by Ryan Meehan
Week thirteen brings us Thanksgiving Day, a time where we show our appreciation for the things that make our life great and forget about how we slowly chased all of the Native Americans into one casino resort in New Mexico. One of the recurring themes in my NFL pieces this year has been the poor play of the NFC South. You’re probably tired of hearing me bag on it, but it’s important that everybody understands how the integrity of the game is at stake if the play in that division does not improve. For the first time in NFL history, we are looking at the mathematical possibility of a team winning a division with a 6-10 record. This is how bad the NFC South is: The last place team in the AFC North (The Cleveland Browns) is three wins better than the first place team in that division. (The Atlanta Falcons)
I have an issue with this – I’ve stated many times before before that I don’t think any sub-.500 team should ever make the playoffs in any sport. We briefly discussed this on KUGR last week, and Neil and I do not hold the same opinion on this. He seems to be cool with the current format, but I just can’t reconcile knowingly sending a team to the playoffs that everyone can agree doesn’t deserve to make the trip. If a 6-10 team makes it to the postseason AND gets to host a playoff game, I would think the competition committee is due for a get together where they decide on some major changes to the way the playoffs currently operate. Adding a seventh team to the mix (which will likely happen in the near future) will only further complicate the problem, and I simply don’t think there are enough teams in the league yet to justify a seventh playoff team. That’s a different discussion for a different day, and we have a lot of great games to discuss this week. Focus is key, so this is what I think will transpire in week thirteen of the 2014 NFL season.
Thanksgiving Day Football: Chicago Bears (5-6) +7.5 at Detroit Lions (7-4) (47.5)
The Bears are 5-6? How in the hell did that happen? Oh yeah, let’s look at that schedule for a brief moment to see where those wins came from: Altanta? Weak. Tampa and Minnesota? Doesn’t impress me. The Jets? Please. The only team of mention that Chicago has beaten is the Niners, and as we know there seems to be this uncertainty surrounding that entire team like a buzzard circling an outdoor retirement community. The Lions have had a tough couple of weeks…they were held to six points by Arizona, and then had to fly to Massachusetts to get their ass whooped by the best team in football. To make matters worse they didn’t score a single touchdown in either of those games, and while I think a lot of NFL might be mature enough to handle such setbacks the Lions probably aren’t one of them. But Chicago is a bad football team. They beat Tampa last week but the Bucs are shit as well, and on a short week I can see Jay Cutler’s Thanksgiving Day plate being full of the gigantic dick he’s about to eat when he steps out onto the field and sees that defense. Take the over and the Lions cover here with no issue at all.
Lions 29, Bears 17
Philadelphia Eagles (8-3) +3 at Dallas Cowboys (8-3) (54.5)
The Cowboys had to rely on some last minute heroics to beat the Giants last week by three points. That’s not a very motivating victory when you consider that New York is next to last against the run, and they only racked up 119 yards. The Eagles are on and off as long as the team in in the hands of Captain ButtFumble. He’s pretty much the exact way we remember him – very hot and cold, and not quite all there upstairs. This means that he may remind big D’s D of what they saw in Eli Manning last week, but remember it did take the whole game for the Cowboys to put the Giants away. Look, I’m not going to lie…I want the Eagles to win here. I think it’d be hilarious if Jerry Jones doesn’t get what he wants here, or for that matter any week from here on out. But for some reason something about the Eagles’ defense seems sketchy to me. Taking Dallas to win but not cover, and I’m not proud of it. Take the over on the point total.
Cowboys 31, Eagles 28
Seattle Seahawks (7-4) EVEN at San Francisco 49ers (7-4) (40.5)
When the 2014 NFL schedule was announced, this was one of the games that everybody was looking at as a highlight of the season. A lot of people (including myself) had expected both of these teams to only have one or two losses by the time they met for the first time. Hopefully everyone reading this caught the very bizarre press conference that Seahawks CB Richard Sherman and WR Doug Baldwin gave on Tuesday exposing the hypocrisy of the NFL’s marketing schemes. To me, this is more about who you trust more than who is the better team. Right now, I think that the 49ers have more potential than Seattle. But how can I trust them to put points on the board against one of the greatest defenses of all time when over the past month they’ve only managed to put up ten points against the Rams, 17 points against the Redskins, and 16 points against the Giants. (All of these teams are at least three games under .500, by the way…) The answer is, I just can’t – so that’s why I’m not going to. Note the point total being very low, and I expect the under for sure. Seahawks win a big road game, and the San Francisco 49ers find themselves under the gun heading into the roughest part of our schedule.
Seahawks 20, 49ers 17
Cleveland Browns (7-4) +2.5 at Buffalo Bills (6-5) (41)
I can’t seem to reconcile that Kyle Orton has now won two different games against two separate teams in a stadium he doesn’t call home. It’s hard for me to give him credit, which is very difficult to do seeing as how he looks like he just walked out of a Montgomery Gentry concert. The Bills have endured some hardships over the past week, but now return home in a situation where they are poised to pull the upset that really isn’t one. Cleveland has won four out of their last five, but they barely beat a poor Falcons team last week and that Texans loss was pretty brutal. The addition of Josh Gordon is great for the long term goals of the franchise, but here it could be awfully tricky for him to get open as Buffalo’s secondary is quick near the sidelines. Vegas clearly doesn’t respect the Browns, but in all honesty this is going to be a tough environment for them to play in. I like the over, but I can’t say it’s a good bet. I’m taking the Bills because that crowd will be jacked.
Bills 23, Browns 20
San Diego Chargers (7-4) +7 at Baltimore Ravens (7-4) (46)
There are a lot of teams in the AFC that have great records but will miss the postseason. These two franchises are perfect examples of that, and we are facing an upcoming playoff scenario where they could possibly both miss the postseason. Speaking of teams that Vegas isn’t buying, the Chargers are seven point underdogs coming off of a last minute hold against the Rams at home last week. It’s justified to a point, but keep in mind this is how the last month has shaped up for the Ravens: They snuck out of the Superdome with a win in a bad game, and before that they beat the Titans. They lost to the Bengals and got crushed by Pittsburgh, and their three wins the month before that came against the Panthers, Buccaneers and Falcons. I guess my point here is the Ravens have played some really bad teams, and lost against some of the same quality of teams they’ll be competing with for a Wild Card spot. Baltimore wins, but they don’t cover. I’m not in love with the over, but I am picking it to happen by five points.
Chargers 27, Ravens 24
Carolina Panthers (3-7-1) +2.5 at Minnesota Vikings (4-7) (43)
Wow, I could not possibly think of two teams that I care about less. My interest in the Vikings and the Panthers exists somewhere in the blank space between my interest in programming for toddlers and getting my toenails ripped off slowly with a belt sander. I have no interest in the progress of Teddy Bridgewater, or anybody else on that team for that matter. Carolina I care even less about. They have no receiving corps at all, a weak running game, and a defense that can’t stay healthy to save their life. They haven’t won a game in almost two months, and to be brutally honest with you that tie against Cincinnati might be the most impressive aspect of their schedule. I believe their trend of not winning will continue on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be glued to the television. Minnesota covers, but only because I’d like to see Cam Newton explain why a guy who had immense promise can’t even beat the Vikings in an essentially meaningless game. God, the Panthers are awful.
Vikings 26, Panthers 10
Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1) -4 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9) (44.5)
Cincinnati has played really well the past couple of weeks. After getting butthoused by the Browns in week ten, they’ve won two straight and Andy Dalton has looked much more like a seasoned, developed quarterback. Tampa actually didn’t look like a 2-9 team in the first half last week, but that was against the Bears so it doesn’t say much. If there’s one defensive “strategist” in the NFL whom we can expect Dalton to beat, even if it is on the road. That kid’s going to carve up whatever’s left of the worst linebacking corps in football, and even though they don’t stand a chance at being able to run the ball – it shouldn’t matter. I like Devil Ginger in my Home to cover an easy spread but I can’t recommend the over on the point total.
Bengals 24, Bucs 10
Tennessee Titans (2-9) +7 at Houston Texans (5-6) (42.5)
What did I say about not caring about two teams any less than the Panthers and Vikings? Yeah, I’ll take that back and raise you the middle of the standings in the AFC South. The Titans opened big against a Kansas City team that has played well in select weeks since, but then I quickly lost interest in them shortly thereafter the Zack Mettenburger era began in Nashville. The Texans are one of those teams I can’t wait to see be a total powerhouse, but unfortunately it just never ends up happening. Their possession of explosive receivers and Arian Foster doesn’t do a bit of good unless the plan can be put into motion by someone under center. Hopefully for their sake Ryan Mallet will end up being that guy, but I’ll print this whole article and eat it if this kid ever wins a Super Bowl. I’m not madly in love with this spread at all, and hardly expect the Texans to come out and hang 40 on any team. The Titans are better than their record would indicate, but not by much. I like them to surprise a few people and keep it close until the end, but they will still lose. No bets to be placed on this one.
Texans 23, Titans 17
Washington Redskins (3-8) +10.5 at Indianapolis Colts (7-4) (51)
These two teams couldn’t be any more opposite than each other and the direction each of the franchises are headed. It’s crazy to think that just two and a half years ago, these two quarterbacks were drafted within minutes of each other. It doesn’t matter now, because Jay Gruden has benched Robert Griffin III and will start Colt McCoy in this game. This can only mean one of two things – Gruden has either thrown in the towel in a season where after a 3-8 start there is no conceivable way the Redskins can make the playoffs OR that finally Daniel Snyder has realized he doesn’t have a franchise quarterback on his hands and Griffin is pretty much out in Washington. I’m guessing it’s the latter, because we’ve seen Griffin’s lack of ability to lead his team to the promised land two straight years now. The Colts are the exact antithesis of all things Redskins and Griffin-oriented: They replaced a living legend with a guy who could have a career that’s every bit as successful as Manning’s. Andrew Luck is the very definition of a franchise quarterback, and even if he does get injured he should be feeling great in no time because his GM can score some bomb ass prescription opiates. He won’t need them here, as Washington’s defense is in the top ten in the NFL but can’t seem to finish anybody off when it counts. Plus the Colts have so many unnamed offensive weapons it’s not even funny, so I see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to cover at home – if just barely.
Colts 32, Redskins 21
New York Giants (3-10) -2.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) (44.5)
I have to be honest with you, as a Giants fan this is a road game that is easily losable. I’m well aware that right now Jacksonville is one of two double digit loss teams in the league, and I know that even though the Giants are one of the worst fourth-quarter defenses in NFL history they can probably put up enough points to make this look easy. But Jacksonville is due for the type of win that the Raiders had against Kansas City last week: They have nothing to play for, and that’s precisely why it’s so dangerous to be facing them right now. They want to be able to give their fans something to cheer for, and save the Cleveland game they haven’t really been able to do that. But the Giants are slowly entering that territory – and even though they are also out of the playoff race, this game may be a very good indication of where they are headed (and who ends up staying) so I like them to take it. The over on this game seems really high to me. Like a touchdown plus high, so avoid the point total at all costs. The spread isn’t that risky, but meaningless altogether.
Giants 20, Jaguars 17
New Orleans Saints (4-7) +3.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4) (52)
The Saints can’t seem to win at home as of late, so maybe a change of scenery couldn’t hurt their chances to jump over the Falcons in the standings. But then again maybe it could, because everything seems to be bothering New Orleans at the moment. As you can see by the example I gave in the first paragraph, the Saints aren’t under a whole lot of pressure to succeed but I’m not sure that they’d produce even if they had their feet to the fire. The Steelers might be the most bipolar team in the league. One week they crush Indianapolis and the Ravens the following Sunday, and then eat it seven days later against a Jets team that probably forgets their luggage at least five out of eight road games a season. New Orleans has a dreadfully pathetic secondary, and this could be a long day for them. I like the Steelers to cover easily, and the point total is about exactly where it should be so steer clear. Big day for Big Ben.
Steelers 35, Saints 17
Oakland Raiders (1-10) +7.5 at St. Louis Rams (4-7) (42.5)
Los Angeles used to have two teams, and these franchises represented the city of Angels. Now they’ll be facing off again in St. Louis, a city who also knows a thing or two about rioting due to this week’s events. The Rams are a pretty solid team, but unfortunately their schedule has not allowed for us to see the best of what they do. Even with the good teams they’ve beaten, it’s virtually impossible to assume that they’re going to end up beating 50 to 70 percent of the teams they face and end up in the playoffs. The Raiders had a bit of an exciting showing last week in which they may have exposed the Chiefs, but their surge will be short lived. Whenever you have a team that has nothing to play for and it’s a divisional rivalry, one of those games is bound to come along unless you’re the 1976 Buccaneers or the 2008 Lions. Oakland doesn’t have enough depth to make that happen twice in a row, even against a shaky Rams team and especially not at home. Rams cover in a very dark game where you’re never sure what’s going to happen. Point total will be under.
Rams 24, Raiders 13
Arizona Cardinals (9-2) -2.5 at Atlanta Falcons (4-7) (44.5)
The Cardinals need a team like Atlanta to beat up right now. After putting up only 17 points in the last eight quarters, I’d want to see the worst pass defense in the league too. As for the opposite side of the coin, Arizona’s defensive looks are precisely what Matt Ryan doesn’t want to see. This could be a potential trap game for Arizona, but every analyst is going to say that until the season is over because nobody has faith in that squad. And as much as I’d like to say that I am not one of them, my belief in the Redbirds is slowly starting to dwindle. They could easily lose, but the odds Atlanta comes out gangbusters is slight. As much as I hate to say it, I do think this one will be close so I can’t expect the Cardinals to cover the spread. Right now they simply do not have the kind of offensive firepower to run up 41 points on somebody, even if it is the Falcons.
Cardinals 23, Falcons 21
New England Patriots (9-2) +3 at Green Bay Packers (8-3) (58)
Let’s not fuck around with the following prediction: This could easily be the Super Bowl. Right now, these are the two most offensively explosive teams in each conference, and it wouldn’t shock me one bit if these were the two teams that met in Glendale the first day of February. Tom Brady has so many options when it comes to distributing the ball that he didn’t even hand the it off to dude who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. Coach Belichick sure has some bold ways of letting the rest of the league know that he’s dead serious about making statements even though he’s mumbled incoherently through every press conference he’s ever given. Who will be the star this week? Perhaps even Billbo won’t know until he takes the field. But Rodgers has an arsenal of his own, and everyone in the world knows his favorite target is Jordy Nelson. This is the one advantage that I feel will be the difference in the game: New England knows where A-Rod will be headed. By this point I’m sure you’re wondering “Why haven’t you mentioned either team’s ground game yet?” …I don’t have to, they should be a central focus of either gameplan. Damn…58 for the point total sounds like a lot, but when you think about it that’s a pretty accurate number. It should be a high scoring game, and even though they are the underdog I’m taking the Patriots. They are number one in almost every power ranking outside of Denver, and they deserve to be. Speaking of which…
Patriots 31, Packers 28
Sunday Night Football: Denver Broncos (8-3) -2 at Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) (49.5)
Sunday Night’s matchup features two teams that are experiencing some technical difficulties to say the very least. The 2014 Chiefs account for the Oakland Raiders’ only win so far this season, and although Alex Smith has been a very solid game manager the AFC is clogged with teams that are 7-4 and in search of a playoff spot. (see the AFC North) Right now if I had to make a call one way or the other, I’d have to definitely say that the Chiefs won’t make that cut. The remainder of their schedule is pretty rough, and it begins Sunday Night. The Broncos have had their share of struggles as well…The St. Louis loss not only bumped them down in their quest for home field advantage throughout the playoffs, it happened in a very embarrassing fashion. Last week they gave up 36 points at home to the Dolphins who are not usually known for their high scoring outings, so although they may have figured out the running game issues they were having before kickoff in that game their defense is still questionable at times. And as we all know from watching the Super Bowl last year, Peyton Manning cannot afford to have that margin of error in the playoffs. Although this game won’t be a high scoring affair fresh out of the box, I like Denver to come out in the second half looking strong and eventually pull away in this game. And of course I look for Kansas City to be right around 20 points as usual, but I’ll tack on another three points because Denver’s defense is going through a tough stretch. Broncos easily cover, and the over is a solid bet you can feel good taking.
Broncos 31, Chiefs 23
Monday Night Football: Miami Dolphins (6-5) -5.5 at New York Jets (2-9) (41.5)
The Jets may very well be the worst team in football. Their only two wins have came against the Raiders (who are terrible) and the Steelers who are about as unpredictable as any team in the league these days. They lost to a Buffalo team that had to be rescued from their own homes with snowmobiles just a week ago and barely made it to the game in Detroit, while the Jets flew first class and only managed a field goal in the process. Man, that team is ran by morons. I have no idea who they plan to start in this game, but I am also not sure that Geno Smith and Michael Vick aren’t the same person as well. The Dolphins had a big offensive week last week at Denver, where they would have come out on top against 90% of the teams in the NFL. Tannehill is slowly getting there, but he still has to wait for Brady and Manning to retire in order to make any sort of real impact. I like the Dolphins to really make an example out of whoever is under center for the Jets on Monday night, cover the spread and even bump the point total to the over.
Dolphins 32, Jets 13
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