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Week Twelve Picks, Pt. 2

November 23rd, 2007

So far, this week’s given us exactly what anyone thinking about it logically would have expected. You know what that means, don’t you? It means everything goes completely nuts the rest of the way through. Or not. Here’s what not to expect in the remaining baker’s dozen.

New Orleans (-2) at Carolina
The crazy thing about this battle of uneven and largely inept 4-6 squads is that the winner will remain alive in the race for the last NFC wild card slot (the first is going to the Giants). I mean, neither of these teams is going to the playoffs. It’s just the fact that you can be 5-6 and have a shot that’s amazing to me. (Of course, it’s also true that a 6-5 team will lead or tie for the lead in the AFC West after this weekend. So there’s that.) Here’s the deal: Neither defense can stop a damned thing. But the Carolina offense does a pretty solid job of stopping itself. So I guess I’ll go with the Saints to win by a touchdown.

Denver (+2) at Chicago
The Broncos come off a short week after playing a very physical game against Tennessee on Monday night. That and the fact that the Bears are, statistically speaking if not in the win-loss column, the better team here points not only to a Chicago win but a Chicago win by rather a comfortable margin. And yet I’m taking Denver. Why? Not sure. They looked like they had some kind of spark to me on Monday night, mostly. Broncos pull off the upset by virtue of a late field goal.

Tennessee (-1) at Cincinnati
OK, Jeff, I respect the hell out of you and all, but do you really believe the answer to the problems in your receiving corps is to sign Mike Williams? Seriously? The only problem Williams is likely to solve is that there’s too much food going to waste at team dinners. The solution to the issues in your passing game is to remind your current receivers that their job includes catching the damned ball when it’s thrown directly to them. The Tennessee receivers’ collective case of butterfingeritis and the short week are the only things that keep this game close. Otherwise, it’s the Titans in a rout over the foundering Bengals. Under the circumstances, Tennessee only wins by three or four.

Houston (+3.5) at Cleveland
You know, at first I looked at the spread on this game and thought it was a bit of an insult to the Browns. After all, the Texans have done nothing this season but fail to live up to expectations, while the Browns have clearly exceeded them. That’s still true. And it’s fun to see the Browns doing well and giving the Steelers a run for their money in the AFC North (though, let’s face it, we all know how that’s gonna turn out). But the fact of the matter is that these teams simply aren’t that far apart when it comes right down to it. Both defenses give up far too many points (Cleveland’s 29.4 per game is the worst average in the league) and allow far too many yards on the ground. And in the end, Cleveland has fared slightly better largely because it has a somewhat more balanced offense that has managed to do more to compensate for its defensive deficiencies than Houston’s O has. Can’t see any reason to expect a reversal in the trends here. So I’m looking for the Browns to come out ahead by three.

Buffalo (+7.5) at Jacksonville
The little engine that could runs into a hill it can’t climb for the second consecutive week. The Jags continue to dog the Colts in the AFC South contest, while the Marshawn Lynch-less Bills (a prettier squad, but not a better one, than when Lynch is in the game) ensure that the Patriots have clinched the AFC East title before their Sunday night matchup with Philadelphia ever kicks off. Jacksonville by 10.

Oakland (+6) at Kansas City
Has anyone picked up Kolby Smith in your fantasy league yet? If not, you might wanna think about it, because he’s gonna run for about 700 yards this weekend. Whatever happened to the Oakland defense of 2006? Chiefs by a touchdown (yes, with the extra point).

Minnesota (+7) at NY Giants
Yes, of course, losing Mathias Kiwanuka is gonna hurt the Giants. It’s gonna hurt bad, in fact. The real question is whether Kiwanuka’s absence is gonna hurt them badly enough this week that they’ll end up a dropping a game they really ought to win. I’m thinking the answer’s no. With Adrian Peterson probably out again (or at best, playing at way less than 100 percent), the Vikings are gonna have to rely more heavily than they’d like on their passing offense. That’s a problem, because the Giants are adept at bringing pressure on the quarterback (they lead the league in sacks with 34, four and a half of which were Kiwanuka’s), and Tarvaris Jackson ain’t so adept in performing under pressure. On the other side of the ball, we’ll see the strength of the Giants offense, the pass, matched up against a rather pronounced weakness for the Vikings D. Minnesota allows a league-worst 288 passing yards a game. That means New York should be able to put enough points on the board to cover for whatever Kiwanuka’s absence costs the D. And that should be enough to get them a win. This week. Though not by more than six.

Seattle (-3.5) at St. Louis
Five weeks ago, in Seattle, the then-winless Rams could do nothing right. But the Rams are a different team now. They’ve got Steven Jackson back in the lineup, and he appears to be getting healthier and better week after week. The Seahawks are a different team, too. They don’t have their star running back available. And they haven’t looked terribly sharp without him the past few weeks. The Seahawks almost certainly remain the better team, but it’s hard to sweep division rivals even when you’re playing well. And since the Rams have been playing their best football of late, while the Seahawks have looked off, I’m going with the home dogs to pull off an upset.

Washington (+3.5) at Tampa Bay
I don’t see Washington matching up well at all here. The Bucs defense is simply too strong for the Skins to put any kind of points on the board. Washington should have no success passing whatsoever, which should allow Tampa Bay to focus on neutralizing Clinton Portis. Meanwhile, the Bucs short passing game should allow the Bucs to keep the Redskins defense on the field, setting them up to break down as the game wears on. I’m guessing this one is fairly close through the first three quarters, but Tampa takes control early in the fourth and ends up winning by around nine.

San Francisco (+10.5) at Arizona
And the Niners collapse continues. Good thing for them that they didn’t trade away what looks like it could be the second overall pick in the draft thinking they were an O lineman away from a division championship, isn’t it? I’m taking the Cards and giving the points.

Baltimore (+9.5) at San Diego
Is there a more up-and-down team in the NFL than the Chargers? You’re doing a hell of a job there, coach. This, of course, should be an up week considering the fact that the Ravens can’t seem to get out of their own damned way. Not on offense, anyhow. Baltimore’s D, on the other hand, is still playing fairly well, particularly against the run. So I don’t anticipate the Chargers covering a spread this big. Winning, yes. Covering, no.

Philadelphia (+22) at New England
If you’re a Patriots fan headed to Foxborough for the game, think about bringing a little extra cash. AFC East Champion T-shirts should be on sale by the time the gates open (what with Buffalo losing to Jacksonville in the afternoon). The Pats, of course, will still have plenty to play for, including the conference one seed (they’re four wins away from clinching), their determination to knock the teeth out of every team they meet through the end of the post-season, and, of course, their moral imperative to teach the Eagles why it’s a good idea to keep your big yap shut sometimes. With that latter factor in mind, I’m looking for the Patriots to win this one by 49.

Miami (+16) at Pittsburgh
Well, if you can lose to the Jets one week, you ought to be able to lose to the Dolphins the next, right? Yeah, you’re right. Probably not. Another fine piece of work by the schedule makers. Miami gets abused in front of a national TV audience. Steelers by 24.

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