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NFL Week 16 Playoff Picture

The Patriots can clinch the number one seed and home field throughout the playoffs with a victory over the Jets, coupled with Cincinnati winning at home over Denver. Even if the Bengals don’t beat the Broncos the Pats can still clinch a first round bye and no worse than the number two seed with a victory in the Meadowlands.

Here is a look at all the playoff scenarios for the twenty teams that have not been mathematically eliminated, but first, here is the order of the 2015 NFL draft if the season were to end prior to the week 15 games. Yesterday’s victory by Washington over Philadelphia moved the Jets up a spot to the number five position, while Tennessee’s loss on Thursday temporarily places them in the number one spot. The number in parenthesis is each team’s strength of schedule, which serves as the tiebreaker for determining draft order.

1. 2-12 Tampa Bay Bucs (.467)
2. 2-12 Tennessee Titans (.503)
3. 2-12 Jacksonville Jaguars (.538)
4. 2-12 Oakland Raiders (.571)
5. 3-11 Washington Redskins (.469)
6. 3-11 New York Jets (.536)
7. 5-9 Atlanta Falcons (.495)
8. 5-9 New York Giants (.505)
9. 5-9 Chicago Bears (.513)
10. 5-8-1 Carolina Panthers (.503)
11. 6-8 Minnesota Vikings (.482)
12. 6-8 New Orleans Saints (.513)
13. 6-8 St. Louis Rams (.536)
14. 7-7 Houston Texans (.452)
15. 7-7 Cleveland Browns (.459)
16. 7-7 San Francisco 49ers (.520)
17. 7-7 Miami Dolphins (.541)
18. 8-6 Kansas City Chiefs (.505)
19. 8-6 San Diego Chargers (.515)
20. 8-6 Cleveland Browns (Buffalo) (.526)
21. 9-5 Pittsburgh Steelers (.429)
22. 9-5 Baltimore Ravens (.467)
23. 9-5 Philadelphia Eagles (.503)
24. 9-4-1 Cincinnati Bengals (.467)
25. 10-4 Dallas Cowboys (.444)
26. 10-4 Detroit Lions (.462)
27. 10-4 Indianapolis Colts (.477)
28. 10-4 Green Bay Packers (.492)
29. 10-4 Seattle Seahawks (.523)
30. 11-3 Arizona Cardinals (.510)
31. 11-3 New England Patriots (.533)
32. 11-3 Denver Broncos (.546)

 

AFC East

New England Patriots (11-3) – currently AFC #1 seed
Remaining Games: at Jets, vs Bills
Clinched AFC East
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 80%
Because the Patriots have defeated the Broncos, Colts and Bengals, they will win a tiebreaker against any of those teams for playoff seeding; it is as if they virtually have one more win in the playoff standings. The Patriots clinched the division and at worst the #4 seed last week with their win over Miami.
- Can clinch the #3 seed with (a) a loss by the Colts, or (b) losses by both the Bengals and Steelers.
- Can clinch the #2 seed with (a) a win over the Jets, or (b) losses by the Bengals, Steelers, Colts and Ravens.
- Can clinch the #1 seed with (a) a win over the Jets, and (b) a Broncos loss.

Buffalo Bills (8-6) – currently #9 in AFC standings
Remaining Games: at Raiders, at Patriots
Chance of making the playoffs: 3%
Despite their win over Green Bay last week, the chances of Buffalo making the playoffs remain slim. The Bills do not control their own destiny, and San Diego’s victory Saturday night did not help their cause. Buffalo needs to win twice while either the Bengals, Ravens and Chiefs all lose twice, or Pittsburgh and Baltimore lose twice while KC beats Pittsburgh and also loses to San Diego. If Baltimore and Kansas City win then the Bills have to count on a series of events that includes the Chargers-Chiefs week 17 game ending in a tie.
- Eliminated from the playoffs with either (a) a loss, or (b) victories by the Bengals, Steelers and Ravens.

Miami Dolphins (7-7) – currently #11 in AFC standings
Remaining Games: vs Vikings, vs Jets
Chance of making the playoffs: 0.1%
The Dolphins are all but eliminated from the playoffs following last week’s loss at New England. The Fins need to win twice, have Pittsburgh and Baltimore lose, Kansas City win twice, San Diego lose next week, Buffalo lose at least once, and have Houston beat Baltimore but then lose to Jacksonville.
- Eliminated from the playoffs with either (a) a loss, or (b) a Ravens win, or (c) a Steelers win.

 

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) – currently 1st in division, #4 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Broncos, at Steelers
Chance of making the playoffs: 80%
Chance of winning the division: 40%
Cincy controls its own destiny within the division, but also has a tough schedule to finish the season.
- Can clinch the division and the #4 seed with (a) a win, plus (b) a Steelers loss, plus (c) a Ravens loss.
- Eliminated from the #2 seed with a loss to the Broncos.
- Eliminated from the #3 seed with a loss to the Broncos, plus a Colts win.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) – currently 2nd in division, #5 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Chiefs, vs Bengals
Chance of making the playoffs: 75%
Chance of winning the division: 40%
The Steelers finish with a pair of home games against other playoff contenders. Although it will be no cakewalk for Pittsburgh to make the playoffs, I don’t see them dropping consecutive home games with the season on the line.
- Can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Chiefs
- Can clinch a playoff spot and the #5 seed with (a) a win over the Chiefs, plus (b) a Ravens loss
- Eliminated from a first round bye with either (a) a loss to the Chiefs, or (b) a Pats win
- Eliminated from the #3 seed with (a) a loss to the Chiefs, and (b) a Colts win
- Eliminated from division title and #4 seed with (a) a loss to Chiefs, and (b) a Bengals win

Baltimore Ravens (9-5) – currently 3rd in division, #6 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Texans, vs Browns
Chance of making the playoffs: 75%
Chance of winning the division: 20%
The Ravens control their own destiny for making the playoffs, but need help to win the division.
- Can clinch a playoff spot with a win at Houston, plus losses by both the Bengals and Steelers.
- Eliminated from the #3 seed with a win by the Colts
- Eliminated from the #4 seed with (a) a loss, or (b) wins by the Bengals and Steelers.
- Eliminated from the #5 seed with (a) a loss, plus (b) wins by the Bengals and Steelers.

 

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts (10-4) – currently 1st in division, #3 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Cowboys, at Titans
Clinched AFC North
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 0.1%
Chance of being the #2 AFC seed: 2%
Chance of being the #3 AFC seed: 67%
The Colts appear destined to finish as the number three seed.
- Can clinch the #3 seed with (a) a win at Dallas, plus (b) a Bengals loss to Denver, plus (c) a Steelers loss to Kansas City.
- Eliminated from #1 seed with either (a) a loss to Dallas, or (b) a Broncos win, or (c) a Patriots win.
- Eliminated from #2 seed with either (a) a loss plus a Pats win, or (b) Pats and Broncos win, or (c) a loss plus wins by the Bengals and Steelers.

Houston Texans (7-7) – currently 2nd in division, #10 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Ravens, vs Jaguars
Chance of making the playoffs: 5%
The Texans can do no better than the #6 seed, and they need plenty of help for that to happen.
- Eliminated from the playoffs with a loss to Baltimore.

 

AFC West

Denver Broncos (11-3) – currently 1st in division, #2 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Bengals, vs Raiders
Clinched the AFC West
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 20%
Denver has to hope somebody beats the Patriots, but with a game at Cincinnati they need to focus on the Bengals rather than watch the scoreboard.
- Can clinch a first round bye and the #2 seed with a win.
- Eliminated from the #1 seed with a loss, plus a win by the Patriots

San Diego Chargers (9-6) – currently 2nd in division, #7 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Chiefs
Chance of making the playoffs: 35%
The Chargers vastly improved their chances with a come from behind victory at San Francisco, but they still don’t control their own destiny. San Diego needs a win at KC, coupled with either the Ravens losing at least once, or (b) the Steelers losing twice, or (c) the Bengals losing twice.
- Eliminated from the #5 seed with wins by the Bengals and Steelers.

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) – currently #8 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Steelers, vs Chargers
Chance of making the playoffs: 25%
Kansas City has a very interesting schedule to finish the season, as both games are against contenders vying for the same playoff spots that the Chiefs are trying to reach. KC has the tiebreaker over the Ravens, Bills and Dolphins, but not over Houston. While there is a chance they could split the final two games and still make the playoffs, there is an awful lot that has to fall just right for that to happen.
- Eliminated from #5 seed with a loss to the Steelers
- Eliminated from the playoffs with a loss to the Steelers, plus a win by the Ravens at Houston.

 

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys (10-4) – currently 1st in division, #3 in NFC
Remaining Games: vs Colts, at Redskins
Chance of making the playoffs: 95%
Chance of winning the division: 93%
With Philadelphia losing to Washington, the Cowboys are virtually locked in as division winners and the number three seed in the NFC.
- Can clinch the division and the #3 seed with a win over the Colts

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) – currently 2nd in division, #7 in NFC
Remaining Games: at Giants
Chance of making the playoffs: 7%
Chance of winning the division: 7%
The Eagles cannot be a wild card team; they can only make the playoffs as the division champ. Philly needs to win next week and have Dallas lose their final two games for that to happen.
- Eliminated from the playoffs with a win by the Cowboys.

 

NFC North

Detroit Lions (10-4) – currently 1st in division, #2 in NFC
Remaining Games: at Bears, at Packers
Clinched a playoff spot
Chance of winning the division: 40%
Chance of a first round bye: 35%
The Lions control their own destiny for everything except the number one seed, which they technically still have a shot at.
- Can clinch the division and the #2 seed with a win, plus losses by both the Packers and Cowboys.
- Can clinch the division and the #3 seed with a win plus a loss by the Packers.
- Eliminated from the #1 seed with either a loss, or a win by the Seahawks.

Green Bay Packers (10-4) – currently 2nd in division, #6 in NFC
Remaining Games: at Bucs, vs Lions
Chance of making the playoffs: 99%
Chance of winning the division: 60%
Chance of a first round bye: 55%
The Packers dropped in the standings with their loss at Buffalo, but still control their own destiny for winning the division and earning a first round bye.
- Can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Tampa Bay, or with a win by Dallas because a Cowboys win would eliminate Philadelphia.

 

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (11-3) – currently 1st in division, #1 in NFC
Remaining Games: vs Seahawks, at 49ers
Clinched a playoff spot
Chance of winning the division: 50%
Chance of being the #1 NFC seed: 50%
While Arizona has punched a ticket to the post-season, you have to figure it will be short-lived since they are down to Case Keenum at quarterback. Tonight’s game against Seattle is huge, as one team will end up with a bye and home field while the other hits the road as a wild card.
- Can clinch the #1 seed with a win over Seattle.

Seattle Seahawks (10-4) – currently 2nd in division, #5 in NFC
Remaining Games: at Cardinals, vs Rams
Chance of making the playoffs: 99%
Chance of winning the division: 50%
Chance of being the #1 NFC seed: 45%
Seattle beat Arizona in week 12, so a victory against the Cardinals means a sweep in head to head games, and the Seahawks would win a tiebreaker over Arizona. On the other hand is the Seahawks settle for a wild card spot, they would likely get the #5 spot as the beat Green Bay and own the tiebreaker over the Packers.
- Can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Arizona, or with a win by Dallas.
- Can clinch the #5 seed with (a) a win plus a Lions loss, or (b) a win plus a Packers loss.

 

NFC South

New Orleans Saints (6-8) – currently 1st in NFCS
Remaining Games: vs Falcons, at Bucs
Chance of winning the division: 65%
- Can clinch the division with a win, plus a Panthers loss.
- Eliminated from the playoffs with a loss, plus a Panthers win.

Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) – currently 2nd in NFCS
Remaining Games: vs Browns, at Falcons
Chance of winning the division: 15%
The Panthers need to win both of their remaining games, and for the Saints to lose at least once.
- Eliminated from the playoffs with a loss, plus a Saints win.

Atlanta Falcons (5-9) – currently 3rd in NFCS
Remaining Games: at Saints, vs Panthers
Chance of winning the division: 20%
The playoffs have essentially begun for the Falcons, because a loss and their season is over.
- Eliminated from the playoffs with a loss to the Saints.

 

 

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Week 16 NFL games – odds, previews and predictions

While the results of the next-to-last week of games in the 2014 NFL regular season will have a very large impact on the playoff picture, there are not as many compelling matchups as there were in the previous three weeks of games. Sunday afternoon’s slate of games is rather uninspiring, with only two contests consisting of a pair of teams with winning records.

The Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 was legislation that exempted professional sports leagues from antitrust laws so they could sell telecasting rights to networks as a whole, rather than on team-by-team basis. One irritating aspect of that law for sports fans is a clause that prohibits any other game from being televised when the local team is playing a home game. So for example, when the 2-12 Bucs host Green Bay on Sunday at 1:00, there can be no other game televised within 75 miles of Tampa during that time slot – effectively blacking out all other games unless the Sunday Ticket is purchased. One other clause in the Sports Broadcasting Act prohibits pro football from televising games (a) between the hours of 6 pm Friday and 12 am Sunday, and (b) beginning on the second Friday in September and ending on the second Saturday in December. This weekend being the third Saturday of December means the NFL has a green light to schedule two games on Saturday. Two teams needing victories to keep their playoff hopes alive are on the road Saturday: Philly takes on division rival Washington in a late afternoon game, and then San Diego travels to San Francisco to face the 49ers.

 

Philadelphia Eagles (9-5) at Washington Redskins (3-11) β˜…β˜…β˜…
4:30 pm ET on NFLN
Announcing crew: Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon with Stacey Dales

Philadelphia was looking very good two weeks ago, but a pair of home losses has left them on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. After having to play (and lose to) Seattle and Dallas, the competition gets a bit easier for Philly this week, even if it means playing on the road rather than at home. The Eagles have won their last three games versus Washington, but as is often the case with division rivalry games, the scores have been close. The line opened at 8Β½ and increased to 9 before people saw the value in Washington and the points, causing the number to drop back down. I was able to catch it at 8Β½ earlier this week, but even at 7Β½ the number is too high. Washington is the home team, and usually keeps it close against Philly. The Eagles should get back on track with a win and then root for the Colts to beat Dallas, but take the home underdog plus the points here.
Pick β€’ Eagles 28, Skins 24
Skins +7Β½ (one unit)
over 50Β½

 

San Diego Chargers (8-6) at San Francisco 49ers (7-7) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
8:25 pm ET on CBS
Announcing crew: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell

Similar to the early Saturday game, we have the better team that is fighting for a playoff spot going on the road, playing an under achieving team waiting for the season to be over. And just like Philly, San Diego is coming off two home losses against strong competition; the Chargers lost to the Patriots 23-14 two weeks ago and to Denver 22-10 last week. The spread started out with the Niners favored by 2Β½, went as high as 3 early in the week, and as low as a pick’em late in the week. Colin Kaepernick has been erratic all season due to poor post-snap reads, resulting in San Francisco failing to score more than 17 points in each of the last five games. The 49ers have dropped three in a row – a horrible loss to Oakland sandwiched between two losses to Seattle – and have to deal with the distractions of wondering who will be gone after the season ends, as well as Ray McDonald being released as the front office flip flopped on a guilty until proven innocent stance once the team fell to 7-7. I’ll go with the Chargers by a field goal with the 49er defense keeping this a low scoring game.
Pick β€’ Chargers 20, 49ers 17
Chargers +1Β½ (one unit)
under 41 (one unit)

 

New England Patriots (11-3) at New York Jets (3-11) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots, Otis Livingston
Broadcast on 15 stations in New England, New York, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers

After the Jets lost by winning last week – the victory probably keeps them from having an opportunity to draft Oregon QB Marcus Mariota – and now Rex Ryan will most assuredly be coaching his last home game for the Jets. The players love Ryan and will give it everything they have for Ryan, but with the exception of a very good defensive line Gang Green’s units range from mediocre to just plain awful. Rex has the same problem his father Buddy did – a complete and utter lack of understanding of an NFL offense. Ryan has churned through one offensive coordinator after another, hiring bad fits for his roster and not stepping aside and letting them run the offense as they saw fit. The Jets pass the ball about as often as NFL teams did 80 years ago, and the end result has been both predictable and historic. The Jets are on pace to become the first team since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to rush for over 2,300 yards, hold opponents to under 1,500 rushing yards, and still manage to have a losing record. 26 teams have had those rushing stats, and all but three of them made the playoffs. The only way that happens is if your head coach either has no concept of what an offense needs to do in today’s NFL, or is so stubborn that he would rather try to prove himself right than win.
Pick β€’ Patriots 31, Jets 13
Patriots -10Β½
under 47Β½

 

Minnesota Vikings (6-8) at Miami Dolphins (7-7) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
Broadcast on 15 stations in south Florida, Louisville, Iowa, Minnesota, western New York, North Dakota and South Dakota

Two weeks ago Miami was the top AFC wild card team, but now there are nine teams ahead of them in the conference. Since dominating San Diego in week 9 the Fins have stumbled, losing four out of six games. Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 38 times, and Minnesota does a very good job of applying pressure with their pass rush. The Vikings have won four of their last seven games, and their last four losses have been by one score or less against mostly good teams. The future looks bright for Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was 31-of-41 for 315 yards with a touchdown against Detroit’s top-ranked pass defense last week. The Vikings are surging while Miami is faltering, with plenty of talk that Joe Philbin is Dead Man Walking as head coach for Miami. These are two teams headed in opposite directions, and the apathetic south Florida crowd gives the Dolphins no home field advantage; it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Vikings win this game.
Pick β€’ Dolphins 23, Vikings 20
Vikings +6Β½ (one unit)
over 41Β½

 

Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Bucs β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale
Broadcast on 20 stations in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Florida, Alaska, Cincinnati, Lexington KY, Wichita, Colorado Springs and – as always is the case for Green Bay games – in Aaron Rodger’s home town of Chico CA

This is one of two week 16 games where the road team is favored by double digits. Normally I would side with the home dog plus the points, but consider the bounce back factor. When a good team not only loses, but hears all week from the media over reacting and doubting their abilities, that club is fueled with additional motivation to perform well in the next game. Naysayers have done a quick 180; a week ago Green Bay was being crowned as the best team in the NFL, but after their loss to Buffalo dropped the Pack’s road record to 3-4 the skeptics have suddenly declared the Packers to be pretenders rather than contenders. The Bucs are in the wrong place at the wrong time, though another home loss (they are 0-7 at RayJay) will help them secure the number one overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Pick β€’ Packers 35, Bucs 17
Packers -11Β½
under 48Β½

 

Detroit Lions (10-4) at Chicago Bears (5-9) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
Broadcast on 48 stations in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, West Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington, Alaska, Oakland, Reno, Buffalo and Philadelphia

The season of discontent in Chicago slowly marches on, one step closer to the end of the Marc Trestman era – and perhaps the end of Jay Cutler in the windy city as well. The only thing that might keep this close is Detroit looking past Chicago, and thinking about next week’s game at Green Bay. A win Sunday (or a loss by Philadelphia at Washington on Saturday) clinches a playoff spot for the Lions. The Bears have played poorly in all three phases of the game, and only seem to make plays when it is the 4th quarter and the game is out of reach. That type of play may help pad individual stats, but it won’t help a team win any games. Smokin’ Jay Cutler has been benched as Chicago, who has been defeated by at least 13 points in each of their last six losses, gives Jimmy Claussen an extended tryout over the final two games of the season.
Pick β€’ Lions 27, Bears 13
Lions -8Β½ (one unit)
under 45Β½

 

Atlanta Falcons (5-9) at New Orleans Saints (6-8) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver
Broadcast on 94 stations in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, southern Texas, Tulsa, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Idaho, Las Vegas, California, southern Oregon and Hawaii

This may be the most interesting game in the history of the NFL between two teams with losing records this late in the season. The two clubs both have dismal defenses and potent offenses, led by prolific passing attacks. Something’s got to give as Atlanta has lost 11 straight as a road underdog while the Saints have astonishingly lost four straight home games. Mike Smith is another head coach of the NFL’s hot seat, as he probably needs to win the final two games to keep his job. That hinges on the availability of Julio Jones. The wide receiver is dealing with a hip injury and will probably be a game-time decision. Jones was a last-minute scratch last week and has not practiced at all in two weeks. In the last two games Jones played he has 448 receiving yards and Atlanta scored 66 points; he was sorely missed in the Falcons 27-20 loss to Pittsburgh last week. The Falcons are giving up 26.4 points (28th) and 411 yards (32nd) per game, while the Saints in the same boat with 26.7 points (29th) and 390 yards (31st) allowed per game, so expect plenty of scoring in this game.
Pick β€’ Saints 35, Falcons 31
Falcons +6Β½
over 55Β½

 

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn
Broadcast on 148 stations in western New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, northern Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois (except Chicago), Wisconsin, and everywhere west of the Mississippi with the exception of Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas

A huge game for both teams, this may turn out to be the best game of the week. Pittsburgh could clinch a playoff spot with a win while Kansas City could be out of the playoff race with a loss. The Steelers are coming off a pair of impressive road wins and Le’Veon Bell has been very impressive, with 2,043 yards from scrimmage a ten touchdowns on the season. Pittsburgh’s defense (24.2 ppg, 20th; 356 ypg, 19th) has been inconsistent though. That gives the Chiefs – who still have yet to get a touchdown pass thrown to a wide receiver – some hope for a victory. KC has a strong defense, allowing a 4th-best 18.1 points per game – but they don’t force enough turnovers (a league-low 10). As well as Pittsburgh’s offense has played at home, where they average 35 points per game, I think KC’s defense will keep this a close, relatively low scoring game.
Pick β€’ Steelers 24, Chiefs 23
Chiefs +3
under 48

 

Cleveland Browns (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta
Broadcast on 26 stations in Louisiana (except Shreveport and New Orleans), Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Ohio and Fort Wayne

Last week the Browns were embarrassed at home, losing 30-0 to cross-state division rival Cincinnati. Cleveland was just plain bad in all phases of the game and has now lost four out of five games to effectively end their playoff hopes. Carolina on the other hand has won two in a row and is in the middle of a battle for playoff spot; the Panthers have now wen ten of their last 15 home games. The Browns can’t stop the run (4.5 yards per carry, 138 yards per game) and that’s exactly what Carolina likes to do. Cleveland is not much of a road team either, losing 20 of their last 25 games away from home; I just can’t picture the Browns winning this game.
Pick β€’
Panthers -3Β½
over 40Β½

 

Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans β˜…β˜…β˜…
4:30 pm ET on NFLN
Announcing crew: Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker
Broadcast on 27 stations in Texas, Arkansas, Maryland, DC, Harrisburg, Knoxville and Shreveport

Bill O’Brien has done a nice job with Houston this year, as the Texans could still sneak into the playoffs with a pair of wins plus some help. The problem is that Ryan Mallett and Ryan Fitzpatrick both on IR, Houston is down to their 4th-string quarterback with Tom Savage out due to a knee injury. That leaves Case Keenum, who completed only 54% of his passes while going 0-8 as a starter last year as the next man up. Baltimore fans must be overjoyed at their team’s playoff chances as that means the Ravens defense will face two quarterbacks that have yet to win an NFL game (Keenum and Johnny Manziel) to finish the season. The result is the public laying enough money on Baltimore to make them a bigger road favorite than they have been all year – and nearly twice as much of a favorite even when they were at Tampa Bay. Both teams are allowing less than 20 points per game; I think many are overlooking how well Houston’s defense has played and focused solely on the quarterback situation. That’s an overreaction that makes me thing the Texans will keep it close enough to cover the spread – as long as Keenum doesn’t create too many scores for Baltimore with turnovers.
Pick β€’ Ravens 20, Texans 17
Texans +6
under 42Β½

 

New York Giants at St. Louis Rams β˜…β˜…
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Thom Brennaman, David Diehl, Laura Okmin
Broadcast on 37 stations in Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas

Two teams that are out of it make for the second worst game of the week – though no matchup comes close to being as bad as Thursday’s debacle between Jacksonville and Tennessee. The Rams opened as 4Β½ point favorites but that shot up to as high as 7 before settling at 6 or 6Β½, depending where you shop. The Giants have yet to beat a good team while the Rams have shown flashes of brilliance, beating Seattle, San Francisco and Denver. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham have had a couple of good games the last two weeks, but that was against Tennessee and Washington. The St. Louis pass rush should have no problem with New York’s subpar offensive line, and with Rashad Jennings out the Giants have no run game to slow down that pressure on Eli. MLB Jameel McClain (knee) is out, and the Giants are allowing an NFL-worst 4.9 yards per game. The Rams have given up just 12 points in the last three games combined, and only six offensive touchdowns over the last seven games; their defense should be strong enough to give St. Louis another victory.
Pick β€’ Rams 24, Giants 13
Rams -6 (one unit)
under 43Β½ (one unit)

 

Buffalo Bills (8-6) at Oakland Raiders (2-12) β˜…β˜…
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Brian Anderson, Chris Simms
Broadcast on 14 stations in New York and northern California

The Oakland Raiders were the last NFL team to win a game this year, but they are quietly going for their third straight home win Sunday against Buffalo. This could be a classic trap game for the Bills, coming after a victory over Green Bay and preceding next week’s game at New England. Buffalo has won three of their last four games to propel them from a 5-5 team considered to be done to one that believes they can make the playoffs. The Buffalo defense has received plenty of hype in the media after limiting both Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers to zero touchdowns and two interceptions each. Don’t expect much scoring in this game; Buffalo has kept the point total under in six straight games and in twelve of their fourteen games this season.
Pick β€’ Bills 20, Raiders 13
Bills -6 (one unit)
under 41 (two units)

 

Indianapolis Colts (10-4) at Dallas Cowboys (10-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Broadcast everywhere except New York, northern California and St. Louis

This will be the primary afternoon game and deservedly so. The big question is whether or not DeMarco Murray will play, and if he does then how effective will he be playing with a broken left hand. The NFL’s leading rusher has touched the ball on over 45% of Dallas’ possessions this year, so if he can’t go then it could alter Jason Garrett’s game plan dramatically. However, as we saw when the Patriots beat the Colts, Indy’s defensive line is vulnerable to being pushed around by a physical offensive line and ground game. Garrett would be wise to learn from that game film and let the Dallas line open up holes for backups Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle, who have performed well when at running back when given the opportunity. This should be a good game that could easily go either way.
Pick β€’ Cowboys 35, Colts 34
Colts +3Β½
over 54Β½

 

Seattle Seahawks (11-3) at Arizona Cardinals (10-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Sunday night game on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

A few weeks ago this looked like a must-see game, but with Arizona down to their third-string quarterback it has lost a bit of its luster. The result is that Seattle is favored by more than a touchdown even though they are on the road against a team with a better record, and something to play for. The Cardinals have clinched a playoff spot but need a win here to secure a bye and home field advantage. Seattle has dominated on defense in recent weeks, and with Carson Palmer and drew Stanton sidelined Arizona turns to Ryan Lindley at quarterback. In seven NFL games Lindley has no touchdowns and seven picks; I just don’t see how the Cardinals are going to generate any offense. Arizona has won all year with smoke and mirrors, but the number of injuries they have had to overcome has reached a tipping point.
Pick β€’ Seahawks 23, Cardinals 10
Seahawks -7Β½ (three units)
under 36Β½

 

Denver Broncos (11-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Monday night game on ESPN
Announcing crew: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters

For a change we get a really good Monday night matchup as two division leaders meet in a game that will shape the AFC playoff picture. The Bengals are winless in eight games against Peyton Manning, but the Denver quarterback has not looked sharp recently. Cincinnati has a strong enough defense (20.6 points per game, 9th in the NFL) to limit the Broncos, and their running game is effective enough to keep the Denver offense on the sidelines. Jeremy Hill is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and has rushed for 877 yards and eight touchdowns, despite not taking over as the starter until week 11. Giovanni Bernard provides a perfect compliment in the running game as a quicker, shiftier back to Hill’s powerful running style; the end result is a rushing attack has amassed 145 yards per game and six touchdowns since week 12. But are the Bengals ready for primetime? In their two night games this year Cincy is 0-2, losing by a combined total of 67-20.
Pick β€’ Broncos 27, Bengals 24
Bengals +3Β½
over 47Β½

 

Thursday night: Jacksonville Jaguars 21, Tennessee Titans 13 β˜…
Jacksonville gets their third win on the season, which means the Jags once again will have a lousy year but won’t get the number one overall pick in the draft. 2015 will mark the eighth straight year the Jags will have played their way into a top-ten draft pick, and it could be the fourth consecutive time with a top-five selection. In their twenty years of existence the Jaguars have had a draft slot outside of the top ten just seven times; after next spring’s draft the Jags will have had twice as many top-ten positions (14) as slots outside the top ten (7).

 

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Week 16 NFL Television Coverage – limited distribution for Patriots at Jets

Bad news for out of town Pats fans. The week 16 New England Patriots at New York Jets game will only be available on the eight CBS stations in New England that always show the Pats games, nine New York stations, and Miami. This matchup was considered to be a huge rivalry game of national interest just a couple years ago; the lack of distribution for this game speaks volumes of how the nation as a whole considers the Jets to be completely unwatchable at this juncture.

Most of the nation will get Kansas City at Pittsburgh early on CBS Sunday, and then the Colts at Dallas late. Fox has the single game this week; most of New England will receive the Giants at Rams late, as Fox stubbornly still believes that the region is full of New York fans leftover from before the AFL was formed in 1960.

This weekend marks the first time that the NFL can broadcast games on a Saturday, thanks to a clause in the Sports Broadcasting Act from back in 1961. Philadelphia is at Washington in a 4:30 pm ET on the NFL Network, followed by the Chargers at 49ers at 8:30 on CBS. Both of the Saturday games offer a marked improvement over the first game of week 16. On Thursday night the NFL Network will be broadcast a game between two teams with a combined 24 losses as the Jaguars host Tennessee. Will their fan bases be rooting for a victory, or for a loss to help secure the best possible draft pick?

Some game(s) will be moved in week 17 from an early kickoff to a late start, to gain a larger audience based on playoff implications. The most likely candidate is Detroit at Green Bay, which will air on FOX. Both networks have a doubleheader in the final week of the season. If Buffalo is still in contention then the Pats-Bills game is a possibility to be flexed as well, but that could be counterproductive. Should other teams win early then Buffalo could be eliminated before the game starts, making it a meaningless game. Cincinnati at Pittsburgh would be a better option since at least one, if not both of those teams would likely be in a win-you’re-in, lose-you’re-done situation.

Jon Gruden has signed a new contract that will keep him on ESPN through 2021. Perhaps the unfounded speculation that he will become this team or that team’s head coach will finally cease… The Walking Dead is cable television’s highest rated show – it has actually drawn more viewers than Sunday Night Football more often than not this year – but they know when to step back. The show’s producers and AMC decided that the best business decision was to avoid going head-to-head with the NFL playoffs, so they scheduled a ‘mid-season finale’ on November 30, and then will resume the series on February 8 – which just so happens to be a week after the Super Bowl… The writer all Pats fans love to hate, Jon Tomase, has been hired to write for WEEI…

 

Tennessee Titans (2-12) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) β˜…
Thursday night game on NFLN
Announcing crew: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Jaguars favored by 5, with a point total of 40Β½

Philadelphia Eagles (9-5) at Washington Redskins (3-11) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Saturday at 4:30 pm ET on NFLN
Announcing crew: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Stacey Dales
Eagles favored by 7Β½, with a point total of 50Β½

San Diego Chargers (8-6) at San Francisco 49ers (7-7) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Saturday at 8:25 pm ET on CBS and NFLN
Announcing crew: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell
Niners favored by 2Β½, with a point total of 41Β½

Minnesota Vikings (6-8) at Miami Dolphins (7-7) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
Broadcast in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Miami and Buffalo
Dolphins favored by 6Β½, with a point total of 42Β½

Green Bay Packers (10-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12) β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale
Broadcast in Wisconsin, Iowa, central Florida and Washington
Packers favored by 10Β½, with a point total of 48Β½

Detroit Lions (10-4) at Chicago Bears (5-9) β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
Broadcast in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois
Lions favored by 7, with a point total of 46

Atlanta Falcons (5-9) at New Orleans Saints (6-8) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver
Broadcast in North Carolina (except Charlotte), South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas
Saints favored by 6, with a point total of 56

New England Patriots (11-3) at New York Jets (3-11) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots, Scott Kaplan
Broadcast in New England, New York state and Miami
Patriots favored by 10, with a point total of 47Β½

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn
Broadcast throughout all of the US, with the exception of New England, New York, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Knoxville, Chicago, Miami, Tampa, New Orleans, Arkansas and Texas
Steelers favored by 3, with a point total of 46Β½

Cleveland Browns (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta
Broadcast in Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina
Panthers favored by 4, with a point total of 49Β½

Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker, Lewis Johnson
Broadcast in Maryland, DC, Knoxville, Arkansas and Texas
Ravens favored by 5Β½, with a point total of 41Β½

New York Giants at St. Louis Rams β˜…β˜…
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Thom Brennaman, David Diehl, Laura Okmin
Broadcast in New England, Cleveland, Charlotte, Houston, Missouri and Arizona
Rams favored by 5, with a point total of 43Β½

Buffalo Bills (8-6) at Oakland Raiders (2-12) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Brian Anderson, Chris Simms
Broadcast in New York and northern California
Bills favored by 6, with a point total of 39

Indianapolis Colts (10-4) at Dallas Cowboys (10-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Broadcast everywhere in the US except New York, northern California and St. Louis
Cowboys favored by 3, with a point total of 5Β½

Seattle Seahawks (10-4) at Arizona Cardinals (11-3) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Sunday night game on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya
Seahawks favored by 8, with a point total of 36Β½

Denver Broncos (11-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Monday night game on ESPN
Announcing crew: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters
Broncos favored by 3Β½, with a point total of 47Β½

* Note: much of the distribution for FOX has yet to be determined – specifically for the western United States, Virginia, West Virginia, DC and Maryland. As is always the case, local affiliates may be granted a request to change the game they broadcast.

 

 

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Big plays on defense and special teams propels Patriots to victory over Miami

The New England offense makes the Sports Center highlights and creates the headlines, but it is their defense and special teams that carried the team on their shoulders to victory Sunday against Miami. With the win the Patriots clinched the AFC East title, which is the Pats sixth straight division title and 14th since Robert Kraft became the team’s owner. When the game was still in doubt it was the defense and special teams that created a 14-3 lead, before the offense shook off the cobwebs from the two-game road trip and six-game gauntlet against some of the best teams in the NFL.

Miami opened the game with a 50-yard pass completion to Mike Wallace, but the Patriot defense stood the Dolphins up on three running plays to force a 41-yard field goal attempt. Jamie Collins blocked the kick and Kyle Arrington scooped up the ball, returning it 62 yards for a touchdown. While one usually does not classify a play on the first series of the game as a turning point, this play was a ten-point swing and certainly a critical play. Coming on the heels of Brandon Bolden’s key block last week at San Diego, you have to tip your hat to the Patriot special team players and ST coach Scott O’Brien. Even though this was a field goal attempt and not a punt, an ancillary benefit going forward is that opponents will be more careful in their protection going forward, which should open things up for the Patriots on their returns.

The New England defense was just getting started. In the second quarter Ryan Tannehill threw a pass just a bit too high, and the Patriots took advantage. Duron Harmon was in position to offer support, and as it turned out he was in perfect position to catch the tipped pass. Harmon returned the ball 60 yards to set up a touchdown three plays later, giving the Pats a 14-3 lead. As it turned out that cushion was very important as Miami came back at the end of the half to cut the lead to 14-13.

The Patriots have won 77 times in a row when leading at halftime at home, going back to 2000. As has been the case in all but three games this year, the Pats poured it on on both sides of the ball after the break. The Pats scored on the opening drive of the third quarter to up the lead to eight, forced a three and out on defense, and then scored again. Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal gave him 1,160 career points, breaking Adam Vinatieri’s record as the franchise’s all-time scoring leader.

On the first play from scrimmage after the ensuing kickoff the defense came up big once again. Patrick Chung intercepted a tipped Tannehill pass at the Miami 37, and returned it to the 27-yard line. One play later Brady hit Gronk down the seam for another score, and just like that the Patriots were up by 18 points, 31-13.

Game over.

The New England Patriots have long excelled on special teams and at forcing turnovers. Those traits helped mask deficiencies in their pass rush and pass coverage in the years following the Pats last Super Bowl victory. Now that New England has improved their pass rush as well as assembling one of the best defensive secondaries in the league, Pats fans have legitimate reasons to be very optimistic of this team’s chances in the post-season. The current offense may not rival that of the record setting 2007 squad, but overall this team is more well balanced and more difficult for an opponent to game plan for than any other Patriot team since the one that won the franchise’s third championship in a four-year span ten years ago. That’s great news for Pats fans, and bad news for all 31 other NFL teams.

 

Notes:

- With the victory, Bill Belichick got his 229th career win. That ties him with Curly Lambeau for the fourth-most combined regular-season and playoff wins by a head coach in the history of the NFL. Belichick is big on the history of the NFL, so even though he may not say so publicly, you know this has to mean a lot to him to reach this point on the all-time leader board.

- Rob Ninkovich had a sack, giving him three straight seasons with at least eight sacks. Nink is the first Patriot to accomplish that feat since Hall of Famer Andre Tippett did so from 1984-87. Not bad for a guy who fans are calling for the team to replace and upgrade on an annual basis.

- Rob Gronkowski was shut out in the first half and finished with only three receptions, but they were good for 96 yards. That puts him at 1,093 yards for the season, and makes him the first tight end in franchise history to have two seasons with 1,000 yards receiving.

- Chandler Jones was active for the first time since the week 7 game on October 16 against the Jets, when he injured his hip. Jones was a dominant presence, and registered 7 tackles (4 solo) and 1Β½ sacks on the afternoon.

- The Dolphins had early success throwing to tight end Charles Clay. The Patriots – who have often had trouble with opposing tight ends – adjusted by having Devin McCourty cover Clay; Clay was not a factor from that point on.

- Brandon Browner picked up two more pass interference penalties. Browner now leads the Patriots with 14 penalty calls against him.

- Kyle Arrington left the game with a hamstring injury in the first half. His replacement, Malcolm Butler, was beat twice on long passes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the secondary’s forgotten man – Alfonzo Dennard – replaces Butler on the active roster next week.

- Dan Connolly left the game with a neck injury, and was replaced by Josh Kline. No offense to Kline, but I would much prefer to see Connolly out there.

 

 

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NFL Playoff Picture entering Week 15

Before the season began the consensus was that the NFC was the stronger conference, but 12 AFC teams have winning records, battling for six playoff spots with only three games left to play. In the NFC the situation is six teams vying for five playoff spots, and then three teams with losing records in the mix for the NFC South title and the number four seed. The game with the biggest impact is Dallas at Philadelphia, where the winner takes a one-game lead in the NFC East while the loser could end up missing the post-season entirely. Here is a look at every division and the chances for all of the 22 teams that have not been eliminated from the playoffs. Remarkably there is not a single team that has clinched a playoff berth yet, though that will surely change by the time Sunday’s games are completed.

 

Eliminated Teams and 2015 NFL Draft Order

Below is the order of the 2015 NFL draft, updated through week 14. Strength of schedule is the first tiebreaker; the easier the schedule, the earlier the draft slot. After SOS the next tiebreakers are division and conference records. Teams with an * asterisk are included for draft order, but have not been eliminated from the playoffs.

1. 2-11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. 2-11 Tennessee Titans
3. 2-11 Jacksonville Jaguars
4. 2-11 New York Jets
5. 2-11 Oakland Raiders
6. 3-10 Washington Redskins
7. 4-9 New York Giants
8. * 4-8-1 Carolina Panthers
9. * 5-8 Atlanta Falcons
10. 5-8 Chicago Bears
11. * 5-8 New Orleans Saints
12. 6-7 Minnesota Vikings
13. 6-7 (now 6-8) St. Louis Rams

 

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-3) – currently AFC #1 seed
Remaining Games: vs Dolphins, at Jets, vs Bills
Chance of making the playoffs: 99.9%
Chance of winning the division: 99%
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 80%
Because the Patriots have defeated the Broncos, Colts and Bengals, they will win a tiebreaker against any of those teams for playoff seeding; it is as if they virtually have one more win in the playoff standings.
- Can clinch a playoff spot: multiple scenarios involving losses by five other teams, even with a loss to Miami.
- Can clinch the division: with a win over Miami.
- Can clinch the #3 seed: with a win over Miami, plus (a) Colts lose; or (b) Bengals and Steelers lose; or (c) Steelers and Broncos lose; or (d) Bengals, Steelers and Ravens lose.
- Can clinch the #2 seed: with a win over Miami, plus losses by the Colts, Bengals and Steelers

Miami Dolphins (7-6) – currently #9 in AFC standings
Remaining Games: at Patriots, vs Vikings, vs Jets
Chance of making the playoffs: 10%
Chance of winning the division: 0.1%
At 7-6 and having to pass three other teams, the Dolphins most likely need to win all three remaining games to have any chance of making the playoffs. A loss at New England would virtually eliminate the Fins as they would probably be down two games with only two to play.

Buffalo Bills (7-6) – currently #11 in AFC standings
Remaining Games: vs Packers, at Raiders, at Patriots
Chance of making the playoffs: 3%
Chance of winning the division: 0.1%
The Bills also need to leapfrog the rest of the 7-6 teams, plus at least two 8-win teams. That means beating both the Packers and the Patriots to finish the season, as well as a game being played three time zones away. Not going to happen.

 

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) – currently 1st in division, #4 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Browns, vs Broncos, at Steelers
Chance of making the playoffs: 64%
Chance of winning the division: 33%
Cincy controls its own destiny within the division, but is also the only team that has to play three games against teams with winning records. Because of the tie against Carolina tiebreakers are irrelevant, as it is unlikely the Bengals will finish with the same record as any other team. Cincy probably needs two wins to make the playoffs, so a victory at Cleveland today is vital considering their schedule.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) – currently 2nd in division, #5 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Falcons, vs Chiefs, vs Bengals
Chance of making the playoffs: 63%
Chance of winning the division: 35%
The Steelers finish with an easier schedule than Cincinnati, with one more home game plus a road game against a team with a losing record. Pittsburgh has to be kicking itself for losses to a pair of two-win teams (Bucs and Jets), but two out of three wins should also be enough to get them to the post-season. The season finale against the Bengals could very well be a win or your season is over game for both teams.

Baltimore Ravens (8-5) – currently 3rd in division, #7 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Jaguars, at Texans, vs Browns
Chance of making the playoffs: 70%
Chance of winning the division: 30%
Although the Ravens are currently on the outside looking in, that will probably not be the case after the completion of Sunday’s games. Baltimore should have no trouble with Jacksonville, while #6 seed San Diego has to play Denver. All three games are against teams that will most likely miss the playoffs, so the Ravens have a good shot at making the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns (7-6) – currently 4th in division, #12 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Bengals, at Panthers, at Ravens
Chance of making the playoffs: 8%
Chance of winning the division: 2%
The Browns are in the worst spot of all the five 7-6 teams thanks to various tiebreakers. There are scenarios that Cleveland would not be eliminated despite a loss to the Bengals, but realistically they need to win all three games and then still need outside help to make it to the post-season.

 

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts (9-4) – currently 1st in division, #3 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Texans, at Cowboys, at Titans
Chance of making the playoffs: 97%
Chance of winning the division: 95%
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 1%
The Colts appear destined to finish as the number three seed.
- Can clinch the division: with a win over Houston.

Houston Texans (7-6) – currently 2nd in division, #8 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Colts, vs Ravens, vs Jaguars
Chance of making the playoffs: 20%
Chance of winning the division: 5%
The Texans need to win out to have any hope. That would give them the head-to-head tiebreaker over Baltimore, but they would still need either Pittsburgh or San Diego to lose two of their last three games, and no other 7-6 team to finish 3-0.

 

AFC West

Denver Broncos (10-3) – currently 1st in division, #2 in AFC
Remaining Games: at Chargers, at Bengals, vs Raiders
Chance of making the playoffs: 99.9%
Chance of winning the division: 99%
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 19%
Denver is virtually assured of winning their fourth straight division title, and has an 87% chance of getting a first round bye. The Broncos really want the number one seed and home field throughout the playoffs, but for that to happen they need the Patriots to lose a game while they finish with three wins. The 43-21 week nine loss to New England is looking more and more as a game that determined where the AFC championship game will be played.
- Can clinch a playoff spot: multiple scenarios involving losses by four other teams, even with a loss to San Diego.
- Can clinch the division: with a win over San Diego.
- Can clinch the #3 seed: with a win over San Diego, plus either (a) Colts lose; or (b) Bengals lose.
- Can clinch the #2 seed: with a win over San Diego, plus losses by the Colts, Bengals and Steelers.

San Diego Chargers (8-5) – currently 2nd in division, #6 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Broncos, at 49ers, at Chiefs
Chance of making the playoffs: 37%
Chance of winning the division: 1%
The Chargers control their own destiny, but don’t have the easiest schedule. Even if they lose to Denver today, winning the final two games should be enough to get them in the playoffs.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) – currently #10 in AFC
Remaining Games: vs Raiders, at Steelers, vs Chargers
Chance of making the playoffs: 27%
Chance of winning the division: zero
Like the other 7-6 teams, the Chiefs cannot afford another loss; it is doubtful that 9-7 will be good enough to make the playoffs in the AFC this year.

 

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) – currently 1st in division, #3 in NFC
Remaining Games: vs Cowboys, at Redskins, at Giants
Chance of making the playoffs: 80%
Chance of winning the division: 70%
The biggest game this weekend is Dallas at Philadelphia. If the Eagles win they will not only have a one-game lead over the Cowboys, they will also own the tiebreaker having swept Dallas this season. On the other hand a loss puts them in a really tough spot, as their conference record would drop to 5-5.

Dallas Cowboys (9-4) – currently 2nd in division, #7 in NFC
Remaining Games: at Eagles, vs Colts, at Redskins
Chance of making the playoffs: 56%
Chance of winning the division: 30%
Six teams make the playoffs, and one of those has to come from the NFC South. That leaves six NFC teams with nine or more wins playing musical chairs, with the chairs representing the five other playoff spots. If the Cowboys don’t win the division then it likely comes down to Dallas, Detroit and Seattle battling for two playoff spots, but with the Lions and Seahawks sporting 7-2 conference records compared to the Cowboys 6-4 mark, Dallas may end up being the one left standing without a chair when the music stops.

 

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (10-3) – currently 1st in division, #2 in NFC
Remaining Games: at Bills, at Bucs, vs Lions
Chance of making the playoffs: 98%
Chance of winning the division: 75%
Chance of being the #1 NFC seed: 30%
There is a good chance that the road to the Super Bowl goes through Lambeau Field, because the Packers will probably win their remaining games while Arizona will have a tough time beating the Seahawks.
- Can clinch a playoff spot with a win over Buffalo, plus a Cowboys loss to the Eagles

Detroit Lions (9-4) – currently 2nd in division, #6 in NFC
Remaining Games: vs Vikings, at Bears, at Packers
Chance of making the playoffs: 80%
Chance of winning the division: 25%
Chance of being the #1 AFC seed: 5%
If the Lions win the next two games while Green Bay loses once, the two teams will play for the division title in week 17. A wild card spot is more likely, even if Detroit loses one of their final three games.

 

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals (11-3) – currently 1st in division, #1 in NFC
Remaining Games: vs Seahawks, at 49ers
Chance of making the playoffs: 99%
Chance of winning the division: 70%
Chance of being the #1 NFC seed: 50%
With Thursday’s victory at St. Louis, the Cardinals virtually assured themselves of a playoff berth. Next week’s game against Seattle is huge: a win and Arizona probably ends up with the number one seed and home field throughout the playoffs, but a loss to the Seahawks could result in their being a wild card team.
- Can clinch a playoff spot: (a) as long as the Cowboys and Eagles don’t tie, or (b) the Lions and Seahawks lose

Seattle Seahawks (9-4) – currently 2nd in division, #5 in NFC
Remaining Games: vs 49ers, at Cardinals, vs Rams
Chance of making the playoffs: 80%
Chance of winning the division: 30%
Chance of being the #1 NFC seed: 15%
Seattle beat Arizona in week 12, so a victory against the Cardinals means a sweep in head to head games, and the Seahawks would win a tiebreaker over Arizona. That would also give Seattle an 8-2 conference record, and probably the #2 seed in the NFC. A loss would not be good; a week 6 loss to Dallas means the Cowboys own the tiebreaker between those two clubs.

San Francisco 49ers (7-6) – currently 3rd in division, #8 in NFC
Remaining Games: at Seahawks, vs Chargers, vs Cardinals
Chance of making the playoffs: 1%
Chance of winning the division: zero
The Niners shocking loss to Oakland all but eliminated them from the playoffs. San Fran needs to win all three games – each against a good team – while at the same time hope all the 8-win teams finish 1-2.

 

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (5-8) – currently 1st in NFCS
Remaining Games: vs Steelers, at Saints, vs Panthers
Chance of winning the division: 40%
No NFC South team can be a wild card, and the division winner can finish no better than the number four seed. Atlanta controls their own destiny; as long as they win as many games as either New Orleans or Carolina does over the final three weeks, they will host a playoff game despite not finishing with a winning record.

New Orleans Saints (5-8) – currently 2nd in NFCS
Remaining Games: at Bears, vs Falcons, at Bucs
Chance of winning the division: 35%
The winner of next week’s game versus Atlanta will probably represent the NFC South in the playoffs.

Carolina Panthers (4-8-1) – currently 3rd in NFCS
Remaining Games: vs Bucs, vs Browns, at Falcons
Chance of winning the division: 25%
Carolina is in an odd spot. With just three games to play, they are still in contention for both the playoffs as well as the number one overall pick in next spring’s NFL draft.

 

 

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Week 15 NFL Games – Previews and Predictions

How profound is the hype machine that is Johnny Football? Originally there were a handful of markets that always broadcast the local team, and the rest of the nation getting a game between the NFC’s best team and an AFC playoff hopeful. Eastern New York, western New England, DC and Virginia would receive the Giants-Washington game; the Carolinas and central Florida would show the Bucs-Panthers; Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania would air the Bengals-Browns; and the rest of the country was all set to see the Green Bay Packers travel to Buffalo to play the Bills.

Then Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine announced that Johnny Manziel would replace Brian Hoyer as the starting quarterback for the Browns, creating headline news despite their being a team that has not won a playoff game since Bill Belichick was there twenty years ago.

What happened next was that FOX, who as fate would have it happened to have the all-AFC Browns-Bengals game as part of this year’s network cross-flex procedure decided that Manziel and the 7-6 Browns could be marketed to draw more viewers than Aaron Rodgers and the 10-3 Packers – a team that is averaging over 40 points per game during their current five game winning streak. Now nearly ever FOX affiliate south of a line from Ohio to California will broadcast the game between Cincinnati and Cleveland. About the only markets that will now receive the Packers game are northern border states from Oregon to Wisconsin, plus the five affiliates in western New York.

That’s a whole lot of hype for a 22nd pick of the draft, a player whom I have serious doubts will ever have any sustained success in the NFL.

 

FOX has the doubleheader again this week, and the end result is that even though the Pats-Dolphins is the best early game on CBS, it will receive very little distribution outside of those two team’s markets. The only other areas that will be broadcasting the Patriots games are Raleigh, Tallahassee, Oklahoma, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii. This will be one of seven games on Sunday between two teams with winning records, so there are plenty of interesting matchups with playoff implications at stake this weekend.

 

Oakland Raiders (2-11) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots, Chris Fischer
Broadcast on 13 stations in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and northern California

The Chiefs are mired in a three-game losing streak, which began when KC was upset at Oakland for the Raiders first win of the year. Prior to that Kansas City was just a game behind Denver, winners of five in a row after defeating Seattle. This is eerily reminiscent of last year’s swoon, when the Chiefs started out 9-0 before limping into the playoffs with five losses in their last seven games before allowing 45 points and blowing a 28-point lead to the Colts in the wild card round. The Raiders have won two of their last three games, but they don’t know how to handle success: Oakland has not won consecutive games since October of 2012. The Raiders are scoring just 11 points per game on the road, and have lost nine straight away games. Jamaal Charles will be back from his ankle injury for KC, while Derek (11 picks, three fumbles) Carr – who is getting zero help from Oakland’s lackluster running game – should be good for a couple of turnovers against a desperate KC team seeking revenge at home against a long-time division rival.
Pick β€’ Chiefs 27, Raiders 13
Chiefs -10
over 41Β½

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) at Baltimore Ravens (8-5) β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta, Allie LaForce
Broadcast on six stations in DC, Maryland, Orlando, Gainesville and Jacksonville

Here is another game between a team on the bubble for a playoff spot in the AFC East playing at home against a club on the road that is in the mix for the number one overall draft pick next spring. The Ravens are the biggest NFL favorite this week, up to as high as 14 point in some venues. Jacksonville has struggled offensively – they’re dead last in the NFL at 15.3 points per game – and are now without leading rusher Denard Robinson for the rest of the season due to a foot injury. On the other side of the ball you have Baltimore’s Justin Forsett (5.6 yards per carry) facing a run defense that is allowing a 28th-ranked 133 yards per game. The Jags have had some success with their pass rush (third in sacks with 38) and turned two turnovers in to touchdowns in their win against the Giants, but if the Ravens are smart they won’t count on Joe Flacco to throw the ball. Torrey Smith (knee) is doubtful and receivers may have trouble with their routes on a turf that will be chewed up after the Army-Navy game is played on the same field the previous day.
Pick β€’ Ravens 24, Jaguars 13
Jaguars +13Β½ (one unit)
under 45Β½

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) at Atlanta Falcons (5-8) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn
Broadcast on 44 stations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, eastern Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana

After years of inefficiency Pittsburgh has finally rediscovered their running game. Le’Veon Bell became just the second player in NFL history to exceed 200 yards in three straight games; he is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and now has 1,924 yards from scrimmage with three games still left to play in the season. Bell’s productivity has led to very effective play-action passing from Ben Roethlisberger, who passed for 350 yards and three touchdowns last week. Big Ben and Bell should have a field day against a soft Atlanta defense that is allowing a league-worst 411 yards per game, 8.2 yards per pass and 6.2 yards per play. Julio Jones is listed as questionable, but after not making a single practice this week I doubt he will play; that won’t help the Falcons once they fall behind.
Pick β€’ Steelers 28, Falcons 21
Steelers -2Β½ (one unit)
under 56 (one unit)

 

Houston Texans (7-6) at Indianapolis Colts (9-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Lauren Gardner
Broadcast on 35 stations in Indiana, Illinois, Louisville, eastern Missouri, Arkansas and Texas

Houston has quietly remained in the playoff hunt, but for post-season aspirations to remain alive the Texans will need to do something they have never done in their twelve attempts: win in Indianapolis. When the Texans look back at this season the focus may be on this game because it happened late in the year, but the real culprits will be a week three loss to the Giants and an overtime loss to the Cowboys. Houston’s winning record is a bit of a facade; the Texans are 5-1 against losing teams but they are only 2-5 against clubs with winning records. The Colts clinch the AFC South with a victory, but their propensity to turn the ball over (a 3rd-worst 26 giveaways) combined with Houston’s ability to force turnovers (an NFL-best 29 takeaways) gives the Texans a very realistic chance to come away with an upset.
Pick β€’ Colts 28, Texans 24
Texans +7
over 49

 

Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) at Cleveland Browns (7-6) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver
Broadcast on 105 stations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, West Palm Beach, northern Florida, Georgia (except Atlanta), Alabama, Mississippi (except Biloxi), Louisiana (except Baton Rouge and New Orleans), Arkansas, St. Louis, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California and Hawaii

Although Cincy does not have much game film on the new Cleveland quarterback, they will know that they will need to have a plan to limit his ability to use his athleticism when the pocket breaks down or receivers are covered. The Bengals are 4-2 on the road, and will be motivated to avenge a 24-3 loss to the Browns five weeks ago. That was the game when Andy Dalton was an abysmal 10-33 for 86 yards with three picks, but since then the Cleveland defense has given up 23 or more points in every game – and only one of those four opponents looks like they will be in the playoffs. The Browns are allowing 4.4 yards per rush and rank 26th in run defense at 130 yards per game. Jeremy Hill (4.8 yards per carry) and a now-healthy Giovani Bernard could very well end up being the real story, even if Johnny Football will monopolize the headlines.
Pick β€’ Bengals 23, Browns 20
Bengals +1Β½ (two units)
under 44Β½

 

Miami Dolphins (7-6) at New England Patriots (10-3) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell
Broadcast on 62 stations in New England, eastern New York, Miami, West Palm, Fort Myers, Tallahassee, Raleigh, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii

It’s a hat and t-shirt game for New England; when was the last time the Patriots lost one of those? The Miami run defense has regressed over the season, while the Pats run D has drastically improved; both of those were major factors in the Dolphins week one victory over the Patriots. Miami gave up 183 yards on the ground in last week’s home loss to Baltimore – and that was the best game their run D has had in three weeks. Expect to see the Patriots pound the rock in a similar fashion as they did in their 42-20 week 11 victory at Indianapolis. Once the Patriots take the lead Miami will be forced to throw the ball, and that favors the Patriots. The combination of Miami’s shoddy offensive line (34 sacks allowed), Ryan Tannehill’s tendency to hold the ball too long, and superior coverage by the New England secondary should result in the Patriots turning a close game into a rout in the second half.
Pick β€’ Patriots 34, Dolphins 17
Patriots -7Β½ (one unit)
over 48

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11) at Carolina Panthers (4-8-1) β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Dick Stockton, Brady Quinn, Kristina Pink
Broadcast on 20 stations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Savannah, Augusta, central Florida, Biloxi, Baton Rouge and New Orleans

With Cam Newton sidelined, Derek Anderson gets his first start since week one, when the Panthers won 20-14 in Tampa. Carolina’s much maligned defense has shown some life recently, allowing only 10 points to the Saints and 19 to Atlanta in recent games. The Bucs keep finding creative ways to blow late leads; now the question is whether or not they will find a way to blow a chance to have the number one overall draft pick. Tampa Bay DT Gerald McCoy stated in a radio interview this week that the team needs to play ‘Bucs ball’; wouldn’t they be better off if they scrapped that idea and instead played ‘Patriots ball’ or ‘Packers ball’ or ‘Seahawks ball’? Strange as it sounds, the four-win Panthers could be in first place Tuesday morning with a victory here.
Pick β€’ Panthers 23, Bucs 20
Bucs +3Β½
over 41Β½

 

Washington Redskins (3-10) at New York Giants (4-9) β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
Broadcast on 18 stations in Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, eastern New York, Scranton, Virginia, DC and Salisbury MD

How bad are these two teams? Consider this: when was the last time Fox failed to hype a game between two NFC East clubs? The dysfunctional Skins have a quarterback controversy under a rookie head coach, and have lost five in a row after being shut out by a team with a losing record last week. Their best chance at ending that skid is to hand the ball to Alfred Morris and take advantage of a New York defense that is last in the league against the run, giving up 4.9 yards per carry. Key for the Giants is for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham to exploit a Washington defense that allows an NFL-worst 8.2 yards per pass attempt; their pass defense has given up 28 touchdowns while intercepting just five passes.
Pick β€’ Giants 27, Skins 21
Skins +6Β½
over 47

 

Green Bay Packers (10-3) at Buffalo Bills (7-6) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Justin Kutcher, David Diehl, Laura Okmin
Broadcast on 61 stations in western New York, Miami, Michigan, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Alaska and Chico CA

Buffalo fans are probably convinced the NFL schedule makers are out to get them. Three of their four final games are against the Broncos, Packers and Patriots, and they finish with only one home game in December. The Buffalo defense, which ranks 4th with 18.5 points per game allowed, did hold the Broncos to 24 points last week in Denver. The problem for the Bills is that they are scoring 21.6 points per game, and they are not built to play catch up; that will likely be the case as Green Bay is averaging 40 points over the last five games.
Pick β€’ Packers 31, Bills 24
Packers -4
over 50

 

Minnesota Vikings (6-7) at Detroit Lions (9-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale
Broadcast on 30 stations in Louisville, Toledo, South Bend, Michigan, Chicago, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska

Despite forcing only 17 turnovers this season, the Minnesota defense has made strides and is allowing only 21.6 points per game. They limited Green Bay to 24 points in a three-point loss three weeks ago, and will need a similar effort to beat Detroit. Since losing to the Patriots the Lions have scored 34 points in back-to-back games, which has coincided with Calvin Johnson returning to full health from his ankle and elbow injuries. The Lions defense tends to dominate offenses like Minnesota’s. Detroit is allowing a league-best 3.0 yards per carry and 63 rushing yards per game, and the Vikings can’t run the ball the way they could when Adrian Peterson was available. The Lions may not sack Teddy Bridgewater eight times or get him to throw three picks like they did in the 17-3 week 6 victory, but they should be able to do enough to create a sweep of the season series.
Pick β€’ Lions 23, Vikings 16
Vikings +7Β½
under 41Β½

 

New York Jets (2-11) at Tennessee Titans (2-11) β˜…
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker
Broadcast on nine stations in Tennessee, New York City, Huntsville and Bowling Green

Yeesh… this matchup makes the Giants-Washington or Tampa Bay-Carolina games appear appealing in comparison. Rex Ryan loves to run the ball, which is understandable when Geno Smith – who threw a pick-six on his very first pass last week – is your quarterback. That should be effective against a Tennessee defense that ranks last in the league with 142 rushing yards allowed per game. That in turn should give the Jets a win when, in typical Jets fashion, they need it the least – and take them out of the running for Oregon’s Heisman Trophy winning QB Marcus Mariota.
Pick β€’ Jets 17, Titans 13
Jets -2Β½
under 42Β½ (four units)

 

Denver Broncos (10-3) at San Diego Chargers (8-5) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Broadcast on 45 stations in Tampa, Charlotte, Norfolk, Buffalo, Rochester, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, southern California and Alaska

Denver seeks to win their 11th straight road division game and claim their fourth straight AFC West title, while the Chargers look to rebound from their loss to the Patriots and keep their playoff hopes alive. The Broncos beat San Diego 35-21 in Denver in week 6, and need to keep winning to have any chance of securing home field over the Patriots in the post-season. San Diego currently is the six seed in the AFC, but a loss coupled with a Baltimore win over the Jaguars would put them a game behind the Ravens. Last year the Chargers were 6-7 and upset the Broncos in a must-win game. San Diego went three and out in five of their final nine drives last week; that needs to improve against Denver. San Diego receivers Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal should have a better game than they did last week against Darrelle Revis and company, when they combined for just seven receptions for 84 yards, but the game mostly hinges on the Chargers stopping Denver’s running game. C.J. Anderson ran for 335 yards in weeks 12 and 13, but Buffalo was able to contain him to 58 yards rushing on 2.8 yards per carry last week.
Pick β€’ Broncos 27, Chargers 24
Chargers +4Β½
over 50Β½

 

San Francisco 49ers (7-6) at Seattle Seahawks (9-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews
Broadcast on 173 stations; everywhere except Nashville, Louisville, Toledo, South Bend, Michigan, Chicago, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska

In week 13 these two teams met, and the line was just one point. Two weeks later the same two clubs meet, and for the first time in seven years the matchup has a double digit spread. Normally that would mean a season-ending injury to a key player, but in this case it is the harsh reality of San Fran’s ineptitude. The Niners have scored just one touchdown in two weeks, and looked lethargic in a losing to the Raiders, a team that entered that game with a 1-11 record. Usually a team responds positively following a humiliating loss, but I don’t see this Niners team coming away with a win in Seattle; I see a team that has packed it in and shut it down. The Seahawks should win, but the double digit spread is an overreaction to last week’s loss to Oakland.
Pick β€’ Seahawks 24, Niners 17
Niners +10
over 38

 

Dallas Cowboys (9-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Sunday night game on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

Another great Sunday night matchup, with the winner taking control of the NFC East and the number three seed in the NFC, while the loser could end up missing the playoffs entirely. In the first meeting this year LeSean McCoy ran for 159 yards and the Eagles won 33-10 in Dallas. Philly would prefer to run the ball again, and not have to rely on Mark Sanchez. That should not be a problem against the Cowboys, who are giving up 4.4 yards per carry and have allowed an average of 30 points per game over the last three weeks. The Eagles did not look good in their loss to the Seahawks last week, but the Seattle defense does that to a lot of teams. The Dallas defense does not belong in the same conversation as Seattle’s; Philly should be able to rebound and spark discussion of another December swoon by the Cowboys.
Pick β€’ Eagles 31, Cowboys 24
Eagles -3 (one unit)
under 56

 

New Orleans Saints (5-8) at Chicago Bears (5-8) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Monday night game on ESPN
Announcing crew: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters

Even though this is a game between dysfunctional, under achieving five-win teams, it should be entertaining and worth watching. Chicago’s defense is bad; the Bears rank last in scoring, 30th in passing and 29th in total yards. The Bears just don’t have quite enough firepower on their offense to overcome that, especially now that Brandon Marshall is done for the year. Even though the New Orleans defense is just as bad as Chicago’s, they should be able to take advantage of the Bears’ carelessness with the ball. Chicago has turned the ball over 25 times (6th worst in the NFL), with Jay Cutler leading the way with a league-high 21 turnovers. The Saints still have something to play for; Chicago is just trying to finish the season without an injury.
Pick β€’ Saints 28, Bears 24
Saints -2Β½
under 54Β½

 

Two-Game Parlay (one unit)
Jets-Titans under 42Β½
Bengals +1Β½ at Browns

Two-Team Teaser (two units)
Jets-Titans under 48Β½
Bengals +7Β½ at Browns

Three-Team Teaser (two units)
Jets-Titans under 51Β½
Bengals +10Β½ at Browns
Jaguars +22Β½ at Ravens

 

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please call 1-888-ADMIT-IT.

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

The NFC West takes center stage in week 15, first with the Cardinals at Rams on Thursday night and then with the 49ers at Seattle in the primary late game Sunday afternoon. St. Louis may be all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but they have been a thorn in the side for contending teams all season. The Rams defeated the Seahawks, Niners and Broncos earlier this year, and have won their last two games by a combined score of 76-0. Arizona has a share of the NFL’s best record at 10-3, but has lost two of their last three, is 3-3 on the road, and is only 4-3 with Drew Stanton at quarterback.

 

Who: Arizona Cardinals (10-3) at St. Louis Rams (6-7)
When: 8:25 pm ET, Thursday December 11
Where: Edward Jones Stadium, St. Louis MO
Television: NFL Network
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Weather: Not a factor: (dome)

Points Scored: Cardinals 21.2 (22nd), Rams 21.9 (17th)
Yards per Game: Cardinals 325 (23rd), Rams 317 (27th)
Points Allowed: Cardinals 18.3 (3rd), Rams 21.9 (14th)
Yards Allowed: Cardinals 355 (17th), Rams 345 (11th)
Turnover Differential: Cardinals +10 (T-3rd), Rams +4 (T-10th)
Takeaways: Both teams with 23 (Tied for 7th)
Giveaways: Cardinals 13 (4th), Rams 19 (T-15th)

 

As is often the case, a backup quarterback comes in an initially does well, but once opposing defenses have some film to study his productivity dips. Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton has thrown more picks (five) than touchdowns in his four games since replacing Carson Palmer as the starter. Stanton ranks 29th in the NFL with a 79.0 passer rating, and the Cardinals are without starting running back Andre Ellington (1,055 yards from scrimmage, five touchdowns) due to season-ending hernia surgery. Kerwynn Williams came off the bench to run for 100 yards on 19 carries in last week’s victory over the Chiefs. Arizona needs another strong performance from Williams – who had never touched the ball in a regular season NFL game prior to last week – so that the Cardinals can keep from having to rely on Stanton. The Rams have a very aggressive pass rush, with rookie DT Aaron Donald coming on strong with a sack in each of the last four games. Donald leads all rookies in the NFL with seven sacks on the season, and provides an excellent compliment to DE Robert Quinn (10.5 sacks).

On the other side of the ball the Cardinals need to bottle up RB Tre Mason. Arizona is allowing only 92 yards rushing per game (6th best in the NFL) and 3.9 yards per carry. Mason was limited to 66 yards rushing on 20 carries against Washington last week after having run for 292 yards in the previous three games. Similar to Arizona’s own situation at quarterback, the Rams would prefer to not have to count on a quarterback who was not expected to play back in August to carry the team to a win. The Cardinals have been very successful in generating turnovers, and much of that is due to placing opposing offenses in predictable 2nd-and-long and third-and-long situations.

 

The Rams have posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time in 69 years, a feat that has not occurred in the NFL in five seasons. St. Louis is playing much better with Shaun Hill rather than Austin Davis under center. Hill is 3-1 as the Rams’ starter, and one goal line play against San Diego from being 4-0. In the last two games Hill is 29-44 with no turnovers, passing for four touchdowns and running for another. However, those two games were against two of the league’s worst teams: Oakland and Washington. This is arguably the best defense he and the Rams have faced all year, and Arizona has a bit of extra incentive aside from a division title and playoff aspirations. Arizona’s slump began in week 10 when Carson Palmer tore his ACL against the Rams.

 

The Cardinals have about a 99% chance of making the playoffs, while the Rams have about a 99% chance of not making the post-season. Arizona can clinch a playoff spot tonight with a victory, plus any one of these five scenarios on Sunday:

- the Eagles beat the Cowboys; or
- the Cowboys beat the Eagles, plus the Packers beat or tie the Bills; or
- the Cowboys tie the Eagles, plus the Vikings beat the Lions; or
- the Vikings beat the Lions, plus the Packers beat or tie the Bills; or
- the Vikings beat the Lions, plus the Niners beat or tie the Seahawks

 

Odds and Trends

St. Louis -6
Over/Under 40Β½
Money Line: St. Louis -230, Arizona +195

The line opened up with the Rams favored by 3Β½, but that has moved steadily up to six points as the public heavily (about 68%) backed St. Louis. Once the line moved up that high the late money came in on Arizona’s side, making the final total close to 50-50. The point total was even more heavily weighted, about 80% on the under. Interestingly that number barely moved, with the late money going with the over to finish with a 53-47 split.

 

As impressive as the Rams have been the last two weeks, I’m hesitant to place too much stock in those performances based on the quality (or lack thereof) of the opposition. However, how can you have faith in an Arizona offense that is now without both their starting quarterback and running back?

At 3Β½ points I was leaning towards the Rams, but at six points I’m thinking Arizona’s defense will do enough to cover. Although the under is the logical play, I have a feeling that a turnover or three – a strong possibility in this game – may result in some defensive scores that throw that logic out the window.

Pick β€’ Rams 23, Cardinals 20
Cardinals +6 (one unit)
over 40Β½ (one unit)

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please call 1-888-ADMIT-IT.

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

Week 14 NFL Games – Previews and Predictions

FOX has the week 14 doubleheader, with most of the country getting Indianapolis at Cleveland early and then Seattle at Philadelphia late. The primary game on CBS is Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, those three games and ten others all serve as warm-ups to Sunday’s main event on NBC as the nine-win Patriots travel to San Diego to face the eight-win Chargers.

 

Remember when earlier this year NBA owner Mark Cuban predicted the imminent demise in popularity of the NFL?

Last week an average of 30,900,000 people watched the game between the Patriots and the Packers. It was the most-watched NFL regular season game since 2007, when the 8-0 Patriots played the 7-0 Colts. The game’s household rating (the percentage of households with televisions tuned to the program) of 19.2 and share (the percentage of homes with televisions on at the time) of 34 were also the highest for CBS in a regular season game since Tebowmania was in full force, and the 10-3 Patriots went to Denver to face a Broncos team that was riding a six-game winning streak; that December 28, 2011 event produced a 19.5 rating and a 36 share.

In the final half hour of the Pats-Packers game viewership peaked with 36,200,000 viewers, a 20.3 rating and a 34 share. To put how popular the game was in perspective, consider this: more Americans watched the New England-Green Bay regular season game than watched any non-NFL championship in any sport this year. All this comes just two weeks after the Patriots posted the second highest numbers in the history of Sunday Night Football in their game against the Colts. The highest rated SNF game ever you ask? That would be the last time the Patriots played the Packers, in 2010.

Now to be fair Cuban did say that the implosion of the NFL would happen in ten years, but right now his prognostication appears to be rather erroneous.

 

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Miami Dolphins (7-5) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker, Steve Beuerlein

Ryan Tannehill is playing better, and the Baltimore secondary is vulnerable, allowing 7.8 yards per pass and a 67% completion rate.
Pick β€’ Dolphins 31, Ravens 28
Ravens +3Β½
over 45Β½

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell

Ben Roethlisberger has cooled off since throwing twelve touchdown passes in weeks 8 and 9. The Bengals just won three consecutive road games, something that virtually never happens in the NFL, allowing just 12 points per game in that span, and have quietly won five of their last six games.
Pick β€’ Bengals 27, Steelers 24
Steelers +3Β½
over 47Β½

 

Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Cleveland Browns (7-5) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX (AFC game cross-flexed away from CBS)
Announcing crew: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver

I’m curious to see how the Indy defense performs today; in their last two games against teams with winning records the Colts allowed 93 points. Cleveland may not be an NFL juggernaut, but Josh Gordon is very capable of having a big day if Brian Hoyer can return to the form he showed earlier in the season. The problem is the Browns are still at least a year away; Cleveland is simply not as talented as Indy.
Pick β€’ Colts 34, Browns 24
Colts -3Β½
over 50

 

Houston Texans (6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Brian Anderson, Adam Archuleta

Even though Bill O’Brien was not in Houston in 2013, you can be sure that he has reminded the Texans that they lost to Jacksonville twice last year. Arian Foster returns for Houston this week, and the texans have been taking care of business against bad teams like Jacksonville all year.
Pick β€’ Texans 24, Jaguars 13
Texans -5Β½
under 42Β½

 

New York Giants (3-9) at Tennessee Titans (2-10) β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Thom Brennaman, David Diehl, Laura Okmin

Tennessee has lost six in a row, but the Giants own an even worse record of ineptitude; they’ve lost seven straight since defeating the Falcons in week 5. Zach Mettenberger had to leave with an injury thanks to the woeful Tennessee offensive line; I’ll go with the G-Men over a less than 100% rookie or Jake locker.
Pick β€’ Giants 31, Titans 20
Giants -1
over 45Β½

 

Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) at New Orleans Saints (5-7) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

Carolina is in a strange spot: with only three wins they are in a position to acquire a top draft pick, yet at the same time they are also in contention to win the division title and make the playoffs. The Saints should be able to to exploit a soft Carolina defense, but New Orleans has not played well enough – even at home – to warrant a double digit point spread.
Pick β€’ Saints 28, Panthers 20
Panthers +10
under 49Β½

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) at Detroit Lions (8-4) β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Dick Stockton, Brady Quinn, Kristina Pink

A mediocre Tampa Bay pass defense that is allowing a 31st-ranked 68% of the passes they face to be completed goes on the road against Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. One sign of a bad team is inability to finish, and the Bucs have blown leads in four of their last five games – including double-digit leads in back-to-back games. The Bucs should find another creative way to lose Sunday.
Pick β€’ Lions 24, Bucs 16
Bucs +10Β½
under 41Β½

 

St. Louis Rams (5-7) at Washington (3-9) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Sam Rosen, Kirk Morrison, Peter Schrager

Washington has lost four straight, has a quarterback controversy, and faces a team that won by 52 points last week. The Rams’ pass rush covers up some deficiencies in their pass coverage, and Tre Mason should be able to run against the Skins.
Pick β€’ Rams 24, Skins 17
Rams -3
under 44Β½

 

New York Jets(2-10) at Minnesota Vikings (5-7) β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots, Chris Fischer

The dysfunctional Jets will once again keep the ball out of Geno Smith’s hands and pound the rock. Last week the Jets ran the ball 49 times while Geno threw only 13 passes, and there is no reason to expect anything different Sunday. The Vikings have allowed an average of 167 yards rushing in their last two games, and are giving up 4.4 yards per carry on the season. Minnesota benefited from two blocked punts for touchdowns last week; it may be a bit much to ask for that kind of assistance again. On the other hand, the Jets can usually be counted on to find a way to lose.
Pick β€’ Vikings 17, Jets 13
Jets +6
under 40Β½

 

Buffalo Bills (7-5) at Denver Broncos (9-3) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Scott Kaplan

John Fox has finally figured out that he needs a running game and not rely so heavily on 38-year old Peyton Manning, who has lost some velocity on his passes. Buffalo was just 1-for-5 in the red zone last week, and rank 30th in the NFL with touchdowns on just 40.9% of their red zone attempts this year. That type of inefficiency won’t result in a win against a potent offense on the road.
Pick β€’ Broncos 27, Bills 19
Bills +10Β½
under 48Β½

 

Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-3) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn

While many in the media have jumped off the Arizona bandwagon after a couple of tough road losses, the Cardinals are still undefeated at home this year. Arizona has scored only 35 points in their last three games and will be without RB Andre Ellington due to a hip injury. Kansas City has lost two in a row as well – including a loss to the one-win Raiders – and have scored more than 24 points just once since defeating the Patriots early in the season.
Pick β€’ Cardinals 17, Chiefs 13
Cardinals +1
under 40Β½

 

San Francisco 49ers (7-5) at Oakland Raiders (1-11) β˜…β˜…
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale

Colin Kaepernick has struggled mightily due to some very questionable decisions on when and where to throw the ball. The perfect cure is a very short road trip against the NFL’s worst team: the Raiders are tied with the Jets for a league-low eight takeaways, and have the worst turnover differential at minus-18.
Pick β€’ Niners 23, Raiders 10
Niners -9Β½
under 41Β½

 

Seattle Seahawks (8-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-3) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

Seattle has shown that they can win on the road in recent years, and I have more faith in Russell Wilson than Mark Sanchez. After winning back-to-back 19-3 games against San Francisco and Arizona, the Seahawks are looking like the team that won it all last year.
Pick β€’ Seahawks 24, Eagles 20
Seahawks +1Β½
under 48Β½

New England Patriots (9-3) at San Diego Chargers (8-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Sunday night game on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

While this is not generating the hype that last week’s Pats-Packers game did, this is an excellent matchup between two very good teams. I would expect New England to focus on Philip Rivers’ four targets (Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal and TE Antonio Gates), which could result in RB Ryan Mathews having a big game. The Patriots are in a more difficult spot than many Pats fans think, playing an 8-4 team on the back end of a long road trip. Even so, I think Bill Belichick will come up with a new wrinkle to eek out a close win.
Pick β€’ Patriots 27, Chargers 24
Chargers +4
under 53Β½

Atlanta Falcons (5-7) at Green Bay Packers (9-3) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Monday night game on ESPN
Announcing crew: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters

Even if Green Bay has a bit of a letdown after last week’s win against the Patriiots, they should still have no problem slicing through an Atlanta defense that is allowing 403 yards and 25 points per game.
Pick β€’ Packers 35, Falcons 21
Falcons +13Β½
under 56Β½

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please call 1-888-ADMIT-IT.

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

Thanksgiving Day NFL Games

Turkey Day means an NFL triple-header for football fans to feast upon. This year it is an all-NFC affair, with being showcased later this weekend on Sunday and Monday night. Oh yeah, there’s also a late afternoon game Sunday that may be of interest to NFL fans as well…

 

Chicago Bears (5-6) at Detroit Lions (7-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game (12:30 pm ET) on CBS
Announcing crew: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson

The Bears have won two in a row while Detroit has lost two straight. Before reading too much into that, consider the opponents: Chicago played the Vikings and Bucs at home, while the Lions had to contend with Arizona and New England on the road. I like Detroit’s defense to rebound at home and force Jay Cutler into a couple of key turnovers.

Pick β€’ Lions 23, Bears 17
Bears +7
under 46Β½

 

Philadelphia Eagles (8-3) at Dallas Cowboys (8-3) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Middle game (4:30 pm ET) on FOX
Announcing crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

While the Patriots-Packers game is deserving of all the attention it is receiving this week, there are a few other great matchups as well. Thursday afternoon we have a contest between division rivals that both own 8-3 records; normally that would make this the game of the week. If you like scoring you should love this game: Dallas ranks 6th in yards (387 ypg) and 7th in points (26.5), while Philly is 4th with 412 yards per game and 3rd in scoring (31.1). The Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray leads the NFL with 1.354 yards rushing and 1.657 yards from scrimmage – that’s 403 more rushing yards and 222 more yards from scrimmage than any other player in the league – and Dez Bryant is 2nd with 10 touchdown receptions and 9th with 879 yards receiving. Philly’s up-tempo offense is more balanced, and led by LeSean McCoy (970 yards from scrimmage) and Jeremy Maclin (980 yards receiving).

Mark Sanchez is 3-1 since replacing Nick Foles, but his eight turnovers against inferior opponents (Houston, Carolina, Tennessee) in that short span are unsettling. In fact as a whole Philly’s eight victories are against teams with a cumulative 21-55 record. On the other hand the Dallas defense hasn’t shown much recently; they allowed the Giants to score on three drives of 80 yards or more, and allowed 417 total yards to New York last week. Bottom line is that I can’t back a Sanchez-quarterbacked team to defeat a good opponent on the road – on the anniversary of The ButtFumble.

Pick β€’ Cowboys 35, Eagles 27
Cowboys -3
over 54Β½ (two units)

 

Seattle Seahawks (7-4) at San Francisco 49ers (7-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game (8:30 pm ET) on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

Who would have guessed when the 2014 schedule was announced that the NFCCG rematch, between the two best teams of 2013, would only be the third best game of week 13? That’s not to say it is not worth watching; in fact, it will make for a nice contrast to the Dallas-Philadelphia game. Seattle is in a tough spot, coming off a game at Arizona and then having to go on the road on a short week to face the Niners – and then go on the road again next week to play at Philadelphia. For what it’s worth the Seahawks are 2-6 in their last eight road games within the division, while San Francisco is 15-1-1 in their last 17 home games against the NFC West. Although the Niners have not taken advantage of playing at home (3-2 this season) this year, I think they’ll grind out a tough win in this game.

Pick β€’ Niners 20, Seahawks 17
Niners -1Β½
under 42Β½

 

Three-way Parlay
SF-Sea under 42Β½, Dal-Phil over, Chi +7 (one unit)

Three-way Teaser
SF-Sea under 51Β½, Dal-Phil over 45Β½, Chi +16 (three units)

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please call 1-888-ADMIT-IT.

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker

 

 

Week 12 NFL Games — Previews and Predictions

Week 12 features four great games between legitimate playoff contenders – though unlike last week, the Patriots will now be on the under-card rather than the main event. Things kick off with a pair of division leaders as the 7-3 Detroit Lions travel to Foxborough to take on the 8-2 New England Patriots in an early afternoon game on FOX. After that 9-1 Arizona goes to Seattle to play the Seahawks in a game that has huge ramifications for the defending champs as well as the entire NFC playoff race.

A few minutes later the 7-3 Broncos host the 6-4 Miami Dolphins in primary late game on CBS (who has the doubleheader this week) as Denver attempts to stop a two-game skid and maintain their slim one-game lead in the AFC West. The Sunday night there’s another good matchup on NBC as the Baltimore Ravens, who are a half game out of the lead in the AFC North, travel to the Big Easy to play the Saints. 4-6 New Orleans has lost two in a row and has not lived up to preseason expectations thus far, but a victory could put them in first place in what has been a down year for the NFC South.

 

On Monday morning as everybody at work talking about the Pats victory over the Colts? If so, that’s not surprising considering the ratings that game achieved. The 40.0 rating and 58 market share were the second-highest numbers ever for the Pats in the history of Sunday Night Football. So what game was the highest? A 42.6 rating in 2010 against the Green Bay Packers – the team the Patriots will play next week. Expect the Brady-Rodgers hype to rival a typical Brady-Manning week, and the ratings for that game to bring very large smiles to CBS advertising executives.

For a benchmark perspective, the Bills-Dolphins week eleven game received a 4.8 household share – in comparison to the Pats-Colts number of 58.

 

Detroit Lions (7-3) at New England Patriots (8-2) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

Detroit owns the NFL’s best defense, ranked first both ‘officially’ (290.3 yards per game) and where it counts (15.6 points per game, which is two full points better tan number two Arizona). However, five of their seven wins came against teams with losing records, and one other victory was against Green Bay when the Packers were stumbling early in the season. The Lions were beaten soundly by the three-win Panthers, lost to Buffalo at home, and all of their last three wins – by a total of six points – could very easily have been losses.

The Lions have struggled on offense, but much of that can be attributed to the installation of a new offense. A good comparison would be with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013; Carson Palmer looked lost early in that season, but was clicking on all cylinders down the stretch. Detroit now has a healthy Calvin Johnson, though Reggie Bush will likely miss this game. The Pats can’t solely focus on Megatron because Golden Tate (68 receptions for 950 yards) has performed very well in his absence. Last week TE Coby Fleener was the beneficiary of a Patriot defense designed to hold Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton in check. Detroit’s tight ends haven’t done much (Eric Ebron leads the TE corps with 24 catches for 125 yards), nor have the running backs (Detroit is last with 798 rushing yards and 30th with 3.2 yards per carry), so the Pats may dare Detroit to beat them with either of those two groups.

For more on this game, check out:
Patriots 4th and Two Podcast
Patriots-Lions, Who Has the Razor’s Edge? Key Matchups
Pregame Thoughts and Analysis: Patriots Host Lions Sunday
New England Patriots Gameplan: Week 12 vs. Detroit Lions
And a Detroit newspaper perspective, mlive.com

The Patriots have scored 37 or more points in all but one of their last six games. The Pats are coming off big wins against Denver and Indy, with Green Bay on tap next week. For any other team I would think this game would be ripe for a bit of a letdown, but I can’t envision that happening to this team.
Pick β€’ Patriots 31, Lions 27
Lions +7
over 48Β½ (one unit)

Cleveland Browns (6-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-6) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker, Steve Beuerlein

The Falcons will be looking for their first win in seven tries outside the NFC South. The return of WR Josh Gordon gives a boost to Cleveland’s offense as the Browns seek to reclaim first place in the AFC North. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White typically light it up at home, this may turn out to be an entertaining, high scoring game.
Pick β€’ Falcons 28, Browns 24
Falcons -3
over 47 (one unit)

Tennessee Titans (2-8) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-3) β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn

After last week’s embarrassing 53-20 loss to Green Bay, Philly will be fired up to play much better this week. The Titans not only find themselves on the road against a superior team, but also in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Titans are 1-6 in games following a loss; on Monday morning that will be 1-7.
Pick β€’ Eagles 35, Titans 17
Eagles -8Β½
over 48Β½

Green Bay Packers (7-3) at Minnesota Vikings (4-6) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

Last time these two teams met the Packers ran for 156 yards, 5.6 yards per carry and two touchdowns. If Minnesota becomes overly focused on stopping the Green Bay passing game then expect Eddie Lacy to have another big game. If not, then expect the Packers to have a game like they did the last two weeks – when they lit up Chicago for 55 points and Philly for 53.
Pick β€’ Packers 31, Vikings 24
Vikings +9Β½
over 48Β½

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) at Indianapolis Colts (6-4) β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Tom McCarthy, Chris Simms

After a three-game stretch in which they averaged allowing only 13 points per game, the Jacksonville defense has regressed and given up 91 points in their three games since then. The Colts (3-0 within the division, 3-4 outside) continue to take advantage of the AFC South. The Jaguars are too banged up for me to take a very tempting point spread.
Pick β€’ Colts 35, Jaguars 17
Colts -13Β½
over 50 (one unit)

Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1) at Houston Texans (5-5) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell

The Bengals are an inconsistent team, and inconsistent teams don’t play well in consecutive games on the road. On the other hand it’s tough to fully back a quarterback making his second NFL start (Ryan Mallett) against a solid defense.
Pick β€’ Texans 20, Bengals 17
Texans -1Β½
under 43Β½

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) at Chicago Bears (4-6) β˜…β˜…
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Thom Brennaman, David Diehl, Laura Okmin

Lovie Smith and Josh McCown return to play their first game in Chicago. Supposedly they were going to get revenge when the Bucs played the Falcons for the second time, after losing at Atlanta by 42 points; that didn’t happen. I don’t see it happening on the road rather than at home this week either. Giving up a ton of points at New England or at Green Bay is not unusual for an NFL team; the Bears defense will more resemble the one that allowed only 13 points at home last week.
Pick β€’ Bears 27, Bucs 17
Bears -5
under 46Β½

Arizona Cardinals (9-1) at Seattle Seahawks (6-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver

A one-loss team with the NFL’s best record versus the defending champions makes for week twelve’s best game. Arizona is second in the league with a plus-20 turnover differential, which more than compensates for a defense that may at first glance (12th in yards, 20th in yards per play) appear to be overrated. Seattle desperately needs to win this game – not to win the division, but to keep a wild card spot within their sights. I can’t recall a 9-1 team ever being this much of an underdog to a team with three fewer wins; I’m sure Arizona will play the disrespect card in the locker room, even if there’s no need for any extra motivation.
Pick β€’ Cardinals 20, Seahawks 17
Cardinals +7
under 42Β½

St. Louis Rams (4-6) at San Diego Chargers (6-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale

While the Rams deserve to be congratulated for knocking off Denver last week, consider this: the Broncos were playing their third straight road game, something that historically results in a poor performance quite often. Now St. Louis is on the road rather than at home, and San Diego – who is one game off the lead in the AFC West as well as one game out of a playoff spot – won’t be taking the Rams lightly. While the Chargers have lost three of their last four, two were against quality teams (Denver and Miami) on the road; they should get the win here.
Pick β€’ Chargers 24, Rams 17
Chargers -5
under 43Β½

Miami Dolphins (6-4) at Denver Broncos (7-3) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: im Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson

It looks like TE Julius Thomas will not play but WR Emmanuel Sanders will start for Denver. In their five games since losing to Green Bay by three, the Dolphins are allowing just 11.2 points per game. Ryan Tannehill is playing well (17 TD, 7 INT) this season and very well this month (6 TD, 1 INT, 73% complete) for Miami. If this game was in south Florida I would solidly back the Dolphins, but I’m reluctant to do so at Mile High; Manning and the Broncos rarely lose two in a row.
Pick β€’ Broncos 27, Dolphins 20
Broncos -6Β½
under 48Β½

Washington (3-7) at San Francisco (6-4) β˜…β˜…
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Scott Kaplan

Washington has lost six of their last eight games, has covered the spread just once in their last seven games, owns the second worst record in the NFC, and now travels across three time zones to play a team fighting for a playoff spot. The Niners won two straight games on the road after being upset by St. Louis; they should have no trouble giving their home fans a victory here.
Pick β€’ Niners 27, Skins 13
Niners -9
under 44Β½

Dallas Cowboys (7-3) at New York Giants (3-7) β˜…β˜…β˜…
Sunday night on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

The Giants are allowing far too much pressure too often on passing plays, and the revamped Dallas defense should be able to take advantage of the weakness. The Cowboys are coming off a bye week, which means a well rested DeMarco Murray could be in for a big game. New York does not have a good football team, and the annual Dallas slide does not occur until we flip the calendar to december.
Pick β€’ Cowboys 27, Giants 17
Cowboys -3Β½
under 48Β½

New York Jets (2-8) at Buffalo Bills (5-5) β˜…
Monday night on CBS
Announcing crew: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots, Chris Fischer

Cool deal for this game: tickets are free and available to the general public. Good idea, because otherwise the attendance would rival that of a WNBA game. The Bills have lost two in a row and have had their normal week of preparation turned upside down by the snow at Orchard Park.
Pick β€’ Jets 20, Bills 17
Jets +2Β½
under 41Β½

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) at New Orleans Saints (4-6) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Monday night on ESPN
Announcing crew: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters

After an unthinkable two straight home losses, the Saints host a Baltimore team that is coming off a bye. Both teams are currently on the bubble for a playoff spot, but this matchup doesn’t look good for the Ravens. Baltimore is still working with a makeshift secondary that Drew Brees should be able to take advantage of converted safety Anthony Levine and journeyman Danny Gorrer trying to cover the Saints receivers.
Pick β€’ Saints 30, Ravens 21
Saints -3
over 50

Bye Week: Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4), Carolina Panthers (3-7-1)

Two-Way Parlays:
Eagles and Over
Colts and Over
Niners and Under

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please call 1-888-ADMIT-IT.

 

 

Follow on Twitter @AllThingsPats

2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

2014 New England Patriots Transaction Tracker