On the Ravens' first series of what ended up being a 41-7 win over the Texans on Sunday, Justin Tucker missed a 43-yard field goal. Prior to that kick, he'd made 39 straight field goals from inside of 50 yards. But he missed that one.
That might seem like a weird way to start a story considering the Ravens beat the Texans by 34 points, rendering Tucker's rare mistake inconsequential, but if you took the over in that game -- as I did in my weekly best bets column -- then that mistake mattered. Ka'imi Fairbairn. The over did not hit. And that's pretty much how my season has gone so far.I took the over at 49.5, meaning that if Tucker had made that field goal, I would've earned my first 4-1 week of the season after weeks and weeks of remaining stuck in 3-2 and 2-3 purgatory, which would've finally helped me overcome my 1-9 start to the season. But Tucker missed a 43-yard field goal. A little later, so did Texans kicker
That said, I am still encouraged as I continue to creep closer and closer .500. With six weeks remaining, I've still got time to salvage my season. With that in mind -- and now that I'm done making excuses -- let's get to this week's picks.
Last week: 3-2
This year: 24-30-1
In a game that carries huge weight in the playoff picture as the Packers and 49ers aim for home-field advantage, I think this is the game that will entirely legitimize the 49ers as a Super Bowl-caliber team. Conversely, I think the Packers might get exposed by what I consider to be a far better and more complete team.
After a hot start to the season, the Packers' defense has fallen off a cliff. They now reside at 18th in DVOA. While the 49ers' offense remains inconsistent with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, they're a good running team -- only the Ravens have ran the ball more frequently and with more success in terms of yards per game. The Packers' defense, meanwhile, is 28th against the run by DVOA. Kyle Shanahan should be able to have his way as long as he leans on his deep backfield.
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers' second-ranked defense should be able to handle the Packers' offense, mainly because they've been able to slow down nearly every offense in football that isn't quarterbacked by Kyler Murray. Opposing quarterbacks have generated a 72.3 passer rating and are averaging only 5.9 yards per attempt against the 49ers' defense. While Aaron Rodgers is still Aaron Rodgers -- capable of carving up any defense -- he hasn't been the same for a while now. By total QBR, Rodgers has been the league's 15th best quarterback. He's still very good, but he's not the same quarterback he was back in, say, 2016.
And so, because I think the 49ers' defense will be able to stifle the Packers' offense and their offense will be able to run the ball at will, I'll take the 49ers to beat up on the Packers, taking an important step toward the top seed in the NFC.
I'm not certain how either of these teams are going to score -- barring a barrage of defensive touchdowns, which I'll admit, does concern me.
The Steelers are still stuck with Mason Rudolph at quarterback. Don't let the final 10 seconds of their loss to the Browns distract you from the fact that Rudolph threw four picks and also fumbled. Now, they could be heading into this matchup without both James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster, both of whom missed practice on Wednesday. The Bengals are starting fourth-round rookie Ryan Finley. Through the first two starts of his career, Finley is completing 47.5 percent of his passes, averaging 4.6 yards per attempt, and has thrown one touchdown and two picks for a 52.8 passer rating.
In a game between arguably the two worst starting quarterbacks in football, I'll take the under.
3. Ravens -3 at Rams
The Ravens are the most complete team in football right now and the Rams are only just barely alive in the playoff picture. It feels like a steal to be getting the Ravens at -3.
The Ravens have covered in their past four games, a stretch that has seen them morph into the league's best team. We all know about their offense with Deshaun Watson. A month ago, they limited the Seahawks to 16 points. So this isn't just a case of the Ravens beating up on bad teams., but it's their surprisingly resurgent defense that is just as big of a reason why I like the Ravens to beat the Rams by more than a field goal. Since allowing the Browns to hang 40 on them in their final game of September, the Ravens are allowing only 16 points per game. They just stifled
But on Sunday, the Ravens will have a chance to beat up on a bad offense. By DVOA, the Rams' offense ranks 20th. Jared Goff has already thrown 10 interceptions this season, with three of them coming in the past two weeks. And he was fortunate to avoid a pick-six against the Bears this past weekend when Kyle Fuller failed to come down with what would've been a game-changing play. I think he could be in for a nightmare against a Ravens defense that has racked up seven takeaways in the past three weeks. Opposing quarterbacks have accumulated a 79.5 passer rating against the Ravens. Only the Patriots and 49ers have allowed lower passer ratings.
And we know what we're getting out of Jackson. That much is a given. The Rams have a top-10 defense by DVOA, but they should be no match for the league's most dynamic player who took down the league's top defense a couple weeks ago in remarkably easy fashion.
I'll take the Ravens to win in a landslide.
Who should you back against the spread, on the money line and the total in every Week 12 NFL game? And which Super Bowl contender goes down? Visit SportsLine to see their Week 12 cheat sheet, all from the model that is up over $7,000 on its top-rated NFL picks.
4. Seahawks +1.5 at Eagles
Without trying to oversimplify things, I like the Seahawks in this game because of Russell Wilson, whose MVP-level of play continues to hide the fact that the Seahawks, from top to bottom, aren't that good of a football team -- with their plus-21 point differential serving as evidence. At this point, with Wilson playing this well, it's difficult to imagine the Seahawks getting blown out by anyone. At the very least, it seems like Wilson will have the ball in his hands with a chance to win the game, and that's a situation I'll always take.
I also like the Seahawks because the Eagles are banged up. If right tackle Lane Johnson (concussion) can't play, the Eagles are going to struggle to protect Carson Wentz against a defensive front that is beginning to round into form. The Seahawks have racked up nine sacks the past three weeks -- including a five-sack outburst against the 49ers. Left tackle Jason Peters and receiver Alshon Jeffery were also limited at practice on Wednesday, and receiver Nelson Agholor missed practice entirely.
Because of the Eagles' injury situation and Wilson, I'll take the Seahawks to go into Philadelphia and cover the spread -- and I think they'll win outright too.
5. Buccaneers at Falcons Over 51.5
Fun fact: The past eight Buccaneers games have all gone over. The last time a Buccaneers' game went under? Week 2. Overall, eight of the Buccaneers' 10 games have gone over.
It's not difficult to understand why. It has a lot to do with Jameis Winston. Even though Winston has thrown for the third-most yards and fourth-most touchdowns, he also leads the league in interceptions by a wide margin and he's tied for second in fumbles. Add in the Buccaneers' below-average defense (22nd in DVOA) and you've got a formula designed to hit the over.
The Falcons, who are surging with four takeaways and 11 sacks in their past two games, should be able to coax a familiar performance out of Winston. And with Matt Ryan back and healthy, the Falcons should be able to put up points against the Buccaneers' defense.
Give me the over.