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- Week 12 Predictions: Sunday Turkey

Chris Pokorny November 24, 2007
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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As expected, all three of the team's elite teams participating in the three Thanksgiving Day games came away with victories that didn't diminish any of their reputations. Not having the Colts, Packers, or Cowboys available to play on the tradition of Sunday though seems unusual; of the top four teams in my power rankings, the New England Patriots are the only team that still has a game left in Week 12 (against a backup quarterback in prime time). Before I get into the rest of my Week 12 predictions, let me take a look at the current playoff seedings, including the results from the games on Thanksgiving:

1. New England Patriots
2. Indianapolis Colts
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. San Diego Chargers
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
6. Tennessee Titans
7. Cleveland Browns
8. Denver Broncos
9. Buffalo Bills
10. Houston Texans
11. Kansas City Chiefs
12. Baltimore Ravens
13. Cincinnati Bengals
14. Oakland Raiders
15. New York Jets

In the AFC, you can already count the Miami Dolphins out of playoff contention. Even if they won their final six games, they would mathematically be eliminated because they already lost to the Cleveland Browns, and with the Texans also already beating them this season, any scenario involving the Browns vs. Texans game knocks them out. The AFC West race is obviously the closest race in the AFC, especially with the Chargers getting cold and the Broncos getting hot. Everyone below the Texans can pretty much be counted out for a wildcard spot. The only reason the Titans are still ahead of the Browns is due to the strength of schedule tiebreaker.

1. Dallas Cowboys
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5. New York Giants
6. Detroit Lions
7. Arizona Cardinals
8. Philadelphia Eagles
9. Washington Redskins
10. Carolina Panthers
11. New Orleans Saints
12. Minnesota Vikings
13. Chicago Bears
14. Atlanta Falcons
15. San Francisco 49ers
16. St. Louis Rams

Granted, the 49ers appear to be down and out, but they are technically still alive in the NFC playoff race. The Rams would be three games back of the division lead if they beat the Seahawks this week; fat chance to win it, but still fun to imagine about it. The biggest "unseen" factor in the NFC's list is the reason why the Seahawks are ahead of the Buccaneers. In Week 1, the Seahawks took out the Buccaneers 20-6. The Lions need a miracle this Sunday to hang on to the final wildcard spot heading into Week 13. They've already lost to the Cardinals, Eagles, and Redskins, meaning a win by any of those teams this Sunday will cause them to lose their advantage.

With the conference playoff rankings out of the way, it's time to jump into the three remaining games of the week (Packers vs. Lions was the fourth)...



Buffalo Bills vs. Jacksonville Jaguars. Momentum is critical on the path to the postseason, but these wildcard hopefuls are heading in opposite directions. After building a four-game winning streak with rookie running back Marshawn Lynch playing like the AFC's rookie of the year, he'll miss his second straight week after not playing versus the New England Patriots last week. Nobody really expected the Bills to take down the Patriots last week, but there was hope that they could provide the same type of excitement that they did against the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the season. Without Lynch against a strong Jaguars' defense this week, the Bills will have to win the same ways they've won in the past: running a conservative offense and then picking the right time to explode with the deep ball to Lee Evans. That's how they were able to take down the Jets and the Dolphins before losing to New England.

If they take that type of approach though, they'll need their defensive effort to be at its best. The Jaguars aren't known as a strong offensive team, but under David Garrard they are learning how to put effective drives together. Garrard still hasn't thrown an interception this season, and he usually finds one receiver amongst his options to step up in each game. Having Maurice-Jones Drew and Fred Taylor on the ground adds to Garrard's options against the 31st ranked defense in the NFL. The Bills typically do not give up a lot of points, but against teams that are playoff contenders, they haven't been able to put a victory on the board. To be specific, the Bills are 0-5 against teams with .500 or better records, and 5-0 against teams with a record below .500. The Jaguars are 7-3 and at home, and without the Bills having Lynch, it'll be difficult for them to keep pace after the third quarter. Jaguars 27, Bills 17


Houston Texans vs. Cleveland Browns. This game really makes for an intriguing match-up because it signifies that the tides may finally be turning for the two most recently established franchises in the modern-day NFL. The Browns have one postseason appearance, but overall they have not been a team to be reckoned with since returning to the league. And, ironically, the only time the Texans were close to finishing a season with a .500 record, the Browns upset them in the season finale. Now, both teams are fighting for the AFC's final wildcard spot past the halfway point of the season. The Browns had a crazy finish on Phil Dawson's 51-yard field goal last week at the end of regulation, but all that matters in the end is that the Browns stayed ahead of the pack of most of the wildcard hopefuls with a win. Every week will be a fight for the Browns though, including this week against the 5-5 Texans.

The Browns are 4-0 in home games with Derek Anderson at quarterback. The Texans are 3-0 in games that Andre Johnson has played, but only one of those games came on the road. Considering the Browns have the 32nd-ranked defense in the league though, it'd be safe to assume that Schaub-to-Johnson will be an active connection this weekend, even if the Browns try to key in on him. While Schaub-to-Johnson is impressive, don't forget about the just-as-effective connection between Braylon Edwards and Derek Anderson this season. Edwards has already set numerous career highs in receiving, and Anderson will be thrilled at the fact that he won't have to face a "pressure" defense this week that had to place Dunta Robinson on the injured reserve a few weeks ago. Anderson still showed enough poise against the Steelers and Ravens in back to back weeks, but he'll have more opportunities to get the ball down the field against Houston which is what he excels at. Browns 28, Texans 21


Washington Redskins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When the Redskins and the Buccaneers are both having competitive seasons, I really enjoy it when they battle each other because of the various X-factors that can make a difference all over the field. The Redskins, despite having Santana Moss on their team, don't have a true No. 1 receiver to go to week in and week out. Instead, they rely on getting the ball to anyone who is available to catch it, whether it be tight end Chris Cooley, fullback Mark Sellers, or the recently signed veteran receiver Keenan McCardell. Jason Campbell battled last weekend against the Cowboys before throwing a game-sealing interception at the end of the game. Despite losing, it was an effective game for the maturing quarterback who won't have it easy this weekend against the Buccaneers.

Jeff Garcia knows that Jeff Galloway is his go-to-guy, but that doesn't mean there aren't any X-factors that can make a difference for the Buccaneers. With running back Carnell Williams being placed on the injured reserve about a month into the season, Earnest Graham from the practice squad has been forced to handle the load. Graham's been doing better than expected running the football, but the team hoped to get veteran Michael Pittman back as an insurance policy. Pittman just suffered an ankle injury Friday in practice and may be out for the season. Graham will be heavily relied upon in the Buccaneers' offense, but he also needs to be nurtured along because if he goes down, who is left then? Michael Bennett? Maybe, but the Buccaneers would rather not go down that road. Tampa Bay's defense has been more consistent throughout the year than Washington's, which is my strong point for taking the Buccaneers here. Buccaneers 17, Redskins 16


New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers. I have all but written off the Panthers' chances this season because of the lack of firepower they have on offense. Even if Steve Smith returns from injury, who is going to be ineffective at quarterback this week? Vinny Testaverde was scheduled to start, but he woke up Saturday with a stiff back. The Saints have quickly cooled down again, losing their past two games after winning four in a row. The Saints desperately need wins in their division if they want to take down the Buccaneers at some point, and it'll all have to start with production from Drew Brees. Brees only threw one interception during the team's four-game winning streak, but he's gone back to throwing four during their two-game losing streak. When the Saints lose, it's been due to the fact that opposing teams are getting off to a quick start against them. The Panthers have really struggled at balancing their offense for an entire game, so the Saints should stay aggressive and understand that even if they don't execute on one risk, the Panthers will have trouble capitalizing. Saints 31, Panthers 13

Tennessee Titans vs. Cincinnati Bengals. It's been a season of "only ifs" for the Bengals. Just like last week; "if only Carson Palmer wouldn't have been taken for pick sixes twice by Antrel Rolle, the Bengals would have won." The Bengals have a 3-7 record, but because Palmer can still rip defenses apart, they are the type of team that can play spoiler to the potential playoff teams in the AFC, including the Titans. Vince Young desperately wants to prove he can throw the ball effectively, but besides a stretch of three quarters against the Broncos this past Monday, he hasn't played very well. Albert Haynesworth's status is still uncertain, but a lot of his disruptions come in the running game. The Bengals have become so accustomed to abandoning the run with Rudi Johnson struggling all season long that they will likely come out aggressive towards the Titans' secondary. The upset specials have been biting me the past few weeks, but this is one I'm willing to take a shot at. Bengals 27, Titans 20

Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs. As the weeks go on, it's looking less and less likely that we'll see JaMarcus Russell play a series this season, let alone start a game. Daunte Culpepper had his best passing game of the season against the Vikings last week in defeat, but the lack of a No. 1 playmaker on the Raiders offense is still alarming. Seriously -- how can the Raiders go for two or three years without establishing a guy as their primary playmaker for years to come? The Chiefs' defense played as good as they possibly could have on the road against the Chiefs last week, and they should be looking to continue their winning streak against the Raiders. Brodie Croyle should be in line for his first career win in the NFL, but don't rule out the possibility of him having a horrible day, literally throwing the game away. Not only if the quarterback position week on the Chiefs, they are forced to go with Kolby Smith at running back after Priest Holmes' sudden retirement. Chiefs 16, Raiders 14

Minnesota Vikings vs. New York Giants. If you think for a second that the Vikings are going to keep Adrian Peterson on the sidelines just to save him for next season, forget about it. If the Vikings are able to upset the Giants this week and several other games go their way, there's a chance that they'll only be one game out of the playoff race. Peterson's been upgraded to questionable for the game, but his chances of playing are still slim. Chester Taylor proved to be an acceptable option last week versus the Raiders, but remember that Oakland's defense was ranked among the league's worst. The Giants' defense is starting to suffer some injuries, but they are still strong overall. This is a week where Eli Manning will need to be a lot more effective than he's been, because it'll be tough for Brandon Jacobs to get his motor going on the ground. Manning should have a big day to Plaxico Burress, who will put himself back on the map. Giants 23, Vikings 16

Seattle Seahawks vs. St. Louis Rams. This is definitely one of the most intriguing match ups of the week. I made the big mistake back in Week 7 of taking the Rams over the Seahawks for my upset special. Instead of an upset, I saw the Rams get dismantled 33-6. Looking back, I would've much rather have waited for the Rams to built some momentum before considering them in an upset against Matt Hasselbeck and company. That time is now, but now the Seahawks have once against put together a stretch of two well-played games. Hasselbeck has been relying less on the run game and more on his receivers returning from injury. That formula has paid off this far. Looking at the Rams' two wins though, they were forced to shoot out the Saints because they have no defense and then barely beat the 49ers who have no offense. Not enough balance yet for the Rams on both sides of the ball to take them here. Seahawks 33, Rams 20

San Francisco 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals. Watching the 49ers offense just makes you want to throw up every week. I don't think I've ever seen an offense make so many poor opposing defenses look so good. In their eight-game losing streak, the most amount of points they've scored is 16. Most of the time though, the offense is just lucky if they are able to put a couple of field goals on the board. Kurt Warner has resurrected the Cardinals offense again the past two weeks, but even if he decides to take a "break" from perfection against the 49ers, he'll still have his team in great shape for a double digits win. Cardinals 24, 49ers 10

Denver Broncos vs. Chicago Bears. I've had a very difficult time deciding who to pick in most of Denver's and Chicago's games this season, making it even tougher when the go head-to-head (although if I am wrong this time, I'll only lose one game rather than two games). Rex Grossman's first start in awhile ended up in a loss against the Seahawks, but the defense would be more to blame for giving up 30 points. Grossman didn't throw an interception, but he did fumble once and he also failed to throw a touchdown. The confusing statistic is why Cedric Benson, who has struggled all season, only received 11 carries after being on pace to have a career day early on in the game. The Broncos have played extremely well on offense over the past two weeks despite not having Javon Walker back in the lineup yet. Momentum is pointing towards the Broncos winning, but Denver has yet to string together three consecutive weeks of perfection football this season. The Bears are due for a defensive showcase at home, and they'll make an impression in the first of four home games to cap off their six remaining games this season. Bears 20, Broncos 17

Baltimore Ravens vs. San Diego Chargers. If the Chargers are looking for a cure to their defensive struggles, they should look no further than facing the Baltimore Ravens offense. Don't be confused by the 30 points the Ravens put on the board last week, because in reality, they were actually dominated by a good portion of the game by a Browns defense that can't dominate anyone. It seems highly improbable that even with the disruptions Norv Turner and the new coaching staff has caused to the team as a whole that the Chargers wouldn't be able to dominate the tempo of the game at home, where they are 4-1. LaDainian Tomlinson has only been averaging about 18 carries for 65 yards the past four weeks, again adding to the fact that something is clearly wrong with the playcalling in San Diego. He's certainly not injured, and although the blocking isn't as sharp, most of the coaches in the league would know how to utilize a talent like him as effectively as possible. Chargers 26, Ravens 13


Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots. I'd like to thank NBC for giving us what will probably be the second straight ineffective Sunday night game in a row. Donovan McNabb will not play for the Eagles, and while A.J. Feely is good enough to beat some teams in spot starts, the Patriots aren't one of those teams. It seems that instead of NBC trying to find a competitive game, like the Browns vs. Texans, which was the intended reason for flex games, they are using flex games as a ploy to shove a big-market team in their lineup no matter what the line spread might be. Can you think of a reason why Tom Brady won't throw for at least four touchdowns again? Neither can I. Patriots 41, Eagles 19


Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers still have a productive record at 7-3, but their are some people that make legitimate points when they consider the Steelers "frauds". The Steelers have already lost to three teams with a .500 record or below, including the Jets, Cardinals, or Broncos. They've only had one team with a winning record on their schedule so far, being the Seattle Seahawks (whom they defeated). Overall the Steelers have done a fine job taking care of business, especially in their division, but the lack of competition they've had to face is still alarming. It's really not worth mentioning the Dolphins' chances in this game though, because although the Steelers lost to the Jets last week, you can expect a big turnaround this week even with Troy Polamalu and Santonio Holmes out. Steelers 24, Dolphins 6


I continued my survivor winning streak last week after taking the Colts, improving my overall season record to 9-2. I'm taking another hot team this week with the Steelers over the Dolphins on Monday Night. If Ben Roethlisberger loses to a poor team two weeks in a row, he may find the Cleveland Browns right back in their rear view mirror.


Predictions Record to Date: 104-59 (An undefeated streak would make it sweet this week.)
This Week: 3-0 (Perfect on Thanksgiving.)
Last Week: 11-5 (I think I'm taking too many upsets.)
Survivor Streak: Won 2 (Min over Atl, Den over Oak, Car over Atl, [NYJ over Buf], Ari over StL, Cle over Mia, Cin over NYJ, NYG over Mia, [SD over Min], Sea over SF, and Ind over KC.)

With three big teams playing on Thanksgiving, it should be quite a unique feeling on Sunday with more of the "average" teams playing in what should be some competitive games.

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