NFL Week Thirteen After Action Report (AAR)

Week 13 brought us some “show me” match ups and taught us a lot about several contending teams. There were a bunch of suspensions for violent hits, a fired head coach, and a scary injury on national TV. Get well soon, Ryan Shazier! Let’s see how the SportsIntel editors’ picks worked out.

Brad’s Picks

Well I sure had an abysmal week picking games. It was sometime Sunday afternoon that I realized I had tied myself to three teams playing on the road, which is a cardinal sin in gambling. Both of my road favorites failed to cover (one of them lost outright) and the road upset I picked turned out to be the the most decisive loss by an underdog for the entire week of games. So to say that I should have seen this coming is completely fair.

Detroit Lions (6-5) @ Baltimore Ravens (6-5); Line: Ravens by 2.5

Prediction: Lions 27, Ravens 13

Outcome: Lions 20, Ravens 44

Did they cover? Ravens covered

Baltimore put the smack down on Detroit and injured Matthew Stafford in the process. The final scoreline was particularly ugly because backup Jack Rudock came in and was completely overmatched by the Ravens’ defense and surrendered an easy pick-6 in the closing moments. That said, it never really felt like Detroit was in this game even though they trailed by just seven points with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Lions made mistake after mistake while the Ravens played a clean game with no turnovers, no sacks, and just two penalties. The entire contest was like a boa constrictor slowly suffocating its prey. As I wrote yesterday, the Ravens have it all going in the right direction and might give the sleepy Pittsburgh Steelers a run for their money on Sunday night (even with CB Jimmy Smith being done for the year). The Lions, on the other hand, appear to be in trouble as their second straight loss drops them to 8th place in the NFC. The rest of the schedule is somewhat soft, but the viability of a playoff berth for the Lions comes down to the health of Stafford’s banged up throwing hand.

Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (7-4); Line: Iggles by 5.5

Prediction: Eagles 31, Seahawks 28

Outcome: Eagles 10, Seahawks 24

Did they cover? No

I said that Russell Wilson would keep his boys in the game and he did. I said that Philly would have a chance to face some adversity on the road and they did. I said that the line was stinky and it dropped all the way from 6 points to 3.5 by kickoff time which tells me that the public thought the line was stinky too so we were all proved right. It wouldn’t be right to say that the Iggles were dominated in this game. They out gained the Seahawks by more than 100 yards and moved the ball quite well all game long despite a subpar performance from their running backs. If not for an out of character fumble by Wentz and a dubious lateral by Wilson, the final score would have been different, but a handful of key moments always define a game and on Sunday Seattle found itself on the right side at each critical juncture. Philly’s defenders will have nightmares about chasing the elusive Wilson for weeks as his ability to extend plays was what ultimately did the Eagles in. The outlook for both teams is quite positive. Seattle sits in the driver’s seat for the wild card and could even find itself in first place in the NFC West by the end of Week 14 if things go well on their cross country trip to Jacksonville. The Eagles have another big challenge against the Rams (and a win would help the Seahawks greatly), but their magic number is 1 meaning that a playoff berth is all but secured. The Vikings hold the tiebreaker based on win percentage in common games so it’s not looking good for Philadelphia to get the NFC’s top spot, but I do think they’ll earn a first round bye.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-6); Line: Stillers by 5.5

Prediction: Steelers 31, Bengals 27

Outcome: Steelers 23, Bengals 20

Did they cover? No

I called for the Steelers to win a close one and they did, but I never expected them to trail 17-0. Obviously Cincy couldn’t keep up that pace and was outscored 23-3 over the last 30+ minutes, but there were some nervous moments among the Pittsburgh faithful as the rain poured down and the hits got more and more brutal. On the broadcast Gruden and McDonough talked about how the Steelers-Ravens rivalry is hard-hitting but respectful, whereas the Steelers and Bengals just plain hate each other. George Iloka and JuJu Smith-Schuster both received one-game suspensions for vicious hits and the malicious nature of the on field play was a huge sports talk topic today. As mentioned above, Pittsburgh LB Ryan Shazier suffered a scary injury early in the game where his legs went limp and everyone immediately feared the worst. He was carted off and remains at the hospital as I write. Indications are that he has feeling in his extremities, but will be held for up to 48 hours for observation. Truly scary stuff. Part of me wonders if maybe the trauma of seeing their teammate in that condition had a negative influence on the way the Steelers played most of the first half.

Cincy falls to 5-7 and sits in 12th place in the AFC playoff race when tiebreakers are considered. The Bengals have road contests at Balmer and Minnesota left on the schedule so it’s looking pretty bleak. Pittsburgh, on the other hand takes over the top spot (by tiebreak) in the AFC because they beat the Chiefs and the Patriots did not. The Steelers welcome Baltimore and New England the next two weeks though so this will be settled on the field. Hard to imagine Tomlin lets his boys look past the Ravens to the showdown with the Patriots, but the trap is certainly there.

Week Twelve Accuracy: 1-2
Overall Accuracy: 22-9

Chris’s Picks

Chris is out this week so Brad will be conducting this AAR.

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) @ Chicago Bears (3-8); Line: Bears by 3

Prediction: 49ers 21, Bears 14

Outcome: 49ers 15, Bears 14

Did they cover? No

Couldn’t ask for a better prediction here as Chris hit the Bears total exactly on the number while correctly calling for the upset. Although Trubisky posted a much higher QBR than Garoppolo (117.2-82.4), he was extremely limited passing for just 102 yards. Jimmy, on the other hand, moved his team up and down the field holding the ball for 38:47 (almost 2/3 of the game!) as the 49ers out gained the Bears by an eye popping count of 388 to 147. One hundred and forty-seven yards of total offense for the Bears. The same total as Gronk had on nine receptions this week and less than the total number of receiving yards compiled by both Tyreek Hill (6-185) and Jermaine Kearse (9-157). Yikes, Chicago. One positive note for the Bears was an electric punt return TD by Tarik Cohen which you just have to see to believe. Even Devin Hester thinks this dude is using cheat codes!

New York Giants (2-9) @ Oakland Raiders (5-6); Line: Raiders by 10.5

Prediction: Raiders 24, Giants 14

Outcome: Raiders 24, Giants 17

Did they cover? No

Chris clearly went back in time and gave himself the sports almanac from Back 2 the Future 2. He hit the Raiders total precisely, barely missed the Giants total, and correctly called for the Raiders to win but not cover. We’re on to you, Morton! Geno played the way Geno plays and the Raiders were happy to accept two fumbles from the “veteran” QB. Chris told you that all the dysfunction plaguing the Giants was attributable to McAdoo and it seems like Giants’ ownership agreed with that, firing the second-year coach on Monday. Should be interesting to see Big Blue welcome the hated Cowboys next week with interim coach Steve Spagnuolo calling the shots and Eli back under center. The Raiders meanwhile find themselves in a 3-way tie for first place in the AFC West! The last four weeks of football are gonna be wild.

Carolina Panthers (8-3) @ New Orleans Saints (8-3); Line: Saints by 4.5

Prediction: Saints 28, Panthers 24

Outcome: Saints 31, Panthers 21

Did they cover? Yes

Here again Chris was eerily close. If I was trying to cover my tracks, I would have done something like this too: shifting each total by exactly three points and then narrowly missing on the cover, but still getting the winner right to complete the perfect week. Cam played ok, Brees played better, and Alvin Kamara scored twice on 14 total touches while compiling 112 yards from scrimmage. New Orleans moves a game clear of Carolina in the NFC South standings and definitely has the inside track having dominated the Panthers twice. Strangely the Saints play two of their last four against the Falcons (including TNF two days from now!) and that scheduling quirk could add some intrigue. Carolina welcomes the red hot Vikings to Charlotte next week and has a road trip to Atlanta as well. All these games will have serious playoff implications so the fans are in for a treat. This means nothing and I’m probably just being a tease, but if the playoffs started today, New Orleans would host playoff nemesis Seattle while Carolina would go to LA to face the Rams. Can I interest you in those story lines?!

Thanks for letting me fill our your report card, Chris: A+

Week Twelve Accuracy: 3-0
Overall Accuracy: 19-12

Danny’s Picks

Minnesota Vikings (9-2) @ Atlanta Falcons (7-4); Line: Falcons by 2.5

Prediction: Falcons 23, Vikings 21

Outcome: Falcons 9, Vikings 14

Did they cover? No

After the Falcons were able to handle the Seahawks in Seattle, I figured that Atlanta had finally righted itself and was playing with the desperation needed to make a playoff run. I discounted how good this Minnesota team is. Minnesota has proven week-in and week out that it is the best team in the NFC so far this year. They’ve notched wins against the Saints, Rams, and Falcons and stifled the Rams in doing so. The Vikings have stayed true to my favorite formula for winning football games: strong defense, balanced offense, and winning the turnover battle. If Seattle falls short in the coming weeks, I’ll likely be jumping on the Vikes bandwagon.

New England Patriots (9-2) @ Buffalo Bills (6-5); Line: Pats by 10

Prediction: Patriots 24, Bills 14

Outcome:Patriots 23, Bills 3

Did they cover? Yes

The Bills are in a free fall and the whole Nathan Peterman experiment did little to change that. The Pats meanwhile have been humming along. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski torched the Bills in the second half and it was clear that the Bills eventually resorted to trying to out physical the monstrous tight end in an effort to slow him down. Gronk finally lost his temper and laid the People’s Elbow to the back of Tre’Davious White’s head. Gronk’s shot was about as cheap as they come and resulted in White’s concussion. Gronk received a one game suspension from the NFL for the hit. I completely disagree with the league’s decision. Gronk should receive a two game minimum suspension. He should also receive an additional game for any game that White misses due to Gronk’s hit.

Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) @ New York Jets (4-7); Line: Chiefs by 3

Prediction: Chiefs 28, Jets 24

Outcome: Chiefs 31, Jets 38

Did they cover? No

I think it is safe to say that the AFC West is by far the worst division in the NFL this year. I think it is also safe to wonder whether or not the Chiefs will break .500 this year. The Jets meanwhile have exceeded expectations and then some. No one is going to mistake Josh McCown for a hall of famer, but her is doing an admirable job keeping his team competitive. Jermaine Kearse, who was fighting for his job in Seattle, has resurrected himself in New York. He is well on his way to his best season as a pro with 51 catches and nearly 700 yards along with 5 TDs he has an outside chance to break 1000 yards this season.  His numbers are comparable to his former teammate Doug Baldwin and he’s done it on nearly 20 fewer targets. The Chiefs are missing Eric Berry and are in dire need of a corner to complement Marcus Peters. The Chiefs easily have one of the worst secondaries in the league this year.

Week Eleven Accuracy: 1-2
Overall Accuracy: 17-10