AFC North Week 13 Preview

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Welcome back and all that.  Each week, I’ll post a quick writeup of pending AFC North games, with a few notable points and, yes, timely, knowledgeable predictions regarding the games’ outcomes.

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.


Cleveland Browns @ Tennessee Titans
Sunday, December 6, 1:00 pm, CBS

The Browns, winners of their last three games, face the schizophrenic Titans, who appear capable of beating the best teams, yet failing miserably to some of the worst.  The Titans appear to play their best football against more talented competition, and it’s entirely possible we’ll see that here, as the talent on the Browns’ roster outstrips that of the Titans, at least offensively.

Scheme-wise, it would appear both teams employ similar game plans; run the ball – a lot – to set up their balanced passing attacks.  Neither team is known for their defensive prowess, so the outcome will most likely hinge on which team is able to contain the run best.  The Titans are -3.5 currently, which would make this about as even a matchup as we’ll see this season.

Tribal Guru: Browns 20, Titans 31
Me:  Browns 24, Titans 26


Cincinnati Bengals @ Miami Dolphins
Sunday, December 6, 1:00 pm, CBS

I actually feel for the Bengals.  This is an organization that generates just enough hope every so often to instill real optimism in their fans, only to cruelly snatch that optimism from them, toss it on the floor and stomp it into oblivion.  This season’s reckoning continues with the Bengals reeling from the loss of rookie QB Joe Burrow for the season, leaving the team to salvage moral victories and “small battles” for another lost year.

The Bengals and embattled backup QB Brandon Allen will face a middle-of-the-pack Miami defense that will most likely start their own rookie QB (Tua Tagovailoa) should he prove healthy enough by game time.   I doubt we’ll see much of a contest here, as the Dolphins, while no great shakes, scheme well and seem to have a no-nonsense, yes-coach sort of attitude about them.  I would expect them to remain focused and disciplined in their execution, while the Bengals…are the Bengals.

Tribal Guru: Bengals 17, Dolphins 28
Me: Bengals 10, Dolphins 30


Washington Football Team @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Monday, December 7, 5:00 pm, Fox

The Steelers receive a gift of sorts as they labor through their surprisingly undefeated, COVID-19-addled season in the form of the WTF (sorry, still not old) and its particular brand of gridiron ineptitude.  While the Steelers have been undoubtedly lucky thus far – most 11-0 teams are at times – there’s little chance they’ll need it here, as they should welcome back starting RB James Connor and C Maurkice Pouncey, solidifying the offense against the WTF’s lone real strength – their defensive line.  Other than securing extra protection for QB Ben Roethlisberger, there’s seemingly little else the Steelers need to do to have a successful, high-point-scoring day.

Pittsburgh will have to remain sharp against the rush, however, as the WTF has unearthed a suitable RB, 2020 third-round pick Antonio Gibson, from the smoldering remains of water-carriers Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice.  Gibson has a unique, vision-dependent rushing style that reminds me a little of Emmitt Smith; should his blocking be up to the task, Gibson could present some problems for the Steelers as they continue to rely on backup ILB Robert Spillane to contain interior rushes.

Tribal Guru: WFT 12, Steelers 25
Me: WFT 17, Steelers 28


Dallas Cowboys @ Baltimore Ravens
Tuesday, December 8, 8:05 pm, Fox

Given last week’s COVID-19 debacle, the Ravens are undoubtedly happy to not have to consider travel plans as they await the results of their latest round of tests, which will dictate how much of their decimated roster returns from COVID-19 protocols (or from the illness itself, as the case may be).  The Cowboys would seem to be a good team to “get right” against; given the struggles the Ravens were contending with prior to Thanksgiving, there’s no reason to assume the 2019 Ravens will suddenly appear and reset everything, but there’s optimism that competent football can be played if the roster returns to some semblance of full strength.  Note:  The Ravens are unsure whether starting QB Lamar Jackson will be available; he remains subject to the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols and could remain sidelined for this game as well.

Without going into great detail, I’ll simply say the Cowboys aren’t a very good team; while they have a few notable weapons on offense (RB Ezekiel Elliott, WRs CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper), their injury-depleted (and formerly vaunted) offensive line is a shell of itself, and backup QB Andy Dalton, despite his years of AFC North experience, isn’t known for his efficient reactions to pressure.  Looks for the Ravens to blitz often and to have some success doing so.

Tribal Guru: Cowboys 9, Ravens 41
Me: Cowboys 17, Ravens 30


See y’all there.



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