Thursday, December 20, 2012

NFL Week 16 Picks: The Last Week That Matters

Horrible, Horrible People
How big is fantasy football now? So much so that I suspect it will have a large impact on the games this weekend. The most popular format is head to head with Championship Week happening now, and you can bet that the top skill position players aren't going to want to hear low-level gambling nerds pule to them at charity dinners and autograph sessions over how they killed them in the fantasy playoffs all winter long.

So look for the studs to be lobbying for the ball in garbage games, coaches to limit the trick throws to the lineman in the red zone, teams to run up scores, and players on trashed teams (hello, LeSean McCoy) to try to do too much. Picking games at this point in the year really requires you to keep many more factors in mind, not that the "simpler" games have been going better for me.

This week is for laying wood and looking at big swings, determining which teams have quit (Hello, Detroit) , which teams are just too hurt to matter any more (Pittsburgh), and which ones have very much to play for with a late-season peaking motion (Green Bay, Atlanta). But enough of the preliminaries.

And with that... on to the picks!

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ATLANTA at Detroit (+3.5)

How Jim Schwartz is still solidly employed after this year -- seriously, this team lost to the Cardinals last week, mostly because the offense decided to emulate the 2011-12 Eagles when it came to ball security -- I'll never know. Maybe Detroit Fan considers any playoff appearance the way other cities consider Super Bowl wins. Atlanta can take down the top seed in the NFC with a win on Saturday night, and while they aren't a scary top seed, they'll have more than enough to take down these twerps, and the inevitable suckout cover attempt.

Falcons 31, Lions 23

New Orleans at DALLAS (-1)

Dallas has stayed in contention with some legitimately gutsy performances in the last few weeks, and against a Saints team that has been a turnover machine on the road and unable to overcome that 0-4 start, I think it will continue for one more week. But have faith, America: it will end next week, without playoffs. You've got to have hope for the holidays, really.

Cowboys 26, Saints 24

Tennessee at GREEN BAY (-13)

A huge number to float, yes, but the Titans are (a) terrible, (b) on a short week, (c) on the road in a real home field advantage, and (d) catching the Pack at a time when they can stay in the running for a first week bye. Look for the Packer defense to create a few short fields, and for QB Aaron Rodgers to take advantage.

Packers 31, Titans 17

INDIANAPOLIS at Kansas City (+6.5)

I really did want to take the Chiefs here, since they'll be the road dome team, QB Andrew Luck is INT-prone, and the Kansas City defense hasn't quite gotten that QUIT QUIT QUIT memo yet. But dear Lord, this offense just failed to score -- failed to score -- in 60 minutes of football with those always amusing Oakland Raiders, and while the Colts aren't exactly a dynamo on D, they can still a little. Against this Chiefs team, I'm not sure you need much more than that.

Colts 20, Chiefs 13

Buffalo at MIAMI (-4.5)

Here's an amazing little tidbit: the Dolphins are still relevant in the AFC playoff race. Yeah, I had to look it up, too. The Bills are rarely good on the road late in the year, are in the final throes of the Ryan Fitpatrick era, and will have to overcome RB CJ Spiller's likely bad day in this matchup. The Dolphins aren't going to put up a ton of points in this game without healthy RBs or decent WRs, but the way the Bills handle the ball, they aren't going to have to move the ball very far.

Dolphins 24, Bills 16

San Diego at NY JETS (-1)

Are you ready for a dominant Jets performance behind QB Greg McElroy, just to prove to J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS Fan that QB Mark Sanchez was the root of all evil? I know I am, especially since they'll still be deluded into thinking they can keep their coach. Charger Fan gave up that hope a long, long time ago. They also are really banged up, and the Jet defense is playing well. But as always with Jets games, do not watch this. Woof.

Jets 20, Chargers 16

WASHINGTON at Philadelphia (+5.5)

Most likely the final home game of the Reid Era, and while the defensive line is playing better now that Jim Washburn is gone, and the running attack will be more secure with McCoy back for fumble-tastic Bryce Brown... well, the Eagles don't have any more healthy tight ends, have a makeshift OL, and a secondary that won't keep up with WR Pierre Garcon. Oh, and the special teams are horrible. It'll be close, but the Skins will make the nut late.

Redskins 27, Eagles 20

CINCINNATI at Pittsburgh (-4)

Pittsburgh is just too beat up, Cincy has extra days to prepare, and I just get the feeling that the Steelers are ready for this to be over. I'm also really not liking what WR AJ Green could do in this game, especially with CB Ike Taylor on the shelf. The Bengals finally break through here.

Bengals 24, Steelers 17

ST. LOUIS at Tampa Bay (-3)

Really just a matter of which team wants it less, and the Bucs haven't been looking like a caring team at all. The Rams were still fighting in garbage time last week while the Bucs were putting up a goose egg in New Orleans, of all places. Look for the Rams to get just enough from RB Stephen Jackson to give their passing game enough time to operate, and for WR Danny Amendola to move the chains a lot. For the Bucs, it's all on RB Doug Martin to do his Adrian Peterson impersonation, and he's just not up to that, really.

Rams 27, Bucs 20

Oakland at CAROLINA (-9.5)

Carolina has been sneaky good for a while now, and while the Raider defense showed a pulse after chopping some dead wood, they aren't good enough to contain QB Cam Newton. The Panther ground game is going to do serious damage here, and the Raiders might even pull garbage time hero QB Carson Palmer to start seeing what they have in the back ups.

Panthers 27, Raiders 16

NEW ENGLAND at Jacksonville (+14.5)

Here's something that you probably don't know: Jaguars QB Chad Henne has great career numbers against the Patriots. And the Jaguars *are* going to score some points here, since the Patriot defense really isn't airtight. But they are also going to turn it over, not get off the field on third down, and wonder why the Patriots aren't playing the backups in the fourth quarter. You've got to like that if you are laying the points.

Patriots 41, Jaguars 24

Minnesota at HOUSTON (-9)

I know that Peterson is within sniffing distance of the all-time record, and that the Houston defense has been cracking and peeling for much of the second half. But the Texans are still well-coached, and you can give up 150 yards to a RB and still not give up many points, especially when you give up fewer yards than that through the air. This one will be decided entirely in the red zone, where the Texans are a lot better.

Texans 27, Vikings 17

Cleveland at DENVER (-13.5)

A bad time to be visiting Denver. Cleveland has been playing better recently and can certainly grind out a cover... but at altitude, with the Broncos looking to lock down a playoff bye, it's just not looking good. QB Peyton Manning has shown no sign of slowing down, and might be looking to put the cap on an MVP bid here... especially since he's probably sitting out Week 17.

Broncos 31, Browns 17

Chicago at ARIZONA (+5.5)

There is no reason to bet or watch this game, but, well, the rules of my little game is that I gotta, so here goes. The Bears are beat up, have lost 6 of 8, can't keep the RBs intact or from putting the ball on the ground. The defense will need to score to win this one, and they haven't done that in a while. Arizona's defense might be the only good group in this one, and the Cardinals' special teams might even be better than Chicago's by now. But, seriously, do not watch, do not bet. Or resuscitate anyone doing either of those activities.

Cardinals 20, Bears 13

NEW YORK at Baltimore (+1)

I'm going to keep picking the Giants until they get it right, or they stop giving me the ability to keep hurting my bottom line on them. The Ravens' offense is a mess right now, the defense is beat up, and while they get a home field advantage, they also suffer from questionable officiating. I don't think the Giants are going far in the playoffs or gelling, but they'll make us all forget that for a week.

Giants 24, Ravens 20

San Francisco at SEATTLE (+1)

Wow, what a game. Two of the hottest teams in the NFL, coming off huge wins, with young mobile QBs and defenses that have game-changing ability. I'll take the Seahawks for the home field and what might be a better defense, but really, there's no bad choice here, and I fully expect it to go down to the wire. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson has shown quite a knack for succeeding in those situations. Also, one final edge for the home team: the Niners' special teams, especially K David Akers, has been leaving a lot of points on the field this year. Could prove costly in this one.

Seahawks 24, Niners 20

Last week: 7-9

Season: 103-112-4

Career: 648-641-30

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