NFL Week 13 Predictions: IF The Playoffs Started Today…

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We’re reaching crunch time of the National Football League season. Technically no one has been eliminated from the playoff race as of yet – even the Tennessee Titans at 2-9 still have a mathematical shot at a Wild Card spot, one that could come through if everyone else passed out in front of them and couldn’t complete the season – but the top of the standings are beginning to get a bit clearer. If the playoffs started today, it is clear that the paths to the conference championships will go through Foxboro and Charlotte.

American Football Conference

Even though they were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten in a stunning game against Denver last week, the New England Patriots have a comfortable schedule coming up. A home game against Philadelphia, a road trek against an improving Houston Texans squad, a home game against Tennessee and a roadie with the New York Jets will take them through the remainder of the month, with one win guaranteeing them the AFC East title. If they are able to sweep those four games (which will be tough with the team roster looking like a MASH unit), they should lock up home field for the playoffs.

After the Pats, the Denver Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals are fighting it out for the two slot. The key game here will be on December 28 when the two teams meet in the Rocky Mountains. Both teams have similar schedules down the stretch, so the winner of this game is probably going to be your second seed and the loser the third seed. The final division winner will come down between the Indianapolis Colts and Houston, who play on December 20; your winner in that game wins the division.

As far as the Wild Cards I’d love to take the Jets, but they have a brutal stretch of games (New York Giants, Tennessee, at Dallas and New England over the next four weeks) so I have to count them out. Likewise for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have back to back games at Cincy and at home against Denver. I see the Kansas City Chiefs and the loser of the Indianapolis/Houston game on December 20 getting the Wild Card bids.

National Football Conference

Basically running away and hiding from the division, the Carolina Panthers are the lone undefeated team left in the NFL, one year removed from winning the NFC South with a losing record (7-8-1). They have a two game edge over the Arizona Cardinals for the top slot in the NFC, but there is some concern that the Panthers may not drive to the end of the season. With their next win, the Panthers will win the division crown to lock up their playoff slot (which could occur today) and some rest might be in order.

The Cardinals have their own concerns for the second slot on the ladder. The Minnesota Vikings are lurking one game back at 8-3 and will probably decide the second slot when they play this Thursday night in the Desert. Whoever comes out the winner in that game will take the second seed in the conference. The final slot will come out of the NFC East, which is a cesspool. Right now, the Washington Redskins (yes, that team) has somehow worked its way into the lead. Although they are tied with the Giants right now and only a game ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles, the ‘Skins have the easiest trek the remainder of the way; let’s give the East to Washington because whomever it is coming out with that title will lose to the Wild Card team they play.

One of the Wild Card slots is firmly determined. The Green Bay Packers might be a sneaky and dangerous team if they can get in through the Wild Card (and, at 8-4, still have a shot at the division crown). Whoever doesn’t win the NFC North will be one of the Wild Cards. The second slot will come down between two dangerous teams, the Atlanta Falcons and the defending two-time NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. Of those two teams, Seattle has the easiest schedule (the Falcons still have the Panthers twice on their board), so put in the dangerous ‘Hawks as the sixth seed.

We’ve still got a month of the season remaining, so this situation will be in flux. Right now, let’s take a look at this week’s games and some of the options you might have on the board (you know, if you’re in an area where you can legally bet the games!).

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Kansas City Chiefs vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (+3); OVER 45

These two teams will play each other twice over the next five weeks and it could determine the playoff fortunes for one of the squads. The Raiders are building a young, strong offense behind QB Derek Carr, RB Latavius Murray and WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. The Chiefs may have a way to shut down the Silver and Black, however, with the 10th ranked defense in the NFL.

You have to be able to score, however. Chiefs QB Alex Smith has watched as his weapons have dropped away during the season, first RB Jamaal Charles and then RB Charcandrick West. Add in the factor that TE Travis Kelce is nursing some injuries and I don’t see how the Chiefs can mount any offensive attack against the Raiders, who definitely aren’t being shown any respect with their home game.

New York Jets vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (+2.5); UNDER 46.5

Both teams in this game need the win to keep the embers of a chance at the playoffs alive. The Giants also still have the potential of winning the NFC East in their sights and winning this game would keep them in that mix. The odd thing about this game is that it started out as a “pick ‘em” and has swung those 2.5 points in just a few days; I don’t see why that has come about.

To be fair, QB Eli Manning has been doing it with smoke and mirrors for the last couple of years in reality, but it is something that he’s become used to. The Giant defense has been stout but will face some challenges from the Jets passing game and especially WR Brandon Marshall. It will definitely be a slugfest and, with the Giant fans holding the “home team” edge for this game, I see them willing the Gotham City Giants to a slim win over their housemates in the Meadowlands.

Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) vs. WASHINGTON REDSKINS; UNDER 41.5

Sure, I know that QB Tony Romo was absolutely crushed by the Panthers defense on Thanksgiving Day and is done for the year. I also know that the ‘Pokes will have had 11 days to prepare QB Matt Cassel for this game, which might be the closest the Cowboys will get to anything with a playoff feel in 2015. Add in the fact that the ‘Skins now have the burden of playing as the favorite – instead of the underdog role that they relish – and I see Dallas pulling off a major upset here, just to make the NFC East a bit more convoluted.

Week 11:  1-4-1
Overall:  32-24-3

Not going to lie to you, after the performance in Week 11, it was best that I took a week off on Week 12. When your analysis of the action isn’t exactly working, it is best to step away from the fray for a spell until you’ve righted the chakras. This week, the chakras seem to be aligned and things should get back on track.

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NFL Week 11 Predictions: What The Hell Happened?

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If you were watching the National Football League last weekend, you had to feel like you were in the Twilight Zone. Just about the time that you thought that you had the inner workings of the season down, it became Bizarro World (also known as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ daily existence). Just take a look at some of the finishes from last week and you’ll see what I mean.

The Detroit Lions beating the Green Bay Packers IN LAMBEAU FIELD? The Washington Redskins crushing the New Orleans Saints? The lowly Kansas City Chiefs knocking off the (then) undefeated Denver Broncos ON THE ROAD? I could go on, but you’re getting the gist. It was an ugly weekend last week to try to pick games.

You will see these types of weekends once or twice during an NFL season. The unfortunate thing is it completely screws up any logic you have on your wagering (you know, if you’re in an area where you can do that type of thing). Still, we have to soldier on and hope that the craziness of Week 10 doesn’t rear its ugly head again this week.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Indianapolis Colts vs. ATLANTA FALCONS (-3); OVER 47.5

The Falcons are vying for one of the two Wild Card positions in the NFC and, as such, they cannot overlook a Colts team whose only hope of making the playoffs rests in their winning the division (the Colts are leading the AFC South despite their 4-5 record). Unfortunately for the Colts, they are coming into the Georgia Dome to face a team that is coming off a bye week. It isn’t going to be a pretty sight.

Falcon RB Devonta Freeman looked to be hitting the wall in his last game (this is his first year as a starter), so the week off had to give him a much needed recharging. With QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones also needing a bit of refreshment, the bye week came at a perfect time for them to make a charge towards the playoffs. The Falcons defense should have a pre-Thanksgiving feast with QB Andrew Luck on the bench due to injury and a geriatric Matt Hasselbeck lining up under center for the Colts.

They may not catch the Carolina Panthers for the NFC South divisional crown, but they are in great position to capture a Wild Card. They need this win against the Colts to keep that drive going.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (-4); OVER 48

If this game had been played a week ago, I would have been on the Bengals. The powerhouse offense of QB Andy Dalton, WRs A. J. Green and Marvin Jones and RB Giovanni Bernard looked to be unstoppable…that is, until they ran into the Houston Texans and sputtered in a Monday night game 10-6. Now, I’ve got to go with the Cardinals.

The Cardinals have been thoroughly challenged over the course of the season, winning a shootout with the Seattle Seahawks last week (39-32) with a defense that is currently holding teams to 20 points a game. Only once has someone come into University of Phoenix Stadium this season and beaten the Cards (that was the St. Louis Rams) and the Cards offense has scored less than 20 points exactly once this season. Put those facts together and I see the Cardinals winning a shootout in the desert by a touchdown.

Buffalo Bills vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-7); OVER 47.5

The Patriots are one of only two undefeated teams left in the NFL (the other is the Carolina Panthers) and there is nothing to make anyone think that they won’t be undefeated after this game. QB Tom Brady is still on his “Fuck You” Tour 2015 (remember, they had one of these back in 2007 after the “Spygate” situation) and the rest of the team seems to be following their leader. Add in the fact that one of the arch-enemies of the Patriots – Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan – is standing on the other sideline and this one is going to be a bloodbath quickly.

With the vitriol that the Pats already have for Ryan and the Bills, you can add in one more. At this time, the Bills are in the playoffs as the second Wild Card team (behind the Pittsburgh Steelers) and it would potentially make Head Coach Bill Belichick crack a smile to whip the Bills and put a dent in those playoff aspirations. There is pretty much nothing that is going to put a loss on the Patriots’ schedule in this game.

Last Week:  3-3
Overall:  31-20-2

For the fourth consecutive week, we haven’t been able to break the .500 mark. After a week like last weekend, however, I’ll take that. There was so much chaos that sometimes you’ll take a .500 week amid the carnage and walk away alive. Looking to make some ground this week because the playoffs are approaching. Once teams start locking up playoff slots, then the betting options start to dry up.

NFL Week 3 Picks: Injuries, Bad Starts Having Huge Impact on Games

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There are two things that are having a huge impact on the betting of the games for the National Football League this weekend (you know, if you’re in a location that allows for that type of thing). First off is the number of organizations that are sitting at 0-2, normally an indicator that there are problems for a team. In the AFC, there are three teams that have dropped their first two tilts (surprisingly the Indianapolis Colts are in this boat with the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans) and, in the NFC, five (a sixth, the New York Giants, pulled out of the ranks of the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and the surprise team, the Seattle Seahawks, with their win on Thursday night over Washington).

The reason for the concern about these teams making the playoffs? In the last 25 years, there have been 125 teams that have started the season 0-2. Of that massive group, only three of them have been able to reach the playoffs and the last one, the San Diego Chargers, did it in 1998. As you can see, there is some reason for concern among the fan bases of these teams if not the locker room and the front office. A third loss by these teams may mean an early end to their hopes for at the minimum making the playoffs.

The second thing that is affecting games at this early mark of the season is injuries. Three star quarterbacks will be on the bench for their team’s games on Sunday, uncommon in this day and age of protecting the quarterback at all costs. Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo will be gone for at least the next eight weeks; the Bears will be without the services of Jay Cutler and Saints QB Drew Brees will miss his first game ever during his tenure with the team this weekend. With two of those teams without their star wide receivers also (the Bears without Alshon Jeffery and the Cowboys without Dez Bryant), it is difficult to take those teams in their upcoming games…but it isn’t impossible.

(Home team in CAPS, pick in bold)

Atlanta Falcons (-1) vs. DALLAS COWBOYS; UNDER 44

These two teams come into the game holding 2-0 records. Not surprisingly, the game was a pick’em when the lines opened up following the Week 2 games. For it to have only swung one point on the board (the O/U has stayed constant) indicates that the sharps thought this one was going to be a close one from the start.

Without both Romo and Bryant, I don’t see how the Cowboys can do anything in this game offensively. Backup QB Brandon Weeden has lost his last eight starts (no victories since 2012) and the Falcon defense will be jamming the line to cut off the running lanes for RBs Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar. Even TE Jason Witten and WR Terrance Williams will have difficulty getting anything going without Romo around. IF – and that’s a mighty big IF – the Cowboy defense performs over its head, the ‘Boys may steal this one…but I’m not expecting it.

Chicago Bears vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (-14); OVER 43.5

What if you were the team that suffered perhaps the WORST loss in Super Bowl history only seven months ago? What if you came out of the gate with one of the star members of your “Legion of Boom” defense holding out for more money and your star QB happily sitting on his pile of cash while the team stunk up the joint in two road games? Wouldn’t you be a little upset? That’s going to be the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and it isn’t going to be pretty for whoever faces them.

That task, alas, goes to a Chicago Bears team that is also 0-2 but has no good mojo going for its side. Both QB Cutler and WR Jeffery are going to be at least sitting on the sidelines for the game (if not sitting back in the Windy City) and their backups aren’t exactly going to frighten anyone. QB Jimmy Clausen has exactly 11 starts in the NFL under his belt, while WR Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson have been battling nagging injuries of their own. While RB Matt Forte is averaging 101 yards per game rushing, he isn’t going to be seeing those holes with the “Legion of Boom” back in force.

New Orleans Saints vs. CAROLINA PANTHERS (-8); UNDER 43.5

The Saints weren’t exactly setting the world on fire in their first two games this season, a loss at Arizona (nothing to be embarrassed about) and at home to Tampa Bay (led by rookie QB Jameis Winston). Their rushing game is nonexistent, with neither RB Mark Ingram nor Khiry Robinson having 100 total yards rushing two games into the season. Brees was doing his usual, averaging 305 passing yards per game, but he’s going to be the one counseling backup QB Luke McCown on what to do against the Panthers D this weekend.

This isn’t going to be a shootout, though, as some of the games have been in the past. In their previous two games, the Panthers have gone UNDER in both games (29 total points against Jacksonville, 41 against Houston). QB Cam Newton is doing just enough to get the job done, an amazing feat considering he’s still introducing himself to some of the wide outs on the team. If all else fails, however, Newton can chuck the ball to TE Greg Olson or hand it off to RB Jonathan Stewart. Those are pretty good safety valves to have on your side.

Last Week:  4-1
Overall:  8-3-1

If it wasn’t for the factor that the New England Patriots beat the O/U on their own against the Buffalo Bills last week (the line was 44 and we went UNDER; the Pats racked up 48), we would have been able to book a perfect weekend. Those weekends are few and far between in the betting world – it would have been nice to rack up one of those already for the 2015 season. Maybe this will be the week we can put a zero in the loss column.