NFL Picks and Predictions: Week 12

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, November 28th, 2015

Julio-Jones-grab-300x234

By Elliott Harrison
nfl.com    

Turkey Day Treats, that’s what we have to be thankful for … courtesy of the NFL’s Week 12 sked.
Knowing that so many of you football heads will be spending time with family, and because of the release of “Creed” (which has to be better than “Rocky V,” right?), we’re going to stick and move through the picks. No bogging you down with crazy Next Gen TI Graphing calculator stats or Youtube Videos of some Van Damme movie. Nope, below is straight talk on an important week of games. But first, some accounting to be done …
Agree, strongly, that Terrell Davis belongs in the Hall of Fame. I am still researching this “Gayle” Sayers you speak of … she must have been a heckuva force to make it into Canton after an evidently short career.
Davis’ Broncos face the Patriots in the matchup of the weekend, with home-field advantage implications in tow. As for the rest of the games, all of them important, see below.  Now, let’s get to it …
(Elliot Harrison went 9-5 on his predictions for Week 11, giving him a record of 93-67 so far this season.) .

Philadelphia (3-6) at Detroit (3-6)
Thursday,  11:30    FOX
Line:  Lions   -3 / 45.5
It was this time last year, on Thanksgiving Day, when Mark Sanchez arguably played his best game of the season. That won’t happen this time around. Will Sanchez be a turkey? (I am probably the 58,769th sportswriter to use that horrific, but timely cliché. Bill me.) While Sanchez won’t necessarily be the problem, the Eagles’ secondary presents the perfect opportunity for Matt Stafford to rebound. The Detroit defense has allowed a combined 29 points over the last two weeks, despite not forcing a single turnover. We’re still holding out hope that Sam Bradford plays.
Pick:  Lions by 10  / 24-14

Carolina (10-0) vs Dallas (3-7)
Thursday,  3:30   CBS
Line:  Panthers  -5 / 49
Yep, you read that right. The Panthers finally drop a game. The Cowboys know they must string together wins to have any shot at the NFC East title after losing seven straight without Tony Romo. The outcome listed here is due to several factors:
1) Romo and the Cowboys’ passing attack will present as large of a challenge as any offense Carolina has faced yet.
2) Josh Norman hasn’t yet faced a Dez Bryant-like receiver (with an adequate QB throwing him the ball).
3) The short week on the road after a blowout win plays to the Cowboys’ favor.
4) The Panthers are due for a fall at some point. This matchup at AT&T Stadium presents their toughest matchup in the remaining schedule.
5) Don’t worry, the Bucs’ awful unis still won’t catch Riverboat Ron’s guys.
Pick:  Cowboys by 6 / 23-17

Chicago (4-6) at Green Bay (7-3)
Thursday,  7:30  NBC
Line:  Packers  -7.5 / 47.5  
What a tasty treat for fans on Thanksgiving night! On that note, stuffing is far superior to cranberry sauce or any turkey, no matter how it is prepared. Now that we got that out of the way, let us point out that on a short week the Bears might not be healthy enough to challenge the Packers at Lambeau Field. The air attack was more like an air thrust sans Alshon Jeffery last Sunday (insert your bad first date joke here). The most intriguing matchup will be the Bears’ run defense, which was Ronnie Hillman’d last week for more than 100 yards, versus Eddie Lacy. I like the Packers at home, where they have won six of their last seven against Chicago.                                                                                                          Pick:  Packers by 6  / 30-24
St Louis (8-2) at Cincinnatti (4-6)
Sunday,  Noon    FOX
Line:  Bengals  -9 / 42.5
Will Jeff Fisher go back to Nick Foles? Does it matter? Going with Cincinnati at home, despite the panic and rhetoric that has already set in about the team’s two recent losses. Bear in mind that both games came down to the final drive, and that both opponents could end up in the postseason. Either way, unless the secondary is destroyed by in-game injuries, it’s difficult seeing Foles throwing for 300 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams’ best chance is to run Todd Gurley 30 times, control the clock and win in the kicking game. In case you were wondering, Gurley is just 231 yards behind Adrian Peterson, despite starting three fewer games. #30 #STLvsCIN
Pick:  Bengals by  15 / 28-13

Oakland (3-5) at Tennessee (4-4)
Sunday, Noon    CBS
Line:  Raiders -1 / 44
Sure would like to see Marcus Mariota take off more. Who’s with me? Mariota looked like he was running a 4.5 on the scamper around the corner in the loss to the Jags in Week 11’s Thursday night game. This offense is much scarier with the rookie QB on the move. Nashville represents the last chance saloon for the Raiders if they are to make any push for the wild card. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will have to make the most out of their targets — and hold on to the ball — against a Titans pass defense that has, under the radar to most football people, been solid all year. (Who are “football people” anyway? Heard this expression for 17.5 years, first time user.)
Pick:  Raiders by 7 / 21-14    

NY Giants (5-5) at Washington (4-6)
Sunday,  Noon   FOX
Line:  Giants  -2.5  / 47.5
Huge matchup in the NFC East this weekend, especially considering Big Blue can extend its lead over the Redskins by two games with a 2-0 edge in the head-to-head matchup. That said, Eli Manning has historically performed poorly in Washington — last year’s TD fest to Larry Donnell notwithstanding. If the Giants’ pass rush continues to show more life with JPP, then it will be incumbent on Kirk Cousins to be more careful with the football. Cousins, however, has been excellent at home this season — he’s 4-1, with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions, and not to mention an average passer rating of 110.8 in those games. Close game to call, but we’re leaning toward a healthier, if not healthy, New York club coming off the bye.
Pick:  Giants by 7  / 28-21

Minnesota (7-3) at Atlanta (6-4)
Sunday, Noon    FOX
Line:  Falcoms  -1 / 45.5
Minnesota wins. How’s that for simple analysis? Well, the formula should be simple for Mike Zimmer — run the football right at the Falcons’ front seven, play defense and let Matt Ryan throw you a couple of bad balls. Ryan’s play could be qualified as sub-mediocre for over a month now. The franchise QB is still good … good and terrible . Difficult to decipher the herky jerky play of a guy who has been one of the more consistent quarterbacks in pro football over his eight-year career, but 13 giveaways in 10 games has hurt this club. And sans a healthy Devonta Freeman, or productive Roddy White, the Falcons offense will have trouble versus the stingiest defense in the NFC in terms of points allowed.
Pick:  Vikings by 10 / 26-16

Buffalo (5-5) at Kansas City (5-5)
Sunday,  Noon  CBS
Line:  Panthers  -7 / 45  
Kansas City is the hottest team in the NFL right now, or at least in the conversation. They’ve won four in a row and have allowed a shade under 10 points per game during the win streak. And, if that’s not enough to set your confidence straight, who can stop Spencer Ware? Introducing the new waiver wire darling in fantasy. There likely won’t be a new quarterback in Buffalo this week, as Rex Ryan says he thinks Tyrod Taylor will play. Taylor, after a productive start to the season, has rushed for just 13 yards the last two games. And in three of the last four, he’s posted well under 200 yards passing. Yeah, Arrowhead doesn’t feel like the perfect spot for a T-Mobile turnaround. The coverage is too good. You’re welcome.
Pick:  Chiefs by 13 / 26-13

New Orleans (4-6) at Houston (5-5)
Sunday,  Noon     FOX
Line:  Texans  -3  / 48
The T.J. Yates experience has come to an end … for now, with Brian Hoyer tabbed to be QB1 against the Saints. The Hoyer-Hopkins connection should be strong Sunday, unless New Orleans generates a more consistent pass rush under new DC Dennis Allen; the Saints produced 22 sacks with Rob Ryan running the defense this year, but too often they were providing opposing passers all day to throw. And, if that doesn’t work, Brandon Browner will probably rack up a few PIs anyway, so that’s pleasant.
Pick:  Texans by  13 / 27-14

Tampa Bay (5-5) at Indianapolis (5-5)
Sunday,  Noon    FOX
Line:  Colts -3 / 46.5
I resisted the urge to pick against Tampa Bay again. The Bucs have proven this space wrong many times, winning when predicted to lose and, of course, losing when prognosticated to win ( still can’t believe Week 1). The key to their resurgence, even if Jameis Winston’s five touchdowns stole all the superlatives and expletives in Philly, has been Lovie Smith’s defense. Most notable: limiting big plays, which Tampa has accomplished better than any team in the NFL. As well as he’s played, Matt Hasselbeck is averaging a mere 6.56 yards per attempt, which would tie him for 20th in the league if he had enough throws to qualify.
Pick:  Bucs by  4  / 34-30

Miami (4-6) at NY Jets (5-5)
Sunday,  Noon   FOX
Line:  Jets  -3.5 / 43
Yet another division game with far reaching implications. New York won the first meeting of the season in Miami, and with a win Sunday, would be up two games with the head to head. More importantly, with the Chiefs streaking and Ben Roethlisberger back healthy in Pittsburgh, the six-hole in the wild-card race will be difficult to grasp. If the Dolphins falter at the Meadowlands, a 4-7 record would make it a steep tractor pull for Dan Campbell and Co., even if their schedule is palatable. We’re looking for Ryan Fitzpatrick to rebound in his second game coming off thumb surgery. Might help if Michael Irvin taught Brandon Marshall how to catch key footballs during “Inside the NFL” tapings. His drops have been, uh, non-clutch.
Pick: Jets by  3 / 20-17
 
San Diego (2-8) at Jacksonville (4-6)
Sunday,  Noon    CBS
Line:  Jaguars  -4.5 / 47
Can Blake Bortles get through a game without a big turnover? Perhaps lost to fans in Jacksonville’s gold puke triumph over the Titans was the ill-advised pick thrown by the franchise quarterback late while in field-goal range. Even Bortles acknowledged in his postgame press conference that he must quit throwing interceptions. On the other sideline, it would seem the Chargers are playing out the string. But considering Philip Rivers has thrown for 3,211 yards already, this should be a close affair.
The Jaguars’ secondary got hit with several penalties last Thursday, and had Marcus Mariota been throwing to healthy starters at wideout, it might have allowed twice as many points.
Pick:  Jaguars by 7 / 27-20

Arizona (8-2) at San Francisco (3-7)
Sunday,  3:05   FOX
Line:  Cardinals   -5 / 48.5
Arizona wins easily. The 49ers are in full-on evaluation mode at this point with no shot of the playoffs at 3-7. Don’t be putting your Tai Streets, Dexter Carter and Marquez Pope jerseys in the closet because of Blaine Gabbert, who was mostly efficient in Seattle. (OK, so maybe those weren’t the best 49ers to mention, but Roger Craig did make the semifinalist list for the Hall of Fame.) Kurt Warner also made that list, which is apropos given that Carson Palmer is providing this franchise with the best QB play since Warner in 2009. John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald should be too much for the 49ers, especially if Michael Floyd’s hamstring gets better.
Side note: It would be nice if a fantastic player for both these franchises, Tim McDonald, ever received a Canton mention. McDonald was a rookie in St. Louis before the team moved to Phoenix in 1988. He made six Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl in San Francisco, while being one of the smartest players at the safety position in the ’90s. He could position any of his teammates like a coach on the field.
Pick:  Cardinals by  20 / 34-14

Pittsburgh (6-4) at Seattle (5-5)
Sunday,  3:25    CBS
Line:  Seahawks  -3.5 / 46
What a fun game this should be: Antonio Brown versus Richard Sherman … Ben Roethlisberger versus the Seahawks pass rush … Marshawn Lynch running into that improved Steelers front. Well, that’s not happening. Enter Thomas Rawls, who ran around like a kid at a public swimming pool against the 49ers last week. We’re going with Seattle, while acknowledging that Pittsburgh will be motivated by the Bengals’ consecutive losses. The AFC North is still within reach, but the Steelers probably have to win out, or at least go 5-1, to claim the division. Pete Carroll’s club is three back of the Cardinals, with one head-to-head left to play. Heck, they’re trying to stay relevant in the wild-card race. Considering the ‘Hawks are at home, the long road trip the Steelers must make and the improved play of the offense last week, we’re giving this one to the two-time NFC champs … narrowly.
Pick:  Seahawks by 4  / 19-15

New England (10-0) at Denver (8-2)
Sunday,  7:25    NBC
Line:  Patriots  -3 / 43.5
No Brady-Manning rivalry game? So be it. The only thing more tired than that storyline are those Extenze commercials with Jimmy Johnson. Actually, I enjoy those more. Sure, those quarterbacks have squared off in important games, but there is so much more to these teams than those players, especially the Broncos. The defense saved the day in Chicago and is allowing the second-fewest points per game (behind New England). Phillips’ group paces the league in yards per game, yards per play, sacks and a bunch of sub-categories that you would only appreciate if you regularly toiled at World of Warcraft with a soggy bowl of Cinnamon Life. New England has started nine different guys on the offensive line, while the ground attack averages less than four yards per carry. Newbie QBs are historically terrible versus Bill Belichick and Co.
Pick:Patriots by 4  / 17-13

Baltimore (3-7) at Cleveland (2-8)
Monday,  7:30     ESPN
Line:  Browns   -3 / 41
How about a big win for the Browns in front of their faithful home crowd? How about Josh McCown throwing for 317 yards and three touchdowns on the Ravens? That’s what I am seeing. McCown gets the nod over backup-to-starter-then-bench-within-five-days Johnny Manziel. Bottom-lining this deal:
1) McCown is the better start against an exploitable Ravens defense that allowed him 457 yards and two scores in Baltimore.
2) Baltimore is relying on Matt Schaub, Buck Allen and Kamar Aiken this weekend — not exactly Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore and Raymond Berry.
Typically these division contests are tough, new starters aside, yet Browns fans will actually have something to be thankful for on this Turkey Day.
Pick: Browns by 10  / 30-20

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