My Rapid Fire Week 12 NFL Picks

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In the spirit of giving thanks, let’s all be thankful that 25 NFL teams still realistically have a shot at the playoffs. Seriously, check out where things stand in each division going into week 12:

  • AFC East: 3 teams separated by 3 games for the division lead
  • AFC North: 3 teams separated by 1.5 games for the division lead
  • AFC South: 3 teams separated by 1.5 games for the division lead
  • AFC West: 3 teams separated by 1 game for the division lead
  • NFC East: 4 teams separated by 4 games for the division lead
  • NFC North: 3 teams separated by 2 games for the division lead
  • NFC South: 4 teams separated by 2 games for the division lead
  • NFC West: 2 teams separated by 3 games for the division lead

And also be thankful that I’m giving you a lot of my week 12 picks in rapid fire mode. A little less reading for you during this busy week.

Here are the week 12 picks.

Minnesota at Detroit (-3) | over/under 43

The Pick: Minnesota

The Score: Detroit 21, Minnesota 20

The Bets: Under (53) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Welcome to the battle for 1st place in the NFC North.

Sure, you can be gun shy with the Vikings and the under after 54 points were scored in their matchup against Arizona last week. But I’d much rather rely on the nine previous weeks where the Vikings game would not have exceeded the teased over here. Minnesota’s defense is good enough to make this an ugly game, but I don’t think it’s smart to pick a side on the point spread here.

Washington at Dallas (-7) | over/under 51

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Dallas 27, Washington 21

The Bets: Under (61) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

It’s amazing that with how good the Cowboys have been this year, a Redskins win on Thanksgiving would put them just 1.5 games out of first place in the East. But Washington going on the road on a short week against the best team in the NFC doesn’t feel like a win.

Washington goes into week 12 with the 4th worst run defense in the league…is that enough alone to pick Dallas and assume they will do whatever they please on offense?

Probably not because the Cowboys are still only OK on defense (they gave up 23 points to Philly in week 8, for example).

Both teams should be able to control the ball, convert lots of 3rd downs, and methodically move the ball down field. I think Dallas will do its normal thing on offense, and Washington won’t be able to make huge plays like they did against Green Bay on Sunday night. So I actually like the under here.

Pittsburgh (-9) at Indianapolis | over/under 47.5

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 27, Indianapolis 16

The Bets: Pittsburgh (+1) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

You might think I’m exaggerating, but Indy basically turns into the 0-11 Browns without Andrew Luck. They already have a worse defense than Cleveland, and it’s not an exaggeration to think their 15th ranked offense drops 10-12 spots as Scott Tolzien takes over.

I can’t believe I’m backing the Steelers on the road, but if they were ever going to blow out an opponent they absolutely should be blowing out, this would be the game.

Cincinnati at Baltimore (-4.5) | over/under 40.5

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 21, Cincinnati 15

The Bets: Baltimore (+5.5) in a 3-way tease / Under (40.5) / Under (50.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Baltimore (-4.5)

How in the hell are the Bengals even expected to crack 18 points? I know they’re an NFL team and by default they should be able to put up about 20, but this offense already sucked enough, and now AJ Green & Gio Bernard are out. Oh, and the Ravens are still a top 5 defense even after losing by 10 in Dallas last week.

Cincy put up 12 at home against the Bills last week. They put up only 17 at New England in week 6, 14 at Dallas in week 5, 16 at Pittsburgh in week 2, and 23 at the Jets in week 1. All of those defenses absolutely suck compared to the Ravens.

The teased under and the Ravens (teased and straight up) feel like absolute locks this week.

Los Angeles at New Orleans (-7) | over/under 46

The Pick: New Orleans

The Score: New Orleans 27, Los Angeles 19

The Bets: New Orleans (+3) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Usually we grab the over in a Saints home game and don’t think twice, but Drew Brees’ offense put up only 23 points at home against the Broncos in week 10 as well as 25 points against Seattle in week 8. The Rams’ defense is a little worse than those two teams, so maybe New Orleans gets close to 30 points. That doesn’t help me come to terms with the fact that LA will probably need to put up 17+ points for this game to go over. I’m staying away from the point total and instead teasing the Saints to +3. Feels like a great move.

Arizona at Atlanta (-4.5) | over/under 50.5

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 30, Arizona 24

The Bets: Atlanta (+5.5) in a 3-way tease / Over (40.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The Cardinals defense has split personalities this year, and it’s all based on whether they’re at home or on the road.

At home, they’ve looked like the #4 defense that FootballOutsiders.com currently has them ranked at. They’ve given up 12.7 points per game in the Cardinals’ Nest. (Is that what they call their stadium or did I make that up?)

But on the road, they’re allowing 28.5 points per game.

Night and day.

Not to mention they’re facing the #1 offense in all of football…an offense that’s coming off a bye week.

San Francisco at Miami (-7.5) | over/under 45.5

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 31, San Francisco 17

The Bets: Miami (-1.5 or +2.5) in a 2-way or 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

All of my confidence on the Dolphins and them blowing out the Niners is based on Branden Albert and/or Laremy Tunsil coming back to make Miami’s offensive line good again. If they still have significant injuries on the line, I’m staying away entirely.

It feels like the perfect situation for San Francisco to not show up whatsoever.

Jacksonville at Buffalo (-7.5) | over/under 45

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 28, Jacksonville 17

The Bets: Buffalo (+2.5) in a 3-way tease

Supercontest: Yes with Buffalo (-7.5)

Blake Bortles is #28 in passer rating, #26 in FootballOutsiders’ QB efficiency metric, 31st in yards per attempt and 27th in completion percentage. So he’s a rich man’s Brock Osweiler.

It feels really weird that the Dolphins and Bills are both still in playoff contention, are both giving more than a touchdown this week, and I’m strongly considering picking both of them.

Strange times indeed.

Tennessee (-5.5) at Chicago | over/under 42.5

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 23, Chicago 17

The Bets: None

Supercontest: No

Vegas is saying that downgrading from Jay Cutler to Matt Barkley will cost the Bears 3.5 points.

Here’s what’s weird about the Titans: In road games this year, they’ve put up very few points against the worst defenses in the league—16 at Detroit (last in defensive DVOA), 17 at Indianapolis (2nd to last in defensive DVOA)—but they’ve had monster games against solid defenses like scoring 30 at 7th ranked Miami and 35 at 10th ranked San Diego.

So maybe their offense plays down to its competition? If that’s the case, it’ll be a mediocre offensive showing against the average Bears defense.

Considering the Bears have scored more than 20 points just once this season, you really can’t expect them to surprise us with a win on Sunday.

NY Giants (-7) at Cleveland | over/under 44

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: NY Giants 26, Cleveland 12

The Bets: NY Giants (-7) / NY Giants (-1) in a 2-way tease / Under (54) in a 3-way tease

Supercontest: Yes with Giants (-7)

You know what? I was set to write, “If you actually bet this game, you’re a crazy person.” Because the feeling was that the Giant are due to blow a game, the Browns are due to win one surprising game, so why not this one?

Because the Bengals have inadvertently volunteered to be the team that Cleveland beats. Cincy hosts the Browns in week 14. The Bengals will be without Green & Bernard, and the Browns will be coming off a bye. And since this has become the season where everything goes wrong for Marvin Lewis’ team, they are absolutely losing that game.

So breathe easy, Giants fans. Someone else is gonna help Cleveland break their losing streak.

San Diego (-1) at Houston | over/under 46.5

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 22, Houston 21

The Bets: None

Supercontest: No

On the one hand, Brock Osweiler looked like his typical horrible self on Monday night against Oakland. On the other hand, the awful refereeing cost the Texans 7-10 points in that game.

As reluctant as I am to go against the 5-0 home game magic the Texans have going on, I’m picking the Chargers because they’ve lost so many games they deserved to win this year while Houston has won several games they should have lost.

Seattle (-6) at Tampa Bay | over/under 45

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Seattle 26, Tampa Bay 23

The Bets: None

Supercontest: No

Even though I’m not betting it, I really think I nailed this game. The Bucs are good enough to make this competitive, but the Seahawks are doing their usual “round into form in the second half of the season.” My only concern is that Mike Evans is basically Tampa’s only viable receiver and the Seattle secondary could essentially eliminate him from the game.

New England (-9) at NY Jets | over/under 47.5

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 38, NY Jets 20

The Bets: New England (+1) in a 3-way tease / Over (37.5) in a 3-way tease

Supercontest: Yes with New England (-9)

This matchup can’t get much worse for the Jets. You think New England’s #1 ranked passing offense is gonna enjoy the Jets 30th ranked pass defense? Obviously a healthy Rob Gronkowski is crucial for a long playoff run for the Patriots, but in this type of game his (possible) absence doesn’t change the probable outcome. New England has so many weapons on offense, with Dion Lewis’ return in week 11 alongside Malcolm Mitchell’s mini breakout game as further proof that they have the deepest offense in the league.

Carolina at Oakland (-3.5) | over/under 49.5

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Oakland 30, Carolina 28

The Bets: Over (39.5) in a 3-way tease

Supercontest: No

I was ready to pick this as a sneaky crazy upset until I realized Luke Kuechly is obviously out for the Panthers. With the Raiders escaping Mexico City with a win on Monday night and Carolina being on extra rest and back in the mix for the NFC South title, I think they’ll play Oakland a lot tighter than you’re probably thinking.

Bank on the over and nothing else in this one.

Kansas City at Denver (-3) | over/under 39.5

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 20, Kansas City 15

The Bets: Under (49.5) in a 3-way tease

Supercontest: No

Even though both teams have struggled running the ball this season, they each get to face defenses this week who struggle to stop the run. I think these division rivals will be terrified to throw the ball into the teeth of each other’s very good defenses so this will play out as a boring run-oriented game.

Green Bay at Philadelphia (-3.5) | over/under 47.5

The Pick: Philadelphia

The Score: Philadelphia 25, Green Bay 17

The Bets: Philadelphia (-3.5)

Supercontest: Yes with Philadelphia (-3.5)

So the Eagles are 4-0 at home this year and their smallest victory was by 9 points. That was against the Falcons. Their other home wins were against the Vikings, Steelers and Browns. Three of those four opponents are better than the Packers. It feels really easy to take Philly in this game.

Here are the season-long stats that I’m tracking:

  • Favorites are 66-87-8 against the spread through 11 weeks (including 8-5-1 in week 11)
  • The Point Total has landed on Over 81 times, Under 77 times, and Pushed 3 times
  • I’m 84-72-5 against the spread

Enjoy Thanksgiving and week 12.

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Week 12 NFL Picks in 140 Characters or Less

turkey

I’m no different than the rest of you when it comes to giving thanks during this holiday season. I have an awful lot in life to be grateful for, and I try never to take any of it for granted. But during this Thanksgiving weekend, which really just exists to allow football fans to watch even more games, I’m going to focus that gratitude on my discretionary income (which I learned through google is the correct term for what I used to call “disposable income”). Basically, it’s all the extra money I have after paying my monthly bills and child support. It’s money that should probably be going to good causes, or perhaps a savings account for the future. But instead, it’s all tied up in football futures.

So on this Thanksgiving week, I am truly thankful for all the preseason and midseason bets I made. Most of them will lose–badly–but I’m thankful to have the money to flush down the toilet on my uneducated predictions. Here’s a review of those bets:

Green Bay Packers to win Super Bowl (bet placed on February 2nd)

  • Odds I got: 8/1
  • Current Odds: 8/1

Atlanta Falcons to win Super Bowl (Feb 2nd)

  • Odds I got: 40/1
  • Current Odds: 66/1

New York Giants to win Super Bowl (Feb 2nd)

  • Odds I got: 40/1
  • Current Odds: 14/1

Houston Texans to win Super Bowl (Feb 2nd)

  • Odds I got: 40/1
  • Current Odds: 66/1

Baltimore Ravens to win Super Bowl (Feb 2nd)

  • Odds I got: 33/1
  • Current Odds: 500/1

I placed these five bets the day after the Patriots won last year’s Super Bowl, and as it turns out, only the Giants bet was a good one. Sure, the Packers are still in fine shape, but I could get those same exact odds today. So there wasn’t really any value in that bet. Obviously I whiffed majorly on Baltimore, Houston and (kind of) Atlanta. The comforting thing is that there’s still a decent chance the 3 NFC teams in these bets all make the playoffs. Having half of that conference’s playoff entries on bets I made almost a year before these playoffs start would make me feel pretty smart.

Kansas City Chiefs to win AFC West (bet placed on August 20th)

  • Odds I got: +325
  • Current Odds: +500

Dallas Cowboys to win NFC East (Aug 20th)

  • Odds I got: +140
  • Current Odds: +300

Atlanta Falcons to win NFC South (Aug 20th)

  • Odds I got: 2/1
  • Current Odds: 16/1

These division winner bets look even worse than my Super Bowl picks. Every one of my choices has become a longer shot than when I bet it. The Falcons are four games behind Carolina but still face them twice. Basically, Cam Newton would have to get bludgeoned to death by an angry mom from the “anti-dancing movement,” and even that might not be enough. The Chiefs are three games behind Peyton Manning’s former team, but they have an easy schedule while the Broncos try to figure out if they have any qualified QBs on the roster. There’s a glimmer of hope in the West for me. And only by way of division-wide incompetence are the Cowboys still alive. I’m writing this off as a loss because they’ll essentially have to go undefeated the rest of the way.

Atlanta Falcons over 8.5 wins (bet placed on September 11th)

Kansas City Chiefs over 8.5 wins (Sept 11th)

Minnesota Vikings under 7.5 wins (Sept 11th)

New York Giants over 8.5 wins (Sept 11th)

St. Louis Rams over 8 wins (Sept 11th)

Wow. I am not going to have an easy time winning any of those. They’re all still in play, at least. So that’s nice. But the Vikings only need to win one more game for that bet to be a loss. The Rams, Giants and Chiefs each need to finish 4-2 for me to win any of those bets (in the case of the Rams, 4-2 would get me the push, which I will GLADLY take at this point). And how about the fucking Falcons? After September, I thought I was going to waltz to a win on that bet, but now they’ve lost four of their last five and need to go 3-3 the rest of the way for me to collect. I just don’t see that happening. What a waste.

Will any team go 16-0 in the regular season? (Sept 11th)

  • Odds I got: 25/1
  • Current Odds: 5/2

Will any team go 0-16 in the regular season? (Sept 11th)

  • Odds I got: 20/1

The 0-16 bet was done way back in week 6, when Detroit became the final team to win its 1st game of the year. But the 16-0 bet? WooHoo! Still alive! And not just with one team, but with two! No, I honestly don’t think either the Panthers or Patriots are going undefeated, but I’m just happy this bet is still active this late in the year. I will be betting both props (16-0 and 0-16) each year for the rest of eternity. It’s too much fun not to.

Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South (bet placed on September 28th)

  • Odds I got: 17/2
  • Current Odds: 50/1

Whoops.

Arizona Cardinals to win Super Bowl (bet placed on October 12th)

  • Odds I got: 18/1
  • Current Odds: 5/1

Nice work, Ross! Great value there as Arizona will likely be one of the top two favorites in the NFC the rest of the way (barring the inevitable Carson Palmer injury).

St. Louis Rams to win NFC West (bet placed on November 7th)

  • Odds I got: 5/1
  • Current Odds: 25/1

What the fuck is wrong with me? Seriously. In my defense, the Rams were 4-3 and coming off back-to-back wins while the Cardinals were 6-2 and Seattle was 4-4. Lesson learned. Jeff Fisher is the worst.

So it’s like I said in the second paragraph of this column…I’m just happy to have the extra cash to flush straight down the NFL gambling toilet.

At least the weekly picks against the spread are going reasonably well for me. Every year I try to remind myself that I’m OK at making predictions while the season is underway, but I’m horrible at preseason guesses. And every year I still make all those bets in August.

Let’s get into the week 12 picks. Since it’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and most of you have a miniscule attention span to begin with, my comments will be limited to the size we can all enjoy in this day & age: 140 characters or less. Here we go.

Philadelphia at Detroit (-1)

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Detroit 23, Philadelphia 17

In a battle of 2 dumpster fire teams led by soon-to-be-fired coaches, I’m going with the home team that’s shown a pulse of late.

Carolina (-1) at Dallas

The Pick: Carolina

The Score:Carolina 36, Dallas 16

Way too many people are predicting this as the Panthers’ first loss. For that reason, I’m positive it won’t be. Total disrespect by Vegas.

Chicago at Green Bay (-9)

The Pick: Green Bay

The Score: Green Bay 26, Chicago 12

A single win by the Packers in the last month will get the majority of the public to back them. Count me among the public.

St. Louis at Cincinnati (-9)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 33, St. Louis 17

The bottom’s about to fall out on this Rams team. The Bengals played mostly awesome in Arizona last week. This game will be so much easier.

Oakland (-2) at Tennessee

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 20, Oakland 17

StayAway Game of the Week. Taking the home team that had 10 days rest over the West Coast team playing back-to-back road games in the East.

NY Giants (-3) at Washington

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: NY Giants 29, Washington 23

If I know for a fact that the refs are out to get Washington, why would I ever pick them? Eli on the road does make me nervous though.

Minnesota at Atlanta (-2)

The Pick: Minnesota

The Score: Minnesota 24, Atlanta 22

Atlanta hasn’t beaten a team outside the NFC East and AFC South. Minnesota has. Not convinced the Vikings will win easily, but they’ll win.

Buffalo at Kansas City (-5.5)

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 19, Buffalo 12

Big game for 2 Wildcard hopefuls who have very similar stats. Normally you take the points, but the Bills got real banged up in New England.

New Orleans at Houston (-3)

The Pick: New Orleans

The Score: New Orleans 27, Houston 21

Houston is 0-5 when giving up more than 20 points. The Saints are 4-2 when scoring 20 or more. I think the rested Saints will score plenty.

Tampa Bay at Indianapolis (-3)

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 24, Indianapolis 20

The Bucs hand Hasselbeck his 1st loss because they are solid, haven’t played a bad game in a while and have real weapons on offense.

Miami at NY Jets (-3.5)

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 21, NY Jets 18

You won’t see me picking the Jets when they’re favored by more than a field goal against anyone the rest of the season.

San Diego at Jacksonville (-4)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 20, San Diego 13

I’m fully prepared for the Jags to screw this up. But it’s hard to see San Diego getting motivated for a cross country game at this point.

Arizona (-10.5) at San Francisco

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 37, San Francisco 14

The Cardinals are 4-1 on the road including dominating wins at Cleveland, Detroit & Chicago. The 49ers fit right in with those teams.

Pittsburgh at Seattle (-4)

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 26, Seattle 17

Not biting on Seattle. Pittsburgh has lost 4 games: 2 when Roethlisberger was out, 2 against the Patriots & Bengals. They are solid.

New England (-3) at Denver

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 3, Denver 0

Two awesome defenses and two offenses hurting BAD. I’m not sure we’ll see a single touchdown on Sunday night.

Baltimore at Cleveland (-3)

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 15, Cleveland 12

Matt Schaub is awful, but it appears the entire city of Cleveland was built on an ancient Indian burial ground. I’m not messing with that.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 9 Favorites, 7 Underdogs
  • 1 Home Dog, 6 Road Dogs
  • 6 Home Teams, 10 Road Teams
  • Season Record: 79-74-1 (5-8-1 in week 11)

Enjoy week 12. Enjoy your Thanksgiving. And enjoy your Uncle Bobby’s take on Syrian Refugees!

NFL Week 13 Picks: Giving Thanks To All That’s Great With Football

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Hard to believe it’s already week 13.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that the Seahawks had their way with Green Bay and the entire NFL fan base was terrified of the defending champs rolling through the league once again?

Doesn’t it feel like we were just recently talking about Adrian Peterson’s crime and what that should mean for his NFL future? (Actually, it was just the other day that this was being discussed all over again.)

Time flies when you’re having fun, they say. I guess that means even though my season record for picks has absolutely tanked at this point, I’m still enjoying this NFL season.

The overriding theme this time of year is “giving thanks.” Even if you have a particularly stressful and crazy family that tends to make Thanksgiving more of a chore than a relaxing event, be thankful for nine hours of football on Thursday. And while you’re watching those games, think of less fortunate people…like me. I’ll be stuck at a five-star resort in Cabo, drinking whatever I want from their all-inclusive menu, and straining my eyes to see the single TV above the swim-up bar (most likely it’s only a 26-inch screen).

So just remember what I’m stuck dealing with on Thanksgiving when you get the urge to complain about Aunt Dorothy’s disgusting green bean casserole.

Before we dive into the picks, here are five items across the NFL that I’m thankful for this year:

  • 13 teams have unsettled quarterback situations going into 2015. That’s a perfect amount! Too many and the league would be unwatchable. Too few and we wouldn’t have nearly enough ridiculous moments and QB swaps throughout the season to laugh at.
  • Parity between the conferences. Sure, we’ll probably never have true parity among all 32 teams (and who would want that anyway?), but at least we finally seem to have a nice balance of power between the AFC & NFC. For the past few years, the NFC has been the dominant conference, but in 2014 that’s no longer the case. The AFC is 25-22-1 in games against the NFC this year. Three different sources—FootballOutsiders.com DVOA rankings, Bovada’s Super Bowl Odds, and espn.com’s Power Rankings—all have a pretty even split between the NFC & AFC when ranking the top 10-15 teams in the league. This is exactly what we want. A handful of teams at the top of each conference that could legitimately win the Super Bowl.
  • The Era of Receiver Greatness. This topic is probably starting to be over covered, but I can still be thankful that we’re witnessing wide receivers and tight ends performing at levels we’ve never seen before. I’m not as focused on the top receivers’ cumulative stats at the end of the year because we live in a time of inflated passing/receiving numbers. What I love is that we have a different receiver each week that raises the bar for his peers. I’ve talked about this constant passing of the Receiver Championship Belt among the top veteran wide receivers a lot this year, but after Odell Beckham Jr’s ridiculous catch on Sunday night, the rookie receiving class is starting to get some attention too (Beckham, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Brandin Cooks, Jordan Matthews, John Brown, etc). The star pass catchers are what keep me tuning in week after week.
  • The NFC South! My absolute favorite ongoing theme from this football season is the historic atrocity happening in the South. Here was the best tweet of week 12 (from Will Brinson, a CBSsports.com writer): “The Buccaneers are 2 games out of first in the NFC South and 1 game out of first in the 2015 NFL Draft.” Just incredible. Part of me wants the Bucs to win the division because that definitely means a team finishing 6-10 or worse won their division, but a bigger part of me wants the Falcons to get into the playoffs instead. That way the Mike Smith era can continue for at least one additional game.
  • Announcers being hilarious. Not on purpose of course. It’s the unintentional comedy that I’m after. I always assume there will be a week when I don’t have a great announcer quote to share with you, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving. This past week, it was Solomon Wilcots during the Bills/Jets game. As the announcers were speaking of that amazing catch from the previous night by the Giants rookie wide receiver, Wilcots confidently stated “We now know your name, Ladell Beckham Jr.” …except his name is Odell.

And since my season record is shot, I’m running short on time due to Cabo calling, and most people will probably already be in vacation mode by the time I post this on Wednesday, I’m going with some pretty quick picks and thoughts on the matchups this week. Let’s dig in.

Chicago @ Detroit (-7)

  • The Pick: Detroit
  • The Score: Detroit 28, Chicago 17

I don’t trust either of these teams at this point, but what I trust the least is Chicago, on the road, facing a great defense & pass rush, in a loud stadium, on short rest.

Philadelphia @ Dallas (-3)

  • The Pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 30, Dallas 26

I’m giving the Eagles the slight edge because they aren’t the ones who played a tough road game on Sunday night. On a short week that includes Thanksgiving distractions, I’ll take the team that had a cakewalk of a win on Sunday morning over the team that battled it out on Sunday night.

Seattle @ San Francisco (PICK)

  • The Pick: San Francisco
  • The Score: San Francisco 24, Seattle 9

This is the first of their two matchups over an 18-day span, and I’m thinking it’s going to be a pretty easy win for the 49ers. The Seahawks just aren’t awesome on the road this year, and as this is the final Thanksgiving game, they’ll be traveling on short rest. It’s actually very strange that these two division rivals who have the same record and tend to play each other extremely tough aren’t generating the typical line of the home team favored by three. That seems fishy.

Tennessee @ Houston (-6.5)

  • The Pick: Houston
  • The Score: Houston 33, Tennessee 13

The Titans have been especially bad on the road this year. That’s my one takeaway from this matchup. Regardless of Houston’s talent or the fact that Fitzy Three Picks is back to being the Texans’ starting quarterback, the Titans are just a terrible road team.

Oakland @ St. Louis (-7)

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score: St. Louis 27, Oakland 12

The Rams’ last two home games have been wins over Seattle and Denver. How the hell am I supposed to expect Oakland to keep this game close? They won’t. Derek Carr facing an intense St. Louis pass rush might be painful for Oakland fans to watch.

San Diego @ Baltimore (-6)

  • The Pick: Baltimore
  • The Score: Baltimore 34, San Diego 23

A great game for AFC wildcard purposes. Currently the Chargers occupy the #6 seed in the AFC and the Ravens are #7, on the outside looking in. But that changes Sunday because Baltimore at home is almost a guaranteed victory. It may not be as bad as the last time San Diego traveled East (a 37-0 loss at Miami), but the Ravens are good enough at home and might even be sneaky great in general that I’m going with yet another favorite.

Cleveland @ Buffalo (-3)

  • The Pick: Buffalo
  • The Score: Bufflo 19, Cleveland 15

The Bills didn’t look like a team that had a chaotic week leading up to their Monday night game against the Jets in Detroit, but that was the Jets…

If you’re Cleveland, you should be scared of a Bills pass rush (and defense in general) going against your almost-always-looks-overmatched QB, and a healthy Fred Jackson facing your horrible run defense. A Bills win will put both these teams at 7-5, which is quite an accomplishment considering the franchises in question.

Cincinnati (-4) @ Tampa Bay

  • The Pick: Cincinnati
  • The Score: Cincinnati 30, Tampa Bay 10

I thought this line would be more like Cincinnati -8, so obviously I’m picking the Bengals. What’s great is that New Orleans and Carolina are both on the road, and Atlanta has to face Arizona. So we could be looking at a 2-10 Tampa team that’s STILL only two games out of first place when the dust settles on week 13. Brilliant.

Washington @ Indianapolis (-10)

  • The Pick: Washington
  • The Score: Indianapolis 33, Washington 27

The biggest indictment of RG3 is that the line on this game didn’t budge upon Washington releasing the news that Colt McCoy would start instead of Griffin on Sunday. As far as I can tell, my gambling site didn’t even take the line down for a minute to consider any changes or what the personnel change meant. That’s rough.

I’m going with Washington because this line is high and because we might just see this team play tough for a different quarterback. After all, the PotatoSkins are 2-0 in games McCoy starts this year.

NY Giants (-3) @ Jacksonville

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Jacksonville 29, NY Giants 9

The Tom Coughlin Farewell Tour continues this week when the Jaguars get their second win of the season. The Giants played their hearts out on Sunday night trying to knock their division rival Dallas down a peg or two, but I can’t see them playing their hearts out at Jacksonville. If this is it for you, Tom, I’d just like to be the first to say it was a really weird era with you in New York—the annual “has Coughlin lost the team” reports, the two Super Bowls, the frozen face in that playoff game at Green Bay a few years ago. Good luck in your retirement.

Carolina @ Minnesota (-3)

  • The Pick: Minnesota
  • The Score: Minnesota 36, Carolina 20

Of Minnesota’s four wins this year, two have been against the NFC South. Big surprise. Let’s make it three. Speaking of coaches leaving or being fired, couldn’t you make the case that all four coaches in the NFC South are on the hot seat? Imagine a division that turned over all four head coaching spots in the same year? In the NFC South, anything truly is possible.

New Orleans @ Pittsburgh (-4.5)

  • The Pick: New Orleans
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 31, New Orleans 28

If it’s true that the Steelers play down to their competition, then this should be a close game. The Saints have proven to be no better than the rest of the muck at the bottom of the NFC, and we know how Pittsburgh likes to treat those teams.

Arizona (-2.5) @ Atlanta

  • The Pick: Arizona
  • The Score: Arizona 30, Atlanta 20

Don’t think I wasn’t tempted to pick Atlanta on account of the craziest possible thing that can happen in a given NFL week usually does happen. Imagine this shitty Atlanta team that’s 0-7 outside its division somehow knocking off the best team in the NFC. It’s taking every bit of self-discipline in my body not to do it…..

AHHHHH….Fuck it.

I’m doing it. Switch the pick. Atlanta wins outright, 28-23.

New England @ Green Bay (-3)

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 29, New England 24

Even though the Patriots are technically underdogs, it kind of feels like they’re the favorite. Everyone seems to be picking them. Everyone seems to have come to the conclusion that while both teams are playing lights out right now the Patriots are playing lights outer than the Packers. It’s as simple as picking the home team when it comes to a matchup like this.

Denver (-2) @ Kansas City

  • The Pick: Kansas City
  • The Score: Kansas City 23, Denver 17

Such disrespect by the line makers.

By the way, is Andy Reid the Peyton Manning of head coaches? He has a great regular season record, gets to the playoffs a ton, but can’t seem to win the big one. Much like Peyton melts down when the pressure’s on him the most, Reid seems to do the same in late-game clock management scenarios. And they both have a lot invested in the Papa John’s business.

Miami (-6) @ NY Jets

  • The Pick: NY Jets
  • The Score: NY Jets 6, Miami 3

Let’s find out if the Dolphins can win in cold weather, shall we?

And hey, don’t like now, but Geno Smith is back in the starting lineup. Could that be a spark for the Jets? No? OK. It won’t be a spark.

Enjoy your turkey, side dishes, fighting relatives for the best couch spot, having Friday off of work, and of course, all of the week 13 football games.

I’ll be back next week with a more traditional set of NFL columns.

Week 12 NFL Picks: Molly Settles the Great Thanksgiving Debate, the Jets Get Embarrassed in Front of a Comatose Nation and Much More

This seems pretty unfair, right? Making picks for the weekend games almost five days before they happen? But that’s life for a professional football blogger. You’ll notice two games below where I’ve declined to pick them at this point in the week because we have absolutely no clue who will be playing quarterback on Sunday for a couple teams. You’ll have to check me out on Twitter Sunday morning to see who gets the nod in those games.

This week of picking early seems to fit right in with the second-half swoon I’m experiencing. I’ve now had three consecutive weeks of a 7-7 record picking against the spread…by far my worst stretch of the year. My season record against the spread now sits at 88-67-5. I guess it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I finish the season 20 games over .500, but I’m convinced I can knock out a 12-4 or 13-3 week eventually. No promises about this week because everything seems off between picking the games on Wednesday morning and having three games played on Thursday.

Don’t get me wrong, I love three Thanksgiving Day games. Nine hours of a built-in excuse not to speak to anyone at your family gathering. Who could ask for more?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to provide you all with some gambling information as a token of my appreciation for your loyal readership. Hopefully it’ll help guide you to backing the correct teams in week 12 and beyond:

Through 11 weeks of football, these are the teams with the best record against the spread:

1). Tampa Bay (7-2-1)

Tied-2). Houston (7-3-0), Seattle (7-3-0**) **should be 6-4-0

Tied-4). Atlanta, New England, Denver, San Francisco, Indianapolis, New Orleans, St. Louis (all with 6-4-0 records)

Out of those 10 teams, nine of them have a shot to make the playoffs. Just thought that was interesting.

And here are the four worst teams against the spread so far this year:

1). Philadelphia (2-8-0)

T-2). Kansas City (3-7-0), Oakland (3-7-0)

4). Detroit (3-6-1)

And as you can probably guess, none of those four teams have a shot to make the playoffs.

If I’m having trouble picking a game that involves one of the best teams agains the spread vs one of the worst teams against the spread, I tend to use their against the spread records as the tiebreaker (like this week’s Houston at Detroit game).

Anyway, let’s fly through week 12’s full slate of games (home team underlined):

Houston (-3.5) over Detroit: I think this line is low because of how quick the turnaround is for these teams that played a 1PM game on Sunday to have to play the early game on Thanksgiving Day. But I don’t see any logical reason why the Texans wouldn’t win, and they haven’t won any of their games by less than six this year. If you’re really trying to create an argument for why someone should take the Lions, I guess you could say two things: 1). Detroit’s out of the playoff picture so maybe this is the last game they “get up” for this year, you know, since it’s their traditional Thanksgiving game on national TV, and 2). This is the first of three consecutive road games for the Texans…after Detroit it’s at Tennessee and then at New England, so maybe they’re going with very basic game plans in the next two games so that they’re ready for the Patriots, a relatively important game for seeding purposes. But I’m not taking one of the worst teams against the spread this year (Detroit) over one of the best teams against the spread (Houston) when the line is this small.

Washington (+3) over Dallas: Let’s say the Redskins win this game, the Giants lose to Green Bay, and Philadelphia handles Carolina on Monday night (all conceivable outcomes, right?). With five games left in the season, the NFC East would look like this: Giants 6-5, Washington 5-6, Dallas 5-6, Philadelphia 4-7. Then you have the Redskins playing for first place in week 13 when they host the Giants. I love the idea of this division somehow coming down to the final couple weeks when the Giants had a three-game lead over everyone else just as recently as two weeks ago. I love even more that my midseason bet of the Redskins to win the East is somehow still in play at this point. For these reasons, I’m picking the ‘Skins to upset Dallas with a huge, HUGE Thanksgiving debut for RGIII.

New England (-7) over NY Jets: I’m spitting in the face of logic on this one…the logic that says, “Don’t give seven points in a divisional road game when the team you’re backing just lost its second best offensive player.” There’s a long list of reasons not to take the Patriots with a big spread this week—short week of preparation, Thanksgiving distractions, Gronk out and no certainty around Aaron Hernandez’s health, Jets treating this game like their Super Bowl, needing overtime at home earlier in the season just to eek out a three-point win against these bastards… But I think the Gronk injury will actually motivate the offense to show the league that Gronk alone isn’t the reason they’ve been dropping 50 on everyone lately. Plus, it’s the Jets on Thanksgiving in front of a national TV audience who literally can’t move off the couch. The Patriots have the country’s full attention on Thursday night. Is there a better time to embarrass Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and the rest of this helpless team?

Side Note: Did I just pick all three road teams to cover on Thanksgiving Day? I think I did. Which one do I feel the worst about? The Patriots, as usual.

Buffalo (+3) over Indianapolis: If you’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, this line seems low. Indy’s 6-4 and they’re at home against a 4-6 Bills team that’s looked terrible on the road,” be careful. The whole world knows the Colts have been overachieving for the last seven weeks, and Vegas probably knows they’re due to come crashing back to earth (an action that was jumpstarted in New England last weekend). So by making the line lower than expected, Vegas can cash in on all the idiots who think the Colts really are a playoff-caliber team. I know Andrew Luck is good (and he’s going to be unbelievable in a year or two), but in this game, the best player on the field will probably be C.J. Spiller. I can absolutely see the Bills running Spiller a ton because first of all it’s the best offensive strategy for them, but also because it’ll help them put together long drives that keep Luck and the Colts offense off the field. Give me Buffalo in the minor upset.

Miami(+3) over Seattle: This is the game where after it ends, people go “Oh yeah, how did I not remember Russell Wilson is garbage on the road?” The Seahawks are averaging 15 points in their five road games this year, putting up a 1-4 record. And because I hate them and I’m always looking for reasons to pick against them, that’s good enough for me to roll with Miami.

Molly’s 7-4 record against the spread this season has earned her the right to choose a very important game in week 12. No more Oakland, Jacksonville or Tennessee for her. This week she gets Atlanta (-1.5) at Tampa Bay. Huge playoff implications. A Bucs’ win would put the NFC South in doubt for Atlanta for the first time since week 1. Let’s see what Molly thinks about her biggest responsibility of the season:

 

Oakland (+8) over Cincinnati: The Carson Palmer Revenge Game!! I know it’s not getting a lot of play in the media, but don’t you think he’s more than a little motivated to end his former team’s playoff hopes? The question is, can he do it? Actually, I don’t care who wins this game, I just need to know if the Raiders can keep it to one touchdown or less. Now I know the Raiders have lost their last three games by a combined score of 135-69, but that was against Tampa, Baltimore and New Orleans. Those are three of the best offenses in the league if you only count Baltimore’s home games. Needless to say I don’t think the Raiders D is giving up quite as many points to the Bengals. I’m picking the Raiders because I do think it would be funny to see the Bengals’ playoff hopes come to an end at home against Palmer.

Cleveland (Pick) over Pittsburgh: Charlie Batch against Cleveland in Cleveland and the Browns aren’t favored? Yes please. I would never rule out a Steelers win regardless of the circumstances, but I refuse to be the idiot who picked Charlie Batch on the road.

Jacksonville(+3) over Tennessee: Is anyone else ready for Jacksonville to build on that unexpected-yet-super-exciting game against Houston last week? They put up 37 points on one of the best defenses in football! And let’s not forget a couple other exciting moments they’ve had this year, specifically Cecil Shorts’ amazing catches towards the end of their week 1 loss in Minnesota and their week 3 win at Indy. With Justin Blackmon maybe emerging as a relevant receiving threat, this Jaguars team suddenly has some playmakers. And with Blaine Gabbert’s poor quarterbacking out of the way for the time being, Chad Henne gets to step in for a full game and show us what the Jags have been missing all year. I’m randomly excited for this Jaguars team! C’mon, Jags, let’s take care of that boring Titans team and get on a little roll to end our season!

Denver (-10.5) over Kansas City: Earlier in the season I kept doubting the Broncos’ ability to win on the road, and they responded with three straight road wins by 11, 8 and 22 points. Even though Denver pretty much has the division locked up at this point, I think the AFC race in general is motivating them just fine right now. Peyton and the Broncos know as long as they keep winning, they’re just a couple Baltimore and New England slip-ups away from getting a bye. And we all know Kansas City blows, right? Would you even take the Chiefs if it was a 17-point spread? Probably, but you’d have to think long and hard before you did, right?

Minnesota at Chicago: NO LINE

Can’t really pick this one yet because both Jay Cutler and Percy Harvin’s statuses are uncertain. I’ll post my pick and the spread I’m taking it at on Twitter before kickoff Sunday.

Baltimore (-1) over San Diego: Like I said in my week 11 recap blog post, these Ravens are the luckiest 8-2 team ever. And the luck continues when they get to play a Chargers team that’s clearly given up on the season. You think I’m exaggerating about them giving up? Have you seen the video of Philip Rivers walking off the field with 10 seconds left in a one-touchdown game when his team had the ball? Check it out HERE.

San Francisco (-2.5) over New Orleans: If I’m holding off on picking the Bears game, then I’m allowed to hold off on this one until everything is crystal clear with the 49ers’ QB situation, right? I’m not even sure which QB would inspire more confidence for me to pick the 9ers right now, but I need to give it some more thought later in the week. I’m inclined to take San Francisco regardless, so if I forget to update this pick on Twitter by Sunday morning, that’s who I’m going with.

St. Louis (+3) over Arizona: I famously predicted the Cardinals would go on a six game losing streak way back in week 4, and even though it took them one extra week to start the streak, they finally achieved my prediction with last week’s loss in Atlanta. Thanks to Ken Whisenhunt’s reckless substituting and benching of his three struggling quarterbacks, I’m confident that the beat goes on and Arizona loses its seventh consecutive game. Ryan Lindley, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, it doesn’t matter. By the way, fun fact: Did you know that I was 9-0 against the spread in the Rams’ first nine games this year? So naturally I put everything into them as a 3.5-point favorite last week at home against the Jets (suicide pool pick, biggest bet of the week, highest weighted pick in my Pick ‘Em leagues). This tragic week 11 mistake almost caused me to quit the football blogging all together…but that would have been way too Philip Riversy of me.

NY Giants(+3) over Green Bay: Picking the Giants and not sure why. I guess because I don’t think the Packers are quite as good as they’ve been playing lately. And I don’t think the Giants are as bad as they’ve shown recently. And because I’ve seen a lot of games this year where the Packers had trouble blocking and Rodgers was on his ass all day long (something the Giants D does often to quarterbacks, right?) Also because I haven’t picked one of the teams coming off a week 11 bye yet, and doesn’t one of those teams have to come out strong from the two-week break. I say it’s the Giants.

Philadelphia (-2.5) over Carolina: Well, if my dream scenario of a clusterfucked NFC East is gonna come true, I guess the Eagles have to win this game. If this line was a point higher, I’d be taking the Panthers, but I think the Eagles—even with Nick Foles—are good enough to beat Carolina by a field goal. It may be Andy Reid’s final prime-time game as the Eagles’ coach so you gotta figure they’re going to win big for him. Wait, what? The Eagles have two more nationally-televised games after this one? And we’re gonna sit through both of them because we’re chumps? Great.
Looks like I’m picking at least nine road teams and eight underdogs this week. Let’s hope a little Thanksgiving magic gets me back to my winning ways. Happy Thanksgiving to all my loyal readers (and a Miserable Thanksgiving to all my non-readers)!