Week 12 is upon us and the playoff picture is really going to start becoming a factor with just six weeks left on the NFL schedule. Last week I was 1-1 with my picks as the Packers thumped the Eagles, however the Saints uncharacteristically didn’t put up much offense in a rare home loss to the Bengals. After a 2-0 week in week 11, a 1-1 result isn’t what I was hoping for but I am confident most bettors would easily take a 3-1 record in a two-week stretch.
As mentioned the Eagles were dealt a shellacking at hands of the hometown Green Bay Packers as expected. Aaron Rodgers is just too good at Lambeau Field and the win pushed Green Bay to a 5-0 record at home this season. Rodgers’ three touchdowns and 341 yards through the air were as standard as can be when he plays at home, and the defence certainly did their part to stuff a quality Philadelphia offense, even with Mark Sanchez running the show these days. Green Bay put my pick of the Pack -6 points to bed pretty early in this one as they lead 17-0 after the first quarter and 30-6 at the half. Rodgers’ was even seen laughing in between snaps, and who can blame him as he was picking apart the Philly defence like it was going out of style. Turns out it was still in style and Green Bay provided us with our easiest win of the season in a 53-20 thumping of the Eagles.
I wasn’t so on-target with my second pick for week 11 as the Bengals looked like a totally different team this past week than they did in an embarrassing loss to the Browns a week earlier. Andy Dalton completed just 16 passes but made the most of them with three touchdowns on the afternoon and Jeremy Hill had 152 yards on 27 carries to do his part in an upset of the Saints. Drew Brees threw for just 255 yards despite completing 33 passes, but the real problem for the Saints was on the ground as Mark Ingram ran for just 67 yards in the losing effort. Ten points was all the Saints could muster against the Bengals and unfortunately I took the over 51 in a game that ended 27-10 in favour of the road team.
Another week, another slate of games to take a look at as the playoffs inch closer and closer.
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
Lines – Green Bay -10 (+105)
OVER 48.5 (-110)
My Pick – PACKERS -10 (+105)
Aaron Rodgers treated me so well last week, I’m going right back to him this week. This time the Packers will hit the road to play at the University of Minnesota against the Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay has actually scored 50 points or more in back to back games, marking the first time in their storied history the team has been able to do so. Green Bay now averages 33 points per game and their Quarterback is all over the leaderboard in several categories. His 120.1 QB rating ranks at the top of the league while his 28 touchdowns are second-best in the NFL. His interception rate currently sits at a whopping 1%, also good for tops in the league. Of course, no one, not even Rodgers can do all of this by himself. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb once again displayed their elite 1-2 duo reputation as they both caught over 100 yards worth of passes against the Eagles and my guess is they will do the same once again this week. In fact, in the last seven games the two of them have totalled 15 touchdowns. That is actually unbelievable. Throw in the emergence of Eddy Lacy as a threat in the pass game and this Green Bay offense can be considered the best in the NFL, and yes that includes those Brady and Manning guys as well. If the Adrian Peterson fiasco wasn’t bad enough, both of the incumbent backs for Minnesota are questionable for Sunday’s affair, which means newcomer Ben Tate could see a lot of action in his first game for the Vikings after being claimed off waivers from the Browns. What is weird in all of this is that the Vikings actually have held the ball on offense for more minutes this season than the Packers have, but yet Green Bay averages 33 points per game and Minnesota averages 18. This tells me a few things. A lot of Viking drives break down and result in turnovers (6 picks for Teddy Bridgewater vs. 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions for Matt Cassel vs. 3 touchdowns) or they break down and result in fieldgoals. Compare those numbers to 28 touchdowns vs. 3 picks for Rodgers this season. and you could have another pounding put on a Packers opponent this week. Lastly, the weather could be very cold this weekend in Minnesota, and that is just fine for a Green Bay team that plays home games in one of the coldest football stadiums ever. Take the Packers to handily take care of the Vikings this week at a nice price.
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Cincinnati Bengals @ Houston Texans
Lines – Houston -1 (-125)
OVER 43.5 (-110)
My Pick – BENGALS +1 (+105) or TO WIN (+113)
Depending on how confident you might be in this pick, you can go with the safety net of a point in case of a one-point loss here or an even stranger result of Cincinnati’s second tie of the season, in which case you would win. Personally I think the Benglas will win this game so I will go with the outright win at +113. The Bengals showed last week they are actually capable of stopping the run despite still averaging 136 yards against on the ground per game. This is important this week as the Texans are very likely to once again use the ground game to give inexperienced Quarterback Ryan Mallett some help on offense. The Texans relied on the run game so much in their win over Cleveland on Sunday that rookie Runningback Alfred Blue set a franchise record with 36 carries and tallied 156 yards on the ground in the absence of star runningback Arian Foster. Foster is still questionable for Sunday’s game, but my guess it he suits up for this one, but regardless the Bengals defence will be preparing to stop the run first for this tilt anyway. With so many runs last week, the only touchdown pass Mallett was able to complete was to J.J. Watt – a defensive end by trade but turns into a redzone target on occasion for the Texans. Weapons such as Andre Johnson and more recently, DeAndre Hopkins offer little value when the ball is carried over 40 times a game, so right there two of Houston’s best three offensive players are taken out of the picture for the most part, barring a change in philosophy. Looking at the Bengals, there offensive weapons will be in full force, particularly Dalton’s two favourite targets in wideouts A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu. The two have combined for almost 1,200 yards so far this season to go with four touchdowns apiece, one of the better 1-2 punches the NFL has to offer in terms of the pass game. Don’t forget about Jeremy Hill either as the rookie back ran for 152 yards on the road last week and averages 4.9 yards per carry on the season. I do understand why the spread on this game is just a single point, as many stats such as points per game, points against per game, total yards for and against, and third down completion percentage are extremely similar between the two teams. However, as the underdog (and in my opinion the better team), the Bengals have some nice value heading into a game that is of huge importance to them given the teams that play in their division. Take the Bengals this week to take care of some more business on the road.