WEEK 12 RECORD
DAN K: 0-3
DAN K: 13-20-1
HOUSTON TEXANS -5 AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
JJ Fuckin’ Watt. Like, I know Aaron Rodgers is having a monster season, but you could make a serious case for Watt as the league MVP. The guy has scored more receiving touchdowns than some starting receivers, all while being nigh-unblockable as a pass rusher. He’s clearly the best defensive player in the league, but it’s not a stretch to say that this season he’s the best overall. If the Texans end up somehow making the playoffs, he SHOULD be a lock. I doubt he’ll get it because the MVP favors defense, but I can’t think of a more dominant player in recent memory. But I digress. The Texans are coming off of a blowout of the Titans in which the Grizzly Adams-looking QB threw 6 touchdowns, including one to the aforementioned Watt. They’ve been inconsistent this year, as evidenced by their .500 record, but still are able to get things done on offense. Arian Foster, who at this stage in his career can be injured by a strong breeze, appears to be good to go against a Jacksonville defense that is bad at everything, except, oddly enough, sacking the quarterback (third most sacks in the NFL). It may not matter because the Jaguars may not be able to do anything once they get the ball. They are coming off of their second victory of the season against a Giants team that appears to have packed it in, where rookie QB Blake Bortles played an efficient game, rushed for for 68 yards without a turnover, and led a game-winning field goal drive, while the aforementioned defense strip-sacked Eli Manning twice. If Jacksonville wants to cover against the Texans, they’ll have to do a couple of things. First, continue establishing pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick and force him into making some mistakes, which he can be prone to. We aren’t talking about Tom Brady here, Fitzpatrick was already benched once this season for poor performance. He may not have to throw it at all though, because the Texans have Arian Foster who should definitely be able to run against a Jags defense ranked 26th against the run. Second, take the pressure of JJ Watt off of Bortles by establishing the run with the surprising Denard Robinson, maybe let him get outside the pocket on some bootlegs and use that athleticism in an effort to neutralize that Houston pass rush. Either way, they have their work cut out for them.
Who to pick? Well, betting on Jacksonville this year has been a fool’s errand. They’re 3-8-1 ATS and their season is over, while Houston still has a chance, albeit a slim one, to make the playoffs. That said, I like Jacksonville in this game. Last week, even though they won at the last minute, was a blueprint for how they can cover in this one. Force Fitzpatrick into a couple of mistakes, establish the run, and let Bortles use his legs to avoid pressure without putting too much on his plate. Also, Houston being favored at 5 points on the road seems a bit high for me, especially in a divisional game. I like Jacksonville to keep it semi-close in this one. Jags.
THE PICK: JAGUARS +5
NY JETS +6 AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS
What a depressing team the Jets are. It seems like just yesterday we were watching Rex Ryan on Hard Knocks, full of bluster, talking about getting a goddamn snack. Now he’s a lame duck, assured of firing at the end of the season, on a team with no cornerbacks and a QB who probably isn’t good. It says something about Ryan that the players haven’t given up completely – they played hard last week for instance, and by and large Ryan is still loved in the locker room. He’ll likely be an immensely successful member of the media if he’s not coaching though, so don’t feel too sorry for him. This week they face a Vikings team that while eliminated from the playoffs, should give the fans hope for next year. Teddy Bridgewater isn’t flashy and hasn’t thrown for a lot of yards, but has throw 4 TDs to only one pick the last two weeks. He’s been making good decisions with the ball and while he’s had his share of ups and downs, it appears that if he keeps improving he could be the franchise QB that the Vikings thought they were getting. In the absence of Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon has been a solid RB, though he was placed on IR this week and the Vikings will be going with Matt Asiata at RB, who won’t dazzle you but appears to have a nose for the endzone. The Vikings D is nothing special, but they are going up against a Jets offense that basically refused to throw the ball last week (and when they had to do so at the end of the game against the Dolphins, Geno Smith threw a pick). If they can stop the rushing attack of Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson at all, the Jets are toast. Of course on the other side, the Jets secondary is abysmal so Bridgewater should have no problem beating them through the air. The Jets could be an OK team with a halfway-decent QB, but..they don’t have one.
Not much to say about this one. The Jets are done. The Vikings have been playing well in recent weeks and should be able to cover this one easily. Vikes.
THE PICK: VIKINGS -6
PITTSBURGH STEELERS +3 AT CINNCINNATI BENGALS
Homer alert. This Steelers team has pissed me the god damn hell off this year. How can they look how they did against good teams like the Ravens and Colts, and come out completely out of sync and looking like a team that will miss the playoffs against the Jets and Saints? There’s a couple of answers, but the most important one is the defense. What was historically a strength now looks like the team’s weakness, when in consecutive weeks Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram have been able to run through the line like there’s nothing there. The secondary has been ravaged by injuries and inconsistent play, as evidenced by Ike Taylor, who has lost more than a step, getting burned very badly by Kenny Stills last week. It’s not all on him, of course – Antwon Blake and Brice McCain are not starting caliber, and William Gay, though he has played excellent at times, has fallen victim to the inconsistency curse as well. The line doesn’t appear to be able to stop the run at all, although they do show flashes of pass-rushing ability at times. Worse still, Brett Keisel is out for the year with a torn triceps and has likely played his last down in the NFL. What that means, combined with the uncertain return of nose tackle Steve McClendon from injury, means that the team may have to start rookies Stephon Tuitt and Dan McCullers on the line. Now, while both have shown promise, it’s not really something you want to be forced to do by any means. That could be a problem considering that Cincinnati has two decent running backs in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, and if they get going against that line, as other running backs the Steelers faced have, it could be a big problem considering that AJ Green and Mohammed Sanu can burn this Pittsburgh secondary without needing a team selling out to try to stop the run. The only hope is that the Steeler pass rushers hit Dalton a few times and get him to turn the ball over, and then capitalize with their offense that, when it’s firing, can hang with any team. LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown are arguably the two best players starting at their position in the league, but even Brown will have trouble against a Bengals secondary that has been playing well all season.
This comes down to what Pittsburgh team we get. Depending on that, we could be seeing a blowout either way. More likely, with a December divisiom game in Ohio, a close, low-scoring game is more likely than not. Plus, the Steelers have played up to the level of their opponents this year, and talent-wise they are as good as the Bengals. In a situation like that, I’ll take the points.
THE PICK: STEELERS +3
NEW YORK JETS +6 AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS
This is the second year in a row I have made the final eight in my big money survivor league and looking at this game kind of gives me hives. SurvivorGrid.com has the Vikes at a 70.5 percent chance of winning and that just seems a little wrong to me. Yeah, the Vikings are at home in the cold weather, but that doesn’t mean much when you have the Jets coming off a heart breaking loss to Miami where they ran up almost 275 yards on the ground and lost by three. Sure, the Jets record has been putrid, but if Rex Ryan was a first year coach instead of someone who has gone 13-28 or whatever in his last couple of season, we’d be talking about the Jets being a game club with a quarterback problem to fix instead of a rebuild project waiting to happen. The Jets damn near beat New England at Foxboro and with Rex on the verge of being fired I expect them to come out swinging hard. It’s not like the Vikings are deserving of being a touchdown favorite on anyone, but you could also make the argument that the Jets left whatever they had in the tank left against Miami on Monday night. Considering that the Vikings are winning the occasional game using a combination of a boring running game, a basic defense, and Teddy Bridgewater getting lucky now and again, this one gives me zero confidence in survivor. Against the spread? I’d take the Jets and go grab another beer. Now, if it were week 15 I’d be taking the Vikings and then cursing myself when the third time is the charm curse swoops down to ruin the day.
THE PICK: JETS +6
Tampa Bay +10 at Detroit
This one is probably going to garner as many as seven of the eight picks left in my survivor league, myself included. SurvivorGrid.com has the Lions sitting at an 80.2 percent chance of winning and it makes sense. Detroit has arguably the league’s best defense, Matt Stafford is capable of hanging 400 yards on a good day, and even though Jim Caldwell is absolute shit at clock management and a lock for kicking field goals when he’s three scores. Don’t count on Tampa and its ability to leave 12 men on the field during a critical possession with the clock running down (thank Yahweh for getting me through with Cincy last week) to put up a tremendous fight against Detroit under their dome. Detroit was the better pick last week against Chicago and if they can undress them then they can surely do the same to Tampa in a vacuum. Any club getting 10 on the road is a dangerous bet and even a home favorite like Detroit is susceptible to enough hiccups to make the game closer than it should be. I stand by what I have always said about Detroit: They are capable of 13 wins given their talent and I like that the defense has solidified and eliminated the stupid penalties, but until they get their kinks worked out on offense so they don’t have to rely solely on Megatron to make their big plays they are the type of club that goes out in the second round of the playoffs at best. For this week though I like them beating Tampa outright, but I can see Tampa playing their hearts out in a potential bounce back game after last weeks heartbreaker at home.
THE PICK: Detroit in Survivor, Tampa at +10 if you’re laying a bet
HOUSTON TEXANS -5 AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Three guys took Houston last week in what turned out to be a laugher against Tennessee. I held on to them because – ahem – looking ahead they have Jacksonville at home in week 17. I know you’re not supposed to think too far ahead and just find the best play to get you through to the next week, but taking a road team this late in survivor can be a pain in the ass. Last year I got hosed taking Philly as a clear favorite in Minnesota in week 15 and only got a piece of the chop because the Rams pulled off a miracle blow out win against New Orleans in, you guessed it, St. Louis that scored me a nice healthy pay out. I would not go against that trend if you paid me. Not specifically because it’s week 15 or 14, but because it’s late in the season and division games are stacking up. This is another game Jacksonville gets to pretend is their Super Bowl and, well, that’s not to be sneezed at. Also, out of the big survivor favorites, this one is sitting at 67 percent in Houston’s favor making them the lowest of the bunch. A big part of me is hoping that three or four or five people take Houston right now thinking they can get through to next week when Oakland visits revenge-minded Kansas City, but I would imagine most folks will opt for Detroit. This one feels like a trap because even though Houston has an outside shot at the playoffs, the Jags are playing for pride in their building. On top of that Jacksonville did beat the decrepit Giants last week and have their second home game in a row. Look, no one is going to confuse themselves and think that a team led by JJ Watt is not going to put a serious hurt on Jacksonville, but they do have a puncher’s chance because, well, we have been saying so all year. We all like Blake Bortles, the Jags take chances, and irrational things happen down the back stretch of the season. Reality states the Texans win by probably seven, but hey, since I won’t be taking this one in survivor, go ahead and lay your cash on the road favorite and book with confidence. Well, either that or take the Rams against the reeling Wagon Burners who have benched the guy they traded all their draft picks to the Rams for the rights for.
THE PICK: TEXANS -5
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS -3.5 AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
It’s Tom Brady off a loss. Pats by a TD.
THE PICK: PATS -3.4
HOUSTON TEXANS -6.5 AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
It’s JJ Watt vs. a rookie quarterback. Texans by a TD.
THE PICK: TEXANS -6.5
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS PK AT ST LOUIS CARDINALS
The Chiefs need a win. The Cardinals injuries are catching up with them. No Honey Badger, No Ellington. Veldheer questionable, Foote questionable, Larry Fitz questionable. Chiefs edge em out.
THE PICK: CHIEFS