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*Team listed in BOLD is my pick to win the game
Arizona (@ San Francisco) – With whispers that first year head coach Jim Tomsula could be let go at the end of the season, the 49ers didn’t do anything in Week 11 against the Seahawks to help save his job. The offense had to settle for field goals in the red zone in the 3rd quarter, the defense couldn’t tackle and allowed Thomas Rawls to run for 209 yards, and to make matters worse, San Francisco lost Glenn Dorsey for the year with a torn ACL. Arizona is coming off a strong win against a tough Bengals team. They trailed 14-7 at the half but came out and scored 3 touchdowns in the 3rd quarter to take the lead. Although they allowed the Bengals to tie the game in the 4th quarter, what matters most is that the Cardinals came away with the victory on a game-winning field goal which put them into sole possession of the 2nd seed in the NFC. These two teams played against one another in Week 3 and Arizona crushed San Francisco 47-7. In that game, Arizona took advantage of Colin Kaepernick’s 4 interceptions and took an early 28-0 lead and never looked back. Chris Johnson had his breakout game, rushing for 110 yards and scored two touchdowns while Carson Palmer threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns as well. I expect Blaine Gabbert to have a better game than Kaepernick’s 9-19, 67 yard performance, but the 49ers will have a tough time taking down one of the proverbial favorites in the NFC. Carlos Hyde’s status is up in the air and if he can’t go Shaun Draughn will garner the start once again, although I don’t expect either Hyde or Draughn to do much on the ground against the Cards’ very tough run defense. I’m not expecting another 47-7 blowout, but Arizona should control the game from the opening kickoff, dominate the time of possession and come away with the win on the road and their 9th win of the season.
Next 3 Games:
Arizona: @ St. Louis, vs. Minnesota, @ Philadelphia
San Francisco: @ Chicago, @ Cleveland, vs. Cincinnati
Kansas City (vs. Buffalo) – Kansas City continued to quietly roll off their 4th consecutive win to even their record at 5-5 which moved them into the 6th seed in the AFC playoffs. Over the course of their 4-game winning streak, the Chiefs offense has averaged 32.5 points per game while the defense is allowing just 10 points per game and have not allowed more than 13 points in one single game during this stretch. And what’s the common theme for the Chiefs? The defense has created turnovers (12 total) and the last time the offense turned the ball over was in Week 6. Buffalo has had similar success of late and that is part due to the fact that Tyrod Taylor has protected the football, LeSean McCoy has run the ball well and the defense continues to create turnovers and has a takeaway in every single game but one. Rex Ryan has also dialed up the pressure against opposing offenses, tallying 8 sacks against the Jets, Dolphins and Patriots. Ultimately, as you probably have guessed, this game will come down to defense and the team that can force the opponents’ offense to make at least one crucial mistake. If Sammy Watkins disappears for long periods of time in this game, then Buffalo will be in for a long day. The other key for Kansas City is stopping LeSean McCoy who has looked a lot more explosive the last couple weeks. On the offensive side of the ball, KC’s starting running back Charcandrick West left last week’s game due to a strained hamstring. If he can’t go, I expect the Chiefs will opt to go with Spencer Ware. This should be a good defensive battle and I expect Rex Ryan to dial up the blitzes. But it’s not easy to win at Arrowhead and Alex Smith will manage this game by protecting and controlling the football to lead the Chiefs to a win in this extremely important game against Buffalo.
Next 3 Games:
Buffalo: vs. Houston, @ Philadelphia, @ Washington
Kansas City: @ Oakland, vs. San Diego, @ Baltimore
NY Giants (@ Washington) – Washington’s woes continued in Week 11, but this time it was worse than usual as the Panthers blew them out by a score of 44-16. Washington had tied the game at 14-14 with 27 seconds left in the first quarter, but then the Panthers held them scoreless until the 4th quarter with 16 seconds remaining in the game, which is when Washington’s defense recorded a safety. As expected, Washington couldn’t run the ball, gaining only 14 yards on the ground on just 12 carries. The offensive line was completely dominated and allowed a total of 5 sacks. The Giants are coming off a bye and should be very well prepared for this game. New York entered their bye week after nearly beating the undefeated New England Patriots. In that game, the Giants’ defense finally had a decent pass rush and that is one area that they’ll need to excel in this week. If the Giants’ defense can get to Kirk Cousins, they should be able to get him to turn the ball over in this game, which is exactly what happened the last time these two teams met in Week 3. Washington’s running game will struggle, like usual, and they may even be without Alfred Morris. Reuben Randle went off for 116 yards on 7 catches in their last matchup, but I’m expecting Odell Beckham to put up the big numbers in this game. Despite the fact that Washington is much better at home than they are on the road, I expect the Giants to come into FedEx Field, win the game and take a 2 game lead on Washington in the NFC East.
Next 3 Games:
NY Giants: vs. NY Jets, @ Miami, vs. Carolina
Washington: vs. Dallas, @ Chicago, vs. Buffalo
New England (@ Denver) – The Sunday night game of the week should have been one of the most anticipated games of the year, pitting Brady versus Manning in what could be a preview of the AFC Championship game. But Manning will be sitting out this game and Brock Osweiler will start in his place once again. Osweiler fared pretty well in his start last week against the Bears, throwing for 250 yards while completing 20 of 27 passes even though he was under pressure for most the game. He was also without one of his top receivers, Emmanuel Sanders who is dealing with a high ankle sprain and may not be available again this week. Like Chicago, the New England defense will bring a lot of pressure in this game and Malcolm Butler will probably shadow and cover Demaryius Thomas throughout the game. Denver will go with a run-heavy game plan again this week, as opposed to just relying on Osweiler in the passing game. The Patriots did a very good job against LeSean McCoy on Monday night and should be able to contain Ronnie Hillman. The Patriots’ injuries keep piling up, this time Danny Amendola sprained his knee and is expected to miss the game this week. Tom Brady will be facing another tough pass rush this week, although the Broncos may be without DeMarcus Ware once again, which is a big loss for the Broncos. Brady will rely on Brandon LaFell and could look to check down to James White, who just scored his first 2 career touchdowns last week. Although both teams are missing key players, I believe Tom Brady and the Patriots will find a way to pull out the win on the road in Denver this week.
Next 3 Games:
Denver: @ San Diego, vs. Oakland, @ Pittsburgh
New England: vs. Philadelphia, @ Houston, vs. Tennessee
Cincinnati (vs. St. Louis) – The Bengals have dropped 2 games in a row after starting the season 8-0 and they are planning to stop the bleeding at home against the St. Louis Rams this weekend. The Rams haven’t played very well either as they are riding a 3-game losing streak of their own. But the truth of the matter is that the Rams success rides solely on the shoulders of Todd Gurley. When Gurley runs the ball well, the Rams win games, but over the last 3 games Gurley has struggled running the ball and has only rushed for a total of 200 yards (67 ypg) and has averaged just 3.27 yards per carry. The Rams’ defense has also played a part in this losing streak as they’ve allowed an average of 131.33 rushing yards per game. I’m expecting that the Bengals will try to establish the run early with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard in order to control the clock, move the chains and ultimately open up the passing game. Bernard may also get about 5 catches in this game because Andy Dalton will look to check down to Bernard if he needs to get the ball out of his hand due to the Rams’ pass rush. Although I believe that the Bengals are a decent play this week, if any of the teams ranked head of Cincinnati are available to you, I’d recommend taking one of those teams and taking the Bengals next week against the Cleveland Browns.
Next 3 Games:
St. Louis: vs. Arizona, vs. Detroit, vs. Tampa Bay
Cincinnati: @ Cleveland, vs. Pittsburgh, @ San Francisco
Minnesota (@ Atlanta) – Minnesota’s 5-game winning streak was snapped at the hands of the Packers last week and has put them behind the Packers in the NFC North. The Vikings failed to generate any offense last week, but I expect things to be different this week against the Falcons. Look for Adrian Peterson to get back on track and put his 45 yard performance behind him. Teddy Bridgewater was under pressure all game against the Packers, but they shouldn’t have to worry too much about Atlanta’s pass rush, well, the lack thereof. Bridgewater should have enough time to get the ball out and into the hands of Stefon Diggs in this game, who I believe will be targeted 10-12 times and come away with roughly 7 catches and over 100 yards. Atlanta lost another close game, which shouldn’t shock anyone at this point in the season. Granted, they lost Devonta Freeman to a concussion last week, so his status is up in the air right now. If he can’t go, the Vikings will make sure to stop the passing game and try to limit the damage by Julio Jones. With Atlanta’s inconsistencies on offense and facing a tough Vikings defense, Minnesota should get back on track this track. If you haven’t used Minnesota this season, this could be a good week to take them this late in the season because you will probably want to avoid them the next two weeks as they face off against the Seahawks and Cardinals.
Next 3 Games:
Minnesota: vs. Seattle, @ Arizona, vs. Chicago
Atlanta: @ Tampa Bay, @ Carolina, @ Jacksonville
Green Bay (vs. Chicago) – Green Bay got back on track and ended their 3-game losing streak and did so by taking back the NFC North by beating the Vikings 30-13. Eddie Lacy broke 100 yards for the first time this season against a tough Vikings’ defense, showing flashes from 2014. But it was the Packers’ defense that really propelled them to the win this past week. The Bears played the Packers very tough in Week 1 and Matt Forte torched the Packers’ defense for 141 rushing yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry in that game. Forte has sat out the last 2 weeks, but he plans on playing on Thursday, although I expect that he will split time with Jeremy Langford who has played well in his absence. The Packers held Adrian Peterson to just 45 yards in Week 11, and they should be able to focus on stopping both Forte and Langford especially if Alshon Jeffery sits out again this week. The Packers have beaten the Bears 10 out of their last 11 games, and I expect them to end Thanksgiving on a winning note.
Next 3 Games:
Chicago: vs. San Francisco, vs. Washington, @ Minnesota
Green Bay: @ Detroit, vs. Dallas, @ Oakland
Jacksonville (vs. San Diego) – Although the Jaguars are two games under .500, they are just one game out of the playoffs and are playing a meaningful game this late in the season for the first time since 2007. The Jaguars’ offensive line did not play well last week against the Titans leaving Bortles under pressure for most of the game last Thursday. Bortles turned the ball over twice last week, and those two turnovers almost cost Jacksonville the game. Bortles admitted after the game that he needs to cut down on his turnovers and he couldn’t face a better opponent than the Chargers to do that. On the season, the Chargers’ defense has only 9 takeaways (5 interceptions, 4 fumbles) which ranks 29th in the NFL. I’m expecting Bortles to pick apart the Chargers’ secondary and I expect him to connect with both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns 12-14 times and both receivers could combine for 200 receiving yards. T.J. Yeldon was nursing a foot injury last week, but he still suited up and ran for 54 yards. Yeldon is expected to be fine and start this game and should have a lot of success against the Chargers’ run defense that allows 4.9 yards per carry. With the Chargers flying across the country for a 1pm EST game, the Jaguars need to take advantage of this game against a Chargers team that has been killed by injuries in order to stay in the playoff hunt.
Next 3 Games:
San Diego: vs. Denver, @ Kansas City, vs. Miami
Jacksonville: @ Tennessee, vs. Indianapolis, vs. Atlanta
Carolina (@ Dallas) – Carolina’s undefeated season is on the line against the Cowboys in Week 12 for the annual Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas. Carolina completely destroyed Washington in Week 11 and Cam Newton was the star of the game as he threw for 5 touchdowns and was exceptional in the red zone. Carolina faces a much tougher defense and better all-around offense in the Cowboys this week than what they faced last Sunday. Tony Romo returned in Week 11 and snapped the Cowboys’ 7-game losing streak, topping the Dolphins 24-14. Romo had and up-and-down game as he was trying to get back into synch with his receivers, but he still managed to complete 18 of his 28 passes for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Cowboys’ offensive line will be the key in this game because they’ll be relied upon to contain the Panthers’ pass rush. They’ll also be expected to create running lanes for Darren McFadden, which won’t be easy because the Panthers have only allowed 50 rushing yards per game over their last 3 games. Carolina’s offense will need to play a complete game on Thursday and not sporadically show up from time-to-time during this game, which is something they do too often. I believe this will be a low-scoring game and the Cowboys could give the Panthers a scare. Ultimately, it will come down to the Panthers’ defense which will win them this game. But if at all possible, I’d hold off on taking Carolina in your pool this week as they have more favorable matchups in the next two weeks against the Saints and Falcons.
Next 3 Games:
Carolina: @ New Orleans, vs. Atlanta, @ NY Giants
Dallas: @ Washington, @ Green Bay, vs. NY Jets
Houston (vs. New Orleans) – Even with T.J. Yates filling in for Brian Hoyer, Houston was still able to come away with a very impressive win against the Jets in Week 11. Although Yates played just well enough to beat the Jets, Bill O’Brien announced on Tuesday that Brian Hoyer will return this week. This is a nice matchup for Hoyer to come back to because he should be able to move the ball against the Saints who have allowed an average of 316 passing yards per game over their last 6 games. Darrell Revis covered DeAndre Hopkins last week, but he was still targeted 12 times and ended the day with 5 receptions, 118 yards and two touchdowns. I expect Hopkins to torch the Saints secondary and he could come away with 8-10 catches in this game. J.J. Watt was absolutely dominant against the Jets and finished with 8 tackles and 2 sacks. Drew Brees has been sacked a total of 15 times over the last 4 games which means J.J. Watt should get to Brees on numerous occasions in this game. Even if he doesn’t record multiple sacks, Watt will lay a number of hits on Brees which could force a turnover or two. The Saints are coming out of their bye week but are 1-4 on the road on the season. Add in how well the Texans’ defense has played over the last 3 weeks and Houston is a team I would feel comfortable in taking in your Survivor Pool this late in the season.
Next 3 Games:
New Orleans: vs. Carolina, @ Tampa Bay, vs. Detroit
Houston: @ Buffalo, vs. New England, @ Indianapolis
Oakland (@ Tennessee) – In spite of losing three consecutive games, the Raiders remain in the playoff hunt in the AFC as they sit just 1 game out of the 6th seed. Latavius Murray couldn’t get anything going against the Lions last week, rushing for only 22 yards on 13 carries. He faces another tough run defense in Week 12 against the Titans who have allowed an average of just 81.5 rushing yards per game over their last 4 games. The Raiders need Derek Carr and Amari Cooper to get back on track and the coaching staff needs to get Cooper the ball. The Raiders have allowed 567 rushing yards over the last 3 games which means the Titans will game plan on feeding Antonio Andrews early on in this game. The Raiders’ pass defense can be picked apart, but due to the lack of playmakers, other than Delanie Walker, for Marcus Mariota, I believe that the Titans will have problems moving the ball and chains through the air. As long as the Raiders can dominate the time of possession and avoid turnovers, Oakland will keep their playoff hopes alive for another week.
Next 3 Games:
Oakland: vs. Kansas City, @ Denver, vs. Green Bay
Tennessee: vs. Jacksonville, @ NY Jets, @ New England
Pittsburgh (@ Seattle) – The Steelers had a bye in Week 11, giving Ben Roethlisberger some time to get healthier and prepare for their game against the Seahawks in Seattle. In their matchup against the Browns in Week 10, Ben Roethlisberger played an exceptional game despite the fact that he wasn’t expected to play. In that game, he completed 22 of his 33 passes for 379 yards and 3 touchdowns. Big Ben has thrown for at least 334 yards in 4 of the 6 games he played in this year and has completed 66.8% of his passes on the season. The Seahawks, who are best known for their defense, have had trouble defending the pass against some of the better teams this year, such as the Bengals and Cardinals. I’m expecting this to be a tough matchup for the Seahawks as they face one of the best receiving duos in the league in Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Seattle has also shown that they can be run on. Take away the two games against the 49ers, the Seahawks have allowed the other 4 opponents in the last 6 weeks to rush for an average of 122.5 yards per game. I wouldn’t be shocked if DeAngelo Williams puts up similar type numbers this week. As for Seattle, offensively they will be without Marshawn Lynch for the next couple of weeks. That means Thomas Rawls, who just rushed for 209 yards against the 49ers last week, will get the full workload again this week. But this won’t be an easy game for him because the Steelers have been much better against the run of late and are now only allowing 3.8 rushing yards per attempt on the season. Remember, the Seahawks aren’t invincible at home anymore, having lost 2 of the 5 games on their own turf. I believe Pittsburgh comes into Seattle and upsets the Seahawks in Week 12.
Next 3 Games:
Pittsburgh: vs. Indianapolis, @ Cincinnati, vs. Denver
Seattle: @ Minnesota, @ Baltimore, vs. Cleveland
Tampa Bay (@ Indianapolis) – Both the Buccaneers and the Colts are riding 2-game winning streaks that have put both teams back at .500 on the season. Andrew Luck will be sitting out again this week which means the veteran Matt Hasselbeck will draw yet another start. But he is facing a Bucs’ defense that has been much better over the last 2 games and has helped lead the Bucs to both of their wins. In the past two games, the Bucs’ defense has created 5 turnovers and has allowed their opponents to average just 210.5 passing yards per game. The Bucs’ run defense has played well this year, so I expect Frank Gore to fight for every yard. On the other hand, Gore’s counterpart Doug Martin just ran for 235 yards against the Eagles and is in for a favorable matchup against the Colts. Jameis Winston continued to show progress last week, completing 19 of 29 passes and throwing for 246 yards and 5 touchdowns. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson will be a handful for the Colts’ cornerbacks, especially if Vontae Davis is unable to play this week due to a hamstring injury he suffered last week against the Falcons. Although Winston has played better on the road (10 TDs, 1 INT, 107.1 QB Rating) than he has at home (5 TDs, 8 INT, 69.2 QB Rating), Winston has struggled against AFC South opponents this season, completing just 52% of his passes with 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. The Buccaneers have also lost 2 out of their 3 games against that division, which is why I remain cautious taking the Bucs this week in Survivor Pools.
Next 3 Games:
Tampa Bay: vs. Atlanta, vs. New Orleans, @ St. Louis
Indianapolis: @ Pittsburgh, @ Jacksonville, vs. Houston
Detroit (vs. Philadelphia) – The Detroit Lions host the Philadelphia Eagles for their annual Thanksgiving Day game this Thursday. The Lions are playing their best football, riding a 2-game winning streak and have held the Packers and Raiders to a total of just 29 points. Their run defense has stepped it up over these last 2 games, allowing just 97 rushing yards after they had allowed 624 rushing yards in the previous 4 games. But can the Lions defense truly be trusted? As for Philadelphia, they are on a 2-game losing streak and have lost 3 out of their last 4. Their run defense has been awful over the last 4 games as they’ve allowed their opponents to run all over them for a total of 720 yards (180 rushing ypg). This should be a favorable matchup for any team, but the Lions have not run the ball well this season, ranking dead last in the NFL with 71.1 rushing yards per game and just 3.4 yards per attempt. Obviously that means if the Lions are unsuccessful running the football early on in this game, they will go pass-heavy, letting Matthew Stafford throw the ball 35-40 times in this game. Because I don’t have complete faith in Matthew Stafford protecting the football, and because the Eagles are dealing with rumors surrounding Chip Kelly’s future which could be a distraction for this team, I’d recommend avoiding either team this week and just enjoying your Thanksgiving meal without having to stress over either team in your Survivor Pool.
Next 3 Games:
Philadelphia: @ New England, vs. Buffalo, vs. Arizona
Detroit: vs. Green Bay, @ St. Louis, @ New Orleans
NY Jets (vs. Miami) – Miami has lost 3 out of their last 4 games and the Jets have lost 4 out of their last 5. Both teams have not been playing well, yet both teams remain in the mix for the playoffs. The last time these teams played each other was in London where the Jets beat the Dolphins 27-14. That loss was the nail in coffin for head Joe Philbin which led to his release. New head coach Dan Campbell should be game planning to run the ball often with Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi because the Jets’ run defense has not been great as of late, allowing an average of 122 rushing yards per game over the last 4 games. The Jets on the other hand will let Ryan Fitzpatrick throw the football and get the ball in the hands of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Although Miami is 3-2 on the road this year and have won 6 of their last 7 games in NY, I believe that the Jets’ running game behind Chris Ivory will be the difference in the game and he will help lead the Jets to their 6th win of the season. But due to the fact that both teams haven’t played well of late, I would recommend avoiding both teams this week.
Next 3 Games:
Miami: vs. Baltimore, vs. NY Giants, @ San Diego
NY Jets: @ NY Giants, vs. Tennessee, @ Dallas
Cleveland (vs. Baltimore) – Baltimore had a surprising win against St. Louis in Week 11 with Justin Tucker kicking a game-winning 47 yard field goal as time expired. But in that win, the Ravens also lost Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett for the season which clears the way for veteran Matt Schaub and rookie running back Javorius Allen to take over their respective starting roles. The Cleveland Browns have demoted Johnny Manziel to 3rd string QB after a video that shows him partying during the bye week was released and the Browns have in turn put Josh McCown back into the starting lineup. McCown could have a decent game against the Ravens’ defense and he will often look in the direction of Travis Benjamin on Monday night. But due to the personnel changes for both teams, this is a game I would stay clear of.
Next 3 Games:
Baltimore: @ Miami, vs. Seattle, vs. Kansas City
Cleveland: vs. Cincinnati, vs. San Francisco, @ Seattle
Week 12 Survivor Pool Rankings:
1. Arizona Cardinals
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. New York Giants
4. New England Patriots
5. Cincinnati Bengals
6. Minnesota Vikings
7. Green Bay Packers
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
9. Carolina Panthers
10. Houston Texans
11. Oakland Raiders
12. Pittsburgh Steelers
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14. Detroit Lions
15. New York Jets
16. Cleveland Browns