Monday, November 22, 2010

Early picks for week 12.  Check here for the latest odds.

Green Bay Packers vs Atlanta Falcons: ATL -2
When GB face off against ATL on Sunday it will be one of the few times I've bet against them.  I picked them to make it to the Super Bowl and they have continued to look great despite devastating injuries.  However, even if they were healthy I'd have a hard time picking them in this spot.  I've been very high on ATL this year and it's tough to bet against them at home regardless of who the opponent is.  However, I like ATL this week for a few reasons.

First of all, they should be able to continue doing what they've been doing all year - sustain drives, dominate the clock, and control the run game.  They rank number one in the league on third down offense and near the top in points from long drives and time of possession.   When you throw in the fact that they are also at the top in turnover differential and least amount of penalties per game it's not hard to understand why they are on such a roll this year.   Ryan to White is a dynamic duo even if they aren't near the best at their respective positions and they will also get to play a banged up secondary.  No one can look at their schedule and say they've had it easy either.  ATL put up solid wins against solid teams.   GB will make this one of the best games of the week because Rodgers is no joke.  They are strong on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and rank high in most offensive categories.  However, when all is said and done, ATL should prove that they have more advantages in the categories that mean the most.  Prediction: Bank ATL -2.

Philadelphia Eagles vs Chicago Bears: PHI -3
In Chicago, the red hot Eagles fly to town in a battle of 7-3 teams.  Common sense might say to take the home dog in this one because some have said that this could be a let down week for PHI.  They pulled out a big win against IND, smashed WSH on MNF, and came out on top in a tough divisional prime time game. However, let's take a closer look at this matchup and I'll tell you why I like PHI to continue their run.

First of all, can you name two good teams GB have beat this year?  GB qualifies as one, but let's remember that was the game where GB took 18 penalties and turned the ball over on what would have been the game winning drive.  A win is still a win, but let's be real here.  CHI is overrated.  They also have a significant weakness - protecting Jay Cutler.  They have made some improvement in this area, but good pass rushing teams significantly slow down this offense.  This is not good news for CHI because they are facing one of the most aggressive defensive teams in the NFL.  I give defensive coordinator big props for putting together solid game plans to slow down Peyton and the NY offense over these past few weeks.  That is no small feat.  PHI still have problems in red zone defense, but they have a clear edge on the ground, in the air, on third down, and on the line of scrimmage in this one.  PHI is also number one in the league in turnover differential.  It all translates to a long, long day for Cutler and company.  The only advantage CHI has is in the return game and home field advantage.  I'm sorry, but this usually doesn't translate into wins in the NFL.

Offensively, PHI don't have many advantages against a very good CHI defense.  This side of the ball will be an interesting matchup, but when you have guys like Vick, Jackson, Maclin, and McCoy I'll take my chances with them when the statistics are even.  PHI score twice as many points from long drives as CHI and win time of possession more often than not too.  I also think PHI will have the benefit of playing with a short field a few times due to turnovers.  Lovie Smith thinks his cover 2 scheme is the ideal defense to stop Vick, but I'm going to continue riding the Vick train at least one more week.  Prediction: Bank PHI -3.


St. Louis Rams vs Denver Broncos: STL +4, OVER 44.5
When the Rams travel to Denver on Sunday, they will meet a team going in the opposite direction.  I'm not sure why so many people thought DEN could hang with SD last night, but almost 50% of the public bet on them.  This is a team that can't do much in the running game on either side of the ball.  DEN's defense is pathetic in the red zone and on third down.  When a team can't run the ball, stop the run, or get off the field on third down it means they are going to lose the time of possession most of the time. It didn't help that D.J. Williams suffered a concussion on MNF either. Their defense stays on the field too long and they rely too heavily on Orton to make plays with his arm to win. Give him credit for the numbers he's put up this year, and they have a nice find with Brandon Lloyd, but with a 3-7 record it's clear this formula isn't one designed to go to the playoffs.  Now they must get up for a game against an aggressive STL team that is looking to improve and maybe contend for a division crown.  This won't be easy for a demoralized team coming off a short week.

I expect Jackson to have a nice game on the ground this week and Bradford will continue to make plays to anonymous receivers.  STL do a nice job keeping teams off the field on third downs and they will make life difficult for Orton in this one.  Even if DEN manage to put some drives together, STL is pretty solid in the red zone.  The way I see this game, STL have the perfect game plan to defeat the Broncos philosophy.  Limit Orton's effectiveness and wear down the defense with a balanced attack.  I think STL is playing with a greater sense of urgency and could win this game straight up, but I'll take the points.  Prediction: Bank STL +4. 

Miami Dolphins vs Oakland Raiders: OAK -2
This game has stayed off the board all week, but I was waiting to see what the line would be.  I really like OAK in this spot despite what happened to them last week.  Both of these teams match up pretty well across the board.  Neither should have a big edge in the passing game, but with Marshall out and Asomugha in, I like OAK a bit more.  Henne should get the start, but how effective will he be?  I was never a fan of him before today so I'm not about to change my mind now.  He is going to have a tough time sustaining drives because OAK is pretty good on third down and now they don't have to worry about MIA's biggest weapon.   The only big advantage MIA will have in this game will be penalties.  MIA takes the least and OAK take the most.

For OAK, I love McFadden in this game. OAK should be able to put together enough drives with the running game to get a lead and keep it.  It will also help them win the time of possession and tire out the defense.   Another benefit from the run game will be keeping Cameron Wake at bay.  He has been a monster all year and will be a problem for Campbell at times.  Having said that, MIA will need a lot more production from a lot more guys to pull out this road win and I don't see it happening.  Their loss to CHI last week all but wiped away any chance they had for the playoffs.  OAK have a lot more to play for and it will show on Sunday.  Prediction: Bank OAK -2.