Saturday, November 25, 2017

NFL Week 12 Primer (With Picks): Giving Thanks For Football

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

We don't have too much by way of introduction here this week. Both Jeremy and Joe have some traveling and some social engagements taking up time this long weekend, so we'll just go rapid-fire with some things that we're thankful for this football season, and then some rapid-fire Week 12 picks.

Jeremy is thankful for:

1. How the Patriots somehow roped all of New England into thinking the sky was falling because the defense was so bad and there were injuries all over (I count myself among this group, kind of). Since Week 5 they've allowed just 12.5 points per game. Everything seems to be going well.
2. After all the chatter about how there aren't enough good quarterbacks in the league, coupled with the steady decline of once-competent quarterbacks like Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Joe Flacco, it's been pretty cool to see Jared Goff and Carson Wentz come into their own and look like franchise guys.
3. The Giants and Jets are both terrible. What's not to love?
4. This class of rookie running backs looks pretty amazing as well. Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette, and Alvin Kamara all look like stars in the making, which Dalvin Cook did as well until his knee injury. Let's all hope he can come back strong because this generation of running backs looks exceedingly deep with talent.
5. In a weird way, the injuries to top guys like Rodgers and Luck and Beckham and David Johnson and Edelman and Watt and everyone else has opened the door for some new guys to step forward and catch some of the limelight. Adam Thielen, Mark Ingram, Jared Goff, and DeMarcus Lawrence weren't at the tip of anyone's tongue coming into the season, but they've all had stellar campaigns and been receiving some much-deserved credit these last few months. So, silver linings, I guess?

Joe is thankful for:
1. The NFL has done a lot wrong this year, from its bungled handling of player protests, to the public in-fighting among owners over commissioner Roger Goodell's contract extension, and a number of other issues. But, I think we can all agree, the league loosening its celebration rules has been great for everybody. If you disagree, you clearly hate fun, and don't enjoy witnessing expressions of joy. Sorry, but those are the facts. Please save your takes about players being better role models, "doing their job," and acting like they've been there before. I also find it amusing that all the people who get mad at players for making money "playing a game," then turn around and get upset when those players treat it like a game, instead of a matter of life and death. Which is it, guys?
2. New Orleans transforming into a running team, just in time for the tail end of Drew Brees' career. Well, maybe they were a year or two too late, but the Saints have the scariest ground game in football, and a defense that is hanging in the Top 10 for points per game allowed. Drew can still carry the team to a few magical moments (see his comeback against Washington last week), but now he doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting, which is nice, because lifting things kills old dudes' backs.
3. Dallas may not have a budding dynasty on its hands. I know, we shouldn't really root for particular teams to fail, but wasn't it kinda depressing watching Dak and Zeke dominating last year, and thinking that Dallas will be that good for another decade? Well, it turns out the Cowboys are still the Cowboys, and they've found a way to go from the most promising young team in the league, to one now questioning whether Dak is actually any good. Thanks Dallas.
4. Jacksonville is fun! The Jaguars have a scary defensive front, and one of the best young secondaries in the league. Offensively, the line is coming along, and they've got a deep and talented stable of backs, plus a bunch of play makers on the outside. Man, it's gonna really stink when Blake Bortles throws four picks in New England this January.
5. Antonio Brown.

Week 12 got underway while the country was busy shoving their faces full of poultry and other foodstuffs, and we were a late Washington field goal away from ending the day with a win for Joe, a win for Jeremy, and a push. Joe believed in Minnesota on the road, and he was right. Jeremy believed in the Chargers on the road, and he was right.

Jeremy took Washington as a home favorite, and he got bailed out late. But he'll take the 2-1 start and won't complain about it. Here are the rest of the picks:

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

Cleveland (+8.5) over CINCINNATI

JC: I'm going down with the ship. The Browns are 2-8 against the spread this year. Things have to turn around eventually, right?

JP: The Battle of Ohio (like most things in Ohio) is so damn depressing.

Chicago (+13.5) over PHILADELPHIA

JC: By this time, I've learned that the Bears aren't an absolutely dumpster fire. Like, yeah, they're bad, but they keep games inexplicably close and their defense is a unit that actually plays football and a competent level. Philadelphia is the obvious favorite here, but I like Chicago as a value underdog.

JP: The Bears ain't that bad! They can run the ball, and they play salty on D (some of the time!). Really, they're just a quarterback away from being decent, which is something you've been able to write about the Bears every year since the mid-80s.

NEW ENGLAND (-16.5) over Miami

JC: The Patriots just look like a buzz saw right now. Obviously, now that I trust them again, they'll lose this game 20-12 and ruin my Sunday afternoon. But I just can't get behind the idea that Jay Cutler will be able to keep a game against the Patriots competitive.

Buffalo (+10) over KANSAS CITY

JC: Here's the deal - Kansas City no longer deserves our respect. They got lucky early in the season with a bunch of long touchdown plays, and it made them look way better than they are. The team that's lost four of their last five is a lot closer to the truth than the team that started 5-0. I'm not saying they're a bad team, but they shouldn't be a 10-point favorite over a team that's only a game behind them in the standings.

JP: I agree, and will add that KC's defense has slowly slipped from elite to a total dumpster fire over the course of the past few years. This offense isn't sustainable, and relies far too much on splash plays. Unless Nathan Peterman is inexplicably inserted back under center for the Bills, this spread is 3.5 points too high, at least.

Carolina (-5) over NEW YORK JETS

JC: This Carolina defense? Against these Jets? And not only that, but the Panthers have rushed for close to 500 yards combined over their last two games.

JP: This line feels a little low, especially since I feel like I'm the last person to jump back on the Carolina bandwagon. Is home field in Jersey that potent?

Seattle (-6.5) over SAN FRANCISCO

JC: Hey, uh, San Francisco? You know you just traded for a new quarterback a few weeks ago, right? Why are we still trotting out C.J. Beathard as if he's anything but a sacrificial lamb?

JP: Agreed on the quarterback point (FREE JIMMY!!!), but I don't think it matters this week, because I don't see any answers for Russell Wilson on the San Francisco sideline. 

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-2.5) over New Orleans

JC: I love this Saints team, but they're on the road, and they've won eight straight. The gravy train has to slow down sometime.

JP: LA is one of the few teams in football with a defensive front capable of containing New Orleans' two-headed monster at running back, and you just get the feeling that the Rams are about to bounce back with a signature win.

Jacksonville (-5.5) over ARIZONA

JC: I'm fairly certain that Jacksonville could cover this spread by kicking two field goals and then playing their punt return unit as their base defense for the rest of the game. There just isn't a single positive to discuss for Arizona's season other than the refusal of Larry Fitzgerald to age like a normal person.

JP: This is the kind of game you'd totally expect this Jaguars team to blow, on its way to blowing the division crown, then losing on the road on Wild Card weekend. Well, I think Jacksonville's defense is too good for that, and that Arizona's offense is too one-dimensional to move the ball with any consistency. 

OAKLAND (-5) over Denver

JC: Speaking of dumpster fires, ladies and gentlemen, the AFC West! Are you ready for the Chargers and Raiders to duel it out in Week 17 for the right to finish 8-8 and lock up the division title? Oh, we're headed that way. Mark your calendars.

JP: I don't know what to make of this division, but I at least don't hate Oakland's QB situation right now. That gives the Raiders a leg-up on Denver.

Houston (+7) over BALTIMORE

JC: I abjectly refuse to lay a touchdown with the Baltimore Ravens. Yes, I understand that they've shut out opponents on three different occasions this year, and I understand that Houston is, well, hot garbage, but I just can't do it. Joe Flacco always finds a way to suck. Trust me.

JP: Trust in Flacco (to creatively suck).

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

JC: ATLANTA (-9.5) over Tampa Bay

For as long as Jameis Winston is out, Tampa Bay is back to being a second-class citizen in the NFC. Granted, if they're playing the cannon fodder from the AFC East, they can win games. But against actual football teams, I don't think they can hold up.

JP: Tampa Bay (+9.5) over ATLANTA

I don't know, man. I mean, Tampa Bay isn't THAT bad, and 10 points is a lot to ask for a team I still don't fully trust. Then again, every time I bet on the Bucs, they wet the bed, so I don't know why I'm putting myself through this again.

JC: INDIANAPOLIS (+3.5) over Tennessee

Just know that I hate myself as much as you do.

JP: Tennessee (-3.5) over INDIANAPOLIS

That half-point has me a little nervous, but come on. Tennessee is playing for its playoff life, and a shot at a division title. Indy is playing because it is contractually obligated to engage in football-like activities until New Year's Eve.

JC: PITTSBURGH (-14) over Green Bay

We've seen Pittsburgh be unable to cover these big spreads on the road, but they should take care of business at home. Especially coming off an extra-long week after last week's Thursday game. The Packers just can't really do anything on offense these days, and Pittsburgh's defense has been on a tear.

JP: Green Bay (-14) over PITTSBURGH

Nope. No. No way am I giving 14 with an inconsistent Steelers offense, especially with Ju Ju Smith-Schuster out of the lineup. Pittsburgh, especially on offense, is playing up and down to its level of competition. This one will be annoyingly close.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 7-6-1
Season: 76-77-7
Last Week's Disagreements: 3-1
Season's Disagreements: 21-25

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 5-8-1
Season: 81-72-7
Last Week's Disagreements: 1-3
Season's Disagreements: 25-21

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