Week 12 created some interesting NFL headlines, as Eli Manning and the Giants stormed back into the picture after a thrashing of the Packers, while Colin Kaepernick clamped his hands down on the San Francisco starting quarterback position, leaving Alex Smith to sit and wonder what happened. Week 13 promises similar stories to emerge, with plenty of big games on tap.  Thursday night provided a top-notch opener, along with a surprisingly poor performance by Drew Brees.  As you will also see, it led to a loss for me. As mentioned last week, there will be a continued focus on making picks while not only considering stats, but also inclement weather.  After checking the weather forecasts for this week’s games, only the Cleveland-Oakland game is calling for messy weather conditions – at least, as of a few days ago. Over in the “Pick Your Knows” department, Week 12 brought ten more victories, upping my yearly total to 102 wins on the season. Last Week: 10-6 This Season: 102-74 Last Two Seasons: 144-112 (2010) and 131-125 (2011) It’s once again time to “Pick Your Knows” - the only time it’s not a disgusting habit – and here are Week 13’s scheduled games (with spreads as they appear through CBS Sports Fantasy).
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Robert Griffin III hopes to have many celebrations like this on Monday night versus the Giants

Pick Your Knows: 2012 NFL Week 13 Picks Against the Spread

New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) In the last meeting, the Saints gave the Falcons its first loss with a three-point win at home.  Clearly, this is a matchup featuring two high-octane offenses that’s strength is in the passing game.  Atlanta has the home field advantage, but the Saints have Drew Brees and a ton of weapons.  Asante Samuel is questionable for the Falcons and would be a big loss, especially when facing New Orleans.  The Saints are now ranked dead last in run defense, but Atlanta has no run game.  It looks like two talented teams that will focus on the pass game, leading to either a late touchdown or a late field goal to win the game.  I’ll go with the late field goal, therefore taking the Saints and the points. KP’s Pick: New Orleans Update: Falcons 23, Saints 13– It was a surprise to see Drew Brees throw five interceptions, with no passing touchdowns.  New Orleans put up a lot of yards, but all the turnovers were too much to overcome, and this one unfortunately starts my week off in the loss column. Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills (-6.5) The Jaguars played well offensively for the second consecutive week, getting productivity again from Chad Henne, Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon.  Last week, the Bills lost to the Colts, but have the home field advantage against a warm weather team.  The weather in Buffalo is supposed to be considerably tame, which should bode well for the Jags.  Both teams are ranked in the bottom ten in pass offense, but the Jags have improved in recent weeks.  Buffalo has a top ten run offense, while the Jags are ranked second to last and have struggled without Maurice Jones-Drew.  If Jacksonville can limit Buffalo’s run game, then this one should be close, especially with the rejuvenated Jacksonville offense.  Take the Jaguars and the points. KP’s Pick: Jacksonville Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs (+3.5) The Panthers are coming off a Monday night win in Philly, leaving the team to play on short rest.  Kansas City fell to 1-10, but gave the Broncos a good fight last week.  The Chiefs will be mourning the loss of teammate Jovan Belcher, who apparently shot his girlfriend, then committed suicide.  The loss of a teammate can have both positive and negative effects on a team.  But in the end, the biggest key in this game is still Kansas City’s fourth-ranked run offense (145.6 ypg) versus Carolina’s rush defense.  Last week, Bryce Brown torched Carolina’s run defense.  KC’s run game has been even better statistically, and when playing at home, I expect more success in that department.  The Chiefs’ pass defense has yielded 22 TD’s, but Cam Newton has been streaky.  Also, with Jonathan Stewart out, Kansas City can focus more on Carolina’s pass game.  The Chiefs are at home and have played better football over the last few weeks, staying close with better teams in Pittsburgh and Denver.  That’s why I see this one coming down to a late field goal – and I’m taking the Chiefs and the points. KP’s Pick: Kansas City Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets (-4.5) The Cardinals have lost seven straight, while the Jets have had a few extra days rest following its embarrassing loss to the Patriots at home on Thanksgiving.  Ryan Lindley (who struggled last week against the Rams) will get another start.  As I often point out, the Cardinals have allowed the league’s most sacks (46).  But New York’s pass rush has not been impressive, and is ranked 30th in the NFL (17 sacks).  Arizona has a limited run game, leaving the pass offense to move the team down the field.  The Jets are ranked 7th in pass defense, but have also allowed 17 pass TD’s with just 8 picks.  Arizona’s pass defense is ranked 4th in the league, also adding 15 INT’s.  It’s a tricky line, as the Jets have the home field advantage.  Still, New York has struggled at times, but Lindley would need to drastically improve to keep the Cards in the game.  I’m banking on enough mistakes from the Jets (mostly thanks to Arizona’s defense, which has managed 30 sacks), combined with Lindley finding ways to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald – leaving this one to be a close game.  Take Arizona and the points. KP’s Pick: Arizona Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-9.5) Both teams were blown out last week, as the Vikings lost to the Bears and the Giants trounced Green Bay.  The Packers will reportedly have Greg Jennings back in its lineup, further adding to the weapons on the offensive side of the ball.  On the other side, Percy Harvin is out for the Vikings, which is a huge loss.  The two big keys will be how Green Bay’s 11th ranked run defense handles Adrian Peterson and how the Packers’ offensive line can protect Aaron Rodgers.  Rodgers and the Packers will be angry after last week’s loss, and should put up some points.  I can’t see Ponder and the Minnesota pass game keeping up, especially without Percy Harvin.  Playing at home in front of its passionate fans, Green Bay wins by double-digits.  Packers cover. KP’s Pick: Green Bay Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions (-4.5) The Lions have had a few extra days rest, but come off a tough overtime loss to the Texans.  Mikel Leshoure is dealing with an ankle injury and is listed as questionable this week.  The key for Indy’s defense will be to not let Calvin Johnson take over the game.  Clearly, Stafford and Detroit – with the top-ranked pass offense in the NFL - will move the ball down the field, but the same seems likely for Andrew Luck and the Colts.  Detroit’s pass defense has allowed 17 TD’s while intercepting just seven balls and allowing QB’s to post a 92.4 QB rating.  That’s why it’s appears to be a likelihood that Indianapolis will keep this game close, and perhaps win it outright on the road.  I’m taking the Colts. KP’s Pick: Indianapolis New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (+7.5) The Patriots have had a few extra days rest to prepare for the Dolphins, but often have trouble playing in Miami.  Tom Brady has been stellar on the season, especially over the last month.  Miami’s pass defense is ranked 26th in yards allowed, so look for Brady to move the ball down the field with ease.  Ryan Tannehill will have to keep up with him, and while he was solid in the second half last week, it’s unlikely that the Dolphins will be able to keep up with New England’s offense.  Patriots cover. KP’s Pick: New England San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams (+7.5) The 49ers have announced that they will go with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback again.  A few weeks back, San Francisco played the Rams to a 24-24 tie at home.  Danny Amendola is questionable and could be limited with an injury, which would be a hit on the St. Louis offense.  San Francisco is cruising along with the multi-dimensional Kaepernick, plus the strong running of Frank Gore.  On the defensive side, the Niners have the league’s 2nd-ranked pass defense, holding opponents to just 12 TD’s through the air.  With Amendola not 100 percent, it’s tough to see the Rams doing much through the air.  It’s also a good bet that the 49ers will find a way to slow down Steven Jackson this time.  San Francisco covers on the road. KP’s Pick: San Francisco Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (+5.5) The Texans have had a few extra days rest to prepare for the Titans, following its overtime win against the Lions on Thanksgiving.  The Houston defense has struggled over the last two weeks, giving up a ton of points to the Jaguars and Lions.  Tennessee QB Jake Locker has played well at home in his young career and Chris Johnson has 80 or more rushing yards in six straight games.  Tennessee is also one of six teams that have allowed 20 or fewer sacks on the year, meaning it will be interesting to see if the Titans can hold players like J.J. Watt in check.  It’s clearly my upset pick of the week, but I see the Titans keeping this one close, especially when considering the struggles of Houston’s defense over the last few weeks.  No one else is, but take the Titans and the points… no, really. KP’s Pick: Tennessee Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears (-4.5) Matt Forte was originally considered doubtful, but has a good shot at playing on Sunday.  Chicago is clearly a strong team at home, while the Seahawks have been abysmal on the road, winning just once.  Seattle also has the distraction of two cornerbacks possibly facing a suspension.  Both teams are ranked in the top 6 in pass defense, but the Bears have managed 20 INT”s, more than any other team.  Both teams are in the bottom two in passing offense and in the top ten in run offense.  In what should be a defensive battle, I like Chicago’s chances at home, and mostly because of just how much Seattle has struggled when away from home.  Jay Cutler sparks the Bears to victory by a touchdown. KP’s Pick: Chicago Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos (-7.5) Here’s an interesting game, considering Tampa Bay’s offense is potent enough to keep up with Peyton Manning and the Broncos.  But how will the Bucs handle Denver’s aggressive defense that leads the NFL in sacks?  Tampa Bay has actually allowed just 16 sacks on the season, which leaves me to believe that the Bucs could slow down Denver’s aggressive pass rush.  Peyton Manning will clearly make numerous plays against a Tampa Bay pass defense that is ranked last in yards allowed per game.  It’ll be whether Doug Martin can have success on the ground, leading to Josh Freeman to make plays through the air, giving the Bucs a chance.  I think that happens enough in this game, keeping the result at a touchdown or less.  Take Tampa Bay and the points. KP’s Pick: Tampa Bay Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers (+1.5) The Chargers suffered a heartbreaking loss last weekend to the Ravens, while the Bengals took care of the Raiders rather easily.  It’s tempting to take San Diego, considering the team is playing at home, coupled with its talent level and typical late season surges under Norv Turner.  That plus the Chargers actually had a ten-point lead over the Ravens in the fourth quarter when playing at home last week, only to blow the lead and lose the game in overtime.  So, while I was tempted to go with the Chargers in this game, I couldn’t ignore the fact that the Bengals have the NFL’s second most sacks (35) and will likely cause headaches for Philip Rivers.  San Diego’s playoff chances are slim and Cincy is surging.  Also, Rivers often makes a lot of mistakes when under extreme pressure.  That’s why I’m taking the Bengals, assuming that one of those mistakes leads to a game-winning tochdown. KP’s Pick: Cincinnati Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-7.5) This one is a high spread for this rivalry, but it’s clear why – and that’s Ben Roethlisberger.  The Steelers committed eight turnovers last week and clearly can’t play any worse.  Pittsburgh will reportedly get Troy Polamalu back, which will boost the defense.  But the key to the game is the quarterback position, as Roethlisberger has been ruled out, while Charlie Batch will get another start.  Jonathan Dwyer will start at running back for the Steelers, and clearly he’s been the team’s best back this year.  Antonio Brown is also likely to return, which will boost the Pittsburgh offense.  But again, it’s back to the absence of “Big Ben”.  The heat of this rivalry usually means that a close game is a sure bet.  Last week, I left a Vikings pick intact even after Jay Cutler was cleared to play.  That is a mistake that I’m still regretting.  This week, it’s a similar situation, but the spread is much higher – and that’s why I’m going to stick with Pittsburgh.  Time will tell as to whether this will be a “fool me twice, shame on me” result.  The rivalry is too heated and Pittsburgh – with some weapons returning – finds a way to keep this game close. KP’s Pick: Pittsburgh Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders (-1.5) Darren McFadden is back and practicing this week for the Raiders.  Clearly, he would be a huge addition to Oakland’s offense.  Brandon Weeden was cleared to practice despite a concussion.  Curently, there’s rain in the forecast for this game, but the spread is so low, a low-scoring game likely wouldn’t change much with the outcome.  Cleveland is actually 3-3 over its last six games, and has played well against some quality teams.  Oakland has not been a quality team over the last month, allowing 34 or more points in each of its last four games.  That’s why it’s impossible for me to pick the Raiders, even when playing at home and seeing McFadden likely back on the field.  Browns take this one. KP’s Pick: Cleveland Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-7.5)
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Tony Romo faces off against a depleted and struggling Eagles team on Sunday

The Eagles have lost seven straight games and cut Jason Babin this week.  Injuries are also a challenge for Philly, as DeSean Jackson is out for the year, while Bryce Brown and Nick Foles are likely starting again, as Mike Vick and LeSean McCoy have yet to practice due to concussions.  One cannot discount the fact that this is a very heated rivalry, featuring two teams that really hate each other.  The Eagles have appeared lackadaisical at times, but it’s hard to imagine this team not being up for a game against the Cowboys.  Philly will also likely give some young guys playing time, which is always a question mark.  Some rookies will play hard in hopes to earn more time, while others will make too many mistakes.  But the biggest key here is the fact that DeMarco Murray is likely to return this weekend, which will spark the Dallas offense and give it balance.  With Philly’s injuries and Murray’s explosiveness making a difference, I’m left to assume that the Cowboys will find a way to cover at home. KP’s Pick: Dallas New York Giants at Washington Redskins (+2.5) Both teams had impressive wins last week and each offense was clicking and scoring in bunches.  The Giants have given up the fewest sacks in the NFL (14), while the Redskins have struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  Washington has a chance to cut the division lead in half and Robert Griffin III is playing with a lot of confidence.  Eli Manning and New York’s offense returned to its elite form last week against the Packers – and Washington’s pass defense is vulnerable.  The Giants are suffering through some injuries currently, and have some question marks on its defense heading into the game.  Still, even with all this in play, the safe bet is to go with the talent-rich Giants, especially with a spread this tight.  Take the Giants to cover on the road in D.C. KP’s Pick: New York Giants