Here are my “Top 3 Plays” for Week 13. Take a look at the research and reasoning for each, and draw your conclusions from there.
With 3 games being played on Thanksgiving, my “Top 3 Plays” are being released earlier than usual. Keep that in mind as spreads change based on the publics lean over the next few days
Let’s be honest, everyone is looking for a little action on Thanksgiving to keep the day interesting. This year I’m looking at the primetime game between the Steelers and the Ravens. This game is one of those special “regular season playoff games” that never disappoint. This game is an absolute “must win”, with both teams sitting at 5-6, and looking to claim the last Wild Card spot. In the AFC I gave you the Ravens as a best bet last week over the New York Jets, and they did not disappoint, covering with ease. While the game played out as expected, that had a whole lot more to do with Geno Smith playing some of the worst football I’ve ever seen, and less to do with the Ravens resurgent defense. The defending Super Bowl Champs simply can’t get their offense going this year. Forever reliant on the running game, Ray Rice is having the worst season of his career and is averaging less than 3 yards per carry. Also, with Anquan Boldin gone to the 49ers, the Joe Flacco “chuck it up for grabs and hope my guy comes down with it” offense he perfected down the stretch last year doesn’t seem to be working. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones on the outside are burners, but with the play action threat gone and an abysmal offensive line, the Ravens aren’t connecting on the deep ball with much consistency, and are currently ranked 31st in yards per play. The Steelers, on the other hand, began the season 0-4 are currently but are currently one of the hottest teams in the NFL, having won each of their last 3 games by double digit points. With the return of rookie running back LeVeon Bell and the offensive line finally affording Big Ben some protection, the Steelers are 5-2 since their bye in Week 5. Over the past 2 weeks Roethlisberger has thrown 6 TD and 0 interceptions while being sacked only once. The Pittsburgh defense is also beginning to click at the same time as the offense, ranking in the top 10 in pass yards per game, and boasting a +7 turnover difference over the past 3 weeks. Home field doesn’t scare me either as the Steelers have beaten the Ravens in Baltimore 3 times in their last 5 contests. I think the Steelers stay hot and take this one straight up on the road, sweeping the Ravens for the season and essentially eliminating them from playoff contention. Here ‘s a fun fact to end on; in the last 9 meetings between these two, 8 of them have been decided by 3 points.
The Pick: PIT +3
As an admitted Patriots fan, I typically don’t bet on their games, as I already have a vested interest in the outcome. However, sometimes the lines are just too good to pass up. I think this is one of those times. Last week everyone saw the incredible hard fought battle between the AFC’s cream of the crop. After going down 24-0 in the first half, Tom Brady lead the Patriots all the way back, again besting his “rival”, Peyton Manning in frigid Foxboro, MA. After an emotional, prime time win on Sunday night, it would be easy for the Patriots to have a letdown against the abysmal Houston Texans this weekend, but I just don’t see it. Last season, the much-improved Texans rolled in to Foxboro with their varsity lettermen’s jackets boasting an 11-1 record, ready to assert themselves as the premier team in the AFC by knocking off the perennial powerhouse Patriots. However, the much-hyped game was however over before it began, as the Texans were blown out 42-14. Since that game the Texans are a total of 4-14, and are sitting at 2-9 for 2013. Their two wins? In Week 1, they completed an improbable comeback, topping the San Diego Chargers 31-28. Then they snaked out an overtime victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 2. Currently riding a 9 game losing streak, their last 2 losses have really been something impressive, losing back-to-back games, at home, as double-digit favorites. At this point in the season, the Texans are playing for the first pick in draft where they will look for a quarterback who doesn’t specialize in throwing touchdowns to the opposing defense, as the Texans have done throughout the year. The Patriots are riding high, and playing for a first round bye, furthermore, the potential for home field throughout the playoffs became a very real thing after last week’s win over the Broncos. The Patriots are 3-1 ATS over the past 4 games, with the only miss being a highly controversial loss to the Panthers on Monday Night Football. The Patriots are known to neutralize the opposition’s number 1 receiver, so I do not expect Andre Johnson to be a major threat in this game. Likewise, I don’t expect JJ Watt, who was held without a sack in last year’s meeting between the two teams, to make enough of an impact to severely alter the Patriots average of scoring 33.3 points per game since the return of Tom Brady’s weapons on offense. Houston moves to 0-7 ATS at home this season after facing the Patriots this Sunday.
The Pick: NE -7.5
At first glance, the Bronco’s giving a mere 3.5 points, looks to be a trap. Aside from Seattle, there is almost no greater home field advantage than the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. If you are believer in the home dog, it doesn’t get much better than taking the Chiefs at home, especially when they’re getting more than a field goal. Personally, I’m not a believer in this particular Chiefs team. As the worst team in the league last season, the Chiefs were afforded one of the easiest schedules on paper to begin the season. With offensive minded head coach Andy Reid implementing a new scheme, with proven quarterback Alex Smith, the Chiefs began the season 9-0, before dropping their last two at Denver and at home against the Chargers. For what its worth, the previous 5 Chief victories came against the following quarterbacks – Jeff Tule, Jason Campbell, Case Keenum, Terrelle Pryor, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. While the KC offense doesn’t light up the scoreboard, Smith plays the role of game manger perfectly, avoiding mistakes and turnovers, which has always been his MO. Eliminating turnovers is not a particularly difficult task when your defense isn’t allowing the opposition to score. The KC defense anchored by linebackers Tamba Hali (9 sacks) and Justin Houston (11 sacks) has been able to apply significant pressure all year, resulting in fumbles, interceptions, and a whopping 7 defensive touchdowns. However, in the last 2 weeks, this unit has sacked the quarter back only once, while forcing 0 interceptions. To make matters worse, in last week’s game against the Chargers, Hali and Houston went down with injuries early in the 2nd quarter. Amazingly, in the 41-38 loss, the Chargers scored only 3 points in the first quarter. The remaining 38 points, including 31 in the second half alone, came after the two dominant pass rushers exited the game. This week Hali will play with a sprained ankle, but his effectiveness remains to be seen, while Houston will likely miss the game entirely with a dislocated elbow. With Phillip Rivers lighting up the KC defense to the tune of 392 yards and 3 TDs, I have to believe that Peyton Manning will do the same. Furthermore, something tells me that Peyton might come into this game with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after blowing a 24 point lead last week and receiving heavy criticism for opting to hand the ball off 47 times, instead of going for the kill through the air. The winner of this game is all but guaranteed to claim the AFC West Title, as well as a 1st round bye in the playoffs. The Broncos win, and win big.
The Pick: DEN -3.5