NFL Week 12 Picks

What a week of football. Unbeatens no longer exist. A former totally-defeated is now on a winning streak. The Eagles are the outright leaders in the NFC East (and they get to sit at home for a week, where nothing bad can happen). I took some chances and still went 11-4 and improved the overall record to 104-58—solidly in 4th out of the 13 ESPN experts. Let’s do it again.

Week 12 byes: Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Seattle, and Buffalo

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons, Thursday, 8:25pm

You’ve gotta figure the Falcons have about hit rock bottom here, right? Things haven’t looked much worse than they did against the once 0-8 Bucs. Unfortunately, they’re looking ahead to a divisional showdown against a New Orleans Saints team that is starting pacing the NFC South, and will look to stay a game up on the Panthers at Atlanta’s expense. The lack of a run game has killed Atlanta this year, and trying to stop Drew Brees has never been easy for the Falcons D (he averages 304 yds and 2 TDs per game). Saints win 34-17

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns, 1pm

The swirling trade rumors appear to have only improved the play of Big Ben. He’ll get another shot at improving his stock this week against a Cleveland Browns team that he’s 15-1 against in his career. The Jason Campbell thing, again, hasn’t really worked out so well for the Browns—he’s had to throw the ball a lot thanks to trailing in games but hasn’t seen much success. Steelers win 16-14

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions, 1pm

It’s been a nice run for the Bucs, rattling off two straight after dropping the first eight this year. Unfortunately for them, their reward for securing their first winning streak of the year is a trip to Detroit to take on a Lions team that is going to be looking to make a statement after a tough road loss in Pittsburgh. Not much analysis needed here—Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson far outweigh Mike Glennon and Vincent Jackson. I’ll be keeping my eye on Bobby Rainey in this one, though—another 30pt fantasy performance would be much appreciated. Lions win 30-21

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers, 1pm

Despite a 3 INT performance against the New York Giants, Packers coach Mike McCarthy went ahead and named 3rd string quarterback Scott Tolzien the starter for this week’s game against the Vikings. Tolzien showed he has the ability to stretch the field against the Giants, and will likely see a lot more green to work with against a Vikings defense that allows 280 yds (29th) per game, has 23 TDs against (32nd), and has a 100.4 quarterback rating against (29th). Packers win 28-24

San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs, 1pm

Usually a team’s by week is seen as rejuvenating, a time to rest and recover and get ready for the rest of the season. That hasn’t been the case for the Chargers who haven’t won any of their three games since their bye. And this week they get to travel to Kansas City to take on a Chiefs team that is going to be focusing on getting back to their game on defense. Another subplot to this is the fact that San Diego will have gone to-and-from Miami and back out to Kansas City all in a week’s time. That’s almost 9,000 miles on the road. No way that—on top of the other three east coast trips—isn’t weighing on them. Chiefs win 24-17

Chicago Bears @ St. Louis Cardinals, 1pm

Chicago survived tornado warnings and a late Ravens rally despite being without one of its leading defenders. St. Louis, meanwhile, sat at home and had an extra week to bask in their 38-8 drubbing of the Colts. Which one of each of these teams shows up appears to be week-to-week question, so I feel comfortable calling this one a coin flip, even though the Bears are the much stronger team on paper. It’s tempting to go with the Rams at home coming off the bye, but the work of #McClown can’t be ignored—he’s statistically performed better in the games that he’s come off the bench to replace Cutler (he’s a combined 20/29 with 266 yds, 2 TDs and 0 INTs—a 121 passer rating), but the Bears are 2-0 in his the games he’s started. Bears win 26-21

Carolina Panthers @ Miami Dolphins, 1pm

Miami is a sneaky good team at home this year—they’ve knocked off the Chargers, Bengals, and Falcons (when they were a healthy team), and gave the Ravens and Bills a tough showing—so don’t expect Carolina to come in and walk all over them, especially with a short week to prepare and having to come down from the emotional high that goes along with knocking off the evil empire. Still, the Dolphins offense, which ranks 31st overall with 308 yds/game, hasn’t seen anything quite like the Panthers defense, which comes in at number-3 overall. It may be a close one, but expect that defense to do just enough—and for Cam and the offense to keep doing their thing. Panthers win 28-23

New York Jets @ Baltimore Ravens, 1pm

The Jets are officially one giant mess of a team. Their defense, which leads the league in stopping the run, and ranks eighth overall, gave up 37 points to the Bills… Geno Smith looked lost. But then again, they’ve been, literally, a roller coaster team this year, alternating wins and losses on a consistent basis. That may continue if that run defense can contain Ray Rice and force Flacco to try and move the ball through the air—which he’s really not that great at, despite being so grossly overpaid. Don’t call it an upset. Jets win 14-10

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans, 1pm

We’ll call this the Number One Overall Pick Bowl. And, so as to not waste too many words on this and give myself enough time to change my mind, I’m going to do the unthinkable. Jags win 9-3

Tennessee Titans @ Oakland Raiders, 4:05pm

Matt McGloin looked awfully impressive in his NFL debut, and is getting some “belated revenge” on Terrell Pryor who caused quite the ruckus for the rest of the QB class that came out of high school that same year when he took forever to make up his mind about where to go (including McGloin). Maybe that was part of the motivation behind McGloin’s beginner’s luck, but whatever it was, it worked. Whether that will carry over a Titans team that ranks 7th against the pass is yet to be seen. If Ryan Fitzpatrick can put together a whole game that looked the his first half against the Colts last Thursday, he may actually be able to win his first start of 2013. Titans win 21-14

Indianapolis Colts @ Arizona Cardinals, 4:05pm

Ever since their improbably upset over the Peyton Manning and the Broncos, the Colts have struggled to put together a complete 60-minute performance. They’ll try to get back on track against a Cardinals team that has taken advantage of a weak portion of their schedule and built themselves a nice three-game winning streak. The Colts won’t have much luck running the ball against a team that gives up just 81.4 yards per game on the ground (2nd overall), but they haven’t really been able to lean on that portion of their game anyway. I think it’s about time that they snapped out of their little funk. Colts win 32-26

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants, 4:25pm

I’m sure Jason Garrett preached fundamentals to his team during the bye week—they’ve looked completely vulnerable during their last 3 games, going 1-2 with their only win coming against the Vikings (at home) and only after a late, late, late comeback, and their most recent game saw them take a proverbial uppercut to the jaw against the Saints. New York, on the other hand, has clawed their way back into the division on the strength of outstanding defensive performances and just enough good offense that has committed just few enough mistakes to still win games.  These appear to be teams heading in complete opposite directions, and I’d love for the G-Men to help the Birds maintain the outright lead in the division for at least another week. Giants win 34-22

Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots, 8:25pm

The Pats have lost back-to-back games just twice in the last three years. They look to avoid making it three times when they host Manning, Welker, and the Broncos on Sunday night. Brady and Manning have produced some spectacular moments over the years, and this should blend right into the bunch. The Pats feel like they’ve been screwed out of three losses this year and will be playing with a little extra fire. Manning is Manning. And Wes Welker will be looking to exact revenge on his former employer. All of this adds up to one hell of a show. While they haven’t necessarily been great, Denver’s D has done just enough 99 percent of the time this season, and Sunday night should be no different against a Pats offense that is playing green talent at the skill positions. Broncos win 40-35

San Francisco 49ers @ Washington Redskins, Monday, 8:30pm

How and why is this the Monday night game? Did someone think Kaepernick vs. RGIII would be must-see-TV? Both have sucked it up this year. Did someone expect both teams to be contending at this point in the season? Only one kind of is. I just don’t understand it, especially when there were much more appealing options on the schedule (DAL-NYG? DEN-NE? Hell, PGH-CLE?) Anyhoo. The Redskins are playing for pride here in Week 12. The Niners will actually be looking for a big road win to stay in the conversation in the NFC West, and that seems like something that will bring about a little more urgency. Niners win 27-20

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