Can the Redskins make things interesting in the NFC East?
Cheat Sheet time, once again. A Thanksgiving Day special. This one goes out to wearing sweatpants with elastic waistbands, keeping your best friend away from his high school girlfriend (who’s dating someone seriously now at college, she swears) in your hometown bar, and lots and lots and lots of food you’d feel guilty about eating any other day of the calendar year. Let’s get to the picks.
Week 11 record: 8-6
Overall record: 93-66-2
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Week 12 Cheat Sheet trivia question
Derek Carr currently has a passer rating of 100.6, a number that would rank him second all-time on the Raiders’ single-season passer rating list. Which Raiders quarterback had the highest passer rating in a single season? (Answer after the picks.)
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Thursday: Vikings at Lions
The Lions are like an NBA All-Star Game. You don’t really need to watch the first 58 minutes of any of their games, as you know it’ll come down to the final two possessions and that Matthew Stafford will find a way somehow to pull a victory from the jaws of defeat. Only one team in NFL history (2009 Colts, who oddly enough were also coached by Jim Caldwell) has won seven games in which it has trailed in the fourth quarter. We’re in Week 12, and the Lions have already done it six times. I think they do it again on Turkey Day.
The pick: Lions 23, Vikings 20
Thursday: Redskins at Cowboys
If the Vikings and Lions are an appetizer and the evening game is dessert, this is one heck of a main course. The Cowboys can beat teams in so many ways, but what really kills opponents is their fourth-quarter prowess and their ability to suck the life out of games by pounding the rock with 10- or 12-play drives. If there’s any weak spot for Dallas, it may be the pass defense, which comes in at 21st in the league through 11 weeks. The Redskins are third in the league in passing, and Kirk Cousins has thrown 40 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions since he shouted the words “you like that!” last season. Six different Redskins have 25 or more receptions. This one has upset special written all over it, and look for Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay to dial up some doozies. Things will get interesting in the NFC East. Give me Washington.
The pick: Redskins 33, Cowboys 23
Getty ImagesDavid Banks
Thursday night: Steelers at Colts
These two teams played last year and it was another game in which Andrew Luck was out with an injury. The result? A 45-10 Steelers whooping. The Pittsburgh D beat up on the Browns’ QBs last week, sacking them eight times and knocking poor Cody Kessler out of the game with a concussion. But I think the Colts have something cooking in that Indy locker room, and this is one of those “Who are we?” games. After a week of hearing about how great the Tennessee Titans were on national television, Indianapolis responded with its 11th straight victory over that team. This smells awfully similar. I don’t think Scott Tolzien lights it up, but I’ve seen crazier things happen than the Steelers struggling on the road on a Sunday night. Another upset. Colts win.
The pick: Colts 24, Steelers 20
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY SporTimothy T. Ludwig
Sunday: Titans at Bears
Good thing the city of Chicago had the Cubs this fall or I’d be feeling really bad for what they’re being served this football season. If it’s not a star player or quarterback being injured, it’s someone getting stung by a PED suspension. A forgettable season in the Windy City will be made even less memorable with a Matt Barkley sighting on Sunday. I’ll save you the effort and tell you how this one ends. It won’t be pretty.
The pick: Titans 24, Bears 14
Associated PressMike Roemer
Sunday: Jaguars at Bills
Gus Bradley is now 14-44 as an NFL head coach. His .241 winning percentage is the worst in the Super Bowl era among coaches with a minimum of 50 games coached. If there’s a reason for the Jaguars players to get up for Sunday’s game in Buffalo it’s their offensive coordinator (Nathaniel Hackett) and assistant coach (Doug Marrone) making their returns to Western New York, where both were employed until Marrone decided to leave his job as the Bills’ head coach at the end of the 2014 season. All that’s well and good, but I like Buffalo in this one — led by LeSean McCoy seven days after thumb surgery — to notch its sixth win.
The pick: Bills 30, Jaguars 20
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Sunday: Bengals at Ravens
The Ravens are 3-0 against the AFC North and just 3-5 against the rest of the league. Well, guess what? In the NFL, if you win your division, you get a home game in the playoffs. And I think Baltimore will continue to win those divisional games. No A.J. Green. No Giovani Bernard. And no luck on the Bengals side. They continue to have the type of season where nothing goes right. I don’t see it suddenly turning around in hostile Baltimore.
The pick: Ravens 23, Bengals 17
Sunday: Cardinals at Falcons
The Cardinals have lost seven straight games in Atlanta, and the last time they were victors there Deion Sanders (1994) was on the Falcons roster. With Atlanta coming off a disappointing loss and a bye week to prepare, I like the Falcons to keep the streak going. Atlanta has the third-best offense in the league. Arizona has the top-ranked defense. Fun clash of styles. If this one were in Arizona, I’d consider taking the Cardinals. It’s not.
The pick: Falcons 29, Cardinals 23
Sunday: Giants at Browns
As the rest of the national media salivates over the prospect of the Cowboys finishing the season atop the NFC and competing in the Super Bowl, the Giants — who happen to play in the No. 1 media market in the world — are quietly winners of five straight games with very little studio show attention. They’ve won seven games this season, and none of them has been by more than a touchdown. I’m going to be working the sideline, alongside Matt Millen and Dick Stockton, and see a Giants win by a score.
The pick: Giants 23, Browns 16
Sunday: Rams at Saints
I liked seeing Jared Goff on the field last Sunday, but am really looking forward to seeing him without the training wheels on. I think Jeff Fisher lets the Ferrari out of the garage and we get a bit more from No. 16 on Sunday in the Superdome. The Saints lost what felt like a “loser leaves town” match last week. I think they get off the mat and handle business at home.
The pick: Saints 20, Rams 17
Sunday: 49ers at Dolphins
The Dolphins have won five straight games, and I can’t see them slipping up now. The 49ers defense is as porous as they come, ranked last in total yards, points and rushing yards allowed. This has a 200-yard rushing day written all over it. Big win, Dolphins.
The pick: Dolphins 41, 49ers 17
Sunday: Chargers at Texans
The San Diego offense is doing some marvelous things this season, but it might be for naught. The Chargers are No. 2 in the NFL in scoring but have a losing record. The only team in NFL history to finish second in the league in scoring and have a losing record were the 2004 Chiefs. I can see it happening again. I like Houston, unbeaten at home, to find a way to stay atop the AFC South. The pick: Texans 26, Chargers 24
Sunday: Seahawks at Buccaneers
Want to impress your friends and family at Thanksgiving? Drop this one on them: Jameis Winston has accounted for a TD (rushing or passing) in all 26 of his NFL games, the most by any player to begin a career since 1970. If you want to go deeper, that streak continues all the way back to his college career at FSU, too. And if you really want to impress your friends? Predict a Bucs win. I am. And I am not crazy. Tampa Bay is a team that is too young and naïve to believe otherwise.
The pick: Buccaneers 27, Seahawks 23
Jason Getz-USA TODAY SportsJason Getz
Sunday: Patriots at Jets
Since the infamous Butt Fumble game in 2012, each of the past six meetings between the Patriots and Jets has been decided by seven or fewer points. This one, though, has blowout written all over it.
The pick: Patriots 34, Jets 13
Sunday: Panthers at Raiders
The big thing that I imagined would hold back Oakland in November and December games would be its defense. But here we are, 10 games into the season, and the D is getting better and better each week. The past four games, the Raiders went from being last in the league in yards against to sixth in that month-long timeframe. A huge turnaround, and that’s a major reason why they’d be the 1 seed in the AFC if the playoffs were to start today. I think they keep it rolling. If Cam Newton was the surprise MVP of 2015, Derek Carr might be that for 2016.
The pick: Raiders 27, Panthers 20
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY SportsCary Edmondson
Sunday night: Chiefs at Broncos
We’ll know what the Chiefs are after the next few weeks, that’s for sure. Their next three opponents are a combined 21-9, and the games are at Denver (7-3), at Atlanta (6-4) and home against Oakland (8-2). Win two of these games and they’re in the thick of the playoff hunt. Lose two, and it’s tough sledding. Lose all three, and say goodbye to January football. I think Denver gets this one.
The pick: Broncos 19, Chiefs 13
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Monday night: Packers at Eagles
Carson Wentz and the Eagles are a different team at home than on the road. The Eagles are 4-0 in their building, and that home crowd has lifted them. The schedule makers did the Packers no favors this year. A week after they get a road game against an NFC East team on primetime they get a road game against an NFC East team on primetime. I don’t see this one going much better than last week’s outcome in Washington. Green Bay just doesn’t seem to have it going on this season. Not sure it magically changes when there isn’t enough depth on the roster to address what’s wrong.
The pick: Eagles 34, Packers 27
Week 12 Cheat Sheet trivia answer
Ken Stabler had a 103.4 passer rating in 1976. The Raiders won the Super Bowl that season.