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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Carolina Panthers: Second title in as many years brings new season

Personal Twitter: @phaulkner

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Carolina Panthers: Losing season could yield division title

Personal Twitter: @phaulkner

Week 17: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & NO analysis): FINAL WEEK EDITION

 Playoffs??? Yes, for some. Not so much for others. Welcome to Week 17.

Week 17: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 17 results (season): 12-4 wins (170-85-1 .666); 9-7 v. spread (126-129-1 .494)

Week 17 Notes: Perhaps as hard to predict as Week 1, Week 17 comes with so many variables that it makes it nearly impossible to predict games. A majority of teams are going home after today, meaning several will be playing rookies or reserve players to get some idea of the direction they might head in the off season. Many teams have players under exorbitant contracts and will not risk injury in a meaningless game. Don’t let any football player convince you there is no such thing – this is a business first. Several teams are still in the playoff hunt. These teams will pull out all the stops. The teams that are in the playoffs still have decisions to make. Some teams will completely sit their starters, while some teams will play their starters in limited action. Some of these teams are even in position to increase their playoff seed, and their game plan could be dictated as the day – and other games – progress. All of this information can be summed up in one declaration: stay away. Put your wallets back in your back pocket. Unfortunately for me, I’m obligated to predict winners. What’s worse is the position of my ego: If I go 11-5 in both wins and v. the spread in Week 17, I will have officially predicted 67% of wins correctly and I’ll have called exactly 50% against the spread. That’s something to brag about. Too bad it’s Week 17. See you in the playoffs.

Buffalo Bills 8-7 (+5) @ New England Patriots 12-3 (43.5): Patriots 24-21 Bills 17-9
Sunday, 1 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: 80% rain, low 50s)

Carolina Panthers 6-8-1 (+3) @ Atlanta Falcons 6-9 (47.5): Panthers 27-24 Panthers 34-3
Sunday, 1 PM, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA (Weather: Indoors)

Cleveland Browns 7-8 (+13.5) @ Baltimore Ravens 9-6 (39.5): Ravens 27-21 Ravens 20-10
Sunday, 1 PM, M&T Banbk Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: 80% rain, low 50s)

Dallas Cowboys 11-4 (-4) @ Washington Natives 4-11 (49): Natives 24-21 Cowboys 44-17
Sunday, 1 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: 80% rain, low 50s)

Indianapolis Colts 11-4 (-7) @ Tennessee Titans 2-13 (46.5): Colts 27-24 Colts 27-10
Sunday, 1 PM, LP Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: 80% rain, mid 40s)

Jacksonville Jaguars 3-12 (-9.5) @ Houston Texans 8-7 (40.5): Texans 24-20 Texans 23-17
Sunday, 1 PM, Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

San Diego Chargers 9-6 (+1) @ Kansas City Chiefs 8-7 (40.5): Chargers 24-21 Chiefs 19-7
Sunday, 1 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: Sunny, high 30s)

New York Jets 3-12 (+6) @ Miami Dolphins 8-7 (42): Dolphins 24-21 Jets 37-34
Sunday, 1 PM, Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: Sunny, high 70s)

Chicago Bears 5-10 (+6) @ Minnesota Vikings 6-9 (42): Vikings 21-20 Vikings 13-9
Sunday, 1 PM, TFC Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Sunny, low 20s)

Philadelphia Eagles 9-6 (+2.5) @ New York Giants 6-9 (44.5): Eagles 27-24 Eagles 34-26
Sunday, 1 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: 80% rain, low 50s)

New Orleans Saints 6-9 (-4) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-13 (52.5): Saints 27-21 Saints 23-20
Sunday, 1 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Sunny, high 70s)

Detroit Lions 11-4 (+7.5) @ Green Bay Packers 11-4 (47.5): Packers 28-20 Packers 30-20
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Sunny, high 20s)

Oakland Raiders 3-12 (+14) @ Denver Broncos 11-4 (48): Broncos 28-24 Broncos 47-14
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Sunny, mid-30s)

Arizona Cardinals 11-4 (+6.5) @ San Francisco 49ers 7-8 (36.5): 49ers 21-17 49ers 20-17
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Sunny, mid-50s)

St. Louis Rams 6-9 (+12.5) @ Seattle Seahawks 11-4 (41): Seahawks 24-17 Seahawks 20-6
Sunday, 4:25 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: 40% rain, mid-40s)

Cincinnati Bengals 10-4-1 (+3.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 10-5 (48): Steelers 27-24 Steelers 27-17
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: Cloudy, high 30s)

Check back Saturday for Week 18: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis): WILD CARD EDITION at!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tuesday's Gone: Week 16 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Thursday Night's game is one of the worst games in NFL history, let alone just on Thursday Night. But don't tell the fan that...

Week 16: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 16 results (season): 7-9 (156-81-1 .653); 11-5 v. spread (116-122-1 .485)

Week 16 Notes: Eight road teams are favorites this week – half! That’s remarkable. In addition, 13 of the 16 games have playoff implications. Considering the TEN v. JAX game could be for the #1 pick in the draft, the only irrelevant games are STL v. NYG and sadly, the SD v. SF game, which actually features teams that could finish with winning records…and no playoffs. Such is the NFL.

Tennessee Titans 2-12 (+3.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 2-12 (40.5): Titans 21-20 Jaguars 21-13
Thursday, 8:25 PM, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: Cloudy, low 50s)

Reasons: There are only four teams in the NFL with 12 loses, and two of them face off Thursday night in quite possibly the worst Thursday Night game this season, which is really saying something. Both of these teams reside in the AFC South meaning one division contains two of the four 12-loss teams, yet the NFC South still has three fewer losses than the AFC South. If that doesn’t drive home how terrible the NFC South is I don’t know what does. As far as this game is concerned, the Titans have a respectable pass defense, and the Jaguars have been playing better the past few weeks, but neither of these points is reason enough to watch this game. That is, unless you like train wrecks. The only team with a worse point differential than either of these two teams is the Oakland Raiders (-168), and it’s not by much. The Jaguars have the NFL’s worst offense, and the Titans who are just a hair better offensively, are the league’s second-worst defense, which is just a hair worse than Jacksonville’s. Yeah, this game is going to be terrible. Or maybe a battle between two terrible teams results in an epic game.

Who knew?

Philadelphia Eagles 9-5 (-8) @ Washington Natives 3-11 (50.5): Eagles 28-21 Natives 27-24
Saturday, 4:25 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Cloudy, high 40s)

Reasons: The Eagles, once 5-1 and firing on all cylinders, and seemingly in complete control of their own destiny, are now 4-4 in their last eight games and in real danger of being left out of the playoffs altogether – forget winning the NFC East. The Eagles need to win and for the Dallas Cowboys to lose this week just to stay in contention. Luckily for Philadelphia they face the laughingstock of the NFL, the Washington Natives. Just because it’s Saturday, don’t expect RGIII to return to his college form against a potentially vicious defense that can take the ball away. The Eagles have been turning the ball over at an alarming rate all season (-8), but so have the Natives (-9). I’m not sure either team has any confidence in their quarterback play, but at least the Eagles have a running game and a defense, while the Natives are simply one of the worst teams in the league. The Eagles also can’t lose.

The Eagles could become the second 10-6 NFC team in as many years (ARZ), but that’s if they win Week 17. The Eagles blew their chance to keep pace with the Cowboys in the NFC East and lost to the lowly Natives.

San Diego Chargers 8-6 (-1.5) @ San Francisco 49ers 7-7 (41): 49ers 21-20 Chargers 38-35 OT
Saturday, 8:25 PM, Levis Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Cloudy, low 50s)

Reasons: Apparently the Michigan Wolverines are the talk of this game. Let’s put it this way – the 49ers have already been eliminated from the playoffs in 2014, despite the chance to go 9-7, and the San Diego Chargers need several things out of their control to happen in order for them to make the playoffs, despite potentially finishing 10-6. So we have two CA teams from each conference that could end the season with winning records, yet this game is nothing more than a sun-baked spoiler if the 49ers prevail. The Chargers are a far better team on paper, and the 49ers’ offense has quickly become one of the worst in the NFL, but they’re home (although they’re 3-3) and they still have one of the league’s best defenses. With Phillip Rivers hurting and the offensive line still scrambling, the 49ers play with just enough pride to win out.

The 49ers led 28-7 at the half, but then somehow one of the league’s best defenses failed them, and the Chargers literally charged through and scored 31 unanswered points, including the three in OT, to recharge their playoff hopes. It’s been real, Jim Harbaugh.

Cleveland Browns 7-7 (+3.5) @ Carolina Panthers 5-8-1 (41): Panthers 24-20 Panthers 17-13
Sunday, 1 PM, B of A Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny, high 40s)

Reasons: The Panthers have to win to have any shot at the playoffs, and the Carolina defense has played well enough in the past few weeks that Cleveland could be in trouble trotting out Johnny Manziel again. Cam Newton looks to be ready, which is a horrible idea, even with a hobbled Browns’ defense, but the Browns have nothing to play for, Manziel is simply a deer in headlights about to be run over, and the Carolina Panthers are desperately trying to salvage a 5-8-1 season 11 months after being 10-4 at the same point last year.

Johnny Manziel was knocked out of the game and the Panthers forced a final game showdown with the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC South title…and final spot in the NFC playoffs.

New England Patriots 11-3 (-10.5) @ New York Jets 3-11 (46.5): Patriots 28-21 Patriots 17-16
Sunday, 1 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny, low 40s)

Reasons: If you live outside of the Northeast you have the Patriots trashing the Jets. If you live in the New York area, you think the Jets are going to win. If you live in New England you understand completely that these late-season AFC East matchups against inferior opponents don’t always bode well, the Jets defensive front line is the only quality aspect of their team and Tom Brady’s kryptonite, and about the only thing Rex Ryan lives for these days is to beat his closet hero, Bill Belichick. The head says Patriots all day everyday, but the heart knows better.

This game was closer than most expected, but three or fewer points have decided this series for a few years now, several by blocked kicks. The Patriots sealed home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, while the Jets sealed Rex Ryan’s fate.

Minnesota Vikings 6-8 (+6.5) @ Miami Dolphins 7-7 (42): Dolphins 24-20 Dolphins 37-35
Sunday, 1 PM, Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: Sunny, mid-70s)

Reasons: Both teams could end .500 or better, yet neither has a shot at the playoffs this season. Considering neither represents a spoiler in any situation, this game is officially irrelevant.

What an incredible game. The Vikings defense was their only strength, yet their offense kept them in this 37-35 thriller; the same could be said about the Dolphins. Miami did all they could to keep their playoff hopes alive, including the unheard-of “blocked punt walk-off”, but alas, it wasn’t enough.

Baltimore Ravens 9-5 (-5) @ Houston Texans 7-7 (41): Ravens 24-21 Texans 25-13
Sunday, 1 PM, Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Ravens need to win to keep pace in the AFC North and get one of the worst matchups to do that against, except that they’re on the 9th QB, so actually the Ravens don’t have much to worry about…assuming they can score points.

Talk about a team doing all it can to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Texans and JJ Watt pulled out all the stops, and took the Ravens, who were desperate themselves, to task in their own house. Now the Ravens have to hope for a Chargers’ loss to the Chiefs, who are still alive themselves. The Texans breath that same thin air.

Detroit Lions 10-4 (-8.5) @ Chicago Bears 5-9 (44.5): Lions 24-21 Lions 20-14
Sunday, 1 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: Cloudy, low 40s)

Reasons: The Lions are battling the Packers for the NFC North title, and hold the tiebreaker over them if they win out, meaning the Lions will drop this all-important game against the hapless Bears. Oh wait a minute; the Bears are inexplicably trotting out Jimmy Clausen over Jay Cutler, a move that doesn’t make any sense on any level – sending message, trade bait, releasing, etc. The Lions are their own worst enemy, and could just as easily be 4-10 as 10-4, so I’ll be frank: If Jay Cutler were playing the Bears would win.

The Lions won, but their continued bone-headed play cost them their center Dominic Raiola next week - for stopping a player’s ankle (actually for “repeated offenses”) - and most likely the division as they face Green Bay at Lambeau Week 17 for the title. Both make the playoffs regardless, but only one team goes anywhere.

Atlanta Falcons 5-9 (+6.5) @ New Orleans Saints 6-8 (56): Saints 28-27 Falcons 30-14
Sunday, 1 PM, Mercedes-Benz Dome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: How hilarious is this? These two teams, both predicted to have far better seasons in 2014, are both in danger of ending the years with losing records, yet this game could be for the NFC South title. Confused? So is the rest of the NFL, including the members of the NFC South. A rematch of the Week 1 37-34 OT thriller in which the home Falcons prevailed, these two teams are still pretty evenly matched 165 weeks later, to boot (Both teams “lose” their respective games: ATL -25-26; NO – 26-27). Look for New Orleans to avenge that loss and basically wrap up the division.

It’s amazing how quickly the Saints have fallen off. Many pundits had the Saints going to the Super Bowl, or at least battling the Seahawks for NFC supremacy, but the Saints were 3-5 at home this year, one of the wins coming in OT, and Drew Brees…well, Brees had another career year, but you’d never have known it.

Green Bay Packers 10-4 (-12) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-12 (+48.5): Packers 28-20 Packers 20-3
Sunday, 1 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: 30% rain, mid-70s)

Reasons: All signs, brains, and statistics point to Green Bay. The fact the Packers are on the road, where they are terrible relative to Lambeau Field, and the fact that Tampa Bay has lost seven games by 6 or fewer points tells a different tale. The Packers are actually playing for something, as are the Buccaneers, both of which require the Buccaneers to lose, so it’s hard to imagine the Packers losing two in a row on the road.

The Packers rolled, but Aaron Rodgers may have rolled something. His health and the draft position of the Buccaneers were the only things of interest coming out of this game.

Kansas City Chiefs 8-6 (+3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 9-5 (46.5): Steelers 26-24 Steelers 20-14
Sunday, 1 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: Sunny, mid-30s)

Reasons: One of the intriguing games of the week, both teams are still alive, although both also need help, the Chiefs slightly more than the Steelers. The Steelers simply have to win and hope Cincinnati loses, but the Chiefs need to win and have several others lose. All of this only covers the emotional aspect of the game, so here’s the technical aspect: the Chiefs have one of the best defenses in the league (4th-ranked scoring defense) and the Steelers have one of the best offenses in the league (6th-ranked scoring offense). Something has to give.

This epic late season AFC battle didn’t disappoint, and the Steelers went from a strange question mark to playoff team, although their SOS ranks last in all of the eight potential playoff teams, and by a long shot. What’s my point? I wouldn’t expect them to last. The Chiefs are barely alive.

New York Giants 5-9 (+5.5) @ St. Louis Rams 6-8 (43.5): Rams 24-21 Giants 37-27
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Yikes. Let’s put it this way: the Rams are the best team in the NFL with a losing record and the Giants are in “wait until next year” mode. I’m looking forward to Jenkins v. Beckham Jr. That’s about it.

Odell Beckham Jr. has erupted into a star. That is all.

Buffalo Bills 8-6 (-6.5) @ Oakland Raiders 2-12 (37.5): Bills 24-20 Raiders 26-24
Sunday, 4:25 PM, O. Co. Stadium, Oakland, CA (Weather: Sunny, mid-60s)

Reasons: The Bills are fighting for their playoff lives, have one of the best defenses in the NFL, have just beat one of the best teams in the NFL, and the Raiders are one of the worst teams in the NFL. All of this points to a Bills’ victory, but they’re traveling across the country, which usually doesn’t bode well for east coast teams. Luckily for them the game’s at 4:25.

Good for the Raiders, three in a row. Now they’ll get another high draft pick for their improvements. The Bills, on the other hand, blew their chances at the 2014 playoffs, although they did inch a little closer this season. I guess that transcontinental flight did hurt.

Indianapolis Colts 10-4 (+3.5) @ Dallas Cowboys 10-4 (55.5): Colts 28-24 Cowboys 42-7
Sunday, 4:25 PM, AT&T Stadium, Dallas, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The afternoon games haven’t disappointed on paper yet this season, and Week 16 is no exception. Perhaps the game of the week, the Colts come into Dallas looking to secure a high seed in the AFC, having wrapped up the putrid AFC South last week, and the Cowboys, experiencing their best season in years, are simply fighting for their playoff lives. If the Cowboys win and the Eagles lose, the Cowboys win the NFC East for the first time in memory. The problem is the Cowboys have a losing record at home. Yes, at home. The Cowboys are 3-4 at AT&T Stadium, more like “America’s Stadium”, while the Colts are 4-2. The real issue is the Cowboys, who never seem to live up to the biggest moments when they matter most. Here’s one of those moments.

Boy did I get this game wrong. Congrats to the Cowboys, NFC East Champions. I can’t wait to watch them in the playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks 10-4 (-8) @ Arizona Cardinals 11-3 (37): Seahawks 21-17 Seahawks 35-6
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Sunny, mid-50s)

Reasons: This is the perfect opportunity for the Cardinals to prove they belong, to win the NFC West, and secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Good luck. The Seahawks have gone from 6-4 and questionable to 10-4, in complete control, and back to being the leagues top defense - in six weeks. Ok, the second-ranked defense at 17.3 ppg (DET allows 17.0 ppg). Guess who’s 3rd?  The Arizona Cardinals…at 17.4 ppg. That’s right, this matchup not only features the two top teams in the NFC West, they’re also the two top teams in the NFC – and the second- and third-ranked defenses in the league, separated by 0.1 ppg allowed. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they face the Seahawks at the wrong time, no matter how terrible Wilson and the Seahawks passing game is.

I guess Bruce Arians found out who the better defense was. Does anyone want to face the Seahawks in the playoffs? Doubtful, but the Patriots won’t mind facing them in the Super Bowl.

Denver Broncos 11-3 (-3) @ Cincinnati Bengals 9-4-1 (47.5): Broncos 28-24 Bengals 37-28
Monday, 8:30 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: 50% rain; low 40s)

Reasons: Apparently Peyton Manning is hobbled and people are concerned. Know who isn’t concern? Me. The Bengals are all talk, especially when it comes to prime time games, and it doesn’t get anymore prime time then this. The Broncos are looking to keep pace with the Patriots and secure a top seed; the Bengals are holding on to the AFC North for dear life, and have the Ravens and Steelers breathing down their neck. No matter this game is at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals almost have no shot considering the circumstances.

Peyton Manning threw four INTs and essentially threw the Broncos out of home field advantage throughout the playoffs. That means Denver might have to travel to New England in January, and if Manning’s bad weather performance is any indication, they’re in trouble. The Bengals, on the other hand, silenced the critics and performed in prime time, winning the NFC North and possibly securing a first round bye.

Check back Sunday for Week 17: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) at!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Carolina Panthers: Newton accident symbolizes season

Personal Twitter: @phaulkner

Tuesday's Gone: Week 15 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

 The St. Louis Rams are the hottest team in the NFL...if we're going on the past two weeks.

Week 15: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)
Week 15 results (season): 12-4 wins (149-73-1 .668); 8-8 v. spread (105-117-1 .470)

Week 15 Notes: As the regular season begins to wind down predicting the outcome of any given game is more common sense than statistical analysis. Some teams are already in the playoffs and are simply waiting to see where they fall; several teams are in the hunt, including six 7-6 teams, and have crucial matchups this week. The AFC North could have three teams with winning records shut out of the playoffs, while the NFC South will crown a team with a losing record. Such is the NFL, the league of parity. Speaking of the AFC North, the Bengals v. Browns game features the only two teams that have “tied” their games so far this season (CIN: 22-22; CLE: 21-21).

Game(s) of the Week: PHI v. DAL; DEN v. SD; SF v. SEA

Dud(s) of the Week: NYJ v. TEN; WAS v. NYG

Arizona Cardinals 10-3 (+5.5) @ St. Louis Rams 6-7 (40.5): Rams 24-20 Cardinals 12-6
Thursday, 8:25 PM, Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, MO (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The St. Louis Rams have won straight, by way of shutout no less, while the Arizona Cardinals were in danger of losing their third straight last week v. the Kansas City Chiefs. One could almost argue these are two teams trending in opposite directions, but the Cardinals remain 10-3, tied for the best record in the NFL. Neither team scores many points, but neither gives up many points. Both defenses are also very efficient, ranking near or within the top-10 in 3rd-down percentage and first downs allowed. All of these statistics on display on a Thursday Night game should conspire to produce a low-scoring game, but I’m not sure if one of these Thursday Night games has gone to plan yet. The Rams are on a serious roll on defense, the offense is running smoother with Shaun Hill at quarterback, and the Rams are at home, the latter being the biggest difference this week.

The clash of two great defenses on the National stage was too much for Tre Mason and the Rams, as a costly fumble stifled any Rams’ momentum. They never got it back. The Rams’ two-game shut out of their previous (inferior) opponents came to end and allowed the Cardinals to stay ahead in the NFC West.

Miami Dolphins 7-6 (+7.5) @ New England Patriots 10-3 (48): Patriots 28-20 Patriots 41-13
Sunday, 1 PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Sunny, low 40s)

Reasons: The Patriots have won 38 straight games at home v. AFC opponents, and the Dolphins stole a win from New England Week 1, so Miami better bring its A+ game if it stands any chance of beating the team with the best record, highest point differential, that ranks in the top-10 in both offense and scoring defense, and a +10 turnover ratio. With a banged up defense, Miami is going to have their work cut out for them. If New England wins it’ll be their 77th straight AFC East title.

Mike Wallace pulled in an incredible TD catch as the first half came to a close, making a 14-6 game 14-13 at the half. For a few minutes the Miami Dolphins were in the game. Then the second half came…27-0. The New England Patriots won the AFC East with the win…again.

Pittsburgh Steelers 8-5 (-2.5) @ Atlanta Falcons 5-8 (55.5): Steelers 28-27 Steelers 27-20
Sunday, 1 PM, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Despite having opposite records, both teams are fighting for division titles heading into Week 15. The problem here is Atlanta has one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, and more accurately simply one of the worst defenses period, and the Steelers are as hot a team offensively as anyone. The Falcons are no good at home this year either, which would have been their saving grace in years’ past.

This game turned out exactly the way I thought it would, making a quagmire out of the AFC North with only two weeks left.

Washington Natives 3-10 (+6.5) @ New York Giants 4-9 (47): Giants 24-21 Giants 24-13
Sunday, 1 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny, low 40s)

Reasons: Both of these NFC East teams turn the ball over a ton, have negative point differentials, and combine for seven wins through 15 weeks. That means both teams combine for less than a half win per week - perhaps a silly statistic, but worth mentioning so that you won’t waste any of your time watching it.

In the battle to see who will finish last in the NFC East, the Natives prevailed, but not before Santana Moss was ejected for pretending to care about RGIII and arguing the right call on the field.

Oakland Raiders 2-11 (+10) @ Kansas City Chiefs 7-6 (41.5): Chiefs 24-17 Chiefs 31-13
Sunday, 1 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: 20% rain; high 50s)

Reasons: These two teams are trending in opposite directions, but it only makes a difference for one of these teams, losers of three straight games after seemingly being in control of the AFC West one month ago at 7-3. The Raiders may have won two in a row, but let’s get real. The Chiefs are desperate and still have far more talent to let this game slip away at home.

Vegas had this one right, as the Raiders were suddenly high on themselves after winning two straight and the Chiefs were desperate to win and keep pace with the AFC Wild Card after leading he AFC West only a few weeks ago.

Houston Texans 7-6 (+6.5) @ Indianapolis Colts 9-4 (49): Colts 28-24 Colts 17-10
Sunday, 1 PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: A great AFC South battle between a rising Texans team and the probably division winner, this matchup also features the best defensive player in the league (JJ Watt) and the future of the NFL (Andrew Luck). A back and forth series over the past few years, the Texans will be looking to avenge their 33-28 Week 6 loss as Watt tries to steal the show, and the ball, for Luck and the pesky TY Hilton, who’s crushed the Texans.

The Texans were down to their 3rd-string QB, and it seemed more like their emergency QB, but they brought the right effort and nearly beat the Colts on their home field. Instead, the Colts squeaked by and won yet another AFC South title, easily the worst division in the AFC.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2-11 (+13.5) @ Baltimore Ravens 8-5 (45): Ravens 27-17 Ravens 20-12
Sunday, 1 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Sunny, mid-40s)

Reasons: The Jaguars stand no chance against the top-10 Ravens (Scoring: offense – 6th; defense – 7th), who are looking to keep pace in a stacked AFC North, as the Jaguars are not only one of the worst NFL teams statistically, they also fail the eye test miserably.

Suddenly the Jaguars are testing people, and right on time. The Ravens barely beat one of the four laughingstocks of the NFL, but managed to keep pace in the clogged AFC North.

Green Bay Packers 10-3 (-4.5) @ Buffalo Bills 7-6 (50.5): Packers 24-20 Bills 21-13
Sunday, 1 PM, Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Drizzle; high 30s)

Reasons: What an incredible game on paper. The Packers are possibly the hottest team in the NFL, winners of five straight, including a close win over the New England Patriots, while the Bills could be the most underrated team in the league. The Packers come into Buffalo the top-ranked offense, but the Bills are no joke defensively, ranking in the top-10 in most defensive categories. Normally I’d give the nod to Aaron Rodgers against any stout defense, especially one without an offense, but the Packers are not the same team away from Lambeau Field, and the Bills are…well, 3-3 at home (4-3 technically, but one game occurred in Detroit). The Bills test Rodgers, but not quite enough.

I wanted to pick the Bills in this game so bad, and I’m ashamed I didn’t. The Packers are like Jekyll-and-Hyde home and away, and playing the Bills in Buffalo is no joke, especially in December. The Bills had a few chances to give it away, but held Aaron Rodgers to one of his worst career games, and stayed alive in the AFC Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-11 (+3) @ Carolina Panthers 4-8-1 (41.5): Panthers 27-21 Panthers 19-17
Sunday, 1 PM, B of A Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny, low 60s)

Reasons: Now’s the time for the Carolina Panthers to take control of their season, and the NFC South, by beating the hapless Bucs at home. No Cam Newton you say? No problem, as not only does Derek Anderson slide into this offense seamlessly, he started Week 1 and had a 21-0 lead halfway through the fourth quarter – against these Buccaneers. The Panthers have not given their fans any reason to hope so far, but if there were a time it would be now. Following a 41-10 drumming of the New Orleans Saints at home to keep pace in the NFC South, how terrible would it be to drop this game at home…

Derek Anderson is now 2-0 this season backing up embattled Cam Newton, and although both wins came against the hapless Buccaneers, the win puts Carolina in a unique position to win their division with a losing record.

Cincinnati Bengals 8-4-1 (+1`) @ Cleveland Browns 7-6 (44): Browns 21-20 Bengals 30-0
Sunday, 1 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Foggy, low 40s)

Reasons: As I mentioned in the opening notes these two teams “tie” their respective games, the only two teams in the NFL that do so. The Browns won 24-3 Week 10, and that was at Cincinnati, which begs the question: What the hell is Jeremy Hill talking about? Hill provided plenty of bulletin material for the Browns defense, but the Browns’ offense will be the question, as Johnny Football makes his first NFL start. I know I wouldn’t want my first NFL start to come against a division rival with a good defense.

The only person looking worse than me after my 21-20 Browns’ win call was Johnny Football, who had one of the worst 1st start performances in NFL history, as well as one of the worst 1st starts by a Heisman-winning QB. The Bengals, on the other hand, backed up the trash talk and took charge of the AFC North…by a slim margin.

New York Jets 2-11 (-3) @ Tennessee Titans 2-11 (42): Jets 24-21 Jets 16-11
Sunday, 4:05 PM, LP Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Drizzle; mid-50s)

Reasons: It’s been called the Marcus Mariota Bowl. One of these teams will end up with the Heisman-winning Oregon quarterback. I call it The Bowel Bowl. That is because these two teams are absolutely awful. A few statistics: The highest rank any of these two teams achieve for yardage or scoring is 27th. Both teams average 17 ppg and are fighting for 30th place in the league. The best point differential of the two teams (per game) is -10. The best turnover ratio of either team is -8. Notice I never said which team boasts such lofty metrics? It’s because it doesn’t even matter. The best part of this game could be the weather, and it’s supposed to rain.

The Jets actually almost lost this game on some final-seconds antics by the Titans (and ruined by Delanie Walker), alas they didn’t, and avoided the awkward preseason camp moment when Geno Smith realizes he’s losing his franchise QB position to another supposed franchise QB (Winston) just a few years after he was drafted for it, after replacing another supposed franchise QB (Sanchez). I’m glad I’m not  jets fan.

Denver Broncos 10-3 (-4.5) @ San Diego Chargers 8-5 (51): Broncos 27-24 Broncos 22-10
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA (Weather: Sunny; high 60s)

Reasons: The Broncos will be looking to avenge their Week 8 loss to the Chargers at Denver by traveling to San Diego. In most other cases that would be bad news for Denver, if San Diego weren’t on their 5th center this season, and if two of Denver’s three losses were to Seattle and New England…on the road. The Chargers have the talent, and it’s tough to bet against Phillip Rivers, but Denver is too talented and they’re on a mission to get home field over New England.

The Broncos won, but didn’t really inspire fans into thinking they’re in Championship mode. Peyton manning looked pedestrian (again), which could be part saving for playoffs, part old, and was blasted on a block attempt, sending him to the training room. The Broncos’ run game is vastly improved, which could play out in the long run, but they won’t beat New England on the road with this style. The Chargers fought hard, but ultimately are too banged up to keep pace, and probably punched their ticket home at the end of the season.

Minnesota Vikings 6-7 (+7.5) @ Detroit Lions 9-4 (42): Lions 24-20 Lions 16-14
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: This is one of those games the Lions shouldn’t lose, which means they probably will because they need to win given their race with the Green bay Packers in the NFC North and the Vikings one saving grace is their defense. Despite my cynicism, one has to think the Lions beat the Vikings if they’re trying to convince anyone they belong in any playoff conversation.

Holy crap, the Lions almost lost this game. There is no way this Lions’ team makes a playoff run the way they’re playing…if they even make the playoffs.

San Francisco 49ers 7-6 (+9.5) @ Seattle Seahawks 9-4 (38): Seahawks 24-20 Seahawks 17-7
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Century Link Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Sunny, low 40s)

Reasons: Ten points??? I don’t care where the game is, how well the Seahawks are playing, and how badly the 49ers offense is playing, a ten-point spread for this NFC West matchup against the two teams that played the real Super Bowl 11 months ago is an insult. Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers have never been more than seven-point underdogs, which tells you just how good the Seahawks defense is playing right now, and how badly the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick are playing. Here’s what people are forgetting: the Seahawks offense is mediocre at best and the 49ers defense balls. Yes the Seahawks win, but not by 10 points…more like four.

A terrible roughing the passer penalty on Russell Wilson extended a drive that allowed the Seahawks to score a TD instead of a FG, which destroyed any chance of the 49ers making a comeback. The win makes Seattle the favorites to win the NFC again, and the loss send the 49ers in reeling mode, as they could be a completely different team come next season.

Dallas Cowboys 9-4 (+3.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles 9-4 (55): Eagles 28-24 Cowboys 38-27
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Lincoln Financial Fld., Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Cloudy, low 30s)

Reasons: What a great rematch of the recent game between these two teams on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys were embarrassed in that game 33-10, which led most to believe it was the beginning of the Cowboys’ annual December swoon, but it was more a case of being at home, where the Cowboys are mysteriously terrible. The Cowboys are great on the road though, but you’re crazy if you think the Cowboys would go 8-0 on the road, which would be the case if they beat the Eagles. Oh sorry, they’d have to beat the Natives, too, Week 17 (cough). This game is everything a football fan could hope for, and falls right in line with the epic end-of-the-year NFC East battles we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans the Eagles are too good, and Chip Kelly too good a coach to let The Accident Waiting To Happen prevail.

The Cowboys went up 21-0 before squandering the lead to the Eagles, ultimately winning the game and taking one step closer to winning the NFC East. The Eagles are in trouble, as they could become only the third team in NFL history to miss the playoffs at 11-5.

New Orleans Saints 5-8 (-3) @ Chicago Bears 5-8 (54): Saints 27-24 Saints 31-15
Monday, 8:30 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: 80% rain; low 40s)

Reasons: A rather strange game to call, the Saints would usually be doomed on the road in the pouring rain, but these new look Bears can’t play defense and have no home field advantage these days, unless you consider hearing boos an advantage. The Saints have only played three games outside this year, but they’re surprisingly 2-1, and against teams with capable defenses (CLE-CAR-PIT). The Bears are reeling like never before, and now are without Brandon Marshall, which makes Jay Cutler’s tumultuous season even more uncomfortable. It won’t be pretty, but has anything the Saints have done in the ugliest division in football been pretty?

The Saints beat up on the sinking Bears and took control of the NFC South by a half game…with a 6-8 record. All four NFC South teams have negative point differentials, the only division with more than two.

Check back Thursday and again Sunday for Week 16: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & NO analysis) at!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tuesday's Gone: Week 14 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Tony Romo could be kissing the ground in celebration, or he could be preparing for a long December on the ground. History suggest the latter.

Week 14: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Week 14 results (season): 13-3 wins (137-69-1 .662); 12-4 v. spread (97-109-1 .469)

Week 14 Note: Analysis will not be available for Week 14 picks due to work-related travel and time constraints. Unfortunately is a one-man show, and without editors and writers these issues come up now and again. Have no fear; much thought went into these Week 14 picks! Stay tuned for Tuesday’s Gone: Week 14 Game Predictions (w/ spreads & NO analysis) and come back next week for your full Week 15 analysis. Enjoy the games and good luck in Fantasy Football playoffs!

Dallas Cowboys 8-4 (-3.5) @ Chicago Bears 5-7 (51.5): Cowboys 28-24 Cowboys 41-28
Thursday, 8:25 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: Cloudy; mid-30s)

Reasons: On paper the Cowboys are a far better team, and are 5-0 on the road so far in 2014, yet the Cowboys are only 3.5-point favorites in the first non-divisional Thursday Night game since Week 1. That tells me the sharps could be thinking it’s time for that December slide into oblivion for Dallas, despite Dez Bryant’s promises otherwise. The Cowboys maintain the league’s 3rd-ranked rushing attack, and the 9th-ranked scoring offense, which will give Chicago’s 10th-ranked run defense a challenge, while stressing the Bears’ 30th-ranked scoring defense. Both teams turn the ball over (DAL - -3; CHI - -4), and both teams are really efficient in the red zone (TDS: DAL – 65%; CHI – 67%), so if anyone turns it over close to the red zone it could spell trouble. The Cowboys are the more efficient team overall, run the ball extremely well, control the clock, and the Bears have the 7th-worst scoring differential in the NFL (-84). All of the statistics point to a Dallas win, but Dallas is 5-0 on the road and the Bears are only 3-4 at home.

Pittsburgh Steelers 7-5 (+3) @ Cincinnati Bengals 8-3-1 (47): Steelers 24-23 Steelers 42-21
Sunday, 1 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Sunny, low 40s)

St. Louis Rams 5-7 (-3) @ Washington Natives 3-9 (44.5): Rams 24-21 Rams 24-0
Sunday, 1 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Sunny, low 40s)

New York Giants 3-9 (-3*) @ Tennessee Titans 2-10 (45.5): Giants 24-20 Giants 36-7
Sunday, 1 PM, LP Field, Nashville, TN (Weather: Cloudy, mid-40s)

Carolina Panthers 3-8-1 (+10) @ New Orleans Saints 5-7 (49.5): Saints 28-24 Panthers 41-0
Sunday, 1 PM, Mercedes-Benz Dome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

New York Jets 2-10 (+6) @ Minnesota Vikings 5-7 (40): Vikings 24-20 Vikings 30-24 (OT)
Sunday, 1 PM, TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: 70% snow, mid-30s)

Baltimore Ravens 7-5 (+2.5) @ Miami Dolphins 7-5 (45.5): Ravens 24-21 Ravens 28-13
Sunday, 1 PM, SunLife Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: Sunny, high 70s)

Indianapolis Colts 8-4 (-3.5) @ Cleveland Browns 7-5 (50): Colts 27-24 Colts 25-24
Sunday, 1 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Sunny, low 40s)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-10 (+10) @ Detroit Lions 8-4 (41.5): Lions 27-20 Lions 34-17
Sunday, 1 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Houston Texans 6-6 (-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 2-10 (42): Texans 27-20 Texans 27-13
Sunday, 1 PM, EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: Cloudy, low 60s)

Buffalo Bills 7-5 (+9.5) @ Denver Broncos 9-3 (48): Broncos 24-21 Broncos 24-17
Sunday, 4:05 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Sunny, high 50s)

Kansas City Chiefs 7-5 (-3*) @ Arizona Cardinals 9-3 (40.5): Chiefs 24-21 Cardinals 17-14
Sunday, 4:05 PM, U of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Sunny, low 70s)

Seattle Seahawks 8-4 (+1) @ Philadelphia Eagles 9-3 (48.5): Seahawks 28-27 Seahawks 24-14
Sunday, 4:25 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Sunny, low 40s)

San Francisco 49ers 7-5 (-8) @ Oakland Raiders 1-11 (41): 49ers 24-17 Raiders 24-13
Sunday, 4:25 PM, O. Co. Stadium, Oakland, CA (Weather: 30% rain, high 60s)

New England Patriots 9-3 (-3) @ San Diego Chargers 8-4 (51.5): Patriots 28-24 Patriots 23-14
Sunday, 8:30 PM, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA (Weather: Sunny, low 70s)

Atlanta Falcons 5-7 (+12.5) @ Green Bay Packers 9-3 (58): Packers 30-21 Packers 43-37
Monday, 8:30 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Clearing, low 30s)

*Spreads taken from for these games (rather than

Check back Wednesday for Tuesday’s Gone: Week 14 #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & NO analysis) at!