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Week Sixteen Picks

December 22nd, 2012

Busy week and no Thursday night game means it took me until Saturday to figure out ways to be wrong about all sixteen of the week’s games. Here’s what not to expect.

Atlanta (-3.5) at Detroit
It’s this simple: The Falcons are an uneven team that’s made a season-long habit of finding ways to win games in spite of themselves; the Lions are an uneven team that’s made a season-long habit of finding ever more ridiculous ways to lose games. I can’t come up with any reason to expect either of those trends to change. Atlanta by a field goal.

Tennessee (+12.5) at Green Bay
The Titans barely got by the Jets on their own field on Monday night. They’re sure as hell not traveling to Green Bay and beating the Packers. I’d add my usual caveat about the Packers needing to keep Aaron Rodgers on his feet here, but the Titans can’t get after the quarterback, so protection shouldn’t be much of a problem. This game may be close through the first half, but Green Bay will star to pull away early in the third quarter and will come out on top by at least three touchdowns.

Oakland (+8.5) at Carolina
Every year, the excitement with which I await the post-season is s tempered at least a bit by the knowledge that the regular season is coming to a close. Games like this, however, make the end of the regular season seem like a blessing. Because, you know, ugh, ugh, ugh. Panthers by ten.

Buffalo (+5) at Miami
Football fans in Buffalo and Miami can be glad that at the very least they’re not Jets fans. Dolphins by six.

Cincinnati (+3.5) at Pittsburgh
This game is being billed as a battle for the AFC six seed. And that’s technically accurate. The Bengals are in the playoffs with a win here, and a Steelers win would give Pittsburgh the ability to get in with a home win over the Browns in week 17. But there’s also this: If the Bengals win this game and the Ravens lose to the Giants, Cincinnati will go to Baltimore next week with a chance to snatch the division crown. I suspect they’ll get that shot. The Steelers, a team that leans heavily on defense, have given up 61 points over the past two weeks. They’ve lost four of their last five. They’re fading in a big way. The Bengals, meanwhile, appear to have recovered from their mid-season slump. They’ve won five of their last six games, putting up 28 points per game over that stretch. It’s a division game, and its in the Steelers’ building, so I don’t see the Bengals winning by much. But a point will be all they need. Bengals win 24-23.

New England (-14.5) at Jacksonville
I’m not sure there’s a lot that’s worth saying about this game. It has a college spread for a reason (or, actually, a lot of reasons). So I’ll just point out that Tom Brady has enjoyed considerable success against Jacksonville over his career. He’s faced the Jags five times, come out on top five times, and gone 114 of 154 (74%) for 1,207 yards (7.8 yards per attempt), 13 touchdowns, and no interceptions, compiling a passer rating of 124.5. And the last two times the Patriots faced the Jaguars, Brady was even more efficient, completing 49 of 54 passes (91%) for 529 yards (9.8 YPA), 7 TDs, and no pick, which gets him to a passer rating of 147.0. So, yeah, ugly is probably what you can expect. New England by 35.

Indianapolis (-7) at Kansas City
This should be interesting in at least one regard. Though you’d never guess it from the extreme disparity in their win-loss records, these two teams share an appalling inability to hold on to the ball. The Chiefs have 34 giveaways on the season, tied with the Eagles for worst in the league. The Colts have presented the ball to opponents 27 times, which ties them with the Steeles for fifth worst. The teams also have been similar in their failure to take the ball away from opponents. The Colts are last in the league with 10 takeaways on the season, while the Chiefs are tied for 31st with 12. So what does that all mean? Probably nothing. Only when I try to imagine this game all I see is the ball bouncing all over the field with players from both squads giving hapless, hopeless chase. In between the slapstick sketches, I guess I expect to see the Colts put up about nine more points than the Chiefs. So there’s that.

New Orleans (+3) at Dallas
Drew Brees and Tony Romo have thrown 34 interceptions between them. That’s a big part of the reason the Saints are out of the playoff picture entirely and the Cowboys are battling for a chance to lose in the wild card round. Given that the Cowboys actually have something at stake in this game, I’m going to bet on Romo to find a way to make a critical mistake at exactly the wrong moment. New Orleans by four.

Washington (-6.5) at Philadelphia
If the Native Americans win out, they take the NFC East championship — and go into the playoffs looking very dangerous. I can’t see them letting the awful Eagles get in their way. Washington by 10.

St. Louis (+3) at Tampa Bay
I don’t know. One of these teams isn’t going to lose. Is it the home team, or the team with something resembling momentum? I’m gonna go with option two: Rams by a field goal.

NY Giants (-2.5) at Baltimore
The Ravens need a win to clinch a post-season berth. The Giants need a win to keep their hopes of earning a post-season berth alive heading into week 17. But while the Giants have been uneven lately (OK, really, all season long), the Ravens over the last three weeks have looked like they just don’t have anything left in the tank. I think New Jersey finds a way to keep both the NFC and AFC playoff pictures interesting into the final week of the season with a three-point win.

Minnesota (+7.5) at Houston
Adrian Peterson is on a mission. Unfortunately for the Vikings, so are the Texans. Houston can clinch home field through the AFC playoffs with a win here. That, combined with the fact that they’re simply the better, more balanced team, makes the difference. Texans by 10.

Cleveland (+13) at Denver
There are an awful lot of people in New England who would love to believe that the Browns can win this game. They can’t. Broncose by 17.

Chicago (-5.5) at Arizona
Hey, it’s the NFL’s oldest rivalry. And, hey, the Bears are still hanging onto the hope of qualifying for the playoffs. And, yep, that’s exactly what’s interesting about this game. Chicago by a touchdown.

San Francisco (-1) at Seattle
If the 49ers can play a second straight prime time road game and come up with a second straight victory over a tough opponent, they’ll sail into the post-season as the odds-on favorites to win Super Bowl XLVII. If the Seahawks win, they’ll generate a ton of buzz about being the “team no one wants to play” in the post-season. And that’s about what I’ve got to say here, because in the matchup department these teams are virtually identical. I’m giving the advantage to the Seahawks, because (and only because) they’re at home. Seattle by three.

San Diego (+2.5) at NY Jets
Anybody have anything interesting going on Sunday night? Jets by a field goal.

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