NFL GAME-BY-GAME PREDICTIONS WEEK 12

By Arvind Pendurthi

DETROIT LIONS (7-3) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (8-2)

Week 11 Results
Lions: L (6-14) at Arizona Cardinals
Patriots: W (42-20) vs. Indianapolis Colts

After a rough 1st quarter, the Lions’ defense clamped down, shutting the Cardinals out the rest of the game. However, their 2 interceptions were simply not enough, as Detroit’s offense put up just 6 points, repeatedly failing to move the chains, as evidenced by their 33% third down efficiency. Although Joique Bell had a nice game, rushing for 85 yards on 14 carries (6.07 YPC), QB Matthew Stafford and his receivers appeared to be in complete disarray. Stafford completed just 60% of his passes for 183 yards with 1 interception.

Surprisingly enough, future Hall of Famer Tom Brady had a performance rather similar to Stafford. While he did finish with 257 yards and 2 touchdowns, Brady also tossed 2 interceptions, as he uncharacteristically threw off his back foot multiple times. New England’s defense did an excellent job of containing the Colts’ top-ranked offense, particularly in the run game. RBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson were held to an unbelievable 4 yards on 13 carries – an average of .31 yards per carry.

Arguably the biggest storyline of the Patriots’ victory was rookie running back Jonas Gray’s remarkable performance; the undrafted free agent carried the ball 37 times for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, Head Coach Bill Belichick has a history of rotating running backs and it appears this week will not fare as well for Gray. Facing the Lions’ talented run defense – the one that held Andre Ellington to 2.21 yards per carry last week – New England will most likely turn to their passing down back, Shane Vereen (4 catches, 59 yards). If the Lions manage to stop Vereen, he should at least provide a distraction and give Brady and his receivers enough breathing room to get the win.

Players to Watch: Golden Tate (WR – DET), Shane Vereen (RB – NE)

Prediction: Lions 24, Patriots 41


CINCINNATI BENGALS (6-3-1) AT HOUSTON TEXANS (5-5)

Week 11 Results
Bengals: W (27-10) at New Orleans Saints
Texans: W (23-7) at Cleveland Browns

Kudos to Cincinnati’s front office for giving the Bengals’ running game a complete overhaul in just two years. Their tandem of 2nd year back Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill has been phenomenal. With Bernard out for the 3rd consecutive week, Hill rushed for 152 yards on 27 carries (5.63 YPC). His huge performance allowed QB Andy Dalton to rebound from his historically-awful week 10 (2.0 QBR), completing 72% of his passes for 220 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Defensive end JJ Watt has more receiving touchdowns this season than star WR Andre Johnson. That is a testament to former starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s ineffective play this season. However, Ryan Mallett’s 211-yard, 2 TD performance should give Texans fans hope. In addition, rookie Alfred Blue has proven to be a capable backup to Arian Foster, rushing for 156 yards on 36 carries, an average of 4.33 yards per carry.

The Texans’ defense, which forced 2 sacks, 1 interception and 2 fumbles last week, will have its hands full facing the Bengals’ talented playmakers. WR AJ Green totaled 127 yards and 1 touchdown on 6 receptions and Gio Bernard is slated to return this week. However, Houston’s defensive line should be able to put enough pressure on Dalton to force him into the myriad of mistakes he made two weeks ago against the Browns.

Players to Watch: Giovani Bernard (RB – CIN), Whitney Mercilus (OLB – HOU)

Prediction: Bengals 14, Texans 17


ARIZONA CARDINALS (9-1) AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (6-4)

Week 11 Results
Cardinals: W (14-6) vs. Detroit Lions
Seahawks: L (20-24) at Kansas City Chiefs

Facing the league’s best defense, QB Drew Stanton played admirably, completing 66% of his passes for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns, both of which were thrown in the 1st quarter. However, his performance rapidly deteriorated, as he threw a pair of ill-advised interceptions. Stanton did a good job of spreading the ball around, though, as he connected with 10 different receivers. He will need to improve significantly to compensate for Andre Ellington’s poor play this season (624 yards, 3.4 YPC, 3 TD, 2 fumbles).

Seattle’s typically fearsome defense was exploited by the Chiefs on Sunday, particularly on the ground. They allowed 159 yards and 2 touchdowns to Jamaal Charles, on a remarkable 7.95 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch had quite an impressive game as well, rushing for 124 yards on 24 carries. The Seahawks’ 30th-ranked passing game, on the other hand, was rather ineffective. Russell Wilson was efficient, as he made smart throws until late in the 4th quarter, when Seattle switched to desperation mode.

Statistically speaking, Arizona is by no means the best team in football. They have played the majority of the season with a depleted defense or led by a backup quarterback. Yet they are 9-1, and rightfully so. The Cardinals’ secondary has played very well, as they contained the Lions’ talented duo of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate to just 100 yards.   They will have no problem doing the same with the Seahawks’ subpar receiving corps.

Players to Watch: Larry Fitzgerald (WR – ARI), Marshawn Lynch (RB – SEA)

 Prediction: Cardinals 24, Seahawks 21


ST. LOUIS RAMS (4-6) AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (6-4)

Week 11 Results
Rams: W (22-7) vs. Denver Broncos
Chargers: W (13-6) vs. Oakland Raiders

The Rams currently sit at an unimpressive 4-6 record. However, that record becomes far more impressive when the quality of their wins is taken into account. St. Louis holds victories over the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos, largely because of superior defensive play. The Rams’ defensive line pressured Peyton Manning into 2 sacks and 2 interceptions. Furthermore, Shaun Hill played very well against the Broncos’ 5th-ranked defense, completing 69% of his passes for 220 yards and 1 touchdown.

Unlike the Rams, San Diego has been quite unimpressive over the last few weeks, dropping 3 consecutive games before narrowly defeating the Oakland Raiders – the first team to be eliminated from playoff contention. Philip Rivers averaged just 8.77 yards per completion for 193 yards and 1 touchdown despite facing a middling secondary. The one bright spot for the Chargers’ offense was Ryan Mathews’ return to the field, in which he rushed 70 yards on 16 carries.

Despite their string of poor performances, San Diego is still a very talented team. Keenan Allen (8 receptions, 63 yards) and Malcom Floyd (4 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD) are reliable receivers; the Chargers’ offensive line needs to provide Rivers with better protection, as he was sacked twice and hurried repeatedly. The team should rebound this week, as the Rams’ offense is not talented enough to beat San Diego’s secondary.

Players to Watch: Aaron Donald (DT – STL), Eric Weddle (S – SD)

 Prediction: Rams 13, Chargers 31


MIAMI DOLPHINS (6-4) AT DENVER BRONCOS (7-3)

Week 11 Results
Dolphins: W (22-9) vs. Buffalo Bills
Broncos: L (7-22) at St. Louis Rams

The Dolphins’ vastly underrated defense led them to victory on Thursday night, securing the 2nd spot in the AFC East and firmly placing them in the playoff hunt. They sacked Kyle Orton twice and held the Bills to just a field goal in each of their two redzone possessions. In addition, despite a rough start, Miami’s offense quietly improved over the course of the game. RB Lamar Miller rushed for 86 yards on 15 carries (5.73 YPC); he has significantly, averaging 4.9 yards per carry this season compared to 4.0 in 2013.

Denver’s high-octane offense was largely neutralized by the Rams last week. QB Peyton Manning completed 63% of his passes for 389 yards and 1 touchdown, but threw 2 interceptions. The Broncos’ offensive line also allowed 2 sacks and constant pressure. Most importantly for the Broncos, however, star receiver Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) and tight end Julius Thomas (ankle) were injured and will most likely miss this week’s contest.

Filling in for injured RBs Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, CJ Anderson carried the ball 9 times for just 29 yards, struggling against the Rams’ defensive line. Facing Miami’s front four will be just as, if not more, difficult. The Dolphins have played very good football lately, chiefly as a result of QB Ryan Tannehill’s significant increase in efficiency compared to previous seasons:

  Completion % Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Passer Rating
2012 58.3 3,294 12 13 76.1
2013 60.4 3,913 24 17 81.7
2014* 65.4 3,766 27 11 92.2

*Projected statistics

Riding into this week’s matchup on a hot streak, Miami is more than capable of pulling off a crucial upset.

Players to Watch: Ryan Tannehill (QB – MIA), Demaryius Thomas (WR – DEN)

Prediction: Dolphins 27, Broncos 21

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