Thanksgiving is here and gone, leaving us football fans with a chance to eat well and work hard on our professional couch potato careers. The NFL aided by giving us three great matchups to start with, two of which were equally as great on the field (sorry, Jets fans). Yours truly exited Thursday with a 2-1 record, with the Texans-Lions game being my only blemish, well, aside from two heaping helpings of holiday grub, three beers, a glass of wine and two pieces of pie.
As mentioned last week, there will be a continued focus on making picks while not just considering stats, but also inclement weather. But after checking the current weather forecasts for this week’s games, no major red flags were in the forecast as of yet.
Over in the “Pick Your Knows” department, Week 11 brought nine more victories, upping my yearly total to 92 wins on the season.
Last Week: 9-5
This Season: 92-68
Last Two Seasons: 144-112 (2010) and 131-125 (2011)
Thursday’s games bumped my record to 94-69.
It’s once again time to “Pick Your Knows” – the only time it’s not a disgusting habit – and here are Week 12’s scheduled games (with spreads as they appear through CBS Sports Fantasy).
Pick Your Knows: 2012 NFL Week 12 Picks Against the Spread
Houston Texans at Detroit Lions (+3.5)
Here’s an interesting Thanksgiving opener, considering that Detroit has the home field advantage and a potent offense that features the NFL’s number one ranked pass game. Houston had one of the league’s top overall defenses, but allowed 37 points at the hands of the Jaguars, a team that was ranked dead last in total offense heading into last weekend. Which Houston defense will show up and how will Detroit’s offense fare against the talented Texans? Johnathan Joseph has been listed as questionable and if he were to be out, Houston’s secondary would take a hit. In the end, with a spread line set at 3 ½ points, it’s very tempting to take the home team here, but I’m going to make a conservative pick, assuming that Houston’s talent on offense will act much like Green Bay’s did last week, outlasting the Lions. Houston covers, but just barely.
KP’s Pick: Houston
Update: Texans 34, Lions 31 OT – I had a feeling that this game would turn out like this, but just couldn’t pull the trigger on the Lions. It was a tough defeat for Detroit and a loss for me in this game as well.
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)
This game features one of the NFL’s greatest and most historical rivalries. The fact that the game is on Thanksgiving only adds to that. The Cowboys are still in the divisional and playoff chase, but have struggled at times on offense, especially without DeMarco Murray to provide balance. Murray is again a question mark heading into this one. The Redskins counter Dallas with one of the NFL’s best rushing offenses, featuring rookie Alfred Morris and mobile rookie QB Robert Griffin III. Washington has 12 rushing touchdowns, which is tied for the second most in the league. Dallas’ run defense is ranked 13th in yards per game and has allowed 8 TD’s, leaving them as a middle of the road bunch. The Cowboys are at home, but this is also a bit of a homecoming for Robert Griffin III, who went to school in Texas (at Baylor). With all of this in mind, combined with how competitive this rivalry is, I think the Redskins will keep this one close. This game comes down to a field goal, and Washington wins.
KP’s Pick: Washington
Update: Redskins 38, Cowboys 31 – Robert Griffin III had a successful return to Texas, throwing for four touchdowns. Dallas made a late surge but couldn’t complete the comeback. This one goes into the win column.
New England Patriots at New York Jets (+6.5)
The last time these two met, the game went into overtime, where the Patriots won on its home turf. Last week, the Jets got back on a winning track, beating the Rams on the road, while New England trounced the Colts at home. New England will be without Rob Gronkowski, but Aaron Hernandez is expected back just in time to fill in his spot. New England’s defense can be scored on, but as mentioned in a previous “Pick Your Knows” post, Aqib Talib arrived to help the team’s pass defense, and has already made an impact with a pick six in last week’s win over Indianapolis. With some improvement there, it will likely be difficult for the Jets to keep up offensively. New York has the home field advantage, but not much else, especially considering the short week. Last time, the Jets capitalized on mistakes and forced OT. This time, New England makes fewer mistakes and wins convincingly. Pats cover.
KP’s Pick: New England
Update: Patriots 49, Jets 19 – The Patriots embarrassed the Jets and if Andy Reid and Norv Turner can be on the hot seat in Philadelphia and San Diego, then Rex Ryan should be there, too.
Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (-8.5)
Darren McFadden is still not practicing as of Wednesday, which again would leave Oakland without one of its key offensive weapons if he can’t play. The Bengals are coming off dominating victories over the Giants and Chiefs. Cincinnati has 30 sacks, which is the third most in the NFL, while the Raiders have a league worst 11 sacks. That alone signals plenty of pressure on Carson Palmer, with limited chances to force Andy Dalton mistakes. Combine that with the fact that the Oakland defense has given up an average of 45 points per game over the last three contests, and it’s hard to bank on the Raiders to challenge any decent team, especially on the road. Take the Bengals to cover at home.
KP’s Pick: Cincinnati
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+0.5)
With a half-point spread, this game is a tossup, leaving a situation to pick a winner. The biggest key in Tampa Bay matchups is the team’s defense. The Bucs lead the NFL in rushing yards allowed (81.8 per game), but sit last in pass defense (313 ypg). Atlanta has been a much stronger pass offense all season, and focus on getting the ball out to Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White. With the pass game being the strength expect Atlanta to take advantage of Tampa Bay’s weak pass defense. Also, don’t expect Matt Ryan to throw five picks again. Falcons win on the road.
KP’s Pick: Atlanta
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (+0.5)
Charlie Batch will start for the Steelers, as Ben Roethlisberger is still out and backup Byron Leftwich was also injured in last week’s game. Cleveland pushed Dallas to overtime and continues to stay in games. But this Pittsburgh pass defense has held opposing quarterbacks to a 55.2 completion percentage and leads the NFL in yards allowed (169 ypg). If Charlie Batch can be at all efficient, or Pittsburgh can manage a defensive or special teams touchdown, it may be enough to get by the Browns, as long as the Steelers’ defense continues to play well. Pittsburgh wins on the road.
KP’s Pick: Pittsburgh
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.5)
The Titans are coming off its bye week, while the Jaguars have suddenly found its offense, scoring 37 points against one of the best defenses in the Houston Texans. Normally, I would lean towards a team coming off a bye week here, but Tennessee may have had to regroup after all of Jacksonville’s offensive changes from last weekend, specifically with Chad Henne, Justin Blackmon and Jalen Parmele all being efficient. Meanwhile, Tennessee’s pass defense is not nearly as strong as Houston’s, being ranked 26th in yards allowed through the air, while also giving up 20 passing TD’s. Whether it was a one-week wonder for the Jags, we can’t be sure just yet. But with Jacksonville playing at home and riding some offensive momentum – despite losing last week – I see the Jaguars keeping this one close, or perhaps even getting the victory. Take Jacksonville and the points.
KP’s Pick: Jacksonville
Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins (+3.5)
Miami is struggling as of late, but has had a few days of extra rest after facing the Bills last Thursday night in Buffalo. The Seahawks have struggled on the road, managing just one victory in five attempts. But Seattle has also had rest, coming off its bye week. Therefore, this a tricky one to pick, considering Seattle’s road woes, Miami’s recent struggles and each team getting some extra rest. But I can’t help but think about the struggles of Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offense over the last few weeks. That, plus Seattle has the third ranked pass defense, allowing just 9 TD’s on the season, while intercepting nine balls. The west-to-east coast travel may be a challenge for the Seahawks, but Seattle also has a suffocating defense and a solid ground game. Seattle covers.
KP’s Pick: Seattle
Buffalo Bills at Indianapolis Colts (-3.5)
The Bills have had an extra few days of rest after its victory over the Dolphins last Thursday night. Meanwhile, the Colts are coming off a blowout loss to the Patriots, where Indianapolis gave up 59 points. C.J. Spiller will start again for the Bills. Indianapolis may struggle to contain him, considering the team is 22nd in run defense, while allowing 11 TD’s on the ground. Buffalo also gives up a ton of yards on the ground meaning Indy could likely use Vick Ballard more frequently. Both pass defenses are beatable, leaving Andrew Luck and Ryan Fitzpatrick to likely duke it out in the second half. I like the Colts with the home field advantage, plus some key weapons like Reggie Wayne and Vick Ballard to exploit the Buffalo defense. Colts rebound from last week’s blowout loss.
KP’s Pick: Indianapolis
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (-0.5)
The Vikings are coming off a bye week and have plenty of rest to prepare for a Chicago team that is struggling. Adrian Peterson leads the NFL in rushing and will face a challenging Chicago defense that is ranked 8th against the run (95.2 ypg), while only allowing three touchdowns on the ground. But Peterson is so explosive, even the Bears will have trouble containing him. The key to victory will be in the passing game, with Christian Ponder needing to be efficient against a strong defense. Percy Harvin is listed as doubtful, leaving it tough for Ponder to succeed. But most importantly, it comes down to Jay Cutler. Cutler was cleared to practice, but remained a question mark heading into the weekend. It wasn’t ‘til Saturday that Cutler was cleared to play, and will start. There lies the challenge. I’m not a fan of changing picks last minute, but with Cutler playing, it’s very tempting to take the Bears. The wife has informed me to stick with my original pick, so I’ll stick with the Vikings… cringing while doing so.
KP’s Pick: Minnesota
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (+10.5)
Brady Quinn will be the Week 12 starter for the Chiefs, and if you have read any of the past “Pick Your Knows” posts, you will know his career numbers, as well as where he stands in my book. Put Quinn up against Peyton Manning, and, well…you know where I’m going with this. Everyone knows just how well Denver’s offense has performed with Manning under center. If you aren’t well versed, then here are a few stats: Denver is 3rd in total offense (394.2 ypg) and 5th in passing (288.9 ypg). Willis McGahee is out due to injury, but the running game is and has not been the focal point with the Broncos. Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball should fill in nicely, especially against a Kansas City run defense that is ranked 25th in the NFL. Oh, and if you don’t have enough data to pick Denver, the Broncos lead the league in sacks, with 35. How do you think Brady Quinn will perform under that pressure? Right, Broncos cover.
KP’s Pick: Denver
Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers (+0.5)
The time zone change may give an advantage to the Chargers, but the talent level of the Ravens only makes it a slight advantage. Baltimore’s run defense has been beatable, but San Diego has struggled in the run game, with Ryan Mathews not living up to the hype. The Chargers are ranked 22nd in rushing offense and have scored just four touchdowns on the ground. Philip Rivers is clearly talented and can beat anyone on a good day, but he also has his lapses. Norv Turner is on the coaching hot seat and needs this victory. But San Diego’s ability to dominate opponents at home has faded in recent years. The biggest key may just be San Diego’s run defense (3rd in NFL) versus Ray Rice and the Baltimore run game. If Rice can’t get it going, the Chargers will have a much better shot to take this game. But I still like the Ravens, even when playing on the west coast this weekend.
KP’s Pick: Baltimore
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals (-2.5)
Beanie Wells will be activated off of IR and is likely to play this weekend for the Cardinals. Arizona is stuck in a huge slump, losing its sixth consecutive game last week. The Cards forced five Matt Ryan interceptions and gave Atlanta a good fight on the road, but still lost. Now, Arizona will play at home, where it has three of its four victories. Rookie Ryan Lindley will get his first start for the Cardinals. The key to this game will be in the trenches. Both teams are ranked in the top five in sacks (St. Louis with 29 and Arizona with 28), but as I’ve brought up in previous posts, the Cardinals have allowed the most sacks in the NFL (44). The Rams have allowed the seventh most. Numerous critics are picking the Rams in this game, but I like the Cardinals with the home field advantage and the tight line. Call it a gut decision, as the rookie quarterback finds a way to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, among others. Cards win.
KP’s Pick: Arizona
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints (+2.5)
This matchup features San Francisco’s league leading rush offense (165.3 ypg) taking on New Orleans and its second ranked passing offense (296.4 ypg). As always, the 49ers, will likely attempt to run the ball, eat clock and force the Saints to limited time on offense, forced to tangle with San Francisco’s highly talented defense. The Niners followed its mediocre performance against the Rams with a dominating victory against the Bears. It appears that Colin Kaepernick is set to start this game, even though Alex Smith is cleared to return from a concussion. Many are leaning towards a Saints team that has had some recent success, plus will be playing at home. But while there is a QB controversy brewing in San Francisco, you can’t ignore just how solid Kaepernick played last week, combined with his ability to run and throw. It’s also the quality of San Francisco’s defense, and that’s why I’m sticking with the 49ers.
KP’s Pick: San Francisco
Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (-2.5)
The Giants have really struggled offensively over the last month, but coming off a bye week, New York could be rested, rejuvenated and potent again. There are reports that Greg Jennings might have an outside chance to play for the Packers. Clay Matthews, however, will be out. Again, it’s a boost to the Green Bay offense, but a hit to the team’s defense. Defensively, the Packers have 33 sacks, the second most in the league. The Giants have 17 interceptions, which is the second most in the NFL. But with Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers under center, this is one of those games where everyone expects a shootout. Plain and simple, I’m taking the home team that is rested and is feeling the heat in its division. The Giants have had time to heal up and prepare for this game. New York covers at home.
KP’s Pick: New York Giants
Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5)
It’s not the sexiest Monday night matchup, as both teams have been struggling. It also appears that both Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy will miss the game due to concussions, leaving Nick Foles and Bryce Brown to start for the Eagles. Philadelphia has allowed 33 sacks on the year, which is the 3rd most in the league to date. The Eagles’ pass defense doesn’t allow too many yards through the air, but have allowed 18 TD’s, while managing only 7 INT’s, which is good news for Cam Newton, who has been suffering through a sophomore slump this year. But when it comes to analyzing this game, I simply do not trust this Eagles team in a spread this tight, especially when Andy Reid will have to rely on his backup running back and a rookie quarterback. Carolina wins this one on the road.
KP’s Pick: Carolina