Are Tom Brady and the Patriots a good pick against the spread in Week 12?
After a fairly uneventful Week 10, we were treated to an intriguing Week 11 in which most of what we thought we knew about the NFL was thrown out the window.
The Jaguars put up 37 on the Texans' highly touted defense, the Browns took the Cowboys to overtime and the Falcons managed to win against the Cardinals with Matt Ryan throwing five interceptions.
The playoff picture is beginning to take shape, and many games in Week 12 have major postseason implications.
Let's look at the latest odds and picks against the spread for Week 12.
*Home teams are shown in CAPS
The Texans got a major scare last week against the Jaguars and needed overtime to dispose of a team they were more than two-touchdown favorites against.
The Texans' highly touted defense allowed 37 points to the worst offense in football—and it was without its best player, Maurice Jones-Drew.
However, the tight contest with an inferior opponent will likely serve as a wake-up call for the Texans, especially this close to the postseason.
Detroit gave away a game against the Packers and has not been able to capitalize in important matchups this season. Now at 4-6, getting to the playoffs seems like an unlikely scenario for Matt Stafford and the Lions.
The Texans will bounce back in convincing fashion against the Lions.
Texans 35, Detroit 20
The Cowboys had to rally from a 13-0 halftime deficit against the Browns at home, and they repeatedly looked like they were going to find a way to lose this game. However, kicker Dan Bailey forced overtime with just two seconds remaining in regulation and then won the game with a 38-yard kick in overtime.
Washington and Robert Griffin III looked flawless against the struggling Eagles. RG3 had only one incompletion in 15 attempts, threw for four touchdowns and was the game's leading rusher with 84 yards. Even if the Redskins are not playoff bound, the fanbase should feel good about having its quarterback of the future under center.
The most telling stat going into this matchup are the team’s turnover ratios. Dallas' is minus-nine, while Washington's is plus-10.
Second-year outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan should have a field day against the Cowboys' struggling offensive line, and with no real Dallas ground game to speak of, Kerrigan will have plenty of chances to use his pass-rushing skills
Washington 24, Cowboys 21
New England asserted its dominance over the Colts on Sunday. The nine-point spread seemed insane coming into the game considering how well Indy had been playing, but Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots pounded the Colts into submission, 59-24.
The Jets finally managed to do something right against the Rams last week. Mark Sanchez played smart, efficient football and the Jets were able to put the drama of a tumultuous season behind them for at least a few days.
The Patriots struggled against the Jets in their first matchup at Gillette Stadium, but managed to narrowly escape with a 29-26 overtime victory.
The absence of the injured Rob Gronkowski will be a factor, but with Aaron Hernandez and Visanthe Shiancoe still in the lineup, the creative Patriots should be fine.
Shiancoe has yet to catch a ball as a Patriot, but was a solid, consistent producer in Minnesota where he totaled over 45 catches and 500 yards in his last three seasons there. He's no Gronk by any stretch of the imagination, but he's still a solid No. 2 option at tight end.
The Patriots are hitting their stride as the playoffs get closer and will put away the Jets early.
Patriots 35, Jets 20
The Miami Dolphins will look to take advantage of a couple extra days of practice after dropping their Thursday night encounter to the Bills last weekend. The Dolphins were the surprise of the season before fizzling out as of late.
The Seahawks have played great at home (5-0) but have struggled on the road (1-4). While the Seahawks will be playing in the warm weather of Miami, a trip across the country is nothing to take lightly.
The matchup to watch will be between Marshawn Lynch and the Dolphins' ninth-ranked rushing defense. If the bruising back is able to find some running room, Seattle will have a great chance, but I suspect Miami will contain him and pull out the home win.
Miami 20, Seattle 17
Both the Titans and Jaguars surprised in their last performances.
The Titans were a 37-3 winner in their most recent outing on the road against the Dolphins.
Jacksonville has lost seven straight but looked like an NFL team for the first time in a while by forcing overtime against the Texans. The Jags did it without Maurice Jones-Drew too. Chad Henne and Justin Blackmon had great chemistry in the game, but before we anoint them the new hot duo, we should wait a few more games.
While the performance Sunday was inspiring, it still seems ridiculous to think that the Jaguars will be competitive week in and week out. The Jaguars average the fewest yards per game in the league and are allowing 28.9 points and 414.2 yards per game
The Titans still have an outside shot at the playoffs and Chris Johnson has looked resurgent after a slow start to the season.
Jacksonville may keep it close for a while, but the Titans will outlast the Jags.
Tennessee 24, Jacksonville 17
The Bengals have reeled off two convincing victories—albeit one was against the Chiefs—and have their sights set on the playoffs.
Cincinnati does not face a team with a winning record until Week 16, and that is against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team it is battling for a wild-card spot.
The Raiders are looking like they want to get involved in the race for the No. 1 pick in recent weeks. The defense has allowed 38-plus points in three straight weeks and a banged-up rushing attack ranks second-to-last in the NFL.
A.J. Green should have a field day against the Oakland's banged up secondary. Expect the Bengals to continue their strong push for the playoffs.
Cincinnati 35, Oakland 20
The Steelers are now down to their third option under center. After Ben Roethlisberger suffered a rare dislocated rib injury in Week 10, backup Byron Leftwich was diagnosed with two fractured ribs after Sunday night’s 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Mike Tomlin has confirmed that Leftwich is out and Charlie Batch will start Sunday (via CBS Sports).
Cleveland played well against the Cowboys on Sunday despite losing in overtime. The team has made the most of a 29-year-old rookie under center and a young-but-tough running back.
The Browns make a few mistakes every game that cost them wins. With more experience and a few more pieces, the Browns could go from a team that loses close games to a team that wins close games.
However, the Steelers need a win Sunday. With Cincinnati nipping at their heels and Baltimore building on its NFC North lead, a loss to a lowly Browns team could have major implications on the Steelers' postseason hopes.
Pittsburgh's No. 1 ranked pass defense should have a post-Thanksgiving feast against Brandon Weeden, and the Steelers should come out with a big win.
Pittsburgh 17, Cleveland 13
Denver continued its march to the postseason with a win against San Diego on Sunday, just about locking up the AFC West.
It wasn't all good news, though, as Willis McGahee suffered a torn MCL and a knee fracture and was placed on recallable IR. No other back on the Broncos' roster has more than 200 yards or one touchdown.
Denver was not exactly running the ball down opponents' throats, ranking 19th in the league at 105.3 yards per game, so the offense should be able to sustain its quality with MVP candidate Peyton Manning slinging the ball from under center.
Kansas City is riding a seven-game losing streak and has more problems than it can count. The team does have the benefit of being home at Arrowhead, but staying within two touchdowns of the high-flying Denver offense would be an accomplishment for the Chiefs.
Expect to see AFC sack leader Von Miller doing some more ridiculous sack dances and the offense putting together another 30-plus point performance.
Denver 38, Kansas City 17
The Bills managed an impressive Thursday night win against the Miami Dolphins and have found a breakout star in C.J. Spiller.
The Colts were thoroughly unimpressive against the Patriots, and Andrew Luck had a few rookie moments that led to interceptions.
Luck and the Colts are still clinging to a playoff spot, and a loss against Buffalo would prove to be costly with the Bengals just a game behind and playing Oakland this week.
The Bills defense has played well in recent weeks, and if the front seven can get sustained pressure against Luck, it may lead to an interception or two.
However, Luck and the Colts will get back on track at home, where the team is 4-1 this season. With the playoffs on the line and the motivation of playing for coach Chuck Pagano, the Colts will come out with the important victory.
Colts 24, Bills 17
Atlanta is a deceptive team. The Falcons were the last undefeated team in the NFL at 8-0, but lost to the Saints and barely squeaked out a win against Arizona.
Matt Ryan had his worst game of the season against the Cardinals, throwing five interceptions. The Falcons were lucky that the Cardinals have the third-worst scoring offense or they would have likely suffered their second loss in as many weeks.
Tampa Bay has found a way to play its best when it has mattered most, and its clutch play was on full display in a thrilling overtime win against the Panthers on Sunday.
Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson have been a lethal combination and rookie running back Doug Martin will only get better as the season moves on.
The Falcons have failed to find any consistency in the running game, which has led to a heavy dependence on Ryan. The Atlanta signal-caller has thrown 98 times in the last two games combined.
This may not be a bad thing against the Bucs. Tampa Bay has the worst pass defense in the league, allowing 312.6 yards per game. Ryan should be able to find Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez for big plays.
Tampa Bay is hot so it is hard to pick against them, but the Falcons need this one for their confidence.
Atlanta 27, Tampa Bay 21
Both the Bears and Vikings are in the heat of the race for the NFC North crown. The Bears are tied for the division with the Packers at 7-3, while the Vikings are just one game behind at 6-4.
Chicago looked abysmal on Monday Night Football against the 49ers. The offensive line play has been beyond bad and led to backup Jason Campbell throwing for just 107 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Campbell was sacked six times and pressured in 11 other instances.
The Vikings went into their Week 11 bye on a high note after beating the Lions. Adrian Peterson has looked unbelievable this season in his return from knee surgery and currently leads the league in rushing.
This game has huge playoff implications. The Bears need to put the lopsided Monday night loss behind them and move on, whether it’s Campbell or Cutler under center.
If the Bears can contain Peterson and get out to an early lead, the Vikings would likely become one-dimensional and stop feeding their most explosive weapon. It will not be an easy task, but the Chicago defense will be more than ready to prove itself after allowing 32 points in prime time.
Chicago 24, Vikings 17
This is one of those picks you should lock up early—real early.
Baltimore’s offense was not overly impressive against the Steelers, but the Ravens still managed to pull out the win.
Ed Reed’s suspension has been lifted, so the veteran safety will be on the field Sunday to harass the struggling Philip Rivers.
Rivers has been downright awful this season, but it has mostly been due to bad protection from his offensive line. That protection will not get any better against Terrell Suggs and the Ravens defense.
The Chargers do have history on their side. Last season, Baltimore was torn apart by Rivers and his gigantic receivers, but now Vincent Jackson is on the Bucs and Rivers is in a major slump.
Norv Turner’s team is known for late-season runs, but even with a depleted secondary, the Ravens should run away with this one.
Baltimore 24, San Diego 14
The 49ers made the Bears look silly on Monday Night Football in Week 11, but the Saints are a whole different monster.
Jim Harbaugh made a fatal mistake for saying what he did in his postgame press conference about his quarterback situation. Colin Kaepernick was good in relief of the concussed Alex Smith, but Smith has a veteran presence and has played well this year. Smith ranks third in passer rating and first in completion percentage.
With the added pressure of knowing his job is no longer safe, Smith may have issues—assuming he starts this week, which has not been announced by the team (via San Francisco Chronicle).
The Saints continue to surge after their 0-4 start to the season. The team seems to be hitting on all cylinders and should be a handful for the 49ers secondary. It will be quite the game watching the Saints second-ranked passing attack vs. the 49ers' second-ranked pass defense.
The Saints are at home in the raucous Superdome, which should give them the slight edge.
New Orleans 24, San Francisco 17
The Cardinals have not won a game since beating the Dolphins in Week 4.
The Rams have had an up-and-down season, but have played well against divisional opponents. The Rams have beaten both the Seahawks and Cardinals and tied the 49ers.
The Cardinals have the worst offensive line in football. It does not matter if it is Kevin Kolb, John Skelton or Ryan Lindley under center—whoever it is will be running for his life. The Cardinals have a top-10 defense, but the offense is putting up only 16.3 points per game, third-worst in the NFL.
Expect Chris Long and Robert Quinn to have big games rushing the passer and flustering the incompetent Cardinals offense.
St. Louis 20, Arizona 10
The New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers face off on Sunday Night Football in a rematch of one of last year’s playoff games.
The Green Bay Packers are on a roll and are back in first place in the NFC North. It took a late run against the Lions to get a win in Week 11, but Aaron Rodgers made use of his stable of weapons, even with Greg Jennings sidelined.
The Giants went into their bye week full of disappointment. Barely losing against Pittsburgh was one thing, but in Week 10 the Giants got run out of the building against the Bengals.
It’s hard to pick against the Giants coming off a bye week, but the team has been historically bad in November and the Packers are on a five-game winning streak.
Rodgers and his weapons on the outside will overwhelm the Giants secondary, even if Eli Manning’s arm had some time off to recover from fatigue.
Green Bay 31, NY Giants 24
What a yawner of a Monday night matchup.
Cam Newton is caught in a sophomore slump and the Eagles are playing with rookie quarterback Nick Foles under center.
The game will really be interesting just to see who manages to be the bigger train wreck.
I'd put my money on Cam Newton and the Panthers to win this one.
Neither team has anything to play for, but the Eagles are in full free-fall mode. Newton is trying to silence critics and will be the most explosive player on the field. The Panthers defense should get at least a few turnovers off Foles.
Carolina 24, Philadelphia 16