NFL Picks: Week 13

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NFL Picks: Week 13

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

When history calls, Ill always answer.

Unless a Seinfeld re-run is on, in which case I just have my secretary take a message.

But with LeBron returning to Cleveland on Thursday, I couldnt resist, and made my own Decision to hop a flight to Ohio and watch the madness unravel with some real Cavs fans. Ill be writing about it for Friday, so in turn, my NFL picks got bumped.

OK, not bumped. Just down-sized. Here we go for Week 13.

Good luck.

The Game: Houston at Philadelphia (-7)

The Eagles are the leagues second-highest scoring offense, while the Texans are the galaxys worst defenseas long as Rusty Smith isnt playing QB. Thankfully for Philly, their quarterback is slight better.

The Pick: Eagles (-9)

The Game: Buffalo at Minnesota (-5.5)

After this one, cue a barrage of sappy, suck-up stories about hownow that the playoffs are out of reachBrett Favre is just out there slinging it, and having the time of his life. Hes never had so much fun playing football! theyll write, as you violently slam your head against the wall like Gus Frerotte.

The Pick: Vikings (-5.5)

The Game: Cleveland at Miami (-4.5)

Brandon Marshalls likely playing, which should help the Dolphins cause. On the other side, Jake Delhommes likely playing, which should REALLY help the Dolphins cause.

The Pick: Dolphins (-4.5)

The Game: Denver at Kansas City (-9)
So let me get this straight, the Broncos dropped 49 points on the Chiefs three weeks ago, and now theyre nine point DOGS in Kansas City? Yeah, I guess it makes sense. Specifically, the dogs part. Also, dear Josh McDaniels, I know I said this last week, but what are you trying to prove by not playing Tim Tebow right now? Do you have Brandon Lloyd on your fantasy team or something?

The Pick: Chiefs (-9)

The Game: Washington at the NY Giants (-7)

Heavy favorites always scare me in the NFC East. Especially when that heavy favorite is so banged up at receiver that they brought Phil McConkey and Stephen Baker the Touchdown Maker in for workouts this week.

The Pick: Redskins (7)

The Game: Chicago (-3.5) at Detroit

With last weeks impressive win over Philly, and the Patriots on tap for next Sunday, this just wreaks of a trap game for the Bears. Cant you smell it? Its awful!

No, wait. Thats just the scent of Jahvid Bests fantasy season.

The Pick: Lions (3.5)

The Game: Jacksonville at Tennessee (-3)

I was looking forward to seeing Cortland Finnegan go head to head with Jacksonvilles No. 1 receiver until I remembered they dont have one. I know thats a unnecessary jab on a first place team, but with Kerry Collins back behind center, I think the Titans will right the ship a little this week. At least enough to take down the Jags at home.

The Pick: Titans (-3)

The Game: San Francisco at Green Bay (-9)

My dream scenario is for it to be so cold at Lambeua that the foam around Mike Singletarys mouth freezes into some sort of ice goatee. That would make my Sunday. Also, speaking of Singeltary, if hes smart hell just list Brian Westbrook as a Game-Time Decision. Just so he feels at home.

The Pick: Packers (-9)

The Game: New Orleans (-7) at Cincinnati

Despite the unraveling of Cincys season, Cedric Benson isnt ready to quit: I want to end with a bang! he told reporters this week. Hmm, maybe hes hinting at the Bengals making a run at Plaxico Burres? I cant think of a better destination. Except for maybe Philly.

The Pick: Saints (-7)

The Game: Atlanta (-3) at Tampa Bay

The biggest test yet for the Best Worst Team in Football theory. I cant turn my back on it now. Although, I will admit to being slightly worried about the Roddy WhiteAqib Talib. If Talib can keep Roddy under wraps, the Falcons offense might crumble. Also, how many struggling rappers out there are kicking themselves for not thinking of the name Aqib Talib before it became famous. The name alone would be worth a verse on the next Young Money mix tape.

The Pick: Falcons (-3)

The Game: Oakland at San Diego (-13)

This is a serious spread for a team whose top four receivers will either be playing hurt or not playing at all. Not to mention the fact that Mike Tolbert, San Diegos most consistentgoal line back is injured, too. Anyway, werent we just talking about this was the year the Raiders started to turn things around? That was like three weeks ago, right?

The Pick: Raiders (13)

The Game: Carolina at Seattle (-6)

Matt Hasslebeck did a pretty decent Jake Delhomme impression last week against the Chiefs, but hes not really that bad. However, Jimmy Clausen is, and when thrown into the madness that is Qwest Field, hell be wise to bring a change of Underoos to the stadium.
The Pick: Seahawks (-6)

The Game: Dallas at Indy (-5.5)

This is the toughest game of the week for me. I mean, the Cowboys were one easily-avoidable fumble from beating a very good Saints team, and more importantly, remaining undefeated in the post-Wade Phillips Era. On the other hand, Indy just looked so bad last week, and at home, too. Thats not supposed to happen. Anyway, in the end, I have to go with Indy. Mostly, because I dont see Peyton throwing up two clunkers in a row, but also because the Roy Williams fumble was more than just one easily avoidable mistake. It was just another example of a team that doesnt know how, or doesnt have the fortitude to consistently win games. Regardless of the coach.

The Pick: Colts (-5.5)

The Game: St. Louis (-3.5) at Arizona

The funniest thing that pot-stirring reporter could have said when asked about his altercation with Derek Anderson was:

Oh, I couldnt even hear him. A beat writer from San Francisco intercepted the words before they got to me.

Or something like that. Theres room for some improv.

One more thing: I have no problem with how Anderson handled his press conference. Its cool if the reporter wanted to ask the question once, but after that it was time to let it go. Just because someones laughing on the sideline doesnt mean he doesnt care. I see people smiling at funerals all the time. That doesnt mean theyre not grieving. Just that theyre human.
The Pick: Cardinals (3.5)

The Game: Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-3)

Vegas doesnt know whats going on here. And really, Im not sure either, but I do have a hunch, for whatever its worth. Both of these teams are dealing with injuries, and to important players along the offensive line. The Steelers have been hit a little harder, and have struggledwith the loss to the Pats and near, should-have-been, how-the-hell-wasnt-that-a-loss to Buffalobut at the same time, because theyve been dealing for a longer time, theyre more adjusted. The reserves are starting to feel a little more comfortable.

Meanwhile, the injury to Michael Oher is huge for the Ravens. The wound is fresh. And Im not sure theyll be ready for the biggest game of their season (so far)

The Pick: Pittsburgh (3)

The Game: NY Jets at New England (-3.5)

This just feels like a field goal game, doesnt it? Or maybe a one-pointer? Like couldnt you just see 17-16 or 24-23? But all that being said, the Pats are in a groove. They made an important statement on Thanksgiving. They proved that they could flec their muscles and blow a team out. It was the first time in sometimeeven with their big wins over the Steelers and Coltsthat you were actually in awe of their offense. And I think that carries over. Maybe not into a blowout, but at least enough to give them a four-to-seven point win.
The Pick: Patriots (-3.5)

Record:
Last Week: 5-11
Overall: 87-82-4

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

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.