NFL Predictions | Week 15: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football Predictions

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Massimo Russo NFL Predictions | Week 15: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football Predictions
Massimo Russo is a Co-Editor for Silverandbluereport.com. He blogs featured stories for pro football and the Dallas Cowboys, providing insights, trends and general topics, along with his weekly game-by-game matchup breakdowns and predictions during the NFL season.
Massimo Russo NFL Predictions | Week 15: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football Predictions
Massimo Russo NFL Predictions | Week 15: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football Predictions

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NFL Predictions | Week 15: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football Predictions
By Massimo Russo: Co-Editor Silver and Blue Report & Hook’em Report

cowboys fans rush 150x150 NFL Predictions | Week 15: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football PredictionsWho 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.

 

Joe Philbin Miami Dolphins NFL Predictions | Week 15: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football Predictions

Corner Turning Time
In his second season at the helm in Miami, Joe Philbin’s Dolphins are in the midst of the AFC wild-card playoff race. This Sunday, his Dolphins square off against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots with playoff implications on the line.

Week 15
Thursday Night Football, December 12 8:25 PM ET – TV: NFL Network
San Diego Chargers 6-7 @ Denver Broncos 11-2

No Wes Welker (Concussion), no worries for Denver’s offense. They’ll throw tight end Jacob Tamme in the slot in Welker’s place and work him along the same alignments with Julius Thomas. We know about the dynamic-tandem Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas present on the outside for Peyton Manning on making the Broncos the league’s most dangerous passing attack. How about the running game? Knowshon Moreno has been the prime ball-carrier and back that’s been a dangerous threat in the open field on screens and check-down’s, and rookie Montee Ball has been more than just a goal line option over the past two weeks. Ball has touched the ball 32 times on 67-plays from scrimmage in that span. Clearly, the Broncos are finding ways to give Moreno a breather and with Ball looking to be part of the mix often going forward, the Broncos’ offense will be more equipped and balanced come the postseason with another effective dimension added to an already prolific offense. The Chargers offense has enough ammunition to move the sticks and rack up points with Philip Rivers completing passes at 70.3-percent, but they need Ryan Mathews to consistently eat up extra yards on the ground. Last time both teams met on Nov. 10, Mathews’ longest run from scrimmage was 35-yards, but finished the day with only 24 more in his 14-carry for 59-yard performance. Keeping Denver’s offense off the field and controlling the clock will be a wise approach for San Diego here, but the way offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt likes to attack defenses with spread formations and taking shots downfield, I think will end up costing the Chargers in the end of a high-scoring affair. Broncos win the turnover battle and Manning moves closer to breaking Tom Brady’s record for most touchdowns thrown in a single season. Save the date, next week at Reliant Stadium, history will be made deep in the heart of Texas.
Pick: Broncos 38, Chargers 30
Final Score: Chargers (7-7) 27, Broncos (11-3) 20

December 15
1:00 PM ET
Washington Redskins 3-10 @ Atlanta Falcons 3-10 – TV: FOX

My verdict on Mike Shanahan’s decision to sit Robert Griffin III the rest of the way: Yeah, he can say that he’s been hit lots in the pocket and that since the team won’t be playing in the postseason, why risk him of getting injured and go through another rehabbing offseason. I get all of that, but you mean to tell me that he and Dan Snyder aren’t going to be taking a glimpse at Kirk Cousins, who potentially can run the offense more efficiently, and maybe, just maybe have them consider throwing Cousins on the trading block for draft picks they lost? What if Cousins plays lights out, or plays badly? He plays bad, I wonder if Snyder gives Shanahan the shaft for influencing him to give him the ok on benching RGIII. In any event, Washington’s offensive line has been dreadful and thinking they’ll protect Cousins better is a long shot. What a jigsaw-puzzled situation in Washington. At least Atlanta’s team owner Arthur Blank knows head coach Mike Smith has somewhat of an excuse on why things have gone miserably for last year’s NFC’s runner up, a slew of injuries. Matt Ryan’s been playing behind a bad offensive line and getting hit. Did they sit him? It takes a decisive quarterback that can get rid of the football quickly when the protection upfront is rocky. Make no mistake, the Redskins see potential in Cousins and I think he plays good, but Washington’s defense is just lifeless.
Pick: Falcons 34, Redskins 27

Chicago Bears 7-6 @ Cleveland Browns 4-9 – TV: FOX
In some cases, you stick with the hot hand. But Chicago head coach Marc Trestman sees things differently. Backup quarterback Josh McCown’s outstanding performance throwing for 348-yards, 4-touchdown passes, 1-rushing score and 0-interceptions against the Cowboys wasn’t enough for Trestman to keep McCown under center, as starter Jay Cutler has been cleared to play. Speaking of backups doing well, Jason Campbell has been operating Cleveland’s offense smoothly. He’s completing nearly 60-percent of his passes with 9-touchdown passes and only 3-interceptions. And he has a chance to continue his stellar play this week against a suspect Chicago secondary, particularly at safety. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron have been a scary duel for defenses to accompany, as both targets have been lighting it up on the field and becoming household names across the league. Cleveland’s porous running game may find some lanes against the league’s worst defense at stopping the run. Even in a blowout win over Dallas, Chicago’s defense allowed 198-yards on the ground. Still, I’m not expecting the Browns to do anything spectacular on the ground with Willis McGahee (concussion) out, probably done for the season and Chris Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker carrying the load. Cutler might be a little rusty from the start, and I’m sure he would’ve loved the chance to face a horrendous Dallas defense like McCown did. Cleveland’s secondary is a notch up from what Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and both Bennett’s, Martellus and Earl were running routes against on Monday, but I’m channeled and zoned into the playbook of Trestman that has me all wired up again like the earlier stages of the season. Jay/Trestman/Forte and all these spread-like formations with the backs leaking out on swing passes, and two Monster-like receivers on the outside, makes way for exploiting defenses.
Pick: Bears 30, Browns 21

Houston Texans 2-11 @ Indianapolis Colts 8-5 – TV: CBS
Case Keenum (Shoulder) looks good to go. The struggling rookie has had difficulty against blitzes and it’s going to be interesting without Gary Kubiak calling plays for the youngster, who was fired after the team suffered its eleventh straight loss. And now Wade Phillips, a non-offensive-mind at the helm as interim coach will look to right the ship with a positive spin the rest of the way. Personally, I don’t think Phillips will be promoted to head coach for the 2014 season when looking at his track record on how his last stint at head coach turned out across the way in Dallas before landing a D-coordinator position with the Texans. I just don’t think he’s the guy that will resolve Houston’s cloudy QB situation and plans they have in store this offseason in that regard. If Keenum is going to have comfort, he needs running back Ben Tate’s wheels to be moving like a racecar in this matchup. Lucas Oil Stadium will be loud, and if Indianapolis’ defense stuffs the run and puts Keenum in a good chunk of third and longs, you can take it to the bank that defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will throw the kitchen-sink at Keenum with a bunch of blitzes. Houston’s defense has the talent upfront to get after Andrew Luck, but I see him extending plays, making improvising throws, while the Colts D-line rattles Keenum’s pocket and forces a couple of ill-advised throws.
Pick: Colts 27, Texans 17

New England Patriots 10-3 @ Miami Dolphins 7-6 – TV: CBS
Just when you thought New England’s offense was ready to sail, boom, down goes Brady’s prime target Rob Gronkowski (ACL) for the season. Gronkowski has earned the right of being a household name, but there’s another tight end that’s been an eye-catcher over the last few weeks for me in Miami. When the Dolphins lost tight end Dustin Keller in the preseason, there was uncertainty on who would be able to take the role of Keller and be able to fill the void with production. Third-year tight end Charles Clay out of Tulsa has been better than solid in Keller’s spot this season, especially over his last four games, catching 24-balls for 294-yards and 3-touchdowns, two of his three cores came on Sunday against Pittsburgh with his second score being the decisive score as he shed a few tacklers before running it in from 12-yards out. Clay has 60-receptions for 678-yards and 6-touchdown catches, while also being an option in the back field with 6-carries for 15-yards and a score rushing on the season. I wonder if Keller would have better numbers than Clay had he not suffered a broken leg. I only see improvement coming from Clay going forward. That’s the main thing going on with the Dolphins, a team that’s moving forward with a formative plan. That’s the futuristic outlook side of things. We know what the opposition has to do against Tom Brady, and looking back at the their Week 8 battle, Miami’s defense was able to pressure the pocket and limit Brady from stretching the field with a then healthy Rob Gronkowski, who only caught two passes for 27-yards, and Brady threw for an unlikely slim 116-yards. It was the New England rushing attack that ran for 152-yards and offense that took advantage of three costly Miami turnovers. You’d expect New England to win the turnover battle again between the clubs, and that’s what Miami needs to do in order to win this game. Protect the football Miami. New England has had the upper hand in the take-away aspect of the game against opponents. Bill Belichick knows Miami will try to setup the deep-ball by going over the top on play-action to Mike Wallace, so I’d expect to see a safety over the top on Wallace and not much press-coverage at the line of scrimmage. Miami’s offensive line has been outstanding recently and the running game has showed up. On the defensive side of the ball, Miami’s linebackers better be up to speed with Brady throwing to his running backs out in the flats. Shane Vereen is an x-factor, but there comes a time when some kind of shift breaks in and Miami is onto something. New England will finish the season better and be crowned AFC East champs once again, but Miami has been sending signals across the league as one of the teams we should expect to see winning these kinds of games often as the days go on.
Pick: Dolphins 24, Patriots 20

Philadelphia Eagles 8-5 @ Minnesota Vikings 3-9 – TV: FOX
No Adrian Peterson (Groin), no big plays from Minnesota’s offense. Coach Leslie Frazier does feel more optimistic on Toby Gerhart’s (Hamstring) chances of playing. If Gerhart is inactive, the Vikings will go with Matt Asiata, a former undrafted free agent out of Utah that beat out Joe Banyard for the third running back spot during training camp. In the preseason, he ran the ball 19 times for 67-yards with one touchdown and caught 2 passes for 3-yards. Asiata’s talent level isn’t equipped to be a true featured back, and given that factor alone, I’d expect offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to have some kind of run by committee plan in the works without Peterson or Gerhart. Jerome Felton has some experience carrying the football, and look for him to be part of the mix. You have to give Frazier some credit-points for at least getting his team to play with some fire, while knowing their postseason aspirations were diminished weeks ago. The Eagles’ offensive line has been tremendous in both creating running lanes for LeSean McCoy and protecting Nick Foles, and I see them continuing to buy Foles time in the pocket to exploit Minnesota’s susceptible to the pass defense. McCoy should be able to have a solid game running the ball and option out of the backfield on screens. That’ll keep Foles upright as the Vikings defense will be keying on crowding the box to try to limit McCoy from getting in the open field. I would’ve liked Minnesota’s chances better at home with a healthy Adrian Peterson, and seeing the improvement from Philadelphia’s defense with defensive coordinator Billy Davis making adjustments, the Eagles have become a well-rounded team. Not enough mustard for Minnesota’s offense to score points against the smoking hot Eagles.
Pick: Eagles 37, Vikings 20

Seattle Seahawks 11-2 @ N.Y. Giants 5-8 – TV: FOX
Life Savor: I can only imagine the New York faithful calling in on WFAN sports radio, barking at Mike Francesa had Eli Manning never had two great late season surges en route to his two Super Bowl titles and MVP’s. What about Tom Coughlin? He probably wouldn’t be on the sidelines. Now, I’m not throwing dirt in both Coughlin’s and Eli’s faces. I know what they’ve brought to the table on proving they can win big is something you can never erase. And I’m definitely not saying it’s time to cut them loose, but general manager Jerry Reese and the Giants front office need to start looking down the road, particularly at how much longer Coughlin at age 67 has left in the tank to deal with a 24/7, 365 job. It’s going to be an interesting and critical offseason for Reese, as management will be looking into the future of the franchise. As far as the game goes, had this been the 07/11 version of Giants football with the best defensive line, I’d likely pick them to come away with an inspiring win, but with Jason Pierre-Paul (Shoulder) out, I don’t see how the Giants defense will be able to get after the swift Russell Wilson or be able to contain Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle running game. There’s no blood out in the ocean for New York to go chase, but a W at MetLife Stadium would clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs for Seattle. Only way to keep Seattle’s speedy pass-rush from heckling Eli Manning is by giving Andre Brown a heavy dose of carries. Seattle has had some deficiencies against the run, but they’re the group that smells blood like a shark here. Maybe Seattle returns to Jersey seven weeks from now. Feel me?
Pick: Seahawks 34, N.Y. Giants 20

San Francisco 49ers 9-4 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-9 – TV: FOX
The 49er defense has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher on the season, and Mike Glennon can’t be put in a situation where he has to throw often for Tampa Bay to come out victorious in this contest. San Francisco knows they can clinch a playoff spot with a win, an Arizona loss and a Dallas or Philadelphia loss or tie. Their defense has limited the opposition to 255.3-total yards and only 12.0 points during their three-game win streak. Running back Bobby Rainey rushed 22 times for 127-yards and a touchdown in the Bucs’ Week 14 win over the Bills, the only spark from the offense, as it was the defense that rattled Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel, sacking him seven times and forcing a bunch of turnovers. Stopping San Francisco’s bruising back Frank Gore will be the key for Tampa Bay’s defense that has been decent in containing the run. We’ve yet to see Colin Kaepernick’s arm rock and roll this season, but knowing that it’s crunch time, the leagues arguably best run-blocking offensive line will show up again. Saw them punch holes against Seattle’s top-notch defense upfront last week for Frank Gore to gash through late in the game. As long as Kaepernick doesn’t force the issue and protects the football, he’ll make enough plays in the passing game and do what he truly does best, improvise, extend plays and make plays with his feet.
Pick: 49ers 27, Buccaneers 14

Buffalo Bills 4-9 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 4-9 – TV: CBS
Maurice Jones-Drew (Hamstring) is questionable and will be a game time decision. If he can’t get the go, the Jaguars will turn to Jordan Todman, who displayed some of his athleticism by catching a 21-yard pass on a trickery-play from receiver Ace Sanders in Jacksonville’s win over Houston last week. Buffalo’s defense has been the best group at getting after the quarterback, 44-sacks, and the heat will be coming from Buffalo’s defensive front. And with that factor in mind, Chad Henne will need to use his feet like he did against Houston. The Bills will attack Jacksonville’s susceptible to the run defense on the ground with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, who look to bounce back after a putrid performance on the road in Tampa Bay. Buffalo’s offensive line needs to show up against a rejuvenated Jaguars team that’s won four of its last five games after starting the season 0-8. Jacksonville’s defense may not be capable of sacking Manual seven times like Tampa did, but they’re playing with a much higher motor and responding to rookie head coach Gus Bradley. That’s the difference between both franchises. Buffalo has more talent to build on for head coach Doug Marrone, but what about attitude and fundamentals of the game? Advantage Bradley’s team, a coach that had lots of influence in building Seattle’s top-tier defense as an assistant. Get my drift? Jacksonville might have struck gold in hiring Bradley.
Pick: Jaguars 26, Bills 20

4:05 PM ET
Kansas City Chiefs 10-3 @ Oakland Raiders 4-9 – TV: CBS

Kansas City’s defense is back on track after disappearing for three straight weeks, and I’m expecting Kansas City to derail Oakland’s subpar offensive line. In their first matchup back in Week 6, The Chiefs sacked Terrelle Pryor 9 times. Matt McGloin has shown more poise as a pocket passer, but if Oakland has a shot, they’ll need him to improvise and have a big day from Rashad Jennings to keep things close. Kansas City’s defense has shown its vulnerabilities against the pass when their pass-rush floundered, and McGloin will take shots downfield to Rod Streater and Andre Holmes. Plus, Denarius Moore’s (Shoulder) chances of playing are on the upswing to add another weapon at McGloin’s disposal. The more disciplined team is Kansas City. The Chiefs are a plus-15 in turnover ratio compared to the Raiders’ minus-3. Mainly, I like what I’m seeing in Kansas City’s offense opening things up more within the passing game. Jamaal Charles is still the focal point of the offense, but their 37-points per game average over their last three games, has lots to do with the progress of Alex Smith. Dwayne Bowe, a once 1,000-yard receiver is starting to get involved more, and I’ve been waiting for Andy Reid to unleash him in his west coast system. I think Bowe can still ball and it wasn’t so long ago that he had back to back seasons of catching 10 or more touchdown passes. Get him the ball.
Pick: Chiefs 30, Raiders 17

N.Y. Jets 6-7 @ Carolina Panthers 9-4 – TV: CBS
Carolina needs to take care of their home-cooking over the next two weeks. They start things off with the Jets this weekend and then host New Orleans the following week that could potentially be a battle for first place in the NFC south. Both defenses are the best units at stopping the run, Carolina ranked first, allowing only 79.4-yards per game and New York, 82.6. The Jets are chasing Baltimore and few other teams for the final wild-card spot in the AFC. They’re one game behind the Ravens, but lost to them in Week 12. The legs of running back Chris Ivory and quarterback Geno Smith helped New York’s offense sustain drives last week in their win over Oakland. They’ll need that same pedigree to kick in down south against a Panthers team looking to erase Monday’s blowout loss to the Saints. Bilal Powell has been used on third downs and in a change-of-pace role behind Chris Ivory. He’s averaging just 54-total yards over the last three games. They need more from him as a power back on third and shorts to plow through Carolina’s gang-tackling, ball-hawking defense that will make Powell and Ivory work for every inch. I’m not expecting a world of big plays on the ground from both offenses, but the more efficient squad that protects the football better will come out on top. Cam Newton has more sugar in the punch in the passing game that can stretch the field on passing downs. Unless New York’s beefy front that features Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples actually bring Newton to the ground, Cam will be the improviser, coming up with a few more difference making plays than Geno Smith.
Pick: Panthers 20, N.Y. Jets 9

4:25 PM ET
Green Bay Packers 6-6-1 @ Dallas Cowboys 7-6 – TV: FOX

This is a Classic-Game to endure here with two historic franchises going head to head in the “House That Jerry Built,” the billion dollar play-pin. Speaking of team owner/general manager Jerry Jones, I’m trying to figure out how the man thinks and believes that Monte Kiffin, Dallas’ defensive coordinator is the guy to get this horrendous defense fixed. But Kiffin and the dazed and confused Dallas defense could catch a huge break this Sunday, as Aaron Rodgers (Collarbone) won’t be throwing passes to dissect the league’s worst defense that’s giving up record setting numbers. Their defensive line has been banged up and filling in guys off the street, and mainly, DeMarcus Ware needs to up his game. To make matters worse, linebacker Sean Lee (Neck) is out, the only linebacker that can make something happen for the Dallas defense. I’d expect Mike McCarthy, Green Bay’s head coach to take a good look at a few teams that have exploited Dallas’ defense, Denver, San Diego, New Orleans, Detroit and Chicago by utilizing the backs James Starks and Eddie Lacy on some swing passes, screens and check downs in an area where Dallas’ linebackers have been caught out of position. Who’s to say that backup Matt Flynn won’t be able do the some damage? Didn’t a backup quarterback like Josh McCown in Chicago dismantle Dallas’ defense on Monday? Green Bay’s defense has also had their troubles, particularly against the run, ranked 25th, and that’s where the Cowboys’ offense will look to attack with DeMarco Murray, who’s been playing lights out averaging 6.0-yards per carry since returning from injury in Week 9. Green Bay’s defense has the nod in this matchup at getting after the quarterback and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan needs to take a second guess on going empty backfield when the Packers blitz. I’d avoid that if I was in his shoes, especially with Clay Matthews rushing on the outside or wherever Dom Capers decides to rush him from. The Cowboys should be able to run the ball effectively, giving Tony Romo and the Dallas offense balance, but it’s the defense that I don’t have any confidence in to come up with key stops. Flynn’s pocket might look better than Romo’s on passing downs. December is just a bad time of year for Jerry’s team. What’s the area code where Mike Holmgren and Jon Gruden are hanging out at? I’m thinking Jerry will be dialing their seven digits to get a hold of them by seasons end.
Pick: Packers 31, Cowboys 27

Arizona Cardinals 8-5 @ Tennessee Titans 5-8 – TV: FOX
With a sore elbow and all, Carson Palmer’s play has been up to par. He completed 27 of 32 attempts for 269-yards and a touchdown in Arizona’s bashing win over St. Louis. Tennessee’s secondary will be a more difficult task for Palmer to find large windows against the backend of the defense. Bruce Arians’ game plan should involve another sharing of touches between Andre Ellington and Rashard Mendenhall in the Cardinals’ backfield. Tennessee’s front is a much better group than perceived that can create havoc in the pocket for Palmer if they put him in long distance passing downs. Not a good setting for Chris Johnson, as he faces an Arizona defense that ranks third against the run, allowing 84.5-yards per game. Shonn Greene will need to be an effective spell-back in gaining the hard fought yardage against a swarming to the ball bunch of Arizona defenders. What I’m mostly impressed by with Arizona this season outside of their defense is, the play they’re getting on the offensive line in protecting Carson Palmer on passing downs. I think they protect him well enough, and I don’t trust Ryan Fitzpatrick to protect the football when the Cardinals pressure the pocket. Arizona ups Tennessee in field position, efficiency on third down and turnovers to help stay alive in the NFC wild-card race.
Pick: Cardinals 24, Titans 17

New Orleans Saints 10-3 @ St. Louis Rams 5-8 – TV: FOX
Trap game for New Orleans? Well, The Saints are a much different team away from home. They average 32.9-points and allow 15.4 per contest at Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but are scoring 18.8 and giving up 22.5 per game on the road. In their six road games this season, they’re .500 at 3-3. The Rams have pulled off some stunners this season and had the NFC’s top team, Seattle on the ropes on Oct. 28, and had back to back thrashing wins over Indianapolis and Chicago. Getting after Drew Brees is a common approach for opposing defenses. Brees became the fifth quarterback to eclipse 50,000- career passing yards last Sunday. He’s thrown 23 of his 33-touchdown passes while posting a 122.5-passer rating at home. On the road, he’s thrown 5 of his 8-interceptions, while displaying a passer-rating of 87.7. However, with all those differential statistical factors thrown out in the open, it all depends on what level of urgency or motor the Rams bring to the table. Robert Quinn and Chris Long, St. Louis’ top two pass-rushers will need to bring their A-plus game to disrupt the pocket. If the Rams can control the clock by running the ball with Zac Stacy, they can potentially keep Brees and the high-powered Saints offense off the field enough. New Orleans has the perfect setup to nullify St. Louis’ rush off the edge by swinging out running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles in the passing game. The moral of the story in this ball game is New Orleans’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who back in January was part of the Rams plans to assist head coach Jeff Fisher before backing out to go to New Orleans. I think we can all say that Ryan made the right choice by choosing a team better suited to make the postseason, and look at what he’s done by revamping a once dreadful Saints defense. He has Cameron Jordan anchoring the D-line of a unit ranked second in the league in sacks, 43 to make life miserable for the inefficient Kellen Clemens. I saw backup Austin Davis warming up at one point after Clemens was crushed on a sack last week. Don’t be surprised if Fisher throws him in the fold.
Pick: Saints 38, Rams 24

Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
Cincinnati Bengals 9-4 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 5-8

Had Antonio Brown been able to stay in bounds on the final play against Miami that would’ve been a miracle-win for Pittsburgh, keeping their playoff hopes alive, this game would’ve been more appealing to me. But with Pittsburgh in the realm of missing the playoffs for a consecutive season, only trying to knock off a Bengals team likely on its way to the playoffs might ignite the fire for old rivalry-sake. Cincinnati’s defense sports one of the league’s top pass-rushing groups. Nobody on the defense has more than7-sacks, 12 have registered at least 1 and 3 have 6 or more sacks. Pittsburgh has had trouble protecting Ben Roethlisberger. The offensive line has been hit with the injury-bug, a good reason for bad blocking with Roethlisberger being taken down 39 times, tied for third most amongst QB’s. The norm for the Bengals approach would be to continue to mix things up with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard, a tandem that’s been a handful for opposing defenses to deal with. The two backs have combined for 1,282-yards on the ground and 10-touchdowns, while Bernard also has 3-receiving scores as quarterback Andy Dalton’s check-down option when nobody downfield is getting separation. Although Roethlisberger and the Steelers passing game have found their stride, they need the running game and Le’Veon Bell to be able to work and be physical enough to keep Cincinnati’s defense honest. I don’t think they do, and I like Cincy to control time of possession and get a few more stops on defense to win this one.
Pick: Bengals 27, Steelers 20

Monday Night Football, December 16 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Baltimore Ravens 7-6 @ Detroit Lions 7-6

Please tell me you didn’t call Calvin Johnson “old” Matt Elam. Way to add fuel to the fire buddy. You really think that Matt? That “pretty old man” has 75-catches, 1,351-yards receiving and 12-touchdowns. You think an aging player would dominate and put up those numbers? He’s 28 years of age. You’re silly, just silly. You should get a taste of what it’s like trying to defend him on the jump-ball, hanging deep-pass that Matthew Stafford will chuck up to him in this ball game. They’re circling the wagon around you. I know that. How effective Reggie Bush (Calf), who says he’s ready to go, will be an interesting factor here. The Ravens defense can get after the quarterback and stop the run, but Joique Bell, Detroit’s spell-back is the more power-like runner and also effective in the screen-game and check-down option for Stafford on passing downs. He’s also an asset to the offense in terms of pass-blocking. With Bell and Bush, both backs that can tire a defense out from chasing them down because of being able to do so much in the running game, I’d expect them to get a great share of touches and work that Ravens front and get them moving. Detroit’s defense has also been a solid unit at stopping the run, and Baltimore’s running game just doesn’t have any volume going. They’re averaging less than 3-yards per carry, and they need Ray Rice gaining positive yardage on first and second down to neutralize the Lions’ defensive front by putting Joe Flacco in third and shorts. Having tight end Dennis Pitta back in the lineup is a plus for Baltimore as a third down option for Flacco, but it won’t be snowing this week and Detroit’s defenders aren’t going to be slipping and sliding trying to run down Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce like they did against Philadelphia. Detroit has the better running game and offense that usually shows up to the party at home. Dial it up Scott Linehan, 1-800-Megatron under ESPN’s bright lights.
Pick: Lions 31, Ravens 24

You can follow Massimo Russo on Twitter @NFLMassimo and SilverandBlueReport.com @SilverBlueRpt

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