(Photo Credit: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
So, it’s finally over. The 2012 NFL regular season is wrapping up this week. We had some surprises, like 3 rookie quarterbacks (Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin) taking their teams to the playoffs, the resurgence of Adrian Peterson, who went from an ACL injury to a 2000 yard rushing season, and Peyton Manning coming back from a neck injury and making his new Broncos team one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Of course, there were some disappointments also, like the Eagles and Chargers both putting in very ugly efforts this season, and the Chiefs who not only struggled with on-field problems but also endured some off-field tragedy, as well.
In Week 16 we had another winning week at 9-7 and I hope to end the regular season on a high note and keep our win percentage above 55%, which is a decent mark considering we pick almost every game. It’s been a fun ride and hopefully you all enjoyed it as well. I’ll be back next week and all the way through the Super Bowl, with playoff picks, so the fun isn’t over yet!
Stay in the loop. I usually tweet out some picks on Sunday morning, so follow me on Twitter (@Fantasource) to get the latest.
Let’s end 2012 with another slate of winners…
Last Week: 9-7
Season Record: 114-92-3
Saturday, Dec. 29th
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-3 1/2, O/U 39)
The only award the Jets are going to win this season is the “Most Dysfunctional NFL Team.” There are lots of reasons to expect the Jets to come out flat this week, and it’s mainly due to the quarterback position. Let’s recap what happened last week: First, they decide to bench Mark Sanchez in favor of rookie Greg McElroy. Then Tim Tebow, after hearing he was passed over to start in Week 16, tells the coaches he didn’t want to be used in any wildcat formations. Then (shockingly!) rumors surfaced that the Jaguars were drooling at the prospect of getting Tebow in the off-season (wonder who put out those rumors? Hmmm, Tebow maybe?) Then Greg McElroy goes out on Sunday and gets sacked 11 times. Now we hear that McElroy has a concussion and so Rex is going back to Sanchez at QB, and Tebow is still mad about not starting. Got all that? Ok. Well that’s why I’m picking the Bills.
In a battle of two struggling teams (in the last nine games, the Jets are 3-6, the Bills are 2-7) I’ll take the home team. I think the Bills running game will be the difference here. Buffalo is averaging 140 yards rushing per game, and the Jets are surrendering 135 yards per game on the ground.
I’m not sure where the Jets will get their offense from this week, it seems like the Jets fit the model of a team that just wants to get to the offseason. I’ll lay the points with Buffalo.
Pick: Bills -3 1/2
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-10, O/U 46 1/2)
The Dolphins are eliminated from the playoffs, and the Patriots need a win (and a Texans loss, or a Broncos loss) to get a bye week next week. So New England has plenty to play for. Then why would I like the Dolphins here? And it’s not only the motivation factor, but Miami is coming north in late December to face a team who is fired up and will be ready to play. But I just think this game will be closer than 10 points.
These teams played in Week 13 and the Pats came away with a 23-17 win on the road. Miami has a decent defense and a familiarity with the Patriots offense and I think that will keep the score close. I’ll take the 10 points and say the Dolphins keep it close, maybe Pats win 27-21 or something like that?
Pick: Dolphins +10
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (-2 1/2, O/U 41)
This game should have been a matchup of contenders for the AFC North title, but the Ravens won last week against the Giants to wrap up the division so this game is really about nothing. The Bengals are locked into the #6 seed in the AFC. The Ravens have already clinched the AFC North division and are most likely locked into the #4 seed. Unless Baltimore wins and New England loses, then the Ravens jump to #3 and play the Bengals again next week.
I just don’t see why the Bengals are favored here. They have nothing at all to play for. At least the Ravens have a little bit of a reason to win, the Bengals have nothing. Cincinnati is playing well, they are 6-1 in their last 7 games but I still like Baltimore here. I just think they are the better team, and they are getting points. I’ll take the Ravens.
Pick: Ravens +2 1/2
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7, O/U n/a)
When you see an article titled “Steelers vs. Browns: A Chance for Young Players to Shine” you know the game means nothing to either team. Both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs so nothing is riding on the outcome, except maybe Browns HC Pat Shurmur’s job.
Let’s keep this one simple, here are two reasons why I like the Steelers -7 points: 1) The Browns top two QB’s are hurt, so the starter this week could be practice squad QB Thaddeus Lewis (who?). 2) The Steelers already lost to the Browns and they surely don’t want to get swept by a 5-win team.
I couldn’t find an official line for this game (since we don’t know who the Browns QB will be) but a few places posted Steelers -7, so I’m going with that. And I’m taking the Steelers.
Pick: Steelers -7
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (+6 1/2, O/U n/a)
For the second week in a row the Colts are involved in my ‘best bet’ game. Only this week they are the team I am picking against. Last week I loved the Colts laying 6.5 to the Chiefs. Indy won (and covered) 20-13.
This week I see the Texans needing a win to clinch a bye week and the top seed in the AFC with a win. The Colts are locked into the 5th seed, so they truly have nothing to play for. Their head coach, Chuck Pagano, is back from cancer treatments and will be on the sidelines this weekend so that will be an emotional boost for the Colts.
But really, will the Colts play Andrew Luck for 4 quarters and risk an injury? Coach Pagano says the starters will play as usual. But we’ll see what happens if Andrew Luck gets planted on the turf at some point in the game.
I know having Chuck Pagano back is a huge deal, but in terms of on-field play this is a “motivated team” vs. “who cares team” and I’ll take the motivated Texans laying under a touchdown.
Pick: Texans -6 1/2
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-4, O/U 41 1/2)
Let’s not mince words. This is the worst matchup of the weekend (yeah, even worse than Chargers/Raiders).
In their last 12 games the Jaguars are 1-11, and guess which team I think they’ll beat? Yup, the Titans. And last week Tennessee lost to the Packers last week 55-7. So I have to like the Jags, right? No chance.
I’m going with Chris Johnson against the worst rush defense in the league. Jags top WR Cecil Shorts is out this week, so a bad Jags offense just got a little worse.
I think the Titans will bounce back from an ugly loss last weekend and get a win to end a miserable season.
Pick: Titans -4
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (-7, O/U 45 1/2)
The 2012 soap opera that was the Eagles season is coming to an end, and it can’t come soon enough. But just for giggles the football gods threw another twist onto the Philly season. Nick Foles, who has filled in for injured Mike Vick, broke his hand last week and is not playing on Sunday. So who is coming to the rescue? None other than Mike Vick version 2.0, in what is probably his last game as Eagles QB, Vick will get the start.
Despite being 1-10 against the spread since Week 5, I like the Eagles here. The Giants are a hot mess lately. Losing 34-0 to the Falcons two weeks ago and then losing 33-14 to Baltimore last week (and that game was not even as close as the score might lead you to believe) and they are 2-5 in their last seven games, now their season comes down to one final do-or-die game. I don’t like this spot for the Giants.
This game will be a Mike Vick free-agency showcase, the better he plays, the more money he will get in the off season. He has one last shot to redeem his season, and I think he does it here. And the Eagles would like nothing better than to play spoiler to the Giants. I’ll take the points.
Pick: Eagles +7
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins (-3, O/U 48 1/2)
This one is for all the marbles, at least all of the NFC East marbles. Winner wins the division. And if the Bears and Vikings win earlier in the day then the loser is out of the playoffs.
At this point, I just can’t bet against the Redskins. Washington is 8-2 against the spread in their last 10 games. These teams met on Thanksgiving in Dallas and the Redskins won that one, 38-31.
I think the difference in this game is that the Redskins offense is clicking right now. They are averaging 30 points per game during their current 6-game winning streak, and I think that streak stays alive here. I’ll lay the three points.
Pick: Redskins -3
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (+3, O/U 44 1/2)
Detroit has lost seven games in a row, and they have given up 32 points per game in that stretch. I just can’t back the Lions here.
The Bears are in a true ‘must win’ position here. If they win, and the Vikings lose to Green Bay later in the day, then the Bears are in the playoffs. So, that makes my pick easy, I’m going with the Bears.
Chicago still has one of the top defenses in the league and that should be enough to slow down the Lions offense and get the win on the road. I’ll lay the points with the Bears.
Pick: Bears -3
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (+3 1/2, O/U 44 1/2)
This is one of the few games this week where both teams have a reason to play. Green Bay will clinch a bye week with a win, and Minnesota will clinch a wildcard spot with a win. So, don’t expect any letdown from either team.
I like the Packers to win and cover in this one. Green Bay has the #4 pass offense in the league, and Minnesota comes in with the #23 pass defense. So I expect the Packers to be able to move the ball and put up enough points to win and cover this week. The Packers are the better team going up against a Lions team that really hasn’t been able to stop anyone lately. I’ll lay the points.
Pick: Packers -3 1/2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-3, O/U n/a)
Atlanta has already clinched the #1 seed in the NFC, so what do they have to play for? Not much. The main objective for the Falcons this week is to get out of this game without any injuries. So, in that case I will take the Bucs getting 3 points.
The Falcons will probably play the starters for the first half and then the big guns will sit. QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White and TE Tony Gonzalez will probably be on the sidelines after halftime.
It’s hard to handicap these types of games but I think the Bucs will pull out a win against a Falcons team that truly doesn’t care about winning or losing, they are just worried about not getting hurt.
Pick: Buccaneers +3
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-5, O/U 54)
I’ll lay the five points and I like the Saints to win this game easily. Like I said last week once the Saints fell out of playoff contention this season turned into a redemption tour.
Despite all that they had to overcome this season (head coach Sean Payton was suspended, having to play for 3 different head coaches, multiple players suspended, those player suspensions were overturned, etc.) the Saints are one win away from an 8-8 season. It doesn’t sound like much but it means a lot to the Saints. I think they come out and give Carolina everything they can handle and come away with a big win.
Pick: Saints -5
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-16, O/U 42)
16 points? Wow. I know the Chiefs stink and the Broncos will clinch a bye week with a win, but can I lay 16 points in a division game? Yes, I can.
I can’t see any reason to back the Chiefs here. I know KC usually plays the Broncos tough, including a tight 17-9 loss earlier in the season, but this week they will be way overmatched and up against a team with a lot of motivation to win.
The Chiefs have only scored over 16 points one time since Week 5, and they aren’t doing it this week. I’ll lay the big number and say the Broncos lock up a bye week this week, something like 34-10 sounds about right.
Pick: Broncos -16
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers (-4 1/2, O/U n/a)
Who do I like to cover this game? I don’t know. Who do I think is the better team? I don’t care. This is just a matchup of two bad teams ending their seasons in the late afternoon game that nobody is going to watch.
Raiders QB Carson Palmer is probably out this week, so that leaves the QB duties to either Matt Leinart or Terrelle Pryor. It doesn’t matter who it will be, I’m going with San Diego.
This could be Norv Turner’s last game as head coach in San Diego and I expect him to go out with a win. Neither team has anything to play for, but in a matchup of bad teams I’ll take the team that stinks less. And I think I just wrote more words about this game than it deserved.
Pick: Chargers -4 1/2
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (-16 1/2, O/U 39)
The 49ers are in a pretty simple position, win and they clinch the NFC West. And if the Packers happen to also lose on Sunday then San Francisco will get a bye week. So, just take the 49ers and lay the points, right? They have to win so they won’t take it easy, right? Not so fast. I like Arizona here.
The 49ers are banged up and while they need a win to clinch the division I don’t expect them to run up the score or anything.
TE Vernon Davis and DE Justin Smith are questionable this week, and Mario Manningham tore an ACL and is out. Davis would be a big loss, but Smith is the key injury here. Last week, without him, the defense wasn’t able to put much pressure on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks and Wilson was able to throw for 4 touchdowns. I know the Cardinals offense is a mess and this week they are trying yet another quarterback, Brian Hoyer gets the start for Arizona. But you know what, I think it actually could help. The QB play from the Cardinals this year has been abysmal, so Hoyer can’t possibly be any worse. RB Beanie Wells is already looking forward to leaving Arizona after the season and this week he will be able to showcase his talents against a pretty good 49er defense.
I think San Francisco will win, but I expect the Cardinals to keep it within two touchdowns. I’ll take the points.
Pick: Cardinals -16 1/2
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks (-10 1/2, O/U 41)
Seattle is on a roll, especially at home. They are 7-0 straight up and against the spread at home this season and I’m betting that they continue the streak for another week.
Seattle has already clinched a playoff spot but they need to win this week to keep any hopes of a division title alive. The Seahawks need a win and a 49ers loss to win the NFC West. San Francisco is a 16-point favorite this week, so that scenario is probably not happening but I expect Seattle to play all out to fulfill their end of the deal.
We also can’t forget that Pete Carroll seems to enjoy running up the score like he was still trying to move up in the BCS standings or something. Seattle has put up 150 points in the past three games. The Rams have a good defense, but the Seahawks offense is just locked in right now. Laying 10 1/2 is a lot but I think Seattle will stay hot and get a big win at home over St Louis.
Pick: Seahawks -10 1/2