I was pretty much guaranteed to have a bad week with the picks last week. I was on vacation at my parents’ house and honestly I didn’t spend as much time on it as I usually do.
I was at the game, in the Dawg Pound, going nuts, with a lousy Steelers fan right in front of me. It was my first time watching a Browns game from the Dawg Pound, and I couldn’t have asked for a better game. It was glorious.
OK, sure, we could ask for a few more points from the offense, especially considering the great field position they always had.
But as a defensive coach myself that was a beautiful masterpiece that Dick Jauron’s defense painted. Pittsburgh’s offense was totally inept with Charlie Batch, but the Browns hit their players so hard so many times and truly forced the majority of those turnovers.
The best of them were T.J. Ward’s decleater of Jonathan Dwyer and big pop of Chris Rainey. That’s the way defensive football is supposed to be played.
So with that kind of effort as our motivation, let’s hit the Week 13 NFL lines…
(Remember to gamble at your own risk. The home team is in CAPS. The lines are from SportsBook.com.)
Browns (+1.5) over RAIDERS
Thank goodness that Brandon Weeden bounced back quickly from his head injury and will be available to play this Sunday in Oakland. I was dreading having to watch “Captain Check-down” Colt McCoy.
I must say that I was actually surprised to see just how many Browns fans still think that Colt could do a better job than Weeden. I don’t get it at all. I don’t see how putting in a QB with the limitations that Colt has would be an improvement.
Mark Bechtel had a very good article in this week’s Sports Illustrated about the Browns, Weeden, and the struggles the team has had getting a consistent QB. He compared Weeden’s stats through 11 games with Peyton Manning’s rookie stats through 11 games, and they are remarkably similar. (Weeden: 3-8 record, 2,456 yards, 55.9% completion, 12 TDs, 13 INTs, 4 games with 85 passer rating or better; Manning: 2-9 record, 2,453 yards, 54.8% completion, 16 TDs, 22 INTs, only one game of better than 85 passer rating.)
Neither Bechtel, myself, nor anyone would ever suggest that Weeden will become Manning. That would be crazy.
But Weeden has the physical tools to be a great QB, and has played very well at times this season. He’s certainly had a better rookie season than any new-era Browns QB before him. And he has a wins over the Steelers and the Bengals.
The only other QB to do that? Tim Couch.
So can we stop trying to run every QB out of town before they get a chance to prove themselves?
As for the game on Sunday, the Raiders are a terrible team. They’re currently on a four-game losing streak in which they have been outscored by an astounding 80 points. To put that in perspective, even though the Browns own an identical 3-8 record they’re net total for point differential on the season is minus-39. The Raiders are minus-138, only two points better than the hapless Chiefs.
The only thing the Raiders do well is throw the ball, and with Carson Palmer, they have the eighth-best passing attack in the NFL. But other than that, they’re terrible, especially in run defense.
On what is projected to be a very sloppy day with a lot of rain and wind, the Browns should lean heavily on Trent Richardson and the running game.
A win on Sunday would break a 12-game road losing streak for the Browns. So here’s hoping.
BEARS (-4) over Seahawks
There’s no way around it, the Seahawks just aren’t a very good team away from Seattle (1-5 on the road). Not to mention that the Bears are 5-1 at home this season and are coming off a beat down of the Vikings.
Vikings (+8) over PACKERS
This will be an interesting matchup. The Packers are susceptible to a good pass rush, which the Vikings do have.
Both of these teams are coming off bad losses and will be looking to rebound. I think the Packers will win ultimately because they have too much firepower, but Adrian Peterson should have a good game and will keep the Vikings within striking distance to the end.
RAMS (+7.5) over 49ers
The Rams actually aren’t terrible. In fact, just three weeks ago in San Francisco they played this 49ers team to a tie. So it would stand to reason that in St. Louis they should at least keep it within a touchdown, right?
JETS (-4.5) over Cardinals
I think we can all be pretty sure that the Cardinals aren’t any good by now. They have lost seven straight since opening the season 4-0 and appear to not have any offense at all.
Arizona is second-to-last in the NFL in both total offense and points per game. They have a very good defense, but their lack of offense gives them very little chance in any of these games.
After the Jets, they play at Seattle, then home for Detroit and Chicago before finishing the season in San Francisco. They very well could lose out and finish the season 4-12. Nothing against the Cardinals or their fans but I, for one, am rooting for that to happen…just because.
Panthers (-3) over CHIEFS
(Author’s edit: This was originally written before the tragedy at the Chiefs facility on Saturday morning. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the Chiefs family especially Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli. I can’t image what those two men are going through today. I hope the NFL does the right thing and postpones this game at least a day or two. It would be unthinkable for that team to play only a day after this tragedy.)
If Cam Newton can play as well against this week’s crappy opponent as he did against last week’s crappy opponent (306 yards and 2 TDs passing, 54 yards and 2 TDs rushing against the Eagles) then the three points should be no problem.
Colts (+4.5) over LIONS
I believe in this Colts team. Maybe to a fault, but I’m buying into the whole “Chuckstrong” thing. You can’t quantify the effect that a unifying effort like this has on a team. It’s one thing when a QB who wears a helmet for a living shaves his head, but when cheerleaders are doing it, too, you have to take notice.
The Lions, on the other hand, don’t seem to be unified in anything. They seem to be a team that’s all form but no substance. They strike me as more of a collection of players than an actual team.
Jaguars (+6) over BILLS
Does anybody really care about this game? Angus T. Jones has actually been pleading with people to not watch this abomination.
Just bank on the fact that Chad Henne hasn’t been all that bad since taking over at QB for the Jaguars. And in what world should the Bills ever be favored by six points?
Patriots (-9) over DOLPHINS
I thought long and hard about this one. Nine points is a lot of points, and initially I was just going to take Miami on the general premise that Dolphins aren’t terrible.
But I can’t get past two things: 1) The Dolphins lost 37-3 at home against the Titans just three weeks ago; and 2) the Patriots completely obliterated the Jets on Thanksgiving Day and now have a few extra days to get ready for this one.
Every time I feel like New England has lost something and isn’t a legitimate threat to win the Super Bowl, they come out and dominate like they’re the best team in the NFL.
As crazy as it sounds for a team that’s been to five and won three Super Bowls in the past decade, I actually think the Patriots are playing with a little “nobody believes in us” attitude.
Texans (-6.5) over TITANS
The Texans just continue to roll along and play great football. Meanwhile the Titans do not.
They blew out Miami two games ago but their loss to Jacksonville last week was certainly eye-opening (especially coming off a bye week). I don’t see any way they keep this one within a touchdown.
Buccaneers (+7) over BRONCOS
I had Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers beating the Falcons last week. They took Atlanta to the limit, losing by one, but I still believe in the Bucs. They have a really good offense, but their defense is perplexing. They have the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL but the No. 32 passing defense.
The pass defense could be very problematic, going up against Peyton Manning, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. But I believe that Freeman and Doug Martin with the Bucs offense will keep this one close, and they may just pull out the upset.
Bengals (-1.5) over CHARGERS
I have no reason to believe that the Chargers can win this game, given how they have played over the last three to six weeks. Their four wins this season are over Oakland, Tennessee and Kansas City twice. The common thread in all those teams is that they’re all awful. Case closed.
Steelers (+8) over RAVENS
Can someone explain to me how a team with Ray Rice at running back can have only the 21st-best rushing offense in the NFL?
Memo to the Ravens: maybe use your best player and run the ball every now and then.
Actually I hate the Ravens, so just ignore me and common sense and continue to chuck the ball 35 times a game and squeak by mediocre teams.
And yes, I know I picked a team that will be quarterbacked by Charlie Batch.
COWBOYS (-10) over Eagles
The Eagles are a dead team walking right now. They’ll probably be without Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, and DeSean Jackson; they have lost seven straight games; and they got blown out the last time they played Dallas.
REDSKINS (+3) over Giants
This is a big game for Robert Griffin III and the Redskins. They still have an outside shot of making the playoffs if they can win this game as their schedule to finish the season isn’t super tough.
The Giants are coming off a big win last week, which gives me some pause, but they’re so up and down every week so who knows what team will show up for them? Plus if you remember back to Week 7 the Redskins should have won that game except that their defensive backs forgot to cover Victor Cruz en route to a 77-yard last-minute touchdown.
I’ll take RGIII and that No. 1 rushing attack to take down the Giants this week.
Last week: 6-9
Browns picks: 6-4-1
You can follow Benjamin Flack on Twitter @ClevelandFlack.