We’re back with the 13th edition of MTS’ weekly picks against the spread for the 2016 season. Perry finally exorcised his demons in Week 12, and put up a 10-6 record (3-1 on his “Pledges”). As a result, Mr. Port is not only sticking with his change in breakfast cereal, but has now been eating it for lunch and dinner, too.
Here’s what Perry and his daily dosage of eight bowls of Wheaties see for Week 13.
An asterisk denotes one of Perry’s “Pledges of the Week.” (Don’t call them “locks”; there’s no such thing!)
Week 13 Picks ATS
Thursday, December 1
Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) at Minnesota Vikings
As everyone waits for Dak Prescott to finally have a “rookie game,” the fourth-round pick just continues to impress. But the Cowboys will need to protect their young signal-caller this Thursday against the league’s fourth-ranked pass defense and third-ranked total defense.
Fortunately, the Cowboys have another rookie in the backfield who is one yard shy of eclipsing 1,200 for the season. Dallas possesses the second-ranked rushing attack, and have yet to rush for fewer than 101 yards in a game. Minnesota’s run defense has been exploited over the last six weeks, surrendering 118.8 yards per game in that time.
The Viking offense shouldn’t be counted on to accomplish anything at this point, and their defense is going to get punched in the mouth by the Cowboy ground game.
Pick: Cowboys (-3.5)*
Sunday December 4
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints (-5)
On paper, the Lions offense has been rather mediocre; but it always shows up when needed. Detroit actually has its defense to thank for the last handful of wins, as they have allowed an average of 17 points per game over the last five.
The Saints have also played a little defense over their last two games, but that should be credited to facing sputtering offenses (Carolina and LA). New Orleans is still heavily reliant upon Drew Brees putting up a ton of points, which is evident by the fact that they have only won one game this season when they have failed to score at least 35 points.
I don’t see the Lions defense slowing Brees much, but the Saints defense won’t be able to contain Matthew Stafford either. New Orleans may come away with the win, but this is too many points to lay.
Pick: Lions (+5)
Los Angeles Rams at New England Patriots (-13.5)
Just because Jared Goff threw three touchdowns against one of the worst defenses in the league, it doesn’t mean he’s turning a corner in his career. The first-overall pick will be in tough this week playing in Foxborough against a better defense and much better defensive coach.
We learned last week that Tom Brady’s knee actually is somewhat banged-up. But he’s still Tom Brady. The Pats’ offense will bounce back from an un-Patriot-like performance, while their defense will spoil Goff’s coming out party.
Pick: Patriots (-13.5)*
Denver Broncos (-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars
It may have taken them a while, but the Jags have finally realized that limiting Blake Bortles’ pass attempts increases their chances of actually winning games. When Bortles attempts 33 passes or fewer, the Jags are 2-1 this season, with the lone loss being last week to the Bills. If Chris Ivory can’t go in this one, it would be a huge loss against a defense that’s frighteningly good against the pass.
The Broncos severely outplayed the Chiefs on Sunday night, but were stunned in overtime. Their offense continues to be hindered by awful right-tackle play and an inconsistent ground game. However, they are on a completely different level than the Jags.
Denver will overcome the early start on the east coast and dominate this game from start to finish.
Pick: Broncos (-5)
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears (-2.5)
I’m not going to sugarcoat this, these are two really bad football teams. If anyone but Matt Barkley was starting at quarterback for Chicago (ok, maybe not anyone), I’d happily give up these points with the Bears; but I have zero faith in the temporary pivot, even against the league’s worst D.
Defense should be Chicago’s strength. Injuries and suspensions have decimated an otherwise promising group, though, and the 49ers’ offense has been better since Colin Kaepernick took over under center.
Pick: 49ers (+2.5)
Houston Texans at Green Bay Packers (-6)
I’ll keep this quick. Aaron Rodgers looks to be back in his MVP form. Brock Osweiler is not a serviceable starting quarterback in this league.
Pick: Packers (-6)*
Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5)
The Chiefs defense is the an example of a bend-but-don’t-break unit, ranking 28th in total defense yet eighth in scoring. They’re playing with fire, though, and if they continue getting shredded through the air as they have in the last two, the points will start to come.
The Falcons had their worst offensive performance of the season (a 24-15 loss at Philly) before entering their Week 11 bye. Clearly got things sorted out in the week off, as they put up 38 points against a pretty good Arizona defense.
Atlanta isn’t just Julio Jones anymore. The team has the secondary weapons to expose the Chiefs through the air, and KC’s sluggish, Alex Smith-led offense will not be able to keep up.
Pick: Falcons (-3.5)
Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
The key to Miami’s current six-game winning-streak has been the emergence of a running game. Powered by a healthy offensive line, the Fins have averaged 152.3 yards per game during that time (after averaging 72.4 per game in the first five). However, they now face the league’s top rush defense and may be without center Mike Pouncey for a third-straight game.
Fortunately for the Dolphins, Baltimore’s offense doesn’t incite fear into anyone. Their rushing attack is virtually non-existent, and Joe Flacco has fallen so far from his 2013 form.
The Dolphins will have to call on Ryan Tannehill in this one, and I don’t see Flacco outplaying him. This is just too many points to lay with the Ravens, whose best offensive weapon in their kicker.
Pick: Dolphins (+3.5)
Philadelphia Eagles (-1.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
The Eagles defense has been beat-up in the last two games, surrendering 826 total yards, combined. But they’ll now get a break when they head to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals sans A.J. Green and Gio Bernard.
Cincinnati has struggled to defend the run all season, and Philadelphia’s offense will greatly benefit from being able to establish its ground game. Carson Wentz and the Eagle offense may not put up a ton of points, but their defense should keep Andy Dalton and the Bengals off the scoreboard.
Pick: Eagles (-1.5)
Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders (-3)
Although neither were overly impressive, the Bills have now won two straight on the legs of their ground game and have rejuvenated their playoff hopes. The Raiders, meanwhile, just keep finding ways to win and are challenging the Patriots for the top spot in the conference.
Can Oakland keep this up? I think not. The combined record of their last five opponents is 25-30, and three of those games came down to the last possession. The Raiders are in tough this week against a Buffalo offense that can control the clock with its top-ranked rushing attack.
Derek Carr and the Oakland offense will be slowed, while their 26th-ranked rush defense gets the ball hammered down its throat.
Pick: Bills (+3)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers (-4)
After three-straight wins, including two over very good teams (KC and Seattle), we are left wondering whether the Bucs are actually a good team. We are pretty certain of who the Chargers are: a team whose offense generally decides the outcome. Philip Rivers and company can put up points on anyone, but also lead the league in turnovers (23) and have let sure wins slip away with costly fourth-quarter gaffes.
I’m not going to put too much stock into Tampa’s victory over the Seahawks because Seattle just didn’t show up. However, Mike Evans has proven to be a dominant receiver, which bodes well for the Bucs heading into San Diego where they’ll face the 26th-ranked pass defense.
The Bucs’ defensive line isn’t going to be able to mask the issues in the team’s suspect secondary the way it did against Seattle; the Chargers have a much better offensive line. Rivers will pick apart Tampa through the air at home. That said, four points is a little too much for me, given San Diego’s penchant for nail-biters.
Pick: Bucs (+4)
New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6)
I get that the Giants’ offense hasn’t looked great lately, but what about the Steelers’ secondary instills any confidence? New York’s defense, on the other hand, has been one of the most improved units in the league from last season. They have only allowed ten touchdowns through the air in 11 games.
New York will be able to contain Le’Veon Bell on the ground and Eli Manning will not find himself under much pressure from Pitt’s pabulum pass rush, and Odell Beckham Jr. will not be stopped.
Pick: Giants (+6)
Washington at Arizona Cardinals (-2.5)
We need to come to terms with the fact that the Cardinals are not a good football team. Their offense is a shell of what it was in 2015, and in spite of ranking first in total defense, the unit continues to be put in awful situations due to turnovers.
Although it struggled to finish drives on Thanksgiving, the Washington offense is extremely hot, piling up 1,020 total net yards over the last two games, combined. Kirk Cousins has his confidence back and he’ll be able to put up enough points to get a win on the road.
Pick: Washington (+2.5)*
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks (-7)
I’ll continue echoing this until I see otherwise: the Panthers can’t run the ball. Part of that is due to injuries on the offensive line, but a bigger piece is the play of Cam Newton, who has fallen well off his MVP form. The Carolina defense has at least been consistently pressuring quarterbacks recently.
Neither of these offensive lines can protect their quarterbacks, and I’m expecting to see both lying on their backs often in this one. One offense will break through with a few big plays, though, and that will be Russell Wilson’s side.
The Seahawks will also be able to take advantage of the Panthers’ inability to protect the football, and that’s how they’ll cover this spread.
Pick: Seahawks (-7)
Monday, December 5
Indianapolis Colts (-1) at New York Jets
He may not be a great option under center, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is definitely the Jets’ best option at quarterback. The journeyman is playing for a job next season, and has a golden opportunity to put up big numbers against the 30th-ranked total defense this week.
But he won’t have the benefit of taking on the Scott Tolzien-led Colts, as Andrew Luck is scheduled to return from his Week 11 concussion. Don’t be fooled by what the stats tell you in regards to the Jets’ secondary play lately; New York has benefited from games against the Rams and Dolphins. Luck will have his way with this defense.
The only concern here is whether the Colts’ offensive line will hold-up and keep Luck from getting knocked out of the game. Since the Jets have only recorded 12 sacks in their last ten games, I’ll side with Indy’s MVP making it through all four quarters.
Pick: Colts (-1)
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])