John Canton: It's week twelve of the NFL season. As always I'm joined by Bret Clev and Mike Maloney to go over every game this week.
Some quick thoughts on the Thanksgiving games:
Houston 34 - Detroit 31: Fun game to watch. Back and forth. The Texans got lucky because the refs blew that Justin Forsett TD run where his arm was down, but the whistle didn't blow. Second straight week where the Texans won in overtime. I'm sure they're happy they get some extra rest before heading into the final five games of the year. Lions have talent. They're just not consistent enough.
Washington 38 - Dallas 31: Amazing game by Robert Griffin III. He's such a tremendous talent that had his second straight week with four touchdowns. Once they got up 28-7 it was tough for the Cowboys to mount a comeback although they came very close.
New England 49 - 19: A dominant blowout. I thought the Jets would put up more of a fight. Nope. The Patriots scored 35 points in a row in the second quarter and it was game over at that point. It wasn't just Tom Brady, who had a fantastic. The defense and special teams made it happen too. Also that Mark Sanchez fumble when he ran into the ass of his guard was pretty embarrassing too. The Patriots are playing as well as anybody right now.
Moving forward, there are no more bye weeks for these final six weeks of the year. That means we have 13 games remaining this week.
Standings Straight Up After Week 11:
Mike 107-52-1 .673 (Last week 13-1)
John 106-53-1 .667 (9-5)
Bret 103-56-1 .648 (10-4)
The only loss for Mike was the Rams/Jets game. Every favorite won straight up except the Rams.
Bret went 3-0 on Thanksgiving. Mike and John went 2-1 since we thought the Cowboys would win.
All game times are Eastern.
Minnesota (6-4) at Chicago (7-3) 1:00 PM
Bret: This is where things start to look ugly for the Vikings - who have four of their last six left against Chicago and Green Bay. However, their match up with Chicago this week just might be primed for an upset. The Chicago offense could be in for another tough outing - with or without Jay Cutler. The Minnesota defense has a dominant pass rusher in Jared Allen and actually has more sacks as a team than the San Francisco defense that destroyed the Bears offensive line. That's certainly possible again this week.
Defensively, Chicago is surprisingly average in yards per rush attempt against - 17th in the league at 4.2 - so Peterson is primed for a big day. Minnesota may not need to pass much in this game - and that's good because they remain below average in the passing game without Percy Harvin.
Still, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Minnesota and AP are able to control the ball and sustain a few long drives while their defense disrupts the Chicago offense much the same way the San Francisco defense did. Minnesota 24 Chicago 17
Mike: This isn't quite a must win for the Bears, but if they lose it's certainly going to make the rematch in two weeks a must win game. Chicago hasn't handled the tough part of its schedule very well so far, and while Jay Cutler missed last week, it wasn't Cutler that gave up 32 points to an offense that hadn't scored that many points since October 7. Cutler's probably back, but you know the Vikings' defensive line has to be licking their chops, with the Bears making two changes at offensive line, benching their left guard and much maligned 2011 1st round draft pick Gabe Carimi, who has been less than impressive at right tackle this season. Minnesota's defense has been good, not great this season, but Jared Allen is always a danger on the line, and he could be in for a big game going up against a new right tackle.
One thing that should be interesting will be Chicago's rush defense. They are generally very good, but looked pretty weak against the Niners last week, not giving up a ton of yards, but San Francisco was very effective in running the ball (121 yards on 29 carries). Minnesota has been one of the best on the ground this year, similar to the Niners, so if league leader Adrian Peterson gets going, this could be a tough game for the Bears. My expectation is that the Bears will look to bounce back on defense from a relatively poor outing last week, Cutler being back will provide some momentum for a struggling offense, and I like the Bears in a close game. Chicago 24 Minnesota 20
John: I like the Bears in this game. Of course the Vikings have the best RB in football, Adrian Peterson, who has historically done well against the Bears, but what else do they have? Percy Harvin is listed as doubtful. When that happens it typically means the offense is going to stall and QB Christian Ponder just isn't good enough to make things work with the other WRs. I think the story will be about the Bears defense. They got embarrassed in San Francisco last week. This is a good bounce back opponent for them. I like the Bears to find a way to get the win here. Bears 23-17
Oakland (3-7) at Cincinnati (5-5) 1:00 PM
Bret: Oakland is now the worst defense in the league in pretty much every way imaginable, and there is a zero point zero percent chance they're able to contain AJ Green in this one. Cincinnati probably won't be able to put up 40 like everyone else does on the Raiders, but 30 sounds doable.
On the other side of the ball expect the same old same old from Carson Palmer - 27-40 for 290 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 picks. The most interesting thing about the Oakland offense is that Marcel Reese - better than Darren McFadden? Cincinnati 30 Oakland 20
Mike: Part of me wonders if we could be in store for a Carson Palmer "f you" game, but then the other part of me thinks that the Oakland Raiders are probably incapable of an "f you" game.
There are so many reasons not to like the Raiders here. They've lost their last two games by a combined 56 points, and I don't even think the games were as close as the scores would indicate. They are ranked second to last in DVOA, only ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs. They have won two of their last seven games, one was against the Chiefs, and the other was an overtime win against the Jaguars. It's an early game for a West Coast team in the Eastern time zone. Andy Dalton has looked fantastic the last two weeks and the Raiders are pretty bad defensively. And so on. I don't totally trust the Bengals to cover the 9.5 point spread, just because their defense is pretty sketchy, but I absolutely trust them to win. Cincinnati 30 Oakland 20
John: At home I'm okay with picking the Raiders. On the road? Not so much. The Bengals offense is rolling as they come off a 31-13 win over the Giants and a 28-6 drubbing of the Chiefs. Since the Raiders defense is among the worst in the league, I really don't see them doing enough to slow down the Andy Dalton to AJ Green combination. I like the Bengals to win this one comfortably. They have a shot at the playoffs and I think they'll remain hungry in the final six games of the year.
I know this is the return of Carson Palmer to Cincinnati, so he might be more inspired in this game. That doesn't matter when your defense is awful. Bengals 38-21
Pittsburgh (6-4) at Cleveland (2-8) 1:00 PM
Bret: I'm amazed Vegas has the courage to make this a pick 'em, but I wouldn't bet it either way. On one hand, if Pittsburgh can beat Baltimore with Byron Leftwich, surely they can beat Cleveland with Chaz Batch? Yet, Cleveland is clearly a more talented team than their record indicates, and a home game against Pittsburgh is their Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh should be able to run the ball with their stable of backs (they should just make Dwyer the full time guy already - he's clearly meant to be a Steeler) and run some clock, but I don't know that Batch will be able to do anything in Haley's quick fire offensive system, and with Haden on Wallace, there won't be anone there to make plays either. Going to be hard for Pittsburgh to score points.
It won't be much easier for Cleveland to score either - Pittsburgh defense has really come to play the last few weeks. I don't expect more than 2 or 3 TDs combined in this game.
As close as Cleveland has been to beating a few quality teams in the past few weeks, I think that advantage gives them just enough to pull out an ugly game. Cleveland 15 Pittsburgh 13
Mike: Make sure you all go and pick up Charlie Batch off the waiver wire in your fantasy leagues! I'm thankful that I'm in the Chicago market, as it looks like I may have been stuck watching this game on CBS if the Bears hadn't had an early home game this week. I'm not expecting a lot of high quality football to be played between two teams led by Brandon Weeden and Charlie Batch. Trent Richardson has been good for the Browns this year, but other than that their offense has been pretty rough to watch for the most part. I've seen some people picking Cleveland to pull off the upset here, but I just don't have enough faith in their head coach Pat Shurmur to follow through with a bet like that. I'll go with Pittsburgh, and I'll go with ugly. Pittsburgh 10 Cleveland 9
John: I'm really tempted to pick the Browns because I think the Steelers offense will struggle a lot with third stringer Charlie Batch starting at QB. He's been there a while, so he's comfortable with the Steelers player, but he's nearly 40 years old and has barely seen game action in the last decade. There's rust and then there's Charlie Batch.
My problem with picking the Browns is that Steelers defense is so good. Remember last week I picked the Steelers over the Ravens? Their defense didn't give up a touchdown, yet they still lost. It was their special teams that gave up a punt return TD. The Browns offense is going to have trouble scoring. That's why I like the Steelers to win on a late field goal in a boring, low scoring, defensive type of game. Steelers 16-13
Buffalo (4-6) at Indianapolis (6-4) 1:00 PM
Bret: Who would've guessed this as one of the most important games of the week, and yet here we are. If Buffalo wins this game they are firmly in the playoff race (with Indianapolis). If you look at the results of their last 6 games, Buffalo hasn't been that bad. They have a dynamic offense with multiple weapons and a defense - that when it's on, can be really on.
I think we got a great glimpse of where Indianapolis is last week. They were able to hang with the Patriots for awhile, but eventually Luck made a few rookie mistakes and things got out of hand. That's about where the Colts are.
I expect this game to be a fun, turnover filled, game of mediocrity. There will be 5 turnovers in this game, and 2 defensive scores. Whichever team has the most of these wins the game. Indianapolis is currently last in the league in take aways. I'll take the Bills. Buffalo 34 Indianapolis 31
Mike: Interesting game here. Indianapolis is holding on to one of the wild card spots at the moment, but Ryan Fitzpatrick has been doing a pretty good job of taking care of the ball lately, CJ Spiller has finally been moved into the starting lineup and looks to get more of the ball with Fred Jackson suffering a concussion, and as we saw last week, Indianapolis' defense can struggle just a bit. Indy probably has the better team here, and they are playing at home, but I'm just saying Buffalo has the capacity to go off for a lot of points if Indy's defense has issues. Indianapolis 24 Buffalo 21
John: If these teams played last week I think the spread would be about 6 or 7 for the Colts. Instead it's a three point line because the Colts got hammered in New England while the Bills defense finally showed up in a nice win home to the Dolphins. Let's not overrate one week, though. The Colts are the better team with the better QB in Andrew Luck and the passing attack led by Reggie Wayne. With the Bills offense you never know what you're going to get from week to week. I like the Colts at home and don't like the Bills on the road. That's what I'm basing my pick on more than anything. Colts 27-17
Denver (7-3) at Kansas City (1-9) 1:00 PM
Bret: Maybe the easiest pick of the year. (More so than even Houston/Jacksonville seemed last week.) Kansas City has never been an easy place for Denver to play, regardless of talent levels. However, having Peyton Manning behind center certainly takes away a certain level of randomness to any teams outcomes. And more importantly, the city of Kansas City has completely turned on their team, and this may actually be a more hostile environment for Kansas City than for Denver.
The most interesting thing about this game will be watching Denver figure out what to do in the backfield now that McGahee's gone. And scarily, it may actually improve the offense - McGahee had been very average all year, and VERY fumble prone. If Hillman and Ball can produce anything in the way of big plays and ball security, it'll be an upgrade.
And let's not forget this is Brady Quinn vs. Peyton Manning. Denver 31 Kansas City 13
Mike: Should be business as usual for the Broncos this week. They still have games left against Oakland, Cleveland, and Kansas City, so with what is effectively a four game lead over the Chargers (They swept the head-to-head matchup this year), the divisional race is all but over, and now they've got at least a decent chance at getting a first round bye by picking up that number two seed in the AFC.
At this point in time the Chiefs seem incapable of putting up even 20 points of offense, and the way Denver's been playing lately they seem incapable of scoring less than 20 points of offense. The only thing that might derail them a bit is having to adjust to having Ronnie Hillman in the backfield, replacing Willis McGahee, who should be out until some time in the playoffs. But again, that's just minor, and shouldn't affect the outcome of the game. Denver 38 Kansas City 17
John: The Broncos are threats to win the Super Bowl. They won't mess around in a game like this. I know this season has been full of surprises and a divisional game like this could mean that the Chiefs actually put up a fight against the much better team. Or they'll play like garbage and get blown out at home. Yeah, that seems about right. Broncos 31-10
Seattle (6-4) at Miami (4-6) 1:00 PM
Bret: Seattle's good at home, and bad on the road. Seattle's taking one of America's longest flights.
On the other hand, Miami has been pretty bad everywhere in the lower 48 for the past month or so, and whatever Ryan Tannehill was doing right - he's doing wrong now.
Actually, it seems that Tannehill's struggles have been less about his mistakes and more that he was throwing very similar passes (short and mid range to the sidelines) and now that's being covered, causing him to make plays he's not comfortable making yet.
Seattle has the extra rest, and is smart enough in the backfield to cause Tannehill all kinds of trouble. I don't think this is the prettiest game of the year, but Seattle beats up a reeling Miami team, and wins on the road. Seattle 16 Miami 10
Mike: So many opposing forces in this game. Seattle is currently in a wildcard spot and has played a couple of good games in a row. But they've also been at home. Seattle has gone East and won a game earlier this season against Carolina. But it's also their only road win of the season and they're 1-4 on the road overall. But Miami has been really bad the last couple of weeks, including getting absolutely thumped by the Titans two weeks ago at home.
I'm expecting Seattle to win here, and possibly win big, but it just so hard to trust them on the road, especially in an early game in Florida. I also think Miami is in free fall mode right now, and Seattle knows how important this game is if they want a playoff spot, as they still have a couple tough games against the Bears and Niners left. Seattle 27 Miami 10
John: The Dolphins are a streaky team. After three straight wins, they've lost three winnable games in a row and look defeated before they even took the field in the last two weeks.
Seattle has the playoffs on their mind. It's going to be a fight in the NFC, but they have the talent to be in the hunt the rest of this season. I think they're too physical for the Dolphins, who used to possess the number one run defense and now they sit in 9th place. They've been exposed in their losses. Who does Seattle have? An elite runner in Marshawn Lynch. I think they'll have a big game running the ball and that defense will make it difficult for that struggling Dolphins offense as well. Seattle 23-17
Atlanta (9-1) at Tampa Bay (6-4) 1:00 PM
Bret: This is probably the toughest game of the week for me. I believe Atlanta to be the more talented team, but their momentum seems to be drying up, while Tampa Bay is playing hard and digging out wins. Football Outsiders actually has Tampa Bay significantly higher in Offensive DVOA (8th to 17th) and tied defensively in DVOA.
Atlanta also ranks 26th in rush defense DVOA, and is giving up 5 yards per rush. That's Tampa's key to this game - they need to control the clock, hang on to the ball, win the time of possession and they can win this game.
They'll probably need to score on at least 4 long drives to win - as their defense is giving up nearly 8 yards per pass attempt (30th in the league) and will probably give up at least one quick TD to Atlanta.
In a true toss up game, I'll take the home team with the momentum. Tampa Bay 28 Atlanta 27
Mike: Possible game of the week here with Atlanta reeling a bit after a loss to the Saints and what should have been a loss at home to the Cardinals, while the Bucs are firing on all cylinders on offense with four straight wins although they had a near miss last week against the Panthers. I think the Falcons have to be concerned that the Saints and Cards both ran all over their defense the last two weeks, and those aren't exactly two of the more prolific rushing offenses in the league. Meanwhile Tampa is absolutely one of the better rush offenses, and Doug Martin has come into his own lately, rushing for 592 yards the last four games.
Atlanta can still absolutely win this game, however, as Tampa's strength lies with their offense, and certainly not with their defense. They can be scored upon, and I would expect Matt Ryan to have a game that more resembles the Saints' game (34-52 for 411 and 3 TDs) than what happened last week against the Cardinals (28-46 for 301 yards and 5 INTs). Of course there still is the matter of their run game, and Michael Turner has been very mediocre, only hitting 100 yards in a game twice this year and averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Touchdowns have been a bit of an issue lately for the Falcons, and they will need to convert more TDs and fewer field goals if they plan on outscoring the Bucs. For right now I'm going to stay on the Bucs' momentum train and say they pull off the big win at home this week. Tampa 35 Atlanta 30
John: I'm going with the Falcons. I think the Bucs have more balance on offense with a consistently good running game and a vertical passing game. They're a tough team to defend. They also showed last week they could come from behind to win a tough game in Carolina. However, I think the Falcons will be able to throw the ball against the Bucs all game long. The Bucs are giving up 312.6 pass yards per game, which is last in the NFL. The Falcons like to throw the ball over 40 times per game and they have struggled running the ball. I think Matt Ryan and that Falcons offense is going to have a huge game. The question is can the Bucs score on them? Yes I think so. I expect a shootout that will end with a win for the visitors. Falcons 34-31
Tennessee (4-6) at Jacksonville (1-9) 1:00 PM
Bret: Do not let last week fool you. Chad Henne is not an awful quarterback overall - however he IS an awful QB throwing the deep ball. He may have another nice week this week against Tennessee's worst-in-the-league pass defense, but he's still not an answer to Jacksonville's problems.
Tennessee is the perfect 4-6, headed to 7-9, team. Some nice parts, a few really talented guys, but just not all there yet and a QB no one really knows about.
I think a lot of people are going to be tempted to take Jacksonville here - as Tennessee is never a sexy pick - and last week was pretty awesome from the Jags, but let's not forget just how awful Jacksonville has been at home. I'm not picking them to win until they prove me wrong. Tennessee 27 Jacksonville 13
Mike: And now for something a little less interesting. Yes, the Titans are technically still in the playoff race, but really they have no chance with games remaining against the Texans and Packers, and may not even win this game. Meanwhile the Jaguars are in the race for the #1 overall pick, and that could very well be ruined with the appearance of Chad Henne to the starting lineup thanks to a Blaine Gabbert injury and an impressive Henne performance against the Texans. So really the outcome of this game should be amusing either way. Tennessee's defense has been a mixed bag, although save for that Miami game they've been pretty bad on the road. I think that, combined with Henne and his possible chemistry with Justin Blackmon should be enough for the Jaguars to get the win, and drive Jacksonville fans everywhere crazy. Jacksonville 24 Tennessee 21
John: A boring game to watch, but I think the Jaguars will build off their near win at Houston a week ago. They'll play hard, move the ball and I think they'll do enough to get the victory. It's like not Chad Henne is a long term answer at QB for the Jags. To his credit, though, they were able to move the ball pretty well against an elite defense a week ago so I think they'll be able to put up some points on the board. Jaguars 24-23
Baltimore (8-2) at San Diego (4-6) 4:05 PM
Bret: I know everyone remembers Baltimore blowing a game in San Diego at the end of last year, but this is not the same San Diego team. Last week, when Phillip Rivers walked off the field with enough time left for one play, that was all I needed to see for the rest of the season for San Diego. Their goose is cooked, and if wasn't for Oakland, I don't know they if they'd win another game. Baltimore 24 San Diego 10
Mike: Well, I think we're finally getting closer to the end of the Norv Turner era in San Diego. I figured last year's abomination would have been the end of him for sure, and yet he still persevered. But this year I think is definitely the breaking point. They're sitting at 4-6, with half those wins coming against the Chiefs. They're in the bottom third in DVOA on both offense and defense, and with remaining games against the Ravens, Bengals, Steelers, Panthers, and Jets, it's possible they could be looking at a 10-loss season. I'm still not a big believer in the Ravens, and their 9th overall DVOA despite an 8-2 record probably backs that up a bit, but I will take them every day of the week against the Chargers. Baltimore 24 San Diego 17
John: The Ravens continue to win these close games on the road without doing much offensively. Last week's game with the Steelers was a huge win and an important game. I think they might look past the Chargers since they have the Steelers on the schedule next year. The Chargers passing offense has improved a bit with former Ram Donario Alexander stretching the field and I think they should be able to get a lot of yards against the Ravens. I know the Chargers are in a bit of a frefall with only one win in their last five games, but I have a hunch that they'll win this game. Plus, I just don't think the Ravens are as good as their record. Maybe they'll prove me wrong again. We'll see. Chargers 27-20
St. Louis (3-6-1) at Arizona (4-6) 4:25 PM
Bret: St. Louis, apparently, saves all their talent for divisional games. Arizona is in complete shambles, and I don't see anything out of this Lindley character to make me believe he's any better (or worse) than Skelton, so I expect much of the same for the Arizona offense (bad), but unfortunately for Arizona their defense has been wearing down (or giving up?) the last few weeks.
St. Louis keeps winning in the West. St. Louis 20 Arizona 13
Mike: I'd like to thank the Rams for screwing me from a perfect week last week by completely laying an egg against the Jets. I'm not sure how you go from almost beating San Francisco on the road to getting beat down by Mark Sanchez and the Jets. Fortunately they are on the road this week, which means I can stick to my usual strategy of picking against the non-Niners NFC West team on the road. Of course now that the Cards almost pulled off the big road win last week maybe now they'll pull a Rams and blow it at home this week. Arizona 20 St. Louis 13
John: My Rams were 3-2 after five games. Optimism was in the air. They look improved. Since then they've gone 0-4-1 and a few of those games were blowout losses including last week against the hapless Jets. Who did the Rams beat in their last week on October 4th? The Cardinals. It was a dominant defensive effort as they won 17-3.
This time around the Cardinals are starting Ryan Lindley at QB. His first career start. I think the Rams defense is still pretty good and they will make things difficult for him, so the defense should carry them to the victory. As long as the Rams limit the turnovers they should be fine. Hopefully Danny Amendola is healthy enough to play because without him the offense sputters. I think they will be able to do enough to beat this hapless Cardinals team that has lost six in a row. Rams 23-13
San Francisco (7-2-1) at New Orleans (5-5) 4:25 PM
Bret: I don't see why this is a pick 'em. There's a way to beat San Francisco - establish a running game and get ahead - and even that may not be the right answer now that Kaepernick may be significantly better at throwing the football than Smith. The question is, can New Orleans follow this road map? I don't think they have the running game to do it. San Francisco is also best in the league in stopping the deep ball (5.5 YPC), making a big day from New Orleans unlikely.
Offensively, San Francisco is clearly an enigma right now. Maybe Kaepernick is the next out-of-nowhere superstar? Maybe we'll be 10 minutes in the game and Harbaugh will be doing his best GOB "I've made a huge mistake" impression. Still, from what I saw, I like his chances to be successful enough to keep San Francisco rolling. San Francisco 27 New Orleans 20
Mike: If Atlanta/Tampa isn't your game of the week, then I assume this one is. New Orleans has really been clicking lately, winning five of their last six including big wins over Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Now all of a sudden they're only a game out of a wild card spot. San Francisco is still hanging on to that #2 seed, but Green Bay and Chicago are only one loss behind them, and with their tie to the Rams they won't get the benefit of having the head-to-head tiebreaker over both teams. Colin Kaepernick is by all accounts getting the start for the Niners, partially due to Alex Smith still recovering from his concussion, and probably partially due to his impressive performance against the Bears last week. I'm not sure if I love this idea if Smith is, in fact ready to play, because while yes, Kaepernick was really good, I do think the Bears were caught a little off guard by his willingness to throw downfield, something he won't have the benefit of with the Saints planning for that all week. He also benefited from the fact that the game was effectively over early into the second quarter with the Niners going up 17-0 and Chicago looking lost on offense. I just think Smith is the guy that got you there, he's the proven QB in the system, I don't love the idea of sticking with your inexperienced QB in a big road game.
Now I know New Orleans has all the momentum, I know they're playing at home, I know their defense has looked better since their interim head coach took over for the interim interim head coach, but I'm not totally buying the hype coming into this game. Yes, the Saints' D has looked better...but that was against the Eagles and Raiders, and they still gave up over 400 yards to both of those teams. They're only a month removed from putting up 14 points against the Broncos, probably the best defense they've faced all season. So let's just say I'm not sold. I know they've run the ball really well lately, but running the ball against the Niners is much more difficult than running on the Raiders and Falcons. The only chance I'm giving New Orleans here is if Kaepernick comes back to earth in his second start, can't catch the Saints by surprise, and gets caught up by the crowd in a big game on the road. But I think there's a small chance of that happening, and more likely the Niners will come out and get a big win. San Francisco 31 New Orleans 20
John: Last year's playoff game between these teams was the best game of the season, I thought. After their 0-4 start, the Saints are now at 5-5 and they are in a position to contend for a playoff spot. Will they get there? For that to happen they really need this one. It may be tough to get into the NFC playoffs as a wildcard unless you win 10 games, so their margin of error is slim.
I think the 49ers are going to be more dynamic offensive with Colin Kaepernick at QB. He's a guy that extend plays by scrambling a lot more than Alex Smith did and he can also run the ball when plays break down. That's tough for the defense to deal with. With that in mind, I think he'll grow through the usual growing pains that you'd expect from somebody that is making their second start in the NFL. I know the Saints defense isn't great, but they have been better in the last six games. If they can force one or two turnovers out of Kapernick they can probably score enough to get the win.
I'm going with the Saints. I think their home field advantage is significant, I think they are playing as good as football as anybody in the NFL right now and I think Drew Brees can have a lot of success against a very good 49ers defense. Why? Because Brees has success against everybody. The Saints offense has a lot of depth and Brees is great at involving all of them. This will be an entertaining game. Looking forward to it. Saints 27-24
Green Bay (7-3) at NY Giants (6-4) 8:20 PM
Bret: New York and Green Bay both coming off byes? On a Sunday night? Good job NBC!
I like Green Bay to win this game, put simply, I think they're the better team right now. I actually like Green Bay's ability to stop New York offensively in this game - Green Bay has quietly had a nice year defensively. They're a bend but don't break sort of defense for sure, but being 10th in the league in points per game on defense when you're offense has such a poor running game is a successful year. New York on offense, maybe have figured things out offensively over the bye, they may not have, but it's hard to predict big things from Eli after what we've seen the last few weeks.
The Green Bay offense will benefit from having Jordy Nelson back and from figuring out that Alex Green in terrible. It's boring, but another Rodgers day (300 yards, 3 TDs, no picks) is enough to win this one for Green Bay. Green Bay 30 New York 24
Mike: I'm not going to even pretend to have any idea how this game is going to play out. The Packers have won five in a row. But the offense has struggled somewhat, and they're still without Cedric Benson and possibly Greg Jennings for another week. Clay Matthews is going to miss another game with a sore hamstring, Charles Woodson is still out. Meanwhile Eli Manning has put together possibly the worst three game stretch of his career (54-99 for 532 yards, 0 TDs and 4 INTs and a fumble), the Giants' defense has let Isaac Redman run all over them and Andy Dalton shredded them for 4 TDs and a 70% completion percentage.
And yet...this is still the New York Giants we're talking about, and at 6-4 you could easily see them blowing the game by 20 points or ruining the Packers' offensive line, making Aaron Rodgers' day completely miserable and winning by double digits. Who knows? Like I said, I have no idea. I guess I'll go with the Packers to win because they've just been playing better and Eli has been such a mess, but I have zero confidence in the choice. Green Bay 27 New York Giants 24
John: This should be an awesome game to watch with a lot of skilled players on the field. If the Giants lose then they are only one game ahead of the Redskins and Cowboys with a game in Washington next week that will be huge in terms of deciding who is going to win the NFC East. If the Giants find a way to win this game they'd have a two game lead in their division, so this is a huge one for them.
The same can be said about the Packers. They're likely a playoff team, but they are fighting the Bears and Vikings for NFC North supremacy. They could even get a first round bye if they finish strong. They were my Super Bowl pick and I think they're hitting their stride with five straight wins. Their QB Aaron Rodgers might win the MVP award for the second time although that's a competitive race. I think he cares more about winning another Super Bowl anyway.
As for the game, I like the Packers more. The Giants played poorly in their last two games (both losses), especially Eli Manning. While the bye week was probably good for them and key injured offensive players like Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks, I'm not sure if they can easily correct all their problems against an elite opponent like the Packers. I expect the Packers to expose the Giants secondary, hit a few deep shots and do enough defensively to hold the lead. In the end, too much of Aaron Rodgers. He's too damn good. Packers 27-20
Carolina (2-8) at Philadelphia (3-7) 8:30 PM (MON)
Bret: Ugh. I hate Philadelphia forever for this year. They are SO MUCH BETTER than Carolina, but I'm still picking the Panthers. Screw you Philly. Carolina 27 Philadelphia 9
Mike: I'm sure at some point during the offseason this game seemed like a good one to show on national television. Cam Newton had a great rookie year, people thought the Panthers might be a playoff team this year. Philly just missed out on the playoffs last year and had a talented defense coming back along with Mike Vick and Lesean McCoy. But now? Yikes. The teams have are 1-11 combined in their last twelve games.
The Eagles are probably going to be starting Nick Foles again under center, and Bryce Brown is most likely getting the start at running back with McCoy suffering a concussion late in last week's game against the Redskins. So yeah, should be real exciting! This game is in Philly, which I can't tell if that's an advantage for the Eagles or the Panthers. Given Carolina is probably better than their 2-8 record indicates and Philly is probably worse than their 3-7 record, I like Carolina to really crush Philly's offense and put together an ugly win. Fortunately the Bulls are playing Monday night so I think I'll be able to keep my viewing of this game at a minimum. Carolina 20 Philadelphia 16
John: I doubt I'm going to watch much of this one. The Eagles will be without Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. I think Nick Foles is going to have another bad game. I'll go with the Panthers winning a low scoring, ugly game because they have a usually good QB in Cam Newton who will propel his boring team to the win. Panthers 20-13
The Degenerates Dungeon
This is where we give you some picks for our best bets of the week. Note that lines moves from the time we write this (Friday AM) to the time the games kickoff. We keep track of the odds and we'll use that to write down our records too.
Records so far:
Mike 28-27 (3-2)
Bret 27-26-2 (2-3)
John 23-32 (1-4)
Honestly, I'm amazed at how bad I am against the spread this year. I did stop making bets about four weeks ago. So Christmas is not cancelled.
1. Saint Louis -1 @ Arizona - Do we really think Ryan Lindley beats a solid defense like St. Louis'?
2. Baltimore PK @ San Diego
3. Denver -11.5 @ Kansas City
4. Denver OVER 27 @ Kansas City
5. Green Bay SU @ New York (+130)
New England -7.5 @ New York Jets - I don't remember what the spread was for this game, 10.5? Whatever, betting against Sanchez? Free money!
Seattle -2.5 @ Miami - I hate taking the Seahawks on the road, but man, just can't get over that Miami/Tennessee result.
St. Louis @ Arizona -1 - On the flip side, I love betting against the Rams on the road!
Baltimore +1 @ San Diego - NOOOOOOOOOOOORV!
Atlanta @ Tampa Over 50.5 - Gooooo offense!
Houston -3 @ Detroit - Got a push on this one. Better than a loss.
Oakland @ Cincinnati -9.5 - Feels like a blowout to me.
Carolina @ Philadelphia UNDER 40.5 - Under because their offenses have issues.
Buffalo @ Indianapolis -3 - I think the Colts are much more comfortable at home.
Green Bay +3 @ NY Giants - Better team. I like them as the road underdogs.
That's all from us for this week. Follow us on Twitter:
You can also email John Canton at email@example.com with any questions or comments.