Tag Archives: AFC South

NFL Week 1 Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

John Morgan
September 11, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

NFL Week 11 Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

 

After the NFL season kicked off with an exciting game Thursday (complete with the requisite bit of controversy conspiracy theorists thrive on), the first week’s full slate of games get under way Sunday. On the undercard for the highly anticipated prime time game between the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals are a handful of interesting matchups. The Jets host Cincinnati early on CBS and Green Bay travels to Jacksonville on FOX for the best early games, while FOX will broadcast a pair of NFC East teams (surprise, surprise) to 95% of the country in their late doubleheader slot. As has been the recent tradition there will be two consecutive Monday night games this week: a good one with the Steelers at Washington early, and then a yawner with the Rams playing the Niners late.

Most of the New England area will receive the Bengals-Jets and Packers-Jaguars games early, followed by the Cowboys-Giants late. For all the out of town fans, check out JP Kirby’s NFL Maps to see what games are being broadcast in your neck of the woods.

 

★★★ Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, September 11 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Sam Rosen, David Diehl
Falcons -2½ (opened at -3) . . . . over/under 48 . . . . ATL -135, TB +115

Last year Tampa Bay ranked in the top ten in yards per play on both offense (5.9, 3rd) and defense (5.2, 8th), but was done in by turnovers and untimely penalties. Atlanta has the oldest team in the league, and it is going to show late in games this season. I would like this game a lot more if the spread was 3½, but I still think the Bucs sneak away with a win here despite Julio Jones being such a mismatch for 5’10” CB Brent Grimes.

Prediction: Bucs 27, Falcons 20
Buccaneers +2½ (2 units) . . . . . under 48 . . . . . Bucs +115

Final Score: Bucs 31, Falcons 24 ✓
Bucs +2½ (2 units) ✓✓ … under 48 x … Bucs +115 ✓

 

★★ Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans
Sunday, September 11 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Dick Stockton, Chris Spielman
Vikings -2½ (opened at -3) . . . . over/under 40 . . . . MIN -145, TEN +125

Road teams being listed as favorites is always a tricky play, but I like the Vikings here. While the headlines would have you believe that Minnesota is doomed due to the loss of their starting quarterback, they still have an undervalued defense that ranked fifth in the NFL last year with 18.9 points allowed per game.

Prediction: Vikings 20, Titans 10
Vikings -2½ (2 units) . . . . . under 40 (3 units) . . . . . Vikings -145

Final Score: Vikings 25, Titans 16 ✓
Vikings -2½ (2 units) ✓✓ . . . under 40 (3 units) xxx . . . Vikings -145 ✓

 

★★ Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, September 11 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Eagles -3 (opened at -7½) . . . . over/under 41 . . . . PHI -165, CLE +145

How is it that nobody considers Sam Bradford to be an exceptional quarterback, but once he is traded away the line slides 4½ points? Considering that the home team gets three points, do people really feel that on a neutral field Philly is just as bad as the Browns? The smart move would have been to double down and taken Cleveland when it was plus 7½, and then middle that later with Philadelphia minus 3.

Prediction: Eagles 24, Browns 16
Eagles -3 . . . . . under 41 . . . . . Eagles -165

Final Score: Eagles 29, Brown 10 ✓
Eagles -3 ✓ . . . under 41 ✓ . . . Eagles -165 ✓

 

★★★★ Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
Sunday, September 11 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
Bengals -2½ (opened as pick) . . . . over/under 42 . . . . CIN -130, NYJ +110

Yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick (17 turnovers last year) is a pick waiting to happen against a strong Cincy defense. However, the Jets have an elite defense as well. If Todd Bowles can coach his defense into containing A.J. Green, then Cincy will be counting on Andy Dalton making passes to Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd. For conspiracy theorists that believe that the NFL NYJFL league offices may not necessarily fix games but certainly tilt the lever towards a desired outcome, consider this: the team from New York will be playing their season opener on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

Prediction: Jets 17, Bengals 13
Jets +2½ (2 units) . . . . . under 42 (3 units) . . . . . Jets +110

Final Score: Bengals 23, Jets 22 x
Jets +2½ (2 units) ✓✓ . . . under 42 (3 units) ✓✓✓ . . . Jets +110 x

 

★★★★ Oakland Raiders at New Orleans Saints
Sunday, September 11 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Chris Myers, Ronde Barber
Saints -1½ (opened as pick) . . . . over/under 52 . . . . NO -125, OAK +105

New Orleans allowed an NFL-worst 29.8 points per game last year, and will be without starting linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who has a quad injury. The Saints have never lost a home season opener in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era; the dome will be rocking, which could give a relatively young and inexperienced Oakland club trouble at times. New Orleans DC Dennis Allen will dial up some exotic blitzes to mask the talent deficiency on defense, but Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree should be able to have their way with the New Orleans defensive backs. Look for All-Pro DE Khalil Mack to expose a shaky New Orleans offensive line.

Prediction: Raiders 31, Saints 24
Raiders +1½ (1 unit) . . . . . over 52 . . . . . Raiders +105

Final Score: Raiders 35, Saints 34 ✓
Raiders +1½ (1 unit) . . . over 52 ✓ . . . Raiders +105 ✓

 

★★★ San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, September 11 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Chiefs -7 (opened at -7½) . . . . over/under 44½ . . . . KC -280, SD +240

In each of the last few years San Diego has been done in by multiple injuries, particularly to their offensive line. RB Melvin Gordon seems to be running well after dealing with a knee injury last year, and they have upgraded their defense as well with the additions of NT Brandon Mebane and LB Denzel Perryman to the starting lineup. This week the Chargers are healthy, but their opponent is not. KC will be without OLB Justin Houston, one of the best defensive players in the NFL. OLB Tamba Hali is dealing with a knee injury and though he will play he is expected to be used sparingly, and safety Eric Berry missed all of training camp. This game will be a lot closer than many expect it to be; I liked this better when it was 7½, but I will still take San Diego plus the points.

Prediction: Chiefs 24, Chargers 20
Chargers +7 (1 unit) . . . . . under 44½ . . . . . Chargers +240

Final Score: Chiefs 33, Chargers 27 (OT) ✓
Chargers +7 (1 unit) . . . under 44½ x . . . Chargers +240 x

 

★★★ Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, September 11 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
Ravens -3 (opened at -3) . . . . over/under 44½ . . . . BAL -165, BUF +145

Much has been made of all the injuries that the Ravens had last year, and that being an excuse for the precipitous drop to a 5-11 record. However, the fact is that they were losing before the injury bug hit; the only explanation for the downfall that they and the Colts experienced is that it was cosmic retribution for their complicity in the frame job and subsequent witch hunt that became known as deflategate. However, the Bills are without DE Shaq Lawson, DE Marcell Dareus, OT Seantrel Henderson, and seven more players on IR.

Prediction: Ravens 23, Bills 20
Ravens -3 . . . . . under 44½ . . . . . Ravens -165

Final Score: Ravens 13, Bills 7 ✓
Ravens -3 ✓ . . . under 44½ ✓ . . . Ravens -165 ✓

 

★★★ Chicago Bears at Houston Texans
Sunday, September 11 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis
Texans -6 (opened at -4½) . . . . over/under 43½ . . . . HOU -230, CHI +190

There has been a fair amount of hype about Houston after they shocked the ‘experts’ to win the AFC South last year, but let’s pump the brakes a little. J.J. Watt is dealing with a bad back, and perhaps more importantly their offensive line is without LT Duane Brown and C Nick Martin. The Bears improved in the off-season with the additions of inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, DE Akiem Hicks and LG Josh Sitton.

Prediction: Bears 24, Texans 20
Bears +6 (3 units) . . . . . over 43½ . . . . . Bears +190

Final Score: Texans 23, Bears 14 x
Bears +6 (3 units) xxx . . . over 43½ x . . . Bears +190 x

 

★★★★★ Green Bay Packers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, September 11 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch
Packers -5½ (opened at -4½) . . . . over/under 47½ . . . . GB -210, JAX +180

Jacksonville is another AFC team that has received a lot of hype as being one that is on the rise, but Green Bay is arguably the best team in the NFC. The Packer defense is underrated and will get after Blake Bortles after Aaron Rodgers reunites with Jordy Nelson. I would have felt more strongly about this game had the line moved the other way or at least remained steady, but I’ll still give the Cheeseheads a slight lean here.

Prediction: Packers 27, Jaguars 20
Packers -5½ . . . . . under 47½ . . . . . Packers -210

Final Score: Packers 27, Jaguars 23 ✓
Packers -5½ x . . . under 47½ x . . . Packers -210 ✓

 

★★ Miami Dolphins at Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, September 11 at 4:05 pm ET on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Seahawks -10½ (opened at -7½) . . . . over/under 44 . . . . SEA -525, MIA +400

A rookie head coach gets to take his team on the road as far as possible within the continental US, to face a team that led the NFL in defense the last two years in the league’s loudest stadium. Seattle has some problems on their offensive line, but there is a good chance that Miami could be in line for a top five draft pick next spring. Despite all that I just can’t back a team to cover a double digit spread this early in the year without the benefit of watching them play some real games.

Prediction: Seahawks 24, Dolphins 14
Dolphins +10½ . . . . . under 44 (2 units) . . . . . Dolphins +400

Final Score: Seahawks 12, Dolphins 10 ✓
Dolphins +10½ ✓. . . under 44 (2 units) ✓✓ . . . Dolphins +400 x

 

★★★ New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, September 11 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX; Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
pick’em (opened w/Cowboys -4) . . . . over/under 46 . . . . NYG -110, DAL -110

The Giants look good up front with their defense, but their offensive line is still a mess. Dallas has a very good offensive line, and that strength vs strength battle could determine the outcome. This will be our first opportunity to see Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in their first real NFL game.

Prediction: Cowboys 24, Giants 20
Cowboys +0 . . . . . under 46 . . . . . Cowboys -110

Final Score: Giants 20, Cowboys 19 x
Cowboys +0 x . . . under 46 ✓ . . . Cowboys -110 x

 

★★★★ Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, September 11 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston
Colts -3 (opened at -6) . . . . over/under 51 . . . . IND -165, DET +145

For some reason many think that with a new season, Andrew Luck will lead the Colts to another division title. Dig deeper and you will find that Indy still has a horrible offensive line, no running game, an average defense and a below average head coach. Detroit has a good defense and finished last season with a 6-2 record after the bye. I’m happy to have bought in at six points, but I wouldn’t want to touch it at three; we all know who 345 Park Avenue wants to win this game.

Prediction: Colts 24, Lions 23
Lions +3 . . . . . under 51 . . . . . Lions +145

Final Score: Lions 39, Colts 35 x
Lions +3 ✓ . . . under 51 x . . . Lions +145 ✓

 

★★★★★ New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, September 11 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Cardinals -7 (opened w/Pats -1) . . . . over/under 44½ . . . . ARI -300, NE +250

One one side you have a team that will be without their quarterback who may be the greatest to ever play the position, without a tight end who may be the greatest to ever play the position, without both starting offensive tackles, without their best running back, and without both defensive ends from last year’s team. Now they have to go cross country to face an opponent with no noticeable losses off of a 13-3 season. This Patriot defense is underrated and Bill Belichick can never be counted out, but all those missing key players is just too much to overcome.

Prediction: Cardinals 24, Patriots 13
Cardinals -7 . . . . . under 44½ (1 unit) . . . . . Cardinals -300

Final Score: Patriots 23, Cardinals 21 x
Cardinals -7 x . . . under 44½ (1 unit) . . . Cardinals -300 x

 

★★★★★ Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington
Sunday, September 12 at 7:10 pm ET on ESPN; Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden
Steelers -3 (opened at -3) . . . . over/under 50 . . . . PIT -145, WAS +125

The Steelers are the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC, but let’s not forget that they are without RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Martavis Bryan for this game. The addition of CB Josh Norman improves Washington’s defense, and a prime time crowd on opening weekend is always a huge plus for the home team.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Skins 23
Skins +3 . . . . . under 50 . . . . . Skins +125

Final Score: Steelers 38, Skins 16 ✓
Skins +3 x . . . under 50 x . . . Skins +125 x

 

Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, September 12 at 10:20 pm ET on ESPN; Chris Berman, Steve Young
Rams -2½ (opened at -1) . . . . over/under 42½ . . . . LA -140, SF +120

The Rams are bad. The Niners are horrible. I have no idea why anybody outside of those two fan bases would want to watch this game.

Prediction: Rams 20, Niners 10
Rams -2½ . . . . . under 42½ (1 unit) . . . . . Rams -140

Final Score: 49ers 288, Rams 0 x
Rams -2½ x . . . under 42½ (1 unit) . . . Rams -140 x

 

Week 1 Results:
10-6 Straight Up
10-6 Against the Spread
9-7 Over/Under
21 units invested
9-2, +840 on $2310 risk
36.4% ROI
3-unit plays: 1-2, -360
2-unit plays: 4-0, +800
1-unit plays: 4-0, +400

 

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publisher of this website. Neither the author nor this website promote or advocate gambling. This is solely for entertainment purposes only. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, please call 1-888-ADMIT-IT.

 

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Chiefs at Texans – Preview, Odds, Prediction

John Morgan
January 8, 2016 at 5:30 pm ET

NFL wild card weekend kicks off Saturday afternoon as the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Houston to take on the AFC South champion Texans. Both clubs overcame the common obstacle of extremely unsuccessful starts to the 2015 season; Houston did not win their second game of the year until Week 6, and KC did not get their second victory until the following week. To accomplish that rare feat both teams leaned heavily on their defenses, both of which ranked in the top ten in the league in points allowed. After a five-turnover debacle against Denver in Week 2, the Chiefs gave the ball away just ten times over the next fourteen games, and finished with a plus-14 turnover differential – second best in the league this year. On December 27 the Texans lost to the Patriots to drop to 6-7 and their playoff chances appeared bleak. Houston’s defense forced ten turnovers over the next three games to carry the team to an improbable comeback, and into the post-season.

 

Who: #5 Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at #4 Houston Texans (9-7)

What: AFC Wild Card Game

When: Saturday, January 9 at 4:35 pm ET on ABC

Where: NRG Stadium, Houston TX

Odds: Kansas City opened as 3-point favorites and as of Friday afternoon that number still holds, though a few outlets now have the Chiefs at -3½. The over/under is 40, and most venues currently have their Money Line set at KC -180 and Houston +160.

Head-to-Head Record: The Chiefs defeated the Texans in Houston back in Week One by the score of 27-20. Kansas City also won in their prior meeting, 17-16 in 2013. All-time the Chiefs hold a 4-3 all-time series lead; this is the two teams’ first encounter in the playoffs.

 

Kansas City was handed a difficult schedule to begin the season, so it was not a surprise that the Chiefs stood at 1-3 after losses to Denver, Green Bay and Cincinnati. However, after scoring a combined 27 points in losses to the Bears and Vikings, KC dropped to 1-5 – and with Jamaal Charles on Injured Reserve, their season appeared to be over. As we all know since then the Chiefs have won ten in a row, and they enter the playoffs with fewer question marks than any AFC team. Similar to the Patriots in 2014, the Kansas City offensive line jelled and became a very effective unit after a rough start. Odd as it may sound, the loss of Charles may have made this team better. Andy Reid was over-reliant on his star running back, and his absence forced the offense to open up and diversify. Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce and Charcandrick West are all dangerous in open space, and that opens lanes elsewhere. When nobody is open Alex Smith can take off and run effectively. The quarterback rushed for 498 yards at 5.9 yards per carry, running for 30 first downs with three rushes of 20+ yards.

 

While KC’s offense should not be overlooked – they did finish ranked ninth in scoring, with 25.3 points per game – it is their defense that has carried the team to the post-season. The Chiefs have allowed 20 or fewer points in twelve of their 16 games this year, and are averaging 11.7 points against over the last four weeks. Safety Eric Berry has made a miraculous comeback from chemotherapy, and ILB Derrick Johnson’s play has progressed over the season. CB Marcus Peters (8 picks for 280 yards and 2 TD) has stepped up to fill one void the Chiefs had on defense – a shutdown corner – and should be NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. ROLB Tamba Hali was able to play last week after breaking his thumb, and LOLB Justin Houston is listed as probable after missing four games due to a hyper extended knee.

 

In Week One J.J. Watt was able to get to Alex Smith for two sacks, but the Chiefs were without LT Eric Fisher for that game. HC Bill O’Brien faces a difficult task of finding a way to disrupt the Kansas City passing game, because Smith gets rid of the ball quickly and rarely turns it over. Since the fumble fest in Week 2 against Denver, KC has turned the ball over just ten times; the Chiefs ranks second in the NFL with 15 giveaways, just one behind New England. Overall KC has a plus-14 turnover differential, best in the AFC.

 

For Houston to win this game their star players on each side of the ball – Watt and WR DeAndre Hopkins – must come through with big days. The Texans were able to sack Smith five times in their opening game loss to KC, but were unable to take the ball away. Cliché as it sounds, Houston cannot afford to lose the turnover battle in this game.

 

On the other side of the ball is a matchup that all football fans should watch and enjoy, WR DeAndre Hopkins versus CB Marcus Peters. Despite the four-headed monster of Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden at quarterback throwing him the ball, Hopkins finished third in receiving yards (1,521), third in receptions (111), third in first downs (83), seventh in receiving touchdowns (11), and seventh in reception of 20+ yards (19). Hoyer may as well throw it to Hopkins early and often because it is doubtful that Alfred Blue (698 yards rushing, 3.8 ypc), or Chris Polk (334 yards rushing, 3.4 ypc) will be able to get much done on the ground.

 

If the score is close in the 4th quarter then Houston has an excellent chance to win, because history tells us that we can count on Andy Reid to mismanage the clock and his team’s time outs. A late rally could also put Reid and his players in a trance, recalling the 45-44 meltdown two years ago at Indianapolis. However, I don’t think it will come down to that, and the Chiefs will walk away with their first playoff victory since 1993 – when the soundtrack to the Bodyguard was the number one album and Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in order to get out of a record deal.

Prediction: Chiefs 24, Texans 13

Despite their being on the road, take Kansas City minus the points.

NFL Week 17 Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

John Morgan
January 2, 2016 at 9:00 pm ET

NFL Week 17 Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

While the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers enter NFL Week 17 with the most at stake, there are also plenty of other games on Sunday with critical playoff implications. Here is a look at all sixteen matchups, with predictions and picks against the spread.

One nice thing about the final week of the season for football fans is that two networks televise both an early and late game, plus restrictions that prohibit another game being televised while the local team plays a home game are lifted. There was a time when this was actually standard operating procedure: the AFL would televise two games on NBC, and the NFL would televise two games on CBS. Once the two leagues merged that ended though, and now pro football fans are forced to either pay big bucks or watch crappy games between losing teams far too often.

Most of the nation will receive the Jets game at Buffalo early on CBS, followed by Denver-San Diego in the late slot. FOX will telecast two of their favorite big market teams, Dallas vs Washington in a meaningless early game to most of the country, and then Seattle at Arizona gets the bulk of distribution in the late slot. The Pats-Dolphins game will only be available in New England and south Florida up to Tampa; for a full look at what is being broadcast where you are check out JP Kirby’s NFL Maps.

 

Happy 61st Birthday to Raymond Clayborn. The three-time Pro Bowler played in 191 games for the New England Patriots from 1977 to 1989, and was a finalist for the team’s Hall of Fame in 2014 and 2015. Clayborn holds the franchise record for most career interceptions with 36 (tied with Ty Law); in his rookie season he led the NFL with three kickoffs returned for touchdowns and a 31.0 yard return average. In 1985 Clayborn was a major factor in New England winning the AFC and making it to the Super Bowl, picking off six passes for interceptions that season. Clayborn is a member of both the Patriots 1970s and 1980s all-decade teams, and set a franchise record by playing in 161 consecutive games.

 

NFL Week 17 Playoff Picture, with Clinching and Elimination Scenarios

 

★★★★★ 12-3 New England Patriots at 5-10 Miami Dolphins
Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Patriots -10 (opened at -8) . . . . over/under 47 . . . . NEP -500, Mia +400

Missing their top two tackles, running backs and receivers has caused the New England offense to sputter of late, while the defense has been tested due to injuries to five key players. That should be enough for Miami to keep it close, but if the Dolphins could not beat a team with Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback, it is highly doubtful that they can defeat a club quarterbacked by Tom Brady.

Prediction: Patriots 27, Dolphins 20
Dolphins +10 . . . . . over 47 . . . . . Dolphins +400

 

★★★★★ 10-5 New York Jets at 7-8 Buffalo Bills
Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Jets -3 (opened at -1½) . . . . over/under 41½ . . . . NYJ -160, Buf +140

As difficult as it is to root for the Jets – or any team from New York – there would certainly be a bit of ironic humor with Gang Green clinching a playoff spot with a victory over Rex Ryan. Todd Bowles has completely out-coached the toe lover this season, while Ryan’s defense in Buffalo has under achieved and can now be considered no better than average at best. Undisciplined play and no LeSean McCoy leads to yet another ‘Super Bowl’ loss for Rex.

Prediction: Jets 24, Bills 20
Jets -3 . . . . . over 41½ . . . . . Bills +140

 

★★★★ 5-10 Baltimore Ravens at 11-4 Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Tony Siragusa
Bengals -9½ (opened at -7) . . . . over/under 41½ . . . . Cin -450, Bal +350

I believe that last week was the biggest game of the season for Baltimore, as they upended arch rival Pittsburgh to put a huge dent in the Steelers’ playoff aspirations. This could be an emotional letdown for the Ravens, while Cincinnati is playing for a first round bye.

Prediction: Bengals 24, Ravens 13
Bengals -9½ . . . . . under 41½ . . . . . Bengals -450

 

★★★★ 9-6 Pittsburgh Steelers at 3-12 Cleveland Browns
Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl
Steelers -11 (opened at -8½) . . . . over/under 47 . . . . Pit -600, Cle +450

The season is on the line for Pittsburgh, thanks to last week’s shocking debacle at Baltimore. The Steelers are allowing 278 yards passing per game, third worst in the NFL.  The Browns are down to Austin Davis at quarterback, but he’s an improvement over Johnny Manziel – and is capable of keeping it interesting with WR Travis Benjamin (913 yards, 5 TD) and TE Gary Barnidge (977 yards, 9 TD) against a very shaky Pittsburgh pass defense.

Prediction: Steelers 31, Browns 21
Browns +11 . . . . . over 47 . . . . . Steelers -600

 

★★★ 6-9 New Orleans Saints at 8-7 Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Sam Rosen, Matt Millen, Peter Schrager
Falcons -5½ (opened at -2½) . . . . over/under 52½ . . . . Atl -250, NO +210

Is this the last game for either Drew Brees or Sean Payton with New Orleans? Perhaps, but it is undoubtedly the final game for many Saints defensive players. The New Orleans D ranks 32nd in points allowed, 31st in yards allowed, 31st in passing yards, 32nd in yards per pass attempt, 32nd in touchdown passes, 32nd in opponent passer rating, 31st in rushing yards, and 32nd in yards per carry.

Prediction: Falcons 34, Saints 31
Saints +5½ . . . . . over 52½ . . . . . Saints +210

 

★★★ 5-10 Jacksonville Jaguars at 8-7 Houston Texans
Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
Texans -6½ (opened at -5½) . . . . over/under 45½ . . . . Hou -270, Jax +230

Houston’s defense has been schizophrenic this year. In the Texans’ eight wins they have allowed just 10.0 points per game, but in their seven losses that figure is more than doubled, at 22.7 points per game. Jacksonville rookie RB TJ Yeldon is out for this game, which means old friend Jonas Gray should get some extended playing time; Gray averaged 6.2 yards per carry last week and is at 4.3 yards per carry for the season.

Prediction: Jaguars 27, Texans 24
Jaguars +6½ . . . . . over 45½ . . . . . Jaguars +230

 

★★ 8-7 Washington Redskins at 4-11 Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale
Cowboys -4 (opened at -4) . . . . over/under 39½ . . . . Dal -200, Was +170

Washington is locked in to the number four seed, so I would think that many starters will see little or no action in this game. The Skins were perceived by many to be one of the worst teams in the league entering the season; with that in mind Jay Gruden is deserving of some consideration for Coach of the Year.

Prediction: Redskins 20, Cowboys 17
Skins +4 . . . . . under 39½ . . . . . Skins +170

 

★★ 6-9 Detroit Lions at 6-9 Chicago Bears
Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Molly McGrath
Pick’em (opened w/Bears -1½) . . . . over/under 45½ . . . . Det -110, Chi -110

And the battle for last place in the NFC North goes to…. da Bears, who delivered just one home win to Chicago land faithful this season. However, a victory should mean nothing to Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell; how he has managed to stay employed in the NFL for 15 years is baffling.

Prediction: Lions 27, Bears 20
Lions pk . . . . . over 45½ . . . . . Lions -110

 

★★ 6-9 Philadelphia Eagles at 6-9 New York Giants
Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX; Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin
Giants -4½ (opened at -3½) . . . . over/under 51 . . . . NYG -240, Phil +200

On one hand you have Eagle players who would probably love to show that they can win without Chip Kelly. On the other sideline you have Giant players who would probably love to give Tom Coughlin a victory if this is indeed his final NFL game. If you hear anguished moans when New York does well on offense it is probably from a despondent fantasy football player who had to sit Odell Beckham last week due to his suspension, while fantasy football championship games were being played.

Prediction: Giants 31, Eagles 24
Giants -4½ . . . . . over 51 . . . . . Eagles +200

 

3-12 Tennessee Titans at 7-8 Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS; Andrew Catalon, Steve Beuerlein, Steve Tasker
Colts -6 (opened at -6) . . . . over/under 41½ . . . . Ind -320, Ten +260

The Colts need an eight-team parlay that would pay out over $150k on a $100 bet to go their way in order to make the playoffs. The most difficult leg of that scenario may be winning their own game, since they may have to rely on either Josh Freeman or Ryan Lindley to be their starting quarterback. Freeman wasn’t even good enough to start full time for something called the Fall Experimental Football League a few weeks ago, so watching him play Sunday may be deviously entertaining if you enjoy a bit of Indy schadenfreude.

Prediction: Titans 20, Colts 17
Titans +6 . . . . . under 41½ . . . . . Titans +260

 

★★★★★ 9-6 Seattle Seahawks at 13-2 Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, January 3 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX; Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Cardinals -6½ (opened at -3½) . . . . over/under 47 . . . . Ariz -260, Sea +220

Seattle is locked into a wild card spot, and will be without both left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy for this game. However, Pete Carrol and his troops don’t want to enter the post-season on a two-game losing streak, and would love to wash away the stench from last week’s loss to the Rams.

Prediction: Cardinals 30, Seahawks 24
Seahawks +6½ . . . . . over 47 . . . . . Seahawks +220

 

★★★★ 7-8 Oakland Raiders at 10-5 Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, January 3 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX; Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver
Chiefs -7 (opened at -6½) . . . . over/under 43½ . . . . KC -320, Oak +260

Kansas City has clinched a playoff spot but could win the division and take the number three seed with a win plus a Denver loss. The Raiders would love to spoil plans for their division rival. The Chiefs have not had that much of a home field advantage recently. Last week the 3-win Browns rushed for 232 yards in a 17-13 game at KC, and two weeks prior the Chiefs were only able to score ten points at Arrowhead against the 4-win Chargers.

Prediction: Chiefs 24, Raiders 20
Raiders +7 . . . . . over 43½ . . . . . Raiders +260

 

★★★ 4-11 San Diego Chargers at 11-4 Denver Broncos
Sunday, January 3 at 4:25 pm ET on CBS; Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Broncos -9 (opened at -7½) . . . . over/under 41 . . . . Den -450, SD +350

Denver’s vaunted pass defense has shown some vulnerabilities recently, so Philip Rivers and company do have a puncher’s chance here. The problem for San Diego is that their offensive line is a mess, and that is something Denver’s front seven will feast on.

Prediction: Broncos 24, Chargers 13
Broncos -9 . . . . . under 41 . . . . . Broncos -450

 

★★★ 6-9 Tampa Bay Bucs at 14-1 Carolina Panthers
Sunday, January 3 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX; Dick Stockton, David Diehl, Kristina Pink
Panthers -11½ (opened at -9½) . . . . over/under 46 . . . . Car -650, TB +475

How valuable was LB Kwon Alexander to Tampa Bay’s defense? The Bucs were 6-6 and just a game out of the playoff picture three weeks ago, but have lost three in a row since the rookie was suspended by the NFL for HgH.

Prediction: Panthers 31, Bucs 24
Bucs +11½ . . . . . over 46 . . . . . Bucs +475

 

7-8 St. Louis Rams at 4-11 San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, January 3 at 4:25 pm ET on CBS; Tom McCarthy, Adam Archuleta
Rams -3½ (opened at -3½) . . . . over/under 37½ . . . . StL -185, SF +165

The two worst offenses in the league. Nobody should have to watch this game.

Prediction: Rams 17, Niners 13
Rams -3½ . . . . . under 37½ . . . . . Rams -185

 

★★★★★ 10-5 Minnesota Vikings at 10-5 Green Bay Packers
Sunday, January 3 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Packers -3 (opened at -3) . . . . over/under 45½ . . . . GB -170, Min +150

Green Bay’s offensive line is in shambles, which is resulting in Aaron Rodgers getting hit far too often and having no time to wait for his receivers to finish their routes. The Packers would be wise to bring safety Morgan Burnett up near the line of scrimmage to limit Adrian Peterson, and dare the Vikings to win with Teddy Bridgewater. It is quite possible that the Packers could be swept at home within their division for the first time in franchise history.

Prediction: Vikings 24, Packers 20
Packers -3 . . . . . under 45½ . . . . . Vikings +150

 

NFL Week 16 Playoff Picture and Scenarios

John Morgan
December 23, 2015 at 8:00 am ET

While NFL Week 15 did not do much to the playoff picture other than end the misery for a handful of teams by officially eliminating them from post-season play, it did bring genuine contenders one step closer to clinching scenarios in Week 16. Eighteen teams still have at least a mathematical chance at a playoff spot with two weeks to go; that is surely something that Roger Goodell’s parity-driven Park Avenue league office that strives for participation banners is surely proud of.

 

For all intents and purposes there are four remaining playoff races: (a) between Cincinnati and Denver for a bye; (b) between Kansas City an Pittsburgh for the number five seed (and the right to play the sorry-ass AFC South champion); (c) between Green Bay and Minnesota for the NFC North and number three seed; and (d) between Washington and Philadelphia for the NFC East title and the right to lose at home to Seattle.

 

Here is a look at all of the remaining playoff clinching and elimination scenarios, no matter how minute. For the sake of clarity and the attempt to avoid mind-numbing confusion, I have not forgotten but rather have avoided scenarios involving ties.

 

AFC – 3 Teams Seeking A First Round Bye

1. New England Patriots
12-2 [9-1 conference]
Clinched AFC East and a first-round bye
at Jets, at Dolphins
94% chance for #1 seed
– Can clinch #1 seed with a win

2. Cincinnati Bengals
11-3 [8-2 conference, 4-1 division]
Clinched a playoff spot
at Broncos, vs Ravens
3% chance for #1 seed; 49% for a bye; 97% for #3 or better
– Can clinch AFC North and #2 seed with a win over Broncos
– Can clinch AFC North and #3 seed with a Steelers loss
– Can clinch playoff spot and #5 seed with a Chiefs loss
– Eliminated from #1 seed with loss to Broncos
– Eliminated from #1 seed with win by Patriots

3. Denver Broncos
10-4 [6-4 conference, 3-2 division]
Could be as high as #1 seed or could miss playoffs entirely
vs Bengals, at Chargers
4% chance for #1 seed; 51% for a bye; 28% for a wild card; 7% to miss playoffs
– Can clinch AFC West and #3 seed with win over Bengals, plus Chiefs lose to Browns
– Can clinch at least #5 seed with win over Bengals, plus both Steelers and Jets lose
– Can clinch at least #6 seed with win over Bengals, plus either Steelers or Jets lose
– Can be #1 seed by winning both remaining games, and Patriots lose both games
– Can be #2 seed by winning both remaining games
– Eliminated from AFC West title if KC wins twice and Bronocos lose at least once
– Eliminated from playoffs by losing at least once, and Steelers, Chiefs and Jets all win both games

 

AFC South – #4 Seed

4. Houston Texans
7-7 [3-1 division, 5-5 conference]
at Titans, vs Jaguars
93% chance of winning AFCS and #4 seed; 7% chance to miss playoffs
– Can clinch AFC South and #4 seed with win, plus Colts loss

10. Indianapolis Colts
6-8 [3-2 division, 4-6 conference]
vs Texans, at Dolphins, vs Titans
7% chance of winning AFCS and #4 seed; 93% chance to miss playoffs
– Eliminated from playoffs with loss to Dolphins, plus Texans win

11. Jacksonville Jaguars
5-9 [2-3 division, 5-6 conference]
Jaguars are still in contention for both a playoff spot, or #1 draft pick
at Saints, at Texans
1% chance of winning AFCS and #4 seed; 99% chance to miss playoffs
– Eliminated from playoffs with either a loss, or a Texans win

 

AFC – Wild Cards

5. Kansas City Chiefs
9-5 [8-2 conference, 4-1 division]
Currently hold tiebreaker over Steelers and Jets based on conference record
vs Browns, vs Raiders
Minute chance for #2 seed; 36% chance to win AFCW & #3 seed; 42% for #5, 17% for #6, 5% for no playoffs
– Clinch #5 seed with win, plus Steelers and Jets lose
– Clinch playoff spot with win, plus either Steelers or Jets lose
– Eliminated from #2 seed with loss, or Bengals beat Broncos, or Steelers lose
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss, plus Bengals beat Broncos

6. Pittsburgh Steelers
9-5 [6-4 conference, 2-2 division]
Hold tiebreaker over Jets based on common games
at Ravens, at Browns
Minute chance for #2 seed; 3% chance to win AFCN & #3 seed; 41% for #5, 46% for #6, 10% for no playoffs
– Chance of missing playoffs dropped from 67% two weeks ago to 30% last week to 10% this week
– Clinch playoff spot with win, plus Jets loss to Patriots
– Eliminated from AFCN title and #3 seed with either a loss, or a Bengals win
– Eliminated from #5 seed with a loss, plus Chiefs win, plus Broncos win

7. New York Jets
9-5 [6-4 conference, 2-2 division]
Need to finish with better record than either the Chiefs or Steelers
vs Patriots, at Bills
5% chance for #5 seed, 17% for #6 seed, 78% for no playoffs
– Cannot clinch a playoff spot this week
– Eliminated from #5 seed with a loss, plus a win by the Steelers
– Eliminated from #5 seed with a loss, plus wins by both the Broncos and Chiefs
– Eliminated from playoffs with a loss, plus wins by the Broncos and the Chiefs and the Steelers

 

AFC Teams Looking Ahead To The Draft

8. 6-8 Oakland Raidersvs Chargers, at Chiefs
9. 6-8 Buffalo Billsvs Cowboys, vs Jets
12. 5-9 Miami Dolphinsvs Colts, vs Patriots
13. 4-10 Baltimore Ravensvs Steelers, at Bengals
14. 4-10 San Diego Chargersat Raiders, at Broncos
15. 3-11 Cleveland Brownsat Chiefs, vs Steelers
16. 3-11 Tennessee Titansvs Texans, at Colts

 

NFC Contenders

1. Carolina Panthers
14-0 [10-0 conference]
Clinched NFC South division title and first round bye
at Falcons, vs Bucs
99% chance for #1 becoming the #1 seed
– Clinch #1 seed with either a win, or a loss by Cardinals

2. Arizona Cardinals
12-2 [9-1 conference, 4-1 division]
Clinched NFC West and at least a #3 seed
vs Packers, vs Seahawks
94% chance for a first round bye
– Clinch #2 seed with a win over Packers
– Eliminated from #1 seed with either a loss, or a win by Seahawks

3. Green Bay Packers
10-4 [7-3 conference, 3-2 division]
Clinched a playoff spot
at Cardinals, vs Vikings
6% chance for #2 seed; 66% chance to win division; 29% to be #5 seed and 5% to be #6
– Clinch NFC North and #3 seed with a win plus a Vikings loss to Giants
– Clinch at least #5 seed with either a win, or a Seahawks loss
– Eliminated from first round bye with a loss to Cardinals

5. Seattle Seahawks
9-5 [6-4 conference, 2-2 division]
Clinched playoff spot; can only be a wild card
vs Rams, at Cardinals
62% chance of being the #5 seed, 38% chance of being the #6 seed
– Clinch #5 seed with a win, plus Vikings lose to Giants, plus Packers beat Cardinals

6. Minnesota Vikings
9-5 [6-4 conference, 4-1 division]
vs Giants, at Packers
Cannot get a bye; 34% chance for #3 seed; 10% for #5; 56% for #6; minute chance to miss playoffs
– Clinch playoff spot with either a win, or a Falcons loss, or a Seahawks win
– Eliminated from division title and #3 seed with both a loss, and a Packers win
– Eliminated from #5 seed with a loss, plus a Packers win, plus a Seahawks win

 

NFC Pretenders (NFC East)

4. Washington Redskins
7-7 [2-2 division, 6-4 conference]
Head-to-head: 1-0 vs Eagles, 1-1 vs Giants
at Eagles, at Cowboys
60% chance of winning NFC East and #4 seed; 40% chance to miss playoffs
– Clinch division and #4 seed with a win over the Eagles

10. Philadelphia Eagles
6-8 [2-2 division, 3-7 conference]
Head-to-head: 0-1 vs Skins, 1-0 vs Giants
vs Redskins, at Giants
37% chance of winning NFC East and #4 seed; 63% chance to miss playoffs
– Eliminated from playoffs with a loss to Washington
– To win division and make playoffs Eagles must win both remaining games, plus Washington must lose to Dallas

11. New York Giants
6-8 [2-3 division, 4-6 conference]
Head-to-head: 1-1 vs Skins, 0-1 vs Eagles
at Vikings, vs Eagles
4% chance of winning NFC East and #4 seed; 96% chance to miss playoffs
– Eliminated from playoffs with either a loss, or if Washington beats Philly
– To win division and make playoffs Giants must win both remaining games, plus Washington must lose twice

 

NFC Teams Looking Ahead To The Draft

7. Atlanta Falcons
7-7 [4-6 conference, 0-4 division]
Only team from this group technically alive, but it is time to pull the plug
vs Panthers, vs Saints
99.9% chance of missing the playoffs
– Eliminated with either a loss, or a Seahawks win, or a Vikings win

8. 6-8 St. Louis Ramsat Seahawks, at Niners
9. 6-8 Tampa Bay Bucsvs Bears, at Panthers
12. 5-9 Detroit Lionsvs Niners, at Bears
13. 5-9 New Orleans Saintsvs Jaguars, at Falcons
14. 5-9 Chicago Bearsat Bucs, vs Lions
15. 4-10 San Francisco 49ersat Lions, vs Rams
16. 4-10 Dallas Cowboysat Bills, vs Redskins

 

NFL Week 15 Playoff Picture and Scenarios

John Morgan
December 18, 2015 at 8:00 am ET

NFL Week 15 Playoff Picture and Scenarios

Last week the New England Patriots vaulted in to the number one seed in the AFC by virtue of the defensive mastery over the Houston Texans, coupled with losses by the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos. When the Miami Dolphins lost to the New York Giants Monday night the Pats also clinched their seventh straight AFC East title. Elsewhere the Arizona Cardinals also clinched a playoff spot and the Carolina Panthers clinched a first-round bye; on the other end of the spectrum six teams joined the Cleveland Browns as being officially eliminated from the playoffs.

 

In the AFC there are essentially three playoff races: the Patriots, Bengals and Broncos vying for home field advantage throughout the conference playoffs, or at least a first-round bye; the Colts and Texans (and to a lesser extent, the Jaguars as well) playing for the AFC South title and the number four seed; and the Steelers, Chiefs and Texans battling for the wild card spots.

 

Over in the NFC there are realistically only two playoff races remaining. For all intents and purposes the Panthers will be the number one seed, Arizona number two, and Seattle will claim the number five seed as the top wild card. One of Green Bay and Minnesota will win the NFC North and become the number three seed; they will play at home to the other club, who will become the number six seed. The other playoff race is of course that of the NFC East; one of the Redskins, Giants or Eagles will have to represent that division, even though nobody seems to want it or deserve it.

 

In both conferences the race for the number five seed is nearly as meaningful as getting a first round bye. Both of the number five seeds will most likely be playing against a team with a .500 (or losing record). On the other hand the number six seed will have to go on the road against a ten or eleven-win club.

Note: for the sake of clarity and to reduce the risk of headaches I have not included any scenarios involving ties.

 

AFC – #1 Seed and First Round Bye

1. New England Patriots
11-2 [4-0 division, 8-1 conference]
Clinched AFC East and at least #3 seed
vs Titans, at Jets, at Dolphins
79% chance for #1 seed; 98% chance for a bye
– Can clinch at least #2 seed and a first-round bye with a win over Titans, plus Broncos lose to Steelers

2. Cincinnati Bengals
10-3 [4-1 division, 8-2 conference]
2-game division lead over Pittsburgh with 3 to play
at 49ers, at Broncos, vs Ravens
3% chance for #1 seed; 40% for a bye; 98% for #3 or better
– Can clinch AFC North and at least #3 seed if Steelers lose to Broncos
– Can clinch at least #5 seed with win over 49ers, plus Chiefs lose to Ravens
– Can clinch playoff spot with win over 49ers, or Chiefs lose to Ravens, or Jets lose to Cowboys

3. Denver Broncos
10-3 [3-2 division, 6-3 conference]
2-game division lead over Kansas City with 3 to play
at Steelers, vs Bengals, at Chargers
18% chance for #1 seed; 61% for a bye; 88% for #3 or better
– Can clinch AFC West and at least #3 seed with win over Steelers, plus Chiefs lose to Ravens
– Can clinch at playoff spot and at least #5 seed with win over Steelers, plus Jets lose to Cowboys
– Can clinch playoff spot and at least #6 seed with with win over Steelers

 

AFC South – #4 Seed

4. Indianapolis Colts
6-7 [3-1 division, 4-5 conference]
Currently tied with Houston; wins tiebreaker based on head-to-head victory
vs Texans, at Dolphins, vs Titans
60% chance of winning AFCS and #4 seed; 40% chance of missing playoffs
– With a win over Texans, the only way Indy would miss the playoffs would be to lose their final two games while Houston wins their last two games

10. Houston Texans
6-7 [2-1 division, 4-5 conference]
Needs to win Sunday to avoid losing head-to-head tiebreaker with Colts
at Colts, at Titans, vs Jaguars
39% chance of winning AFCS and #4 seed; >1% chance of being wild card; 61% chance for no playoffs

11. Jacksonville Jaguars
5-8 [2-3 division, 5-6 conference]
Virtually no chance despite only being one game behind
vs Falcons, at Saints, at Texans
1% chance of winning AFCS and #4 seed; >99% chance for no playoffs
– Eliminated from playoffs with loss to Falcons, plus Colts beat Texans

 

AFC – Wild Cards

5. Kansas City Chiefs
8-5 [4-1 division, 7-2 conference]
Currently hold tiebreaker over Steelers and Jets based on conference record
at Ravens, vs Browns, vs Raiders
11% chance of winning AFCW and #3 seed; 63% chance of being #5 seed; 7% chance for no playoffs
– Eliminated from #1 seed if Patriots win, or if Broncos and Bengals both win
– Eliminated from #2 seed with loss to Ravens, or if Patriots and Broncos both win
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss to Ravens, plus Broncos win

6. New York Jets
8-5 [2-2 division, 6-4 conference]
Hold tiebreaker over Steelers based on conference record
at Cowboys, vs Patriots, at Bills
7% chance for #5 seed, 25% for #6 seed, 61% for no playoffs
– Wins by Chiefs and Steelers last week dropped Jet playoff chances from 39% to 31%
– No clinching or elimination scenarios for Jets this week

7. Pittsburgh Steelers
8-5 [2-2 division, 5-4 conference]
Conference records: Chiefs 7-2; Jets 6-4; Steelers 5-4
vs Broncos, at Ravens, at Browns
2% chance of winning AFCN and #3 seed; 25% for #5 seed; 43% for #6; 30% for no playoffs
– Chance of missing playoffs dropped from 67% last week to 30% this week
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss to Broncos, or if Bengals beat 49ers

8. Oakland Raiders
6-7 [2-2 division, 6-4 conference]
All but technically eliminated from playoffs
vs Packers, vs Chargers, at Chiefs
2% chance for wild card, 98% chance for no playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed with loss, plus a win by either Jets or Chiefs or Steelers
– Eliminated from playoffs with loss, plus wins by two of Jets/Chiefs/Steelers

9. Buffalo Bills
6-7 [3-2 division, 6-5 conference]
All but technically eliminated from playoffs
at Washington, vs Cowboys, vs Jets
5% chance for wild card, 95% chance for no playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed with loss, or win by Chiefs
– Eliminated from #6 seed with loss, plus win by either Steelers or Jets

AFC teams eliminated from playoffs:
5-8 Miami Dolphins – at Chargers, vs Colts, vs Patriots
4-9 Baltimore Ravens – vs Chiefs, vs Steelers, at Bengals
3-10 San Diego Chargers – vs Dolphins, at Raiders, at Broncos
3-10 Cleveland Browns – at Seahawks, at Chiefs, vs Steelers
3-10 Tennessee Titans – at Patriots, vs Texans, at Colts

 

NFC Contenders

1. Carolina Panthers
13-0 [4-0 division, 9-0 conference]
Clinched NFC South division title and first round bye
at Giants, at Falcons, vs Giants
98% chance for #1 seed; 2% chance of being #2 seed
– Clinch #1 seed with a win, plus loss by Cardinals

2. Arizona Cardinals
11-2 [4-1 division, 8-1 conference]
Clinched a playoff spot last week
Hold tiebreaker over Seahawks (39-32 victory at Seattle)
at Eagles, vs Packers, vs Seahawks
92% chance for a bye
– Clinch first round bye with win at Eagles, plus Packers lose to Raiders
– Clinch division and #3 seed with win, or a Seahawks loss
– Clinch at least #5 seed with a loss by either the Vikings or Packers
– Eliminated from #1 seed with loss, plus win by Panthers

3. Green Bay Packers
9-4 [3-2 division, 7-3 conference]
Hold tiebreaker over Vikings based on Week 11 win at Minnesota
at Raiders, at Cardinals, vs Vikings
8% chance for #2 seed; 58% for #3; 34% for wild card; >1% for no playoffs
– Clinch playoff spot and at least #5 seed with win, plus Seahawks loss
– Clinch playoff spot with either a win, or a Giants loss, or a Redskins loss
– Eliminated from #2 seed with loss, plus Cardinals win

5. Seattle Seahawks
8-5 [2-2 division, 6-4 conference]
Moved up to #5 seed with wins in last two weeks while Vikings lost twice
vs Browns, vs Rams, at Cardinals
>1% chance of winning NFCW; 69% for #5; 29% for #6; 2% for no playoffs
– Clinch playoff spot with win, plus a loss by either Giants or Redskins
– Clinch playoff spot with win, plus Packers win, plus Vikings and Falcons lose
– Eliminated from NFCW title and #2 seed if Packers win and Vikings lose
– Eliminated from NFCW title and #3 seed with a loss, or if Cardinals win

6. Minnesota Vikings
8-5 [3-1 division, 5-4 conference]
The Vikes have lost two in a row but are still in good shape to make the playoffs
vs Bears, vs Giants, at Packers
cannot get a bye; 34% chance for #3 seed; 60% for a wild card; 6% for no playoffs
– Clinch playoff spot with win, plus Falcons lose, plus either Giants or Redskins lose
– Clinch playoff spot with win, plus Seahawks lose, plus either Giants or Redskins lose

 

NFC East

4. Washington Redskins
5-6 [2-1 division, 5-3 conference]
Head-to-head: 1-0 vs Eagles, 1-1 vs Giants, 0-1 vs Cowboys
at Bears, vs Bills, at Eagles, at Cowboys
39% chance of winning NFCE; 60% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss, or Packers win, or Vikings win

9. Philadelphia Eagles
6-7 [2-2 division, 3-6 conference]
Head-to-head: 0-1 vs Skins, 1-0 vs Giants, 1-1 vs Cowboys
vs Cardinals, vs Redskins, at Giants
44% chance of winning NFCE; 56% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss, or Packers win, or Vikings win

10. New York Giants
6-7 [2-3 division, 4-5 conference]
Head-to-head: 1-1 vs Skins, 0-1 vs Eagles, 1-1 vs Cowboys
vs Panthers, at Vikings, vs Eagles
15% chance of winning NFCE; 83% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss, or Packers win, or Vikings win

16. Dallas Cowboys
4-9 [3-2 division, 3-8 conference]
Head-to-head: 1-0 vs Skins, 1-1 vs Eagles, 1-1 vs Giants
vs Jets, at Bills, vs Redskins
2% chance of winning NFCE; 98% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #3 seed with loss, or two of Redskins/Eagles/Cowboys win

 

Rest of the NFC

7. Atlanta Falcons
6-7 [0-4 division, 4-6 conference]
Falcons could lose nine straight to end the season after a 5-0 start
at Jaguars, vs Panthers, vs Saints
99% chance of missing the playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed with a loss
– Eliminated from playoffs with loss, plus Vikings win

10. St. Louis Rams
6-8 [3-1 division, 5-5 conference]
The Rams have not had a winning season since 2003, and Jeff Fisher has not coached a winning team since 2008
won vs Bucs, at Seahawks, at Niners
99% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed if either Vikings or Seahawks win
– Eliminated from playoffs if both Vikings and Seahawks win

11. Tampa Bay Bucs
6-8 [3-2 division, 5-5 conference]
Hey, four more wins than last year was a decent start
lost at Rams, vs Bears, at Panthers
99% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed if either Vikings or Seahawks win
– Eliminated from playoffs if both Vikings and Seahawks win

12. New Orleans Saints
5-8 [2-3 division, 4-6 conference]
Off-season plan: defense, defense, and more defense
vs Lions, vs Jaguars, at Falcons
99% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed if either Vikings or Seahawks win
– Eliminated from playoffs with a loss, or if both Vikings and Seahawks win

13. Chicago Bears
5-8 [2-3 division, 4-6 conference]
A 1-6 record at home, including a loss to the Niners? Huh?
at Vikings, at Bucs, vs Lions
99% chance of missing playoffs
– Eliminated from #5 seed if Seahawks win
– Eliminated from playoffs with a loss to Vikings

14. Detroit Lions
4-9 [2-3 division, 3-6 conference]
Jim Caldwell is probably the next head coach to be fired
at Saints, vs Niners, at Bears
– Eliminated from playoffs last week

15. San Francisco 49ers
4-9 [0-5 division, 3-7 conference]
14.5 points per game – pathetic.
vs Bengals, at Lions, vs Rams
– Eliminated from playoffs last week

 

Patriots at Texans: In-Depth Team Stats, Odds, TV Info & Prediction

John Morgan
December 11, 2015 at 7:00 pm ET

The 10-2 New England Patriots seek to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2002 when they travel to Houston to face the 6-6 Texans on Sunday. The Patriots need a win to keep even with Denver and Cincinnati in the race for a first round bye in the AFC, while Houston looks to overtake Indianapolis for the lead in the AFC South.

NFL Playoff Picture after Week 13

 

When: Sunday, December 13 at 8:30 pm ET

Where: NRG Stadium, Houston Texas

Television: NBC; announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth

Odds: The Patriots opened as point favorites in early look-ahead lines a week ago Thursday, prior to last week’s games. At the finish of Sunday’s games, after both the Patriots and Texans lost, the updated line remained at 3½. The odds dipped to an even three Monday night, but returned to 3½ Thursday afternoon with the news that Rob Gronkowski was a limited practice participant while J.J. Watt (broken hand) did not participate in practice. As of Thursday night the over/under was 45, and the money line had the Patriots -180 and Houston +160.

Head-to-Head Series Record: The Patriots lead the all-time series 5-1, including a 41-28 division round playoff victory in the 2012 post-season. In that contest Danny Woodhead was injured on the first play of the game, but Shane Vereen stepped in and totaled 124 yards from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns. The last meeting was in Week 13 of the 2013 season when the Pats overcame a ten-point halftime deficit to win 34-31. Tom Brady passed for 371 yards and Stephen Gostkowkski kicked two 53-yards fourth quarter field goals to first tie the game, and then win it with just over three minutes remaining. The Texans lone victory came in Week 17 of New England’s 2010 season of discontent; in a meaningless game for the Patriots Wes Welker blew out his knee and Houston scored the final 21 points in the fourth quarter to win 34-27.

 

The Patriots can clinch a playoff spot with a win Sunday; combine that result with a Tennessee victory over the Jets, and New England wins the AFC East and clinches no worse than the number three seed in the playoffs.

 

Here is a look at how the two teams compare statistically; the numbers reflect an average per game (or per play), rather than aggregate totals. Per-game and per-play stats are used rather than gross totals because that makes the rankings more meaningful, and because they provide a better context in regards to what to expect in any given game. Numbers in green indicate a top-ten ranking while underlined green is top-five; red indicates a bottom-ten ranking and underlined red is bottom-ten.

One statistic of note: in just one week New England dropped form 8th to 16th in passing completion percentage. Yes, the Patriot receivers are indeed not getting open, and dropping far too many passes when they do.

 

New England Patriots Offense versus Houston Texans Defense

Scoring: Patriots 31.3 (2nd); Texans 22.0 (14th)

Yardage: Patriots 404 (3rd); Texans 332 (7th)

First Downs: Patriots 23.8 (2nd); Texans 18.8 (8th)

Yards per Play: Patriots 6.0 (4th); Texans 5.3 (9th)

Yards per Drive: Patriots 35.1 (5th); Texans 27.6 (5th)

Points per Drive: Patriots 2.68 (1st); Texans 1.72 (9th)

Drive Success Rate: Patriots .747 (2nd); Texans .662 (7th)

Points per Play: Patriots .461 (2nd); Texans .352 (14th)

Touchdowns: Patriots 3.6 (2nd); Texans 2.7 (16th)

Red Zone Touchdowns: Patriots 2.8 (1st); Texans 1.4 (9th)

Red Zone TD Percentage: Patriots 66.7% (3rd); Texans 58.6% (21st)

Plays per Game: Patriots 67.8 (5th); Texans 62.6 (8th)

Third Down Conversions: Patriots 5.8 (9th); Texans 3.8 (1st)

Third Down Percentage: Patriots 43.4% (5th); Texans 28.7% (1st)

Punts per Score: Patriots 0.8 (2nd); Texans 1.6 (1st)

Rushing Yards: Patriots 88.5 (28th); Texans 114.1 (21st)

Yards per Rush: Patriots 3.83 (24th); Texans 4.37 (25th)

Passing Yards: Patriots 316 (1st); Texans 218 (3rd)

Yards per Pass Attempt: Patriots 7.8 (5th); Texans 6.9 (10th)

Completion Percentage: Patriots 63.8% (16th); Texans 59.3% (6th)

Passer Rating: Patriots 103.0 (4th); Texans 86.4 (12th)

TD Passes/Picks: Patriots +25 (1st), 31/6; Texans -10 (15th), 20/10

Complete Passes: Patriots 27.0 (3rd); Texans 20.2 (3rd)

Incomplete Passes: Patriots 15.3 (29th); Texans 13.8 (12th)

Quarterback Sacks: Patriots 2.4 (20th); Texans 2.5 (12th)

Sack Yardage Lost: Patriots 13.2 (14th); Texans 16.6 (13th)

 

Houston Texans Offense versus New England Patriots Defense

Scoring: Texans 21.1 (22nd); Patriots 20.6 (10th)

Yardage: Texans 362 (13th); Patriots 341 (13th)

First Downs: Texans 22.0 (7th); Patriots 19.8 (14th)

Yards per Play: Texans 5.0 (30th); Patriots 5.2 (7th)

Yards per Drive: Texans 29.5 (24th); Patriots 29.7 (8th)

Points per Drive: Texans 1.69 (24th); Patriots 1.64 (7th)

Drive Success Rate: Texans .693 (16th); Patriots .681 (11th)

Points per Play: Texans .293 (29th); Patriots .313 (8th)

Touchdowns: Texans 2.6 (16th); Patriots 2.4 (11th)

Red Zone Touchdowns: Texans 1.7 (18th); Patriots 1.6 (12th)

Red Zone TD Percentage: Texans 60.6% (12th); Patriots 57.6% (18th)

Plays per Game: Texans 72.0 (1st); Patriots 65.7 (23rd)

Third Down Conversions: Texans 6.1 (2nd); Patriots 5.4 (18th)

Third Down Percentage: Texans 39.0% (15th); Patriots 38.5% (15th)

Punts per Score: Texans 1.7 (29th); Patriots 1.4 (6th)

Rushing Yards: Texans 100.1 (19th); Patriots 99.6 (11th)

Yards per Rush: Texans 3.53 (29th); Patriots 4.08 (17th)

Passing Yards: Texans 261 (11th); Patriots 242 (15th)

Yards per Pass Attempt: Texans 6.6 (30th); Patriots 6.8 (7th)

Completion Percentage: Texans 57.6% (31st); Patriots 59.9% (9th)

Passer Rating: Texans 85.8 (23rd); Patriots 83.7 (9th)

TD Passes/Picks: Texans +15 (6th) 25/10; Patriots -7 (11th), 17/10

Complete Passes: Texans 24.0 (11th); Patriots 22.9 (19th)

Incomplete Passes: Texans 17.7 (32nd); Patriots 15.3 (5th)

Quarterback Sacks: Texans 2.0 (13th); Patriots 3.0 (2nd)

Sack Yardage Lost: Texans 12.8 (12th); Patriots 19.3 (3rd)

 

Turnovers

Patriot Giveaways: 0.9 (3rd); Texan Takeaways: 1.2 (22nd)

Texan Giveaways: 1.2 (7th); Patriot Takeaways: 1.3 (20th)

 

Penalties

Penalties: Patriots 6.4 (5th); Texans 7.0 (19th)

Penalty Yards: Patriots 60.9 (19th); Texans 61.9 (20th)

Opponent Penalties: Patriots 7.4 (9th); Texans 7.6 (7th)

Opponent Penalty Yards: Patriots 68.0 (9th); Texans 62.9 (12th)

 

Football Outsiders Statistics and Rankings

Team Efficiency: Weighted DVOA: Patriots 22.3% (6th); Texans -1.5% (16th)

Team Efficiency: Offense DVOA: Patriots 19.8% (2nd); Texans -3.0% (18th)

Team Efficiency: Defense DVOA: Patriots -2.8% (12th); Texans -3.1% (10th)

Special Teams DVOA: Patriots 3.4% (6th); Texans -5.3% (32nd)

 

Bill Belichick game plans to take away an opponent’s biggest strength, and force (or dare) that opponent to beat you with another option. For Houston’s offense that means limiting WR DeAndre Hopkins, who ranks third in the NFL with 1,169 yards receiving (97.4 yards per game), fourth with 86 receptions (7.2 per game), and is tied for third with ten touchdown receptions.  Belichick has chosen to primarily place CB Malcolm Butler on opponent’s top receivers, and this will be third time this season that February’s Super Bowl hero faces an elite receiver.

In his first NFL start in Week 1, Butler faced Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. The Steeler wide receiver caught nine out of eleven passes thrown his way for 133 yards and a touchdown, but two receptions and the touchdown came in the final seconds when the game was no longer in doubt. Early in Week 9 Giant WR Odell Beckham scored on an 87 yard touchdown when Butler and Devin McCourty got in each other’s way, but from that point on Beckham managed to catch just three passes for an inconsequential 27 yards.

If the Patriots can effectively limit Hopkins, then it’s ‘Houston we have a problem‘. The Texans’ next option in the passing game is an over-the-hill Nate Washington, who has caught just 53% of the passes thrown to him this year. Houston’s offensive line is incapable of opening up running lanes, so their rushing game is non-existent – despite the fact that Alfred Blue, Chris Polk and Jonathan Grimes form a very decent trio in the backfield.

The other side of the ball poses a much more serious threat to the Patriots however, even with a one-handed J.J. Watt. Watt, NT Vince Wilfork, DE Jared Crick, OLBs Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney, and ILBs Brian Cushing and Benardrick McKinney comprise one of, if not the best defensive front sevens in the NFL. As you can see from the stats above they not only can generate a powerful pass rush, they also dominate opposing running games. For a New England offensive line that has struggled in both pass protection as well as in the running game, this will be a very formidable challenge. The quick timing passing game will need to be improved for a victory. While Houston’s secondary is also very skilled, the strength of corners Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson is in their strong physical; a heavy dosage of quick shifty players such as Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin and James White will likely be the game plan to counteract the Houston defense.

 

Prediction: Patriots 24, Texans 23

Just when things look gloomy for the Patriots, the team finds a way to pull out a much-needed win.

 

NFL Week 14 Early Advanced Lines: Patriots favored by 3.5 at Texans; Jags by 1 vs Colts

John Morgan
December 4, 2015 at 10:00 pm ET

While NFL referees seem to be unable to distinguish what is and what is not offensive or defensive pass interference, the professional handicappers in Las Vegas have a vision for pro football week 14. The Westgate has published their ‘look ahead’ lines for next week’s games and see the Patriots as 3½ point road favorites for next Sunday night’s game at Houston. Bill O’Brien’s Texans have won four in a row and five of their last six to pull themselves in to a first place tie in the AFC South; Sunday they travel to Buffalo to face the 5-6 Bills in a key game for AFC playoff implications.

 

In another game critical to both the AFC South and the AFC wild card race, the Indianapolis Colts travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars. In an earlier meeting in Indy the Colts escaped with a three-point overtime victory after the Jaguars missed two late field goals; the 4-7 Jags are listed as a one-point favorite over the under achieving 6-5 Colts.

 

Other games of note include Arizona favored by six over Minnesota and Denver, off their overtime victory versus New England, as a 6½ point home favorite against division rival Oakland. Perhaps the best game of the week – Pittsburgh at Cincinnati – has no early line due to Ben Roethlisberger‘s concussion. In a rarity the Cleveland Browns are favored, despite their 2-9 record and being forced to start third-stringer Austin Davis at quarterback; that says everything about the free-fall of the 2015 San Francisco 49ers.

 

8-3 Minnesota Vikings at 9-2 Arizona Cardinals (-6)

Thursday, December 10 at 8:25 pm ET on NFLN

 

6-5 Pittsburgh Steelers at 9-2 Cincinnati Bengals (no line)

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS

 

5-6 Buffalo Bills (-1) at 4-7 Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS

 

6-5 Atlanta Falcons at 11-0 Carolina Panthers (-8)

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX

 

2-9 San Francisco 49ers at 3-8 Cleveland Browns (-3)

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX

 

5-6 Washington Redskins at 5-6 Chicago Bears (-3½)

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX

 

4-7 4-8 Detroit Lions at 4-7 St. Louis Rams (-2)

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX

 

3-8 San Diego Chargers at 6-5 Kansas City Chiefs (-8½)

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS

 

4-7 New Orleans Saints at 5-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4)

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS

 

6-5 Indianapolis Colts at 4-7 Jacksonville Jaguars (-1)

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS

 

2-9 Tennessee Titans at 6-5 New York Jets (-7½)

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS

 

10-1 New England Patriots (-3½) at 6-5 Houston Texans

Sunday, December 13 at 8:30 pm ET on NBC

 

5-6 Oakland Raiders at 9-2 Denver Broncos (-6½)

Sunday, December 13 at 4:00 pm ET on CBS

 

3-8 Dallas Cowboys at 7-4 8-4 Green Bay Packers (-9)

Sunday, December 13 at 4:25 pm ET on FOX

 

6-5 Seattle Seahawks (-4½) at 4-7 Baltimore Ravens

Sunday, December 13 at 1:00 pm ET on FOX

 

5-6 New York Giants at 4-7 Miami Dolphins (pick’em)

Monday, December 14 at 8:30 pm ET on ESPN

 

And just for fun, here are the prop bet odds that were available when the NFL schedule was released more than seven months ago:

Vikings at Cardinals (-5½)
Falcons at Panthers (-3½)
Saints (-2½) at Buccaneers
Lions at Rams (-1½)
Patriots (-1½) at Texans
Colts (-6) at Jaguars
Raiders at Broncos (-10½)
Chargers at Chiefs (-2)
Titans at Jets (-4)
Seahawks (-1) at Ravens
Steelers at Bengals (-1)
49ers (-2½) at Browns
Bills at Eagles (-3½)
Redskins at Bears (-4)
Cowboys at Packers (-4½)
Giants at Dolphins (-3)