Thursday, November 20, 2014

NFL Week 12 Primer (With Picks): Your Team is Probably Still Alive

Cheer up Cam! Your horrendous disappointment of a team is only one game out of hosting a playoff game!

By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Anybody who thinks the NFL needs to add another Wild Card team to increase excitement around the league is being thoroughly refuted this year. 11 weeks into the year and virtually the entire AFC is still in playoff contention.

Seriously, look at the standings. As long as you don't root for the Jets, Jags, Titans or Raiders, your team has a shot! The 12 other teams in the AFC are .500 or better, which is absolutely crazy at this point in the year.

The NFC doesn't have as many teams at .500 (just seven) but, thanks to the dumpster fire that is the NFC South, all four awful teams are still alive. The Falcons and Saints have limped to 4-6, while Carolina, as horrible a disappointment as it has been, sits only a game out of first place at 3-7.

And here is my "oh my God this needs to happen" realization of the week: The Bucs are only two games out of HOSTING a playoff game. Oh my God, this needs to happen! Please Tampa Bay, go 4-2 the rest of the way and somehow win this awful division at 6-10!

I look forward to seeing you lose by 50 at home in the first round.

Anyways, the point is that with 19 teams at .500 or better, and four teams kept alive by a historically bad division, there are 23 fan bases all still thinking about postseason football. That's nearly 3/4ths of the league, so chances are your team is playing a pretty important game this week. Heck, the only teams that are actually eliminated mathematically so far are the Raiders, Jaguars, Titans and Jets, so you go crazy with hope Bears/Vikings/Rams/Giants/Redskins fans!


Underdog Update:
Last Week: 8-6
Season: 76-83-2
Home Dogs, Last Week: 2-1
Home Dogs, Season: 19-26-1

Game(s) of The Week:

Detroit @ New England (1 pm Sunday. FOX)

Detroit couldn't seize control of the NFC last week against Arizona, but a win against AFC favorite New England will go a long way toward earning national respect. As of now, the Lions come into Gillette as a touchdown dog, and with the Patriots riding a five-game winning streak, it's easy to see why.

Arizona @ Seattle (4:05 pm Sunday. FOX)

Arizona is still riding high, but with Carson Palmer done for the year and Drew Stanton taking snaps, there are many that STILL won't call them a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Holding the NFC's best record, the Cardinals can practically lock up the NFC West with a win over the defending champs, but the Seahawks need a win in the worst way to get into the championship conversation.

Miami @ Denver (4:25 pm Sunday. CBS)

Denver returns home beaten and embarrassed after falling to the Rams and losing several key players to injury in the process. The Dolphins may not be the best guests to have, as Miami has won four of five (only loss in the last minute at Detroit) on the back of a ferocious pass rush and the improved play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. 

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams In CAPS)

Kansas City (-7.5) over OAKLAND

The Chiefs have been constantly winning against the spread all year, but now they're just plain winning constantly. Oakland is the league's worst team and KC needs to keep rolling for a shot at the playoffs.

JC: Look, Oakland doesn't actually suck that bad. They're winless, but two teams rank worse in DVOA and five teams rank worse in Simple Rating System (average margin of victory with a strength of schedule adjustment). That being said, Kansas City is bucking all the regression trends that we saw coming and a win against Denver next week could shockingly put them on the inside track for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. I think it's about time to ride Kansas City until they stumble. Although, given my track record this year, that will probably be this week now that I'm taking them.

NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Detroit

Detroit's defense is still great, but as long as Gronk is healthy and Bill Belichick is pulling guys off the scrap heap and turning them into 200 yard rushers, I'm not ready to start betting against the Patriots yet.

JC: Giving up a touchdown seems like a big spread for any team to be giving against a 7-3 team, but that's until you remember that the Patriots have won five straight by an average of 19 points, and they've beaten the other three AFC division leaders by a combined score of 128-58. So, yeah. 

Green Bay (-10) over MINNESOTA

The Pack is rolling and Minnesota is… Minnesota.

JC: Unfortunately, this game isn't in a dome anymore, which means I don't get to roll out the abjectly absurd "Aaron Rodgers When Playing Indoors" numbers, but even if it's outside in the snow, Rodgers is playing quarterback better than anyone alive right now. And with a re-vamped defense featuring Clay Matthews at middle linebacker, the Packers might be the best team in the league. 

Cincinnati (+1.5) over HOUSTON

On one hand, the Texans looks like a much better team with Ryan Mallett under center. On the other hand, A.J. Green finally looks healthy and has the Bengals poised for an offensive explosion over the last month and a half of the season.

I'll take the team getting points and deeper in the playoff hunt.

JC: The team that's 31st in passing yards allowed probably isn't the best bet to slow down a healthy and re-emerging A.J. Green. 

CHICAGO (-6) over Tampa Bay

Which Bears team will show up? Hopefully the one from last week, and I just can't see Tampa stringing multiple wins together at any point this year.

JC: The Bears' defense showed up last week, but that was against Minnesota. Then again, Tampa Bay only out-gained Washington by seven yards last week. If Chicago doesn't turn the ball over they should be fine. 

Arizona (+6.5) over SEATTLE

I know Seattle needs this game, and I know it's in Seattle, where the Seahawks are great. Still, Arizona has been flat-out better this year, so giving the Cardinals what is basically a touchdown seems like a bit much.

JC: Arizona is getting no respect. When was the last time a 9-1 team was getting a touchdown against a team that wasn't even in the playoffs (which Seattle currently is not)? 

St. Louis (+4.5) over SAN DIEGO

In San Diego's last five games they have beaten Oakland by 3, then lost three in a row by a combined 54 points, then beaten Oakland by 7. You can only schedule Oakland so many times.

JC: San Diego shouldn't be giving points to anyone with a pulse right now. With St. Louis wins over San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver, they clearly have a pulse. 

Miami (+7.5) over DENVER

Denver will likely be without receiver Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Julius Thomas, and the backfield situation is even worse with both Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman expected to miss the game as well.

Peyton Manning is great, and Demaryius Thomas is one of the game's best receivers, but Denver's inability to run the ball allowed St. Louis to pin its ears back and rush the quarterback. Expect the same from Miami, only Manning won't have two of his best weapons for the entirety of this game.

JC: Denver is too banged up to be giving a touchdown against a defense like Miami's. 

SAN FRANCISCO (-9) over Washington

RG3 is making everyone insane and Washington stinks.

JC: I wouldn't bank on the 49ers forcing five turnovers again, but I also wouldn't bank on Washington being able to stop anything San Francisco wants to do on offense.

Dallas (-3.5) over NY GIANTS

The Giants also stink, and the Cowboys are still a week or two away from their inevitable meltdown.

JC: Romo?

Baltimore (+3) over NEW ORLEANS

JP: The Ravens are making their playoff push, while New Orleans has been uncharacteristically hot-and-cold on offense and vulnerable at home.

JC: Ok.

Here Are The Picks We Don't (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

JP:Cleveland (+3.5) over ATLANTA

 Figuring out anybody in the AFC North or NFC South is a foolhardy endeavor at this point. That said, the AFC North has at least been "mediocre" hard to figure out, not "God-awful" hard to figure out. I'll take the points and the Browns with their backs against the wall.

JC: ATLANTA (-3.5) over Cleveland

Let's try a theory out - there's never been a 6-10 division winner. It's never happened. There have been 7-9 division winners, though. That means that unless we think the NFC South is historically bad (which I don't - I think they're just run-of-the-mill bad), someone is getting to 7-9 (at least). So for Atlanta, that would mean going 3-3 down the stretch. With games against Arizona, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and at New Orleans left on their schedule, that would mean they'd almost certainly have to take care of business against Cleveland here to win the division.    

JP: Tennessee (+11) over PHILADELPHIA

Tennessee's defense is improving, particularly up front, and the Titans seem to have JUST enough talent around somewhat scrappy rookie QB Zach Mettenberger to stay in games. I doubt they win, but 11 points is a little steep for a team starting Mark Sanchez (and yes, I saw Philly's blowout of Carolina, but still).

JC: PHILADELPHIA (-11) over Tennessee

Philly blew out Carolina (a terrible team) and got spanked by Green Bay (other than New England, the best team in football right now). Do we think Tennessee is closer to being Carolina or Green Bay? Yeah. That's what I thought, too.  

JP: Jacksonville (+14) over INDIANAPOLIS

Never bet against the Jags coming off a bye! In all seriousness, Jacksonville is somewhat not terrible on defense, and Denard Robinson has breathed new life into the Jacksonville ground game. He's no Jonas Gray, but I could see him rushing for a 100 yards and keeping this thing within 10.

JC: INDIANAPOLIS (-14) over Jacksonville

If there's one thing the Colts have shown us, it's that they beat the crap out of bad teams. And coming off a big loss, they really need a win to keep pace in the AFC. Getting the three seed is actually a big deal this year, because assuming the Patriots keep rolling, it (a) keeps you away from the fifth-seed buzz-saw (either Kansas City or Denver) and (b) keeps you away from the New England buzz-saw in Round 2. Expect the Colts to come out swinging.  

JP: BUFFALO (-4) over New York Jets

The Jets will be slightly better with Mike Vick at QB, but Buffalo still has the better secondary and pass rush. Plus, the way things are going, this game may be played under six feet of snow, thus neutralizing Vick's speed.

JC: New York Jets (+4) over BUFFALO

Buffalo coming off two straight bad performances going up against the Jets, coming off a win and a bye week, with Rex Ryan desperately trying to save his job? Isn't this the game that Buffalo always blows to all but end their season? 

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 5-9
Season: 77-82-2
Last Week's Disagreements: 1-3
Season's Disagreements: 20-27

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 7-7
Season: 84-75-2
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-1
Season's Disagreements: 27-20

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