By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) Here are Dan’s Week 12 picks:
Juggernaut Games of the Week
SAINTS 30, Giants 23 – Monday Night 7:30 PM
This week’s game of the week features the Giants marching into New Orleans for a bayou battle against the Saints. These are two division-leading teams hanging on by a thread and hungry for a win, with Dallas and Atlanta nipping at their heels. Three weeks ago, the Giants were 6-2 and in control of the division, but they now find themselves deadlocked with Dallas after back-to-back losses to the 49ers and Eagles. The Saints are undefeated at home this year and have a chance to really take control of the NFC South, playing four of their final six games at home in the dome. Combine home field advantage with an extra week to heal and prepare, and you have a Saints winner.
Bears 17, RAIDERS 16 – 3:05 PM
The Bears hard-fought victory over the Chargers came at a steep price, as quarterback Jay Cutler broke his right thumb, shelving him for the foreseeable future. I mentioned this shortly after the injury on Twitter (@djdurkin) that if there was a “good” time for this injury to occur, it is now. The Bears have three straight games against the AFC West, then the Seahawks, so if they’re able to play .500 football and get a little help from other teams, the playoffs are still in focus. Much like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, the possible feel-good Thanksgiving story of Captain Neckbeard riding in on a white horse to save the day for the Bears was foiled by the Kansas City Chiefs. While I would’ve felt better with Orton on the roster than Josh McCown, people need to realize that Orton wouldn’t have been brought in to start. Caleb Hanie has been the back-up plan all along, so we’ll see if the Bears were wise or not to make that choice. This game is very difficult to choose, but seeing how banged up the Raiders are, I think the Bears defense will step up in a huge way this weekend and lead them to an ugly win in Oakland.
Juggernot Lames of the Weak
Cardinals 20, RAMS 17 – Noon
Two NFC West lightweights square off in St. Louis, as the Cardinals visit the Rams. To be fair, the last time these teams played each other NFL history was made. Very dubious NFL history at that. The Rams became the first team to register a four-point quarter, when Cardinals quarterback John “Red” Skelton committed two safeties. You just can’t make stuff like that up. The game did have quite a thrilling finish when Cardinals rookie return sensation Patrick Peterson took a punt 99 yards to the house for the overtime win. I’m starting to wonder if the Josh McDaniels affect is a real phenomenon, as quarterback Sam Bradford has taken several steps back in his career development this season, completing a putrid 54% of his passes for five touchdowns. I’m giving the Cardinals a lukewarm endorsement on Sunday.
SEAHAWKS 17, Redskins 14 – 3:05 PM
In Thanksgiving parlance, this game is the jello mold with floating pieces of pineapple, unappealing and uninspired. Both of these franchises really need to evaluate their head coaches, in particular their decisions at quarterback. On the first day of free agency at 12:01 AM, the Seahawks announced to the world they had found their quarterback, Vikings castoff Tarvaris Jackson. The Shanahan’s squared thought a battle between a quarterback who has never won an NFL game – John Beck – and a quarterback who has proven to be an untrustworthy starter – Rex Grossman – gave the Redskins their best chance in 2011. I’ll have the triple serving of failure with a side of pineapple jello mold, please. Since Seattle has earned the suicide capital of the world label, death may be a better option here, but I’m choosing the Seahawks by a narrow margin.
Panthers 27, COLTS 20 – Noon
The Colts get a reminder of what it looks like when a franchise hands over the keys to a rookie quarterback, as Cam Newton leads the charge for Carolina. Certainly, the Colts would trade quarterbacks for this Sunday’s game, as Curtis Painter has been utterly inept as a starter. Painter offered up the understatement of the year this week when he said “I think everybody’s a little disappointed with the season.” Really, Curtis? Thanks for clarifying, as I thought people in Indianapolis were thrilled at the prospect of starting 0-11 for the first time in a quarter century, and the front office loves the idea of potentially having two quarterbacks on the payroll next year with a combined $150M+ in contract value. I gave the Colts a chance at breaking their futility streak a few weeks back against the lowly Jaguars, but when they burned me, I vowed to never pick them again this season. It’s brown bag time in Indianapolis.
JETS 27, Bills 17 – Noon
Just three weeks ago, the Jets exposed the Bills in Buffalo in a 27-11 victory. The Jets blitzed Ryan Fitzpatrick, pressed Stevie Johnson and company at the line, and sent the Bills into a tailspin. Adding insult to injury, the Bills lone bright spot this season – running back Fred Jackson – has faded. Jackson was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a broken right leg, and just like that the Bills season that never was, won’t be. The Jets are reeling as well, losers of two straight. I’ve never understood the hype about quarterback Mark Sanchez, he’s a quarterback a good team wins in spite of. I’m not sure how good of a team the Jets are, but I know they’re better than Buffalo.
BENGALS 24, Browns 16 – Noon
Cleveland visits Cincinnati in the 77th installment of the Battle of Ohio. You have to go all the way back to the late 80’s to find a time when this game was actually played for something more than bragging rights. The AFC North could send three teams to the playoffs, one of which is Cincinnati. Despite losing last weekend, the Bengals gave Baltimore everything they wanted, and I became an even bigger believer in Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. I like the ginger-haired rookie to notch another win against the abysmal Browns, and move a step closer to the rookie of the year award he should win.
Texans 20, JAGUARS 13 – Noon
Much like the Bears, the Texans were sitting pretty with a 7-3 record and completely in control of their playoff destiny, but then things took a turn for the worse. Starting quarterback Matt Schaub landed on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury, which is a tough blow to the Texans. Fortunately, they play in the awful AFC South, and game one of the Matt Leinart era in Houston offers a soft landing in Jacksonville. As long as Matt Leinart doesn’t fumble snaps, I like him to hand the ball off 40-50 times to the Texans dynamic duo at running back, and roll over the Jaguars.
FALCONS 27, Vikings 16 – Noon
The Falcons playoff push gets some assistance this weekend as they welcome the Vikings to the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won at home last weekend in a very uninspiring fashion against the Titans, allowing rookie Jake Locker to toss two touchdowns in his first extended action of the season. I didn’t expect the Vikings to win this game with a healthy Adrian Peterson, so I’m giving them no chance this weekend with a hobbled Peterson. I like the Falcons to send the Vikings to 2-9 for only the second time in franchise history.
Buccaneers 23, TITANS 20 – Noon
If anyone didn’t see Tampa Bay running back Legarrette Blount’s touchdown run last week against Green Bay, I demand you YouTube it immediately. OK, I’m not that demanding, so I’ll link it right here for you. Good gravy, Blount did his best Earl Campbell impression, making some of those wannabe Packer tacklers look like a jockey falling off a horse. The Bucs lost the game, but that was without question the best run of the 2011 season. Blount should be extra motivated this weekend, as he gets a crack against the team who cut him in Tennessee. The Titans division is so bad that at 5-5, they still have a chance to catch the Texans. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is dealing with a bum flipper, so it will be interesting to see how effective he is throwing the ball. This will be an incredibly boring game, but I like the Bucs to pull it out on the road.
Patriots 31, EAGLES 24 – 3:15 PM
The Patriots head to Philly this weekend to face a battered flock of Eagles. Quarterback Mike Vick’s ribs have been tenderized, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has a clipped wing (shoulder), and DeSean Jackson is dealing with a bruised talon (foot). Man, that was really lame. My bad. The Patriots would surely prefer to see Vince Young line up under center this weekend for the Eagles. Despite throwing three interceptions, Young was able to rally the troops and lead a late game-winning touchdown drive against the Giants. Before the season, this game had the appearance of a potential Super Bowl match-up, now it features two teams who have underachieved in 2011. Yes, the Patriots have seven wins, but they certainly aren’t nearly as dominant as people projected them to be. Regardless, the Patriots are the better team, and will prove it on Sunday.
CHARGERS 24, Broncos 17 – 3:15 PM
Tim Tebow’s last-minute, game-winning touchdown scamper against the Jets had people speaking in tongues. Well, it had a person speaking in tongues, specifically marble-mouthed analyst Deion Sanders who said “My mocabulary isn’t inept enough to even define what ‘it’ is.” Oh, I beg to differ, Deion, your mocabulary is plenty inept. Seriously, this Tebow thing has gotten out of hand, and I only hope the Chargers have enough in them this weekend to put an end to the madness and beat this brutal Broncos bunch.
Steelers 31, CHIEFS 10 – 7:20 PM
I joked last week that people in Kansas City shouldn’t confuse starting quarterback Tyler Palko with the “Rock Me Amadeus” singer Falco. But, after watching Palko toss three interceptions on Monday night, Falco may have been a better option. The Chiefs certainly took notice of Palko’s performance and picked up Kyle Orton off of waivers this week. Orton won’t get the start this week (which I’m certain he’s thankful for), and Palko will be fed to the wolves, or Steelers in this context. The Chiefs have no chance in this game, which will be over by halftime.