Saturday, November 24, 2018

NFL Week 12 Primer (With Picks): Thanksgiving Hangover Picks

Are the Colts for real? Well, during Indy's four-game winning streak, Andrew Luck has completed 74 percent of his passes, with 13 TDs and 1 INT. So… Maybe?
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

After much eating and drinking on Thursday and Friday and also Saturday, we just don't have much energy left to offer much insight about the state of the league. The Saints are really good, as are the Rams and Chiefs, the Cowboys seem to be making a comeback, the AFC needs to figure out who their second-best team is, and there are a lot of really bad teams in the league this year.

Here are the three storylines worth talking about over the next month or so:

1. Who is the favorite for MVP? Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes are each putting up insane numbers. The Rams have two candidates (Jared Goff and Todd Gurley) who will end up probably leeching votes from each other so neither will win, but they'll both be in the mix. After that there's a drop-off, but a late surge from someone like Phil Rivers (yes, THAT Phil Rivers - he's having a pretty remarkable season if you look at the numbers) could factor in, or if a team like the Seahawks or Cowboys or Packers or Colts suddenly rattle off six wins to end the season, you could see Russell Wilson or Ezekiel Elliot or Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck throw their hat into the ring.

2. Both conferences have a race for their final playoff spots. In the AFC, we can assume pretty safely that New England will win the AFC East and Pittsburgh will win the AFC North. Both the Chiefs and Chargers will likely get in from the West, who will win the division could get murky with the Chiefs lead maybe dropping to one game if the Chargers win this weekend and still a head-to-head game between them. The AFC South is interesting also - Houston holds a two-game lead on the division and have won seven straight games, but Indianapolis and Tennessee have each been on the upswing over the last few weeks. Tennessee already has a head-to-head win over Houston to boot (and if all three teams end up with the same record, Houston will likely be the odd team out based on tiebreakers).

Meanwhile, there are three more 5-5 teams - Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Miami - all of whom seem fatally flawed, but there's still a reasonable chance that a bad 9-7 team sneaks into the postseason. Football Outsiders has five teams in the AFC with north of an 80 percent chance to make the playoffs (Kansas City, Pittsburgh, New England, Houston, and the Chargers). After them, though, there are six teams with odds between 10 percent and 40 percent (Denver, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Miami, Indianapolis, and Baltimore, in that order from low to high). Those are the six teams to watch in the AFC right now.

In the NFC, it seems pretty obvious that New Orleans controls the South, Los Angeles controls the West, and Chicago controls the North. Someone will win the East by default (Dallas has the clear inside track at the moment), but both wild card spots seem up for grabs. Minnesota, Green Bay, Carolina, and Seattle are the four most likely with Washington's season seemingly on the ropes, but even Philadelphia and Atlanta are technically still alive, and clearly talented enough to get hot and maybe win out. The Minnesota-Green Bay and Carolina-Seattle games this Sunday will give two of those teams a huge leg up on the competition.

3. I definitely had a third storyline in mind when I started writing this, but now I can't remember it. It's been a long weekend. Let's just move on.

Last week was rough - we agreed on 10 picks and went 3-6-1. Jeremy took two of the three disagreements, again closing the gap on our head-to-head record, but we're still losing ground in the race to .500 for the season. Jeremy currently sits 16 games under .500, with Joe exactly 10 games under. With six weeks to go, we'll really need to step up our game.

We started this week off poorly as well, both going 1-2, splitting our disagreements. Here are all of the Week 12 Picks:

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

Atlanta (+13) over NEW ORLEANS

Even in retrospect, we stand by this pick. Atlanta getting almost two touchdowns while fighting for their season? They should have covered this spread.

BALTIMORE (-10.5) over Oakland

JC: The Ravens didn't really seem to miss a beat without Joe Flacco in the lineup last week, so I can't imagine this will be any different. The Raiders finally picked up another win last week (on the road!), but their two wins this season are over Cleveland and Arizona. Any time they've played even a halfway decent team, they've gotten blown out.

JP: I actually think a Lamar Jackson-led Ravens offense is scarier than one with a hot-and-col Flacco. At least you know Baltimore will be able to run the ball and control the clock, which means the Ravens will probably just choke the life out of Oakland.

TAMPA BAY (-3) over San Francisco

JC: The Bucs have a -23 turnover margin. They've committed 29 turnovers and forced 6. It's almost impressive at this point. Their offense is still No. 1 in the league in total yards. The only game they didn't turn the ball over in came back in Week 1, and they beat the Saints. In New Orleans. I don't understand this team at all.

JP: Two bad teams I've been oddly high on, so something has to give. I still maintain that Tampa Bay's skill talent is elite (much like the Giants', which we'll get to later), and if they could just cut down on the damn turnovers, they'd be a borderline playoff team. Just don't give it away for a week, guys.

CINCINNATI (-1.5) over Cleveland

JC: The Bengals need this one. They started the year 4-1, but have gone 1-4 since with their defense allowing an average of 504 yards per game over that span (not a typo). Both of these teams have had success running the ball, and both teams have had a lot of trouble stopping the run. This seems like a game with a lot of long drives that bleed clock where neither team can stop each other but the final score still seems confusingly low.

JP: A low line means I'm taking the home team in The Battle of Ohio, but I don't feel good about it.

New England (-10) over NEW YORK JETS

JC: The Patriots with Brady and Belichick have absurd records following a loss, and absurd records following a bye week, and absurd records against the Jets. All of those three things are happening here. They could win this game by 50.

JP: Pats by a quadrillion.

Seattle (+3.5) over CAROLINA

JC: Carolina has stumbled the last few weeks, and while Seattle seemingly has been up and down, they've actually been pretty consistent overall. Their strength of opponent has just been fluctuating - they've played close, competitive games against the Rams (twice) and Chargers, and picked up blowout wins over Oakland and Detroit and a close win over Green Bay last week. With Seattle getting the extra few days of rest (having played last Thursday) and the bonus half-point, I'll take them on the road.

JP: Two ships passing in the night, with the Seahawks headed to the playoffs, and Carolina likely headed to an offseason of soul searching.

INDIANAPOLIS (-8) over Miami

JC: The Colts have been winning, and winning impressively. The Colts actually have the 8th-best scoring margin in the league this year, better than both New England and Houston. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have a scoring margin worse than Cleveland, Jacksonville, the Jets, the Giants, the 49ers, and, well, you get the point. I genuinely don't understand how the Dolphins are 5-5 right now.

JP: The Dolphins have one good win all year, and that was a freaking weird game, man (Week 6 against Chicago). Indy started slow, but very much looks like a playoff team, with Andrew Luck starting to look like the generational quarterback we all thought he could be. This feels like a game Indy has to win, and has to win big, to keep momentum going.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-13) over Arizona

JC: I'm a little hesitant, because the Cardinals have actually played well on defense of late, and covered a larger spread against a better team two weeks ago in Kansas City. The Chargers, though, have taken care of business against genuinely bad teams - blowing out Oakland twice, as well as Buffalo and Cleveland. It was a disappointing loss last week, but this seems like a good opportunity to get back on track.

JP: The Cards lost to Oakland.

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

JC: DETROIT (+3) over Chicago

When Mitch Trubisky was ruled out and the line didn't move, that seemed like a good indicator to me that one of the lines was off. If the original line was off, I should have taken Chicago. If the new line was off, I should take Detroit. I took Detroit. Oh well.

JP: Chicago (-3) over DETROIT

Detroit is just bad, man.

JC: DALLAS (-7.5) over Washington

Washington has been absolutely devastated by injuries, and Dallas was coming off two impressive road wins. At this point, Dallas seems to be the clear favorite in the NFC East. They're just the only ones who are healthy.

JP: Washington (+7.5) over DALLAS

I came THIS close to a Colt McCoy cover, and it's eating me up inside.

JC: BUFFALO (+3) over Jacksonville

Do you want to find out exactly how much Jacksonville sucks? I think this is the week we find out. They've been trying their hardest to throw away winnable games, and been succeeding in doing so. This could be their Sistine Chapel.

JP: Jacksonville (-3) over BUFFALO

I don't know man, I still think Jacksonville can play defense and run the ball. As for Buffalo, uh...

JC: PHILADELPHIA (-5) over New York Giants

The Eagles have been embarrassed the last two weeks, but they're still alive, just barely. Carson Wentz has played well, but they've been decimated by injuries at running back and in the secondary. If you include players on IR, they currently have eight defensive backs on their injury report. The Giants have won back-to-back games for the first time since all the way back when Eli Manning was a worthwhile quarterback, but those were over San Francisco and Tampa Bay. I'm not quite buying them on the road against a still halfway decent team.

JP: New York Giants (+5) over PHILADELPHIA 

God help me, I'm buying the Giants as a late-season spoiler. As long as Eli isn't throwing it to the other team, this skill group is as good as any in the league. Philly is beat up, and even Wentz looked out of sorts last week. The Giants can at least keep it close, right?

JC: Pittsburgh (-3) over DENVER

Here's a question - is Pittsburgh a good road team this year? If you look at all of their road games individually, just based on the opponent and the final score, you'd say probably not. But when you look at them all at once, you realize they're currently undefeated on the road this year. They've all been one-score games against bad teams, but they haven't lost (they did tie Cleveland). Three points seems like a coverable spread here.

JP: DENVER (+3) over Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh tried pretty hard to lose on the road last week against a team with a good secondary and pass rush. Seems like a safe bet that can happen again Sunday.

JC: Green Bay (+3) over MINNESOTA

Who needs it more? It seems pretty even. Both teams are fighting for their lives in the NFC playoff hunt. Green Bay needs to get back to .500 and build something positive headed into a reasonably cushy schedule to end the season. Minnesota needs to keep pace with the rest of the conference and pick up wins now because their upcoming schedule is a lot tougher than the other teams they're jostling with. Like I said with Seattle, with all else equal I'll take the team with the extra three days of rest.

JP: MINNESOTA (-3) over Green Bay

Call me crazy, but I just really like Kirk Cousins and this passing game. Maybe it's because he's my fantasy QB, but either way, I see the Vikes winning a shootout.

JC: Tennessee (+5.5) over HOUSTON

Two weeks in a row, I've floated my "Houston isn't actually that good" theory. Sure, they've won both of those games, but they didn't cover either of them. I'm going to keep fading Houston until they lose or the lines adjust.

JP: HOUSTON (-5.5) over Tennessee

I have no idea what to expect week to week from Tennessee, but I know Houston has been getting the job done for the last two months. True, they may not always cover, but the Texans seem like the team more likely to be ready to play come Monday night.

Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 5-7-1
Season: 69-85-7
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-1
Season's Disagreements: 25-28-1

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 4-8-1
Season: 72-82-1
Last Week's Disagreements: 1-2
Season's Disagreements: 28-25-1

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