Thursday, November 28, 2013

NFL Week 13 Picks: Putting The 'Tude In Gratitude

Screw You, Word Boy
Feeling a bit down with the holidays coming? I'll confess: I am. Just too much work and stress, too much beating back other factors and not getting enough sleep. The blog money keeps dripping away (alas, such is the way of all e-commerce), the fantasy team hasn't contended from Day One, and the picks have been a source of embarrassment. The real life laundry, while fun and diverting and loads better than the dying years of the Reid Era, is still a case of hope over experience.

But it's the best holiday of the year -- at least until our rapacious capitalism ruins it all in a race to the bottom -- and hope springs eternal. A few perfect weeks, and we get to have Christmas after all. So with that... on to the picks!

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Green Bay at DETROIT (-6.5)

This would have been such a nice game with QB Aaron Rodgers under center, but now, it's just not got the same juice. Detroit can lose to anyone when QB Matthew Stafford is a turnover machine, and Packer QB Matt Flynn does have his vast personal future tied to that shootout game against the Lions a few years ago... but the Packer defense just isn't that good at takeaways, and RB Eddie Lacy looked a little frail at the end of last week's disappointing tie against the Vikings. For once, Detroit Fan has nothing to forget about before eating.

Lions 28, Packers 20

OAKLAND (+7.5) at Dallas

The NFL's annual gift to the Cowboys: a cupcake game with maximum rest potential, at home, to set them up for the stretch drive. But Oakland is a little friskier than most, with an occasionally competent defense, tolerable run game and good work in special teams. Dallas would cover this number if ILB Sean Lee was 100%, but he's not, so look for RB Rashard Jennings to grind up some nice numbers in a close but not quite effort.

Cowboys 27, Raiders 24

PITTSBURGH (+3) at Baltimore

The annual Ode To Old Time Football gets the TNF slot for America's post-stuffing snooze. This series is always a field goal difference of a game, so it just seems cruel that the line is the standard home three. Pitt looks like the better club to me, with the better QB, RB and momentum, so home field be damned. Raven Fan is more into chanting naughty words on a live mic, anyway.

Steelers 24, Ravens 20

JACKSONVILLE (+7) at Cleveland

If you were ever convinced that QB is an overrated position, consider the plight of poor Cleveland, more than ready to take advantage of a down year in the AFC North, but saddled with weak play under center. This week, they get a Jaguar team that's threatening to ruin all of their good tanking work, and prevent them from getting the high pick needed to get off the QB Carousel themselves. I don't like the home team to cover, but they should still win, in a game no one really wants to watch, with the potential for multiple defensive touchdowns.

Browns 23, Jaguars 21

Tennessee at INDIANAPOLIS (-4)

Shove or fold time for the Colts, who've been getting their heads kicked in by the low-rent section of the NFC West for most of the last month. They'll find things to be a little easier against a Titan team that's entirely hit or miss, and more miss in a loud dome.

Colts 31, Titans 24

Bears at VIKINGS (pick 'em)

If you want proof that offense, not defense, is the more consistent year to year attribute for an NFL team, look no further than Chicago. Age and injury have ravaged the once proud Bears, to the point where no-name RBs like Bennie Cunningham are going for triple digits. On the road in Minnesota, against Adrian Peterson trying to take over the rushing lead from Shady McCoy, it could get more than a little poundy.

Vikings 20, Bears 17

Miami at NY Jets (-2.5)

The Fish looked surprisingly resilient last week before spitting the bit at home against a quality Panther team. The Jets fell three kinds of apart on the road in Baltimore, with QB Geno Smith looking Sanchez-esque; he's also the owner of a 1/10 TD to INT ratio in his last few games. So why go with them in this spot? Because their defense will cause more havoc, the cold road game is not a win for Miami, and the Dolphins are also banged up in the running game. It won't be pretty, and it also won't matter at all in the long-term playoff picture, but the home team will get the win.

Jets 20, Dolphins 16

ARIZONA (+3) at Philadelphia

I'd love to go with my laundry here, I really would. And there are reasons; the home field, 10am PST start, coming off the bye week, the turnover-prone Cardinals QB Carson Palmer and the erratic running game. But this defense is for real and the Eagles bend but don't break routine will not work against weapons like WR Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd in the red zone. It also doesn't help that The Cardinal Game has been a source of unending heartbreak over the years. It's been a fun ride, but this isn't a playoff team. And the Cards are.

Cardinals 27, Eagles 23

TAMPA (+9) at Carolina

Big number to cover for a home team that has played almost all of their games close to the vest, against a Buc team that, amazingly, didn't quit on their terrible coach when they had ample opportunity. Carolina just doesn't have enough urgency early in games to run off and hide, and QB Mike Glennon throws a nice deep ball to credible outside threats. Carolina will still win, but a big number is asking too much.

Carolina 27, Bucs 20

NEW ENGLAND (-9) at Houston

Just once, I'd like to see a team that I hate take the pipe and stay down... but that's never going to happen with the Patriots, owners of a miracle win after a massive choke job by the Broncos last week in Foxboro. This week, they go to the worst home-field advantage in the NFL to face a team with an uncertain QB, RBs that are cringe-inducingly injured, and a lame-duck coach that's coming off a seizure. And you thought bye weeks were over. We're really not that far away from the Patriots looking like the AFC's rep in the Super Bowl. Yet freaking again.

Patriots 34, Texans 17

Atlanta at BUFFALO (-3)

Normally I hate the Bills in their Not Really A Home Game in Toronto, but this time I'll make an exception. After 12 weeks of murdering his fantasy owners, RB CJ Spiller looks irrelevantly good again, and a healthy WR Stevie Johnson will make rookie QB EJ Manuel, fresh off his best game of the season, look quite at home against the Falcons. I also expect the road team to have a hard time coming through customs with all of those forks attached to their bodies.

Bills 30, Falcons 16

St Louis at SAN FRANCISCO (-8)

Another big number that I had a hard time swallowing, but the injury to RB Zac Stacy and the activation of WR Michael Crabtree has swayed me. The Niners really aren't what they were a year ago -- QB Colin Kaepernick's disappointing year is proof of that -- but they'll have enough to cover a Rams team that does not travel well, and won't get a third straight game breaking day out of rookie WR Tavon Austin. But man alive, this has got back door cover written all over it.

Niners 27, Rams 17

DENVER (-5) at Kansas City

Make or break game for the Chiefs, owners of a 2-game losing streak and staring down the barrel of a much harder playoff road if they spit the bit for the second time against the Broncos. Denver has issues coming into this one -- injuries at the RB position, QB Peyton Manning doing his old man in wind seasonal fade, the defense failing to cash in on leads -- but they aren't as pressing as what's going on with the Chiefs, who are suddenly bereft of pass rushers. Wrong time of the year for that.

Broncos 31, Chiefs 24

Cincinnati at SAN DIEGO (-1.5)

Cheap home field price for a Charger team that took out the Chiefs on the road last week, don't you think? And against a Cincy team that's without DT Geno Atkins, and has spent much of the year squandering opportunities. I'd like SD a lot better if RB Ryan Matthews wasn't banged up, and if T DJ Fluker hadn't also missed plays last week... but in a battle of flawed but frisky clubs, I'll take the home team. With the better QB.

Chargers 26, Bengals 23

NY GIANTS (NL) at Washington

Which team still cares? I'm thinking it's the Giants, who have the more accomplished coach and defense, and a QB that isn't (a) playing hurt and (b) trying to get his coach ran off. Add in the day of less rest and the general beatdown malaise that DC Un-United showed in their MNF Acquiescence, and I'm thinking this will be a pretty easy cover. Even though the Giants always struggle in this spot. Oh, and why is this still a prime-time game, other than the East having big media markets?

Giants 24, Washington 13

New Orleans at SEATTLE (-5)

Here's something that you won't hear very often outside of the Pacific Northwest: the Seahawks have the better QB in this matchup, and maybe the best in the NFL. But let's get back to how QB Russell Wilson is preferable, not just on age and salary, but also performance, to QB Drew Brees. Wilson throws as good of a deep ball, avoids INTs, does more with lesser weapons and can move the sticks when his line doesn't do the job. Oh, and if you think he's just a scheme guy because of his height, you are wrong, because the angle of his throws prevents knockdowns better than anyone in the league. Wilson is more fumble prone, but he's also still getting better. And in one to three years, you'll be able to say his name as Best In The Game without caveats, because Seattle is going to keep adding weapons.

He's done all of that without serious consideration in the MVP race this year, because Seattle is still a media backwater and home-field only suspect... but in this matchup of NFC heavyweights with the #1 seed on the line, that little piece of estimation is going to get more credence. New Orleans will put up points in this one, and Wilson will seem like more of a game manager, since he's got the better running game to feed. But he gets more done on less throws, and gives his team a better chance to win, while still making big plays when they need them. With WR Percy Harvin doing more each day, this will be more than a little bit of a coming-out party.

Seahawks 34, Saints 24

Last week: 5-9

Season: 73-87-8

Career: 441-459-37

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