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NFL Preview: Week 12
Back to the drawing board
Last week: 5-9
Ouch. My worst week of the season so far without question. There were a lot of surprises and I didn’t spot most of them. There were some bad beats, but for the most part, I just got spanked like the disobedient child of the 80’s that I am. Fortunately I had a little cushion to absorb that failure and still be at .500. Unfortunately that cushion is gone, and I need a good week. I am not going to dwell in this failure however, we are going to spend this week being thankful. Before we get to that, though, a quick breakdown of the week that was.
Best Call: I was right about the Jets covering (which should be worth two wins). The Chargers had another punt blocked that ended with a touchdown, and they frittered away a large lead to the worst offense in football. The Chargers have the best rookie quarterback in my memory and have ridden that to a 3-7 record and a narrow win over the worst team in my memory. I don’t think either of these teams will have the same coach next year.
Worst Call: Well, this paragraph could be a long one. I think I am most disappointed in the Dolphins who forgot how to play offense this weekend. Tua was abysmal, which can happen to rookies. But they also mustered no running game, and Ryan Fitzpatrick wasted a miracle fumble by throwing a pick in the end zone. Can’t win ‘em all I guess.
Bad Beat: After last weeks craziness, there isn’t much in the wild ending categories. Tom Brady’s late INT prevented a Bucs TD that would have provided a cover. Carson Wentz summoned the spirit of Jeff George (THAT’S who he reminds me of). Ultimately the picks I made just stunk this week. Hopefully the Holiday magic will turn things around.
It’s Thanksgiving week, my favorite holiday. In honor of that, let’s find one thing that each team can be thankful for. It doesn’t have to be something big. For a lot of teams, there will be plenty to choose from. For others… less. While we’re doing that, we’ll try not to suck this week. I am not talking about you, my cat is here.
Houston Texans vs. Detroit Lions -3
The Texans: They can be grateful they have already solved their biggest problem by letting their GM go. They have now officially decided not to bring back most of the problematic coaching staff. Plus they still have Deshaun Watson.
The Lions: We are one week closer to Matt Patricia being fired. And, as a bonus, it’s Thanksgiving. Most people think of the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. I think of the Lions For one thing, they were always the early game, because no one wanted to watch, but we always ate early, so I watched. Second, I loved Barry Sanders, so no matter how bad they were, I was happy. C. I always felt like this was their one moment to shine. They were never on prime time or in the playoffs so this was their big moment. It felt like their Super Bowl.
I’ll take the Texans here. They have been respectable since changing coaches. I am not comfortable taking them, but I don’t see Matt Patricia getting a team ready in four days if he can’t with seven.
Washington Football Team vs. Dallas Cowboys -3.5
The WFT: They can be thankful that they have a solid coach for the first time in a while. They finally seem to have some direction and they cleaned out some of the boys club front office morons. They also have some young talent in guys like Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin.
And people say I don’t use enough “statistics” to verify my opinions.
The Cowboys: They can be grateful that they will still have Dak Prescott next season. I’m not sure a player’s value has every been more clearly verified then this season without Dak. This team fell off a cliff without him. Plus, their coach might be bad at coaching, but he is great with a sledgehammer apparently (I love that coaches think this college stuff matters in the pros).
We have made it full circle back to the place where this terrible Cowboys team is favored again. It’s just funny. This was some eaaaasy money.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers -4.5
The Ravens: The Ravens have had a rough go of it over the last month, and they really haven’t been the same this season as last. On the plus side, they know they CAN do what they did last season, so there is hope, at least in theory.
The Steelers: They continue to reap the rewards of continuity. One of the few teams in the league where the same coaches and players stay together long term, they have been the perfect team for the COVID season. Their consistency reflects the consistency of management.
Omar Epps makes it look good.
The Ravens continue to experience the Rams season from last year. In 2019, the Rams line fell apart and revealed that the key to the team wasn’t Jared Goff’s improvement or Todd Gurley. It was an offensive line full of Pro Bowlers. The Ravens offensive line is a shell of last year, and it has revealed the truth about Lamar. He is ok. That’s it. If things are going to turn around next year, they need an O-line overhaul. This game was bumped to Sunday due to the Ravens COVID failures. Steelers -4.5
Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts -
Titans: The Titans have Derrick Henry. Half person, half Atlas, Henry runs like Eric Dickerson was outfitted with a Kaiju exoskeleton. I cannot fathom having that dude hit you at full speed. One time in college I was playing pick-up tackle football. There was one dude there who was like 6-4 220. We gave him a handoff and and he rocketed up the middle and finished the run by hitting someone in the face with his shoulder and exploding it. There was blood everywhere. I can’t imagine what getting hit by someone bigger, twice as fast and five times as strong would be like.
The Colts: The Colts can be grateful they are a winning football team. That’s it. There is really nothing interesting about this group. I don’t have a funny meme or anything. All their good players are boring. The player who gets memed the most is their their kicker because he wears glasses. If he gets laser eye surgery, they have nothing. Their defense is strong but not unbeatable. Their offense is good.
The Colts will bore us to death with another cover here. The Titans coverage group is still bad. The Colts have the run defense to hold Henry in something that resembles check. Colts -3
Carolina Panthers vs. Minnesota Vikings -3.5
The Panthers: They seem to have found a strong head coach. They seem to have found a solid quarterback. These are major improvements for a team that was awful last year. With a few more defensive pieces they could even be a playoff contender.
The Vikings: Dalvin Cook is a total stud. So is Adam Thielan.
Damn. Sadly, he also caught Covid yesterday, so he’s probably out this week. I am the king of dark humor but even I can’t make that a joke. Get better Adam.
This game could literally go either way (most non-Jets games can). I have no idea which of these teams is going to play well this week. If you say you do you’re a big fat liar. I’ll just take the points. Panthers +3.5
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Buffalo Bills -5
The Chargers: They have their quarterback for the next 15 years in Justin Herbert. That is a fantastic feeling as a fan. Plus, they can fire the coach and instantly get 3 wins better next year.
The Bills: Josh Allen has shown significant improvement this year. He is still not an elite quarterback, but he has shown he can lead a team consistently to the playoffs. They have solved some of their second half issues. Their coach is good. This column is usually a safe space from sappiness but this story is just too great. As an upstate New Yorker, I find this to be an awesome story.
I’m not crying. You’re crying. Shut up.
The gap between coaches here is almost as bad as the special teams gap in the Phins/Chargers gap. This is an easy choice for me. Bills -5
Cleveland Browns vs. Jacksonville Jaguars +6
The Browns: This team is like a boa constrictor. They simply pound the ball over and over and over. Their defense slowly tightens as the game goes along. They hold the ball forever. You get drowned in bad weather. Then you lose 10-7.
The Jaguars: The good Lord told me there would be challenges in life. There has to be something here. OK. They are worse than the Texans, but they actually have their first and second round draft pick. Also this.
Think about how hard this is to pull off. 1. He is undrafted. 2. He is signed to a team with a former number 4 overall pick at his position. 3. He beats that guy out in 4 weeks of camp. 4. He plays at a position where everyone gets hurt but doesn’t. 5. He plays for a team that is never ahead, so it’s not like he is salting leads away. What he is done is incredible. Props.
The Browns haven’t been able to throw for 3 weeks because of the weather. I have no idea if they can, because the last time they could, they had Odell Beckham Jr. I just don’t see how the Jaguars can stop them from running 35 times for 200 yards. And the whole “Jake Luton is good” thing fell apart against the Steelers. Browns -6
New York Giants vs. Cincinnati Bengals +6
The Giants: Right now they are my favorites to win the division. I’m not even joking. Their defense and offense are both a little bit bad (that’s a complement). Their schedule is friendly. They have had time to gel more under the new coach. This could actually happen.
The Bengals: Whoa. And I thought the Jags were tough. Joe Burrow’s leg exploded last week, a tragic situation for him and the Bengals. The team leadership is a disaster. The one silver lining here is that they will likely get another high draft pick to continue trying to build an offense line that could protect Burrow whenever he gets back.
Look at this list. Crazy. These are some of the most successful teams in NFL history and the Bengals.
I can’t believe I am saying this, but take the Giants. The Bengals have nothing left to play for, a bad coach, and who knows at QB. This is the closest to a guaranteed win any NFC East team will get this year. Of course, if they lose, the Giants GM and coach should be fired the second they walk off the field. Change the door handles on the locker room doors. Giants -6
Miami Dolphins vs. NY Jets +7
The Dolphins: It was a tough week for the Tua experience, as he struggled to hold up in the pocket against a strong pass rush from the Broncos. This takes me to the real strength of the Dolphins: Brian Flores. Flores sat Tua with the game on the line and Ryan Fitzpatrick revitalized the offense, nearly bringing them back. Very quietly last week Flores also let go of major free agent signing Jordan Howard and went with the undrafted Salvon Ahmed at running back. Last season, his first as an NFL coach, he fired his offensive line coach after 1 week. Of training camp. Flores is not willing to tolerate failure. He also is quick to admit a mistake. He holds everyone accountable to perform regardless of salary, draft pedigree or league standing. These are rare qualities that will serve the Dolphins well.
Plus this happens every week. Drew Lock is like “What the Hell?” The Dolphins offense obscured another great outing from the defense.
The Jets: The Jets have reached that magical place where the expectations have fully flipped. No longer are their terrible antics upsetting to their fans. Now, every sack, every INT, every fumble, every blown coverage, every bad tackle and every botched turnover is cause for celebration. Jets fans don’t want their team to win now. They are in the driver’s seat for the number 1 pick. This means that the following will bring nothing but joy for Jets fans.
This is the worst TAINT of the year and it isn’t close. This is basically just an out route to the cornerback. He stares it down the whole time. He doesn’t throw it hard. The best part is watching Adam Gase on the sideline look totally mystified. This is my nominee for worst throw of the year.
I would have viewed this as a potential upset if the Dolphins hadn’t stunk so bad last week. They are missing some offensive linemen from a bad group. Their offense hasn’t been great since Tua took over. And the Jets have been more feisty lately then they were in the 24-0 game last time these two played. The problem is that the Dolphins also know they could lose now. I expect a back-breaking bounce back game. Dolphins -7
Las Vegas Raiders vs. Atlanta Falcons +3
The Raiders: Derek Carr is playing the best football of his career. Their defense is functional. The ground game is solid. I might have been wrong about this team. They might go 9-7 instead of 8-8. Pick one of these and let me know which is most accurate in the comments.
I’m in on 3.
The Falcons: They have some great playmakers in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Matt Ryan is still competent. That’s about it. This team really needs to think about a reset this offseason. Ryan and Jones would fetch a haul.
Stay optimistic Falcons fans.
I can’t decide if this is a meaningless game for the Falcons to dominate or not. I’m inclined to say yes, but the Raiders really want to win. So it has SOME meaning. I’ll go Raiders -3.
Arizona Cardinals vs. New England Patriots +1.5
The Cardinals: Between Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and a sharp young coaching mind, the Cardinals are in the best place they have been in a decade.
It’s like watching a water bug.
The Patriots: Well, you won the Super Bowl a bunch of times, at least partially through cheating. So how ‘bout you guys just sit out on complaining for a few years.
Remember the good old days. See you in a few years.
Bill Belichick’s bugaboo remains good, running QBs. Watson burned him last week and here comes Murray. I’ll take the Cards -1.5
San Francisco 49ers vs. Los Angeles Rams -6.5
The 49ers: The 49ers coaching staff is so good they have kept a team with an XFL roster in the playoff hunt. That is crazy.
I have no idea who this guy is, but there is at least a chance he is right.
The Rams: Solid coach, incredible defense, functional offense. It might not be the team that made the Super Bowl a few years ago, but it is still dangerous. Also, they are the only team I am aware of in LA, and that is a huge market, so good for them.
I know he is praising McVay, a noted offensive mind, but this stat is really more about the defense. It’s pretty incredible.
I really feel for the 49ers and their fans. It’s tough to come off such a successful season and have this happen. Still, it could be worse. This isn’t like the Rams where talent is keeping them from getting back. Still, until next year, the Rams have a significant edge here. Rams -6.5
New Orleans Saints vs. Denver Broncos +6
The Saints: As always, Sean Payton is showing he can make orange juice out of lemons. He got a strong performance out of Taysom Hill last week, and the defense continued to look revitalized. He showed up everyone who called for Jameis to be the starter this week, and everyone who kept saying Hill would be terrible.
Brutal. Falcons fans might want to chill with the smack talk for a couple more decades.
The Broncos: Vic Fangio might not always know his quarterback’s names or look like he swallows his pills without water, but he sure knows how to coach a defense. The Broncos have stayed solid despite a plethora of injuries.
Wow the Dolphins O-line is bad.
I am a little worried about the Saints here. I know Hill got off to a strong start last week, but he did it against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Broncos will be much less forgiving at home, in the elements and at altitude. I think they keep it close. Broncos +6
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers +3.5
The Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes is very good at Football.
The Bucs: Their bad mojo continues to haunt them as they dropped one they should have won against the Rams last week. They can be thankful that they upgraded from Jameis Winston to Tom Brady for sure, but he can’t fix everything and if he tells you to take on his pet rehabilitation project, say no.
The best way to move the ball against the Bucs is to throw and throw and throw. They are great at stopping the run, but if you don’t run it, they can’t stop it. Andy Reid is a borderline offensive genius. I am guessing he will figure this out, although this is one of the few teams that can’t claim moral superiority since they have Tyreek Hill on the roster. Chiefs -3.5
Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers -9
The Bears: These are tough times for the Bears faithful on offense, but their defense is still very good. Khalil Mack is still a monster and the pieces around him are very strong.
I will remind you that the Bears coach is an OFFENSIVE coach.
The Packers: Aaron Rodgers is still going strong at his advanced age. It wasn’t his fault they lost last week. Also, Aaron loves to torment Bears fans.
As true today as it ever was.
I’d love to take the Bears here to keep it close because their defense is so good. So I will. I just don't trust the Packers D to hold onto a 10 point lead. Bears +9
Seattle Seahawks vs. Philadelphia Eagles +5
The Seahawks: Russ is still a beast.
C’mon Russ, what happened that first year dude.
The Eagles: They are in first place in their division.
Damn Carson Wentz is terrible.
That was BEFORE this weekend when he shit out a performance so bad he sealed up this title for the year. Seahawks -5