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Weekly Game Breakdowns - Week 12
Bob Cunningham
November 22, 2007

The first big prognosticating showdown is in the books, and I have lost…

To a coin.

Sure enough, my performance predicting games against the spread went from bad to awful last week… and I have no explanation as to why.

Just for fun (and to prove an unknown point), I decided to compete against the random flip of a coin last week, and the coin toss method beat me by two games. Neither myself nor the quarter did very well… the coin was 5-10-1 ATS.  I’m sure you can figure out what two games worse than that works out to (and if your skills with doing math in your head are waning, you can read my tally below).

Should we see if the coin can make it two in a row?  Nah… I’d better quit while I’m behind.  No more humiliation (or humility) needed here.

All joshing aside, I’m truly baffled – methods that have worked for me more often than not over the last 15 years suddenly seem useless.  So, I’m like Dr. Frankenstein – constantly concocting a new formula trying to re-animate what was once a living being.

Rest assured, I’ll keep zapping the corpse that is my forecasting acumen until it awakens and rises.  And remember that all of this is just for fantasy information and entertainment sake anyway.

2007 Picks Record Straight-up:  98-62 (61 percent)
2007 Picks Record Against-The-Spread:  69-81-9 (46 percent)
Last Week:  9-7 SU, 3-11-1 ATS

Here’s how I see Week 12: 

GREEN BAY (9-1) at DETROIT (6-4)
Thursday, Nov. 22, 9:30 a.m. PT

Line:  Packers favored by 3½   

Strongest Trends:  The home team has won four of the last five, and is 14-5-1 ATS going back nearly a decade.  Green Bay has won five of the last six meetings.

Last Meeting:  Green Bay won at home, 17-9, last December.

Packers Status Report:  The Packers whipped visiting Carolina Sunday, 31-17, for their fifth straight victory.  They lead the Lions by three games in the NFC North.

Lions Status Report:  Detroit lost at home to the New York Giants, 16-10, and has dropped two in a row.

Fantasy Factors:  Both defenses are solid – Green Bay’s is among the very best in the league, and the Lions have allowed less than 17 points per game at home.  So a shootout is unlikely.  But any game involving Brett Favre has the potential for fireworks.  The Green Bay passing game gets the green light, but RB Ryan Grant is banged up and better off benched unless you have no other legit alternative.  For Detroit, a similar situation prevails – play QB Jon Kitna and his primary receivers (if you can figure out who they are), but run Kevin Jones at your own risk.  Both defenses are fair plays – some upside, but risky.

Game Summary:  This is a great match-up to start the holiday weekend.  Detroit has a tradition of playing above its head on Turkey Day, but not recently.  Still, those recent clubs have mostly been turkeys, this squad is a legitimate wild-card contender.  Green Bay is unbeaten on the road, but that will be tough to maintain the next two weeks with this one followed by a trip to Dallas next week.  Tough call, but because the Lions have dropped two in a row, and the Pack has won five straight, I have to stick with the momentum.

Prediction:  PACKERS, 23-20

NEW YORK JETS (2-8) at DALLAS (9-1)
Thursday, Nov. 22, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Cowboys favored by 14    

Strongest Trend:  The visiting team has won four of the last five meetings, straight-up.

Last Meeting:  Dallas triumphed at The Meadowlands, 17-6, in 2003.

Jets Status Report:  New York is coming off a 19-16 overtime upset of visiting Pittsburgh but remains hopelessly out of the chase for a wild-card berth.

Cowboys Status Report:  Dallas held off Washington at home Sunday, 28-23, and has won four in a row.  The Cowboys hold a two-game lead over the New York Giants in the NFC East.

Fantasy Factors:  RB Thomas Jones did the seemingly impossible – rushing for more than 100 yards against the vaunted Steelers.  The key was that coach Eric Mangini gave him about 35 touches.  Expect more of the same this week, which makes Jones a decent sleeper play.  I don’t like the Jets passing game, although WR Jericho Cotchery is an OK start.  Laveranues Coles remains hobbled.  For Dallas, all the principals are good starts.

Game Summary:  The Jets should enjoy last week’s victory while they can, because reality will return this week.  Dallas’ offense simply has too many weapons, and the Jets offense doesn’t have enough to keep up.  Still, the Cowboys have to be careful that they don’t get caught looking ahead to the Packers next week.

Prediction:  COWBOYS, 35-13

Thursday, Nov. 22, 5:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Colts favored by 11½     

Strongest Trend:  The home team has won the last four meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Colts romped at home, 38-7, in 2003.

Colts Status Report:  Indy escaped against visiting Kansas City, 13-10, last week and is a game up on Jacksonville atop the AFC South.

Falcons Status Report:  Atlanta had a chance to jump back into the fray in the NFC South, but instead was blown out at home by Tampa Bay, 31-7.  The Falcons are last in the division, three games off the lead.

Fantasy Factors:  Although the Indianapolis attack has mostly misfired the last two weeks, you have to stick with it.  But WR Marvin Harrison remains iffy, and rookie Anthony Gonzalez hasn’t been much use behind him.  For Atlanta, QB Joey Harrington gets the start but only RB Warrick Dunn and, maybe, TE Alge Crumpler are worth starts.

Game Summary:  I really thought the Colts would explode all over the Chiefs last week.  Didn’t you?  So is this the week they make the great rebound offensively, or is this a club in a definitive slump?  I still believe the former is closer to reality, and if the Buccaneers can hang 31 points on the Falcons (24 offensively), shouldn’t the Colts?

Prediction:  COLTS, 27-17

Sunday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Jaguars favored by 7½   

Strongest Trend:  The Bills are 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.

Last Meeting:  Buffalo won at home, 27-24, almost exactly a year ago.

Bills Status Report:  Buffalo’s three-game winning streak came to a frightful end Sunday night, 56-10 at the hands of visiting New England.  Sure glad the Patriots didn’t run up the score.

Jaguars Status Report:  Host Jacksonville stopped San Diego, 24-17, on Sunday.  The Jaguars have won three of four and are just a game behind Indianapolis in the AFC South.

Fantasy Factors:  QB J.P. Losman gets another start for the Bills but you don’t want him in your lineup anyway.  Ditto for injured RB Marshawn Lynch.  WR Lee Evans is worth a shot.  For the Jaguars, the RB duo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew is solid, but the passing game still isn’t recommended.  The Jags’ defense is an every-week play.

Game Summary:  Hard to say how the Bills will rebound from their home annihilation, but either way the Jaguars are a pretty strong club.

Prediction:  JAGUARS, 23-13

HOUSTON (5-5) at CLEVELAND (6-4)
Sunday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Browns favored by 3½   

Strongest Trend:  The home team is 3-1 ATS in four previous meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Texans won at home, 14-6, last December.

Texans Status Report:  Houston beat visiting New Orleans Sunday, 23-10, for its second victory in a row.  In the tough AFC South, the Texans are in last place despite their .500 record.

Browns Status Report:  Cleveland survived long enough to gain an improbable 33-30 OT win at Baltimore last weekend.  The Browns are second in the AFC North, a game behind Pittsburgh.

Fantasy Factors:  Every Browns game this season has been relatively high-scoring.  That bodes well for QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson.  The RB situation is still muddy, with Ahman Green hurt and Ron Dayne doing nothing special.  Cleveland’s offense is a full go, with QB Derek Anderson, RB Jamal Lewis, WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow leading the way.

Game Summary:  The Browns have a lot of momentum, even more than Houston despite the Texans having won two straight.  If Cleveland can ever learn to play a little defense, the team might not only make the playoffs, but make some noise there.

Prediction:  BROWNS, 31-24

Sunday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Titans favored by 1½

Strongest Trends:  The Titans have won three of the last four meetings.  The road team is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Bengals prevailed at Tennessee, 31-23, in 2005.

Titans Status Report:  Tennessee endured its second consecutive loss, 34-20 at Denver Monday night.  The Titans are third in the AFC South, two games behind Indianapolis and one back of Jacksonville.

Bengals Status Report:  Cincinnati lost at home to Arizona Sunday, 35-27, and is last in the AFC North.

Fantasy Factors:  The Titans will put up some points.  QB Vince Young, coming off a solid effort at Denver, should be productive again.  RB Lendale White is a nice start, but it’s tough to recommend Titans receivers because there are no clear standouts.  For the Bengals, QB Carson Palmer and WR T.J. Houshmanzadeh remain first-tier guys, and WR Chad Johnson is tough to ignore at home, but give a seat to RBs Rudi Johnson and/or Kenny Watson.

Game Summary:  Remember my “hunch” that the Bengals were going to go on a mini-roll?  Forget it.  Teams that can’t play even a lick of defense don’t get hot.  Titans rebound from their back-to-back defeats.

Prediction:   TITANS, 27-20

OAKLAND (2-8) at KANSAS CITY (4-6)
Sunday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Chiefs favored by 5½

Strongest Trends:  Kansas City has won nine straight meetings in this rivalry.  The road team is 8-1 ATS in those clashes.

Last Meeting:  Kansas City won at Oakland, 12-10, in Week 7.

Raiders Status Report:  Oakland played tough but lost at Minnesota last weekend, 29-22, for its sixth straight defeat.  The Raiders are last in the AFC West.

Chiefs Status Report:  Kansas City played tough but lost at Indianapolis last weekend, 13-10, for its third straight defeat.  The Chiefs are third in the AFC West, but just a game behind co-leaders San Diego and Denver.

Fantasy Factors:  Only the following players are worth a serious look fantasy-wise – RB Justin Fargas, TE Tony Gonzalez, WR Dwayne Bowe.  And both defenses as well.

Game Summary:  It’s Upset Special time.  Why will the Raiders win when circumstances are stacked against them?  Because that’s the way things have gone this year, that’s why.  Seriously, the Raiders have just a little more offense.  Kansas City not only lost RB Larry Johnson, but Priest Holmes is done as well, officially announcing his retirement this week.  KC’s offense has no teeth – QB Brodie Croyle isn’t ready to step up just yet.  The Raiders can make some big plays, and force a turnover or three.  That will be enough to halt what is for them an excruciating slump against a hated rival.

Prediction:  RAIDERS, 17-14

Sunday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Giants favored by 7½

Strongest Trends:  The road team has won the last four meetings.

Last Meeting:  The visiting Vikings surprised the Giants, 24-21, in 2005.

Vikings Status Report:  Minnesota held off visiting Oakland, 29-22, and has won two of three.  The Vikings are tied with Chicago for third in the NFC North.

Giants Status Report:  The Giants prevailed at Detroit, 16-10, and are second in the NFC East while also leading the wild-card race.

Fantasy Factors:  Vikings RB Adrian Peterson will be out again but his replacement, Chester Taylor, did just fine last week, thank you.  He’s a decent start here, but don’t expect the same success as he had against Oakland.  For the Giants, the passing game will be in full swing… but beware of RB Brandon Jacobs, who is (again) banged up.  RB Reuben Droughns might be a sweet sleeper play.

Game Summary:  I see no evidence indicating a Giants stumble.  Minnesota is not a reliable road challenger.  G-Men get it done again.

Prediction:  GIANTS, 30-17

Sunday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Buccaneers favored by 3

Strongest Trend:  The home team has won three of the last four meetings.

Last Meeting:  Tampa Bay prevailed at home, 20-17, just a little more than a year ago.

Redskins Status Report:  Washington lost at Dallas a week ago, 28-23.  The Redskins are third in the NFC East.

Buccaneers Status Report:  Tampa Bay routed the Falcons at Atlanta, 31-7, to take a two-game lead in the NFC South.

Fantasy Factors:  Redskins QB Jason Campbell has played better of late, but this isn’t a particularly good matchup.  RB Clinton Portis, TE Chris Cooley and WR Santana Moss are worth starting for the Skins.  Tampa Bay has the Jeff Garcia-to-Joey Galloway hook-up, and RB Earnest Graham is a workhorse.   The Bucs defense is a solid start as well.

Game Summary:  The Bucs know their division is there for the taking, and coach Jon Gruden knows how to prepare a team mentally as well as physically.  It’s unlikely for the Bucs to stumble.  With Washington, the box-of-chocolates theory still applies. Ya never know what you’re gonna get.

Prediction:  BUCCANEERS, 21-13

Sunday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Saints favored by 3  

Strongest Trends:  The Panthers have won the last four meetings.  The road team is 13-3 ATS in 16 meetings.

Last Meeting:  The Panthers won at New Orleans, 16-13, in Week 5.

Saints Status Report:  New Orleans lost at Houston, 23-10, Sunday.  It was the Saints’ second straight loss after four consecutive wins.  They are tied with the Panthers for second in the NFC South.

Panthers Status Report:  Carolina’s 31-17 setback at Green Bay Sunday was its fourth straight loss.

Fantasy Factors:  The Saints are completely baffling at this point.  Start any of them at your own risk (except that you can be confident with Marques Colston, who’s been reliable for a month).  Carolina is having injury issues all over the offense, but the good news is the return of WR Steve Smith this week.  Start him, but no other Panthers.

Game Summary:  Steve Smith against that awful New Orleans pass defense, huh?  Yeah, I have to bite on that one.  Panthers are winless at home this year, but c’mon… they’re not going to go 0-8 at home!  Give me a divisional home ‘dog with the superior defense.

Prediction:  PANTHERS, 20-17

SEATTLE (6-4) at ST. LOUIS (2-8)
Sunday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m. PT

Line:  Seahawks favored by 3  

Strongest Trends:  The Seahawks have won the last five meetings.  The underdog is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings.

Last Meeting:  Seattle routed the visiting Rams, 33-6, in Week 7.

Seahawks Status Report:  Seattle turned back Chicago at home last week, 30-23.  The Seahawks lead the NFC West by a game over Arizona.

Rams Status Report:  After an 0-8 start, the Rams have won two in a row including Sunday’s 13-9 triumph at San Francisco.  They are tied with the 49ers for third in the NFC West.

Fantasy Factors:  QB Matt Hasselbeck has been hot.  Start him, along with WR Bobby Engram.  Check on the status of Deion Branch, and I recommend D.J. Hackett only in larger leagues.  RB Maurice Morris remains the better play, even if Shaun Alexander returns to the starting lineup.  At home in their dome, the Rams are definitely fantasy-productive with QB Marc Bulger, WR Torry Holt and RB Stephen Jackson.  Anyone else is iffy, however.

Game Summary:  The Rams have played much better the last two weeks, but both wins came over teams with various negative issues.  Seattle has played well of late, and manhandled an injury-plagued Rams team the first time around.  This one will be a lot closer, but the Seahawks still have the edge.

Prediction:  SEAHAWKS, 34-27

Sunday, Nov. 25, 1:05 p.m. PT

Line:   Cardinals favored by 10½

Strongest Trends:  The Cardinals had won four straight in the series before the 49ers prevailed at home, 20-17, in Week 1.

Last Meeting:  See above.

49ers Status Report:  San Francisco lost at home to St. Louis, 13-9, to drop into a tie with the Rams at the bottom of the NFC West.

Cardinals Status Report:  Arizona triumphed at Cincinnati, 35-27, to remain in second in the NFC West, a game behind Seattle.
Fantasy Factors:  Pretty straight-forward here if you’ve been following the NFL this season:  RB Frank Gore is the only recommendation for the 49ers, and it’s a tepid one at that.  For Arizona, all the primary offensive weapons led by QB Kurt Warner are poised for a big week.

Game Summary:  The problem with the 49ers isn’t just that their offense isn’t productive.  Their once respectable defense is getting nicked, too, although they did play pretty well against the Rams last week.  Bottom line – these teams have played four straight contests decided by a TD or less, and eight of the last 10.  San Francisco’s defense keeps things competitive.

Prediction:  CARDINALS, 24-14

BALTIMORE (4-6) at SAN DIEGO (5-5)
Sunday, Nov. 25, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Chargers favored by 9½    

Strongest Trends:  The Ravens have won the last three meetings.  Baltimore is 0-5 ATS on the road this season, the Chargers 4-1 at home.

Last Meeting:  The Ravens won at home, 16-13, in October of 2006.

Ravens Status Report:  Baltimore lost at home to Cleveland Sunday, 33-30 in overtime, and has dropped four in a row to fall three games off the AFC North pace.

Chargers Status Report:  San Diego lost at Jacksonville, 24-17, but is tied for first place in the AFC West with Denver.

Fantasy Factors:  RB Willis McGahee is the only obvious start for the Ravens, although WR Derrick Mason continues to get a lot of look.  Check TE Todd Heap’s health status and consider him if he’s a go.  For the Chargers, RB LaDainian Tomlinson and TE Antonio Gates rate as no-brainers, and the Chargers teams make a solid start.

Game Summary:  San Diego at home is potentially explosive, and the Ravens’ defense just isn’t the same unit these days that we’ve become accustomed to.

Prediction:  CHARGERS, 31-17

DENVER (5-5) at CHICAGO (4-6)
Sunday, Nov. 25, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Bears favored by 1½

Strongest Trend:  The Bears are 0-4 ATS at home this season.

Last Meeting:  Chicago won at Denver, 19-10, in 2003.

Broncos Status Report:  Denver beat down visiting Tennessee Monday night, 34-20, to catch San Diego atop the AFC West.

Bears Status Report:  Chicago lost at Seattle, 30-23, and is tied for third with Minnesota in the NFC North.

Fantasy Factors:  The Broncos’ ground game is a risky start even if you can figure out which RB to play.  QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall, on the other hand, are good sleeper starts.  Also, WR Javon Walker may return to action.  That would most affect veteran Brandon Stokley, who has been fairly productive in Walker’s absence. For the Bears, RB Cedric Benson has been a little better of late, but beware that Denver’s run defense is a lot better now than it was the first two months of the season.  Forget the passing game, and the defenses.

Game Summary:  I like the Broncos – they’re extremely well-coached and have regained confidence in their core philosophy.  Chicago’s homefield advantage, so significant in their run to the Super Bowl last year, has been rendered virtually meaningless in 2007.  Denver wins ugly.

Prediction:  BRONCOS, 20-19 

Sunday, Nov. 25, 1:15 p.m. PT

Line:  Patriots favored by 22   

Strongest Trend:  The Patriots have won every game this season, by an average margin of 25.4 points.

Last Meeting:  New England edged Philadelphia, 24-21, in Super Bowl XXXIX.

Patriots Status Report:  New England slapped Buffalo around, 56-10, at Buffalo before a national TV audience Sunday night.  The Patriots can clinch the AFC East title with a win or a Buffalo loss.

Eagles Status Report:  Philly has won two in a row including last week’s 17-7 home win over Miami.  The Eagles are tied with Washington for third in the NFC East.

Fantasy Factors:  For those of you who believe that QB A.J. Feeley can be to this year’s team what Jeff Garcia was for the ’06 club, fuhgetaboutit.  He can mind the store, but RB Brian Westbrook will be the key for the Eagles especially with QB Donovan McNabb sidelined.  It’s probably needless for me to write this, but sit all Eagles – even Westbrook if you have an above-average alternative.  That’s not a blanket recommendation, though, because Westbrook is an elite player who it can be argued should be in everyone’s lineup every week regardless of foe.  For the Patriots, the safe play would be to avoid their RBs, because of the unknown status of Laurence Maroney.

Game Summary:  I surrender. New England is so scary-good that not even a 22-point spread will make me flinch this time.  Unreal.

Prediction:  PATRIOTS, 42-7

MIAMI (0-10) at PITTSBURGH (7-3)
Monday, Nov. 26, 5:30 p.m. PT

Line:  Steelers favored by 16

Strongest Trend:  The Steelers are 5-0 this season at home and winning by an average margin of almost 20 points.

Last Meeting:  The Steelers won at home, 28-17, in the 2006 Thursday season opener.

Dolphins Status Report:  Miami dropped its 10th in a row to open the season last week, 17-7 at Philadelphia.

Steelers Status Report:  Pittsburgh was the victim of one of this season’s biggest shockers, losing to the New York Jets in OT, 19-16, at the Meadowlands.  The Steelers lead Cleveland by a game in the AFC North.

Fantasy Factors:  RB Ricky Williams, at most, will get a few snaps just to give the fans a thrill.  It is very unlikely he will a primary factor for the Dolphins… yet.  With that said, Jesse Chatman is an awful start.  You have to sit all Miami guys, in fact.  The Steelers are missing WR Santonio Holmes, which bumps up the value of Nate Washington a little.  Play all the primary offensive guys, and definitely start the Steelers’ annoyed defense despite the absence of heart-and-soul Troy Polamalu.

Game Summary:  Honestly, I believe Miami will win before the season concludes.  They have three winnable home games remaining, and their defense has allowed only 30 points combined the last two weeks.  They will not, however, win this week.  Pittsburgh rocks this Monday night.

Prediction:  STEELERS, 38-3

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