2016 NFL Picks: Week 12
Last Week: 5-2
- Minnesota Vikings +3 at Detroit Lions
- Washington Redskins +7 at Dallas Cowboys
- Pittsburgh Steelers -9.5 at Indianapolis Colts
- Tennessee Titans -5 at Chicago Bears
- Miami Dolphins -7.5 vs. San Francisco 49ers
- San Diego Chargers -1.5 at Houston Texans
- Seattle Seahawks -6.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- New England Patriots -8 at New York Jets
- Philadelphia Eagles -3.5 vs. Green Bay Packers
It took a bit of help from the referees in Mexico, but the Raiders covered a six-point spread on Monday night to give us a 5-2 finish in Week 11 and a real chance at reaching .500 in Week 12. All we have to do is go 6-3 or better on these nine (nine!) picks, and we will have fully recovered from my disastrous 0-7-1 showing in Week 6, when I foolishly took a break from reacting to new information. Last week's two losses received assists from end zone interceptions and poor special teams play, but I feel silliest for picking an anemic Chiefs offense to cover seven points; the Cardinals and Vikings played a game without any offensive linemen and the resulting game was a toss-up.
Picking all three of the Thanksgiving Day games might have been a mistake, but with Friendsgiving a recent memory and an all-you-can-eat event on the horizon, I simply forgot to pace myself. Hopefully I can do better at the dinner table tomorrow, where such a ravenous appetite might be uncouth. Until then, feast yourself on these picks!
Minnesota Vikings +3 at Detroit Lions
We don't have to dig far into the past for a glimpse of what this game might offer, because the Vikings and Lions squared off in Week 9. Detroit won in overtime after Minnesota failed basic clock management and left the door open for a last-second, game-tying 58-yard field goal from Matt Prater. The Vikings still have problems, particularly along the offensive line where they've been allowing sacks of the historically fragile Sam Bradford at an alarming pace. Minnesota's defense, however, is considerably better than any Detroit unit, and I expect them to stifle former MVP-candidate Matthew Stafford and Co again. Will their offense score enough points to get them a win? Probably not, but if they keep it close they might get some help from their defense and special teams like they did last week when I picked against them!
Washington Redskins +7 at Dallas Cowboys
These teams are probably not as far apart as you think, but you'd be forgiven for assuming otherwise with the Cowboys stampeding through opposing defenses. Dallas is 4th in total DVOA on the strength of the NFL's best offense, which has helped cover the holes in their 25th-ranked defense. Washington isn't far behind; their offense ranks 6th in DVOA, and with their 22nd-ranked defense they're 7th in total DVOA. The Redskins struggle to stop the run (29th in defensive rushing DVOA), but held Ezekiel Elliott to a relatively quiet 83 yards on 21 carries in their 27-23 Week 2 loss. I don't know if they can replicate that performance, but their offense can put up enough points to cover a seven-point spread. Captain Kirk, I like you a lot this week!
Pittsburgh Steelers -9.5 at Indianapolis Colts
I don't want to spend too much time analyzing this game because the reason for my pick is fairly simple: Andrew Luck is in the NFL's concussion protocol and won't suit up. In his last two games against Indianapolis, Ben Roethlisberger has put up 45 and 51 points, and the Colts' defense is worse this year (31st) than it was in 2014 (13th) or 2011 (26th). Unless someone conjures a compelling reason to fear Colts' backup quarterback Scott Tolzien, I'll feel pretty confident about this one. Speaking of incompetent and unprepared backup quarterbacks...
Tennessee Titans -5 at Chicago Bears
Matt Barkley will likely be starting for my Chicago Bears this week. I understand not everyone is a fan of Smokin' Jay, and I'll even admit I've grown a bit tired of his play. In fact, I think it's good the Bears can move on from his contract next year without incurring any significant salary cap penalties. None of those issues factor into this weekend's game, though. In Cutler's place on Sunday will be a journeyman with a resume consisting of zero career starts since being drafted in 2013 and a TD:INT ratio of 0:4. I'll be surprised if the Bears score any points on offense, which will give Tennessee's 8th-ranked offense freedom to run wild. We probably can't catch the Browns for the number one pick, but with Barkley under center, anything is possible.
Miami Dolphins -7.5 vs. San Francisco 49ers
A very strange take on the old "irresistible force meets immovable object" puzzle here as the 49ers appear quite fond of being blown out (seven losses by at least two scores in ten games) while the Dolphins seem hesitant to win comfortably (just one of six wins by 2+ scores). In this case I favor San Francisco's knack for losing badly because they can't stop what the Dolphins do best: run the football. Miami has the NFL's 3rd-ranked rushing offense by DVOA while San Francisco is dead last in defensive rushing DVOA. The Dolphins' defense has also been playing better of late, particularly along the defensive line. It's possible Colin Kaepernick will break some big runs and take this game down to the wire, but only if he can find a time machine to go grab his 2014 self.
San Diego Chargers -1.5 at Houston Texans
Is it possible the people who set these lines aren't watching Texans' games? It can be difficult to comprehend and fully appreciate Brock Osweiler's ineptitude, but how else do you explain the league's 30th-best team by DVOA getting just one-and-a-half points against the 16th-best team? Even San Diego's incredible penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory shouldn't tilt the scales in this one.
Seattle Seahawks -6.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I incorrectly picked against Tampa Bay last week, but it didn't change my evaluation of their team. Jameis Winston was lucky to avoid the interception bug and still managed to fumble twice. Kansas City actually outplayed Tampa Bay, but was sunk by poor red zone performance and a generally terrible offense. Seattle comes into this game with the 9th-ranked offense by DVOA, and even if Earl Thomas is sidelined, their 5th-ranked defense should cause plenty of problems for the Buccaneers. The Seahawks are back on top of the NFL in total DVOA, and it isn't a fluke. I, for one, welcome our new avian overlords back to their familiar roost.
New England Patriots -8 at New York Jets
New England is coming off of a 13-point victory over the San Francisco 49ers, who rank 28th in total DVOA. The Jets are actually one of the four teams ranked lower, at 31st. They really only do two things well: run the ball and stop the run. Unfortunately, their ninth-ranked rushing attack will be facing the Patriots' 4th-ranked rushing defense and New England won't waste time running the ball when they can attack the Jets' 30th-ranked passing defense with the best passing offense in the NFL. This game is a bad matchup in a lot of ways, and the lopsided final score will reflect it.
Philadelphia Eagles -3.5 vs. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay has lost 47-25 to the Titans and 42-24 to the Redskins in the past two weeks. Philadelphia presents a different kind of problem, with strong defensive and special teams units propping up a lackluster offensive attack. Carson Wentz has struggled to put up points as of late, but the Packers' defense has been ravaged by injuries, leading to blown assignments and wide open receivers. Even the Eagles' receivers will catch the ball eventually, and Aaron Rodgers will struggle to keep pace against the NFL's top-ranked defense.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! You can find some of our other Sports Book content below, and I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend with your family, friends, and whatever food you're most looking forward to (gravy, personally).