Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NFL Week 12 Picks

I will be occupied all day tomorrow and with NFL games starting early on Thursday, I figured I would get my picks done while I have the time today and very early tomorrow. There are a lot of big games this week with many playoff implications.

Last Week's Record: 9-5
Year to Date Record: 100-60

Green Bay Packers vs Detroit Lions
For the first time in a very long time, the Lions are playing a relevant game on Thanksgiving. The Lions host the undefeated Packers in a huge NFC showdown. A win by the Lions here might give them hope for a division title, but I think that might be stretching it a bit too much. A win here would help a lot because of the loss of Jay Cutler for the Bears. The Lions offense came back to life last week against Carolina. The Packers defense isn't the greatest, so expect a big game from Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Now with that being said, the Lions pass defense is nothing to write home about, so expect Aaron Rodgers to throw at will. All of this leads to one word: SHOOTOUT. This game features two of the best passing offenses in the league. Aaron Rodgers seems unstoppable, although he did get a good test last week from Tampa Bay. If the Lions can LIMIT Rodgers and not let him throw at will they may have a chance. Detroit's front seven needs to pressure Rodgers and make him throw it early. For the Lions, Matthew Stafford needs to limit his mistakes and not force throws to Calvin Johnson. But I think the Packers front seven is better than the Lions, and their added pressure give the Packers a win.

Green Bay 38  Detroit 34

Miami Dolphins vs Dallas Cowboys
These may be the two teams playing the best football in the last 3 weeks. The Dolphins have won 3 in a row after starting the season 0-7. Reggie Bush is running like a number one back for the first time in his career. Matt Moore is making people forget about Andrew Luck in Miami. And the Dolphins defense is shutting down the run and pressuring the QB into bad mistakes. If this Dolphins team had shown up earlier in the year, they may at least be .500 and in the hunt for a playoff spot. Tony Sparano may be saving his job. I still think its unlikely, but its possible. The team is playing hard for him, but they are also still playing in front of half empty stadiums. The Cowboys have won three in a row as well as their offense has come to life in recent weeks. Tony Romo has thrown at least 3 TDs in the last two games, and has put the Cowboys in a tie for first in the NFC East. With the Cowboys easy schedule in the coming weeks they have no excuses for a let down. But the Dolphins will be a tough out here. They will play just as hard as they have been in recent weeks and will look to spoil the Cowboys run at the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Cowboys are the more talented team and will win a close one.

Dallas 27  Miami 22

San Francisco 49ers vs Baltimore Ravens
It's Harbaugh vs Harbaugh. I'm sure it is the exact way the Harbaugh family envisioned spending their Thanksgiving. On the 49ers side, Jim Harbaugh has the 49ers at 9-1 and within one game of clinching the NFC West. If the 49ers win this week and Seattle losses, the division goes to San Francisco. Now, that doesn't mean a let up from the 49ers. They are still within a game of Green Bay for the top spot in the NFC. The Packers could slip up in the coming weeks, they have some difficult match-ups. Second, I don't think let up is in Jim Harbaugh's vocabulary. He will have his team playing hard every week because that is how he coaches. No let up whatsoever. On the Baltimore side, John Harbaugh has his team in a good spot. At 7-3, they are tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North. They have had let downs against lesser teams this year, but I wouldn't expect that against San Francisco. But the 49ers defense is very stingy and will shut down Ray Rice, or at least attempt too. If Joe Flacco can get time, he should find Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith open. The 49ers secondary isn't the greatest. But I like the 49ers here. They play a similar game to Baltimore: smash mouth, grind it out, run stuffing defense. But the likely loss of Ray Lewis will hurt the Ravens defense in the end. San Francisco wins a low scoring affair.

San Francisco 20  Baltimore 17

Houston Texans vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Let the Matt Leinart Era begin in Houston. This is a good first test for him. Leinart isn't being thrown to a top team, he's being thrown to a Jacksonville team that couldn't beat Cleveland last week. Leinart will more than likely have stud WR Andre Johnson back, which is a huge help. Even with Johnson back, expect a heavy dose of RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate from the Texans. That will help take the pressure off of Leinart early on. The Jaguars continue to struggle offensively with Blaine Gabbert under center. But with teams focusing on Maurice Jones-Drew, Gabbert will eventually have to win a game himself. That will be tough to do against an improved Houston defense. Jones-Drew will get his touches and yards, but Gabbert still isn't good enough to win a game like this. Jack Del Rio's clock continues to tick as the Texans win here.

Houston 24  Jacksonville 13

Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets
Talk about two teams that are heading in the wrong directions. Three weeks ago the Bills were 5-2, but that seems like an eternity ago. The Bills have lost 3 straight, including an embarrassing home loss to the Jets. The offense has scored a combined 26 points the last three weeks. They didn't even get into the end zone last week against Miami. Ryan Fitzpatrick has looked terrible, and the defense is getting burned deep by anything that moves. Injuries are also mounting for the Bills. RB Fred Jackson has a bruised right calf that may keep him out. WR Donald Jones and C Eric Wood are out for the year, and both WRs Stevie Johnson and David Nelson are banged up. The Jets have lost two in a row after winning three straight. Mark Sanchez has looked terrible in both losses. They have injuries at RB with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson both banged up. And the hyped defense couldn't stop Tim Tebow from driving 95 yards on them at the end of the game last week. The Jets, however, are still in better shape than the Bills overall. They are healthier, have a better coaching scheme, and are playing at home. That gives the Jets the win this week.

NY Jets 21  Buffalo 13

Cleveland Browns vs Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals were brought down to Earth the last two weeks after back-to-back losses against Pittsburgh and Baltimore. They only lost by a touchdown both games, but they were also in position to win both of those games in the end. But Andy Dalton threw a bad interception at the end of the game against Pittsburgh, and he had no time to throw against Baltimore in the closing seconds. That's not to take anything away from Cincinnati. The Bengals are still holding on to the last Wild Card spot, and are still playing better football than everyone below them in the AFC. The Bengals should get WR A.J. Green back this week, which will help open up the offense more. The Browns finally won a game last week against Jacksonville, and they will have revenge on their mind after a bad opening week loss at home against Cincinnati. Expect the Browns to be motivated for their cross state rivals. If Colt McCoy can get time to throw they might have a chance. But I don't see that happening. The Bengals rebound here and take care of the Browns in a low scoring affair.

Cincinnati 23  Cleveland 16

Minnesota Vikings vs Atlanta Falcons
The only reason to really watch the Vikings is out for a few weeks. RB Adrian Peterson suffered an ankle sprain last week and will likely miss this week's game. Toby Gerhart replaces AP, but he may not be half the running back Peterson is. Expect a lot of Percy Harvin in the backfield to try and throw off the Falcons. The Falcons will be able to drop a few more people back in the secondary, which should cause problems with Christian Ponder. The Falcons got a nice win last week at home against Tennessee. Expect Matt Ryan to have a big day against a bad Vikings secondary. If he gets Julio Jones back, then it will be a big day for them. Michael Turner should have a nice game as well. The Falcons are the all-around better team and should dispose of the Vikings rather easily here.

Atlanta 31  Minnesota 17

Arizona Cardinals vs St. Louis Rams
Um, does anyone care about this game? The Rams and Cardinals have both had equally disappointing seasons. The Cardinals acquisition of Kevin Kolb has been a colossal bust for them. The team is playing better under 2nd year QB John Skelton than Kolb. At least he remembers who Larry Fitzgerald is. The defense that was suppose to be improved has disappointed mightily. The Rams were beat up by injuries and a brutal early schedule. Sam Bradford has been injured, and injuries on the offensive line haven't helped him. The defense has finally come around. The acquisition of Brandon Lloyd has helped Bradford a lot, and the Rams should do everything possible to try and re-sign him in the off-season. Expect a big game from Steven Jackson, which leads to a win for the Rams.

St. Louis 28  Arizona 23

Carolina Panthers vs Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are one lucky franchise. After years of glory under Peyton Manning, they have one bad year and now will soon have years of glory under Andrew Luck. The Colts will take Luck if they get the 1st overall pick, no questions asked. And I think they will. The Colts have nothing going for them on offense or defense. And the defense will struggle against Cam Newton this week. Expect Newton, Johnathan Stewart, and DeAngelo Williams to run wild on the Colts poor run defense. If the Colts can get their run game going they might have a chance, but the Panthers offense can put up points in bunches, and they should have no problem doing that against Indianapolis. The Panthers rebound after a bad couple of weeks and pick up a win.

Carolina 31  Indianapolis 21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Tennessee Titans
Hey, give Tampa Bay credit. They gave Green Bay one of their toughest games of the year last week. Josh Freeman was able to find open WRs and LaGarrette Blount found holes and just ran over the Packers defense. It may be too little too late for Tampa Bay. At 4-6, their playoff chances are all but down the drain. They are two games back of the last NFC Wild Card Spot. The Bucs may finally be putting everything together, but I don't think it will help them make the playoffs. Coach Raheem Morris blamed Tampa's struggles on the lockout, but that is not an excuse. Tampa showed last year they are good enough to win now, but they failed to live up to the hype this year. Tennessee failed to win a big game against Atlanta last week. They lost Matt Hasselbeck with an elbow injury, but he may be able to return this week because there was no structural damage to the elbow. Chris Johnson couldn't get going again, but against a bad Tampa defense he should be able to find holes. Tampa will give Tennessee a fight, but the Titans have more to play for and pull out a win here.

Tennessee 24  Tampa Bay 21

Chicago Bears vs Oakland Raiders
Well, let the Caleb Hanie Era begin in Chicago. It is his team for pretty much the rest of the regular season. The good thing is Hanie knows the system so he should be able to step right in with no problem. The bad news is he is still unproven for the most part in the league. He stepped in well during the NFC Championship, but that was it. Expect a heavy dose of Matt Forte from the Bears. But if the defense keeps playing well, the Bears shouldn't have a problem staying in all their games. The Raiders just keep winning under Carson Palmer. Palmer should have time to throw here against the Bears secondary. Palmer has to love the help he is getting from Michael Bush at running back, and if Darren McFadden returns this week, it gives the Raiders a dangerous two headed attack at running back. Before Cutler's injury, I would have picked the Bears. Now? I think the Raiders take this one and continue their stranglehold on the AFC West.

Oakland 27  Chicago 24

Washington Redskins vs Seattle Seahawks
Another game I don't know if anyone really cares about. The Redskins finally played a good game last week against Dallas. They showed signs of life on offense against Dallas. Problem is, their field goal kicker let them down again. Graham Gano missed a 52 yard field goal in OT, allowing the Cowboys to come back and win. Seattle, meanwhile, has played some good football in recent weeks and have won two in a row on the back of Marshawn Lynch, who finally looks like a #1 running back. Expect Lynch to have a good game again this week, and carry Seattle to their third win in a row.

Seattle 23  Washington 14

Denver Broncos vs San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are just in an absolute free fall. They've lost 5 in a row, and haven't won a game since they beat Denver in Week 5. Philip Rivers isn't playing like Philip Rivers. He doesn't have time to throw in the pocket and is making some bad decisions in the pocket. Injuries to different offensive playmakers throughout the year hasn't helped either. The defense also is getting picked apart rather easily. Meanwhile, the Broncos have won 4 out of 5 with Tim Tebow and have adopted their offense to fit his skill set. Oh, and the defense is playing lights out football. Von Miller is a beast at linebacker for the Broncos, and Champ Bailey is playing like the shut down corner he used to be. Tim Tebow should be able to make big plays against the Chargers, and I think he does to help them win here.

Denver 31  San Diego 27

New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles
This is an interesting game. The Patriots look like they may have finally come together as a whole team. The defense has looked respectable in the last couple weeks. The Patriots have also been trying to get some kind of run game going, but that still hasn't happened yet. Tom Brady won't win them every game, even though having TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Wes Welker helps out matters. But it will be interesting to see Brady match-up with the Eagles secondary, who seem to have finally come around in Philadelphia. They shut down the Giants offense last week. If they can do the same thing to Tom Brady, it could mean trouble for the Patriots. No matter who starts for the Eagles, Vince Young or Mike Vick, both men should be able to make plays against the Patriots defense. It may be a mild upset, but I like the Eagles to shut down the Patriots and win here. They will be motivated after last week's win.

Philadelphia 28  New England 24

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs
Why was this game not flexed out of the Sunday night slot? Even two weeks ago, the Chiefs still looked like a bad football team. Now they are even worse without Matt Cassel under center. Tyler Palko did not look good at all against New England. What do you expect from him against a good Steelers defense? The Chiefs defense might be able to contain the Steelers for a little bit, but they can't score points for them. I expect a Steelers win, and a rather easy one too with them coming off the bye.

Pittsburgh 35  Kansas City 14

New York Giants vs New Orleans Saints
Is this the beginning of the Giants collapse? It may very well. They shouldn't have gotten shut down so easily against Philadelphia. Eli Manning is better than that. The Giants really have missed Ahmad Bradshaw, who gives them a good running attack on offense. The Saints have had a bye week to prepare for the Giants. The Saints should rely on quick passes to avoid the Giants pass rush. If they do that, Drew Brees should be able to make plays with all of his offensive weapons. I would think Darren Sproles might be in for a good game out of the backfield for the Saints. With the game in New Orleans, I think the Saints win and make Tom Coughlin's seat even hotter than it was already.

New Orleans 24  NY Giants 23

My Vegas $$$ Picks
Last Week's Record: 2-2
Year To Date Record: 25-18-1

Miami +7 at Dallas: Dolphins will put up a fight til the end.

Atlanta -9.5 vs Minnesota: No AP means no chance for the Vikings.

Denver +6.5 at San Diego: Even if the Broncos lose, it will still be a close game.

Pittsburgh -10.5 at Kansas City: Chiefs have pretty much no chance.

Until Next Time,
Justin C
Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka

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