NFL: Week 17 Picks

The final week of the regular season is upon us, the Panthers are undefeated no longer and there is still a lot to decide for the postseason.  There are two spots left up for grabs, both in the AFC, but seeding isn’t even close to set yet.  We still don’t know who wins the NFC North and we don’t know who wins the AFC South.  Three different teams can finish with the number 1 seed in the AFC, while two teams have a shot in the NFC.  So sit back and enjoy what is essentially the first week of the playoffs!

I went just 7-9 in my picks last week, making my season total heading into the final slate of games 134-106.

Sunday 1PM games

  • Jets @ Bills: It’s simple for the Jets. Win and you’re in. New York has won five straight and are back to doing what got them out to a quick start to the season.  Buffalo has been up and down all season, and the money they put into the defense didn’t pay off. There are other ways for the Jets to get into the playoffs if they lose, but with a shot to get in against their former coach, I’ll take Gang Green on the road. NEW YORK WINS
  • Patriots @ Dolphins:  New England’s loss to New York in week 16 means they still have something to play for this week, and that’s the number 1 seed in the AFC.  They need to win and they get it.  If they lose, and the Broncos win, Denver gets it.  Miami is playing for pride and to play spoiler.  But they won’t.  The Patriots injuries are concerning, but Tom Brady in a most win situation and a chance to have the AFC go through Foxborough? I like those odds.  NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Saints @ Falcons: This wasn’t the season I thought we’d see from New Orleans.  I thought they’d bounce back from a down 2014-15 season, but an 1-4 start was too much to come back from, though they tried, getting themselves to .500 at 4-4, before the wheels fell off.  The defense was never there for the Saints.  It’s been an even stranger year for the Falcons, who got off to a fast 6-1 start, then went on to lose six straight.  Now they’ve won two straight, including ending the Panthers undefeated season.  They were eliminated from playoff contention thanks to the Vikings win on Sunday night, but they can salvage the season and finish at 9-7, which i think they do in front of their fans. ATLANTA WINS
  • Ravens @ Bengals: A win secures a first round bye for the Bengals, which is always big, but for a team that has been bounced in the first round four straight years, would be huge. Baltimore was plagued with injuries all season, and are just looking to end the season on a high note.  Cincy is coming off a tough OT loss to Denver, but AJ McCaron showed he can succeed while Andy Dalton gets better.  At home, with that defense, I am taking the Bengals to give themselves a shot at the bye. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Steelers @ Browns: Pittsburgh can still make it to the playoffs, but they need to win and they need help.  Good thing for them is they are playing the Browns, who can still finish with the worst record in the league.  And continuing issues at QB leaves Cleveland with another off-season of questions ahead.  Give me the road team to end on a high note, even if they don’t make the playoffs. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Jaguars @ Texans: Houston doesn’t have to win to take the AFC South crown, but you always want to take the division, not back into it.  They get a tough match-up in Jacksonville, who has shown the ability to score in the second half.  But the Texans defense at home with a chance to punch their own ticket will be too much for the Jags to handle. HOUSTON WINS
  • Titans @ Colts: Indianapolis needs to win this game and get a whole lot of help if they’re to win the South.  But as I have already picked the Texans, I don’t think they get there.  However, they will win this final game of the year.  Tennessee benefits more from losing, plain and simple. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Redskins @ Cowboys: The Redskins already have the division and can’t finish anywhere but fourth in the NFC.  But capping off the season on a four-game win streak and a 9-7 record will further validate their being in the playoffs. Dallas will want to finish on a high note, but they’ve put so many key people on IR that even if the Skins take it easy and rest most of their players,  I can’t see the Boys winning their season finale. WASHINGTON WINS
  • Eagles @ Giants: The loser finishes the season in third place in the NFC East, despite both leading the division at different parts of the season. New York had a clear path to the division, had they played better in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter this season.  Good teams finish, and they weren’t able to consistently enough. 7 of the Giants 9 losses were by one score. As for the Eagles, they never got their running game going, and Sam Bradford was a turnover machine.  The Eagles destroyed their NFC East rivals at home in their first meeting of the season, so I’ll take the Giants to finish with some pride and return the favor to end both their seasons. NEW YORK WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The loser gets the NFC North cellar all to themselves, a far fall for the 11-5 Lions of a season ago.  Both teams have played better here in the second half of the season, just good enough to fall closer to the middle of the pack record wise in the league. So who avoids the basement? I like the Lions on the road to finish strong and take a three-game win streak into the off-season. DETROIT WINS

Sunday 425 PM Games

  • Buccaneers @ Panthers: Tampa Bay showed flashes in 2015 under 1st year QB Jameis Winston, staying the playoff race most of the season.  But finishing up the season against the no longer undefeated Panthers is a tough way to go out.  Carolina still has something to play for as they haven’t locked up the number 1 seed, and with the Cards playing at the same time, they can’t go into this one knowing if they can rest players or not.  Either way, I like the Panthers to finish up at 15-1 and force the NFC to come through Carolina en route to Super Bowl 50. CAROLINA WINS
  • Raiders @ Chiefs: Oakland could linger on what could’ve been this season after a decent 4-3 start, but they should be excited for the future, after winning just 3 games a year ago, they stayed in the playoff hunt for most of the season with a young team.  As for Kansas City, they’re the hottest team in the AFC, and are getting the best of Alex Smith.  It’s amazing how the Chiefs got off to such a slow start BEFORE losing Jamaal Charles.  Oakland will make this tough, but I think the Chiefs make it 10 straight heading into the playoffs. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Chargers @ Broncos: San Diego is going to finish with one of the worst records in the league, while Denver can finish anywhere but 4th in the AFC. A win and a Patriots loss would give them the 1 seed.  I think they get the win, but as I think New England wins,  I see the Broncos finishing as the two seedDENVER WINS
  • Seahawks @ Cardinals: Two of the NFC’s best take flight in week 17.  Both teams are playoff bound once again.  Seattle has been on fire in the second half, looking more like the two-time defending NFC Champs they are as each week passes. That was before they looked bad at home against the Rams last week.  As for Arizona, why are we not giving Carson Palmer more praise for what he’s done with the Cardinals? The team is 29-8 with him under center, 19-2 the past two seasons.  They still have a shot at the number 1 seed if the Panthers lose again. This division match-up will have a playoff feel, but I think the home team gets the W. ARIZONA WINS
  • Rams @ 49ers: San Francisco’s season was shaped in the off-season when they moved too many pieces. The defense played better as the season when on, and they got a couple more wins after changing QBs, but they’ve got a lot of work to do if they want to get back to their winning ways.  As for the Rams, they showed their age, defeating some of the league’s best, including a season sweep of the Rams and handing the Cardinals their first loss. This is also a chance for the Rams to finish 8-8 for the first time since 2006, and I think they finish the job. ST LOUIS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Vikings @ Packers:  The battle of the NFC North title caps off the regular season slate.  Minnesota has been carried by their defense and rushing attack all season, while Green Bay has been extremely up and down since starting the season 6-0.  The Packers rushing attack has been severely underwhelming, and Aaron Rodgers offensive line hasn’t been doing him any favors. The Vikings will be able to hold time of possession, but as the calendar turns to January and the playoffs, I think we will get the best version of Aaron Rodgers, and the Pack will clinch the division on the seasons final day, as they did two years ago against the Bears. GREEN BAY WINS
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NFL: Week 16 Picks

Two more weeks to go, and six of the 12 playoff spots have now been claimed.  Carolina escaped week 15 with their perfect record in tact, the reigning Super Bowl Champs clinched a bye, and the Seahawks continued to show why they are the two-time defending NFC Champs.

Last week I finished at 9-7 to bring my season picks total to 126-91.

Thursday Night Football

  • Chargers @ Raiders: The Chargers played what could’ve been their final game in San Diego last week, and played their best game of the season.  Oakland put up a good fight against the Packers in week 15, thanks to a big game from Amari Cooper, but now the best they can hope for this season is an 8-8 record.  I like what San Diego did last week, finally getting the running backs involved, so give me another Chargers win on Christmas Eve. SAN DIEGO WINS

Saturday Night Football

  • Redskins @ Eagles: It’s that time of year.  No more College Football, so we Football on Saturday Night! You get excited remembering that, than I remember we have to watch Washington and Philadelphia battle it out for the NFC Least. The Skins sit alone atop the division, but need to win one of their two final games to hold on to the crown.  Washington is the better team, whatever that means in this division, and should get the victory to lock up the division this week.  WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Patriots @ Jets: New England already has the division and first round bye locked up.  They can still lose the number 1 seed, so they still have a lot to play for in week 16.  New York currently sits just outside of a wild card spot, despite starting the season with a 4-1 record and being on a four-game win streak.  These two know each other well, and played a close one in week 7.  I think this will be another close affair, but I like the Patriots to take the season series and possibly wrap up the number 1 spot in the AFC. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Texans @ Titans:  Houston sits in the drivers seat in the AFC South after a week 15 win over the Colts.  Both teams will start backups in week 16, a big story of the South this season. The Texans are unsurprisingly being carried by their defense, and I expect that to be the case again this weekend.  I like Houston to win this game and the division, while Tennessee looks to secure the number 1 pick. HOUSTON WINS
  • Browns @ Chiefs: Cleveland would get the number two pick in the draft if things stay as is through the final two weeks of the season.  Kansas City has higher hopes, as they have not only gotten themselves into wild card position, but are just a game back of the Broncos for the AFC West. The Chiefs are far-and-beyond the better team, and I expect them to make it nine wins-in-row. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Colts @ Dolphins: Before the season I like the Dolphins to challenge for a wild card spot, and the Colts to make the Superbowl.  Now as the regular season winds down, Miami is in line for a top 10 pick, while Indianapolis could finish under .500 and miss the playoffs entirely. I could see this being a low scoring game based on the inconsistencies of both offenses, so I am going to take the home team to leave a less than bitter taste in their mouths this off-season.  MIAMI WINS
  • Jaguars @ Saints: Jacksonville hasn’t been consistent in any phase of the game this season, but neither have the Saints.  The Jaguars have shown they can score in bunches, and New Orleans has shown they can’t stop anyone.  With the possibility of no Drew Brees this week, I like the road team to pick up their sixth win of the season. JACKSONVILLE WINS
  • 49ers @ Lions: Neither team has had the season they thought they would.  I’m more surprised by what Detroit has done returning most of their players from a year ago.  San Francisco made too many changes in the off-season coupled with poor play from Colin Kaepernick to compete in the NFC West.  That being said, Detroit has played a lot of better of late, and that is why I’m going with the Lions in this match-up. DETROIT WINS
  • Cowboys @ Bills: Two disappointing seasons, but for different reasons. Injuries have Dallas set to finish the season with a great draft pick in preparation for the return of Tony Romo next season. The running game hasn’t been what the Bills wanted it to be this season, and their defense really disappointed. That being said, I like Tyrod Taylor than the Cowboys options at quarterback, so I’m picking the home team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Bears @ Buccaneers: Two teams out of the playoff picture square off in Florida this weekend.  And neither team can finish above .500, the Bucs should feel a lot better than the Bears when this season comes to a close.  Jameis Winston showed flashes in his rookie season, and this team stayed in the playoff conversation until last week.  Chicago has now put up back-to-back disappointing seasons, and haven’t been over .500 in three years.  A year after getting the number 1 pick, Tampa has at that mark, and I think they give themselves a shot in week 17. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: One more win, or one more Cardinals loss will give the undefeated Panthers the number 1 seed in the NFC.  They nearly lost to New York in week 15, playing poor defense and turning the ball over late, things they don’t do.  But they held on, and Cam Newton continued his MVP caliber play. Atlanta finally snapped They will play for an undefeated season in week 17. CAROLINA WINS
  • Giants @ Vikings: New York needs to win out and a lot of help if they want to make the playoffs. Minnesota controls its own destiny, hlding a two game lead for the final NFC wildcard spot.  Win one of the next two, and the Vikings are in.  However, Eli Manning has been so good throwing the ball of late, that they hold the advantage there over Minnesota.  But without his most reliable weapon in Odell Beckham Jr, who knows.  With that being said, you always want to clinch earlier, and with a chance to do so at home, I like the Vikings to run all over the Giants defense. MINNESOTA WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Rams @ Seahawks: Russell Wilson is having the best season of his career, which is impressive for a guy who’s taken his team to the past two Super Bowls. The Rams have a shot at .500 for the first time since 2006, but I don’t think they get there.  The offense isn’t high powered enough to keep up with a red hot Seahawks team.  SEATTLE WINS
  • Packers @ Cardinals: Arizona has the division wrapped up, and a win this week would all give them a first round bye.  Green Bay has clinched a playoff spot, but haven’t locked up the division and still have a shot at a bye week.  The Cardinals haven’t lost in a while, and have their run game going.  And while Carson Palmer is fine after injuring his finger in week 15, I’m going to take a leap and pick the road team this week.  GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Steelers @ Ravens: The Ravens are just looking to stay out of the cellar in the the AFC North, while the Steelers are trying to grab a wild card berth. While division games are usually more competitive than non-division ones, there’s no way this version of the Baltimore Ravens keep up offensively with the Steelers, who have scored 30+ in each of their last six games.  A win gives Pittsburgh 10 and keeps them in a wild card spot heading into the final week of the season, a game against the lowly Browns. PITTSBURGH WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Bengals @ Broncos:  Without question the game of the week, maybe the regular season game of the year.  The winner has a clearer path to a bye week in the tough AFC. The loser might not even get a bye week with the Patriots already clinching one.  Cincinnati is without Andy Dalton, but are probably feeling better about themselves than teh Broncos, who are just 3-4 since their perfect start. The Bengals could use the extra week to get Andy Dalton healthy.  As for Denver, their early season success was predicated on their defense, which was no match for a hot Steelers team in a big game a week ago.  And with the Chiefs now just a game out, this game means a whole lot to them as well. So who takes the Monday Night affair?  Give me the Broncos to rebound and get to AJ McCarron. DENVER WINS

NFL: Week 14 Picks

Carolina remained undefeated in week 13, but it took a huge second half to do so.  Meanwhile in the AFC, there’s a three way tie for the best record at 10-2 between Denver, Cincinnati and New England, who managed to lose their second straight game and fall out of a bye if the season ended today.

Lucky for them, and us, we still have plenty of football left.  I moved to 109-82 in my picks this season with a 10-6 mark in week 13.

Thursday Night Football

  • Vikings @ Cardinals: Minnesota couldn’t make a move in week 13, losing badly to a streaking Seahawks team. They allowed the Packers to get back into first place.  As for the Cards, they are sitting comfortably in the two spot in the NFC and still have a three game in lead in their division.  Both teams have been solid in all phases all season, but Arizona holds a huge edge in the passing game. Until Teddy Bridgewater can consistently put up big numbers in the air, this team is going to be one dimensional on offense.  And against an above the fourth best rush defense in the league, Minnesota is going to need more from their second year QB.  So as much as I like this Vikings team, I like the home team even more.  ARIZONA WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Eagles: Both team are coming off nice wins against playoff hopefuls, while keeping their own playoffs alive.  Philly took down the Patriots, giving them their second loss in a row, a rarity in the Tom Brady era.  Buffalo evened up their record taking down the Texans, who remain tied atop the AFC South.  This is another game where both teams have been inconsistent all season, hence the .500 and below records.  I have a lot more faith in the Bills defense however, so give me the road team to move above .500, while the Eagles drop out of first in the East. BUFFALO WINS
  • 49ers @ Browns: Two of the worst teams in the league square off this weekend in Cleveland.  The Browns currently hold the worst record, with San Fran sitting two games better than them.  The Niners hurt their “chances” at the top draft pick when they took down the Bears in OT.  Neither team has had the season they would’ve hoped for and while both teams have a lot of on and off the field questions, I think the Niners find a way to pull out another game this week.  SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Lions @ Rams: St. Louis started off the season with a lot of promise, but have totally collapsed in the second half.  The opposite can be said for Detroit, who took two months to get a win, and have looked a lot more like the team we expected here the past six weeks or so.  Both enter with 4-8 records, but the Lions are the hotter team, and the more talented team.   DETROIT WINS
  • Saints @ Buccaneers: Early on this season, both of these NFC South teams looked like they’d be in-contention for the number 1 pick.  And while New Orleans still has an outside shot, both teams have shown glimpses of hope.  Tampa Bay knew there would be struggles with a rookie QB, but the number 1 overall pick in Jameis Winston has his team at .500 and in a spot for a possible wild card.  Drew Brees and company had gotten to .500 after a very rough start, and despite a two-touchdown lead on the undefeated Panthers in week 13, the Saints are in the middle of a four-game slide.  So wins this division match-up? While the Bucs running game is one of the best in the league, and the Saints defense hasn’t been anything to write home about, I’m going to go out on a limb here and take the road team to pick up their fifth win this weekend.  NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Titans @ Jets: The Jets needed OT in week 13, but they kept their playoff hopes alive against their stadium mates.  As for Tennessee, they remain in line for another prime draft pick with a 3-9 record. While the Titans have the ability to score in bunches, they don’t have the ability to stop good teams most days. And the Jets are a good team that can beat you in several ways.  That’s why I like the Jets to better their chances at a wildcard berth this week. NEW YORK WINS
  • Steelers @ Bengals: Pittsburgh has been the most resilient team in the league this season, sitting in a playoff spot in the competitive AFC despite stretches with Ben Roethlisberger and their top flight running back Le’Veon Bell.  But they still enter action three games behind the Bengals for the AFC North, and a Cincinnati win this week gives them that crown.  This should be a fun game, and despite two good defenses, could be a high scoring one.  But whether it is a shoot out or not, I think the Bengals get the job done and move closer to a much needed first round bye. CINCINNATI WINS
  • Colts @ Jaguars: Neither team has a winning record, but one team has a shot at a division crown.  Indianapolis, despite a bad start to the season and losing their Pro-Bowl caliber QB remain in a fight for the AFC South crown.  Jacksonville is just playing out the season, preparing for another high draft pick.  Sure the Jags have shown promise, but they’ve also shown how young they are.  Indy and the ageless Matt Hasselbeck have something to prove and fight for, so give me the Colts to move above .500 here in week 14. INDIANAPOLIS WINS
  • Chargers @ Chiefs: San Diego has been a disappointment this season, on both sides of the football, while their counterparts have rebounded from a rough start and find themselves in the playoff hunt. Kansas City has won six straight, and are the second hottest team in the league.  Their defense has been great all season, and now their offense has closed the gap.  They’re playoff vets, and not a team to be taken lightly.  The Chargers can definitely play spoiler with Philip Rivers under center, I just don’t think they will.  KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Redskins @ Bears: Washington had a chance to take hold of the NFC Least in week 13, instead they lost a strange game to Dallas.  Chicago lost another game late, this time to San Francisco.  If the NFC East wasn’t so bad, this would just be a game between two bad teams looking for better draft position.  Instead, it has playoff implications too.  And while Washington has been a lot better in the second half of the season, I like what the Bears have been able to do in the ground game of late.  So give me the Bears to make things more difficult and hard to define in the NFC East. CHICAGO WINS
  • Falcons @ Panthers: After starting off the season on fire, the Falcons have come crashing back to earth in a big way.  Not only are they on a five-game losing streak they are no behind two teams in the NFC South.  And a road tilt against the league’s last undefeated team isn’t a great confidence boaster.  Cam Newton is playing like an MVP and the defense is playing like champions.  Will Carolina stay undefeated through the regular season? Who knows. But unless Atlanta stops turning the ball over and gets the offense of weeks 1-4 back, the Panthers should stay undefeated another week.  CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Ravens:  Which bird will fly highest in week 14?  That’s easy.  The Seahawks are on fire, while the Ravens wings were clipped weeks ago.  The NFC should be scared with how great Seattle’s offense has looked in recent weeks.  And despite the fact that Baltimore hasn’t been horrible defensively, there’s no way they can compete with what the reigning NFC champs are bringing on either side of the ball, not this year.  SEATTLE WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Raiders @ Broncos: Another week, another win for Denver, who enters week 14 as the two seed in the AFC.  As for the Raiders, who sit two games out of the playoffs, they are just looking to get to .500.  This AFC West match-up should still be a good one, but I don’t think it will end in any other way but with another Broncos win.  Denver’s defense is too good, and the Raiders offense too inconsistent. DENVER WINS
  • Cowboys @ Packers: 4-8 versus 8-4 and yet somehow, both teams have a shot at their division.  It’s the sad state of the NFC East that a Dallas team on QB number 3 can say that, but after Matt Cassel picked up his first win in a Cowboys uniform Monday against the Redskins, they are just a game out.  Meanwhile, the Packers wild finish in Detroit on Aaron Rodgers game ending Hail Mary, coupled with the Vikings loss has them back atop the NFC North.  Both teams want this game, but Green Bay needs it.  The Packers can’t miss the playoffs after tehir 6-0 start, while Dallas should really focus on getting better in the draft and looking ahead to getting Tony Romo back for next season.  Dallas and their fans probably don’t see it that way, but the knowledge they can win this division and be this bad, should tell them a healthy, revamped team in 2016 could go far.  Besides, Rodgers and company have been bad at home lately, something they’re not used to.  I can’t see another letdown for them. GREEN BAY WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Patriots @ Texans: It’s a huge AFC battle on Sunday Night with playoff implications on both sides.  As previously mentioned, both teams took unexpected losses in week 13.  After starting 10-0, the Pats are now in danger of losing a bye, as both the Bengals and Broncos enter the week with identical 10-2 records.  Houston is .500 and could have a shot at having the AFC South all to themselves if the Colts fall this week. I though the Pats would come out angry last week, and instead were embarrassed by the below .500 Eagles.  Give me an angry Tom Brady to get back on track and hurt Houston’s playoff chances in week 14.   NEW ENGLAND WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Dolphins: One team still has a shot at the division, while the other has a lot of work to do just to get into the playoff discussion and stay out of the cellar in their own division.  Both teams enter action with 5-7 records. Of New York’s seven losses, six of them have come by one score (18 combined points), meaning if they’d converted even half of those, they’d be 8-4 and be well on their way to the NFC East crown. Instead, they’re in a three way tie for 1st.  As for Miami, they’re up, yet mostly down season has them looking up at everyone else in the AFC East.  I keep doing this every week, but for a team led by a coach/QB tandem that have won championships, in years where they were written off about this time, I’m going with New York one last time to save their season. NEW YORK WINS

 

NFL: Power Rankings Heading Down the Home Stretch

And then there was one.  Carolina stands alone as the league’s lone remaining undefeated team after starting the week with a Thanksgiving Day win.  Now that the calendar has flipped to December, the race for the postseason heats up.  Here is my look at the 10 best teams, and who the three worst teams are, as we march towards Superbowl 50.

Top 10 Teams Through Week 12

  1. Carolina Panthers (11-0): I would put them at the top even if New England had remained undefeated. Why? Because Carolina has gotten better every week dating back to late last season.  Early in the season they struggled on offense, but their defense has been on point all year, currently ranked second overall just behind the Broncos. Add a top five run game, an extremely confident QB and a balanced passing attack, and you’ve got the clear favorite to come out of the NFC right now.  There are more experienced teams vying to bring them down, but it’ll be hard to do it before the second round, as they will end the season with one of the two byes.
  2. New England Patriots (10-1):  They’ve been close to a loss for a few weeks, and it took overtime for them to finally get one.  But to write them off as some have after their loss to Denver on Sunday night is ridiculous.  They have suffered a lot of injuries on offense, which is why they have been on a bit of a “slide” of late.  But they still have their most important offense weapon in Tom Brady healthy, and Rob Gronkowski’s injury wasn’t as bad as previously thought.  They could lose a bye with the recent issues, but I wouldn’t put it past them to rally and hold on even with the injuries.  And with a huge lead in the AFC East, something catastrophic would have to happen for them not to make the playoffs. They were knocked down in week 12, but they are still the best team in the AFC until they get knocked out.
  3. Denver Broncos (9-2): It remains to be seen if Peyton Manning has been “Wally Pipped” by Brock Osweiler, but what I do know, is the Broncos offense is finally on par with the defense this season.  Sure the run game has picked up, but it doesn’t hurt when the QB isn’t turning the ball over as much as Manning was before he got hurt.  Not only was taking down the undefeated Patriots great for this team’s morale, it also means they still have a shot at the number 1 seed in the AFC.  They found a way to go 8-0 with a less than spectacular QB performance in the first half.  With a younger, hungry QB, this team could go very, very far this season.  
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-2): A week 12 loss helped turn the tide after a two-game skid ended their run at perfection.  Other than on loss which was due to poor offense, the other poor defense, Cincinnati has been consistently great on both sides of the ball.  They’ve shown the ability to absolutely dominate, and win the close games.  They have a shot a bye, with a game against their biggest competition, Denver, ahead of them.  Andy Dalton  is having the best season of his young career, something he and the organization need to continue through the playoffs after so many first round exits.  Despite being ranked ninth, the run game has been up and down, and they need it to be more consistent.  But they’ve shown they can play with anyone, and look primed to get the second round monkey off their back if they continue doing what they’ve been doing, and stay healthy and hungry.
  5. Arizona Cardinals (9-2): It’s amazing what this team has been the past two seasons with a healthy Carson Palmer.  15-2 as the Cardinals starter, with a TD-INT ratio of 38-12, the 13-year veteran is doing a great job leading this team. Larry Fitzgerald is having a renaissance.  Their two losses were the only two games where they really let down their guard and played down to their opponents, showing when on point, they can be and have beaten everybody.  Arizona boasts the top ranked total offense and fifth defense in the league, proving they are a legit title contender if they can stay healthy.
  6. Minnesota Vikings (8-3): It’s amazing the difference Adrian Peterson has made on this team.  A rejuvenated rushing attack has lessened the pressure on second year QB Teddy Bridgewater, who really hasn’t been impressive at all this season.  This team truly lives by the ground and pound mentality, relying heavily on it’s top ranked rushing offense, and it’s top 10 defense.  They’re better stopping the pass, which is key in the North with the likes of Matt Stafford and Aaron Rodgers.  They’re a game up in the division while currently holding a better division record than Green Bay.  Their last four games are tough, with two against the best of the NFC West, and a week 17 match-up that could determine the division against the Packers.  But if the run game can continue eating up clock, and Bridgewater can find a way to be even a bit better than mediocre, they are in the drivers seat in the North.
  7. Green Bay Packers (7-4): Despite their poor play of late, this team is still a force to be reckoned with.  A bright spot in their Thanksgiving Day loss was the return of Eddie Lacy, who had been a disappointment this season.  Aaron Rodgers found success early on without his favorite target in Jordy Nelson, throwing to the likes of James Jones.  But for some reason, things haven’t clicked on offense for late.  The Packers QB isn’t turning the ball over, but his completion percentage is down and with the absence of a consistent run game, the offense has become one dimensional.  They know how to win, but one big worry for this team right now is Rodgers health.  He said he lost feeling in his fingers against Chicago, so you have to wonder how that will manifest itself going forward.
  8. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5): They’ve won five straight, and are doing exactly what I said they needed to do when I looked ahead to the second half:

    Five of their final eight are against below .500 teams, and the three that aren’t, are the teams ahead of them in the West.  They can move up quickly if Alex Smith can continue to spread the wealth in the pass game and avoid the late turnovers that have plagued him.

    Smith hasn’t been reckless with the football and the team is scoring points in a major way.  When they started 1-5, the most points they’d managed to score were 28 against Green Bay, but they then allowed 38.  During their five-game winning streak, Kansas City has score no fewer than 23 points, while allowing a total of 61 points.  And with the schedule still in their favor down the stretch, and a struggling AFC, this team is primed for a wildcard spot.

  9. Seattle Seahawks (6-5): They’re finally starting to look like the back-to-back NFC Champs that they are.  Russell Wilson had one of his best performances in week 11, throwing for five touchdowns. The defense still wasn’t what it’s been, but if the offense can look even close to what it did last week for the stretch run, they’ll make it to the playoffs in this season’s NFC.  At this point, they’re only competing with two teams for the wild card (Atlanta and Green Bay).
  10. Houston Texans (6-5):  After making the Dolphins look like an offensive juggernaut in week seven, the defense has gotten back on track in a big way.  This team was built around their defense and run game, but the loss of Arian Foster meant the passing game needed to step up.  And after many changes at quarterback, Brian Hoyer has done enough to lock up the job for now.  Four straight wins have put them in a position not only to make the playoffs, but to win the AFC South.  And we’ve seen what JJ Watt can do in the playoffs, so the AFC should be nervous.

Three Fighting for Number 1

30. Tennessee Titans (2-9)

31. San Francisco 49ers (3-8)

32. Cleveland Browns (2-8)

 

NFL: Week 11 Picks

And then there were two… undefeated teams that is.  Carolina in the NFC, and New England in the AFC are the only perfect teams left after week 10.  As we enter week 11, the playoff picture begins to take form.

Last week I went just 7-7, so let’s try to get better with the following week 11 picks.

Thursday Night Football

  • Titans @ Jaguars: I ask myself seemingly every year, why is this match-up a prime-time game? But this year, it actually kind of works.  Despite a combined 5-13 record, both of these teams are actually still in contention for the NFC South title.  Sad but true.  Tennessee is coming off a poor showing against the Panthers, while Jacksonville is coming off a two-point win over the the Ravens. As I’ve already said, neither team has been good this season, I have been impressed with both teams offenses at times.  Jacksonville has been a lot more consistent on both sides of the ball, so that’s why I’m going with the home team in this one. JACKSONVILLE WINS

Sunday 1 PM Games

  • Raiders @ Lions: Oakland looked about as bad as they have all season in their week 10 loss to the Vikings.  Detroit managed to pick yo their second and best win of the season, a road win over the Packers.  So which team shows up? The bad Raiders of a week ago, or the not so bad Lions team of a week ago?  Neither. I think the Raiders get back on track and even up their record.  The biggest issue for Oakland a week ago was stopping Adrian Peterson, and seeing as how the Lions have no run game to speak of, they’ll stop Matt Stafford enough to get to 5-5. OAKLAND WINS
  • Colts @ Falcons: I had Indianapolis making it to the Superbowl, but now they might not even make it of their division.  Atlanta would be a wild card in the NFC, though with how they started the season, they had higher hopes.  Both teams are coming off the bye, though the Colts will be without Luck under center, going instead with the healthy Matt Hasselbeck.  Indy has had trouble stopping basically everyone this week, and a rested Falcons offense should look closer to what they did in weeks 1-3 because of it. ATLANTA WINS
  • Jets @ Texans: All of a sudden the Texans have a better shot at the playoffs than the Jets.  New York’s defense has been struggling to go along with issues at QB.  As for Houston, the defense has started to round into shape.  Despite the better showing from the Texans of late, I still like the Jets offense led by Chris Ivory and with Houston’s inability to run the ball and sustain drives the way New York can, I like the road team to take win this game and stay in the hunt. NEW YORK WINS
  • Buccaneers @ Eagles: Whether they’re high or low scoring, the Bucs play in a lot of close games.  They’ve been very up and down because of it, not surprising for a team lead by a rookie quarterback.  As for Philly, they hope Mark Sanchez can relive his early Jets days now that Sam Bradford is out.  I like Sanchez in this offense, and thought the Eagles should’ve went to him earlier in the season.  It’s going to be another close game, one won by the home team. PHILADELPHIA WINS
  • Broncos @ Bears: Peyton Manning is out, Brock Osweiler is in.  The offense looked the best it’s looekd all season when Osweiler came in last week for the injured future HOFer, which is sad for a previously 7-0 team.  Chicago is actually on a two game win streak, but I still don’t trust them. Give me the Broncos defense to do work against the Bears.   DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Ravens: I am very disappointed in the Ravens this season.  They have been in every game they’ve played this season, but couldn’t make plays late like they used to.  St. Louis’ defense has been there all season, much like I thought it would be, but the offense under Nick Foles has left something to be desired most weeks.  Now with Case Keenum under center, the Rams look to keep the second spot in the NFC West, and I think they do just that. I have no faith in Baltimore anymore, and so I will take the Rams on the road.  ST LOUIS WINS
  • Cowboys @ Dolphins: The return of Tony Romo starts in Miami.  Seven straight losses and still the Cowboys have a shot at the division.  Miami has been up-and-down all season, but found a way against the Eagles a week ago.  I know a lot of the losses the Cowboys have suffered through could’ve been avoided with Romo under center, but I still like the up-and-down Dolphins to take this one at home. MIAMI WINS
  • Redskins @ Panthers: Washington has been a lot better offensively under Kirk Cousins.  But their defense is going to have trouble this week with a red hot Panthers team.  Early on Carolina was winning with their defense, but now all facets are clicking.  It could be a close game most of the way, but give me the Panthers to stay perfect another week. CAROLINA WINS

Sunday 4/425 PM Games

  • Chiefs @ Chargers:  As I wrote in my mid-season recap, the Chiefs hold their destiny in their own hands. And they’ve run with it.  Winners of three straight, including a huge win over Denver last week, they’ve at least put themselves back in the conversation in the AFC. They’re still a game under .500, but they look like a brand new team and still have a lot of games left in their own division.  As for their West counterparts, the Chargers have already lost as many games as they did in their past two seasons (both playoff years). Philip Rivers has been very good, but that’s about it.  San Diego hasn’t had much else going for them this season, hence the 2-7 mark.  With Kansas City as hot as they’ve been, I can’t see the Chargers overcoming that. KANSAS CITY WINS
  • Packers @ Vikings: Don’t look now but we have a battle for the NFC North.  Not only do the Minnesota Vikings now find themselves a game ahead of the Packers, they come in red hot while Green Bay is on a three-game skid we haven’t seen the likes of since Aaron Rodgers first year as a starter in 2008. The Packers defense hasn’t been bad, the biggest problem has been the offense.  No run game has made the offense one dimension, and Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been able to clean up the act. That being said, I like Green Bay’s run defense to contain Peterson and find a way back in the win column. GREEN BAY WINS
  • 49ers @ Seahawks: The Legion of Boom is more like the Legion of Ka-Boom right now. But luckily for Seattle, they’ve got a poor offensive team in San Francisco coming in.  A QB change isn’t going to do much this year for the 49ers, and trying to figure it out with the 12th man watching won’t help matters. They may not be the same team that’s been to the last two Superbowls, but I like the Seahawks to take this game on Sunday. SEATTLE WINS

Sunday Night Football 

  • Bengals @ Cardinals: To say the Bengals were embarrassed on Monday night is an understatement.  To lose at home to a than three-win team in maybe the most worst division in football this season is bad.  To lose your perfect record in the process with a weight of playoff disappointment hanging over you, is really bad.  Luckily for Cincinnati, the rest of the AFC outside of New England isn’t great, so they’re still a comfortable two seed.  As for Arizona, they got a huge win in Seattle on Sunday and look like a sure bet to win their division.  They too currently hold the two seed in the NFC, but could lose it with the Vikings and Packers nipping at their heels.  CINCINNATI WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Bills @ Patriots: Buffalo has battled their way back into a possible playoff spot while the Pats are comfortably the one seed in the AFC as the last undefeated team in the conference. While the Bills should feel good about what they’ve done the last couple weeks, they’re still not on the same level as the Pats offensively.  Sure New England has been wrecked on the offensive line and now are without Julian Edelman, but I still like the Pats at home in this East match-up. NEW ENGLAND WINS

NFL: Week 10 Picks

I went 5-8 last week, bringing my season total to 73-59. Let’s get to week 10’s picks.

Thursday Night Football

  • Bills @ Jets: Both teams are coming off wins and sit at .500 or better behind the Patriots in the AFC East.  The Jets snapped their two game skid last week, but it still wasn’t pretty.  The run game was non-existent outside of the red-zone.  They allowed Blake Bortles to throw for 381 yards but did pick him off twice and a recovery of a fumble late helped seal their 5th win.  As for Buffalo, they got off to a fast start and never looked back against Miami in week 9.  The Bills relied heavily on the run game, with two 100 yard rushers, though when they did go to the air, QB Tyrod Taylor hit his mark.  Taylor was a very efficient 11/12 for 181 yards.  So will this game end with both teams owning 5-4 records or will the Jets move to two games over .500, dropping back to one below?  Give me the home team to better their wild card positioning this week.  NEW YORK WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Jaguars @ Ravens: It’s a match-up of 2-6 teams with Baltimore coming off their bye week and the Jaguars coming off the loss to New York. Jacksonville can score with the best of them, but can also be shut down pretty easily, showing their youth and inconsistency. The Ravens however, have been in every game they’ve played, but have failed to make the big play late more often than not. I’ll take the home team in this one.  BALTIMORE WINS
  • Browns @ Steelers: Last week the Browns couldn’t stop the Bengals quest for perfection, while the Steelers found a way to overcome another Ben Roethlisberger injury and no Le’Veon Bell.  Johnny Football couldn’t save the Browns from a seventh loss, while DeAngelo Williams went off on the ground, and Antonio Brown had a record day in the air.  Despite losing their starter again, I still like the Steelers in this one because their defense and run game are way better than what Cleveland has to offer. PITTSBURGH WINS
  • Panthers @ Titans: Well, the Panthers are still undefeated and have now put together two very impressive and balanced wins.  Tennessee feels better about itself after snapping a six game slide and getting week one Marcus Mariota back.  Too bad they face Carolina this week, because there is no way all three phases of the Titans squad can keep up with the Panthers who are on a league high 12-game winning streak dating back to last season. CAROLINA WINS
  • Bears @ Rams: The Rams are a .500 and actually have the upper hand over the Seahawks if they both win this week.  Chicago found a way without Matt Forte to pick up their third win of the season thanks to a big night from Alshon Jeffery and a good job stopping the Chargers run game.  I like the Rams defense but they tend to play up or down to their opponents.  That being said, I like St Louis’ chances at home even if they do play down to Chicago. ST LOUIS WINS
  • Cowboys @ Buccaneers: This should be the last week the Cowboys are without Tony Romo, and considering they haven’t won without him, that’s a good thing.  They haven’t gotten killed without him, but the offense just hasn’t done enough to help out the defense.  As for Tampa, they’ve been very up and down, but have been in their last few games until the end.  Unless the Cowboys get the run game going in Tampa, I like the Buccaneers to make it seven straight losses for Dallas. TAMPA BAY WINS
  • Lions @ Packers: A down-and-out Detroit team versus a down Green Bay team.  Detroit continues to have the clearest path to the number one pick thanks to their barely one-win on the season so far.  Now they face a Packers team that is struggling after a 7-0 start.  Not to mention that it’s been two decades since the Lions have won on the road versus the Pack.  Make it another road loss for the hapless Lions. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Dolphins @ Eagles: One team dropped a division match-up last week, the other picked up a needed division win.  Miami sits in the cellar of the AFC East, while Philadelphia evened up their record and moved within a game of the Giants for first place in the NFC East. The offense wasn’t the problem for the Dolphins last week, but it hasn’t been a consistent year for Tannehill and company. I still don’t trust Sam Bradford so I like the Fins on the road.  MIAMI WINS
  • Saints @ Redskins: New Orleans got another big game on offense from Drew Brees, but turnovers and the defense’s inability to stop anyone hurt them again.  Washington had no chance against the Pats last week, dropping to 0-4 on the road.  They’re 3-1 at home this season, so maybe they play better, but I still like the Saints in this one. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Vikings @ Raiders: This is one of the most intriguing match-ups of the week.  Minnesota is off to one of it’s best starts at 6-2, while the Raiders strong start was hurt by a loss to Pittsburgh a week ago.  The Vikings escaped with an OT win against a good defensive team last week.  I liked Minnesota to challenge for a playoff spot before the season, and while I thought Oakland would be better than a year ago (not hard when you only win three games), I didn’t think they’d be in a playoff battle this year. Minnesota has been carried by their defense this season, but I think Oakland finds a way to get back in the win column at home. OAKLAND WINS
  • Chiefs @ Broncos: Coming off their first loss of the season, the Broncos also had their QB on the sidelines during practice this week.  As for Kansas City, they’ve started to look a lot better and have a second half schedule that could get them back in the AFC West race quickly if they continue to get better. That being said, Denver’s defense will be hungry after a poor showing against Indianapolis, so give me the home team to get back on track, especially if Manning plays. DENVER WINS
  • Giants @ Patriots: New York is taking on New England in a season that finds the Patriots undefeated… where have I heard this before?  The last time this happened, it was week 17, and the Pats eked out their 16th win to stay undefeated in the regular season.  Then went on to lose in the Superbowl to those same Giants.  Now here we are, with the Giants offense starting to click, going into Foxborough with a chance to hand the Pats their first loss.  These two teams play close games in the Manning-Brady era, and I don’t think that changes this week, something that will be different for the 2015 Pats.  But it’s tough in a normal year to win in New England, so give me the Pats to stay undefeated.  NEW ENGLAND WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Cardinals @ Seahawks: Talk about a big division match-up in prime-time.  Arizona has been the best team in the NFC West through the first half of the season.  But two games with the Seahawks in the 2nd half will be the marker for how read they are.  The reigning NFC champions have been very up and down this season and have a shot to get above .500.  It’s hard to go into Seattle and win, but I like what the Cardinals have done on both sides of the ball this season about as little I like the Seahawks offense this season. ARIZONA WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Texans @ Bengals: Houston is coming off their bye, while the Bengals are coming off their 8th win of the season.  The Texans won their game prior to their bye, but they weren’t all that impressive, particularly on the ground. Cincinnati continues to click on all cylinders and being at home with a chance to move to 9-0 is huge. CINCINNATI WINS

NFL: Week 9 Picks

Another week come and gone.  My picks record stands at 69-50 after an 8-6 week.

Bye weeks: Ravens, Chiefs, Cardinals, Texans, Lions and Seahawks

Thursday Night Football

  • Browns @ Bengals: Josh McCown is out (due to injury), Johnny Manziel is back in.  And while McCown has played well, Manziel led the Browns to one of their best games this season and probably should’ve been given more of a chance to be the starter. But it really doesn’t matter who starts for Cleveland on Thursday, because they face an undefeated Bengals team on the road.  I like the Bengals to find their run game again and get a fairly easy week 9 victory to improve to 8-0. CINCINNATI WINS 

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Dolphins @ Bills: It’s a battle to stay out of the cellar in the AFC East, and not a fight for a possible wild card like both teams probably thought it might be coming into the season.  The winner improves to .500 and stays relavant.  The loser doesn’t.  Miami is coming off a dud against the the Pats on a long week, while the Bills are coming off their bye week.  I don’t like either of these teams right now, but I trust the Dolphins offense more than the Bills, so I’ll take the road team in this one. MIAMI WINS
  • Packers @ Panthers: Aaron Rodgers and company had themselves their worst performance of the year last week and were handed their first loss by an undefeated Broncos squad.  And it doesn’t get easier this week against another undefeated team.  The Packers offense has been on a decline the past few weeks, so it’s not a surprise they looked terrible at the best defense in the league.  Now they get a red hot Carolina team that has won 11 straight dating back to last season.  That being said, while I finally trust this Panthers team, I also didn’t like what I saw in the second half against the Colts when they nearly blew a double digit lead.  I can’t imagine another horrible performance from Rodgers, so I think this is the week the Panthers fall, as the Green Bay defense has been very good all year. GREEN BAY WINS
  • Jaguars @ Jets: The Jets have lost two straight, while the Jags are coming off their second win and their bye week.   New York’s defense has been a shell of itself the last couple weeks, and they have issues at QB.  But they’re a better team than the Jags and I think they correct things enough to get their 5th win of the season. NEW YORK WINS
  • Rams @ Vikings: Both teams are playing well right now. St Louis is living by their run game, while the Vikings are living by their defense. The Rams tend to play up to their opponents, so I expect this to be a well-played, even game that comes down to the fourth water. I like the home team to make the plays down the stretch and improve to 6-2. MINNESOTA WINS
  • Redskins @ Patriots: The Redskins have had some ups, some downs, some more downs and a bye week.  The Patriots have been all up and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.  The reigning champs are healthy and have a very comfortable lead in the AFC East.  And as bad as it has been at times for Washington, they are in the most wide open division in the NFC.  Let’s be honest, this will probably be the most lopsided game of the week. NEW ENGLAND WINS
  • Titans @ Saints: Tennessee is in shambles and has a new head coach.  What they need is week one Marcus Mariota back and a defense.  New Orleans is on fire, and looking more like the team I thought they’d be to start the season. Their defense is a glaring weak point, but the offense showed last week it can do whatever it wants when clicking.  It’ll be another high scoring win for the Saints here in week nine. NEW ORLEANS WINS
  • Raiders @ Steelers: Oakland looks like it’s rounding into shape after a big road win over the Jets.  Pittsburgh got Ben Roethlisberger back, but lost Le’Veon Bell in a loss to Cincinnati. The offense is clicking for Oakland, and the defense is doing it’s job.  The Steelers were able to stay afloat without Big Ben, and now need to do the same again without Bell, who missed the first two games of the season.  I think this will be a good game, but as hard as it is to go into Pittsburgh and win, I think the Raiders find a way and move to 5-3. OAKLAND WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Giants @ Buccaneers: One team is coming off a last minute loss, the other, an OT win.  New York had one of its best offensive performances in team history.  But the defense couldn’t stop anyone, so Eli Manning became the first QB in NFL history to throw six touchdowns and zero interceptions in a loss.  As for Tampa Bay, they nearly blew a big lead for the second week in a row.  For that reason, the Giants should have no excuse but to put up another big number on offense, and with the possible return of Jason Pierre-Paul and a worse offensive team than New Orleans as their opponents, they should have no trouble getting back over .500. NEW YORK WINS
  • Falcons @ 49ers: Atlanta is coming off a bad loss to the Bucs, while the Niners in a time of transition after benching Colin Kaepernick for Blaine Gabbert.  San Francisco has a bottom five defense and offense, while the Falcons continue to be one of the NFL’s best despite the week eight hiccup.  This should be an easy win for Atlanta as they look to stay at worst a game back of Carolina in the South.  ATLANTA WINS
  • Broncos @ Colts: Denver is coming off their best win of the season and boast the league’s best defense.  Imagine if Peyton Manning was actually playing well? It can still happen of course, and against a struggling Indianapolis team, it could be a breakout week for the an tied with for the most QB wins in NFL history.  And wouldn’t it be fitting for Manning to get the record win against the team he won a majority of those games with?  Meanwhile, his replacement in Andrew Luck finally looked like himself late against Carolina on Monday.  But it still ended in another loss.  For as explosive as he is, turnovers continue to plague him and are holding this team back right now.  An offensive coordinator move could help, but against this defense, it’s going to be tough. DENVER WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Eagles @ Cowboys: It’s a battle of two struggling NFC East teams that despite their issues, have a legitimate chance to rebound and win their division.  Both teams have been more down than up this season, but for very different reasons. Healthy Dallas was 2-0, but they’ve lost 5 straight without Tony Romo.  Fairly healthy Philadelphia has just been very inconsistent, particularly on offense.  So who keeps hope alive on Sunday Night?  Give me Dez Bryant to have a big second week back from injury and a much better Matt Cassel.  DALLAS WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Bears @ Chargers: Two teams having disappointing seasons square off in prime-time.  The trade deadline has come and gone and the Bears didn’t tear down the roster like some thought they might.  As for the Chargers, their offense has been pretty good all season, but they will now be without a big weapon in Keenan Allen.  Neither team has a good defense, but based on the offenses, I think San Diego has one of their best games of the season and their easiest wins as well.  SAN DIEGO WINS