have blended some key rookies into their attack while yielding only 15 sacks. Carr has thrown just 5 interceptions. Oakland’s pass defense is shaky and injuries have been damaging in their secondary, but the pass rush has been decent. New York isn’t much better and the disparity on offense is much bigger. The Jets are also second worst in rushing offense, even with Bell at their disposal. The Raiders are ninth and Jacobs is a contender for OROY. Their offensive line can dominate and as the weather turns that’s a big advantage. New York does have the best run defense in the league, but has somehow allowed 10 rushing scores. Oakland is average and should be able to contain a suspect attack. This isn’t going to be a walk over by any means. It’s tough to travel east and win. The Jets want to play spoiler I’m sure, but I think the Silver and Black can just run them over and dominate them physically to win, possibly in the rain: Oakland 23, NY Jets 17 (OAK -3/under 47)

Jacksonville (4-6) @ Tennessee (5-5): This is definitely the undercard for the AFC South no question and somewhat of an elimination game. The Jaguars especially need this game if they have any playoff aspirations whatsoever. They are coming off losses against the other two teams in the division sandwiched around the bye week. Worse yet, both games were decisive outcomes by a combined 59-16. The return of Foles failed to give them a spark and this is their last stand. A win does give them hope because it will mean a series sweep. They won the first meeting 20-7 but that was Minshew versus Mariota. Jumping to a 14-0 first quarter lead and recording 9 sacks tells the story. The Titans are coming out of their bye week with zero attention being paid to them. They just beat Kansas City and yes it was a crazy game they had no business winning, but they won. There are four division games left for them and while they stand 0-2 in the South their destiny is almost in their hands. If they win out, unless the Colts also win out then they win the division. That’s about all you can ask for around Thanksgiving. Tennessee is struggling in passing offense, but Tannehill has made them better. Jacksonville is twelfth and has given up a lot fewer sacks (24 to 42). The Titans are below average in pass defense and a third of their sacks on the season came in that first meeting (9 of 27). The Jaguars are eighth and have 33 sacks. They did lose a lot when Ramsey was dealt, but this defense can play. Both rushing offenses can get it done. The glaring difference is Tennessee’s 9-1 edge in rushing scores. Jacksonville’s rushing defense is a mess, allowing 5.3 yards per carry and 134.6 per game. They let Mack and his backup go for triple digits last week in Indy, combing for 225 yards on 27 carries. I mean that’s awful. Tennessee can slow down the run at least. I’m certain the visitors can rise up, play well and win this game. On paper though it’s decisive that Henry is going to run them over: Tennessee 27, Jacksonville 20 (TEN -2.5/over 41)

Dallas (6-4) @ New England (9-1): It’s America’s Team against the team America loves to hate. The Patriots escaped last week in Philly after digging an early 10-0 and needed a trick play to spark their offense that finished with just 298 yards. It’s no wonder rumors are starting they might reunite with Antonio Brown. They did get back in the win column off their bye week and shook off the beating they had taken in Baltimore. It’s almost like an undefeated boxer who gets knocked out. Teams might be smelling blood now and realize this unbeatable defense might be a product of a historically soft schedule. The Cowboys are starting to do things on offense now. They have scored 37, 37, 24 and 35 the last four outings after the shocking loss at the Jets. Their defense has allowed 55 points over the last two weeks though and that’s an issue. Making matters more complicated the weather is expected to be poor. Dallas is actually leading the NFL in passing offense and has given up just 12 sacks on the season. Their line can play. New England is seventh and likewise they protect Brady (17 sacks) and use unprecedented creativity to thrive. The Patriots are second in pass defense with an unheard of 19 interceptions against 4 TD passes allowed plus 37 sacks. Their schemes beat anyone plain and simple. The Cowboys are seventh and at their best this could get interesting. New England’s rushing offense is bad statistically. How often has a team gone 9-1 while averaging 3.3 yards per carry? Dallas is seventh and steams to 4.6 a pop with Elliott. Can they maul them in the cold and rain? The Patriots are allowing 4.6 per carry so if those numbers hold I can’t see the home team having a chance here, but it’s not that simple. The Cowboys have an average run defense, but the key to stopping this offense is tackling and avoiding the paper cut attack. Brady will take his short gains and keep those chains moving. Home field here is too much to overcome. Yes, the visitors could play physical and dominate this affair in theory. This is a very difficult place to play and as the weather turns it’s hard to go against the champs: New England 24, Dallas 20 (DAL +7/under 47)

Green Bay (8-2) @ San Francisco (9-1): For a decade when these teams would hook up the shadow of the fateful draft when the 49ers took Alex Smith and let Aaron Rodgers go to the Packers. This proud franchise would have had a third HOF quarterback. Only now with Jimmy G at the controls does San Francisco return to Super Bowl contention and here with go with a titanic matchup. They did their part to keep this as a historic meeting of teams with a combined 17-3 mark this late in the season thanks to a huge comeback 36-26 win over Arizona. It was a flat performance after their OT loss the previous week to Seattle in a heavyweight tilt. Now the question is if they can get back to that elite effort, and the next two weeks they go to Baltimore and New Orleans. Honestly, there is a chance this team crashes to 9-5 and that’s realistic. It won’t mean they are a bad team it’s just things catching up to them. They have beaten one good team all season, at the Rams. Blowing out an average Carolina team is their next best victory. So this is a big test for them. Green Bay is rested off their bye week and while their defense has been beleaguered they still find ways to win, going 5-1 in one score games. The Packers have the better passing offense and have thrown only 2 interceptions compared to 10 for the 49ers. Both teams can protect the quarterback. The 49ers are first in pass defense and have 39 sacks. They have fewer interceptions actually (11 to 12) but give up two yards per play less. San Francisco’s real power is their second-ranked rushing offense. Green Bay is average and their offense is balanced, but not always dominant. Both teams have trouble stopping the run, with San Francisco giving up 4.7 a pop and the visitors allowing 4.8. If both teams struggle to stop the run who can take more advantage of that is the question and it’s the home team. I never count Rodgers out, but the odds are against him here: San Francisco 27, Green Bay 23 (SF -3/over 44)

Baltimore (8-2) @ LA Rams (6-4): It’s getting serious for the Ravens. I remember thinking earlier this season they had a chance to really take the AFC North by the horns, but I never anticipated a four game run like they have just had. While dispatching three playoff teams during that stretch they scored 157 points and won all the games by at least two touchdowns. It’s probably they will need to win at New England in order to reach the Super Bowl, but Lamar Jackson has his name on the MVP so far and they are running over the league. Remember the Rams? They were just in the big game right? Now they are a third place team trying not to fall two games out of the second wild card spot behind the idle Vikings. Last week’s SNF win over Chicago washed away the embarrassment of losing in Pittsburgh. The feared offense of 2019 has scored a total of 53 points in the past three games. They have a dangerous game in Arizona next and then Seattle comes to town. I think this team is sunk and if they lose this game it’s no longer a question. Both teams are protecting the quarterback and while the Rams have more yardage per game through the air the Ravens have a 20-11 edge in TD passes and complete 7% more throws. Both pass defenses are what I’d call competent. Baltimore really clamps down on passers allowing just 59.7% of passes to be completed and has allowed only 9 TD passes on the season. They are also the best rushing offense in the league thanks to a quarterback who produces like a running back. When you can run for 203.1 yards per game you’re going to win a lot. I mean 5.7 yards per carry is pretty good. Los Angeles is below average and while they do have 13 scores this offense is a shadow of last season. Defensively both teams allow under 100 yards per game on the ground, but the Rams are a lot better per carry (3.3 to 4.4). Can the Ravens run over them like they have most teams? I don’t know that they can. If that’s the case and they close those lanes then Jackson has to throw and he’s got Ramsey and Weddle, a former Raven, to worry about on the back end. It’s going to be a defensive battle I think. I can’t go against momentum though so as much as I think an upset is possible I don’t see it: Baltimore 22, LA Rams 16 (BAL +0/under 49)

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