Week 13 is here, can you believe it?
It feels like just yesterday we were getting used to watching preseason NFL games and here we are... with only five weeks left in the regular season.
Time flies when you're having fun, and that's what we're about to do. Buckle up and get ready for the ride of Week 13 Picks that I'm taking you on.
Flash photography is allowed. Say cheese!
Thursday Night Football: Green Bay Packers (7-4) At Detroit Lions (4-7)
One of the teams entering this game has lost four out of their last five contests and has looked like one of the bottom teams in the NFL in that span.
It's the Green Bay Packers! Don't tell Olivia Munn.
When the Pack lost to Denver and Carolina back-to-back people chalked it up to just how great those teams were. They then lost to division rivals Detroit and Chicago (while Brett Favre's number was retired at halftime in one of the coolest moments ever) at what Ron Wolfe once referred to as the holy cathedral of professional football... Lambeau Field.
The Packers are in trouble right now. A road trip to Detroit who just spanked the Eagles is not what the doctor ordered. These Lions are starting to look like those of East Dillon (10 cool points if you catch the reference) and are playing some good football! Matthew Stafford is feeling good and he will be after this game.
Prediction: Packers - 23, LIONS - 27
Atlanta Falcons (6-5) At Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)
After starting off 5-0 and getting way, way, WAY too much hype for it... the Atlanta Falcons are 1-5. That is not good.
This team is, and has been, one of the more overrated teams in the NFL. Matt Ryan has JULIO JONES on his team and still manages to have terrible offensive days. It would be difficult to be as bad as he's been even if you tried.
Consider that Brian Hoyer AND TJ Yates are able to effectively use DeAndre Hopkins down in Houston. Matty Ice? More like Matty Wet Towel.
The Buccaneers aren't exactly an elite team in the NFL, but they're better than the Falcons. If I could take over either of these two teams I'd take the Bucs, man. Jameis, Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Austin Seferian-However You Spell It... fire the cannons at Raymond James Stadium!
Prediction: Falcons - 17, BUCCANEERS - 27
Houston Texans (6-5) At Buffalo Bills (5-6)
I owe a lot of apologies to the Houston Texans. I did not believe, I'm sorry.
The Texans aren't setting the world on fire, but they're also not the mess I thought that they'd be. They play smart football: throw it to DeAndre Hopkins and get after the quarterback with your elite defense. That's a great recipe.
As much as I want to, I can't take the Texans this week. In the NFL the more desperate team usually finds a way to win games this time of year. The Bills have now lost two in a row and their wildcard hopes are slipping out of their fingers.
Hungry Bills? Hungry Rex? IN Buffalo? Circle the wagons.
Prediction: Texans - 20, BILLS - 24
San Francisco 49ers (3-8) At Chicago Bears (5-6)
Blaine Gabbert is a functional NFL quarterback. That is the world that we are living in.
The Niners have definitely fulfilled their whole "Who's left on that team? They're going to stink!" hype, but they've been in some games that most thought they wouldn't. Just last week they had a chance to beat the Cardinals, but then Super Blaine stepped in and saved the day.
I like Jay Cutler. That's not a real popular opinion across the NFL, but that dude can throw a football for something like 14 miles. He has a cannon!
Jay is going to have a great day against a 49er team that has been in a tailspin since Jim Harbaugh left. Da Bears!
Prediction: 49ers - 14, BEARS - 23
Cincinnati Bengals (9-2) At Cleveland Browns (2-9)
It's never a good time in Cleveland when they're playing a team in December with an inverse record of them.
But is it ever a good time in Cleveland for the Browns?
I've seen a ton of crazy finishes to football games in my life. I've seen many heartbreakers. The Browns suffered one of the most gut-wrenching losses that I've ever seen on Monday Night Football three days ago. Even if they weren't the Browns... there's no coming back from that.
The Bengals woke up from their little slumber with an authoritative win over the Rams last week. A date with the most cursed NFL franchise ever is going to make them feel even prettier than Jeff Fisher did last week.
Prediction: BENGALS - 30, Browns - 13
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) At Tennessee Titans (2-9)
Thank God we don't have to watch this game in those horrible uniforms.
Unfortunately we still have to watch this game. Ugh.
You have to wonder if either of these two franchises is ever going to find a way to be consistently relevant in the NFL again. I've said before that I believe the Jaguars have a bright future with all of their young offensive weapons, but it's hard to imagine that the future will ever get here for either of these teams.
Give me the Jaguars. Why? Because. That's why!
Prediction: JAGUARS - 27, Titans - 26
Arizona Cardinals (9-2) At St. Louis Rams (4-7)
How is Jeff Fisher still a head coach in the NFL? Seriously.
The guy hasn't had a winning record since 2008, with the Titans, and a few weeks ago he let a concussed player continue to play quarterback! What in the world?!
The Rams are doomed to mediocrity under Fisher's reign. In the wise words of Forest Gump... that's all I have to say about that.
Oh and the Cardinals are good. Really good. Like crush the Rams in their own stadium in front of their own fans by at least 30 points good.
But the Rams get up for these games. It's weird. As terrible as they are and as good as the Cardinals are... just watch. The Rams are going to make this a game. It's going to be one of those big defense, low-scoring NFC West games.
Prediction: Cardinals - 13, RAMS - 16
Baltimore Ravens (4-7) At Miami Dolphins (4-7)
The Ravens blocked off the field at Cleveland with one of the more dramatic finishes to a game that we've seen this season. They celebrated in their locker room, looked around, and wondered who the heck all of these guys were. Where are their franchise players?
They're all hurt. The Ravens have suffered more injuries than even the Cowboys this season with Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr., Justin Forsett, and Joe Flacco among those sidelined for the season. Ouchie.
The Dolphins have had a weird season. They've fired their coach and played good football... then really bad football.
I'm just playing odds here. Dan Campbell's Dolphins (that sounds cool, by the way) have been really hot and cold. I think they're hot this week. Plain and simple. (insert dolphin noise here).
Prediction: Ravens - 17, DOLPHINS - 21
Seattle Seahawks (6-5) At Minnesota Vikings (8-3)
I really want to pick the Vikings here.
Mike Zimmer's group is feeling really good now that they're back in first place in the NFC North. They're going to the playoffs this season... you can count on that.
They are not winning this game.
The Seahawks know how to get hot at the right time. We've seen this scene from them over and over again. They're starting to gel, finally, and are playing their style of football. After a big win over the Steelers there's no way they're losing to a far less potent offense.
Prediction: SEAHAWKS - 30, Vikings - 26
New York Jets (6-5) At New York Giants (5-6)
Start spreading the news! I'm leaving today! I want to be a part of it... New York! New York!
The battle for the Big Apple is on as the Jets and Giants meet in their once every four years clash. How weird is it for the Jets to dress in the visiting locker room this game? These are the things that keep me up at night.
Ryan Fitzmagic is on fire this season. Eli Manning is on whatever the opposite of fire is. He just threw three interceptions... against the Redskins. That Jets defense? Good luck, Elisha.
Offensively the Jets are more dangerous than people fully realize. Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Chris Ivory... fire up the Jet Fuel!
Also the Jets Cheerleaders official name is the "Jets Flight Crew". Why are they not the Flight Attendants? Wouldn't that make 1,000 times more sense?
Prediction: JETS - 33, Giants - 17
Denver Broncos (9-2) At San Diego Chargers (3-8)
I would feel badly for Peyton Manning if he didn't have another career as a full-time commercial actor.
How poetically sad is it that Peyton Manning is getting Tom Brady'd and that it happened against the one person that Peyton could never beat... Tom Brady?
"Getting Tom Brady'd" refers to how Brady took the reigns from Drew Bledsoe and never gave them back. It's a sick set of cards that Peyton Manning has been dealt.
Brock Osweiler looks great, though. He's going to keep pouring salt in Peyton's wounds this week against these non-electric Chargers.
Prediction: BRONCOS - 20, Chargers, 14
Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) At Oakland Raiders (5-6)
The Raiders teased us all by looking like a real football team early in the season. Alas, the Raiders we have all known for a long time are back!
So are the resurgent Chiefs. Alex Smith has gone something like 53,238 attempts without throwing an interception while his Chiefs dominate opponents.
There's no way the Raiders are going to be able to hang with KC in this game, but get ready for this:
Alex Smith's streak will end in the hands of Charles Woodson. Yahtzee!
Prediction: CHIEFS - 22, Raiders - 13
Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) At New England Patriots (10-1)
The Eagles are about to go into New England after the Patriots just lost, embarrassingly lost to be clear, for the first time this season at the home of one of their bigger rivals of the last few years.
Stock up on the smoothies, Captain Chip.
Philadelphia is going to be lucky to get a first down in this game. It's going to be a skunk-fest for Eagles fans (or what they call Sundays usually).
Prediction: Eagles - 6, PATRIOTS - 34
Carolina Panthers (11-0) At New Orleans Saints (4-7)
The Panthers are undefeated. They have one of the best offenses in the league. They are going up against one of the worst defenses in the league. The recipe is there.
There is a cold hard truth about the NFL and all of the statistical grandeur that comes with it. It does not matter against division opponents.
The Saints are winning this game. That's right. My gut says so.
Prediction: Panthers - 27, SAINTS - 30
Sunday Night Football: Indianapolis Colts (6-5) At Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
It was pretty shocking that Big Ben and the Steelers couldn't get the job done in Seattle. Their offense is as good as it gets right now.
The Colts are riding the wave of a nice little story about how Matt Hasselbeck is undefeated and quarterbacking them to victories while Andrew Luck heals.
That all ends Sunday night, Colts fans.
If you don't remember... last year Ben Roethlisberger threw for 522 yards and 6 touchdowns last year against the Colts.
You know where I'm going.
Prediction: Colts - 13, STEELERS - 31
Monday Night Football: Dallas Cowboys (3-8) At Washington Redskins (5-6)
If you've read my Anything Can Happen post here on Inside The Star then you know how much I still believe in these Dallas Cowboys.
The Redskins are playing good football, yes. But remember how I said that the more desperate team in the NFL tends to win? That's us.
The Cowboys aren't done yet, folks. They're going to keep things interesting. And the last complete game they played was Week 17 in Washington last year. They own that joint.
Cowboys. Redskins. With so much on the line... this feels like football.
Prediction: COWBOYS - 23, Redskins - 17
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.
Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.
Cambios de Coach
A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.
A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.
Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?
A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.
A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.
En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.
La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.
Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.
Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.
No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.
Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.
Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.
Here's why those people are wrong.
Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.
Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).
Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.
There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.
Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.
Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.
Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.
Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.
And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.
Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?
When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.
It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.
Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.
Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.
Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.
The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.
Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating
Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating
As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.
Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.
Now, he just has to go out and prove it!
Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?
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