Week 11 in the NFL was the last week featuring byes, and we’ve now officially made it to the home stretch of the regular season. We head into Week 12 with a notable amount of conversation regarding quarterback performances, injuries and controversies, and many teams have questions to answer before heading into either the playoffs or the offseason.
It was a good week to be on top, as only the Bears and Giants lost among division leaders, and as we move forward, more and more playoff questions are being both asked and answered.
After going 0-3 in Thursday night’s game, I had some catching up to do and did so in flawless form, going 13-0 Straight Up over the week’s remaining contests. This remarkable number was soiled, however, as teams such as Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Baltimore all failed to cover the spread, leading to a disappointing 7-7 mark ATS. A horrible Over/Under total turned the week into a bit of a wash, leaving me with the following through 12 weeks:
Straight Up: 107-52 (67 percent)
Against the Spread: 80-79 (50 percent)
Over/Under: 81-78 (51 percent)
As my Straight Up tally continues to rise toward 70 percent (one of my preseason goals), the ATS number is stalled around .500 after another mediocre week. With 16 games per week from here on out, however, there’s even more opportunity to turn this number around and make a run for the mid-fifties.
Let’s start with the Turkey Day matchups.
Houston Texans (-3) at Detroit Lions (O/U = 50.5)
Houston is coming off a head scratcher as they head to Ford Field for Thanksgiving Day. The AFC leading Texans required overtime against the lowly Jaguars to finish the deal in a narrow 43-37 victory. Their division lead grew to three games in the win, and despite the lackluster victory, they appear to be in the driver’s seat in the AFC Playoff race.
The Lions did a respectable job of slowing down the Packers last week but couldn’t put together enough offense to pull out a win. Detroit drops to 4-6 with the loss and will need a lot of help to make a run at the playoffs. I look for the continued growth of their young offensive weapons, but my hopes are not high for a postseason run of any kind.
Washington Redskins (+3) at Dallas Cowboys (O/U = 48)
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins used the bye week in Week 10 to their advantage and turned the extra prep time into a thrashing of the Eagles. Griffin has looked spectacular all year, but his noteworthy performances haven’t led to many victories. As Griffin begins to pull down more wins such as this, I expect a collective sigh of relief from Washington’s fan base as they move forward with their quarterback of the future.
Similar to the Texans, the Cowboys struggled to earn a win against one of the league’s worst teams in Cleveland and also needed extra time to pull out the victory. Dez Bryant put together a stellar 145 yard, one-touchdown performance in the win. If he and Tony Romo can continue to connect, they have a real shot at the NFC East crown, despite early season struggles.
This is a great Thanksgiving matchup, and something tells me that RGIII will shine on the big stage. Skins in the upset.
New England Patriots (-6.5) at New York Jets (O/U = 48.5)
The Patriots made it four straight wins in a convincing victory over Indy last week, but it came at great cost. Amidst another two-TD day, New England TE Rob Gronkowski broke his arm and will miss at least a month as he heals from surgery. Gronk currently shares the NFL lead for TD receptions with 10, and the impact of his loss cannot be overstated.
A small bit of relief found the Jets in Week 11 as they took down the Rams on the road. There wasn’t a whole lot of “wow-factor” in the win, and it’s hard to give NY much of a bump from a game in which they only managed 289 total yards from scrimmage. With that being said, a win is a win, and sometimes it doesn’t take a lot to get a team moving in the right direction.
Straight: New England
Spread: New England
Tennessee Titans (-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (O/U = 43.5)
As mentioned previously, the Jags took the Texans all the way to OT, only to find themselves on the losing end of yet another game. In the loss the WR tandem of Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts combined for 300-plus yards and two touchdowns, a good sign of things to come for this unproven offense.
The Titans had their bye in Week 11 and look to continue on the winning trend they entered that bye with. After a convincing win against Miami, it remains to be seen if this team can perform consistently, or if that 37-3 win against the Dolphins was just a fluke. I’m not sure which way I’m leaning towards, but against the Jags I’ll lean in anybody’s favor.
Buffalo Bills (-3) at Indianapolis Colts (O/U = 52)
In one of the biggest games of his young professional career, Andrew Luck fell victim to the Pats’ onslaught in a disappointing loss. Even in defeat, Luck was able to muster another 300-plus yard performance and continues to prove his first overall selection was a great decision by Indy.
The Bills pulled out a Thursday night win over Miami, their first victory in almost a month. With Fred Jackson sidelined, fill in C.J. Spiller continued to produce, maintaining his lead leading position in yards per carry at 6.6. The Colts have been marginal against the run this year, so I expect a strong game from Spiller here.
After getting a wake up call at home last week, I think Luck puts in enough work from Monday-Saturday to earn a victory here against the Bills.
Pittsburgh Steelers () at Cleveland Browns (O/U =) (Numbers currently unavailable due to Roethlisberger injury)
Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers looked somewhat inept against the Ravens in Week 11, and with the QB likely out against Cleveland, it will be up to Byron Leftwich yet again to handle the offense. The Steelers defense really stepped up when they needed to, allowing under 300 yards total offense to a Baltimore team that was rolling, so I expect much of the same against an inferior Browns attack.
Cleveland lost yet again at the hands of Dallas and continue on through another terrible season which isn’t providing much hope to Browns fans. Trent Richardson continues to be their only reliable source of offense, and QB Brandon Weeden will need to put together a solid couple months to avoid questions about a replacement come offseason time.
Oakland Raiders (+8) at Cincinnati Bengals (O/U = 49)
The Bengals have won two straight by a total of 59-19 and look to be in a serious groove offensively. Along with the standard TD to AJ Green, Andy Dalton has also found his other targets for scores such as Mohamed Sanu and Jermaine Gresham. This offense can be very dangerous when they’re clicking, and I doubt any defense is looking forward to facing them the rest of the season.
Oakland fell victim to the Saints in Week 11 and have now lost three straight. The only real bright spot for the Raiders has been RB Marcel Reece who had almost 200 all-purpose yards in the loss. Reece is a spectacular weapon in the passing game as well as the run attack, and it will be interesting to see how the Oakland coaching staff handles the return of Darren McFadden when the time comes.
Denver Broncos (-10.5) at Kansas City Chiefs (O/U = 44.5)
In another solid performance for Peyton Manning, the veteran QB threw for 270 and three touchdowns in a win over division rival San Diego. The Bronco D forced three turnovers as well and continues to perform at a high level to match their offensive counterparts. The Broncos now have a three game lead in the AFC South and look good for a playoff berth as the season winds down.
The Chiefs lost again in Week 11, this time to the Bengals, and their losing streak has now grown to seven games. With Brady Quinn and Matt Cassell splitting time this team is hardly solidified on offense, and if it weren’t for dynamic RB Jamaal Charles, it would be hard to see any points going up on the board.
Seattle Seahawks (-3) at Miami Dolphins (O/U = 37.5)
Coming off of their bye, the Seahawks look to trim down San Francisco’s lead in the division as they travel to Miami for an important matchup. Consistent performances by Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson on offense have proven to be plenty enough to supplement their defense as they have won four of their last six. I expect this team to continue to grow together and develop into a tough opponent for the final few weeks of the season.
Just when I thought the Dolphins had really turned things around they lost three-straight to Indy, Tennessee and Buffalo, and I’m back on the fence with this group. Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill has shown signs of a promising future, but repeated bad decisions have hurt his team, and he will need to continue to improve through the latter part of the year.
Atlanta Falcons (-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (O/U = 49)
The Falcons won in Week 11 to maintain their lead in the NFC South and travel to Tampa this week to see if they can push that lead even further. Atlanta got off to a slow start against the Cards but turned it on late to seal the win, a sure sign of a team in full control. Matt Ryan posted another 300-yard game and continues to be the leader of the conference’s leading team.
Having won four straight the Bucs may be the NFC’s hottest team at the moment, and a win against the Falcons would be huge in their hopes for a playoff berth. Josh Freeman has clearly turned a corner in his development, and with the additions of Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson the TB front office has done well to give the young QB weapons.
This will be the true test for the Bucs, and I’m going out on a limb by saying they win this statement game at home.
Straight: Tampa Bay
Spread: Tampa Bay
Minnesota Vikings () at Chicago Bears (O/U =) (Numbers currently unavailable due to Cutler injury)
Without Jay Cutler the Bears looked like a shell of a team against the fearsome 49ers defense on Monday night, and Chicago is surely hoping he is able to return for this divisional matchup. A defense which has been incredibly efficient on the year inexplicably gave up 30-plus to SF’s backup QB, and I expect them to come out with a chip on their shoulder here.
The Vikings had a bye last week after defeating Detroit the week before and could put themselves even with the division leading Bears with a win in this one. The Vikings, who started hot and then came back down to earth a bit, seem to have found their mojo again, and if Percy Harvin is able to play in this one, it could make a world of difference against this Bears D.
I like the Bears to take this one at home with Cutler or Campbell starting, but I think Jay will be back.
Baltimore Ravens (-1) at San Diego Chargers (O/U = 47)
The Ravens slowed down a bit from their 55-point explosion in Week 10 to eke out a narrow 13-10 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday night. Their offensive unit has been up and down all year, and these past two weeks have proven that point as well as any. Despite any inconsistency, they only have two losses on the year heading into this one.
The Chargers lost at home last week in a game that could have helped their playoff chances astronomically. Unfortunately for them, in losing to Denver they put themselves even further away from that possibility. Philip Rivers has looked fantastic at times this year but has also been deflated by costly mistakes, and that is a dangerous characteristic against the opportunistic defense of the Ravens.
St. Louis Rams (+2.5) at Arizona Cardinals (O/U = 37.5)
This battle of the bottom two in the NFC West pits the Rams against the Cardinals in a matchup that should be seen as a must-win for both teams. The Rams were unable to follow-up their impressive tie with San Francisco in Week 10 with a similar performance, as they were dropped 27-13 by the struggling Jets. Now that they have seen they can compete with the best the division has to offer, however, I suspect they will enter this game with a bit more confidence than they have in the past.
Arizona’s momentous slide continued as they squandered an early lead against Atlanta, which eventually turned into a loss. With six losses in a row this team which looked so promising early on is approaching some of the lowest depths they’ve seen in a while, and that’s saying something.
I don’t think Arizona is going to lose the rest of their games, and I expect them to pull this one out at home to at least partially right the ship.
San Francisco 49ers (-3) at New Orleans Saints (O/U = 49)
In one of the week’s best matchups the 49ers travel to the Superdome to take on the rejuvenated Saints. After total domination in Week 11’s Monday night victory, I think the Niners will come in with a lot of momentum, and I expect Drew Brees to be hounded throughout the game. Aldon Smith put on a defensive show like I’ve never seen against the Bears last week, and the O-Line of the Saints better study up if they hope to find a different outcome than Chicago did.
New Orleans has now won three straight to move back to .500 on the year and look to be making a run at a playoff spot that seemed so unlikely after their 0-4 start. Since Joe Vitt returned to the sidelines, there has been a more confident appearance from the team as a whole, and I expect a competitive game here.
In one of the tougher picks of the week I’m taking San Francisco on the road. After the performance they put on on both sides of the ball last week, it just wouldn’t feel right to pick against them.
Straight: San Francisco
Spread: San Francisco
Green Bay Packers (+2.5) at New York Giants (O/U = 49.5)
The Packers moved to 7-3 with their fifth straight win last week over Detroit and sit tied atop the NFC North with the Bears. This team has pretty much lived up to the hype they generated before the season, and have even done so without Clay Matthews’ presence over the past couple weeks. They will match up with a Giants team in desperate need of a win here, though, and could find one of their toughest opponents of the year.
After a spectacular start to the year Eli Manning has fallen back down to earth over the last month or so, throwing for just one TD and six interceptions over NY’s past four games. With their divisional lead dwindled down to just one game over Dallas this is a crucial game for the Giants moving forward into the playoff hunt.
This should be a great Sunday night showdown, but I’m taking the Packers on the road in a bit of an upset.
Straight: Green Bay
Spread: Green Bay
Carolina Panthers () at Philadelphia Eagles (O/U =) (Numbers currently unavailable due to Vick injury)
Heading into this Monday night matchup, the Eagles have lost six straight, and the fact that Andy Reid still has a job is a bit of a surprise to me. With Nick Foles at the helm they were unable to produce any more positivity on offense than they could with Michael Vick, and there are a lot of questions to be answered by this team moving forward. A home game against a below-average team is surely a welcome sight for this squad.
The Panthers fell in OT to the Bucs last week and have now lost two straight heading into this matchup. This team has been below the bar offensively and defensively throughout the year, and head coach Ron Rivera has not had the impact that the Carolina front office thought he would when they hired him.
If the Eagles are ever going to win, it should be in this game.
All spreads and Over/Under numbers provided courtesy of VegasInsider.com