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NFL 2016: Week 12 Predictions!

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Detroit Lions

The Lions will be looking to take the lead in the NFC North on Thanksgiving.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 10-4

Season: 97-62-2

Big Five Games of the Week

Minnesota @ Detroit – The Vikings were able to end their losing streak last week at home. Now they are sitting at 6-4 and tied at the top of the NFC North with the Detroit Lions. This Thanksgiving Day matchup will have serious playoff implications in terms of the NFC North title. The Lions are coming off a win at home to Jacksonville but it was none too impressive. I think it was important for Minnesota to get back to winning last week as they were in danger of completely falling out of the playoff race. Minnesota still has issues offensively currently but if their defense can play like it did last week, they have a chance at the end of each game. Detroit has made a habit out of winning close games this year and they’ll probably have to do the same on Thursday. The matchup of the game will be the Minnesota defense against the Detroit offense. It will be strength vs strength when it comes to Matthew Stafford and the Lions passing game against Minnesota’s secondary. I think this game will turn on Minnesota’s inability to get anything consistent going on offense. Detroit’s defense hasn’t been great this season but they have the talent up front to get after Sam Bradford, create pressure and cause mistakes. Because of the Vikings defense, this game will go down to the wire but I like the home team. Prediction: Lions 26 – Vikings 23

Washington @ Dallas – Washington is riding high going into Thursday’s game against rival Dallas. Washington is wining ball games with their passing attack and their active defense. Kirk Cousins is playing well right now and we are seeing how talented of a receiving core that Washington has. Washington’s defense isnt great as an unit but they have a talented group that can rush the passer and make plays in the open field. If Washington is riding high currently, then what does that make Dallas? The Cowboys have won nine straight and are showing no signs of slowing down. This winning streak for Dallas starting at Washington and many of the things they were able to do in that game could carry over into this matchup. I think Dallas will be able to run the ball on Washington’s front seven. I think Washington’s secondary will not be able to account for all of the talent Dak Prescott has to go to. Prescott will have to beware of Josh Norman on passing downs as he seems to always be in the right positions to make plays for his defense. The lack of a pass rush from Dallas does worry me because with time, Cousins should be able to have his way with the Cowboys secondary. But I think the Cousins hype is probably a little too high going into this game. Cousins played big in a primetime game so everyone is ready to crown him but no one is talking about how bad Green Bay’s secondary is. I think Cousins will play well on Thursday but it will not be a repeat of what we saw last Sunday night. Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys offensive line will set the tone of the game and I don’t see Washington slowing them down. I think Dallas will go on to win their tenth straight game. Prediction: Cowboys 34 – Washington 27

Pittsburgh @ Indianapolis – I was ready to write off the Colts earlier in the year but they continue to do well especially against AFC South foes. I could see them beating a desperate Pittsburgh team on Thursday night at home but certainly not without Andrew Luck. Luck will probably miss this game due to a concussion and that might be the window that the Steelers will need to score the road victory. The Steelers were able to stop their losing streak last week at Cleveland but that’s certainly nothing to write home about. The Colts are fighting for a playoff spot just like the Steelers so I expect this one to be well fought. I like the Steelers with Andrew Luck out of the question but lets not write off the Steelers defense ability to lose to QB’s like Scott Tolzien. Pittsburgh’s defense has been such a letdown in big moments this season so it wouldn’t surprise me if Tolzien actually plays well. The Colts still have weapons on that side of the ball without Luck. Frank Gore is playing well recently and you can say the same for the Colts receiving core led by T.Y. Hilton. Indy’s defense is underrated but I think they will have their handful with what Pittsburgh brings to the table. For the Steelers to win this game on Thursday, they will have to overwhelm the Colts with a steady diet of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. If Ben Roethlisberger can stay on his feet and play mistake free football, I don’t see why not the Pittsburgh offense can be successful. This will be another close one but I’m taking the Steelers over the home team without its best player. Prediction: Steelers 35 – Colts 27

Kansas City @ Denver – Losing to Tampa Bay at home is bad look for the Chiefs. I’m a fan of what the Chiefs have on their team. They have a tough defense, they get after the QB, they are tough to run against, they have playmakers in the secondary, and they play ball control offense that is effective. That being said, in a tight AFC West race, they cant afford to have slip ups like they did this past week. Now, they will go on to face Denver at home, which will be a tough chore. Denver’s defense will prove to be as tough as Kansas City’s. I think the difference will be Denver’s ability to execute on offense. Denver is tough at home and maybe Kansas City has some things to figure out in their own camp after a tough home loss. I like Denver in this one. Prediction: Broncos 22 – Chiefs 18

Green Bay @ Philadelphia – If the Packers are not done now, this Monday night will be their funeral. Green Bay can’t stop anyone on offense. But that’s not really news. The news is that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense isn’t able to make up for the defense by scoring enough points at the end of the game. Going into Philadelphia this week will prove to be a perfect storm for the Eagles. The Eagles play well at home this season and Green Bay’s recent struggles serve well to their strengths. I think the Eagles defense will give Rodgers a tough time and rookie Carson Wentz will be able to look as good as he has in months facing the Packers and their toothless defense. I’m not sure if it will be a blowout but I’m expecting Philadelphia to get a big win at home on Monday night. Prediction: Eagles 33 – Packers 24

The Rest of Week 12

Falcons over Cardinals – Atlanta will be charged up coming off the bye week. Arizona can’t get it done on the road this season.

Bills over Jaguars – Buffalo has done a great job recently at competing til the end and closing out games in the 4th quarter. They will have to do the same this week against a Jaguars team that is hungry to end their losing streak.

Titans over Bears – Tennessee has to get over their slow starts. Chicago has so many injuries right now. Tennessee must take advantage.

Giants over Browns – Cleveland will not get their first win this week.

Dolphins over 49ers – This will be the best-looking matchup of the week and maybe the year. Miami will be wearing the throwbacks from the ‘70’s, which will look great paired up with San Fran’s road uniforms.

Saints over Rams – LA cant score no matter who’s at QB. Drew Brees will find tough sledding against the Rams defense but he’ll do enough to get New Orleans the victory.

Ravens over Bengals – I think Cincinnati is done. The injuries to A.J. Green and Giovanni Bernard will seriously hurt this offense. Baltimore is a confident bunch despite falling last week at Dallas.

Texans over Chargers – I watched the Monday night game last week and thought, “Maybe Houston isn’t as bad as everyone thinks.” The Texans were hurt big time by the officials in that game and they’ll be ready to get back on track this week at home.

Seahawks over Buccaneers – Trap game for Seattle here. Tampa is coming off a big road win but Seattle is playing some of its best football right now. Fun fact: Both Tampa and Seattle entered the NFL in the same year.

Raiders over Panthers – I wasn’t that impressed with Oakland last week but Carolina will find life even tougher without defensive leader Luke Kuechly.

Patriots over Jets – I think the Jets will score more with Ryan Fitzpatrick back in the lineup but they wont beat Brady and the Pats.

Week 12 Fantasy Football Picks

QB: Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) – Ben has had his recent injury problems but he has also had some of his biggest games statistically against the Colts defense.

RB: Jay Ajayi (Dolphins) – Against the 49ers defense, the J-Train should be rolling this week.

WR: DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) – San Diego allows the third most yards in the air this season. I think Hopkins will catch plenty of balls down field on Sunday.

TE: Jimmy Graham (Seahawks) – Every week, it seems like Graham is making a big play for Russell Wilson.

DEF: Buffalo – Rob Ryan’s unit did a great job at the end of last week’s game in Cincinnati. I like the Bills defense this week against a Jaguars offense that seems to not be able to get it together.

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NFL 2016: NFC North Preview

jea 1816 vikings chargers.JPG

The Vikings have a shiny new stadium and great expectations in 2016.

By: Elias McMillan

NFC NorthWritten August 30, 2016 (Before Bridgewater injury)

Minnesota Vikings – Last season, the Vikings had a small taste of success. This season, the Vikings are opening up a new stadium and they are hoping to have bigger moments in their new home this season. I think one of the reasons for Minnesota’s success a season ago is that they are one of the league’s youngest teams. They have a lot of young talent but the veteran leadership they have at key positions is valuable as well. QB Teddy Bridgewater is coming off his best season as a pro and I think this year, we’ll see him do little bit more with his passing. Everyone is aware of Bridgewater’s athletic ability outside the pocket but he doesn’t really take many chances down the field. I think we will see this change in 2016. Last season, they found out that their fifth round pick, Stefon Diggs, actually has a future in this offense as Bridgewater’s number one target as a WR. Diggs is a good player and I liked him a lot coming out of Maryland but I think this year’s first round pick will really emerge as a down the field target for Bridgewater. Rookie WR Laquon Treadwell looks the part as a prototypical “#1” receiver and his ability will allow the Vikings passing offense to stretch the field in 2016. As always, the backbone of this offense will be RB Adrian Peterson and the running. Peterson is showing no signs of slowing down as he seems to get better year after year. Minnesota also beefed up their offensive line in the offseason so I feel even better about their ability to run the ball and protecting their future star QB. Looking at the defensive front four on paper and you’ll see a group that underperformed in 2015. DE Everson Griffin seems to be the lone standout as the team’s best pass rusher. Bottom line is that the Vikings need to do better at stopping the run this season. Minnesota has one of the better LB groups in the league with Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and veteran Chad Greenway. I really like Minnesota’s secondary as well. CB Terrance Newman continues to have a career renaissance in this secondary but the Vikings have plenty of younger guys that can play too. More responsibility will be put on CB’s Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes this season. At safety, they get great play out of Harrison Smith and they brought over veteran Michael Griffin who will be trying to prove that he has more left in the tank after a mainly success career as a Titan. I don’t know if this team is ready to become one of the best teams in the conference but I think head coach Mike Zimmer will have this team ready to repeat as division champions. If Teddy Bridgewater improves like many thinks he will, Minnesota will definitely be a tough out in the post season. Prediction: 11-5

Green Bay Packers – The Packers weren’t as sharp as usually in 2015. And there was plenty of blame to go around. Mainly, there were health problems and the defense struggled mightily. I think this team is too dependent of their star QB, Aaron Rodgers. It’s either that or Rodgers just wasn’t that good last season. Either way, optimism is high in Packer land going into 2016. The offense is healthy and ready to go after a tough 2015. Aaron Rodgers is expected to be his regular self this season and it will really help that WR Jordy Nelson is back after missing last season. Many people believed that the Packers passing offense would be ok without Nelson but that wasn’t the case. WR. Devante Adams and even Randall Cobb underperformed last season. But with Nelson back in the fold, maybe the Packers passing attack can be as overwhelming as before. Green Bay also hopes to be a better running team in 2016. RB Eddie Lacy worked extremely hard in the offseason to drop weight and we’ll see soon if that will pay off this season. Green Bay also brought back James Starks who will continue to be a valuable third down option as a receiver coming out from the backfield. On defense, the Packers will be looking to improve a defensive line that ranked near the bottom in the league at defending the run. First round pick Kenny Clark will hopefully help with the youth movement up front defensively. Green Bay will return both of their star pass rushers, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Inside at LB, the Packers are very young and don’t have much depth at the position either. Green Bay’s secondary is decent, as they will return all of their starters from a season ago. CB’s Sam Shields and Damarious Randall do a good job and HaHa Clinton-Dix is one of the better, young safeties in the league. I think this Packers team will be relying on the offense more again this season but I think Rodgers and the passing attack will be up to task on improving from a season ago. Prediction: 10-6 (Wildcard)

Detroit Lions – The Lions had a disastrous start to their season last year but they finished off very strong and they’ll hope to bring over some of that momentum in 2016. Their offseason was headlined by the shocking retirement of WR Calvin Johnson but I actually think that the Lions will be better off after moving on from that situation. I’m not saying that the Lions are going to be able to replace him easily but I think the team will be better as whole as group that is fully motivated on being its best. QB Matt Stafford was probably pleased to see that the Lions spent multiple draft picks on their offensive line. Better play up front will put Stafford and the running game in much better situations. I expect Detroit to have a really good running duo this season with Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. If those two guys can stay healthy for the season, they’ll help take some of the pressure off the QB. I really like Stafford’s receiving core going into this season. WR Golden Tate proved last season that he can be a number one option in the passing game. Detroit also brought over Marvin Jones from Cincinnati who has plenty of ability. But I really liked the signing of WR Anquan Boldin. Boldin is an absolute gamer and he’ll fill the veteran role in the WR room left by the retirement of Johnson. During Detroit’s run near the end of last season, their defense really began to improve. Upfront, they have a beastly pass rusher in DE Ziggy Ansah and DT Haloti Ngata was brought back to prove that he is still one of the best run stoppers in the league. At LB, the Lions are very thin on depth but DeAndre Levy is one of the best tacklers in the league. I’m not sure how good the Lions’ secondary can be as they were pretty average a season ago. Darius Slay is the lone standout from the group of corners on this team. Safety Glover Quin will continue to be a veteran leader in the secondary. He is coming off his second Pro-Bowl season. The Lions have plenty of holes on defense but they are an overachieving group that will compete in every ball game. I think the Lions are a sleeper team in 2016. I don’t have them making the playoffs but they may make a push at the end of the season. Prediction: 9-7

Chicago Bears – The Bears didn’t really improve during the offseason and they’ll have plenty of question marks going into 2016. Last season, I think QB Jay Cutler earned my respect. I say this because he had every excuse to mail it in but you could tell that Cutler really made the most of his time on the field. Cutler has a great connection with WR Alshon Jeffery and he will hope to build the same relationship with WR Kevin White. White was the team’s first round pick a season ago but he missed his entire rookie season due to injury. If White can be the player that he was at West Virginia, he’ll form a great 1-2 punch in the passing game with Jeffery. TE Zach Miller had a very successful 2015 and he’ll enter this season as the starter at the position. The Bears will greatly miss Matt Forte at starting RB but they have been grooming Jeremy Langford for that position. Langford has showed promise last season and he’ll receiver plenty of more opportunities in 2016. The Bears have seen better days defensively but they are on the road to getting better. Chicago has struggled for years at stopping the run and they will need some of the young guys they drafted to step up this season. Outside at the pass rushing positions, they have veterans Lamarr Houston and Willie Young but look out for first round pick Leonard Floyd. Floyd looks like a wideout playing defensive end but his great speed will be a positive factor for this defense eventually. At inside LB, they brought in Danny Trevathan who is coming off a pretty success campaign with the Super Bowl champion Broncos. LB Jerrell Freeman racked up a lot of tackles last season for the Colts and he’ll help form a great tackling duo inside with Trevathan. The LB core on this defense will definitely be a strength this season. In the secondary, the Bears have two decent corners in the veteran Tracy Porter and the younger Kyle Fuller. The Bears will be relying on some unknowns at safety this season so, I view that position as a question mark going into 2016. Prediction: 6-10