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Week 13 NFL Picks

The NFC playoff race is heating up. Look out for Dalvin Cook and the resurgent Vikings (Photo by Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports)

Someone accused me of lying about my picks a couple weeks back because he didn’t scroll to the bottom and see my picks against the spread. So now I’ll list them both here, where everyone can see and laugh at my incompetence.

Moneyline Picks;
Week 11: 6 – 8 – 0
Last Week: 12 – 4 – 0
Season: 111 – 65 – 1

If I Were Charles Barkley (ATS);
Week 11: 4 – 10 – 0
Last Week: 8 – 8 – 0
Season: 90 – 83 – 4

Not Investing in Movie Theaters (Bye Week)

Buccaneers
An offense with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and a trio of solid tight ends (though one is injured) shouldn’t be this miserable to watch. I’m over Tom Brady and Bruce Arians blaming each other in press conferences. You know what’s more entertaining than bickering? Good offense.

Panthers
Matt Rhule has done a really good job in his first year with the Panthers, but Sunday he may have finished off their playoff chances with some really poor game management. Nursing a three-point lead late in the 4th quarter, Carolina produced two quick 1st downs on three plays. Then, after a rushing play on 1st down, Carolina threw an incompletion on 2nd down. Another run play there would have forced Minnesota to use their final timeout or burned clock all the way down to the two-minute warning. After another incompletion on 3rd down, the Panthers punted with 2:18 on the clock. Minnesota still had its timeout AND the two minute warning. Both would have been used before the Vikings regained possession had Rhule opted to run the football. (Note: Neither passing attempt was near the 1st down marker, so the excuse of trying to close out the game there doesn’t hold water. Sorry.) Anyway, Minnesota muffed the punt and Carolina recovered. Instead of the Panthers being able to kneel out the victory, Minnesota was able to stop the clock twice and benefited from Teddy Bridgewater missing a wide-open DJ Moore on 3rd down. The Vikings had nearly two minutes to drive downfield for the win and they did just that.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Saints at Falcons
Has a team ever scored 43 points with only 304 total yards? The Falcon offense had two good drives, the rest of their production was gifted by a Raiders offense drunk on their Week 11 performance. This is a must have for Atlanta. The Rams, Buccaneers and Cardinals are all trending down, giving hope to teams like Minnesota and Atlanta. The Falcons playoff hopes are already on life support, but with two games remaining against the Buccaneers and the tiebreaker over Minnesota, the Falcons would be in decent shape if they can claw their way to 9-7. Unlikely? Yes, but the opportunity is certainly there for the taking. As for the Saints, have we seen anything different this year that would lead us to believe New Orleans won’t choke in the postseason again? FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons +2.5

Lions at Bears
I know I passed over both of these teams when pretending Atlanta still could make the playoffs. I did so because Atlanta plays hard and can muster up a potent offense from time to time. This Lions team is dead. Perhaps it will bounce back under a new head coach, but they’ve lacked a heartbeat for the better part of a month. The Bears simply can’t find an offense. Let’s talk about Matt Nagy. Nagy was hired because he was the Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2017. Doug Pederson held that same role a few years earlier. Essentially, both were hired because they were near one of Andy Reid’s now revered offenses. Fast-forward to 2020 and both Nagy and Pederson’s offenses rank among the bottom five in the NFL. At least the Bears offense looked the tiniest bit better with Mitch Trubisky. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +3

Browns at Titans
The Chiefs are a juggernaut. I don’t expect them to lose in the AFC Playoffs. However, if they were to be upset, it would be by a team similar to the Browns and Titans. They’re one, two in the NFL in rushing, and Tennessee is 5th in scoring. Cleveland’s offense doesn’t pack the same aerial punch that the Titans have in AJ Brown, but they’ve been able to piece together big plays via play action. The point is: Both teams can move the chains and control the game through their rushing attack. You can’t stop Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs; you can only limit their opportunities. Now here’s the rub… Neither the Browns nor Titans boast a good pass defense. Tennessee is 28th and the Browns sit at 20th. Cleveland’s ranking is probably a little inflated due to horrific weather conditions in Weeks 10-12. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Browns +5.5

Bengals at Dolphins
The Joe Burrow injury is obviously a killer to the Cincinnati Bengals. Who knows if their franchise quarterback will even be ready for the 2021 season in September. Knee injuries for quarterbacks have often been considered a two-year injury. Should Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor be worried about his job? Nobody blinked an eye when the Bengals went 2-14 in Taylor’s first season. Cincinnati was bad when he took the job and a rebuild was expected. Now, due to the Burrow injury, it appears highly likely the Bengals will finish with only 2 wins again in 2020. Now enter Burrow. If he doesn’t play next year, does Bengals management look at the team’s dreadful record, move on from Taylor and start anew in 2022? I’m not arguing Taylor should be fired, but 4-28 combined with a likely losing 2021 record is a bad look regardless of injuries and rosters. DOLPHINS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins -11.5

Jaguars at Vikings
Sunday went beautifully for the resurgent Vikings. Matt Rhule screwed up, giving the Vikings a chance at redemption. The Buccaneers, Rams, Bears and Cardinals all lost, moving Minnesota within a game of that final playoff spot. I wouldn’t want to play the Vikings in the postseason. The top of the NFC isn’t much better than the teams vying for the final playoff berths (NFC East not included). The Vikings have been one of the NFL’s hottest teams over the past six weeks. They owe their success to two things. First, they’ve committed to Dalvin Cook and the ground game, come hell or high water. Cook is their offense. He doesn’t even need to rush for 100 yards. For the Vikings, it’s about the running game getting reps and keeping the defense worried about the run. This has benefitted Cousins greatly, which leads us to number two. Kirk Cousins has been really, really good after a rough start to the 2020 season. Over the last five games, Cousins’ completion percentage has skyrocketed, his TD/INT ratio is 12/1, and he’s taking nearly half as many sacks. The Vikings are 4-1. Can someone show Doug Pederson some Vikings game film, please? VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -10

Raiders at Jets
I have no idea what happened to the Raiders offense last week. They entered Week 12 8th in the NFL in turnovers per game at 1/game. They coughed up the football five times in Atlanta. I have two possible explanations for this awful performance. 1. The team was feeling itself after nearly knocking off the Chiefs for the second time this season the week before. 2. Derek Carr was expecting a baby at any moment. Here’s the flaw with number 1: The defense was exceptional in the 1st half, limiting the Falcons to field goals off two turnovers and a third possession that started in Raiders territory. They even forced a turnover to get the Raider offense on the scoreboard. Only the offense was a miserable mess. 16-3 at the half was a miracle and the offense just never woke up. I thought Las Vegas would be a real threat in the playoffs but after that performance I may have to rethink. I actually think the Jets could win here but I’m too much of a coward to commit. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders -9

Colts at Texans
Given their previous coaching performances, I don’t know if I would feel great about Romeo Crennel or Raheem Morris being my head coach in 2021. On the other hand, given what they’ve done in interim roles in Houston and Atlanta, respectively, it’d be real hard to argue they don’t deserve the job full time. Houston has been out of the playoff hunt since Halloween and they’ve only gotten better week in and week out. Deshaun Watson is playing his best football despite injuries to David Johnson and Randall Cobb. The defense has also improved, albeit against inferior offenses, and with three divisional games remaining against the Colts and Titans, the Texans will play a major role in playoff positioning. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans +3.5

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Rams at Cardinals
If Kyler Murray’s shoulder doesn’t get right soon, the Cardinals will be on the outside of the playoffs looking in. They can run the football with Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmunds all they want, but neither of them will open up the defense like the threat of Murray scrambling. Murray’s 46 yards over the last two weeks is his lowest two game output since last December. His yards per passing attempt last week was an abysmal 5.0, his lowest since a Week 4 loss to Carolina. Here’s what I don’t understand about Murray and the Cardinal offense… Some weeks Murray is launching the football downfield like he did against the Jets, Cowboys and Dolphins. Then there are other weeks (like the last two outings) where he hardly attempts a throw over 20 yards. Are defenses playing deeper, knowing he’s not as willing to run due to the shoulder injury, or have defenses started to figure out Murray in the same way they’ve solved Lamar Jackson? The latter is a horrifying possibility if I’m a Cardinals fan. Also, that roughing the passer penalty on Isaiah Simmons that gifted the Patriots field goal range was total garbage. I don’t know how the league allows that to stand without any review or correction from headquarters. That game was headed to overtime and the NFL just gifted it to New England. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals +2.5

Giants at Seahawks
If Daniel Jones can’t go in Seattle; the Giants will be drawing dead. The Scoreboard may show Colt McCoy was responsible for the Giants 9 2nd half points, but that isn’t the whole truth. Jones drove the offense into the red zone before being injured. McCoy then ran three plays for -5 yards. In fact, McCoy was under center for 31 plays in the 2nd half (kneel downs excluded) and the Giants offense produced only 79 yards. That’s good enough for 2.5 yards per play against the NFL’s 26th ranked defense. Furthermore, both 4th quarter field goals for the Giants were a result of Bengal turnovers. McCoy and the Giants drove a total of 24 yards for those 6 points. Finally, if you didn’t watch the game, you probably were unaware the Giants were a shoestring tackle from losing to Brandon Allen and the lowly Bengals. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks -10.5

Eagles at Packers
I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t know what Matt LaFleur and the Packers are doing with Aaron Jones. He’s essentially splitting snaps 50/50 with Jamaal Williams over the last two weeks. It makes no sense to me. Jones is clearly the more explosive player and his numbers are better in nearly every statistical category. As for the Eagles, I’ve gown tired of them, but know this… The Athletic released their top 50 free agents for the upcoming offseason. Every NFL team was represented on that list except one. Yup, you guessed it. The Eagles are so poorly built that not a single player on their team is a desired free agent next year. Even if you don’t have a plethora of players eligible for free agency, it’s a bad sign when no one thinks the guys that are available are worth stating. Did I mention the author of the article, Sheil Kapadia, included an additional 50 names at the bottom and STILL not a single Eagle made the list? Take a bow, Howie. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles +9

Patriots at Chargers
I’m one of the few who never hated Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Their sustained success was fun to watch. Of course I rooted against them at times, but I never hated them just to hate them. With that said, I do not want the 2020 New England Patriots offense anywhere near the postseason. Please, please keep them away. They’re 27th in points per game. 29th in passing yards per game. They rank among the bottom 7 in big plays. Nothing about them is exciting, not even Cam Newton, who, since that throwback performance in Week 2, has been, well, awful. Moving on… the Patriot defense hasn’t done well against elite passers this season. They bottled up Kyler Murray last week and contained Mahomes for a half back in Week 4, but they’ve been torched by quarterbacks willing to air it out. Russell Wilson in Week 2. Deshaun Watson in Week 11. Even… gulp… Joe Flacco burned the Patriots deep a few weeks ago. I’m riding with the AFC Rookie of the Year because Cam and that offense can’t keep up. (I realize I just picked Anthony Lynn over Bill Belichick. Please know I do not feel great about it.) CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers +1

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Broncos at Chiefs
The Chiefs are the best team in football. Barring injury or Covid illness, it will be an upset if they don’t repeat as Super Bowl Champions. However, please allow me to nitpick about the Chiefs. They’ve won their last three games by a combined 9 points. They fell asleep at the wheel after an explosive 1st quarter last week in Tampa. They still can’t (or don’t) run the football in any way to threaten a defense. Speaking of defense, the Chiefs defense has surrendered 14 4th quarter points in three consecutive weeks. I don’t think any of this matters too much, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +13.5

Monday Night (5:00PM and 8:15PM ET)

Football Team at Steelers
I don’t think either Washington or Pittsburgh are major offenders here, but I forgot to mention it earlier, so here goes… I do not understand why so many teams run out of the shotgun on 3rd or 4th and short. Let’s think about this for a moment… do I want my running back flying into (and hopefully through) a pile of bodies with a running start or do I want him having to generate his own force from a strand still position while also hitting the pile a half second later? Kyler Murray can’t go under center in IFormation? Come on. This doesn’t make sense. Anyway, I think the Steelers should start Mason Rudolph and see if they need Ben Roethlisberger in the 2nd half. I’m only half joking. Washington’s pass rush is vicious and Roethlisberger isn’t exactly nimble. Pittsburgh doesn’t run the football well. Their postseason success relies entirely on Big Ben’s arm. Stay safe. Please. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Football Team +8

Bills at 49ers
Buffalo running backs combined for 100 or more yards rushing in Week 12 for only the 2nd time this season. If I’m going to believe in the Bills in January, I need to see more production on the ground. Call me picky, but Josh Allen has been somewhat underwhelming in three of the last four weeks. A reliable rushing attack would do wonders for the Bills down the stretch and into the playoffs, especially against two of the NFL’s best pass rushes in Weeks 14 (PITT) and 15 (DEN). [*Bud Dupree just tore his ACL, so yeh.] 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers -1

Tuesday Night (8:05PM ET)

Cowboys at Ravens
I don’t care if Ezekiel Elliott is struggling this season. He and Tony Pollard are Dallas’ best chance of winning the decrepit NFC East. Throwing the football at a 2/1 ratio with a backup quarterback behind an offensive line shredded by injuries against an elite pass rush and pass defense was mind-boggling. I thought the Cowboys turned a corner against Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Granted, Dallas is too injured to be good, but they showed fight and were invested. Thanksgiving Day was a different story. Without a strong close to the season I don’t see how Dallas brings Mike McCarthy back, but as an Eagles fan, I’m sure hoping they do. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; No Line Yet

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