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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tuesday's Gone: Week 13 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) THANKSGIVING EDITION!

"Bro, I said whole berry sauce, not that canned crap. I can't have you at my place with that stuff...but Happy Thanksgiving anyway."

Week 13: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 13 results (season): 7-9 wins (124-66-1 .649); 7-9 v. spread (85-105-1 .445)


Week 13 Note: It’s the holiday season and obligations abound. This Sunday, due to time constraints, instead of my usual long-winded game analyses I’ll be offering one-sentence analyses for each game along with my normal score predictions…or trying to anyway. Thanks for reading!

Chicago Bears 5-6 (+7) @ Detroit Lions 7-4 (47.5): Lions 24-21Lions 34-17
Thanksgiving, 12:30 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Lions just got shredded by the New England Patriots, and are the better teams at home on Thanksgiving for one of the few times in my 36 years. The Bears are desperate, but their 30th-ranked scoring defense will be without Lance Briggs and could be without Jeremiah Ratliff, which means the Lions 10th-ranked passing game should shred the Bears in retaliation. The Lions have a habit of disappointing their fans, and Cutler is schizophrenic, so one never knows what to expect out of these two teams. Lions win, Bears cover.

The Bears stunk up the joint again Thursday, forcing their fans to wonder what they actually had to be thankful for in the sports world. Megatron returned to form scoring two early TDs, which nearly beat the Bears by themselves.

Philadelphia Eagles 8-3 (+3) @ Dallas Cowboys 8-3 (55.5): Cowboys 28-27 Eagles 33-10
Thanksgiving, 4:30 PM, AT&T Stadium, Dallas, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The first relevant game of the day, this NFC East battle will crown a division leader – for now. Both teams are coming off big wins, the Cowboys having to come back from down 11 to do so, their second-largest comeback against the New York Giants in their long history. Both team come in with stellar scoring offenses (PHI -3rd; DAL – 7th) and mediocre defenses, so I’d expect a shoot-out on three days rest. Little rest and little practice time could be a bad combination for Philadelphia, which coughs up the ball far too much (-9). The Cowboys have a great offensive line, a killer running game (2nd), and are efficient (50% 3rd-down conversion rate). Short rest shouldn’t affect the Cowboys too much; the question is whether AT&T Stadium will be a home setting for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving (3-3).

There’s a reason I took the Eagles and the points, because at the very least I saw the Eagles giving the Cowboys a run for their Thanksgiving money. Turns out they dominated the entire game as Bad Romo showed up and over- or under threw every single pass of the game.

Seattle Seahawks 7-4 (+1.5) @ San Francisco 49ers 7-4 (39.5): 49ers 24-21 Seahawks 19-3
Thanksgiving, 8:30 PM, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Sunny, low 70s)

Reasons: The prime time Thanksgiving game could be the best game, especially if you like defenses. Both NFC West teams boast top-10 yardage defenses, as well as top-10 scoring defenses (SEA – 10th; SF – 7th). The problem with these teams is offense. The Seahawks struggle with the passing game (30th), but have the best running game in the NFL. It should be noted that Marshawn Lynch is questionable. Yeah. The 49ers also struggle with the passing game (24th), but also excel in the run game (11th). It should be noted Frank Gore is probable. The short week will kill these two teams, as their physical styles will suffer with only three days to recover. I predict the key to this game will be a costly turnover, a rarity for either team (SEA - +6; SF - +8). Both teams try to keep pace with the Arizona Cardinals and get the short end of the week in which to do it, so we should expect a defensive battle, rife with a few mental lapses – just as the O/U reflects.

I’m not really sure which is to blame for the 49ers offensive woes Sunday, the 49ers or the Seahawks. The Seahawks seem to be hitting their 2013 defensive stride, days after Cam Chancellor reportedly went up to every single player in the locker room and personally called them out. The 49ers offense might want to try that before Colin Kaepernick confidence grows smaller than his head looks in those flat brim hats.

Carolina Panthers 3-7-1 (+2.5) @ Minnesota Vikings 4-7 (42.5): Vikings 24-21 Vikings 31-13
Sunday, 1 PM, TFC Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Windy; ~10 degrees)

Reasons: It’s unlikely the Panthers will get anything going offensively in the frigid wind, and the Vikings defense is the one thing the team has going for it.

Two punts blocked for TDs in the first half doomed the Panthers, as did the frigid temperatures (it was the second-coldest game in Carolina history). The defense played pretty well, despite the final score, but the Panthers offense was putrid. With the special teams playing as poorly as they are, there seems to be no hope for Carolina a year after going 12-4. Oh wait, they play in the NFC South.

Washington Natives 3-10 (+9.5) @ Indianapolis Colts 7-4 (50.5): Colts 31-24 Colts 49-27
Sunday, 1 PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Natives show glimpses of being good, and the stats could fool a less educated fan, but Washington gave the reigns back to Colt McCoy and the far superior Colts ball at home.

The Natives scored points, which was refreshing, but surrendered far more, which wasn’t refreshing. The Natives were simply outclassed by the playoff-bound Colts.

Tennessee Titans 2-9 (+7) @ Houston Texans 5-6 (42.5): Texans 27-20 Texans 45-21
Sunday, 1 PM, Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Texans are a team on the rise and the Titans are led by a guy who’s in seflie rehab.

JJ Watt scored yet another offensive TD, wreaked havoc on the Titans offense, and beat Zack Mettenberger for checking into selfie rehab.

Cleveland Browns 7-4 (-3.5) @ Buffalo Bills 6-5 (42): Browns 21-20 Bills 26-10
Sunday, 1 PM, Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY (Weather: 40% rain; low 50s)

Reasons: One of the best games of the week, this defensive battle is crucial to both teams trying to keep pace in their respective divisions.

The Bills keep on trucking, this time beating the Browns and Johnny Football, who replaced Brian Hoyer in the 4th quarter. The Bills’ defense is quietly making their case for the best defense in the NFL, and kept pace with their division rival Dolphins in the Wild Card race. The Browns, who also happen to be in that race, have to settle on a quarterback before preparing for a playoff run, which may not even happen.

San Diego Chargers 7-4 (+6) @ Baltimore Ravens 7-4 (46): Ravens 24-21 Chargers 34-33
Sunday, 1 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Sunny, low 50s)

Reasons: The Chargers are a great football team and they’re getting six on the road against Baltimore, which not only reflects a transcontinental flight for an early east coast game, but also reflects the quality of the Ravens.

The Chargers rolled out a furious comeback, scoring the go-ahead TD on a disputed pass interference call in the end zone. The Chargers kept pace in the AFC West, while the Ravens fell back in the one division in the AFC that won’t allow it.

New York Giants 3-10 (-3) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-10 (45.5): Giants 24-20 Jaguars 25-24
Sunday, 1 PM, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: Sunny, low 70s)

Reasons: The Giants are awful and the Jaguars are giving three at home, which tells you just how terrible the Jaguars really are. Hopefully Odell Beckham Jr. makes another three-fingered catch.

A philosophical question: If a team loses to the worst team in the NFL, do they suddenly become the worst team in the NFL? Clearly the answer isn’t always ‘yes’, but it sure could be in this case.

Cincinnati Bengals 7-3-1 (-3.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-9 (44.5): Bengals 24-21 Bengals 14-13
Sunday, 1 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Sunny, low 70s)

Reasons: The 2-9 Buccaneers are one of the five worst teams in the NFL statistically, and boast a -93 point differential, so why do I feel like the Bengals are going to lose?

Perhaps my favorite call of the year, I hinted at a Bucs upset, but went with my head and ultimately picked the Bengals. What happened? It seemed the Bucs were going to win, but they ultimately lost. The Bengals may lead the AFC North, but they shouldn’t, as they might be the worst team in the division. The Bucs, on the other hand, are now 2-10, yet could still win their division. Wonders never cease.

Oakland Raiders 1-10 (-6.5) @ St. Louis Rams 4-7 (42.5): Rams 27-21 Rams 52-0
Sunday, 1 PM, Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Raiders are coming of their first win of the season, against the mighty Kansas City Chiefs no less, but the Rams have a few solid wins under their belt and are looking to show off against the lowly Raiders at home.

Talent and a select few statistics suggest the Raiders aren’t technically the worst team in the NFL, but games like this make it difficult to argue against. That said, the Rams are no joke, and took their pre-game celebration and rode that emotion throughout the entire game, decimating the Raiders.

New Orleans Saints 4-7 (+4.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 7-4 (55): Steelers 27-24 Saints 35-32
Sunday, 1 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: 50% rain; low 50s)

Reasons: The rain and the road don’t bode well for the reeling Saints, which seems a shell of their former selves.

The only thing more confusing than the play of the New Orleans Saints might be the play of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams seem to be winning on the road and losing at home, and both teams have displayed Jekyll-and-Hyde behavior, which is not like these two perennial playoff teams. Then again, the Saints’ success is recent, and the Steelers success almost seems transient at this point, as the Steelers risk missing the playoffs for the third time in four years.

Arizona Cardinals 9-2 (-1.5) @ Atlanta Falcons 4-7 (44.5): Cardinals 24-21 Falcons 29-18
Sunday, 4:05, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Falcons, once mighty at home, have lost three straight games at the Georgia Dome and now average half the points at home they did in their first two games. That won’t wok against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

The law of averages could be catching up with the Cardinals, and that “We’ve had Drew Stanton at the helm before” argument didn’t looks o good Sunday. The Falcons, who seem to realize their terrible division is up for grabs, settled down and actually played a good game at home and beat a quality team.

Denver Broncos 8-3 (-1.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs 7-4 (49): Chiefs 27-24 Broncos 29-16
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: Partly sunny; low 40s)

Reasons: The Broncos are coming off loss at the Rams, then a close win to the Dolphins, and now have to travel to division rival Kansas City and play a Chiefs team still embarrassed about the game they gave away to the Raiders last Thursday.

Apparently the loss to the Raiders was still bothering the Chiefs and they forgot about their AFC West division battle with the Broncos. Denver came in and took care of business on the road in a hostile environment, and also took advantage of a New England Patriots’ loss to keep pace in the AFC Conference.

New England Patriots 9-2 (+3) @ Green Bay Packers 8-3 (58): Patriots 28-27 Packers 26-21
Sunday, 1 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Cloudy, low 30s)

Reasons: The NFL’s top-two offenses square off in legendary Lambeau Field, where the legendary Bill Belichick will stand opposite where the legendary Vince Lombardi once stood and reflect on how he once surpassed Lombardi’s playoff win percentage record years ago, only to lose it again via the amount of playoff games coached. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady face off for the first time ever, so expect a shoot-out.

The game of the week lived up to the hype, and if it weren’t for a bobbled TD catch by Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots may have won 28-26. Both quarterbacks shined, and both defenses played relatively well considering both teams average over 32 ppg. The Packers defense clearly played better, holding the Patriots to only 21 points after New England had been scoring 40+ consistently.

Miami Dolphins 6-5 (-7) @ New York Jets 2-9 (42): Dolphins 28-20 Dolphins 16-13
Monday, 8:30 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Cloudy, low 30s)

Reasons: The Jets attempt to play spoiler, but it won’t work against a superior Dolphins team.

The Jets put up a fight and almost ruined the Dolphins playoff hopes with their 1940’s style of play. Geno Smith, at least I think it was Smith – he wasn’t introduced during pre-game introductions – attempted 13 passes and essentially watched the Jets lose their 10th loss in twelve games. Things aren’t going well on the gridiron anywhere in New York.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tuesday's Gone: Week 12 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

The Raiders might have to get used to this scene Thursday Night, as Jamal Charles and the Kansas City Chiefs are rolling.

Week 12: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 12 results (season): 10-4 (117-57-1 .669); 8-6 (78-96-1 .446)

Kansas City Chiefs 7-3 (-7.5) @ Oakland Raiders 0-10 (42.5): Chiefs 27-20 Raiders 24-20
Thursday, 8:25 PM, O. Co. Stadium, Oakland, CA (Weather: 30% rain; mid-50s)

Reasons: They say the away team is at a serious disadvantage on Thursday Night games due to the short rest and travel involved on the short week, yet the Patriots two-point win over the Jets Week 7 is the only thing keeping the record from being .500 (5-5). I’m not counting the Seattle v. Green Bay game, as it was the first game of the season, and didn’t involve a short week, the very thing blamed for the away team’s supposed problems; however, even if we counted the Opening Night game, the record would only stand at 7-5. My point is other than the scoring differential, which is significant (21.8 points), the record, the important number, is basically a moot point. The Kansas City Chiefs come in rolling, having just beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Seahawks 24-20. The Chiefs are a terrible passing team (31st), and they have a hard time stopping the run (25th) – other than that they ball. Kansas City is the league’s top rush defense, and 2nd-ranked scoring defense; on the other side of the ball they have the 4th-ranked running offense and rank 3rd in 3rd-down efficiency. The Chiefs also have quality wins over New England and Seattle. The Raiders have zero wins, and rank last in the NFL in run offense, scoring offense, and first downs, and turnover ratio; they rank in the bottom-five in passing yards (26th), 3rd downs (30th), run defense (27th), and scoring defense (27th). The Raiders basically stand no chance, except they’re home on Thursday Night, to which I refer you to the first sentence of my analysis. One could claim this AFC West rivalry match up could be a trap game for Kansas City, coming off the big win against Seattle, to which I refer you to their opponent.

The Raiders went up 14-0 and seemed to control the game from the start, although KC beat them 17-10 in the second half. Even in victory Oakland managed to embarrass themselves, celebrating a win before the game was even over; the celebration dance and subsequent race to the line of scrimmage is available on You Tube. The Chiefs got caught on the road on a Thursday Night, and the Raideres had to win at some point.

Detroit Lions 7-3 (+7) @ New England Patriots 8-2 (48): Patriots 28-20 Patriots 34-9
Sunday, 1 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny, low 50s)

Reasons: The Lions may be one of the best statistical teams in the NFL, but the Patriots are one of the best teams in the NFL. The Lions are good, don’t get me wrong, but three of their seven wins have been by four points or fewer (two were by one point), and they’ve had to come from behind in the second half or 4th quarter in their last three wins. The Lions don’t allow many yards and they allow the fewest points in the NFL (15.6 ppg), but they don’t score much, either (19.2 ppg). The Patriots are balling, winners of six straight games and eight of their last nine and rank among the league leaders in point differential (1st), points (2nd), turnover ratio (+11), first downs (4th), and red zone efficiency (6th). The Patriots are the better team and they’re at home.

The Patriots once again made the Detroit Lions look average against the great teams. The Lion were manhandled so badly that Lions’ center Dominic Raiola took the cheap shot of the year by cut blocking the Patriots’ defensive line on a kneel-down. Confident he wouldn’t be fined, Raiola was fine $10,000 today. I guess they’re dirty on both sides of the ball in Detroit.

Cleveland Browns 6-4 (+3) @ Atlanta Falcons 4-6 (47.5): Browns 28-27 Browns 26-24
Sunday, 1 PM, Georgia Dome, Atlanta GA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: People are back off the Browns’ bandwagon, but losing to a relatively good Texans team shouldn’t warrant such action. The Falcons, on the other hand, are the lamest division leaders in the NFL. Atlanta can throw the ball (6th) and score TDs in the red zone (3rd), and that’s about it. Normally the Falcons ball at home, but not in 2014 (2-2), which doesn’t bode well against a good Browns team, especially when that 31.2 ppg average at home is severely inflated by a 56-point performance v. the Buccaneers. If the Browns can get to Matt Ryan at all it could be a long day for the Falcons, and Josh Gordon is back, which means the Browns get to stretch the field and make life even harder for one of the worst defenses in the NFL.

The Browns seemed destined to lose this game, or least Brian Hoyer seemed destined to lose it before he hooked up with Josh Gordon with time running out, and the Browns took advantage of terrible clock management by Mike Smith to steal another win after being down with 10 seconds or less remaining.

Tennessee Titans 2-8 (+11) @ Philadelphia Eagles 7-3 (48.5): Eagles 31-20 Eagles 43-24
Sunday, 1 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Sunny, low 50s)

Reasons: This is a pretty easy call. The Eagles are 5-0 at home this year and average 35.4 ppg (PHI averages 30 ppg overall). The Eagles are one of the least efficient red zone teams in the NFL, and they turn the ball over far too much (-9), but that won’t matter against the Titans, who are one of the worst statistical teams in the NFL, have the lowest 3rd-down efficiency (30%), and they’re 1-4 on the road this year averaging 14.8 ppg, which includes a 24-10 win at KC Week 1.

The Titans are terrible and the Eagles are loaded with talent.

Green Bay Packers 7-3 (-8.5) @ Minnesota Vikings 4-6 (48.5): Packers 28-21 Packers 24-21
Sunday, 1 PM, TCF Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: 30% rain; mid-40s)

Reasons: Another relatively easy call, the Packers might be the hottest team in the NFL, winners of six of their last seven games, while averaging 42.2 ppg during those six wins. Green Bay also leads the league in scoring offense (33 ppg), turnover ratio (+14) and point differential (+10), and are among the leaders in red zone efficiency (9th) and 3rd-down efficiency (44%). Consider the Packers defense is playing well, and they’re dangerous. The Vikings are a great pass defense (8th) and that’s about it, but Aaron Rodgers is about to make them bad at that, too.

The Vikings surprised everyone and kept this a game until the very end. The Vikings clamped down on defense and held Aaron Rodgers to 209 passing yards, less than Teddy Bridgewater (210 yards). Eddie Lacy stole the show with 125 rushing yards and a TD on 25 carries.

Jacksonville Jaguars 1-9 (+14) @ Indianapolis Colts 6-4 (50.5): Colts 30-20 Colts 23-3
Sunday, 1 PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Talk about an easy call. Division rivals and a relative increase in the play of the Jaguars aside, this might be the easiest of the last three games. The Jaguars are now statistically the worst team in the NFL, and the actual worst team in the NFL now that the Raiders shocked the world and beat the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night. The Colts were just destroyed by the New England Patriots, and the league’s top passing offense will be looking to rebound by taking revenge out on the lowly Jaguars.

The Jaguars are awful. They managed 194 yards on offense and were shut out for the last 49 minutes of the game.

Cincinnati Bengals 6-3-1 (+1.5) @ Houston Texans 5-5 (43.5): Texans 24-21 Bengals 22-13
Sunday, 1 PM, Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Houston Texans have been up and down all season, their success seemingly all predicated on JJ Watt. At least that’s what ESPN told me. The Texans are a relatively mediocre team, save their scoring defense (8th), and their running game (3rd), but Arian Foster is questionable…again. The team on the other side seems to have been up and down all season, but in reality, other than a tough stretch Weeks 5-7 (NE-CAR-IND), the Bengals remain one of the better teams in the NFL, despite a dramatic statistical drop off. One thing the Texans do well is get after the quarterback, which could be bad news for Andy Dalton, although if they don’t get after Dalton, the Texans will be in trouble. This game could come down to the running attack of the Bengals, which in addition to Jeremy Hill get Giovani Benard back, but I like the Texans at home.

The Bengals held the ball for 18 more minutes and gained 125 more yards on offense on their way to a solid road victory. Back-up quarterback Ryan Mallet was injured, so it’s back to Ryan Fitzpatrick next week. The banged-up Texans couldn’t handle the two-headed monster of Jeremy Hill and Giovani Benrard and Cincinnati kept pace in the AFC North, the first division in history to have every member three games over .500.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-8 (+5.5) @ Chicago Bears 4-6 (46.5): Bears 24-20 Bears 21-13
Sunday, 1 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: 100% rain; low 50s)

Reasons: Wow, what a terrible match up. Both of these teams had high hopes coming into 2014, and now both teams are fighting or their lives in awful divisions, with little hope of winning them. The crazy thing is that when one looks at this match up they’re immediately reminded of great defenses – these two teams have the worst defenses in the NFL (TB – 30th; CHI – 32nd). The Buccaneers are hobbled and the Bears are at home, which actually shouldn’t mean anything – they’re 1-3 at home. It’s also going to rain all day, which could further hurt Jay Cutler’s already hurt game, but the Buccaneers are so bad they make the Bears look mediocre.

Josh McCown (341 passing yards; 1 TD) seriously outplayed Jay Cutler (130 passing yards; 1 TD), but four turnovers spelled doom for the Buccaneers in the driving rain. The Bears also only gained 204 yards of offense, but a win is a win, and the Bears desperately needed one.

Arizona Cardinals 9-1 (+7) @ Seattle Seahawks 6-4 (41): Seahawks 21-20 Seahawks 19-3
Sunday, 4:05 PM, CenturyLink Filed, Seattle, WA (Weather: 100% rain; low 50s)

Reasons: One of the best games of the week could belong to Mother Nature. The Cardinals are the ones who knocked off the might Seahawks at CenturyLink Field last season, and if it weren’t for the weather I would have predicted the same thing today. Drew Stanton fits well with this Bruce Arians offense, and the Cardinals’ defense remains one of the best in the NFL (2nd scoring defense; 3rd v. run). The Seahawks are coming off a tough loss v. the Chiefs, but remain the top rushing attack in the NFL, and still ball on defense, ranking in the top-10 against the run and pass, and it’s supposed to be terrible weather, something the Cardinals aren’t used to.

The Seahawks settled down, played defense, and let Marshawn Lynch loose, both on the field and at the mic. Yeah.

Saint Louis Rams 4-6 (+5) @ San Diego Chargers 6-4 (43.5): Chargers 24-21 Chargers 27-24
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA (Weather: Sunny, mid-70s)

Reasons: The Rams have been on fire of late, beating the Broncos, Seahawks, and 49ers in three of the past five weeks. Still, the Rams remain one of the worst teams in the NFL statistically and the Chargers have some game, although at this point they don’t seem too much better than the Rams on either side of the ball. The Chargers lost three games in a row before their Week 10 bye, only to come back from their long rest to barely beat the lowly Raiders 13-6. One could argue the Raiders just beat the Chiefs, which could make that 13-6 win more meaningful, but has anything meaningful come out of a Thursday Night game? I want to pick the Rams badly, but my head tells my not too.

 Called it.

Miami Dolphins 6-4 (+7) @ Denver Broncos 7-3 (48): Broncos 27-21 Broncos 39-36
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Sunny, low 40s)

Reasons: The spread must reflect Lamar Miller’s questionable status, the travel to chilly Denver, and the Broncos anger, because the Dolphins are a great football team, especially defensively, and the Broncos have proven they’re vulnerable against good defenses, especially great front four units. The Broncos will be missing Monte Ball and Ronny Hillman, putting the pressure on Manning to win the game against a top-10 defense. It’s a tough task, but Manning’s a Hall of Famer player for a reason, and the broncos are looking to keep pace in the AFC West. 

 Dolphins stretched the suddenly-not-so-tough Broncos to the brink.

Washington Natives 3-7 (+9) @ San Francisco 49ers 6-4 (44): 49ers 24-20 49ers 17-13
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Sunny, mid-60s)

Reasons: The Natives remain one of the best statistical teams in the NFL, yet one of the worst actual teams in the NFL, so the circus continues for the RGIII’s, which is a far more appropriate name than their current nickname. The 49ers are a stellar defensive unit, which is going to make life a nightmare for RGIII once again. The question will be whether Colin Kaepernick can stay on his feet long enough to matriculate the ball down the field to score points. The 49ers are one of the worst teams in the NFL once they’re in the red zone, and that has to end v. the Natives, who are much better on defense than many people realize. Turnovers will be the key to this game (WAS - -11; SF - +10).

The Natives tried and failed, so miserably in fact that the Natives benched RGIII for the following game after the worst performance of his career.

Dallas Cowboys 7-3 (-3.5) @ New York Giants 3-7 (47.5): Cowboys 24-21 Cowboys 31-28
Sunday, 8:30 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny, low 50s)

Reasons: The Cowboys are the superior team, and Eli Manning is coming off of a 5 INT performance. Some may think that spells a rebound game at home v. a Cowboys team that lost two of their last three games before their bye last week. The weather will be nice and the Cowboys will be rested, which could spell doom for the Giants.

It's a little shocking the Ginats made it this close, which could be a sign of things to come for the Cowboys, who not only stink in November and December, but have already won their requisite eight games.

New York Jets 2-8 (+2.5) @ Buffalo Bills 5-5 (41.5): Jets 21-20 Bills 38-3
Monday, 7:00 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI MOVED - SNOW (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Talk about Mother Nature having an effect on the game. Nearly eight feet of snow fell in the Buffalo area, forcing the game to be moved to Ford Field in Detroit. Apparently tickets have been offered for free to local residents to fill the stadium, so it will be a great chance for Detroit-area residents to go and harass Jim Schwartz. As for the game, the Jets are one of the worst teams in the NFL, but the Bills lives are upside down right now, let alone the fact they’ve barely had time to practice. Sometimes all the statistics in the world don’t trump life. As my late graduate advisor always said: “Sometimes life gets in the way.”

I blew this game big time. I underestimated the relief of the Bills' players once their families were safe, along with how terrible the Jets actually are.

Baltimore Ravens 6-4 (+3) @ New Orleans Saints 4-6 (50): Saints 27-24 Ravens 34-27
Monday, 8:30 PM, Mercedes-Benz Dome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Saints are leading the NFC South division at 4-6. The Ravens are last in their division at 6-4. Confused? So is everyone else about the play of the New Orleans Saints. Besides a perennially great offense, the Saints have an awful defense and one of the worst turnover ratios (-9) in the league. The Ravens, on the other hand, rank in the top-10 in several major statistical categories, and have losses to the Colts, Bengals, and a hot Steelers team Week 9. The Saints will be facing a great defense for the third week in a row at home (SF-CIN-BAL), but unlike the last two, the Saints will figure this one out. 

The Ravens stay tied atop their division after a big road win; the Saints stay tied atop their division after a big road loss. That's the NFL for you folks, although both are unprecedented.

Check back and see how we did Wednesday in Tuesday’s Gone: Week 12 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) at!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Week 11: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Think before you snicker at this week's Thursday Night Football match up - the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins have two of the best defenses in the NFL.

Week 11: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 11 results (season): 8-6 wins (107-53-1 .665); 6-8 v. spread (70-90-1 .435)

Buffalo Bills 5-4 (+5.5) @ Miami Dolphins 5-4 (42): Dolphins 23-20 Dolphins 22-9
Thursday, 8:25 PM, Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: 20% rain; low 70s)

Reasons: A quick glance at the schedule this Thursday night might cause a few eye rolls, but those eyes wouldn’t belong to football fans, because this AFC East divisional battle – and it is a battle – will be between two top-ten defense coming off bitter losses to great teams. The Dolphins were the victims of a Matt Stafford TD pass with 29 seconds left and lost 20-16 to the Detroit Lions and the Bills squandered several late 4th-quarter chances to eventually lose to the Kansas City Chiefs 17-13. The Dolphins are the NFL’s 7th-ranked rushing team - besides that these two teams have mediocre offenses at best. Defensively, it’s a different story: The Dolphins come in with the 2nd-ranked run defense, the 10th-ranked pass defense, and the allow the 5th-fewest points per game (19.0); the Bills enter the game with the 7th-ranked run defense, the 8th-ranked pass defense, and allow the 7th-fewest points per game (20.2). Consider the injuries at key positions (Questionable: BUF – Fred Jackson; MIA – Ryan Tannehill & Charles Clay), the weather, and the defenses involved, and I’d settle in for a low-scoring defensive battle. Then again, it’s Thursday night…who the hell knows what’s going to happen. I do know I wouldn’t give the Dolphins 5.5 points against this Buffalo front four with a questionable Tannehill.

The Bills held a 9-3 lead into the 3rd quarter, thanks in part to a Ryan Tannehill fumble, but Tannehill 240 passing yards; 2 TDs) and the Dolphins roared back, scoring 19 unanswered points through the end of the 3rd quarter through the 4th. The Dolphins held the Bills to 240 yards and 13 first downs, while sacking Kyle Orton twice (Earl Mitchell; Olivier Vernon). The Bills defense also got after it, sacking Tannehill five times (Mario Williams 3.5; Stefan Charles; Corbin Bryant 0.5), but it wasn’t enough to withstand the 4th-quarter offensive onslaught, something the Bills never accomplished.

Atlanta Falcons 2-6 (+1) @ Carolina Panthers 3-6-1 (47): Panthers 24-23 Falcons 19-17
Sunday, 1 PM, B of A Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny, low 50s)

Reasons: Does it even matter the Panthers are home? In one of the dud games of the week, these are two of the worst teams in the league, both with the eye test and statistically. Harry Douglas and Devin Hester are both questionable, but so is Charles Johnson for Carolina, essentially washing the injury advantage. Based on play I’d pick Atlanta by the point the Sharps gave Carolina, but the Panthers are home and as desperate as they’ve ever been in the Cam Newton era.

Carolina was down 16-3 with 11 minutes left in the game, then led 17-16 with just over six minutes left in the game on two Cam Newton TD passes (Kelvin Benjamin; Philly Brown). Atlanta then drove 54 yards down the field for over four minutes on 12 plays and kicked the go-ahead FG, before Gano missed a 47-yard go-ahead FG in, then had last-second 63-yard attempt blocked. It’s almost as if Newton got the late news that Carolina actually had a chance to lead the NFC South with a win, and kicked it into gear, but it wasn’t enough in the end. So basically the Panthers should have won 20-19…but they didn’t.

Minnesota Vikings 4-5 (+3) @ Chicago Bears 3-6 (46.5): Vikings 24-21 Bears 21-13
Sunday, 1 PM, Solider Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: 30% snow, mid-30s)

Reasons: Two duds in a row. This game could be worse then ATL v. CAR, and it’s forecasted to snow. The worst defense in the NFL plays one of the worst offenses in the NFL (although MIN has the 10th-ranked running game) with a rookie QB in inclement weather. The one bright spot in this match up is Minnesota’s defense, which is a pretty good unit. That will be the difference.

I called Bears score, and that’s about it. Well, I guess you could say I also predicted Teddy Bridgewater’s poor play, but I still expected more than 156 passing yards with a 5.6 yards per attempt average; Bridgewater also threw an INT (1 TD). The Bears’ defense held the Vikings to 248 yards and only 10 first downs (2-11 3rd down), but the Vikings defense, the astronomically better unit, gave up 468 yards to the desperate Bears, who had their best game in weeks. Jay Cutler threw for 330 yards and 3 TDs (2 INTs), mostly to Alshone Jeffery (11 of 17 targets for 135 yards and a TD) and Brandon Marshall (7 of 10 targets for 90 yards and 2 TDs). Matt Forte even got involved and rushed for 117 yards and 2 TDs on 26 carries (4.5 ypc).

Houston Texans 4-5 (+3) @ Cleveland Browns 6-3 (41): Browns 24-21 Texans 23-7
Sunday, 1 PM, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: 30% snow, mid-30s)

Reasons: Both of these teams boast good defenses (Scoring defense: HOU – 11th; CLE – 6th), and respectable offenses (Scoring offense: HOU – 16th; CLE – 15th). Both teams also cause many turnovers (HOU - +7; CLE - +9), and despite the Texans losing record, both teams have positive point differentials. The difference here could be injuries as both teams could be missing key players, but Cleveland is simply the better team.

The Texans surprised everyone outside of Houston and not only beat the Browns, but JJ Watt also caught a TD pass. Watt also sacked Brian Hoyer and recovered a fumble, furthering his case for league Defensive Player of the Year, if not MVP.

Seattle Seahawks 6-3 (+2) @ Kansas City Chiefs 6-3 (42): Chiefs 21-20 Chiefs 24-20
Sunday, 1 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: 20% snow, high 20s)

Reasons: Finally, an unbelievable match up. The Seahawks are getting two on the road, which speaks volume about the Chiefs play this season…and the Seahawks fall. Although only from the first story, Seattle has fallen off from their dominant selves, via free agency and attrition, and Kansas City is serious team with a serious coaching staff, something the Seahawks lack. Ok, Pete Carroll is plenty serious, just Cali-relaxed, which won’t play well in the snow v. the Kool Aid man. This game will be relegated to the ground for Seattle, as they have the top-ranked running game v. the Chiefs’ 20th-ranked run defense, and also because the Seahawks have one of the worst passing games (30th) and the Chiefs ball on the pass (1st). Beast Mode won’t be enough Sunday.

Both teams went wild running the ball (SEA – 204; KC – 190), Seattle held the ball nearly 12 more minutes, held Alex Smith to 102 passing yards, and forced two fumbles, yet the Chiefs came away with the win and are right up there with the Cardinals and Patriots as the best team in the NFL. Jamal Charles scored 3 TDs and Kniles Davis scored another as the Chiefs literally ran all over the Seahawks. For the record, I called Seahawks score.

Cincinnati Bengals 5-3-1 (+7) @ New Orleans Saints 4-5 (50.5): Saints 27-24 Bengals 27-10
Sunday, 1 PM, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Seven points? I’m not sure about that, but I sure about a Saint’s win. The Bengals once top-ranked defense has fallen to average, and the Saints’ offense is rolling, ranking 3rd (pass offense), 6th (run offense), and 6th (scoring offense) in three of the major offensive metrics. The Bengals are average, statistically, for a 5-3-1 team, but they’ll be missing several key guys on defense, and the Saints’ are home, which is usually a pretty simple indicator of a Saint’s win.

Just when people thought the Saints might run away with the NFC South they lose at home. Huh? Nothing really sticks out in this game statistically, other than the Saints’ anemic running game, which allowed the Bengals to focus on Jimmy Graham and take him out of the game (3 receptions on only 3 targets). The Bengals offense bounced back nicely after one of their worst statistical performances in their long history last week, with Andy Dalton (3 TDs), AJ Green (6 of 8 targets, 127 yards, 1 TD) and Jeremy Hill (152 yards on 27 carries) all shining.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1-8 (+7) @ Washington Natives 3-6 (45.5): Natives 24-21 Buccaneers 27-7
Sunday, 1 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Sunny, high 40s)

Reasons: Sigh. The Natives are one of those teams that can fool you into making poor prediction decisions, because statistically, they’re still riding the insane passing metrics that Kirk Cousins put up before he was benched for Colt McCoy. Yeah. Now RGIII is back, and it’s hard to believe, but that doesn’t mean anything. This could be another defensive battle, as both teams have good defenses (statistically), and turnovers will be an issue (TB: -9; WAS: -7).

Wow, are things awful in Washington. The politics are in rough shape, too. RGIII continues to play poorly and then follow it up with and even poorer performance at the post-game conference. RGIII was sacked six times and threw two INTs (1 TD), although he rushed for another 41 yards on six carries. The Buccaneers are one of the worst teams in the league and the destroyed the Natives, at least on the scoreboard. It’s that bad. But then again, it’s always been this bad.

Denver Broncos 7-2 (-9.5) @ St. Louis Rams 3-6 (51): Broncos 27-21 Rams 22-7
Sunday, 1 PM, Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Don’t sleep on the Rams. St. Louis hasn’t played a dud opponent since Week 2 (DAL, PHI, SF, SEA, KC, SF, ARZ), and they managed to beat the Seahawks at home and the 49ers on the road. You’d never know it statistically – the Rams are awful on paper, ranking in the bottom-five of most metrics, save pass defense (ranked 13th). Well, what do you know? I think Denver passes a bunch. Before I get carried away, the Broncos are one of the best complete teams in the NFL, but I’m here to analyze the games AND the spreads. The Broncos aren’t winning by 10 points on the road against these Rams.

I swear, for a minute I thought about making this my upset of the week, if not the year. The way the Rams had been playing, especially against great teams (SF, SEA), I knew they had a shot against Denver at home, but I also thought the Broncos would be nearly unstoppable after losing to New England in an attempt to keep pace, and didn’t expect Julius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to be injured, the latter on a completely clean, but devastating hit. The Rams held the ball for nearly 12 more minutes and forced Manning into two more INTs (1 TD), although he threw for 389 yards, and kept the Broncos to their lowest point total since acquiring Peyton.

San Francisco 49ers 5-4 (-4) @ New York Giants 3-6 (43.5): 49ers 24-20 49ers 16-10
Sunday, 1 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Cloudy, high 40s)

Reasons: The 49ers might be the best 5-4 team in the league, and the Giants shouldn’t even have three wins. Because of Eli Manning and the Giants WR corps, the Giants’ offense is mediocre; otherwise the Giants are terrible, especially on defense. The 49ers have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and get some key guys back this week (e.g. Aldon Smith), which only makes SF better. The 49ers should run all over the Giants, literally.

This game had moments akin to NFC playoff games’ past, but none of those quarterbacks threw five INTs. The 49ers held the ball for ten more minutes and rushed for 148 rushing yards on 37 carries, controlling the clock after every one of Eli Manning’s terrible five INTs. The Giants stayed in the game, despite Manning’s five INTs, but Eli’s five INTs made it impossibly to win. Did I mention Eli Manning threw five INTs?

Oakland Raiders 0-9 (+10) @ San Diego Chargers 5-4 (44.5): Chargers 27-20 Chargers 13-6
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA (Weather: Some sun, low 70s)

Reasons: It’s well known how awful the winless Raiders are, but Oakland isn’t the worst team in the NFL; in fact, they’re far from it. Well, 4-5 spots from it. The Raiders are abysmal offensively, but have an average defense, which is saying something. The Chargers remain an above-average team, despite losing their last three games (KC, DEN, MIA), and are superior to Oakland statistically, with the exception of the running game, which will only improve with key players back from injury.

A surprising defensive battle, the Chargers held the Raiders to nine first downs, 233 total yards, and 3-15 3rd down efficiency. The Chargers didn’t fare much better (18 FD, 300 yards, 4-15 3rd down) but they held the ball for ten more minutes, forced a Raiders’ fumble, and controlled the clock with 32 rushing attempts. The Raiders, the only winless team in the league, are now 0-10.

Philadelphia Eagles 7-2 (+6) @ Green Bay Packers 6-3 (55): Packers 28-27 Packers 53-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: 70% snow, high 20s)

Reasons: One of the best games of the week, these two teams have two of the most prolific scoring offenses in the league (PHI – 4th; GB – 5th), both teams have two of the highest scoring differentials (PHI - +9; GB - +8), and both teams have the ability to get after it defensively. To boot, both teams “win” their games by average scores of 31-22 (PHI) and 31-23 (GB) – pretty even match up. The difference here could be turnovers - the Eagles are at -5 on the season, the source of their few losses and several nail-biters, while the Packers take things from people (­+10) and capitalize. I would never take the points, but I do think Aaron Rodgers is hitting his stride, which makes the Packers as dangerous as anybody.

The Eagles were down 30-6 at halftime and never had a chance. Aaron Rodgers was on fire again, throwing for 341 yards and three TDs. The Green Bay defense picked off Mark Sanchez twice and sacked three times, and LeSean McCoy (3.8 ypc) was ineffective. These two teams could start trending in opposite directions if the Eagles don’t figure out the quarterback situation.

Detroit Lions 7-2 (+1.5) @ Arizona Cardinals 8-1 (41.5): Cardinals 21-20 Cardinals 14-6
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Univ. of Phoenix, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Sunny, low 70s)

Reasons: Another Week 11 gem, the Cardinals lost Carson Palmer for the season, but it might not matter – they’ve basically been without him most of the season anyway season. The Lions are one of the best teams in the league, statistically, but scrap and claw for every win. The Cardinals have the best record in the NFL, but almost every pundit in the business can’t figure it out and points to their turnover ratio (+12), and how much they capitalize on those turnovers. It’s going to be a close, low-scoring game, but before you pencil the Lions in for a win against Drew Stanton on the road, keep in mind the Cardinals have won these-type games all season.

Drew Stanton threw two TDs in the first nine minutes of the first quarter to Michael Floyd, and that was basically the end of the game. The Cardinals defense held the Lions to 11 first downs and only 262 total yards, and sacked Matt Stafford four times, thanks in part to Patrick Peterson blanketing Calvin Johnson.

New England Patriots 7-2 (+3) @ Indianapolis Colts 6-3 (58): Patriots 28-27 Patriots 42-20
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Luca Oil Stadium, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Perhaps the game of the week, the feature Sunday Night game pits the top-ranked scoring offense (IND) v. the 3rd-ranked scoring offense (NE), two teams that, like the Eagles and Packers, have identical point differentials (+9) and “win” their respective games by average scores of 31-22 (NE) and 32-23 (IND). Both defenses are mediocre, but it won’t matter against these prolific offenses. Once again, the big difference here is turnovers – NE is tied with ARZ with a +12 turnover ratio, while the Colts are dead even (0). I expect Bill Belichick’s complex scheme to confuse the Stanford product and force more of those turnovers, which NE should capitalize on, leading to a Patriots’ victory.

The Patriots offense, led by former practice squad running back, and now the current AFC Offensive Player of the Week Jonas Gray, steamrolled the Colts awful run defense. Gray rushed for 201 yards and a ridiculous four TDs on a whopping 37 carries. Rob Gronkowski added 71 colorful receiving yards and a TD, and blocked Sergio Brown into the NBC camera after claiming Brown was “talking smack”. Despite Luck’s most recent stellar performance (303 passing yards, 2 TDs), the Colts only rushed for 19 yards on 16 carries, and the Patriots defense defended seven of Luck’s passes. A 14-10 game at the half, in which the Colts’ scored on a Luck to Nicks TD pass with 55 seconds left, the Patriots made it 28-13 by the end of the 3rd quarter, only to see the Colts get within seven on a Colby Fleener TD catch, before the Patriots rattled off 14 unanswered points to seal the quality win.

Pittsburgh Steelers 6-4 (-6) @ Tennessee Titans 2-7 (47): Steelers 27-21 Steelers 27-24
Monday, 8:30 PM, LP Field, Nashville, TN (Weather: Clearing, high 20s)

Reasons: The Steelers are coming off a loss to the Jets and the Titans start a rookie quarterback and are terrible. The Titans’ run defense, ranked 11th, is the only respectable aspect of the Titans’ team, and the Steelers couldn’t care less because they throw it a ton and throw it well (4th-ranked pass offense). The Steelers might be a little banged up on defense, but the Titans could be missing their two best offensive players (Derek McCluster; Delanie Walker).

The Steelers were down 24-13 with less than four minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, but 14 4th-quarter unanswered points sealed the win for the suddenly reeling Steelers. The Titans managed only 14 first downs, but gained 312 total yards on only 39 plays (8.0 ypp), including 263 passing yards and two TDs (1 INT) from the rookie Zach Mettenberger. The Titans also sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and picked him off, but proved they still have a long way to go before they can play on the big stage on Monday Night. I am though, as I called yet another score.

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