2018 NFL Picks Week 12: A Bounty of Thanksgiving Picks
Last Week: 6-6
I probably should have used the adjusted line when the venue of last week’s classic Rams-Chiefs game shifted from a neutral site in Mexico City to Los Angeles, but I doubled down and I feel obligated to count it as a loss. This week we have three Thanksgiving Day games kicking off a slate of games that just seem weird. Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, and Lamar Jackson are all expected to start games for teams with playoff aspirations, and Blake Bortles takes on street free agent 27 in Buffalo. Alas, we’ve gotten in the habit of picking every game. Feast your eyes on these heartburn-inducing picks!
Chicago Bears -3 at Detroit Lions
Two weeks ago, the Bears beat the Lions by 12 points after jumping out to an early lead. Since then, the Lions pulled out a miracle victory against Carolina and Mitch Trubisky injured his shoulder. When Chicago’s starting quarterback was listed as “Doubtful”, the line for this game shifted from Bears -3 to…Bears -3. I guess the best part of having a quarterback who derives as much value from his legs as he does his arm is not really caring if he hurts his arm. Whether it’s the Biscuit or Chase Daniel behind center for Chicago, the Bears defense is the best unit in this game, and they’ll dictate the outcome.
Washington Redskins +7.5 at Dallas Cowboys
The second Thanksgiving game features another playoff hopeful with an injured quarterback, but Alex Smith’s broken leg was far more gruesome and definitive than whatever’s burning the Biscuit. The problem I see here is Dallas being favored by more than a touchdown; Alex Smith wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, and Colt McCoy has plenty of experience in Jay Gruden’s system. More importantly, Washington’s defense has been stingy all year and the Cowboys have won exactly one game by more than 7 points all season. It won’t be pretty, but Washington has a good chance to not only cover but win this game in Dallas.
Atlanta Falcons +13 at New Orleans Saints
The 13 point spread makes sense, even though these teams played to a near-draw just a couple months ago. New Orleans is on a tear, winning their last four games by double-digits against the Vikings, Rams, Bengals, and Eagles. None of those teams are worse than mediocre, and the Saints are home again here against a team whose defense graded out as average before a laundry list of injuries. Atlanta has struggled to score points on the road, averaging 20.75 points away compared to 30 at home. I think they’ll be looking to salvage their season with a win over the rival Saints this week, and playing in the Superdome isn’t much different than playing in their dome in Atlanta. Rivals love to play spoiler, and this is Atlanta’s chance to throw a wrench in the Saints’ works.
The Bengals’ defense has received a lot of attention for allowing a record-breaking number of yards so far, but their defense isn’t quite as atrocious after factoring in the offenses they’ve seen. Cleveland’s offense isn’t quite as intimidating, ranking 29th in DVOA through 11 weeks. With A.J. Green likely to return and the history between these two teams, I think the Bengals will roll at home.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -3.5 vs. San Francisco 49ers
Yikes, this one doesn’t come with any playoff implications. The Buccaneers are at their best after their starting quarterback (Fitzpatrick or Winston) throws enough interceptions to stake their opponent to a three-score lead. Then their backup quarterback (Fitzpatrick or Winston) comes in and breathes life into the offense, leading to surprisingly close finishes. Both quarterbacks suffer from the same turnover problem, but the 49ers are uniquely qualified not to take advantage of this weakness. Through 11 weeks, San Francisco ranks dead last in takeaways with just 5. Without the benefit of all those extra possessions, the top-level talent in Tampa Bay should be enough to get a two-score victory at home.
Jacksonville Jaguars -3 at Buffalo Bills
Gross, I’m picking Blake Bortles. Here’s my thought process: the Jaguars got out to a 16-0 lead last week against Pittsburgh by running Leonard Fournette into the line over and over again and capitalizing on great field position from turnovers. Now, the still-imposing Jacksonville defense faces the 2nd-most careless offense in football, and Buffalo will be counting on (maybe?) Josh Allen to do what Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown did in the fourth quarter. Call me crazy, but I think he’ll come up short.
Oakland Raiders +11 at Baltimore Ravens
In Lamar Jackson’s first start, the Ravens ran the ball on their first 11 plays en route to a touchdown. He went on to carry the ball a total of 27 times, a modern-day record for a quarterback. They ended up beating the Bengals by 3. The Raiders aren’t as good as the Bengals, but they might be able to score 14 points. If they do, do you think an offense so focused on ball control and the run game will get to 25? As long as Oakland doesn’t throw 3 interceptions, I think this ends up a low-scoring, low-drama affair. 11 points sounds nice.
Carolina Panthers -3.5 vs. Seattle Seahawks
Carolina is reeling a bit after consecutive ugly losses to the Steelers and Lions, and another loss here puts them in a precarious position with regards to the playoffs. They’re 5-0 at home this year with an average margin of victory of 9.8 points, and I think they’ll get back on track against a Seattle team traveling across the country for an early game. I’m predicting Cam by a touchdown.
New England Patriots -9.5 at New York Jets
We last saw the Patriots losing by 24 in Tennessee, but I don’t think they’ll drop a second consecutive game against Sam Darnold and Todd Bowles. 9.5 points seems a bit high, but the Jets haven’t scored 20 points since Week 6. Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck are still in the hunt for a first-round bye, and they’ll take care of business in the Meadowlands.
Philadelphia Eagles -5 vs. New York Giants
Picking Philadelphia this year kind of sucks. Their offense has looked good, but they’ve only scored 30 points once all season. Luckily for us, the one time was against the Giants back in Week 6. They need a win here to keep their playoff hopes alive, and I think they’ll do just enough to keep the Giants at bay. Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense has been surprisingly competent in the last few weeks, so it’s probably time for him to throw three ill-advised passes.
Arizona Cardinals +12 at Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers reverted to their old ways last week, losing to Denver on a combination of a missed extra point and terrible clock management. Their offense just hasn’t been clicking the way it should, as they’re averaging just 21.75 points in their last four games. The Cardinals defense is still ranked in the top-10, so as long as Josh Rosen can get to 14 points they should cover the spread. It would take a miracle for Arizona to win, but all they have to do is stay close.
Indianapolis Colts 10 vs. Miami Dolphins
This one makes me uneasy, but the Colts have been rampaging lately. Brock Osweiler is still the Dolphins’ quarterback last time I checked, and he’ll be on the road going against a hot Andrew Luck. I’m going with the hot hand and picking Indy to win comfortably.
Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5 at Denver Broncos
The Broncos are one of the two most puzzling teams in the league, along with the Houston Texans. They’re ranked 7th in total DVOA, just behind this week’s opponent. Whenever I’ve tuned into their games, they’ve been staying close thanks to a good defense and benefiting from bizarre plays (their Week 1 win over Seattle comes to mind) to remain competitive. On the other side of the field, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have continued to struggle on the road, most recently scoring just 20 points in Jacksonville. Pittsburgh needs a statement game to remain in the conversation for the AFC’s elite, and they’ll get it this week by trouncing Case Keenum and the Broncos.
Minnesota Vikings -3.5 vs. Green Bay Packers
Picking against Aaron Rodgers always makes me uneasy, but I don’t think the Green Bay offensive line can hold up to the Minnesota pass rush. Adam Thielen should be back this week, and the Minnesota offense will get to 30 points at home against a middling Packers’ defense. It’s not impossible for Rodgers to keep pace, but with a little “help” from Mike McCarthy, they’ll underperform with the game on the line and come up short.
That's all for this week! Kick back, grab a drink, and feel free to blame me if you put money on these picks and come out behind. I won't compensate you, but maybe your significant others will send their wrath in my direction instead of yours.