A wise man once said “two out of three ain’t bad.”
Ok, it was definitely Meatloaf who said it, but the sentiment totally still works.
On Thanksgiving (hopefully yours was lovely) we were treated to three football games, two of which were very good. One was very bad.
Sure, the Colts and the Steelers ruined our turkey day trifecta, but, thankfully we still had some great Sunday football games to get the charred taste of the final Thanksgiving Day game out of our mouths.
Let’s look back at last week’s results.
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 9-6 (Season Record – 85-88-4)
Straight Up – 9-6 (Season Record – 98-76-2)
Locks of the Week – 4-3 (Season Record – 36-29-1)
Again, we’re trending in a positive direction and the .500 mark against the spread is in sight. Let’s get it.
As always, here’s how we’ll break all of the games down.
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or Tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
All spreads courtesy of CBS Sports
(10-1) Dallas Cowboys @ (6-5) Minnesota Vikings (+3.5) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Vikings
Level Of Confidence – Feeling pretty… pretty good
As hard as it is to bet against the Cowboys the way they’re rolling right now, I think it’s a must on Thursday night.
First of all, the home dog on Thursday night is always a good play, and in this case you have a desperate home dog with a dominant defense that has a history of keeping games close.
On top of that, if you’re looking for one trouble spot for the Cowboys in 2016 it’s in the QB pressures/sacks department. One of the downfalls of the Vikings since their 5-0 start has been the relentless pressure teams have been able to put on Sam Bradford, which the Cowboys may well be able to do with some blitz packages throughout the game. But, the Cowboys are tied for 25th in the league with just 20 sacks on the year, so Bradford may have more time to dissect the Cowboys’ secondary — especially if they can find some semblance of a run game with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata.
I like the Vikings to spring the upset and keep their playoff hopes alive while subsequently keeping the NFC East playoff race somewhat intriguing as we head down the home stretch of the 2016 regular season.
No Way We Can Lose — Locks Of The Week
(4-7) Los Angeles Rams @ (9-2) New England Patriots (-13) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Patriots
Sure, things change from week to week in the NFL. A team that wasn’t competitive a week prior against an inferior foe, could, in theory, come out the next week and give a superior one a run for its money.
We’ve seen it many, many times before.
You will not see it this week.
The Rams’ defense was absolutely abused by the Saints’ offense and I can’t see any way the Patriots don’t grab copy Sean Payton’s playbook from that game to a ‘T’ in order to easily dispatch St. Louis.
This should be a laugher.
(5-6) Philadelphia Eagles @ (3-7-1-) Cincinnati Bengals (+1) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Eagles
It didn’t look like it on Monday night, but the Eagles actually do have a good defense. They’ve been a good unit for most of the year and one bad outing — albeit, at the worst possible time — against one of the best to ever do it in Aaron Rodgers and a desperate Packers team, doesn’t change that.
I’m expecting a big bounce-back performance from Philly on the defensive side of the ball and think that the Eagles can find some success running the ball against the Bengals, who rank 28th in yards allowed on the ground this year. That should help take some pressure off of Carson Wentz and allow him to get back on track.
Eagles by a touchdown.
(6-4-1) Washington Redskins @ (4-6-1) Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Redskins
It’s been a maddening season for the Arizona Cardinals and head coach Bruce Arians, who came into the year as NFC Super Bowl favorites and now are on the cusp of falling three games under .500 with a loss to the Redskins.
Unfortunately for the Cards, I think that’s exactly what happens this week.
First of all, the -2.5 line feels more like a legacy line than anything else; one that’s based more on who the Cardinals should be rather than who they are.
The Redskins are a good team and I don’t think you can say the same about the Cardinals in 2016.
(4-7) Carolina Panthers @ (7-3-1-) Seattle Seahawks (-7) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Seahawks
Just when you think the Panthers have finally found their footing, they go and pull something like they did in Oakland last weekend.
Yeah, Cam Newton getting a TD against anybody is a tempting play, but the Seahawks are going to be out for blood after a humiliating road defeat to the Tampa Bay Bucs last week.
The Panthers’ struggles continue and the Seahawks take care of business at home.
(5-6) Indianapolis Colts @ (3-8) New York Jets (+1.5) – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Jets
I can’t believe I’m picking the Jets.
I. Can’t. Believe. I’m. Picking. The. Jets.
Andrew Luck or not, the Colts are bad. The Jets are bad too, but I think they’ll win here for two reasons:
1. God forbid they attempt to get a good draft pick in a lost season.
2. To validate Todd Bowles’ decision to start Ryan Fitzpatrick so we never get to see whether Bryce Petty can actually play quarterback or not.
Reasons they might actually lose:
1. Because I picked them.
LOCK IT IN! (ducks).
Feeling Pretty… Pretty Good
(7-4) Denver Broncos @ (2-9) Jacksonville Jaguars (+5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Jaguars
Straight Up – Broncos
I said it last week (and I was right) the Jaguars don’t know how to win games yet, but they sure know how to keep them close.
I don’t exactly have a preponderance of evidence at my disposal to back this claim up, but this feels like a game that’s going to be decided in the last minute one way or the other.
I feel like I’ve been pretty good to you guys in terms of providing at least some form of logic or reasoning behind my picks in 2016, but I’m going with my gut here (which is still protruding from Thanksgiving a week ago, if you must know).
Broncos pull it out, but Jags keep it close.
(1-10) San Francisco 49ers @ (2-9) Chicago Bears (-2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up –
Nothing to see here. Please, disperse. I repeat, nothing to see here.
Matt Barkley showed some poise and promise that I don’t think many expected to see against a tough Titans team, so maybe he’s worth seeing against a decent 49ers pass defense, but that’s about it.
Ok, if you’re twisting my arm for another 100 words, here you go: both coaches have actually done admirable jobs with their respective teams, believe it or not. John Fox and Chip Kelly have both gotten their clubs to play hard week in and week out despite vastly inadequate rosters by most NFL standards and deserve praise for it.
Otherwise, this is a battle for the basement.
I think the Bears get the job done at home and Barkley notches his first career victory as a starter.
(6-5) Houston Texans @ (5-6) Green Bay Packers (-4.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Packers
Brock Osweiler said all of the right things after his abysmal, three interception performance last Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been largely unable to do all of the right things on the field when it counts in 2016.
I’ve made a living picking against the Packers the last few weeks and I still think they’re a middle of the road team this year, but I think they get the win here.
Osweiler and the Texans’ offense has been awful and there’s no reason to believe they can come into Lambeau Field and take advantage of a Packers defense that’s ripe for the picking.
I think Rodgers finds a way to put up some points against the Texans’ defense and Green Bay gets back to .500 with a big win over the Texans.
(6-5) Buffalo Bills @ (9-2) Oakland Raiders (-3) – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Bills
My theory last week stands: I still think the Raiders — as good of a team as they might very well be — have gotten away with wins more often than they should have the last few weeks.
Eventually, it’s going to cost them, and I think it’ll happen this week.
While the Cowboys rake in all of the accolades for their stellar offensive line and running game, it’s actually the Bills who have the best rushing attack in the league. Sure, they only lead the Cowboys in yards per game on the ground by .1 — 157.4 to Dallas’ 157.3, but they do it on far fewer rushing attempts and at a much higher clip per carry (5.3 yards per carry compared to 4.8 yards per carry).
They also lead the league in rushing TDs with 20 and all of that bodes extremely well when facing off against a team that has one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL.
The Bills, unfathomably, haven’t won in Oakland since 1966, but that changes this weekend.
(8-3) New York Giants @ (6-5) Pittsburgh Steelers (-6) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Steelers
When the Rooneys and the Maras get together it’s always a good time. Same with the creme de la creme of the ’04 draft class in Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger (honorable mention: Philip Rivers, of course).
The Giants hold a 44-29-3 edge over the Steelers in the lifetime series between these two great NFL franchises, but the Steelers are 2-1 against the Giants with Roethlisberger and Manning at the helm.
However, the Giants’ last win over the Steelers did come in the unfriendly confines of Heinz Field back in 2008.
So, what does that all mean here and now in Week 13 of 2016?
Nothing, probably. But hey, it’s interesting stuff.
Anyway, I think the Giants struggle this time around in Pittsburgh. Big Blue has gotten away with some mediocre play over the course of their six-game win streak and every team they’ve beaten in that stretch (aside from the 6-5 Ravens) currently has a losing record.
Steelers win by a TD-plus.
Heads or Tails
(7-4) Miami Dolphins @ (6-5) Baltimore Ravens (-3.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Dolphins
Straight Up – Ravens
The Dolphins struggle to stop the run and rank 30th in yards allowed in 2016.
The Ravens struggle to run the ball and are 29th in the league in total yards on the ground this year.
The Ravens’ aerial attack is slightly better, but the Dolphins are a top 10 defense against the pass.
The Ravens’ defense, meanwhile, is one of the best all around units in the game this year.
So in summation, if you’re a fan of hard-nosed, low-scoring, “ugly” football games, this might just be the one for you.
As a result, I’m taking the points and I’m taking the home team to pull out what is a crucial game for both teams and the AFC Wild Card picture as a whole.
(8-3) Kansas City Chiefs @ (7-4) Atlanta Falcons (-3.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Falcons
This game should be fascinating to watch on so many levels. Julio Jones vs. Marcus Peters, the Chiefs “death by 1,000 cuts” offense vs. the Falcons “death by atomic bomb” style of attack.
The Falcons’ suspect defense, especially without Desmond Trufant for the rest of the year, vs. Tyreek Hill and maybe Jeremy Maclin.
Wow this one’s hard to pick.
I’m going out on a limb and taking the home team in spite of the spread, but this one should be a blast to watch and can really go either way.
(7-4) Detroit Lions @ (5-6) New Orleans Saints (-5.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Lions
Aside from a loss to the Giants back in Week 2, the Saints have allowed at least 20 points in every game this season. Sure, they haven’t allowed more than 30 points in a game since Week 6 against the Panthers, but don’t get too excited.
Since then, they’ve played the Chiefs, Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos, Panthers and Rams — not exactly NFL powerhouses from an offensive standpoint.
Neither are the Lions, but I like Detroit and Matt Stafford to keep this one close. I’m expecting a 30-plus point effort from both offenses and a dramatic finish from what should be one of the best games of the week.
(6-5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ (5-6) San Diego Chargers (-4) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Chargers
Yet another toss up in Week 13. The Bucs and Chargers feel like such similar teams in many ways. Both, in different ways, seem like they’re overachieving
This one comes down to two game-changing players on either side of the ball and how the other team fares in stopping them.
If the Bucs stop Melvin Gordon, they have a great chance at a victory.
If the Chargers stop Mike Evans, they’ll win.
I’m giving the edge to the Chargers
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.