Packers and Chiefs affected most by bitter weather

Dec 21, 2012 10:04 PM

Special To GamingToday

Well, finally bitter weather has arrived, and games in Green Bay and Kansas City will be affected most, with temperatures expected to be in the mid-20s at kickoff. There hasn’t been a freezing kickoff yet.

Before blindly picking the cold-weather home teams, at least consider the merits of the visitor. The previous two seasons when road teams played in games in which the temperature was 32 degrees or colder at kickoff went 22-14 ATS.

Two of the most stunning results occurred at frosty Lambeau and in KC two weeks apart in 2008. In Week 14, Houston played at Green Bay when it was 3 degrees. The Texans won 24-21. Then, Miami won in Kansas City 38-31 despite a thermometer reading of only 2 – the coldest game on record for the year.

Happy viewing and on to a closer look at Week 16 games:

 

PRO FOOTBALL – SATURDAY

Atlanta Falcons (12-2) at Detroit Lions (4-10)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Falcons -3½ (51)

Facts: The Falcons made quick work of the Giants last week in a 34-0 win. • The game time of 2:46 matched the shortest of any this year. • Atlanta won in Detroit last year 23-16 as a 4½-point underdog. • The Lions have the league’s longest losing streak at 6, going 1-5 ATS. • Detroit, which was victimized by a pair of pick-6’s last week at Arizona, has yielded 10 return scores, the most since Minnesota gave up 11 four years ago.

Analysis: Atlanta is nowhere as good as last week’s rout of a Giants team that stalled inside the Falcons’ 15 twice and two more times inside the 40. NYG never started a possession past its 20. It was the opposite for Detroit, which yielded only 196 yards of offense to Arizona and lost by a misleading 38-10. Besides the two Cardinal scores off INTs, their three TD “drives” covered 3, 5 and 29 yards. In this prime-time game, Detroit shows some pride against a team in a comfort zone.

Forecast: Lions 28, Falcons 23

 

PRO FOOTBALL – SUNDAY

Tennessee Titans (5-9) at Green Bay Packers (10-4)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Packers -12 (46)

Facts: The Titans’ franchise is 4-1 at Lambeau Field, including a 48-27 win in 2004 that was so one-sided they were able to overcome a 115-25 penalty-yard disadvantage. • A blizzard hit Green Bay on Thursday with close to a foot of snow, causing the Pack to cut back practice. The field should be clear Sunday, though. • Double-digit picks are 8-10 ATS this year, including 3-0 in Week 14. • GB has gone 8-1 SU down the stretch in clinching the NFC North, its loss coming when catching the Giants off a bye.

Analysis: The Titans, fresh off a 14-10 Monday Night Football home win over the Jets, had problems on offense except for Chris Johnson’s club-record 94-yard TD run. The Titans’ line is a mess, with four original starters on IR. Tennessee is down to its fourth center and counting, which might explain giving up 6 sacks to Houston three weeks ago. And since the Packers have a legitimate chance to catch San Francisco for the No. 2 seed and bye, QB Aaron Rodgers will have his foot on the gas.

Forecast: Packers 34, Titans 13

 

Oakland (4-10) at Carolina (5-9)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Panthers -8½ (46)

Facts: The Raiders, 0-4 in the Eastern Time Zone this season, have been outscored by an average of 21 points in those losses. They are 0-9 dating to 2009 in this scenario playing the early-Sunday game, including 1-8 ATS. • Carolina , which has won 3 of 4, had 29 first downs last week in a 31-7 victory over San Diego including 20 in the first half. • The Raiders maintained possession for 40:06 last week vs. KC, the first time in nine weeks any team surpassed 40 minutes in regulation.

Analysis: Carolina and Cam Newton are in uncharted territory as this heavy a favorite. Considering he hasn’t had an INT in 5 games and has produced 13 TDs in that stretch, the Panthers probably have enough to cover. Sure, Oakland held KC to 119 yards last week, the second fewest for any team this season, but the Raiders didn’t score a TD either in their 15-0 victory. Until Oakland proves it can handle coast-to-coast travel without a meltdown, the home team is the choice.

Forecast: Panthers 28, Raiders 10

 

Buffalo Bills (5-9) at Miami Dolphins (6-8)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Dolphins -4½ (41½)

Facts: Counting last week’s 50-17 loss to Seattle, Buffalo has allowed 45-plus points in 4 games, a non-achievement last accomplished in 1986 by the Jets, who incredibly made the playoffs. • The Bills’ average yield of 5.1 ypc matches the worst in the league since Indy gave up 5.3 in its 2006 Super season. • Miami RB Reggie Bush had 104 rushing yards last week vs. Jacksonville, his first 100-plus game since getting 172 vs. Oakland in Week 2.

Analysis: So, what else is new? For the 13th straight season the Bills won’t be going to the playoffs and their team is disintegrating down the stretch. Two weeks ago workhorse RB Fred Jackson went down. Now special teamer Leodis McKelvin, the only guy with 2 TDs off punts this year, has been put on IR. Even though Buffalo beat the Dolphins, 19-14, five weeks ago on Thursday night, it had a +3 turnover edge and didn’t score an offensive TD.

Forecast: Dolphins 21, Bills 13

 

Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Steelers -3½ (41½)

Facts: Although the Bengals are only 1-10 at home vs. Pittsburgh since 2003, including a 24-17 Week 7 loss as a one-point underdog, they are 4-5 in Pittsburgh in that span. • Former Pittsburgh alpha back Rashard Mendenhall has been reinstated after being suspended by the team last week for insubordination. • Bengals QB Andy Dalton was sacked a season-high 6 times last week by an Eagles team that had 22 total its previous 13 games. Pittsburgh’s defense didn’t have a sack last week in Dallas for the first time this season. 

Analysis: The Bengals are the hot team in the NFC North and can clinch a playoff berth with a victory. Dalton has gone 0-6 against the division front-running Ravens and Steelers the past two years. In that Week 7 loss to Pittsburgh he had his worst day of the year, averaging only 3.8 yards on his 28 throws. That’s what happens when you play the league’s top-rated defense. Pittsburgh’s big-game savvy, in front of a noisy home crowd in near-freezing temps should be too much for the Bengals.

Forecast: Steelers 23, Bengals 14

 

New England Patriots (10-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Patriots -14½ (50½)

Facts: The Patriots, with two games left, need 24 first downs to break the NFL record for a season of 416 set by the Saints last year. NE probably gets it considering it has had at least 25 in each game. • New England is 0-3 ATS as a double-digit pick this year, including a 20-18 home loss to Arizona as a 13½-point choice. Jacksonville is 2-0 ATS as a double-digit ’dog. • NE has forced 32 fumbles, 11 more than its previous two years combined. San Fran had 6 fumbles in its 41-34 win at NE last week.

Analysis: If San Francisco’s second-rated defense couldn’t get off the field in last week’s victory against the Patriots, who rallied from 31-3 behind before falling at the end, what’s in store for the Jaguars’ No. 31 rated unit. NE ran 92 plays last week, the most in regulation by any team this season. Considering the Patriots also still have an outside chance at earning a bye, they won’t sleepwalk like they have in the past, such as the time when Doug Flutie was allowed to drop-kick an extra point.

Forecast: Patriots 31, Jaguars 7 

 

Indianapolis Colts (9-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (2-12)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Colts -7 (41½)

Facts: In their 2003 playoff game in KC, Indy won 38-31 in the only postseason game in history without a punt. The Chiefs’ DC, Greg Robinson, resigned two days later at a weepy news conference. • One more Colts win or Steelers loss gets Indy into the postseason. • KC had 7 first downs last week in Oakland, all in the second half. • Indy has the fewest takeaways with 10. KC is tied for the most with 34.

Analysis: In a “what took you so long” move, KC coach Romeo Crennel is giving second-year QB Ricky Stanzi of Iowa his first shot to be No. 1. It is the 11th time this year a QB will making his starting debut (including Greg McIlroy of NYJ this week. The previous nine are 4-5 SU and 3-6 ATS in their first tests. Stanzi will be in charge of an offense Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel have run into the ground so he won’t feel the pressure of keeping a smooth-running machine on the tracks. Indy is the better team, but maybe not in a near-empty stadium in the cold.

Forecast: Chiefs 23, Colts 16

 

New Orleans Saints (6-8) at Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Cowboys -2½ (51½)

Facts: The Saints have won 6 of the past 7 in this series even though Mike Ditka was coach of New Orleans in two of the victories. • Out of the woodwork: The Cowboys’ had a season-high crowd of 95,595 last week to see Pittsburgh. Two weeks earlier, about 14,000 fewer fans showed up for the game vs. Philly. • The Saints and their worst-rated defense beat Tampa Bay last week, 41-0. The last time a team that finished last in defense shut out the enemy was KC in 2002 in a 49-0 win over Arizona.

Analysis: NO is yielding 433.3 ypg, but over the past 4 weeks that norm has been 359.5. Dallas QB Tony Romo, who had 341 yards passing last week vs. Pittsburgh’s top-rated defense in a 27-24 OT win, had better not get smug. Saints QB Drew Brees and his rejuvenated squad should be able to take advantage of a Dallas defense that’s missing 5 starters. Dallas WR Dez Bryant wasn’t himself last week with only 4 catches for 59 yards with the busted finger.

Forecast: Saints 27, Cowboys 21 

 

Washington Redskins (8-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-10)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Redskins -6 (45)

Facts: QB Robert Griffin III (probable, knee) appears set to return to play after a one week absence. • Washington is 5-0 since its bye and its five straight ATS wins are the most for a team this year. Last year after the break, the Redskins went 0-5 SU/ATS. • The Redskins had been at least a TD ’dog at Philly the past 6 years. • Washington PK Kai Forbath is 15-for-15 on FG tries since replacing Bill Cundiff, who was 7-for-12. • Philly has wiped out double-digit deficits three times this year only to lose, a league-high.

.Analysis: Philadelphia fans will get to serenade HC Andy Reid in what’s surely his last home game in an Eagles coaching costume. And if his team starts this game the way it ended its last one – blowing a 13-10 second-half lead in a 34-13 loss to Cincinnati – it could get ugly quickly and stay that way. Especially if the offense bogs down the way it did in the second half with only two first downs vs. the Bengals. And considering RG3 threw 4 TDs in a previous 31-6 win over Philly, there could be no stopping Washington.

Forecast: Redskins 28, Eagles 14

 

St. Louis Rams(6-7-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Bucs -3 (43½)

Facts: More bad news for Bucs, who were 41-0 losers in New Orleans last week: Teams are 2-11 ATS in games after facing the Saints this year. • Tampa Bay is 5-1 vs. St. Louis in their past six meetings. • St. Louis had a season-high 29 first downs in its 36-22 home loss to Minnesota last week. • Tampa Bay has allowed nine of 14 enemy starting QBs to have 300 passing yards. Included was the 381 by Eagles rookie Nick Foles in Week 14, the most by anyone that weekend.

Analysis: When things go south for Tampa Bay, watch out. The Bucs started 4-2 last season before losing their final 10 (1-9 ATS). These days, rookie coach Greg Schiano’s team has gone from a trendy wild-card choice to also-ran during a four-game losing streak that includes a home defeat to (gulp!) Philadelphia. The Rams, meanwhile, are trending upward with a 3-2-1 mark since their bye for first-year HC Jeff Fisher. 

Forecast: Rams 30, Bucs 20

 

San Diego Chargers (5-9) at New York  Jets (6-8)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Jets -2½ (38)

Facts: Rookie QB Greg McIlroy gets his first start for the Jets. In his only appearance, a 7-6 win over Arizona 3 weeks ago, he was 5-for-7 for 29 yards and a TD. • San Diego already had the No. 28-rated offense in the league before it lost top RB Ryan Mathews, WR Vincent Brown and OT Jared Gaither to injuries last week.• Speaking of losses, Chargers QB Philip Rivers lost 2 of his 4 fumbles in a loss to Carolina last week. • West Coast teams playing in the early Sunday game are 1-7 ATS this season after traveling coast-to-coast.

Analysis: Maybe the sight of Mark Sanchez holding a clipboard, or better yet, shackled to the bench, will be enough to inspire the Jets to play to their limited capabilities and not commit 5 more turnovers this week, as they did in a laugh-out-loud 14-10 Monday Night Football loss at Tennessee. SD, meanwhile, has no reason to find that extra burst of energy. The travel surely is inconvenient and no feathers go in their helmet for knocking off New York. 

Forecast: Jets 17, Chargers 10

 

Minnesota Vikings (8-6) at Houston Texans (12-2)

Time: 10 a.m. PDT

Line: Texans -7½ (44½)

Facts: Adrian Peterson has averaged 164 rushing ypg his past 8 outings. In his first 6, he had a high of 102 yards. • Twice in the past 3 weeks, Houston had 5 or more sacks. • Hmm: Minnesota currently is listed as holder of the NFC’s sixth seed, yet doesn’t control its playoff destiny. • The Vikings average a league-low 168.1 passing ypg. • Houston is trying to secure home field for the playoffs, but can lose and still earn it next week at Indy in what could be a nothing game for the Colts.

Analysis: Both teams earned victories last week that looked better on the scoreboard than real life. The Texans beat Indy 29-17 thanks to a blocked punt, a forced fumble at its goal line and a cosmetic late FG that had Houston backers dancing on tables. Minnesota, meanwhile, beat the Rams 36-22 but didn’t have a sustained drive of more than 48 yards. That doesn’t bode well this week against a Houston unit that’s slotted No. 7.

Forecast: Texans 27, Vikings 14

 

Cleveland Browns (5-9) at Denver Broncos (11-3)

Time: 1:05 p.m. PDT

Line: Broncos -13 (44½)

Facts: Denver is guaranteed a first-round bye with closing victories at home vs. Cleveland and Kansas City, which are a cumulative 7-21. That’s the easiest schedule any team has the final 2 weeks. • Denver tied for the league high with 546 rushing plays last year behind QB Tim Tebow, but are at 406 behind Peyton Manning, still good for ninth in the league. • Cleveland, which is 8-5-1 ATS, has clinched only its third spread-beating season over the past decade. The Browns were a cumulative 12-21-1 the previous two seasons.

Analysis: Cleveland will be undergoing some quarterback culture shock in the Rockies on Sunday. A week after facing first-time rookie starter Kirk Cousins at home and losing to Washington, 38-21, the Browns now will face 241-time starter Peyton Manning on the road. Yikes! The Broncos have seemed invincible of late and could wind up staying home until the Super Bowl if the dominoes fall right. 

Forecast: Broncos 31, Browns 13

 

New York Giants (8-6) at Baltimore Ravens (9-5)

Time: 1:25 p.m. PDT

Line: Giants -2½ (47½)

Facts: Baltimore, which has lost 3 in a row, won the 2000 title after a 3-game losing streak in which it didn’t even score a TD. • New York went from having an average starting field position of its 49 in a 52-27 victory over New Orleans two weeks ago to a normal start point of its 18 in its 34-0 loss at Atlanta. • Ravens RB Ray Rice was targeted by Joe Flacco 7 times last week in a 34-17 loss to Denver, but caught only 3 for 3 yards.

Analysis: Baltimore, which already has a playoff berth secured, can clinch the AFC North with a victory or Cincinnati loss. That’s a luxury the Giants don’t have. They control their playoff destiny, but that’s only guaranteed if they win out. And it might only be for the final wild card. So, the Giants definitely have the desperation edge, the pedigree (2 Super Bowl titles the previous 5 years) and the advantage of facing a Ravens defense with seemingly half its starters in street clothes.

Forecast: Giants 31, Ravens 23

 

Chicago Bears (8-6) at Arizona Cardinals (5-9) 

Time: 1:25 p.m. PDT

Line: Bears -5½ (36½)

Facts: Chicago had 190 yards last week in its 21-13 home loss to Green Bay. In the Bears’ last visit to Arizona, in a 2006 Monday Night Football game, they totaled only 168 in a 24-23 victory on a night best remembered for coach Denny Green’s “The Bears are who we thought they were!” postgame rant. • Arizona beat Detroit 38-10 last week despite only 196 yards of total offense. Over the past two seasons, no other team shy of 200 yards ever exceeded 20 points.

Analysis: The Bears have never won 5 consecutive road games – in fact no team has since the 1936 Packers. That’s likely what’s going to have to happen for Chicago to reach the Super Bowl. Step 1 should be easy enough, for Arizona’s offense is terribly anemic. Last week, the Cardinals did have 3 TD drives, but they were marches of only 3, 5 and 29 yards under ineffective rookie passer Ryan Lindley. FYI: Chicago’s prolific WR Brandon Marshall appears OK after a scare (probable, hamstring).

Forecast: Bears 27, Cardinals 7

 

San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) at Seattle Seahawks (9-5)

Time: 5:30 p.m. PDT

Line: 49ers -1 (38½)

Facts: San Fran is 5-0 this season vs. teams with top 10 QBs, including a 13-6 Week 7 victory over Seattle and No. 10 passer Russell Wilson. • Counting the 49ers’ 41-34 victory in New England last week, SF has given 3 of the AFC East teams their worst loss of the season – beating the Jets 34-0 and Bills 45-3. • The 49ers won 19-17 in Seattle last year in Week 16 as a 2½-point choice. In that game Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, with 107 rush yards, became the only player to reach 100 vs. SF all season. Seattle hasn’t lost at home since.

Analysis: The Seahawks, who have scored 58 and 50 points the past two weeks, are the league’s only perfect home team (6-0) and are flourishing not only with Wilson’s arm but a stout running game that’s totaled 284 and 270 yards the past 2 weeks. Reports out of Seattle indicate the Seahawks will be better prepared to handle the 49ers’ blocking schemes that helped RB Frank Gore get a season-high 131 yards in Week 7. It also will be up to the 12th Man to make life miserable 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, who’s making his sixth start.

Forecast: Seahawks 26, 49ers 23

Last week: 9-6 ATS; 10-6 SU

(ATS totals always exclude games listed as “off” in forecast. Last week it was Redskins-Browns.) 

Season total: 114-103-5 (.525) ATS; 130-93-1 (.580).

“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].

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