John Canton: It's week fourteen 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 Thursday game:
Denver 26 Oakland 13: It was an easy game to predict since the Broncos are an elite team while the Raiders are one of the worst. I'm sure some people thought the Raiders would show some heart since it was a divisional game, but that really didn't happen. Their defense was atrocious as Peyton Manning threw over 300 yards and the Broncos ran for over 100 yards too. The only reason the Broncos didn't score more is because they settled for four field goals due to poor red zone execution. They still managed to get the win and cover that 10.5 point spread too.
Standings Straight Up After Week 13:
John 127-64-1 .665 (Last week 11-5)
Mike 126-65-1 .660 (9-7)
Bret 126-65-1 .660 (13-3)
We're all doing very well. If you can get over .600 straight up for the year that's a good number and we're all much better than that, so I'm proud of our group.
We all picked the Broncos on Thursday and we all got that right.
All game times are Eastern.
St. Louis (5-6-1) at Buffalo (5-7) 1:00 PM
Bret: I just can't get over my belief that Buffalo isn't that bad. They're missing... something....from being a playoff team. I'm confident of it.
St. Louis' 4-0-1 record in the division and 1-6 record out of the division makes no sense. Honestly, I feel like there's no way to explain it.
In this game specifically, I think St. Louis will struggle offensively - the Buffalo front 7 have been paying, dare I say, above average football for the past few weeks - and should keep St. Louis under 24. Offensively, Buffalo will simply convert more drives to TDs because of home field momentum and win the game. Buffalo 28 St. Louis 23
Mike: A couple of nice wins for both teams last week. I'd probably argue the Rams' win was a little more impressive, although at the same time their offfense scored its first points as time was expiring in regulation, so I guess it's a matter of perspective.
Buffalo really derailed the "Chad Henne For MVP" campaign I was about to launch, so thats unfortunate. I get that going up against Buffalo's defense won't be quite as intimidating as going up against the Niners, but I do worry about St. Louis' ability to put up points, especially on the road. I think Buffalo is dynamic enough that they can find ways to put points on the board, and I don't think the Rams are. Buffalo 24 St. Louis 13
John: I could have gone to this game. It's only about three hours away from where I live in southern Ontario and it's my favorite team in Buffalo, which will only happen once every eight years using the current NFL scheduling format. I didn't choose to go because have you ever been to Buffalo's stadium on a cold December day? It's not fun. Watching the game on my couch with the heat on is much more comfortable than freezing my ass off.
It's hard to explain why the Rams are 4-0-1 in their division, which means they are 1-6 outside of it. I think Coach Fisher has instilled a lot of confidence in the team and also stressed the importance of their divisional games. As a result of that, maybe the team puts so much energy into those divisional games that when they get outside of the division they lose their focus. That's my best way to explain it.
I'm going with the Rams to win. I think they have found something offensively with rookie WR Chris Givens being able to catch balls all over the field, RB Steven Jackson is fresh after splitting carries early in the year and the defense should be able to get some pressure against a bad Bills offensive line (I believe their third string right tackle is starting). I know the Bills can score and they're better at home, but I don't think they're the better team right now. Rams 23-20
Dallas (6-6) at Cincinnati (7-5) 1:00 PM
Bret: Huge game for Cincy here. If they can win this one, I think they've got a real shot at winning the AFC North. While most of Cincy's 4 game win streak was feasting on the dregs of the AFC West, I do think it's legit. Aren't they pretty much the 2012 version of the Detroit Lions - with perhaps a better supporting cast for their stud WR?
Dallas has so much talent, and yet - they always find a way to keep their opponent in the games. Their defense has been beaten up by too many injuries in the front 7 - and they really don't know what they have at running back either. Too many question marks in the makeup of this team to take them on the road against a playoff team. Cincinnati 27 Dallas 24
Mike: Are we setting up the stage for Cincinnati to lead its fans on by first beating up on the crappy part of the AFC West, then beating up on the crappy part of the NFC East leading to a promising 9-5 record only to lose their last two games to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, finish 9-7 and just miss the playoffs? I think so! I like the narrative, I like how Cincy has been playing the last month regardless of the competition, and most importantly I really don't like the Cowboys and last week's crapfest against the Eagles that was much closer than it should have been really sealed the deal for me. Poor Bengals fans. They know it's coming, and they can't do anything to stop it. Cincinnati 26 Dallas 20
John: I'm with the road upset for the Cowboys. I think both times can be inconsistent at times, but when I watch the Cowboys their offense seems to have turned a corner. They're really feeding Dez Bryant the ball and he's produced with 29 catches, 475 yards and 6 TDs in his last four games. Those are big numbers. I think if the Bengals key on him too much, which they might, then the Cowboys have enough weapons in Austin, Witten and Murray to put some points on the board. The key is to limit turnovers. Both teams are in the playoff race in their respective conferences so I think the focus will be there on both sides. I just think the Cowboys will be able to get the win late in the game. Cowboys 26-24
Kansas City (2-10) at Cleveland (4-8) 1:00 PM
Bret: Kansas City won enough to probably cost themselves the #1 pick. That's enough for me. Brady Quinn is the worst starting QB in the NFL (Arizona might be giving me a call on that one) and Cleveland isn't really awful at any aspect of the game. Pretty easy win for Cleveland here actually. Cleveland 28 Kansas City 12
Mike: I feel like Kansas City should be at least a TD underdog to just about anyone on the road. I don't put a ton of stock in the Chiefs' win last week, partially because of the crazy emotional situation everyone was undoubtedly playing in, and because it was against a Carolina team that might not be awful, but is also a long way from being a good team. Cleveland is solid enough defensively that they should make it really difficult on Jamaal Charles, and then Brady Quinn should do a good enough job making it difficult on himself. Cleveland 17 Kansas City 6
John: I feel for the players on the Chiefs right now. The muder-suicide situation from last week was something I hope we never have to see in the NFL again, so I give credit to their organization for fighting through that with a victory last week.
As for this game, the Browns are showing some fight. They don't have a lot of talent on offense, but the defense plays well especially at home and I think this is a game where they give their talented rookie RB Trent Richardson 30 carries as he leads them to the victory. Browns 24-10
Tennessee (4-8) at Indianapolis (8-4) 1:00 PM
Bret: If Jake Locker wasn't playing so poorly, I'd take Tennessee here. Indianapolis simply isn't an elite team, and these divisional games are exactly the kind of games that can trip them up, but Tennessee just has nothing going for them offensively, and while this will be a close game, the Titans won't be able to keep up in the 4th quarter. Indianapolis 24 Tennessee 21
Mike: Am I totally off base thinking Tennessee has at least a shot to win this game? CJ Spiller completely torched the Colts a couple weeks ago, and Joique Bell had a lot of success last week in limited action. Chris Johnson has looked a lot more like CJ2K after the first few weeks of the season, so my initial thoughts would be that he's in for a pretty good game. And while Indy has had a very good record at home, they haven't exactly been blowing teams out.
It's a tall task for the Titans to actually get the W in Indy, but I would expect this to be a close game, three points or less, and if Tennessee can keep it close and get a score late to go ahead, I dunno, I could see the upset here. Tennessee 24 Indianapolis 23
John: Are the Colts as good as their 8-4 record? I'm not sure. I don't think it matters when people argue that because the reality is that's their record. If they get in the playoffs and lose in the first round they still accomplished more than most people expected. To be a playoff team you have to win a game like this against an inferior divisional opponent. The Titans have underachieved a bit due to a number of reasons mainly their inconsistency at QB. I'm not sure if Jake Locker is a keeper, but they're right to keep him out there to finish out the season. They can win if RB Chris Johnson has a big day. I think he might, but these Colts have this amazing ability to stay in games and win them late. I think that happens one more time. Colts 27-23
Chicago (8-4) at Minnesota (6-6) 1:00 PM
Bret: I like these teams significantly less than I did just 2 weeks ago. The Minnesota offense continues to be punchless without Harvin - which shows just how bad that offense is, if they can't put it together despite having AP.
The Chicago defense has really lost its swagger as well. Losing Urlacher and Jennings hurts them significantly - especially with how poorly Tillman has been playing the last few weeks.
Still, this defense is good enough to stop Christian Ponder. Chicago 20 Minnesota 17
Mike: With Percy Harvin out for the season Minnesota is going to have a pretty tough time winning any more games the rest of the season. Yes, Adrian Peterson is still absurdly good, but look at last week's game, he had over 200 yards and just had his way with a banged up Packers' defense, and the team still couldn't score more than 14 points. The Bears also have their fair share of injuries at the moment, but I don't trust a shaky Christian Ponder going up against an aggressive Bears defense. Chicago 16 Minnesota 13
John: Remember when the Bears were 7-1? They've gone 1-3 since. Now that the defense has key injuries to MLB Brian Urlacher and CB Tim Jennings, who was having an amazing year, they may continue to struggle for the rest of the season. I like what they are doing on offense for the most part with Jay Cutler throwing it to Brandon Marshall although their running game has been inconsistent. I just think their struggles are going to continue.
I like the Vikings in this game. When they played two weeks ago (I don't like teams playing twice in three weeks for the record) the Bears won 28-10. What happened was they got out to a 25-3 lead by halftime and took the Vikings out of their game. Seeing that the Vikings threw the ball 43 times and gave Adrian Peterson just 18 carries lets me know that this time they will get back to doing what they do best: Run the ball with Peterson. It's up to the defense to slow down the Bears offense, though. I think at home in that loud dome and with the pass rush the Vikings have they can stay in the game early. Obviously the pass game will miss Percy Harvin, but if they can control the game with Peterson running the ball I think they'll win the game. Vikings 23-20
Philadelphia (3-9) at Tampa Bay (6-6) 1:00 PM
Bret: No way Philadelphia's winning this one. Very little to actually say anything positive about this debacle in Philadelphia right now. I wonder if Bryce Brown becomes trade bait at draft time, because he's got elite skills - despite the fumbles - and no future behind McCoy.
Tampa actually didn't play poorly against Denver last week just came across a superior team. I expect this week to be a get right game for the Bucs offense. Tampa Bay 31 Philadelphia 20
Mike: Wasn't this more or less the line last week for the Eagles/Cowboys game last week? So what's the deal? I'm supposed to think that the Cowboys are as good as the Bucs? Hardly. Given how good Philly's defense made Dallas' offense look last week, seems to me like this could be a very coverable spread for Tampa. Doug Martin may not be in store for a big game as Philly's rush defense has actually been halfway defense, but this could be a good opportunity for Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson to put up big numbers. Let the Andy Reid Farewell Tour make its final stop in Tampa! Tampa 37 Philadelphia 24
John: The Eagles have lost eight in a row. It looks like the defense has quit since they have given up 28 or more points in their last six games. The Bucs are coming off two losses in a row against very good opponents in the Falcons and Broncos. I bet they're very frustrated. This Eagles team is the perfect opponent to beat up to make you feel better and keep you in the very tight NFC playoff race. Buccaneers 37-17
Baltimore (9-3) at Washington (6-6) 1:00 PM
Bret: I've been predicting Washington to win this game for about 3 weeks now (since I started playing with the playoff simulator), and frankly I'm angry everyone's jumped on board and turned them into a favorite.
Still, it's a fundamental reason why I like Washington: Baltimore is the 25th ranked team against the rush defensively, and Washington has the best coordinated run game in the NFL right now. These are two teams headed in opposite directions right now.
Baltimore will need a huge game from Flacco to win this one, and I think we've all learned enough not to trust in that. Washington becomes the story of the week after this one. Washington 24 Baltimore 20
Mike: This is looking like a pretty interesting game, isn't it? Big win for the Redskins last week, now they're only sitting a game behind the Giants for the divisional lead. And with Baltimore's surprising loss to Charlie Batch last week they're looking at a fight to get that #2 seed, so both teams have a lot to play for in this non-conference game.
I think what will happen is the Ravens will be too banged up on defense and will come out unable to stop the run game of Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III, and with Pierre Garçon back and ready to go they should be able to throw on the Ravens as well.
I'm not sure Baltimore's offense (ranked 14th in DVOA) is going to be up to the task of punishing an average Redskins defense. They just aren't built to put up a lot of points, especially not when they have to in order to win. I know it's not technically an upset as the Redskins are favored by a point in this game, but I like the 6-6 team to get the win at home against the 9-3 team. Washington 21 Baltimore 20
John: It's a tough game to pick. The Redskins are a streaky team. They were 3-3, then they lost three straight and went into their bye week. Since their bye week, they won three straight games against their divisional opponents. In each game, Robert Griffin III was very impressive. Against the Eagles and Cowboys he put up four touchdowns for his time while against the Giants he didn't have a huge game in terms of touchdowns, but he played mistake free football for the most part. His poise in the pocket is very impressive.
I think I've picked the Ravens game wrong for the last three weeks. When I don't believe in them they find ways to win late in games and when I do believe in them they lose to a third string QB like Charlie Batch last week. This week I'm picking against them largely because I think their defense is banged up. If Terrell Suggs plays he won't be that effective due to his arm injury and Ray Lewis still isn't there. I'd expect the Redskins to run the ball over 30 times and the Griffin/Morris rookie combo should be able to get 200 yards or more on the ground. If that happens they'll control the clock and win the game. Redskins 27-21
Atlanta (11-1) at Carolina (3-9) 1:00 PM
Bret: Last time I felt like Carolina really outplayed Atlanta and should have won the game. (That could be said about 4 or 5 of Atlanta's wins), and that was in Atlanta. I think Carolina takes this game more serious, keeps the ball on the ground, makes a few plays deep, play a great game defensively and takes a win here. Carolina 21 Atlanta 18
Mike: I've seen this game as a bit of an upset special with the Falcons not as good as their 11-1 record indicates, Carolina probably not as bad as their 3-9 record indicates, the fact that Carolina probably should have beaten Atlanta the first time they played, etc. I don't buy it.
I think the upset angle is a little overplayed, and honestly the Panthers probably already had their opportunity to catch the Falcons by surprise and upset them, and they blew it. Why? One, their offense is not good. Two, their coach makes some really terrible decisions. I generally stay away from the team with the awful coach when it comes to finding a good upset pick. Atlanta 17 Carolina 13
John: This is a tough game for the Falcons. Don't let the records fool you. In week four the Panthers lost 30-28 because they let the Falcons complain what was basically a hail mary pass by Matt Ryan from his own end zone to Julio Jones at midfield. That allowed them to get into field goal position for the win. Then after the win there was a clip of Matt Ryan saying: "Get the fuck off our field." I've read comments from Panthers players saying that really fired them up for this game and I expect there to be a lot of trash talking on the field on Sunday.
I'm going with the Panthers because I think playing at home will be good for them after a tough loss against the Chiefs. Their pass defense is pretty good (8th in the league) and since they know the Falcons well I think they'll be able to prevent those Falcons deep balls from happening. Can the Falcons run game carry them? I'm not sure. On the other side of the ball, I think the Panthers should be able to put some points on the board just like they did the first time they played. This will be a sneaky good game to watch with a lot of physical play. It will be high scoring too. Panthers 31-27
NY Jets (5-7) at Jacksonville (2-10) 1:00 PM
Bret: Really simple fact - Jacksonville is a better team right now. It's shocking how bad Henne has made Gabbert look. The Jets are an absolute mess, and should be thankful for the Eagles to take some of the heat off their disarray. (Although I still think they could go 8-8 this year) I'll still take the team heading up over the team heading down. Jacksonville 20 New York 10
Mike: The only good thing to come out of watching this game for those of you unfortunate enough to be stuck with this as one of your games on Sunday, is the (hopeful) TE-BOW chants that will be coming from the otherwise lethargic Jaguars crowd. I mean, really, what else do they have to look forward to during the game? Certainly not whatever's going on in the field. I'll take the Jets now that the Bills have ruined the Chad Henne Experience, but really I don't care either way because both teams suck. New York Jets 24 Jacksonville 17
John: These are two really bad teams, so the outcome doesn't matter that much. I'm tired of all the Jets quarterback talk. If it was a team with a lower profile I doubt the media would care. The Jags offense has been better in recent weeks with Chad Henne throwing the ball a lot more successfully than Blaine Gabbert did. That's enough for me to pick the Jaguars to win their last game of the year. Jaguars 23-20
San Diego (4-8) at Pittsburgh (7-5) 1:00 PM
Bret: Charlie Batch could beat the Chargers right now. Charlie Brown could beat these Chargers right now. A lot of games this week seem like they require very little analysis. Pittsburgh is simply better than San Diego, and San Diego is yet another team in disarray. These kinds of teams don't win much in the last quarter of the year - especially on the road - in Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh defense has actually been playing lights out the last 3 weeks, and may be the best in the NFL right now. Pittsburgh 28 San Diego 9
Mike: Unfortunately no line on this one (at least not as I wrote this). I was really looking forward to picking against NOOOOOOOOORV on the road. Honestly, it wouldn't matter to me if Charlie Batch or Ben Roethlisberger was playing, Troy Polomalu is playing, and this is the Chargers we're talking about. In theory it would be a problem that Ike Taylor is out now that Troy is back, but that would only be an issue if they were playing a team with a legit #1 receiver, like Vincent Jackson. Since San Diego didn't want to pay him, they get to make do with Malcolm Floyd instead. Problem solved. Pittsburgh 23 San Diego 17
John: Much like the Eagles earlier, the Chargers have quit. Plus, I don't think their offense is as talented as a lot of "experts" seem to think. Antonio Gates is well past his prime, Malcom Floyd should not be considered a number one receiver and I've yet to see Ryan Mathews put together two or three great games in a row. They picked up Donario Alexander at WR, who got cut by my Rams because he's injury prone and I doubt he's going to last. I know Phil Rivers gets a lot of blame because he's the quarterback, but I don't think he has a lot of weapons around him.
Last week's win by the Steelers in Baltimore was huge for him. See how emotional Charlie Batch was after that win? Dude was crying. Now Ben Roethlisberger is back (it's confirmed) and I think their offense will do enough to get the win by running the ball quite a bit in order to keep Roethlisberger from taking a lot of hits. I fully expect their defense to shut down the Chargers like they have shut down a lot of teams this year. Steelers 27-13
Miami (5-7) at San Francisco (8-3-1) 4:05 PM
Bret: From the Fantasy Focus podcast - Miami is the 2nd worst defense against QBs outside the pocket in the NFL. Sounds like a big day for the Kap Gun, and Miami doesn't even have what St. Louis has offensively at this point - Bush is worn down, Tannehill has regressed, and the offensive line is beat up. Not a good combination. San Francisco 28 Miami 10
Mike: We'll add this to the list of games I'd rather not bet on. San Francisco was a huge favorite against an outmatched Rams team last week, ended up losing in overtime. The Dolphins were a huge underdog to the Patriots last week, ended up covering and only losing by a touchdown. So naturally I'm sure that means San Francisco will win by 30. I have no faith in the Dolphins to go and win on the road, they've only won one game against the Bengals. However, I do like them to keep it close, their defense has generally been able to hold its own and not let games get too out of hand.
You look at the Niners and feel like they should be a really dominant team, but they're sitting there at 8-3-1. There's no reason for them to not lock up one of the top two seeds, and yet here they are, only a half game ahead of the Packers and Bears. I can't imagine them blowing this game, but if they did...watch out. San Francisco 20 Miami 16
John: The Niners are mad after getting beat by my Rams, so it's a good thing for them to be at home this week against a non-conference opponent that will have a tough time dealing with them. It's also awesome for QB Colin Kaepernick, who will use this game to remind everybody how much potential he really has and why people overreact too quickly to young players. I think the Niners are right to believe in him. I also think the Dolphins will have a tough time doing anything in this game. 49ers 33-14
Arizona (4-8) at Seattle (7-5) 4:25 PM
Bret: Ugly. No chance. No Way. Pack your bags Ken Whisenhunt. That's pretty much the extent of what I'm thinking on this one. Seattle 18 Arizona 3
Mike: Yay, Arizona game on the road! Even better, it's against a Seattle team that plays great at home! It's a dream come true! Sadly John Skelton is back for this game (RIP Ryan Lindley era). This is a gimme game for the Seahawks, and they need it if they want to hold onto their spot in the playoffs. The Cardinals can't run the ball, and can't throw the ball except to Larry Fitzgerald. Their defense is good enough, but on the road, it's hard to really see them being a difference maker. Seattle 21 Arizona 7
John: I'd have to check, but I think I have picked against the Cardinals every week during their eight game losing streak. I'm consistent that way. The Seahawks are a team that I always pick at home nearly every week (I probably picked the Packers in the Fail Mary game), so to me this is a no brainer. That's the thing I've learned from picking games. Sometimes we tend to over-think. I'm not doing that in this instance.
The Seahawks are clearly superior to the Cardinals in every way. Of course anybody can lose any game, but I have no confidence in this Cardinals team. Give me impressive QB Russell Wilson and his Seahawks at home. It wouldn't surprise me if Marshawn Lynch has a big game too. Seahawks 27-7
New Orleans (5-7) at NY Giants (7-5) 4:25 PM
Bret: This one's got shoot out written all over it. New Orleans has nothing to lose anymore, and I actually think that matters to Brees - he'll be bombs away in this one and hungry to make up for last week.
New York is a talented team going through - whatever it is they go through every year. They need to be careful though, they're running out of time and easy opponents to beat up on.
At this point, I think I need Eli Manning to prove it to me before I pick him to keep up with Brees in a track meet. New Orleans 34 New York 27
Mike: MUST WIN~ game for New Orleans. They lose another game and their slim chance of making the playoffs completely goes away. New York loses and they're potentially looking at being tied with Washington or Dallas for the divisional lead and a tougher road to the playoffs. I was very impressed with Washington taking it to the Giants last week, and I can see Drew Brees having similar success this week. I think he's due to bounce back from what was truly an atrocious Thursday night game in Atlanta.
Eli's going to have to have a really great game, and that also means that guys like Hakeem Nicks are going to have to get their act together if they want to actually come out and take this. Instead I think the Giants drama continues, they lose, and make their ultimate entry into the postseason that much more dramatic. New Orleans 30 New York Giants 24
John: This has upset potential written all over it. The Giants are similar to last year when they finished 9-7 on their way to winning the NFC East in their last game and then winning the Super Bowl. The Saints offense had their worst game in years last Thursday against the Falcons with Drew Brees unable to throw a touchdown pass, which is very rare for him. Do you think he'll play poorly two weeks in a row? I don't.
Lucky for the Giants, the Saints defense is awful. The Giants should be able to put a lot of points on the board because they love the deep ball and Victor Cruz is also very good at getting yards after the catch. Since the Saints defense is so bad at tackling, that means a big play or two is very likely for the Giants offense. I like the Giants in this game, which should be a high scoring affair. Giants 37-27
Detroit (4-8) at Green Bay (8-4) 8:20 PM
Bret: Green Bay doesn't lose at home - especially to a weak willed team like Detroit. Green Bay's as smooth as they come, and Detroit probably has the worst chemistry in the NFL right now. (Man, there are some poorly built teams this year.) Things could get ugly in Detroit after this one - this embarrassment on national television could cause Schwartz his job. Green Bay 31 Detroit 20
Mike: The Giants/Saints game feels a lot more like a Sunday night game than the Packers/Lions, that's for sure. Oh well, you have to take what you can get. So, the good news for the Packers, Greg Jennings is back and Charles Woodson may finally return this week. The bad news is that Clay Matthews is most likely going to miss his fifth straight game, Jordy Nelson may end up missing another game, and guard TJ Lang who is filling in for injured right tackle Bryan Bulaga is also injured and may miss the game. Oh, and aside from Cedric Benson officially going on IR, running back James Starks may miss the rest of the regular season so the Packers went ahead and signed Ryan Grant, who has just been chilling all season waiting for something to do. So clearly he's got a lot left in the tank. Yeah.
And yet despite all that, they are a touchdown favorite over the dysfunctional Lions who put one wide receiver (Titus Young) on IR and sent him home partially due to him intentionally sabotaging plays during a game, and put another receiver (Ryan Broyles) on IR, leaving oft forgotten Mike Thomas as the next guy in line to start opposit Calvin Johnson. There's also the issue where the Lions defense seems to fall apart in the 4th quarter, with the defensive line unable to generate significant pass rush. I suppose that will be put to the test this weekend, with an offensive line just begging defenses to sack their quarterback. I don't have a ton of faith in the Lions, I think Green Bay is the better team and should find a way to win, but I think we're looking at a closer game than the spread would indicate. Green Bay 25 Detroit 21
John: The Lions can put up a lot of points, but the problem is their pass defense is so bad that they give up too many points. They lose a lot of close games because of that. I know the Packers defense has a lot of problems mainly because Clay Mathews & Charles Woodson are out, but I think a championship team like them are going to be ready to put on an offensive show on Sunday night. This is their chance to remind everybody how good that offense can be. Obviously their run game is as bad as it's ever been, but the Lions don't have the personnel to deal with the Packers passing attack. This feels like one of those 350 passing yards for four touchdown kind of games for Aaron Rodgers. I like the Packers to win this game comfortably. Packers 42-24
Houston (11-1) at New England (9-3) 8:30 PM (MON)
Bret: Tough game to pick. A really great match up of two different philosophies, and a really hard game to predict because the two teams are so different. I think this game turns on two things 1) the New England offense plays much better at home. and 2) the Houston defense has a lot of question marks right now.
The addition of Routt to the Houston defense could be a big one for the playoffs, but I don't think it helps much this week. I don't think this game will tell us too much about the playoffs, but I'll take the home team here. New England 28 Houston 27
Mike: It's always a pleasant surprise when Monday Night Football gets it right late in the season. It feels like often times we are just stuck with a real dog of a game because one or both teams involved just completely failed to live up to expectations. So getting arguably the two best teams in the league going head-to-head is a nice change of pace. I'm surprised to see the Patriots as a 3.5 point favorite here. I think in order for them to win they're going to have to figure out how to move the ball without Rob Gronkowski and now Julian Edelman.
They will benefit from Jonathan Joseph still being out for the Texans, but if they struggle to run the ball with Stevan Ridley as I think they will, they don't have a ton of options receiving-wise outside of Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. On on the opposite side of the ball Houston is just so methodical on offense, and Andre Johnson is looking the best he's looked in a while, and Owen Daniels is healthy and having a great season, and obviously Arian Foster is there too.
With New England's defensive woes this season, they're not going to win this game without some solid production from their passing game, and I'm not sure they're going to find it. I like Houston in the upset in this one to essentially clinch the #1 seed in the AFC. Houston 34 New England 27
John: When I saw this matchup I immediately thought about the Packers/Texans game where Green Bay went into Houston and absolutely destroyed them. It was the template on how you beat the Texans: spread the field and throw the ball. The problem is that most teams in the NFL don't have a quarterback as good as Aaron Rodgers or receivers as good as what the Packers have. What team comes close to that? The Patriots. The difference is that the Patriots can run the ball way better than the Packers can (8th in the NFL at 140.8 yards per game), so it will keep the Texans defense on edge.
I think the Patriots have more weapons that the Texans may have trouble dealing with. Plus Tom Brady is playing as well as I've ever seen him and that's with his best weapon, TE Rob Gronkowski, on the shelf. When Brady is in this zone he's tough to beat. He's better this year than he was last year when they made it to the Super Bowl. That makes them scary.
I like the Texans a lot. Their offensive line may be the best in football, their defense can handle teams that run the ball and they've been able to force turnovers too. With their offense, sometimes they can stall because a defense may focus on Andre Johnson in the passing game and then they don't really have anybody else to scare you. I'll admit that TE Owen Daniels is good at finding seams in the middle, but I'm talking more about a deep threat. I've thought for a few years now that they need a better second receiver than Kevin Walter because if they want to be a more dangerous offense they would use their running game to set up the play action deep ball more than they do. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but that's one thing I think they can be better at.
I'm leaning towards the Patriots in this game. It's nothing against the Texans. I think they're impressive too and if these teams meet in the playoffs in January I may change my mind. It's not necessarily a home field advantage thing either. It's more of a matchups thing. I'm excited to watch this game as a NFL fan. I don't root for either team and I doubt I'll lay down a bet. I'm excited because they're two elite teams playing an important game in primetime very late into the season. It's the NFL at its best. It should be fun to watch. Patriots 31-24
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 32-32-1 (2-2-1)
Bret 30-33-2 (2-3)
John 27-36-2 (2-2-1)
1. Jacksonville +2.5 (-105)
2. Chicago -2.5 (-125)
3. New Orleans +5
4. St. Louis/Buffalo over 42
5. Washington -1.5
Arizona @ Seattle (-10) - Boo Arizona, yay road game!
Atlanta @ Carolina Under 47.5 - Carolina's offense sucks too much and their defense is too good for me to see this getting close to 50.
Philadelphia @ Tampa (-9.5) - Tampa Bay is better than Dallas, and Philly only managed to cover the huge spread against them because of a late punt return. Plus, since I can't bet against Norv, I'll bet against Andy Reid.
Tennessee (+5) @ Indianapolis - Too many points for an Indy team that doesn't win games by a lot of points.
Detroit (+7) @ Green Bay - I know I picked Minnesota to cover last week too, but Green Bay is even more banged up this week.
Miami @ San Francisco -10
Kansas City @ Cleveland -6.5
Detroit @ Green Bay OVER 50.5
San Diego @ Pittsburgh -9.5
Atlanta @ Carolina +3.5
That's all from us for this week. Follow us on Twitter:
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