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Week 12 NFL picks: It only gets better!

Posted: November 20, 2013 - 9:31pm  |  Updated: November 21, 2013 - 12:24am

The Sultan of Sides, the Prince of Pick’em, the Lord of Lines, and any other cool persona I can think of is on some kind of roll! Another dazzling display of football intelligence (9-3-3 ATS) in week 11 upped our yearlong mark to 85-65-12. We’re fast approaching rarified gambling air with a 57% success rate. I’m certain Las Vegas hands out fake gold medals to anyone that hits a documented 60% for an entire NFL season. Of course, the nature of point spreads suggest my picks are likely to fade in the final weeks of season as we meander back towards the mean. The mean has a proven track record of failure. The challenge here is to be different. Our challenge is to give the mean the middle finger. Our challenge is to keep picking winners!

Unlike my Seattle Seahawks I can’t afford to take week 12 off. Despite the absence of my one true love there is a very good reason to be excited about professional football this weekend. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos travel to New England to face Tom Brady and the Patriots in a matchup of all-time great quarterbacks. This will be the 14th time Manning and Brady have met. Brady holds and edge in those matchups with a career 9-4 record against his rival. That mark improves to 6-2 in Foxborough. Manning has thrown for more yards and touchdown passes (27-23) than Brady, but has had an unusual penchant for throwing the ball to the wrong team. Brady’s Patriots have intercepted Manning 19 times! Historical data favors Brady but has Peyton Manning ever had a better team than this year’s Broncos? Manning is on pace to throw for 5,700 yards and 54 touchdowns. Kids can’t even do that on Madden. Brady’s 2014 experience has been just the opposite. Tom Terrific has struggled to mesh with a brand new group of pass catchers. Adding extra intrigue to the matchup is Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker. Welker, a longtime Patriot, was Brady’s favorite target for years. The Broncos will take every chance they can to get Welker into the end zone against his former team and quarterback. This is football drama at its finest!

Due to word count restrictions I’m forced to end this week’s intro abruptly. I do apologize for this inconvenience, but I encourage you, the loyal Clarion faithful, to continue reading for more information on this game and other exciting NFL contests.

New Orleans @ ATLANTA FALCONS +10

The 8-2 New Orleans Saints travel to Atlanta to face the 2-8 Falcons Thursday night in one of the more obvious sandwich games of the 2013 season. New Orleans, aided by a controversial roughing the passer penalty, narrowly edged a strong San Francisco 49ers team at home last Sunday. In two weeks, the Saints play the Seattle Seahawks in a game that will likely determine home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Sandwiched in between is this uninspiring matchup against the lowly Falcons. New Orleans will do enough to win but fail to cover. Saints win 27-20

PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ Cleveland Browns -1

Pittsburgh is riding high following a dramatic come from behind victory over the Detroit Lions a week ago. Impressively, Pittsburgh’s defense held the Lions scoreless in the second half. Playing with a third string quarterback under center has caught up the Browns of late. These two AFC North rivals are heading in opposite directions. Siding with Big Ben Roethlisberger against a Jason Campbell led Browns team is too good to pass up. Steelers win 27-19

TAMPA BAY BUCS @ Detroit Lions -10

You can’t call them the Bad News Bucs anymore! Tampa’s ship is sailing after consecutive victories over the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons. Detroit has a high powered offense led by All-World pass catcher, Calvin Johnson, but the Bucs can hope to slow Johnson down with star corner Darelle Revis. Oddly, Tampa has momentum heading into this contest and Detroit has shown a tendency to play to the level of its opponent. Lions win 30-23

MINNESOTA VIKINGS @ Green Bay Packers -5

How can you lay more than three points with an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team? Scott Tolzein has been adequate filling in for Rodgers, but Green Bay has failed to win a game without their star quarterback. Minnesota’s offense is led by the best running back in the NFL, Adrian Peterson. The Peterson led Vikings will score points against a suspect Packers defense in spite of its own ongoing quarterback quandary. Expect Green Bay to keep its playoff hopes alive with a late field goal. Packers win 20-17

San Diego Chargers @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS -5

The Chiefs performed admirably in their first big test of the season but ultimately suffered their first loss last Sunday in Denver against the Broncos. With another matchup with the Broncos looming Kansas City can’t afford a letdown when the struggling Chargers visit this weekend. Philip Rivers and company got off to fast start to the year but have faded recently. Inexplicablwy, San Diego is coming off a loss to the Miami Dolphins, a result that effectively ended any playoff aspirations the team kept. Chiefs win 27-13

CHICAGO BEARS @ St. Louis Rams -1

Da Bears leave the Windy City to face the St. Louis Rams in a critically important contest. The Bears enter the game at 6-4, tied with the Detroit Lions atop the NFC North, but play four of their next five games away from home. The last time the Rams took the field they defeated the Indianapolis Colts 38-8 in Indy. The result is arguably the most stunning outcome of the season. St. Louis has had extra week to fall back to Earth, the result of a poorly timed bye. Bears win 27-23

CAROLINA PANTHERS @ Miami Dolphins +5

The Carolina Panthers have established themselves as one of the top teams in the NFL. Add that last sentence to the list of things I never thought I’d write. The Panthers, winners of six straight games, possess the fourth best point differential in the league. Only the Broncos, Seahawks, and Saints have outscored their opponents by more points than the suddenly mighty Carolina Panthers. I’m not buying Miami’s surprising win over the Chargers a week ago. This is still a team in a turmoil. Panthers win 26-9

New York Jets @ BALTIMORE RAVENS -4

Will the defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens miss the playoffs? Baltimore hosts the New York Jets in a must win contest for both teams. The Ravens currently sit at an uneasy 4-6, two games behind the division leading Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North. Facing Geno Smith and the New York Jets may be just what Baltimore needs to spark a late season run. The rookie passer has struggled mightily away from New York. Smith’s anemic effort has led to the Jets being outscored 86-23 in their last two road contests. Ravens win 26-14

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ Houston Texans -10

The horrendous Houston Texans host this week’s version of the Toilet Bowl when the square off against the incompetent Jaguars of Jacksonville. I’m not sure it’s possible for a NFL game to be less interesting than this nightmare. I’m done talking about it. Texans win 17-16

TENNESSEE TITANS @ Oakland Raiders -1

This isn’t the Toilet Bowl but it’s darn close. The Titans and Raiders are set to battle for relevance in the AFC this Sunday. Both teams enter the contest with serious questions at quarterback. Titans QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick may have attended Harvard, but he’s yet to decipher NFL defenses. Fitzpatrick has an unsettling habit of throwing passes to the defense. Undrafted rookie free-agent Matt McGloin started and won for the Raiders a week ago in Houston. I have no clue who Matt McGloin is. Titans win 23-20

Indianapolis Colts @ ARIZONA CARDINALS -1

A year ago Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with Cancer. In Pagano’s absence the Colts went on a remarkable playoff run under interim boss Bruce Arians. Arians, a noted offensive wizard, meshed wonderfully with rookie wunderkind Andrew Luck. Arians parlayed his strong sideline performance for the Colts into a job leading the Arizona Cardinals. The three cross paths again this Sunday in Phoenix. The reunion won’t be a happy one for Pagano, Luck, and the Colts. Cardinals win 28-25

DALLAS COWBOYS @ New York Giants -3

New York’s remarkable return to relevance continued thanks to a victory over the Green Bay Packers last week. The Giants began the season 0-6 before rattling off a surprising four game winning streak. Now the team hosts their rival, the Dallas Cowboys, in a critical NFC Least division contest. The Cowboys hope to rebound from a historically awful performance against the New Orleans Saints in their last outing. In that game the Cowboys surrendered an astonishing 40 first downs! Dallas has a charming way of fleeing prosperity and welcoming adversity. Cowboys win 33-21

PEYTON MANNING @ Tom Brady +3

If you did not read the column’s introduction, now would be an appropriate time to do so. Broncos win 31-27

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ Washington Redskins +5

The 49ers find themselves slipping into unexpected territory. The Seattle Seahawks have all but locked up the NFC West and now San Francisco is tied with the surprising Arizona Cardinals at 6-4 in the division. This 49ers team has the feel of a championship contender, but in the famous words of nearly every coach ever, “you are what your record says you are!” The Native Americans are a mess and now there are grumblings about Robert Griffin’s lack of leadership seeping out of the capital. San Francisco, a team hoping to gain some momentum before the playoffs is catching Washington at a perfect time. 49ers win 30-13

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