We’re back with the 12th edition of MTS’ weekly picks against the spread for the 2016 season. After losing multiple games by half-a-point, we empathize with Mr. Port and his 6-8 record (2-2 on his Pledges) from Week 11. Finding himself in quite a slump recently, Perry has turned to a different brand of cereal in the mornings in hopes to breakout this week.
Here’s what Perry and his Wheaties are offering in Week 12.
An asterisk denotes one of Perry’s “Pledges of the Week.” (Don’t call them “locks”; there’s no such thing!)
Week 12 Picks ATS
Thursday, November 24
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-2.5)
The last time these two played (Week 9), Detroit was lucky to pull off a stunning overtime victory. The same can basically be said about each of the Lions’ other five wins this season. Nonetheless, Matthew Stafford is playing great, even without any sort of rushing attack to help him out.
Speaking of no rushing attack, the Vikings are averaging a league-low 2.7 yards per carry. Sam Bradford hasn’t been able to shoulder the offense for Minny like Stafford has for Detroit. The Vikes can only win when their defense/special teams puts points on the board. Unfortunately, their defense has now allowed at least 20 points in their last five games, after surrendering no more than 16 per game in their first five.
Stafford won’t give this game away, and his mediocre defense will do enough to slow the Vikings’ pitiful offense.
Pick: Lions (-2.5)
Washington at Dallas Cowboys (-7)
The 42-24 beating Washington put on Green Bay on Sunday night leaves us wondering whether the former is a really good team, or the latter is just that bad. There are no questions, however, when it comes to the Cowboys’ ground game, after they rushed for 118 yards on the league’s best run defense last week.
Washington is allowing 4.6 yards per carry right now (30th) and will not be able to slow Ezekiel Elliott. But Kirk Cousins is playing some great football as of late and will be able to exploit the Cowboys’ defense for what it truly is: not that good.
Pick: Washington (+7)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) at Indianapolis Colts
This line is going to change based on whether Andrew Luck suits up or not, so we’ll approach this game with that in mind.
If Luck doesn’t play (likely), Scott Tolzien will take his place under center. Since going undrafted out of Wisconsin in 2011, Tolzien has thrown a combined 91 passes in the NFL. Five of those passes have been intercepted, while only one has gone for a touchdown.
Indianapolis’ defense is terrible; the team can thank Andrew Luck for its 5-5 record. Without him, all of their flaws will become even more noticeable. Just so long as Big Ben and the Steelers aren’t laying any more than 13 points, take them to cover against a Luck-less Colts side.
Pick: Steelers (-3)*
Sunday, November 27
Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints (-7)
Jeff Fisher says he can see the light for Jared Goff, but this is the same guy who said the Rams are better than a 7-9 team. After looking awful in the preseason, Goff didn’t turn any heads in his first pro start against Miami – 17/31 for 134 yards.
There is some good news moving forward for Goff, though. The Saints D (27th in total defense) he’ll face in his second start is significantly worse than Miami’s. However, he’s now being asked to out-duel Drew Brees and the league’s top-ranked total offense.
The Rams have allowed a combined 33 points in their last three games, but they haven’t scored more than ten in their last four. Brees will find a way to put points on the board at home while Goff continues to struggle.
Pick: Saints (-7)*
Tennessee Titans (-3.5) at Chicago Bears
You’ve probably started noticing a pattern here: bet against bad quarterbacks. You should follow suit in this one, too.
With Jay Cutler’s season in jeopardy due to a shoulder injury, Matt Barkley is set to start the first game of his career. The only action Barkley has seen since 2014 came earlier this year against Green Bay, when he went 6/15 for 81 yards and two interceptions. The former Trojan boasts a 34.2 career passer rating (yes, you read that correctly), and will have to deal with a bevy of disguised Dick LeBeau blitzes this week.
Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense may be held in check, but don’t expect anything out of Barkley.
Pick: Titans (-3.5)
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons (-4)
The Cardinals have turnovers to blame for the hole they find themselves in right now. Arizona has now turned the ball over 18 times in ten games (26th), and their quarterback has been responsible for 13 of those (ten interceptions and three fumbles).
On the bright side, the Falcons have only generated 11 takeaways this season (20th), and their defense is 29th in scoring and 28th in total defense. Arizona is 3-1-1 when they don’t commit a turnover this season, so they’ll be able to hang around if Carson Palmer can protect the football.
I expect Matt Ryan and the top-ranked scoring offense to put some points on the board, but the Cardinals’ offense should keep this one close.
Pick: Cardinals (+4)
New York Giants (-7) at Cleveland Browns
The Giants are currently riding a five-game winning streak, but have not won a single game this year by more than seven points. The cause for this has been their inconsistencies on offense, and their 57.69-percent mark in the red zone (touchdowns only).
However, the Browns have lost their last three games by a combined 61 points. Trying to find any positives with this team is a major struggle.
Look for Odell Beckham Jr. to bounce back after a quiet performance last week. The Giants offense will explode and cover in Cleveland.
Pick: Giants (-7)*
San Diego Chargers at Houston Texans (-1)
The Texans only do one thing well offensively: run the ball. Unfortunately, the Chargers have been very good against the run this season, allowing just 3.9 yards per carry (ninth). In order for Houston to win this game, they’ll have to take advantage of San Diego’s 28th-ranked pass defense.
Although the Texans boast the league’s fourth-ranked pass defense, I expect Philip Rivers to be able to move the ball and take advantage of some mismatches.
In a battle between Rivers and Osweiler, I’ll side with the former every day of the week.
Pick: Chargers (+1)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills (-7.5)
From just looking at simple stats, you’d come to the conclusion that the Bills’ top-ranked rushing attack will pound the ball down the throat of the Jags and their 23rd-ranked rush defense. Upon closer inspection, that might not be the case: Jacksonville is only allowing 3.9 yards per carry and has had the chance to win each of its last three games.
The key in this game will be turnovers. Blake Bortles has turned the ball over 16 times and, as a team, Jacksonville has 22 giveaways (31st). The Bills defense has generated 14 takeaways this season (12th), and are 3-0 with an average margin of victory of ten points when they force at least two in a game.
The Jags have turned the ball over more than once in seven of ten games this season, and betting on a couple Bortles turnovers seems like the safest bet here.
Pick: Bills (-7.5)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-4.5)
With A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard both going down last week, the Bengals just lost a huge chunk of their offense. The two combined for 45-percent of Andy Dalton’s completions, and 47.1-percent of the team’s receiving yards.
Although the Ravens lost in Week 11, they should be proud of holding the Cowboys to their lowest rushing total since Week 2. Their defense should have no issues slowing the banged-up Bengals offense, and the one-two punch of Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon should have room to run against a defense that’s allowing 4.5 yards per carry (27th).
Pick: Ravens (-4.5)
San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins (-7.5)
The Dolphins have now won five straight and are back in the playoff hunt in the AFC. The 49ers, on the other hand, have lost nine in a row and are battling the Browns for the right to the first-overall pick in the 2017 draft.
But don’t be so quick to jump on Miami in this one. Before doing so, you’ll need to monitor the status of both Mike Pouncey and Branden Albert. The two linemen were a huge part of Miami’s turnaround, but are both listed as questionable for this one after missing last week’s game.
With the two in the lineup, the Dolphins will run all over the league’s worst rush defense, forcing Colin Kaepernick to play from behind (not his forte). However, if they don’t play, Miami’s offense won’t be as dangerous, and the 49ers will be able to stick to running the ball. I’ll side with them playing for now, though.
Pick: Dolphins (-7.5)
Seattle Seahawks (-5.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Seahawks are one of the hottest teams in the league, coming off wins over the Bills, Patriots, and Eagles. Russell Wilson looks to be getting healthier by the week, and the offense is incredibly dangerous as a result.
In spite of the Bucs’ two-game winning streak, I’m not ready to believe they are a decent team. Jameis Winston will get exposed against the ninth-ranked total defense, and he won’t get any help from his defense.
I don’t care who’s carrying the rock for Seattle, take the visiting side in this one.
Pick: Seahawks (-5.5)*
New England Patriots (-8) at New York Jets
Since Tom Brady’s return, the Pats are 5-1 and their smallest margin of victory is 11 points. Their offense did get off to a slow start last week without Rob Gronkowski against a weak 49ers defense, but he should be back in action this weekend.
After Bryce Petty started his first NFL game before their bye week, the Jets will now turn the offense back over to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has an 8:13 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season. Defensively, the Jets’ linemen have been dominant, but the unit has been slowed by a poor secondary.
Tom Brady is the master of the quick game and will not allow the New York pass rush to get to him. With or without Gronk, the Pats will cover this spread.
Pick: Patriots (-8)
Carolina Panthers at Oakland Raiders (-3.5)
The Panthers defense was already leaking yards and points due to an awful secondary. Now the unit has to push forward without its best player, Luke Kuechly. On top of that, Carolina has not run the ball with any efficiency this season (3.8 yards per carry), and their offense has struggled as a result.
Oakland continues to surprise us all and is now tied for the AFC lead at 8-2. The offensive line has been phenomenal all year, and Derek Carr is using all that time in the pocket effectively.
That said, of the Panthers six losses this season, only two have come by more than three points. Carolina is incredibly desperate and will play that way on Sunday.
Pick: Panthers (+3.5)
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-3)
After getting upset by the Bucs at home, the Chiefs now head to Mile High in a crucial game for both sides. Kansas City has failed to break 100 yards on the ground in seven of its ten games, and their offense isn’t striking fear into anyone.
The Broncos enter this game coming off their bye week and will get a big boost from the return of both Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib, along with a healed up Brandon Marshall. With the week off, Gary Kubiak will have a lot of their offensive line issues sorted out; Denver will be able to exploit the Chiefs’ 27th-ranked rush defense, which is allowing 4.5 yards per carry (26th).
Denver’s defense will be able to rely on Talib and Chris Harris in man coverage, while selling out to stop the run. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will be the difference in this one.
Pick: Broncos (-3)
Monday, November 28
Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)
The Packers defense has now given up more than 150 yards on the ground in back-to-back weeks, and their secondary isn’t playing any better. The good news is the Eagles running backs are banged up and their receiving corps is terrible.
The Packers are also banged-up in the backfield and still searching for an RB they can trust. They brought in Christine Michael in an effort to fill the void.
In spite of what all the stats and the previous 11 weeks suggest, it’s too difficult to pass up points with the Packers in this matchup. Michael will provide a boost on the ground and Aaron Rodgers will excel in a desperate position.
Pick: Packers (+3.5)
Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck (Flickr: Aaron Rodgers) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.