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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!

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