I’m refraining from calling this a “prediction” piece this season. Predictions indicate one firmly believes something will happen and isn’t afraid to stand behind that judgment. In the NFL, nothing is certain except Roger Goodell’s poor judgment. That said, I’ll offer some form of prognostication, even if it’s lighthearted and not entirely backed up by evidence, but I really have no interest in how “correct” I’ll be.
As usual, these picks are for fun and should in no way be used for actual wagering purposes. That is, unless you want to make a ton of money in a legal forum, because we know more stuff and things about football than you do or something.
On to the games!
Baltimore Ravens (10-2) at Buffalo Bills (9-3)
Sunday, December 8, 1:00 pm, CBS
“Mirror images!” “Similar styles!” And so on. Both the Bills and Ravens sport young dynamic, mobile quarterbacks; beyond that, there’s not a lot to compare. The Bills currently sport the NFL’s #3 defense and #17 offense, so it’s pretty easy to divine where the bulk of their playmaking is coming from. They’ll have their hands full with Ravens QB Lamar Jackson and the league’s #2 offense and will have to produce a quality day offensively to counteract the Ravens #9 defense, which has quietly rebounded from its collective terrible start to the season. Look for both teams to double down on what they do best – run the football and use lots of play-action to produce short, controlled gains. I jokingly made a recent reference to rushing being the new passing in the NFL, but this doesn’t appear far from the truth with these teams – expect a gritty, slow game, at least while the Bills have the ball. One can also predict the final outcome pretty easily.
Ravens 27, Bills 17
Cincinnati Bengals (1-11) @ Cleveland Browns (5-7)
Sunday, December 8, 1:00 pm, CBS
Resurgent QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals finally notched their first win of 2019 in New Jersey last week against the toothless, inconsistent Jets, and while it should’ve spawned Mardi Gras-esque parties across the Queen City, few seemed to notice or care. Now that the first one’s out of the way, look for the Bengals to resume their terrible ways to potentially retain their rights to 2020’s #1 overall draft pick, although it remains to be seen what, exactly, they’d do with it. The Browns are understandably angry with themselves for last weeks’ defeat in Pittsburgh, so expect their play to reflect that anger. This normally isn’t a good thing, but against this Bengals defense, positive offensive output is easy to come by. Indeed; the Bengals’ split of 14.9 PPG v. 24.8 PAPG represents the largest margin of points discrepancy currently in the NFL, and if those numbers continue, the Browns (and everyone not named the Jets) will have an easy time posting wins against them.
Bengals 20, Browns 35
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-8-1)
Sunday, December 8, 4:25 pm, CBS
Yet another team that’s winning on defense, the Steelers have clawed and scratched their way back into the playoff picture despite the rocky tenure of backup QB Mason Rudolph, whose benching has allowed the Steelers to simplify their game plans and play controlled, field-position-dependent offensive football. This may suit their current roster makeup better overall, as it lessens the expectations put on third-string QB Devlin “Duck” Hodges and allows their #5-ranked defense to dictate game action and produce turnovers. Cardinals rookie QB Kyler Murray remains very much in Offensive Rookie of the Year consideration and will provide a nice challenge for the Steelers’ battle-tested secondary. This game will focus on ball control; expect the Steelers to move very slowly on offense in an effort to keep Murray and his quick-strike capabilities off the field. In what’s becoming a familiar theme in Pittsburgh, this will be a low-scoring, ugly affair.
Steelers 20, Cardinals 18
Eat, drink, watch. Enjoy!