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