I’m going to suggest that the playoff picture got remarkably clearer after last week. In the AFC it would be a surprise if the Jets, Patriots, Steelers, and Ravens didn’t get in leaving the Chiefs and Chargers in a good battle for the West and the Colts looking like they will come out of the South even though everyone in that division is still close. The West division will be very close because both teams have an easy schedule to close out the season and it is possible that the Kansas City @ San Diego game in Week 14 will determine the winner of that division. My money is own the Chargers to pull out the division win but I have been underestimating Kansas City since the beginning of the season and it would be just like them to throw a monkey wrench into what could possibly be one of the strongest group of playoff teams that we have seen in a while.
The NFC is a bit murkier, thanks to the pathetic NFC West. I like St. Louis to emerge from that quagmire of crappy teams and they may even get a home playoff game but I don’t like any of that division against the remaining NFC playoff teams. Atlanta (thanks to its incredible play at home) looks to take the very competitive NFC South with New Orleans right behind them and should take the first wild card spot. Tampa Bay remains somewhat of a question mark. They have played good teams tight but have yet to beat a team currently over .500. They will be in a tight race with the either the Giants or Eagles and either the Bears or Packers. Gun to my head, I think that the Giants and Buccaneers fall back from the group and your NFC playoff teams are the Eagles, Rams, Packers, Falcons, Saints, and Bears. Not a bad group outside of St. Louis.
Either way the end of the season is shaping up to be quite interesting and given that the majority of the games left are divisional games we should see have much better viewing options available to us than that pathetic Monday night game between the Cardinals and 49ers. With the playoff picture in our minds lets get onto our Week 13 Picks. As always the Home Team is in CAPS and the spread is courtesy of http://www.sportsbook.com
EAGLES (-8) Over Texans
I fully expect the Eagles (the ninth best passing team in the league) to rebound against the woefully bad secondary of the Houston Texans. Michael Vick tossed his first pick at the worst possible time last week but was still able to generate some good plays against a very solid Bears defence. The Texans have nowhere close to as solid a defence and will inevitably get torn to shreds by a very dynamic Eagles offence. People seem to think that the only reason Andre Johnson didn’t get suspended was because this game will be on the NFL Network this week and while I love conspiracy theories I don’t think that little fight deserved a suspension. While it wasn’t right, it happens all the time where people get into scuffles like that. If they didn’t suspend Seymour for his take down (well probably a dive) of Roethlisberger they were not going to suspend Johnson. This just illustrates the leagues hypocrisy between suspending for on-the-field infractions and off-the-field infractions. By the way people, unless you are a hardcore Eagles fan, you shouldn’t be upset by this at all because you want to see an exciting good game and Andre Johnson gives you an exciting good game. One more rambling point, I think the NFL’s stance of fining instead of suspending is much better than the NHL’s suspend for no time and have no fine policy. At least the players are being punished in a way that does not encourage repeat behaviour (although James Harrison begs otherwise) and fans are not being deprived of the full value of their ticket by seeing the best players.
VIKINGS (-5.5) Over Bills
The Bills are allowing 167 yards per game on the ground. That is remarkably high given how close they keep games. It is still the worst in the league. Perhaps this is an area that they can improve upon in the next draft. The Vikings can run the ball even if AP is injured. I think Frazier will limit Favre (as best he can), keep the attack on the ground and run all over the Bills. I don’t feel very strongly about this game though because, outside of losses to the Packers and Jets, the Bills have been every game. Somehow Fitzpatrick keeps them in the game. He deserves to be the starter next year because it doesn’t seem like Luck will be there by the times the Bills get to pick, which I didn’t expect at the beginning of the year.
DOLPHINS (-4.5) Over Browns
The Dolphins surprised me last week by starting Chad Henne, who apparently had a very nice game against Oakland and they actually ran the ball. I am still very confused why they didn’t do that against Chicago. I think that the Dolphins will close out their schedule very strongly and will be close to a playoff spot. They just put themselves in a hole by not beating the Jets or Patriots when they had the chance at home. The Browns got a lucky win last week against the Panthers as Kasay missed a make-able kick. I blame the game being close completely on Jake Delhomme. I presume he is starting this week which means nothing good for the Browns. Never bet on Jake Delhomme! Dolphins cruise at home. I still like the Dolphins even if Colt McCoy starts but the game will definitely be much more competitive.
Broncos (+9) Over CHIEFS
The line just seems too high. Kyle Orton has amassed a huge amount of yards this year and Denver clearly had KC’s number the last time these two teams played. That being said, McDaniel can’t tape practices anymore which means that the Chiefs could really slaughter them this game. One question for the NFL, how come McDaniels fine isn’t as large as Belichick’s? Not like it’s my money or anything though.
GIANTS (-7) Over Redskins
Washington has to be a disappointment this year right? They started so promisingly with that win over the Cowboys but are now bogged down by some many non-playing related issues. I honestly believe that Shanahan has gone too far in trying shape his team. As a coach and a leader you have to put people in the position where they are going to have the best chance to succeed. Shanahan hasn’t done that. He screwed his best defensive player, Haynesworth, by needlessly changing the defensive scheme and has shaped his offence around him and his son rather than the pieces that he has. I don’t think that Shanahan has it in him to change so I think we will continue to see friction in the US Capital (surprise, surprise right). The Giants were a Jekyll and Hyde team on Sunday. Their vaunted defence was bowled over by the Jags in the first half and then they shut them down in the second half. I think that their defence is closer to the second half team than the first. Eli should be thankful for playing the fourth worst secondary when his best receivers are still out. I think it doesn’t matter who he is throwing to, he is going to be able to get the ball to them.
Bears (-4.5) Over LIONS
Sadly the Lions look like they have lost the best back up QB in the business and the Bears look playoff bound. A third string quarterback against that defence is hardly fair even if the Lions are at home. The reason for the low line is due to the Lions covering the majority of lines so far. Vegas wants to see how far that can be pushed. I hate to take the Bears but they appear destined for the playoffs. I might as get on the bandwagon before it’s too late.
PACKERS (-9.5) Over 49ers
It is time for a statement win from the Packers. At home against the horrible 49ers I fully expect this team to dominate. No way Brian Westbrook has a good game this week and Troy Smith is not a good enough quarterback to deal with Green Bay’s defence. I fully expect Aaron Rodgers to pick apart this defence and that Green Bay cruises to victory. If the weather conditions aren’t ideal, makes it an even sweeter deal.
BENGALS (+7) Over Saints
I want to stop betting on Carson Palmer but I can’t. The Saints are a dome team and even though I fully expect them to beat the Bengals I believe that point spread is just too large given the game will be played in chilly Cincy. While I think the Saints outplayed the Cowboys and just failed to capitalize on their chances/fumbled too much they were one play away from being tied in the standings with Bucs. The Saints need better execution from Reggie Bush and more consistency from Drew Brees. He either seems lights out good on drives or just mediocore. I think the Bengals will find some success against the Saints defence and keep this game with in a touchdown as much as it pains me to say.
Jaguars Over TITANS (no line)
Hey Rusty Smith may not be starting this week. It doesn’t matter though. Tennessee showed last week that they didn’t deserve the respect that they were getting. Jacksonville played well in the half that I watched against the Giants and apparently not so well in the half where I watch another game. The Jaguars have been an up and down team all season. I just don’t know what to expect from the week to week. I know that Tennessee seems to be giving up on Fisher. After 17 years I believe it may be time to make a change. It’s crazy that the Jags are still the division leader though.
Raiders (+13) Over Chargers
This line is a little inflated given that these two teams are only separated by one game in the standings. The Raiders come out to play in division games. I realize that the Chargers will win this game but their special teams are still a weakness that the Raiders should be able to exploit. The QB situation is not looking good in Oakland but they should still be able to run the ball well enough to keep the game close. Lost in the Chargers decisive victory over the Colts was the fact that the defence led the charge (pardon the pun). The Chargers will probably win by ten but they might get caught overlooking Oakland and looking ahead to KC. I hope everyone got good look at UWO grad Vaughn Martin last week who has gotten into 5 games this year and been in on 4 tackles, including 1 sack. I have yet to see a Raiders game live. It seems they really get the shaft which is weird given how many weak 4 o’clock games there has been this year.
Falcons (-3) Over BUCCANEERS
Can’t stop the Falcons. This game will be close and should be very interesting. The Bucs will be looking for revenge after the Falcons just barely beat them at home. The Bucs stayed with Baltimore last week and outside of three minutes of let down they had a real chance of winning that game. Playing at Tampa is close to playing in a dome. Somehow Matt Ryan continues to get it done. He and Turner have been really good. I think this is the straw the breaks the Bucs playoff chances. I think that this is the third best divisional game of week which is saying something.
SEAHAWKS (-6) Over Panthers
I like this because of Qwest Field. The Panthers have been playing some teams tight but they are destined to lose out the rest of the season or possibly beat Arizona. They have been getting some nice production from their running backs but it is a black hole at the quarterback position. That being said, Seattle hasn’t been getting any production from the running back position. Marshawn Lynch doesn’t even seem like he exists over there in Seattle. This is a horrible game and I really hope that we don’t have to suffer through it. Qwest Field wins though.
COLTS (-5.5) Over Cowboys
In Peyton I trust. He hasn’t been all that great for me this year. Seven picks in the last two games. Seems uncharacteristic. The offensive line seems banged up and they have absolutely no run game. Would former CFLer Joseph Addai help? Possibly be even he is not that much of an upgrade. Despite all these things and Sunday night’s horrific lost to the Chargers, I still like the Colts. Dallas played well against the Saints but they are not a team I am afraid of. And I still can’t take Jon Kitna seriously. They also lack a running game. The Cowboys don’t seem to match up well against the Colts plus they might as well tank to get a better draft pick and probably a better coach.
Rams (-3) Over CARDINALS
A note to Derek Anderson, it’s nice to know that you think your abilities a quarterback are as laughable as I do. Even the overblown Laughgate 2010 won’t be enough to motivate the Cardinals who outside of their surprising and totally unpredictable and in hindsight unfathomable win over the Saints have been terribly disappointing. And really it is all because of the quarterback. Seeing Kurt Warner retire shows you how valuable quarterbacks in this league are and why Brad Childress went so far to get Brett Favre back. A great quarterback is worth 4-8 wins over a replacement quarterback (baseball sabremetricians please note I am trying not to steal WAR from you and that this is not statistically based at all). Unfortunately Childress didn’t realize Brett is no longer great. Even more unfortunate is that the Cardinals didn’t have any close to Warner’s skill and that I didn’t bet the under for them (7.5 games) which they will almost certainly hit. Also as I just told you that the Rams are my favourite to come out of the NFC West this is a game that they desperately need to win. If they can’t beat one of the bottom five teams in the league, they don’t deserve to go to the playoffs. (Say what, the Cardinals already beat them once, *shakes head sadly at the pathetic state that the NFC West is in*).
Steelers (+3) Over RAVENS
These two teams are very similar to each other, they both are 8-3, both barely beat the Bills in OT and both have strong defences. The Ravens have a slight advantage throwing while the Steelers have a slight advantage running. In short these teams are incredibly equal and Sunday night should be a very competitive game. I honestly thing that this game is a coin flip and in coin flip games I take the points and the team that barely lost to this same Ravens team when they were starting their fourth string quarterback. Steelers in a close one.
Falcons (-3) Over BUCCANEERS
Can’t stop the Falcons. This game will be close and should be very interesting. The Bucs will be looking for revenge after the Falcons just barely beat them at home. The Bucs stayed with Baltimore last week and outside of three minutes of let down they had a real chance of winning that game. Playing at Tampa is close to playing a dome. Somehow Matt Ryan continues to get it done. He and Turner have been really good. I think this is the straw the breaks the Bucs playoff chances. I think that this is the third divisional game of week which is saying something.
PATRIOTS (-3) Over Jets
Brady hasn’t lost at home since the Big Bang or if you prefer since God created the universe. The point being he doesn’t lose at home. Both teams have had a long week and guess what, Belichick is better than Ryan at preparing with longer time. Patriots rarely lose out of a bye week and the Jets got shut out at home after their bye week. I think the Patriots will be looking for a bit of revenge after getting beat previously by the Jets. I actually don’t even think this game will be close. I think that Brady will absolutely destroy the Jets by spreading out the ball and finding the holes that