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For fans of games played in the rain, this might be as good a week as any to pay close attention.
In preliminary forecasts, Miami and Oakland were to expect moderate rain for games there, with lesser moisture in Chicago, Buffalo, New Jersey and even San Diego. But, still no freezing weather. There just might be something to this global warming thing.
One other heads-up: This is the time of year when GMs and owners start growling extra loud. So keep an eye on how the Titans, who fired their offensive coordinator, respond vs. Houston. And in Oakland, where Mr. Davis’ heirs aren’t pleased with the Raiders’ 3-8 ledger.
Now on to this week’s games:
PRO FOOTBALL – SUNDAY, DEC. 2
Seattle Seahawks (6-5) at Chicago Bears (8-3)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Bears -3½ (37½)
Facts: These are the sole teams ranked in the bottom 10 in total offense with winning marks – Seattle No. 27, Chicago 30. They also rank 31 and 32 respectively in passing yards. • Chicago QB Jay Cutler targeted Brandon Marshall 17 times last week vs. Minnesota and connected on 12 throws. But Marshall’s 92 yards marked the lowest output for a WR with double-digit catches this year. • Seattle won in Chicago last year 38-14 thanks to two pick-6’s in the last start of QB Caleb Hanie’s horrifying Bears career.
Analysis: The Bears are in trouble injury-wise. They lost both starting guards and WR/KR Devin Hester (concusson) to injury last week, plus DB Charles Tillman and RB Matt Forte turned ankles (both probable). Seattle, meanwhile, could be without cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, but maybe not till next week (alleged PED violations). Still, it’s hard to envision rookie Seahawks QB Russell Wilson finding a way to succeed on the road in inclement weather against a Bears unit that has the league’s top defensive passer rating.
Forecast: Bears 17, Seahawks 10
Minnesota Vikings (6-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-4)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Packers -7½ (46½)
Facts: Green Bay’s 38-10 road loss to the Giants last week was its most lopsided since losing 35-7 at Chicago in 2007 as an 8½-point favorite. • Vikings WR Percy Harvin, the league’s leader in YAC, is expected to be out a third straight game (doubtful, ankle). • On the other hand, standout WR Greg Jennings is expected back for Green Bay after missing 7 games (probable, torn abdominal). However, Packers sackmaster Clay Matthews (doubtful, hamstring) and CB Charles Woodson will be out yet again.
Analysis: This game will feature a quarterbacking mismatch with Aaron Rodgers, the league’s top rated passer, against No. 24 Christian Ponder, who’s slipped from 10 on the passer chart since the Vikings’ 4-1 start. More unfair is Ponder not having his top (only?) playmaking receiver while Rodgers is getting back his. Maybe the Vikings’ best route to victory is to let rushing leader Adrian Peterson carry every play since he’s averaging 5.8 ypc and Ponder’s norm is 6.1 a throw. But that won’t happen.
Forecast: Packers 27, Vikings 14
San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) at St. Louis Rams (4-6-1)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: 49ers -7 (40)
Facts: San Fran is 10-3 on the road under Jim Harbaugh (8-5 ATS). • Colin Kaepernick makes his third straight start for the 49ers at QB and his second in a row in a dome. He directed SF to a 31-21 win over the Saints last week, but the offense was responsible for only 17 points. • San Fran has had 11 sacks the past two weeks, including 7 by Aldon Smith (questionable, shoulder), who had 2 against the Rams in Week 10 in a 24-24 tie. • St. Louis benefited last week in its 31-17 win in Arizona from two INT scores by Janoris Jenkins.
Analysis: The tie game between the teams was a perfect storm for the Rams, who were coming off a whopping loss to the Patriots and a bye to stew over it. Plus, HC Jeff Fisher is a master at getting humiliated teams top snap back. This time there’s no bye, plus there’s no humiliation involved. On top of that, the 49ers won’t be caught off guard by St. Louis’ tenacity.
Forecast: 49ers 28, Rams 17
Arizona Cardinals (4-7) at New York Jets (4-7)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Jets -4½ (37)
Facts: The Jets have allowed foes to score TDs on their past 10 first-and-goal possessions in losing four of the past five games. • Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald caught only 3 of 12 targeted passes from first-time rookie starter Ryan Lindley last week vs. St. Louis. Over the past two games, No. 11 has four catches for 42 receiving yards. • Lindley directed Arizona to a 91-yard TD drive on the team’s first march last week, getting seven first downs. That matched its first-down total from the previous week in Atlanta.
Analysis: Two seasons ago, Rex Ryan’s defense was ranked No. 3 in the league and threatened to take over any game. These days the unit is ranked 19 and has lost to rookie QBs twice in the past five weeks – at home to Miami’s Ryan Tannehill 30-9 and at Seattle vs. Russell Wilson, 28-7. Now comes another rookie. Of course, Lindley won’t do it himself and should have lots of help. The Cardinals’ secondary, which has the league’s second-best defense passer rating, should have success against the laugh-riot antics of QB Mark Sanchez.
Forecast: Cardinals 20, Jets 12
Carolina Panthers (3-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-10)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Panthers -3 (40½)
Facts: Kansas City is 1-4 ATS vs. teams with losing records. • Carolina covered as a 3-point road underdog on MNF in Philadelphia despite 101 yards in penalties, the high for the week. • For only the third time the past two seasons a team (Carolina) is asked to follow a road MNF game with a road game against an unfamiliar nonconference foe. Earlier this season, though, Chicago overcame that hurdle with a 41-3 victory in Jacksonville. • Road favorites coming off a MNF game are 4-1 ATS the past two seasons.
Analysis: Here’s a game that begs the question: Are there various grades of being dead? The Chiefs no longer have a pulse after last week’s 17-9 home loss to Denver, which probably was their last chance to show up for the home fans, much like last year’s club upset of previously unbeaten Green Bay. Carolina, meanwhile, seems to be playing with enthusiasm and most likely to arrive with giddy-up in their step. One more thing: As if KC needed more bad news, it is expected to be down two men along the offense line.
Forecast: Panthers 21, Chiefs 10
Indianapolis Colts (7-4) at Detroit Lions (4-7)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Lions -5 (51)
Facts: Four weeks ago, Detroit WR Calvin Johnson was seventh in receiving yards with 638. Since then, he’s averaged 127 a game and is the front-runner with 1,257. Yet QB Matthew Stafford hasn’t budged from No. 22 on the passer chart. • Indy and QB Andrew Luck were 20-13 home winners vs. Buffalo last week despite starting 5 drives inside its 15. • Detroit is coming off a spread-beating 34-31 home loss to Houston in which Jason Hanson’s 47-yard FG try in OT “boinked” off the right upright. He hit from 46 earlier.
Analysis: The Lions average a league-high with 312.5 air yards a game and will be facing an Indianapolis unit that has the league’s fifth worst defensive passer rating. The only time Detroit faced a defense that ranked worse was when it had 442 passing yards against Tennessee’s No. 31-rated unit in a 44-41 OT loss in Week 3. And apparently Detroit isn’t as bad as perceived, rushing for their two scores against a Houston team that crushes ground games.
Forecast: Lions 31, Colts 21
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Buffalo Bills (4-7)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Bills -6 (44½)
Facts: Jacksonville’s Mike Mularkey is the only coach this century to have led Buffalo to a winning record, going 9-7 in 2004. • The TV folks said that league defenders are on a record pace through 11 games this season with 50 pick-6’s. Neither of these teams have any. In fact, the Jaguars haven’t returned an INT for a score since 2008, the longest drought in the NFL. • Jacksonville has the No. 32-rated offense and 31 defense. The last team to be ranked last in both was San Francisco (4-12) in 2005.
Analysis: This marks the first time the past three seasons the Bills have been rated a touchdown favorite over anyone. It seems the Jaguars play their best ball away from home, going 5-0 ATS this season. Could Jags QB Chad Henne be for real? He did direct that 24-19 win over Tennessee last week thanks in part to 105 receiving yards by Cecil Shorts. The Bills, meanwhile, have one offensive TD the past two weeks and are having clubhouse turmoil with chatterbox WR Stevie Johnson.
Forecast: Jaguars 26, Bills 23
New England Patriots (8-3) at Miami Dolphins (5-6)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Patriots -7½ (51)
Facts: The Dolphins upset visiting Seattle last week 24-21 despite having an average starting field position at their 17, the third time this year they’ve been pinned at the 18 or deeper. Overall, teams with average launch points inside the 20 are 2-13-1 in 2012. • NE had two drives that had included seven first downs on Thanksgiving at NYJ, giving it 7 for the season. No one else has more than 3.• Stevan Ridley is 61 yards short of becoming the Patriots’ second 1,000-yard rusher the past 8 seasons.
Analysis: The Patriots are coming of lopsided wins over Indianapolis and New York , bolstered by a total of 5 return scores, making Tom Brady and Co. seem even more invincible. Yet, Miami hasn’t been an offensive pushover, having three 80-yard TD drives against Seattle’s No. 5 defense last week. NE’s is rated No. 25 and entered the week having yielded a league-high 19 such TD marches. NE is in for a battle.
Forecast: Patriots 27, Dolphins 24
Houston Texans (10-1) at Tennessee Titans (4-7)
Time: 10 a.m. PDT
Line: Texans -6 (47)
Facts: Tennessee RB Chris Johnson had 141 yards rushing vs. Houston in the Texans’ 38-14 rout in Week 4, but 80 came on a late cosmetic TD to close the scoring. • Perhaps no team needed an extended break more than the Texans, who played, and won, two consecutive overtime games in a five-day stretch ending on Thanksgiving in Detroit. • Houston has yielded five TD drives of 80-plus yards those past two games. Through nine games, it gave up one.
Analysis: The Titans are taking a sledgehammer to the panic button after losing to one-win Jacksonville 24-19 last week, with HC Mike Munchak firing offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and replaced him with passing-game guru Dowell Loggains. This after the Jaguars gouged the Titans’ defense for three TD drives of 75-plus yards. Hmmm. However, the last time Titans feared for their football lives they responded to a 51-20 loss to Chicago with a rousing 37-3 win in Miami. Maybe this team plays better scared.
Forecast: Texans 24, Titans 23
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) at Denver Broncos (8-3)
Time: 1:05 p.m. PDT
Line: Broncos -7 (50½)
Facts: The Broncos missed 2 FG attempts in Kansas City last week, costing their backers at the pay windows. • Denver RB Knowshon Moreno filled for RB Willis McGahee (IR) last week with 85 rushing yards on 20 carries. He starts again today. • The Bucs are yielding more yards passing per game (315.5) than any team in history, but stand tied for third in 2012 with 16 INTs. • TB’s Vincent Jackson (47 catches, 20.4 average) had only 5 receptions for 59 yards in 2 games vs. Denver last year while with SD.
Analysis: Denver’s Peyton Manning, the most accurate QB who hasn’t been benched (Alex Smith), faces not only a porous Bucs secondary but one that’s in disarray more than normal. Last month they unloaded Aqib Talib, and now Eric Wright is injured. And if Manning gets that no-huddle percolating on long drives, the Bucs will be gasping in the mile-high air. Plus, is there a more disruptive pair of pass rushers than Denver’s Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, who have combined for 21 sacks and 10 forced fumbles this season.
Forecast: Broncos 35, Buccaneers 21
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (9-2)
Time: 1:25 p.m. PDT
Line: Ravens -7½ to -9
Facts: Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger (out, ribs/shoulder) will be sitting out a game for the 15th time since 2005. Six will have come with Baltimore on the docket. His backups have lost the previous five vs. the Ravens (2-3 ATS), including 13-10 two weeks ago as a 3½-point underdog. • The Steelers committed eight turnovers and had a -7 turnover margin in a 20-14 loss in Cleveland last week. In 1983, the Steelers were the last team to win with a negative-7 differential, beating Tampa Bay 17-12.
Analysis: Baltimore boasts the league’s longest home winning streak at 16, counting the postseason. The last Ravens loss was in 2010 to Pittsburgh, 13-10, but Big Ben was at the helm. QB Charlie Batch gets his second straight start Sunday in relief of reliever Byron Leftwich. And considering Batch was largely ineffective against Cleveland, throwing passes with little zip and suffering three INTs, Pittsburgh’s defense is going to have to score and score. Ravens QB Joe Flacco, meanwhile, is a top-tier QB at home.
Forecast: Ravens 20, Steelers 10.
Cleveland Browns (3-8) at Oakland Raiders (3-8)
Time: 1:25 p.m. PDT
Line: Browns -1½ (41)
Facts: This is a showdown between the league’s No. 32-rated QB, Brandon Weeden, against Oakland’s No. 32 air defense (based on passer rating). • Cleveland scored TDs on marches of 10 and 31 yards in its 20-14 win vs. Pittsburgh last week. • The Browns won despite Weeden having a rating below the Mendoza line of 39.6. Overall, teams are 2-8 SU with such rotten QB play. • Oakland’s 34-10 loss in Cincinnati last week clinched its 10th consecutive non-winning season, halfway to the Saints’ mark of 20.
Analysis: The Raiders have given up an average of 42.3 points a game the past four weeks, with two of the outings jet-lag games back East. By contrast, the Browns haven’t scored than many points in a game the past five years. And, like the Titans, the Raiders are hearing grumbling in the front office and might want to step up against a Cleveland team that’s a favorite for the first time in 18 games.
Forecast: Raiders 21, Browns 16
Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) at San Diego Chargers (4-7)
Time: 1:25 p.m. PDT
Line: Bengals -1½ (46)
Facts: The Chargers have blown a league-high three double-digit leads – all in the second half – in losses this season. Included is last week’s 16-13 OT loss to Baltimore. • Cincinnati RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis is coming off a pair of 100-yard rushing games – 129 vs. KC, 101 vs. Oakland. In his previous 30 games dating to 2010, he reached 100 once. … San Diego’s four victories have come against bottom feeders KC (1-10) twice, Oakland (3-8) and Tennessee (4-7). • Cincinnati is 13-34 on the West Coast in its history.
Analysis: San Diego’s once-dynamic offense, which over the years has lost Darren Sproles, Vincent Jackson, LaDainian Tomlinson and several professional pass protectors, has had a startling 15 three-and-outs the past two weeks in being foiled by Denver and Baltimore to extend its losing streak to 3. Where’s the pep, men? Cincinnati, meanwhile, is on a stunning streak of 3 straight victories of 18 points or more, a feat no one’s accomplished since New Orleans in Weeks 15-17 last season.
Forecast: Bengals 31, Chargers 24
Philadelphia Eagles (3-8) at Dallas Cowboys (5-6)
Time: 5:30 p.m. PDT
Line: Cowboys -10 (43)
Facts: The last time Dallas was this heavy a choice against Philadelphia in 2007, the Eagles won 10-6 as a 10-point dog. That’s Philly’s biggest upset since 2001, when it also beat Dallas as a 10-point dog, 13-10. • Double-digit picks are 5-9 ATS this season. • Dallas WR Dez Bryant is coming off two 145-yard receiving games. He’ll face a unit that has plummeted from third to No. 26 on the defensive passer-rating chart the past 5 weeks since Todd Bowles replaced Juan Castillo at DC.
Analysis: When the Eagles pulled that upset in 2007, they weren’t missing their first-team QB (Michael Vick), RB (LeSean McCoy) and WR (DeSean Jackson). Not to mention key components along the offensive line, notably left tackle and center. Rookie QB Nick Foles will be leading the way this time in his third start. Dallas isn’t quite as beat up, with RB DeMarco Murray (probable, ankle) expected back. But don’t expect a Cowboys runaway, considering they are 0-3 ATS vs. rookie passers this year.
Forecast: Cowboys 28, Eagles 21
PRO FOOTBALL – MONDAY, DEC. 3
New York Giants (7-4) at Washington Redskins (5-6)
Time: 5:40 p.m. PDT
Line: Giants -2½ (51)
Facts: Washington had a season-best 248 rushing yards in its 27-23 loss at the Meadowlands in Week 7, the most for a losing team this season. • Premier NYG receiver Hakeem Nicks caught only 5 of 13 targeted throws last week. • Over the previous six seasons, the Giants were 1-3 vs. Washington en route to world championships, but 8-0 in non-title seasons. • Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III is coming off back-to-back games with four TD passes – vs. Philadelphia and Dallas.
Analysis: The Giants are squirming at the thought of RG III again, and this time he not only has RB Alfred Morris, who had 120 rushing yards that previous meeting, but fleet WR Pierre Garcon, who came off the injury list to fluster the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Since the Giants have a two-game lead in the NFC East over Washington with five to go, the Redskins might not feel their collars tightening in this prime-time game. The Giants won big last week against Green Bay, but this time aren’t coming off a bye.
Forecast: Redskins 28, Giants 24
Last week: 9-5-1 ATS; 12-4 straight up
Season total: 89-82-1 (.520) ATS; 100-75-1 (.571) SU
(Bears-Vikings game listed as “off” in last week’s column excluded from ATS totals)
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].