*Team listed in BOLD is my pick to win the game
New England (@ Buffalo) – The New England Patriots returned home following a two game stint on the road in which they were forced to play in high altitude stadiums, so it wouldn’t have been too shocking if they let down their guard and didn’t play lights out football against Miami. Did they play their best game against the Dolphins? No, but their offense still scored three touchdowns in the first half and the Patriots’ defense held the Dolphins’ offense to just 221 yards and forced them to turn the ball over three times. The Patriots also limited Miami to 15 first downs on the afternoon. Running backs Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead did a great job rushing for 162 yards on just 18 carries and scored one touchdown. New England will head to Buffalo for their first meeting of the season against the Bills this weekend. Buffalo kept their playoff hopes alive by halting their three game losing streak to win their sixth game of the season by surprisingly defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 16-10. It was an ugly game that saw the Bills punt the ball seven times and generate just 268 yards of offense. On the other hand, the Bills’ defense held KC to just 236 yards of offense and only allowed them to control the ball for 27 minutes. I expect that the Bills’ offense will continue to struggle once again as the Patriots’ D has held opponents to 17 points or less in seven straight games. New England has held opponents to 235 passing yards or less for five straight games, so I believe the Bills will focus on handing the ball off to RB LeSean McCoy at least 25 times. Unfortunately for Buffalo, New England will focus on stopping the run, which will force QB Tyrod Taylor to beat them this week. That’s going to be very tough for Buffalo, who I am expecting to be without Kelvin Benjamin this week with a torn meniscus, even though head coach Sean McDermott keeps saying he’s day-to-day. Buffalo’s defense on the other hand will get torched against Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense. The Bills held Alex Smith to 199 yards, but they’ve been lit up by Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Derek Carr and Phillip Rivers this year, which leads me to believe that Brady will pick them apart. This is the start of a three game road trip for New England and they’ll want to kick things off on the right foot. New England is a very strong play this week, but if you’d rather hold off until next week and take them against Miami and use your pick for the Chargers this week, I wouldn’t blame you.
Next 3 Games:
New England: @ Miami, @ Pittsburgh, vs. Buffalo
Buffalo: vs. Indianapolis, vs. Miami, @ New England
L.A. Chargers (vs. Cleveland) – Chargers QB Phillip Rivers feasted on the Cowboys’ defense on Thanksgiving afternoon and tore them apart to the tune of 434 yards and three touchdowns. Rivers has his team rolling and over the last two weeks they have outscored their opponents 82-30. Keep in mind that the opponents were the Buffalo Bills, whose backup quarterback Nathan Peterman was picked off five times in the first half, and the Dallas Cowboys who were without both Ezekiel Elliott and LB Sean Lee. Keenan Allen exploded in Week 12 for 172 yards on 11 catches and one touchdown. Other the other hand, Melvin Gordon continued to struggle as he only gained 65 yards on 21 carries. Even though he hasn’t had a lot of success running the football, he should have a full workload once again this week against the Cleveland Browns, who allowed Joe Mixon to rush for a career-high 114 yards (besting the 62 yards he put up against the Packers in Week 3). Cleveland’s run defense had been a bright spot on the season, allowing an average of 86.44 rushing yards per game in their first nine games, but they have allowed opposing teams to rush for 139 and 152 yards, respectively, over the last two weeks. This leads me to believe that Gordon should be set up for success this week and could approach 100 rushing yards. If Gordon gets back on track like he did against Buffalo, it will undoubtedly open up the passing game for Rivers and his receivers. As for the Browns, WR Josh Gordon will play in his first NFL game since December 2014, but I don’t know exactly what they will get out of Gordon, especially against a tough pass defense like the Chargers. Cleveland has lost 12 games in a row and 36 of their last 38 games dating back to 2015. In fact, their last win came against the Chargers in Week 16 of last year. This game is far too important for the Chargers because they sit just one game behind the Chiefs for the AFC West division title and this is the perfect opportunity to gain at least a share of first place because the Chiefs are in shambles right now. It’s definitely possible that the Chargers are looking past the Browns this week and are focused on Washington in Week 14, but I don’t think that will be the case. I believe that the Chargers will be ready to play and focused on the task at hand which is to beat the winless Browns and get themselves to .500 on the season to give them a shot at a tie for the division lead.
Next 3 Games:
Cleveland: vs. Green Bay, vs. Baltimore, @ Chicago
L.A. Chargers: vs. Washington, @ Kansas City, @ NY Jets
Pittsburgh (@ Cincinnati) – The Pittsburgh Steelers were heavy favorites last Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers, but they allowed the Packers to hang around long enough to give them a chance to steal the game in front of Pittsburgh’s home crowd. The Steelers were able to hang on and win the game, mostly due to Antonio Brown’s wizardry and Le’Veon Bell’s football prowess. The Steelers improved to 9-2 on the season and are four games up in the division against their Monday night opponents, the Cincinnati Bengals. If the Steelers win, they will essentially lock up the AFC North Division and take a step closer to securing a first round bye in the playoffs with just four weeks remaining in the regular season. If they lose, the possibility of needing to play in a Wild Card game starts becoming more of a reality. I expect that the Steelers will do the former and take care of business just like they did in their first matchup against Cincinnati in Week 7. Pittsburgh won their first meeting with Pittsburgh 29-14 as Le’Veon Bell went into beast mode, racking up 134 rushing yards on 35 carries and catching three passes for 58 yards. He never found the end zone, but he was the single difference maker in that game. They’ve started to somewhat limit Bell’s workload since that last game against the Bengals, as Bell is averaging just under 21 carries per game since then. I don’t expect that he will reach 35 carries again this week, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Le’Veon approaches 30 and ends up with 150 yards against a Bengals team that is allowing an average of 126.6 rushing yards per game which ranks 28th in the NFL. Cincinnati has done a pretty good job against the pass this year, but Antonio Brown will get his this week, just like he did against the Packers. Even though he was double-teamed often, Brown finished with 10 catches for 169 yards, two touchdowns and a two point conversion. Head coach Mike Tomlin says that WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has a chance to play this week, but if he doesn’t suit up, Martavis Bryant will fill in his role admirably. The Bengals have struggled on offense this year and I expect that Pittsburgh will shut down Cincinnati in both the passing and running game. Pittsburgh has only allowed 12 passing touchdowns on the year, which ranks fourth in the NFL, so I expect that they will keep A.J. Green from scoring. TE Tyler Kroft will also be held in check this week. RB Joe Mixon had his best game as a pro last week against Cleveland, racking up a career high 114 rushing yards. That was the first time he crossed the century mark, as his previous high was 62 yards against Green Bay in Week 3. As long as Pittsburgh’s defense comes through and shuts down the Bengals’ offense like I believe they will, I have complete confidence that Pittsburgh’s offense will be able to move the chains and find the end zone on a couple of occasions, leading to their 10th win of the season.
Next 3 Games:
Pittsburgh: vs. Baltimore, vs. New England, @ Houston
Cincinnati: vs. Chicago, @ Minnesota, vs. Detroit
Washington (@ Dallas) – Washington hosted the Giants on Thanksgiving evening and their offense struggled most of the game with the exception of their two second half touchdown drives. Kirk Cousins had a rough night, and although he finished with two touchdowns, he threw a pick-six and was sacked six times. He was constantly under pressure and was hit seven times on the evening and had six passes deflected. Jamison Crowder was one bright spot on the night, finishing with seven catches for 141 yards and one touchdown. RB Samaje Perine helped wear down the Giants’ defense by grinding out exactly 100 yards on 24 carries and even catching three passes for 30 yards. Washington will head to Dallas on Thursday night to play the Cowboys, whose defense was just embarrassed by the Chargers on Thanksgiving afternoon. Dallas allowed Phillip Rivers to throw for 434 yards and three touchdowns and allowed them to grind out 81 yards on the ground. Washington hopes that TE Jordan Reed will be able to play, but due to the short week it is unlikely that he will do so. They are also hopeful that LT Trent Williams can return to the starting lineup, which would be a huge boost to the offensive line. Dallas’ defense may be without LB Sean Lee yet again this week which doesn’t bode well for the Cowboys. If Lee is out, I expect that Washington will excel running the football with Perine and that Cousins will pass all over the Cowboys. Dallas will be without the services of RB Ezekiel Elliott, which means Alfred Morris will be the starter again this week. I do expect to see RB Rod Smith, as he had nine carries last week against the Chargers and he should get 9-12 touches on Thursday. My biggest concern for Dallas is in the passing game. QB Dak Prescott struggled again in Week 12, throwing for 179 yards and was picked off twice. Prescott has not thrown for more than 179 yards in three straight games and has not thrown a single touchdown while being picked off five times. He is also averaging just 5.68 yards per pass over that same time span. Washington’s defense ranks fifth in the NFL with 12 picks on the season, so this is a prime matchup for their defense and they should create turnover opportunities throughout this game. Both teams played on Thanksgiving, so they’ve had enough time get prepared for this game. Unfortunately for Dallas, they have not played well while missing a number of key personnel. If Washington’s offensive line can protect Cousins long enough to either dump the ball off or to find either Vernon Davis or Crowder, they should be able to keep the sticks and the clock moving and keep their playoff hopes alive while crushing Dallas’s hopes at a shot to make the postseason.
Next 3 Games:
Washington: @ L.A. Chargers, vs. Arizona, vs. Denver
Dallas: @ NY Giants, @ Oakland, vs. Seattle
L.A. Rams (@ Arizona) – The L.A. Rams rebounded from their loss against the Vikings with a really nice win against the Saints, putting an end to New Orleans’ eight-game winning streak. It’s arguably the Rams’ best win of the season because the offense was clicking and the defense did a great job against a Saints’ offense that had been on fire entering that game. QB Jared Goff threw for 354 yards and averaged 8.2 yards per pass while WR Cooper Kupp broke out for eight catches and 116 yards. Sammy Watkins and RB Toddy Gurley also chipped in with four catches each for a total of 136 receiving yards. Gurley also did a very nice job running the football, coming away with 74 yards on 17 carries. Gurley is going to have his work cut out for him this week against a Cardinals’ run defense that limited RB Leonard Fournette to 25 yards on 12 carries last week in their surprising win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Cardinals have held opposing teams to under 100 rushing yards in eight of their 11 games this season, so I believe that Gurley will do more damage in the passing game than he will do running the football. The Rams’ defense was a very big reason why they were able to come away with the win. Granted, they allowed RB Alvin Kamara to bust one run for 74 yards, but other than that, they held Kamara and Mark Ingram to 44 yards on 15 carries combined (2.93 ypc). Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson ran a lot better than I expected against the Jaguars last week, but I think he will be held in check this week against L.A. I believe that the Rams will slow down the Cardinals’ offense and won’t allow Blaine Gabbert to beat them through the air. Look for WR Larry Fitzgerald to have another quiet game and be limited to only two or three catches. This game may stay close for the first three quarters, but I believe that the Rams will eventually pull away in the fourth as their defense will come away with a couple of big plays.
Next 3 Games:
L.A. Rams: vs. Philadelphia, @ Seattle, @ Tennessee
Arizona: vs. Tennessee, @ Washington, vs. NY Giants
Philadelphia (@ Seattle) – The Eagles head to Seattle for a Sunday night showdown against the Seattle Seahawks. Philly opens up as a 3.5 point favorite which is the largest point spread for an opposing team at CenturyLink Field in six years. The Eagles are riding a nine game winning streak and this is the first game of a three game road trip for Philly with these next two weeks taking place on the Pacific coast in Seattle and in L.A. The Eagles’ offense faces a depleted Seahawks’ defense that is no longer the “Legion of Boom”. The Seahawks’ secondary is still missing Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, both of whom are done for the year with significant injuries. Seattle is also no longer an unstoppable force at home after losing two home games in a row against Washington and Atlanta. Things get tough for Seattle’s defense this week, because Philadelphia comes in having scored at least 31 points in six of their last seven games. In that lone game in which they failed to reach at least 31 points, they ended up scoring 28 against the Panthers. Over the last seven games, Carson Wentz has tossed seven touchdowns and only three interceptions. Seattle will slow down the Eagles’ running game, although I still expect Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount to get about 25 carries combined in this game, but look for Wentz to throw roughly 35 passes in this game and to have a lot of success against the Seahawks’ secondary. QB Russell Wilson will be challenged all night by Philadelphia’s defense that has more interceptions (16) than passing touchdowns allowed (14). Philadelphia’s pass rush has been very good all year and has recorded 31 sacks on the season. Seattle’s offensive line has struggled at times this season and has surrendered 26 sacks, but lucky for them, their quarterback is mobile so he’s avoided a number of sacks. Philadelphia is also allowing just 6.3 yards per pass which ranks second in the NFL. RB Mike Davis will return this week, but forget about rushing the ball, which is an area that Seattle has not succeeded in this year. Seattle has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry (23rd in the NFL) and have four rushing touchdowns on the year (27th in the NFL). Philadelphia has been very stingy against the run, allowing a measly 65.1 rushing yards per game (1st in the NFL) and allow 3.5 yards per carry (4th). I don’t think Seattle is going to be able to move the ball effectively against Philadelphia this week, whereas Philly will continuously move the chains through the air. Seattle may keep this close for the first half, but I expect Philly will eventually pull away late in the game.
Next 3 Games:
Philadelphia: @ L.A. Rams, @ NY Giants, vs. Oakland
Seattle: @ Jacksonville, vs. L.A. Rams, @ Dallas
Detroit (@ Baltimore) – Baltimore’s defense carried them to yet another win on Monday night against the Houston Texans as the Ravens kept their playoff hopes alive and moved to 6-5 on the year. Leading by four with less than five minutes remaining in the game, Terrell Suggs sacked QB Tom Savage and forced a fumble that Baltimore recovered. The Ravens were able to convert that turnover into a field goal and then Baltimore’s defense came away with another timely turnover as C.J. Mosely came up with a big interception to seal the game. However, Baltimore’s offense continued to be brutal, and this is a major concern. QB Joe Flacco was inaccurate and when he made a couple of decent throws, his receivers dropped some of those passes. Detroit will head to Baltimore this week and they have a little extra time to rest and prepare because they played on Thanksgiving, as usual. They had a chance to win that game, but they settled for two field goals after TE Darren Fells dropped a pass in the end zone and RB Ameer Abdullah dropped a pass in the backfield with nothing but daylight to the end zone. QB Matthew Stafford didn’t make the best throws either, and that is something that he’ll need to improve on this week against Baltimore’s pass defense. Stafford was banged up late in the game so keep an eye on his status this week. I don’t expect him to miss the game, but it’s something to be aware of. The Lions will have to work for every point they score this week, but they’ll figure out a way to put those points on the board. At some point, Baltimore’s defense will not be able to carry the team for an entire game. Even though Baltimore’s defense has been great, they still got burned a couple times by DeAndre Hopkins on Monday night and the same can happen this week against the Lions wideouts. I just don’t have enough faith in Baltimore’s offense and this could be a game where they struggle to score 10 or more points. That is the reason why I lean towards taking Detroit in your Survivor Pool this week if you are forced to choose between these two teams.
Next 3 Games:
Detroit: @ Tampa Bay, vs. Chicago, @ Cincinnati
Baltimore: @ Pittsburgh, @ Cleveland, vs. Indianapolis
New Orleans (vs. Carolina) – The Saints’ eight game winning streak was snapped against the Rams last week and they are now tied with the Carolina Panthers at the top of the NFC South Division following the Panthers’ win over the Jets. I have always been concerned about the Saints’ defense and those concerns were realized after the Saints allowed the Rams to gain 415 total yards of offense and accrue 24 first downs while controlling the ball for 35 minutes of the game. The Saints don’t have to worry about the Panthers being able to move the football effectively this week and controlling the clock the way the Rams were able to. Cam Newton only completed 11 of his 28 passes against the Jets last week and finished with 168 passing yards. Over his last seven games, Cam Newton has only completed 112 of his 205 passes (54.6%) and has averaged just 166 passing yards per game. Additionally, he is averaging just 5.67 yards per pass over those seven games. The last time Cam Newton faced the Saints back in Week 3, he only threw for 167 yards and was picked off three times. Needless to say, the Panthers didn’t fare well in that game and Saints came away with the win 34-13. The Saints also ended their own two game losing streak that week and it was the beginning of their eight game winning streak. That game also snapped the Panthers’ two game winning streak. I like New Orleans to do the same this week by putting an end to the Panthers’ four game winning streak and for the Saints to start a new winning streak of their own.
Next 3 Games:
Carolina: vs. Minnesota, @ Green Bay, vs. Tampa Bay
New Orleans: @ Atlanta, vs. NY Jets, vs. Atlanta
Green Bay (vs. Tampa Bay) – The Green Bay Packers are quickly falling further away from the playoffs and are in desperate need of a win this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Packers played admirably against the Steelers on Sunday night and nearly came away with a win on the road in Pittsburgh. A non-call on a helmet-to-helmet hit on QB Brett Hundley was big because it would have extended the Packers’ drive, but ultimately they were forced to punt the ball away and Pittsburgh was able to march down the field and kick a game-winning field goal. Hundley played the best game of his career and went punch-for-punch with Ben Roethlisberger, throwing for 245 yards and three touchdowns. Davante Adams remained his favorite receiver, catching five passes for 82 yards and is now averaging six catches and 99.3 yards per game over the last three games. Hundley will continue to look Adams’ way this week against a Bucs’ defense that is dead last in receiving yards per game (293.1), 27th in receiving yards per pass (12.1) and 21st in receiving touchdowns allowed (19). Bucs QB Jameis Winston is throwing this week he is expected to play against Green Bay. Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t played well so this will be a big boost for the Bucs’ offense. I worry about how crisp Winston will be after being out for three games, plus he was struggling with his accuracy prior to his injury. Things also got worse for Tampa Bay’s offense as C Ali Marpet and RT Demar Dotson were placed on IR. I was impressed enough with Hundley’s performance and even with RB Jamaal Williams and what he brought to the table in not only the running game, but also catching the football that I think Green Bay can figure out a way to beat the Bucs this week in front of their home crowd.
Next 3 Games:
Tampa Bay: vs. Detroit, vs. Atlanta, @ Carolina
Green Bay: @ Cleveland, @ Carolina, vs. Minnesota
NY Jets (vs. Kansas City) – The Jets let a golden opportunity to defeat the Carolina Panthers slip right through their hands last week, losing the game due to a couple of mishaps in the fourth quarter on offense and special teams. RB Bilal Powell fumbled the football and LB Luke Kuechly returned the fumble for a touchdown, then Kaelin Clay returned a punt for a touchdown on the Jets’ next possession. That was a swing of 14 points in the matter of two minutes and put the Jets down by 12 points after they were leading by two. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is also to blame because he dropped a perfect pass in the end zone in the first quarter with not a single defender around him. Josh McCown had a nice game against the Panthers’ defense, throwing for 307 yards and three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Jets also ran the ball pretty effectively and gained 109 yards on the ground and averaged 4.2 yards per carry as a team. I expect that the Jets will go with a run heavy approach this week against Kansas City’s defense that allows 126.9 rushing yards per game (29th in the NFL) and 4.4 yards per carry (27th in the NFL). They have also allowed opposing teams to rush for over 100 yards in 10 of their 11 games. Kansas City’s offense continues to struggle and put up another clunker against the Buffalo Bills last week, which led to their third straight loss and fifth loss out of their last six games. Kansas City is averaging just 12 points per game during their current three game losing streak and QB Alex Smith has been pedestrian, at best. In fact, over the last two games, Alex Smith is averaging just 5.64 yards per pass, although one of those games came against the Giants in East Rutherford where the wind was brutal and played a factor. I have no faith in Kansas City right now because their offense can’t get anything going. The run blocking also hasn’t been great for RB Kareem Hunt, who’s averaged 46.83 rushing yards per game over his last six games. Alex Smith threw exactly zero interceptions in his first eight games, but has been intercepted four times in the last three games, so if the Jets’ defense can force the Chiefs into three-and-outs and the occasional turnover, they should be able to hold the Chiefs to 14 points or less. Because I think the Jets’ defense will step up this week, Josh McCown and the Jets’ running backs should be able to move the ball against the Chiefs’ defense and score enough points to come away with a win.
Next 3 Games:
Kansas City: vs. Oakland, vs. L.A. Charger, vs. Miami
NY Jets: @ Denver, @ New Orleans, vs. L. A. Chargers
Jacksonville (vs. Indianapolis) – The Indianapolis Colts have blown their last two games against the Steelers and Titans, dropping them to 3-8 on the season and keeping them out of playoff contention. Jacksonville had their four game winning streak snapped last week against the Cardinals and it was their offense that yet again came up short. Per Josh Norris, Blake Bortles did not complete a pass beyond 10 yards against the Cardinals. That is inexcusable and is a reason why I can’t completely trust the Jaguars this week, even against the Colts. The Colts will play hard for 60 minutes, but their offense is going to struggle against Jacksonville this week. Jacksonville’s defense wasn’t lights-out against Arizona, allowing Blaine Gabbert to throw for 241 yards and Adrian Peterson to rush for 79 yards on 20 carries. Still, the defense was good enough to keep the team in the game and give them the opportunity to pull off the win. I think the defense turns things around this week against Indianapolis and holds them to 10 points or less this week. I expect QB Jacoby Brissett to be under pressure throughout this game, which will eventually lead to one or two interceptions due to his forcing throws into coverage. RBs Frank Gore and Marlon Mack will have a tough time accumulating even 70 yards on the ground, unless they are able to break off one or two big runs on the day. As for Jacksonville’s offense, I just can’t trust them enough to move this team up a tier or two. Jacksonville will lean heavily on RB Leonard Fournette, who I expect will also have a bounce back game after being held to just 25 yards on 12 carries last week. The Jaguars excel at running the football and have failed to reach at least 135 rushing yards as a team just twice this season. Look for them to pound the ball on the ground and wear down the Colts’ defense. The Jaguars will also struggle to score in this game, but if the defense can create some timely turnovers and possibly get a defensive touchdown, they should come away with their eighth win of the season and at least remain tied for the division lead with the Titans in the AFC South.
Next 3 Games:
Indianapolis: @ Buffalo, vs. Denver, @ Baltimore
Jacksonville: vs. Seattle, vs. Houston, @ San Francisco
Oakland (vs. NY Giants) – The biggest news story this week is without question Eli Manning taking the backseat to QB Geno Smith. The Giants offered to let Eli start the game but be removed just to keep his 210 consecutive start streak alive, but Eli felt that would tarnish the streak. By doing this, it smells like the Giants are just trying to tank the rest of the season to get them a top two or three pick in this year’s draft. The Giants will visit the Oakland Raiders this week and the Raiders may be without their two top wide receivers, Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Crabtree, as I’m sure you’re all aware by now, has been suspended for one game for his altercation with pretty much the entire Broncos’ organization last week and Cooper is in concussion protocol and also suffered a sprained his ankle in the fourth quarter last week, so his status is in the air. It’s pretty bad timing to be without both of these players because Oakland is just one game behind the Chiefs in the division. Granted, I’ve constantly belabored Coopers’ disappointing season, but he is desperately needed this week, especially with Crabtree forced to sit out the game. Derek Carr played well against the Broncos’ defense last week, leading the team to a 21-14 victory. He completed 75% of his passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. RB Marshawn Lynch couldn’t find many open holes and was bottled up for 67 yards, but he was still somewhat effective, carrying the ball 26 times and scoring one touchdown. With Crabtree out, I expect Seth Roberts and Cordarrelle Patterson to step up in their place. If Carr can utilize a number of players in the passing game, like he did last week against the Broncos, when he threw completions to nine different players, the Raiders should be OK. The Giants’ offense was dreadful last week against Washington, totaling just 170 yards. They also controlled the football for only 25 minutes and generated just seven first downs on the evening. There’s no other way to say it, but that’s awful. Oakland’s defense is softer than Washington’s, but I still imagine that they will struggle to get anything going on offense, especially with Geno Smith under center. New York’s defense will once again be relied upon to carry the team and find ways to create turnovers and score on either defense or special teams, or set the offense up in good field position. If Cooper and Crabtree were guaranteed to play, I’d move Oakland up a tier, but without them, I can’t put the Raiders any higher than this tier and recommend that you avoid both teams this week.
Next 3 Games:
NY Giants: vs. Dallas, vs. Philadelphia, @ Arizona
Oakland: @ Kansas City, vs. Dallas, @ Philadelphia
Denver (@ Miami) – The Broncos and Dolphins are both on long losing skids with Denver’s increasing to seven after their loss to the Raiders in Week 12 and the Dolphins’ streak increasing to five with their loss to the Patriots. QB Paxton Lynch got the starting nod for Denver but he was brutal and averaged 2.93 yards per pass last week. Lynch also suffered a high ankle sprain in the game and was replaced by Trevor Siemian, who at least helped lead the Broncos on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter and got them to within striking distance of the Raiders. Lynch is expected to miss the next 2-4 weeks, so it appears Siemian will get the starting nod this week. I expect that Denver will go with a run heavy offensive attack led by Devontae Booker. They will want to try to take advantage of running the football against Miami’s defense that allows 117.7 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry (23rd in the NFL). Miami started Matt Moore in place of Jay Cutler last week because Cutler was in concussion protocol. I don’t believe Miami will have much success airing the ball out with either Cutler or Moore behind center, even with defensive back Aqib Talib suspended this week. The Dolphins will also be hard-pressed to find many open running lanes against Denver’s run defense that allows a league best 3.2 yards per carry. This will be a low scoring game with both offenses having trouble sustaining any drives. Denver will win this game due to their defense and the fact that they will create a couple of turnovers which should lead to a couple of scores, even if they are field goals. Neither team is ideal in Survivor Pools, but if you’re forced to take one, I’d recommend taking Denver.
Next 3 Games:
Denver: vs. NY Jets, @ Indianapolis, @ Washington
Miami: vs. New England, @ Buffalo, @ Kansas City
Minnesota (@ Atlanta) – The Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons will clash this weekend in what could be a preview of a future playoff game between these two teams. Both Minnesota and Atlanta are rolling right now, as the Vikings and Falcons are riding seven and three game winning streaks, respectively. Atlanta has also won four out of their last five games after they looked to be dead in the water following their 23-7 shellacking against the Patriots in Week 7, dropping them to .500 on the year. WR Julio Jones finally broke out against the Bucs last week and had a game he’ll never forget in which he caught 12 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. One of those passes came from fellow wide receiver Mohamed Sanu which went for a 51 yard touchdown. Matt Ryan has done a very good job over these last three games, completing 73.6% of his passes and throwing five touchdowns and just one interception. He’s also helped lead the Falcons to score an average of just under 32 points per game during their winning streak. Minnesota will look to slow down the Falcons’ offense but I think they will have a tough time keeping Atlanta out of the end zone. RB Devonta Freeman cleared concussion protocol and should suit up this week, but I think he and RB Tevin Coleman will be limited on the ground and their damage will come on short passes and screens. As for Minnesota, they continue to win football games with Case Keenum behind center. They are averaging 31.25 points per game over their last four games and have gained at least 406 yards of offense in their last three games. Latavius Murray has run the ball well and I expect that the Vikings will feed him often and chew up yardage and the clock against Atlanta’s defense that allows 4.4 yards per carry (ranked 28th) and 113.9 rushing yards per game. If Minnesota can control the clock on offense and if Keenum can protect the football, I believe Minnesota will extend their winning streak to eight.
Next 3 Games:
Minnesota: @ Carolina, vs. Cincinnati, @ Green Bay
Atlanta: vs. New Orleans, @ Tampa Bay, @ New Orleans
Tennessee (vs. Houston) – The Tennessee Titans have somehow won five out of their last six, but those wins haven’t been pretty. Two have come against the Colts, another win was against the Browns who they barely beat by the score of 12-9, and their other victories came against the Ravens and Bengals who they beat by seven combined points. They had to rally back in a couple of their wins, like last week’s game against the Colts. Mariota is a turnover machine, having been picked off in four straight games and six times in the last two weeks. He’s also thrown an interception in all but three games this year. The Titans inexplicably keep running out DeMarco Murray onto the field even though he is constantly being outplayed by fellow running back Derrick Henry. Murray had nine yards on 12 carries but vultured a touchdown away from Henry, who had marched the team down the field for 42 rushing yards to put the Titans up 20-16. I’m worried that Tennessee will continue to let Murray get touches even though he doesn’t deserve them. By allowing him to continue to carry the ball 10+ times in a game, it puts the team at risk because it doesn’t allow them to generate first downs. Houston on the other hand is coming off a tough loss on Monday night against the Ravens. They got off to a hot start, but two costly turnovers by QB Tom Savage ended their hopes at a win. DeAndre Hopkins played really well, securing seven catches for 125 yards. He now has at least 73 receiving yards in eight of 11 games this season. If he can get behind the Titans’ secondary, Savage should be able to hook up with Hopkins for a couple plays of 20 yards or more and put them into scoring position. I just worry that Savage will make some costly decisions that will ultimately doom the Texans. With Tennessee playing at home where they are 4-1 and the Texans being 1-4 on the road, I’d err on the side of caution and take the Titans this week if you are in a bind.
Next 3 Games:
Houston: vs. San Francisco, @ Jacksonville, vs. Pittsburgh
Tennessee: @ Arizona, @ San Francisco, vs. L.A. Rams
San Francisco (@ Chicago) – 49ers fans’ wishes finally come true this week, because it has been announced that Jimmy Garoppolo will make his first start for San Francisco on the road in Chicago. Per Niners Nation, this is the third straight year that the 49ers and Bears will play one another in Week 13 at Soldier Field. They’ve split the first two meetings, with the 49ers winning 26-20 in 2015 and the Bears beating the 49ers last year 26-6. San Francisco fans are excited to see what Garoppolo can bring to the table and it should be an improvement over C.J. Beathard. Chicago has an underrated defense and are pretty decent against the run, but teams can have success passing against Chicago. If Garoppolo can develop a rapport with his receivers, primarily Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor, they could legitimately give themselves a chance to win this game. Also look for Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida to be involved in the passing game as well, as they will line up in the backfield and on occasion out wide. San Francisco’s defense didn’t play badly against the Seahawks last week, holding the Seahawks to 3.0 yards per carry and contained Russell Wilson to just 228 yards on 58.8% passing. Wilson is much more mobile than Chicago QB Mitchell Trubisky, and he was able to avoid some sacks. I don’t think Trubisky will be able to do the same and I think that San Francisco will get to him a number of occasions. The Bears are finally allowing Trubisky to throw the ball, but he has struggled and has only completed 52.8% of his passes on the season and has four touchdowns and four interceptions this year. I believe that as long as the 49ers can shut down Jordan Howard, who only gained six yards on seven carries against Philadelphia, I believe they can shut down Chicago’s offense and hold them to 14 points or less. If you need are in a bind and the only teams still available to you are listed in the “Risky Tier” I’d recommend taking a gamble this week with San Francisco.
Next 3 Games:
San Francisco: @ Houston, vs. Tennessee, vs. Jacksonville
Chicago: @ Cincinnati, @ Detroit, vs. Cleveland
Week 13 Survivor Pool Rankings:
1. New England Patriots
2. L.A. Chargers
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Washington Redskins
5. L.A. Rams
6. Philadelphia Eagles
7. Detroit Lions
8. New Orleans Saints
9. Green Bay Packers
10. NY Jets
11. San Francisco 49ers
12. Jacksonville Jaguars
13. Oakland Raiders
14. Denver Broncos
15. Minnesota Vikings
16. Tennessee Titans