** IN HONOR OF MY FATHER WHO PASSED AWAY LAST WEEK **
Who do you think will win? Check out our own expert NFL picks every week for NFL games: Pro Football Predictions. Our NFL Predictions are subject to change prior to games.
We provide the best and most educated National Football League picks based on relevant statistic and resources, along with: key injuries, Historical results, and accurate comparisons.
Drew Brees is arguably the best pocket passer in the game, but Seattle’s pass rush may force him to make throws on the run, a key element in disrupting the timing of one of the more prolific passing attacks in the business.
Sunday, December 1
1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville Jaguars 2-9 @ Cleveland Browns 4-7 – TV: CBS
With Jason Campbell (Concussion) out, Brandon Weeden will get the start for the Browns at quarterback. In all of Weeden’s four starts this season, he ended up on the losing side of things. More importantly, Weeden hasn’t been an accurate passer only completing slightly over 50-percent with a bad TD-to-INT ratio. If this is the week he starts to get some efficiency going, he can do it against a vulnerable Jaguars pass defense and defensive front that doesn’t generate pressure at the line of scrimmage. Jacksonville’s defense has also been porous against the run, ranked 28th, allowing 133.5-yards per game on the ground. However, stopping the run won’t be their main task as Cleveland’s running game has been dreadful all season with Chris Ogbonnaya, Willis McGahee or Fozzy Whittaker not getting any running lanes. Jacksonville’s offense found some balance in the running game last week against Houston with Maurice Jones-Drew recording a season-high 144-total yards, running for a touchdown for the third straight game. That’s the only chance Jacksonville has in this matchup. Jones-Drew needs to put up a stellar performance as the offense doesn’t present enough ammunition at receiver to exploit Cleveland’s solid pass defense. No doubt, Jacksonville’s defense will roll most of their coverage towards Browns receiver Josh Gordon, but tight end Jordan Cameron will see lots of targets from Weeden in the middle with Jacksonville focused on playing the outside.
Pick: Browns 27, Jaguars 13
Tennessee Titans 5-6 @ Indianapolis Colts 7-4 – TV: CBS
What’s the main factor that stumps Indianapolis’ offense? Looking back at their win over the 49ers on Sep. 22, a game Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 95-yards on 19-carries was a blueprint of having the style of runner to dictate the pass. Losing Bradshaw due to a neck injury took away a physical presence that could gain the hard-fought yardage. Trent Richardson and Donald Brown may be able to make plays in the open field, but breaking tackles and pushing through the line of scrimmage isn’t their forte. Losing Reggie Wayne at receiver was also a vital blow to the passing game. Andrew Luck has had his ups and downs distributing the football with only one receiver T.Y. Hilton that can stretch the field as a speedy receiver, but the rest of the bunch is limited in that aspect of the offense. Donald Brown provided a spark against Tennessee on Nov. 14 with two touchdowns in helping the Colts top the Titans 30-27. Look for him to bounce back this week from a dismal performance out in Arizona. Although Tennessee’s offense is predicated on what running back Chris Johnson does, they were able to throw the ball on Indianapolis last time they squared off, but I like the Indianapolis crowd and for the defense to play with lots of emotion and get after Ryan Fitzpatrick, forcing him into a few costly mistakes.
Pick: Colts 31, Titans 23
Chicago Bears 6-5 @ Minnesota Vikings 2-8-1 – TV: FOX
With Lance Briggs (Shoulder) out, Chicago’s linebackers haven’t been able to stop the run. Rookies Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene have been weak-links and the porous play at safety with Major Wright and Chris Conte, doesn’t help in pass coverage or to come up in the box to stop the run. The Bears defense ranks dead-last against the run, allowing 145-yards per game. That key-factor without a shadow of doubt will elect Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to call on Adrian Peterson’s number at least 25 plus times. Mel Tucker, Chicago’s defensive coordinator has been stressing all week long on stopping the run and correcting the miscues in gap-discipline. “In order to play great defense, especially run defense, everyone needs to be exactly where they need to be on every play,” Tucker said. “It only takes one breakdown to cause a big play. We really don’t have margin for error, especially when you’re playing good teams with good talent.” Stopping the run hasn’t been the only issue with Chicago’s defense. They haven’t been able to bring opposing quarterbacks to the ground, just 19-sacks, third worst in the league. Can somebody wake Julius Peppers up already? He needs to start making plays at the line of scrimmage and with Charles Tillman (Triceps) out, the teams best cornerback, the pass defense will be much more vulnerable and loses a ball-hawk that has a nose for the ball. Last time these two teams met on Sept. 15, both squads moved the football fairly well through the air and on the ground. Matt Forte (Knee) might be limited and that can potentially hurt Chicago’s offense without balance, but with so much emphasis in committing to stopping the run, the team that has more favorable matchups in the passing game is Chicago with receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall on the outside. Josh McCown has been fantastic in Jay Cutler’s absence, throwing 7-touchdown passes and only 1-interception. I like Minnesota’s chances to establish the run and for quarterback Christian Ponder to make a few plays with his feet, but Minnesota’s offense doesn’t provide enough explosiveness, particularly in the passing game to make plays late in the fourth quarter to pull this one off.
Pick: Bears 27 Vikings 23
Miami Dolphins 5-6 @ N.Y. Jets 5-6 – TV: CBS
Not a favorable matchup for both teams at the line of scrimmage. Geno Smith has been sacked 37 times, while Ryan Tannehill has been sacked more than any quarterback this season, 44. The strongest area for both defenses is the talent they have upfront on the defensive line. Miami’s D-line is anchored by Cameron Wake, a power speed-rusher off the edge that can puncture the pocket, forcing Geno Smith to make plays with his feet and throw on the run. The Jets have a talented and athletic front that’s proven to have the ability to take over games. Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson do most of the bench-press pushing on the interior that frees up the outside rush and takes away opposing offenses of being able to run the ball between the tackles. That key aspect is a major part of the Jets defense being ranked first against the run, allowing only 72.6-yards per contest. The Jets will limit Miami’s running game from establishing the run with Lamar Miller, and with Daniel Thomas (Ankle) out indefinitely, Miami’s running game lacks a better than average rotation they need. New York’s offensive line is much more physical than Miami’s and they have the better running game with Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory sharing touches. If Miami has a chance to keep Ryan Tannehill upright, they’ll need both tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie to bring their boxing gloves to the ring. If there’s a weakness in the New York defense, it’s the secondary that’s suspect in giving up the deep-ball, but I like New York’s talented defensive front to rattle Tannehill for four quarters, taking away Tannehill’s chances of connecting big with receiver Mike Wallace.
Pick: N.Y. Jets 16, Dolphins 10
Arizona Cardinals 7-4 @ Philadelphia Eagles 6-5 – TV: FOX
Larry Fitzgerald is the obvious go-to-receiver for Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer to target the football towards, but the emergence of second-year receiver Michael Floyd has given Bruce Arians’ club a sidekick on the opposite side of Fitzgerald that can stretch the defense, vertically. Arizona’s running game is one of the low-end areas of the team along with some vulnerabilities on the offensive line, but with a defense that ranks second in the league against the run, giving up 81.3-yards per game and ranked 4th in Take-Aways, 23, Carson Palmer and the offense are playing with much more confidence knowing that they don’t have to light up the scoreboard to win games. Taking away Philadelphia’s ability to set the tone with running back LeSean McCoy is always a must for the opposition, but it’s always great watching a top-flight cornerback going toe-to-toe with one of the more dangerous receivers in the game. Arizona’s Patrick Peterson will be manned up on Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson, a speed on speed battle with the corner being the more physical player that can disrupt Jackson’s route-running by bumping him at the line of scrimmage. This will be Nick Foles’ most difficult task at quarterback in trying to play mistake-free football. He’s thrown 0-interceptions so far, but he’ll need to be able to stick the ball between the numbers in tight coverage and get rid of the football quickly. Time in the pocket will be limited and he may need to use his feet and make some improvising throws on the run. Quietly, Carson Palmer has been balling out, 8-touchdown passes and only 2-interceptions in his last four games, and he has some holes in the Eagles secondary to work with, particularly on the outside with the physical Fitzgerald and Floyd at an advantage. Arizona’s defense just doesn’t give up big plays, and eventually, Nick Foles will have a game where he struggles. Look for Arizona’s defense to limit McCoy from making big plays and force Foles to throw more than often, a recipe the Cardinals have ready to cook in the Eagles kitchen.
Pick: Cardinals 20, Eagles 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-8 @ Carolina Panthers 8-3 – TV: FOX
Carolina’s offensive approach isn’t as aggressive as Detroit’s in taking shots downfield. So, I’m not expecting Tampa Bay’s defense to generate five turnovers like they did in their upset win over the Lions last week. Four of their five turnovers were interceptions by Matthew Stafford threading the needle. This week, their defense faces a Carolina team that plays more ball control type offense that likes to run the football and put quarterback Cam Newton in high-percentage passing situations. What I like most about Newton this season is the fact that he’s managing the game well under center and not forcing the issue. Tampa Bay’s offensive line failed to create running lanes for running back Bobby Rainey despite their win over Detroit. They need to play their best game upfront and be physical if they want to get anything going on the ground against Carolina’s defense that’s ranked third against the run, allowing only 81.5-yards per game. The battle’s at the line of scrimmage are in favor of Carolina on both sides of the ball, and ultimately, Carolina is much more disciplined in taking care of the football and patient in getting a favorable matchup for Cam Newton to connect with receivers Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and deep-ball threat Ted Ginn Jr.
Pick: Panthers 23, Buccaneers 9
New England Patriots 8-3 @ Houston Texans 2-9 – TV: CBS
The growing pains of learning the NFL game and playing the most difficult and vital position, quarterback: Case Keenum has given us glitches of being able to get the football over the top, but reading certain coverage’s and when defenses are showing blitz has been an issue for the rookie quarterback. That’s no surprise, considering the fact of being in a training process. I like coach Kubiak’s decision to stick with Keenum to determine if he’s capable of progressing and worthy of taking Matt Schaub’s job for good. Still, Houston’s offensive system is based off the run and even with Ben Tate coming off a dismal performance of 1-yard rushing on 7-attempts against Jacksonville, Kubiak is still going with Tate as the starter. But, you can expect Dennis Johnson, who ran for 74-yards on 13-carries, the much better runner than Tate last week to share the rock with Tate against a Patriots defense that’s been putrid against the run, ranked 31st, giving up 139.7-yards per game. Houston’s defense has been better than any team against the pass, about one of the very few positives they’ve displayed in a losing season. Yes, you have to get after Tom Brady and Houston has the talent on the D-line with J.J. Watt rushing off the edge, but New England won’t shy away from the running game, whoever’s number they call to carry the load, rather it be Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden or LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots offense always tries to create balance by mixing things up. I like New England’s chances to put up a solid effort running the football and for Tom Brady to hook up with Rob Gronkowski on a pair of scores to extend the tight ends scoring streak to four games.
Pick: Patriots 34, Texans 24
4:05 PM ET
Atlanta Falcons 2-9 @ Buffalo Bills 4-7 – TV: FOX
For fantasy owners, I’d advise you to pick up Buffalo’s defense as their next four opponents, starting with Atlanta this week and Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Miami the following weeks are in favor for their defense to continue to rack up sacks. Atlanta’s prime offseason evaluation will be improving the offense and defensive line. Unfortunately, they’ve bombarded with multiple injuries on both sides of the ball, so we know they still have lots of skilled position players that just need to rehab and get themselves healthy for 2014. Matt Ryan can use a healthier Roddy White catching passes this week and a spark form the Steven Jackson and the running game, but with the season already washed away from playoff contention, there’s just not enough motivation kicking in for head coach Mike Smith’s team. Look for Buffalo’s running game to take advantage of Atlanta’s weak run defense with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson splitting carries and for Buffalo’s defense to keep Matt Ryan in long distance passing downs by containing Atlanta’s inept running game. This isn’t the type of game Matt Ryan attempts over 40 passes without being rattled by Buffalo’s solid pass rush led by Mario Williams, who I think brings Ryan to the ground 2 to 3 times, forcing a fumble, consistently pressuring the pocket that will force Ryan to thread the needle into mistakes.
Pick: Bills 24, Falcons 16
St. Louis Rams 5-6 @ San Francisco 49ers 7-4 – TV: FOX
With Seattle sitting at 10-1 and in the drivers-seat in NFC West, I wonder, knowing the 49ers have the makeup of a team to win in the postseason, can they win at Seattle if they make the playoffs and go deep? Let’s not forget about the 2007/2011 Giants that never finished better than 10 wins to get into the playoffs, in fact, won the Super Bowl after winning only 9 games during the regular season in 2011. The 49ers are physical upfront and have always been able to run the football with Frank Gore, wearing defenses down by the fourth quarter. The receiving-corps is getting healthy and Michael Crabtree will make his season debut on a limited snap count. This could be the time of year with the team getting healthy at the right time for them to start playing football as we expect them to. The Rams have been playing outstanding football with a high-motor on both sides of the ball, and you’d expect a divisional-rival battle to be close, but I’m sensing a late-season surge by the 49ers and it begins at Candlestick. I can’t wait for next Sunday’s battle against Seattle in the bay area.
Pick: 49ers 34, Rams 20
4:25 PM ET
Denver Broncos 9-2 @ Kansas City Chiefs 9-2 – TV: CBS
Knowshon Moreno (Ankle) practiced fully this week and didn’t suffer any setbacks. Moreno being present in the Broncos backfield will play a major role in keeping Kansas City’s defense honest. He’s coming off a 224-yard performance in a losing effort against the Patriots and he’ll look to be effective against the Chiefs 20th ranked against the run defense. He ran for 79-yards against Kansas City on Nov. 17, but wasn’t an option out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. Kansas City has all of sudden failed to get after the quarterback over the last few weeks. They didn’t bring Peyton Manning to the ground out in Denver in their first meeting as the Broncos ran the ball 36 times with a balanced attack. Being balanced takes away the oppositions pass rush and that will be the approach for Manning and gang to negate the loud crowd at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City will try to control the tempo and time of possession by feeding running back Jamaal Charles the football, but making plays downfield in the passing game to rack up points is a must. They also need Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to be dynamite rushing off the edge when the Broncos are in passing situations. It’s seemingly impossible to keep the Broncos offense from scoring lots points as their lowest total this season is 27, but enough to win the game. Hali hasn’t recorded a sack since Oct. 20 and Houston hasn’t since Oct. 27. That’s been the downfall of Kansas City’s defense that’s been exposed in the secondary as of late. I see them coming to the party this week in front of their home crowd that will be rocking and rolling from start to finish, but they need to do it on a consistent basis. I don’t see them doing enough to slow down Denver’s offense, and if Kansas City had more volume outside of giving Jamaal Charles lots of touches, I’d like their chances. They just don’t make enough plays in passing game to win these games against prolific offenses.
Pick: Broncos 34, Chiefs 23
Cincinnati Bengals 7-4 @ San Diego Chargers 5-6 – TV: CBS
The Bengals front on the defensive line is one of the better groups at getting after the quarterback and they need to rattle San Diego’s Philip Rivers from start to finish. The Chargers offensive line has improved from a year ago, and with Danny Woodhead in the mix, a running back in the same works as New Orleans’ Darren Sproles that catches lots of balls out of the backfield, defenses have been caught in a pickle at linebacker, having to eye on Woodhead and the tight end Antonio Gates is getting favorable matchups for Rivers to get him the football. The Bengals have been far worse on the road this season, 2-4 and they need to take care of business this weekend with the Ravens breathing down their neck in the AFC North. They lose out in San Diego, they drop to 7-5 and Baltimore will be just a game behind them at 6-6. The Bengals need to establish the run and control the tempo and keep Rivers and company off the field as much as they can. A 70-percent passer like Rivers is isn’t going to make mistakes often when given enough opportunities with lots of weapons at his disposal to distribute the football to. San Diego’s secondary will have issues trying to slow down A.J. Green, but something tells that Andy Dalton will make some costly mistakes by threading the needle and Rivers and the Chargers offense stays hot. If the Chargers sneak into the postseason, they will be a tough out.
Pick: Chargers 30, Bengals 27.
Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
N.Y. Giants 4-7 @ Washington Redskins 3-8
Major difference from a year ago for both clubs: The Giants are turning over the football lots, RGIII has struggled and his offensive line just vanishes at some point each week. Had it been the D-line of Giants playoff-teams past, they would’ve got after Tony Romo last week, who dissected the Giants defense on the game-winning drive. New York’s defense is at the bottom of the pack in sacks, 18, second to last in the league, slightly ahead of Jacksonville in that department. So…RGIII and the Redskins offense might catch a break against New York’s inability to pressure the pocket. Hakeem Nicks (Abdomen) is ready this week, a vital part of the Giants passing game that’s also a physical presence at receiver. Nicks missing action last week stumped New York’s offense and having him back will give Eli Manning the options he needs full-circle with Cruz, Randle and him, a trio that presents matchups problems for defensive backs. New York’s best player on the D-line Jason Pierre-Paul (Shoulder) is out, and without him rushing off the edge, The Redskins will attack that area of the New York front as they like to run off the edges with Alfred Morris, and Pierre Garcon will be a serious matchup issue for New York’s secondary. RGIII finally has a good game and leads the Redskins to victory late in the fourth quarter.
Pick: Redskins 27, N.Y. Giants 23
Monday Night Football, December 2 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
New Orleans Saints 9-2 @ Seattle Seahawks 10-1
I get the fact that Seattle will be without cornerback’s Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner. You can look at that as a negative going up against New Orleans’ high-powered passing attack. But, it takes a defensive unit that sports speed upfront and on the backend in the secondary to put pressure on an extremely efficient quarterback like Drew Brees. You have to pressure him. It’s that plain and simple. New Orleans’ offense isn’t based off the run, but utilizes their running backs a lot in the passing game on spread formations with Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas leaking out of the backfield. Seattle’s linebackers Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin and K.J. Wright have a great nose for the ball carrier and enough speed to cover the tight ends and running backs out in the flats. The key is Seattle’s approach on manning up at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the routes of New Orleans’ receivers and both safeties, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor rarely get beat over the top and take away the oppositions deep-threat. I expect Chancellor’s physical presence to play up towards the line of scrimmage and try to disrupt Saints extremely physical and athletic tight end Jimmy Graham’s routes. Brees and the Saints passing game likes to catch the safety rolling on one side of the field with a receiver on the opposite side singled up, rather Marques Colston, Lance Moore or Kenny Stills, all of them are threats downfield. Richard Sherman’s battle with Colston is another key matchup to look at. On the flip side, Seattle’s running game and offensive approach is the perfect plan with having a runner like Marshawn Lynch that’ll receive lots of carries and keep quarterback Russell Wilson in short distance passing downs. Both quarterbacks are patient in waiting for the deep-ball to develop, and yes, New Orleans has more weapons in the passing game. But, Seattle’s secondary is the most disciplined and speedy group that will force Brees to throw the ball in tight spots in differential to Seattle’s running game that will give Wilson more comfort in opening up the passing game to sustain drives.
Pick: Seahawks 24, Saints 20
(Games Played on Thanksgiving)
Thursday, November 28
12:30 PM ET
Green Bay Packers 5-5-1 @ Detroit Lions 6-5 – TV: FOX
It’s just weird not seeing Aaron Rodgers (Collarbone) under center for the Packers, sort of like not seeing Kobe Bryant nailing jump-shots for the Los Angeles Lakers. Feel me? Would’ve loved to see Rodgers and Matthew Stafford airing things out in a pivotal divisional matchup on “Turkey Day”, but the “Motor City” and viewers in their living rooms across the nation will be watching Matt Flynn try to end the Rodgers-less Packers losing-skid against the first place Lions. The first time these two teams squared off in Week 5, Stafford was missing two key starters at receiver, Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson in a game Detroit lost 22-9. Stafford was sacked five times in that contest, and clearly, the offense lacked a vertical stretch to muster points on the board. Green Bay tallied 180-yards rushing on Detroit’s defense, Eddie Lacy with 99 of them that set up the deep-ball late in the game to deliver the knockout-punch. Lacy and the Packers offense needs a solid performance on the ground to control the tempo and keep Detroit’s high-powered offense off the field. Green Bay’s defense has taken a sudden downturn against the run, allowing 171.4-yards per game over its last four, and having to deal with Reggie Bush, a back that can stifle a defense both carrying and receiving out of the backfield, will be a handful for the struggling Packers. Detroit’s defense, like Green Bay is vulnerable, particularly in the secondary. Matt Flynn isn’t limited and makes Green Bay’s offense much more stable than Scott Tolzien to sustain drives. Flynn will take shots deep against Detroit’s porous pass-coverage, but Detroit’s offense has the upper-hand in having Nate Burleson back in the lineup, a vital part in giving Matthew Stafford another good route-runner and second or third look away from Calvin Johnson. Green Bay’s defense needs Clay Matthews to be full-throttle for four quarters, not just a few series if the Packers are going to stop Stafford from connecting big with Calvin Johnson. Not a favorable matchup for Green Bay’s defense. Unless Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers throws out a bag of tricks at Stafford with some blitzes, Green Bay’s defense will fall into an abyss.
Pick: Lions 34, Packers 24
Final Score: Lions (7-5) 40, Packers (5-6-1) 10
4:30 PM ET
Oakland Raiders 4-7 @ Dallas Cowboys 6-5 – TV: CBS
Matt McGloin’s play over the last two weeks at quarterback has given Raiders coach Dennis Allen enough confidence to give him the start over the healthy Terrelle Pryor. However, I wonder if Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson has something up his sleeve. Will he try to catch Dallas’ defense off-guard by throwing Pryor in the game here and there to run a few read-option plays against a Dallas defense that’s capable of allowing big plays on the ground? The Raiders offense isn’t equipped to run numbers through the air and with receiver Denarius Moore (Shoulder) ruled out again this week, Rod Streater will once again be the prime target for the Raiders passing game. Running back Darren McFadden (Hamstring) is expected to be back this week, but he won’t get the start in the Raiders backfield as Rashad Jennings is playing well enough to possibly keep the starting job. Jennings has been an all-purpose back and bright spot for the Raiders’ offense, but they can use a little mixing and matching by having McFadden come in on certain packages. Their defense has been pretty good against the run, but subpar when defending the pass. Last week, Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 320-yards against them and they’re facing a Dallas offense that has much more weapons at receiver, featured by Dez Bryant, Tony Romo’s most dangerous threat and one of the more talented players at the position. The key for Oakland’s defense will be limiting Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray from gaining positive yardage on first and second downs. If they do that, they can put Romo in long distance passing downs and Dallas’ offense has proven to struggle when the offense is forced to be one dimensional. The Raiders defense has been decent at getting after the quarterback, but disappears at times. If there’s a plus or difference between these two clubs with certain deficiencies on defense, Dallas’ defense has been consistently creating turnovers, and I think they force a couple of them in this matchup against the inexperienced McGloin for the offense to capitalize off of.
Pick: Cowboys 30, Raiders 20
Final Score: Cowboys (7-5) 31, Raiders (4-8) 24
8:30 PM ET
Pittsburgh Steelers 5-6 @ Baltimore Ravens 5-6 – TV: NBC
Both squads will be in playoff-mode and view this as a make or break game in the wild-chase of the AFC wild-card race. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are two of the six teams standing at 5-6 heading into this weekend’s action. The other four, the Chargers, Jets, Dolphins and Titans are all battling for the same spot with in-conference and divisional games, just something for me to throw out there in case you didn’t know. As far as this matchup goes, Pittsburgh’s defense has come to life over their last three games, winning all of them. They’re creating turnovers, 8-takeaways and they’re not turning over the football on offense. Ben Roethlisberger has thrown 7-touchdown passes and only 1-interception during Pittsburgh’s 3-game winning streak. What I like most is getting back to the fundamentals of what Steelers football really is, and that’s being physical by pounding the rock. Le’Veon Bell is averaging around 20-carries a game over the last three weeks, and I expect Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley to continue to feed Bell the ball, especially this week against Baltimore’s dangerous pass-rush, 37-sacks, tied for first in the league. Baltimore’s offense has struggled to get the running game going, an area of the team that’s been successful in years past with Ray Rice in the backfield. Joe Flacco stated his dislike of the coaching staff using the wildcat against the Jets, but coach Harbaugh sees things different. “We’re going to do everything we can do to move the ball offensively,” he said. “We’ve got guys that can play and that we’ll put on the field in different spots where we feel like we need to. And all our guys support that.” You can hint at the coaching staff looking for ways to open things up, but if Baltimore’s offense is going to get back to consistently making big plays like it did a year ago, Ray Rice, the teams most vital part and player the offense centralizes things around, needs to get into open space, rather having running lanes created from the offensive line or out of the backfield on screens, check-downs, etc. Both defenses will be committed to stopping the run and play press-coverage at the line of scrimmage. I’m not expecting lots of holes in the backend of both defenses for Roethlisberger or Flacco to exploit them with, but Baltimore’s defense has been much more consistent at providing pressure upfront, the difference-maker in a defensive battle that’ll come down to the wire.
Pick: Ravens 20, Steelers 17
Final Score: Ravens (6-6) 22, Steelers (5-7) 20
You can follow Massimo Russo on Twitter @NFLMassimo and SilverandBlueReport.com @SilverBlueRpt
** IN HONOR OF MY FATHER WHO PASSED AWAY LAST WEEK **