NFL Playoff Predictions

In the spirit of the holidays, I want to open up by saying thank you to everyone who’s been keeping up and reading with these weekly picks — you’ve been witness to three of the finest weeks I’ve ever had in picking games over the last 12 years. Twice I went undefeated and last week I was 14-2 straight up. For the season, I went 148-75 straight up picking winners and losers; and against the spread, I won us money — 110-104-10.

Why am I talking in the past tense, like it’s all over? Well, let’s face it, it is. Unless you’re a complete degenerate, you’re not risky your well-earned money on Week 17 games that will likely feature myriad back-ups and coaches changing their gameplans on the fly as other scores and results become clearer. For instance, the Bears will likely bench players mid-game and turn their focus to keeping guys healthy for Wildcard Weekend, if they look up at the scoreboard and see that the Rams are burying the 49ers. Same with the Chargers, if the Chiefs appear to have wrapped up their game against the Raiders.

So why would I try and pick these games? It’s plenty hard enough when normal factors are at play, let alone all these wild implications from games that are happening in real time and at the same time. What I’d rather spend a few minutes doing would be predicting who’s in and who’s out of the playoffs in each conference.

AFC

  1. Kansas City (12-4) — A win at home over the Raiders is all that stands in between Chiefs and home filed throughout the playoffs. Not leaving Arrowhead gives the Chiefs as good a shot at making to the Super Bowl with Andy Reid as they’ll ever have. This one’s easy.
  2. New England (11-5) — A win at Foxboro over the Jets would clinch a much needed bye for the Pats, who’ve looked older and more “un-Patriot” like than in over a decade. The players know how important that bye is.
  3. Houston (11-5) — Yes, the Texans have definitely come back down to earth after reeling off 9 straight wins after an 0-3 start. But a loss in Week 17 to the Jaguars means Houston will wind up the 6th seed and having to go on the road in order to reach the Super Bowl. Talk about limping into the postseason.
  4. Pittsburgh (9-6-1) — If you listen to my podcast, you know how much this kills me. But listen, this is typical 2018 Steelers: inconsistent, unpredictable, and in the end, still pretty good. Honestly, this has more to do with the Ravens and their Week 17 opponent — the Steelers just happen to be the beneficiaries, assuming they roll the Bengals like they should.
  5. Los Angeles (11-5) — The Chargers have nothing to play for as long as the Chiefs beat the Raiders. I imagine head coach Anthony Lynn has a quick hook for his starters once he’s told the score at Arrowhead.
  6. Indianapolis (10-6) — This is the underrated story of the year. Andrew Luck has returned to the form we grew accustomed to seeing when he was healthy, and the Colts have a really good offensive line and defense to match. They’ll dispatch Blaine Gabbert (or Marcus Mariota) to get in. And once they’re in, they’re dangerous.
  7. Baltimore (9-7) — Last year’s Week 17 ending was a nightmare for John Harbaugh’s team, as they gave up a final minute touchdown bomb from Andy Dalton, as the Bengals — with nothing to play for themselves — enabled the Buffalo Bills to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 1999. The scenario this year is quite similar: a “win-and-you’re-in” game against the Browns, who’ve been eliminated from playoff contention. Each year a team in a situation like this inexplicably lays an egg. You can be sure Baker Mayfield will not be giving this game up easily — the Browns have a chance to finish with a winning record a year after going 0-16. Don’t tell this team this game is meaningless for them.

NFC

  1. New Orleans (14-2) — The road the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through the Superdome. That’s already been determined.
  2. Los Angeles (12-4) — The 2-seed is their’s with a win over the 49ers. Sean McVay has a bit of a history of preferring to rest his players than play for playoff positioning — he rested Todd Gurley last week and rested everyone in Week 17 last season, which led to the Rams getting the 4-seed and not the 3. I think he knows the importance of earning the bye, though.
  3. Chicago (11-5) — Once the Rams have demonstrated that they want the 2-seed, it’d be logical to see Matt Nagy sit some starters, which would in turn give the Vikings the advantage and a great shot at securing the 6th seed — and a return trip to Soldier Field next weekend.
  4. Dallas (9-7) — The division has been locked up and Dallas is firmly entrenched in that 4-seed, no matter the result against the Giants.
  5. Seattle (10-6) — A loss could theoretically push Seattle down to the 6th seed. Fortunately for the Seahawks, they play the Cardinals, who you’d have to figure are in a rush for this season to come to an end.
  6. Minnesota (9-6-1) — I’m not picking Kirk Cousins to win a must-win game against the Bears. But considering the circumstances and what I mentioned above with the Rams, the bears probably let Cousins off the hook. If he can’t win then, we’ve got some major problems brewing in Minnesota.
  7. Philadelphia (9-7) — All the defending champs can do at this point is go out and try to win a game against the Redskins. Take care of their business and let the chips fall where they may. If the Bears decide they want to play all-out for a full 60 minutes, the Eagles will get in.

Thanks again to everyone for sticking around this year and humoring me by reading all my picks and predictions. It’s fun and I hope you found some levity in reading it. We’ll be back next week with predictions for Wildcard Weekend.


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 119 (“The Running Back Question, Wild Playoff Scenarios, and Top MVP Candidates “) right here:

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NFL Week 16 Picks

I’m going to keep my little intro brief this week. I have some advice here in Week 16. NFL games are hard enough to handicap in the middle of the season when you think you understand what every team is and all their strengths and weaknesses. Betting the last couple weeks, though — it’s almost impossible. There are a number of games this week where it comes down to which team is going to play hard — and that’s an extremely difficult thing to try and predict. For instance, Denver-Oakland will not be the matchup that we may have thought it would be if we looked ahead a few weeks ago. The Raiders have a roster full of veterans, who may not want to get hurt or have packed it in for the year, yet they have won two straight and will be home on Christmas Eve while the Broncos have just been eliminated from the playoff race, have to travel on the holiday, but are playing a bunch of young guys who may have something to prove to their coaches heading into the offseason. So who the heck do you pick??!!

Try and stay away from games like that — and there’s a bunch this week.

Last week, I went 9-7 straight up and 7-8-1 against the spread (ATS). For season, we’re looking at 134-73 straight up and 102-97-9 ATS. Let’s see what happens this week. Merry Christmas!

Santa Came!

Baltimore at Chargers (-4.5)

Baltimore runs the balls at 43. yards per attempt — and they run it more than any other team in the NFL. Conversely, the Chargers give up 4.3 yards per attempts to opponents on the ground. The Ravens will want to run all day long. The problem might be that the Chargers will play that “bend but don’t break” defense and give up yards to Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson; but at some point, they’re going to make Lamar throw it. And when he does, Joey Boss and Melvin Ingram and Derwin James will be coming for him. That too is too good to be beaten by this rookie, who hasn’t shown any remarkable ability to throw the ball. Chargers, 27-20

Kansas City at Seattle (+2.5)

Seattle’s going to run the ball and KC is going to get gashed. It’s almost best for Kansas City to just concede all those rushing yards and tighten up in the red zone and against any passing attack Russell Wilson comes at them with. Chunk plays will be the key in this one. The Chiefs and Pat Mahomes have mastered those, but don’t sleep on Seattle’s ability to make big plays happen out of the passing game. Seattle, 26-24

Cool Gifts. Thanks.

Houston at Philadelphia (-1)

Let me ask you something: Are you willing to bet against Nick Foles in a “do or die” December game in Doug Pederson’s offense? Philly’s pass rush will give Houston’s offensive line fits. Eagles, 24-20

Pittsburgh at New Orleans (-6)

So the Saints offense hasn’t looked right in a few weeks. If Drew Brees & Co. struggle against Pittsburgh’s defense, then maybe I’ll start to wonder if things are okay in the bayou. I don’t expect the Steelers to keep this close. And the Saints — at home — will not shoot themselves in the foot like New England did the previous week against Pittsburgh. Saints, 34-24

Socks and Underwear

Washington at Tennessee (-10)

It’s fitting this game is being played at 4:30 on Saturday — if either team makes the playoffs that early Saturday time slot is the perfect home for them on Wildcard Weekend. The Titans defense should get after Josh Johnson and it won’t likely take much more than 17 points to win this game. Titans, 24-10

Tampa Bay at Dallas (-7)

Dallas’s offense should get back to moving the ball effectively after a disastrous game in Indy a week ago. Meanwhile, the Bucs offense can certainly be explosive but you worry about the turnovers. Jameis Winston has appeared to have fixed that problem — throwing only 3 interceptions in the last 5 games after tossing 10 in the 4 games prior. The Cowboys defense might goad him into reverting back to bad, reckless Jameis. Cowboys, 27-16

Minnesota at Detroit (+5.5)

This is a tough game to handicap because we still are trying to decipher if what we saw last week from the Vikings offense is going to be trend moving forward or if it was simply a one game blip due to the change at OC. The Lions run defense has been greatly improved since the addition of Snacks Harrison; and this is a in-division road game, where the Vikings don’t always dominate. Vikings, 24-20

Giants (+9.5) at Indianapolis

I get it — Indy is playing well on all sides of the ball. Andrew is a borderline MVP candidate, Marlon Mack has shown promising flashes as a runner, Eric Ebron is a Pro Bowler, the offensive line looks completely fixed, and the defense is coming a shutout of Dallas. But the Giants can score and in the dome, I think Eli and Saquon will be able to generate some points to keep it a game. Colts, 31-24

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-7)

Baker v. Hue, Part Two!! Cincy’s defense is not good and the young Browns know that all they can do is keep winning if they want to have any shot at the postseason. Browns, 27-17

Buffalo (+13.5) at New England

Without Josh Gordon, one wonders how this Patriots offense will look. More 2-back sets; more Chris Hogan-Philip Dorsett-Cordarrelle Patterson; more 2-TE sets? Hey, Tom Brady’s still there and he has weapons. Also, should be fun to see the very mobile Josh Allen in his debut at Foxboro against a suspect Pats’ rush defense. Patriots, 30-20

Chicago at San Francisco (+4)

Yes, on paper the Bears are much better than the 49ers. But three things make me nervous: (1) Bears just won the division by beating longtime nemesis Aaron Rodgers (and they celebrated like they won the Super Bowl); (2) long travel week with a road game on the West Coast; and (3) under Kyle Shanahan, the Niners are 7-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread in December games. Oh, and the Bears haven’t been all that impressive in road games this year — lost in Miami, blew one week 1 in Green Bay, lost at the Giants, and escaped Arizona and Detroit by the skin of their teeth. Bears, 23-20

Rams (-14) at Arizona

Yep, tell me all about the Rams’ struggles on offense and defense lately. Tell me Jared Goff is the second-to-last QB in efficiency rating over the last 3 weeks. Yes, Todd Gurley may not be right. I understand that Cooper Kupp is, has been, and will be out. Yep, yes, I know. I also know that the Cardinals have an abysmal offense and Josh Rosen lives to throw pick-6s. This is the ultimate “get right” game for the Rams on both sides of the ball. Rams, 31-10

Coal in the Stocking

Denver at Oakland (+2.5)

The Raiders’, presumably, final game in Oakland and it could be interesting — not the game so much, but rather the Raider fans in the Black Hole. Neither team wants to play this game on Christmas Eve so give me the team that doesn’t have to travel. Raiders, 23-20

Green Bay at Jets (+3)

Sounds like Aaron Rodgers will play and that pretty much all I need to hear. The Jets are feisty, but in a game with nothing riding on it, give me the better quarterback with the better weapons. Packers, 24-23

Jacksonville at Miami (-4.5)

You can’t convince me that the Jaguars are interested in playing hard in weeks 16 and 17. On the other hand, Miami is not mathematically out of the playoffs yet, plus they are a different team when playing at home. Dolphins, 24-13

Atlanta (-3.5) at Carolina

No Cam Newton. No real motivation for the Panthers to be competitive. Falcons, 24-12


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 116 (“Week 16 Preview & QBs as Christmas Movies”) right here:

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NFL Week 15 Picks

We should know who every team is at this point in the NFL season. However, the NFL is the NFL for a reason. It keeps us guessing from week to week, and anyone who runs the ol’ “Strength of Schedule Predictor Machine” is bound to look foolish because in the NFL it’s “any given Sunday” or “that’s why they play the games”. Pick whichever cliche you want.

Last week was a perfect example. The Steelers in the middle of the playoff race with everything to play for head to Oakland and look clumsy in game that their opponent didn’t even really want to win. The Broncos, hearing everyone prognosticate that they could run the table and end the year 10-6 and grab the 6th seed in the AFC, get beaten by the 49ers, who’d much prefer to improve on their draft slot than win a meaningless game against Denver. Then there’s the Saints, who only defeated the Bucs after they came out of their first half coma at halftime; the Rams couldn’t muster more than 6 points against the Bears; and the Cowboys outplay and out-gain the Eagles in regulation, yet it takes OT for Dallas to get the 6 point win.

If you think you know anything about the NFL, that’s fine — you probably do. But just because you know things, doesn’t mean you can tell me who’s going to win every Sunday.

After a couple of weeks middling at or below .500, I found my groove last week — 11-5 against the spread (ATS) and 10-6 straight up. For the season (minus week 1), I’m winning money: 95-89-8 ATS and 125-66 just picking winners. Here we come week 15.

Don’t Miss

Chargers (+3.5) at Kansas City

Call me crazy, but I don’t think the Chargers need Melvin Gordon to win this game. The Chiefs have an abhorrent run defense to the point where if I padded up, I could gash them for 80 yards. The Ravens had them dead to rights last week — and if Lamar Jackson was a little more experienced and a better thrower of the football, that game might not have been all that close in the end. Phillip Rivers is more than capable of winning a football game like this — especially when his run game should be fine and his defense can be disruptive to Pat Mahomes. Chargers, 34-24

Dallas (+3) at Indianapolis

Can Indy’s defense hold Dallas to field goals? The Cowboys offense should be able to move the ball and Zeke Elliott should get his fair share of touches — but if the Colts can force Dallas into settling for 3s instead of 6s, Andrew Luck should be able to generate enough of his own offense with Eric Ebron to outscore the ‘Boys. Colts, 24-23

New England (-1.5) at Pittsburgh 

The Patriots have too many weapons on offense. Which Steeler defender takes James White when he and Gronk are lined up on the same side? Who can handle Julian Edelman in the slot? And then there’s issue of Sony Michel coming out of the backfield. On the other side of the ball, I think Bill Belichick and Brian Flores scheme a way to limit Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster with some combination of Stephon Gilmore, the McCourty twins, and undrafted rookie JC Jackson. Patriots, 34-27

No Harm in Watching

Miami at Minnesota (-7)

With all the ups and downs in Minnesota, no team is wackier than Miami as far as how they look at home as opposed to on the road. The Fins are 6-1 in South Beach, yet when they travel, they’re 1-5, scoring only 17 points a game, and surrendering 29.5 to opponents. I like the Vikings to play with some excitement on offense with new OC Kevin Stefanski calling plays now. If the Vikings hit their stride here, there’s a chance this could be the moment we look back on in January and say, “Minnesota saved their season with that move”. Vikings, 27-17

Cleveland (+3) at Denver

Denver’s secondary is beat up and their offense is completely dependent on rookies Phillip Lindsey and Courtland Sutton. Baker Mayfield should be able to push the ball downfield on this Denver defense. Browns, 27-20

Tampa Bay (+8) at Baltimore

After the emotional loss at Arrowhead a week ago, the Ravens might need a couple quarters to get going. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Bucs get out fast to a lead. Let the Ravens settle in, and that defense should be able to force Jameis Winston into a few of his patented turnovers, and the ravens offense really shouldn’t be met with much resistance by the Tampa Bay defense. Ravens, 20-17

Green Bay (+5.5) at Chicago

Bears fans are so scared of this game. Can they step on Aaron Rodgers’s throat and end the Packers season? Maybe this is a new Bears team and they’ll answer the call. But I need to see it first. Packers, 27-24

Philadelphia at Rams (-9)

It doesn’t seem like Carson Wentz will play Sunday — and nor should he with a broken back and Philly’s season all but done. The Rams need a “get right” game after not looking like themselves for the past couple weeks. Rams, 38-17

New Orleans (-6.5) at Carolina

I don’t care why the Panthers  all of a sudden stink. Is Cam hurt? Don’t care. Does the defense stink? Yes. Bottom line — you went from 6-2 and being a fringe-Super Bowl contender to a team that won’t be in the playoffs, might get your coach fired, and will certainly waster Christian McCaffrey’s outstanding offensive season. Save the excuses, Carolina. I don’t care. Saints, 41-24

Tennessee (+2.5) at Giants

Giants hung 40 on the Redskins last Sunday. Let me remind you that was a Washington team decimated by injuries and who was playing Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson at quarterback. Tennessee might not be great, but they’ve got to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Mike Vrabel’s defense won’t let the Giants offense run hog wild. Titans, 23-20

What’s This on For?

Houston (-6) at Jets

Houston has given up the second most sacks in the league, and if the Jets were serious about playing, I’d use that as evidence to support a Houston loss here. Can’t do it, though. A little fantasy advice: play Houston’s defense. Texans, 26-13

Seattle (-5) at San Francisco

Short week might be cause for concern for Pete Carroll’s team, but the Niners aren’t equipped to stop what Seattle’s offense wants to do: run the ball. Seattle doesn’t need a perfect performance to win in San Fran. Seahawks, 24-10

“Bleep” Show Games of the Week

Detroit (+2.5) at Buffalo

Buffalo’s offense is predicated on Josh Allen’s ability to move the ball down field — mostly with his legs. But guess what? The Lions are the best team in the NFL against rushing QBs — giving up an average of 4.0 yards per game. Since acquiring Snacks Harrison seven weeks ago, Detroit’s overall rush defense has improved to 18th from 30th. Truth be told, I hate the Lions on the road, especially coming off a dominating performance a week ago in Arizona. And I hate their offense. But it’s not like Buffalo is scoring 30 a game. Defense, defense, defense in this one. Lions, 20-17

Arizona at Atlanta (-8.5)

“The Battle of Two Teams Who Just Don’t Give a Damn”. I guess Atlanta wins — they have the talent and Arizona can’t do anything offensively. It’s just a matter of the final score. Falcons, 27-17

Oakland (+3) at Cincinnati

Oakland was “gamey” last weekend. But how can you get excited to travel across the country to play in Cincinnati in December? I’ll tell you — you know Hue Jackson is waiting on the opposing sideline. No chance I pick Hue. Seriously though, Derek Carr’s been playing much better and Doug Martin — yes, that Doug Martin) can gobble up yards on this Bengals shoddy defense. Raiders, 24-20

Washington at Jacksonville (-7)

Who’s tuning in for this game? You really need to re-evaluate your decisions in life, if you willing choose to spend 3 hours in front of a TV with this game on. Jaguars, 15-5


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 111 (“The Mess in Minnesota”) right here:

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NFL Week 14 Picks

As soon as the cold weather rolls in, it’s like clockwork — games become so much more meaningful. And wins are more difficult to come by, as we witnessed last weekend. This is a tricky time of of the season because we’ve grown into our opinions about teams and we believe certain things because we’ve watched, well, a lot of football. But if you’ve really watched a lot of football, you’ll know that now is when we learn the most about teams. For example, we want to trust the Bears because they were 8-3 going into Met Life Stadium last weekend. But a back-up QB, a feisty opponent, and few untimely mistakes are a recipe for disaster. You could same similar things about the Colts who got shut down and shutout by Jacksonville, the Panthers who lost in Tampa Bay, and the Browns who probably missed out on any slim hopes of making the playoffs by losing to Houston.

My point is many teams we are tricked into believing in during the early months of the season, turn out to deceive us in December. Teams have to learn how to win, they need to endure a full season before they’re ready to really take the next steps. Yes, the Bears are not bad — heck. they’ll probably with the division and be a 3 seed. But don’t be surprised if they encounter bumps along the way. Look at the Rams from last year. They dominated until December, slowed down a bit, dropped a couple games, and then exited the playoffs at home to underachieving Falcons team. There’s a process to getting good — and some of these teams are in the middle of experiencing it.

All that to say — IT’S HARD TO PICK GAMES IN THE NFL!!! But let’s give it another shot after a so-so Week 13. I was 9-7 both straight up and against the spread. For the year, I’m 84-84-8 ATS and 115-60 straight up. Let’s get to Week 14.

Plop Down and Get Comfy

Baltimore (+7) at Kansas City

The Ravens are rolling with Lamar Jackson. In his three starts, Baltimore is 3-0, has rushed for over 700 yards, and controlled the clock in dominating fashion — holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes last Sunday in Atlanta. That stat is interesting because the Chiefs don’t typically care if they have long, drawn out possessions — they’re very happy with quick-hit strikes, chunk plays, and efficient scoring drives. The Ravens might be successful in doing what they want offensively against the Chiefs, but it might not matter if the defense gives up points. Kansas City has faced the second-fewest third downs this year. Baltimore’s defense must force Pat Mahomes into as many third downs as possible, limit his yardage on first and second downs, and make him turn the ball over. If that happens, the Ravens should be able to gobble up yards on a weak KC defense. Ravens, 24-20

Philadelphia at Dallas (-4)

The Philadelphia offense should have trouble moving the ball against a stout Cowboys defense. Look for Amari Cooper and Cole Beasely to exploit the depleted Eagles secondary — and then use Zeke to pound through the holes that will create. I can see the Eagles throwing the whole playbook at Dallas, as they try and make one last push for the division. But it’s going to be tough, and I’m sick of waiting for the Eagles of last year to emerge. Cowboys, 24-17

Rams (-3) at Chicago

The Rams have shown that they can get “gotten” on the road — and yes, I know they’ve only lost one game all season, but they were slow to get up on the Lions last weekend, the Seahawks have battled them to within one score in both games, and they beat the Broncos in Denver by a field goal. The Bears defense will try their best to disrupt Sean McVay’s offensive plans — and they probably will find some level of success in doing so. But can Chicago’s offense hang around long enough? Something tells me Mitchell Trubisky is going to get to know Aaron Donald real well Sunday night. Rams, 24-17

Minnesota at Seattle (-3.5)

One of these teams has heart. The other does not. It’s that simple. Seahawks, 24-20

Keep the TV On

Indianapolis (+5) at Houston

This 9-game winning streak the Texans have been on all started in Indy when Frank Reich opted to go for it on fourth down from near midfield in overtime. Now, the Colts come in wishing that had ended in a tie, as they now face what amounts to a must-win game in Houston, against a team with a hot QB and a running game that has been on-point. That said, the Colts are second in the league converting third downs (48.2%) while the Texans are 15th at less than 40%. That’s a stat that could factor in to what should be a close division grinder. Colts, 31-24

New Orleans (-8) at Tampa Bay

The Saints finally defeated a divisional opponent by double digits when they got all over the Falcons on Thanksgiving night. The Bucs can score and Jameis Winston has been more careful not turning the ball over the past couple weeks. Will that trend continue in a shootout when his team gets behind? Hmmm. Saints, 38-27

Atlanta (+6) at Green Bay

The Packers and Aaron Rodgers are going to play their best game of the year. After the game, reporters will ask if it had anything to do with Mike McCarthy not being there, and of course, they’ll say it didn’t. Liars. Packers, 31-27

Flip Around

Carolina at Cleveland (+1.5)

This season got sideways in a hurry for Ron Rivera and the Panthers. It’s never a good omen when the HC has to fire a bunch of assistants mid-season and take over playcalling. Who would have thought 6 weeks ago that it’d be the Browns that look like the less dysfunctional team of the two? Browns, 29-24

New England (-7.5) at Miami

Miami is not good, and the Patriots’ run game should make hay. Also, the Patriots are looking to avenge last season’s MNF loss in South Beach, and the defense looks like it is rounding into typical December form. Patriots, 27-17

Occasionally Check the Game

Pittsburgh at Oakland (+11)

The Steelers have not traveled well over the past few years — and by that I mean that the offense has a propensity for sputtering and Big Ben turns the ball over. Also, James Connor is out with an ankle sprain so that’ll be worth monitoring over the final month of the regular season. Pittsburgh can’t afford any slip-ups — Lamar and the Ravens are closing in. Steelers, 31-24

Giants at Washington (+3.5)

The Giants are playing themselves right out of a top 5 pick with all this winning they’ve been doing lately. And this weekend presents a juicy matchup for Eli and the boys as they head into a game against a beat up Redskins team, who is watching the playoffs slip from their hands. Giants, 23-20

Turn the Channel and Don’t Bother

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-4)

No way the Jags show up in back-to-back weeks, right? And let’s be honest, it’s not like their offense did a single thing last Sunday against the Colts. The Titans are fighting for their playoff lives — they can’t slip here. Titans, 20-10

Jets at Buffalo (-3.5)

Josh Allen is garnering more love in the media thanks to his legs more than his arm. Expect more of the same this week with a Jets team that can start looking to 2019. Say what you will, Buffalo plays hard every week and shows signs of life with their rookie QB. Bills, 20-12

Cincinnati (+14) at Chargers 

This has all the makings of a trap game — Chargers riding high after a huge win in Pittsburgh on national television, taking on a no-name quarterback who’s missing his number one wideout. I’d take the Bengals, confidently, to cover except for one thing: The Curse of Hue. But all the ingredients are there!!! I’m probably going to regret this one. Chargers, 27-16

Denver at San Francisco (+5.5)

Don’t put me in the “I-believe-in-Denver” boat. Denver’s defense has been fine but not great, and their offense hinges upon an undrafted rookie running back. The 49ers might not be the team to get them, but someone will. People are acting like the Broncos are the favorites to make the playoffs in the AFC. Broncos, 23-20

Detroit (-2.5) at Arizona

We’ve been treated to some awful games over the last few weeks —
Giants-Niners, Niners-Bucs, Cards-Niners. But this one might be the worst of the bunch. Both defenses are capable of playing a decent enough game — the Cardinals just held the Packers to 17 points in Lambeau and the Rams were stuck in the teens for most of the game last Sunday at Detroit. Arizona ranks dead last in yards per play at 4.4 and in passing yards. With David Johnson in their backfield, they’re 31st in rushing yards. The Lions aren’t a ton better — 24th and 25th, respectively, in yards per play and rushing yards. First downs should be at a premium. Lions, 19-16


Thanks for reading. Subscribe to the Sports Talk Center blog and you can receive emails when content is updated. Also, follow me on Twitter @brian22goodwin. You can also subscribe and download the Sports Talk Center Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts from: Apple iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, or Spotify. Just subscribe, download, listen, and enjoy.

Listen to EPISODE 108 (“Dead or Alive: NFL Playoff Contenders”) right here:

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