Friday, December 4, 2015

NFL Week 13 Primer (With Picks): The Defeated; Road Favorites Abound

Adrian Peterson is leading the league in rushing, but can he carry Minnesota to a critical win over Seattle?
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

And then there was one.

The Carolina Panthers are now the only undefeated team in the league. The New England Patriots suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of the Denver Broncos, and all it took was jarringly poor officiating, injuries to New England's four best skill position players, a decimated offensive line, and overtime.

(Jeremy might be a little bit salty.)

The good news for the Patriots is that they're in the driver's seat for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The only teams with winning records they have left on their schedule are Houston and the Jets.

Meanwhile, Denver and Cincinnati still play each other (so one of them is guaranteed a third loss), and both have a game remaining against Pittsburgh (Denver travels to Pittsburgh in Week 15, Cincinnati hosts the Steelers next week). If Denver or Cincinnati end up at 14-2, and New England loses again, both of those teams will hold tiebreakers over the Patriots. But it's more likely than not that either (a) The Patriots finish 15-1 or (b) both Denver and Cincinnati end up at 13-3 or worse.

Weekly Playoff Machine Nonsense

Unless something incredibly strange happens, this week's Kansas City-Oakland matchup should end up having big implications in Wild Card seeding. Kansas City's other remaining games are San Diego, at Baltimore, Cleveland, and home for Oakland, all likely wins. If we assume as such, a win this week at Oakland would be the deciding game with regards to the No. 5 seed in the AFC, which would mean facing the AFC South champion (Indianapolis or Houston) as opposed to either Denver, Cincinnati, or New England (whoever ends up as the No. 3 seed). Kansas City already holds the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh, who face a tough remaining schedule (Indianapolis, Denver, and Cincinnati are their next three opponents).

Pittsburgh, or any other 6-5 AFC team, like the Jets, Houston, or Indianapolis, would need to win out to have any hope of getting to the No. 5 seed. But if Kansas City wins this weekend, they could easily run the table and deem it void.

Game(s) of The Week

Atlanta at Tampa Bay (1:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Minnesota currently holds the NFC North lead, but Green Bay is closing fast and the Vikings have the league's toughest remaining schedule. If they falter, these are the two teams with the best chance to usurp them. An Atlanta win all but knocks out the Bucs, but Atlanta has been an unmitigated disaster since Halloween.

Seattle at Minnesota (1:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

Speaking of Minnesota, here's a tough game for them. Seattle has won two straight games and seems poised to make an impressive run through the end of the season. They need this win if they want the No. 4 seed and a matchup against the NFC East champion.

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh (8:30 p.m. Sunday, NBC)

Both of these teams are fighting for their playoff lives. Pittsburgh finds itself on the outside looking in (they lose tiebreakers to just about everyone in the AFC thanks to four losses in-conference), while Indianapolis suddenly finds themselves in a dogfight for the AFC South crown.

While Indianapolis and Houston both hold playoff spots entering this week, it seems far-fetched that the AFC South would get two berths. It will likely take a division crown to get in.

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

[Editor's Note: We forgot to list our picks for the San Diego at Jacksonville game last week. The line closed at Jacksonville -4.5, and we both took Jacksonville. Somehow it was deleted from the draft before publishing, so we'll each take a loss with San Diego's win outright.]

Green Bay (-3) over DETROIT

We feel a little guilty about this one.

Cincinnati (-9) over CLEVELAND

JC: Cleveland had the most Cleveland loss of all time on Monday night. I'm not sure they come back from that.

JP: I just can't get enough of Browns fans reacting to that finish. I can't even imagine if that were my team. I would just, like, punch myself in the junk, or something, just to numb the pain of watching this disaster every year, and somehow expecting things to change.

Check out this gem
San Francisco (+7) over CHICAGO

JC: I respect all the things Chicago has done over the last few weeks, especially on offense, to claw their way back into playoff contention, but come on. Let's be serious. They shouldn't be giving a touchdown. I get that San Francisco is bad. But Chicago is also bad.

JP: Well, if the Niners can keep it close with Arizona, I'll trust they can do the same against Chicago.

Houston (+3) over BUFFALO

JC: Houston's defense has been outright dominant lately. They've allowed a grand total of two touchdowns in their last 18 quarters of football. They haven't allowed 300 yards of total offense since their debacle in Miami Week 7. Their offense isn't much to speak of but they're shutting teams down.

JP: Houston coming on strong, Buffalo is still just "pretty good." These two teams are pretty much in opposite positions of where I thought they'd be two months ago.

Baltimore (+3.5) over MIAMI

JC: The Ravens have been playing close games all year. Literally. All year. Their biggest margin of victory/defeat is eight points, and they've been terrible against the spread, but frisky as underdogs. If they're getting more than a field goal, it's decent value.

JP: Miami is so bad, and Dolphins fans are losing their minds. I guess PC Principal isn't the savior they all thought he would be.

Carolina (-7) over NEW ORLEANS

JC: New Orleans can't even stop bad offenses. Cam Newton might run for 300 yards on a whim.

JP: This has the look of a let down game for Carolina. The Panthers are undefeated, but playing a divisional foe that knows them well, in a stadium that hasn't been kind to them, against a quarterback that has pulled miraculous games out of nowhere many times.

Still, I just can't pick the Saints. They've been so bad this year.

Seattle (Pick'em) over MINNESOTA

JC: I remain convinced Minnesota is a fraud propped up by a cupcake schedule. They haven't had an impressive win all season. If Seattle is back for real, they should make quick work of the Vikings.

JP: After weeks of playing poor situational football, both in the red zone and on third down, Seattle flipped the script against Pittsburgh, scoring on all four of their red zone appearances and converting over half their third downs. Oh yeah, and Russell Wilson threw five touchdown passes with zero turnovers.

The only thing that might concern me was that the secondary gave up over 450 yards to Ben Roethlisberger and company, but Richard Sherman actually had his best game of the season, locking down Antonio Brown. Minnesota doesn't have nearly the quarterback, or number of play makers as Pittsburgh, so I'll go with Seattle to continue their offensive surge, and get their defense back on track.

Arizona (-5.5) over ST. LOUIS

JC: The Rams, since I predicted them to surge through the rest of the season to shockingly win the NFC West, have lost four straight. The Cardinals, statistically, are the best team in the NFC. Taking this many road favorites makes me queasy, but I just don't trust any of these dogs.

JP: Arizona let me down last week against the awful 49ers, but I'm not giving up on their ability to blow out bad teams. Come on  Cards!

TAMPA BAY (-1) over Atlanta

JC: The Falcons might suck. They started 5-0, but four of those wins were over the NFC East (congratulations), and the fifth was Houston in the midst of their embarrassing period. Their other win is over Tennessee. Tampa Bay can run the ball (third in yards and yards per attempt), and Atlanta's defense has been gashed in recent weeks.

JP: The Falcons do suck. Now, the Bucs might be so young and inconsistent that they give Atlanta the game, but right now I think the Bucs are the better team, so I'll roll with them at home.

Denver (-3.5) over SAN DIEGO

JC: This seems like way too short of a line for a team that's re-discovered a dynamite running game going up against the worst run defense in the league. C.J. Anderson and/or Ronnie Hillman should be able to take over and chew clock in an ugly 20-9 type game.

JP: I can't be the only person that is now higher on Denver with Brock Osweiler at quarterback, can I? I know Peyton is a legend, but the guy couldn't throw a 10-yard out route this year. Brock may not have it mentally, but like you said, Denver is going to get back to running the ball, playing defense, and he'll occasionally toss it over the top to Thomas or Sanders.

You know, like he did against New England.

Kansas City (-2.5) over OAKLAND

JC: The Chiefs are surging (five straight wins, all of them convincing), and their pass defense has been absolutely spectacular. If they can slow down Oakland's aerial attack, they should be in business. Giving less than a field goal is just gravy.

JP: The Raiders are a nice team, but the Chiefs look like a legit playoff team (albeit one that I would expect to lose on Wild Card Weekend, but still). Defense and a running game that has continued to produce, no matter who is in the backfield, make KC the pick.

NEW ENGLAND (-9.5) over Philadelphia

JC: Neither one of these teams has looked good of late. The Patriots are 10-1, but have lost three straight against the spread. The Eagles, meanwhile, haven't been able to do anything right. Sam Bradford is expected to return from injury, but he wasn't much better than Mark Sanchez was. Meanwhile, the Patriots are likely to see Danny Amendola and Jamie Collins return to the lineup, which should push them over the top.

JP: The Patriots are still the best team in football, and the Eagles are still getting waxed weekly. If Philly had Denver's defense, I might hesitate, but it does not.

WASHINGTON (-4) over Dallas

JC: The Cowboys haven't won a game without Tony Romo. I'd expect that trend to continue.

JP: Ro-no!

Here Are The Picks We Disagree On (Home Teams Still In CAPS)
Jacksonville (+2.5) at TENNESSEE (-2.5)


You couldn't pay me to watch this game.

JP: Jacksonville

Catch Jaguar fever, baby!

New York Jets (-2) at NEW YORK GIANTS (+2)


The Jets discovered the elixir known as "playing the Dolphins," but I think the Giants put themselves back atop the NFC East here. The Jets are too banged up in the secondary to deal with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham.

JP: Jets

I'll give you that Odell Beckham is in God mode, but the Giants are currently enduring a stretch of "Bad Eli" play, and they don't have the defense or running game to make up for it. I'd expect the Jets to put the clamps down defensively (other than two different one-handed Beckham TD catches), and run the ball well enough to "escape" with a "road" win.

Indianapolis (+6.5) at PITTSBURGH (-6.5)


The Matt Hasselbeck thing isn't going to go on forever. One of these weeks we're all going to remember that he's Matt Hasselbeck. He's taken advantage of a sub-par schedule, but playing at Pittsburgh with a weak secondary is a recipe for disaster.

JP: Indianapolis

Indy may have its own trouble stopping the pass, but if any secondary can help Matt Hasselbeck continue his magical run, it's Pittsburgh's. The Steelers may dig even deeper into their depth at corner, just due to ineffectiveness, while their offensive line is ravaged by injury, they're without Le'Veon Bell for the rest of the year and Ben Roethlisberger is still playing hurt. I can't give a touchdown against anybody, much less a playoff contender, with THIS Pittsburgh team.

Jeremy's Record: 
Last Week: 6-10
Season: 92-79-5
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-4
Season's Disagreements: 26-24-2 

Joe's Record: 
Last Week: 8-8
Season: 90-81-5
Last Week's Disagreements: 4-2
Season's Disagreements: 24-26-2

No comments :