Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan
As the betting lines begin to emerge for Week 12, there are several eye-catching matchups. Although there is no blatantly obvious mismatch on the schedule, the initial spreads have been favorable to picking the already thriving teams. The oddsmakers are placing their faith in the underdogs this weekend, but that doesn't mean you should be.
That said, the NFL is a league of parity and surprises. Although the experts do their best to accurately predict the result of each and every game, no outcome is ever guaranteed. A week ago, we watched the lowly Cincinnati Bengals dismantle the defending Super Bowl champions by a staggering margin. On Sunday, we saw a rookie quarterback in Robert Griffin III throw four touchdowns against the league's 12th-ranked pass defense.
There is no such thing as an absolute, surefire lock in the NFL. However, if there were, these would be the games you should be willing to bet the farm on.
*Disclaimer: This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only. All point spreads are from Footballlocks.com.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez
The New York Jets played an impressive game on the road in St. Louis this Sunday. Mark Sanchez finally looked competent behind center; the Jets forced three turnovers and gave up under 300 yards of total offense. It was a team effort from a squad that looked to be in serious danger on crumbling in on itself during the week. Although Gang Green staved off its imminent demise for another week, there is no reason to expect them to hold its own against New England this coming Sunday.
The New England Patriots must find a way to replace Rob Gronkowski's production. It's not going to be easy, but there are several other weapons on the roster than have been under-utilized by Tom Brady this season. Brandon Lloyd is only averaging 52 receiving yards per game and has only scored three touchdowns on the year. Aaron Hernandez has had issues staying healthy. Even Wes Welker has only found the end zone twice.
However, Tom Brady has an uncanny ability to perform with the talent around him. Even without Gronkowski in the lineup, there is still a considerable amount of firepower on the Patriots offense. In the 2011 Super Bowl, Brady played without a viable deep-threat receiver and an injured Gronkowski. Brady was able to cover up those deficiencies with his immense arm strength and pinpoint accuracy. The Patriots were in a position to win the game with under two minutes to play due to Brady's heroics.
The Jets are far from Super Bowl contenders. The Patriots are a more talented, better-coached football team. These two played an overtime matchup earlier in 2012. However, the Jets have only beaten the Patriots in their second meeting of the season once since 2007. The Patriots are a solid bet against a lackluster Jets team in Week 12.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman
The Atlanta Falcons have had a rough last two games. Although their 9-1 record portrays them as the class of the NFL, they have looked vulnerable as of late. In Sunday's matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, quarterback Matt Ryan threw five interceptions. The Falcons managed to escape with a 23-19 victory, but they did not play championship-caliber football this past weekend.
All that said, Atlanta is a no-brainer to pick against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend. Obviously, Ryan's interceptions are disconcerting. However, the Falcons still found a way to win the game. If they can still win after surrendering six turnovers, then they will be nearly impossible to beat once they correct the issue.
Atlanta will bring the league's third-ranked passing offense down to Tampa Bay to play the league's last ranked passing defense. Ryan should have no issues finding holes in the Buccaneers secondary. As a pick'em game, the Falcons should be an easy choice in Week 12.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson
This is a matchup between two young, up-and-coming NFL quarterbacks. Both Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill have shown serious promise so far this season. Although neither have established themselves on the level of RG3 and Andrew Luck, both gunslingers have potential to be good NFL quarterbacks one day.
However, the quarterback play will not be the difference in this game. The Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks both possess capable, yet lackluster offenses. This game is going to be won on the defensive side of the ball, and the Seahawks have one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Seattle currently has the second-best pass defense in the NFL. The team gives up an average of 196.2 yards through the air per game. The Seahawks should not have too much trouble defending a rookie quarterback throwing to a mediocre wide receiver corps. Miami does not have the personnel to throw against the Seahawks, nor have they ever established themselves as a run-first football team this season.
If Russell Wilson finds the holes in Miami's porous secondary, this will be a long day for Dolphins fans. Seattle should comfortably cover the spread on the road.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning
It's hard to pick games with a spread this large. There is always a calculated amount of risk that comes with giving 10 points to the opponent. However, the Kansas City Chiefs' recent play makes this game the easiest pick of the lot.
The Chiefs lost to the Cincinnati Bengals this past weekend by a score of 28-6. Kansas City went 1-for-11 on third down and failed to reach the end zone even once. Sunday was an embarrassing moment for a squad that hoped to build upon its strong finish last season and make some noise in 2012.
On the flip side of the coin, the Denver Broncos have Peyton Manning under center. The Chiefs will try defending Manning with their ninth-ranked pass defense. In fact, their pass defense has been the lone bright spot on a disastrous season. That said, the Broncos are above and beyond Kansas City on offense and on defense.
If Denver comes to play 60 minutes of focused football, it should walk away with more than a 10-point victory.