When I said I knew week 11 would be unpredictable, I didn’t expect there to be a suspension of a game due to a tornado warning! I’m sure some of the more experienced of you out there remember something like that, but it’s a first for me.
There were some normalities that we went back to; Peyton winning, Jags losing and Carson Palmer slinging it for 400 yards and no picks… wait. What?
A decent 10-5 week 11 slate puts me at 102-60 for the season and gives me a 40 point gap that I fully intend to build on, so here’s week 12:
Byes: Bills, Bengals, Eagles, Seahawks
New Orleans Saints 38-20 Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons can’t defend the run or the pass, and Matt Ryan is still struggling with a banged up cast and an offensive line that is like a sieve. For once, TNF should be an easy call: New Orleans beat the Niners in an impressive fashion at home last week, and Atlanta are nowhere near the same level, even in the Georgia Dome.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-34 Detroit Lions
After piling up 300 yards of offense in the first half against Pittsburgh, the Lions will be gutted to have lost that game. Their previously improved D allowed Big Ben to throw for 400 yards, and they will be very concerned at that, especially welcoming a Bucs team on a high right now after their second straight win. The Tampa bay offense is a surprisingly balanced, efficient unit, while their defense contains Darrelle Revis, so on paper, you would think they had a chance in any game. But in Detroit; where Matt Stafford can sling the football, Reggie Bush running riot and Calvin Johnson in typically ridiculous form, it will be hard for most teams to score enough points to keep up.
Minnesota Vikings 13-27 Green Bay Packers
It seems that no matter what QB the Vikes start, they’re still going to lean 80% on Adrian Peterson, which is fair enough. But when he’s not 100%, they’re going to lose. Minnesota’s defense, barring Jared Allen and Harrison Smith, is an absolute train wreck. Can’t stop the run, can’t stop the pass. SO for that reason, with home advantage and a balanced offense, Scott Tolzien can gain his first win as Green Bay’s signal caller.
Jacksonville Jaguars 23-27 Houston Texans
Jacksonville reverted to normality against after threatening the Cardinals for a quarter, and the way that they faded in that game will give hope to the Texans, who after losing at home to the Raiders last week, are desperate for something to give them a spark again. At 2-8, Houston’s season is long gone, but the coaching staff are still fighting for a job, as are QB Matt Schaub and RB Ben Tate, and the need to impress, and the talent that undoubtedly is still on this roster should be enough to just about roll over the Jags, even though they’ve been much better recently.
San Diego Chargers 16-23 Kansas City Chiefs
So the unbeaten record is gone, but there’s no shame in a tight loss to Peyton’s Broncos, and Andy Reid will tell his men to just get back on the horse and play the football that got them to this position. I have a feeling that after 0 sacks last week, Philip Rivers will feel the force of the Chiefs’ defense and hit the ground quite a few times. If San Diego cannot run the ball like they did with Ryan Mathews last week, they will struggle, as their O-line won’t hold up in pass protection at Arrowhead. Alex Smith will do what Alex Smith does: dink and dunk and handing off to Jamaal Charles, and it should be enough for 10-1.
Carolina Panthers 27-13 Miami Dolphins
In their MNF win over New England, the Panthers proved they had what it took to challenge at the very top, and that with QB Cam Newton at the reigns of an offense with multiple looks, weapons and strategies, they deserve serious respect. I can’t see the Dolphins having enough on offense to trouble the Panthers’ strong D to an extent that they can be really competitive here, so get used to it NFL fans: the Panthers are for real.
Pittsburgh Steelers 23-20 Cleveland Browns
The win for the Steelers last week showed fans in snatches what Mike Tomlin wanted his team to be: hard-nosed and stifling on defense (as they were in the second half) while being expansive and hard to predict on offense. Rookie running back LeVeon Bell has transformed this offense: adding a genuine rushing threat, but also being good in pass protection and catching out of the backfield. Cleveland’s run of nice play ended last week when they were dismantled by Cincinnati, and I’m sure Jason Campbell and co. will tighten things up again this week at home, but it seems like without a running game and with Campbell at QB, there is a solid ceiling for the Browns, while the Steelers just smashed through what many thought was theirs.
Chicago Bears 27-30 St Louis Rams
This game is the one this week that I have spent most time agonising over: Chicago’s offense is very good, their defense not so much – haemorrhaging yards all over the place. The Rams showed what they were capable of when hammering the Colts, on both sides of the ball, and it puts a doubt in my mind whether Josh McCown can keep up with at St Louis attack that seems to be in full flow right now. The Bears know how important this is in terms of making the playoffs, so they will be tuned up for this, but the Rams seems to have been let off the leash to play some great football and after a bye week, will be eager to go and have some fun on their home field. The Bears’ tough OT encounter last week will have taken it out of them in heavy conditions, so I have a sneaking suspicion that the pace of St Louis could be the game changer here and I’m picking a bit of an upset.
New York Jets 13-20 Baltimore Ravens
I fear this will not be pretty. Both head coaches, teams and fans know what is coming in Baltimore this Sunday, and it comes with more than a PG rating. It’s an old school defensive fight where mistakes, miscommunications and the desire for half a yard extra will make all the difference. That being the case, I simply cannot side with Geno Smith after his horrendous stat line last week, check this out: 8 for 23, 103 yards, 3 INT’s, 2 FUM. Holy Moly. He was playing the Buffalo Bills.
Tennessee Titans 20-16 Oakland Raiders
The Titans desperately need some more production on offense, especially in the passing game, and while Justin Hunter may help eventually, he is too raw right now. If only Kenny Britt wasn’t so… difficult. But they still have a pretty good defense that Matt McGloin, newly named as Oakland’s starter at QB, will have trouble unlocking. The Titans will try to stop the run and go from there, and without the running threat of Terrelle Pryor, Oakland find it difficult to be explosive. I can’t see this being hugely high scoring, one to tick off on the ‘under’ section.
Indianapolis Colts 24-27 Arizona Cardinals
Andrew Luck is going to make the Colts’ fanbase so stressed soon; he can’t keep orchestrating multiple TD comebacks like this, it’s not good for their health. Somehow he keeps doing it though, and at 7-3, the Colts are currently in possession of the no.2 AFC seed. San Francisco’s loss to New Orleans seems to have sparked something in Arizona, who are suddenly 6-4 (level with SF) and in the thick of the race for the playoffs. Carson Palmer threw for 400 yards and 0 mistakes for the first time in like, ever, and the defense played some tight football after a sloppy 1st quarter. Yeah ok, it was Jacksonville, but there is some momentum behind the Cardinals. So all things considered, this should be a decent game. Both teams have pretty tenuous rushing attacks so it could be a sling fest and I can see a lot of mistakes. I’m finding it difficult to split these two, but there have been some cracks beginning to show in Indianapolis, and Arizona’s D could make the difference.
Dallas Cowboys 23-27 New York Giants
Momentum is a funny thing for NFL teams: the Giants have won 4 in a row now, and look a completely different team to the one that floundered through the first few games of the season. Their defense looks like it can stop the run again, and hold up pretty well in the air too, while Eli Manning has rediscovered the fact that he is not Blaine Gabbert, but actually a Superbowl winning QB. The Cowboys are coming off a bye week to play the Giants at just the wrong time and unless their defense steps up markedly from what we have seen so far (440 yards allowed per game average [32nd in the league]) then the rejuvenated G-Men could keep rolling in New York. There’s always a run on the NFC East by one team, and it could be NYG this time around.
Denver Broncos 30-31 New England Patriots
This is the big one, one of the most eagerly awaited games of the season and a possible rehursal for the AFC Championship game. It’s ‘Future Hall-of-Fame QB’ vs ‘Future Hall-of-Fame QB’ in New England, and it will undoubtedly be offense that dominates this matchup. Both teams have their struggles on defense at times, but make up for it with brilliance on offense, especially now it seems like the Patriots’ offense is back in full flow thanks to key players recovering from injuries. When you try to analyse this game, all you will get is LOADS of TD’s because of offensive weapons and not much else to go on, so this is a gut feeling punt. The Pats looked fluid and solid in their loss to Carolina and they will be furious at how the game ended, while the Broncos’ defeat of Kansas City looked rather easy and some complacency could set in. Bill Belichick doesn’t often lose two games in a row, and 8-3 looks a lot less precarious than 7-4, so I’ll give it to the more needy home team by a squeak.
San Francisco 49’ers 26-16 Washington Redskins
This San Francisco team is not what it was last year, and last week’s defeat in New Orleans, while not by any means bad, illustrates that they’re just a step behind where they were. However, they are getting their receivers healthy, and we may have yet to see the best of this team: a bad sign for a Redskins defense that is one of the poorer units in the NFL. Robert Griffin just doesn’t seem the same player, something that is perhaps not surprising after the horrible injury, but Washington will struggle to fool the Niners’ defense without the threat of Griffin breaking off a huge run. This could be the game that kills the playoff hopes in the Capital, and restarts those on the West Coast.