2016 NFL Week 15 Powre Rankings/Playoff Scenarios


2016 NFL Week 15 Powre Rankings/Playoff Scenarios
M.D. Wright
12.13.2016

The season’s almost over? Isn’t it amazing that people spend all spring and summer rushing the best weather of the year by to get to football season, and it flies by even more every year? Nevertheless, we are in the home stretch, and now the playoffs are taking form. We’ll have the playoff scenarios  following the rankings below.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (10-3).
There’s no one playing better and more clutch football in all three phases than the Chiefs right now.

2. New England Patriots (11-2).
Yeah, they won, but Baltimore beat themselves even worse than the turnovers the Ravens forced against them. Their defense still isn’t good, although Joe Flacco was determined to make it appear so.

3. Dallas Cowboys (11-2).
They have been exposed, and if Dak Prescott doesn’t look out, Jerry Jones will usurp Jason Garrett and put Tony Romo back into the lineup. Stay tuned. Jameis Winston and the Bucs are coming to town to hand Dallas another loss.

4. New York Football Giants (9-4).
The Giants would have clinched a playoff berth with their win on Sunday night vs. Dallas if they had not blown a two-score lead against a Washington team that lost several defensive players due to injury in Week 3. As it stands, they need a loss by the Redskins (as well as the Vikings and Packers, along with a win of their own) to clinch a playoff berth this weekend.

5. Oakland Raiders (10-3).
The Raiders need to win out to avoid having to play a cold weather game, because Derek Carr looked absolutely terrible dealing with that finger injury in Kansas City.

6. Detroit Lions (9-4).
The Lions hold their playoff fate in their own hands. Any combination of two wins or two losses by the Packers and Vikings will give them the division. They have the Giants, Dallas and Green Bay left on their slate. It won’t be easy.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5).
Weekly post: Jameis Winston is in 2013 Mode. Florida State Seminoles fans know what this means. The rest of the football population will be able to witness it on Sunday Night Football vs. Dallas in Week 15.

8. Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1).
That tie will prevent them from clinching homefield throughout the playoffs even if they win out, most likely, and with Earl Thomas’ injury and the way their offense does not travel at all, this is not good. A direct indictment on Darrell Bevell mostly (and, at least in Week 14, Russell Wilson specifically).

9. Denver Broncos (8-5).
Denver is in the thick of it, but there is something about their offense that we do not like, and it has shown in recent games.

10. Atlanta Falcons (8-5).
The Falcons have to keep winning just to avoid potentially falling from the division lead to completely out of the playoff hunt altogether if Green Bay and Washington can hang around.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5).
The Steelers defense may have looked decent the past two games, but they’re still not good enough to stop the best offenses in the AFC. Unless they’re at home.

12. Miami Dolphins (8-5).
The Fins are not necessarily done even if Ryan Tannehill may be for the rest of the regular season at the very least.

13. Houston Texans (7-6).
This team should be better than it has shown (mostly due to play calling and the play of Brock Osweiler), but as it is, they still maintain a share of first place in the AFC South.

14. Tennessee Titans (7-6).
Do the Titans have enough on the back end of their defense and out wide at receiver to compete if they were to make it to the playoffs?

15. Washington Redskins (7-5-1).
That tie might hurt them down the line, although it was against an AFC foe. They basically must win out, and that is with a Week 17 rematch with the Giants lurking.

16. Baltimore Ravens (7-6).
Joe Flacco is one maddening quarterback to watch. The Eli Manning of the AFC, but far worse when he’s bad.

17. Green Bay Packers (7-6).
They’re still not good.

18. Minnesota Vikings (7-6).
This team just does not have enough offense to make a run, even if their defense keeps every game close.

19. Buffalo Bills (6-7).
Rex’s midseason bluster is gone again. With the way these things tend to go when the owners speak out and the coaches on the hot seat play dumb, it may be a safe bet that Rex is gone after the conclusion of the regular season.

20. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7-1).
The Bengals effectively took out the trash on Sunday, even though they are already practically eliminated from the playoffs.

21. Indianapolis Colts (6-7).
Andrew Luck continues to get a pass from his sycophants in the media.

22. Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1).
Carson Palmer needs to retire.

23. Carolina Panthers (5-8).
They won a game they should have won, even if the officials incorrectly took a 100-yard pick six by the Bolts off board, making what would have been a three point game a 10-point win for the Panthers.

24. San Diego Chargers (5-8).
Time to blow it all up, and it sounds as if the team is all but leaving San Diego after this season, as well.

25. Philadelphia Eagles (5-8).
Carson Wentz has somewhat of an excuse with one of the worst receiving corps in the league, but he’s also been figured out by defensive coordinators, and it shows.

26. New Orleans Saints (5-8).
Drew Brees’ stats are about as hollow as a post-meno… never mind.

27. New York Jets (4-9).
How did the Jets even manage to hang around — much less win — that game?

28. Los Angeles Rams (4-9).
What was so different about this season versus the previous five that led the Rams to finally cut the cord with Jeff Fisher?

29. Chicago Bears (3-10).
At least they’re doing a good job in tanking.

Just too bad they’re doing it in a year where none of the QBs entering the draft are franchise QBs. Maybe Matt Barkley can finally live up to the immense promise that preceded him when he entered the NFL four years ago.

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11).
Jeff Fisher was a 4:1 shot to be the first domino to fall as far as coaches on the hot seat to be fired entering December (Gus Bradley, Rex Ryan), but now that he has been relieved of his duties, Bradley can’t be far behind. Although he has been hamstrung with the inexplicably regressed Blake Bortles, whose mechanics have gone to shit; joining his decision-making, which had been there since he entered the league.

31. San Francisco 49ers (1-12).
There is going to be a major shake up within the power base of this team’s front office this offseason. A complete makeover at QB is lurking, and they could be getting a new general manager, head coach, and coaching staff, potentially. The only guys who may be left standing are the owner and DeForest Buckner.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-13).
How do you talk trash to someone when your team is winless and then come out to catch only one pass for three yards all game?
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Playoff Scenarios Entering Week 15 in the NFL:
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
AFC East
New England:
With a win (or tie, which is not far-fetched in 2016) in Denver in Week 15, the Patriots would clinch the AFC East and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Miami:
Would potentially move into the 6th seed if New England defeats Denver and Miami defeats the New York Jets.

Buffalo:
They have all but eliminated.

New York Jets:
Just End The Season

AFC North
No one can clinch anything, although if the Steelers lose and the Ravens win, the Ravens would re-assume first place in the AFC North by virtue of the head-to-head win against the Steelers, for now.

AFC South
Same as the North, no clinching scenarios in Week 15.

AFC West
Kansas City:
Can clinch a playoff berth with win vs. Tennessee.

Oakland:
Can clinch a playoff berth with win vs. San Diego.

Denver:
Can maintain the 6th seed as a Wild Card with win vs. New England

San Diego:
They can clinch their future home in the coming weeks, but they’re done as far as the playoffs go.

NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
NFC East
Dallas:
Can clinch the NFC East with a win vs. Tampa Bay and a loss by New York Giants vs. Detroit. Can clinch homefield throughout the playoffs with a tie in the aforementioned Detroit vs. New York Giants game.

New York Giants:
With a win vs. Detroit, a loss by Washington, and losses (or ties) by Minnesota and Green Bay, the Giants will clinch a playoff berth. They would remain alive for winning the NFC East with a Dallas loss vs. Tampa Bay (in which case Dallas would then need to lose one of or both of their remaining games thereafter — with the Giants winning out, or winning two of three  if Dallas loses their remaining three games including Tampa Bay); in which case the Giants would win the NFC East.

Washington:
The Redskins must win out to have a realistic chance to own any tiebreakers against the other playoff hopefuls (excluding Minnesota, who they defeated).

Philadelphia:
1960.

NFC North
Detroit:
The Lions can clinch the NFC North with a win vs. New York Giants and a Green Bay loss to Chicago. They can also clinch the division with a combination of a tie with the New York Giants and a loss by Green Bay to Chicago, and a loss or tie by Minnesota to Indianapolis.

Green Bay:
The Packers practically need to win out and hope that the Lions lose at least two of their remaining three games (including a Week 17 head-to-head tilt).

Minnesota:
With the way their offense has gone, the scenarios won’t much matter, but for posterity’s sake, they are in the same boat as Green Bay (with a head-to-head in Week 16, which will serve as an elimination game).

Chicago:
On to 2017.

NFC South
Atlanta:
No clinching scenarios, as they share identical 8-5 records with Tampa Bay (with the tiebreaker, for now, after splitting the two head-to-head match ups). With a win vs. San Francisco and a Tampa Bay loss, they would have the inside track on winning the division.

Tampa Bay:
With a win vs. Dallas, and a loss (somehow) by Atlanta at home vs. San Francisco, Tampa Bay would assume the NFC South lead with a 9-5 record.

New Orleans:
The loss to Tampa Bay virtually eliminated the Saints from playoff contention.

Carolina:
The Panthers were dealt their death blow in Seattle with a humiliating 40-7 loss, but rebounded to beat San Diego in Week 14. Alas, they’re on to the 2017 NFL Draft, where several players who they need to fill specific holes will be available in large quantities.

NFC West
Seattle:
A win or tie vs. Los Angeles clinches the NFC West for Seattle. If Arizona loses or ties New Orleans in Week 15, the Seahawks would win the division regardless of the outcome of their Thursday Night Football matchup with Los Angeles.

Arizona:
Their hopes are hanging by the slimmest of threads. They need Seattle to lose out while they win out themselves in order to win the NFC West. And in that scenario it would come down the sixth or seventh tiebreaker to determine the outcome.

Los Angeles:
They better hope Jared Goff is the answer, because they’ve mortgaged their future for the rest of this decade by acquiring him with the number of picks they traded to draft him #1 overall in 2016. They finally let go Jeff Fisher, but the team is going to have to spend every dime possible to re-enter the NFL offensively.

San Francisco:
If they’re tanking, it is difficult to tell some weeks, but whether they are or aren’t, they’re succeeding in doing so.

Giants Film Breakdown: 2016 NFL Week 14 — Sunday Night Football — Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Football Giants


Giants Film Breakdown: 2016 NFL Week 14 — Sunday Night Football — Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Football Giants
M.D. Wright
12.12.2016

After the Week 14 match up with the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Football Giants sit in second place in the NFC East, and tied for the second-best record in the NFC overall. Despite the record, there are some encouraging positives and glaring weaknesses with this team. The thing about both of these characteristics is that they are both the things that have cost them wins and been the chief reason they’ve won several games this season.

After beginning the season with a disappointing 2-3 mark; including losing to a team with no offense to speak of (Minnesota) and a team that had already shown cracks in the dam on both sides of the ball (Green Bay), and after previously blowing a 21-9 lead in the process of losing to the Washington Redskins in Week 3, the Giants reeled off seven wins in the last eight games. Much was stated about the level of their opposition, despite them being the same teams that Dallas beat, minus the criticism of Dallas’ record while they were on a then-11-game winning streak.

NEGATIVES
Coaching.
Ben McAdoo became the Giants’ head coach prior to this season, and much of it was believed to be on the strength of the efficient and high powered offenses that he had coordinated in 2014 and 2015 after succeeding Kevin Gilbride (who looks like Bill Walsh compared to what McAdoo has done with the Giants offense in 2016) despite possessing more talent than Gilbride probably ever had other than in 2008. His playcalling reeks of a coach who is fail-safe, looking to call plays with the least amount of risk possible, thereby placing his offense in bad situations where they invariably have to take risks because the plays are predictable, slow to develop, and poorly executed. If not for the play of his defense, his team would likely be 4-9 right now, not 9-4.

Offensive Line Play.
The Giants have issues along their offensive line. They continue to utilize Ereck Flowers at left tackle, despite being better suited to play guard or right tackle. The failure this has produced has reverberations throughout the entire offense. Flowers has subpar feet, spotty technique and overall lazy play at times. He has been spotted many times throughout this season with his hands down out of his stance in pass protection, getting out over his hips at times, and slow with his feet when cornering off the edge against pass rushers. He’s been adequate in run blocking, but he also has his fair share of holding and false start penalties, which is inexcusable. Flowers was solid in 2015, but he has regressed horribly to levels not even seen while in college at Miami (FL).

Justin Pugh has been good (actually rated #1 according to Pro Football Focus — for what that is worth) among left guards, before he was injured. Marshall Newhouse (and others before him) have been decent in that slot. Not great, but not killing the offense by any means. Weston Richburg has been above average, but has had his fair share of inexplicable gaffes — particularly in pass protection — coupled with John Jerry, who continues to be porous in run blocking.

The Giants utilize a lot of double teams, reach blocks, and pulls with their line in order to create rushing lanes to aid the struggling rushing attack. At times, these techniques work, but we have seen in every game that when you have a center/guard double team combination, a crease between the guard and tackle forms, and the run gets blown up for minimal game or a loss, or a pass rusher/blitzer gets to Eli Manning quicker than the play can develop. This has been a constant issue all season when drives stall or are destroyed with turnovers. John Jerry is the best pulling lineman on the team. Often times he will pull to his left and wrap around tightly (keep this in mind) behind the center so that linebackers cannot shoot gaps and blow up the outside running plays. Occasionally, Richburg will kick out, Pugh would pull to the right once in a while, and Bobby Hart has mostly remained in his slot at right tackle. He’s not played to the level that he did at Florida State, but he has been leagues better than Newhouse was at that position.

Ultimately, too many errors in technique from Ereck Flowers have cost the Giants yardage on the ground and in the passing game for the aforementioned reasons. Last night, we saw Flowers get beat several times off the edge with technique that would make a middle school offensive lineman cringe and look over his shoulder for his line coach to scold him. Then, on a couple of runs, the Giants had Flowers pulling on runs. The team had the blocks lined up well on both runs, but Flowers was far too wide and did not get a hat on Sean Lee, who submarined in to blow up both runs. This happened to Marshall Newhouse as well, but he is a natural tackle pulling as a guard, so he gets somewhat of a mulligan.

Too Much Onus on Receivers to Win Routes Every Down.
The scheme the Giants employ requires so much of the players, versus the play caller scheming around the individual abilities of the receivers. Sometimes, this can work (see the Green Bay Packers in Aaron Rodgers’ prime years) but when you utilize the same personnel and formations 85% of the time. Couple this with the shaky offensive line play, and inexplicable decisions with the football at times by Manning, and you have what is an offense that scores a touchdown fewer per game on average than what it had in McAdoo’s two previous seasons as offensive coordinator.

Inconsistencies from All Receivers.
Odell Beckham continues to have lapses in focus when it comes to catching the ball. Granted, there are times (read: often) when defensive players are draped on his back as the ball arrives, but there are times when he drops passes while wide open and unpressured. Victor Cruz cannot create separation, and has always had issues with drops — particularly at critical times — while Roger “Otto” Lewis has not shown to be a proficient route runner who understands the nuances of playing the wide receiver position. Sterling Shepard has been consistent, even if he has been overlooked at times in the offense, which is another thing that falls at the feet of Ben McAdoo, and to an extent, Eli Manning.

The tight end position has been mostly below average all year, although the unit has been better of late at both run blocking, pass protection and getting downfield in the route since Larry Donnell was benched and/or demoted to special teams online.

The only real question mark on the Giants defense is the soft spot between the linebackers and defensive backs where they tend to get beaten at times with tight ends, which has happened a good bit this season. Otherwise, they are sound at every level, even with injuries and multiple changes in personnel since last season.

POSITIVES
Defense.
The defense has been solid to flat out great all year. After a middling start (although they were not surrendering much in the way of points), they hit their stride, and that culminated with yeoman’s work in Week 14 against what is otherwise a very good Dallas offense — particularly without Jason Pierre-Paul, who was lost for the rest of the regular season due to a sports hernia.

Olivier Vernon has picked up his play since Week 7 and has produced on par with what the Giants believed they were getting when they signed him to that large contract. Signing Damon “Snacks” Harrison has been huge, as he pairs with Johnathan Hankins to form an impenetrable tackle front. Jason Pierre-Paul lines up on each end and occasionally inside at times, while the Giants have also utilized Romeo Okwara, who showed out in the preseason, as well as Owamagbe Odighizuwa in limited duty (as Vernon and Pierre-Paul rarely left the field through the first two months of the season). Linebackers are not superstars by any means, but they swarm to the football and have played tighter in coverage than the sieve that was the worst defense in Giants history in 2015.

The Giants secondary is virtually second to none. Only the fully healthy Seahawks and Broncos secondaries are better. Spearheaded by shutdown corner Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the stellar play of Landon Collins, there isn’t much to get against the Giants secondary in the pass. Andrew Adams has come along on short notice with injuries to Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe. He had a gaffe on the lone Dallas score in Week 14, or else the Giants would have likely shut out this much-lauded offense.

Going forward, the Giants could continue what they’ve done defensively. They match up well with most offenses now because Eli Apple (who is finally healthy) is rounding into form, as well.

Offensively, if the Giants do not become more multiple on offense (while being so on defense, which is even more maddening when you know what you are watching), they aren’t going far. In a game where the offense was probably the worst it has been all season (and that’s with two or three other stinkers on the ledger), against what is a bad defense — regardless of what rankings say about Dallas’ defense, it is not good — it is amazing they even won the game, despite leaving about 24 points on the field. This is a trend that cannot continue. McAdoo needs to utilize his offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan and cede playcalling duties, because he is the only thing holding back this team from being explosive on both sides of the ball.

2016 NFL Week 14 Bettor’s Guide (Audio Embedded)


2016 NFL Week 14 Bettor’s Guide (Audio Embedded)
M.D. Wright
12.9.2016

2016 NFL Week 14 Bettor’s Guide Audio Analysis

Sometimes, you just need to go with your gut and make picks based upon your assessments and run with it. We failed to do this in Week 13, and paid the price as a result. We figured the Broncos would be in a low-scoring dogfight with the Jaguars, particularly with Paxton Lynch in for Trevor Siemian, and the game pretty much went as expected. We fully believed the Chiefs would beat the Falcons on the road, and although it required a good bit of serendipity to pull it off, this wasn’t exactly a surreptitious claim, given that the Chiefs have shown to be clutch all season. We THOUGHT the Lions would keep it close in New Orleans, but in the gut, we believed they were actually going to win, but did not handicap it as such.

The point spread in the Giants/Steelers game was a red flag that there was going to be some subterfuge in that game, and it was. Consequently, we did not handicap that game with that in mind, and we missed.

Last Week:
SU: 11-4
ATS: 10-5

Season:
SU: 129-61-2
ATS: 104-84-6
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Week 14: Thursday Night Football: OAK +3.5 (Did Not Cover), OAK (Money Line Did Not Hit)

Denver Broncos vs. Tennessee Titans
Nissan Stadium
Nashville, Tennessee
My Call: DEN +1
Over/Under: Under 43.5

Analysis:
This game should pretty much play out like the Broncos/Jaguars game, although the Titans defense can be exploited. Trevor Siemian appears to be on track to return as starter for Denver, which will help a bit. In the end, expect Denver’s defense (although MLB Brandon Marshall is out for this game) to close out the game late if it is close — as it likely will be.

Call:
Denver                        19
Tennessee                 16
FINAL
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San Diego Chargers vs. Carolina Panthers
Bank of America Stadium
Charlotte, North Carolina
My Call: SD +1.5
Over/Under: Over 48.5

Analysis:
This is one of those odd games that you really stay away from. The Bolts play a ton of close, nail-biting games that end on the final drive most of the time, and the Panthers have mostly done the same. Luke Kuechly will return for this game for Carolina, but the spread is what it is for a reason: the Panthers are technically slight home dogs in this one. Best to avoid this one at all costs, particularly in parlays.

Call:
San Diego                      31
Carolina                         27
FINAL
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Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts
Lucas Oil Stadium
Indianapolis, Indiana
My Call: HOU +6.5
Over/Under: Over 46

Analysis:
The Colts are feeling good about themselves after thrashing a Jets team that everyone can clearly see has quit on its coach and its season, and have gone into full “protect my business interests” mode. They have five starters pronounced out for this game, and the Texans are looking to maintain pace after losing three straight. The Texans have a good defense. The Colts do not.

Call:
Houston                               24
Indianapolis                       23
FINAL
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Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns
FirstEnergy Stadium
Cleveland, Ohio
My Call: CIN -5.5
Over/Under: Under 42

Analysis:
Who cares?

Call:
Cincinnati                     23
Cleveland                      12
FINAL
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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills
New Era Field
Orchard Park, New York
My Call: BUF +3
Over/Under: Over 46

Analysis:
The spread tells you a lot. Last week, the Giants were getting six points at Heinz Field. The Bills are effectively six point home dogs here (home team has a built-in three points). Given that the Steelers are jockeying for their division, and Baltimore does not play until Monday night, the Bills better beware of similar treatment from the officials that the Giants got last week. The Bills’ only shot to making the playoffs is the wild card, and a loss here all but eliminates them from playoff contention. With those types of stakes, the most you can expect is a close game, but can you take the Bills straight up?

Call:
Pittsburgh                       27
Buffalo                             25
FINAL
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Arizona Cardinals vs. Miami Dolphins
Hard Rock Stadium
Miami Gardens, Florida
My Call: ARZ -2
Over/Under: Under 43

Analysis:
Back to back tough defenses for the Fins to face. Their playoff hopes are on the line, and the Cards are basically playing spoilers the rest of this season. Miami came out playing a soft zone against Baltimore, and Joe Flacco carved them up. What do you think Carson Palmer will do?

Call:
Arizona                       26
Miami                          13
FINAL
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Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
Ford Field
Detroit, Michigan
My Call: DET -7.5
Over/Under: Under 43

Analysis:
Don’t go getting confident in betting on the Lions. They still have this element where they are prone to posting a stinker, as they did the last time they faced these Bears. This time, however, they are at home and rolling. They could practically bury the Packers and Vikings with a win in this game, as Green Bay (in particular) has a tough game with Seattle. The Lions will almost certainly win, but that spread is formidable; even if the Bears stink.

Call:
Chicago                           13
Detroit                            24
FINAL
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Minnesota Vikings vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
EverBank Field
Jacksonville, Florida
My Call: JAX +3
Over/Under: Under 39.5

Analysis:
This will be one ugly game. Harrison Smith is out for the Vikes. The Jags should FINALLY get off the schneid.

Call:
Minnesota                  10
Jacksonville               13
FINAL
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Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Lincoln Financial Field
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
My Call: WSH -2.5
Over/Under: Over 46.5

Analysis:
The Skins’ playoff hopes took a big hit (they are basically fans of whoever the Cards play, and they also must win this game to own the tiebreaker against Philadelphia, so that they do not leap them for a potential second wild card, should Atlanta or Tampa blow it) in the desert last week. Jordan Reed is questionable, but sounds as though he will try and tough it out. Pretty much anyone with the surname “Matthews” or any variation of the spelling seems to be injury prone. Does anyone notice this?

Both Ryan Mathews and Jordan Matthews (as well as Tyrann Mathieu, for that matter, for the Cards) are questionable. For now, that does not sound as though they are out Sunday, but stay tuned. Matthews is the only semi-reliable wide receiver on the Eagles roster, and the Eagles struggled in the previous match up with Washington as is, when the Eagles were actually playing well. Additionally, Dorial Green-Beckham is banged up with an abdomen, but is questionable, and on track to play.

That loss to Washington began the slide that the Eagles have found themselves mired within ever since.

Call:
Washington                        31
Philadelphia                       23
FINAL
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New York Jets vs. San Francisco 49ers
Levi’s Stadium
Santa Clara, California
My Call: SF -2.5
Over/Under: Under 43.5

Analysis:
The Jets have quit and are going west. Even when the Jets had good teams, they do not travel well to the west coast.

Call:
NY Jets                                  10
San Francisco                     23
FINAL
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New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Raymond James Stadium
Tampa, Florida
My Call: TB -2.5
Over/Under: Under 51

Analysis:
The Saints aren’t a good road team at all. We have long known this. They looked bad at home against Detroit. Tampa is rolling, although they will be without Cecil Shorts for the rest of the season. Jameis Winston had developed a nice rapport with Shorts, but Freddie Martino has stepped in, while they have devised an increased role for Jacquizz Rodgers alongside Doug Martin. The Bucs defense has played admirably well over the second half of the season thus far; coinciding with a four-game winning streak. Kenny Vaccaro dropped his appeal and will miss the final four games of the regular season. The Saints are already bad enough on defense, and their secondary now has another hole.

If this game were in New Orleans — which they will be in two weeks — we might be more inclined to take New Orleans, but when Jameis Winston has “that look” going, you cannot bet against his team.

Call:
New Orleans                  16
Tampa Bay                     27
FINAL
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Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field
Green Bay, Wisconsin
AMERICA’S GAME OF THE WEEK
My Call: SEA -3
Over/Under: Over 45.5

Analysis:
Earl Thomas’ injury is big, no doubt, but it doesn’t make Seattle demonstrably beatable, as a result. In kind, they have gotten that much better on offense now that they are getting healthy on that side of the ball. Green Bay cannot stop Seattle’s offense, although it will be cold on Sunday. Seattle can get stops against Green Bay.

Watch out for the officials, though.

Call:
Seattle                             27
Green Bay                      20
FINAL
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Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, California
My Call: ATL -6
Over/Under: Over 45

Analysis:
The Rams do not have enough on offense.

Call:
Atlanta                    34
Los Angeles           17
FINAL
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Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Football Giants
Giants Stadium
East Rutherford, New Jersey
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
My Call: NYG +3.5
Over/Under: Over 47

Analysis:
Let’s address the spread, because this makes the Giants veritable touchdown underdogs at home. Keep that in mind as you process this match up.

The Giants left plenty of points on the board with unforced turnovers against Dallas in the Week 1 match up. Generally speaking, Dallas’ defense is merely suitable enough to hold up because their offense dominates the football in most games. The Giants shut down Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1, and while they should still relatively hold him in check in this game, Jason Pierre-Paul’s freak injury sustained on the atrocious playing surface in Pittsburgh puts the Giants’ run defense in the hands of Kerry Wynn and Owamagbe Odighizuwa at left end. Romeo Okwara is in line for an expanded role, and has shown to be quick off the ball and a decent pass rusher, when they moved Olivier Vernon to the left side. Vernon will likely be on the left side a good bit, as they plays the run very well, and to also get away from Tyron Smith, who enveloped him on just about every snap in Week 1. Doug Free is known to be a turnstile, and the Giants can exploit that side of Dallas’ offense.

Minnesota showed how to stifle Cole Beasley and Jason Witten, and while the Giants don’t QUITE have that ability (Minnesota’s linebackers are superior), the Giants have played well when they are swarming toward the ball, versus covering the seams, which has been the lone way teams have repeatedly exploited the Giants defense. Jason Witten cannot run like Ladarius Green (and, if 40 times are to be believed, no tight end can), but when Dallas needs a clutch third down conversion, they typically look to Witten and Beasley. Dez Bryant will be held in check by the combination of Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as usual, but Landon Collins and Andrew Adams are the keys to the Giants defense in coverage. Both have shown to be late to instinctively react to downfield plays in zone coverage. Collins is fantastic in the box and in man coverage, but he still has issues in zone, as he showed against Ladarius Green last week. The Giants might be looking to use some three safety alignments, or a bit more nickel/cover 1 looks at times, although Nat Berhe is out with concussion symptoms again. Eric Pinkins could actually play in this game, and the guy can really run.

Nevertheless, regardless of the accolades the Dallas offense gets and their overall record, this game will come down to what Giants offense shows up in this game. Giants offensive coordinator-turned-head coach Ben McAdoo has had the offense stuck in neutral for most of the season. It is almost as if his philosophy is to play as conservatively as possible and ride the defense, which has been top notch in meaningful metrics all season. But this is not an excuse for the atrocious output from this offense all season. Dallas’ defense is not equipped to slow the Giants offense when it is clicking, whereas the Giants can get stops against Dallas. If you believe the Giants will finally play up to their talent and ability, you take the Giants and the points. If you believe that Ben McAdoo just does not get it and the team will continue to flutter offensively, then you take Dallas straight up.

Call:
Dallas                         23
NY Giants                  26
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
Gillette Stadium
Foxborough, Massachusetts
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
My Call: BAL +7
Over/Under: Under 45

Analysis:
The Ravens have the Patriots’ number. Even when they haven’t beaten New England, they had self-inflicted wounds that cost them the games.

Baltimore’s defense is light years better than the Patriots’. New England has padded their defensive stats against the likes of the Jets, Bills, Dolphins, shorthanded Bengals, Rams, Browns and no one assails their soft schedule. They don’t have much of a pass rush at all, and they aren’t good in coverage the linebacker level. That places a lot of stress on the Patriots’ secondary. And the Ravens will send Mike Wallace and Steve Smith (along with Breshad Perriman) at that secondary, pushing them back, as the Patriots must honor the speed of Wallace and Perriman, allowing Dennis Pitta room to operate underneath. Will Joe Flacco take care of the football? That is a huge question.

New England will miss Rob Gronkowski more than some are willing to admit. People love to reflexively say “Oh Belichick and McDaniels will adjust, whatever, they’ll be their normal selves” but this is not true. If you watch Patriots games, they play games with the numbers in the opposing defense’s box. Teams that attempt to play coverage and have a light box in nickel and dime looks, or use a two-deep shell get a good dose of LeGarrette Blount. If they stack the box, Brady will raise up and quickly fire the ball out to Julian Edelman and James White or Dion Lewis. The only time Tom Brady even passes downfield is when he has a single high safety look, or off the Patriots’ bread and butter, which is a stretch play action bootleg where Brady makes a hard fake and hits someone downfield against what effectively becomes a single high look, as the strong safety (unless they are disciplined, as Baltimore is) bites on the fake.

That “someone” is almost always Rob Gronkowski. Do you really trust Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell? Especially with Jimmy Smith healthy and manning his normal right side? Tavon Young has played well on the left side, and Eric Weddle is huge in this game. Lardarius Webb will have some responsibilities on Edelman, but do not expect the Patriots to have a good time in moving the football in this game. You can expect that.

What you cannot expect is whether you will get the Joe Flacco vs. Miami or the Joe Flacco who couldn’t move the ball against a Jets defense that escorts everyone’s offense to the end zone with their embarrassing secondary? Given Flacco’s past against New England, we’ll be willing to bet that it will be somewhere in the middle, which very well may be enough.

Call:
Baltimore                      23
New England                20
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

2016 NFL Week 14 Powre Rankings


2016 NFL Week 14 Powre Rankings
M.D. Wright
12.6.2016

1. Oakland Raiders (10-2).
The Raiders blew a game at home against the Falcons, and lost a rain-soaked slugfest against Kansas City in which Derek Carr had his worst game of the season. Other than that, the Raiders haven’t been exposed like Dallas was in Minneapolis in Week 13.

2. Dallas Cowboys (11-1).
It’s just a matter of time before this team loses and goes one and done. They will face a defense that does not necessarily have to bring a safety into the box and leave single high safety looks with man coverage, which is what Dak Prescott has seen in the great majority of his pass attempts this season (other than Week 1 and 13, and the primetime game against the Eagles, before they ran out of gas late in that game).

3. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3).
The Chiefs can win anywhere in any weather. Both their offense and defense are portable. Only two or three other teams can say this.

4. Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1).
What you saw on Sunday Night Football is closer to what Seattle really is, rather than the anomaly that was on display in Tampa. Earl Thomas being out will change the way Seattle plays coverage hereafter, though. Particularly with the amount of Cover 1 that Seattle plays with Thomas.

5. New England Patriots (10-2).
The Giants played a supposedly “soft schedule”, while it is the same schedule Dallas has played, New England has played offensive juggernauts such as Cleveland, Buffalo, the Jets, the Dolphins, a Bengals team without Tyler Eifert, Pittsburgh without Ben Roethlisberger, and statistically, their defense is still barely average as a result of facing these teams.

Yet everyone automatically puts New England in the Super Bowl as if it is a given they will even get to the AFC Championship. Without Rob Gronkowski, things change for them offensively; particularly with no consistent downfield threat off the vintage Tom Brady stretch play action pass against rolled coverage.

6. Detroit Lions (8-4).
The Lions are in good shape, they finally played a game without having to come back and win late.

7. New York Football Giants (8-4).
Ben McAdoo is the primary problem with this team. Teams aren’t as capable of stifling his team’s offense as he has been all season, and no adjustments have been made. The Giants would be 3-9 without the efforts of their defense right now.

8. Denver Broncos (8-4).
Denver needed this win in the worst way, and it was not easy. If Blake Bortles were a competent NFL QB, the B-men may have had to sweat out back to back overtime games.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5).
Tampa is rolling right now, and another reminder: Jameis Winston is in 2013 Mode.

10. Atlanta Falcons (7-5).
The Falcons have some issues on both sides of the ball. Julio Jones reportedly has turf toe, and they are already without Adrian Clayborn and Desmond Trufant, two of their three best defensive players for the rest of the season.

11. Miami Dolphins (7-5).
Miami picked the wrong time to lay an egg: they have now lost a critical tiebreaker (if Baltimore does not win the AFC North) and now have another conference loss, which is an area where Denver will have the tiebreaker advantage should the teams somehow finish tied at the end of the regular season. A crushing and embarrassing defeat at the same time.

12. Baltimore Ravens (7-5).
The Ravens beat the Fins on their own by purely outclassing their opponent in the coaching and execution departments.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5).
Pittsburgh, however, did not. One of the most slanted officiating games this decade, and several knew it was coming with the dubious six-point line on the point spread, coupled with a Ravens loss in the time slot before the Steelers played. Sometimes we need to be reminded of what goes on behind the scenes with professional sports leagues.

14. Buffalo Bills (6-6).
Still have no idea why people thought the Bills could score enough points to beat Oakland.

15. Washington Redskins (6-5-1).
The Redskins can just about forget it, even if the Giants finish 1-3 to conclude the season.

16. Minnesota Vikings (6-6).
Alex Boone spews more gibberish quotes than he blocks defensive linemen. At least the other offensive linemen on Minnesota’s squad don’t talk, because none of them block.

17. Tennessee Titans (6-6).
The Titans can win the AFC South if they can just take care of the ball. This team has holes at cornerback, however, so the expectations are not lofty. Winning the division would be a nice springboard into 2017 at the very least.

18. Indianapolis Colts (6-6).
Andrew Luck and the Colts won a game they needed to win, even if the Jets laid down and quit on their coach.

19. Green Bay Packers (6-6).
False hope. They’re not usurping the Lions for the division.

20. Houston Texans (6-6).
Read Texans’ owner Bob McNair’s comments about Brock Osweiler without laughing.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1).
Too little, too late, Marv.

22. Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1).
That tie against Seattle may be the very reason the Cards do not make the playoffs, but they may also have a large hand in the Redskins missing the playoffs, as well, after securing the head to head tiebreaker on Sunday.

23. San Diego Chargers (5-7).
The Chargers played well enough to win for the most part, but Jameis Winston outplayed Philip Rivers.

24. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7).
Wentzylvania.

25. New Orleans Saints (5-7).
The Saints were getting false hope about a playoff berth or even the division, but those hopes were dashed by the Lions.

26. Los Angeles Rams (4-8).
Eric Dickerson won’t be back on the sidelines until Jeff Fisher is gone as head coach of the Rams. He’ll have to wait another year for that.

27. Carolina Panthers (4-8).
It’s amazing to watch Cam Newton when the Panthers are winning versus when they are losing.

28. Chicago Bears (3-9).
At least the Bears didn’t quit on John Fox. They just have no talent.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10).
Imagine of Blake Bortles belonged in the NFL?

30. New York Jets (3-9).
It is a shame to watch this team quit on Todd Bowles. Jets should have called Ryan Fitzpatrick’s bluff and let Bryce Petty play, since a) they had to know Fitzpatrick was not going to replicate 2015, and b) Petty couldn’t have been any worse.

31. San Francisco 49ers (1-11).
This was the year that the 49ers needed all those picks that Trent Baalke procured in the flurry of moves he made three years ago. A putrid record and a five-rounds deep draft. But all bets are off if they end up looking for another head coach, which COULD happen.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-12).
Insert lame “Browns lost their bye week, too” jokes.

2016 NFL Week 13 Bettor’s Guide (Audio Embedded)


2016 NFL Week 13 Bettor’s Guide (Audio Embedded)
M.D. Wright
12.2.2016

Week 13 Bettor’s Guide Audio

Last week was probably the best week of handicapping we have had in ages, and, if Seattle had defeated Tampa, we would have gone 16-0 on money lines for the first time in over 15 years. We had a couple of pushes on spreads, as well, which skewed the numbers a bit. However, as it is…

Last Week:
SU: 15-1
ATS: 10-4-2

Season:
SU: 118-57-2
ATS: 94-79-6


Week 13: Thursday Night Football: MIN +3 (Covered), DAL (Money Line Hit)

Denver Broncos vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
EverBank Field
Jacksonville, Florida
My Call: DEN -3.5
Over/Under: Under 39.5

Analysis:
The Jaguars will be without Allen Hurns and Chris Ivory, which further exacerbates matters for the Jags offense that struggles for entire halves to even move the ball at times. Malik Jackson and Julius Thomas get to host their former teammates again, and the B-men are desperate to maintain pace in the AFC Wild Card, as the Dolphins have won six straight to manage identical 7-4 records. Trevor Siemian was beaten up pretty soundly by Justin Houston and the Chiefs on Sunday night, and therefore did not practice all week and will not play. Paxton Lynch will get his second career start in this one. He looked good in relief of Siemian vs. Tampa, but not the following week. The Jags defense is but a mere speed bump. Expect Denver to do just enough to cover.

Call:
Denver                     20
Jacksonville            10
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Atlanta Falcons
Georgia Dome
Atlanta, Georgia
My Call: KC +5
Over/Under: Under 49

Analysis:
Everyone knows the Chiefs’ M.O. by now: they are never out of any game, they like to grind and wear down the opposing offenses, and get important plays at critical junctures. We know the Falcons can score, although that should be stifled a bit in this game. Justin Houston was banged up at some point during the week in preparation for this game, but is expected to play, and it appears that Dee Ford will return to the lineup after tweaking his hamstring a couple of weeks ago. Expect the Chiefs pass rush to give Matt Ryan fits for much of the game, similar to the Falcons’ game in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. The question is, can the Chiefs do enough against the paltry Falcons defense? We’ll see. May be another “whoever has the ball last wins” scenario. Chiefs covering seems like somewhat of a lock, though.

Call:
Kansas City                      24
Atlanta                              23
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Houston Texans vs. Green Bay Packers
Lambeau Field
Green Bay, Wisconsin
My Call: HOU +6.5
Over/Under: Under 44.5

Analysis:
Green Bay is in a must-win situation every week for the rest of the way, here. Expect them to play with that level of urgency on both sides of the football. The offense may be able to muster such in large part due to the scheme and design of their offensive gameplan, but the defense cannot take much away from facing a rookie quarterback (Carson Wentz) who has been figured out, and arguably the league’s worst set of receivers in Philadelphia. The Packers were giving up nearly 40 points per game in the three games preceding the Eagles match up. The Texans are not a great offense by any means, but they do have Lamar Miller, DeAndre Hopkins, Braxton Miller and Will Fuller with which to exploit the Packers defense. They also have CJ Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin at tight end who both play roles in the passing attack. Jaelen Strong will miss this, his fourth straight game, due to an ankle injury.

Green Bay’s secondary will be tested more than it was on Monday night. It is difficult to take the Texans straight up, but we do believe they will cover.

Call:
Houston                        17
Green Bay                    20
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Paul Brown Stadium
Cincinnati, Ohio
My Call: CIN -1.5
Over/Under: Under 41.5

Analysis:
This is bad football on tap. Just close your eyes and take a pick or avoid it altogether. Not worthy of analysis.

Call:
Philadelphia                     13
Cincinnati                         16
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints
Mercedes-Benz Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana
My Call: DET +6
Over/Under: Over 53

Analysis:
The Saints are at home, so you know that this means a higher scoring game. The Lions can stop the Saints at times, but on what will likely be 11 or 12 possessions for each team, do you think the Lions can score on 7 or 8 of those possessions, as the Saints likely will? That is tough.

Call:
Detroit                       27
New Orleans             31
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

San Francisco 49ers vs. Chicago Bears
Soldier Field
Chicago, Illinois
My Call: SF -1
Over/Under: Under 43.5

Analysis:
NEXT!

Call:
San Francisco                   24
Chicago                              13
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Los Angeles Rams vs. New England Patriots
Gillette Stadium
Foxborough, Massachusetts
My Call: LA +13.5
Over/Under: Under 44

Analysis:
People are understating how important Gronkowski’s absence is to the Patriots offense. He was their only deep threat. Tom Brady loves to get the run game going with LeGarrette Blount, dump it off a couple of times to James White in the flat, or underneath to Julian Edelman, then come back to the stretch play action, with a pass downfield against what is often single high safety coverage. It is almost literally the only time Brady passes the ball more than 15 yards downfield. That is now gone. Teams can keep their safeties back a bit more often, and expect the Patriots to run the ball more, and utilize Edelman underneath more frequently. Malcolm Mitchell will have to show his worth down the stretch here. The Rams will have opportunities to make plays against a pedestrian defense (even if there are people who would lead you to believe the Patriots defense is actually good), but the rookie quarterback Jared Goff will have to make throws in the 4th quarter that he may not be able to make.

Plus the officiating factor.

Call:
Los Angeles                  16
New England               24
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens
M&T Bank Stadium
Baltimore, Maryland
My Call: MIA +3.5
Over/Under: Under 40.5

Analysis:
These two teams mirror each other in terms of style of play. The Fins are better at their style offensively, while the Ravens are better at theirs defensively. This isn’t necessarily a “something has to give” scenario, but if Jimmy Smith misses another game, the Ravens are going to have problems with Jarvis Landry, even if Davante Parker cannot go. The Ravens have serious issues with getting into the end zone. Justin Tucker had to nail four field goals last week vs. Cincinnati, and this week can be another one of those scenarios.

Call:
Miami                          20
Baltimore                    15
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Buffalo Bills vs. Oakland Raiders
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
Oakland, California
My Call: OAK -3
Over/Under: Over 48.5

Analysis:
Do not understand the pundits picking Buffalo here. No Robert Woods. No Percy Harvin. A gimpy Sammy Watkins. Yes, the Bills have the best rushing attack in the NFL, but it is a statistical anomaly if the perception is that the Raiders cannot slow the Bills’ ground game.

The thing is, the Bills play a ton of man coverage and Ronald Darby has been in and out of the lineup and shaky at times, and Stephon Gilmore has gotten burned quite a bit this season in addition to Darby’s play. Gilmore has gone so far as to play the preemptive Phil Jackson game with the officials regarding Michael Crabtree’s propensity for pushing off defensive backs — something everyone knows he does all game every game, the officials are not going to call it unless it is egregious — as if that’s going to help him with Rex Ryan’s proclivity for playing so much press man coverage. These guys have to be perfect on the outside, and Crabtree and Amari Cooper are too good at route running to expect that to hold up all game.

Oh by the way, the Raiders are 10th in the league in rushing, so it isn’t as if they are the Vikings or Giants in this regard.

Call:
Buffalo                       23
Oakland                     27
FINAL


Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. San Diego Chargers
Qualcomm Stadium
San Diego, California
My Call: TB +3.5
Over/Under: Over 47.5

Analysis:
The Bolts have even more injuries coming into this game, which may be a bit too much to overcome. However, Tyrell Williams is expected to be one of those injury-plagued players who is expected to play on Sunday.

Jameis Winston is in 2013 mode.

You do not bet against 2013 Jameis Winston.

Call:
Tampa Bay                       26
San Diego                         23
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Washington Redskins vs. Arizona Cardinals
University of Phoenix Stadium
Glendale, Arizona
My Call: ARZ -1
Over/Under: Under 48

Analysis:
The Cards play stiffer defense at home. Tyrann Mathieu will be a gametime decision, but DJ Swearinger has not been that much of a drop off at free safety when Mathieu has been out; particularly since Mathieu hasn’t been 100% all season.

Washington will be without Jordan Reed, which changes the way the Skins operate offensively. He is a chain mover and big play guy. Other than Desean Jackson, that aspect goes away, except when teams play off Jamison Crowder in the slot. The Cards are one of the few teams that match up well with what Washington does, however.

Call:
Washington                       22
Arizona                               24
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

New York Football Giants vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Heinz Field
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
AMERICA’S GAME OF THE WEEK
My Call: NYG +6
Over/Under: Over 48.5

Analysis:
This line does not make much sense. Yes, the Steelers are generally better both offensively and defensively at home than they have been away, but their defense hasn’t been good at all in any venue. The offense is more efficient at home, but they are facing the best defense they have faced all season other than Baltimore’s, and we saw what happened there. The Giants have likely withheld certain offensive wrinkles in the past couple of weeks because they didn’t need to do as much to defeat the Bears and Browns, avoiding putting more things on tape with this game and three division games remaining in the four games thereafter.

With the way the Giants deploy their secondary and linebackers, Antonio Brown isn’t the main concern. Le’Veon Bell will be held relatively in check on the ground, but he can get loose in the short passing game. The wild card for the Steelers against the Giants defense is Ladarius Green, the speedy tight end.

However, the Steelers have little to no pass rush, and can be exploited over the middle of the field and deep by Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard. This could be a high scoring game, but not really a shootout, because the Giants defense is good enough to get off the field more frequently than the Steelers.

Consider officiating in a game like this before wagering, you don’t want to kick a hole in the wall when the game is going like you expected and a phantom call or a blatant no-call changes everything as it did during Thursday Night Football in Week 13.

Call:
NY Giants                          29
Pittsburgh                         24
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Carolina Panthers vs. Seattle Seahawks
CenturyLink Field
Seattle, Washington
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
My Call: SEA -7
Over/Under: Under 44

Analysis:
Too much is being made of Richard Sherman’s statement, which was made purely in jest, regarding the NFC Divisional Playoff and Cam Newton tossing a “12th Man” banner at Bank of America Stadium. That has no bearing on this game. Besides, Cam Newton was still in Oakland watching Golden State take on Houston on Thursday night, it cannot serve as any more motivation for the Panthers.

Luke Kuechly did not practice all week and therefore will not play in this game. The Panthers miss him dearly in coverage. Carolina may be able to slow the Seahawks rushing attack, but they are going to get exploited in pass coverage, and the Panthers offense simply won’t be able to score enough to win this game; Seattle will have both Earl Thomas and Deshawn Shead back for this game, as well.

Call:
Carolina                              16
Seattle                                26
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

Indianapolis Colts vs. New York Jets
Giants Stadium
East Rutherford, New Jersey
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
My Call: IND -1.5
Over/Under: Under 49

Analysis:
Why.

WHY?!?!

Call:
Indianapolis                    24
NY Jets                               17
FINAL
_________________________________________________________________

BYE: Cleveland (0-12), Tennessee (6-6).