|Doesn't Mean We're Not Smart|
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Dallas at CHICAGO (+3.5)
Just putting this out there: maybe the Dallas renaissance on defense (from historically bad to quite ignorable) never really happened, and the club was just the beneficiary of a happy schedule. I've also really not liked QB Tony Romo's game much of the year, but even less so after the back injury. People are going to want to go to the shorthand of Not Clutch in December, but the real story is he's just a 35-year-old guy with a bad back; this doesn't end well. Chicago's certainly capable of pulling off an unexpected home win after a desultory road loss, and this keeps the great dream of a third straight, incredibly disappointing, 8-8 year for America's Most Overrated Sports Franchise.
Bears 27, Cowboys 24
Pittsburgh at CINCINNATI (-3)
Two teams that looked horrible last week against terrible NFC South opponents, but the Bengals got their win and didn't look utterly lost on defense. It's also a 1pm game without being in the actual playoffs, so QB Andy Dalton can show up, and really, there's no way to trust the Yinzers this year. Just a wildly erratic team.
Bengals 23, Steelers 17
ST LOUIS (-2.5) at Washington
It's the NFL's most infamous teams, all snuggled up together! The Rams had their 52-0 beatdown of the no try Raiders completely eclipsed by the pregame hands gesture heard around the world, while the Slurs are, well, the Slurs. Give me the road team with the frisky defense and the emerging road game, especially when faced against a defense that might not be much better than Oakland, really. Besides, when in doubt, bet on Slur Fan Unhappiness, especially at home, maybe under grey skies and rain. It's almost like your franchise's horrible won-loss record is a manifestation of something!
Rams 31, Slurs 20
NY GIANTS at Tennessee (pick em)
Another one of those No One Has To Watch games, between the flat lining Giants and the QB Whatever Titans. I actually watched way too much of Big Blue's debacle in Jacksonville last week, having streamed their defense against the giving Jags, and as bad as Blue is this year, they were pretty unlucky to lose that one. (There were two fumble recoveries for 14 points that could have easily gone for 2, if not for Blue Whoopsie.) I think they win this one, if only because WR Odell Beckham Jr. might just get it all done his own damn self.
Giants 24, Titans 20
CAROLINA (+10) at New Orleans
The natural inclination is to run with the Saints, who finally looked like the team that they were expected to be in a clear air turbulence win at Pittsburgh. But I think Carolina can take some of the air out of the football with their running game, do some damage in the red zone with their big skill guys, and basically stay in touch as the home team goes back to their sleepy ways.
Saints 31, Panthers 24
NY Jets at MINNESOTA (-5.5)
If you've ever wondered why teams don't just pound teams with the running game any more, look no further than the Jets MNF loss against Miami. Gang Green ran for a ludicrous amount of yards and time of possession while making the game look like something from the early 1970s, only to (a) not execute in the red zone, and (b) eventually lose when Miami woke up in the second half. This week, they won't even get the running game going, and the Vikings might win just on special teams.
Vikings 20, Jets 6
Baltimore at MIAMI (-2.5)
The Ravens have longer rest and more desperation after spitting the bit against the Chargers, but the Fish home field is huge when it gets to this point in the calendar, and their secondary is gash-tastic. Don't be too shocked if this Dolphins team not only gets in to the post-season, but wins a game once they are there. Someone's got to beat Marvin Lewis, right?
Dolphins 26, Ravens 20
Indianapolis at CLEVELAND (+4)
The Browns running game gets well this week against the pliable road Colt club, and this secondary won't be the usual speed bump for QB Andrew Luck. I'm not enamored of the Brown QB situation, and suspect that the indecisiveness will hurt them in the long run, but this week, they'll stay close enough, if not win outright.
Colts 26, Browns 24
Tampa at DETROIT (-10)
A well-rested Lions team, at home, against a disappointed Bucs club on shorter rest? Lay the wood and the points, folks. Your best choice for a quit job / runaway this week, especially with WR Calvin Johnson looking fully operational. I'm still not convinced this club does much beyond lose in the playoffs in the face of a good coach, but that's not what happens this week.
Lions 34, Bucs 17
HOUSTON (-5) at Jacksonville
Regression, thy name is Ryan Fitzpatrick; it's not going to much in the way of a 6-TD runaway in this one. The Jags can cause real havoc with their pass rush, and have one or two drives a game when their quick tempo results in a score, but the rest of the time, it's just a quicker punt, and their secondary is very accessible. Houston gets it done, maybe without JJ Watt red zone clowning, and continues to hang around in the periphery of the playoffs.
Texans 27, Jaguars 20
Buffalo at DENVER (-10)
Have you noticed how ordinary the Broncos have become in the red zone now that TE Julius Thomas has been hobbled? This week, I think he gets back on the field, leading to easier reads for everyone else in Orange having more room to wiggle. Denver's defense is peaking at the right time, and QB Kyle Orton in his old retching grounds is not a winning formula. It'll be close for a half, until Broncos QB Peyton Manning breaks the Bills.
Broncos 34, Bills 20
KANSAS CITY (pick 'em) at Arizona
Pity poor Red, a solid team that just got blindsided by injuries. And it's not just contained to QB Carson Palmer now, with RB Andre Ellington, WR Larry Fitzgerald, and S Tyrone Mathieu all hitting the trainer's table. This is a good and proud team, but KC is desperate and not terrible, and also not missing, well, four of their best ten starters. Yeesh. Arizona, we hardly knew you.
Chiefs 24, Cardinals 20
Seattle at PHILADELPHIA (-1)
A fascinating game, really. Seattle has been playing like their old selves, and if RB Eddie Lacy de-pantsed my laundry, I'm terrified by what RB Marshwn Lynch is going to go to them. Mobile QBs can give my team trouble as well, and you don't get more mobile than Russell Wilson right now. But the WRs aren't game breakers, which means that the usual big problem for the Eagle defense isn't in play, and the Hawk OL has been pliable. On the other side of the ball, Seattle can be had on size and conditioning issues late, and their injury issues at LB mean that if QB Mark Sanchez can avoid S Earl Thomas, the club will be able to make some hay over the middle. And while Green hasn't been very good against Actually Good Teams, they have won their last 10 in a row at home, and I just have to like Chip Kelly more than Pete Carroll. It'll be a brutal, nasty game that might cause my laundry more ill than good, and things have not gone well in games against this franchise in a really long time... but I think the home team gets it done. (Oh, and the fact that K Cody Parkey is nursing a groin problem, and will likely need to make 4 or 5 long ones in this game? Not cool. Not cool at all.)
Eagles 26, Seahawks 24
SAN FRANCISCO (-8) at Oakland
Which reeling franchise with an obvious lame duck coach do you like here? I'm going to go with Red, because their fans will grit their teeth and buy up 20K tickets for a bigger fight than what will happen on the field, and their running game will be able to keep them out of dangerous downs and distances. If you're still trying to figure out how this team could slap the Chiefs around at home and stay close to Seattle on the road, while losing by 52 to the Rams, you're better than me.
Niners 23, Raiders 13
NEW ENGLAND (-3.5) at San Diego
Oh, you poor Chargers. You get the Patriots after one of those rare regular season losses when they are relatively healthy, and worse yet, it's a week after you pull off a Houdini act in Baltimore to feel good about yourselves. With Patriot Fan buying up thousands of seats for an early Christmas present to themselves, and QB Tom Brady getting all surgical, this will get ugly.
Patriots 38, Chargers 20
Atlanta at GREEN BAY (-13)
There is potential for the back door cover here, as the Falcons are (a) playing for something thanks to their charitable division, (b) operating on all cylinders with WR Julio Jones healthy and the running game actually having some nice moments recently. But this offensive line has had real issues, and that won't get better in Lambeau against a surging Packer club, and QB Aaron Rodgers has been a pinball machine at home this year. Besides, Green Bay doesn't want to travel before the Super Bowl, so there's no chance they look past this one.
Packers 41, Falcons 24
Last week: 4-12
Year to date: 91-96-3