Friday, December 2, 2016

NFL Week 13 Primer (With Picks): Moving Day

High fives all around if you thought the Chiefs would be 8-3 heading into Atlanta this week.
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Week 13 is moving day for a lot of reasons. It's the last week of most fantasy league regular seasons, it's the last week of byes for NFL teams, and there are still 14 teams currently not in first place in their respective divisions that still have a realistic (one-in-five or better) chance of making the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders.

This week, there are no fewer than nine games where a win for either team would dramatically improve their chances at making the playoffs or affecting their playoff seeding. That's nine of the fifteen games this week (including Thursday night's Dallas-Minnesota game). The most notable ones are included below in the Game(s) of The Week, but even games like Detroit-New Orleans are low-key pretty important in the grand scheme of things.

There's only one "irrelevant" game this week - that's San Francisco at Chicago. Every other game could end up giving a team a leg up or costing them a playoff spot depending on if they take care of business or not. When tiebreakers become a big deal in a few weeks (and you can already fiddle around with a few of them using ESPN's Playoff Machine), we may be able to point to some of these Week 13 games as turning points.

Game(s) of The Week

Kansas City at Atlanta (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

This is probably the best game (at least on paper) of the weekend. Atlanta has an outside chance at a first-round bye (they'd need Seattle to stumble because the Seahawks are a game ahead in the loss column and also hold a head-to-head tiebreaker), and Kansas City, following a win in Denver last weekend, now have a chance at the AFC West title and the first-round bye that will almost definitely come with it. If either of these teams end up with a bye, this game will be a big reason why.

Miami at Baltimore (1:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS)

Miami has won six straight games. Seriously. Baltimore has won three of their last four and that only loss was on the road in Dallas. a month ago, when both teams were at 3-4, you wouldn't have thought that this game might be interesting. But here we are.

New York Giants at Pittsburgh (4:25 p.m. Sunday, FOX)

The Giants have been surging, but not exactly convincingly. Meanwhile, the Steelers haven't exactly been surging, but they've had some impressive blowout wins and they've been competitive against the two best teams in the league (Dallas and New England). The AFC North isn't as good as we thought it might be coming into the season, but Pittsburgh and Baltimore will both be dueling it out down the stretch for the upper hand (they play again on Christmas Day in Week 16)

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

Denver (-4) over JACKSONVILLE

JC: Denver needs a win to keep pace with Oakland and Kansas City, and their defense should be able to punish a predictable Jacksonville offense. The Jaguars just haven't shown the promise that was suggested at the start of the season - they've lost six straight.

JP: One team in desperate need of a win to stay in the playoff race, the other is demoralized with nothing tangible to play for. Ok.

Philadelphia (+1.5) over CINCINATTI

JC: Yeah, I'm calling it quits on the Bengals for the year. Wake me up when they have their offense back.

JP: They're the Bungles again. It's been a while, but nice to have them back. 

Detroit (+6) over NEW ORLEANS

JC: For as good as they've looked in recent weeks, I still don't trust the Saints' defense. And for a team that has seen all 11 games this season decided by seven points or less, doesn't getting six points seem like a no-brainer?

JP: Too many points for my blood.

CHICAGO (Pick'em) over San Francisco

JC: [projectile vomits]

JP: You think Chip Kelly is angling for that Oregon job that just opened up? Something tells me he'd be a good fit there.

Miami (+3.5) over BALTIMORE

JC: Miami has won six straight games (largely against garbage competition, but the point remains), and I think Baltimore's offense sucks. I'm not sure their defense is even that good, considering the fact that they've played Cleveland twice, the Jets, the Jaguars, the Bengals without A.J. Green or Gio Bernard, and the Steelers with a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger. That's half of their games. Just sayin'.

JP: Gimme the points, but this could be a stumbling block for Miami. The one thing Baltimore does well is defend the run, and the Dolphins' surge has been predicated on controlling the line of scrimmage. This could be a good ole fashioned slugfest.

Buffalo (+3) over OAKLAND

JC: Here's a fun fact - Buffalo has a better average scoring margin this year than the Raiders do. It's true. You can look it up and everything. Oakland has spent the season with a golden horseshoe lodged directly up their keister. They're 7-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, a strong indicator that they've been more lucky than good. If they come crashing back to Earth over the next five weeks, you heard it here first.

JP: I actually like both of these teams, but can't really get a feel for either of them. You're right about Oakland's good fortune though, so I'll take the points and underrated Buffalo.

Washington (+2.5) over ARIZONA

JC: Last year, you could have made a decent argument that the two best teams in football were Cincinnati and Arizona. Less than a year later I'm out on both teams and not sure what their path to success is anymore.

JP: Washington/Kirk Cousins being decent is weirding me out.

Carolina (+7) over SEATTLE

JC: Carolina is still, somehow, alive, and fighting for their lives. Seattle is just too up-and-down for me to lay a touchdown against a desperate team.

JP: Seattle is way too inconsistent for a touchdown spread, and Carolina, despite last week's close loss to Oakland, is rounding into form. 

NEW YORK JETS (+2.5) over Indianapolis

JC: The only reason to watch this game is if you're at a bar that does some type of deal on wings and/or cheap pitchers on Monday nights. That's really it.

JP: So I take it you'll be watching it then.

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

JC: MINNESOTA (+3.5) over Dallas

Dallas is good, but I don't think they're 11-1 good. Sure, yeah, their record *is* 11-1, but I don't think they're a juggernaut. Their passing game is too reliant on their running game (and when their running game is slow, as we saw Thursday, the offense struggles), and the defense has a few holes. Giving more than a field goal on the road against a good defense was a bridge too far for me.

JP: Dallas (-3.5) over MINNESOTA

I hate Sam Bradford. 

JC: ATLANTA (-4.5) over Kansas City

I think this is the week where Kansas City's banged up offense finally catches up with them. Their 27th in total yards on offense, and, even more bizarre, 28th in total yards allowed defensively. Their defense is held afloat by their league-best 24 forced turnovers. In the last two weeks, however, they've given up 442 yards to Tampa Bay and 464 yards to Denver. What's going to happen when they go up against the league's best offense, on the road?

JP: Kansas City (+4.5) over ATLANTA

I don't know man, the Chiefs found ways to generate big plays against Denver's defense last week, and I have a feeling this game is decided by a field goal either way.

JC: GREEN BAY (-7) over Houston

Green Bay seemingly found their footing, and Houston keeps managing to lose theirs. Both of these divisions are enigmatic, to say the least, but I trust Green Bay more than I trust Houston.

JP: Houston (+7) over GREEN Bay

Did we already forget our "Green Bay actually sucks" conclusion? I'm sticking with it.

JC: Los Angeles Rams (+13.5) over NEW ENGLAND

The Rams' defense is just hot-and-cold enough, and the Patriots offense is just inconsistent enough without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup that I'm not prepared to lay two touchdowns in this game.

JP: NEW ENGLAND (-13.5) over Los Angeles Rams

Bill Belichick began his press conference by praising Rams punter Johnny Hekker, meaning the Rams' most noteworthy player is a punter,  while Jeff Fisher didn't seem to know who New England's running backs were at his press conference, meaning Jeff Fisher is clueless. Even without Gronk, I still like New England in a blowout.

JC: SAN DIEGO (-3.5) over Tampa Bay

One of these teams is the Bad Good Team and the other one is the Good Bad Team (well, other candidates include Tennessee, Baltimore, Arizona, Green Bay, and yes, the New York Giants, but San Diego and Tampa are the only ones that play each other this week, so there). I think San Diego is better (mostly I just think the AFC West is better than the NFC South, and you should, too), although that half-point has me nervous.

JP: Tampa Bay (+3.5) over SAN DIEGO

I may be jumping on a little late (at least later than I normally do), but there's still room on the Bucs bandwagon. 

JC: PITTSBURGH (-6) over New York Giants

Yeah, I think the Giants are pretty overrated. Although at this point I kind of hope they make the playoffs because I'd very much like to bet against them in the playoffs.

JP: New York Giants (+6) over PITTSBURGH

I get that and all, but this is still an 8-3 team getting six points against a team that hasn't defeated an opponent with a pulse in two months.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 8-8
Season: 87-85-5
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-3
Season's Disagreements: 25-29-1

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 8-8
Season: 91-81-5
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-3  
Season's Disagreements: 29-25-1

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