Thirteen is going to be a central theme for this
article paragraph, and not just because it's Week 13 of the NFL season or because I really like cliched scary movie themes. Mostly, "13" will be central to this post because those of you who followed my advice won 13 of the 16 games last week. That makes us 23-7 since we started doing this and I see nothing but a continuation of this veritable steamrolling.
Vegas has given me a directive to get at least three games wrong each week, to keep them from looking too bad, but this week I flip them the bird. What kind of bird will it be? A Falcon, a Cardinal, a Raven, a... Seahawk? Click through to find the answer to this thrilling ornithological mystery!
I don't think this is what the NFL Network had in mind when they scheduled this game. Sure, they figured the 'Hawks would be 4-7, but they also probably figured that they'd still be right in the thick of the chase for the NFC West. I imagine they thought the Eagles, on the other hand, would still be in pursuit of an undefeated season, or at least be neck and neck with Green Bay for home-field advantage. "What title hopes will hang in the balance of this one!" they must've said (in unison), when picking this game. Well, joke's on you, NFL Network. This is what you get for tormenting me all off-season with your "Mike Sims-Walkerrrrrrr..." commercial during every single ad break.
As far as the game itself, it's a tough pick, and not just because the more talented team is on the road. Rather, this game is a difficult one to predict because of all the injuries. The most compelling player in the game (the league?) is Michael Vick, but he'll be watching from the sideline and his back-up, watered-down-right-handed-Mike-Vick, will be without his best receiver, Jeremy Maclin. That's a boon for Seattle, until you remember that the Seahawks' top two cornerbacks are out also. Erstwhile starters Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will be tasked with covering the emerging Jason Avant and the Vince Carter of football, DeSean Jackson. Sherman and Browner or, The Tax Accountants, as I like to call them have the luxury of arguably the most dynamic safety combo in the NFC playing behind them, but I fear that they'll be counting on their help way too much.
The injuries don't stop there, not by a long shot. Philly is also without Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie, and have a "questionable" Nnamdi Asomugah. Seattle, as you all know, has more talent on the IR than they have active, with the latest casualty being infinitely talented yet concussion-prone Sidney Rice. There are too many undefined widgets in this one to have a real grasp on how the contraptions will operate, and therein lies the problem.
Both run games should have an advantage over the opposing front sevens. Marshawn "Plinko" Lynch is on fire right now and the Eagles have been bad against the run, but the Seahawks offensive line is still just a gigantic casserole of silliness. Seattle's run defense is much better than Philadelphia's, and the Eagles' O-Line is bad, but as long as LeSean McCoy exists and is granted 20 touches, any opposing defense is at a disadvantage.
The only real way I see Seattle winning is if Andy Reid gets too pass-happy and forgets that he has an even better version of Brian Westbrook at his disposal. My guess is that he capitalizes on Seattle's typical first-half lethargy early and feeds the beast enough late to secure a win. THE PICK: EAGLES
This may be the game of the week, even with Matt Schaub and Mario Williams out for the year and Booker T., er, Andre Johnson still getting back up to speed. Typically, when a team is down to their third-string QB and are missing their best defensive player, they're dead meat against a surging 7-4 team. Seen that way, this game should be a blowout. It won't be though, and that's because when was the last time you saw a team with the best offensive line in the league get blown out?
Houston can still control the ball and may not need TJ Yates to carry a big burden, as Arian Foster and Ben Tate may rush for 175+ combined, despite Atlanta's staunch run defense. That said, I think that the inexperience at QB will be Houston's undoing. Atlanta is playing very good football during their recent 5-1 stretch, and despite outstanding defensive play from Johnathan Joseph, Brian Cushing, and the rest, the Falcons should have enough Michael Turner, Roddy White, Matt Ryan, and Tony Gonzalez (age already!) to subdue the Texans. By the way, Wade Phillips should win Coordinator of the Year, if that's a thing. THE PICK: FALCONS
Anybody watch Tyler Palko and his merry band of incorrect-route-running receivers play the Steelers last week? Yeah, that will happen again. I don't see the erratic Kansas City Chiefs defense matching that impressive effort, though, and I think Matt Forte will account for enough offense to provide a comfortable margin of victory. THE PICK: BEARS
Shit, I don't know. THE PICK: TITANS
Every time someone on TV lauded the Bengals' great start to the season, the producers of those networks made sure there was someone else sitting next to them to say "Ah, but they haven't played the Ravens or Steelers yet." The tough back-half of the season has commenced for Cincy, and they acquitted themselves fairly well against Baltimore two weeks ago. If this game was in Cincinnati, I'd be more inclined to believe that the stripe-heads had a chance, but Pittsburgh is showing their true colors now, which means finally adding forced turnovers to their already stingy yards-against defense.
Andy Dalton seems to have a bit of Ken Anderson in him, a spry AJ Green should keep the Steelers secondary on their collective toes, and Cedric Benson is running like he stole something (insert joke here! or better yet, don't! because Cedric Benson has never been charged with theft! but you thought he has been! don't you feel guilty?!). In fact, the Bengals offense has something resembling the highly-sought-after three-headed monster that so many great teams have had. Add to that the fact they've played prohibitive defense all season, and you've got a team that has earned every bit of their 7-4 record.
Unfortunately for that team, their opponent is better (if only slightly) in nearly every aspect of the game. Pittsburgh is back to controlling the ball and causing hell for opposing offenses. The difference with this version of the physically dominant Steelers is that now they can boast two sensational downfield threats in speedster Mike Wallace and newcomer Antonio Brown. Ask Brandon Browner how good they are. THE PICK: STEELERS
Damnit, Denver, I'm done fighting you. Just, do whatever you want. THE PICK: BRONCOS
The "sharps" have granted the Patriots the season's largest spread (-20.5). I don't think New England covers, but only because I believe in the power of Dan Orlovsky. By the way, did you know that Dan Orlovsky has started 11 career NFL games? He has, and his teams have won precisely zero of them. It would be funny if his first win came with the 0-11 Colts against the Patriots. But not that funny.
Which total do you think will be higher, Wes Welker receptions or Colts points?THE PICK: PATRIOTS.
Las Vegas actually thinks Miami will win this game. I mean, they do have a positive scoring margin on the season, and the Raiders are on pace to shatter their own NFL record for most penalties... Sure, I'll bite.
I can see Brandon Marshall posting a 7/120/1 line and Reggie Bush getting 100+ from scrimmage. Matt Moore seems like one of those guys who is always lumped in with the Sage Rosenfels and Kellen Clemons crowd, but he might actually be pretty good. Oakland's offense has looked great under Carson Palmer and Michael Bush lately, but Miami's defense has been just as good, only you'd never know it since the country stopped paying attention to the Dolphins two months ago.
The Raiders can't cover anybody, can't hear a snap count or whistle, and can't get an owner with a semi-acceptable haircut to save their lives. I'll side with Vegas.THE PICK: DOLPHINS
After this win, the media will be back to fondling Mark Sanchez. I'm so tired of the Mark Sanchez debate. Mark Sanchez would not be a worthwhile national debate in at least 23 NFL cities. That's not to say I don't like Sanchez, or even that I think he's not good, it's just that arguing over Mark Sanchez is basically New York's version of the rest of the country debating Josh Freeman or Jason Campbell. That said, I know what I have to do here. THE PICK: JETS
Neither team is very good this year, but for some reason Carolina seems so much better, even though they have a worse record. I never expected Tampa Bay to get as many wins as they had last year, but I didn't expect 4-7, either. Freeman probably isn't as bad as he's looked so far, but that's far from ringing praise. I like the Bucs' whole feel as an organization, but they're showing their youth right now and a six-win season is quite likely.
The Buccaneers can't stop the run, but neither can the Panthers. In fact no one can't stop the run as much as these two can't stop the run. Look for disproportionately big days from DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and LeGarrette Blount; and Cam Newton will undoubtedly fulfill his fantasy football obligations as well. This one ain't easy, but I see Tampa getting at least one more stop than Carolina and snagging one of their two remaining wins right here. I swear, picking games between equally good teams is easier than picking games between equally bad teams. THE PICK: BUCCANEERS
I just don't see a way this happens for Cleveland, except for the fact that this is the fourth time the Ravens have gone on the road against an inferior team after a huge win and they lost the first three. This is a bigger letdown team than the post-Ferrell / pre-Wiig cast of Saturday Night Live, but even accounting for that, the Browns are just so, I don't know... I mean, they're too dull to be considered awful, but they're certainly not good. Besides, Harbough made the mistake of getting Ray Rice-amnesia in all three of those previous losses, and I don't think he lets that happen again. THE PICK: RAVENS
In News That's Not Newsworthy, Kevin Kolb is likely to start! Um let's see, what else? Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jerry Jones, DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys are the greatest, Miles Austin, America's team, please read our website, DeMarcus Ware, Texas. THE PICK: COWBOYS
I went through Green Bay's remaining schedule to try and identify games that they could get tripped up in. It's actually a pretty tough finish, or at least what would be considered a tough finish for teams that aren't the Green Bay Packers. I just don't think I've seen any game where Green Bay has shown that there is a clear way to beat them. Nobody that they've played has really put them on the ropes, but the team that came the closest was the San Diego Chargers. I see a lot of similarities between the Chargers and the Giants, and New York even has a better pass rush, but the Giants' strengths* (passing offense, big play receivers, lots of pressure on the QB) are also Green Bay's strengths, and the Packers aren't going to be beat at their own game.
*I'm willing to bet that "strengths" is the longest one-syllable word in the English language.
Furthermore, after an inspired effort against Tom Brady and the Patriots last month, the Giants threadbare secondary was exposed on Monday night by Drew Brees and co. The Giants have had five days to prepare for this game, Green Bay's had ten. If those prep day totals were reversed, I'd waiver, but I say there's no way New York keeps up with Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson all game. THE PICK: PACKERS
Steven Jackson and Frank Gore are two rare birds these days, in that they've both had long, full careers as every down feature backs. They've also each spent most of their careers behind terrible offensive lines, and yet they've been ultra-productive, if not outright sensational. On paper, this game looks pretty boring, but I'll be tuned in just to watch Jackson and Gore go at it. I hope they combine for 80 carries. THE PICK: 49ERS
If this game follows the same blueprint as the last Saints game, I'll be a happy viewer. When Drew Brees is clicking, that offense can score as fast as any and I think Detroit knows the only way they can hang is to match them punch for punch. Unfortunately for them, I don't think they'll have an answer for Darren Sproles and no one has an answer for Jimmy Graham. Brees looks more in control now than he has all year and Matthew Stafford won't keep up that pace. I see a lot of passing yards, plenty of scoring, and a turnover margin of +2 for New Orleans in a game that makes NFL and NBC execs happy and "purists" feel curmudgeonly. THE PICK: SAINTS
San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Remember what I said about the NFL Network being totally let down by their Week 13 game? Imagine how ESPN feels about this Monday Nighter. The only thing carrying this game is the fact that the Chargers entered the season as a darling pick for the AFC title and now that that's been stripped away, you're left with two teams with a combined seven wins and both of whom are staring major changes in the face.
As far as the game itself goes, I don't think there's any question that San Diego has the more talented team, but they have lost six in a row and looked absolutely listless against Denver last week. Jacksonville did host the Ravens on a Monday night earlier this year and actually ended up winning the football equivalent of long, mutual chokehold. They have a legitimate chance of doing that this week, but I think San Diego grabs one of its few remaining wins here. Philip Rivers will look better, and hopefully Vincent Jackson will look interested, and Blaine Gabbert just won't be able to post the requisite 24 points to beat them. By the way, how the hell did Jacksonville end up hosting two Monday night games? What was the thinking there? THE PICK: CHARGERS
Boom! Go buy yourself something nice with the money you'll win.