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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Week 13: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) SUNDAY EDITION


Week 13:  #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) SUNDAY EDITION

Week 12 results: 10-5 (wins); 6-9 (v. spread); 7-7-1 (O/U)

Season totals: 115-59-2 .661 (wins); 82-88-6 .482 (v. sp); 95-78-3 .549 (O/U)

Note/Key (when applicable): Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN); Against the spread (ATS).

Drew Brees is aiming for the record books this season, and the Saints defense is finally playing at a high level.

New Orleans Saints 10-1 (-7) @ Dallas Cowboys 6-5 (52): Saints 34-24

Thursday, 8:20 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Saints are the best team in the NFL, hands down. The offense speaks for itself (37.2 ppg), but it’s the top-ranked run defense that’s turning heads, especially the past three weeks (12.7 ppg allowed) after allowing 35 points Week 9 to the Los Angeles Rams. New Orleans is also 5-0 on the road this season, scoring just a point under their season scoring average at 36.2 ppg. The Cowboys just happen to play indoors, for all intents and purposes, so the Saints should feel right at home. The Cowboys are no slouches themselves, especially at home (4-1), for once, and are winners of three straight games and flying high after the acquisition of Amari Cooper. His presence has finally opened up the offense and allowed the run game to explode. It’s the Cowboys 7th-ranked total defense that has really kept Dallas in most games, however, allowing the 3rd-fewest points in the NFL (19.4 ppg). That defense will be tested on Thursday night, and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence put up plenty of bulletin board material with his profanity-laced tirade about beating New Orleans. The Saints are just the better team, perhaps even on the defensive side of the ball, because if any team can stifle Ezekiel Elliot, it’s the Saints, and despite how good the Cowboys defense has been, the Saints are a record-breaking type of offense. Saints should win and cover easily.

Baltimore Ravens 6-5 (+1.5) @ Atlanta Falcons 4-7 (48): Ravens 24-21

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

Reasons: The Ravens are 2-0 (after losing three straight) since going with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, but Baltimore doesn’t even know who they’re starting Sunday, which doesn’t bode well for a team fighting for their playoff lives. It also doesn’t help when you’re on the road facing Matt Ryan and the Falcons stellar wide receivers. Having said that, the Ravens are the top-ranked defense across the board so those Falcons might stay grounded and lay another egg. 

Chicago Bears 8-3 (-4) @ New York Giants 3-8 (44.5): Bears 23-20

Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Rain; high 50s)

Reasons: The Bears might be without quarterback Mitch Trubisky again Sunday and are still 4-point favorites on the road, which tells you as much about the Giants being terrible as it does about the Bears defense (7th sacks; 4th total defense; 3rd scoring defense; 2nd turnover ratio; 1st INT). The weather could be bad, which might stall the Giants passing game, otherwise New York is playing for their lives. If only their defense could take advantage of a backup quarterback. 

Buffalo Bills 4-7 (+4) @ Miami Dolphins 5-6 (40): Dolphins 21-20

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: 20% storms; low 80s)

Reasons: The Bills have the second worst offense in the league in both total offense and scoring (14.6 ppg), but have pretty good defense. The Dolphins are statistically terrible at everything except intercepting the ball (1st), as I say every week, but those INTs help the Dolphins with their turnover ratio (7th). The Bills have also won two-straight, although to weak competition (NYJ; JAX), while the Dolphins have lost two-straight, although to great competition (GB; IND). The Dolphins are fighting for their playoff lives so I suppose they get the nod.

 Von Miller will be looking for Andy Dalton Sunday, but he won't find him. 

Denver Broncos 5-6 (-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals 5-6 (45): Broncos 27-24

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Sunny; low 60s)

Reasons: Things aren’t looking good for the Bengals, whose offense seems to be getting worse by the week and is beginning to look like their league-worst defense (32nd total defense & scoring defense). Now that Andy Dalton is gone, laugh if you want, but it’s over. The Broncos have life and a decent team to begin with.

Los Angeles Rams 10-1 (-10) @ Detroit Lions 4-7 (55.5): Rams 31-20

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Both of these teams are coming off long periods of rest, the Rams having their bye Week 12 and the Lions having played Thanksgiving, but only one of these teams is loaded with talent and good.  

Indianapolis Colts 6-5 (-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars 3-8 (47): Colts 26-20
Sunday, 1:00 PM, TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL (Weather: Chance of rain; low 80s)

Reasons: The Colts have won five straight, but only two of those games have been close and one was against the division rival Jaguars, and that was in Indianapolis. Having said that, the Colts are still four-point favorites on the road, which tells us Jacksonville is in a tailspin of epic proportions. The Jaguars are without Leonard Fournette (SUS), and can’t score points anyway, while the Colts are averaging nearly 30 ppg, including 36 ppg during their five-game win streak. 

Cleveland Browns 4-6-1 (+6) @ Houston Texans 8-3 (47): Texans 24-21

Sunday, 1:00 PM, NRG Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Texans have won eight-straight games after starting 0-3 and suddenly they do everything well to exceptionally well, like sacking the quarterback (7th), for instance. The talent is finally living up to the hype and JJ Watt’s health has remained intact, so the Texans have a top-10 defense again to compliment an offense that can be explosive at times, as in last week’s game against the Titans stellar defense. The Browns broke several embarrassing streaks last week and have turned a new leaf, but their best chance Sunday is probably to cover. 

 Time to work that magic that everyone seems to think you possess, Aaron Rodgers.

Arizona Cardinals 2-9 (+14) @ Green Bay Packers 4-6-1 (44.5): Packers 24-13

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Wintry mix; low 30s) 

Reasons: The Cardinals haven’t been anywhere cold and wet in probably a year and the Packers are as desperate as they’ve ever been. I don’t give the Cardinals any shot at winning, but I hate 14-point spreads. In this case, however, it’s only because of the weather. 

Carolina Panthers 6-5 (-3.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-7 (54.5): Panthers 30-27

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Rain; low 80s)

Reasons: The last time these division rivals played the Panthers blew them out 42-28, but these Bucs are wild cards (not literally) and capable of anything, including offensive explosions any week with either Jameis Winston or Fitzmagic. Tampa Bay is just as capable of imploding with the help of their 31st-ranked scoring defense (30.7 ppg), but then again, so is Cam Newton and River Boat Ron. The Panthers should be able to take advantage of the turnovers Tampa Bay will undoubtedly supply (32nd TO ratio) and steal a win on the road to help increase their playoff chances. 

New York Jets 3-8 (+8) @ Tennessee Titans 5-6 (40.5): Titans 23-17

Sunday, 4:05 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Sunny; low 60s)

Reasons: The Titans had just turned the corner and were looking like a team on the rise before losing two games in a row by an average of 22.5 points ppg. The Jets, on the other hand, are just abysmal; New York has lost five straight games by an average of 17.2 ppg. The Titans are playing at home with playoff hopes, so they get the nod, but will they win by eight points when they can barely score 17 ppg?

Kansas City Chiefs 9-2 (-14.5) @ Oakland Raiders 2-9 (55.5): Chiefs 31-20

Sunday, 4:05PM, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: The Chiefs were finally forced to come to public terms with Kareem Hunt’s alleged assault this week as video of the February event surfaced and Hunt was subsequently released. Kansas City is still loaded with talent, some of which somehow survived their own horrifying domestic assault case and remain in the NFL (Tyreek Hill), so they’ll be fine this week against the hapless Raiders, but things could get shaky heading towards the playoffs unless the Spencer Ware transition is seamless. 

 Russell Wilson has the Seahawks in the playoff hunt again, and the defense hasn't skipped a beat since the Legion of Boom left.

San Francisco 49ers 2-9 (+10) @ Seattle Seahawks 6-5 (46): Seahawks 27-21

Sunday, 4:25 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Mostly sunny; low 60s)

Reasons: The Seahawks are yet another 6-5 team clogged in the middle of the NFL looking to make the playoffs, so the floundering 49ers are the perfect team to slide into Seattle and get gutted. Enough fish puns, but the Seahawks should handle the 49ers with ease Sunday, they have to. I’m just not sure about those ten points, though.

Minnesota Vikings 6-4-1 (+5) @ New England Patriots 8-3 (49.5): Patriots 28-24

Sunday, 4:25PM, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA (Weather: Rain; low 40s)

Reasons: The Vikings come into Foxborough needing a win to stay in the playoff race, but that might be tough considering the Patriots are doing Patriots things <insert cheating joke here> and it’s December, that time of year when New England turns it on. Add that to the fact the Vikings are no longer weather-tested and we begin to understand the five-point spread considering how well-matched these teams are statistically. It’ll be first-class offense versus first class defense as well as mediocre offense versus mediocre defense Sunday afternoon, as these two disciplined teams that excel in various different aspects of the game offer a view into a potential Super Bowl matchup. Don’t laugh…

Los Angeles Chargers 8-3 (+3.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers 7-3-1 (51.5): Steelers 27-24

Sunday, 8:20 PM, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA (Weather: Partly cloudy; low 40s)

Reasons: If we thought the New England Patriots v. Minnesota Vikings was good get a load of this game, a potential AFC Championship preview between arguably the best two teams in the conference. If we’re talking total offense/defense and scoring offense/defense these teams are top-10 across the board, except the Steelers rank 12th in PA (22.6 ppg), a measly 0.2 ppg from 10th (Minnesota) in the league. The biggest difference is the Steelers turn the ball over too much (26th TO ratio) and aren’t very disciplined on offense (31st PEN), but the Chargers are without Melvin Gordon, which is a huge blow to overcome in the face of a Steelers team at home with a defense that has been playing much better.

Washington Football Team 6-5 (+6.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles 5-6 (45.5): Eagles 24-21

Monday, 8:15 PM, Lincoln Financial Stadium, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Partly cloudy; high 30s)

Reasons: This is your classic NFC East divisional battle with playoff implications towards the end of the season, and by classic, I mean no one expected Washington to be atop the division and only a few of us expected the Eagles to be this terrible. Yet, here we are, despite Washington being the only team in the NFL with a winning record and a negative point differential and Philadelphia being a returning Super Bowl champion that seemingly improved in the off-season. The Eagles still have a chance to turn their season around, but it’s only because they’re in a division with teams like Washington. You didn’t think those 6.5 points were because of Alex Smith, did you?

Stay tuned for the remaining Tuesday’s Gone: Week 13 #NFL Game Reviews coming Wednesday!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Tuesday’s Gone: Week 12 #NFL Game Reviews


Tuesday’s Gone: Week 12 #NFL Game Reviews

Week 12 results: 10-5 (wins); 6-9 (v. spread); 7-7-1 (O/U)
Season totals: 115-59-2 .661 (wins); 82-88-6 .482 (v. sp); 95-78-3 .549 (O/U)

Note/Key (when applicable): Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN); Against the spread (ATS).

 The biggest star of the day doesn't even touch the field Thursday, unless the networks still do that weird turkey leg thing.

Chicago Bears 7-3 (-3) @ Detroit Lions 4-6 (44.5): Bears 24-20 Bears 23-16

Thursday, 12:30 PM, Ford Field, Detroit, MI (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Bears are three-point favorites on the road despite starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s doubtful status due to a shoulder injury and it’s because the Lions are struggling with their own attrition, too. Well, it’s also because Chicago is a far better football team, and with Kenny Golladay out there alone, the Chicago Ballhawks (1st INTs) could have a field day. The Lions rank 10th in sacks and are a disciplined team under head new coach Matt Patricia (9th PEN), but it ends there. The Bears are one of the best teams in the NFL ranking 10th or higher in total defense, points scored, points against, turnover ratio, 3rd-down efficiency, interceptions, and sacks. It’ll be a different story out there without Trubisky if he can’t go Thursday, but the Bears have proved their defense is more than capable of handling things, especially against a depleted offense (Kerryon Johnson: Out; Marvin Jones: Out).

These guys had turkey on the mind because both teams combined for only 597 total yards and three turnovers, including a Trey Burton fumble that the Lions turned into seven points and two Matthew Stafford INTs that coincidentally came on Detroit’s last two possessions, the first of which the Bears returned to the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown.

Washington Football Team 6-4 (+7) @ Dallas Cowboys 5-5 (40.5): Cowboys 23-20 Cowboys 31-23

Thursday, 4:30 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Washington are seven-point underdogs for obvious reasons besides being on the road – Alex Smith is gone for the season and by gruesome and emotional means. Isn’t it interesting that Washington will look to Colt McCoy, a Texas darling, to replace Smith and serve the turkey on Thanksgiving. Suddenly seven points seems like a lot, because McCoy is a career 60% passer with 27 TDs and 23 INTs (although he is 7-18 lifetime). The Cowboys offense seems to be clicking, but Dallas is only averaging 21.0 ppg in their last three games following their bye. Ezekiel Elliot (953 rushing yards; 5 TDs) is red hot, which could be all that matters for Dallas heading into Thanksgiving; so is Adrian Peterson (723 rushing yards; 6 TDs), and he could be doing it all by himself Thursday. I like the Cowboys, but not by seven points.

Washington scored 10 points in the 4th quarter to make a blowout look like a close game, but three INTs by Colt McCoy helped Dallas control the clock and let Ezekiel Elliot (26 carries for 121 rushing yards; 1 TD) get going. That helped open up Amari Cooper (8 receptions for 180 yards; 2 TDs) and now the Cowboys have a formidable offense to match the defense. Too bad for them they play New Orleans on the short week.

Atlanta Falcons 4-6 (+13) @ New Orleans Saints 9-1 (60.5): Saints 35-24

Thursday, 8:20 PM, Mercedes Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: At first glance this game seems like a no-brainer, and Las Vegas certainly thinks so, but these teams are much closer on paper than most would think. Besides an absurd discrepancy in points scored (NO, 1st: 37.6 ppg; ATL, 9th: 26.3 ppg) and turnover ratio (NO: 6th; ATL: 19th) and a small difference in yards allowed (~45-yard difference) these NFC South rivals share much more in common than their records would suggest. Speaking of records, we found another major difference in these teams: The Saints are 4-1 at home while the Falcons are only 1-3 on the road. Actually, there’s another huge difference: point differential. New Orleans outscores their opponents by an average of nearly two touchdowns; Atlanta is outscored on average by 1.3 ppg. Perhaps when you score almost 40 ppg those other metrics become less important. The bottom line is the Saints are a better team from the top down and they’re playing at home, but anything can happen on short weeks on the national stage, so 13 points seems high even for the best team in the NFL.
When Matt Ryan leads the team in rushing you know it was a bad day for the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan also threw an INT and lost a fumble, two of the Falcons four total TOs (in addition to two more fumbles by Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley). The stars were not out in New Orleans for the Falcons, but Drew Brees was shining as always, throwing four TD passes to four different receivers no one outside of football circles has ever heard of. The Saints defense marched in and hit Ryan 15 times, sacking him six times in the process. Look out, NFL, Drew Brees is on a mission.

 Tom Brady is having a below-average season, but the New England offense continues to click and the Patriots remain in control.

New England Patriots 7-3 (-9.5) @ New York Jets 3-7 (46): Patriots 28-17 Patriots 27-13

Sunday, 1:00 PM, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: The Jets haven’t won a game in a month, averaging a measly 10.5 ppg through those four games while surrendering nearly 29 ppg. New York will also be without rookie Sam Darnold for the second straight week, which is probably for the best considering the Patriots devour rookie quarterbacks, they are historically good following the bye week under Bill Belichick (although only 3-2 since 2013) and the Patriots don’t lose two games in a row often. The Patriots are as banged up as any team in the league at key spots, and Tom Brady looked as bad as he’s ever looked two weeks ago, but the Jets should be the perfect team to get right again.

The Patriots clicked on all cylinders Sunday, getting two TDs from Tom Brady, 138 rushing yards from Sony Michel and receiving TDs Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Even the New England defense played well (2 sacks; 1 INT), but we’re talking about the Jets with their back up quarterback.

San Francisco 49ers 2-8 (+3.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-7 (54.5): Bucs 30-27 Bucs 27-9

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Partly sunny; high 70s)

Reasons: The 49ers are banged up on offense and the Bucs are banged up on defense and Tampa Bay is going back to Jameis Winston at home to salvage the season in some form, even if it’s just getting Winston’s head right. The Bucs have lost four straight games while the 49ers only win since Week 2 came against the league laughingstock Oakland Raiders. Winston could get back on track Sunday and fool everyone into thinking the Bucs might be OK.

Nick Mullens has come back down to Earth, as the Tampa Bay defense hit Mullens 10 times, sacking him four times in the process in addition to the forcing two INTs. The Bucs dominated this game on offense, too, at least relative to the 49ers, with Jameis Winston throwing two TDs while it was his turn. Stay tuned for next week’s episode of As The Bucs Quarterback Carousel turns.

New York Giants 3-7 (+6.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles 4-6 (46): Giants 24-23 Eagles 25-22

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lincoln Financial Stadium, Philadelphia, PA (Weather: Sunny; low 50s)

Reasons: The Eagles are pretty thin at the secondary, which could be a problem Sunday considering the Giants only real weapons are their receivers (Odell Beckham Jr.; Sterling Shepard) and one of the best receiving running backs in the NFL in Saquon Barkley. The Giants also seem to have hit that magical moment in their terrible seasons where the ghost of Eli Face’s Past comes and warns of what could be, then everyone starts clicking, guys get healthy and suddenly New York is 8-8 and fighting for the NFC East. The Eagles can’t seem to get out of their own way and when attrition starts catching up to poor play things get as disastrous as they seem to have become in Philadelphia. It’s also worth noting that the Eagles 12th-ranked scoring defense only gives up 3.2 fewer ppg than the Giants 25th-ranked scoring defense. Philadelphia has a favorable schedule coming up, so their destiny is in their own hands to some degree, but it starts with this not-as-winnable-as-it-seemed-a-few-weeks-ago game at home against the Giants.

The Giants were up 19-3 with four minutes to go in the first half, but the Eagles flipped the script and outscored New York 22-3 in the final 36 minutes of the game, perhaps sparked by another Eli Manning INT. The Eagles escaped with the win despite being severely thin in the secondary, but the important thing is that the Giants covered.

Oakland Raiders 2-8 (+10.5) @ Baltimore Ravens 5-5 (43): Ravens 24-14 Ravens 34-17

Sunday, 1:00 PM, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD (Weather: Sunny; high 50s)

Reasons: The Ravens had been spiraling out of control for nearly a month before their close win at home against the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, but in their defense, those losses came against three of the best teams in the league in the New Orleans Saints, at the Carolina Panthers and against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Raiders, on the other hand, barely left Arizona with a win after kicking the go-ahead and game-winning field goal as time expired and will be coming east for the infamous 10 AM start that West Coast teams love so much (NFL West Coast teams are 79-93 since 2003 when playing transcontinental games). After their only other win this season, an OT game against the Cleveland Browns Week 4, it’s safe to say the Raiders could easily be winless, which is what they seem like paper. Baltimore is stellar on paper, which will translate to a win Sunday, but I’m not sure about the cover.

There’s nothing worse than losing the cover to a Terrell Suggs fumble return for the cover-busting TD with six minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.

This time you won't be able to figure out who this guy is cheering for.

Jacksonville Jaguars 3-7 (-3) @ Buffalo Bills 3-7 (37): Jaguars 21-17 Bills 24-21

Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Stadium, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Drizzle; mid-40s)

Reasons: Both teams enter Sunday with two very good defenses when it comes to allowing yards, but only the Jaguars prevent teams from scoring much (9th scoring defense). Besides that, we’re looking at two of the worst teams in the NFL, but only the Bills expected to be in that position. The bottom line is the Bills only score 13.7 ppg and they’re going back to rookie Josh Allen, so the Jaguars should be able get right. Well, pick up their fourth win is more like it.

The Jaguars never led, but the came close after going down 14-0 in the 1st quarter. The highlight of the game was the brawl at the end in which Leonard Fournette (2 TDs) and Shaq Lawson were ejected, even taking their beef into the tunnel as they were led out of the stadium by security. Rookie Josh Allen threw a TD pass and ran for another TD in his return back from injury to prove to Jalen Ramsey that he is, in fact, not trash. He is.

Seattle Seahawks 5-5 (+3.5) @ Carolina Panthers 6-4 (47.5): Panthers 27-24 Seahawks 30-27

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC (Weather: Sunny; low 60s)

Reasons: Both teams come into Sunday with a lot on the line, specifically playoff berths, but the only real advantage the Panthers have other than being home is the Seahawks traveling the infamous transcontinental west coast to east coast flight for a 10 AM game. Both teams possess great defenses, mediocre offenses and they don’t turn the ball over, but the Panthers are far more disciplined on offense (6th), more efficient on 3rd down (12th) and undefeated at home (5-0). The Panthers are slight favorites for good reason, but the Seahawks are a good football team with many of the same capabilities the Panthers have. This should be a great game.

Christian McCaffery gained 237 total yards and scored two TDs on 28 touches, but it wasn’t enough as the Seahawks scored 10 unanswered points in the final three and a half minutes of the game, including the game-winning field goal off the foot of Sebastian Janikowski as time expired.  

Cleveland Browns 3-6-1 (+3) @ Cincinnati Bengals 5-5 (49.5): Bengals 24-23 Browns 35-20

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH (Weather: Mostly Sunny; high 50s)

Reasons: Ohio pro football has been taking it on the chin the past month or more, with both teams going 1-4 in their past five games. The big difference is the Bengals started 4-1 and have watched the Pittsburgh Steelers take the division from them and the Baltimore Ravens. The Browns started 2-2-1, but have done Cleveland Browns things since, including firing their head coach and promoting Mr. Bounty Gate in his stead. The Bengals have long dominated the Browns, but the Bengals have the worst defense in the NFL despite head coach Marvin Lewis, the Browns are 2nd in the turnover ratio and 3rd in sacks and I don’t trust Cincinnati any more than I want to move there. Whether that translates into a road win for the embattled Browns is another story, because the Bengals might be the most unpredictable team in the league in addition to being the most frustrating for their fans.

Baker Mayfield looked like a world beater Sunday, throwing four TD passes on the way to leading the Browns to a blow out win over the Bengals in Cincinnati, snapping about 100 team losing streaks in the process. Andy Dalton was injured and the Bengals were losing 28-7 by halftime, so it’s safe to say the Bengals season could be over.

Arizona Cardinals 2-8 (+12) @ Los Angeles Chargers 7-3 (44.5): Chargers 27-17 Chargers 45-10

Sunday, 4:05 PM, Stub Hub Field, Carson City, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: The Cardinals are ranked 31st in both total offense and points scored and 17th in both total defense and points scored, the only team in the league to be ranked the same in both categories. So what, you ask? Well, it’s about the only remarkable thing about the Cardinals. The Chargers are a very remarkable team, ranked in the top-10 in total offense, points scored, points against, and sacks, the latter without Joey Bosa most of the season. Los Angeles endured a heart-breaking loss against the Denver Broncos last week and missed an opportunity to keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs so I can’t imagine the Chargers let this game slip away, too, even if they’re without Melvin Gordon, whose absence won’t affect anything but the over, if that. 

The Cardinals led this game 10-0 at one point, which means for about 25 minutes those of us who took the points actually thought we had a chance.

 Andrew Luck is playing at an MVP level despite a lack of weapons and has led the Indianapolis Colts to four straight wins.

Miami Dolphins 5-5 (+8.5) @ Indianapolis Colts 5-5 (51): Colts 31-23 Colts 27-24

Sunday, 4:25 PM, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Colts were once 1-5 and the biggest questions surrounding Indianapolis were whether Andrew Luck’s career may be on the decline while the Colts were wasting the star quarterback’s best years. Since then the Colts have won four straight games by an average score of 37-17 while the Colts defense is now 4th in the league in sacks. The Dolphins are going in the opposite direction, going 1-3 in their last four games following an OT win against the Chicago Bears that brought their record to 4-2 and tied them with the New England Patriots for the division lead. Miami is good at nothing except intercepting the ball, and the return of Ryan Tannehill comes as most of the Dolphins skill players are hurt. Suddenly the only question is, how far can this Colts team go?

The Dolphins led 24-14 late, but the Colts scored 13 unanswered points in the final eight and a half minutes of the game via Andrew Luck’s third TD pass of the game and Adam Vinatieri’s only two field goals of the game, including the game-winner as time expired.

Pittsburgh Steelers 7-2-1 (-3) @ Denver Broncos 4-6 (46.5): Steelers 28-20 Broncos 24-17

Sunday, 4:25 PM, Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO (Weather: Partly cloudy; low 50s)

Reasons: The Steelers have completely turned their tumultuous season around, winners of six straight games after starting the season 1-2-1 while the defense has climbed back into the defensive league leaders as the 6th-ranked total defense while giving up the 10th-fewest points to complement their top-5 offense. In fact, during their six-game win streak the Steelers have only given up 18.2 ppg. The Broncos last three losses have been decided by one possession, so you could make as many arguments as you wanted from that, but the fact remains the Broncos aren’t even that good at home this season (2-3) and don’t have any decided advantage over a balanced Steelers team. Denver is always a test, hence the three-point point spread, but Pittsburgh is simply too much.

The Steelers led 17-10 with under six minutes left in the 3rd quarter, but the Broncos scored 14 unanswered points on an Emmanuel Sanders (7 receptions; 86 receiving yards) TD reception and a Philip Lindsay (14 carries; 110 rushing yards) TD run. Pittsburgh committed four TOs, including two Ben Roethlisberger INTs, but Roethlisberger was almost the hero of the game again, nearly running in the game-tying TD as time expired; instead he was out at the 3-yard line. Three plays later Roethlisberger threw the game-sealing INT to defensive tackle Shelby Harris. Three days later he was still blaming everyone in western Pennsylvania besides himself. 

Green Bay Packers 4-5-1 (+3.5) @ Minnesota Vikings 5-4-1 (47.5): Vikings 27-24 Vikings 24-17

Sunday, 8:20 PM, US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN (Weather: Indoors) 

Reasons: The last time these two teams played it ended in an uninspiring tie, much to the dismay of Aaron Rodgers, who hadn’t played since his last game against the Vikings the season before when Anthony Barr knocked him out for the season with a shoulder injury. Rodger’s has been working through a knee injury this season and it shows, which could come into play against a Vikings team that ranks 6th in the NFL in sacks. The Packers sack the quarterback even more (3rd) so two of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL who mean as much to their respective teams as anyone could be running for their lives Sunday night. If the Packers lose their season could be over so I would expect Rodgers to put his family drama aside and ball out like he’s about to make a solo push to the playoffs or like he’s going to pack Mike McCarthy’s bags for him because McCarthy can’t call complex enough plays. This the time of year when Rodgers shines brightest, but these Vikings are starting to gel again, despite two losses in their previous five games (NO; CHI).

Things are not looking good in Green Bay, and Aaron Rodgers is looking like a shell of his former self with a lingering knee injury, throwing for under 200 yards and getting sacked four times in one of his worst performances of the season. The Packers made a valiant effort with a late 4th quarter Mason Crosby FG, but the onside kick was unsuccessful as has been the Packers 2018 season.

Tennessee Titans 5-5 (+6) @ Houston Texans 7-3 (41.5): Texans 21-20 Texans 34-17

Monday, 8:15 PM, NRG Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: Monday Night Football features two of the best defenses in the league, two of the most disciplined offenses in the league and two former Patriots coaches. The latter might be the reason this game also features one of the worst offenses in the league (TEN) and a mediocre offense (HOU). Seriously though, imagine being the Titans and giving up only 18.9 ppg (2nd) and watching your offense score only 17.8 ppg (28th)? The Texans started the season 0-3, including a loss at Tennessee, but have rattled off seven straight wins and are now in the driver’s seat in the AFC South. The Titans have lost, won three, lost three, won two and have lost one, which means if you’re into math patterns Tennessee is due to lose a second in a row. I know, that means absolutely nothing, probably, but the Titans are inconsistent and that’s the point. This one of the worst follow up acts imaginable after last week’s Kansas City Chiefs v. Los Angeles Rams Monday Night Football game.

The same week Phillip Rivers throws 25 consecutive completions in a game to tie the all-time NFL record Marcus Mariota completes 23 of 24 passes on Monday Night Football, but the game belonged to the Texans rush attack, which gained 281 yards and two TDs on 34 carries (8.3 ypr), including 162 yards and a TD from Lamar Miller. The Texans defense also sacked Mariota six times and have begun to reestablish themselves as a league power.

BYEs: Kansas City; Los Angeles (N)

Stay tuned for Week 13: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis coming Thursday & Sunday!