With three games already in the books from Thursday’s Thanksgiving showcase, it’s a lighter but still drama-filled and intensity-packed weekend in the NFL as we complete Week 12. The schedule features some great divisional games and a marquee Sunday Night Football game which is meaningful for the playoff positioning of both the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers. Monday Night Football looks like it might be a bit of a clunker with the Panthers traveling to Philadelphia, but it should be an entertaining game with plenty of storylines despite the fact that both teams are on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
Last week my picks went 7-6 against the spread (Click here for full post). The spreads that I use come from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’Em game which locks in lines earlier in the week so late shifts are not reflected. This week I’m hoping my picks do better.
Here they are with just a snapshot analysis and home team in all caps:
CHICAGO BEARS (-5.5) over Minnesota Vikings
The Bears have dominated Minnesota as of late winning five in a row. The Vikings will still be without playmaker Percy Harvin while the Bears will welcome back QB Jay Cutler. Cutler and Brandon Marshall should be in for a good day against the Vikings secondary. Minnesota is coming off a bye but has to go on the road to the Bears and Packers the next two weeks. The Vikings are just 1-3 on the road and have lost at Indianapolis, Seattle, and Washington. These teams will meet again in two weeks in Minnesota where I’ll probably take the Vikes and the points, but not at Soldier field this Sunday in Cutler’s return.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (-7.5) over Oakland Raiders
Cincinnati is trending upwards behind A.J. Green and an efficient Andy Dalton. They’ve won their last two games over the Giants and Chiefs after playing a close game with Denver week 9. The Raiders meanwhile are fading fast and have lost three in a row by double-digits to Tampa, Baltimore, and New Orleans. The Raiders D ranks 24th against the pass and 22nd against the rush so expect solid games for all the Bengals fantasy players as they take it to Oakland.
CLEVELAND BROWNS (+3.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers
The Browns get the Steelers at the right time. Pittsburgh turns to Charlie Batch, their third-string QB who they had so little confidence in last week they never put him in for Byron Leftwich who was obviously hurting. The Steelers only hope is to run, run, and run some more which may work to beat the Browns. Cleveland has been playing much better, though, as of late and took the Cowboys to OT in Dallas last week. They should be able to keep this to a field goal game and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Browns pull the upset here at home.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (-3.5) over Buffalo Bills
The Colts got smacked by the Patriots last week in Foxboro but now get to go home and host the struggling Bills. Buffalo snapped a three-game losing streak last Thursday against Miami and will get Fred Jackson back to complete their dynamic backfield duo. Despite that, Buffalo has been 2-4 on the road with wins only at Cleveland and Arizona and I think the Colts will be able to get the win at home this weekend. I don’t like to give the FG, but Indy has won only one of their last four wins by that small a margin so I’ll go with Luck and hope he wins by four or more.
Denver Broncos (-10.5) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The Chiefs getting 10.5 at Arrowhead would normally be tempting, but the Chiefs are that bad right now and the Broncos are that good. Denver should cruise to a big win behind their suddenly-solid defense and Peyton’s continued resurgence at QB.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (+2.5) over Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks at home have been a completely different team than the one we’ve seen on the road. They are just 1-4 away from CenturyLink Field with their only win coming at Carolina in week 5. Miami has been slumping horribly having lost three in a row to Indy, Tennessee, and Buffalo. This is a game I would stay away from with my money, but Reggie Bush should be well rested and hopefully can return to early season form as he and Ryan Tannehill try to win this battle of rookie QB’s.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (+0.5) over Atlanta Falcons
The Bucs are red-hot and at home. This will be one of the best games of the weekend and should reveal if the Falcons recent narrow-escapes against weak teams mean they’re overrated, or if they’re ready for the big games against playoff-caliber opponents. Atlanta beat Arizona by 4 last week after losing to New Orleans the week before and beating Dallas by just six the week before that. Tampa has won five of six and has been gathering momentum behind first-year Head Coach Greg Schiano. Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, and Vincent Jackson should be able to challenge the Falcons deep like the Saints did two weeks ago and I think the Bucs get the win at home.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (+2.5) over Tennessee Titans
Chad Henne and the Jags look to rediscover the offensive spark they had last week against the Texans when they put up 37 before losing in overtime. Tennessee’s defense is near the bottom of every major category and I think the improving Jaguars can get the win at home for just their second win of the year against the Titans coming off their bye.
Baltimore Ravens (-0.5) over SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
The Chargers are a mess. How the Ravens aren’t bigger favorites here I’m not sure. I know they didn’t look great last week against the Steelers, but they did get the win 13-10 on the road. Two weeks ago they dismantled Oakland 55-20 and overall they’ve won seven of eight. The Chargers are trending the opposite way losing five of six. The Ravens are banged up on defense, but I think they’ll go west and get the win in SD over the sinking Norv Turner-captained ship.
San Francisco 49ers (-1.5) over NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Another team I like to go on the road and get a win is the Niners as they head east to the Big Easy. New Orleans has battled back to 5-5 by winning five of their last six. Their one loss during that time was in Denver which I think San Francisco can use as a blueprint on how to get the win this Sunday. San Francisco is still playing coy as to who will play QB, but Colin Kaepernick looked really good on Monday Night Football and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t start. Kaepernick on the road on a short week is a tough pick, but Jim Harbaugh and that defense give me the confidence to go against the Saints even in the Superdome.
St. Louis Rams (+2.5) over ARIZONA CARDINALS
The Rams beat Arizona 17-3 week 5 in St. Louis and Arizona hasn’t won since. The Rams played the Niners to a tie just two weeks ago but did scuffle to a loss at home last week against the Jets. I think they’ll bounce back and beat the Cards on Sunday to extend the Arizona losing streak. Coming into this game, the Cards have dropped six in a row and failed to win last week despite 6 turnovers by Atlanta. They’ve also dropped their last two home games to Buffalo in OT and San Francsico. The Rams defense should be in for another good day like the last time these two met as the Cardinals offense gives me no reason to pick them especially when they’re giving points.
Green Bay Packers (+2.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
The Packers head to New York in the Sunday Night Football showdown. Green Bay is tied with the Bears entering Sunday while the Giants are starting to feel the heat from the charging Redskins who already won this week at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. In what could be a playoff preview and the best game of the weekend, I’ll go with the Pack based on recent form. Green Bay has won five in a row since being upset by the Chuckstrong Colts in week 5. Over that same timespan the G-men have gone 4-2 but lost back-to-back games to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati headed into their bye week last week. The Giants have the big-game pedigree to get the win here, but I think Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will be out to avenge last season’s playoff loss and will be able to pull out the win in this one.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (-2.5) over Carolina Panthers
The Eagles are favored but no one is picking them after news broke Saturday that both LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick will be out of this game with concussions. I can’t take Carolina on the road though as they continue to find ways to lose games. Philadelphia will turn to Nick Foles at quarterback and Bryce Brown as their workhorse running back as they take on the Panthers. Look for a heavy dose of Brown since Carolina is ranked 19th against the run. He makes a solid fantasy football pick-up and play option for Week 12.
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