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Archive for the ‘ NFL ’ 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) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Saturday, January 10 at 4:30 pm ET on NBC
Line: Patriots favored by seven, with an over/under of 48Β½
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 β€’ Patriots 23, Ravens 20
Ravens +7
under 48Β½

 

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) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Late Sunday game on FOX
Play-by-play: Joe Buck; Analyst: Troy Aikman; Sideline: Erin Andrews and Chris Myers
Final Line: Cowboys favored by 6Β½
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 β€’ Cowboys 24, Lions 20
Lions +7
under 48Β½

 

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) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Early Sunday game on CBS
Announcing crew: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Final Line: Colts favored by 3Β½
Point Total: over/under 47Β½
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 4Β½ 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 β€’ Bengals 24, Colts 20
Bengals +3Β½ (two units)
under 47Β½

 

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) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Steelers 31, Ravens 24
Steelers -3
over 45Β½

 

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 6Β½-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 β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Panthers 20, Cardinals 16
Cardinals +6Β½
under 38Β½

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) β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Patriots 20, Bills 17
Bills +5
under 44Β½ (one unit)

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) at Houston Texans (8-7) β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Texans 20, Jaguars 13
Jags +10
under 40Β½ (one unit)

 

Indianapolis Colts (10-5) at Tennessee Titans (2-13) β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Colts 31, Titans 13
Colts -6Β½ (two units)
under 46Β½

 

Cleveland Browns (7-8) at Baltimore Ravens (9-6) β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Ravens 27, Browns 10
Ravens -13
under 39Β½

 

New York Jets (3-12) at Miami Dolphins (8-7) β˜…
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 β€’ Jets 19, Dolphins 16
Jets +6Β½ (two units)
under 42 (one unit)

 

San Diego Chargers (9-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-7) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Chargers 20, Chiefs 17
Chargers +1Β½
under 41Β½

 

Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (6-9) β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Vikings 31, Bears 27
Bears +6Β½
over 44 (two units)

 

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) at New York Giants (6-9) β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Giants 34, Eagles 31
Giants -2Β½
over 52 (two units)

 

Dallas Cowboys (11-4) at Washington Redskins (4-11) β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Cowboys 24, Redskins 20
Skins +4Β½
under 49Β½

 

New Orleans Saints (6-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13) β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Saints 31, Bucs 20
Saints -3Β½
over 46Β½

 

Detroit Lions (11-4) at Green Bay Packers (11-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Packers 27, Lions 24
Lions +7Β½
over 47

 

Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) at Atlanta Falcons (6-9) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Falcons 28, Panthers 20
Falcons -3
over 47Β½

 

St. Louis Rams (6-9) at Seattle Seahawks (11-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Seahawks 24, Rams 13
Rams +13Β½
under 41Β½

 

Arizona Cardinals (11-4) at San Francisco 49ers (7-8) β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Niners 21, Cardinals 13
Cardinals +6Β½
over 36Β½

 

Oakland Raiders (3-12) at Denver Broncos (11-4) β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Broncos 35, Raiders 24
Raiders +14Β½
over 48Β½ (two units)

 

Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
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 β€’ Bengals 24, Steelers 23
Bengals +3Β½
under 48Β½

 

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NFL Week 17 Playoff Picture

The New England Patriots wrapped up the number one seed in the AFC and with it home field throughout the playoffs, but there is still some intrigue left as six NFL teams still have a shot at the two final playoff slots.

In week 15 the Patriots, Colts and Broncos all clinched division titles, while Arizona clinched a playoff berth. Then in week 16 the Pats clinched a first round bye with their victory over the Jets, and when the Bengals beat Denver the Patriots claimed the number one seed in the AFC. Pittsburgh, Seattle, Green Bay and Detroit also clinched playoff spots in week 16, and Denver clinched the NFC East at the same time. The NFC has five 11-4 teams jockeying for position, with the winner of the Carolina-Atlanta game locked into the number four slot.

Buffalo (with their loss to Oakland) and Miami (with Pittsburgh’s win over the Chiefs) were among the teams to be eliminated last week. Philadelphia still had a remote chance to back in to the post-season after their loss at Washington on Saturday, but that ended when Dallas crushed Indy in the late game Sunday afternoon. The Saints could have clinched the NFC South with a win over Atlanta plus a loss by Carolina but the reverse happened, thus ending their playoff hopes. Last week Seattle jumped from number five to number one in the NFC, while Arizona dropped from the number one seed to number six.

To keep things simple and make a lot more sense I have refrained from posting scenarios that involve ties. The only exception I made was for Dallas counting on a Green Bay-Detroit tie since that is the only way they can end up as the number one seed.

 

AFC Playoff Picture

New England Patriots (12-3) – currently AFC #1 seed
Week 17: home vs Buffalo Bills
Clinched the number one seed in the AFC

Denver Broncos (11-4) – currently AFC #2 seed
Week 17: home vs Oakland Raiders
Clinched the AFC West division title
- Can clinch the number two seed with (a) a win, or (b) a Bengals loss
- Will be the #3 seed with (a) a loss, plus (b) the Bengals win

Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1) – currently AFC #3 seed
Week 17: away at Pittsburgh Steelers
Clinched a playoff berth
- Can clinch the #2 seed with (a) a win, plus (b) a Broncos loss
- Can clinch the AFC North and no worse than the #3 seed with a win
- Will be the #4 seed with a tie
- Will be the #5 seed with a loss

Indianapolis Colts (10-5) – currently AFC #4 seed
Week 17: away at Tennessee Titans
Clinched the AFC South division title
- Can clinch the #3 seed with (a) a win, plus (b) the Steelers-Bengals tie
- Will be the #4 seed as long as the Steelers-Bengals don’t tie

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) – currently 2nd in division, #5 in AFC
Week 17: home vs Cincinnati Bengals
Clinched a playoff berth
- Can clinch the AFC North and the #3 seed with a win
- Can only be the #3 or #5 seed

San Diego Chargers (9-6) – currently AFC #6 seed
Week 17: away at Kansas City Chiefs
Controls own destiny to make the playoffs
- Can clinch a playoff spot with a win
- Can do no better than the #6 seed
- Eliminated with a loss

Baltimore Ravens (9-6) – currently AFC #7 seed
Week 17: home vs Cleveland Browns
On the outside looking in
- Can clinch a playoff spot with (a) a win, plus (b) a Chargers loss
- Cannot win the division; can do no better than the #6 seed
- Eliminated with (a) a loss, or (b) a Chargers win over the Chiefs

Houston Texans (8-7) – currently AFC #8 seed
Week 17: home vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Need a lot of help to get in
- Can clinch a playoff spot with (a) a win, plus (b) a Ravens loss, plus (c) a Chargers loss
- Can do no better than the #6 seed
- Eliminated with either (a) a loss, or (b) a Chargers win, or (c) a Ravens win

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) – currently AFC #9 seed
Week 17: home vs San Diego Chargers
Need a miracle to make the playoffs
- Can clinch a playoff spot with (a) a win, plus (b) a Ravens loss, plus (c) a Texans loss
- Can do no better than the #6 seed
- Eliminated with either (a) a loss, or (b) a Ravens win, or (c) a Texans win

 

NFC Playoff Picture

Seattle Seahawks (11-4) – currently 1st in division, #1 in NFC
Week 17: home vs St Louis Rams
Clinched a playoff berth
- Can clinch the number one seed with (a) a win, plus (b) Packers-Lions not ending in a tie; OR
- Can clinch the number one seed with (a) a win, plus (b) a Cowboys loss
- Can clinch a first round bye with a win
- Can clinch the division with (a) a win, or (b) a Cardinals loss
- Could possibly be a #1, #2, #3, #5 or #6 seed
- Can be no worse than a #3 seed with a Cardinals loss
- Can be no worse than a #5 seed as long as the Packers-Lions don’t tie
- Eliminated from #1 seed with a tie, plus Packers-Lions don’t tie
- Eliminated from a first round bye with a loss
- Eliminated from #3 seed with (a) a loss, plus (b) a Cardinals win
- Become the #6 seed with (a) a loss, plus (b) a Cardinals win, plus (c) Packers-Lions tie

Detroit Lions (11-4) – currently 1st in division, #2 in NFC
Week 17: away at Green Bay Packers
Clinched a playoff berth
- Can clinch the number one seed with (a) a win, plus (b) a Seahawks loss, plus (c) a Cardinals loss
- Can clinch a first round bye with a win
- Could possibly be the #1, #2, #3 or #6 seed
- To be the #3 seed the Lions-Packers game needs to end in a tie
- Become the #6 seed with a loss

Dallas Cowboys (11-4) – currently NFC #3 seed
Week 17: away at Washington Redskins
Clinched NFC East division title
- Can clinch the number one seed with (a) a win, plus (b) a Cardinals loss, plus (c) a Packers-Lions tie; OR
- Can clinch the number one seed with (a) a win, plus (b) a Seahawks win, plus (c) a Packers-Lions tie
- Can clinch a first round bye with (a) a win, plus (b) a Cardinals loss, plus (c) a Seahawks loss; OR
- Can clinch a first round bye with (a) a win, plus (b) a Packers-Lions tie; OR
- Can clinch a first round bye with (a) a Cardinals loss, plus (b) a Seahawks loss
- Can only be the #1, #2 or #3 seed
- Eliminated from #1 seed with (a) a loss, or (b) a Packers or Lions win, or (c) a Cardinals win and Seahawks loss
- Eliminated from #2 seed with (a) a loss and a Cardinals win, or (b) a loss and a Seahawks win, or (c) a Packers win and a Cardinals win, or (d) a Lions win and a Cardinals win, or (e) a Packers win and a Seahawks win, or (f) a Lions win and a Seahawks win

Green Bay Packers (11-4) – currently 2nd in division, #5 in NFC
Week 17: home vs Detroit Lions
Clinched a playoff berth
- Can clinch the number one seed with (a) a win, plus (b) a Seahawks loss
- Can clinch a first round bye with a win
- Can be the #1, #2, #5 or #6 seed
- Can become the #5 seed with (a) a tie, plus (b) a loss by either the Cardinals or Seahawks
- Will become the #6 seed with a loss

Arizona Cardinals (11-4) – currently 2nd in division, #6 in NFC
Week 17: away at San Francisco 49ers
Clinched a playoff berth
- Can clinch the number one seed with (a) a win, plus (b) a Seahawks loss, plus (c) a Packers loss
- Can clinch a first round bye with (a) a win, plus (b) a Seahawks loss
- Can be the #1, #2, #3, #5 or #6 seed
- Can become the #3 seed with (a) a tie, plus (b) a Seahawks loss
- Can be no worse than the #5 seed with a win
- Can do no better than the #5 seed if the Seahawks win
- Can become the #5 seed with (a) a loss, plus (b) the Packers-Lions don’t tie
- Can become the #6 seed with (a) a loss, plus (b) the Packers-Lions tie

Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) – currently 1st in division, #4 in NFC
Week 17: away at Atlanta Falcons
Win and they’re in
- Can clinch the division and the #4 seed with a win or a tie
- Eliminated with a loss

Atlanta Falcons (6-9) – currently 2nd in division, #9 in NFC
Week 17: home vs Carolina Panthers
Win and they’re in
- Can clinch the division and the #4 seed with a win
- Eliminated with a loss or a tie

 

Below is the current order for the 2015 NFL Draft. Strength of schedule (which is shown in parenthesis after the name of the team) is the tiebreaker for determining draft order. The Titans leapfrogged the Bucs for the number one spot with their loss to the Jaguars last Thursday. Tennessee’s SOS dropped from .503 to .487 after playing three-win Jacksonville, while Tampa Bay’s SOS shot up .024 after losing their eighth straight home game to Green Bay. Unfortunately the Jets moved up two spots to the number four slot, though given their history and ownership, it most likely won’t make any difference.

1. 2-13 Tennessee Titans (.487)
2. 2-13 Tampa Bay Bucs (.491)
3. 3-12 Jacksonville Jaguars (.513)
4. 3-12 New York Jets (.551)
5. 3-12 Oakland Raiders (.560)
6. 4-11 Washington Redskins (.476)
7. 5-10 Chicago Bears (.531)
8. 6-9 Atlanta Falcons (.484)
9. 6-9 Minnesota Vikings (.491)
10. 6-9 New York Giants (.507)
11. 6-9 New Orleans Saints (.509)
12. 6-9 St. Louis Rams (.516)
13. 6-8-1 Carolina Panthers (.496)
14. 7-8 Cleveland Browns (.464)
15. 7-8 San Francisco 49ers (.520)
16. 8-7 Houston Texans (.464)
17. 8-7 Browns (Buffalo Bills) (.502)
18. 8-7 Kansas City Chiefs (.511)
19. 8-7 Miami Dolphins (.529)
20. 9-6 Baltimore Ravens (.482)
21. 9-6 Philadelphia Eagles (.496)
22. 9-6 San Diego Chargers (.507)
23. 10-5 Pittsburgh Steelers (.431)
24. 10-5 Indianapolis Colts (.504)
25. 10-4-1 Cincinnati Bengals (.482)
26. 11-4 Detroit Lions (.451)
27. 11-4 Dallas Cowboys (.458)
28. 11-4 Green Bay Packers (.464)
29. 11-4 Arizona Cardinals (.529)
30. 11-4 Seattle Seahawks (.536)
31. 11-4 Denver Broncos (.549)
32. 12-3 New England Patriots (.509)

 

 

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NFL Week 16 Playoff Picture

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

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

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

 

AFC East

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

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

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

 

AFC North

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

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

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

 

AFC South

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

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

 

AFC West

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

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

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

 

NFC East

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

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

 

NFC North

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

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

 

NFC West

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

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

 

NFC South

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

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

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

 

 

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Week 16 NFL games – odds, previews and predictions

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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2014 NFL Calendar and Key Dates for the New England Patriots

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