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BRENNAN’S BETS: NFL Week 12 Picks


Pats keep soaring, expect Big Ben’s best, Rodgers better watch his toe

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TITANS 8-3 AT PATRIOTS 7-4
LINE: New England by 6 1/2
CHEWABLE: Don’t you like Bill Belichick a lot more now that you know his feelings about potatoes? I do … Had this game been played in September or most of October, Tennessee would have been the substantial favourite. That’s when Derrick Henry was on his way to a third straight rushing title and New England was leaning on a rookie QB during a 2-4 start. But to slightly misquote Kevin Costner in Draft Day, “We live in a different world than we did just a month ago.” The Titans were getting by without Henry quite nicely, building their winning streak to six games and soaring to the top of the weekly Sun’s Power Rankings. Then last week, the wheels came off hard and they wound up at the bottom of a ditch. After being beaten 22-13 by the 32nd ranked Texans, it suddenly feels like the Tennesseans can’t be trusted. Meanwhile, that rookie QB and a defence that has arguably become the best in the NFL (opponents are averaging 4.3 points a game in the last three outings) have the Patriots riding a five-game winning streak as the hottest team in the league. With a win and Baltimore loss on Sunday, they will be the top seed in the AFC. Again, this is not with Tom Brady as their QB but a fresh-faced, 15th overall pick last April who now (thanks to Cam Newton) has the same nickname as a popular side dish on American dining room tables Thursday. At this point, it doesn’t seem like a far-fetched notion “Mac & Cheese” Jones and Brady will square off in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium three months down the road. That would further confirm the genius status of Belichick, who is a big reason why we like the Pats in this spot against the Titans. Along with missing Henry, Tennessee is also without injured WR Julio Jones. That leaves A.J. Brown as Ryan Tannehill’s lone dangerous weapon, and if he’s playing against the Pats it’s a chest injury. If he’s out there, Belichick’s defence will eliminate Brown and make it difficult for the Titans offence to get anything going … Former Patriots LB Mike Vrabel is 2-0 coaching against his former boss, winning a Week 10 game 34-10 and the 2019 wild card battle 20-13 … Both teams are 7-4 ATS … Titans have won the last two meetings to snap a seven-game run the Patriots had against them.
TAKING: NEW ENGLAND -6 1/2
SCORE: Patriots 27, Titans 17

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FALCONS 4-6 AT JAGUARS 2-8
LINE: Atlanta by 2
CHEWABLE: Who would back a team that has scored a grand total of three points in its last two games? You’re reading him. Matt Ryan was in a groove for the better part of six weeks, until he threw for 343 yards and two touchdowns against a Saints in a win that evened the Falcons record. The next week, just like that, poof! Falcons turned into pylons against the Cowboys and Patriots … Jags won two of three a couple of weeks back, but they have reverted to their true form. They’re team … Falcons have won the last three meetings, in 2019, 2015 and 2011. They’re about to make it four.
TAKING: ATLANTA -2
SCORE: Falcons 20, Jaguars 14

CHARGERS 6-4 AT BRONCOS 5-5
LINE: Los Angeles by 2 1/2
CHEWABLE: The Chargers have the obvious edge at the quarterback, running back and receiver positions. Both defences have failed to live up to expectations, and that’s on the head coaches. (Brandon Staley was the student learning at the foot of the master Vic Fangio in Chicago and Denver). The Chargers are coming off a big 41-37 primetime win over Steelers, while Broncos are coming off a bye. Denver has dominated the all-time series 69-53-1 and won three of the last four, but if the rest of it doesn’t spell a Chargers cover, I don’t know what does.
TAKING: LOS ANGELES -2 1/2
SCORE: Chargers 24, Broncos 20

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AND THE REST ….

STEELERS 5-4-1 AT BENGALS 6-4
LINE: Cincinnati by 4
CHEWABLE: Ben Roethlisberger’s two best games of 2021 were both in vain — a season-high 318 yards in the 24-10, Week 3 loss to Cincinnati, and then last week, when he three touchdown passes and no picks in a 41-37 defeat at the hands of the Chargers. The latter gave him nine TD tosses against no picks in his last five games. At 39, this is either Big Ben’s last stand or a push to prove he can keep playing. Either way, the Bengals should expect his best on Sunday .. Roethlisberger’s career record versus Cincinnati: 24-9 … Pittsburgh’s defence should receive a big boost if, as expected, T.J. Watt, Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick all return from a one-game absence … Bengals have allowed 28 sacks, seventh most. Watt is second in the league with 12.5 while missing two … Bengals RB Joe Mixon has six touchdowns in the last three games and at least one in the last seven … The Bengals have won last two meetings but before that, Pittsburgh had won 11 straight. Margin of victory has been six points or more in the last five clashes.
TAKING: PITTSBURGH +4
SCORE: Steelers 28, Bengals 25

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BUCS 7-3 AT COLTS 6-5
LINE: Tampa by 3
CHEWABLE: Tom Brady’s reputation has surely influenced the spread. Last week Tampa snapped a two-game losing streak built against worse teams than Indy, while the Colts have won five of their last six and destroyed Buffalo last week, yet they’re a three-point home dog? … The Colts lead the league with a plus-15 turnover differential … Unstoppable force versus immovable object — Jonathan Taylor is the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,122 yards, including an average of 157.7 yards the past three weeks, while Tampa has the league’s best run defence, allowing an average of 78.4 yards. Give the edge to Taylor, who is gathering steam as a MVP candidate … Brady suffered one of his three Super Bowl losses at Lucas Oil Stadium – a 21-17 decision against the Giants on Feb. 5, 2012. He has a career record of 11-3 versus Colts, but he’s just 5-4 playing in Indy.
TAKING: INDIANAPOLIS +3
SCORE: Bucs 31, Colts 30

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PANTHERS 5-6 AT DOLPHINS 4-7
LINE: Carolina by 2
CHEWABLE: Cam Newton’s attempt to win for the first time as a starter since Jan. 3 comes against a team that has rebounded from a horrendous start to win three straight, allowing an average of just 12 points per game in the process … Of the 31 passes he has thrown in his comeback, Newton’s average air yards is 5.56, which is lower than his 6.8 air yards per attempt he had last year in New England when he ranked 30th among 35 qualified QBs and there was strong speculation that his arm was done … Biggest difference-maker on either side is Christian McCaffrey, who provided proof he’s completely healed from his hamstring injury by playing a season-high 90% of the offensive snaps against Washington. He was equally as effective as a receiver and rusher, with 60 and 59 yards respectively, while scoring once … Already on pace for his best season, Miami’s Mike Gesicki is the sixth most productive tight end in the league with 579 receiving yards … Panthers have won the last two meetings after losing the first four.
TAKING: CAROLINA -2
SCORE: Panthers 17, Dolphins 10

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EAGLES 5-6 AT GIANTS 3-7
LINE: Philadelphia by 3
CHEWABLE: The Giants are finally getting around to retiring Michael Strahan’s No. 92 at halftime Sunday, seven years after the sack specialist-turned-megastar-talk-show-host was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Seven also happens to be the number of games QB Daniel Jones has to show the offensive struggles were Jason Garrett fault and not him. The Giants probably have to win all of them to have a prayer of making the playoffs. If they do another head coaching opportunity might be offered to Freddie Kitchens, who is taking over the play calling duties from Garrett … The Eagles have won three of their last four games to get back in the playoff race. They’ve scored 70 points in their last two victories, literally running over Broncos and Saints with 216 and 242 rushing yards, respectively. This does not bode well for the Giants, who have allowed an average of 119.7 yards on the ground, 11th most in the league … The all-time series is close, with Eagles holding an 88-86-2, but Philadelphia has dominated of late, winning 12 of the last 14 meetings.
TAKING: NEW YORK +3
SCORE: Giants 33, Eagles 31

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JETS 2-8 AT TEXANS 2-8
LINE: Houston by 2 1/2
CHEWABLE: Winner of this unwatchable three-hour show is pretty much killing any shot it has of catching the Lions for the first overall pick in the 2022 draft. The ESPN Football Power Index currently has Detroit with a 69.4% chance at that honour, with the Jets next in line at 12.7 percent. The Jets also own Seattle’s first pick, so if the Lions suddenly get hot management will have to fight the temptation of using another top selection on a quarterback (such as highly regarded Kenny Pickett of the Pitt Panthers) for the third time in five years. Speaking of which, Zach Wilson is returning from injury that’s kept him sidelined since Week 7, and seeing how he plays with a PCL that’s been strained is about the only draw to this one … Funny thing is, Detroit is actually better than Jets and Texans, whose win over Titans last week was a fluke. I’d bet on a 23-year-old Wilson over a 32-year-old Tyrod Taylor almost every time.
TAKING: NEW YORK +2 1/2
SCORE: Jets 16, Texans 14

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RAMS 7-3 AT PACKERS 8-3
LINE: Los Angeles by 1
CHEWABLE: There’s a happy medium, of course, between the ridiculous insistence of NHL teams to use the term “lower body injury” when everyone saw the knee-on-knee hit, and what Aaron Rodgers has done, telling all who will listen about his toe injury, which he says is “worse than turf toe”. At Wednesday’s availability he even put his dirty foot in the cameras to point out which toe is “fractured” (left pinky) and causing him so much discomfort. What he was trying to say is “see how tough I am?” but even Rodgers isn’t arrogant enough to use those words. But this latest stunt of his is idiotic. Rams are beefing up their roster with trades and signings, doing everything else they can to help their chances of making it to the Super Bowl that will be played in their home stadium. Here’s a suggestion to aid the cause: If I’m Aaron Donald, I jump up to block a pass in the first quarter and make sure I “accidentally” land all 280 of my pounds on that toe. And if that doesn’t put Rodgers out, I accidentally land on it a few more times throughout the game. That road to SoFi in February would become a little less hazardous without the Packers in the way … There can be only one reason Rodgers is making sure it’s common knowledge how much pain he’s playing through — if Green Bay falters, he can say he was essentially playing on one leg. He has an excuse for failing to make it to the Super Bowl for an 11th straight year. The interest of other teams in acquiring him and paying him big bucks as a 38-year-old won’t decrease at all … Packers RB Aaron Jones is questionable, but O-line will be missing two key pieces against team tied for fourth in sacks … The Rams lost to Titans, 49ers before the bye. They’ll return a determined team … All-time series between the two is 47-47-2, but Packers have won six of the last seven, including a 32-18 divisional playoff at Lambeau in January.
TAKING: LOS ANGELES -1
SCORE: Rams 27, Packers 20

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VIKINGS 5-5 AT NINERS 5-5
LINE: San Francisco by 3
CHEWABLE: Off-field troubles for key players like Dalvin Cook and Everson Griffin could catch up to a Vikings team that is threatening to join the ranks of the contenders, coming off wins over Packers and Chargers. Remember, four of their five losses have been by four points or less, the other by seven. Niners have found success with back-to-back wins by running the ball, which means the Vikings will miss DT Dalvin Tomlinson (COVID), who is a tremendous force in the middle … The Niners are getting the customary three point nod given to home teams in a close game, but they are 1-4 at Levi’s Stadium … Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen offset the tremendous impact of Deebo Samuel and George Kittle. Vikes have more prolific ball carriers, and Kirk Cousins feels like the more dependable of the quarterbacks … One game separates the teams in the all-time series, but Vikings have won six of the last nine. Their last win in San Francisco came in 2007, but they’ve only played two times there since.
TAKING: MINNESOTA +3
SCORE: Vikings 34, Niners 28

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BROWNS 6-5 AT RAVENS 7-3
LINE: Baltimore by 3 1/2
CHEWABLE: Both teams expect to get back prolific offensive players – Lamar Jackson and Kareem Hunt. At what strength they return is unknown, but neither want to miss this gigantic divisional matchup … Both teams are 2-2 in their last four, with both beating a lowly NFC team by three points during that stretch … Baker Mayfield has a list of injuries that, judging by his performances, he should be resting … Ravens own the all-time series, 33-11. Browns have only three regulation time wins of the last 30 meetings. This just fields like a field goal game.
TAKING: CLEVELAND +3
SCORE: Ravens 23, Browns 20

MONDAY NIGHT
SEAHAWKS 3-7 AT WFT 4-6
LINE: Washington by 1 1/2
CHEWABLE: As a 32-year-old starting quarterback, Russell Wilson had a 7-7 record including one playoff game, a 30-20 wild card game loss to the Rams last January. On Monday, Wilson turns 33. It’s a fresh page. Surely he wants to prove that this year, he’s better than a .500. Wilson may have to run the table in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the second time in his 10-year career, and with the 49ers, Rams and Cards still on their schedule, that’s a tough road. But surely he can get the Seahawks past Washington in this almost-do-or-die situation. Wilson has played two games since returning from a broken finger, losing both while leading his team to a rushing touchdown and two field goals. Along with not throwing a scoring strike, he has tossed two interceptions. He should be now used to any restrictions or rustiness the injury has caused. We expect him to have a breakout day in D.C. … At the same time, in the last two weeks Taylor Heinicke has beaten a three-time MVP (Tom Brady 2007, 2010, 2015) and the gentleman who won the award in 2015 (Cam Newton), so he’ll pose some problems … Seahawks have won three of the last four meetings.
TAKING: SEATTLE +1 1/2
SCORE: Seahawks 23, Washington 21

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