Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NFL 2009: Week 12 Picks

The Packers had a nice win against the 49ers last Sunday. But it was one heck of a costly win. They lost two of their defensive stalwarts in Aaron Kampman and Al Harris for the season. The weird part of their injuries was that both of them had torn their ACLs (knee) and the injuries happened not through contact, which makes it all the more frustrating. Brings to question the physical conditioning staff of the Packers, but that is a whole different story.

But the Packers need not lose hope, just as yet. They need to make sure they come off with a win from Detroit on Thanksgiving after the short week. And then they have 5 weeks of tough games to play, of which only the Seahawks game is an expected win. They would like to win the games against the Bears, Seahawks and Cardinals, which will not only take them to 10-6 (provided they beat the Lions too), but will also be wins against their division / conference, which will help in wild card tie-break rules, if it comes down to that at the end of the regular season. The Ravens at home is a winnable game too (on Monday Night Football) with the Ravens not so hot after a blazing start to their season. The Steelers game at Heinz Field is going to be a tough one. So the route to the end of the season is no gimme by any means (like the schedule remaining for the Falcons), but it is not hard to contemplate going 4-2r 3-3 the rest of the way.

It also helps that the Packers are playing some inspired football the past couple of weeks (Dallas and SF). On offense, finally there is some semblance of a run game. Pair that with some short and quick passes on screens and on the flat, it is an effective way to counter any opposing pass rush. The O line by itself is healthier and are playing way better. They have to sustain their level and, if possible take it up a notch in coming weeks. On defense, Capers has been dialing up some pressure looks and blitzes. It definitely is a blow to lose Kampman and Harris, but there is a silver lining to this loss. Kampman has anyway not looked too comfortable in the new 3-4 scheme. His replacement, a rookie, Brad Jones, played the game against Dallas in place of Kampman (out due to concussion) and more than held his own. There was already talk about this kid in training camp and pre-season about how he was a quick learner and the coaches having high hopes on him. So it is probably not a bad thing for Brad Jones to play in place of Kampman. Only that it shortens the depth of the team and the Veteran presence in big games. Tramon Williams was anyway being groomed to be the replacement of Harris and he is ready to take over. But, as much as Harris had moments in games where he would be beat, we will probably see more of that from Tramon as he too likes to play attacking and go for INTs. He did a more than decent job last year in 4 games he started in Al's place when Al had that ruptured spleen.

Also, the special teams has shown some improvement. McCarthy, against the 49ers, wisely chose to punt than let Crosby try a 50 yarder. And, except for that 74 yard return by Josh Morgan, the coverage team played fairly well. Although these improvements don't push the Packer's special team's play to a elite level, these are signs of improvement that bodes well for weeks to come. Even Kapinos had a good day punting. And he can definitely play better from the way he punts in practice. Now he's got to do the same on game-day. I am ready to give the kid more time to show what he's got.

Quickly on to my picks for this week:

Packers (-10.5) at Lions
The Lions and Stafford had a great game last week. But no Stafford this week and Calvin Johnson is doubtful. Plus the Lions have lost 8 consecutive games against the Packers.
My Pick: Packers

Raiders (+13.5) at Cowboys
The Cowboys have had a tough time scoring the last 2 weeks. They could salvage just a TD at garbage time against the Packers and then a last minute TD against the Redskins last week. The Raiders pass defense is pretty good. Dallas should be able to run against them though. And I don't see the Raiders pulling out 2 upsets in a row.
My Pick: Cowboys (but Raiders will cover)

Giants (-7) at Broncos
The Giants just snapped out of their 4 game losing streak. And the Broncos are on their way to a 4 game losing street after this game. But the Broncos called for a players only meeting this week, and we all know that that could pump up the players to a play at a high level. If that happens, it could make this game interesting.
My Pick: Giants

Bucs (+11.5) at Falcons
Turner is gonna be back and Matt Ryan had a decent game after a streak of sub-par games.
My Pick: Falcons

Dolphins (-3) at Bills
Ricky Williams has taken over reins from the injured Ronny Brown. The Wild cat should be good enough enough to beat the Bills.
My Pick: Dolphins

Browns (+14) at Bengals
The loss to the Raiders must have been a timely wake-up call for the Bengals. Will be no such surprises this week.
My Pick: Bengals

Seahawks (-3) at Rams
The Rams have been playing hard the last two weeks, but with Marc Bulger out for the next 2-3 weeks, their offensive efficiency is bound to slump.
My Pick: Seahawks

Panthers (+3) at Jets
The Jets have been relegated to the bottom feeder group of NFL teams of late and rightly so. Mark Sanchez is ever so close to be benched. The Panthers never seem to learn, they have to run to win, which they stayed away from against the Dolphins and we all know what happened.
My Pick: Panthers

Redskins (+9) at Eagles
Will be a hard fought NFC East show down, except that the Redskins might just fold after hanging tight their last 2 games.
My Pick: Eagles

Colts (-3.5) at Texans
I am not willing to pick against Peyton Manning. But the Texans are no push-overs anymore, could be a trap game for the undefeated Colts.
My Pick: Colts

Chiefs (+13.5) at Chargers
The Chargers Defense seems to be improving every week.
My Pick: Chargers

Jaguars (+3) at 49ers
The niners are due for a win. The Jaguars are not happy travellers out west.
My Pick: 49ers

Cardinals (NL) at Titans
Kurt Warner suffered a concussion last week and although he is expected to play, if he is slightly off his game, the Cardinals offense will stutter. The surging titans will be more than happy to take advantage of that.
My Pick: Titans

Bears (+10.5) at Vikings
Favre for MVP??
My Pick: Vikings

Steelers (NL) at Ravens
Big Ben suffered a concussion too. He is expected to play, and if he does not, the Steelers' chances fall real fast.
My Pick: Steelers (on condition that Ben plays)

Patriots (+3) at Saints
If the Saints are going to lose a game this season, it would be to these pesky Patriots. Bill Belichik will have a plan to deal with the Saints explosive offense.
My Pick: Patriots

Last Week: 12-4
Year to date: 113-47

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