Week 11 was another topsy-turvy one in American football, with the Rams shocking the mighty Broncos in St Louis, the Bucs winning their second game, beating the hapless Skins in Washington (well actually, Landover Maryland), and the Bengals rebounding from their disaster against Cleveland by layin some hurt on New Orleans in the Superdome: highlighted by the Saints refusal to tackle Jeremy Hill on a run up the middle with the clock expiring at the end of the first half.
Then there was New England doing a Groundhog Day impression on the Colts, with Jonas Gray laying 50 shades of whuppin on their D, running for 201 yards and 4 touchdowns, a virtual carbon copy of last year's playoffs when LaGarrette Blount did the damage. Well, Blount was gone from the Pats, but he was also gone from his new team, the Steelers: walking off the field and into the locker room in mid-game and getting released almost immediately. Blount cleared waivers and guess who signed him to a two-year contract? Yep, those same Patriots. The Chiefs rallied to beat Seattle, but couldn't do the same to start week 12, losing in Oakland as the Raiders finally got their first win of the season. But I had picked the Chiefs (though Oakland with the points) so my own week 12 is off to a kif-kif start.
BEST BET: DENVER (-7 at 1.97) vs Miami: The Dolphins can rush the passer, and the Broncos may be without either Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) or Julius Thomas (ankle) or both, but I'm guessing they play, and even if they don't Peyton Manning will rebound from the Ram game and play better at home. I also think he can beat a one-touchdown margin, especially when the Dolphins start to run out of air in the fourth quarter.
VALUE BET: ATLANTA (-3.5 at 2.02) vs Cleveland: The Browns are better than a lot of people think, and might improve with 6-3 225 lb pass catcher Josh Gordon back from suspension; Gordon gives Brian Hoyer a big downfield complement to undersized route-runner Andrew Hawkins and the surprising undrafted rookie, the equally undersized Taylor Gabriel. How ready Gordon will be remains to be seen.
But Atlanta have not had a 'real' home game in over a month (London isn't really their home) and they have traditionally been a tough task in the Bubbadome. I think it's time they settled down and played like they did in the first half at Wembley, before they realised they actually were on the road, and they may put enough points on the board early for Mike Smith and the coaching staff not to fritter the game away.
OUTSIDE BET: BALTIMORE (+3 at 2.06) at New Orleans: Drew Brees has never won a game against the Ravens, and the juju of the Superdome appears to have worn thin for the Saints. The Ravens remain tough defensively, though with Jimmy Smith out for the season they are vulnerable in the secondary, something the Saints would be able to exploit better if Brandon Cooks wasn't also injured. Sean Payton has never lost three in a row at home, so something does have to give, and I'm thinking with three points it might be the Saints. I did pick them straight up, however.
ONE TO AVOID: 'New York' Jets at Buffalo at Detroit: The massive snowfall outside Buffalo (this was a 'lake snow' which actually was worst around the stadium and not nearly so bad in the downtown area) had caused this game to be moved to Detroit, and to Monday night at 7pm, where CBS will broadcast it into the New York City and Buffalo markets, cutting into ESPN's Monday Night Football ratings. But the Bills haven't practised all week, and the Jets have practised being the Jest, an act which ought to travel just as well to one rust-belt city as another. It's been off most odds charts all week, and for good reason.