Week 17

Well, some strange results in the penultimate week. I didn’t see the Steelers getting beaten by the Ravens again. Big Ben had an awful day and the loss leaves the Steelers needing help to make the playoffs thanks to the Patriots opting to kick to the Jets in overtime and Fitzpatrick leading the Jets down to field for a game ending touchdown. The Steelers need to win this week against the Browns and hope that the Bills manage to beat the Jets. That was one upset but the big one had to be the Panthers finally dropping a game to the Falcons – a team they had beaten 38-0 just 2 weeks ago. The Seahawks also fell to the Rams again which was a bit of a shock as well. Most of the rest of the games played out as expected. Washington easily beat the Eagles to take the NFC East and the 4th seed in the NFC. The Chiefs won their ninth straight game, as did the Cardinals with their whitewash of the Packers. Green Bay fell apart against the Arizona defence who got 8 sacks on the way to a 38-8 victory. The Vikings kept even with Green Bay with a whitewash of their own over the Giants. Their week 17 matchup will decide to NFC North and then probably face the Seahawks, the loser will probably have a trip to Washington. The Texans thrashed the Titans 34-6 and pretty much sewed up a playoff place for them. The Colts are still technically part of the picture but would need 9 things to happen for them to top Houston.
1: Colts beat Titans
2: Jags beat Texans
3: Ravens beat Bengals
4: Bills beat Jets
5: Falcons beat Saints
6: Broncos beat Chargers
7: Dolphins beat Patriots
8: Steelers beat Browns
9: Raiders beat Chiefs
Anyone want to take a punt on all of that happening?
All the games this week are on Sunday and all are divisional matchups. Only a couple really mean anything, the first is one of them.

Jets@Bills
New York are going to the playoffs if they beat ex-coach Rex Ryan and the Bills in Buffalo. Buffalo are beat up with injury and have nothing to play for except to try and spoil it for New York. Buffalo will give everything to upset the Jets here and hope Pittsburgh can take that final wild card spot but I think New York are on a roll right now, Fitzpatrick is in the zone with his receivers and can get a comfortable road win to close out the regular season and leave Buffalo with a losing record. The Jets are -3 and I think that is more that do-able against a Buffalo side without a lot of key players.

Patriots@Dolphins
Alright, that was an upset last week for New England and that call by Belichick is overshadowing a tremendous final drive by the Jets but this is still the defending champions against the Dolphins. I am a little surprised to see the spread at 10.5 I must admit but Miami have been terrible this year. They have lost 7 of the last 9 and even the wins were scrappy wins over the Eagles and the Ravens. I’m not sure New England are likely to go for broke here as they already have a bye next week and just need a win for the number 1 seed, I think Miami might take this on the handicap. But you never know with New England. Interesting stat for New England this year – Tom Brady is the only offensive player to have started every game this year in the same position. That is unbelievable and shows just how badly the Patriots have been hit by injury this year.

Ravens@Bengals
Still no Andy Dalton for the Bengals but McCarron has been solid as backup. Baltimore stole the march on Pittsburgh last week and would have had a bigger win had an end zone interception returned for a touchdown not been negated by a holding call. The Ravens have not been generating turnovers this year but they got some important ones last time out so McCarron will need to be careful not to force throws. The Cincy defence is also stronger than the Steelers so they should be able to keep Baltimore off the score sheet a little easier. I’m still tempted to take Baltimore on the handicap here as it’s up to 9.

Steelers@Browns
Another 9 pointer, favouring Pittsburgh – obviously. I think Pittsburgh will bounce back with a vengeance against Cleveland with Big Ben more than making up for his off day last time out. Cleveland won’t be able to cope with this offence and I think we’ll see Pittsburgh putting up near 40 points in this one. Manziel has been fairly impressive in his last few games with some good throws and keeping drives alive with his legs. He can certainly get a few scoring drives up against Pittsburgh but probably not enough to cover the 9 points.

Jags@Texans
Houston are basically in the playoffs already but a win here confirms it. They had a great week against the Titans last week under Weeden but will be welcoming back Brian Hoyer this week to help them ensure playoff football. Jacksonville have been terrible on the road this year, winning 1 of 7 so far and with the Texans defence playing as it is now can be stifled a little. Bortles will need to get rid of the ball quickly or be mobile. No spread yet but I think I’d take the Texans up to about 5 barring any big changes on the lineup.

Titans@Colts
The Colts know they need a lot to get the AFC South title again this year and should hold up their end of the bargain against Tennessee. The main problem for Indy is who exactly will start at quarterback for them? Luck won’t be back this year, Hasselbeck has about 65 injuries and Whitehurst is on injured reserve. The Titans of course are without Mariota so this one could be a real nightmare of a game to sit through. I’d back Indianapolis to get the win they need but fall short in at least one of the other 8 things they need to happen.

Redskins@Cowboys
Washington are in and I would think likely to rest a few starters to give them half a chance next week. Cousins got a few hits last week so it might be likely the RG3 plays the majority of snaps on Sunday. Seems like a win-win situation to me. If he plays badly, who cares? Cousins back in next week. If he plays well and has improved while being benched you’ve got a solid backup next week and a legitimate QB battle for next season. No spread again, probably until we find out what Washington are thinking. I’d think despite having no running game to speak of Washington will get a win over Dallas here no matter who starts.

Eagles@Giants
The Chip Kelly experiment is officially over. Sacked before the final game of the season. It was a matter of time really after he overhauled the team, traded away big name players and found it didn’t work. Philly are a team in trouble and will need a couple of years to rebuild. It won’t start this week and New York will batter them. I would imagine the first thing to change for Philly will be the tempo will drop, which might give them a better chance of keeping the score down but I think New York should be welcoming OBJ back with open arms this week on the way to a big win to close off a disappointing season. They’re -3 favourites and I think it’ll be nearer 10 for NYG.

Lions@Bears
Chicago come in as 1 point favourites in a pretty meaningless game to decide who finishes bottom in the NFC North. Last week the Lions tore the 49ers apart and the Bears held on against Tampa. I think this will be a close game but I’m tempted to take Detroit here as they’ve been the stronger team as the season draws to a close.

Saints@Falcons
Get them dirty birds! They deserved that win against Carolina but I doubt many saw it coming! It was a great day for both Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and when those two play well, Atlanta are a dangerous team. New Orleans need a big overhaul in the defence but Drew Brees is still a very high quality quarterback and can lead nearly any bunch of players down the field. Atlanta are 4 point favourites and I think that is right on the money. I’m tempted to take the Saints to bring Atlanta back down after that big win last week but if Ryan and Jones have another day it’ll be Atlanta.

Raiders@Chiefs
Chiefs favoured by 7 after scraping by the Browns by 4? Hmmm… KC are a funny team. They keep getting the wins but the offence seems up and down. Oakland can have a leaky defence but they can also jump on dodgy throws and generate turnovers. If Carr can keep his turnovers down this will be close, and Oakland might edge it. Kansas might take their foot off a little with a playoff place already sealed.

Bucs@Panthers
One thing for Carolina fans to note. All the teams that went 6-0 to start the year, when they lost a game they lost the next one too. If you put money on stats like that then back the Bucs here. Carolina are 10.5 point favourites which seems a lot when a lot of their main players missed practice. We know the Panthers are capable of it, they won the reverse fixture 37-23 in week 4 at Tampa but they need to start thinking of the playoffs too. Big spreads are always a bit of a turn off for me, especially as nobody really likes watching a team getting whitewashed do they?

Chargers@Broncos
Broncos favoured by 9! Wow. I didn’t see that coming. We all know the Broncos are a strong side and the Chargers have self-destructed, but 9?! Eric Weddle, probably the Chargers best defensive player has been put on IR with a groin injury. More cynical people would say it has something to do with him being fined ten grand for watching his daughter perform at halftime last week. Either way, he is done in San Diego and will be snapped up by someone in the off-season. As to who will win, well, Denver. Can Osweiler put up enough on offence to get them over 9 points for the spread? I’m not entirely convinced but San Diego don’t exactly have a strong defence to try and stop him.

Seahawks@Cardinals
Still no Marshawn for Seattle. They’ll need him ready for the playoffs so it makes sense to keep him rested for another week in what is a pretty meaningless game. Arizona can play for the number 1 seed but I think they’re likely to take Palmer and a few other starters out early to lower the risk of injury. Especially to Palmer. Arizona are 6.5 point favourites and I think for the first time this year I might take Seattle on the handicap.

Rams@49ers
Ah who cares? Rams by 3.5. Yeah, if you like.

Vikings@Packers
The main question mark around this game as I write this is the availability of Adrian Peterson. If he plays and gets some traction Minnesota will win easily. Without him and being more reliant on Bridgewater this could get ugly. The Vikings passing game has been patchy at best this year and aside from the hail mary in Detroit 4 weeks ago the Packers game hasn’t been much better. Rodgers got torn apart last week by Arizona and Minnesota will look to continue that against a pretty porous offensive line. If Minnesota can force a couple of turnovers from blitzes or forcing Rodgers to make throws rather than take a sack they can run away with this. Personally I saw the Vikings as favourites coming in to this but Green Bay have been made 3.5 point favourites. I’m going with the Vikings to go pillaging in Wisconsin and to take the NFC North this year.

Pick 6:
Vikings +3.5
Jets -3
Seahawks +6.5
Giants -3
Dolphins +10.5
Ravens +9

Expect some strange results as teams rest starters and try some different things with nothing on the line. As ever, good luck.

 

Oh aye. And Happy new year.

Week 16

I went 3 from 6 last week which puts my picks at 48-39-3 for the season. Perhaps I should stick to games on Sunday as I can’t remember the last time a Thursday or Monday pick came in! I thought I was on to something with the Bucs but St Louis scored more than 30 points for the first time since their overtime win against Seattle. In week 1! They were helped when Tampa caught a pass at the St Louis 1 and proceeded to toss the ball and start to celebrate. Rather foolish considering it was still a live ball. Thankfully another Buccaneer jumped on it to save the embarrassment being too bad but it didn’t help them in a game Tampa really should have won. The Jets needed a fourth quarter comeback to topple the Cowboys who were using their fourth quarterback of the season and remain well and truly in the playoff hunt. The two teams they’re up against in the AFC also had wins, the Chiefs eased past the Ravens 34-14 and the Steelers needed a big second half to get past the Broncos. They went in 27-17 at halftime and sent the Broncos home as 34-27 losers. Washington took the lead in the NFC East after demolishing the Bills 35-25. That makes it look closer than it was with Buffalo trailing 21-0 at halftime and losing Shady McCoy at the start of the 2nd half. The Eagles and Giants both lost but New York almost stole it against Carolina. They rallied from 35-7 with 28 unanswered points before Cam Newton drove the Panthers down the field for a last second field goal to keep Carolina unbeaten. Atlanta finally got their seventh win of the year with a 23-17 win at Jacksonville but it’s too little too late for a team that has beaten itself this year. The Houston Texans won their first ever game in Indianapolis to give them 1st spot with 2 games remaining. I’m giving the Texans the benefit of the doubt and saying they’ll take the playoff spot with the Titans this week and the Jags next week, the Colts have the Dolphins then the Titans and will need to win them both. Seattle didn’t quite demolish Cleveland as badly as I was expecting, 30-13 isn’t a great score but when you’re Cleveland going up against the charging Seahawks that’s pretty good! San Diego got a win in what might be their final game in that stadium over the Dolphins who just never got going again. The Andy Dalton-less Bengals got the win over the 49ers to keep them ahead in the AFC North before travelling to Denver this week.

Chargers@Raiders – TNF
So, technically this game is on Christmas Day as it’s due to kick off at 1.25am UK time. Somehow I doubt I’ll be allowed to watch it. Neither team really has anything to play for but San Diego showed they can still play with their 30-14 win last week and the Raiders still showing as a decent side this might actually be some kind of match. Oakland are coming in as 5 point favourites a couple of days after Charles Woodson announced his retirement. What a player he has been in his time in the NFL! Earlier this year he lamented never getting an interception from Peyton Manning. He then caught two when Oakland met Denver in week 5. Oakland will miss him next year. This week, I think San Diego might be able to keep this close. Carr has been a bit of an interception machine in recent weeks which has been holding the Raiders back. Will he get back on track and end the year on a high or have the Raiders binned it for the year?

Redskins@Eagles – Saturday
This game could seal the NFC East. A victory for Washington would send them to the playoffs. Uh huh. Philly are still in the hunt if they win here and are favoured by 3 at home. Let’s use the scientific method of deciding this one shall we? Both teams have just hosted (and beaten) Buffalo in the last 2 weeks. Philly won by 3. Washington won by 10. Therefore Washington will win. I’m ignoring the fact Washington are terrible away from home and have won 1 of their 5 so far this year.

Cowboys@Bills
The Bills get their third NFC East opponent in three weeks and might finally get a win. I doubt it; the Bills have been awful against teams from the dreadful NFC East, losing against the Giants in week 4 and then Washington and Philly the last two weeks. Can they really do any better against Dallas? The Bills seem to be descending into chaos of late, the defence is revolting against the system Rex Ryan is trying to implement and who can blame them? Last year Buffalo had one of the best defences in the NFL, this year they’re not even close! Dallas have obviously had a terrible year after being close to the Super Bowl last year but personally I can see them staying within the 6.5 point spread here. The Buffalo offence is better than last year but will probably go into this game without McCoy who injured his knee in the 3rd quarter last week. Watkins has been playing great but isn’t getting a lot of targets. Karlos Williams might be back at running back to fill the gap McCoy will leave but I still think Dallas can smother the Bills enough to get it done +6.5.

Colts@Dolphins
Still no Andrew Luck for Indy as he recovers from his lacerated kidney so the job will probably fall to the battered Matt Hasselbeck again. The Miami pass rush needs to get going early on in this one and they can force a couple of easy turnovers. Indy have just gone right off the boil this year and I doubt they can get it done in these last two games to fight for the AFC South title. That looks like it’s going to Houston this year. They’re capable of winning on the road in Miami but both teams are having bad seasons.

Patriots@Jets
Teams from New York always seem to cause New England problems don’t they? And with the Jets fighting for a wild card spot they’ll be coming into this with all guns blazing. Fitzpatrick is playing well and the defence seems to have tightened up again after a bit of a rough spot. New England are without Amendola this week as the injuries keep piling up. New York kept it within 7 in New England earlier this year and were driving to tie the game before a daft pass into the middle of the field ran the clock out. At home with the Patriots hit hard with injury and already into the playoffs? They’ve got every chance. New England are favoured by just 3 this time around.

Texans@Titans
No Mariota this week as the Titans season gets worse. Although maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, without their star rookie they might be in line for the number 1 pick in the draft! A Houston win will practically guarantee them playoff football this year and I don’t think many will see this game going any other way. Hoyer might be missing for the Texans again this week as he is still in the concussion protocol so it’ll fall to their 4th quarterback of the year to lead them here, Brandon Weeden. Yeah, the guy who the Cowboys cut a few weeks back. You’ve still got to fancy Houston to win here though haven’t you?

Browns@Chiefs
Another week and another huge spread against the Browns. 12 points this week. Anyone not see Kansas extending this win streak to 9 games? Cleveland might have been dealt a big loss last week and they’ve got every chance of another one here (come on, it’s Cleveland!!) but this will be good for the development of Manziel. He played well last week despite the big margin of victory for Seattle getting a touchdown pass with his first drive. I think Kansas will shut down the Browns as well as Seattle and ease to victory, it’s whether or not the Browns defence can stop Alex Smith enough and limit Kansas to field goals which seems to happen a lot with the Chiefs offence.

49ers@Lions
Stafford had a great game on Monday and showed what the Lions can do. Alright they were up against the Saints defence which isn’t exactly a tough test this year but Stafford still put up great numbers on the way to that 35-27 win. Detroit are favoured by 9 here (!!) which is quite a big margin, even against the awful 49ers! If Stafford can have another start like he did last week I don’t think the niners have enough in them to come back close enough to 9 points. The way they’ve been leaving receivers in open space Detroit can have a ball here and grab their sixth win of the year.

Panthers@Falcons
Carolina had a scare against the Giants didn’t they? After a drive at the death of the game lead to a winning field goal the Panthers stay undefeated and are just 2 games away from being only the second team to go 16-0 in the regular season, after the 2007 Patriots. Atlanta had a better game last week but I can’t see them giving Carolina too much trouble. For two weeks I’ve questioned whether or not Carolina are going for the undefeated season and hedged my bets. Now I’m going to put myself on the line and say they’re going for it, because how many times do you get a chance to go for one? Carolina are 6.5 point road favourites and after Carolina burned Atlanta 38-0 two weeks ago I’d say that’s a pretty good bet!

Bears@Bucs
Cutler seems to have got over his good patch and has regressed into being Jay Cutler again. We all should have known better that it wasn’t going to last. The season might be over but that shouldn’t give teams an excuse to field players who just won’t put in the effort. Chicago have a lot invested in Cutler and he just seems too stubborn to show them he’s worth it. Tampa had a pretty poor game on Thursday as well as the awful moment celebrating a catch at the 1 when the ball was live. Had Donteea Dye fallen over the goal-line he could have celebrated a little harder, rather than tossing the ball away and almost giving it away. Plays like that are always going to cost you. Tampa come in as 3 point favourites which could happen, especially if Cutler is his usual self again.

Steelers@Ravens
For the last few years this would have been a match to drool over. This year the Steelers are fighting for a place in the playoffs with what I think is the scariest offence in the AFC while the Ravens haven’t won since they edged the Browns with that blocked field goal 4 weeks ago. The Ravens did win the reverse fixture back in week 4 but that was when they had Flacco and the Steelers were without Big Ben, and even that took overtime. It’s no wonder then that the bookies are favouring Pittsburgh by 10 points here. The Steelers took the bull by the horns in the second half last week and torched the normally superb Denver defence for 17 unanswered points to take what looked a fairly comfortable 34-27 win. Baltimore gave up 34 to the Chiefs last week and 35 to the Seahawks the week before. They scored a combined 20 points in those two games.

Jags@Saints
Ah Jacksonville. You had the chance to stay in the race for the AFC South but managed to lose to the Atlanta Falcons whose last win was before Halloween! I love the commitment to failure, torch the Colts 51-16 to give your fans a gasp of excitement and a glimmer of hope before you come crashing back down to earth and sinking those hopes like that vodka it takes to watch some of your games. New Orleans did a similar thing funnily enough, only without involving the playoffs as they’re not in LAST year’s NFC South. After some hope in the eyes of the people of New Orleans with a 24-17 win over Tampa Bay, somehow you went and gave up 35 points to the Lions and asked an injured Drew Brees to dig you out of the hole. Apparently Brees has suffered a similar injury to Peyton Manning, so we might not even see him suit up this week! One of these teams will win this game. Neither of them will look like they want to.

Packers@Cardinals
Green Bay have won 4 of 5 and ignoring that loss on Thanksgiving they have been playing like a much more solid unit, mostly. The wideouts need glue on their gloves instead of butter half the time and Rodgers perhaps needs to learn how tall his players are instead of just aiming at the sky and assuming that 12 yards down the field he has a 10 foot tall tight end he hasn’t been formally introduced to! Arizona meanwhile are getting scarier. They even managed to steal Beast Mode from Marshawn Lynch – did you see that run from David Johnson? 47 yards and beating about 5 tackles to rumble into the endzone. It was unbelievable. Teamed with Carson Palmer playing out of his mind well and a defence that stacks up in the top 5 in the NFL this Cardinals team is formidable. 4.5 points is the spread and it obviously favours the home side. This should be the game of the week, both sides are in the playoffs already but Green Bay are only one game ahead of Minnesota in the NFC North and will want to clinch that for the home field advantage in the wild card round.

Rams@Seahawks
One of the big upsets from week 1 was the Rams beating Seattle but I don’t see it happening again this week. Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin are both on fire at the minute as Seattle close in on their attempt for three Super Bowls in a row. It’s hard to bet against Seattle at the minute, they might have just had two easy games (Ravens, Browns) but they also shut down the Vikings the week before and managed to outscore Pittsburgh before that. This is a team on a mission. St Louis have been consistently inconsistent all year long and relying too heavily on Todd Gurley. Seattle are 13 point favourites which seems hard to argue with. St Louis do seem to turn it up a notch for divisional games but like I said, hard to bet against the Seahawks at the minute.

Giants@Vikings
New York go into this one minus OBJ after that malicious hit on Josh Norman in last week’s game against the Panthers. It was the obvious decision. He should have been ejected from the game last week after his behaviour got increasingly erratic and culminated in that spear to the helmet of Norman after a 15 yard run up. It was intentional and it was dangerous. This is a hard hitting and sometimes violent sport, but that aggression and violence should be controlled and used to make plays, not to try and injure a competitor because he has been winding you up. Beckham hopefully will learn from this, he’s an incredible talent and will be featured in highlight reels for years to come, if he can wind his neck in a bit. Anyway, the game this week will be made a lot harder for the Giants without him lining up. Bridgewater looked better throwing the ball last week against Chicago and combined with the ground attack Minnesota tend to favour this could be a fairly easy win for Minnesota. A loss for Green Bay will keep the Vikings in the hunt for first place in the NFC North too. They’ll want this win. Minnesota favoured by 6.

Bengals@Broncos – MNF
Denver are 3.5 point favourites as the Bengals come in without the injured Andy Dalton. Cincinnati managed to get past the 49ers well enough without him and Tyler Eifert who is still in concussion protocol. Eifert has been great this year and the Bengals will want him back for this match as Osweiler has been showing improvement, as witnessed in the first half against Pittsburgh last week. For a battle of backups you’d have to fancy Denver to keep in front thanks to their defence, but the Bengals are no slouch on defence either. This could end up being a fairly low scoring game decided by a field goal rather than a touchdown. I’m still tempted by the Broncos though purely because of that defence. If Osweiler can move the offence in the 2nd half this game they’ll take the win.

Pick 6:
Redskins +3
Patriots -3
Panthers -6.5
Steelers -10
Broncos -3.5
Cardinals -4.5

Some hard picks this week actually, not helped by 3 games not having a spread yet.

Week 15

Some results I certainly wasn’t expecting last week, Washington beating the Bears, Raiders beating the Broncos and St Louis taming the Lions but the Eagles beating the Bills cut the deepest. Buffalo beat themselves with 15 penalties for over 100 yards. You just can’t give up the length of the field in penalties and expect to win games! The defence kept them in the game but the final drive was stopped when an overthrown shot down the field was picked off. Stick a fork in the Bills, they’re definitely done! The Jets got an easy win over the Titans to stay in the playoff hunt and the Chiefs squeezed out a 10-3 win over San Diego for their seventh straight win. The main game for the AFC playoff picture was the Steelers@Bengals game which finished 33-20 in Pittsburgh’s favour – the outcome was almost decided early on when Andy Dalton left the game with a thumb injury and was seen wearing a cast. If he’s out for the season Cincinnati might just have seen their playoff hopes go up in smoke. This could have been the year Dalton finally won a playoff game. New England bounced back and beat Houston and claim the No.1 seed back with that Bengals loss and the Broncos falling to the Raiders. The loss for Houston coupled with the Jaguars absolutely destroying the Colts (51-16!) means we have two entire divisions without a team over .500! The Jags win also means they’re a game back in the AFC South and are still, somehow, in the playoff picture. Johnny Manziel led the Browns to their third win of the year over San Francisco who are probably asking for a defence from Santa! Atlanta will be asking for the last 7 weeks back. Six losses and a bye now for the Falcons as Carolina improved to 13-0 with a 38-0 shutout. Minnesota fell in Arizona as the Cardinals sealed a playoff place in a close fought 23-20 win. The Seahawks eased by the Ravens to improve to 8-5 to take the other wild card place in the NFC and it’s tough to see anyone other than the current teams making it in the NFC. The only two questions I can see for the NFC is whether the Vikings or Packers win the North (Green Bay have my vote) and if any team will actually win the East? Dallas are a pair of games back and you’d have to say out of it. The other 3 teams all won leaving it a 3-way tie at 6-7 with Washington holding the top spot with the tiebreakers. Who will take the spoils? It should probably be the Giants but they don’t have it easy this week as they host the Panthers! For some reason the NFL have arranged a game for Saturday this week, which just so happens to be my birthday. My birthday treat from the NFL? The New York Jets travel to Dallas. I might go out!

Bucs@Rams – TNF
We start the week with the rather underwhelming proposition of the Buccaneers travelling to St Louis to try and keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They didn’t help themselves losing to New Orleans last week whereas the Rams got their first win in 6 games. Tampa have had a fairly decent season overall and can certainly improve again next year while the Rams seem to be stuck in a pattern of being average in a tough division. Jameis Winston has certainly improved since that week 1 loss to the Titans and I’d think he can lead the Bucs to another win here in St Louis. The Rams are favoured by 1.

Jets@Cowboys – Saturday
New York seem to be back on track after that lull a few weeks back where they lost 4 from 5 and have won 3 straight and have their eyes on an AFC wild card. They eased by the Titans last week despite Mariota switching to a receiver for one play and catching his first NFL pass for a touchdown. Dallas must be wondering what happened to their season. After making a good playoff run last year and almost making the NFC Championship game (come on, that was a catch!) they are 4-9 and basically done for the year. Had Romo stayed fit could they have challenged? They probably could have won the division but I doubt they’d have gone far in the playoffs. This week I think the defence will keep Ivory limited in the ground game so it’ll be resting on Fitzpatrick to deal another couple of touchdown passes. I doubt Dallas can put up too many points so 14 or 17 should do for the Jets to get another win.

Bills@Redskins
I predict yellow. Lots and lots of yellow. Yes I’m bitter about the 15 penalties Buffalo put up last week because it cost them the game but Washington can be quite flag happy too. The Bills have been given the same treatment as last week being made 1 point favourites. If the offensive line can behave itself they can manage that. Washington are playing for a playoff spot and will need at least 2 wins from their last 3 games, Cousins will have to watch out with some of his throws as Buffalo can be quite handy at reading routes and getting a pick.

Panthers@Giants
Alright, so last week I wondered which version of Carolina would play. The one that rests players and just rides the wave to the playoffs or the one that goes and decimates teams? A 38-0 walkover against the Falcons later and I had my answer. They did sit Newton for most of the 2nd half but this team still wants to win games. New York had a decent win over the Dolphins mainly thanks to another huge game for Beckham. He’ll need to be at his best again this week to make a dent big enough to upset the Panthers. Carolina drop to 4.5 point favourites, probably as they aim to go a little more conservative with their plays rather than risk injuries.

Bears@Vikings
I thought Minnesota did quite well in their loss to Arizona last week. They put up 20 on a top 5 rated defence and limited a top 5 rated offence to only 23. They didn’t get the result they wanted but they certainly showed why they’re fighting for the NFC North title. Chicago had a pretty poor showing last week against Washington with another missed field goal costing them a shot at overtime. Minnesota should get the win here but they need to improve their passing game to have a proper shot in the post-season. They’re favourites by 5.5 points and I might be tempted to take Chicago on that.

Falcons@Jags
After that huge win over Indianapolis last week where Jacksonville scored a touchdown on every possession in the second half they’re favourites to be the latest team to topple the Falcons. Bortles is certainly getting to grips with the NFL despite some daft errors still present in his game. He’s not in Matt Ryan’s league yet, but the Atlanta passer has been having a nightmare time of it lately. With the Panthers and the Saints left on their slate this is the Falcons best shot of getting another victory in this wasted season. With an extra 3.5 points I’m tempted but I think the Jags probably have the edge overall with the way Atlanta have played in recent weeks.

Texans@Colts
In the battle for the AFC South the winner of this game could well be going to the playoffs. Indy have still got Miami and Tennessee which are both winnable games. Houston have still got Tennessee and Jacksonville, both winnable games. That means a lot will be riding on this game. The game earlier in the year was a close one, with Indy edging it 27-20. Both teams have lost their last two games with the Colts looking the shakier of the two teams. There is also uncertainty around who will play quarterback for Indianapolis again. Andrew Luck was due back but he doesn’t feel 100% ready to play yet. Hasselbeck left the game last week with injured ribs a week after neck and shoulder injuries. Nothing is broken but he will be sore after taking all that pounding. If he is taking so many hits is it worth risking Luck when there is no quarterback protection to speak of in that offensive line? No spread as yet while we wait for the QB news. I’m tempted to back Houston regardless of who plays. I can see them covering a 3 point spread.

Titans@Patriots
More bad news for New England with LaGarrette Blount ruled out for the year with a hip injury. I’m not sure who is meant to run the ball for them now. Maybe Belichick will suit up in the backfield for a snap or two!! The Patriots should still ease past Tennessee who are a slowly improving side but still not good enough for playoff level teams. I would say New England might start sitting players to not risk injury but I doubt they’ve got enough players left!! It’s a 14 point spread (!!) which normally I’d say should be easy for New England. At the minute are they likely to go all out?

Chiefs@Ravens
Kansas made hard work of beating San Diego last week, only managing a 10-3 victory. It does look good for the defence to limit the opposition to one field goal but not so hot for an offence that has been working well in recent weeks. Alex Smith threw his first interception in something like 300 attempts which stopped his closing on Brady’s record. Baltimore finally suffered that big loss they’ve avoided all season in the 35-6 defeat against Seattle. I think they’ll have another home loss this week as Kansas get back to scoring about 30 points per game. Baltimore won’t be able to keep up with that and I reckon another big loss could be on the cards. Kansas are -7.

Browns@Seahawks
Russell Wilson has been unstoppable the last few weeks with 16 touchdowns and no picks in his last 4 games. What a time for Cleveland to have to visit Seattle. What can Manziel do against the suddenly surging Seahawks? Reckon he’ll get the Browns close enough for a field goal attempt? This is going to be a bloodbath! Seattle are 14.5 point favourites and I think that’s being generous to Cleveland. Normally I shy away from big spreads but I can’t see anything other than a third huge win for Seattle. 31 over Minnesota, 29 over Baltimore, anyone want to bet on Cleveland?

Packers@Raiders
Both sides had good wins last time out with the Raiders 15-12 win over Denver being a bit of a standout result. Everyone expected Green Bay to ease past Dallas but a 28-7 victory was something Green Bay should have been doing all year long. I think this one might be tight. Oakland made it past the strong Denver defence and can get more on the board against Green Bay which has a defence that only seems to come alive in the red zone. The Raiders will need to be better against Rodgers than against Osweiler to keep it lower scoring, but as I’ve said before, Oakland can do well in a shootout. I wouldn’t bet against them possibly coming up with another upset here. Green Bay are only 3 point favourites, I’m tempted to take the Packers but Oakland are capable of pulling it off!

Broncos@Steelers
Osweiler lost his first game as a starter last week as Denver couldn’t manage a touchdown against the Raiders and had to settle for field goals. Pittsburgh had an easier time than most would have expected against the Bengals when Dalton went off injured after tackling the man who intercepted his red zone pass. The Steelers have one of the best, if not the best, offences in the AFC right now which will be tested against this strong Denver defence. Osweiler needs to improve more to be a real threat at quarterback but is handling it well considering how little game experience he has. This will be a real test for him this week which is reflected in Pittsburgh being 5.5 point favourites. Pittsburgh are capable of putting up those kind of points and can cover the spread if they can keep the Broncos limited to field goals for another week.

Dolphins@Chargers
San Diego are 2 point favourites in what might be their last home game in this stadium. Miami haven’t been the team anyone expected this year but they are running the ball better and the defence has strengthened as the year comes to a close. Tannehill has been disappointing this year with very little to suggest he is the great young quarterback a lot of people thought he was turning into last year. Rivers on the other hand has been fantastic despite playing almost with a hand tied behind his back. He was kept out of the end zone last week against Kansas but I expect he’ll get a couple of balls in there this weekend. I’m tempted to back Miami in this one after their performance against the Giants.

Bengals@49ers
This probably would have been more like a 10 point spread had Dalton not wrecked his thumb last week. As it is they only have to find 4 to beat the spread against the slowly improving 49ers. They look better with Gabbert taking the snaps and I think San Francisco should stick with him into next year rather than revert to Kaepernick. Cincinnati should still take this one by more than the spread. They’ve got a strong team and over the full hour they should be able to stifle Gabbert and get up enough points for a comfortable win to keep them in prime position for the AFC North title.

Cardinals@Eagles
Not sure why Arizona are only favoured by 3.5 here. A team with a top 5 offence and defence against Philadelphia? Arizona had a bit of a fight with Minnesota last Thursday to get their 11th win of the year and get themselves a place in the playoffs but on the back of a long week and a chance to wrap up the NFC West they’ll ease past a team that struggled against Buffalo. Bradford can make some big plays but doesn’t have the weapons that Palmer has around him. I’d back to Cardinals to win big here.

Lions@Saints – MNF
Stafford and Detroit seemed to relapse last week. Are they trying to get a better spot in the draft or something? If they play anything like that again this week Brees will have them for breakfast. New Orleans broke that four game losing streak last week with a comfortable win over division rivals Tampa Bay after a strong showing against Carolina the week before. I expect New Orleans will be coming into this with a lot of confidence. The defence is still weak and that could let them down but if Brees can put 38 on Carolina he can do enough to win his team this game.

Pick 6:
Cardinals -3.5
Bucs +1
Bengals -4
Jags -3.5
Chiefs -7
Saints -3

Week 14

So last week’s picks went 3 from 6 as the Texans, Dolphins and Panthers let me down. That’s the first time Carolina have let me down on the spread this year. I thought Houston were in with a shout after another lousy second half start by Buffalo but a pick and a quick turnover on downs put pay to that one as Buffalo improved to 6-6 and are level with Houston in the AFC playoff picture. The Colts join them there after a rather humbling 45-10 loss to Pittsburgh. The Patriots stumbled against Philadelphia and have now lost two straight. They stay in control at the top of the AFC East but the win keeps Philly alive in the NFC East. Green Bay had a lucky escape in Detroit thanks to a negligible facemask penalty which lead to Aaron Rodgers doing Aaron Rodgers type things. A 61 yard hail mary as the clock expired to take a 27-23 victory. That puts them back on top of the NFC North thanks to the Seahawks hammering the Vikings 38-7. Minnesota couldn’t get any game going at all and only got 7 points from a kick-off return. No team can win a game when the offence doesn’t score a single point. Chicago dropped back as well with an overtime loss against the 49ers, San Francisco are probably wishing they’d put Gabbert in earlier in the year, they look a different side with him compared to Kaepernick. The Falcons lost their fifth straight game against the resurgent Buccaneers who move ahead of Atlanta in the NFC South. Carolina squeaked past New Orleans to stay unbeaten and clinch the division in a game that was much closer than most would have expected. With two games against the Falcons, the Giants and the Bucs left on the schedule they can go 16-0 but will need to tighten up the defence come January. The Titans got their third win of the year in a 42-39 win over Jacksonville mainly thanks to some great play from Mariota. The Cardinals crushed the Rams 27-3 and the Bengals went even further in a 37-3 win in Cleveland. The Chiefs overcame another rocky start to ease past Oakland and win their sixth straight game and look a threat for the playoffs. Unbelievable to think this team was 1-5 earlier in the year! They’ll probably not catch the Broncos but they certainly look good for a wildcard. Denver won a dull game in San Diego and the Dolphins held on to win against the Ravens. Dallas won another game, this time against the Redskins which keeps the entire NFC East under .500. To think one of these teams is going to the playoffs is awful. It’s becoming an embarrassing repeat of last year’s NFC South.

Vikings@Cardinals – TNF
What a difference a week makes. I was clearly wrong about the Seahawks game as Minnesota totally failed to make an impression with only 125 yards of total offence. Peterson was held to only 18 yards. Arizona will have been watching that closely because they’ll need to do the same thing this week. The Cardinals blew the Rams out of the water to stay in control at the top of the NFC West and will be looking for another win here on a short week. I would have had this spread nearer 3 or 4 so the 7.5 starting price gave me a start. I think it’s a bit of an overreaction personally after a big win for Arizona and a big loss for Minnesota. The Vikings can bounce back a bit here in my opinion and get more of a ground game going than they managed last week. I’m tempted to go with the Vikings with that +7.5. Bear in mind the Vikings do have a slightly depleted defence this week with injuries and Palmer and the Cardinals will certainly try and exploit that.

Bills@Eagles
Both teams surprised me last week getting wins but I doubt anyone saw the Patriots falling at home to Philadelphia. The Eagles didn’t really have a great offensive game but their special teams and defence did a great job. Buffalo played similar to how they did against Kansas, a strong first half and a lead at halftime before keeping their punter busy in the second half. Sammy Watkins showed that good things continue to happen if you throw him the ball with over 100 yards from just 3 catches and a score for his afternoons work. LeSean McCoy went down in the fourth quarter but cleared concussion protocol very quickly on his way to another 100+ yard game. The bookies have made Buffalo 1 point favourites for their trip to McCoy’s old side (bank on Rex Ryan making him a captain this week then) and I think that’s fair. Philly aren’t a great side this year but if they can put up some points with this quick offence Buffalo will struggle to put enough up to cover them. This will be a big test for the defence, getting a couple of picks will make the afternoon a lot easier for the Bills.

Titans@Jets
Tennessee edged an all-out scoring battle with Jacksonville last week thanks to some great play from their rookie quarterback. If you haven’t seen his 83 yard rushing touchdown get yourself onto youtube for it. Fantastic awareness of a lane opening for a chance of a first down and then some good blocking from his teammates for one of the best plays of the day. The Jets needed overtime to get past the Giants and aren’t looking quite as good as they were earlier in the year on either side of the ball. They are doing enough at the minute to get into the playoffs and another win this week will keep them in the pound seats. They’re 7 point favourites here. Tennessee haven’t lost by a margin that big since their week 10 loss to the Panthers (27-10).

Steelers@Bengals
The Bengals edged this one last time 16-10, since then the Steelers offence has been getting better and better. The Colts might not be the team they were last season but to put 45 on any team is an accomplishment. Pittsburgh can still technically catch Cincinnati for the AFC North and a win here would put them 2 games behind but with similar schedules it’s going to be too big an ask. They do need a win to stay in the wild card fight, Cincinnati will want the win to stay in the pound seats for a playoff bye. Home favourites by 3 keeps it tight, hopefully we’ll get a few more points than that week 8 matchup to keep it entertaining. I’m not sure which way I’m leaning… maybe towards Pittsburgh? Tough call.

Colts@Jaguars
More uncertainty for the Colts at quarterback after Hasselbeck went off injured in last week’s loss against Pittsburgh. They’re fairly confident he will play as Andrew Luck won’t be ready until next week at the earliest but without him they’re left with a third string quarterback who has 9 starts in 9 seasons. For a team that has been so up and down this year they’ll want some stability at QB. The Jaguars will want to get the win to help with their slim playoff chance. At 4-8 they should be well out of it but in the AFC South this year it is still possible they make it. I kind of hope they do, just for laughs! No spread on this yet with the uncertainty around the guy taking snaps for the Colts, with Hasselbeck it’ll likely be around -5 Colts I think, without him and the Jags will probably be made favourites.

Chargers@Chiefs
San Diego were blown out last week in the first half by Denver who just sat back in the second half where there was no score. Kansas took a while to get going but thanks to some awful play from Carr they got hot in the fourth quarter and came away with a big win. More of the same here, they’ll ease into the game and grind away at the Chargers and come away with their seventh straight win. At 9.5 point favourites I’m tempted to back San Diego as Rivers is capable of putting up scores despite not having much to throw at. Kansas don’t have a defence as strong as Denver who held the Chargers to 3 so Rivers can probably lead his team to a couple of scores. It’s a question of how much Kansas can get. Tough call on a big spread like this.

Redskins@Bears
Chicago are out of it now in the NFC North with that OT loss against the 49ers leaving them with a 5-7 record. They’ll be annoyed that the Redskins are still in with a hope of winning the putrid NFC East with the same 5-7 record. Washington were in that pathetic game with the Cowboys with 18 points in 58 minutes and then 17 in the last 2! If Washington play like that again Chicago will easily put them away. Cutler had a bit of an off day last week but has been very good for most of the rest of the year. If he plays like that again despite being out of the playoff picture the 3.5 point spread will be childs play. It depends how misery Jay takes it.

Falcons@Panthers
Will Carolina take their foot off the gas now they’ve tied up the NFC South for the third year running? Or will they go for it all and try and stay unbeaten? Differing opinions for this. Should they rest starters to eliminate the risk of injury so they’re around in the playoffs or will that mean they lose momentum? Carolina without Cam Newton in the playoffs are one and done so they won’t want to risk an injury to him, and he has been taking hits. But will a Panthers team strolling into the playoffs with him well rested and out of practice be any better? It depends what Ron Rivera decides to go with here but Carolina can do the Falcons in. They had a bit of a scare in New Orleans last week but Atlanta are nosediving and Matt Ryan just isn’t playing anywhere near his best to keep them in with a shout. I can’t believe how far they have fallen with 5 straight losses but they are playing terrible football at the minute. Carolina are 7 point favourites.

Saints@Bucs
New Orleans came close last week in that 41-38 battle with Carolina and could have taken the win if it wasn’t for a dropped pass on fourth down. Tampa did enough to put Atlanta down and have won 3 from 4 to improve to 6-6. The Saints will want to break their losing streak, having lost 4 straight and I think they can manage that this week. Tampa are 3.5 point favourites but I think even without Mark Ingram who is out for the season with a shoulder injury, New Orleans will get it done on the road.

Lions@Rams
I’m not sure why the Rams are favourites here. They’ve lost 5 straight and given up 132 points in those games. You can’t expect to win many games giving up that many points, especially when you’re averaging scoring less than 15 per game! Detroit had won 3 straight and then lost on the back of a Hail Mary against the Packers. Stafford is playing better than he has all year and the Rams have just fired their offensive coordinator.

49ers@Browns
And Johnny Manziel is back in. I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry about the Browns! Their quarterback situation is like the hokey cokey!! I think people should probably get off Manziel’s back a little. He’s obviously got a few problems but I don’t think you’re going to stop a guy who is renowned for partying from doing so. He’s young, rich and in his dream job. Would you not be partying on your weekend off? Maybe Cleveland keep the drama-o-meter cranked up to full so nobody will talk about just how completely awful their football team is! The 49ers are looking better under Gabbert and have won or been in with a shout against better teams, I think they’ll take this one. Cleveland are favourites (really?!) by a point and a half. I’m taking San Francisco.

Seahawks@Ravens
Barring a horrific accident which takes out the Seattle team bus this is only going to go one way. Baltimore might have kept games close this year with only one game being decided by more than 7 points. Seriously, this is their record – lost by 6, lost by 4, lost by 4, won by 3, lost by 3, lost by 5, lost by 8, won by 3, lost by 2, won by 3, won by 6, lost by 2. I think that might be about to get smashed. Seattle are coming hot at just the right time to make a good playoff run. Wilson is playing out of his mind well and Rawls is a perfect stand in for the injured Marshawn Lynch. No spread on this yet but I think it’ll be big. Anything under 10 and I fancy Seattle to take it.

Raiders@Broncos
Can Brock Osweiler go 4-0 as a starter? Yep. Oakland have dropped off in recent weeks but are certainly building a strong team. Carr made some big mistakes last week when the Chiefs came to town and Denver can certainly get some interceptions if he doesn’t improve his decision making and his receivers don’t get some more separation. Denver are 7 point favourites which is more than they had against San Diego last week. People are starting to have faith in Osweiler. I think 7 is definitely do-able for this Broncos team but they need to put up some points again. Oakland like a shootout, remember that Steelers game in week 9? Carr was magnificent in that game. We haven’t really seen that from Denver. Their defence should stop it turning into a shootout but they need to get past having a great defence and become a great all round team. They’ve got the pieces, they need to get to work together.

Cowboys@Packers
Dallas won a game and are still (somehow) in a position to fight for a playoff spot at 4-8. I think the NFL should make a rule that no team with a losing record should be allowed into the playoffs. We’re a couple of upsets away from a Cowboys@Jaguars Super Bowl!! Nobody wants that – well, maybe Jerry Jones, but he doesn’t seem to mind having Greg Hardy on his team so who cares what he thinks?! Green Bay played better last week but I still don’t have faith in this team. Rodgers isn’t hitting his targets when he’s on the run like he used to and a lot of times the passes are still being dropped. The Packers are not a scary proposition right now. They should be able to get a win here, Dallas aren’t really strong enough to stop Rodgers for a full 60 minute game and Matt Cassel just isn’t good enough to, well, be an NFL starter. Green Bay are 7 point favourites. They’re certainly back-able but it’s whether or not you trust them to not mess it up.

Patriots@Texans
Can Houston bounce back from that loss in Buffalo and deal the Patriots their third straight loss? New England are in trouble without their usual starters and that’s been reflected in them only being 3 point favourites here. Edelman is still out and Gronk didn’t practice on Wednesday so is doubtful for Sunday. Will we see another play where Brady is the receiver like in Philadelphia? I doubt we’ll see the drop kick play again! How many times will we see JJ Watt get to Brady? Without his favourite targets his release has slowed down and that will be music to the ears of JJ Watt! New England are a much better side than Houston, even without a bunch of star players, but Houston are still in with a shout of that AFC South title… they’ll be out to pound the Patriots. Normally this would be an easy call for New England but I’m unsure. Are they really in that much trouble?

Giants@Dolphins – MNF
Does Coughlin regret that fourth a 2 call from last week yet? He says he doesn’t but Pete Carroll says he doesn’t regret the pass call from last year’s Super Bowl! It was a ballsy call, and I like teams that go for it on fourth down but with a chance to make it a 13 point game with less than 9 minutes to play? I’d have kicked the field goal. This team should know what it’s like to give it up in the fourth quarter this year. I don’t think they should have the same issues against Miami, New York are a much better team and I fancy them to get the win on the road here. They’re favourites by a single point.

Pick 6:
49ers +1.5
Giants -1
Lions +1
Bears -3.5
Saints +3.5
Packers -7

Week 13

Week 13

5 out of 6 last week with the Cardinals letting me down for that elusive full house! Thanksgiving started with a pair of easy games with the Lions and Panthers easing past the Eagles and Cowboys before the Bears stunned the Packers who were in a party mood while retiring Brett Favre’s number at halftime. Chicago had other plans and took home the spoils to cap off turkey day. It could have been seen mind as Chicago are playing well at the minute and Green Bay are really starting to struggle and are now a game back in the NFC North thanks to another Minnesota win over the similarly struggling Atlanta Falcons. The Jets got an easy win over the Dolphins to move into second in the AFC East as the Bills folded in the second half against the rising Chiefs. Sammy Watkins managed 158 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half before getting nothing in the second half. The Saints defensive troubles continued as they were hammered 24-6 by Houston who are behind the Colts in the AFC South on the tiebreaker. The Chargers surprised me in getting their first win in 7 games over the Jaguars, which puts Jacksonville 2.5 games back in the AFC South with San Diego pretty much out of everything at 3-8 and stone last in the AFC West. Pittsburgh failed to keep up with Seattle in an end to end game and a fantastic day for Russell Wilson who threw 5 touchdown passes in the 39-30 victory. The Broncos needed overtime to get the win over the Patriots who will be thankful Gronkowski didn’t suffer a worse injury to his reconstructed knee. That loss means Carolina are the only team left with a perfect record and 5 games left, and they are all winnable. The slate for this week starts with an NFC North battle which could have big playoff implications. There are 9 divisional games with only the AFC East teams not getting in on that action along with the battle of the two New York teams.

Packers@Lions – TNF
The struggle in Green Bay is real. Losses to the Broncos, Panthers, Lions and Bears since their bye week with a trip to Arizona and a visit from Minnesota still on their card. They still look good for a wild card thanks mainly to the competitiveness – or lack of – in the rest of the NFC but this was a team that I had as my Super Bowl pick pre-season. I could probably cash that out for about 38 pence now! The defence is up and down and despite some of Rodgers best tricks no offence is going to move far when the receivers keep dropping the ball! Detroit look like a different side than the one that started the year. At 4-7 you’ve got to say they’re done for the year but they could still mathematically finish the year with a winning record! I doubt anyone fancies that but they could get another win at home here. The problems Green Bay are having moving the ball consistently are hurting them way too much, scoring just 59 points in the last 3 weeks, compared to 96 in the first 3 weeks and 81 by Detroit in the last 3 weeks. Would it actually be an upset if Detroit beat Green Bay for the 2nd time this year? The Pack come in as 2.5 point favourites and I just don’t have faith backing them right now.

Cardinals@Rams
They might be the team that let me down last week but I do have faith in backing Carson Palmer and this Cardinals team. They may have lost the reverse fixture earlier this year and St Louis might be 3-0 against the NFC West but have lost 4 straight by a combined 54 points! Arizona haven’t been winning by big margins since their bye but against Seattle and Cincinnati that wasn’t really to be expected was it? Last week I thought they would eviscerate San Francisco and yet they struggled to edge a win. I’m thinking a team this deep with talent can bounce back and march through St Louis by more than 5.5.

Falcons@Bucs
The poor Falcons slide continues. Since going 5-0 they’ve gone 1-5 as they remind everyone of the NFC South of last year and threaten to catch the Saints. Tampa Bay are massively improved on last year and come in as favourites here. I think this could be quite an interesting little game as it would tie the records at 6-6 and give the Bucs the advantage going into the playoff battle with an easier schedule. For Atlanta this is the definition of a must win game as they’ve got the Panthers twice in 3 weeks. A loss here and they’re done. Personally I think they are anyway but a loss here will surely be it for them. Tampa were pretty soundly beaten by Indy last week but a convincing win in Philadelphia the week before showed they can put up points on a team in trouble.

Ravens@Dolphins
Aside from that kick six on Monday night there hasn’t really been much positive said about Baltimore this year. They have won 3 of their last 4 games but at 4-7 and without Flacco they’re deader than Jesus’s pet lemming! Miami are better than they started the year but they’re done too. That crazy contract they gave Suh just hasn’t paid off the way they expected and Tannehill hasn’t really improved on last season. Miami are favoured by 4 and should be able to manage that. If Cleveland can get close to the win then Miami should be able to get it!

Bengals@Browns
Ah Cleveland. Even against a decimated Ravens team and a last second field goal to kick for a win, somehow you still manage to get it all wrong and end up losing. And after reinstating Josh McCown he gets injured again. Why did McCown get the starter job back again? Oh yeah, your first round pick from last year lied about partying during the bye week so you put him back to third stringer. After his stint in rehab. I REALLY want to know what you did to so mightily piss off the footballing gods! Suggestions on a postcard!
The game this week? Really? Alright, Cinci are 9.5 point road favourites on the back of a 24 point win against the Rams last time out. Cleveland couldn’t kick a field goal against Baltimore. Last time out was a 21 point win for the Bengals.

Texans@Bills
Another big game for the playoffs this. Buffalo are still in with a shout at 5-6 but Houston are starting to click at last with 4 straight wins and a shot at the AFC South title. The Bills had Kansas on the ropes last week with some big plays to Watkins before giving up tons of yardage and not challenging calls. Rex Ryan for most of this season has been great with his little red flag but last week was shocking. The Bills still lead the league in penalties and I reckon they’ll end up giving a few more out this week trying to contain JJ Watt. Tyrod Taylor can be an evasive quarterback but Watt is a beast, a couple of hits from him and we might be seeing EJ Manuel back on the field and the Bills hopes up in smoke again. Houston need some more of the consistency they’ve been showing in recent weeks and I think they can edge out a tough road win here.

Jags@Titans
Despite the Titans sharing the worst record in the NFL with Cleveland they come in as favourites against Jacksonville. The same Jaguars team that was being seriously talked about as a playoff contender just a couple of weeks ago. Probably because they’re in the AFC South and it’s been garbage all year but nevertheless. Bortles has been making some silly mistakes of late, penalties for throwing after the line of scrimmage – rookie mistakes in his second season. Mariota has been solid in games other teams would have won. The reverse of this game was just a couple of weeks ago where the Jags ground out a 19-13 win. I fancy another similar game where it’s ugly and you think those who didn’t watch the game won it.

Jets@Giants
The battle of New York (or should that be New Jersey?) has the Jets having a really long trip to this away game! The Jets have been a bit up and down after a rather lightning start to the year but had a pretty good showing last time out against Miami managing 38 points, a season high for them. The Giants had a good showing in the loss to New England but then looked awful against Washington last week with Manning tossing 3 picks and going 26-51. They are anything but good numbers going up against the Jets this year. Fitzpatrick looked fine last time out and hit 22-37 of his passes and Chris Ivory showed up again in the running game. I’ll make a bold prediction that New York will win… 2.5 point spread favouring the Jets and I’ll say they can manage it.

Seahawks@Vikings
This could be a riot! Despite losing Marshawn Lynch the Seahawks still have a great ground game thanks to Rawls. Wilson had an amazing game last time out and the defence looked surer for more of the game. They will be without Jimmy Graham who had a season ending injury but he hasn’t looked comfortable in this offence all year. Going up against a similar styled team in Minnesota with Adrian Peterson in great form I think this can come down to how often the defences can get to the opposing quarterback. Bridgewater can take some punishment but Seattle have been getting through gaps and attacking bigger quarterbacks than this, he’ll need to keep on his toes or quicken his release or Minnesota may be in trouble. Wilson is usually great at avoiding sacks either by darting off on a run of his own or just throwing the ball away. Minnesota will want a lot more of the latter or we could have a walkover on our hands. I’m hoping it won’t be, I’m hoping for a tight defensive battle with a strong running game from both sides here. The Seahawks are favoured by 1; can they get their third win in a row for the first time this season? Or should the bookies be favouring the home side which is leading the NFC North after winning 6 of its last 7?

49ers@Bears
Well, Gabbert has proved a lot of people very wrong. Since the Jags gave up on him he has clearly been working hard and has almost turned this offence into one that can win games. He did of course lead them to one but I don’t think he’ll have another one this week. Chicago have been playing very well lately winning 3 of 4 and the loss being a 2 pointer against the Broncos. Chicago are favoured by 6.5 which is definitely do-able at the minute for this side. Yes the 49ers defence stepped up and allowed only 19 against the Cardinals but I’m thinking that was a one off and Cutler and the Bears will get a fair sized victory this week.

Broncos@Chargers
Osweiler has clearly learned a lot behind Peyton Manning after leading his team to a huge win over the previously unbeaten Patriots last week. New England may have been hit with a lot of injury problems but to come back from 14 points down in the fourth quarter is huge. The Broncos are starting to come back to life and can earn another win this week against the Chargers. San Diego may have got the win last week thanks to Philip Rivers, who is still playing amazing football despite having half a team, but against this Denver defence they will struggle. Broncos are 4.5 point favourites on the road here which is a big ask for Osweiler in his third start, but if he can beat Brady and New England, he can do this!

Chiefs@Raiders
This game is huge for the AFC playoff picture. Oakland slumped to 3 straight losses after looking like a serious contender after their week 8 win against the Jets, and even after that close fought battle with Pittsburgh in week 9. Kansas meanwhile have hit serious form, winning five straight and looking so much better than the team everyone fancied preseason. A slow start last week against Buffalo showed they can still be beaten with some good defending but that is something Oakland don’t really have. Alex Smith tends to keep to short passes and longer drives so stopping receivers after the catch will be crucial. Kansas favoured by 3 on the road. Oakland can be a tough place to go, but I have some faith in this KC side.

Panthers@Saints
This one is more a question of how many points will New Orleans allow this week isn’t it? Drew Brees didn’t throw a touchdown last week in the first time in 45 games. He is capable of bouncing back but the Saints just don’t have much for him to aim at. Carolina meanwhile are still unbeaten and marching toward a playoff bye. How many will Cam and the Panthers put on New Orleans this week? Over 30. Can New Orleans get within 7 of that? Doubtful.

Eagles@Patriots
The big question surrounding this game is whether or not Gronk will be back. Reports were saying he’ll be out for a maximum of one week but the Patriots put out a statement saying they’ll be evaluating him week to week. That’s pretty sensible seeing as they’re surely going to make the playoffs but won’t go much further without him when you look at their other injuries. Gronk has been a huge part of this Patriots offence and without Lewis, Edelman and Amendola, Brady doesn’t exactly have a ton of targets does he? Can the Pats really make a run with just Gronk and LaFell? They can certainly beat the Eagles. This team has gone from bad to worse this year but somehow is still in with a shot at the playoffs thanks to an awful NFC East. It would be a huge upset for them to get a win in New England and I don’t think it’s even likely. With a 9.5 point spread you never know, especially if the Patriots decide to rest Gronk. I still think it’s unlikely the Eagles will get that close but New England are hurting right now.

Colts@Steelers
Still no spread on this one, probably while we wait to see what’s going on with Big Ben and his concussion/migraine and whether or not Luck will be back. Hasselbeck has been a good backup for Indy this year but I don’t think he could hold off a Roethlisberger lead Steelers offence this year. This should be a big game as well for the AFC playoff picture, a loss here and a win for Houston will see movement at the top of the AFC South. A loss for Pittsburgh could see them drop out of a wild card spot depending on other results around the league. Hard to predict a spread without knowing who is likely to be starting QB for each side but I’m leaning towards the Steelers by around 5.

Cowboys@Redskins – MNF
Romo didn’t last long did he? Again. The Cowboys haven’t put him on IR yet on the slim chance they make the playoffs. My (not so) bold prediction? They won’t. They’re 2 games behind the Giants and this week’s opponents and relying on a backup quarterback who hasn’t been able to win a game for them this year. In short, not gonna happen! Washington have shown improvement this year behind Cousins and Dallas weren’t exactly lighting it up last week, even with Romo playing, while Washington got an important win over the Giants. Washington is the favoured side by 4.5 and I’m thinking that sounds pretty tempting. The Cowboys defence can be pretty decent and can keep the score down but I’m thinking Washington can capitalise on any turnovers and get the win.

Pick 6:
Texans +3
Cardinals -5.5
Chiefs -3
Panthers -7
Bengals -9.5
Dolphins -4

As always, good luck with any bets you have.