NFL Week 12 Predictions: Super Bowl Rematch, Super Matchup Spoiled

Most of the country will be watching the next two games, both of which I have plenty to say about.

Steelers at Seahawks

This is only the second time in 20 years the Steelers will play in Seattle, so it’s a rare matchup. Over the last three meetings, the Steelers have all but silenced the Seahawks. There was the 21-10 win in Super Bowl XL where despite all the bitching and moaning, the Seahawks were clearly outplayed and allowed three of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history. The last two meetings have taken place at Heinz Field at 1:00 p.m. and the Steelers won 21-0 in 2007 and 24-0 in 2011. That 24-0 win is significant because it marks the last time Seattle was unable to stay at least within 8 points of its opponent in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks trailed 17-0 at halftime, 24-0 late in the third quarter and there was no score by either team in the fourth quarter. No one else has thoroughly beaten the Seahawks since that point, a streak that spans an NFL-record 80 games:

SEA80

Arizona opened up a 19-0 lead a few weeks ago, and I would imagine the Steelers studied that film to prepare for this matchup. Antonio Brown can get his against any defense, but I think Richard Sherman will have a good day. Martavis Bryant is the weapon that Ben Roethlisberger needs to utilize best against Seattle’s lesser corners, and Heath Miller needs to have one of his big days as the tight ends have been killing this defense down the seam all year. You can’t abandon the run against the Seahawks, and I don’t think Pittsburgh will, but this is a game where Roethlisberger has to play big just like Carson Palmer did a few weeks ago. The Seattle defense is not as good as it was in 2012-14, but it’s still a talented group that can take over this game if the offensive line struggles to protect Roethlisberger.

Defensively, the Steelers continue to exceed expectations, but they still give up plenty of plays and yards. They just have done a better job of getting takeaways and limiting points. This is a pretty unfamiliar opponent and Russell Wilson is coming off of his best game of the season. I like Doug Baldwin in this matchup and Jimmy Graham may even show up for this one too. Marshawn Lynch is out, but that hasn’t meant the running game has slowed down one bit with Thomas Rawls this year. Seattle’s offense has underachieved for most of the year, but I feel like this game can be more high scoring than expected. I shudder at the thought of predicting the Steelers to score much on the road, but they also tend to play up to the competition. Despite the 5-5 record, at Seattle is still a marquee matchup. You could argue the Seahawks have looked better in their five losses than their five wins this year, especially factoring in the competition. The team that pressures the quarterback better should get this win, and I still think the home team is capable of doing that here.

Final score: Seahawks 27, Steelers 23

Patriots at Broncos

A few weeks ago this looked to have the potential of the most hyped regular-season game in NFL history. The Patriots were rolling. The Broncos had just embarrassed the Packers — not as impressive now as it looked then — and a battle of 10-0 teams seemed like a real possibility. Then the Patriots suffered some injuries at the skill positions and have not been as dominant. The Broncos lost two in a row and Peyton Manning accumulated a few more injuries. Now the legendary offensive showdown looks like a low-scoring slog between arguably the league’s two best defenses.

Oddly enough, the Patriots have allowed one fewer point (182) than the Broncos coming into the week, just like the Packers allowed one fewer point than Denver heading into their 6-0 vs. 6-0 matchup on SNF. Carolina actually leads all defense ins Pts/Dr, but Denver is second and the Patriots are fifth. New England is also really stingy at allowing points early in games, allowing many of their points with the game practically out of reach while the Broncos have played in almost nothing but close games all season.

Ultimately, I think the New England defense wins this game by confusing a young quarterback into mistakes, but it sure has the potential to be an ugly 60-minute affair.

I’m not sure where New England’s offense is going to get its yards from. They can try going big with 2 TEs (get Scott Chandler invovled) and pounding LeGarrette Blount, letting Tom Brady use play-action to his advantage. Denver is still pretty strong against the run however.

For the first time since the 2006 season, Brady won’t have his little (white) security blanket since Danny Amendola is out with a knee injury. Julian Edelman is still out. Wes Welker is in St. Louis. Bill Belichick better fire up the cloning device or try to get Cole Beasley from Dallas in the offseason. It’s not like the Patriots can’t find another shifty player to run 5-yard routes, but it’s been interesting to see how they’ve created such a specific role in their offense since 2007 for players who just so happen to look the same. Brady was using Troy Brown in similar ways a long time ago, but this has been one of the more interesting things about the NE offense over the years.

If you’re Denver, I don’t see how you don’t just use Chris Harris and Bradley Roby to defend Brandon LaFell and Chris Harper man to man. Not even Aaron Dobson (IR) is active, so it’s really those guys at WR. I would use a lot of Aqib Talib on Rob Gronkowski, just like the Pats did with Talib against Jimmy Graham in 2013. I would consistently double Gronk with Talib and a LB, or a safety (throw some T.J. Ward memories at him). With Dion Lewis out and no real receiving threat at RB available, this is really a limited offense. I don’t believe Buffalo showed a blueprint for Gronk. I just think they got first dibs on a depleted NE offense, and if this is how things are going to look with Amendola out, then Denver’s defense should have a good night. The only way the Pats should break 20 points is if they get short fields from turnovers. It would really help to have DeMarcus Ware (out) for this matchup as another player who can get quick pressure on Brady, because I don’t think the coverage is going to be too much of an issue. However, Brady should still get sacked a few times behind a revolving OL, and I expect at least one interception. He’s really going to have to keep his patience and remember that punting is okay in this one.

On the other side of the ball, Denver has Brock Osweiler in his second start, which sounds like a bad formula against Bill Belichick, but Gary Kubiak has used his system in the past to elevate lesser QBs (Brian Griese and Jake Plummer) to successful outings and wins against the Patriots. The tight ends got more involved last week, which could be big here since I think Malcolm Butler will press Demaryius Thomas, who does not handle press coverage well. Emmanuel Sanders will hopefully be healthy for this matchup, but the wild card is Osweiler. Despite claims of mobility, he looks like a major sack machine, already taking 8 sacks in not even six quarters. It took him one start to match Peyton Manning’s career high in sacks for a game (5). Only a facemask penalty negated a sixth sack against a Chicago defense that hardly gets sacks this year. He’ll catch a break with Jamie Collins out, but I think NE’s front seven can get good pressure and stall multiple drives with sacks against this battered OL.

It’s a joke that Osweiler won AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his first start. What I saw there was a true game manager performance. He didn’t have turnovers, but he also wasn’t making any plays in terms of escaping pressure or throwing to guys who weren’t first or second reads. He just found the primary receiver, who was open more often than not. And that’s a smart way to coach a young kid in his first start on the road. It just wasn’t that great of an individual performance. His first touchdown pass was a total blown coverage with Thomas getting a ton of YAC to complete the score. Where was that the first 9 weeks in Denver? Just a fluke TD. The Patriots rarely ever beat themselves like that and Belichick will show Osweiler plenty of things he hasn’t seen yet.

But with the career luck of one Peyton Manning, I can see Denver winning a 20-17 game with Osweiler doing very little, prompting the simpletons to “see, Brock beat Brady in the regular season, Peyton couldn’t for Denver. He’s done, this is Brock’s team.” Yep, in the last three years, in games all played in Foxboro, the Patriots went 3-0 against Manning’s Broncos with an average final score of 36 to 24.3. This could be just like Manning’s college career at Tennessee where he went 0-3 vs. Florida in games that had an average final score of 43.3 to 28.7. In 1998, with Manning at Indy and Florida QB Danny Wuerffel also in the NFL, Tennessee did beat Florida with Manning’s successor, Tee Martin. What did Martin do in that game? He went 7-of-20 for 64 yards and I believe had negative rushing yardage (sacks). Tennessee won 20-17 in overtime after Florida missed a 32-yard field goal. But yep, “Tee Martin did what Peyton couldn’t.”

Then with games coming up against SD-OAK, it’s not unexpected to think Osweiler can get on a roll here. Ultimately, I think Denver should aim to get Manning back for Week 16, a MNF home game with the Bengals that could be for a first-round bye. Yeah, tough matchup, but I think you’d want to bring him back at home rather than in Pittsburgh the week before. And if he can’t physically cut it in that type of setting, then maybe you go back to Osweiler for the playoffs, but that would be my target date of bringing back Manning healthy.

I just know that bringing him back at all will be very hard if Denver wins this game, which is the case regardless of how Osweiler plays. That’s the totally wrong way to look at things, but people do it.

And I also know better than to go against the Patriots, so there.

Final score: Patriots 19, Broncos 16

2015 Week 12 Predictions

I thought I was going to have a perfect 3-0 start on Thanksgiving, but the Bears really surprised me. I thought GB was the most sure thing on that slate too. It’s just not their year.

Winners in bold:

  • Rams at Bengals
  • Vikings at Falcons
  • Saints at Texans
  • Bills at Chiefs
  • Giants at Redskins
  • Dolphins at Jets
  • Buccaneers at Colts
  • Chargers at Jaguars
  • Raiders at Titans
  • Cardinals at 49ers
  • Steelers at Seahawks
  • Patriots at Broncos
  • Ravens at Browns

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 4-10
  • Week 11: 9-5
  • Season: 99-61 (.619)
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NFL Week 11 Predictions

Week 11 has three games between teams with winning records, and it just so happens they are the three national games. GB-MIN gets a 4:25 start on FOX, Bengals-Cardinals on SNF and Bills-Patriots on MNF. That should make up for an inauspicious start to the week with guys like T.J. Yates, Matt Hasselbeck, Brock Osweiler, Mark Sanchez, Case Keenum and Blaine Gabbert starting games. And none of those are against each other, so that’s six games compromised a bit. Is it the final week of preseason? No, sadly not. This season needs a push of the reset button, but we’re charging towards Thanksgiving with the mediocrity flag waving defiantly.

Packers at Vikings

Very interesting game here in a battle for first place in the NFC North. The schedule makers probably had no idea this would be such a challenging quarter for Green Bay, but three road games (DEN/CAR/MIN) out of four against some of the season’s stingiest defenses is a hell of a task for an offense that just isn’t that talented this year. I feel like I’ve mentioned the lack of talent about 10 times this season, so are the Vikings good enough defensively to keep the Packers down again? I think they can hold them to 21 or less. Minnesota actually has only allowed more than 20 points once this season: 23 to Denver. Mike Zimmer has had some success against Rodgers in the past. When these teams played last in Minnesota last year, the Packers won 24-21. The gap has definitely closed, even if Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t really made big strides this year. Adrian Peterson is leading the league in rushing, though keep in mind his hamstring injury this week. He needs to have a huge game, because you just don’t expect much from the passing game. Kyle Rudolph has really fallen off since he got that big contract. Mike Wallace has reverted to JAG status. Stefon Diggs had that great start and is really the best receiver this team has, but he needs his targets. As always when you play the Packers, a fast start is key, but I don’t think Minnesota is efficient enough on offense to pull away in this one.

Bengals at Cardinals

The idea that Andy Dalton excels against uncommon opponents is definitely interesting, but I think the Cardinals are a bad matchup for the Bengals. They have the secondary to prevent A.J. Green from having a huge night, and I still don’t think that highly of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Tyler Eifert has to make up for Monday night’s poor outing with all the drops, and I think he will, but he’s not enough by himself. The running game isn’t reliable either with Jeremy Hill having a hugely disappointing season. Giovani Bernard is a better two-way threat, but he just doesn’t get the snaps in this offense. I like Arizona’s offense at home, though I would feel better if there weren’t lingering hamstring issues for John Brown and Michael Floyd. But if Adam Jones is out, still an advantage to Arizona and Carson Palmer, who is having a MVP-caliber season. The closest I’ve watched the Bengals this year were against the Steelers and Texans, and I just wasn’t impressed with either outing, especially from Dalton. They’ll score more points this week, but I don’t think it will be enough to beat the Cardinals.

Bills at Patriots

It’s hard to get excited about one of these games since the Patriots almost always beat Buffalo. A Brady pick parade is the only way Buffalo wins when the Patriots aren’t resting starters in Week 17. I like that Buffalo has its weapons healthy right now, but the New England defense is pretty sound this year. You won’t just beat them by hiding the quarterback or throwing bombs all day to Sammy Watkins. For the Patriots, I think they handle the losses of Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman by switching up Week 2’s pass-heavy gameplan. LeGarrette Blount will be the featured player on Monday night as the Patriots attack the 29th-ranked run defense.

2015 Week 11 Predictions

Last week was brutal with underdogs and road teams going 11-3. I knew as soon as I picked my boring group of winners it was going to be a messy week. Off to a good start with the Jacksonville pick on TNF, though that one could have easily gone either way too. Damn those long punt returns when you least expect them.

Winners in bold:

  • Jets at Texans
  • Colts at Falcons
  • Cowboys at Dolphins
  • Raiders at Lions
  • Buccaneers at Eagles
  • Redskins at Panthers
  • Broncos at Bears
  • Rams at Ravens
  • Chiefs at Chargers
  • Packers at Vikings
  • 49ers at Seahawks
  • Bengals at Cardinals
  • Bills at Patriots

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 4-10
  • Season: 90-56 (.616)

NFL Week 10 Predictions: The Andrew Luck Injury

So much for that IND-HOU Thursday night game in Week 5 being the “last significant game in Matt Hasselbeck’s career.” Andrew Luck is out for 2-6 weeks with a lacerated kidney and abdominal strain. The Colts, now on a bye week, are still favored to win the AFC South anyway, but it’s another big injury to a quarterback in a season filled with them.

A kidney injury does not sound like something you want to take lightly. Keenan Allen is out for the season in San Diego with one, so let’s assume Luck’s return is closer to the 6-game end of that forecast.

From a statistical standpoint, that means Luck won’t be adding his name to the year-4 record here, and he may not catch up to a record pace again until year 14, which would be the 2025 season.

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It was in his 14th season that Peyton Manning had the four neck surgeries and missed the entire year (2011), setting up the Colts to draft Luck in 2012. Drew Brees only played one game as a rookie and was benched for five games in 2003. Otherwise he has been remarkably healthy, only missing one game due to injury (this year in Carolina). Manning will break the all-time yardage record in the ninth game of his 18th season. Brett Favre threw for 71,838 yards by the end of his 20th season.

Luck is in an era where there are more passing yards averaged each year, so he could catch up much sooner than expected, but every injury and game missed is a big deal when you’re talking about competing for records with great quarterbacks who almost never missed any time like Manning, Brees and Favre.

I’m going to have a more formal post (somewhere) about Manning and the passing record this week, but it is impressive when you think about what it takes to get to that number. A QB can throw for 5,000 yards 14 years in a row and still need another big season. Matthew Stafford aside, you have to be a pretty good QB playing at a high level to throw for 5,000 yards. Hell, even Stafford played at his highest level in 2011. How many quarterbacks can extend a prime performance out to 14-15 years? Luck was easily the favorite among all the young players to chase down this record, and even he has been questioned this year if he should be benched for poor play. We know Stafford isn’t going to see enough starts to ever come close to this record.

Yards are rarely a driving force in QB arguments as people tend to focus more on touchdowns, MVPs, WINS, RINGZ, but once you start talking about throwing for 50,000 or more, that has to be done by someone who was pretty damn good for a long time. Jon Kitna threw for 4,000 yards in back-to-back seasons in Detroit, but he never did it well enough that the Lions or any other team would want to keep him as a long-term starter even if he was 10 years younger.

Time will tell what rule changes have done to this game, but I still like to believe this has been a special era of QB play. Greatness is found through consistency, and you have to be durable too.

Week 10 Games

Some random musings

I think you can forget about the Super Bowls the Giants have won over New England, because I don’t see a defense capable of holding the Patriots under 24 points on Sunday. Oddly enough, the only win in the last four meetings for NE was the only high-scoring game and the only game played in New York: the 38-35 final that pushed the Patriots to 16-0 and gave the Giants confidence that they could hang with the best.

I smell an upset of Tennessee over Carolina, yet I’m not ballsy enough to go through with that pick. Obviously this team is much better with Marcus Mariota at QB. And I don’t really want to credit Mike Mularkey yet, but Ken Whisenhunt had to go.

Another year, another Detroit loss to come in Green Bay. This would make it 25 in a row.

25 is a bit of a magic number for the Seattle Seahawks, as in 0-11 in the Russell Wilson era when allowing at least 25 points. Technically, Seattle allowed at least 27 in all 11 of those games, and rarely does a team score 25 or 26. So Arizona really needs to eye 27-28 for a win on Sunday night, but I think the defenses take over, both quarterbacks struggle and we get a low-scoring game that favors the home team. I still believe in Seattle, but it’d be a lot more believable if they played well in this big game.

2015 Week 10 Predictions

Screwed by the Jets again on TNF. Should have seen that one coming, but I would have said the exact same thing about Buffalo if things went the other way. You just can’t trust either team, yet these are supposed to be among the best teams in the AFC not named NE/DEN/CIN. Ugh.

Winners in bold:

  • Dolphins at Eagles
  • Bears at Rams
  • Panthers at Titans
  • Saints at Redskins
  • Jaguars at Ravens
  • Cowboys at Buccaneers
  • Browns at Steelers
  • Lions at Packers
  • Vikings at Raiders
  • Chiefs at Broncos
  • Patriots at Giants
  • Cardinals at Seahawks
  • Texans at Bengals

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Season: 86-46 (.652)

NFL Week 9 Predictions: Records for Peyton Manning and NFC Showdown

A solid schedule this week, so here are some thoughts on the three games I’m most focused on.

Packers at Panthers

Regardless of last week’s interesting matchup in Denver, this was always the more important game since it’s for first place in the NFC. This is probably the toughest two-game stretch for Green Bay in the Aaron Rodgers era. They get back-to-back road games against the top 2 pass defenses. Rodgers’ last six games against top 5 pass defenses have not gone well. As I mentioned last week, Green Bay is 1-9 on the road against playoff teams since 2012. That’s probably 1-10 given the Broncos are now 7-0.

Jonathan Stewart could have a big day against a subpar Green Bay run defense. He’ll have to really, because I don’t see this passing game getting on track this week with Cam Newton and his receivers. Carolina needs to run Newton a lot and be the more physical team. If you punch Green Bay in the mouth early, you’re usually in good shape.

Randall Cobb is starting to show a bit of the “Peerless Price Effect” as he’s not suited to be a star No. 1 WR. Jordy Nelson was, and Cobb is definitely not the same caliber of player. Carolina has to like the matchup with Josh Norman there, so it really is on James Jones to have a big game. I don’t think much of Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery or Richard Rodgers at this point as big producers, and the running game isn’t up to par this season.

So why would I still pick Green Bay? 

I think the Packers walked into Denver as a confident favorite against an unfamiliar opponent and had their weaknesses exposed against a great defense and an offense that’s starting to put things together. I don’t think Carolina, coming off an emotional Monday night win, is as lethal on either side of the ball and the Packers will use Sunday night as a wake-up call. Rodgers will be more decisive with the ball and maybe scramble more. Carolina won’t be able to cover the receivers as well as Denver’s secondary did. I saw open receivers galore on Monday night, but Andrew Luck made some really horrible throws and decisions. Remember, this is a Carolina defense that let Luke McCown complete 31-of-38 passes with three drops. It’s a shitty reason to pick a team, but I just can’t fathom Rodgers playing so ineffectively two weeks in a row. He’ll get more out of the offense and the defense has fewer threats to worry about offensively. Regardless of what you’re hearing, Newton is not playing anywhere near MVP level.

Neither team is really good at playing from behind, so I would imagine we’ll get a good taste early of who is going to take control of the NFC with a big win here.

Final score: Packers 23, Panthers 17

Raiders at Steelers

It’s come to the point where Steelers fans basically expect to lose to Oakland, which is just another sign that it’s one of those 8-9 win/miss the playoffs kind of seasons. It happened in 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2013.

Yes, Ben Roethlisberger is 1-4 against Oakland in his Hall of Fame career, which up until this point has seen the Raiders as probably the league’s worst team in that span. This is the best Oakland team he’ll face yet, though the optimism is largely on the offensive side of the ball. That’s why I think this can be a shootout with plenty of passing numbers. Sure, DeAngelo Williams can effectively replace a lot of what Le’Veon Bell did, but this has to be a bounce-back game for Ben, which means a lot of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Heath Miller. Remember, Oakland has struggled greatly with tight ends this season. I think a 1 p.m. game at home helps Pittsburgh a bit against a West Coast team coming off a huge win. They smashed San Francisco in that situation in Week 2. Not many road triumphs on the resume for a young Derek Carr, but he’s definitely playing the best of the sophomore QBs. I hate to pick a final score this year with Pittsburgh because the defense keeps beating expectations, but I really do see a high-scoring game here. I just think Roethlisberger makes up for last week’s blunder and takes advantage of a middling defense with his weapons.

Final score: Raiders 24, Steelers 34

Broncos at Colts

I knew the NFL would schedule this game around this point since it’s about the time where Peyton Manning should break a significant record we’ve been expecting him to one day own for a long time. They did an even better job than expected, as Manning can set the all-time records for wins and passing yards in the city that drafted him into this league. Manning has thrown for at least 284 yards in about 45 percent of his games, so it’s not a given, but likely to happen. He would break the record in his 264th game — it took Brett Favre 302 games to compile 71,838 passing yards.

(CLICK TO ENLARGE)

mydbygame

Denver will likely push for the record, though the Broncos have struggled for a good chunk of all three of Manning’s games with the Colts. They were largely ineffective in the second and third quarters in the 2013 game. The second half of last year’s opener was a struggle, and nearly the whole playoff game in January went poorly as I’ve detailed greatly before. But this week is a bit different. It’s not Manning’s first time back in Indy and he doesn’t have a high ankle sprain like in 2013. It’s not in prime time. It’s not a season opener when things are still new and teams are “full strength.” It’s not a playoff game where Manning is playing on a torn quad. It’s also the 2015 Denver defense taking on a 2015 Indianapolis offense that has by and large looked terrible when not trailing by multiple touchdowns this season. Pep Hamilton was a problem for the Colts, but not even a top-five problem. They fired him as a scapegoat to show some change this week, but good luck to new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinksi trying to game plan for this defense. There’s not much he can really do at this point of the season that would be different, though I guess the Colts have some factor of unpredictability on their side. I just wouldn’t trust any of it (passing to the TEs? more Frank Gore?) to work well against this defense.

Final score: Broncos 31, Colts 19

2015 Week 9 Predictions

I had the Bengals winning by double-digits on TNF. That was an easy choice.

Winners in bold:

  • Jaguars at Jets
  • Titans at Saints
  • Redskins at Patriots
  • Packers at Panthers
  • Dolphins at Bills
  • Rams at Vikings
  • Raiders at Steelers
  • Broncos at Colts
  • Falcons at 49ers
  • Giants at Buccaneers
  • Eagles at Cowboys
  • Bears at Chargers

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Season: 78-41 (.655)