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Archive for the ‘ game preview ’ Category

The Baltimore Ravens travel to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots in the playoffs for the third time in four years, and the fourth time in the last six post seasons on Saturday. While the media has taken a 2-1 record and hyped that into the often repeated ‘Ravens have the Patriots number’ in an attempt to hype this game, the fact remains that the Patriots were the best team in the AFC this year and Baltimore backed into the playoffs thanks to a loss by the Chargers in week 17, as they stumbled down the stretch against lesser opponents.

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (12-4) ★★★★★
Saturday, January 10 at 4:30 pm ET on NBC
Line: Patriots favored by seven, with an over/under of 48½
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya
National Radio: Westwood One – Ian Eagle, Boomer Esiason, Tony Boselli
Local Radio: 98.5, The Sports Hub – Bob Socci, Scott Zolak

Pre-game Shows:
Chris Price’s Patriots 4th and Goal – YouTube video
Patriots 4th and Two – podcast available on demand
7:00-9:00: NFL AM – NFL Network
7:30-8:30: The Brady 6 – ESPN
8:30-9:00: NFL Matchup – ESPN2
9:00-10:00: Inside the NFL – NFL Network
9:00-10:00: NFL Live – ESPN
10:00-12:00: NFL Game Day First – NFLN
10:00-12:00: NFL Countdown – ESPN
11:30-12:30: Patriots Game Day – WBZ
12:00-4:30: NFL Game Day Morning – NFLN
1:00-3:00: NHL Hockey, Bruins at Flyers – NESN
2:00-2:30: New England Tailgate – Comcast Sports Net New England
2:30-4:30: Pre Game Live – CSNNE
2:30-4:30: Dunkin’ Donuts Patriots Pre-Game Social – Marc Bertrand, Paul Perillo, Andy Hart
3:30-4:30: Football Night In America – NBC

Post-game Shows:
Patriots Football Weekly Post-game Show – Marc Bertrand, Paul Perillo, Andy Hart
Real Postgame Show – WEEI

 

All week long the football media has pounded the drum about how the Ravens have the Pats number; you would think Baltimore has won ten straight playoff games against New England from the sounds of things, rather than being one game over .500. The reality is those teams have little to do with the current squads, and there were circumstances that are quit different from today. The 2009 New England team was the last vestige of the 2003-07 era and it was running on fumes. There were a lot of bad attitudes in the locker room that were gone as soon as the season was over, and that team had just lost a huge part of their offense (Wes Welker) the week before at Houston. The 2012 club was a team in transition; that was a rebuilding year in which the club vastly overacieved, and when they met the Ravens they were again suddenly, without time to adjust, without their top offensive playmaker (Rob Gronkowski). Besides the overtly small sample size of two games, today’s rosters for both teams – don’t forget the Ravens no longer have Ray Lewis or Ed Reed – are vastly different.

All that aside, this game really comes down to how well New England’s offensive line can perform against Baltimore’s front seven. Much has been written about the Patriots last few regular season games, where the offense did not play as well as they had earlier in the season. The absence of Dan Connolly cannot be minimized, not because he plays at an All Pro level, but because there is a huge drop off to replacements like Josh Kline. The way to disrupt a pure pocket passer like Tom Brady is with pressure on the interior of the line, collapsing the pocket and making it difficult to step into throws. Baltimore is very capable of doing just that with big, strong physical tackles Brandon Williams and Haloti Ngata, but don’t forget this: when the Patriots had their current five man OL in place, they were able to effectively neutralize some very good defensive lines such as Detroit’s and Buffalo’s.

This is not going to be anything at all like the 2012 game against Denver (when the Pats ran the ball 54 times) or the Colts game earlier this season (when Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns); the Patriots won’t be able to push the opposing line out of the way like they did in those games. However, if the Pats can run the ball about 20-25 times for 75-80+ yards – very reachable numbers – that will be enough to keep them from being one dimensional, and preventing the Ravens from teeing off with their pass rush while disregarding the run.

Baltimore Ravens run defense statistics and rankings:
3.6 yards per carry – 3rd best in the NFL
88.3 yards per game – 4th best in the NFL
24.1 rush attempts/game – 5th best in the NFL
4.7 first downs per game – 5th best in the NFL
8 rushing touchdowns – tied for 5th best in the NFL
37% opponent rush play percentage – 3rd lowest in the NFL
24% opponent rushing 1st down % – 4th lowest in the NFL
25.6% opp rushing yards percentage – 2nd lowest in the NFL

Watching the Ravens on film makes me feel that their run defense is not quite as good as their stats would make you believe. I believe that is due to a combination of playing several teams with inferior lines and running backs, and bad teams falling behind and abandoning the run. In the final game of the regular season, the Cleveland Browns had third stringer Connor Shaw at quarterback, and no Josh Gordon at wide receiver against the Ravens. Even though it was obvious the Browns weren’t going to rely on their passing game, Cleveland’s Terrance West ran for 94 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. If the Browns – who had one of the worst running games in the NFL this year, averaging 3.6 yards per carry – could do that against Baltimore in that situation, then is the Ravens’ run D really all that it is being hyped up to be? On the other side of the ball, I think the Baltimore running game can be stopped. They did not look impressive against Jacksonville (Justin Forsett averaged 3.0 yards per carry for 48 yards), Houston (15 rushes for 28 yards, less than two yards per carry) or Pittsburgh (49 yards, less than two yards per carry).

One final note: Bill Belichick game plans to take away an opponent’s strength, and force that team to beat you elsewhere. With that in mind I would expect the Patriots to be focused on covering Steve Smith and Torrey Smith, with a pass rush designed to get to Joe Flacco before their long developing routes are complete. That could conceivably open things up for Forsett and Bernard Pierce in the running game. It could also lead to openings for the third and fourth receiving option; we have seen that multiple times with opposing tight ends (e.g., Coby Fleener against Indy). TE Owen Daniels and former Patriot Kamar Aiken in the slot could become key players if Flacco does not try to force the ball (that’s a big if right there) to the two Smiths.

 

The bottom line is that the Patriots are the better team, and should win. I don’t believe that Will Hill can contain Gronk, who was injured last time the Pats played the Ravens in the post season. The Baltimore front seven is strong enough to force the Pats off the field with a couple of three and outs, and will likely force at least one turnover. However, the Ravens have appeared vulnerable to a no-huddle offense against Cincinnati and San Diego this season; expect to see the Patriots bring the up-tempo hurry-up once again at some point, to their advantage. The Patriots are 7-1 in games with the combination of Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer. In eight games with that offensive line Tom Brady completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,433 yards, 21 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, a passer rating of 103.6, and was sacked just four times. That unit is intact and healthy for this game, which should lead to distinctly better results than what we saw in the first four weeks of the season or week 16 and 17, when they were not together.

Pick • Patriots 23, Ravens 20
Ravens +7
under 48½

 

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

 

 

NFL Playoffs: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys – odds, stats, preview and prediction

The final game of the NFL’s wild card weekend should be an entertaining event, as the Detroit Lions travel south to Jerry’s World to take on the Dallas Cowboys. The Lions have a great defense and Dallas possess one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses, which makes for a very interesting matchup. In addition the game features two of the very best wide receivers in the league: Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant.

#6 Detroit Lions (11-5) at #3 Dallas Cowboys (12-4) ★★★★★
Late Sunday game on FOX
Play-by-play: Joe Buck; Analyst: Troy Aikman; Sideline: Erin Andrews and Chris Myers
Final Line: Cowboys favored by 6½
Point Total: over/under 48
Money Line: Lions +220, Cowboys -260
Record Against The Spread: Lions 7-9, Cowboys 10-6
Over/Under: Lions 5 over, 11 under; Cowboys 9 over, 6 under, 1 push

Home/Away: Lions 4-4 on the road, Cowboys 4-4 at home
Turnover Differential: Lions plus-7 (T-6th), Cowboys plus-6 (T-9th)
Net Points Differential: Lions plus-39 (13th), Cowboys plus-115 (5th)

Points Scored: Lions 20.1 (22nd), Cowboys 29.2 (5th)
Yards per Game: Lions 341 (19th), Cowboys 384 (7th)
Giveaways: Lions 20 (T-6th), Cowboys 25 (20th)
Yards per Play: Lions 5.2 (21st), Cowboys 6.0 (3rd)
Third Down Conversion: Lions 38.6% (23rd), Cowboys 47.3% (2nd)
Yards per Point Efficiency: Lions 17.0 (25th), Cowboys 13.1 (3rd)
Red Zone TD Scoring: Lions 53.2% (17th), Cowboys 64.7% (2nd)

Points Allowed: Lions 17.6 (3rd), Cowboys 22.0 (15th)
Yards Allowed: Lions 301 (2nd), Cowboys 355 (19th)
Takeaways: Lions 27 (T-8th), Cowboys 31 (2nd)
Yards per Play: Lions 4.9 (4th), Cowboys 5.8 (26th)
Third Down Conversion: Lions 37.2% (9th), Cowboys 43.6% (27th)
Yards per Point Efficiency: Lions 17.1 (8th), Cowboys 16.1 (11th)
Red Zone TD Scoring: Lions 53.1% (17th), Cowboys 61.2% (27th)

 

Dallas has been one of the best in the NFL against the spread, perhaps a reflection that the betting public expected the Cowboys to stumble at some point like they have so many times in recent seasons. The Lions on the other hand appear to be overrated: they are the only playoff team with a losing record against the spread. Matt Stafford is a dismal 0-16 against teams with winning records on the road after losing a chance to get a first round bye in last week’s loss at Green Bay. As we saw in that game Detroit was definitely the better team on defense, but their inability to move the ball – against a so-so defense – was too much to overcome.

The Cowboys’ annual late season swoon is a thing of the past. Dallas scored 165 points in December, including three games with more than 40 points. The Dallas defense, though not great, is holding its own, allowing just 24 points in the last two games to cap off a four-game winning streak. Between Tony Romo (who is completing 70% of his passes), Dez Bryant (an NFL-best 16 receiving touchdowns) and DeMarco Murray (1,845 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns, 4.7 yards per carry), Dallas has more than enough weapons to counter the Detroit defense. The Cowboys are very strong with their interior offensive line – center Travis Frederick and RG Zack Martin were both Pro Bowlers – and they should be able to limit the effectiveness of foot stomper Ndamukong Suh. The Detroit defense should be able to keep the score low and close, but I fully expect Dallas to win this game and move on to play Green Bay next week.

Pick • Cowboys 24, Lions 20
Lions +7
under 48½

 

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

 

 

In a matchup of a strong defense versus a potent offense, the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in this weekend’s third wild card round playoff game.

#5 Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1) at #4 Indianapolis Colts (11-5) ★★★★★
Early Sunday game on CBS
Announcing crew: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Final Line: Colts favored by 3½
Point Total: over/under 47½
Money Line: Bengals +170; Colts -200
Home/Away: Bengals 5-3 on the road, Colts 6-2 at home
Points Scored: Bengals 22.8 (15th), Colts 28.6 (6th)
Yards per Game: Bengals 348 (15th), Colts 407 (3rd)
Giveaways: Bengals 26 (T-21st), Colts 31 (T-29th)
Points Allowed: Bengals 21.5 (12th), Colts 23.1 (19th)
Yards Allowed: Bengals 359 (22nd), Colts 343 (11th)
Takeaways: Both teams with 26 (T-10th)
Turnover Differential: Bengals even (T-16th), Colts minus-5 (T-22nd)

Cincinnati has a good offensive line and a strong running game. Jeremy Hill rushed for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry, despite not becoming the club’s primary back until the eighth game of the season. His bruising style is a perfect compliment to the quick shifty style of Giovanni Bernard, who totaled 1,029 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns despite missing three games with hip and shoulder injuries. The lighter workload has been beneficial for the 5’9″ Bernard, and the thunder and lightning backfield can wear down and demoralize opposing defenses.

As we saw in week eleven when Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns, the Indy defensive line can be pushed around by a strong offensive line. That is exactly what I expect to happen today, even if the Colts stack the line of scrimmage with safety help. The Bengals will be without WR A.J. Green, but Mohamed Sanu (56 receptions for 790 yards and five touchdowns) produced as the number one receiver earlier this year when Green missed some time. Cincinnati has held seven opponents to 16 or fewer points this year, which is the second best in the NFL. Indianapolis on the other hand has struggled offensively down the stretch; the Colts are averaging 23 points per game since their week 10 bye, despite scoring 49 in week 13 against Washington.

Earlier in the week I took the Bengals when they were getting 4½ points for four units, and two units on the under at 49. Even though those numbers have dropped, I would still side with the Bengals and the points as well as the under.
Pick • Bengals 24, Colts 20
Bengals +3½ (two units)
under 47½

 

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 Ravens and Steelers meet for the third time this season, this time with the season on the line in the wild card round of the playoffs. Since the Browns left Cleveland and became the Ravens the Steelers hold a 24-17 edge in this division rivalry. After five consecutive games that were decided by three or fewer points, this year’s results were not at all close. Baltimore won 26-6 on a Thursday night game in week two, but Pittsburgh turned the tables with a 20-point victory of their own at home in week nine as Ben Roethlisberger threw for 340 yards and six touchdowns.

 

Much has been made of the fact that Pittsburgh running back Steelers Le’Veon Bell has been ruled out. Bell led the AFC 2,315 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns this season, and accounted for 35% of Pittsburgh’s total yards this season. To me Bell’s absence is being overblown. In the 43-23 victory over the Ravens in November, Bell only had 58 yards from scrimmage. The biggest weakness for Baltimore is their secondary, especially ever since CB Jimmy Smith was placed on injured reserve in early November. Anthony Levine played his way out of a starting position, Danny Gorrer joined Smith on IR, and that has led to former practice squad member Rashaan Melvin and street free agent Antoine Cason being counted on far too heavily in the secondary opposite Lardarius Webb.

Baltimore does get DT Haloti Ngata back from a four-game PED supension, which should help their defense. On the other side of the ball LT Eugene Monroe returns from an ankle injury, but they at RT James Hurst has been a liability since Rick Wagner went out with a foot injury two weeks ago.

Earlier in the season Ben Roethlisberger and the Steeler offense got all the attention, as Pittsburgh scored 124 points in a three-game winning streak. However it has been better performances by the defense that has propelled the Steelers to the division title and a four-game winning streak to finish the season. Pittsburgh forced seven turnovers in the last four games after generating just 14 in the first twelve games. Their lack of ability to take the ball away has been a major factor in why they had missed the playoffs the last two years; if the Steelers can continue this trend they can be a major player in the post-season.

 

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) ★★★★★
Saturday night game on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

In crunch time at the end of the year the Ravens did not look good, and Joe Flacco in particular did not play well. Pittsburgh on the other hand was playing better and better at season’s end, but the absence of Le’Veon Bell cannot be completely discounted. Running backs Dri Archer and Josh Harris have combined for a mere 19 rushes this season. You have to wonder why Mike Tomlin didn’t give LeGarrette Blount some more touches to help keep Bell fresh for the playoffs, and it is mystifying why Tomlin did not give Archer and Harris more carries once Blount was waived. Despite that gaffe I just don’t see Flacco suddenly emerging from his funk against the Pittsburgh defense, or the Raven secondary being able to contain WR Antonio Brown.
Pick • Steelers 31, Ravens 24
Steelers -3
over 45½

 

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

 

 

Two teams with vastly differing records that are heading in equally opposite directions meet in the first game of this season’s NFL playoffs. The Arizona Cardinals have won four more games than the Carolina Panthers did this year, yet find themselves listed as high as 6½-point underdogs in this wild card game.

Carolina becomes the second team in five years to win a division and make the playoffs despite having a losing record. The 7-8-1 Panthers went two full months without a victory, winless in seven games between October 5 and December 7. A week 14 41-10 thumping of the Saints kicked off a four-game winning streak while at the same time New Orleans spiraled out of control, opening the door for an improbable division run. With all those victories coming against teams that finished with losing records, questions still remain regarding the Panthers. Carolina defeated only one team with a winning record this season, and that was back in week two against Detroit. The Panthers barely beat Tampa Bay (19-17) and Cleveland (17-13), but on the other hand looked very impressive at New Orleans and Atlanta (34-3) in that four-game winning streak.

 

Arizona Offense vs Carolina Defense

The Panthers’ defense was among the NFL’s worst for most of the season, with the year-long loss of DE Greg Hardy causing a more than anticipated void. Carolina’s run defense has looked respectable over the last few games, and should have no problem containing Arizona running backs Stepfan Taylor and Kerwynn Williams. While the Cardinals have very capable receivers (Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown), they are nowhere near as effective as when Palmer is under center. The Cardinals’ offensive line can be pushed around, and Carolina’s defense has rediscovered their pass rush. DE Charles Johnson (8.5 sacks) has been playing very well of late, and Carolina has chalked up 14 sacks and nine takeaways over the last four games.

The 11-5 Cardinals lost four of their last six games, were only 5-5 in games without Carson Palmer, and now his backup, Drew Stanton is out as well. Third-stringer David Lindley struggled in two losses as the starting quarterback, completing less than 50% of his passes while throwing twice as many interceptions as touchdowns. Arizona scored an average of 11.5 points in those two games, and with RB Andre Ellington also on injured reserve an average offense has now become anemic.

 

Carolina Offense vs Arizona Defense

To make matters worse the injury bug has also hit the defense this year, with DT Darnell Dockett, DE Ed Stinson and LB John Abraham among eight players on IR; in addition ILB Daryl Washington was suspended for the full season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Somehow the Arizona D persevered with the next man up mantra, led by LB Alex Okafor (8 sacks), DE Calais Campbell (7 sacks), and clutch plays from DL Frostee Rucker (5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles). The pressure they and NT Dan Williams generate make things easier for corners Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie, and together they are capable of stifling any NFL offense. Carolina’s offensive line was a mess early in the year, but have improved since LG Andrew Norwell and RT Mike Remmers were inserted into the starting lineup. The Panthers like to run the ball (an average of 30 attempts per game) and Jonathan Stewart (4.6 yards per carry) has been quietly effective, with 486 yards rushing in the last five games. If – and it is a big if – Carolina can get the running game open, that could open things up for TE Greg Olsen and rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin; those two had 1,008 yard receiving each, and combined for 15 touchdowns. Cam Newton has started to look like his old self since his car crash, rushing for a touchdown in three straight games. During that time Newton has accounted for eight scores and one just turnover; he has run for 246 yards in Carolina’s four-game streak.

Early in the season Arizona was winning games by forcing turnovers on defense while protecting the ball on offense, and that will be key for them Saturday to have any chance of winning. The Cardinals finished the season with a plus-eight turnover differential, which was fifth best in the NFL. That helped mask some serious deficiencies with the offense. Arizona ranked 24th in scoring (19.4 points per game), 24th in yardage (320 ypg), 31st in rushing yards (82 ypg) and 32nd in yards per carry (3.3). The bend-don’t-break defense ranked fifth in scoring (18.7 ppg) despite allowing 368 yards per game (24th) thanks in large part to those turnovers, but by season’s end the team had scored just 11 more points than they had allowed. In reality the Cardinals probably should have been 8-8, and with the current lineup they’re in the running for a top ten, if not top five draft pick.

 

#5 Arizona Cardinals (11-5) at #4 Carolina Panthers ★★★
NFC Wild Card Game
Saturday January 3 at 4:30 pm ET on ESPN
Announcing crew: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters

While Carolina’s defense has been stepping up in the last month, Arizona’s has been breaking down and falling apart at the seams. The Cardinals’ D can’t get off the field, while at the same time their offense goes three-and-out. Arizona has allowed a colossal 473 yards rushing in the last two games; if they don’t get it in gear Williams and Newton could both have huge games while keeping Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona offense on the sidelines. However, I think the Cardinals have enough talent on defense to keep this game low scoring and relatively close – but it won’t be enough for a win. I’ll go with Carolina to win but take the Cardinals and the points, as well as the under despite the low point total being listed.
Pick • Panthers 20, Cardinals 16
Cardinals +6½
under 38½

On a side note, this game marks the first time in the history of the NFL that a playoff game will be televised by a cable company as opposed to an over-the-air broadcasting network. While it may not seem like a big deal today considering how minute the number of households is that rely on an antenna to receive local broadcasts, it wasn’t all that long ago that games being broadcast on cable was a big deal. While concerns that games on cable were the first step to the NFL becoming a pay-per-view have dissipated, it is still a noteworthy event.

 

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 17 NFL games – odds, tv info, previews and predictions

While the Patriots play in what amounts to an exhibition game thanks to having already wrapped up home field throughout the playoffs, there will be plenty of intriguing football elsewhere on Sunday. Four AFC teams head into week 17 battling for the final playoff spot, and in the NFC the Panthers are at Atlanta with the winner taking the NFC South division title and the fourth seed, with the season ending for the loser.

This is the only week of the regular season that all games will be played on Sunday. No Thursday Night Football, no Monday Night Football, and no Thursday Night Football on Saturday Night! (huh?) this week. This is also the only time CBS and FOX both have Sunday doubleheaders, and this year there’s a nice perk for NFL fans – no blackouts. Normally when a team is playing at home there can be no other game televised at the same time, an outdated in theory that was put in place to help that team with gate receipts and concessions. For example if you lived in Phoenix and the Cardinals were playing a home game on FOX at the same time the Patriots were playing the Broncos on CBS, there would be no New England-Denver game available where you lived.

The big early game on CBS is San Diego at Kansas City. If the Chargers win they are in, but if KC wins then that opens up the door for the Chiefs, Ravens and Texans for the sixth AFC playoff spot. At the same time on FOX the Panthers play the Falcons in what is essentially a playoff game; the winner continues to play again next week while the loser goes home.

The late game on FOX should be a great one as the Lions travel to Lambeau Field to play the Packers. The winner will most likely get a first round bye while the loser probably goes on the road to play Dallas. On CBS the late game is Oakland at Denver, with the Broncos needing a win to secure a first round bye. Things wrap up with an excellent AFC matchup on NBC Sunday night, with Cincinnati at Pittsburgh. The winner takes the AFC North tile and most likely the number three seed, while the loser drops to the number five seed and will have to go on the road, almost guaranteed to be at Indianapolis.

 

Buffalo Bills (8-7) at New England Patriots (12-3) ★★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots

The Patriots have nothing to play for having secured the number one seed, while Buffalo – though eliminated from the playoffs for the 15th consecutive season – could still claim their first winning season in a decade with a victory. The Pats will likely rest banged up starters (Julian Edelman, Dan Connolly, LaGarrette Blount, Kyle Arrington), and Jonas Gray and Alfonzo Dennard have already been ruled out. Most are expecting Jimmy Garoppolo to receive extended playing time in relief of Tom Brady at quarterback, and with this being a meaningless game the spread has dropped from eleven points to under four in many locations, with the point total dropping by over seven points as well. Last week Buffalo was stonewalling Oakland on the ground (six carries for five yards) until DT Marcel Dareus left with a knee injury. After that the Raiders had their way, rushing for 135 yards on 30 carries. Dareus has not practiced all week, so it is very doubtful that he will play. Even though the Pats are thin at running back, expect them to run the way they did in last year’s season finale, when the Patriots rushed for 267 yards against the Bills.
Pick • Patriots 20, Bills 17
Bills +5
under 44½ (one unit)

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) at Houston Texans (8-7) ★★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale

Bill O’Brien has the Texans still in the hunt for a playoff spot heading into the final week of the season. If Houston wins this game they need the Chiefs to win at home against San Diego (very possible) and for the Browns to knock off Baltimore (less likely) to get into the post-season. The Texans have won three of their last four after last week’s victory over the Ravens, and the Jags have played better lately as well, winning two of their last four after losing ten of their first eleven games. Both teams have decent defenses but limited offenses, so expect a close, low scoring game.
Pick • Texans 20, Jaguars 13
Jags +10
under 40½ (one unit)

 

Indianapolis Colts (10-5) at Tennessee Titans (2-13) ★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta

The Colts could theoretically grab the number three seed, but for that to happen they would need a win and then have the Bengals-Steelers game to end in a tie. Since the latter is highly unlikely this game just becomes a glorified scrimmage, with Tennessee fans just hoping their team doesn’t screw up having the second overall pick in the draft by winning this game. Last week Indy had more turnovers than Tony Romo had incomplete passes in their blowout loss to Dallas. The Colts need to get their defense turned around quickly, and playing against a Tennessee team that is averaging 10.3 points over its last three games should help them get some practice with the basics. The Titans have lost nine straight and just want the season to end; the Colts want to head into the playoffs on a positive note. With that in mind I would expect the Colts to play inspired ball after last week’s debacle, even if this game means nothing and the backups receive plenty of snaps.
Pick • Colts 31, Titans 13
Colts -6½ (two units)
under 46½

 

Cleveland Browns (7-8) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6) ★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Jamie Erdahl

The Ravens are going to be motivated, coming off a tough loss in a game they expected to win, while at the same time knowing they have to win in order to have any shot at the playoffs. Brian Hoyer is available for Cleveland but Mike Pettine announced the Browns will start undrafted rookie Connor Shaw at quarterback. With Hoyer likely departing in free agency and Manziel a big question mark, it makes sense for Cleveland to give Shaw some real game time experience for evaluation. Shaw will be without WR Josh Gordon, who was suspended by the Browns for a violation of team rules. Gordon (and Johnny Manziel) reportedly missed the final walk through before this game, which does not bode well for either player’s future. Missing this game means Gordon will have only five games on the 2014 season, and six games is the minimum to achieve an accrued season. That means Gordon will be a restricted free agent rather than an unrestricted free agent next spring, a distinction that could cost him millions. Cleveland has defended well against the pass but their run defense stinks, so Justin Forsett should have a big game for the Ravens. Baltimore’s defense should feast on a rookie quarterback on an already mediocre defense; this game shouldn’t be close at all.
Pick • Ravens 27, Browns 10
Ravens -13
under 39½

 

New York Jets (3-12) at Miami Dolphins (8-7)
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker, Steve Beuerlein

Which coach gets fired first, Rex Ryan or Joe Philbin? After a 5-3 start the Dolphins lost four of their next six games, and will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season. A victory would give the Dolphins a winning record for the first time since 2008, but that may not be enough to save Philbin’s job. Meanwhile Rex Ryan has already cleaned out his office, a clear signal removing any doubt that may have remained that he will not return as head coach of the Jets. This is one of five games with zero possible playoff implications, and may be the worst game on the week 17 slate. This week Geno Smith publicly stated that a coaching change could be good for the team. Watching the interaction between Ryan and Smith may be the only thing that makes this game worth viewing. The Jets have won their last two games in Miami and for some reason do love their coach and play hard for him; I’ll take the Jets in an upset, with the defense carrying Ryan off the field at the end of the game.
Pick • Jets 19, Dolphins 16
Jets +6½ (two units)
under 42 (one unit)

 

San Diego Chargers (9-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-7) ★★★★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell

For San Diego it is simple: a win and they’re in, a loss and the season’s over. For Kansas City it’s bit more complicated as they not only need the Chargers to lose, but the Chiefs also need Baltimore and Houston to lose as well. This will be the second year in a row that San Diego will be attempting to make the playoffs on the final game of the year against Kansas City, and their chances improved when it was announced that KC quarterback Alex Smith will not play due to a lacerated spleen. This is also the second year in a row that the Chiefs have stumbled down the stretch after a strong start; Kansas City has lost four out of five games since beating Seattle in week 11, and being talked up as a team that could knock Denver off as AFC West division champs. The public apparently has little faith in Chase Daniels as KC’s quarterback; since it was announced Smith would miss the game the line has shifted four points, with some venues now listing San Diego as the favorite.
Pick • Chargers 20, Chiefs 17
Chargers +1½
under 41½

 

Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (6-9) ★★
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Dick Stockton, Brady Quinn, Kristina Pink

Another Dead Man Walking game, as Marc Trestman is surely out as head coach of the dysfunctional Bears. Trestman won’t be alone, as GM Phil Emery – who opted for Trestman over Bruce Arians as Chicago’s head coach – will also be shown the door. QB Jay Cutler is in his final game with the Bears too, even though cutting him will create $19,500,00 in dead money; there’s no way the new regime will keep him, or pay him over $15 million next year. Cutler did throw for 330 yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota in November, but the Vikings have been playing much better since then. Minnesota’s defense took a step backward last week in Miami after holding opponents to an average of 17 points in the previous three games. Will Cutler be motivated to have a big game, or mail it in? It may not matter, with RB Matt Asiata, QB Teddy Bridgewater and his young receivers all having big games against a Chicago defense that is allowing an NFL-worst 28.6 points per game.
Pick • Vikings 31, Bears 27
Bears +6½
over 44 (two units)

 

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) at New York Giants (6-9) ★★
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

Another game with no playoff implications for either team, which makes it difficult to handicap. Philly should be motivated after last week’s embarrassment at Washington, but having lost three in a row and being eliminated they may just go through the motions. Mark Sanchez has turned the ball over five times during this critical losing streak, making it difficult to back Philly. The Eagles have now turned the ball over a league-high 35 times, which will lead to more opportunities for New York’s offense. Odell Beckham has made Eli Manning look much better than he did a year ago. Since being inserted into the lineup Manning’s numbers have skyrocketed, with Beckham totaling 1,004 receiving yards over the last eight games and eight touchdowns in the last five games. The Giants get a bit of revenge from their week six 27-0 loss at Philadelphia.
Pick • Giants 34, Eagles 31
Giants -2½
over 52 (two units)

 

Dallas Cowboys (11-4) at Washington Redskins (4-11) ★★★
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver

Dallas still has a shot at a first round bye – they need a win plus losses by both the Seahawks and Cardinals for that to happen – so they probably won’t be resting starters and playing at half speed. With LT Trent Williams probably out with a shoulder injury, Washington’s offense is in trouble. The Skins rank 27th in scoring with 18.9 points per game and they just don’t have the firepower to keep up with Dallas, even if DeMarco Murray is limited or doesn’t play.
Pick • Cowboys 24, Redskins 20
Skins +4½
under 49½

 

New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13) ★★
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Sam Rosen, Kirk Morrison, Peter Schrager

Tampa Bay can’t do much on offense (17.1 points per game, 28th), on defense (26th with 25.8 points per game), and can’t hold late leads. All they have to do to get the first overall pick in the 2015 draft is to lose this game, but that’s not a given. New Orleans has under achieved all season, losing seven games that they were favored to win. Opponents have completed an NFL-high 69% of their passes against the Bucs this year; that kind of pass defense will make Drew Brees look like his pre-2014 self.
Pick • Saints 31, Bucs 20
Saints -3½
over 46½

 

Detroit Lions (11-4) at Green Bay Packers (11-4) ★★★★★
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

In the day’s best game the winner takes the division and a first round bye while the loser goes on the road as a wild card. Detroit could actually get the number one seed, but it would take a win combined with losses by both Seattle and Arizona; Green Bay could do the same with a victory and a Seahawks loss. The Lions have beaten the Packers in both of their last two meetings, but Detroit has not won at Lambeau since 1991 when Barry Sanders was 23 years old and led the NFL with 16 rushing touchdowns. The Lions rank second with only 16.8 points allowed per game, but this will be a huge test for them. Green Bay is outscoring opponents by an average of 41-20 at Lambeau Field and they are undefeated at home this season. Both teams are deep on talent at receiver, so game planning to shut down a single pass catcher won’t work. One thing to watch for is Aaron Rodgers’ mobility, as he is still recovering from a calf injury and the flu. The bottom line is that I can’t see Detroit winning in Green Bay this year, but I can definitely see them keeping the game very close.
Pick • Packers 27, Lions 24
Lions +7½
over 47

 

Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) at Atlanta Falcons (6-9) ★★★★
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson

Carolina was awful on defense early in the season, leading to a seven-game winless streak. They have now won three in a row, holding opponents to an average of 13.3 points per game. Still, this will be a very difficult test for the Panthers, facing an Atlanta offense with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White. I think a healthy Jones playing at home in the dome will be the difference.
Pick • Falcons 28, Panthers 20
Falcons -3
over 47½

 

St. Louis Rams (6-9) at Seattle Seahawks (11-4) ★★★
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Gus Johnson, Charles Davis, Molly McGrath

The Seahawks will clinch the number one seed with a victory plus a Cowboys loss at Washington, or with a victory and the Packers-Lions game simply not ending in a tie. While Seattle is getting hot at the right time and clearly more talented than St. Louis, I believe too many in the betting public are jumping on the Seahawk bandwagon and creating a line that is too high. Seattle wins the game, but the Rams defense is strong enough to keep it under two touchdowns.
Pick • Seahawks 24, Rams 13
Rams +13½
under 41½

 

Arizona Cardinals (11-4) at San Francisco 49ers (7-8) ★★★
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Thom Brennaman, David Diehl, Laura Okmin

Arizona’s 11-4 record is a facade, with the team posting a 5-4 record in games Carson Palmer was not the quarterback. Now the Cardinals are down to their third and fourth string quarterbacks, their starting running back is on IR, and even the defense is springing leaks after allowing 35 points last week. The 49ers get the home victory in what is probably Jim Harbaugh’s final game as head coach for San Francisco.
Pick • Niners 21, Cardinals 13
Cardinals +6½
over 36½

 

Oakland Raiders (3-12) at Denver Broncos (11-4) ★★★
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn

Denver needs a win to make sure they get a first round bye, and besides, this is a good opportunity for Peyton Manning to rack up some stats. Oakland is allowing 27 points per game (30th) and have allowed 28 passing touchdowns while intercepting just nine passes.
Pick • Broncos 35, Raiders 24
Raiders +14½
over 48½ (two units)

 

Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) ★★★★★
Sunday night game on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

The final game of the 2014 regular season is a good one, as the Bengals and Steelers play for the division title. The Bengals are allowing 21.1 points per game and have won five of the last six games. They’ll need to slow down Pittsburgh RB Le’Veon Bell, who is a legitimate MVP candidate with 2,115 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. The Steelers haven’t played well on defense this year, but have performed much better recently, allowing an average of 18 points in the last three games. Pittsburgh is averaging 32 points in home games, so Cincinnati has their work cut out for them. This is a tossup, but I’m going to lean to Jeremy Hill and the Cincy running game getting it done in a close game.
Pick • Bengals 24, Steelers 23
Bengals +3½
under 48½

 

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.

 

 

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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) ★★★
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 8½ 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 8½ earlier this week, but even at 7½ 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 • Eagles 28, Skins 24
Skins +7½ (one unit)
over 50½

 

San Diego Chargers (8-6) at San Francisco 49ers (7-7) ★★★★
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 2½, 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 • Chargers 20, 49ers 17
Chargers +1½ (one unit)
under 41 (one unit)

 

New England Patriots (11-3) at New York Jets (3-11) ★★★★★
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 • Patriots 31, Jets 13
Patriots -10½
under 47½

 

Minnesota Vikings (6-8) at Miami Dolphins (7-7) ★★★★
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 • Dolphins 23, Vikings 20
Vikings +6½ (one unit)
over 41½

 

Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Bucs ★★
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 • Packers 35, Bucs 17
Packers -11½
under 48½

 

Detroit Lions (10-4) at Chicago Bears (5-9) ★★★
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 • Lions 27, Bears 13
Lions -8½ (one unit)
under 45½

 

Atlanta Falcons (5-9) at New Orleans Saints (6-8) ★★★★
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 • Saints 35, Falcons 31
Falcons +6½
over 55½

 

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) ★★★★
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 • Steelers 24, Chiefs 23
Chiefs +3
under 48

 

Cleveland Browns (7-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) ★★★
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 •
Panthers -3½
over 40½

 

Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans ★★★
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 • Ravens 20, Texans 17
Texans +6
under 42½

 

New York Giants at St. Louis Rams ★★
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 4½ point favorites but that shot up to as high as 7 before settling at 6 or 6½, 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 • Rams 24, Giants 13
Rams -6 (one unit)
under 43½ (one unit)

 

Buffalo Bills (8-6) at Oakland Raiders (2-12) ★★
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 • Bills 20, Raiders 13
Bills -6 (one unit)
under 41 (two units)

 

Indianapolis Colts (10-4) at Dallas Cowboys (10-4) ★★★★★
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 • Cowboys 35, Colts 34
Colts +3½
over 54½

 

Seattle Seahawks (11-3) at Arizona Cardinals (10-4) ★★★★
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 • Seahawks 23, Cardinals 10
Seahawks -7½ (three units)
under 36½

 

Denver Broncos (11-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) ★★★★★
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 • Broncos 27, Bengals 24
Bengals +3½
over 47½

 

Thursday night: Jacksonville Jaguars 21, Tennessee Titans 13
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).

 

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.

 

 

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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) ★★
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 • Chiefs 27, Raiders 13
Chiefs -10
over 41½

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) at Baltimore Ravens (8-5) ★★
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 • Ravens 24, Jaguars 13
Jaguars +13½ (one unit)
under 45½

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) at Atlanta Falcons (5-8) ★★★
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 • Steelers 28, Falcons 21
Steelers -2½ (one unit)
under 56 (one unit)

 

Houston Texans (7-6) at Indianapolis Colts (9-4) ★★★★
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 • Colts 28, Texans 24
Texans +7
over 49

 

Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) at Cleveland Browns (7-6) ★★★★
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 • Bengals 23, Browns 20
Bengals +1½ (two units)
under 44½

 

Miami Dolphins (7-6) at New England Patriots (10-3) ★★★★★
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 • Patriots 34, Dolphins 17
Patriots -7½ (one unit)
over 48

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11) at Carolina Panthers (4-8-1)
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 • Panthers 23, Bucs 20
Bucs +3½
over 41½

 

Washington Redskins (3-10) at New York Giants (4-9)
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 • Giants 27, Skins 21
Skins +6½
over 47

 

Green Bay Packers (10-3) at Buffalo Bills (7-6) ★★★★★
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 • Packers 31, Bills 24
Packers -4
over 50

 

Minnesota Vikings (6-7) at Detroit Lions (9-4) ★★★
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 • Lions 23, Vikings 16
Vikings +7½
under 41½

 

New York Jets (2-11) at Tennessee Titans (2-11)
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 • Jets 17, Titans 13
Jets -2½
under 42½ (four units)

 

Denver Broncos (10-3) at San Diego Chargers (8-5) ★★★★★
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 • Broncos 27, Chargers 24
Chargers +4½
over 50½

 

San Francisco 49ers (7-6) at Seattle Seahawks (9-4) ★★★★
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 • Seahawks 24, Niners 17
Niners +10
over 38

 

Dallas Cowboys (9-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-4) ★★★★★
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 • Eagles 31, Cowboys 24
Eagles -3 (one unit)
under 56

 

New Orleans Saints (5-8) at Chicago Bears (5-8) ★★★
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 • Saints 28, Bears 24
Saints -2½
under 54½

 

Two-Game Parlay (one unit)
Jets-Titans under 42½
Bengals +1½ at Browns

Two-Team Teaser (two units)
Jets-Titans under 48½
Bengals +7½ at Browns

Three-Team Teaser (two units)
Jets-Titans under 51½
Bengals +10½ at Browns
Jaguars +22½ 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 40½
Money Line: St. Louis -230, Arizona +195

The line opened up with the Rams favored by 3½, 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 3½ 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 • Rams 23, Cardinals 20
Cardinals +6 (one unit)
over 40½ (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) ★★★★
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 • Dolphins 31, Ravens 28
Ravens +3½
over 45½

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1) ★★★★
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 • Bengals 27, Steelers 24
Steelers +3½
over 47½

 

Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Cleveland Browns (7-5) ★★★★
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 • Colts 34, Browns 24
Colts -3½
over 50

 

Houston Texans (6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) ★★
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 • Texans 24, Jaguars 13
Texans -5½
under 42½

 

New York Giants (3-9) at Tennessee Titans (2-10)
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 • Giants 31, Titans 20
Giants -1
over 45½

 

Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) at New Orleans Saints (5-7) ★★★
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 • Saints 28, Panthers 20
Panthers +10
under 49½

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) at Detroit Lions (8-4) ★★
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 • Lions 24, Bucs 16
Bucs +10½
under 41½

 

St. Louis Rams (5-7) at Washington (3-9) ★★★
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 • Rams 24, Skins 17
Rams -3
under 44½

 

New York Jets(2-10) at Minnesota Vikings (5-7) ★★
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 • Vikings 17, Jets 13
Jets +6
under 40½

 

Buffalo Bills (7-5) at Denver Broncos (9-3) ★★★★
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 • Broncos 27, Bills 19
Bills +10½
under 48½

 

Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-3) ★★★★
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 • Cardinals 17, Chiefs 13
Cardinals +1
under 40½

 

San Francisco 49ers (7-5) at Oakland Raiders (1-11) ★★
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 • Niners 23, Raiders 10
Niners -9½
under 41½

 

Seattle Seahawks (8-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-3) ★★★★★
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 • Seahawks 24, Eagles 20
Seahawks +1½
under 48½

New England Patriots (9-3) at San Diego Chargers (8-4) ★★★★★
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 • Patriots 27, Chargers 24
Chargers +4
under 53½

Atlanta Falcons (5-7) at Green Bay Packers (9-3) ★★★
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 • Packers 35, Falcons 21
Falcons +13½
under 56½

 

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