The action in the NFL is really intensifying as teams are now sizing up their playoff status and taking stock of what is needed to secure a berth in the post season. This week has numerous games with definite playoff implications as New England could all but sew up their division with a win in Miami, the Green Bay Packers are needing a win to distance themselves from their competition, while the Pittsburgh versus Baltimore game and the New York Giants versus Washington Redskins game will each go a long way in anointing a respective division winner.
This is the best time of year to be a football fan as there are only five weeks of regular season football left. Tensions are mounting and some of the playoff races are tight; teams are in the must-win-now portion of the season.
Week 12 in the NFL brought quite a bit of uncertainty as many people were split on a lot of the games. There were some close calls and some games that probably could have gone either way if not for coaching blunders and squandered opportunities. If you end up falling just short in your office pool, maybe missing fist place by a game or two; you can look back at week 12 as being the likely culprit.
Last week my record was a disappointing 10-6. My upset pick of the week in Cleveland came through with a nice win against Pittsburgh while my lock pick of the week also won as Denver beat Kansas City. Overall record on the year is 115-60.
This looks to be a great week of football ahead, so let’s get it started.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Drew Brees and the Saints played to host to San Francisco last week where if not for two costly pick-six interceptions they could have pulled the upset. Now this week they travel into Atlanta to face a Falcons squad that hasn’t been as dominant as they were earlier in the season. Problem for New Orleans is still the defense; they can score with the best in the league but they just can’t stop anyone. The Falcons return home to the friendly dome confines in hopes of getting their 11th win on the year. The Falcons two headed running attack just doesn’t seem as effective as pounding with Michael Turner. The Saints secondary is going to be in for a long afternoon unless they can force some turnovers out of Matt Ryan and the passing game. PICK: FALCONS
Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears
The Seahawks once again showed that they are seemingly incapable of winning games on the road; they marched into Miami and got trampled by the Dolphins. The Seahawks much heralded defense gave up almost 190 yards on the ground; that is not going to win you many games. For the Bears, Jay Cutler returned from his concussion to play a serviceable game against Minnesota; Cutler did just enough to manage the game and hand the ball off to Michael Bush for a couple of scores. Until the Hawks show me they can win a game on the road, I’m going with the home team. PICK: BEARS
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans
The Texans played a shootout in Detroit last week, and really should have been saddled with a loss were it not for a Lions coaching gaffe. Nonetheless, the Texans took the win in a game that shouldn’t have been as close as it was. The offense looked good, Matt Schaub moved the ball at will and Arian Foster went off for 102 yards with a couple scores. The Titans travelled last week into Jacksonville where they promptly lost to the worst team in the league. They now limp home to play off against the best. Not much of matchup here. PICK: TEXANS
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
New England just drilled the Jets in their own house last week as they moved the ball at will and the defense chipped in with three sacks and four recovered fumbles. Tom Brady looks as good as ever and offensively they are a juggernaut that can’t be stopped. For the Miami Dolphins they had a solid performance against the Seahawks as they held home field and upset the Hawks. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to play solid football; he gives the Fins a legitimate shot every week at winning, just not so much this week. PICK: PATRIOTS
Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills
Since inserting Chad Henne as the starting quarterback, the Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t been playing nearly as horrible as they were. They are still gross underdogs in every contest; however, there is now a glimmer of hope. Case in point last week as the Jags beat the Tennessee Titans to claim only their second victory of the season. This week they travel into Buffalo to face off against the Bills who are reeling having lost four of their last five. For anyone who has had the pleasure of being in Buffalo in December it can be downright COLD and I see home field playing a distinct advantage here. PICK: BILLS
Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions
The Indianapolis Colts are 7-4 on the season, let me repeat that, the Colts are 7-4 on the season and should the playoffs start tomorrow they would have a wildcard spot. Andrew Luck has the City, the fans and the players all believing that this is exactly where the Colts should be. Matthew Stafford and the Lions have not lived up to their expectations as they need a miraculous finish to become playoff relevant. This is a tough game to pick as the Lions are more talented but continue to find ways to lose and the Colts who don’t have the same level of talent, but they find ways to win. Against my better judgement I’m going with the home team. PICK: LIONS
Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs
As is the case in every season there are games nearer to the close of the year that leave everyone wondering; Do we really need to play this game? Welcome to the week 13 matchup in K.C between the Chiefs and the Carolina Panthers. Two cellar dwellers in their respective divisions with absolutely no relevance for the remainder of the season. The Chiefs way very well be playing for the first overall draft pick, while Carolina will have to be content with having beaten Washington and Philadelphia this year in what were marquee games. In the end, this game will feature too much Cam Newton and not enough of anything from the Chiefs. PICK: PANTHERS
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Despite last week’s loss in Chicago, the Minnesota Vikings are still a game over .500 and looking to stay relevant in the playoff picture. They have a mighty task considering this game in Green Bay followed by a home game rematch with the Bears, a game in Houston then a home game with Green bay to finish out the season. Realistically those are four losses right there. Adrian Peterson has been amazing this season; however, it just isn’t going to be enough as the season rolls on. Green Bay returns home from their SNF shellacking at the hands of the NY Giants. They probably aren’t in the best of moods from that nationally televised beating and they will be looking at taking it out on the Vikings. PICK: PACKERS
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
Did last week’s victory in New Orleans settle or stoke the quarterback controversy for the 49ers? It doesn’t seem to matter who is playing the team rallies behind them and they continue to get the job done. Be it Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith the game plan might change but the result won’t. The St. Louis Rams had a nice road win last week against Arizona. Sam Bradford did not look sharp completing only 8 of 17 passes, while running back Steven Jackson carried the workload with 24 carries for 139 yards. The 49er defensive line will put too much pressure on the Rams running game; forcing Bradford to throw the ball more, likely leading to some turnovers. PICK: 49ers
Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets
Rookie Ryan Lindley got a rude initiation into the ranks of NFL starting quarterbacks last week as the St. Louis Rams secondary had themselves a ‘pick party’ as four errand passes were hauled in. Mind you what offensive coach would ask their third string rookie quarterback to drop back and throw the ball 52 times in a game? Oh that’s right you play in Arizona, where coaching idiocy is the theme for the Cardinals. The NY Jets suffered a humiliating home loss to the Patriots last week and normally I would say this could adversely affect a team; however one would think the Jets are used to it by now. PICK: JETS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos
This game could very well turn out to be the game of the week. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing some really good football of late having won four of their last five games. Josh Freeman and Doug Martin are doing everything they can to lead their team to victory every week. This one is a tough matchup for the Bucs as they travel into Denver to play the red hot Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Week in and week out, the Broncos are showing that it isn’t just Manning and the offense that is contributing to wins, the defense is a top-ranked unit that plays a physical and swarming style. The Broncos are chasing down their seventh consecutive victory and I think they get it in a close contest. PICK: BRONCOS
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Well it looks like it will be consecutive starts under center for Charlie Batch. The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin listed Batch as the likely starter; however, didn’t close the door entirely on Ben Roethlisberger returning from injury to play. To me it doesn’t matter who is the signal caller as they won’t beat the Ravens in their house. Baltimore is clearly the class of the AFC North as they stand at 9-2 on the season. Joe Flacco and the offense are rolling and the defense is holding strong in the absence of Ray Lewis. Baltimore gets it done at home here. PICK: RAVENS
Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers
A battle of two teams headed in opposite directions takes place in Qualcomm Stadium as the Bengals face off against the Chargers; the Bengals have won the last three games while the Chargers have dropped their last three. These two teams are fairly evenly matched up, similar points for and against and similar like records for home vs. road wins. What stands out is the complete dysfunction that has descended upon the Chargers and that affects team performance and ultimately motivation to win, for that reason I’m going with the Cats. PICK: BENGALS
Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders
For those that followed along last week, the Cleveland Browns were my upset pick of the week and they got it down at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This week they travel into the hostile environment that is Oakland County Coliseum. I again like the Browns to get it done here. I just have no confidence in the guys around Carson Palmer, the receivers can’t catch, the run game is inconsistent, the defense is worst in the league and you just never know when the boneheaded penalties will rear their ugly head. Cleveland has a decent team; five of their losses this year have been by one score and their defense is actually pretty good. I like the Browns to keep some momentum going and take this road game. PICK: BROWNS
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
It’s hard to believe the season that the Philadelphia Eagles have strung together. They have completed imploded as a team and are spiralling out of control straight into the NFC East cellar. What is equally hard to believe is that should Dallas win this game and move back to .500 they still have a shot at winning the division. I have no confidence in the Eagles, neither turning around their season nor putting out a good effort on the field. The Cowboys are 10 point favorites heading into this game and they should cover that spread. PICK: COWBOYS
New York Giants at Washington Redskins
In the most significant game of the week, this MNF matchup could change the landscape in the NFC East. The Giants are rolling off their SNF thrashing of the Green Bay Packers while the Redskins are riding high after their turkey day win in Dallas. If the G-Men’s defense can’t contain Robert Griffin III then they too will fall fate to the Redskins. Contain the quarterback and Eli Manning and the Giants have a shot. With two offenses like this, expect a high scoring game. I have more faith in Manning being able to mount a comeback if need be than Griffin; for that reason I’ll take the Giants. PICK: GIANTS
UPSET PICK OF THE WEEK: CLEVELAND BROWNS to get it done on the road in Oakland.
LOCK PICK OF THE WEEK: DALLAS COWBOYS to hold home field and drive another nail in Philadelphia’s coffin.