This NFL season has become the year of the “Unsurprising Blowout Game.” Our two most recent examples: Atlanta routing New York 34-0 and New Orleans crushing Tampa, 41-0.
Eli Manning knows the reassuring theme: ‘The Giants do this every year, they play possum before turning it on for the playoffs.’
So, this year he’s tanking-it extra hard, putting up a goose egg against the Falcons, a team these Giants dismantled in last year’s Playoffs.
The problem is the Giants may have played dead too long.
My Week 16 Picks
My Pick: Atlanta (-3.5)
The Falcons need one game over their next two to earn the NFC’s top seed and receive home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The game is at Detroit, but it’s in a dome and Matt Ryan’s passer rating is slightly higher on the road this year than at home.
The Falcons secondary should slow Matt Stafford down. They have been very good at getting interceptions, totaling 18 so far this year with 27 total turnovers.
Tennessee (5-9) @ Green Bay (10-4)
My Pick: Tennessee (+12.5)
Expect the Packers to play a relatively conservative game, saving their complex schemes and looks for the quickly approaching post-season.Green Bay has won three in a row after their 38-10 loss in New York.
Aaron Rodger’s 104.7 passer rating is best in the league. He leads a more balanced offense, even though they’re still awful on the ground. WR James Jones has a league leading 12 touchdown receptions on 51 catches out of 81 targets. A.J. Green is second with 11 TDs on 85 catches out of 144 targets. As shown by the disparity in targets between the amount of targets: the Pack can be devastatingly efficient.
My Pick: Carolina (-8.5)
The Raider’s didn’t score a touchdown against the Chiefs.
As I said last week, Cam Newton thrives in pressure-free situations. He looked good last Sunday against a Chargers team that beat Pittsburgh on the road. Oakland is even worse.
Buffalo (5-9) @ Miami (6-8)
My Pick: Miami (-4.5)
The Bills lone touchdown in their Week 11 win over Miami came on a punt return.
The Bills are giving up 28.7 points per game — tied for the most in the NFL.
Miami needs a more balanced approach offensively. Reggie Bush’s 104 yards last Sunday was his first 100-yard effort since Week 2. The Dolphins have a slim playoff chance, but they must take care of their own business first.
My Pick: Cincinnati (+4)
This is not your father’s Steelers’ defense, case in point: they got picked apart two weeks ago at home by Phillip Rivers, then lost to the dithering Cowboys in OT last week.
I picked the Steelers last week, based mostly on Ben Roerhlisberger and Mike Tomlin, and both looked a bit lost: Tomlin using his challenge flag in the first quarter on a first down; Ben complaining about play selection. Not good.
New England (10-4) @ Jacksonville (2-12)
My Pick: New England (-14.5)
Maybe Tom Brady will start just throwing balls away. Start Stevan Ridley in your fantasy finals. The Pats are 5-0 against Jacksonville since 2001.
The Patriots are averaging 39.5 points with a 6-0 record against teams with losing records, while Jacksonville is 0-6 against opponents with winning records.
The Jags had that surprise game against the Texans on Thanksgiving, maybe the Holidays excite them. Or maybe the Pats want to push somebody around after what the 49ers did to them Sunday.
Rob Gronkowski could return from a broken forearm…lookout.
My Pick: Indianapolis (-6.5)
Indy must recover from a mistake filled 29-17 loss to Houston. A win or tie against KC would clinch their 10th postseason appearance in the last 11 years. A remarkable turnaround from their 2-14 dismay a season ago.
New Orleans (6-8) @ Dallas (8-6)
My Pick: New Orleans (+3)
Just one week of a Drew Brees renaissance is enough to make me a believer. What worries me here is Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten torching the Saints secondary, filled entirely with flathead cut-outs.
DeMarco Murray’s return has been huge. He’s scored a TD in all three games back, and Tony Romo has gone 15-21 with four touchdowns on play-action passes.
Washington (8-6) @ Philadelphia (4-10)
My Pick: Washington (-5.5)
RG III is back, but backup Kirk Cousins proved his worth.
Washington dominated 31-6 in the first meeting as Griffin completed 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and a season high-tying four TDs.
St. Louis (6-7-1) @ Tampa Bay (6-8)
My Pick: St. Louis (+3)
I picked the Rams last week and Adrian Peterson made me look like an idiot. Doug Martin scares me. Read more here.
My Pick: San Diego (+2.5)
America can now breathe a collective sigh of relief: the Jets are from playoff contention. Greg McElroy, not Tim Tebow, will start for the recently benched Mark Sanchez, but they’re still the Jets.
The Chargers haven’t really looked much better, and they haven’t beaten New York since 2005, including a playoff loss later that same season.
Giants (8-6) @ Baltimore (9-5)
My Pick: Giants (+2.5)
Both teams are scuffling. Eli Manning has failed to throw a TD pass in four of his last seven games. The outcome of this game depends on which one of the Eli’s shows up. The Giants can clinch a Wild Card spot by winning out.
Baltimore had won 16 straight at home before falling to Denver last week. The injury list continues to mount: Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jimmy Smith, Jameel McClain.
My Pick: Minnesota (+7.5)
Though J.J. Watt has looked like a beast, Vick Ballard (Colts) ran for 105 yards on the Texans defense last week.
Adrian Peterson comes to town on a roll, and as a fan of the sport I fully support his remarkable year and MVP bid.
The Texans are trending down, but one more win would secure the top seed in the AFC.
Arian Foster is still producing, his 165 yards last Sunday increased his total to 1,313 in 2012. But his ‘pop’ from earlier in the year seems missing.
More worrisome? Andre Johnson is the only guy Matt Schaub trusts on big downs. I understand that each team has a number one option, but why do so many QBs seemingly refuse to throw the ball to other receivers and hamstring themselves, forcing incompletions and picks in double or triple coverage. The three guiltiest QB and WR pairs:
- Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson
- Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall
- Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson.
Cleveland (5-9) @ Denver (11-3)
My Pick: Denver (-13)
Denver has reeled off nine straight. Cleveland is 1-5 on the road.
Denver has won 20 out of the last 22 meetings, but Cleveland is 3-0 against AFC West opponents.
The Browns aren’t your typical 13-point underdog…but the Broncos are on fire.
My Pick: Arizona (+5.5)
I had picked Arizona solely because of their defense. They got blown out 58-0 two weeks ago, and stopped. Well, Arizona not only covered last week, but beat the Lions 38-10. Their secondary snagged three interceptions from Matt Stafford, two of them good for touchdowns.
Chicago has lost five of their last six, despite a 7-1 start.
Jay Cutler has completed 67.1 percent of his passes to Brandon Marshall this season, his highest rate to a Bears wide receiver this season. Cutler hasn’t completed more than 55.0 percent of his passes to any other Bears wide out this season.
Go NFC West.
San Francisco (10-3-1) @ Seattle (9-5)
My Pick: San Francisco (-1)
Very evenly matched, but Seattle is coming off two blowouts against lesser opponents. Expect the 49ers to play a similar game to the one they played last Sunday against the Pats, where it took the Patriots an entire half to adjust to the physicality and tenacity.
SF can clinch the NFC West with a win, but their 0-3-1 in games trying to win three straight.
Stone Cold Lock of the Century of the Week: Giants at Baltimore (Wishful thinking.)
Last Week: 7-9
I’m turning it around this week, !@#$%&!