I came close to a perfect 5-0 in last week’s picks, but the Patriots-Bills game landed directly on 7 for a push. With so many whacky calls in the Bills’ favor, it was a miracle for bettors who avoided the loss. For the likely 90 percent of people who bet on the Patriots though, they have every reason to be bitter.
This week, New England bettors have the chance to try and win their money back in an exciting match-up. Four weeks ago, this game was supposed to be the Patriots’ most difficult test in their pursuit of perfection, but Peyton Manning’s absence deflates much of the anticipation. A Tom Brady-Brock Osweiler showdown isn’t as intriguing, but Denver and their dominant defense promise to give the Patriots all they can handle.
Let’s take a closer look at the Broncos-Patriots game, as well as four others on the Week 12 slate:
Week 11 Record: 4-0-1
Season Record: 31-22-2
Minnesota Vikings at ATLANTA FALCONS (-1)
In a game with serious playoff implications, these two teams have trended in opposite directions over their past five games. The Vikings (7-3) are winners of four of their last five, while the Falcons (6-4) have gone 1-4 in that stretch. Featuring two rapidly improving defenses, this one should be low scoring. Even though the Falcons will be without break-out running back Devonta Freeman (concussion), the Matt Ryan-Julio Jones combination is too potent for the Vikings to keep up with. Atlanta gets a much-needed victory and leapfrogs Minnesota in the NFC Wild Card race.
Prediction: MIN (16) – ATL (20)
St. Louis Rams at CINCINNATI BENGALS (-8)
Remember three weeks ago when the Rams were viewed as legitimate playoff contenders? Racing out to a 4-3 start behind Todd Gurley and a dominant defense, the optimism surrounding St. Louis feels like a distant memory. Nick Foles is no longer the starting quarterback, Gurley can’t find any running room, and the defense gave up 37 points to a Matt Forte-less Bears offense. Things will only get worse this week when they take on an angry Cincinnati Bengals team. After a humiliating loss to the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football, the Bengals played well in a heartbreaking 34-31 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals. Now losers of two in a row, expect the Bengals to play like the team that started the season 8-0. A Case Keenum-led Rams squad is simply no match.
Prediction: STL (10) – CIN (27)
Arizona Cardinals at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (+10.5)
This is not an endorsement of the San Francisco 49ers. This is simply going off the principle that no road team should ever be favored by double digits in the NFL. There’s no reason to suggest the 49ers can hang with an extremely talented Arizona Cardinals team, but 10.5 points is too many not to take.
Prediction: ARI (24) – SF (17)
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (+3.5) at Seattle Seahawks
Both teams head into this match-up without their star running backs. Pittsburgh clearly misses their do-it-all running back Le’Veon Bell more than Seattle, as it appears the Seahawks have discovered the reincarnation of Marshawn Lynch in Thomas Rawls. The Seahawks and Steelers will look to establish the ground game, but since both defenses rank in the top 10 against the run, this one will come down to the two franchise quarterbacks. While Pittsburgh’s defense has been terrible against the pass (28th), Wilson hasn’t shown the ability to pick apart teams this season. The ‘Legion of Boom’ will keep Seattle close, but the Ben Roethlisberger-Antonio Brown duo will be too much for the Seahawks to handle.
Prediction: PIT (20) – SEA (17)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (-3) at Denver Broncos
Now six games from a perfect 16-0, the Patriots square off against the best defense in the NFL. Brock Osweiler will get the start for Denver after leading the Broncos to a road victory over the Chicago Bears last week. It was the first game of the season a Denver quarterback didn’t throw an interception, as Osweiler is making a compelling case to pass Peyton Manning on the depth chart. The hype ends this week though; Bill Belichick will quickly show why Osweiler wasn’t a starter for the first three years of his NFL career. The Patriots defense will shut down a predictable Broncos offense and the Tom Brady-Rob Gronkowski duo will impose their will. The Patriots stay perfect, and any talk of a quarterback controversy between Osweiler and Manning is thrown out the window.
Prediction: NE (20) – DEN (10)