NFL Picks Week 12: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Picks

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystNovember 25, 2015

NFL Picks Week 12: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Picks

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Things are starting to sort themselves out in the National Football League.

    We know some things for certain. The 10-0 New England Patriots are good. So are the equally undefeated Carolina Panthers, the 7-3 Green Bay Packers and the 8-2 Arizona Cardinals.

    However, for each thing we know, there are two we don't. Are the suddenly reeling Atlanta Falcons really any better than the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Are the Kansas City Chiefs the team we thought the Oakland Raiders were?

    And how good are the bumbling Cincinnati Bengals and Brock Osweiler's Denver Broncos? Are they contenders or pretenders?

    OK, so maybe things aren't that sorted out after all.

    Still, there are plenty of intriguing storylines and matchups to be thankful for as Week 12 of the 2015 season gets underway.

    Even if they don't make picking the games any easier for the National Lead Writers and NFL Analysts here at Bleacher Report.

    That didn't stop them from trying, beginning with a Turkey Day triple-dip.

Roll Call/Standings

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    That's a bit more like it.

    After a Week 10 that we just won't talk about anymore, our panel of pundits predicted with more proficiency in Week 11. Every scribe managed at least as many correct picks as wrong ones, and two writers hit double-digits.

    NFL Analyst Brad Gagnon led the way with 11 correct selections, enough to leapfrog him ahead of yours truly and into third place behind NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller and overall leader Mike Freeman.

    Gary Davenport: NFL Analyst 9-5 (96-64)

    Mike Freeman: NFL National Lead Writer 9-5 (100-60)

    Brad Gagnon: NFL Analyst 11-3 (97-63)

    Matt Miller: NFL National Lead Writer 7-7 (98-62)

    Ty Schalter: NFL National Lead Writer 9-5 (84-76)

    Brent Sobleski: NFL Analyst 8-6 (95-65)

    Mike Tanier: NFL National Lead Writer 8-6 (91-69)

    Sean Tomlinson: NFL Analyst 10-4 (95-65)

     

    Consensus: 9-5 (99-61)

Philadelphia Eagles (4-6) at Detroit Lions (3-7)

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    The Pick: Detroit Lions (6-2)

    Break up the Lions!

    Riding a two-game winning streak into their Thanksgiving Day matchup with the reeling Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions have established the closest thing to positive momentum this team is probably going to get in 2015.

    As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports, hope springs eternal in the Motor City:

    Three weeks ago, the Detroit Lions were the worst team in the league, in the midst of blowing up their front office with more changes on the way. They had just lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in embarrassing fashion in London, and with a trip to Lambeau Field awaiting after the bye, their season was on the verge of total collapse.

    But a funny thing happened on the way to the No. 1 pick. The Lions beat the Packers on the road for the first time in more than two decades, and they followed that up with another win Sunday against the Oakland Raiders at Ford Field.

    As they get ready for their annual Thanksgiving game Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions suddenly have a pulse again and people everywhere are asking themselves a version of what guard Larry Warford said aloud Sunday: Why couldn't the Lions have played this way earlier in the year?

    OK, so "hope" and "eternal" may be pushing it. It's Detroit, after all.

    Still, Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Brad Gagnon wrote that he expects the Lions to play well in front of the home crowd on Thanksgiving:

    The Eagles are just bad, and now they're traveling to Detroit on extremely short rest for a game the Lions always seem to get up for (they've scored 105 points in their last three Thanksgiving games). Detroit is more talented than its record and is starting to play that way.

    Maybe Detroit really is more talented. Maybe the Eagles are just that bad.

    If our panel is right, there won't be any maybes about the temperature of Chip Kelly's seat by the time the Black Friday sales get rolling.

    Eagles: Tanier, Tomlinson

    Lions: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski

Carolina Panthers (10-0) at Dallas Cowboys (3-7)

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    The Pick: Carolina Panthers (7-1)

    Panthers head coach Ron Rivera knows a little something about 10-0 teams getting labeled underdogs.

    Rivera played for the 1985 Chicago Bears, widely considered the greatest single-season NFL team of all time. That team was 10-0, too. When the Bears faced a 7-3 Cowboys team in Week 11, they were installed as a two-point underdog, per ESPN.com's David Newton.

    They proceeded to beat Dallas' brains in to the tune of 44-0.

    But that Dallas team at least had a winning record. These Cowboys are 3-7, and yet, as Newton reported, Vegas oddsmakers opened with the Cowboys a one-point favorite.

    This fact did not escape Rivera's attention:

    Apparently, they know something we don’t, so we’re just going to prepare and get ourselves ready to play on Thursday.

    We’ll take it in stride. We’re going to play them one at a time. As far as we’re concerned, everybody is 0-0 and we’ll see how it comes out.

    We’ll show up.

    Of course, this may just be a little short-week motivation. Yes, the Cowboys opened as a slight favorite at some sports books, but Odds Shark had the Panthers as the one-point favorite in its first line of the week.

    If the Panthers show up like they did last week against Washington, then underdog or favorite, Romo or no Romo, the Cowboys will be in the same boat as their predecessors.

    And the talk of an undefeated season in Charlotte will only get louder.

    Panthers: Davenport, Freeman, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Cowboys: Gagnon

Chicago Bears (4-6) at Green Bay Packers (7-3)

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    The Pick: Green Bay Packers (8-0)

    Brett Favre is coming home.

    On Thursday at Lambeau Field. the iconic quarterback will have his No. 4 jersey retired at halftime of the Bears' tilt with the Packers.

    Fences will be mended. There will be cheers. Quite possibly a tear or two.

    All will be impeccably groomed.

    And as Michael Silver of NFL.com opined, it's long overdue:

    There might have been greater quarterbacks than Favre -- that's a never-ending topic of discussion for the bar room or TV studio -- but none has had a career more legendary, and no face of the franchise has been more revered by a fan base. That relationship became strained in the summer of 2008 when Favre called an audible on his exit plan, and he and Packer Nation were flat-out estranged when he returned 15 months later to lead the rival Minnesota Vikings to victory on an unthinkable Sunday at Lambeau.

    Yet I always regarded a reunion as inevitable; Favre, after all, had meant too much to the Packers, and vice-versa, for the bad blood to persist. And on Thursday night, when the soon-to-be-first-ballot-Hall-of-Fame quarterback returns to Lambeau to have his jersey retired at halftime of the Packers' game against the Chicago Bears, so many of us will be giving thanks.

    There will also be a football game played, and after the Packers re-established their status as top dog in the NFC North with a convincing win over the Minnesota Vikings last week, every member of our panel expects them to be victorious.

    Bears: Last year at Lambeau: 55-14 Packers

    Packers: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

Oakland Raiders (4-6) at Tennessee Titans (2-8)

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    Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    The Pick: Oakland Raiders (7-1)

    You'd think we'd learn.

    We may have gotten a little caught up in the Raiders being good. It's been a long time since they were. Maybe we made the 2015 incarnation out to be a little better than they actually are.

    It sure seems that way after three straight losses.

    Last week's setback at Detroit was enough for Elliot Harrison of NFL.com to drop the Raiders into the league's bottom half:

    Another disappointing day for the Raiders, whose playoff hopes took another dive, this time below sea level. At 4-6, Oakland will have an uphill battle, with the Chiefs streaking in the opposite direction and the Broncos likely unreachable in the AFC West at 8-2. The culprit in Detroit was an anemic passing attack, which contributed untimely drops. Next up: a must-win at Tennessee against a rookie QB. Must win, baby.

    OK, so the Raiders aren't as good as we thought. They aren't a playoff contender yet. There's still work to be done.

    But if Oakland really is headed in the right direction, if the success earlier this year was the start of something and not just fool's gold, then this week's matchup in Nashville is a game it has to win.

    If for no other reason than so we can start getting carried away again next week.

    Raiders: Davenport, Freeman, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Titans: Gagnon

Buffalo Bills (5-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-5)

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    The Pick: Kansas City Chiefs (8-0)

    It wasn't that long ago that the Kansas City Chiefs were given up for dead. With good reason.

    At 1-5, the Chiefs were done. All of one team since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 has made the playoffs after a start that bad, per Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports. One. The 1970 Cincinnati Bengals. That's it.

    That was then. This is now. And now, after four straight wins, those same Chiefs are right back in it heading into this week's game with the similarly 5-5 Buffalo Bills.

    And as Schwab notes, the Chiefs have a schedule that sets up very nicely for the hot streak to continue:

    Not one winning team among the six remaining opponents. Three of the worst teams in the NFL (San Diego, Baltimore and Cleveland) remain. The only .500 team, Buffalo, comes into Kansas City next week off a short week, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor hurt his shoulder on Monday night. Oakland should provide a couple tough games, but you have to figure the Chiefs get at least a split there.

    A 4-2 finish, given that schedule, is the minimum it seems. A 5-1 mark seems about right and 6-0 might happen. Could we see a team start 1-5 and finish 11-5? Take a look at that schedule again, and you tell me.

    The Chiefs are streaking. The Bills are stumbling. And the game is in one of the loudest venues in all of sports.

    Looks like the Chiefs may make a little history of their own in 2015.

    Bills: Just the possibility of EJ Manuel at Arrowhead? No thank you.

    Chiefs: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) at Indianapolis Colts (5-5)

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The Pick: Indianapolis Colts (5-3)

    Entering the 2015 season, the Indianapolis Colts were tabbed as a Super Bowl contender in some circles. Through much of the season, though, they've looked anything but.

    The Colts have pitched and lurched their way through the 2015 season. Quarterback Andrew Luck is sidelined indefinitely. And yet the Colts are 3-0 this year with the ageless Matt Hasselbeck at the helm, including last week's win over the Atlanta Falcons.

    According to Mike Garafalo of Fox Sports, the Colts are hopeful that this year's ugly wins will pay dividends down the line.

    As Hasselbeck told him, the team is just playing the hand it's been dealt:

    These are not perfect circumstances. You would love to have your starting quarterback playing, you would love to have a lot of different things. We have (new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski) calling plays now and doing a great job.

    It's hard. It's not how we envisioned this year going, but he's doing a great job, we're working together and we're working hard.

    If the season ended today, the Colts would be AFC South champions, but there's no margin for error this week against a Tampa Bay team riding a hot streak of its own.

    And the fact that the vote is as close as it is tells you more than a little about how far off script the 2015 Colts have wandered.

    Buccaneers: Gagnon, Sobleski, Tomlinson

    Colts: Davenport, Freeman, Miller, Schalter, Tanier

New York Giants (5-5) at Washington Redskins (4-6)

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    Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    The Pick: New York Giants (7-1)

    The New York Giants are in first place in the same manner in which the Indianapolis Colts are in first place. Someone has to lead their respective divisions, even if no one really deserves to.

    You know it's been an underwhelming season when the road map to a playoff berth (such as the one Steve Serby of the New York Post recently proposed) calls for the team to finish with a sterling record of 9-7:

    The Big Blueprint: Win nine games.

    Go 4-2 in this six-game season that awaits you and you are virtually guaranteed an invitation to what Bill Parcells used to call The Tournament.

    And so much the better, for potential tiebreaker purposes in the unlikely event that Tony Romo and the Cowboys run the table, if two of those four victories come against the Redskins and Eagles.

    The only surefire way for the Giants to get in is to win the division, with the 7-3 Vikings, 6-4 Falcons, 5-5 Seahawks and even the 5-5 Bucs eyeing the two wild-card berths.

    Eli Manning gives the Giants the edge at quarterback in five of the six remaining games on their schedule, so there’s that.

    That blueprint includes a win over the Redskins Sunday, who were last seen getting pounded by the Carolina Panthers a week ago:

    The Giants have beaten the 4-6 Redskins, who were brutalized by Cam Newton, five straight times, including last season’s 45-14 romp at FedEx Field when TE Larry Donnell caught three TD passes. Prince Amukamara, who intercepted Cousins in Week 3, returns just in time for DeSean Jackson.

    Don't snicker too much about the NFC Least leaders.

    In 2011, the Giants parlayed nine wins into the Lombardi Trophy.

    Maybe Eli Manning just likes taking the scenic route to the postseason.

    Giants: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Redskins: Schalter

New Orleans Saints (4-6) at Houston Texans (5-5)

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The Pick: Houston Texans (5-3)

    For most of this season, the belief was that no matter how bad things got in Indianapolis, the Colts would make the playoffs. There's bad, and then there's the rest of the AFC South.

    Well, it turns out the rest of the AFC South has something to say about that.

    On the heels of a three-game winning streak, J.J. and the Watt-ettes, otherwise known as the Houston Texans, are 5-5 and tied for first place in the division. This, despite the absence of tailback Arian Foster and with a murderers' row of hope-murdering quarterbacks.

    And as Fox Sports pointed out, that hot streak has been all about the defense:

    Through the first seven games, the Texans allowed more than 28 points per game. Since then, J.J. Watt and company have given up an average of 9.7 points per game.

    Houston also went an impressive 12 straight quarters without surrendering a touchdown before the Jets' Brandon Marshall scored in the third quarter of Sunday's 24-17 win over New York. ...

    Houston will look to continue its string of strong defensive performances Sunday against Drew Brees and a New Orleans Saints' offense averaging 25.5 points per game, seventh-best in the league.

    That's also a Saints team with the NFL's worst defense that's had all sorts of trouble protecting Drew Brees this season. Now they get Watt.

    Good luck with that.

    Saints: Freeman, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Texans: Davenport, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski

Minnesota Vikings (7-3) at Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

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    The Pick: Minnesota Vikings (7-1)

    Last week was supposed to be a litmus test for the Minnesota Vikings.

    And by any objective measure, the Vikings failed while getting pasted by the Green Bay Packers.

    As ESPN.com's Ben Goessling reported, the loss sent Adrian Peterson off on quite a diatribe, in which the star running back didn't mince words:

    I think it's from the top to the bottom. It's from the coaches on both sides and the players, as well. No matter what position we were in, we had calls, and we didn't execute on a lot of plays. It came back to hurt us. But it's the coaches' job to put us in the best position, as well.

    Now, this most likely did not sit well with head coach Mike Zimmer, who is as no-nonsense as they come. But Zimmer also knows that a conversation with Peterson had to be behind closed doors, not in the media.

    And so when Zimmer spoke to Craig Peters of the team's website, it was exactly what you'd expect from the Coach of the Year candidate no one is talking about:

    I’m disappointed in our performance, but I’m not discouraged about our future. I still believe in this football team and I believe in everything about us. We just have to figure out who we are and stay true to who we are and not let outside influences affect us and just go ahead and play.

    I told them, it’s OK to be upset today. But when they come in … Wednesday they better be smiling because it’s time to get going.

    Of course, the Vikings are just trying to wash away the stink of one loss after five straight wins. For the Falcons, it's another story. Four losses in five games after a 5-0 start.

    And our writers expect that tailspin to continue.

    Vikings: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Falcons: Schalter

St. Louis Rams (4-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-2)

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    The Pick: Cincinnati Bengals (8-0)

    Bengals gotta Bengal.

    That's what the naysayers are saying now. Sure, the Cincinnati Bengals may have started the season a franchise-best 8-0, but that wasn't the real team.

    The Bengals that dropped the past two in prime time is. They are paper tigers.

    As ESPN.com's Coley Harvey reports, while that may be an overgeneralization, problems have arisen the past two games.

    And where quarterback Andy Dalton is concerned, it isn't a new one:

    For as many strides as Andy Dalton has made in displaying consistently strong play this season, there still is one area where he has struggled.

    The numbers show the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback still doesn't handle pressure from opposing pass-rushers very well.

    Sure, few quarterbacks do, but according to ESPN Stats & Information, Dalton's Total QBR when facing pressure is a mediocre 6.9, ranking him 24th among qualifying quarterbacks. That's right in line with the career 4.3 QBR he has when dealing with pressure, a figure that ranks him 26th among qualifying signal-callers since 2011, the year he began playing.

    Alternatively, Dalton's 91.7 QBR this season when he isn't pressured is the best in the league. Without pressure, he also has thrown 19 of his 20 touchdown passes (he had 19 overall touchdown passes all last season), ranks fourth in passer rating (112.3) and eighth in completion percentage (70.9). When he has time and isn't running for his life, Dalton has been able to make a lot of good happen. When his pocket isn't as secure, problems arise.

    In that respect, the Rams could pose some issues for the Bengals Sunday, as defensive end Robert Quinn and defensive tackle Aaron Donald anchor a formidable front four.

    That's also about all the Rams possess.

    Rams: Shame on you, Jeff Fisher, for how you handled Case Keenum in Week 11. Just not cool.

    Bengals: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

San Diego Chargers (2-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6)

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    The Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars (7-1)

    That's right! There are seven votes for the Jacksonville Jaguars to win a game!

    On purpose!

    And as Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union reports, the Jaguars' recent success has inspired other sorts of zaniness:

    The Jaguars, who were favored only twice in a 57 game span from 2012 through the Baltimore game two weeks ago, are now favored for the second time in as many weeks.

    They were a 2 1-2 point choice over Tennessee last Thursday night and covered the spread with a 19-13 victory.

    They are favored by four points over San Diego Sunday at EverBank Field. They haven’t been favored by more than that since 2010 when they were a seven point choice against Washington and lost in overtime, 20-17. ...

    This is only the fourth time they’ve been favored in the last 59 games since 2012.

    Yes, the Jaguars' recent winning streak is made up of a win that never should have happened and another over one of the few NFL teams that's worse than Jacksonville in nearly every area, but hey...two in a row is two in a row.

    Toss in a matchup with a Chargers team that's lost six in a row and has been positively shredded by injuries on both sides of the ball, and you get the recipe for absolute insanity.

    Three Jaguars victories. In a row.

    Chargers: Freeman

    Jaguars: Davenport, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

Miami Dolphins (4-6) at New York Jets (5-5)

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    Al Pereira/Getty Images

    The Pick: New York Jets (6-2)

    After the New York Jets dropped their fourth game in five tries last week to the Houston Texans, stoic head coach Todd Bowles told reporters, "I'm extremely upset, but I'm not going to take it out here. We'll discuss that in-house when I get back in the locker room and we get in the meeting."

    Apparently he wasn't kidding, because defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said Tuesday in a radio interview that Bowles wasn't so stoic in the locker room, per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini:

    Coach Todd, after the game, went off on us and told us, 'Losing is not acceptable. He doesn’t like losing, as well. I’m pretty sure that everybody in the locker room definitely needs to have that spark lit under them this week, and we need to get these wins rolling quickly.

    The stakes in this game are actually pretty simple. The winner stays in what's becoming a very muddied AFC wild-card hunt.

    The loser? Well, they're probably just about done. Too many teams to leapfrog and not enough time to do it.

    Especially for a pair of teams that aren't exactly brimming with momentum at present.

    Dolphins: Freeman, Gagnon

    Jets: Davenport, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

Arizona Cardinals (8-2) at San Francisco 49ers (3-7)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Pick: Arizona Cardinals (8-0)

    On consecutive Sunday nights, the Arizona Cardinals were offered a national showcase in which to show America what they're made of.

    And with wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals, the Redbirds showed that they are the real deal.

    As Bob McManaman of AZ Central noted, the Cardinals are doing it with style, too.

    After all, everyone loves the big play:

    Big plays by sheer speed are dooming Cardinals opponents every week. They’ve happened in various forms during each game of Arizona’s four-game winning streak:

    In a 26-18 Monday night win over the Ravens, it was running back Chris Johnson rolling over the belly of a would-be tackler only to spring to his feet and scoot for a 62-yard gain.

    In a 34-20 rout at the Browns, it was rookie wide receiver J.J. Nelson and his 4.2 speed gaining separation down the sideline and hauling in a 38-yard pass from Carson Palmer with only his left hand as he was draped by a defender.

    In a 39-32 Sunday night victory at the Seahawks, there were two epic touchdown receptions of 27 and 35 yards by Michael Floyd and then a game-breaking, 48-yard sprint draw that Andre Ellington took to the house.

    And in the Cardinals’ 34-31 defeat of the Bengals Sunday night, it was a 64-yard air strike from Palmer to Nelson, who split the safeties and fought his way into the end zone.

    It should be no surprise the 8-2 Cardinals are leading the league with an average of 6.53 yards per play. After posting four plays of 20-plus yards against the Bengals, they have now accumulated an NFL-high 54 plays of 20 or more yards this season.

    What part of that sounds good in any way for a reeling 49ers team for which January can't get here soon enough?

    Cardinals: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    49ers: Seriously. Is it January yet?

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) at Seattle Seahawks (5-5)

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    The Pick: Seattle Seahawks (4-4) ***COIN FLIP***

    You're going to be hearing a lot over the next several weeks about the Seattle Seahawks and "must-win" games.

    When you're .500 through 10 games and three games out of first place in the division after making the Super Bowl two years running, that kind of talk is going to start up.

    So are the questions as to what's "wrong" in Seattle, such as those Bleacher Report's own Brent Sobleski posited Tuesday:

    There are many reasons why the Seattle Seahawks offense haven't played as well as expected this season. Much of the blame is placed on an underachieving offensive line. More of the blame is tossed around to play-calling. Some even falls on the team's lack of a true No. 1 wide receiver. But some of that blame is finally falling on quarterback Russell Wilson. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen (via Rotoworld's Evan Silva), the organization is concerned Wilson "changed his approach" this year, and he's becoming more of a "celebrity quarterback." To the quarterback's credit, Wilson played his best game of the season after the report came out questioning his dedication. Still, the Seahawks quarterback usually doesn't receive much blame for the team's struggles. Maybe, he should.

    And so every week for the Seahawks it's going to be the same thing. Win, and the story will read that the NFC champs are heating up at the right time.

    Lose, and it becomes an exercise in finger-pointing.

    It took a coin flip to get there, but the vote here says the Seahawks get to avoid the postmortem on 2015 for at least one more week.

    Steelers: Davenport, Freeman, Schalter, Sobleski

    Seahawks: Gagnon, Miller, Tanier, Tomlinson

New England Patriots (10-0) at Denver Broncos (8-2)

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    The Pick: New England Patriots (7-1)

    This game was supposed to be Brady vs. Manning XVII. Now it's Brady vs. Osweiler I. Or as it's otherwise known, who has a shot to knock off the Pats?

    Yes, Brady and the boys are 10-0, but as the injuries continue to mount, so does the uneasiness. Not that you'd be able to get the Golden Boy to admit it, as Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today relayed:

    I don't think that's an excuse. I think we can play better, and I think some of the things that we didn't do well have nothing to do with missing some other guys.

    We've just got to do things better if we want to score more points, and I always talk about just execution, us all being on the same page. And I think there were a lot of plays out there where we didn't necessarily do our job very well, and if you don't do it well then no one else can really make up for what you're trying to do.

    Well, in the opinion of Captain Upset (Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Ty Schalter), the winning streak hits a snag Sunday night:

    Apologies to Patriots Nation, but their beloved Pats have flown too close to the sun a couple of times now, and the Broncos defense is built to undo everything Tom Brady and (what’s left of) the Patriots do. Yes, the Pats defense is excellent, too, and yes, Brock Osweiler is starting, but having two healthy wideouts against one of the fiercest pass defenses in the NFL is a recipe for disaster. There’s only so much Brady can overcome, and this task will be just a little bit more.

    The rest of the panel, on the other hand, thinks the comparisons of this year's team to 2007's 16-0 incarnation will continue for at least one more week.

    Patriots: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Broncos: Schalter

Baltimore Ravens (3-7) at Cleveland Browns (2-8)

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    The Pick: Cleveland Browns (6-2)

    Well, so much for Johnny Manziel's extended audition as the starter in Cleveland.

    Compliments of a TMZ video that showed the second-year quarterback partying over the bye week, head coach Mike Pettine demoted Manziel to third-string Tuesday.

    As ESPN reports, Pettine didn't mince words on his weekly radio show:

    We all know what happened and what got put out there, and it led to much disappointment, frustration, however you want to term it. It was something we felt had violated the trust that we had put in him for the bye coming out of the Pittsburgh game.

    I won't mince words either. The whole saga is Cleveland in a nutshell. After this season, Pettine will probably get fired. Maybe general manager Ray Farmer will too.

    And in 2016, the Browns will start looking for a new coach. And a new general manager. And a new quarterback.

    So why, given the growing dumpster fire in Cleveland, are the Browns the pick?

    Easy. After losing both quarterback Joe Flacco and tailback Justin Forsett to season-ending injuries last week, the Ravens are somehow an even bigger mess.

    Race you to the bottom!

    Ravens: Miller, Sobleski

    Browns: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Schalter, Tanier, Tomlinson

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