The playoff pictures in the AFC and NFC are currently so tightly packed that currently, two-thirds of the teams in the NFL can make a case for how they can wriggle into a postseason spot. Don’t expect that to change after the NFL Week 12 action is completed.
Nostrathomas had a pretty good run on Thanksgiving Day. I was only 1-2 straight-up but because I added the Bears/Lions under to my picks I finished 3-1 against the spread.
For the season, that puts me at 103-59-1 straight-up and 79-82-2 against the spread.
Time to fill the crystal beer mugs and finish the holiday weekend on a high note.
Game of the Week
Los Angeles Rams -1.5 vs Green Bay Packers (4:25PM ET; Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI)
Matthew Stafford is going to have Honolulu blue and silver flashbacks this week as he leads the Los Angeles Rams into Lambeau Field to face the Packers.
Both the Rams and Green Bay Packers are trying to keep pace with the Arizona Cardinals, who are on their bye this week. Los Angeles is second to the Cardinals in the NFC West while Green Bay is one game behind Arizona for the top spot in the conference.
Lambeau Field was usually a house of horrors for Stafford when he was wingin’-it for the Detroit Lions. He’s 3-7 in Green Bay in his career, 7-13 against the Packers overall.
These teams are very similar statistically which would have me leaning towards taking the Packers at home, except for the injuries they’re dealing with.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari is still out and now Elgton Jenkins has a torn ACL and will be out the rest of the season. The Rams pass rush will have Aaron Rodgers in their sites and he’s dealing with limited mobility because of a broken toe.
I’ve seen a lot of write-ups selling Los Angeles short because the weather is supposed to be in the 30’s with winds gusting from 10 to 20 miles per hour. Guess what? Weather isn’t going to help the Packers unless it magically heals their offensive line.
Matthew Stafford played in the NFC North with Detroit for 12 seasons. He knows what cold weather feels like. No matter what the temperature is at Lambeau Field for this game, I cannot back the Packers when their line is so beat up.Take the Rams to win and cover.
Los Angeles Rams 27 Green Bay Packers 23
Tennessee Titans vs New England Patriots -7 Over/Under 43.5 (1PM ET; Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA)
The New England Patriots have spent the last five weeks not just climbing back into the AFC playoff race but are now making a play to be the top seed in the conference. By the way, the Tennessee Titans currently hold down that spot in the AFC.
New England is now number two in my statistical power rankings. They’re second in the league in points per yards gained and first on defense in yards per point.
Bill Belichick has re-established himself as one of the top defensive minds in the game. The Patriots top the league in points allowed, they’re second in defensive passer rating and third in net passing yards per attempt allowed.
This pick doesn’t mean I think any less of the Tennessee Titans than I have all season but they’re out of weapons on offense that quarterback Ryan Tannehill can rely on for this game.
Wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones have already been declared out for this game. Today, Brown was put on injured reserve. That’s going to leave receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, running back Dontrell Hilliard and a cast of thousands for Tannehill to target.
The situation on the ground for the Titans isn’t much better. The team released running back Adrian Peterson last week which means Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman will be carrying the load on the ground.
Tennessee has a defense that can keep this game close but where are the points going to come from?
New England has won and covered its last five games. With Tennessee healthy, this is a battle between AFC heavyweights. Right now, we’ll have to wait for the postseason for that game. The Patriots will win and cover for the sixth straight week.
New England Patriots 27 Tennessee Titans 17
Philadelphia Eagles -3.5 vs New York Giants (1PM ET; MetLife Stadium, Foxborough, NJ)
A few weeks ago, I felt that the Philadelphia Eagles were heading into each game overrated without much chance to stay close with anyone. That assessment has changed. Head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen have let this offense run starting with quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Hurts leads the Eagles in rushing with 618 yards and a 5.4 yards per carry average. He’s also scored eight touchdowns on the ground this season.
Philadelphia won’t have Jordan Howard available this week to balance the rushing attack with but Miles Sanders will be back in the lineup. When Hurts does throw he has two reliable targets, wide receiver DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert.
As for the New York Giants, the bottom is dropping out fast. After the team’s 30-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week the team fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, even though he hasn’t been the problem that has kept this team from winning.
Quarterback Daniel Jones has had a decent season but is far from the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be. Saquon Barkley was the team’s first round, second overall pick, in 2018 and, except for his rookie season, hasn’t produced enough on the field and spends too much time injured and off the field.
For this game against Philadelphia, wide receiver Sterling Shepard is out while Kadarius Toney and tight end Kyle Rudolph are doubtful. On defense, the Giants will be missing safety Jabrill Peppers and cornerback Logan Ryan.
Philadelphia has been climbing in the NFC East while the Giants have been sinking. That will continue in Week 12.
Philadelphia Eagles 24 New York Giants 17
Ney York Jets vs Houston Texans -2.5 (1PM ET; NRG Stadium, Houston, TX)
I know what you’re thinking, Nostrathomas, you’ve been sampling too much of the fermented nectar that you fill your crystal beer mugs with. I get it but hear me out.
The Houston Texans are only 2-8 and dragging the bottom of the AFC South but they have been competitive this season. They even knocked off the current AFC top seed last week, defeating the Tennessee Titans 22-13.
Houston was at their worst for the six weeks that rookie quarterback Davis Mills was at the controls of the offense. The Texans are by no means an AFC powerhouse with Tyrod Taylor back at quarterback but they are capable of moving the ball and putting points on the board.
For the New York Jets, Joe Flacco and Mike White are both sidelined due to Covid-19 so 2021 second overall pick Zach Wilson will be back under center for the Jets with Josh Johnson promoted from the practice squad to be the backup.
Wilson is not going to have an easy time of it in the pocket. The Texans are eighth in the league on defense in pressure percentage per dropback.
Houston has covered three of their four games at home while the Jets have yet to cover a game on the road.
With the Texans at home they should win this game without much problem.
Houston Texans 23 New York Jets 10
Best of the Rest
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -3 vs Indianapolis Colts (1PM ET; Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN)
The Indianapolis Colts have won five of their last six games capped by Jonathan Taylor bulldozing the Buffalo Bills for five touchdowns in a 41-15 victory. Now they get to host the defending Super Bowl Champions, who put themselves back in the win column last Monday night against the New York Giants.
This game is going to hinge on the irresistible object meeting the immovable force. The Buccaneers are second in the league in rushing defense, holding opponents to a 3.8 yards per carry average. Taylor averages 5.8 yards per attempt on the ground and can also catch the ball when called on. He has 32 receptions in 38 targets for a 10.1 yards per catch average.
This game can go either way. Tampa Bay is better on defense than the Colts boast a stronger passing game even with Antonio Brown expected to be out. Tom Brady still has receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans plus tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate to target.
The only reason that I currently would second-guess taking the Buccaneers in this game is that they are 2-3 on the road this season. That isn’t enough though. It will not surprise me to see Indianapolis win this game but I have to lean with the better team and that’s Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32 Indianapolis Colts 27
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Cincinnati Bengals -3.5 (1PM ET; Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH)
The Cincinnati Bengals hit the top spot in the AFC three weeks ago but apparently found the air very thin at that altitude. They dropped a Week 8 game to the Jets and followed up with a loss to Cleveland.
The Bengals came out of their bye week strong though. In Week 11, they slammed the Raiders 32-13. This week, they will attempt to accomplish something that they haven’t accomplished since 1990, win a third straight game over the Pittsburgh Steelers. They haven’t swept a season series over the Steelers since 2009.
What are the odds of this once in a lifetime event occurring this week, actually, they’re pretty good. One thing they will have to accomplish is find a way to bring pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. Something very few teams have been successful at this season.
Pittsburgh expects to have T.J. Watt, Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick back in the lineup on defense this week which will create havoc with the Bengals offensive line.
The problem with this year’s edition of the Steelers isn’t their defense though. It’s to keep hoping that Ben Roethlisberger can move the ball consistently on offense.
The game is still about putting up points and Roethlisberger has struggled to accomplish that this season. Pittsburgh is 20th in the league in points scored.
The times are changing in the AFC North. Take the Bengals to win and cover.
Cincinnati Bengals 26 Pittsburgh Steelers 21
Carolina Panthers -2.5 vs Miami Dolphins (1PM ET; Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL)
Every time I believe I have either of these teams figured out they take a left turn on me.
The strength of the Carolina Panthers is their defense, which is way they let Taylor Heinicke chew them up through the air last weekend.
The strength of the Miami Dolphins is…is…well, is something but it has them on a three-game winning streak.
Cam Newton had a solid game in his first start back with the Panthers, 21 completions in 27 attempts for 189 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran the ball 10 times for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Another performance like that should get Carolina a win this week in Miami.
Carolina Panthers 23 Miami Dolphins 16
Los Angeles Chargers -2.5 vs Denver Broncos (4:05PM ET; Empower Field at Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO)
The Chargers present a strong passing game against a defense that is tough against the pass. They also have a weak run defense against a Broncos team that can run with Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams.
When in doubt, take the team with the better quarterback, hint: not the one with Teddy Bridgewater.
Los Angeles Chargers 30 Denver Broncos 20
Minnesota Vikings +3 vs San Francisco 49ers (4:25PM ET; Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco, CA)
There’s one thing in the NFL that keeps getting overlooked each week. The Minnesota Vikings are good.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins is third among NFL quarterbacks in passer rating and first with only two interceptions all season.
Minnesota’s offensive line is one of the best at protecting it’s quarterback while their defensive line is of the same caliber when it comes to bringing pressure.
One more thing, none of their losses have been by more than one score. On the other hand, they’ve only won one game by more than one score.
Both these teams are 5-5 and fighting to hang on in the NFC playoff race. San Francisco has been inconsistent this season and has struggled at home, despite a statement win in Week 10 against the Rams at Levi’s Stadium.
In this game, take the road dog to win and cover.
Minnesota Vikings 28 San Francisco 49ers 24
Cleveland Browns vs Baltimore Ravens -3.5 (Sunday Night Football; M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD)
For Week 12, the Cleveland Browns get to travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens, then have their bye week, then host Baltimore in Week 14.
Which Browns team will we get for this game? The one that beat Cincinnati 41-16 in Week 9, the one that barely held on to beat Tim Boyle and the Lions 13-10 in Week 11, or the one that lost in embarrassing fashion to the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots? Anything seems to be possible with this team.
A lot of the inconsistency with the Browns can be chalked up to quarterback Baker Mayfield trying to play despite suffering from a broken, non-throwing shoulder and a foot injury.
Lamar Jackson will be back at quarterback after sitting Week 11 due to illness which is important. Tyler Huntley managed to squeeze the Ravens past Chicago last week but using him again wouldn’t work against the Browns.
The problems that the Ravens have been having this season have come when the team is on the road. At home, Baltimore is 4-1 and averaging just over 26 points per game. They are also still scraping and clawing for the top seed in the conference. Take them to beat the struggling Browns at home.
Baltimore Ravens 28 Cleveland Browns 17
Seattle Seahawks vs Washington Football Team -1 (Monday Night Football, FedEx Field, Washington D.C.)
In the 16 team NFC, the Seattle Seahawks are 15th with a 3-7 record. The difficulties that the team had with Geno Smith at quarterback were expected, even though Seattle’s defense turned in some strong performances. The difficulties that the Seahawks have had since their bye week with Russell Wilson back as the starter, are threatening to knock them out of any chance for a playoff spot.
Since their bye week, Washington has won two straight games highlighted by a 29-19 win over Tampa Bay. Quarterback Tayler Heinicke has led the way in both of those games by throwing four touchdowns and not turning the ball over.
The one problem with Seattle is that their one of the worst teams in the league in bringing pressure against opposing quarterbacks. They also only have four interceptions this season. The Seahawks are a defense that is made for Heinicke to sit back and pick apart.
The one thing Washington can’t do in this game is turn the ball over. If they can do that, they can continue their late season climb.
Washington Football Team 26 Seattle Seahawks 21
Game of the Weak
Atlanta Falcons -2 vs Jacksonville Jaguars (1PM ET; TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL)
This game could easily come down to a last-second Younhoe Koo field goal for the Falcons to squeeze past Jacksonville.
Atlanta Falcons 20 Jacksonville Jaguars 17