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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
As always, good luck with any bets you have.