NFL Football Predictions: Week 12 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 11/18/2014
There's always one week that that simply defies explanation in the NFL. I believe we just had our 2014 version with some of Week 11's surprising results. The big shocker was the Denver Broncos losing 22-7 at St. Louis. OK, the Rams had beaten Seattle and San Francisco, but holding Peyton Manning and Co. to seven points?? Manning's streak of 15 straight games with at least two touchdown passes ended. The Broncos had been the lone NFL team to go unbeaten on the road against teams with losing records since 2012, going 9-0.
That loss, along with very, very impressive wins by New England and Green Bay on Sunday, has shaken up the NFL futures odds at Carbon Sports. The Broncos have been Super Bowl favorites nearly all season but are now third at +550. The Packers are the new betting favorites at +400, with the Patriots at +450. I'm not even convinced that Denver will win the AFC West if it doesn't find a running game soon. The Broncos are tied atop the division with the surging Chiefs, and Denver still has to visit Kansas City in Week 13. The Broncos are -350 to win the division and Chiefs +320. I was very wrong on Kansas City last week, expecting a home loss to Seattle, and this season. I had the Chiefs third in the AFC West with maybe a 7-9 record.
Here are a few games and interesting opening WagerWeb Week 12 lines. This week I will preview Thursday's Chiefs-Raiders matchup (holy trap game!), Sunday's Browns-Falcons and Monday's Ravens-Saints. Thus, I won't touch on those here.
Detroit at New England (-7, 47.5): I knew not to trust the Lions in a big road game last week when previewing their showdown in Arizona. I hit on leaning Cardinals as well as the over with Detroit losing 14-6. Matthew Stafford just hasn't won a truly important road game yet in his career that I can recall. You certainly can't blame Detroit's No. 1 defense as it forced two turnovers and held Arizona to 46 yards rushing on 26 attempts. However, the Lions managed only 262 total yards. Perhaps the return of running back Reggie Bush from injury will help this week against the scary-good Patriots. They have won six in a row and may have found a new offensive star: running back Jonas Gray came out of nowhere to rush 38 times for 199 yards and four scores in a blowout of Indy in Week 11. Amazing how Bill Belichick finds these guys. I expect this line to rise, so jump on it now. The pick: New England.
Green Bay at Minnesota (+9.5, 48.5): I'm most interested in this total because the Packers are unstoppable on offense right now, scoring 55 points two weeks ago against Chicago and then 53 on Sunday against the Eagles. Aaron Rodgers broke Tom Brady's record of 288 straight passes without a pick and also holds the current record with 29 consecutive TD passes at home without a pick. The Packers have outscored their past four home opponents 128-9 in the first half. That would be my only worry: Green Bay has not been the same on the road. The Vikings have a pretty good defense, although they lost 42-17 at Lambeau in Week 5. Christian Ponder, not an injured Teddy Bridgewater, started that game. The pick: Packers and over. The weather actually doesn't look too bad in Minneapolis or else I would have gone "under".
Tampa Bay at Chicago (-5.5, 46): It's only a coincidence that I'm previewing every NFC North team's game on Sunday. The Bears temporarily saved their season with last week's 21-13 home win over Minnesota. I believe that if Jay Cutler struggled in the game and Chicago lost that Cutler would have been benched. He threw for 330 yards and three scores but also two more picks. The Bucs won their second game of the season, a fairly surprising 27-7 win at Washington. The big story line here is the return of Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith to Chicago. He coached the Bears from 2004-2012. It's also the return of QB Josh McCown to the Windy City after his breakout 2013 season in place of an injured Cutler. Many Bears fans still prefer McCown to Cutler. The pick: Bears and under.
Arizona at Seattle (-6.5, 42): This is essentially it for the Seahawks. They aren't going to win the NFC West if they are upset at home as Seattle is three games behind Arizona. Everyone raves about Russell Wilson, and I realize he won't have huge numbers in a run-heavy offense, but I think he's a bit overrated. He has thrown for more than 200 yards just once in the past six games, three of which were losses. Arizona isn't great against the pass but terrific against the run, so Wilson may need to throw to beat the Cardinals as they will gear up to slow Marshawn Lynch. I do expect Cards backup QB Drew Stanton to struggle here. The pick: I couldn't love this line more. Maybe I've been snowed by Seattle's 2013 success, but jump huge on this for the Seahawks before it rises above a touchdown.
St. Louis at San Diego (-4.5, 43.5): I love this number, too, as it's a huge letdown game for the Rams. The week after upsetting Seattle, the Rams were crushed 34-7 in Kansas City. The week after upsetting San Francisco, the Rams were routed 31-14 in Arizona. Notice a trend? That St. Louis upset of Denver did two things: Got the Chargers' full attention and lowered this line by at least a few points from what it should be. True, the Chargers didn't look great in last week's 13-6 win over Oakland, but I'm not sure the Raiders had San Diego's 100 percent focus. Plus, the Chargers have to win because the remaining schedule is a killer: at Ravens, vs. Patriots, vs. Broncos, at 49ers, at Chiefs. The pick: Chargers, Chargers, Chargers!
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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