NFL Week 15

Stack your money Sundays: Week 15

Week 14 Review (1-2) OVERALL: 27-13-2

Minnesota Vikings (-2.5) @ Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers 31 Minnesota Vikings 24

Going into this matchup, the Vikings were coming off back-to-back road wins over the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, so maybe expecting three straight dubs was a bit of a stretch.

The difference in this game was Carolina’s ability to run the football. They rushed for a total of 216 yards, including 103 yards from Jonathan Stewart, including a 60-yard rushing touchdown early in the first quarter. Stewart had three touchdowns on the day.

While Cam Newton did not have his best passing game, he was able to rush for 70 yards on the ground. On the flip side, Case Keenum threw a pair of interceptions, which has only happened one other time this season. He also had his first fumble of the season.

The three turnovers killed the Vikings and ultimately led to the Panthers’ victory.

Tennessee Titans @ Arizona Cardinals (+3)

Arizona Cardinals 12 Tennessee Titans 7

In a rather ugly game, Arizona’s rush defense was the difference maker in this contest. The Titans, who are in the top 10 in terms of rushing yards, were held to just 65 yards on 22 carries. Their longest rush of the game was just nine yards.

Marcus Mariota continued to look like a possible bust, completing 51.6 percent of his passes, throwing a pair of interceptions and finishing with a quarterback rating of 39.6. For the season, Mariota has 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Blaine Gabbert was unable to convert on the majority of third downs, as well as red zone opportunities, but he played well enough to earn the win. He did not turn the ball over and completed 65.4 percent of his passes. This was the first time in nine starts in which the former Missouri standout did not have a turnover. Also, shout out to Phil Dawson for scoring all 12 points for the Cardinals.

At this point, it appears the Titans may play themselves out of the playoffs. Sitting at second place in the AFC South, Tennessee is up against the hot 49ers, Jared Goff and the Rams and the first place Jaguars.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-5)

Pittsburgh Steelers 39 Baltimore Ravens 38

In a typical intense matchup between these two arch rivals, Baltimore and Pittsburgh combined for 958 total yards. Ben Roethlisberger had this third career 500-yard passing performance, which is good for most all-time.

NFL Week 15

Steelers failed to cover, but business was boomin’ (Photo from CBS Sports)

Le’Veon Bell had three total touchdowns with two rushing and one receiving. Bell ended up with 77 receiving yards, and Pittsburgh’s star receiver and MVP candidate, Antonio Brown, had a monster 11 catch, 213-yard performance. Jesse James also caught 10 balls for 97 yards. Business was booming.

The key to Pittsburgh’s victory was their ability to convert on third down, as they went 12-of-18. However, allowing 413 total yards to the Ravens, who rank 27th in offensive yards, is a tad sketchy. Their defense will have to sharpen up if they expect to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots this week.

WEEK 15 PICKS

Green Bay Packers (+2.5) @ Carolina Panthers

PICK: PACKERS TO COVER

It’s the return of the Packers savior, Aaron Rodgers. Although Rodgers has been out the last seven games, he is still, by far, the better quarterback when compared to Cam Newton. In has thrown for less than 200 yards in five of his last six games. Dating back to last season, when a quarterback throws for less than 220 yards against Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are 7-0.

NFL Week 15

He’s back. (Photo from SI.com)

Without Rodgers, the Packers were able to develop a better run game. They now rank in the top 10 in rushing yards per attempt. Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones have both done a solid job to keep the Packers afloat, combining for eight touchdowns and 774 yards on the ground.

Although Carolina’s defense is solid, they rank 22nd in opposing red zone opportunities ending in a touchdown. The Packers rank third in red zone scoring, so Rodgers should have no problem closing the deal when he is inside Carolina’s 20. Carolina also ranks 22nd in opposing completion percentage, so expect Rodgers to come back with a bang.

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills (-3.5)

PICK: BILLS TO COVER

The expected temperature in Buffalo is said to be around 29 degrees. In Jay Cutler’s last three games with the temperature below 30 degrees, he is 0-3. Miami’s two coldest games this year were at New England (47 degrees) and at Carolina (49 degrees). In New England, they lost 35-17 and in Carolina, they lost 45-21. Long story short, the team doesn’t play well in the cold.

Although they just had a big win against the Patriots, Miami is still a very inconsistent team. They rank 24th in points per game, 28th in yards per game, 29th in rushing yards per game and 32nd in third-down conversion percentage.

Under the cold weather conditions, expect the Bills to run all day. They rank sixth in the league in rushing yards per game at 130.1. In the three games in which Miami has allowed over 105 rushing yards, they are 0-3.

In LeSean McCoy’s last game against Miami, he ran for 128 yards. Miami currently ranks 22nd in yards per carry allowed. Miami’s offense ranks 26th in yards per carry. Advantage, Buffalo.

New England Patriots (-2.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers

PICK: PATRIOTS TO COVER

In 12 games against the Steelers, nine regular season and three playoff games, Tom Brady is 10-2 with 29 touchdowns and three interceptions. His last interception against Pittsburgh was on Sept. 25, 2005. He owns this team.

This year, New England ranks fourth in points per game, second in yards per game, fourth in yards per play, eighth in third-down conversion percentage and fourth in touchdowns per game. They are also efficient in the red zone, while Pittsburgh struggles to defend teams when they are in their own 20. Currently, the Steelers rank 22nd in percentage of opposing red zone drives ending in a touchdown.

Prior to the disappointing loss in Miami, New England was coming off back-to-back games with over 190 rushing yards. With Ryan Shazier out, the Patriots should turn up the carries. Pittsburgh ranks 25th in opposing rushing yards per carry.

 

Featured image from NFLSpinZone.com

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Chris Hogan

Week 15 NFL picks against the spread

Thus far, the home stretch of the NFL regular season has been pretty good to me. Last week, I was 8-8 against the spread, my second straight solid outing. 90-109-8 is where I sit for the year heading into week 15.  My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Thursday:

Broncos (-2.5) at Colts- There is nothing but pride on the line in this one. Traveling to Indianapolis has not meant good things for Denver in recent years. Even so, Trevor Siemian finally played a clean game last week. The Colts’ defense certainly is not anything special. So, Siemian should be able to replicate last week. Unless the Broncos go back to being themselves, the defense will smother a bad opposing offense for the second straight week. Den 20 Ind 13

Saturday:

Bears at Lions (-5.5) – Detroit is still a factor in the NFC wild-card scrum. Despite not having much firepower on offense, Chicago’s ground game and defense can cause problems for anyone. The Lions have been in nail biters with inferior competition all year long, including the Bears just a few weeks ago. We could very well see something similar here, but Matthew Stafford will find a way yet again. Det 21 Chi 20

Chargers (-1) at *Chiefs– The mediocre AFC West may well be decided by the outcome of this Saturday night tilt. The Chargers remain white-hot after a 0-4 start, but Kansas City suddenly looked like the team we saw at the start of the season last week.

The Los Angeles pass rush is one of the best in football, but there are not many people better at designing short quick throws than Andy Reid. He will find a way to neutralize the best thing the Chargers have going for them. Also, Kansas City is one of the toughest places in the league to play. Unless the talent gap is obvious, it is foolish not to take them on the rare occasion that they are home underdogs. KC 27 Lac 20

Sunday:

*Cardinals at Redskins (-4.5) – Matchups this time of year between teams that do not have realistic postseason prospects are often simply about which team is still engaged and playing hard.

Arizona has a bunch of guys who could be on their last go around in this league and are clearly enjoying themselves. This includes head coach Bruce Arians. Arizona has beaten two possible playoff teams in recent weeks. Conversely, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was almost speechless after last week’s blowout loss to the Chargers. The Redskins appear to be putting their off-season vacation plans on the fast track. Washington is another organization that could look very different in 2018. Ari 28 Was 21

Ravens (-7) at Browns- The Browns nearly got their first win of the year last week, but blew a 14 point fourth-quarter lead to help the Packers keep their playoff hopes alive. Cleveland’s last best chance to avoid going winless is probably next week against Chicago, it certainly is not here.

Yes, the Ravens lost last week. However, there is no shame in being beaten by a Hall of Fame quarterback and his two potential Hall of Fame weapons on the road in the final minute. The defense is still very good and the offense is now dynamic with Alex Collins as the centerpiece. Baltimore keeps rolling here and will absolutely wrestle a wildcard playoff spot away from Tennessee or Buffalo. Bal 24 Cle 13

Bengals at Vikings (-10.5) – Minnesota’s offensive limitations were finally somewhat exposed last week. Despite a late rally, Carolina was dominant for much of that game. The NFC playoff race is strange and wide-open, there are not many top-level quarterbacks involved. That is an absolute requirement to get to and win a Super Bowl in today’s NFL.

Thus, having Case Keenum at the controls disqualifies the Vikings from the Super Bowl conversation, even if they end up with home-field advantage. It certainly does not disqualify Minnesota from being able to be the Bengals. The third ranked defense should be up to that task.

Cincinnati looked dead in the water while getting pushed around by Chicago at home last week, but the Bengals have a strange habit of playing good teams tough when no one expects them to. Their early-season matchup with Green Bay is a perfect illustration of this. The Vikings’ defense will carry them to another win, but the Bengals should be able to keep this one relatively close. Apart from last week, the Cincinnati defense is a proud unit that has played well all year long. Min 20 Cin 17

Photo: packersnews.com

Packers at Panthers (-2.5) – The Packers found a way to keep their playoff hopes alive until the return of Aaron Rodgers, but they are slim. As good as he is, asking Rodgers to lead his team to a road victory against a playoff caliber opponent that has won five out of its last six games in his first start back from a broken collarbone feels a bit unrealistic. Despite that, he is very capable of making that logic look foolish. Car 30 GB 23

Texans at Jaguars (-10.5) – With Tennessee floundering, Jacksonville is inching ever closer to their first playoff berth since the Jack Del Rio era. Blake Bortles stepped up and made some big plays when he had to against Seattle last week, but let’s not forget he was outdueled by Blaine Gabbert just a few weeks ago. Much like Minnesota, no matter how good the regular season might wind up being, there is a ceiling on this team once the games become single elimination. For now though, the top rushing offense and sacking defense in the league should be more than enough to dismantle T.J. Yates and the Texans. Jac 30 Hou 17

Jets at Saints (-16) – Typically, swallowing this many points in an NFL game is insane. However, New Orleans still has everything to play for after losing a game that they dominated in many statistics to a division rival last week. The Saints’ rushing attack and defense are still going strong.

Bryce Petty is walking into a hornets nest. There are not many tougher assignments I can think of for your first start of the year. The Jets spirit to avoid being the embarrassment everyone predicted all year long has been admirable, but it is time to start thinking about what they are going to do with a pretty high draft pick. NO 30 Nyj 10

Eagles (-7.5) at Giants– Philadelphia’s Super Bowl aspirations went up in smoke with the injury to Carson Wentz last week. Nick Foles may not be able to guide this team to a championship, but he is plenty good enough to beat the lowly and directionless Giants. However, the first meeting of the year between these two division rivals came down to a 61 yard field goal at the gun. With the Eagles now missing their starting quarterback, 7.5 points is a few too many. Phi 28 Nyg 24

*Dolphins at Bills (Pick ‘em) – The Bills fought through a blizzard and the Colts last week to stay alive in the playoff race, but they are in quarterback purgatory, hence the uncertain line. Miami upset the Super Bowl champions last week. The team that is playing better and has fewer questions is always a solid bet. Mia 21 Buf 14

Rams at Seahawks (-2) – Even after last week’s loss, everything is still in front of the Seahawks. A win here would give them the same record as the upstart Rams and the head to head tiebreaker.

The Rams are absolutely a playoff team, but going on the road to face Russell Wilson is too much to ask, especially with Wilson playing at an MVP level. Experience wins out as Seattle takes a big step towards another division title. Sea 26 Lar 20

Patriots (-3) at Steelers- New England has gone to Miami late in the season and stubbed their toe before. They have always been fine. There is no reason to believe this time it will be any different. Mike Tomlin is a liability for Pittsburgh in this matchup. Tomlin coaches his team with a high degree of emotion with not as much focus on in game tactics.

Mike Tomlin

Photo: zambio.com

It is good enough most weeks, but not against Bill Belichick who has clearly mastered Tomlin as the years have worn on. The Patriots have won four in a row against the Steelers, including three by double digits. The road to the Super Bowl will once again go through New England. NE 38 Pit 28

Titans at 49ers (-2) – You would not know that the Titans are the team with the playoffs in reach here based on the last few weeks. Jimmy Garoppolo has put a whole different shine on San Francisco’s season in recent weeks. The 49ers have their quarterback for 2018 and beyond.

The Titans’ stagnant offense finally caught up with them last week. They have not scored more than 24 points since mid-October Marcus Mariota is really struggling. There are reports that he may be more banged up than the coaching staff is saying publicly. Tennessee has run out of steam at the worst possible time.  Both teams will continue to trend in their respective directions. SF 24 Ten 17

Cowboys (-3) at Raiders- Despite high hopes to start the year, Oakland has been a major disappointment. Derek Carr’s accountably is refreshing, but the defense is the bigger issue. Even without Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas has done a nice job of getting back to its roots of running the ball and letting the offensive line dominate the last couple weeks. That trend should continue against Oakland’s 22nd ranked defense, even though it may be too late to reach the playoffs. Dal 31 Oak 20

Monday Night:

Falcons (-6) at Bucs- Inconsistency will probably cost the Falcons a playoff spot. Fortunately for Atlanta, the Bucs are just bad. Jameis Winston can still be something special, but this franchise needs discipline. Something the current coaching staff has failed to provide. There is no reason to have any faith in the Bucs right now. Atl 31 TB 21

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Jarvis Landry

Week 14 NFL picks against the spread

Finally, a good week. I went 10-6 against the spread for week 13. This included correctly predicting outright upsets by the Packers, Seahawks, and Cowboys. 82-101-8 is where I stand as the stretch run rolls on. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Thursday Night:

Saints (-1.5) at Falcons- A loss to their division rival here would likely end the relevant part of Atlanta’s season. Even during last year’s Super Bowl run, their defense was average to slightly above average. The difference this year has been the offense being too inconsistent to make up for the defensive shortcomings.

If Atlanta managed to hold an opponent to 14 points last year, that was a certain blowout victory. Last week against Minnesota when that happened, the Falcons lost. Meanwhile, New Orleans is the exact opposite. Run the ball with two great backs, play defense, and ask Drew Brees to go win the game if necessary. The approach is consistent and has worked very well. Taking consistency over inconsistency is always the safe bet. NO 28 Atl 21

Sunday:

Bears at Bengals (-6)- We are getting to the point in the season where there are a few matchups each week featuring teams that don’t have much to play for. This certainly qualifies as one of those. The Bears have stayed scrappy all year long. Firing John Fox would be a mistake, but is likely inevitable at this point.

You could feel the wind come out of Cincinnati’s sails after the close loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night. Chicago has struggled to finish games all year long and Cincinnati definitely has more offensive firepower. The Bengals will win, but six points is too many. Cin 20 Chi 17

Cowboys (-4) at Giants- Dallas is still breathing in the loaded NFC playoff race. They ran the ball down Washington’s throat last week. No matter who is in the backfield, that is what they do best. To call the Giants a dysfunctional franchise right now would be an insult to dysfunctional franchises everywhere.

Eli Manning gets his job back for the Giants a week after his bizarre benching. The regime that made that move as well as all the other moves that have led to New York’s disastrous season has been fired. Who knows what the long-term future of the Giants looks like? In the short term, it is tough to imagine this team being competitive with anyone at the moment. A desperate Dallas team is no exception. Dal 24 Nyg 14

*Lions at Bucs (Pick ‘em) – Here is a game shrouded in quarterback mystery. A pick ‘em line is the only way to go until Matthew Stafford’s playing status becomes clearer. Detroit still has an outside shot at the playoffs. Regardless of who plays quarterback for the Lions, Tampa Bay appears to have closed up shop for the remainder of the season. Their only two wins since the first month of the season came when the guy they drafted to be their franchise quarterback just a few years ago was hurt. This franchise needs to take a long look in the mirror. Detroit is tough to trust, but Tampa Bay is impossible to trust this season. Det 24 TB 20

Packers (-3) at *Browns– The Packers are the better team, but Brett Hundley has been wildly inconsistent since taking over for Aaron Rodgers. He only had 84 passing yards last week in a win against Tampa Bay. The Cleveland defense has been in the top half of most categories all year long. They are one of the more underrated units in the league.

Deshone Kizer

Photo: nydailynews.com

Also, Josh Gordon clearly added a layer to the stagnant Browns offense in his return last week. DeShone Kizer is still responsible for far too many turnovers, but the rookie quarterback has shown real improvement in the last month. Going winless for an entire season in the NFL is hard to do and the Browns could easily have three or four wins by now. This is one of their last realistic chances to avoid legendary embarrassment and they know it. Somehow, they will find a way. Cle 17 GB 14

            *Colts at Bills (Pick ‘em) – A 3-9 record is bad, but if games ended at halftime, Indianapolis’s record would be flipped. They have played hard all year long and can play with anybody, even with a backup quarterback. Even though Buffalo is the team that is still alive in the playoff hunt, that same type of fight just is not there. With Tyrod Taylor injured, the line for this game will remain fuzzy right up until kickoff. Things seem to be trending towards backup Nathan Peterman who threw five interceptions in the first half of his NFL debut earlier this year. That is a great reason to pick the road team.

Vikings (-2.5) at *Panthers– The Vikings continue to defy expectations. Defense is their identity, but Case Keenum and the offense are doing enough to win games. Minnesota has won eight in a row.

I might be the last person on earth that is still skeptical of Keenum, but it is tough to pick this team when they go up against top-flight quarterbacks like Cam Newton. The Panthers run a ton of formations and are difficult to prepare for. The Vikings offense did struggle a little bit last week. The defense had to stand on its head to secure the 14-9 victory. This game will come down to which offense will be able to better move the ball against a really good defense. These teams are right next to each other in a lot of statistics. The only definitive advantage is Carolina being at home. Car 14 Min 13

 

 

Raiders at Chiefs (-4) – With three teams in the AFC West tied at 6-6, this is a huge game. Oakland won the first meeting with a touchdown at the gun. Both teams were thought to have explosive offenses that have pretty much disappeared ever since that shootout. Anything could happen here, but Kansas City still has one of the toughest home-field advantages in all ofsports. Also, even though Andy Reid is taking a lot of heat for Kansas City’s dramatic drop-off, the Chiefs have a significant coaching edge here. KC 27 Oak 20

Jimmy Garoppolo

Photo: espn.com

*49ers at Texans (-3)-  While Texans fans are no doubt wondering what might have been had Deshaun Watson stayed healthy, Tom Savage has settled in and at least played okay the last few weeks. However, Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start had to give the entire 49ers organization a lift last week. The offense struggled in the red zone, but they found a way to win. Like last week, they will not need to score a lot of points to get the job done here. SF 17 Hou 16

Jets (-1) at Broncos- If you had said the Jets would be road favorites in Denver this year before the season, you would have been laughed out of the room. New York has played solid fundamental football all year long to notch five more wins than most people predicted. They do not have a ton of talent, but their ground game is effective and Josh McCown has 10 more touchdown passes than interceptions.

This pick has more to do with Denver. The Broncos defense is still really good, but the offense is constantly shooting itself in the foot. This is a winnable game for both teams, but Denver made the Dolphins look like the 85 Bears last week. It is tough to pick them after that. Nyj 19 Den 13

Titans (-3) at Cardinals- Thanks to the lack of depth in the AFC, Tennessee appears headed for a rare playoff appearance. Tennessee is not flashy, but there is a lot to be said for winning five one possession games this year.

Arizona has been all over the map this year. Despite flashes of looking like the playoff team many thought they would be, sitting at 5-7 means that they are probably closer to the team that got demolished by the Rams last week. A bunch of key people in the organization are old. It could look a lot different in 2018. Tennessee is not really capable of blowing anyone out, but they should get the job done as they have for most of the season. Ten 20 Ari 14

Redskins at Chargers (-6)- The Chargers are suddenly the trendy pick to make noise in the AFC playoffs after getting back to .500 following an 0-4 start. Their remaining game with Kansas City will likely decide that. For now though, with injuries, losses, and questions about the future piling up, the Redskins are in no position to cool off a red-hot quarterback and pass rush at the moment. Lac 30 Was 20

Eagles at Rams (-2.5) – One of the best matchups of the week is a simple one to analyze. Last week, the Eagles faced a team that was playing well on the road for the second time this year. They were manhandled for the second time. The same scenario applies this week. Both these teams have benefited from the fact that there are just a lot of average to below average teams in the NFL right now. They both are probably too young to win a Super Bowl this year, the Rams are coming in with more confidence and playing at home. Lar 24 Phi 16

*Seahawks at Jaguars (-2.5) – Here, you have two likely playoff teams with really good defenses. Jacksonville’s unit is a little better, but rely a lot on sacks. Good luck trying to run down Russell Wilson. This matchup is as simple as one team being quarterbacked by Wilson and the other by Blake Bortles.  Sea 21 Jac 13

Ravens at Steelers (-5) – The best rivalry in football takes center stage for Sunday Night Football. Everyone has been panicking about Pittsburgh’s slow starts and locker room drama all year long. They just keep finding ways to win.

This is a completely different Ravens team than the one that Pittsburgh manhandled in early October. The defense remains stout, but the emergence of Alex Collins at running back has given the offense a much-needed identity. They have scored over 20 points in their last four games.

Most weeks, that is going to be more than enough for Baltimore’s defense. John Harbaugh’s team has started to separate itself in the mediocre AFC wildcard race. The Steelers might be the toughest offense in football to contain. Their stars will do just enough to pull out a win. Even so, an underdog getting anything more than a field goal in this matchup feels like stealing. Pit 24 Bal 21

 Monday Night:

Patriots (-11) at Dolphins- Miami’s convincing win over Denver last week is hardly a sign that this team is making progress. They still committed three turnovers. New England is rolling and never beats themselves the way Denver did. Even with Rob Gronkowski sidelined, there is nothing to suggest that the Patriots will not dominate this matchup much like the way they did less than a month ago. NE 31 Mia 14

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2017 NFL power rankings week 14

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

December football is upon us, and as the weather gets colder, the NFL playoff races are heating up. Four teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention; Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago and the New York Giants. There is also a few playoff-clinching scenarios in play during week 14. New England can clinch the AFC East with a win over Miami or a Buffalo loss. Philadelphia can clinch the NFC East title with a win over the Los Angeles Rams, or with a New York Giants win over Dallas. Minnesota can clinch the NFC North with a win over Carolina or losses by both Detroit and Green Bay. With all that being said, here are the current 2017 NFL power rankings for Week 14.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-12)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports)

Last week: 32 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Green Bay

There is little to say about Cleveland that hasn’t already been said. They are four games away from an infamous 0-16 season. All Cleveland can focus on is the draft. This year they must find the quarterback that can change the franchise. They have gone too long without a true leader to play under center. In the last two seasons, they have missed out on Carson Wentz, DeShaun Watson, Dak Prescott and other. In 2018, they need to find a way to take Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield.

31. New York Giants (2-10)

Last week: 30 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Dallas

Giant fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Mustache man, Ben McAdoo is gone and can no longer hurt your team. New York is having a disastrous season but at 2-10, they have a lot of talent still. The defense is a couple of players away from being elite. The offense has Odell Beckham Jr. and Evan Engram to build around. Their focus needs to be solidifying their offensive line and finding a workhorse running back. If they do that they can still win with Eli Manning at quarterback. He does not have to be replaced yet.

30. Denver Broncos (3-9)

Last week: 29 (-1)

Next game: home vs. New York Jets

Getting blown out by Miami has shown just how far the Broncos have fallen this season.  Nothing is going right and they need to hit the reset button. The Jets will be coming to town to put a beatdown on the Broncos. This once feared defense is now 31st in scoring defense giving up 26.2 points per game. Going forward they will need to fix this defense or find a new identity.

29. Chicago Bears (3-9)

Last week: 28 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Cincinnati

The Bears might not be a playoff contender but man does their future look exciting with players like Tarik Cohen and Mitchell Trubisky. Their defensive play has gone under the radar because they are eliminated from the playoffs. The only thing the Bears can do for the remainder of this season is build momentum for the future.

28. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)

Last week: 31 (+3)

Next game: away vs. Houston

Jimmy Garoppolo has generated a buzz in San Francisco. It appears that he will be the franchise quarterback moving forward. This is good news for the 49ers who will have another top-five pick to build their team. As they continue to build their defense Garoppolo can provide the consistency needed from a signal caller. If the defense steps up next season and the front office gets Jimmy G some weapons on the outside, then the 49ers will be one of the surprise playoff teams as early as next year.

27. Indianapolis Colts (3-9)

Last week: 27 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Buffalo

The Colts defense has kept them in most of their games but it usually breaks in the second half. One thing to keep an eye on for the remainder of the Colts’ season is Frank Gore. Gore is only 368 yards from another 1,000 yard and at age 34 which is remarkable. He is also just 404 yards away from passing Curtis Martin for fourth on the all-time rushing list. If he can reach that mark in the final four games it would be the highlight of the Colts’ season.

26. Miami Dolphins (5-7)

Last week: 26 (no change)

Next game: home vs. New England

Miami blew out the Broncos to end their five-game losing streak. Jay Cutler threw for 235 yards and Kenyan Drake ran for 120 yards on just 23 carries. Drake is proving he could be the feature back moving forward. This week the Dolphins will host the Patriots and Miami have lost three straight to New England and four of the last five.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)

Last week: 24 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Detroit

Fixing the defense should be the number one priority this offseason. Jameis Winston is a really good young quarterback but the Bucs could end up wasting his talents. The offense around Winston is very solid as well with O.J. Howard, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Doug Martin could be replaced with a more reliable back but overall the offense is solid. The defense must step it up but they can’t salvage this season.

24. New York Jets (5-7)

Last week: 25 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Denver

Somehow, someway the Jets have won five games and continue to be the most unpredictable team in the NFL. They are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt but don’t get it twisted, they are not a playoff caliber team. They should find themselves in the win column again with a road trip to Denver on the schedule. But then again, if anybody could lose to Denver at this point in the season, don’t be surprised if it is the Jets.

23. Arizona Cardinals (5-7)

Last week: 22 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Tennessee

Bruce Arians is a damn good coach who has kept the Cardinals very competitive despite losing David Johnson and Carson Palmer this season. Arizona is struggling to score points but if they had Johnson and Palmer they would be fairing much better. After dropping a game to the Rams the Cardinals get to host the playoff-bound Titans and it will be a tough test.

22. Houston Texans (4-8)

Last week: 23 (+1)

Next game: home vs. San Francisco

For some reason, the Texans threw the ball 49 times with Tom Savage. Anybody who knows anything about football knows that a team can not win with Savage throwing that ball that often. Houston needs to run the ball more and 22 attempts are not enough. It is no surprise they lost to the Titans because of this formula. If they have a similar gameplan against the 49ers they will lose to them as well.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

Last week: 19 (-2)

Next game: home vs. Chicago

Cincinnati had a 17 point lead at home against their rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Blowing that game may have cost them a shot at the playoffs. Looking back at that game, it summarizes Marvin Lewis’ time in Cincinnati. In the beginning, it looked great and there have been multiple displays of greatness. At the end though, they always come up short. Cincinnati needs a change of culture and Marvin Lewis needs to be fired.

20. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)

Last week: 14 (-6)

Next game: home vs. Oakland

Losing to the Jets is the last straw. This team will miss the playoffs and be a footnote in history of the teams that got off to a hot start but eventually folded. Andy Reid finally got back to airing it out and opening the offense for Alex Smith but then the defense decided to go missing. Kansas City has a virtual playoff game this week but the way their season has gone recently they will probably lose again for the seventh time in eight games.

19. Buffalo Bills (6-6)

Last week: 13 (-6)

Next game: home vs. Indianapolis Colts

Buffalo only managed to score three points against the Patriots. LeSean McCoy was held to just 93 yards and as a team, they only threw for 115 yards. The Bills are still in the hunt in the AFC wildcard picture but their schedule doesn’t look favorable. Buffalo should beat Indy this week but then they have to face Miami twice and New England one more time. The benching of Tyrod Taylor against the Chargers might end up being the difference when it is all said and done.

18. Oakland Raiders (6-6)

Last week: 18 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Kansas City

The Raiders control their own destiny in the AFC West as the Chiefs and Chargers are both 6-6 as well. If they win their next four games they will win the division title but they have Kansas City this week followed by Dallas, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers. It will not be easy to accomplish but if they run the table it would be well earned.

17. Washington Redskins (5-7)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: AP Photo)

Last week: 16 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Washington got completely manhandled by the Cowboys and that is a disturbing outcome. The Redskins will not make the playoffs and still have to worry about Kirk Cousins walking away from them this offseason. If that happens Washington will no longer have an identity and will have to start yet another rebuild. They must travel to Los Angeles to face the scorching hot Chargers.

16. Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Last week: 20 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Cleveland

Green Bay got a much needed, momentum building, win against the Buccaneers. All they have to do is beat Cleveland and then they get Aaron Rodgers back for the final three games. 10 wins are typically the benchmark to make the playoffs and with Aaron Rodgers returning it is very possible they reach that benchmark. Cleveland should present an easy opportunity for a win. The rest of the NFC should be on the lookout for the Packers.

15. Detroit Lions (6-6)

Last week: 15 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Tampa Bay

The Lions have lost back to back important games and must finish the season on a four-game win streak to have a shot at making the playoffs. Detroit’s final four games include the Buccaneers, Bears, Bengals and Packers. All their remaining games are winnable. One thing the Lions must do is play better defense as they are giving up 25.7 points per game which is sixth worst in the NFL. Matthew Stafford can’t do it all himself and if the defense doesn’t lend a hand then Detroit will miss the playoffs.

14. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

Last week: 17 (+3)

Next game: away vs. New York Giants

The Cowboys season may have changed for the better after a huge win against their biggest rival, the Redskins, 38-14. Dallas got back to running the ball. Alfred Morris had 27 carries for 127 yards and one touchdown. Dallas sits at 6-6 and is on the outside looking in of the playoffs. if they can win four straight, like many other teams, they will find themselves in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they still have games against the Raiders, Seahawks and Eagles so the playoffs do not look likely.

13. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)

Last week: 21 (+8)

Next game: away vs. Pittsburgh

For a while now I have not given the Ravens the credit that they have earned. Their defense has been recognized but their inept offense gave a cause for pause. After thrashing the Lions, it is clear that the Ravens will likely be a playoff team. Now, they probably won’t go too deep into the playoffs but this a good team. If they get an upset win on the road this week, they are all but a lock for a playoff berth and could even have a shot at winning the division.

12. Tennessee Titans (8-4)

Last week: 12 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Arizona

Tennessee is an old-school football team that pounds the rock behind two really good running backs. Derek Henry is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and a total of 629 yards while DeMarco Murray has racked up 518 yards. As a team, Tennessee is averaging 122 yards per game on the ground. Marcus Mariota has the ability to get hot at any moment and if he does then the Titans become a darkhorse in the AFC.

11. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)

Last week: 8 (-3)

Next game: home vs. New Orleans

How many times have these Atlanta Falcons been held to under 10 points and no touchdowns at home? Not very often. The loss at home to the Vikings dampers their chance of returning to the playoffs. However, if they can find some of that old offensive magic this week against the Saints, then they still have a shot at winning the division.

10. Carolina Panthers (8-4)

Last week: 7 (-3)

Next game: home vs. Minnesota

Carolina does not match up well with the Saints. New Orleans swept Carolina and holds all the tiebreakers against them. The Panthers don’t get much of a chance to catch their breath either because the first seeded Vikings are coming to town to finish their road trip. The Panthers are going to have to control the clock. If they can win the time of possession they will tire out Minnesota’s stellar defense and have a shot at winning.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

Last week: 9 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Washington

Los Angeles is one of the hottest teams in the league, winning six of their last eight. That is why they are ranked in the top ten of these rankings. The Chargers have caught up to the Chiefs. Nobody wants to play the Chargers because they can get after the quarterback and create havoc for opposing offense. On the other side of the ball, they have an experienced quarterback and a young running back to rely on. Los Angeles will continue to win games and just like the Titans, be a darkhorse to challenge in the AFC.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)

Last week: 10 (-2)

Next game: home vs. Seattle

Jacksonville’s defense is Super Bowl caliber and can lead them deep into the playoffs as long as Blake Bortles doesn’t mess it up. The Jaguars rank first in total defense (282.5 yards allowed per game), passing defense (167.1 passing yards allowed per game), sacks (45) and second in takeaways (27). Seattle will be a difficult challenge but Jacksonville has the luxury of playing this one at home.

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: JONATHAN FERREY/GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Last week: 11 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Jacksonville

Just how good is Russell Wilson?  He has the Seahawks winning games with a horrible offensive line and half of the Legion of Boom missing. Wilson should be the favorite to win the MVP award because without him the Seahawks would be lucky to have three wins. Wilson has thrown for 3,256, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Beating the Eagles was a statement to the rest of the NFC that the Seahawks are not to be overlooked.

6. New Orleans Saints (9-3)

Last week: 6 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Atlanta

There is no better running back duo in the NFL than Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. This duo is doing so well they need a nickname. Ingram likes Boom and Zoom but I am sure they can find a better one. New Orleans has swept Carolina because of these awesome backs that have led the way. If they can repeat that success against Atlanta this week they will put a nice hold on the division.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)

Last week: 2 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Rams

Philly had their long win streak snapped and it wasn’t a huge surprise. Winning in Seattle is tough and the Eagles had not been in many close games against good teams. The defense was a bit exposed and may struggle to shut down the Rams explosive offense. Carson Wentz will need to play great to keep the Eagles soaring.

4. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

Last week: 5 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Philadelphia

Los Angeles has been on a scheduling gauntlet lately. The recently played the Vikings and Saints and now they have to face the Eagles. This is a big game for both teams as they are fighting for a possible first-round bye and possibly home-field advantage. Their recent win against the Cardinals was a tune-up for this showdown. There should be fireworks as the teams are tied for first in scoring offense averaging 30.1 points per game.

3. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)

Last week: 4 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Carolina

The Vikings are a win away from clinching the division title. All they have to do is win one game against the Panthers, Bengals, Packers and Bears. That should be easy enough for a team with a defense as strong as theirs. Case Keenum continues his MVP-level play completing 25 of 30 pass attempts against the Falcons. He didn’t throw a single incompletion in the second half. Minnesota has a third straight road game this week against the Panthers. It will be impressive if they can pull off another win.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

Last week: 3 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Baltimore

The Steelers keep catching flack for winning close games against inferior teams but wins are hard to come by in the NFL. A win is good no matter if it is by one or 100 and Pittsburgh just keeps winning. They are earning a lot of experience for close battles they will encounter in the playoffs. When the playoffs start the Steelers will find themselves prepared for anything and everything.

1. New England Patriots (10-2)

Last week: 1 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Miami

New England continues to win games and look like champions while doing it. The Patriots are the best team in the NFL because they have the greatest coach and quarterback of all-time. Their defense is coming off a great performance against the Bills allowing just three points. New England has nothing to worry about and are gearing up for their favorite time of the year.

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Hagan's Haus 2017 NFL pick week 13

Hagan’s Haus 2017 NFL picks Week 13

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. You won’t find me in a church on Sunday because football is my religion and the No. 1 priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself on studying the game of football. We can’t get all our picks or predictions right, but I am going to leave it here in the open every week for everyone to see. In Hagan’s Haus, it’s all about bragging rights. 

Who is the best? Because winning is the only thing that matters. We don’t get points for second place. I challenge you to post comments on your weekly picks and compare them to mine. This isn’t about point spreads. I will give a score prediction, but winning is winning. Doesn’t matter if it is by an inch or a mile. So try and beat me in picking NFL games. I promise you it won’t be easy, but it will be fun. Here are Hagan’s Haus 2017 Week 13 NFL picks.

Last week: 12-2 (85.7 percent)

Overall: 107-66 (61.8 percent)

Thursday Night

Sunday Morning

2017 NFL picks week 13

(Photo from http://www.sportingnews.com)

New England Patriots (9-2) 27 @ Buffalo Bills (6-5) 18: The Bills are 3-9 in their last 12 games against the Patriots. This one means a little more than it usually does with the Bills fighting for a possible playoff spot.

Unfortunately for Buffalo, that doesn’t really mean much against Tom Brady. There is a very small chance they win this game even though they are at home, but anything is possible. The Bills could pull off the upset, but New England’s defense will be too good.

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) 24 @ Chicago Bears (3-8) 20: Jimmy Garoppolo will finally make his first start in a 49er uniform. Garoppolo saw some action last week towards the end of the game, completing both of his passes for 18 yards and one touchdown.

There is no better game for him to make his first start with San Francisco than against the Bears. Chicago has made strides of improvement, but it hasn’t resulted in many wins. The 49ers will win this game just because Jimmy G will be the difference.

Minnesota Vikings (9-2) 27 @ Atlanta Falcons (7-4) 21: Minnesota is playing at a high level on both sides of the ball. Case Keenum is having an MVP-caliber season, but people still question the quarterback situation. Atlanta is playing well too, and a win at home puts them right back into all NFC races. Minnesota will get too much pressure and it will result in another win.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) 21 @ Green Bay Packers (5-6) 24: Green Bay is beginning to hear whispers that Aaron Rodgers is close to returning. That is scary for the rest of the league because if the Packers get hot at the right time, they could find themselves in the Super Bowl despite not having a Super Bowl caliber roster because Rodgers is that good.

Tampa is not going to make a run, and their only role now is to play spoiler. They will not spoil anything in Lambeau, and the Packers will get to .500 this week.

Houston Texans (4-7) 13 @ Tennessee Titans (7-4) 31: Tennessee would love to continue their good season with a win against the Texans. The Titans have to keep pace with the Jaguars, who are playing the Colts.

Marcus Mariota has yet to get on a hot streak this season, which probably means it is coming soon. With all the injuries the Texans are dealing with, it would make sense for the hot streak to get started this week. Mariota will have four total touchdowns in a blowout win over the Texans.

Denver Broncos (3-8) 17 @ Miami Dolphins (4-7) 19: There might be one television in the country tuned into this snooze fest. The Broncos are having a horrible season, and the Dolphins aren’t doing much better. Miami has lost five straight games, and the Broncos have lost seven straight. Miami will end their losing streak based on home field advantage.

Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) 31 @ New York Jets (4-7) 24: The free-falling Chiefs are desperate as the Chargers have climbed up the standings and only trail by a game for the AFC West division lead. Kansas City must find their offensive magic they had early in the season during their 5-0 start. Kareem Hunt has to be the workhorse, and the offensive play-calling must allow Alex Smith to air out the ball. They will recapture the magic this week in New York to end the losing streak.

Indianapolis Colts (3-8) 10 @ Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4) 34: The only way the Colts win this game is if Blake Bortles throws three or more interceptions. Jacksonville’s defense is going to wreak havoc on Jacoby Brissett and the rest of the offense. A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey will both get an interception, and defensive player of the year candidate, Calais Campbell, will have three sacks.

Detroit Lions (6-5) 30 @ Baltimore Ravens (6-5) 20: Baltimore does not look like a six-win team when you watch them play. The offense looks confused at times and is only scoring 21.5 points per game.

Their defense, on the other hand, ranks second in points allowed per game. Matthew Stafford is going to change that by lighting them up for 30 this week.

Sunday Afternoon

2017 NFL picks week 13

(Photo by Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Cleveland Browns (0-11) 12 @ Los Angeles Chargers (5-6) 24: Los Angeles has gotten hot and is only one game out of first place in their division. Cleveland comes in winless and will not put up a fight against the Chargers’ stout defense.

Melvin Gordon has also been fantastic this season and is getting little shine. Gordon will have 150 all-purpose yards to lead the Chargers to another win.

New York Giants (2-9) 7 @ Oakland Raiders (5-6) 34: The amount of disrespect the Giants have shown Eli Manning is absolutely ridiculous. Ben McAdoo is benching Manning for Geno Smith. Smith has had many opportunities to prove he is capable of being a starting quarterback and has disappointed every time. Oakland is going to look like a defensive powerhouse against Smith. Raiders win easily and in blowout fashion.

Carolina Panthers (8-3) 27 @ New Orleans Saints (8-3) 24: This is the game of the week, and first place is on the line. In their first meeting, the Saints smacked Carolina in Charlotte 34-13.

This game will be much different, and the Panthers defense will step up. Cam Newton will also have a big game, and Carolina will find their way into first place in the NFC South.

Los Angeles Rams (8-3) 32 @ Arizona Cardinals (5-6) 23: Arizona is rolling with Blaine Gabbert under center, and this Rams defense is going to bother him big time. Arizona’s defense will not be able to slow down the No. 2 scoring offense in the league.

Jared Goff has been great, but Todd Gurley is the real reason the Rams are dangerous. He will lead them to their ninth win of the season against the Cardinals.

Sunday Night

Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) 21 @ Seattle Seahawks (7-4) 22: Philly is without question the better team, but my gut is telling me to pick the Seahawks. Playing in Seattle is a tough task. Russell Wilson is quietly having a great season, throwing for 3,029 yards, 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Wilson will outplay Carson Wentz to get his team a much-needed win.

Monday Night

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) 23  @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) 24: Pittsburgh has not dominated this season and has actually pulled out a lot of close games, and the Bengals are desperate. A desperate home team in a rivalry game is dangerous. The Bengals will play great defense and slow down the Killer B’s. Andy Dalton will have a big day to squeeze by the Steelers to pull back into the thick of the playoff race.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/Bob Leverone

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Week 13 NFL picks

Week 13 NFL picks against the spread

After posting a 4-11-1 mark against the spread last week, my streak of awful weeks is now at three. A 72-95-8 record for the year makes my eyes hurt, but the beat goes on.

My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Thursday Night 

Redskins (-1.5) at *Cowboys – Even though the winner of this game is far from a lock to reach the playoffs, this basically amounts to an elimination game. Dallas is on a string of blowout losses, and Washington has been wildly inconsistent all year long.

There was no doubt losing Ezekiel Elliott has hurt the Cowboys, but three consecutive single-digit offensive outputs is a bit extreme. So extreme that it must change sooner rather than later.

Washington is still the most injury-riddled team in the league. Also, it is often smart to take home underdogs in rivalry games. Dal 20 Was 17

Sunday

Broncos (-1.5) at Dolphins – Yikes, what an awful game. Trevor Siemian and Jay Cutler get their respective starting quarterback gigs back for this one. That may not be a good thing for either team.

These teams are in very similar spots, but Denver’s defense is a little better and still playing hard. That unit is still a top 10 defense in almost every major statistical category. Combine that with the mini spark Siemian gave the Denver offense late in last week’s game, and the Broncos are slightly better equipped to be the ones to break their long losing streak. Den 16 Mia 13

Lions at Ravens (-3) – With more interceptions than touchdowns on the year, Joe Flacco is struggling. Despite that, Baltimore continues to win behind a decent ground game, solid defense and great special teams. This team is reminiscent of the ones that carried Flacco deep into the playoffs early in his career.

Detroit is also a factor in the playoff race in their conference, but they are the exact opposite of Baltimore. Quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to carry this franchise, but the ground game remains nonexistent. The defense has also given up over 24 points in each of the last three games. Stafford has led enough scoring drives for Detroit to win two of those games, but this defense will not allow that. Bal 24 Det 17

Texans at Titans (-6.5) – Tennessee took control of the AFC South with last week’s comeback win. The offense is still nothing special, but dealing with Tom Savage should allow the Titans defense to dominate this one. Ten 23 Hou 14

Colts at Jaguars (-9.5) – Jacksonville embarrassed Indianapolis in their matchup earlier this year. However, relatively speaking, Indianapolis is playing much better since then. They have held the lead heading into the fourth quarter of their last three games.

Jacksonville is trending ever so slightly the other way. They have struggled to put away Cleveland and lost to Arizona in recent weeks. Unless the defense goes off, they have a hard time winning without having to sweat it out. Fortunately for Jags fans, that has happened often enough to keep them in the playoff race, but 9.5 is too many points here. Jac 17 Ind 13

Chiefs (-3) at *Jets – Kansas City is a shell of the team that started 5-0. Scoring 19 total points in their last two games is not a great way to head in to a matchup with a gutty Jets team that runs the ball and plays defense well enough to cause any opponent problems. Nyj 19 KC 16 

Vikings at Falcons (-3) – With back to back 30+ point outings and a three game winning streak, Atlanta is starting to look like the team most people thought they would be before the season. This offense is perfectly suited to the turf they play on in their new home. Minnesota continues to roll behind the shockingly stellar play of Case Keenum. In a game that could very well turn into a shootout, it is foolish not to pick a Matt Ryan led offense at home. Atl 35 Min 28

Patriots (-8.5) at Bills – The Patriots are rolling along as usual after a somewhat slow start. Buffalo got up off the mat in Kansas City last week and is still very much in the playoff mix.

However, this team just is not the same since the bizarre flirtation with backup quarterback Nathan Peterman. Tyrod Taylor has his job back, but the organization clearly wants nothing to do with him beyond this year. It is hard to trust a team like that, especially when they are playing the reigning Super Bowl champions. NE 34 Buf 20

49ers at Bears (-3) – Both teams are having tough years, but the San Francisco starting debut of Jimmy Garoppolo provides some intrigue here. There is no shame in getting shredded by Carson Wentz the way the Bears were last week. The Chicago defense is by far the best thing either team has to offer in this one. Chi 20 SF 14

Buccaneers (-2) at *Packers – Brett Hundley is coming off his best game, the Packers are at home and Tampa Bay is starting a quarterback who is returning from injury. Jameis Winston has not won a game as the starter since Week 3. How is Green Bay an underdog here? GB 24 TB 17

Browns at Chargers (-13.5) – The Chargers are suddenly a trendy pick to reach the playoffs. Given the talent on the roster and the way the rest of the AFC West is playing, it is perfectly reasonable.

Week 13 NFL picks

Photo from si.com

The winless and undermanned Browns pose no threat to denting those hopes, but this is a big number, and Cleveland has taken better care of the ball in recent weeks. Add in the long-awaited return of Josh Gordon and they should be able to keep this one close enough. LAC 27 Cle 17      

Panthers at Saints (-4) – Carolina is quietly doing some really good things in the running game and on defense during its current four-game winning streak. As strange as it sounds, Cam Newton has been the closest thing to a weak link. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes last week. That is not a great sign when heading on the road to face an equally talented division rival that has already whipped you once this year. NO 28 Car 20

Rams (-7) at Cardinals – The Rams did a nice job of taking advantage of some key injuries on the New Orleans defense last week. A healthy Arizona secondary will provide a much stiffer test this week. The Cardinals are pesky, and Blaine Gabbert has made the most of his current opportunity.

However, there is a reason the former first-round pick started the year as the third stringer. Gabbert is not playing the organization that drafted him this week. He should come back down to Earth a little bit and struggle to keep up with one of the best offenses in football. LAR 35 Ari 24

Giants at Raiders (-8.5) – Until this week, I thought there was no such thing as tanking in the NFL. Then the Giants benched two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning for Geno Smith. Smith has been in the league since 2013 and has a record of 12-18 as a starter.

Week 13 NFL picks

Photo from newyork.cbslocal.com

Smith has no shot at being the Giants’ future quarterback. This season has been a disaster for the Giants, and Manning certainly has not played well. Even so, no sane human being can rationally argue that Smith gives the Giants a better chance to win.

The only thing Smith is there to do is put New York in a better position to draft one of the highly coveted quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. The Raiders are a long way from being a great team, but at least they are trying to win. Oak 30 NYG 13

Eagles (-6) at *Seahawks – There is no denying that the Eagles are really good, but they have not had many road tests against teams playing well at the time of the game. This certainly qualifies, as did the Kansas City game early in the year that accounts for their only loss. This is still a really young football team. It will be interesting to see how they handle the situation.

Seattle has plenty of holes. However, Carson Wentz is not the only MVP candidate in this game. Win or lose, Russell Wilson will throw himself into that conversation after this game. The Seahawks have been in countless games like this one for the better part of seven years. Their defense is no longer dominant, but is still more than good enough. Experience is the difference in a minor upset here. Sea 24 Phi 21

Monday Night

Steelers (-5.5) at Bengals – The Steelers are the better team, but their tendency to play down to their competition should make betters a little nervous. However, Pittsburgh has won 13 of 16 meetings between these two rivals this decade. With their star power, the Steelers offense is going to score a decent amount of points against just about everybody.

Cincinnati has scored over 30 points just twice this year. Both occasions were against Cleveland. There is nothing to suggest that the Bengals have the horses to keep up in this matchup. Pit 31 Cin 20

 

Featured image from Buffalo News

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2017 NFL power rankings Week 13

2017 NFL power rankings: Week 13

December football is upon us, and as the weather gets colder, the NFL playoff races are heating up. Three teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention; Cleveland, San Francisco and the New York Giants. New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota have comfortable leads in their division, but will be fighting for first-round byes and home-field advantage over the coming weeks. There is a lot of football left to be played, and a lot can change. Here are the current 2017 NFL power rankings for Week 13.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-11)

Last week: 32 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Chargers

There is no surprise here as the Browns are dead last in the NFL. Cleveland continues to lose games and is only five losses away from going 0-16 just one season after going 1-15. The Browns’ remaining schedule is pretty tough, and 0-16 seems like a certainty.

It is hard to find any bright spot for this franchise, but going 1-31 over the course of two seasons is likely as bad as it can get. The only way to go is up, and that is the only good thing to look forward to if you’re a Browns fan.

31. San Francisco 49ers (1-10)

Last week 31 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Chicago

The 49ers played tough against Seattle, but are still preparing for a top three pick in next year’s draft. San Francisco could mess that up this week by traveling to Chicago to take on the Bears. This is a winnable game for the 49ers, but should they try to win it?

It will be interesting to see if Jimmy Garoppolo finally starts after going two for two for 18 yards and a touchdown. Or the 49ers may just tank this year and roll with him as a backup.

30. New York Giants (2-9)

2017 NFL power rankings Week 13

(Photo from http://www.sportingnews.com)

Last week: 30 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Oakland

New York has officially been eliminated from the playoffs after many expected them to be a playoff team. It has been a lost season to say the least, and they must determine which direction they need to go for the future.

Eli Manning shouldn’t be going through a rebuild this late into his career. The defense is loaded with talent, and if they can retool the offensive line, then they may be closer to being more competitive than they have been in this season.

29. Denver Broncos (3-8)

Last week: 28 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Miami

Denver has had a surprising downfall this season, but what can you expect with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch as your quarterbacks? Yes, Peyton Manning wasn’t the same during their Super Bowl run, but was still 10 times better than what they have now and was still vital to their success. Denver needs to finish the rest of the season without earning another win so they can draft a new signal caller to lead them into the future.

28. Chicago Bears (3-8)

Last week: 25 (-3)

Next game: home vs. San Francisco

Chicago was beaten so badly they had to complain about the dancing the Eagles were doing. John Fox has done a pretty good job building this team, and more specifically the defense.

However, their lack of competitive spirit this past week is concerning. If the Bears look this bad at home against San Francisco, then it should be time to fire Fox and bring in an offensive mind that can make sure the decision to trade up for Mitch Trubisky doesn’t haunt this franchise for the next 10 years.

27. Indianapolis Colts (3-8)

Last week: 29 (+2)

Next game: away vs. Jacksonville

Indianapolis is still extremely competitive despite their treacherous record. Two weeks ago, they fought the Steelers in a 20-17 loss.

This past Sunday, they fought another playoff contender, the Tennessee Titans, to a 20-16 loss. The defense has improved as of late and is giving up just 18 points per game over the last three games.

Jacoby Brissett is playing the role of game manager well on the offensive side of the ball. If the defense can play like this when Andrew Luck returns, along with having a high draft pick, it will go a long way in helping them reach the postseason next year. For now, the Colts are going to enjoy playing spoiler for the rest of this season.

26. Miami Dolphins (4-7)

Last week: 27 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Denver

Miami got after Tom Brady and hit him numerous times, but it wasn’t enough. The Dolphins fell 35-17 as Brady threw for four touchdowns against them.

Miami is stuck in the middle with issues all over their offense. The only bright spot is Jarvis Landry, who puts up consistent numbers despite never having an elite quarterback to get him the ball. The defense is also underperforming, giving up 36.7 points per game over their last three.

They might be able to get a win this week against the Broncos, but in the end, it won’t mean anything but a lower draft pick.

25. New York Jets (4-7)

Last week: 26 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Kansas City

The Jets are still competing in games, but won’t make the playoffs and won’t get a chance to have a top three pick either. They are stuck in the middle and in mediocrity.

New York fell to the Panthers and now they get to face the free-falling Kansas City Chiefs. A win is possible for the Jets this week, but winning this game won’t accomplish much.

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)

Last week: 19 (-5)

Next game: away vs. Green Bay

Tampa Bay was undefeated with Ryan Fitzpatrick until this past week when they lost to the Falcons. Jameis Winston is close to being healthy, but should the Bucs put him back in the lineup? The Buccaneers are a long shot to make the playoffs, which is why they should protect their franchise quarterback for the long term. They should ride with Fitzpatrick the rest of the season because it is over.

23. Houston Texans (4-7)

Last week: 20 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Tennessee

Tom Savage should not be in the NFL. When I think of Tom Savage and the comparison to other professional athletes that looked completely lost in the pros, I think of Smush Parker of the Los Angeles Lakers back in the mid-2000s. Savage can’t get the job done, and the fact that he has a job and Colin Kaepernick doesn’t is just blasphemous.

Either way, the Texans travel to Tennessee this week with a chance to play spoiler to a divisional foe.

22. Arizona Cardinals (5-6)

Last week: 24 (+2)

Next game: home vs. Los Angeles Rams

Who is this Blaine Gabbert that the Cardinals have found? Gabbert has thrown for 498 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions in limited action this season, but head coach Bruce Arians thinks he is the future at the quarterback position after Carson Palmer retires.

That is pretty bold after all the issues he had in Jacksonville. Let’s see how he does against the Rams this week now that he has the support behind him.

21. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

Last week: 22 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Detroit

One of the most unexplainable things of the NFL season is how the Ravens sit at 6-5. This team has no offense whatsoever, but have still won six games.They are 18th in scoring, 11th in rushing and 32nd in passing. Baltimore’s defense has done the majority of the work, holding teams to just 17 points per game, which is the second best mark in the NFL.

Baltimore does not look like a playoff team and will more than likely miss the playoffs. If they do find a way to hold Detroit under 20 points and pull out a win, then maybe I’ll begin to change my mind and hop on the Ravens’ playoff bandwagon.

20. Green Bay Packers (5-6)

Last week: 23 (+3)

Next game: home vs. Tampa Bay

It has to be disheartening for the Packers to get a career game from Brett Hundley and still lose. After the performance he put on against the Steelers, it is clear to see that no matter how well Hundley plays, the Packers are doomed. At 5-6 they aren’t completely out of the playoff race, but climbing back into it will take a miracle considering the level of competition they have remaining.

In their final five games, Green Bay must face the Panthers, Vikings and Lions. The chances of them winning all these games are very low, and the Packers will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

19. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

Last week: 21 (+2)

Next game: home vs. Pittsburgh

The Bengals looked dead in the water at 0-3, but have managed to go 5-3 since then. Their defense is still playing at a high level, ranking 10th in scoring defense. Cincinnati gives up a lot of yards, but keeping people off the scoreboard is what really matters. The offense finally got some help in the ground game last week as Joe Mixon ran for a career-high 114 yards.

If they can keep this up against the Steelers, it will keep the Killer B’s off the field and possibly lead to an upset. This upset would put the Bengals back in the thick of the Wild Card hunt.

18. Oakland Raiders (5-6)

2017 NFL power rankings Week 13

(Photo from http://www.businessinsider.com)

Last week: 17 (-1)

Next game: home vs. New York Giants

The Raiders were able to get a win, but barely won against a bad Denver team. On a somewhat positive note, the Raiders seem to have the fighting spirit a team needs to beat adversity.

How do I know that they have this fighting spirit? Well, they are literally getting into fights. Michael Crabtree will be suspended one game for his role in the fight, and that really hurts Oakland as Amari Cooper went down with a concussion.

Oakland has an easy opponent this week, but will really need to pick it up to save their season.

17. Dallas Cowboys (5-6)

Last week: 12 (-5)

Next game: home vs. Washington

There was nothing to be thankful for in Dallas as the Cowboys got completely railed by Philip Rivers and the Chargers on Thanksgiving. Dak Prescott and the rest of the Cowboys offense is struggling without Ezekiel Elliott.

If the Cowboys don’t right the ship this week, their season is likely over. To turn their season around, they need Dak to channel some of the greatness he displayed last season. But that may be asking too much.

16. Washington Redskins (5-6)

Last week: 15 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Dallas

Washington’s season has been an up and down roller coaster. One week they look like a legitimate contender and the next they are blowing double-digit fourth-quarter leads.

Washington is not out of the Wild Card race as their final five games are against the Cowboys, Chargers, Cardinals, Broncos and Giants. If the Redskins get hot at the right time, they could make a run in the playoffs. It all starts this week with their biggest rival.

15. Detroit Lions (6-5)

Last week: 14 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Baltimore

Detroit fought valiantly against the Vikings, but they were outmatched by a better team. In a recent press conference, head coach Jim Caldwell said to not count them out, and he was spot on. This team is sitting on the outside looking in, but at 6-5, they are all but out of it.

Their schedule is extremely favorable too. Their remaining opponents have a combined record of 23-32. All five of their games are winnable, and they can even lose one and finish 10-6. 10-6 should get them into the playoffs.

14. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)

Last week: 9 (-5)

Next game: away vs. New York Jets

Two years ago, it was the Falcons that started out 5-0 but finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Last year, it was the Vikings who started out 5-0 but finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

It seems like the team to continue this trend will be the Chiefs. They started this season out 5-0 and looked completely unstoppable. They even beat the Philadelphia Eagles.

Since then, they have gone 1-5, and the wheels have fallen off. Andy Reid can’t avoid the constant barrage of questions involving Patrick Mahomes, but he has shot down any idea of the rookie replacing Alex Smith.

Kansas City needs to find their explosiveness to turn the ship around before it is too late. The Jets are the perfect opponent for that.

13. Buffalo Bills (6-5)

Last week: 18 (+5)

Next game: home vs. New England

After a failed experiment to bring in rookie Nathan Peterman, the Bills wised up and started Tyrod Taylor again, and it resulted in a win over the Chiefs. The win put Buffalo right back into the thick of the Wild Card race in the AFC.

Buffalo should have never benched Taylor because the loss to the Chargers could hurt in the long run. Now the Bills must face the hated Patriots this week, and it will likely result in a loss and further make the playoff race even more jam-packed.

12. Tennessee Titans (7-4)

Last week: 11 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Houston

Tennessee won this week, but didn’t look great against the Colts. It was their first ever win in Lucas Oil Stadium, but nevertheless, it should have come much easier.

The Titans sit comfortably in a playoff spot, but if they can’t get Marcus Mariota playing at the level he was at last year, then they will have a short stint in the playoffs. Tennessee also needs to make sure they stay committed to the run in order to succeed. The Titans will be facing a banged up Texans team, but all divisional games are difficult.

11. Seattle Seahawks (7-4)

Last week: 13 (+2)

Next game: home vs. Philadelphia

Seattle found a way to beat the 49ers, which wasn’t hard for them to do. For the first time in his career, Russell Wilson has to carry the team on his back. The offensive line is weak and the defense had been decimated with injuries.

Wilson has been up to the task thus far, throwing for 3,029 yards, 23 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He has also added three rushing touchdowns.

The Eagles will be their toughest test this season, and winning it will vault them right in the conversation of teams to beat in the NFC.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)

Last week: 7 (-3)

Next game: home vs. Indianapolis

This week was a perfect example of why some are so skeptical of the Jaguars. They lost a game in which they should have won because Blake Bortles threw a late interception. The only way this team can succeed is if they run the ball over 30 times a game and play legendary defense. They are capable of this and should pick up another win against the Colts thanks to that amazing defense.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)

Last week: 16 (+7)

Next game: home vs. Cleveland

At 5-6, some may see the Chargers at nine and lose their mind, but they are one of the top 10 teams in the NFL regardless of what their record says.

In Week 1, the Chargers had a potential game-tying field goal blocked. In Week 2, Younghoe Koo missed a field goal that would have won them a game against the Dolphins. Their other close losses include a two-point loss to Philadelphia, an eight-point loss to the Patriots and a three-point overtime loss to the Jaguars.

Thanks to the decline of the Chiefs, the Chargers can still win the division. At 5-6, they can also earn a Wild Card berth. The Chargers could very well end up in the playoffs because they have won five of their last seven.

This week they get the winless Browns for a shot to get to .500. Do not sleep on the Chargers as their defense has them streaking.

8. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)

Last week: 10 (+2)

Next game: home vs. Minnesota

Atlanta can thank Julio Jones for their win against the Buccaneers. Jones had his third career game of 250 or more receiving yards. This week, getting 100 yards will be tough as he will see Xavier Rhodes. If the Falcons win this game, it will prove to the rest of the league that they are back in the thick of this NFC race. If they lose, then they will fall closer to missing the playoffs.

7. Carolina Panthers (8-3)

2017 NFL power rankings Week 13

(Photo Credit by Getty Images/Abbie Parr)

Last week: 8 (+1)

Next game: away vs. New Orleans

Carolina just keeps racking up wins, and nobody is talking about them. Their most impressive accomplishment of the season nobody seems to talk about either. They beat New England in Foxborough back in Week 4. People would rather remember their loss to the Bears though it seems.

Cam Newton seems to get trashed more than he gets praised, but at the end of the day, he wins games. Newton has led the Panthers to a 29-14 record in his last three seasons.

Carolina has a chance to beat New Orleans and take over first place in the NFC South this week. It is going to be tough to do on the road. The Panthers just keep on pounding, and they shouldn’t be overlooked.

6. New Orleans Saints (8-3)

Last week: 5 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Carolina

New Orleans is not helping their case for any tiebreakers when it comes to first-round byes. They have lost to the Vikings and Rams within the conference. Their win earlier in the season against the Panthers has them in first in the division, but a loss to the Panthers this upcoming week will change that.

The Saints can’t allow the injuries to derail them. New Orleans does have the pleasure of playing at home this week, and it could be the difference maker.

5. Los Angeles Rams (8-3)

Last week: 6 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Arizona

Los Angeles responded nicely after a loss in Minnesota. The Rams bounced back to beat a popular and streaking Saints team. Los Angeles did it with defense by holding the Saints to just 20 points, which is nine points less than their season average. They were able to do so well because they kept the ball away from the Saints by holding the ball for over 35 minutes.

Going forward, the Rams will be looking to lock up the division, but need to hold off the Seahawks who are right on their tail.

4. Minnesota Vikings (9-2)

Last week: 4 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Atlanta

The Minnesota Vikings ate the Lions up on the Thanksgiving to get to 9-2. Their defense is one of, if not the best in the NFL. Their defensive front is stout and talented. Defensive end Danielle Hunter has six sacks and a forced fumble while his counterpart Everson Griffen leads the NFL with 12 sacks.

The Vikings also rank second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed at just 75.5 yards per game. Their linebackers are fast and athletic enough to play both the run and the pass. The secondary is led by Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith, who are both Pro Bowlers. There is no weakness on this defense, which makes them hard to beat.

With all that said, it is the offense that helps this team really win games. They run the ball well, and it opens up everything for Case Keenum, who is slinging the ball to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. The true success comes from the offensive line, which has paved the way for the sixth-ranked rushing attack and only given up 12 sacks in 11 games. Minnesota is a team nobody wants to play come January.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2)

Last week: 3 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Cincinnati

The Steelers got the job done, but it wasn’t pretty against the Packers. A defense that had been great all season let Brett Hundley have a career game. Hundley threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns. Pittsburgh had to edge it out with a 53-yard game-winning field goal by Chris Boswell. Pittsburgh will need to iron out the kinks before the playoffs start to avoid an early exit.

2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)

Last week: 2 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Seattle

Philly continues to roll, but won’t be No. 1 in these rankings until they get some quality wins. Beating Chicago isn’t a quality win. Nine of their 10 wins have come against teams below .500. Their only impressive win has come against the Carolina Panthers.

This week, they have a chance to build their resume by traveling to Seattle. A win on the road in Seattle would show that the Eagles are truly the team to beat in the NFC.

1. New England Patriots (9-2)

Last week: 1 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Buffalo

It may sound boring, or like a broken record, but the Patriots are the best team in the NFL. That shouldn’t even be a debate.

Eagles fans won’t like this, but the truth is the Patriots are experienced and have the greatest coach and quarterback of all time. Oh, and by the way, they have a defense that is playing at a very high level, allowing just 20 points per game this season.

At the end of the year, the Patriots will be in the AFC Championship game at the very least and most likely the Super Bowl.

 

Featured image from nj.com 

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Julio Jones fantasy

Is Week 12 a new start for Julio Jones?

Julio Jones has been one of the most productive and reliable wide receivers in fantasy football since he entered the league. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 220 pounds, he’s a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. He is usually a solid first-round pick in fantasy football too. However, this year hasn’t been the same.

Through ten games of the 2017 NFL season, Julio Jones had 786 receiving yards and only one touchdown. Through ten games in 2016, Jones had 1,105 yards and five touchdowns. There is clear regression in his play, and injuries and regression of quarterback play are clearly the reasons behind it.

Struggles

Through this season, Jones has had nagging injuries that have caused him to miss practices and snaps during games. In Week 4, Jones had to leave the game against the Buffalo Bills due to a hip flexor injury that caused him to miss extended time. Jones had offseason surgery to remove a bunion from his right foot after his 2016 season ended on a negative note due to turf toe, which kept him limited through the end of the season into the playoffs.

Other than injury, a cause of his decline may be the result of Matt Ryan’s play. After a terrific 2016 season capped off by a trip to the Super Bowl and an MVP award, Ryan has seen his play regress from last year, which is warranted. Through 11 games, he’s already thrown one more interception than he did all of last season and is on pace for a worse completion percentage. Last season marked Jones’ lowest reception per game stats since 2012. This season has been just the same.

Ryan has also gotten used to spreading the ball to his other receivers and running backs, causing a lack of receptions for Jones, who is on pace for 96 receptions this season. The emergence of Mohamed Sanu as a legitimate No. 2 receiver also has an effect on Jones. Sanu has already matched his touchdown receptions from last year and is on pace to top his yards and receptions from last year.

Bounce back

Julio Jones fantasy

(Photo by Matt Patterson/AP Photo)

Week 12 may be a bounce-back week for Julio Jones, and fantasy owners can rejoice. Jones exploded for 12 receptions for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He doubled his receptions per game and touchdowns and more than doubled his yards per game. Before this week, Jones was only the 23rd ranked receiver in standard leagues. Jones now outscored every other receiver while having his third career game over 250 receiving yards.

Should fantasy owners be expecting a return of the Julio Jones we all have come to love? Yes, they should. Over the last five games of the season, the Falcons go up against the Buccaneers, Vikings, Panthers and the Saints twice. Jones should continue to see the most targets on the team and should succeed in a big way against the Buccaneers again, as well as the Panthers. He may struggle against Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings secondary, but will continue to see more targets and more work in the red zone.

 

Featured image from bostonherald.com

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NFL Week 12 picks

Hagan’s Haus 2017 NFL picks Week 12

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. You won’t find me in a church on Sunday because football is my religion and the No. 1 priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself on studying the game of football. We can’t get all our picks or predictions right, but I am going to leave it here in the open every week for everyone to see. In Hagan’s Haus, it’s all about bragging rights. 

Who is the best? Because winning is the only thing that matters. We don’t get points for second place. I challenge you to post comments on your weekly picks and compare them to mine. This isn’t about point spreads. I will give a score prediction, but winning is winning. Doesn’t matter if it is by an inch or a mile. So try and beat me in picking NFL games. I promise you it won’t be easy, but it will be fun. Here are Hagan’s Haus 2017 Week 12 NFL picks.

Last week: 9-5

Overall: 95-64

Thanksgiving games

 

Sunday Morning

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) 20 @ Atlanta Falcons (6-4) 24: This is a big game for both teams. A win by the Buccaneers can put them back in the Wild Card race while a win for the Falcons could give them more control of the Wild Card spot they currently hold.

Tampa Bay is 2-0 since Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped in for Jameis Winston, but those wins came against the Jets and Dolphins. The Falcons present a much more difficult task. At this point, the Falcons are the better team and should win this game at home.

NFL Week 12 picks

(Photo from Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Cleveland Browns (0-10) 13 @ Cincinnati Bengals (4-6) 26: Cincinnati gets to play the Browns at an opportunistic time. The Bengals are just one game back of the Ravens, who are 5-5 and the sixth seed in the AFC.

Cincinnati needs to go on a pretty epic run to make the playoffs, but it is possible. They should have no trouble shutting down the Browns offense. Keep your heads up Bengal fans, the season is not lost yet.

Tennessee Titans (6-4) 37 @ Indianapolis Colts (3-7) 24: Tennessee needs to bounce back after getting embarrassed on Thursday Night Football last week. The Titans are going to run the ball early and often down the throats of the Colts. Indy will have trouble trying to stop DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. If they find a way to stop them, then Marcus Mariota will get loose. The Colts have a shot to win because it is a divisional game, but the Titans are the better team.

Buffalo Bills (5-5) 23 @ Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) 34: Both Buffalo and Kansas City are in a downward spiral. The Bills have lost three straight games, and the Chiefs have lost four of their last five.

Both teams still can make the playoffs, but the Chiefs’ chances are better than the Bills’. This game has the feeling of a must-win for Buffalo, but their quarterback situation has become a mess. The Chiefs will finally get their offense clicking again to get back to their winning ways.

Miami Dolphins (4-6) 3 @ New England Patriots (8-2) 31: This game is a complete mismatch. Miami has little to no chance of beating the Patriots in New England. The Dolphins have been shut out already this season, and it could happen again this week. New England has only given up 12.5 points per game during their six-game win streak. Oh, and the great Tom Brady has thrown for 3,147 yards, 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions. The G.O.A.T is going to pick apart the Dolphins, and it could get ugly.

Carolina Panthers (7-3) 22 @ New York Jets (4-6) 10: Carolina has had two weeks to prepare for the Jets thanks to their bye last week. The Panthers defense is the best defense that nobody seems to be talking about. Carolina ranks fifth in scoring defense (18 points per game), third in rushing defense (80.6 rush yards per game), fourth in passing defense (197.4 pass yards per game) and second in total defense (278 yards per game). They will cause major problems for the Jets offense.

Chicago Bears (3-7) 17 @ Philadelphia Eagles (9-1) 31: Eight of the Eagles’ nine wins have come against teams with a .500 win percentage or lower. Philly feasts on the bottom feeders of the NFL, and they will do so again this week with the Bears coming into town. The Eagles offense will fly high, and the defense will cause a ton of problems for rookie Mitch Trubisky.

Sunday Afternoon

NFL Week 12 picks

(Photo from http://www.seahawks.com)

Seattle Seahawks (6-4) 20 @ San Francisco 49ers (1-9) 17: Seattle almost pulled off a win against the Falcons despite there numerous injuries. Russell Wilson worked magic to keep them in that game, and he will be too much for the 49ers defense. San Francisco will lose no matter who they start at quarterback, but Jimmy Garoppolo gives them the best shot at pulling off the upset.

Denver Broncos (3-7) 17 @ Oakland Raiders (4-6) 27: Oakland is struggling this season, but they just fired their defensive coordinator. The Raiders have yet to force an interception this year. Oakland’s defense has let them down, and the offense isn’t picking up the slack.

Denver has completely fallen off, losing six straight games, and have named Paxton Lynch the starting quarterback. They will be looking to see what he has to see if he can be the next franchise quarterback. He won’t win this game, but he will play better than Trevor Siemian.

New Orleans Saints (8-2) 30 @ Los Angeles Rams (7-3) 31: This is the best matchup of the week. New Orleans is coming off a 15-point fourth-quarter comeback while the Rams are coming off a loss to Minnesota in which they didn’t score over the final 55 minutes of the game. These are two high-powered offenses with very talented defenses. The Rams need to bounce back, and since they are at home, they will find a way to edge out a win.

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3) 28 @ Arizona Cardinals (4-6) 14: Jacksonville is in control of the AFC South. They control their own destiny. The Jaguars have made excellent strides this season thanks to their spectacular defense. If they want to become serious contenders, they can’t lose games to inferior teams like the Cardinals.

The other big storyline in this one is that Blaine Gabbert has a chance to beat the team that drafted him. Jacksonville will force Gabbert to turn the ball over three times to get another win.

Sunday Night

Green Bay Packers (5-5) 23 @ Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2) 33: The Packers are a mess without Aaron Rodgers and will not be able to win this game if the Steelers take them seriously. Pittsburgh has a tendency to play down to the level of their competition. Just take a look at their game two weeks ago against the Colts. They may keep it close for a while, but the Steelers will pull away in the end.

Monday Night

Houston Texans (4-6) 19 @ Baltimore Ravens (5-5) 21: This is a tough game to pick. The Ravens aren’t a great team, but the Texans have lost a ton of their star players to injury. Last week they pulled off an unexpected win against the Cardinals because they put up a ton of points. They won’t have an easy time scoring against the Ravens. Baltimore will win because of their defense.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/G. Newman Lowrance

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Week 12 NFL picks

Week 12 NFL picks against the spread

The last two weeks have made finishing the year with a winning record seem like a pipe dream. I was just 4-9-1 against the spread last week and now sit at 68-84-7 on the year, but there is still lots of football left to be played.

My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Thursday

Vikings (-3) at Lions – These teams are tough to wrap your arms around, but this Thanksgiving Day tilt is dripping with playoff implications. The Lions continue to get away with slow starts more often than they should. Matthew Stafford is the only reason for that. They have no balance whatsoever and have not had a 100-yard rusher in four years.

Case Keenum is playing way above his head. He has given the Vikings enough cushion so that they are almost certainly a playoff team. Even so, it is hard to think that he will not eventually come back to earth. For now though, the Vikings play better defense and run the ball better than this week’s opponent. Holding the Rams to seven points was the most impressive outing from a defense all year. Min 24 Det 17

Chargers (-1) at *Cowboys – The Cowboys’ season is on the line here. They have been physically dominated the last two weeks. With the AFC growing more mediocre by the week, the Chargers are also very much in the playoff mix, but they have to travel a fairly long way on a short week. Dallas tends to play well in their traditional Thanksgiving time slot, so they will find a way to win here. Dal 24 LAC 23

*Giants at Redskins (-7) – Washington has been the better team this year, but they lost their best running back last week in addition to their late-game collapse. Whatever playoff hopes they had probably went by the boards too. Given all that, they may check out on the season.

New York’s upset of Kansas City last week should provide incentive for them to keep playing hard. Timing is everything in this matchup and the timing is right for an upset. NYG 23 Was 20

Sunday

Bills at Chiefs (-10) – This is the first of many large spreads this week. Both of these teams are struggling in a big way. They each look miles away from the teams that got off to two of the best starts in the league.

Kansas City is still in firm control of the AFC West despite losing four out of five games. Andy Reid has earned the benefit of the doubt and will likely get his team back on track before long. Alex Smith has regressed from being an MVP candidate in the first part of the season back to being the average Alex Smith that everyone should be used to. The Chiefs still have playmakers all over the field though.

It is hard to have that same confidence in Buffalo right now. Mercifully, the Nathan Peterman experiment ended after one disastrous half against the Chargers last week. The Bills are still very much in the AFC Wild Card mix. However, even with Tyrod Taylor back under center, Sean McDermott may have already lost this team.

Buffalo has given up 135 combined points during its current losing streak. Yet, they tinkered with the quarterback rather than the defense? It is absolutely mystifying, and it must feel that way for some of the players too. The walls are closing in on Buffalo. A trip to Kansas City will not make it any better. KC 24 Buf 13

Panthers (-4.5) at Jets – After being picked to go winless by many before the season, the Jets have fought the good fight all year long. But at 4-6, reality is starting to set in. Carolina has won three in a row and are finally figuring out how to use the young talent they drafted to help Cam Newton, who is also finding consistency. These two teams are headed in opposite directions. The Panthers keep rolling. The Jets keep fading. Car 28 NYJ 20

Bears at Eagles (-13.5) – The Eagles are showing no signs of slowing down. Carson Wentz is really good, and it seems like he gets help from different offensive weapons every week.

Meanwhile, Chicago has not been winning games consistently since rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky took over. They have been playing teams like Detroit, New Orleans and Minnesota right to the wire though. The Bears run the ball and play defense well enough to hang around with anybody in this league. Additionally, they do not even have to keep this one all that close to be a winning bet here. Phi 28 Chi 17

Browns at Bengals (-8) – Believe it or not, the Bengals are just a single game out of an AFC playoff spot. The winless Browns are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot as well. Take your pick as to which of those two facts is more unbelievable.

Week 12 NFL picks

Photo from USA Today

The Browns keep losing, but have played well in patches over the last handful of weeks. Moreover, the Bengals never blow anyone out, especially when they are supposed to. Look no further than the Indianapolis game from about a month ago. A.J. Green will make a big play late to help Cincinnati avoid disaster. Cin 16 Cle 13

Dolphins at Patriots (-16.5) – As usual, New England is the class of the AFC and Miami is far from it. Even so, 16.5 points in any NFL game is too many to give up. In a game between division rivals, it feels like stealing. NE 31 Mia 17

Buccaneers at Falcons (-10) – The Falcons are getting a little too much credit here. The win in Seattle was massive and impressive. Even so, Atlanta has been chasing consistency all year. After dismantling the Aaron Rodgers led Packers, they lost home games to Buffalo and Miami. Thus, it is hard to see them blowing out a Tampa Bay team that is suddenly playing much better with veteran backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at the controls. Falcon fans will have to bite their nails late in this game. Atl 27 TB 24

Titans (-3) at *Colts – Indianapolis is not very good, but Jacoby Brissett has had them in almost every game since taking over the starting quarterback job. This includes a meeting earlier this year with Tennessee where the Colts led heading into the fourth quarter before collapsing.

The Titans offense has just become stagnant in recent weeks. They are either in a low-scoring battle or getting blown out every week. It is fair to wonder whether or not Mike Mullarkey is the right coach to get Marcus Mariota to the next level. Brissett makes a play late, Mariota does not. Ind 28 Ten 24

Seahawks (-7) at 49ers – It is foolish to sell your Seahawks stock. Yes, the defense is injured and aging. However, in their last two losses, they have missed four combined field goals and had a bizarre attempt at a fake. If even one of those plays is different, no one is panicking about the Seahawks right now.

As long as Russell Wilson stays healthy, this team will be in every game and win most of them. San Francisco is scrappy, but undermanned here. They are the perfect team for Seattle to play right now. Sea 27 SF 13

Broncos at Raiders (-5) – These bitter AFC West rivals had legitimate playoff aspirations at the start of the year and are now a mess. They almost seem to be trying to match each other’s dysfunction. Denver fired its offensive coordinator this week. The Raiders sent their defensive coordinator packing.

Week 12 NFL picks

Photo from clutchpoints.com

Paxton Lynch will finally get a legitimate crack at being the long-term quarterback answer in Denver starting with this game. With everything going on, this had to be a tough game for Vegas to put a line on. Anything could happen here. Even though Denver already shut him down once this year, Derek Carr is still better than anything the Broncos have on offense at the moment. Oak 21 Den 14

Jaguars (-4.5) at Cardinals – Jacksonville is a lot like Minnesota. They have a really good defense and some nice skill players, but their limitations at quarterback will eventually doom them in or before the playoffs. They are fortunate to be playing against quarterback Blaine Gabbert this week. Despite playing well in defeat last week, the former Jaguars first-round pick is just the kind of quarterback that Jacksonville’s sack and turnover happy defense has feasted on all year long. Jac 24 Ari 14

*Saints at Rams (-2.5) – The Rams are still very much a factor in the NFC, but they were humbled by a very good Vikings defense last week. This week is just a bad matchup. No one has ran the ball better than New Orleans over the last month. The Rams are in the bottom third of the league in rush defense. The new style of the Saints does not revolve solely around Drew Brees, and it travels very well. NO 24 LAR 21

Packers at Steelers (-14) – Swallowing this many points in an NFL game is normally foolish, but there is no reason not to do it here. The Pittsburgh offense is almost always going to produce regardless of the opponent.

It is the defense that has been a fairly well kept secret on their current five-game winning streak. They have not allowed more than 17 points in any game during the streak. The Packers have scored more than 20 points just once since Brett Hundley stepped in for injured Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay was shutout last week. It is hard to see a much different scenario in this one. Pit 35 GB 17

Monday Night

Texans at Ravens (-7) – The Texans were finally able to scrape together a win with Tom Savage at quarterback last week. It was more than likely too little too late though. Sometimes all you have to do is say it out loud. Savage is going on the road to face Baltimore defense that has shutout two of its last three opponents. This is going to get ugly. Bal 24 Hou 10

 

Featured image from forbes.com

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