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Week 12 NFL Picks

The NFL screwed up the Kaepernick situation. The AFC Wildcard race. Eric Weddle is probably lying. And the Eagles worst L of the season. (Photo by Nhat V. Meyer Bay Area News Group)

Last Week:  8 – 6 – 0
Season:      92 – 73 – 1

Thursday Recap

Colts 17 at Texans 20
I still can’t figure out if all the teams in the AFC South are pretty good or if all of them are just good bad teams. The Colts could’ve put a strangle hold on the division with a win last night but fell short. It’s pretty amazing what the Colts and Frank Reich continue to accomplish despite the injuries plaguing that team. They’ve already played the entire season with a backup under center. Played a couple of games with a third stringer. Had their top receiver miss multiple games and now their stud running back is out for at least a month. Indianapolis’ record isn’t good enough for him to win the award, but Reich should absolutely be considered for Coach of the Year. I really liked the Texans heading into the season and every week I find myself underwhelmed by the offense. One thing is for sure, though, the offense’s potential goes to a different level when Will Fuller is on the field, so his return brings hope.

The ACLU Said What About A Man? (Bye Week)

Chiefs
I’m a little worried about the Chiefs in January. Their run game isn’t great. With six games left Andy Reid is still shuffling running backs hoping one finally clicks. Damien Williams has the home run ability but his yards per carry is brutal. LeSean McCoy has proven himself capable but fumbles have made Reid hesitant to trust him. While only given limited opportunities, Darrel Williams has done little to earn more touches. To make matters worse, the Chiefs defense is vulnerable against the run (3rd worst in the NFL). Despite the greatness of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs passing game, there’s an obvious formula to limiting his chances in the postseason. Just look at the teams the Chiefs are likely to meet in the postseason. Of the current AFC playoff teams, only the Patriots rank outside the top 10 in rushing offense. Of course it’s always easier said than done, but all signs point to this strategy against the Chiefs come January.

Vikings
My completely ignorant yet totally instinctive theory on the Vikings is this… If they have to go to Philadelphia, Seattle or Green Bay in the postseason, they will lose. If they don’t, they’re every bit as likely to win the NFC as New Orleans, San Francisco and whomever else you consider the top dog. I know, I know, what a stupid thought. Well, first of all, I’m no scholar. Second, in the Kirk Cousins Minnesota era, the Vikings are 2-4 in six road games in November or later. Those two victories both came in domes. The four losses were all outside in less than ideal climates (CHI, NE, SEA, KC). Small sample size? Perhaps. But watch closely over the next month. Minnesota only travels to Seattle and Los Angeles (Chargers) in their final six games. They’ll lose to Seattle. The Vikings don’t have to play at home in the playoffs; they just have to play somewhere like home.

Cardinals
Kyler Murray is fun. He’s starting to get really good at this NFL thing. Murray’s success has diverted attention away from David Johnson’s precipitous fall. Injuries have derailed another season for Arizona’s dynamic playmaker. He’s on the books for the 2020 season, so it’s in the Cardinals best interest to either let him get completely healthy or showcase him in hopes of offloading him in an offseason trade.

Chargers
Poor Philip Rivers. There’s a ton of talk about Rivers being done. Just go back and look at 2016. Rivers finished 5th in the league in passing but also threw 21 interceptions to go along with 33 touchdowns. He’s on pace for more interceptions this season but I’d bet he ultimately finishes with less than 22. If that happens, his numbers will closely resemble 2016. Now here’s the tough part… Do the Chargers chalk it up to a frustrating season like in 2016 or do they move on? Moving on sounds easy until you spends years looking for a QB. Just ask the Jets or Dolphins.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Buccaneers at Falcons
Bill Simmons calls Jameis Winston the NFL’s most exciting player. He’s not wrong. Every Winston play can go a million different directions. It’s terrifying, it’s exciting, it’s hilarious, it’s sad, and it’s absolutely electrifying. Of course, if you’re a Buccaneers fan or Winston fantasy owner it’s pure torture, but let’s appreciate this lightning bolt of excitement while we can. Too many coaches would rather their quarterback throw for 200 yards, no touchdowns and zero interceptions and lose 20-13. No thanks. If I’m losing, give me Winston’s 300+ yards and endless tape of unpredictable highlights/disasters all day. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -4

Broncos at Bills
The records of the Broncos and Bills are less a result of their talent and more a result of their respective schedules. Denver has faced six teams with .500 records or better. Their record in those contests is 1-5. Of their other four games, no team has fewer than four wins. The Bills, meanwhile, have had three games against teams .500 or better (they’re 1-2) and only one of their seven other opponents has more than 3 wins. In fact, five of them have two wins or fewer. Obviously, the Broncos aren’t innocent here. They’ve squandered more victories this season than any other team, but sometimes the greatest opponent can be the NFL schedule, or, in the Bills’ case, the greatest gift. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +4

Giants at Bears
When new coaches are hired in the NFL they’re almost always given enough time to bring in and develop a quarterback of their choosing before ultimately getting the axe a few years down the road. Matt Nagy may prove one of the rare exceptions. Mitch Trubisky was never Nagy’s quarterback, but this offense is his and it is dreadful. Nagy can pin as much blame as he wants on Trubisky when he sits down with ownership this spring. The truth is, Nagy’s offense is simple, lacks imagination and struggles to do even the simplest things correctly. It’s somehow worse than Philadelphia’s. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants +6

Dolphins at Browns
There’s a realistic chance the final AFC playoff spot goes to a 9-7 team. It’s reasonable the Bills fall to 9-7. The Colts maybe, too. And who knows what the Steeelers will do week to week with how bad that offense has looked at times. The Titans face a killer schedule. The Browns aren’t dead, yet, and their schedule should pump life into that locker room. With that said, the Browns need to ride Nick Chubb down the stretch and hope their defense doesn’t fall off too much without Myles Garrett. I’m a Baker Mayfield fan, but right now, less is more with him. Let the run game do work, Freddie. BROWNS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins +10.5

Steelers at Bengals
If Cleveland does in fact make a run, their biggest threat for that final playoff berth may be their bitter divisional rival. No, the Steelers aren’t very good, and no, that Mason Rudolph-led offense cannot be trusted. However, look at Pittsburgh’s schedule; @CINC, CLE, @AZ, BUF, @NYJ, @BAL. The Bengals and Jets road games are likely wins. The finale in Baltimore is a win too because the Ravens will likely have clinched the top seed by then or be locked into that 2nd spot. That leaves that middle stretch where the Steelers can reasonably go 2-1. They could probably even afford to go 1-2 as long as that one victory comes against Cleveland. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -7

Panthers at Saints
My Dad always told me, “backup quarterbacks are backups for a reason.” I think that’s been one of the biggest lessons this season. Gardner Minshew looked great before the wheels fell off. Kyle Allen made Panther fans forget about Cam Newton and then he committed 6 turnovers in two weeks and 10 over the last four. The Lions haven’t won without Matthew Stafford, the Redskins only have backups, Chase Daniel was somehow worse than Mitch Trubisky, the Steeelers offense is dead, the Bengals got worse without Andy Dalton, and the Colts are not nearly as lethal without Andrew Luck. While there are exceptions where a backup doesn’t sink a team (Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill), installing a backup is almost never a good thing for a team’s season, regardless of what the fan base thinks. You owe Cam an apology, Carolina. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Panthers +10

Raiders at Jets
Antonio Brown must be kicking himself. Sure, he accomplished his goal of getting to the Patriots, but in doing so he sabotaged his season and cost himself millions. You know who wouldn’t have cut him after the allegations came out in September? Jon Gruden. That’s right, Gruden defended Brown for months and would have continued doing so to keep his star on the field. On top of that, Brown would still be on a playoff team with a real chance of making noise in the playoffs. I still ride for Andy Reid in the AFC, but Gruden is my new side piece. I also find it hilarious that Los Angeles has two teams but not the team it wants, and the team it wants is the one most suited for success this season and into the future. Well done, Chucky. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders -3

Seahawks at Eagles
I think I covered the Eagles enough for the week here, but getting flexed out of the Sunday Night slot was the worst “L” the Eagles have taken in years. It’s humiliating. The Seahawks are really good at making winning hard. (That’s a fun sentence.) That alone should keep the Eagles alive in this one. However, it appears Jordan Howard is unlikely to go and Lane Johnson is also on track to be out Sunday. That’s a real big problem for an offense already struggling. What’s worse, if the Eagles lose and Dallas wins in New England, the Eagles will find themselves in big, big trouble heading into December. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks +1

Lions at Redskins
First round picks aren’t always an immediate success and some are never a success at all, but rarely do you have the first round pick that kicks off his career with a bang only to completely disappear. TJ Hockenson is that guy. After kicking off the 2019 season with 6 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown, Hockenson has produced only 20 receptions, 218 yards and one touchdown in the nine games since. What does this mean for the Lions and Hockenson? Nothing. I just couldn’t come up with anything remotely interesting about these teams. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions -3.5

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Jaguars at Titans
If you’re a Titans fan, how well do you want your team to be down the stretch this season? Tennessee’s schedule is a gauntlet, but let’s pretend for a moment they finish on fire behind Ryan Tannehill and win the AFC South. Is that a good thing for the franchise long term? I’d be scared to death of my team falling in love with a 31-year-old castoff who is set to be a free agent in the spring. Obviously, the Titans could make the playoffs with Tannehill leading the charge and still have the foresight not to commit to him long term, but how often do franchises short on success make the right call in these situations? TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars +3.5

Cowboys at Patriots
It’s Week 12 and Dallas is still searching for its first win over a team with a winning record. Dak Prescott has been really, really good of late and shockingly (at least to me), Ezekiel Elliot has been really, really average. For two straight weeks Zeke has finished with less than 50 rushing yards at less than 3.0 yards per rush. As good as Dak has been, I don’t think you can beat that Patriots defense through the air. If Dallas is to pull the upset, it’ll have to be on the ground through Elliott. The Browns bullied the Patriots on the ground and were undone by fluky fumbles. When the Eagles did have success last week, it was on drives when they relied on the ground game. Baltimore abused New England via the rush. It’s the best recipe for success against the NFL’s top defense and I think the Cowboys will be successful. I’m more concerned about Dallas’ recent struggles on defense. Tom Brady and the Patriots offense have been bottled up for nearly a month now. Sunday may be the perfect cure. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys +6.5

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Packers at 49ers
While I think the NFL has made a mess of this entire Colin Kaepernick situation, I’m not convinced of the collusion accusations against the NFL. I think too many people underestimate how much coaches hate distractions. Kaepernick would always be a distraction. If you disagree, what has he done over the last two years to show otherwise? Regardless, all the NFL had to do from the jump was let NFL teams do as they please with Kaepernick. Put all the pressure on him to either prove he has no desire to play or have him actually prove his worth on the field. This past week countless stories popped up about how good Kaepernick was before he was “blackballed.” Okay. Kaepernick was a basement dwelling quarterback for two straight seasons. His offenses were horrible. Not a single team, reporter or fan was clamoring for their team to sign Kaepernick. I just wish the NFL let this process play out organically instead of trying to control/manipulate every aspect of it along the way. There’s little doubt in my mind Kaepernick would be out of the league or buried on a bench on his accord by now instead of littering the NFL news cycle with nonsense. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -3

Monday Night (8:15PM ET)

Ravens at Rams
Baltimore can’t keep winning and finish 14-2 can they? Can they? The Rams have a talented enough defense to make Lamar Jackson break a sweat, but Jared Goff and that Los Angeles offense is the worst encore to a success since every sequel to How to Train Your Dragon. (Sorry, I have kids.) The Rams are already a long shot to make the playoffs, so if all the nonsense they’ve been spinning about Todd Gurley being fine is true, now is the time to unleash him. Also, the Eric Weddle story about him not leaking information about his former team is some classic spy tradecraft. Maybe Weddle is being honest, but there’s no way John Harbaugh assumes Weddle won’t snitch. At some point Monday night, Harbaugh will call a play knowing exactly how the defense will react if Weddle blabbed and then use that to his advantage. I only hope the cameras catch the post play interaction when Harbaugh looks out at Weddle and nods, knowing full well Weddle lied. Anyway, I think the Rams win this somehow. It’s an Aaron Donald game and I think this is Baltimore’s most likely loss of their final six. Yup, those are the only two reasons I could muster RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams +3.5

*****

If I were Charles Barkley;
Last Week: 8 – 6 – 0
Season:     74 – 88 – 1

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