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Week 12 NFL Game Picks 2019

Last week: 12-2

Overall: 92-69-1


IND (6-4) @ HOU (6-4) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Prime

Including a decisive playoff victory back in January, the Colts have basically owned the Texans over the past three years, going 5-1 over that span and winning all three meetings in Houston. For the postseason win in particular, the standout play of cornerback Pierre Desir—who held DeAndre Hopkins to 37 scoreless yards—was vital for Indianapolis, and the defense will need to be leaned on again with Marlon Mack (hand) out and T.Y. Hilton (calf) questionable. Even at less than 100%, Hilton playing would be a huge boost for an offense that needs all the help it can get based on Deshaun Watson’s performances in primetime (16:2 touchdown-interception ratio), especially since T.Y. has absolutely roasted Houston with an 82/1,519/10 line in 15 career matchups. The scary part for the Texans is that their current cornerback group is arguably the weakest they’ve had, and Jacoby Brissett had no problem tearing the secondary apart last month with 326 yards and four touchdowns. Assuming Hilton plays, I’m taking the Colts on the road; if not, the pick will change to Houston.

Winner: Indianapolis Colts


DEN (3-7) @ BUF (7-3) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

Buffalo’s offense had their best showing of the season in last week’s 37-20 victory over the Dolphins, and I expect the strong play will continue back at home with the Broncos coming to town. Josh Allen isn’t getting much recognition around the league, but over the past five games, the second-year quarterback is on a season-long pace of nearly 4,000 total yards and 39 total touchdowns (with zero interceptions), and he’s doing it throwing to three sub-six-footers at receiver and rookies starting at both tight end and running back. Could you imagine the hype around Allen right now if he was viewed favorably by the media as a prospect entering the league? This week, Denver will undoubtedly be a challenge for the Bills in a possible slugfest, but Vic Fangio’s defense struggled with the no huddle in last week’s loss to Minnesota, so Buffalo should play fast again after it worked for them in Week 11. Brandon Allen has played admirably for the Broncos in back-to-back starts, but a trip to New Era Field against Sean McDermott’s stingy defense will be his most difficult test yet.

Winner: Buffalo Bills


NYG (2-8) @ CHI (4-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

New York wasn’t in playoff contention at the time, but last December’s meeting between the Giants and Bears ended up being one of the most exciting games of the year, as it was an overtime thriller that featured a touchdown run by Akiem Hicks, a touchdown pass from Odell Beckham Jr., and a game-tying connection from Tarik Cohen to Anthony Miller on a trick play as time expired at the end of regulation. Unfortunately for Chicago, the offensive creativity has evaporated for them in 2019, and they’re struggling to even get the simple things right with 20 or fewer points in each of the past four games (1-3 record). That said, I don’t think Mitchell Trubisky is the biggest problem for the team, as coaching has undoubtedly played a major role in his decline this season, and a 2:1 pass-run ratio isn’t a winning formula—especially when you have a defense like the Bears have. Like I’ve stated again and again, when Trubisky does throw, Allen Robinson needs to be featured; that was difficult last week because he was shadowed by Jalen Ramsey on the outside and double teamed in the slot, but New York doesn’t have the personnel to contain him, so hopefully Matt Nagy can draw up a game plan that keeps their playoff hopes alive. For the Giants, getting Saquon Barkley 25+ touches like they did in last season’s overtime victory is key, but this is a spot where Khalil Mack should take over.

Winner: Chicago Bears


PIT (5-5) @ CIN (0-10) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

It’s a shame that in-game injuries to JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion, knee), James Conner (shoulder), and Diontae Johnson (concussion) limited Pittsburgh’s offensive capabilities in last Thursday night’s loss to the Browns, as you could see big plays were close to breaking when they were all in the game, and the result might have been different if they were on the field for 60 minutes. Now, the Steelers hit the road at less than full strength on offense, but the defense should be suffocating for Bengals rookie Ryan Finley in his third career start (currently completing 47.5% of his passes for 141.0 yards per game and a 1:2 touchdown-interception ratio). To pull off an upset for their first win of the season, Cincinnati needs to take the pressure off Finley by feeding Joe Mixon again; and on the other side of the ball, mixing up coverages to confuse Mason Rudolph may lead to takeaways and short fields for an offense that needs them. Perhaps it was nothing, but I was disappointed to see a lack of enthusiasm by Bengals defenders last week after a late stop, as head coach Zac Taylor was basically ignored (and seemed to awkwardly realize it while happening) as he tried firing them up coming off the field.

Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


MIA (2-8) @ CLE (4-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

The only people that seem to be defending Myles Garrett for his dangerous actions in last week’s “win” are Browns fans with blinders on or apparent race-baiters like ESPN’s Josina Anderson, but anyone without bias/agenda seems to be in agreement that it was an appalling—and potentially deadly—display that there is no excuse for. To claim it was “out of character” for Garrett (a guy that was ejected from a game earlier this year and is regarded as one of the dirtiest players in the league regardless of whatever soft-spoken façade he puts on off the field) is laughable, and the fact that zero Cleveland players defended their teammate after the game says all you need to know about the situation. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry both deserve credit for their comments, but Baker Mayfield in particular stepped up as a leader immediately after the game by seeming sincerely embarrassed by what happened, which could help change the perception of the former No. 1 overall pick. And just as I’m writing this, ESPN is reporting Garrett claimed in his appeal that Mason Rudolph called him a racial slur (we aren’t even linking to the story because there is no reason to believe it’s true), but it seems highly unlikely that another player and/or microphone wouldn’t have picked up on that. If Garrett is lying, he should lose all respect around the league, especially since Rudolph declined to press charges by calling it an NFL matter.

Winner: Cleveland Browns


TB (3-7) @ ATL (3-7) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

The Falcons probably dug themselves into an insurmountable hole in the NFC with a 1-7 start, but I’d be very interested in the longshot odds you could get for a bet on them making the playoffs and San Francisco—who has an NFC-best 9-1 record—not making it considering their rest-of-season schedule (v GB, @ BAL, @ NO, v ATL, v LAR, @ SEA). Of course, the only reason such a scenario is even being thought about is that Atlanta has looked like a different team coming off the bye with a couple of overwhelming road victories in the NFC South, and they now return home for three home games in a row, including a potential shootout this week against Tampa Bay. Jameis Winston has put up big numbers against the Falcons in recent years, but the Bucs have lost five straight matchups, and throwing for 300+ yards every week doesn’t matter if they are complemented by multiple turnovers. I know they fell behind to New Orleans last week, but Bruce Arians’ offense will never reach its potential if Winston throws 50 times with a franchise-low eight rushing attempts. Matt Ryan gives the Falcons a clear edge at quarterback and a clear edge on Sunday.

Winner: Atlanta Falcons


CAR (5-5) @ NO (8-2) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

Three losses in four weeks since the bye has the pressure back on Ron Rivera following a 4-2 start, and based on what happened in 2018, it might be playoffs-or-bust in the eyes of team owner David Tapper. For his part, Christian McCaffrey told the coaches he wanted to practice on Wednesday (which has been a rest day for him considering his gameday workload) to send a message, and that’s a great example in an age where players—in all sports—want to rest for “load management.” The team’s offensive engine will be facing off with a determined New Orleans defense this weekend, as Sean Payton has surely reminded his guys what happened in Week 17 last season when Carolina handled them, 33-14, despite playing time by the starters other than Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara, so more may fall on Kyle Allen’s shoulders. The Panthers are probably feeling hot and cold about their current starting quarterback, but bumpy play is to be expected form a young signal-caller, and people shouldn’t be go quick to forget that he nearly upset Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field just two weeks ago. It will probably take shutdown play by James Bradberry against Michael Thomas to give Carolina a chance, but even so, outdueling Drew Brees at the Superdome is easier said than done.

Winner: New Orleans Saints


SEA (8-2) @ PHI (5-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

Both meetings have come in Seattle, but the Eagles have lost 26-15 and 24-10 in two games versus the Seahawks since Doug Pederson was hired, and a case can be made for this being the best team Pete Carroll has had in recent years. The main difference for Seattle in this matchup—and something Pederson alluded to in his weekly press conference—is that Russell Wilson is healthier, which allows him to make more plays outside the pocket with Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, and newcomer Josh Gordon all being lethal downfield threats. Philadelphia has been able to limit top options in the passing game at times (so, Lockett this week), but a worst-case scenario for them (or more accurately, the fans) would be Gordon going off after the team didn’t even put in a claim for the former Patriot when he was on waivers. “Flash” was a trusted target for Wilson in their huge win over San Francisco, and the two should only get better with more reps, so the Eagles could have trouble slowing the Seahawks down if they can’t win up front. On the other side of the ball, Carson Wentz probably won’t have Lane Johnson (concussion) protecting him at right tackle, and I would be really worried about the Seahawks putting Jadeveon Clowney up against rookie Andre Dillard in a position he’s never played before. Jordan Howard (stinger) returning would give Philly the hammer they need to get over .500, but either way, it’ll be tough to beat Carroll and Wilson off the bye.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks


DET (3-6-1) @ WAS (1-9) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

“Sell the team!” chants directed towards team owner Daniel Snyder during last week’s loss to the Jets shows how bad of a spot the Redskins are in as a franchise, and there aren’t very many encouraging signs about things quickly turning around in 2020 based on all the pieces currently in place. I feel bad for Dwayne Haskins, but this awkward moment on the sideline with his offensive lineman basically being unresponsive seems to signal a lack of respect for him, and—coming from someone that compared Haskins to Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon in the pre-draft process—the rookie may have a warped, self-centered sense of leadership holding him back. Looking at things optimistically, the Ohio State product is said to have great football intelligence and work ethic on the board, so perhaps he can get things going this week against the Lions, who have been shredded through the air. Jeff Driskel is expected to draw another start in place of Matthew Stafford (back), and the supporting cast should lead to another impressive showing and his second career win.

Winner: Detroit Lions


OAK (6-4) @ NYJ (3-7) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

Jon Gruden should be and likely is content with Derek Carr’s play for the playoff-hopeful Raiders, but he’s definitely left some production on the field, and last week’s 17-10 win over the Bengals could have been a blowout if he pulled the trigger on some downfield throws that were available. Oakland can beat most teams (including the Jets this week) by playing conservative, mistake-free football, but if they want to do more than just make the postseason as a wild card team, the passing attack needs to be opened up. A trip to New York presents the perfect opportunity for Carr—who has plenty of arm talent and can make every throw—to go out and rip it against a burnable secondary, so the offensive performance on Sunday will be telling for the Raiders’ chances in Week 13 versus the Chiefs (and beyond). Defensively, Oakland has steadily improved in large part due to the young players stepping up, and they need to avoid allowing cutback runs to Le’Veon Bell this weekend. If they jump out to an early lead, the Silver and Black should be able to get after Sam Darnold to set up a first-place showdown in the AFC West.

Winner: Oakland Raiders


JAX (4-6) @ TEN (5-5) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS

Some are calling Thursday Night Football a de facto AFC South championship game, but all four teams are still very much alive, and the winner of Jaguars-Titans should be in great position to make a move. For Jacksonville, they need to get tougher up front, as since allowing just 36 yards on 26 carries against the Bengals and Jets, the defense has been run on for 204.5 yards per game in back-to-back division losses. In the past, Tennessee has been able to impose their will in the trenches—including the unforgettable 238-yard, four-touchdown performance by Derrick Henry last season—but the first matchup back in Week 3 of this season saw Marcus Mariota get sacked nine times, so it will be important for both teams (the Titans so they can run the ball and the Jags so they can tee off on Ryan Tannehill) to not fall behind early. I could see the outcome being anything from a blowout for Jacksonville to a blowout for Tennessee, but I have more trust in Nick Foles to rebound with a victory than I do Tannehill to keep up his strong play.

Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars


DAL (6-4) @ NE (9-1) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX

Tom Brady joked this week that he’s hated the Cowboys since birth (as a 49ers fan), and he’s played like it throughout his career with a 4-0 record, 291.0 passing yards per game, and a two-touchdown average margin of victory. However, the current New England offense—which could be without Mohamed Sanu (ankle) and Phillip Dorsett (concussion)—isn’t the powerhouse we’ve seen in the past, so Sunday may be more of a defensive battle where Sony Michel and the running game finally gets rolling before December games begin in Week 13. The Patriots having 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn (toe) in the lineup will help the offense as a whole, but this weekend will mostly be about the defense trying to contain Dak Prescott and the NFL-leading Dallas passing attack. He’s not getting the buzz of Lamar Jackson or Russell Wilson, but Prescott has been as good as any quarterback in the league, and Sunday could be a defining game for the Cowboys’ season as they try to snap their 0-3 record against teams above .500 by beating the defending Super Bowl champions. With the Pats having the option of either doubling Amari Cooper and putting Stephon Gilmore on Michael Gallup or vice versa, though, I like defense to win the day for Bill Belichick and Brady at home.

Winner: New England Patriots


GB (8-2) @ SF (9-1) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC

Texans-Ravens didn’t live up to the hype last week as the best game on the slate, but a Sunday Night Football matchup for first place in the NFC shouldn’t disappoint football fans in Week 12. Last season, Green Bay was able to defeat San Francisco, 33-30, on a last-second field goal by Mason Crosby, and Aaron Rodgers played sensational with 425 yards and two touchdowns, including ten connections for 132 yards (and both scores) to Davante Adams. The 49ers have obviously played stout defense all year, but Sunday night seems like a spot where Adams—still looking for his first touchdown of the year—can expose Richard Sherman after San Francisco’s top corner struggled with three pass interference penalties called on him last week, as confidence could be lacking a bit for the former Legion of Boom member. On defense, it sounds like the Packers may be facing Jimmy Garoppolo’s full assortment of weapons with George Kittle (knee, ankle) and Matt Breida (ankle) hopefully returning, which could mean another high-scoring affair in primetime. If that’s the case, Rodgers would love nothing more than to have the ball in his hands at the end of the game against the team that passed on him back in the 2005 NFL Draft.

Winner: Green Bay Packers


BAL (8-2) @ LAR (6-4) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN

The players will need to execute, but I have a feeling Los Angeles may have a game plan to contain Lamar Jackson on Monday night, and I’m very interested to see the matchup between Greg Roman’s offense and Wade Phillips’ defense. The biggest receiving threat for Baltimore is tight end Mark Andrews, so he may face consistent double coverage similar to what we saw on Allen Robinson when he lined up inside last Sunday night for Chicago; besides Andrews, the Ravens’ top weapon has been Marquise Brown, and he will see plenty of Jalen Ramsey on the perimeter—potentially eliminating both of Jackson’s top options and forcing him to move to his secondary options. While a lack of success through the air hasn’t stopped Jackson in the past (he beat Seattle and New England with 153.0 passing yards per game and one touchdown), the Rams have shown they can contain mobile passers in recent years. Most notably, Russell Wilson has cleared 40 rushing yards just once in the past ten meetings (4-6 record over that span). Offensively, changes on the line paid immediate dividends for Sean McVay in Week 11, and we should again see Todd Gurley be featured on the ground, but potentially with more play-action shots if Robert Woods (personal) and Brandin Cooks (concussion) both play. Jared Goff needs to avoid mistakes against former teammate Marcus Peters and an opportunistic secondary, but I actually like the Rams as home underdogs.

Winner: Los Angeles Rams


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