Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. To me, Turkey Day means two things – spending an enjoyable day with family and friends, and watching John Madden drool over a six-legged turkey.
I’m thankful Madden is with ABC now so we no longer are subjected to his fowl holiday ramblings.
On the picks front, not particularly good or bad last week. Winning records, but certainly nothing to write Jimmy The Greek about.
Not that Jimmy would get my letter. Too busy hanging out with Al Campanis and Fisher DeBerry, undoubtedly.
All right, enough of that. Time to get on with Week 12:
OVERALL PREDICTIONS, 2005
Straight-Up: 105-55 (66%) ATS: 86-68-4 (56%) Over/Under: 75-80-5 (48%)
Straight-Up: 11-5 ATS: 9-7 Over/Under: 11-5
Atlanta (6-4) at Detroit (4-6)
Line: Falcons favored by 3 (total points line is 41½)
Series: The Lions upset the Falcons at Atlanta last season, 17-10, and have won seven of the last 10 meetings overall including five of six at Detroit.
Falcons Status Report: Atlanta lost at home to Tampa Bay Sunday, 30-27. It was the Falcons’ second consecutive home defeat. They are a game behind the Buccaneers and NFC South co-leader Carolina.
Lions Status Report: Detroit was defeated at Dallas, 20-7. The Lions are third in the NFC North, three games behind Chicago and a game back of Minnesota.
Fantasy Tidbit: Did you know that Falcons RB Warrick Dunn is third in the NFL in rushing yardage, ahead of San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson among others? With T.J. Duckett back, Dunn’s numbers won’t be quite as impressive… but he still gets plenty of touches.
Game Summary: It’s Turkey Day… and the Lions’ penchant for success on Thanksgiving is significant. They’re 10-4 straight-up the last 14 Thanksgiving Day games. It wasn’t a help last year, however, when they were drubbed by Indianapolis, 41-9. But the Falcons are not the Colts, and Atlanta comes in struggling on defense. Call me crazy, but it seems to me that the Falcons started losing when QB Michael Vick started proving he could throw effectively from the pocket. With Jeff Garcia likely to re-take the helm at QB, I like the hometown Motowners.
Prediction: LIONS, 24-20
Denver (8-2) at Dallas (7-3)
Line: Broncos favored by 1½ (total points line is 41½)
Series: No recent meetings. The teams have split the last six contests going back 20 years.
Broncos Status Report: Denver destroyed the New York Jets at home last week, 27-0, and has won eight of nine after losing its opener at Miami. The Broncos lead the AFC West by two games each over San Diego and Kansas City.
Cowboys Status Report: Dallas whipped visiting Detroit, 20-7, and has won three straight as well as five of six. The Cowboys are co-leaders with the New York Giants in the NFC East.
Fantasy Tidbit: Both teams utilize multiple backs as the emphasis of their rushing attacks. Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell are both factors for the Broncos, while Julius Jones is now sharing the load with Marion Barber III for Dallas.
Game Summary: On paper, the Broncos get the edge and, thus, the reason they are slight favorites even at Dallas. But the Cowboys are usually solid on Thanksgiving, buoyed by the national TV exposure, and I just can’t shake the vision of a first-place team playing well as a home ‘dog. Both teams are hot… so this is purely a home-advantage selection.
Prediction: COWBOYS, 21-16
New England (6-4) at Kansas City (6-4)
Line: Chiefs favored by 3 (total points line is 51)
Series: New England triumphed at Kansas City last season, 27-19, and has covered ATS in six of the last seven meetings in this series including four in a row at Arrowhead Stadium.
Patriots Status Report: New England held off New Orleans at home, 24-17, and is two games up in the AFC East over Buffalo.
Chiefs Status Report: Kansas City dominated host Houston Sunday night for a 45-17 romp that kept the Chiefs within two games of Denver in the AFC West.
Fantasy Tidbit: Patriots QB Tom Brady leads the NFL in passing yardage, and he’s putting up two or more TDs virtually every week. In performance leagues especially, he’s stellar, and this is a good matchup as well.
Game Summary: A hunch tells me the Patriots will find a way to win, but the numbers point strongly to the hosts. With injury news out of the Patriots camp continuing to be negative, I’m opting for the numbers this time. Kansas City’s offense has too many weapons for New England to contain, and the Chiefs will be ultra-motivated to avenge last year’s loss to the Pats, a game that was more lopsided than the 27-19 score indicates.
Prediction: CHIEFS, 31-24
Carolina (7-3) at Buffalo (4-6)
Line: Panthers favored by 4 (total points line is 36½)
Series: Buffalo has won the only two previous meetings, neither recent.
Panthers Status Report: Carolina was stymied at Chicago last week, 13-3. The Panthers are tied with Tampa Bay atop the NFC South.
Bills Status Report: Buffalo was thrashed at San Diego, 48-10. The Bills trail New England by two games in the AFC East.
Fantasy Tidbit: The Bills have announced that J.P. Losman will be the starting QB for the balance of the season.
Game Summary: The Bills have been a solid home team this year, especially on defense. Two weeks ago, they limited Kansas City to just three points. Carolina has some issues in their running game, and doesn’t sport much help for prolific wideout Steve Smith in the passing game. And so, I’m predicting another mild upset.
Prediction: BILLS, 20-13
Baltimore (3-7) at Cincinnati (7-3)
Line: Bengals favored by 9 (total points line is 37)
Series: Cincinnati won at Baltimore earlier this month, 21-9. The Ravens prevailed at Cincinnati last season, 23-9, although the Bengals won at Baltimore by a point to earn the split in 2004.
Ravens Status Report: Baltimore knocked off Pittsburgh at home in overtime, 16-13, but remains last in the AFC North.
Bengals Status Report: Cincinnati was outgunned by visiting Indianapolis, 45-37, and is tied for the AFC North lead with the Steelers.
Fantasy Tidbit: This might finally be the week we see Ravens RB Chester Taylor emerge as a featured guy. He received more work than Jamal Lewis last week and, as he’s done all season, made more out of the carries.
Game Summary: The Bengals bounced back strongly from each of their two previous defeats, and they’re facing a depleted club they’ve already handled once. Cincy gets back on the winning track.
Prediction: BENGALS, 27-13
Cleveland (4-6) at Minnesota (5-5)
Line: Vikings favored by 3½ (total points line is 40)
Series: Minnesota has won the last three meetings, none recent.
Browns Status Report: Cleveland posted a 22-0 home shutout of Miami last week. The Browns are third in the AFC North, four games behind co-leaders Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
Vikings Status Report: Minnesota rallied past Green Bay at home Monday night, 20-17, for its third straight victory and is in second in the NFC North, two games behind Chicago.
Fantasy Tidbit: The most active fantasy performer these days for Minnesota is TE Jermaine Wiggins, who has obviously become a favorite target of QB Brad Johnson.
Game Summary: Just in the nick of time to save coach Mike Tice’s job (maybe), Minnesota is on a roll. The Browns are actually playing pretty well, too, but haven’t been reliable at all on the road. The Vikings should be able to build on their recent winning ways at home against a sub-.500 foe.
Prediction: VIKINGS, 26-17
St. Louis (4-6) at Houston (1-9)
Line: Rams favored by 3½ (total points line is 44½)
Series: First meeting.
Rams Status Report: St. Louis blew a third-quarter lead and eventually lost at home to Arizona, 38-28. The Rams are second in the NFC West, but trail Seattle by four games and have lost twice to the Seahawks.
Texans Status Report: Houston was routed at home by Kansas City Sunday night, 45-17, and sports the worst record in the NFL.
Fantasy Tidbit: This game features two of the three poorest defenses in the NFL. Everyone with a pulse is a potential fantasy contributor.
Game Summary: Without QB Marc Bulger, who is sidelined for the next few weeks with a bum shoulder, the Rams will go with Jamie Martin… but it’s their defense and awful special teams who spell disaster, even against the lowly Texans. Houston will take full advantage of being at home and against an injury-plagued opponent it can handle, and post its second victory.
Predictions: TEXANS, 30-23
San Francisco (2-8) at Tennessee (3-7)
Line: Titans favored by 7½ (total points line is 42½)
Series: The 49ers have won three of the last four meetings, including a split at Tennessee. No recent meetings.
49ers Status Report: San Francisco nearly rallied to upset Seattle at home last week, but came up short, 27-25. The 49ers are last in the NFC West.
Titans Status Report: Tennessee played tough at home against Jacksonville, but lost 31-28. The Titans are third in the AFC South.
Fantasy Tidbit: A week after having his toughness publicly challenged, San Francisco WR Brandon Lloyd put together a game with more than 100 yards receiving and made one of the season’s most brilliant grabs. He’s the lone legit offensive figure for the “Niners.”
Game Summary: The Tennessee offense, led by RB Chris Brown, has been better of late and that’s probably enough to overcome the 49ers. But the Titans defense needs a step-it-up effort in order to win. Turnovers may be the order of the day, and San Francisco’s defense has been good at forcing mistakes lately. That’s primarily why I like the game to stay close.
Prediction: TITANS, 21-19
San Diego (6-4) at Washington (5-5)
Line: Chargers favored by 3 (total points line is 43½)
Series: These teams have met only twice in the last dozen years, splitting those two clashes.
Chargers Status Report: San Diego routed Buffalo at home last week, 48-10. The Chargers, who have won three in a row, are two back in the AFC West.
Redskins Status Report: Washington was upset at home by Oakland last week, 16-13, and has lost three of four. The Redskins are third in the NFC East, two games behind the co-leading New York Giants and Dallas.
Fantasy Tidbit: TE Antonio Gates’ status is crucial for the Chargers. Gates, who turned an ankle Sunday and had X-rays which were negative, missed the season-opener due to a team-originated suspension over contract issues and the Chargers pass offense suffered in a loss to Dallas.
Game Summary: The Chargers offense is hitting on all of the proverbial cylinders, and the defense is playing well, too. This is a team that has been toughened by arguably the league’s most brutal schedule… they’re up to road challenges such as this. Washington has been inconsistent over the last month, so I’m going with the team that is better in terms of execution.
Prediction: CHARGERS, 28-20
Chicago (7-3) at Tampa Bay (7-3)
Line: Buccaneers favored by 3 (total points line is 33½)
Series: Tampa Bay whipped Chicago at home last season, 19-7. The Buccaneers have won nine of the last 12 meetings in Florida between these two.
Bears Status Report: Chicago’s defense was ultra-impressive again in a 13-3 smacking of Carolina at home last week. The Bears are two games up on Minnesota, in first place in the NFC North.
Bucs Status Report: Tampa Bay rallied to triumph at Atlanta, 30-27, and is tied with Carolina atop the NFC South.
Fantasy Tidbit: Tampa Bay rookie QB Chris Simms has put up solid numbers since taking over for injured Brian Griese, but this will be far and away the best defense he has faced.
Game Summary: The easy pick would be to take Tampa Bay at home… and of course, that’s very possibly how it will shake down. But the Bears’ defense is making believers of everyone, and the matchup of a young QB like Simms against a unit that made veteran Jake Delhomme look pretty sickly last week could get ugly for the home team. A late turnover wins another one for Da Bears.
Prediction: BEARS, 17-14
Miami (3-7) at Oakland (4-6)
Line: Raiders favored by 7 (total points line is 42)
Series: Although the most recent meeting was in 2001, the Dolphins have had the best of this series since 1990, winning five of seven including three in a row at Oakland.
Dolphins Status Report: Miami was stifled at Cleveland last week, losing 22-0. The Dolphins have lost three straight and six of seven, falling to third in the AFC East – three games behind New England.
Raiders Status Report: Oakland pulled off a 16-13 upset victory at Washington Sunday. The Raiders remain last in the AFC West, however, four games behind front-running Denver.
Fantasy Tidbit: Raiders RB Lamont Jordan is still mostly unheralded, but he’s an every-down back who also gets plenty of receptions and usually is left in at the goal line even though short-yardage specialist Zack Crockett is still on the roster.
Game Summary: Oakland should have enough to get a ‘W’ and creep closer to the .500 mark, but it’s never easy for the Raiders when you think it should be. Based on this team’s MO, an educated guess is that this contest will go to the wire.
Prediction: RAIDERS, 20-17
Jacksonville (7-3) at Arizona (3-7)
Line: Jaguars favored by 3½ (total points line is 41½)
Series: The Jaguars won the only previous meeting between these franchises, back in 1998.
Jaguars Status Report: Jacksonville held off Tennessee on the road, 31-28, thereby exceeding 30 points for the second straight week after going 50-something games without achieving that level of offensive output. The Jaguars are three games behind unbeaten Indianapolis in the AFC South.
Cardinals Status Report: Arizona rallied for an improbable 38-28 victory at St. Louis Sunday. The Cardinals are third in the NFC West, five games behind Seattle and a game back of the Rams.
Fantasy Tidbit: It’s not his heyday of 1999-2002, but QB Kurt Warner is putting up sizeable numbers on a fairly regular basis for the Cardinals.
Game Summary: Congrats to the Cards for knocking off a division rival on the road, but this is still not a quality team. Jacksonville is in a dogfight to earn a wild-card playoff berth – it simply can’t afford a let down against the likes of Arizona.
Prediction: JAGUARS, 27-16
Green Bay (2-8) at Philadelphia (4-6)
Line: Eagles favored by 3½ (total points line is 41½)
Series: The Eagles have won the last four meetings, including a 47-17 romp last December.
Packers Status Report: Green Bay lost at home to Minnesota Monday night, 20-17.
Eagles Status Report: Philadelphia dropped a 27-17 decision to the New York Giants on the road last week. The Eagles have lost four straight and are last in the NFC East, three games behind the Giants and Dallas.
Fantasy Tidbit: RB Tony Fisher returned to the role of primary back midway through Monday’s game after Sam Gado fumbled for the third time in two games. Although he’s not a great fantasy option, Fisher is the best of the Packers backfield bunch for the time-being.
Game Summary: Philly’s offense is a mess with Donovan McNabb sidelined and Terrell Owens suspended, but the defense hasn’t played that well, either, which is especially disappointing. Consider that Philly’s skid would be at six games had the Eagles not blocked that San Diego field goal try and stole a game from the Chargers a month ago. Still, the Packers are going nowhere, QB Brett Favre is erratic, and the Eagles’ defense is due to come up with a solid effort on its home field.
Prediction: EAGLES, 17-10
New York Giants (7-3) at Seattle (8-2)
Line: Seahawks favored by 5 (total points line is 47½)
Series: The home team has won the last five meetings. None are recent.
Giants Status Report: The Giants took care of under-manned Philadelphia a week ago, 27-17, to remain tied with Dallas on top of the NFC East.
Seahawks Status Report: Seattle escaped an upset bid by host San Francisco Sunday, winning 27-25 to stay comfortably in control of the NFC West.
Fantasy Tidbit: Giants kicker Jay Feely has been a reliable option all season, but he’s an especially intriguing play this week considering Seattle has yielded the most field goals in the league.
Game Summary: I love this matchup, and I expect it to come down to the wire. The Seahawks are playing well, but may have looked ahead a little bit against the 49ers last week. No fear of that this time around against a fellow first-place squad. I actually believe the Giants are a better team because of their defense, but I’m splitting the difference on this pick because the Seahawks are usually so sturdy at home.
Prediction: SEAHAWKS, 27-24
New Orleans (2-8) at New York Jets (2-8)
Line: Saints favored by 1½ (total points line is 37)
Series: Interestingly, New Orleans has won the last four meetings including three at The Meadowlands. The last was four years ago, however.
Saints Status Report: New Orleans lost at New England last week, 24-17, and remains entrenched in last place in the NFC South. The Saints have lost six straight.
Jets Status Report: The Jets were trashed at Denver, 27-0, and remain entrenched in last place in the AFC East. They have lost five straight.
Fantasy Tidbit: The Jets will start Brooks Bollinger at QB again despite the kid suffering a mild concussion and having to depart last week’s game early.
Game Summary: What a yawner for the ESPN game… when’s that choosing of games by the networks going to kick in? It sure would be nice to swap, say, the Giants-Seahawks game for this one… please. Okay, it won’t happen. What will happen, in my opinion, is that a Jets defense that usually plays pretty well at home will do so again and the Saints will lose at The Meadowlands for the second time this season. New Orleans is in better shape physically, which is probably why the oddsmakers actually have them favored here. Oh well, at least this contest isn’t masquerading as a Saints home game.
Prediction: JETS, 19-13
Pittsburgh (7-3) at Indianapolis (10-0)
Line: Colts favored by 7 (total points line is 45)*
* - estimated line and points
Series: The Steelers have won six straight games in this series but, amazingly, all six came at Pittsburgh. And none have been recent.
Steelers Status Report: Pittsburgh, playing without QB Ben Roethlisberger, lost at Baltimore in overtime, 16-13. The Steelers remain tied with Cincinnati for top honors in the AFC North.
Colts Status Report: Indianapolis is still the league’s only unbeaten team after it survived at Cincinnati, 45-37.
Fantasy Tidbit: The Steelers defense is a fantasy mainstay. But if you own the Steelers, do you dare use them against the Colts Monday night?
Game Summary: I’ve picked several minor upsets this week… but none come close to this prediction. Yep, you got it… the Colts’ run will end Monday night – AS LONG AS ROETHLISBERGER STARTS AND PLAYS THROUGHOUT. That’s right… a conditional pick. I have an early deadline this week. Big Ben is supposed to start, according to sources, but a lot can happen between mid-week and Monday night. Anyway, if Roethlisberger plays, here’s why I like Indy’s streak to end. 1) Big Ben rarely loses regular season games, 2) The Colts defense is beginning to wear down, as evidenced by their play last week, 3) It’s unrealistic to believe the Colts will go 16-0, and this is as good a spot to succumb as any, 4) Pittsburgh actually ranks slightly better in four key categories – rushing offense, rushing defense, turnover ratio, and cumulative special teams ranking. 5) Pittsburgh’s is one of the few defenses which can create enough of a pass rush to alter the timing of Colts QB Peyton Manning’s deliveries. Please remember – if Roethlisberger sits, and Tommy Maddox is the Steelers QB, I like the Colts by at least 10 points.
Prediction: STEELERS, 23-20