Breaking Down NFL Week 12 Matchups

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I went 8-6 this past week.  Better than the last two, but still not great.  These past three weeks have knocked my percentage down from 67% correct to 61%, and even the 67% was disappointing by my standards.

But I feel the winds of fortune changing for the better and I feel that my Nostradamus-like abilities are returning.

Once again the NFL provided us a week filled with strange outcomes and unexpected performances, and as always we still do not know what the hell a catch is…

Oh wait…I found the rule:  “In the NFL a receiver is deemed to have completed the catch when he secures the ball with both hands, makes a football move, does a rendition of ‘Swan Lake’, swathes the ball in a soft blanket like a baby, rolls around on the ground as if on fire, then return to the bench and sit down before relinquishing control of the football.”

So with that being said, lets see who won’t be making catch this week:

Philadelphia Eagles @ Detroit Lions

So for the first game of the week we have the annual Thanksgiving Lions-Bowl.  The difference this year is that instead of the Packers, the Lions are facing a team that they have a good shot at beating.

Statistically the Eagles are a better team.  They gain more yards and points while allowing fewer of each than do the Lions, but that was mostly achieved behind the guidance of Sam Bradford.  While Bradford has been far from elite this year, he was a considerable upgrade over Mark Sanchez.  Whatever the statistics may say, I cannot in good conscience pick a Sanchez-led team that has struggled to run the ball and to stop other teams from getting in the end zone.

Lions finally get a win on Thanksgiving.

Carolina Panthers @ Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys on the other hand face a much more formidable challenge.  The undefeated Panthers look to continue their streak against an iffy Cowboys teams.  While I expect Greg Hardy to get himself worked up to face his former team (I expect at least one personal foul out of him, possibly a late hit to Cam Newton), I do not think it will be enough to stop the Panthers’ top-rated run offense from marching up and down the field against them.

Panthers stay undefeated.

Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers

So last week I picked the Bears to upset the Broncos for Brock Osweiler’s debut and I picked the Packers to lose against a tough Vikings team, and both of them let me down.

Right now the Packers are 9-point favorites and while I think that is very generous and I do think the Bears have a chance to pull this game out with that talentless defense of theirs, therefore I am going with the Packers.  So long as they have a semblance of a run game and Aaron Rodgers can find James Jones, the Packers will emerge victorious on the eve of Brett Favre’s jersey retirement ceremony.

Oakland Raiders @ Tennessee Titans

Mariota just has not looked right since his knee injury.  Maybe he can’t plant his feet as well or maybe he is playing with some trepidation, I don’t know, but without him putting forth ProBowl caliber efforts, the Titans simply lack the talent to compete.  I know I will regret it, but I am going with the Raiders yet again because I think their passing attack will overwhelm that mediocre Titans’s defense.

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs, who started the season 1-5, have now won 4 in a row and are a team that no one wants to face.  The accuracy of Alex Smith combined with a stout defense and sustained running attack has given the Chiefs a well-rounded plan of attack that has them piling up the victories.

On the flip side, the Bills have struggled to put up points both on the ground or through the air and their once formidable defense has become hit or miss.  I rarely bet against a hot team and right now few teams are as hot as the Chiefs.  Chiefs get the W at home.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Indianapolis Colts

Do you realize that if the Bucs win this week and the Falcons lose, they could conceivably be the second wildcard team? Do you also realize that Jameis Winston just threw for 5 touchdowns this past week? What the hell is going on? And let’s be honest, the Colts defense isn’t any better than the Eagles’.

But here is the other weird stat:  the Colts have won more and been more productive offensively this year with Matt Hasselbeck than with Andrew Luck.  The Bucs and Colts are both teams lacking in talent, but they both have a little fight fight in them.

But the Bucs have the Muscle Hampster.  Doug Martin is second in the league in rushing and he has been on fire in recent weeks.  I like the Bucs to beat the Colts at home on the legs of Doug Martin.

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins

So if the Redskins win this game, they will be the NFC East Division leader via tiebreaker.  Who would have ever thought that? No run game to speak of, a porous defense, and Kirk Cousins at quarterback and the Redskins still have a legitimate shot of winning this division.

And you know what? I think they can do it.  I think the Giants are only as competitive as Odell Beckem Jr. allows them to be, whereas the Redskins have the ability to play cohesive football in short bursts.  I like the Redskins at home to win this game.

New Orleans Saints @ Houston Texans

I have no idea what to expect from the Saints.  We all know that Brees can put up points in bunches.  We also know that the Saints will come out strong coming off a bye week.  What we do not know is what to expect from the defense.

The team with the league’s worst defense fired its defensive coordinator before the bye giving the new one two weeks to prepare for the Texans.  The Texans have one offensive weapon by the name of DeAndre Hopkins, but oh what a weapon he is.  Also their defense has been finally playing like the early season hype suggested, behind the never-ending motor of the NFL sack leader J.J. Watt.

I am going with the Saints based on my old rule of thumb: take the team with the better quarterback.  The Saints have the better QB and are coming off the bye, I like them to pick up the victory.

Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons

Opposing teams seem to have caught up to the Falcons.  The game plan is simply:  stack the box against Devante Freeman and keep Julio Jones out of the end zone.  Easy plan, difficult to execute.

The wildcard in this game is Freeman’s health.  He was removed from last week’s game via the concussion protocol and as of this writing has not been cleared for the upcoming game.

But even if he is healthy, I like the Vikings.  I like the league’s leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, going against a defense that has been showing cracks in recent weeks.  Vikings win and keep pace with Green Bay in the NFC North.

St. Louis Rams @ Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have lost two heart-breakers in a row in primetime games, both by a field goal.  But they are still a very good and very dangerous team.  The Rams have proven to be anything but.  Two weeks ago the Rams allowed the Bears to put up 37 points and last week they were unable to muster enough offense to beat an injured and depleted Ravens team.

If you can contain Todd Gurley, then you can beat the Rams.  Plain and simple.  I like the Bengals to stop Gurley and to beat the Rams.

San Diego Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars

So Philip Rivers is second in the league is passing and the Chargers only have 2 wins.  That tells me three things: 1) the Chargers can’t run the ball, 2) the Chargers play from behind a lot, and 3) the Chargers absolutely suck.

Jacksonville has been able to pick up 4 wins (twice as many as the Chargers for all you non-math majors out there) and can compete with anyone so long as they minimize the turnovers.

The Chargers are -7 in turnover differential, which is good enough for 28th in the league.  If the Chargers cannot capitalize on turnovers, then they can’t beat the Jags.  I like the Jags to win.

Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets

I said the other week that I am not picking the Jets to win another game and I meant it.

Dolphins win.

Arizona Cardinals @ San Fransisco 49ers

This is going to be a slaughter.  Maybe the NFL should institute a mercy rule just in case this game gets out of hand.

As of right now I believe the Cardinals will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, so they surely cannot be defeated by the 49ers, right?

Right.

Cardinals win.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Seattle Seahawks

Here’s my big prediction for this match:  the catch rule (or lack thereof) will screw the Steelers out of a big play.  I am guessing a big play from Roethlisberger to Matavis Bryant will be negated due to the inability of anyone in a striped uniform to tell what a catch is.

Anyway, even with that I think the Steelers have more than enough firepower to overcome the the Seahawks.  Despite their offensive output this past weekend, Seattle if far too inconsistent to outscore a team like Pittsburgh.

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

This seemed like a good matchup before the season started.  Now it’s like watching a lamb go to the slaughter.  Brock Osweiler put on a good performance against the Bears on the strength of a run game that, until last week, was non-existent.  Now they are going up against the second best run defense in the league.

Once the Broncos become dimensional on offense, the Patriots will take them apart.  Patriots remain undefeated.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns

Quite possibly the least appealing Monday Night Football game of the past 10 years.  We do not even have Johnny Football to look forward to, because he has been demoted to third string after photos of his bye-week partying surfaced online.  Nice to see his rehab went so well.

As for the football itself, this game is a coin flip.  The Browns will be starting Josh McCown who clearly gives them the best chance to win.  And the Raven have lost Justin Forsett for the year with a broken arm.  I think that is what will make the difference.  The Ravens lack weapons and with the emergence of Duke Johnson and Travis Benjamin for the Browns have home run threats that can score from anywhere on the field.  I like the Browns to take this one to end the week.