Winter weather to have grip on NFL games this weekend

Dec 7, 2013 7:45 AM

According to late-in-the-week forecasts, winter weather is expected to have a grip on many games this weekend, and probably no more so than Monday night in Chicago when the Bears play host to the Cowboys in a important battle for both teams. The temperature is expected to be in single digits.

In Denver on Sunday, Peyton Manning will have to brace to play Tennessee with the temps in the teens and with a 40 percent chance of snow. And in Green Bay on Sunday afternoon, temps are expected to be in the high teens when the Packers face Atlanta.

But as a reminder, it is not wise to assume that the visitors from warm-weather climes and those that play in domes will be more interested in staying warm than playing football.

Two startling examples occurred in 2008 when extra-bitter temps hit the Midwest. In Green Bay, the visiting Houston Texans beat the Packers 24-21 despite a temperature at kickoff of 3 degrees. Two weeks later, the Miami Dolphins won in KC. 38-31. The reading at kickoff was 10 degrees.

One more thing: Do teams have an advantage having an extended Thanksgiving break over teams on normal rest? Well, who knows? From 2005-07, the Turkey Day participants went 3-13 ATS the next week, but the next three years they went 14-4. 

And now for a closer look at this weekend’s games. All times PST. Lines provided by the Las Vegas Hotel SuperBook:

NFL FOOTBALL – SUNDAY, DEC. 8

Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) at Washington Redskins (3-9)

Time: 10 a.m. PST

Line: Chiefs by 3½ (45)

Weather: Low 30s, wintry mix

Facts: KC has joined the 1934 Lions, 1969 Rams and 2009 Saints as losers of three straight after a start of at least 9-0. Only Detroit didn’t make the postseason… Washington was one of four teams to blow a 14-point lead last week and lose… The Redskins haven’t beaten KC in 30 years, going 0-5 – no matter what sideline coach Marty Schottenheimer was on… Washington is averaging a league-best 150.4 yards rushing a game, but that’s 18.9 yards less than it had in 2012.

Analysis: Since Washington’s celebrated goal-line stand against San Diego five weeks ago, the Redskins have yielded TDs on their foes’ past eight first-and-goal possessions. That’s typical of this tackle-challenged club. KC, meanwhile, actually finds itself in a comfort zone of sorts. They have little chance of catching Denver for the AFC West lead and even less of a chance of blowing their three-game wild-card lead. It’s a chance for the Chiefs to be a little more free-wheeling and unpredictable.

Forecast: Chiefs 34, Redskins 20

Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1) at Baltimore Ravens (6-6)

Time: 10 a.m. PST

Line: Ravens by 6½ (42½)

Weather: Low 30s, wintry mix

Facts: The Ravens are slotted sixth in the AFC playoff race, but have a tough closing run after this one with games against three division winners – at Detroit, home with New England and at Cincinnati… Minnesota likely will be returning to Matt Cassel as QB in place of Christian Ponder (doubtful, concussion)… Baltimore, tied for fifth with 37 sacks, didn’t have any last week despite 44 drop-backs by Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, the league’s fourth-most sacked passer. The Ravens still won, 22-20.

Analysis: Baltimore had an enormous advantage on Thanksgiving against Pittsburgh, which not only was playing on the road on three-days’ rest but coming off a road game before that. Yet the Ravens won only 22-20. The Vikings, meanwhile, are 1-0-1 their past two games and Adrian Peterson has zoomed into the rushing lead. On a potentially rotten day, he rates a big edge over a Baltimore unit that’s last in the league with a 2.9 norm per carry.

Forecast: Vikings 24, Ravens 21 

Cleveland Browns (4-8) at New England Patriots (9-3)

Time: 10 a.m. PST

Line: Patriots by 12 (46½)

Weather: Low 30s, partly sunny

Facts: Cleveland’s QB situation was a mess even before Jason Campbell (probable) and Brandon Weeden (doubtful) got concussions. Now the Browns have signed Bears reject Caleb Hanie and ex-Dallas practice squad guy Alex Tanney… NE rallied from 24-0 and 17-7 holes its past two games to beat Denver and Houstoy… Browns WR Josh Gordon is averaging an NFL-best 124.9 yards a game thanks to his 200-plus games in Weeks 12-13. 

Analysis: The last time the Browns faced New England,  there was joy in Cleveland. They had just come off a 30-17 win over the defending Super champion Saints and next upset visiting New England 34-14. But since then Cleveland has gone 15-37, including last week’s 32-28 home loss to the Jaguars. Although Gordon is a dynamic talent, he might have trouble getting the ball against a Patriots defense that allows enemy QBs to complete the lowest percentage of passes in the league. 

Forecast: Patriots 28, Browns 7

Oakland Raiders (4-8) at New York Jets (5-7)

Time: 10 a.m. PST

Line: Jets by 3 (40)

Weather: Mid-30s, cloudy

Facts: NYJ coach Rex Ryan will be giving QB Geno Smith another start after benching him last week vs. Miami… Smith has had a passer rating below the Mendoza line (39.6) four times this year. The last guy with that many in a season was Carolina’s Jimmy Clausen… The Raiders have lost their past 13 games in the Eastern time zone … Oakland has the fifth-best rushing offense, but may have to use it’s No. 4 running back, Taiwan Jones, while its regular fleet of RBs nurse injuries.

Analysis: Five weeks ago, Ryan gave his  team a mulligan after a 49-9 loss in Cincinnati. He didn’t make them review film of the rout and instead just looked ahead to the Saints. NYJ responded with a stunning upset. This week,  Smith is the grateful one, getting another chance to show he’s the one to lead this franchise. With WR Jeremy Kerley (questionable, elbow) back to help him, perhaps Smith surprises some folks with a decent game while little is expected of him. 

Forecast: Jets 23, Raiders 13

Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)

Time: 10 a.m. PST

Line: Bengals by 6½ (43)

Weather: Low 30s, 70 percent chance of rain/snow

Facts: Indy clinches the AFC North title with a victory or a Titans loss at Denver. Cincinnati leads the Ravens by two games, with the tiebreaker too early to call. The Bengals also entertain hopes of slipping into the No. 2 slot if the Patriots fall back a game since Cincinnati holds that tiebreaker… Since 1995, Cincinnati is 4-7 vs. Indy – 0-7 when Peyton Manning was QB, 4-0 when he wasn’t.

Analysis: Since Colts WR Reggie Wayne was lost to the season in a win over Denver in Week 7, Indy QB Andrew Luck has dropped from 13th to 26th on the passer rating chart while the Colts endured losses of 30 points to St. Louis and 29 to Arizona. This week, on the road in dicey weather, the Bengals’ eighth-ranked defense should be able to stifle an Indy team that didn’t put the Titans away last week until late despite a plus-3 turnover edge.

Forecast: Bengals 27, Colts 14

Detroit Lions (7-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-5)

Time: 10 a.m. PST

Line: Eagles by 3 (53½)

Weather: Low 40s, 60 percent chance of rain

Facts: Detroit has allowed only 46 yards on 39 rushes the past two games… When these teams met in the 1995 postseason, Philly won 58-37 in the highest-scoring playoff game in history… Detroit outgained Green Bay by a league-high 435 yards on Thanksgiving in a 40-10 romp that was more lopsided than the score indicated… The Eagles are 6-1 vs. Detroit dating to  that playoff win, but the loss was last year at home, 23-20 in OT. 

Analysis: Eagles QB Nick Foles is the league’s surprising leader in passer rating and has 19 TD throws and no INTs. But somehow it always seems he’s loitering too long in the pocket (five sacks last week) or needing his receivers to make acrobatic catches. In the face of Detroit’s rush, which got seven sacks last week, his bubble is due to burst. On the other side, the league’s most prolific passer, Matt Stafford, will go against a Philly pass defense that allows the most air yards.

Forecast: Lions 30, Eagles 21

Miami Dolphins (6-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)

Time: 10 a.m. PST

Line: Steelers by 3 (40½)

Weather: Mid-30s, 50 percent chance or rain/snow

Facts: There was rotten weather when these teams met at Heinz Field in 2007. In a quagmire, the Steelers kicked a FG with 17 seconds left to win 3-0, helping to avoid the first scoreless tie since 1943… Miami dominated possession in its 23-3 victory at NYJ, running 80 plays to the Jets’ 54… Pittsburgh is 5-0 vs. Miami since 2004…  The Steelers welcomed nine days off after playing two games four days apart, including a 22-20 loss in Baltimore on Thanksgiving night.

Analysis: Pittsburgh, which is literally the home of the 12th man, gets to play three of their final four games in Heinz Field, where they’ve won three straight, in an attempt to make a charge at the postseason. The Steelers’ offense has looked formidable of late, counting their stupendous effort vs. Detroit three weeks ago and their rally late at Baltimore. Miami, meanwhile, still is hurting along the offense line and will find this venue more hostile than the Jets’ home.

Forecast: Steelers 28, Dolphins 14

Buffalo Bills (4-8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9)

Time: 10 a.m. PST

Line: Buccaneers by 2½ (43)

Facts: This will be the 10th meeting between the teams, with all but one played in Tampa… The Bills, the top sacking team in the league, has seven last week in Toronto vs. Atlanta, but lost in OT, 34-31, in the process blowing a 14-0 lead… Tampa Bay’s Mike Glennon is the top-rated rookie passer in the league, ranked 11th on the charts with 13 TDs and five INTs.  Bills rookie EJ Manuel is 25th with a 9/4 breakdown. 

Analysis: Whereas the Bucs are dead in the NFC playoff chase and were more of a laughingstock until their recent three-game winning streak, the Bills still have a dose of hope, considering if they win out they’ll finish at .500 and hold the tiebreaker edge in a two- or three-way tie with Baltimore and/or Miami. With that said, a motivated Bills pass rush and a running game that showed a burst vs. Atlanta should be enough to defeat a beat-up Bucs team that was playing over its head.

Forecast: Bills 27, Buccaneers 20

Atlanta Falcons (3-9) at Green Bay Packers (5-6-1)

Time: 10 a.m. PST

Line: Packers by 3½ (45)

Weather: High teens, 30 percent chance of snow

Facts: Green Bay likely will be going with Matt Flynn at QB last week over still-healing Aaron Rodgers (shoulder). Flynn has two starts this year – one with Oakland, one with GB – and he’s been sacked seven times in each… The Falcons catch another weather break: Last week their road game vs. Buffalo was played in Toronto’s dome. This game was flexed from a night start to a more toasty high-noon kickoff at Lambeau… During one seven-possession sequence last week at Detroit, Flynn’s offense went backward on six of them.

Analysis: GB was overwhelmed at every turn last week.  And as long as Flynn remains the QB – remember, he wasn’t even good enough to beat out a undrafted rookie in Buffalo at midseason – the Packers’ air game will suffer, as will the ground game. And speaking of collateral damage, it seems the Packers’ defense has quit toward the end of games, specifically last week and vs. Philadelphia three weeks earlier. Atlanta looks good by default …

Forecast: Falcons 20, Packers 16

Tennessee Titans (5-7) at Denver Broncos (10-2)

Time: 1:05 p.m. PST

Line: Broncos by 12 (49)

Weather: Teens, 40 percent chance of snow

Facts: Denver is averaging 38.7 points a game, which is 10.4 more than anyone else. The record for greatest differential between the highest-scoring team and No. 2 is held by the 1941 Bears at 12½ a game… Tennessee had five sacks in its 22-14 loss at Indy last week and almost overcame a minus-3 turnover differential… Before Peyton Manning’s arrival, Denver had been 5-24-1 ATS  as a home choice from 2006-2011. Since they they’re 11-3.

Analysis: As an indication of how dominating Denver’s offense has been, its worst yardage day of the season has been 397, which is better than what 27 teams have averaged this season, including No. 6 New Orleans. But the wrinkle here is that although Manning is the runaway leader in TD throws with 41, Tennessee has allowed only eight scoring throws, the fewest in the league. With rotten weather conditions expected, that should help keep the game relatively close.

Forecast: Broncos 28, Titans 21

St. Louis Rams (5-7) at Arizona Cardinals (7-5)

Time: 1:25 p.m. PST

Line: Cardinals by 6½ (42)

Facts: Arizona, despite a minus-3 turnover differential, almost rallied behind QB Carson Palmer (probable, elbow)  from a 24-7 deficit in Philly last week before falling 24-21… The Cardinals were at a distinct average in starting field-position against the Eagles, with Philly holding a 17-yard edge (36-19)… The Rams, 23-13 losers in SF last week, made it look good with a slow-motion, 92-yard drive in the closing minutes. 

Analysis: A key could be the Rams’ pass rush against a Cardinals line that yielded five sacks last week in Philadelphia and stands eighth in the league with 35 allowed. St. Louis, meanwhile, is tied for fifth with 37 QB traps. What also could slow the Cardinals’ offense would be the  loss again of RB “Juke” Ellington (questionable, knee). He has a norm of 6 yards a rush

Forecast: Rams 24, Cardinals 23

New York Giants (5-7) at San Diego Chargers (5-7)

Time: 1:25 p.m. PST

Line: Chargers by 3 (47½)

Facts: Since 2005, Tom Coughlin’s Giants are 7-4 west of the Rockies, including 8-3 ATS… New York RB Andre Brown, who averaged 

103 yards rushing his first three games back from injury, had only 35 yards on 14 carries against the Redskins’ tackle-challenged defense last week, but 23 game on a dazzling TD run… Since coming out of its Week 8 bye after wins against Indy and Jacksonville, San Diego has gone 1-4, but still remains only a game out of wild-card action. 

Analysis: This could be Eli Manning’s chance to finally beat the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2004 before being forced to trade him. And Manning just might find the Chargers’ pass defense to his liking, especially since San Diego has already enabled four starting passers this season to have their best day of the season. And to Manning’s delight, the Chargers’ are tied for third fewest interceptions with seven.

Forecast: Giants 31, Chargers 24

Seattle Seahawks (11-1) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4)

Time: 1:25 p.m. PST

Line: 49ers by 3 (41)

Facts: Seattle, which has the league’s No. 1 defensive passer rating, has held six starting QBs to their worst game of the season, including the Saints’ Drew Brees last week and SF’s Colin Kaepernick, who had a career-low 20.1 reading in a 29-3 loss in Week 2… As long as the Seahawks win their final two regular-season games, at home vs. the Cards and Rams, they’ll be the NFC’s top seed… SF is 0-7 the past two years with a minus turnover differential, including a negative-4 in their previous meeting.

Analysis: San Fran’s defense has come on strong the past two weeks, allowing only one TD, which was a meaningless score in the final seconds last week vs. St. Louis. Contributing to the surge has been the return of sackmaster Aldon Smith. However, Kaepernick seemed to be flustered by Seattle in their previous meeting, and even though the Seahawks are down two key DBs, they have the blueprint for keeping Kap on edge. Plus, SF is expected to break in a newbie at guard.

Forecast: Seahawks 19, 49ers 17

Carolina Panthers (9-3) at New Orleans Saints (9-3)

Time: 6:30 p.m. PST

Line: Saints by 3 (46)

Facts: If the teams split their head-to-head matchups this week and in Carolina on Dec. 22 and finish tied atop the NFC South at 10-4, the Saints would win the tiebreaker by virtue of a better conference record… Since 2002, the Panthers are 7-3 in the Superdome, including 8-2 ATS…  

N.O. will be looking to improve on its 14-0 home mark (13-0-1 ATS) with coach Sean Payton in charge in 2011 and 2013… The Panthers not only are on an eight-game winning streak but have gone 8-0 ATS, too. The only two teams the previous 10 seasons to beat that were the 2003 Eagles and 2011 Saints, who were both 9-0 SU/ATS before the streaks were snapped.

Analysis: New Orleans thrives at home in prime time and under pressure, with last week’s crushing 34-7 loss in Seattle an aberration. The Saints were embarrassed and will be looking to put an end to all the Carolina Cinderella talk. Sure, the Saints are coming off a short week and had flight problems back from Seattle, but that all contributes to their drive to put their collective boots on the Panthers’ throat.

Forecast: Saints 34, Panthers 13

NFL FOOTBALL – MONDAY, DEC. 9

Dallas Cowboys (7-5) at Chicago Bears (6-6)

Time: 5:40 p.m. PST

Line: Bears by 1 (49½)

Weather: Lows in high single digits

Facts: Chicago, which was gouged for 246 rushing yards last week in Minnesota, has dropped from 12th in ground yards allowed to 32nd over its past six games. In that span, the Bears have yielded 206 yards a game at 5.9 yards a carry… Dallas linebacking stalwart Sean Lee (hamstring) is expected back after missing two games… The Bears had five sacks last week in their 23-20 OT loss in Minnesota, whereas Dallas didn’t have any against Oakland free-agent rookie passer Matt McGloin on Turkey Day. 

Analysis: It’s not so bad that QB Josh McCown starts yet again for the Bears instead of Jay Cutler (out, ankle). After all, he’s the league’s seventh-rated passer with nine scoring throws and one INT. But McCown can’t stop the run, and that’s the depleted Bears’ most glaring weakness. With the ground game likely to be accented in the cold temps, Dallas would be wise to ride suddenly effective  DeMarco Murray, who’s atop the chart of qualifying RBs with a 4.9 norm per carry.

Forecast: Cowboys 22, Bears 14

Last week: 9-6-1 ATS; 13-3 SU Season

“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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