Week 13 NFL Picks

Picks by Danny

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

After the Falcon’s lost to the Patriots and followed that performance up with a loss to the Panthers two weeks later, many assumed Dan Quinn’s team was done. Since then the Falcons have reeled off three straight wins including two against potential wildcard competitors in the NFC (Dallas and Seattle). The Falcons now sit in the 6th and final playoff spot with a gauntlet of opponents ahead of them that includes this weeks game against the Vikings, two against the Saints, and another against Panthers. Given the strength in the NFC this year there is little room for error if the Falcons wish to make it back to the playoffs. The Vikings are one of this year’s biggest surprises after struggling with injuries at QB all season. Minnesota might have the league’s best defense this year and is one of the few teams defensively that can match Atlanta’s offense in terms of talent. This game is essentially a pick’em in my book, but I do believe the Falcons have a greater sense of urgency and appear to finally be getting back on track. I think Atlanta narrowly slips by Minnesota 23-21.

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

A steady Patriots team against a Bills team that appears to be in a free fall is a pretty easy pick. I badly want to pick the Bills in this game but that is just silly. I don’t know if the Patriots will cover the spread, but they’ll win easily and if they don’t cover the spread it will likely be due to a late TD that makes this game appear closer than it actually was. The Bills are a solid team and their defense is really good, but a banged up offense with Kelvin Benjamin out and Lean McCoy playing through injury does not inspire much confidence. Patriots 24, Bills 14

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

The Chiefs went from being the best team in the league to being on the fringe of missing the playoffs. They’ve lost five of their last six after starting the season 5-0. I like Alex Smith, I like Andy Reid, and I want the Chiefs to regain their early season form. I don’t know that it will happen largely because teams have learned that if you can stop the run you can take the air out of the Chiefs’ offense. Luckily for the Chiefs, the NY Jets rank 25th against the run and while they have exceeded expectations this season they are no juggernaut offensively. I expect Alex Smith to make just enough plays to get by on the road and we’ll get to see if Darrelle Revis has anything left in the tank in his return to NY. Chiefs 28, Jets 24

Picks by Brad

This week I have the pleasure of writing about teams with winning records . . . except you, Cincinnati.

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

The Ravens have quietly won three of four and are in the the thick of the AFC playoff race despite having the NFL’s worst passing offense. While it’s true that they have feasted on teams with backup QBs, there is no denying that this defense is one of the league’s best. Anchored by CJ Moseley, Baltimore is 7th best defense in terms of total yards allowed and number two against the pass. There is nothing remarkable about the offense and the jokes about punter Sam Koch being the team’s best QB are fun, but Harbaugh’s boys have a soft schedule and appear to be playoff-bound.

In the much deeper NFC the Lions have essentially run out of mulligans after a slow start doomed them against Minnesota on Turkey Day. They come into this game much more rested than the Ravens who played on Monday Night Football and the urgency factor should squarely favor Detroit. I don’t have much faith in Jim Caldwell, but I think the Lions show up big in this spot. The outdoor conditions won’t be a problem for this dome team as it should be about 55 degrees and sunny in Charm City on Sunday. Lions 27, Ravens 13

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

I admit that I have been slow to embrace the Philadelphia Eagles as a true Super Bowl contender. Their schedule has been quite favorable and the one win they do have against a team with a winning record came with that opponent missing it’s best player for most of the game. More recently the Eagles have jumped out to big leads and coasted to comfortable wins, which should be seen as a huge credit to coaching, preparation, and on field performance. The only thing I still want to see from the Eagles before I buy in is the ability to play through adversity against a respectable opponent. And don’t tell me that a 2-point win over the Chargers or a 3-point win over the Giants in October counts. I think they have a chance to show us their mettle on Sunday Night Football in Seattle and I can’t wait to watch.

The Seahawks have been pretty lousy outside of their division this season uncharacteristically dropping their last two home games to Washington and Atlanta. Much like I said back in Week 5 when Seattle took down the Rams in LA, this team is not going to relinquish its grasp on the NFC without a fight. The Eagles are the superior squad and certainly much healthier than the ‘Hawks, but I expect DangeRUSS to keep his boys in the game. I think this line stinks and, while I believe Philly wins the game, I don’t see them covering this spread on the road on SNF. Eagles 31, Seahawks 28

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

The greatest challenge in writing about the Steelers is separating the historical brand from the current team. You see the 9-2 record and it’s easy to assume that it’s vintage Pittsburgh, but a closer look reveals a team that is incredibly inconsistent. From eking by the woeful Packers and Colts to getting blown out by the Jags at home to blowing out the Vikings, the results are truly all over the map despite the current 6-game win streak. The one constant, however, has been dominance in division. Expect Pittsburgh with it’s top ten offense and defense to clean up the mistakes from last Sunday and assert themselves against a Bengals team playing for its life.

Cincy also comes in on a bit of a roll having won its last two albeit against Cleveland and Denver. They’ve won their last three at home and will benefit from a Monday night crowd that loves to hate the Steelers. The problem for the Bengals has been the offense (27th in passing, 31st in rushing, dead last in yards per game) and I don’t see them getting things going against a Steeler team that can smell home field advantage for the AFC playoffs. Steelers 31, Bengals 27

Picks by Chris

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

Oh hallelujah! The 1 and 10 record of the 49ers against the 3 and 8 record of the Bears, could there be a more appealing contest? Normally yes, take your pick of almost any other matchup, but not this week. This will be our first opportunity to see Jimmy Garoppolo start for his new franchise and about the only folks more interested than the fans at large in seeing how Tom Brady’s former backup plays as a Niner, is GM John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. The duo were given the reigns to one of the NFL’s first west coast franchises and are looking to bring this team back to the Super Bowl, but wait, we’re getting WAY ahead of ourselves here.

What we know about Garoppolo: He was the quarterback for Eastern Illinois University, Tony Romo’s alma mater. He broke several of Romo’s school records while quarterbacking for the Panthers. He has two Super Bowl rings as Tom Brady’s backup, and he’s started just two NFL games over the last three years. The Niners acquired him for a 2018 second round pick, and he was supposed to back up rookie CJ Beathard this season in preparation for a starting role next year. But Beathard’s now hurt, so Garoppolo is taking the field on Sunday as the starter, and we get to see a preview of the Niners future. That’s about the only exciting thing about this game, but what more could we ask for? We’ve had several games to shake our heads as Mitch Trubisky has struggled to quarterback the Chicago Bears, he can get better, but I don’t see it happening by Sunday so the excitement all rests on the man stepping out from under Tom Brady’s shadow.

I’m going to be optimistic and say Shanahan and Lynch made the right choice. 49ers 21, Bears 14.

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

Genoooo Smith! I apologize in advance that my picks seem to always revolve around the quarterback but that’s just how the NFL works these days. Quarterback carousels or disproportionately impactful quarterback play are the standards for most franchises and the Giants have stepped across the line with news they’re sitting Eli Manning. Eli hasn’t been very good this year, or last year, but he’s arguably a Hall of Fame quarterback being benched for a backup and… why?

Geno Smith isn’t going to perform any better than Manning and his shot at being a franchise quarterback is long gone, so why bench Manning? If they wanted to test the waters with Davis Webb that’s more understandable, but for the time being the move just doesn’t seem to make sense. If they were in contention for a playoff spot and Manning’s play was the clear factor in their dysfunction then that’s a different story as well, but at this point they’re benching him… just cause?

The decision making with this team has been pretty suspect the last few seasons and that seems to coincide with the arrival of head coach, Ben McAdoo. I’m not going to say all of the Giants dysfunction is this guy’s fault, he’s had a tough situation with all of the injuries to the receiving position and some of the team’s personalities, but I think it’s safe to say discipline has been missing from this squad since he appeared on scene and that’s a large part of their on-field struggles.

The Giants are on the road in this one against a Raider’s team that suddenly finds itself in contention for the AFC West. I’m going to take the stability of the Raiders, as odd as that sounds. Raiders 24, Giants 14.

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

Personally, I’m really not a fan of Cam Newton’s style of quarterbacking, I don’t think he’s a consistent enough passer and his over-reliance on the running part of his game doesn’t feel competitive against other elite quarterbacks, but there is no denying the team’s results this season. They appear to have put their awful 2016 season behind them as they contend for the NFC South division against the New Orleans Saints. Luke Kuechly and this defense are playing well but the Panthers offense is going to need to improve in the passing game if they hope to contend with a New Orleans Saints team fielding a more balanced offense.

The Saints offense has been very strong running the ball this season, and when they’ve needed veteran Drew Brees to air it out, he’s been able to for the most part. Brees has been something of a question mark for the Saints, they’ve made remarks indicating his contract renewal is questionable at the end of the season, but he still looks like an effective quarterback to me. I’m not sure why the team would entertain the idea of entering the quarterback hunt so many teams are mired in right now, unless they already know who their replacement is, but nobody’s told me. Bottomline, as we close in on the playoffs, I’ll always give the edge to the more experienced and proven field general.

The Saints are coming off of a loss to the Rams and I don’t think the Panthers can make that two in a row. Saints 28, Panthers 24.