Has the NFL peaked? This is a serious question and we may already have an answer. Last week a good chunk of the league’s drek were off on bye. Logic says that that should lead to good football. Unfortunately that was not the case. Excluding the Redskins vs. Saints game which was nothing short of electric, the rest of the games missed the mark. The AFC West, considered the elite division of the league before the season, flat out stinks. The Chiefs choked in New Jersey against the Giants. The Raiders got trounced by the surging Patriots. And the Broncos lost to the freaking Bengals at home. Yuck.
In the midst of the league being reduced to ashes, somes teams have risen. The common thread in these squads? Strong running game. Yes the return of the backs is in effect this season and if you look atop the league you will see it for yourself. The Saints, Eagles, Patriots and Steelers are the top four. The Patriots are the outlier (naturally) and Le’Veon Bell’s greatness for the Steelers needs no further explanation. But the remaining two are surprisingly spearheaded by their ground attack.
For a comparison to drive home how odd this is think of the Raptors and Pelicans–two teams that seem allergic to hitting three-pointers–running the NBA. The theme of the NFL has been spread offenses with a ton of passing. The rules have favored that style of play and a majority of teams have adopted it. Sure the Eagles and Saints spread the ball but their bread and butter is punching defenses in the face with their running back committees.
The Saints possess the traditional committee of two mustangs, Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara (throw some money on this guy for ROY). Those two set the pace for the game and make Drew Brees’ life infinitely easier. Same thing happens in Philly for MVP frontrunner Carson Wentz. The four-headed monster of Jay Ayaji, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement and either Wendell Smallwood or Kenjon Barner constantly gives the Eagles fresh legs to grind the defense. It allows the Eagles offense to permanently keep their foot on the gas.
As we approach the end of the season and the weather worsens the teams with great running games will separate from the pack. Good offensive line play has become a privilege instead of the standard. Not mentioned in this run game are the Panthers who have quietly let the leash off Cam Newton and the Seahawks who have done the same with Russell Wilson.
Let’s break down Week 12 and see how pivotal the run will be as we wrap up the third quarter of the season.
How does one bounceback from taking a week off? By going 4-0. Yes, for the first time all season all the locks locked and all is good with the world. The Sunday slate is short this week due to Thanksgiving Thursday, but there are still some lockers in the midst.
Panthers (-4.5) over JETS
I’ll be honest this week overall scares me. Way too many mammoth spreads naturally this modest line sticks out. The Panthers are coming off a bye and the week before that Cam Newton put his cleats so far up the Dolphins defense ass they are probably still coughing up his spikes. It was vintage Cam, the one the Panthers have always needed but tried to get away from, to preserve his shelf life. Fuck that, do what you’re good at.
The Jets are also coming off a bye but unlike the Panthers lost a forgettable game against the Buccaneers. I have no doubt the Jets defense will be feisty. But the Panthers could be hitting their stride. Greg Olsen returns this week which gives Cam a top target once again. Couple that with the steady rise of rookie Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers offense could be a problem once again. Anything above 20 points and the Jets offense might not be able to keep up.
Tough call but I’ll err on the side of caution and take Cam Newton over Josh McClown.
Prediction: Panthers 27, Jets 20
CHIEFS (-10) over Bills
The Chiefs are going to ground-and-pound their way to a blowout win. Kareem Hunt will regain his swagger as will the Chiefs who somehow out-choked the Giants last Sunday.That’s my analysis.
Now, let’s make fun of how incompetent the Buffalo Bills are as a team, organization and fanbase. The benching of Tyrod Taylor was revered by Bills fans who considered Taylor average. Is he a dime a dozen QB? Probably. But what the hell does that make Nathan Peterman? In short, Peterman sucks.
Peterman threw not one, not two, not three, not even four, but five interceptions. In the first fucking half. Get this guy, Sean McDermott and anyone else that praised that benching all the way out of here. Prior to last week’s 54-24 baptism in LA the Bills were a playoff team. They are now in the great din of the AFC playoff picture and I wish nothing but the worst.
Prediction: Bills 14, Chiefs 31
Seahawks (-6.5) over 49ERS
If the Seahawks employed a professional kicker maybe they are 7-3 instead of 6-4 Sunday. Too bad they have notorious choke artist Blair Walsh. Luckily for Pete Carroll and company Walsh shouldn’t be needed. The secondary of the defense is considerably worse without Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman but once again that shouldn’t matter this week.
Expect the Seahawks to have their way on offense. Russell Wilson is having a phenomenal season and the offense has awoken. On defense all they need to do is bottle up Carlos Hyde. Sounds easy and should be easy given the stake on the line for the Seahawks if they somehow lose this game.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, 49ers 13
Texans (+7) over RAVENS
If your Sunday is good this game will not appear on your television screen. Whatever the polar opposite of Tom Brady vs. Aaron Rodgers is, this is it. Joe Flaccid is simply appalling this year and Tom Savage is not far behind. Both offenses will struggle all day thanks to this.
The Ravens should win this game given they have the better defense and special teams. But the Texans do have the better offense. That means they should be able to stay in the game against a Ravens team that plays better at home. Bet against Flaccid Flacco and live with any of the consequences that come with making the right decision.
Prediction: Texans 20, Ravens 23
The Other Guys
Broncos (+5) over RAIDERS
Buccaneers (+9.5) over FALCONS
BENGALS (-8.5) over Browns
Titans (-3.5) over COLTS
PATRIOTS (-16) over Dolphins
EAGLES (-13.5) over Bears
Saints (+2.5) over RAMS
Jaguars (-4.5) over CARDINALS
STEELERS (-14) over Packers
Last Week: 7-6-1