by Chris Corbellini
Week 13 Picks: Who wants the Lombardi Trophy?
Maybe they are keeping their intentions quiet, maybe they are don’t know it yet, maybe it’s the same-as-it-ever-was New England Patriots, but I’m still asking: Who desperately wants the Super Bowl Trophy this season?
(Shakes head) It’s a question I can’t answer yet. So far, I’ve seen four teams dig deep and play above their talent, or annihilate a team so thoroughly I simply couldn’t exclude them. I can’t pick one of the four as a favorite yet, but here they are:
-The Seattle Seahawks
-The New Orleans Saints
-The Los Angeles Chargers
-The Dallas Cowboys.
Drew Brees may have gifted the Cowboys that late interception on Thursday night, but still, that defense just pursues. They are too young defensively to really feel the stakes. With QB Dak Prescott the sneaky run threat offensively, I see Dallas winning its first playoff game, and perhaps surprising from there. The Saints at home are a rocket, and the fuse has already been lit, motivation-wise (get Brees one more ring). The Chargers have the same rally cry with Philip Rivers, and now that Melvin Gordon is out, the Bolts offense will really need him to grip it and rip it through the air. The Seahawks showed me grit against the Panthers last week, and grit will carry them in December, with three winnable games ahead — two vs. SF, and the regular season finale vs. Arizona — and they also play the Vikings and Chiefs at their ear-splitting Stadium.
Yep, sure, all of them have franchise QBs. I’m sure you’re shocked about that fact. But this foursome also boasts those signature moments a team can build a second season around:
-Seattle had that Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett 43-yard pass that set up the Janikowski FG to win it last week. It was a pearl of a throw, just football poetry on two different levels: 1) Wilson said “Remember me, d-ckheads? I’m still good at this” and 2) The coaching staff told all of us, whether true or not: “Look at us! Look! We’re a spread passing team now!”
-Dallas has the Brees interception. After all those head-shaking penalties, this Cowboys team still found a way to win it against the hottest QB in football. That got a rise out of the home crowd. This was important – as AT&T Stadium is not exactly an intimidating place to play.
-The Saints had the Eagles rout — the most impressive win of the entire NFL season.
-LA had that final goal-line stand in Seattle, batting Wilson’s final pass away, with zeroes on the clock, because the game couldn’t end on a penalty.
Of course, the Rams, Patriots and Texans are balling too, and they’ve had their moments through the first 12 weeks. Any of those three could peak during this holiday season, with the Rams being especially dangerous. LA could turn the playoffs into its run-and-gun playpen, routing one team after the next. And wouldn’t the NFL just love a LA-LA Land Super Bowl?
Still, my eyes are on that S-N-L-D foursome. Gonna be a fun December.
As always, home team in caps, with William Hill odds. I also added some percentages to correspond with the winners I picked – they represent the calculations made by The Quant Edge that those teams will cover the Vegas line. Full disclosure: I work at TQE as an advisor.
Carolina (-3) over TAMPA BAY (55.6%)
The Bucs will overcompensate and key on Christian McCaffrey in this one, after his two-TD, 100-100 rushing-receiving game last week against the Seahawks. I see Cam Newton and Greg Olsen getting chummy near the end zone more than once, and the Panthers winning it and staying in the NFC Wild-Card chase.
ATLANTA (-2) over Baltimore (57.5%)
Two starts. Two wins. The Lamar Jackson experience has been fun to this point. So much so his QB coach (James Urban) and offensive coordinator (Marty Mornhinweg) are due for raises, and perhaps promotions someplace else. Still, let’s see what happens when Jackson can’t play conservatively anymore – you know, when the Falcons, perhaps the most frustrated team in the NFL and losers of three straight, drop three Julio Jones TDs on the Ravens in the first half.
Indianapolis (-4) over JACKSONVILLE (58.3%)
The Colts are rolling – the winners of five straight. This game won’t be nearly as fast on Florida grass as it would be on Indy’s home turf, and tight end Jack Doyle is out for the year, and yet I still see Andrew Luck completing some throws into tight windows because he’s absolutely feeling it. You see it in his body language. That type of confidence is contagious – easily passed from offense to defense. Luck’s Colts win by a TD, and stick around in the AFC playoff picture.
PHILADELPHIA (-6.5) over Washington (63.5%)The Eagles at home, in primetime, against backup QB Colt McCoy? This one seems almost too easy, and Philly is banged up at running back, but regardless, I’m not overthinking this pick.
Last week: 3-1