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Week 12 Byes: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks.
The Panthers are coming into this game against Miami as the hottest team in the NFL, winning six straight games. The Dolphins are still in the playoff picture in the AFC, and nearly every game is a must-win.
Carolina has put themselves in a position to be talked about as Super Bowl contenders after their last several weeks, and I think they deserve to be the discussion. They have won seven games in a row, including last week’s monumental Monday Night win over the New England Patriots, 24-20.
Quarterback Cam Newton has a been a massive part of their success, but they are getting it done with a solid running game and strong defense. Carolina’s defense has been ferocious this year and has yet to allow an opposing quarterback to throw for more than one touchdown in a game this season. They rank first in scoring defense giving up just 13.5 points per game.
That defense may be slightly weakened this Sunday, with defensive end Charles Johnson likely out with an MCL sprain. Other than that, the Panthers are relatively healthy.
After dropping five of their six last games, Miami broke their poor spell of play with a win against San Diego last week, 20-16. The win notched their record to 5-5 and kept them firmly in the playoff hunt. Ryan Tannehill got it done with a makeshift offensive line, throwing for 268 yards and a touchdown in the win.
Defensively, the Dolphins have been strong against the pass in recent weeks but have been gashed via the run. They are giving up an AFC-worst 152.3 yards rushing over the past four weeks.
With Jonathan Franklin and Richie Incognito already out due to the bullying controversy, the Dolphins took another hit on their offensive line. Mike Pouncey will miss at least this week with gall bladder surgery, depleting the offensive line even further.
The game opened at Miami +4 but has moved to +4.5 almost across the board. The total has moved just slightly from the opening number of 40.5 and is listed at 41 at most sportsbooks.
I have been high on Miami for much of this season and still do feel they are a bit underrated. However, their potential is becoming just that, untapped abilities. The Fins basically have no downfield passing game or rushing attack and their already poor offensive line just lost another key contributor. Tannehill is running for his life, and it doesn’t get any easier at against Carolina.
Defensively, it is just as bad. While the Dolphins secondary seems to be improved their rush defense continues to get worse. The Panthers are one of the best running teams in the league, and this is a premier matchup for them.
As much as I love taking teams in spots like this, a home dog and in an almost must-win game – I think Carolina wins big in this one.
Lay the points with the Panthers -4 with www.bovada.lv.
The Chiefs are doing something they have not done yet this season, seeing how their team will rebound to a loss. Kansas City heads to the road to take on San Diego and their 7th ranked offense.
Kansas City lost their first game of the year last season after previously being undefeated, dropping their record to 9-1 and their spot in the division to second. The Chiefs held every opponent they faced this year to 17 points or fewer until last week’s 27-17 loss to the Broncos at Mile High Stadium.
Still, their defense is no question mark, they are a dominant unit. Offensively, the Chiefs looked out of sorts last week as they had to try and rally to win late in the game. Something they rarely have had to do this season. Alex Smith did a poor job in the loss, completing just 21 of 45 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Jamaal Charles was held to just 72 yards on 18 touches.
San Diego comes in mired in a six-game losing streak. They lost in a tough game on the road to the Miami Dolphins, 24-20. Phillip Rivers has started the season off hot but has been cooled off as of late. It may not be his fault, with a young receiving core that is learning, safe for Antonio Gates and a defense that is giving up big plays.
San Diego’s defense has been strong against the run but has been getting tuned up through the air by opposing signal callers. The Chargers defense missed 12 tackles last week, and the team as a whole was penalized for 76 yards on 10 calls.
This line opened at -4.5 and has moved to -5.5 at many shops, but -4.5 is still available. The total has come down a full two points from the opener of 43 to 41 across the board.
While I do believe the Chiefs are an overrated team even with a 9-1 record, this matchup shapes up quite well for them. Already angered due to their loss last week, Kansas City will be focused in this game and feast on Phillip Rivers. With much of his receivers battling nagging injuries and the fact that he doesn’t look to be on the same page with them to being with – it is going to be tough for San Diego to get much going on Sunday afternoon.
This may end up being a ho-hum win for the Chiefs, whose gameplan of running with Charles and the short passing game should work to perfection against San Diego’s soft unit. They are decent against the run, but Charles is even more dangerous when he catches passes in space or off of screens. The Chargers have been one of the worst defensive teams over the past few weeks and show no signs of improving.
Lay the points at home with the Chiefs -5.5 at Bovada.
Pittsburgh has righted the ship, at least temporarily, in a fight for the AFC’s last wild card spot. They face the Cleveland Browns on the road as the two AFC North rivals come into this game with identical records at 4-6.
The Steelers are 2-2 in their last four games. They pulled off a massive victory last week against the visiting Detroit Lions, 37-27. Roethlisberger threw for 367 yards in and four touchdowns in the victory, his best game of the season.
Pittsburgh’s defense has been terrific against the pass this season but miserable against the run. Pittsburgh did a good job of limiting Reggie Bush last week, but are getting killed by opposing backs this year and are a bottom 10 team in the league against the rush.
Emmanuel Sanders will back this week after suffering a foot injury in last week’s contest against the Lions.
The Browns were dominated against a divisional opponent last week, losing big to the Cincinnati Bengals, 41-20. This will be their third divisional game in as many weeks. Jason Campbell has done an admirable job filling in as the starter for Brian Hoyer and has developed a great rapport with wide out Josh Gordon. Gordon has been awesome in recent weeks and was the lone bright spot in the loss to the Bengals last week.
The Browns defense has been shaky within the past few weeks, but they are still getting the job done on the year. Joe Haden has been one of the top cornerbacks in the league, and they are stingy against the run.
This game opened at Cleveland -2.5 but is now universally across the board Cleveland -1. The total opened at 41.5 and has moved to 40, once again, at just about every sportsbook.
The Steelers have been so all over the place this year, so it is hard to know what to make of them. This is a must-win game for both teams who sit on the fringe of the playoffs; one more loss would effectively end either team’s season.
Cleveland is a tough place to play for any team in the league and these divisional battles are often decided by one possession. The Browns have a slight edge in this game and match up much better against Pittsburgh’s offense than most may think. Even with Campbell at the helm, I think Cleveland will score points on Pittsburgh’s overrated defense.
Lay the points with Cleveland -1 betting at www.bovada.lv.
For much of the past few seasons, it was the Houston Texans who sat atop the AFC South while Jacksonville were the bottom feeders of the division. In 2013, both of these teams are in the cellar and are looking to build for next year.
The Jaguars got their first win of the year two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, winning 29-17. They followed up that performance with a clunker last week at home, losing 27-14 at home. Jacksonville has struggled offensively all year long. They average a league-low 12.9 points per game and lowest yardage output per contest.
The Jaguars have also been a disaster defensively and are ranked in the bottom of the league in nearly all defensive categories. They look to get a boost in their linebacking corps this week as standout linebacker Paul Posluszy looks to return from a back injury.
Houston has not won a game since a Week 2 and are just one game better than the Jaguars this year at 2-8. Gary Kubiak is on the hot seat after a 28-23 loss to Oakland last week where he made some curious coaching decisions. He benched Case Keenum for Matt Schaub after a half of mediocre play. Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson got into a shouting match later in the game after a missed fourth down conversation. Keenum will once again be the starter this week after Kubiak gave him a vote of confidence during the week.
Keenum has been much better than Schaub so far and just has one interception to go with 11 touchdowns. He has connected with Andre Johnson who looks like a Pro-Bowl receiver once again with Keenum under center.
Houston’s defense ranks first in yardage allowed, but much of that is due to opponents getting up early via the Texans’ offensive miscues. Still, this unit has been strong for most of the year but is still vulnerable. Raiders’ running back Rashad Jennings rushed for 150 yards against them last week.
Running back Ben Tate has several injuries but is expected to suit up again this week. Tate has been strong playing through pain the past few weeks.
This game opened at Houston -10.5 but has moved to -10 at most shops. The total has moved up a point, and a half from the opening number of 42 and is listed at 43.5.
Neither of these teams are talented, but I have a hard time taking Houston serious as a -10 favorite even at home, facing a 1-9 team. Houston’s coaching decisions and offense are in flux, and though I think Case Keenum is much better than Matt Schaub – he hasn’t proven to be a winner. The Texans have lost each game he has started.
Jacksonville may get their running game going in this game and should be a little better defensively with Posluszy coming back. I just can’t give the Texans much credit, regardless of who they are playing. Jacksonville is a terrible team but Houston isn’t worthy enough to be a double-digit favorite.
Take the points with Jaguars +10 available at www.betonline.ag.
The Jets head into Baltimore in a critical game for both teams as they look to make a playoff push in the latter third of the season.
The New York Jets have alternated wins and losses all year, giving them a 5-5 record. According to the trend, they lost last week so they should win this week. Of course, it is not that easy for New York who has struggled offensive for several weeks. Geno Smith has not thrown for 200 yards in his past three games, including last week’s dismantling at the Buffalo Bills, 37-14.
Defensively, the Jets have been excellent, aside from last week’s performance. They have been stalwarts against the run all year long and the middle of the road against the pass. They have allowed just two running backs to rush for over 50 yards against them this week.
Santonio Holmes has been limited in practice this week but is expected to play on Sunday. He played just over 50 percent of snaps in last week’s loss over Buffalo.
The reigning Super Bowl Champions have had a surprisingly poor year so far. At 4-6, they are in trouble from a playoff perspective and are losing many divisional tiebreakers. Last week, they lost to the 23-20 Chicago Bears in overtime in a game that was delayed for a hurricane. The one positive in the loss was Ray Rice’s monster game. He ran for 131 yards and a touchdown.
The Ravens run defense has been solid all year long, but they have been exploitable against the pass in recent weeks. They have been giving up big games through the air for many weeks now, but the Jets passing game has been miserable as of late. So, it will still be a tough matchup for New York.
The Ravens opened at -3 favorites, and that line has moved to -3.5 across the board. The total has come down from 41 to 39 or 39.5.
Baltimore has looked terrible in recent weeks, but the Jets haven’t looked much better. However, I like the road team in this matchup against the Super Bowl Champions. The Jets defense is simply too good and should dominate the Ravens at the line of scrimmage all day long. Ray Rice’s effort against one of the worst rush defenses was excellent, but he will be near useless in this matchup against the Jets’ stout run defense.
This is an epic game for Geno Smith who has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, but has seemed to hit a wall recently. I think he has a decent game against the Ravens defense despite his recent string of poor games. Santonio Holmes will give him a reliable target, and he veteran looked terrific in his return from injury last week. It is going to be tough, but I think the Jets go into Baltimore and grab a cover, a win or both.
Take the Jets +3.5 while betting at www.betonline.ag.
The Vikings and Packers will face off again in the second leg of their divisional series. Green Bay won their Week 8 meeting on Sunday Night Football, 44-31.
The Vikings are playing through a lost season at 2-8 and have been wildly inefficient throughout the year on offense and defense. Last week, they got a serious beating handed to them at Seattle, losing 41-20 in blowout fashion. Adrian Peterson has kept the Vikings rushing game humming all year long, but his ceiling has been low as of late. He has broken just 100 yards once since Week 4.
Defensively, Minnesota has been the NFC North’s punching bag for much of the year and this game should be no different. They are getting killed against both the pass and the run, especially in the screen game, an area Packers running back Eddie Lacy specializes.
The Vikings have a few injuries coming into the game. Adrian Peterson is not 100 percent with a groin injury but is expected to play. Greg Jennings is also banged up with an Achilles injury. Starting linebacker Erin Henderson may miss this game for personal reasons. On top of all that, John Sullivan, their starting center may not be available because of a concussion suffered last week.
The Packers sit at 5-5 and are in trouble in the AFC North after losing Aaron Rodgers to a fractured forearm several weeks ago. They have gone 0-3 since his injury, including last week’s 27-13 loss against the New York Giants. Scott Tolzien, originally Green Bay’s third string quarterback threw for 339 yards in his first NFL start last week in that game.
On defense, the Packers seem to have gotten worse without Aaron Rodgers, which makes sense because their already poor defense is spending more time out on the field. The matchup against the Vikings isn’t too difficult, but Green Bay will have to move the ball to keep this unit off the field.
Rodgers has been running and throwing without issue but has not taken a snap or practiced yet. He is not expected to be ready Sunday, and it would be a tremendous shock if he were active. James Jones continues to play through pain and will make another start at wide receiver.
Green Bay opened as -7 favorites but have come down to -5 and -4.5 at most bookies. The original number was likely predicated on Rodgers possibly returning Sunday as I discussed above that is extremely unlikely. The total opened at 44 and has not moved at most shops.
The Packers are one of my favorite plays this week for a variety of reasons. Firstly, because Minnesota’s defense is terrible and the Packers have excellent skill players. The other main reason is due to the continued strong play from Tolzien. His interceptions have been a problem, but he threw for almost 350 yards last week. He gets an even better matchup this week with the Vikings coming to town.
The crowd will be behind the Packers at Lambeau in this must-win game, and they should have no issues taking it to this weaker Minnesota team that has been ravaged by injuries. I love the Packers at home.
Lay the points with the Packers -5 at www.betonline.ag.
After looking like the worst franchise in the league for most of the year, the Buccaneers have rattled off two straight wins as they head into a tough game against Detroit.
The Bucs will be looking for their third straight win behind a strong rushing attack in recent weeks and a rookie QB that knows how to lead an offense. Previously undrafted free agent, running back Bobby Rainey was the talk of the league last week as he exploded for 163 total yards and three touchdowns in Sunday’s 41-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Mike Glennon has been consistent since he has been the starter and has quite the connection with Vincent Jackson. V Jack has gone over 100 yards in 3 out of the 7 games Glennon has started, including a 10 catch, 146 yard and a touchdown performance last week.
The Buccaneers have been much better defensively since they moved Darrelle Revis out from zone coverage and into to man coverage. He has quietly, once again, become the NFL’s top cornerback. He has down a marvellous job of shutting down opposing wideouts and has upgraded Tampa Bay’s entire defensive unit.
The Lions sit at 6-4 on the season and have a thin one game lead in the NFC North after losing to Pittsburgh last week, 37-27. The Lions rushed out to large lead in the first half, but that was about it. They scored all of their 27 points in the second quarter and racked up 379 total yards. In the second half, they were shut down by Pittsburgh, gaining just 72 yards of total offense.
The Lions defense has been porous all year long and is fresh off a performance in which they gave up four touchdowns to Ben Roethlisberger. While their pass rush is still decent up front with Suh, the unit has been a massive liability for Detroit overall.
The Lions are dealing with several injuries. Brandon Pettigrew has been limited in practice all week with a knee injury but is expected to play. Nate Burleson looks to return from injury this week from a broken arm. He should be active in Week 12.
This game opened at Detroit -9.5 and is listed at -9 at most books currently, but some have moved the number to 8.5. The total is large for this one, and has moved several points since opening at 46. The total is now 49 or 49.5 at most sportsbooks.
I have been as impressed as any in the Buccaneers recent surge, but I think that comes to an end in a big way against the Lions. Detroit has responded to losses well this year, and while their defense has been extremely poor all year long, we have to remember they are still facing a rookie quarterback. Also, the Buccaneers offensive line is one of the best run blocking units in the league but will likely be vulnerable to the Lions pass rush.
The crucial issue facing Detroit is how well Calvin Johnson will matchup with Revis, but I think this faceoff is getting bigger ink than it should. Calvin is one of the best receivers in the game and even if he does not get his catches, he’s the best decoy around and will get others open. I look for Burleson, and Reggie Bush to have bigger games and the Lions to win this one in a rout.
Lay the points with Detroit -9, at home available with www.bovada.lv.
The Bears and Rams will meet in each other in a battle of second string quarterbacks. Both have played well in recent weeks and have gotten their teams in the win column.
While Jay Cutler remains out, journeyman quarterback Josh McCown has filled in superbly. He is 3-0 in three starts for the Bears this season and has posted a 100.0 quarterback rating while throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bears improved to 6-4 on the season with a 23-20 overtime win against Baltimore last week. Chicago has been tremendous offensively and are third in the league in points with 28.2.
The defense has been terrible this year, an uncharacteristic attribute of many Bears teams over the past decade. Injuries to many starters have contributed to their poor play, including linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman. The run defense has been especially vulnerable. They have given up 100 yards rushing to opposing backs in four out of their last five games.
Their poor run defense is an appetizing matchup for Zac Stacy of the Rams, who has exploded onto the scene over the past few weeks. He leads the Rams in rushing with 537 yards, after getting the starting job a few weeks ago. St. Louis is coming off a bye week, and last played on Nov. 10th against Indianapolis. They crushed the Colts in that game 38-8, scoring several defensive touchdowns. Rookie Tavon Austin also had three touchdowns in the win.
Defensively, the Rams have been better as of late but still have struggled most of the year. Their run defense has been especially bad, but their pass rush has been excellent. Their undersized secondary may also be a problem with Chicago’s large wide receivers.
The game opened as a pk or St. Louis +1 at most sportsbooks. The game is listed at St. Louis -1 at most books now but pk may still be available. The total opened at 46 and has not moved much off that number.
This game is intriguing, and it is hard to find a play on a side or total I truly love, but I have to error on the side of the Bears in this one. The run defense issues with Chicago is honestly the only positive that I see for St. Louis coming into this game and I don’t think it will be enough. The Bears have been criminally negligent against the run this year, but Stacy is still unproven. Also, the Rams have no other consistent weapons on offense to take the pressure off him.
The Bears have looked excellent under McCown who can move the offense quickly with their short passing attack, and he is not prone to turnover, ala Jay Cutler. Forte should have a field day against this defense, as well. I like this them to get a win on the road this week.
Take Chicago +1 with www.bovada.lv.
The Titans and Raiders have both had better seasons that most expected this year, but are still sitting outside the playoff picture leading up to a Week 12 matchup.
Oakland has seemingly changed quarterbacks after Matt McGloin played well last week in for the injured Terrelle Pryor. Pryor is healthier this week and could possibly start but Oakland in going with McGloin. Pryor has been terrible in his last few starts, throwing just one touchdown and eight picks in his last four games.
The Raiders have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, thanks mostly to Terrelle Pryor but in large part due to their running backs. Backup Rashad Jennings has exploded while starter Darren McFadden has been sidelined with an injury. Jennings has rushed for 340 yards in his last three games, including 150 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 28-23 win over Houston to improve Oakland’s record to 4-6.
The Raiders defense has been inconsistent all year but has been especially poor against the pass. They have allowed 20 points or more in all three of their last few games.
The Titans also sit at 4-6 on the season after a 30-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts last Thursday, after leading 14-0 after the first quarter. Despite the loss, Tennessee has been happy with the play of backup Ryan Fitzpatrick after Jake Locker was lost for the season due to injury. He has been excellent in the last two games, throwing for 486 yards and three touchdowns.
The Titans defense has been their Achilles heel for much of the season. Well, at least, their run defense. Tennessee’s secondary is ranked number one in the league, but their rush defense has been so inept it has contributed to a number of losses. They are giving up 129.2 yards on the ground over the last six games and are second in the league with rush TDs allowed at 15.
This game opened at pk and has moved around quite a bit. Some books have Oakland as a small favorite at -1 and others have them as a small dog at +1. The total is still around the opening number of 41.5.
I am going to cop out in this one and stay away from both sides in this game. Both of these teams are playing with plenty of new faces and I don’t see an edge on either side. However, I do like the under 41.5. With a lack of continuity on offense, this one should be low scoring. Both teams will also be relying heavily on their running games and will chew up plenty of clock.
Take the Under 41.5 which is available at www.bovada.lv.
Bruce Arians meets his former boss as the Indianapolis Colts travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals. Arians was interim coach last season for the Colts while head coach Chuck Pagano dealt with his cancer diagnosis. Both of these teams have playoff aspirations and this game is critical.
The Colts come into the game with a 7-3 record after gutting out a tough win last Thursday Night against the Tennessee Titans. After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, Indy rallied in the second half to put up 24 points to win 30-27. Andrew Luck was quiet on the day with the scores coming from running back Donald Brown who totaled 80 yards and two rushing TDs.
Defensively, it has been an up and down season for the Colts who have performed around the league average overall, but have slipped up recently. They have been especially poor against the run in recent contests.
The Colts will be without starting linebacker Eric Walden, who was suspended for head butting Titans tight end Delanie Walker in last week’s win.
The Cardinals are on a roll with a record of 6-4 and Carson Palmer has finally found his stride. The veteran quarterback threw for 419 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 27-14 win over Jacksonville. He has completed 68.5 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and two interceptions.
Defensively, the Cardinals have been impressive all year. They are second in rushing yards allowed with just over 81 yards per game and are ninth in the league in total defense, giving up 324.9 yards per contest.
This game opened at Cardinals -1 at most shops and has moved to -2.5 across most sportsbooks. The total has not moved much off the opener of 45 but is trending upward with some books listing it at 45.5.
The Colts are still riding the hype train after a stellar season last year and a decent start to this year. Indianapolis has basically no running game, and a limited number of weapons on offense since Reggie Wayne went down for the season. I think T.Y. Hilton may have a chance to get deep on this defense, but it will not be enough. Arizona is one of the toughest places to play in the league, and their defense is even better at home.
On the offensive side, it looks like things are finally clicking for Arizona at the exact time that things are going south for Colts defensively. Indianapolis has not looked impressive in any phases of the game, even in their recent wins. This team has done little to show that they worthy of being a Super Bowl contender.
Also, Arizona needs this game much more than Indy to keep pace with San Francisco in the NFC West; they trail them by just one game.
Lay the points with the Cardinals -2.5 at home at Bovada.lv.
The Giants have resurrected their season after starting off the year at 0-6 and have since rattled off four straight wins to bring themselves back into playoff contention. The NFC East battle heats up as the Cowboys head to New York with the division still up for grabs.
The Giants have beaten up on several backup quarterbacks throughout the past few weeks, including Matt Barkley, Josh Freeman and Terrelle Pryor. Last week, they won 27-13 against Green Bay in rookie QB’s Scott Tolzien’s first start.
Offensively, the Giants have looked better in recent weeks with Eli Manning finally coming around. He is still mired in the worst season of his career, but a productive running game led by Andre Brown has helped. On defense, the Giants have been excellent in the past four weeks, holding all opponents to 20 points or less in those four games.
Dallas is coming off a bye week with a 5-5 record and having dropped two out of their last three games. Their last game was a 49-17 throbbing at New Orleans, in which they gave up another 400 yard game to quarterback Drew Brees. Dallas is the worst team in the league defensively, giving up a league worst 456.7 yards per game and may be without linebacker Sean Lee this week, as well.
The offense has just been middle of the road under Romo this year, and most would have expected it to be a bit better. Injuries haven’t helped and Dallas has had trouble getting their playmakers involved. Dez Bryant has been rather quiet these past few weeks after starting the season with on a torrid pace. It will be interesting to see if they try to get him more involved coming out of the bye.
This game opened at Giants -1 for the most part, which may still be available but with increased juice. The consensus line currently is Giants -2.5. The total has not moved much in either direction and is listed at most books around 46.
While many might like Dallas coming out of the bye against a New York team that has not faced much stiff competition in recent weeks – I see this game differently.
The G-Men have finally hit their stride after their terrible start to the season and have improved in all aspects of the game. Dallas’ defense is unbelievably terrible and hasn’t gotten better over the long rest. Andre Brown and Victor Cruz should have monster days against this terrible unit, and I don’t think Dallas will be able to match their output.
Dez Bryant will likely face double teams in this game, and while Dallas has promised to get him the ball more, we’ve heard that all before. It has been tough getting him touches or even targets and force feeding the loud-mouthed wide out may lead to Romo interceptions. Speaking of Romo, this is a crucial game, and he will be primed to have an average performance before blowing the game late with a critical interception or fumble.
The Giants are playing much better football as of late and have the team to win this game. Their home field advantage should not be underestimated either. The crowd will be roaring and ready to go this week.
Take the G-Men -2.5 at home Bovada.lv