A horrible weekend picking games bled into a rubbish week that saw me drop two games behind Dan and run late with the picks this week as work and domestic issues ate all my time. One of the reasons I love the NFL is its unpredictability, but it can make picking game hell. I am going to keep what I wrote about the Thursday night game before it happened, and then give you a recap before I finish the rest of the week’s games.
Gee: Week 13 3-13 Overall 94-98
Dan: Week 13 6-10 Overall 96-96
Cowboys @ Bears (+3.5)
Neither of these teams played well in their Thanksgiving games with the Cowboys offence struggling against the Eagles tough defence and Tony Romo looking like he is feeling the affects of his back injury. There is already talk of the Cowboys annual December slump and whether this team could fall to another eight and eight season but I don’t see it happening. As unimpressive as the Cowboys were, they were positively inspiring compared to the Bears, whose offence continues to stutter whilst the defence was indeed the perfect unit for the Lions to get going against. I’m not making the mistake of believing in the Bears again this week.
Gee’s Pick: Cowboys
Dan’s Pick: Cowboys
This game did nothing but confirm what I was already thinking. I’m not sure why the Bears seemed to abandon the run again for a second week in a row. You could understand them doing it against the Lions as no one has had success rushing against their defence all year, but the Cowboys run defence was ranked twenty-fourth by DVOA coming into this game, but once again it was short passes to Forte and forcing the ball to Martellus Bennet. They managed to get some garbage time points in the fourth quarter, but even as they began to edge towards an unlikely come back, Jay Cutler threw an interception into the end zone and the game was over. This team is in a mess and I worry about how they are going to get themselves out of it, tied as they are to a lot of the personnel on offence that just aren’t doing it this season and a defence that is dreadful.
The Cowboy on the other seem to be intent on killing DeMarco Murray who ran the ball thirty-two times for 179 yards and caught nine passes. The Cowboys offensive line is outstanding, allowing Tony Romo to function despite his injuries, and he definitely looked better than he did on Thanksgiving working on a short week. The worrying thing is that the defence is definitely looking like it is breaking down a bit. There was barely any pass rush and whilst they are very much in the playoff hunt, I can’t see them making much of a dent if they do get there.
Steelers @ Bengals (-3.5)
Oh boy was the end of the Bengals game tense this week. I didn’t know about Dalton’s sickness until Monday, but the defence continues to look better whilst the offence found a way to win in the second half. I think a special mention must go to Mohamed Sanu who is having a great season in place of the injured Marvin Jones, and was the number one receiver whilst AJ Green was injured earlier in the season. He also threw an eleven yard pass in this game to take his NFL career record to five out five completions for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
This week they face the hated Steelers, who are driving me round the bend this season due to their inconsistency. I do not have a handle on them at all, their defence looks fragile and is a surprising twenty-ninth by DVOA, but whilst their offence can be spectacular with Roethlisberger throwing six touchdowns in two consecutive games, Le’Veon Bell looking as good as any running back in the league and already has 1000 yards rushing this season, whilst Antonio Brown is one of the elite receivers in the game, they have also misfired in several games. The fact is that the Steelers have lost against the Buccaneers, Jets, Titans, and last week they welcomed the Saints who had lost three straight at home and lost again.
This could be a complete homer pick, but I’m sticking by my Bengals.
Gee’s Pick: Bengals
Dan’s Pick: Steelers
Colts @ Browns (+3.5)
The Colts big win against the Semi-Pros of Washington masked an interesting start to the game for Andrew Luck who early on in the game had a fumble and an interception before he had a completion. Luck is so good that he gets forgiven these errors, but he and the Colts will need to tighten their game up against the Browns this week as they are not going to see the repeated blown coverages that they got against the Semi-Pros, who also scored twenty-seven points against a Colts defence that has been up and down this season.
The Browns head back home after a loss at the Bills where the game really got away from them in the second half. It has been a difficult few weeks for Brian Hoyer who has been struggling along with the offence since Alex Mack went down injured. It was bad enough against the Bills that Johnny Manziel finally put in an appearance, but having led the offence up the field on an eighty yard drive that culminated in him scrambling for a touchdown, he also fumbled the ball to give up a score and ultimately he could not get the Browns back into the game. Their coach Mike Pettine has said that Manziel will be taking first team snaps as they look at getting him involved in the game.
I’m really not sure how this will affect the Browns, but it doesn’t inspire confidence and although I am worried about the points, I’m backing the Colts to have too much when they come to Cleveland.
Gee’s Pick: Colts
Dan’s Pick: Colts
Buccaneers @ Lions (-9.5)
The Lions had a much better game last week on offence, looking more like themselves and their run defence was so good the Bears barely tried any running plays. I’m not sure if this can last, but if they can maintain the production of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate from this game then they will be a handful for anyone.
There are definite signs of improvement from the Bucs, with Mike Evans seeming able to catch any ball that is thrown near him. That said, they were not good enough to snatch a winnable game away from the Bengals and the twelve men of the field call must be one of the most frustrating penalties of the season for this coaching staff.
Since their bye in week seven the Buccaneers have not been blown out, and their defence has been turning round. I think the Lions will win but I don’t like their offensive line and it appears I’m not learning my lesson about picking road underdogs.
Gee’s Pick: Buccaneers
Dan’s Pick: Lions
Giants @ Titans (+0.5)
This game is a real mystery wrapped in an enigma with a fluctuating quantum state that changes upon observation.
On the one hand we have the Giants who are just falling apart after briefly putting together a promising run of performances earlier in the season, but are now on a seven game losing streak. On the other hand, the Titans have just lost heavily to the Texan, are on their own six game losing streak, and their rookie quarterback is now injured so we’re back to Jake Locker as the possible starter.
I don’t like either team so I’m plumping for the Titans at home but who knows with this one.
Gee’s Pick: Titans
Dan’s Pick: Titans
Rams @ Semi-Pros(+2.5)
Things did not get much better for the Semi-Pros this week with a slight improvement in offensive production undone by repeatedly blow coverage in the secondary. You will seldom see so many wide open receivers on long plays as there were in last week’s game and surely this must cast some questions over the coaching of this team.
The Rams are finishing the season strong, and whilst we shouldn’t over react to their fifty-two point win over the Raiders, their defence pitched a shut out and Tre Mason looked really good as he rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns on only fourteen carries.
I can only see one result in this one, which maybe dangerous but I’m sticking to my guns.
Gee’s Pick: Rams
Dan’s Pick: Rams
Ravens @ Dolphins (-2.5)
The Dolphins won ugly against the Jets last week, but whilst the performance from Tannehill was not outstanding with no touchdowns and an interception, the worrying trend is the second straight bad performance from the defence that for most of the season has been a strength of the team. They are still ranked top ten in defence by DVOA, but having conceded twenty-two points in a quarter against the Broncos two weeks ago, they conceded 200 rushing yards in the first half against the Jets.
The Ravens are still a lot of people’s pick as the best team in the AFC North but they are now a game and a half behind the Bengals, and their patched together secondary is going to be their Achilles heel for the rest of the season. I would like their offence to be more consistent as it has shown flashes, with Justin Forsett has being one of the free-agent pickups of the season, but has not put it together as regularly as you would like.
I think the Ravens have a slight edge in this one and so I’m backing them to bounce back with a win.
Jets @ Vikings (-5.5)
The Vikings are playing solid defence and so I don’t expect the Jets to be able to run the ball like they did against the Dolphins. This is a problem as it has been the only impressive thing the Jets have done in weeks and they still lost. I think that the Viking could be a really interesting team next year, and this week I’m backing them for a solid home win.
Gee’s Pick: Vikings
Dan’s Pick: Vikings
Panthers @ Saints (-9.5)
This is a difficult game to pick as the Panthers are struggling this season with problems on both sides of the ball and Cam Newton looking particularly off. However, the Saints have also been pretty bad this season and this is a high line. The Saints were much better against the Steelers than the score showed as their defence was unable to stop them making it a close game towards the end, despite the Saints mostly being in control. Given this, it would make sense to pick the Panthers to cover, but I can’t bring myself to back this road underdog, I don’t have any confidence in their offence so I’m reluctantly hoping the Saints begin to look more like themselves.
Gee’s Pick: Saints
Dan’s Pick: Panthers
Teaxns @ Jaguars (+4.5)
The Jaguars got themselves a second win last week against the Giants and continue to compete on defence and keep themselves in game, but their horrid o-line makes it very hard from them to do much on offence.
The Texans played excellently last week with Ryan Fitzpatrick having a career day, and JJ Watt getting two sacks as well as forcing a fumble, recovering it, and then catching an touchdown pass on the resulting offensive play.
I think this is a relatively straight forward win for the Texans.
Gee’s Pick: Texans
Dan’s Pick: Texans
Bills @ Broncos (-9.5)
The Broncos found another way to win last week, running the ball with CJ Anderson for 168 yards off thirty-two carries. Their defence continues to play well, and whilst they have had their wobbles recently, the Broncos have to be included in any discussion of the best teams in the AFC.
The Bills have had a good couple of weeks, but whilst I am impressed with their defence which is anchored by one of the best defensive lines in the league, I do not trust their offense and I’m waiting for Kyle Orton to come back to Earth.
If this game was in Buffalo I might fancy the Bills for an upset, but at Mile High Stadium not only do I fancy the Broncos to win, but I think they’ll cover too.
Gee’s Pick: Broncos
Dan’s Pick: Bills
Chiefs @ Cardinals (-0.5)
The Cardinals have been so good for most of the season, but it looks like they might have finally reached a point where they are too hobbled by injury to win. They have no run game to support Drew Stanton, who is currently no where near good enough to win them games, and even the defence was bad last week against the Falcons. I wouldn’t put it past Bruce Arians to find a way to get them into the playoffs, but right now I can see them slipping out.
The Chiefs are coming off their own two game losing streak, and have not been inspiring. However, I have more faith in Alex Smith than I do Stanton and even though they are the road team, I think that they have more ways of manufacturing points than the Cardinals at the moment.
This is a pick that could haunt me as I really believe in Arians as a coach, but Andy Reid is not exactly awful himself.
Gee’s Pick: Chiefs
Dan’s Pick: Cardinals
49ers @ Raiders (+7.5)
One suspects that the Raiders minds were elsewhere in the lead up to last week’s game, resulting them getting smashed 52-0 by the Rams. They were horrible and there doesn’t seem to be much point in going over it in detail, but I would imagine they will be desperate to demonstrate that it was a one off by a team not used to success.
The 49ers are in trouble as their offence is horrible and Kaepernick seems to be going backwards. I think that they are going to miss the playoffs this year, and we will be seeing new coaches whose first order of business is an overhaul of the offensive scheme. I see them winning this game, but I have no confidence that they can generate enough offense to cover this spread on the road.
Gee’s Pick: Raiders
Dan’s Pick: 49ers
Seahawks @ Eagles (-1.5)
This should be a really good game with the Seahawks defence playing really well over the last couple of weeks having got some players back from injury. However, whilst I think that they could overturn the Cardinals at the top of the NFC West, I think this game will be beyond them.
This is not an easy journey for them, and the Eagles are playing well. I worry about Sanchez facing the Seahawks defence, but he has played in big games before and never with this level of surrounding cast or within such a well coached scheme. I think the Eagles defence has enough to contain the run game of the Seahawks, who really don’t have much of a passing attack and so I see the Eagles eking out a win.
Gee’s Pick: Eagles
Dan’s Pick: Eagles
Patriots @ Chargers (+3.5)
The Chargers got themselves back into the playoff hunt with a win over the Ravens last week, but I don’t know how sustainable this success is. It appeared that Philip Rivers was feeling a bit healthier and certainly he played well, but given that their defence is ranked twenty-eighth by DVOA he is going to have to be outstanding again.
This defensive problems look to be further compounded as the Patriots are coming into town and if you are twenty-first in the league by DVOA against tight ends, the last player you want to see is Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots were in the game with the Packers until the end, but there were a couple of throws that Brady would like to have back. It is interesting that Bill Belichick flew the team straight from Green Bay to Sand Diego, but I think they have more than enough to take care of business in this game.
Gee’s Pick: Patriots
Dan’s Pick: Patriots
Falcons @ Packers (-11.5)
It has now been more than two years since Aaron Rodgers has thrown an interception at Lambaugh Field and if he keeps up this level of play for a few more years there is going to be a real argument about who the best quarterback of all time is. Add to this a defence that had been playing really well recently, with Julius Peppers demonstrating he was a really good offseason pickup and Clay Mathews making a difference as he moves between inside linebacker and pass rusher, and you have a recipe for Super Bowl contention.
The Falcons did really well to beat the Cardinals last week, their patched up offensive line held up well enough for Matt Ryan to give Julio Jones a career day. However, I really worry about how their defence is going to hold up against the Rodgers and all the weapons he has at his disposal. I think this is going to be a very long day for a team that really isn’t very good, and is about to get found out.
Gee’s Pick: Packers
Dan’s Pick: Packers