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Sunday, November 23, 2014

NFL Week 12 Predictions

by JASmius


SEASON vs. SPREAD: 79-82

The good news is the matchups aren't all unfavorable - our #1 rushing offense vs. the Chiefs' #20 rushing defense suggesting that another steady diet of Beast Mode and Russell Wilson scrambles are on the menu.  That had better work, because the passing matchup - our #31 passing offense vs. the Chiefs' #1 passing defense - isn't going anywhere.

The matchup that concerns me, though, is on the other side of the ball.  KC's #5 rushing offense against our #4 rushing defense doesn't sound like a disadvantage, but without Brandon Mebane to stop up the middle of the line, I can see Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis keeping the chains moving, and setting up play action possibilities for Alex Smith.  As injury ravaged as the LOB (entire defense) is, the last thing they need is to have to spend forty minutes on the Arrowhead tundra (snow is expected during the game) getting trampled up and down the field.

Seattle is going to have to force turnovers as an equalizer and - it's depressing that I even have to say this - hold onto the ball themselves if they're going to have a chance of pulling the upset.  The chances of about which I am not sanguine.

-Me, a week ago

I'd say I pretty much nailed that one, didn't I?

Unfortunately, it is true.  With no Brandon Mebane plugging up the middle of the D-line, no Bobby Wagner in the middle of the linebacker corps because of his turf toe injury, and strong safety Kam Chancellor's groin injury rendering him still a shadow of his usual fearsomely hard-hitting self, what had been the #4 rushing defense in the league got gashed and bashed for 191 yards on the ground, as Jamaal Charles ran wild for 159 of them, two untouched touchdowns, and just shy of eight yards per carry.  Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was an invisible 11 for 16 for 108 yards through the air, but so what?  All he needed to do was hand the ball to J-Char and watch him go.

Meanwhile, Seattle still outrushed KC, as the Champs piled up 204 rushing yards, 124 of them by Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson collecting another 71.  Interestingly, and frustratingly, RW3 also turned in another trademark underrated passing passing performance, going 20 for 32, for 179 yard and two touchdowns against the NFL's top passing defense.

We even forced a couple of turnovers (both fumbles).

So it all came down to that fourth quarter possession, down 24-20, when we had a first and goal that became a fourth and goal at the Chiefs' two yard line.  After all the success the 'hawks had had on the ground all day, with a battering ram like Beast Mode ready to do what he does best, what play does Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell call?  A pass.  And to compound the teeth-gnashing, the throw into the back left corner of the end zone to wideout Doug (Don't Call Him "Pedestrian") Baldwin fell incomplete only because Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith shoved him before he could make a play on the ball, a blatant defensive pass interference penalty that should have been, but conspicuously was not, assessed, as NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino admitted this past Wednesday.  That call would have given the Champs a first and goal at the one and, for all intents and purposes, the game, just as the non-call took it away from them.

Instead, we have the league's "apologies".  Again.  Which is fine and all, except I don't see a column in the standings for "wins via apology".  If there was, the Seahawks would have two Lombardi Trophies instead of just one.  But that's another story.

So, the NFC West effectively decided, their playoff chances all but extinguished, the Seahawks entertain the league-best 9-1 Arizona Cardinals at Century Link today.  And, season records notwithstanding, the matchups are not encouraging....for the Cardinals.

Thanks to our #1 rushing attack, the Champs rank #11 offensively in the league versus Arizona's #20 offense (#11 in passing, second from the bottom on the ground).  It makes me wonder if the Cards are as good as their near-perfect record, or if they've just gotten lucky on a few big plays at the right time - which, to be fair, every "team of destiny" typically does to some degree when on a championship run, but this borders on abusing the privilege.

But, as the 'hawks proved anew last year, it's still, and always will be, defense that wins championships, and on that side of the ball Seattle, somehow, still ranks #3 overall (#3 vs. the pass, #7 vs. the run after last week's debacle), while Arizona is all the way down at #13, including third from the bottom in pass defense.

The complicating factor is the Cardinals' #3 rushing defense.  Which will win out on the ground when Seattle has the ball?  The irresistible force or the immovable object?  On that will today's game most probably turn.  If Beast Mode shoves it down their throats and RW3 scrambles and bootlegs them silly, quarterback Drew Stanton will have to "stretch" the field just to stay in the game.  If, by contrast, Beast Mode gets stuffed, and the Cards' "pedestrian" running backs take a cue from Jamaal Charles' success, it may be Russell Wilson's arm that has to save the day.

[Straight up picks indicated by asterisk (*); picks against the spread in parentheses (x).]

Houston* (-2)

Atlanta* (-3)

N.Y. Giants (+3.5)

New England* (-7)

Indianapolis* (-13.5)

Miami* (+7.5)

(Insane, I know, but the Dolphins do have the #2 defense in the league, and the Broncos lost to the Rams last week, so what the heck?)

Green Bay* (-9.5)

Arizona (+6.5)

St. Louis (+6)
San Diego*

Tampa (+6)

Philadelphia* (-11.5)

San Francisco* (-8.5)


N.Y. Jets
Buffalo* (-2.5)

(moved to Monday night and indoors at Detroit's Ford Field because Ralph Wilson Stadium currently looks like a gigantic tub of vanilla ice cream).

Baltimore* (+3.5)
New Orleans

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