NFL Picks: Week 12

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NFL Picks: Week 12

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

I was 2-1 on Thanksgiving, but Im back for another helping of NFL gambling goodness.

Hope everyones holiday went as well as it did for the Patriots, or as well as Im about to do on my Week 12 Picks.

So hide your kids and hide your wife, because I'm picking everybody up in here

The Game: Tennessee at Houston (-6.5)

I hate blaming everything on Randy Moss. But can it really just be a coincidence that both teams that acquired him this season imploded within two weeks? Or how about the fact that in both cases it was the quarterback and head coach at the center of the controversy?

Furthermore, at this point, what team is going to be stupid enough to bring Randy in next season? Jerry Jones? Maybe Daniel Snyder? Who else? Has Randy suddenly become the new TO?

Who could have believed things would unravel so quickly? Its been barely two months since that one-handed grab at the Meadowlands; doesnt that feel like two years ago?

Anyway, thats all the rhetorical questions I have for this game, so lets get to the basics.

1. Rusty Smith is the Titans starting quarterback. Yes, THAT Rusty Smith.
2. Chris Johnson is the Titans starting running back.
3. Against a defense like Houstons, No. 2 more than makes up for No. 1.

Also, I know Rusty Smith wont be the most qualified starting quarterback in the NFL on Sunday, but he and Randy are a decent fit. Smith doesnt really know any better, he just wants to let loose which means a potential increase in bombs headed Randys way.

I think I smell his first Titans touchdown this week.

And it smells like a combo straight cash and a poorly catered lunch.

The Pick: Titans (6.5)
The Game: Jacksonville at N.Y. Giants (-7)

Ladies and Gentlemen, your first-place Jacksonville Jaguars!

Huh?

Thats right. In a division that features the Colts, Texans and Titans all teams that at one point or another were allegedly destined for greatness this season the Jacksonville Jaguars are leading the way. Of course, they technically have the same 6-4 record as Indy, but the Jags have the tie breaker, and anyway, stop killing their buzz!

It does help Jacksonvilles cause that the Giants receiving corps is more beat up than Antonio Margarito, and that the G-Men are reeling on the heels of two straight division losses. But a team that needed last-second scores to earn home wins over the Texans and Browns isnt ready for the New Meadowlands spotlight.

The Pick: Giants (-7)The Game: Minnesota at Washington (-2)

We all know that the Vikings arent a bad team. Well, OK, they are a bad team, but theyre a bad team made up of legitimately talented players. And like the Cowboys before them, theyve spent the season struggling to sync those talents together. You can blame Favre. You can blame Randy. You can blame whomever you want, but unless youre blaming Brad Childress, youre wrong. And if you dont think the removal of the mustachioed moron is going to motivate Minnesota on Sunday then . . . then . . . you must be Childress himself!

Also, as I wrote last week, the Redskins might be better off playing on the road for the rest of the season. Theres too much controversy brewing in their hometown; too much pent-up hostility. If they come out and stumble even a little, the fans will get testy, and seeing how the 'Skins reacted two weeks ago against Michael Vick, that wont be good for business.
The Pick: Vikings (2)The Game: Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Buffalo

I dont mean this in any condescending way, but Im happy for Buffalo. They didnt deserve that Worst Team in the NFL label, and with their two straight wins regardless of whom they came against theyve salvaged the season. Its not longer up there with one of the most pathetic years in league history. Instead, it just goes down as another bad year in Buffalo which is fair, because Buffalo is undoubtedly a bad team. They were better than 0-8. 2-8 makes much more sense.

Anyway, 2-8 teams dont go into Heinz Field and come out smiling.

Unless they have a fetish for beat downs.

The Pick: Steelers (-6.5)The Game: Green Bay at Atlanta (-2)

I wish this game was in Green Bay.

Why? Because we already know what the Falcons can do at home. They can beat anyone; at home, they might be truly elite.

Judging by that, you probably know where I'm leaning here. I think the Falcons win by at least a touchdown. I just wish they'd play another significant game on the road so we can start to understand who this team really is.

The Pick: Falcons (-2)
The Game: Carolina at Cleveland (-10)
So, who do you like:

The Panthers' former crappy QB vs. their current crappy QB?

It really is too bad Colt McCoy went down with his injured ankle. The kid is a lot of fun to watch, and certainly has a career ahead of him. Besides the fact that McCoy has started only five NFL games, I would have bet on the Browns (-10) in a second had Colt been behind center. He just gets it.

With Jake Delhomme calling the shots, I always dont feel quite as strongly about a Browns blowout, but I still think theres a good chance we see it. Even though the Browns are undoubtedly worse without McCoy, the other guys on the team, especially Peyton Hillis and a few key members of the defense, made the leap along with McCoy and should be able to lead the Browns to a big win against a really bad team.

The Pick: Browns (-10)The Game: Kansas City (-1.5) at Seattle

There are two games this week that feature a pair of a first-place teams. The first is EaglesBears. The second is . . . wait, what?

SeahawksChiefs?

But yes, the Sons of Dave Krieg each find themselves atop their division. Even if they only have a combined 11-9 record.

The Seahawks are 5-5, but only two of those wins have come outside the division. The first was at home against San Diego before they stopped using special-teams plays as nap time and the second was a pretty decent win at Soldiers Field in Week 6.

But since Week 6, the Seahawks are only 2-3, and both wins have come against awful Arizona. Not the most inspiring stretch, even by NFC West standards.

So, why am I picking them to beat my newly-beloved Chiefs?

The Seahawks still have one of the best home-field advantages in the league, and even though they might not be that good, the fact that theyre in first place gives the fans a reason to takeover. Meanwhile, five of the Chiefs six wins have come in Kansas City this year; theyre 1-4 on the road.

I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt the last time they were one-point favorites outside of KC, and they ended up surrendering 49 points to the Broncos. Cant do it this time, fellas. Im so sorry.

The Pick: Seahawks (1.5) The Game: Miami at Oakland (-3.5)

The Dolphins and the Raiders have identical records (5-5), but their NFL realities could not be much different.

On one hand, the Dolphins are done. Theres no way they can catch the Pats or Jets, and the wild card is essentially out of reach. Their quarterback situation is a disaster. Their No. 1 receiver might be down for a few weeks and Miami is 1-4 this season at home(!), which doesnt have any bearing on this week but is a sign of a team thats not going anywhere.

Then you have the 5-5 Raiders one game out of first place, with only the fading Chiefs and the injury-riddled Chargers standing in their way. Their QB situation is a disaster, too, but thats nothing new. Not really a surprise. Thats something this team is already prepared to deal with. Meanwhile, theyre 4-1 at home this season, and, despite that tough loss in Pittsburgh, playing pretty solid football.

The Pick: Raiders (-3.5)The Game: St. Louis at Denver (-4)

If youre Josh McDaniels, why not just make Tim Tebow the starting QB? I mean, your season might be over, but your job is still on the line. And the way youre doing it now which is essentially to let Kyle Orton fade back 40 times a game, and pray that Brandon Lloyd can pull a few catches out of his ass isnt working. Its clear that this team doesnt have it, and that something has to change. Is that something the head coaching position? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, why not give the fans a reason to cheer?

It doesnt matter if Tebows not ready. No ones expecting him to be. He can squirm and struggle and throw interceptions galore, but no ones going to turn on him. Not when he only has six weeks to work with! When he fails, hell be a rookie, but when he succeeds even if its just a touchdown or two a game hell be Lord Tebow! Broncos fans will go wild! So much so that theyll maybe forget about their struggling head coach.
The Pick: Rams (4) The Game: Tampa Bay at Baltimore (-7.5)

As I explained last week, at this point in the season, picking Buccaneers games is easy. They are, quite simply, the Best Worst Team in the NFL

They win every game that they should win, which is a testament to the work being done by Raheem Morris. They also lose every game they should, which is a testament to the fact that they just arent THAT great a team.

The Ravens and Bucs might have the same record, but we all know theyre not in the same league. Especially when the games being played in Baltimore.

The Ravens have a rematch with the Steelers coming up Week 13, so I guess theres a chance that theyll lack a little focus and let Tampa stick around, but until the Best Worst Team theory fails, Im riding it to the imaginary bank.

The Pick: Ravens (-7.5)The Game: Philadelphia (-3) at Chicago

This feels like the suckers bet of the week, but . . .

(Prepares to become a sucker)

. . . do we really think that the Bears can win this game?

I know that their defense is good, very good at home. And I know that they somehow bounced back from their midseason slump to win three straight games. Its just that when the Bears are bad, theyre so unbelievably bad. They might be 7-3, but two of those losses may have been the worst two performances any teams had all year. When I look at this team, those awful losses are all I see; they were too bad to actually be good. Does that make any sense?

Also, for what its worth, those two losses where the Bears scored two touchdowns and committed nine turnovers came to the Giants and Redskins. Chicagos just not at the NFCs East level (not counting Wade Phillips Cowboys, because neither were they).

The Pick: Eagles (-3)The Game: San Diego at Indianapolis (-3)

Its usually as easy as saying: Peyton Manning in primetime? OK, give me the Colts.

And . . . yeah, its still that easy.

Dont give me the excuse that the Colts are too banged up. Did you notice that Norv Turners actually listed as the Chargers third receiver for Sunday night?

The Pick: Colts (-3)The Game: San Francisco (-1) at Arizona

At 3-7, the Niners are somehow only two games back in the NFC West. Actually, I shouldnt say somehow. This was expected. The divisions a joke and not a funny one. A twisted joke where the punch line involves a little kids dog getting run over by a bulldozer. Its truly disgraceful.

But while its easy to look at the Niners situation and think, Ooh, theyre still in the hunt! Theyve still got something to play for!, Im not buying it.

First of all, the schedule doesnt get any easier after this. San Francisco still has games left at Green Bay and San Diego. Those are losses, which give Singletarys boys at least nine on the season. As bad as the West is, I still think the winner finds a way to finish .500. And second of all, its not a fluke that the Niners are 3-7. Sure, if a couple different plays had gone a couple different ways, they could have a few more wins, but when you look at their first 10 games, it becomes pretty obvious that this just isnt a great team. Their only wins have come against Oakland (before they figured it out), Denver (in London) and the Rams (at home, in OT).

Journey is going to be pissed at me, but its time to stop believing. The Niners arent winning the NFC West.

The Pick: Cardinals (1)The Record&8232;&8232;:
Last Week: 11-4&8232;2-1 on ThanksgivingSeason: 84-72-5

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Buchholz may have earned a spot in the postseason rotation, and with the 2017 Red Sox

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Buchholz may have earned a spot in the postseason rotation, and with the 2017 Red Sox

NEW YORK -- Clay Buchhlz's start Wednesday night didn't result in a win for him, or even, as it turned out, for his team. But that didn't detract from the brilliant effort he turned in -- six shutout innings, one hit allowed -- on the night that the Red Sox almost unwittingly clinched the division title.

”It was good to go out (and pitch well) in this place," said Buchholz Thursday, "because I haven't ever pitched well here. So it was gratifying to throw well against a club that, historically, I haven't thrown well against."

It's widely assumed that Buchholz will be the team's fourth starter in the post-season and as the playoffs approach, Buchholz is throwing the ball better than he has all season.

"Physically, I feel good," said Buchholz. "It's been an up-and-down year for me individually. You have to learn from the time when you're not doing your job, and sometimes, you have to take a step back. Moving to the bullpen wasn't exactly what I had mapped out in my head for me to do this year, but overall, it helped me out to take a deep breath and work on stuff."

MORE BUCHHOLZ: McAdam: Buchholz now limiting, rather than fueling, big innings

It was surprising that Buchholz was lifted after just 89 pitches, but John Farrell has appeared to be reluctant to have Buchholz go much beyond that since his return to the rotation in August.

"At that moment, obviously I wanted to go back out (for more)," said Buchholz. "But the way our bullpen's thrown (of late), I'd much rather give whoever comes in a clean inning rather than giving up a couple of hits in the seventh and have someone come in the game with runners on and making their job harder.

"As far as the pitch count goes, that's why John's the manager -- he has the reins on whether I go back out or not go back out, or how many pitches I'm going to throw. But I feel good. I could have gone out and thrown as many pitches as they wanted me to."

Having endured an up-and-down season, Buchholz has a renewed appreciation for the upcoming post-season.

"There was a bumpy road for a while," Buchholz said. "There were moments a little tougher than others, but this is our job and regardless of what position you put yourself in, you still have to go out and do your job. But knowing where we are now, I think this team's built right to go deep in the playoffs."

SOME STILL AREN'T BUCHHOLZ BELIEVERS: Bertrand: Even with good start, I can't trust Clay Buchholz

Buchholz doesn't have a guaranteed contract for next year, but the expectation is the Red Sox will pick up his option worth $13.5 million.

"I understand the business side of it," he said. "That's part of the game. But if I'm healthy and throwing the ball well, I feel like I'm going to have a job somewhere. This is the only place I've ever been and I'd love for it to be here.

"That's to be decided, I guess. I'm sure we'll talk about it after all this is over and done with. But I'm going to try to have as much fun while I'm here and I hope I'm back here next year."

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”

GREEN INJURY UPDATE

Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”

RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”

TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?

Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.