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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tuesday's Gone: Week 12 #NFL Game Reviews


Week 12: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 12 results: 13-3 wins (season: 94-55; .631); 7-8-1 v. spread (season: 71-76-2); .477)


Minnesota Vikings 8-2 (-3) @ Detroit Lions 6-4 (44.5): Vikings 28-24 Vikings 30-23
Thursday, 12:30 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Minnesota Vikings might be the best team in the NFL, especially after undressing the league’s best offense 24-7 Sunday, but for some reason this feels like a trap game in the sense that the Lions suddenly love their annual Thanksgiving Day home game (4-0 since 2013), and as good as the Vikings have been on both sides of ball, one expects something to go wrong, at least offensively, any week. The truth, however, is that nothing seems to be going wrong to this Vikings team, save perhaps the awkward fumbling of the current quarterback situation. The only thing the Lions do really well is hold on to the ball (7th in turnover ratio) and score (5th in points per game, 27.1), and the Vikings just happen to be 2nd in the NFL in points allowed (17.2 ppg). The Lions winning streak on Turkey Day could be coming to an end.

The Lions had a 50.8% chance to win the game at one point, but that point came when the game was minutes old and the score was 0-0. The Vikings came into town and gave Detroit their first Thanksgiving Day loss in five years, but the lose must’ve been nostalgic, bringing back the warm feelings of losing inside a climate-controlled stadium. All kidding aside, the Vikings continued their dominant ways, holding the Lions to 289 total yards and forcing two Detroit turnovers, while taking a 26-17 lead into the 4th quarter before Detroit nearly made it look like a close game. Don’t let the 27-23 score 44 seconds into the 4th quarter fool you, Detroit was never in this gobbler.

Los Angeles Chargers 4-6 (-1)  @ Dallas Cowboys 5-5 (48): Chargers 23-21 Chargers 28-6
Thursday, 4:30 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: These two teams are relatively evenly matched, although in vastly different areas. For example, the Cowboys are the 9th-ranked scoring offense (24.2 ppg) while the Chargers are the 8th-ranked scoring defense (19.6 ppg); the Cowboys are a mediocre team in turnover ratio, yards per play and time of possession, but they ranked 7th in 3rd-down efficiency while the Chargers are one of the worst teams in the NFL at two of those things (TOP: 27th; 3rd-down efficiency: 25th) and one of the best teams in the NFL at two of those things (Turnover ratio: 5th; Yards per play: 9th). The one clear separation between these two teams in point differential, where the Cowboys rank 3rd (7.2 ppg) and the Chargers rank 21st (-0.8 ppg), but all that really tells us is that the Chargers have played a lot of close games, which we already knew. The Cowboys are reeling without Ezekiel Elliot and with left tackle Tyron Smith still questionable on a short week; I don’t expect much of a rally from Dallas. Expect another close game with the Chargers prevailing.

Don’t let anyone tell you Ezekiel Elliot wasn't the driving force behind this football team after the way they’ve performed without him. But if you’ve been paying attention to Jerry Jones’ behavior, that much would’ve been obvious before the star running back missed a single snap. The suddenly relevant Chargers, led by Phillip Rivers 434 passing yards and three touchdowns, held the sinking Cowboys to 245 total yards while forcing two turnovers.

New York Giants 2-8 (+7) @ Washington Football Team 4-6 (44.5): Washington 24-21 Washington 20-10
Thursday, 8:30 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Clear; High 30s)

Reasons: The Giants may be 2-3 after starting the season 0-5 (although 3 of those losses were by 5 or fewer points), but they remain one of the worst teams in the NFL. All is essentially lost for the Giants in 2017, some of which has been out of their control, but the Washington Football Team has something to play for considering the floor may be falling out from underneath the Cowboys season. The Washington Football Team is also respectable, ranking in the top 12 in points (12th: 23.8 ppg), time of possession (12th) yards gained (9th) and yards per play (7th). The Washington Football Team also just lost to the hottest team in the NFL in the New Orleans Saints in OT by only three points; however, two of Washington’s four wins have also come by three points, and that three-point lose to New Orleans came after holding a 15-point lead with only a few minutes remaining in the game. The point is Washington is exactly who we thought they were, and have key injuries on offense to deal with, but the New York Giants are absolutely terrible.

Embattled cornerback Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown. Besides an Aldrick Rosas field goal kick with four minutes remaining in the 1st quarter, that was the totality of the Giants offense, which was defense and special teams. The Giants are officially eliminated from the 2017 season, but will likely play their remaining five games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-6 (+9.5) @ Atlanta Falcons 6-4 (48.5): Falcons 28-21 Falcons 34-20

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Mercedes-Benz Dome, Atlanta, GA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Falcons are winners of two straight, against the Seahawks and Cowboys, which may or may not impress you. The Buccaneers are also winners of two straight, but somehow it doesn’t seem top carry the same weight. Atlanta isn’t even that great at home this season (2-2), but Tampa Bay is terrible on the road (1-4). The Falcons just seem hotter right now.

Julio Jones hauled in 12 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns on his way to helping the Falcons secure their third win in a row. That’s about all you need to know about this game.

Cleveland Browns 0-10 (+8) @ Cincinnati Bengals 4-6 (38): Bengals 21-17 Bengals 30-16
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: This game is an abomination. The Browns rank 27th or worse in time of possession, yards gained, points against and yards per play, and are dead last in 3rd-down efficiency turnover ratio, points and point differential. Hysterically, Cleveland ranks 9th in yards allowed. Things aren’t much better to the south; in fact, they’re nearly identical. Cincinnati ranks 27th or worse in the same statistical categories, except time of possession and yards gained, in which they rank last. Just like the Browns, the Bengals also keep the big plays down (12th in yards allowed), but unlike the Browns (25.9 ppg allowed), the Bengals are 10th in point allowed (19.9). Must-see television, but I’m sure it’s the kneeling.

The Browns comically outgained yet another opponent on their way to their 11th straight loss, and now enter December winless for the second year in a row. The Bengals had their best offensive performance of the year, but it was against the Browns, and it’s too little too late.

Tennessee Titans 6-4 (+3) @ Indianapolis Colts 3-7 (45.5): Titans 24-20 Titans 20-16
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Titans were on quite a little hot streak until they ran into the Steelers, which could be the best teams in the NFL, while the Colts threw in the proverbial towel when the announced Andrew Luck would be placed on IR. Truth be told, Jacoby Brissett has filled in nicely, and this team lost to the same Steelers team, but by 20 fewer points. That might be enough to give Colts fans hope, but not this guy.

It’s been a decade since the Titans went into Indianapolis and beat them at home, and it almost didn’t happen Sunday, either. Six minutes into the 4th quarter the Colts enjoyed a 16-6 lead, mostly on the leg of Adam Vinatieri, before the Titans scored 14 unanswered points to steal the victory on the road, capped by a 1-yard DeMarco Murray touchdown run with six minutes remaining. The game was otherwise awful, with both teams combining for 530 total yards.  

Buffalo Bills 5-5 (+10) @ Kansas City Chiefs 6-4 (46.5): Chiefs 27-21 Bills 16-10
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: Sunny; low 60s)

Reasons: It’s hard to believe that not very long ago these two teams had two of the best defenses in the NFL; now they don’t. The Chiefs also had the league’s best offense for several weeks, but that has stalled as well. Kansas City also started the season 5-0, but have lost four wins of their last five games, and are now grateful they’re in the AFC West (18 total division wins, 2nd fewest in the NFL) rather than the division being a serious obstacle to the playoffs. The Bills are reeling, too after keeping pace in the AFC East for half the season. They’ve lost three straight games by a combined score of 135-55 (45-18 game average) and are 1-4 on the road for the season. That’s not going to play well for a confused team that thought Nate Pederson was the answer against a team desperate to salvage a fast start.

If you look up “tailspin” in the dictionary you’ll find a picture of Andy Reid whispering how to manage a football game into Alex Smith’s helmet ear hole.

Miami Dolphins 4-6 (+16.5) @ New England Patriots 8-2 (47.5): Patriots 28-17 Patriots 35-17
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny; low 40s)

Reasons: The Patriots and Dolphins have a strange history in that even in down years Miami always seem to pose late-season problems, especially when it’s a lopsided match. Does a nearly 17-point spread count as lopsided? Wow. Not here, however, as the Patriots are home, which hasn’t been a solid bet in 2017, but that was early in the season and now New England seems to have figured it out. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are 1-4 in their last five games and are ranked 30th in points scored and yards gained, which would mitigate the one weakness the Patriots possess: allowing the most yards in the NFL (401), which we all know is skewed by the amount of yards gained in garbage time as teams to try desperately to keep pace with the Patriots 3rd-ranked offense (29 ppg).

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost on the Patriots this season by claiming they wouldn’t cover the ridiculous 9+-point weekly spread, which they either destroy that spread, or destroy my sanity via a Tom Brady (227 passing yards; 4 TDs) touchdown to Brandin Cooks (6 receptions for 83 yards; 1 TD) with six-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game, covering the spread by 1.5 points.

Carolina Panthers 7-3 (-5.5) @ New York Jets 4-6 (40): Panthers 21-17 Panthers 35-27

Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: The Jets have had a nice run in 2017, if the goal was to try hard and then end up with a mid-round draft pick, and not the top-3 pick most of us expected. The Panthers seem to have hit their stride, mainly on the legs and arm of a seemingly healthy Cam Newton and a dominant defense (2nd yards allowed; 5th points allowed). The trouble is the Panthers seem like they’re an injury away from disaster on every play, and they’re playing in a division that’s suddenly jammed at the top with the one team many expected to win the division (Tampa Bay) at the bottom. That means despite Carolina’s success, there’s not much room for error. Lucky for them the Jets are 1-4 in their last five games, and the Panthers are 4-1 on the road this season.

The Panthers held an 18-17 lead going into the 4th quarter and all seemed right in the universe; then the Jets went up 20-18 on a Chandler Cantanzaro field goal and it was looking like Carolina would continue their awkward week-to-week ways and the AFC East would be the NFC South’s kryptonite. Then Cam Newton (11-28 passing for 168 yards) and the Panthers were once again saved by their defense (Luke Kuechly fumble return for a TD) and special teams (Kaelin Clay punt return for a TD) and Carolina took a 32-27 lead and never looked back.

Chicago Bears 3-7 (+14) @ Philadelphia Eagles 9-1 (44): Eagles 30-14 Eagles 31-3
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: The Eagles haven’t lost at home in 2017 and are the league’s top-ranked offense, while the Bears are 1-3 on the road and losers of three straight games. Some would say this seems like the type of game that could shock people, but it won’t. Being favored by two touchdowns seems like a stretch, but the Eagles have been favored by big numbers all season and are 8-2 against the spread in 2017.

Technically this was over 6:02 into the game, but just for shits and giggles the surging Eagles held the Bears to 140 total yards and eight first downs, while forcing two turnovers. Wonder Boy Carson Wentz threw three TDs, but the three Philadelphia turnovers might be alarming if it weren’t for the fact back-up quarterback Nick Foles was responsible for one of those turnovers (fumble) and the running game, which apparently the Eagles don’t need to win anyway, was responsible for the other two lost fumbles (Jay Ajayi recovered his fumble).

Seattle Seahawks 6-4 (-6.5) @ San Francisco 49ers 1-9 (45.5): Seahawks 24-20 Seahawks 24-13
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Levis Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: 70% rain; low 60s)

Reasons: The Seahawks should be right at home in the rain against the 49ers, which are statistically one of the worst teams in the NFL.

The 49ers never led, or threatened for that matter, and seven of their 13 points came as time expired, but the Seahawks only outgained San Francisco by 38 yards and four first downs, so the apparent blowout wasn’t exactly that. The Jimmy G era started in San Francisco Sunday night, and the results were more than satisfactory, so the 49ers might have more to look forward to then the Seahawks.

Denver Broncos 3-7 (+5) @ Oakland Raiders 4-6 (43): Raiders 24-21 Raiders 21-14

Sunday, 4:25 PM, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA (Weather: 70% rain; low 60s)

Reasons: This matchup was circled on our calendars as a premier late-season matchup and now features two of the biggest disappointments in the NFL in 2017. No one expected the Broncos offense to blow anyone’s hair back, but the defense, once best in the NFL this season, is now ranked 28th. Oakland’s once dynamic offense is now ranked 20th in points scored and 21st in yards gained. Yet, because of Kansas City’s five-game meltdown stretch, the Raiders remain two games behind in the AFC West, which means Oakland has something to play for.


New Orleans Saints 8-2 (+2.5) @ Los Angeles Rams 7-3 (53.5): Saints 27-24  Rams 26-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Stub Hub Center, Carson, CA (Weather: Sunny; mid-70s)

Reasons: No one expected this from either team, but there’s a difference between being ahead of schedule and completely shocking people. Then again, I suppose no one should ever count out the combination of Drew Brees and Sean Payton, much like few doubt the team of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, no matter how grim things may appear at any point. The real difference here is the Saints defense, which has been historically bad, currently ranks 9th in points allowed and 13th in yards allowed. The last time the Saints defense was ranked this high New Orleans won the Super Bowl.

The Rams never trailed the hottest team in the NFL and Jared Goff (28-43 for 354 passing yards; 3 TDs and 1 INT) out shined the Hall-of-Fame-bound Drew Brees (22-32 for 246; 1 TD) on their way to beating the Saints, New Orleans first lose in nine games. The Rams even staved off a 10-point Breesy New Orleans 4th quarter surge, providing more evidence that Los Angeles might be for real.

Jacksonville Jaguars 7-3 (-5.5) @ Arizona Cardinals 4-6 (38): Jaguars 24-17 Cardinals 27-24

Sunday, 4:25 PM, University of Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Everyone keeps worrying about Blake Bortles, but the Jaguars offense, a concern coming into the season, ranks 8th in yards gained (362 ypg) and 9th in points scored (24.5 ppg). The defense, the one strong points coming into the season, has more than met expectations as the league’s top defense (1st in points allowed; 1st yards allowed). The Cardinals are just looking to salvage 2017 after being ravaged by major injuries throughout the season.

Of course the league’s top defense gives up 27 points to one of the worst offenses in the league. Blake Bortles ran for a game-tying 17-yard touchdown with 7:26 remaining, but Phil Dawson kicked a career-long 57-yard field goal with one second left in the game to seal the 27-24 victory for the Cardinals. Arizona outgained Jacksonville in yards and first downs, turned the ball over fewer times and sacked Bortles three times, but perhaps the most embarrassing thing besides the lose was supposed rookie sensation Leonard Fournette (12 carries for 25 rushing yards) being outclassed by Ol’ Adrian Peterson (20 carries for 79 yards).

Green Bay Packers 5-5 (+14) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 8-2 (43.5): Steelers 27-14 Steelers 31-28
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: Sunny; low 40s)

Reasons: The poor Green Bay Packers. This should be a lesson in why a team should never put all of their eggs into one basket, even if that basket holds the second coming of the messiah in the form of Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers scored 10 points off of two Ben Roethlisberger interceptions, which was the difference between this game being a blowout rather than being won on a 53-yard Steelers field goal with 17 seconds left in the game.

Houston Texans 4-6 (+7) @ Baltimore Ravens 5-5 (38): Ravens 24-21 Ravens 23-16
Monday, 8:30 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Sunny; high 40s)

Reasons: The Texans were on their way to becoming the most dynamic offense in the NFL until rookie sensation Deshaun Watson blew his knee out in practice, while the Ravens are on their way to staying the most inconsistent team in the NFL. Baltimore’s defense is vicious (3rd in points allowed: 17.1 ppg; 6th in yards allowed: 306 ypg), and they don’t turn the ball over (5th turnover ratio), while the Texans are one of the worst teams in the league in turnover ratio (24th). Whatever.

The Ravens are clearly a two-dimensional team, with a strong running game and suffocating defense, which forced three Texans turnovers. Joe Flacco continues to look horrible, however, so even if the Ravens make the playoffs, what chance do they have against high-flying offenses like New England and Pittsburgh? Probably a pretty good one, which is why everyone in the AFC should be on the look out for the old school early aught Ravens, except they're not led by the insufferable Reverend Ray Lewis.  

Stay tuned for Week 13: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) coming Thursday and Sunday mornings.

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