For example, I’m thankful I’m not Johnny Manziel.
I’m thankful my Buccaneers have finally turned a corner from being a league laughing stock to becoming a formidable opponent that teams can no longer overlook.
I’m thankful Kevin Paul of The Wife Hates Sports convinced me to do these weekly pick ‘ems this year because I am absolutely stuffing his turkey.
I’m thankful that despite all its kinks, kooks and imperfections, the NFL still provides us with quality, must-see entertainment every Thursday through Monday.
And again yes, I’m thankful for my health, friends and family, more than I could ever express.
Speaking of friends and family, guess who popped in this week to pick against your boys but none other than Bruce Burns, author and creator of SportsAttitudes. He has graciously taken time out from updating Chip Kelly’s Linked In profile to make his NFL picks against the two best-looking sports bloggers on the internet.
Before we move on to our picks for the week, I’d like to wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season. Now, let’s be thankful with a little football.
SPORTSCHUMP’S I CAN’T BELIEVE I ATE THE WHOLE THING PICKS
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions (-1)
Fortunately, I’ll still be sleeping by the time this game kicks off. I’m calling this first game the Tryptophan special. We’ll be preparing the stuffing, basting the turkey and someone will say “Hey, it’s noon. Isn’t there a football game on?” and someone else in the room will respond “That’s not football. That’s Eagles-Lions.” And they’ll be right. Both these teams are like the leftovers that end up spoiling in your fridge because you thought they looked good but when you opened the Tupperware, you realize it was the same old crap you’ve seen before. The good news for Philly fans, aside from Chip Kelly being one step closer to being evicted, is that Creed comes out this week, appropriate since their team is also laid out on the canvas. I’m taking Detroit to cover here because they’re the worse of two evils and because picking on Eagles fans these days is just too much fun.
Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys (-1.5)
At first glance, this line might look off. Heck, for weeks I’ve been touting a Panthers cover as the year’s safest play. And it has been. At 9-0, they still get no respect from the odds makers. This week they travel to Big D to face an apparently rejuvenated Cowboys team. A quick look at this line tells you this game has everything to do with public perception. How else can one explain a 10-0 team being an underdog to a team that is 3-7? This also has to do with Las Vegas not wanting to lose their ass by heavily favoring Carolina and having the world bet on the Thanksgiving miracle that is Tony Romo. Despite his return, if Carolina wants to be taken seriously, this is another game they must win. I’m not jumping off the Panthers band wagon just yet. They’ve been too good to me all season so once again I’m taking them to cover, however leerily.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-8)
This will be Brett Favre’s return to Green Bay. No truth to the rumor that he’ll announce he’s coming out of retirement yet again. While it might be his night, this is Aaron Rodgers’ team. Unfortunately for Chicago fans, the Bears are still Jay Cutler’s team. How cool would it be if Cutler and Favre scheduled a pre-game interception contest where they throw footballs into a tire that’s colored in the uniform of the opposing team? Who wouldn’t watch that? I have this sneaky suspicion this game is going to end badly for Chicago on what should be a chilly Lambeau night. I’m taking the Pack to cover easily.
New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans (-3)
Another Sunday brings with it another battle of irrelevant football teams. Actually, thanks to a three-game win streak, the Texans are still in contention for the NFL’s “special” division, otherwise known as the AFC South. This division is so bad that the Jags are still in contention. I know the Saints are bad, the worst team in the NFC South, but they’ve had two weeks to stew about just how bad they are. That should be all the motivation they need to steal this one or at least cover the three. Side note: It’ll be interesting to see which fans are louder in this game considering the proximity of the two cities. Don’t be surprised if Saints fans take the place over.
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons (-1)
This is a battle between the two NFC Wild Card teams or at least it’s looking that way. Well, it was prior to last Sunday’s action when the Vikes lost to Green Bay and Matt Ryan gave out early Christmas footballs to the Indianapolis secondary. Both these teams are now desperate for a win. As high as I’ve been on the Vikes this season, this is yet another game the struggling Falcons can ill afford to lose. I may regret this but if I’m getting a playoff team at home and only laying a point, I have to take the Falcons.
St. Louis Rams at Cincinnati Bengals (-9)
Rams wide receiver Stedman Bailey was recently shot in his home town of Miami. When I hear gruesome stories like this and a team has to play days later, there are really only two ways this can pan out. Either the Rams rally around an incident like this for inspiration or they totally lay an egg because of the overwhelming distraction. It’s hard to imagine Cincy losing three straight after starting out 8-0 but I’m going with option A. If anybody can motivate his team, it’s Jeff Fisher. I’m not necessarily calling for an upset special here (even though that’s how I’m going to bet it) but I’m definitely taking the Rams to cover in an effort to win one for their fallen teammate.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts (-3)
The Bucs are coming off a high they haven’t known in years. We haven’t heard the P-word ‘round these parts for quite some time. Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about the playoffs. Did you know the Bucs haven’t WON a playoff game since their Super Bowl run back in 2002? That was three coaches ago. While many of us have learned the hard way it’s never wise to wager against Matt Hasselbeck, the Bucs are hot right now and more importantly healthy. I’m taking Tampa Bay and the points until they prove me differently.
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (+2.5)
I like the G-Men to get back on track here. They’ve had two weeks to stew about how they coughed up that game to the Patriots, not to mention the other games they’ve given away this year. It’s a good thing their division sucks. The ‘Skins are a nice story but this weekend the real NFC East contenders please stand up, which is a little like being the smartest kid in a dumb school. The Giants are that team. Duh.
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans (+1.5)
Losers of their last three, the Raider are flat-lining. They were a nice early story but this week they continue their slide. This is nice young team but they’re still a season or two away from being legit contenders and you and I both know something will happen in their near future to make sure that doesn’t happen. The Titans aren’t much better but they’re good enough to cover the point and a half at home.
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)
Short week for the Bills, they’re coming off a game against the undefeated Patriots they think they could, and probably should, have won. KC is a team they can beat but it won’t be easy. After starting out 1-5, they’ve quietly won four straight. Ya’ know what? I still like the Bills and the points. Even on a short week, this team is talented enough to at least keep things close… if not win outright.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (-3.5)
Let’s call this the battle for the AFC East bottom. Both these teams have had what can best be described as disappointing seasons. Not that either team had a shot at winning this division anyway. For fans of both teams, this game is like looking forward to opening that present on Christmas morning only to be disappointed when you find out you didn’t get what you want, again, which is yet another irrelevant season. I’ll take the Fish here, just because the Jets are reeling but they’re not reeling in marlin.
San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5)
The Chargers just got beat by thirty in their own building. Philip Rivers is infighting with his main squeeze, Antonio Gates. Keenan Allen is out for the season. Melvin Gordon isn’t ready to shoulder the load on the ground. Meanwhile, the Jags are in a battle for their division. What have we learned so far this season about teams going in opposite directions? Take the one on the incline. That’s the Jags.
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (+10)
Colin Kaepernick, look at the bright side. At least you’re not Johnny Manziel. I’m trying to remember a week recently when the Niners weren’t double-digit underdogs. It’s been a while. What’s worse if the teams they’re playing are covering the spread. At least they have the Warriors across the bay to take their minds off how bad the rest of the teams in the area are. I keep thinking they’ll give this season one last ditch effort but for what? And Arizona is not exactly the kind of team one can just flip the switch against. If Carolina loses at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, the Cards can sniff home field advantage throughout the playoffs. I trust that’s something they want. I’ll be bold and take the Cards here to cover on the road for just that reason.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks (-4)
No Marshawn Lynch for a Seattle team that is dangerously close to missing the playoffs. Has anyone asked if his abdomen hurt from eating too many Skittles? We know it’s not from talking too much. The Steelers are still in line for a wild card spot in the AFC despite injuries too numerous to mentioned. Seattle’s banged up too but I’m taking them here simply because the need factor for Seattle is way higher than it is in Pittsburgh.
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (+3)
The Pats are winning. That much is obvious. They’re just not covering. And they’re banged up. The Patriots are so desperate for receivers that they’re considering bailing out Aaron Hernandez. Tom Brady is quickly running out of options. And while this was billed as the annual battle between Brady and Manning, Peyton will be watching from the sidelines. Side note: did you know that Manning and Brady are a combined 76 years old? That’s about how many weeks it’s been since the Patriots have lost. Make it 77. Pats cover.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (-2.5)
Do I really have to talk about Johnny Manziel here? No? Okay, good. McCown’s getting the start but he’s not healthy. The Ravens basically don’t have anybody healthy on their roster either. This might go down as the most unwatchable game in the history of Monday Night Football. Good thing Manziel has a party to go to. Browns win and cover only because they’re at home.
BURNSY’S WHY OH WHY AM I A PHILLY FAN PICKS
Devoted readers of my sportsattitudes blog are familiar with my inherent reluctance to make predictions. That being said my brothers-in-blogging have a true, unbridled passion for NFL forecasting so I volunteered to serve up predictions for Week 12 here on one of the leading independent sports blogging sites on Earth…SportsChump. (…that’s what I was supposed to write…right Chris?)
This time of year you not only have to look for the truly talented teams but players that still can show up…want to show up…and ball out. That’s not always easy to do when you’re beat up mentally and physically, the wilder weather brings issues, etc. Some squads and their starters tip their hands sooner than later they are in full-on, self-preservation mode and just trying to stay alive through the rest of the season. Other players know while their team is mathematically relevant a Super Bowl run isn’t in their future…and play accordingly.
Our job therefore is to sift through the first week we can wave bye-bye to byes and figure out who might be able to play, who wants to play…and who will make the winning plays.
Philadelphia (4-6) at Detroit (3-7) (LINE Eagles -1) – How ironic this Philly boy draws an Eagles game to start off? Head Coach Chip Kelly says no changes are needed…even after blowing a big lead to Miami and getting blown away by Tampa Bay – both at home mind you. Give Detroit credit for admitting changes were needed and firing everyone except the front-desk receptionist and their HC. I even thought cars were going to be recalled. Fear is a great motivator and after getting crushed in London by the Chiefs (and the self-reflection a bye week provides) the Lions roared into Green Bay and won…and came home to knock off the Oakland Raiders last week. No fear has been instilled in the Eagles because they’ve been told everything is fine. Well…it’s not Chip. Take the Lions and the point.
Carolina (10-0) at Dallas (3-7) (LINE Cowboys -1) – You know you are having a great season when the only hard news coming out about your team is how suggestive your quarterback dances after touchdowns. The Panthers indeed go as potential NFL-MVP Cam Newton goes. Dallas Owner Jerry Jones is still trying to figure out why newly-hired defensive end Greg Hardy seems to have more passion for hitting women than opposing players. Tony Romo is back and running for his life…occasionally making something out of nothing. The Panthers are 4-0 away from home. Oh wait, they’re 10-0. Snap. Take the Panthers and the point.
Chicago (4-6) at Green Bay (7-3) (LINE Packers -9) – The Packers won the season opener in Chicago by 31-23. A lot has happened in recent weeks that made them look mortal but…welcome back Eddie Lacy and James Jones. Last week’s win in Minnesota may have jump-started Aaron Rodgers and Co. back into rhythm. The Bears blew an opportunity to win one for former Denver HC John Fox against his old team last week and, while “Good Jay” Cutler has cut down on turnovers they may have rhythm issues of their own if Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery both try to get back after Jeremy Langford performed so well in Forte’s absence. And…after facing Brock Osweiler’s balanced Broncos the Bears D may not be quite dialed up in a shortened week to face off versus Rodgers and his playmates, who look to be playing angry right now trying to discount-double check their destiny. Take the Packers and give the points under the assumption “Bad Jay” finally shows up in the second half…and the Pack is indeed back.
New Orleans (4-6) at Houston (5-5) (LINE Texans -3) – I like to use the Saints as an example of how bad the NFL is. They are in the hunt for a playoff spot while featuring defense that appears to be looking for opponents’ flags not realizing this is tackle football. New Orleans has given up 315 points. The Saints are coming off a bye in Week 11 and have allegedly retooled. One thing they might want to explain to free-agent signee Brandon Browner is his contract incentives do not include leading the league in penalties called. J.J. Watt will again be looking to score on both sides of the ball even while spending most of his time pounding Drew Brees. Brian Hoyer is scheduled to return for Houston who already is on a roll having won three straight…including that victory in Cincinnati. Take the Texans and give the points.
Buffalo (5-5) at Kansas City (5-5) (LINE Chiefs -3.5) – Take the Chiefs and give the points. The Bills are coming off a short week after a physical game and a deflating loss in New England. Tyrod Taylor is dinged up again. Kansas City returns home having won four in a row and Andy Reid’s Eagles teams always have made big runs at this time of the regular season. The Chiefs would admittedly be better off if versatile Charcandrick West and De’Anthony Thomas are both healthy. Alex Smith will still manage the tempo and work with whomever can suit up. The KC D is trending up as well.
Oakland (4-6) at Tennessee (2-8) (LINE Raiders -1) – Writer Gregg Easterbrook refers to the Titans as the “Flaming Thumbtacks” because that’s what their logo looks like to him. I even named one of my fantasy teams that. Tennessee is 0-5 at home. The Raiders failed to show up in Detroit and perhaps expectations were artificially high for this team as their inconsistency has been maddening. The Titans have had a few extra days to prepare and also to get Kendall Wright back on the field. No team wants to be winless at home. Take the Titans and the point. Know this. Oakland is a road favorite again this week…I believe for the fourth time in the last decade…like they were last week in Detroit.
St. Louis (4-6) at Cincinnati (8-2) (LINE Bengals -10) – If someone sees St. Louis QB Case Keenum wandering around please detain him until medical assistance can be provided. You can’t count on the NFL to do that. I think the entire Cincinnati secondary is injured to some extent but then again who’s going to exploit it? No one. It’s going to be run, run, run Todd Gurley and play straight-up solid defense. St. Louis has this way of hanging around. HC Jeff Fisher called out critics of the Rams’ style of play this week. He’s playing for his job too. Take the Rams and the points.
Minnesota (7-3) at Atlanta (6-4) (LINE Falcons -1.5) – Adrian Peterson keeps being told with age and injuries he can’t do this/he can’t do that. The only thing he can’t do is play while being suspended. Atlanta, like Cincinnati, got off to a hot start (5-0) but chilled off big-time (lost last three) in part to aptly-nicknamed “Matty Ice” Ryan looking as cold as ice trying to throw to anyone not named Julio Jones…and a Falcons’ defense which now ranks just about dead last in pressuring the QB. Devonta Freeman sustained a concussion against Indy last week. His replacement was to be the starter when the season started. No problem, right? Wrong. Tevin Coleman has fumbled away his confidence and Atlanta will be hurting big-time if there is no Freeman. Minnesota has certainly been vulnerable by not protecting Teddy Bridgewater but that should not be an issue this week. Take the Vikings and the points.
New York Giants (5-5) at Washington (4-6) (LINE Giants -2.5) – A “crucial” NFC East battle. Well they all are when the teams all hover around .500. New York won over the Redskins in New York in Week Three by 32-21. The Giants are 5-0 against the Redskins since the start of the 2013 season and 13-24 against everyone else. New York enters rested, prepared and coming off a bye in Week 11. Washington is 4-1 at home…all of their wins collected in DC. I expect it to be close…but not close enough for the Redskins. Take the Giants and give the points.
Tampa Bay (5-5) at Indianapolis (5-5) (LINE Colts -3) – Jameis Winston and Andrew Luck. A battle of two of football’s up-and-coming….wait, who’s the bald guy? Matt Hasselback? He’s 3-0 as a starter this season you say? Frank Gore may be hurt (again) but Ahmad Bradshaw off the street may be a better option anyway. The Bucs may be without middle LB Kwon Alexander if he’s suspended and that’s not a good thing. I do like the way Tampa Bay is playing these days. Just not enough here. Take the Colts and give the points.
San Diego (2-8) at Jacksonville (4-6) (LINE Jaguars -4) – Philip Rivers has a record of 4-1 with 11 TD’s and only 4 picks in his career against the Jaguars. But I’ve never figured out why the Chargers haven’t given him a supporting cast. San Diego is 0-4 on the road and Rivers’ meager support staff is dwindling. He and Antonio Gates got after each other during that ugly 33-3 loss at home last week to Kansas City. Take the Jaguars and give the points. Felt like moving vans were already in place to take San Diego away last week. Chargers have lost six straight games…with that blowout loss to the Chiefs off a bye no less. Jacksonville has had extra time to prepare and Blake Bortles loves to sling the ball around…often to his own players.
Miami (4-6) at New York Jets (5-5) (LINE Jets -3.5) – New York won over Miami (in London) in Week Four by 27-14. Darrelle Revis sustained a concussion last week against Houston and his status is uncertain. Center Nick Mangold has a hand injury. Chris Ivory spent the last two games in his own backfield more than the opponents’ side and Bilal Powell is now time-sharing. Ryan Fitzpatrick may keep his beard but not his job. I wonder if the Jets’ recent problems don’t also include play-calling. I haven’t said much about Miami here. So…the Dolphins are 0-4 against AFC East rivals this season. They have talent but choose to display it as they see fit. Maybe this Sunday they’re in the mood. Take the Dolphins and the points.
Arizona (8-2) at San Francisco (3-7) (LINE Cardinals -10.5) – An NFC West contest which, even in this season of “parity” (translation…less than illuminating football and even worse officiating) illustrates the kind of difference one should see between first and last place teams. Arizona defeated San Francisco in Arizona in Week Three by 47-7. 49ers’ three wins did come at home. So? Take the Cardinals and give the points. Bruce Arians will want to get Arizona back on track. Arizona will want to make a statement after being told a “phantom call” gave them the win over Cincinnati Sunday night
Pittsburgh (6-4) at Seattle (5-5) (LINE Seahawks -3.5) – The Steelers will, like Arizona a couple of weeks ago, look to further dismantle the invincibility aura of the Seahawks in Seattle. Marshawn Lynch was here in Philadelphia earlier this week being evaluated for season-ending surgery but nothing heals a team like backup RB Thomas Rawls rushing for 209 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Regardless who is toting the rock Seattle has already lost twice at home. If anybody can negotiate what is left of the Seahawks’ aura Ben Roethlisberger can…even though I believe this may be the first time he’s been up there. Take the Steelers and the points. Pittsburgh’s bye in Week 11 couldn’t have come at a better time for them…and a worse time for Seattle.
New England (10-0) at Denver (8-2) (LINE Patriots -3) – Tom Brady will look across the field at Peyton Manning and say…”that’s never going to be me.” Manning’s one-too-many season has been brutal but at least Denver finally recognizes Brock Osweiler is the way to go. The Broncos running game, regardless of what happened in Chicago last week, is still a no-go. No passing and no running is no way to win football games. You can’t keep continually putting pressure on and relying on your defense in a sport totally tilted towards offense. A short week for New England…and the win over Buffalo took its physical toll. But…they’re still the Patriots and they will play with attitude even at altitude. Take the Patriots and give the points.
Baltimore (3-7) at Cleveland (2-8) (LINE Browns -2.5) – The AFC North basement is on the line. The Ravens’ season was orchestrated by Edgar Allen Poe with key injuries starting pre-season and bad bounces and worse calls during the season. The Browns’ campaign was orchestrated by a team that drafted Johnny Manziel. In Week Five Cleveland did visit Baltimore and came away with a 33-30 win in OT. The Browns, losers of five straight, are coming off a bye in Week 11 (did you see the TMZ video of Manziel partying during the week off…they probably could have just labeled that clip “Any Friday”…please get that dude help). In the Ravens’ win over St. Louis Sunday Justin Forsett busted up his arm early and Joe Flacco his legs late, tearing multiple acronyms by falling over his own guy at game’s end. Joe was literally the last man standing in Baltimore…until he fell over. It’s been that kind of season in Charm City. Enter Matt Schaub. Yet, I think the Ravens organization has more “want” and pride…and wants revenge for that OT loss. Take the Ravens and the points.
Bruce Burns describes his blog as “providing topical takes on national pro and college sports as well as periodic Philly posts, all presented in an engaging and entertaining style. Always interesting…never predictable…worthy of a follow.”
KEVIN’S I HOPE MY WIFE COOKS BETTER THAN I PICK GAMES PICKS
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions (+1.5)
The Eagles have more talent, but this Philly team is clearly buried in gravy-thick turmoil, with plenty of rumblings focusing on the fate of Chip Kelly. Hint: Plenty of people are already placing Chip in one of the many open college football jobs in 2016. That leaves the Lions, headlined by an offense that features Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Detroit’s dynamic duo should have success against an Eagles defense that while ranked 16th against the pass (245.9 ypg), has given up 20 TD’s through the air. Detroit’s pass ‘D’ has just 4 INT’s on the season, but the butt fumblin’ Mark Sanchez is good for a few major errors per game. Toss in the Lions playing at home on Thanksgiving and I’ll take Detroit to win outright.
KP’s Pick: Detroit Lions
Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys (+1.5)
As per the holiday tradition, the Cowboys get the home game (as the Lions do) and with that honor plus Tony Romo under center, many prognosticators like Dallas to knock Carolina from the ranks of the unbeaten. Translation: Cam Newton and the Panthers continue to be disrespected, despite a 10-0 start (the best in franchise history). Sure, Romo and Dez Bryant add a star-filled element to the Dallas offense, but each faces a major challenge against a Carolina defense that is ranked 7th against the pass (228.3 ypg) with more INT’s (15) than TD’s allowed (12). If one thinks Darren McFadden could benefit, well, the Panthers are also ranked in the top ten against the run. Yes, I clearly doubted the Panthers at the beginning of the year and as I mentioned recently, I’m riding that Carolina-blue bandwagon until they falter.
KP’s Pick: Carolina Panthers
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-9.5)
It’s Thanksgiving night at Lambeau Field and the Packers will be honoring Brett Favre. There’s not enough tryptophan in the world to suck the energy out of that event. Also, despite being one of the best rivalries in the NFL, there won’t be enough in Chicago’s tank to deflate that moment, either. For good measure, throw in Alshon Jeffery being banged up (again) and Aaron Rodgers ready to build off the momentum created from last week’s big win over the Vikings. Expect a heaping helping of pass statistics and with the Bears likely shorthanded, I’ll take the Packers to kick off the holiday season right. Green Bay covers.
KP’s Pick: Green Bay Packers
St. Louis Rams at Cincinnati Bengals (-8.5)
The Rams last won at home against the Niners on November 1st and have failed to hit the 20-point mark over the last three games. The Bengals, meanwhile, have lost two straight following an 8-0 start. The St. Louis roster is likely shaken following the news of WR Stedman Bailey being shot (twice in the head) and it’s unknown how the team will respond. The on-field issue for the Rams is its one-dimensional offense, which relies heavily on RB Todd Gurley. The way the Rams have played of late, this should be a gimme at home for the Bengals, but there’s just something about a fallen teammate and my gut says St. Louis will step it up for the injured Bailey. Cincy wins but take the Rams and the points.
KP’s Pick: St. Louis Rams
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons (-2.5)
Devonta Freeman is a question mark due to a concussion, which could leave Tevin Coleman to start against a Minnesota defense that is ranked 17th against the run. Atlanta’s run ‘D’ is first against the run, holding opponents to just 87.4 ypg. Opposing backs have 11 rushing TD’s against the Falcons and Adrian Peterson anchors Minnesota’s 3rd ranked rushing offense. Toss in a floundering Atlanta offense coupled with a defense that is tied for the fewest sacks in the league (12) and I’ll take the Vikings on the road.
KP’s Pick: Minnesota Vikings
San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars (-4.5)
San Diego’s passing offense – despite being 3rd in the NFL (310.6 ypg) – is lacking punch with Keenan Allen and Malcolm Floyd out for the season. The defense isn’t helping either, ranking 26th against the run and 17th against the pass. But the Jags also struggle against the pass and all four of its wins are by a touchdown or less. In fact, three of Jacksonville’s wins are by a field goal or less. Considering that fact along with Philip Rivers and San Diego’s passing potential, I’ll take the Chargers and the points (in a close one).
KP’s Pick: San Diego Chargers
Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans (+2.5)
The Raiders are 30th against the pass but will be facing a Titans offense that is 25th in passing offense. Oakland has allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL (13) and will be facing a Titans defense that is 4th in sacks with 31. But Tennessee has also given up the fourth most. Overall, if Derek Carr gets more protection, I like his chances to deliver plenty of clutch passes to Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Give me the Raiders on the road.
KP’s Pick: Oakland Raiders
New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans (-3.5)
This looks like an obvious pick to a lot of people considering Houston’s recent surge and the Saints being an embarrassment defensively. Rob Ryan was dismissed prior to the team’s bye week and perhaps New Orleans has made positive adjustments during the long layover. Talent is still a question but with that in mind, it’s hard to ignore Drew Brees and the team’s offensive talent. Take the Saints and the points, assuming the layover did ‘em some good.
KP’s Pick: New Orleans Saints
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets (-3.5)
Despite a promising start, the Jets have lost four out of five and defensively have lost a bit of an edge. On offense, New York is also not as crisp and that starts with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been attempting to throw with his surgically repaired non-throwing hand. Brandon Marshall (toe) and Eric Decker (knee) are also banged up. But the biggest injury of all is Darrelle Revis, who will miss the game due to a concussion. Without Revis, the Dolphins will have an easier time moving the ball down the field. Take Miami and the points.
KP’s Pick: Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-4.5)
The Chiefs have won four straight – all by double-figures – and may be the hottest team in the NFL right now. The concern with K.C. has always been its inability to protect Alex Smith, allowing the 3rd most sacks in the NFL. That has improved a bit and while Buffalo has plenty of defensive talent, the Bills have just 15 sacks this season (29th in the NFL). Charcandrick West is questionable with a hamstring injury, but even if he’s out, Spencer Ware filled in admirably last week. With the way K.C. is playing, it’s hard to pick against the Chiefs at home.
KP’s Pick: Kansas City Chiefs
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (+2.5)
Kirk Cousins has been fantastic at home, but some sloppy weather is a possibility heading into game time. Defensively, the Redskins are also ranked 30th against the run and while 12th against the pass, Washington only has 6 INT’s in 10 games. That opens doors for a talented Giants offense led by Eli Manning. Let’s not forget Odell Beckham Jr., who rain or shine, is likely to have a big day in D.C. Giants cover.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts (-3.5)
Don’t look now, but the Bucs have won 3 out of 4 and sit at 5-5 on the season. Once considered a lost season filled (with growing pains for Jameis Winston) has now turned into a Wild Card possibility. Enter the Colts who have struggled with injuries and consistency. In fact, the injury list is a long line for Indy, with Andrew Luck and Anthony Castonzo out, but other key players like Vontae Davis and Frank Gore banged up, but likely to play. The Bucs may be on the road, but considering Tampa Bay’s improved play, I’ll take the Tampa and the points.
KP’s Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (+10.5)
Blaine Gabbert’s next challenge will be to face Arizona’s aggressive defense that is ranked 8th against the pass (228.7 ypg) and has 14 INT’s on the season. The Niners (30 sacks allowed) have had trouble protecting the QB and will have trouble containing the Cards. Plain and simple, Arizona has way too much talent and the Cards win big.
KP’s Pick: Arizona Cardinals
Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks (-4.5)
Thomas Rawls will again replace the injured Marshawn Lynch and could struggle against Pittsburgh’s defense that is ranked 5th against the run (93.0 ypg). The Steelers have allowed just 3 TD’s on the ground. Pittsburgh is coming off a bye and had plenty of time to heal up. That could prove to be huge for guys like Ben Roethlisberger. Then there’s the trenches, where Pittsburgh (28 sacks – 8th) face a Seahawks team that has allowed 35 sacks (2nd most). Finally, we look at the 12th man who have not had the same effect thanks to a home team that has struggled to reach the elite level it has in recent years. All these factors point me to Pittsburgh and while it will be a raucous crowd in a must-win situation for Seattle, give me the Steelers and the points.
KP’s Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (+5.5)
This game was circled on everyone’s calendar at the beginning of the year: Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning for perhaps the final time in the regular season. Here we are, post-Thanksgiving and it’s Tom Brady vs. Brock Osweiler, which no matter how much tryptophan you had, doesn’t have the same ring to it. More so, it’s Brady vs. Denver’s #1 ranked pass defense, allowing 190.6 ypg while also holding opponents to 8 TD’s through the air in 10 games. Osweiler was strong in his debut, but expect Bill Belichick and Co. to throw plenty of looks at him. The bigger concern for the Patriots is its depth at the WR position, now that Danny Amendola joins Julian Edelman on the injury list. This has always been a successful “next man in line” plan and even with home field advantage and a suffocating defense, I have a hard time picturing Osweiler being the guy to spoil New England’s perfect season. Pats cover.
KP’s Pick: New England Patriots
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (-2.5)
Here’s Exhibit A as why Monday Night Football deserves the same flex schedule that Sunday night gets. Sure, there are a lot of challenges with booking venues, but do the fans really deserve to ring in the holiday season by watching Josh McCown vs. Matt Schaub in the national spotlight? No offense to either guy, but this is a snoozer. As for the game, Johnny Manziel partied his way out of a starting gig and that’s good for the Browns. The front office likely wanted to see what it had in Johnny Football, but now it’s McCown’s team, who had a monster day against the Ravens earlier in the season. For Baltimore, this is an injury-depleted team that will feature Schaub, Buck Allen and Kamar Aiken. That alone pushes me towards taking the Browns in front of its home fans. Cleveland covers in a barn burner.
KP’s Pick: Cleveland Browns