NFL Predictions | Week 13: NFL Football Picks and NFL Football Predictions, with Massimo

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Massimo
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
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NFL Predictions | Week 13: NFL Football Picks, NFL Football
By Massimo Russo: Co-Editor Silver and Blue Report & Hook’em Report

NFL, Dallas Cowboys, Cowboys, Massimo Russo Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers will square off in a potential NFL Super Bowl Preview at Lambeau Field. Plus the Broncos and Chiefs meet in a marquee AFC West battle at Arrowhead Stadium, while the Ravens host the Chargers in a pivotal AFC matchup with playoff implications on the line.

Sunday, November 30

1:00 PM ET
Washington Redskins 3-8 @ Indianapolis Colts 7-4 – TV: FOX
Could be a trap game for Indianapolis and the Redskins have a strategy that could get the best of the vulnerabilities Indianapolis’ defense has had defending the run. Washington head coach Jay Gruden uses power concepts within their zone-based-stretch running scheme behind bruising running back Alfred Morris. This element could negate Colts’ linebackers D’Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman from being run stuffers against the run, and relying on Morris on early downs to set the pace for Washington’s offense will be the lead-way for Colt McCoy on passing downs. In McCoy’s start against the Cowboys on Oct. 27 – the Redskins ran the ball 31 times to 30 pass attempts from McCoy, who was placed in short distance passing downs, and primarily –committing to Morris and the ground game helped setup the deep pass to the ever so dangerous speedy receiver DeSean Jackson. Look for Gruden to run the ball lots against Greg Manusky’s blitzing fronts to get the play-action going for McCoy.

Defensively, the Redskins have a defensive coordinator in Jim Haslett that could throw lots of different looks and pressured fronts at Andrew Luck. And pass-protection is more susceptible for Indianapolis without running back Ahmad Bradshaw in the backfield to be used as an extra-chipper on the edges. Look for Colts’ offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton to use his tight ends and backs against Haslett’s extra fronts, and though the Colts like to attack vertically – I like them deploy some crossing routes and quick slants – along with the screen-game against Washington’s physical corners in David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland for Luck to get the football to his receivers. Hilton will be best to gain yards after the catch and get Amerson and Breeland to move horizontally. Not to mention – Luck doesn’t get happy feet in the pocket and his improvising is one of his key-traits in being one of the games best signal-callers.
Pick: Colts 27, Redskins 17 

Tennessee Titans 2-9 @ Houston Texans 5-6 – TV: CBS
Looks like the Texans want the injured for the season Ryan Mallett (pectoral) back next season. With that in mind – I wouldn’t shoot down any plans for general manager Rick Smith and the front office to go hunting for a quarterback in the 2015 draft. In any event, they have five games left to play and its back to the guy that started things off under center in Ryan Fitzpatrick to manage Houston’s offense. The Texans lean heavily on their running game and they’ll continue to do so this Sunday, especially knowing Tennessee’s run defense has been dreadfully awful this season. And with Arian Foster (groin) expected to return – and Alfred Blue sharing the touches, running behind their zone-blocking scheme – only a masterful game plan from Tennessee defensive coordinator Ray Horton stacking the box will be able to contain the strengths of Houston’s offense. Tennessee’s running game has been the total opposite of what the Texans have displayed this season, and Texans’ D-coordinator Romeo Crennel will waste no time crowding the box – making Tennessee’s offense a one-dimensional show – putting it all on the rookie Zach Mettenberger to throw often. And Tennessee’s subpar offensive line will have their hands full against J.J. Watt, who Crennel will use on stunts – lining him up on the interior and exterior of Houston’s D-line to rattle Tennessee’s protection schemes.
Pick: Texans 23, Titans 13     

Cleveland Browns 7-4 @ Buffalo Bills 6-5 – TV: CBS
To prevent Brian Hoyer from finding comfort in the pocket, Buffalo’s dominant front four needs to derail the pocket and win their battles upfront when the Browns run the football with Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. In Browns’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s system – running off of zone-based concepts, getting his backs to use their cut back lanes are the objectives to neutralize their opponents from getting into the backfield for negative running plays. The Browns will try to get both backs going early, and if the monsters of Buffalo’s D-line that sports defensive tackles (Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus) and defensive ends (Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes) does a solid job of limiting Cleveland’s backs from getting positive runs, the play-action pass the Browns have used as their success tool when they throw the football won’t work to their advantage. In coverage, Buffalo’s defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a physical cornerback in Stephon Gilmore, who can press Cleveland’s star-receiver Josh Gordon on the perimeter. Giving Gordon a free release off the snap isn’t the smart way to defend him and safety help over the top is a must for Schwartz’ secondary to take away game-breaking plays from the elite receiver. Fred Jackson and Anthony Dixon running by committee on power-based run plays needs to applied against a Browns’ defense that’s had their woes on defending the run, and like Buffalo’s defense looking to take away Cleveland’s biggest threat in the passing game — Browns’ cornerback Joe Haden’s matchup against Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins will also be an imperative battle to decipher the success of Kyle Orton converting on critical passing downs. Special teams and field position will need to be looked at between these two clubs, but in the realm of getting off the field on third down and pressuring the pocket, Buffalo has been far more consistent than Cleveland against the run and making plays on the defensive side of the ball to help them prevail.
Pick: Bills 22, Browns 16

San Diego Chargers 7-4 @ Baltimore Ravens 7-4 – TV: CBS
The injury-bug keeps spreading for San Diego. Rich Ohrnberger became the Chargers’ third center placed on injured-reserve this season, joining Nick Hardwick and Doug Legursky. Chris Watt, a third round draft pick will be the starter the rest of the way – barring any other injuries at an important position on the interior of the Chargers’ offensive line. Baltimore runs a hybrid version of the 3-4 under defensive coordinator Dean Pees — a scheme aimed at stopping the run and getting pressure on the quarterback. Pees’ four-man rotation at outside linebacker features a stout group in Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Pernell McPhee and Courtney Upshaw. San Diego runs the same version of the 3-4 but Baltimore has the better talent, and when it comes to stopping the run, the Ravens’ defense has been one of the best in football. The recipe for the Chargers to come away with a victory will be to stop Baltimore’s Justin Forsett, and though linebackers Manti Te’o, Donald Butler, Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney need to focus in with gap control against the stretch-running plays of the Raven’s ground game – safety Eric Weddle will also be vital, crashing down in the box as a head-hunter of John Pagano’s defense. When the Chargers have the ball – it’s about keeping Philip Rivers upright.

In three of San Diego’s four losses this season, Rivers was sacked 7 times – turning the football over 10 times. Last season – when the Chargers made their second half push in route to the playoffs, running back Ryan Mathews and the Chargers’ running was a big part of their success, and they’ll need Mathews and Branden Oliver to negate Baltimore’s rush with positive yards on early downs to keep Rivers out of low-percentage passing opportunities. The weakness of the Ravens’ defense has been their secondary and Rivers has some targets that could hurt a defense in receivers Kennan Allen, Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal – plus tight end Antonio Gates presents challenges for Baltimore’s linebackers and safeties in coverage, particularly in the red zone where Gates has caught 9 touchdown passes. Baltimore’s running game has given their offense the balance it needs, and the Ravens have the elements in this matchup to keep Rivers from exploiting their defense.
Pick: Ravens 23, Chargers 17

N.Y. Giants 3-8 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 1-10 – TV: FOX
Denard Robinson is a versatile weapon for Jacksonville’s offense. He has good vision and the ability to cut back inside and outside to create his own space to burst past defenders in the open field for large gains – a factor on the statistical metric sheet that has him averaging 4.5 yards per carry. The formula for New York’s defense will be to diminish him from making plays – whether it’s on the ground or as a pass-catcher in the screen-game. Currently, New York’s defense is reeling without quality starters at linebacker due to injuries, and If Jameel McClain (knee) and Jacquian Williams (shouder/concussion) are to miss the game, Perry Fewell’s defense will be rolling with Devon Kennard, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger to be disciplined on gap control, not letting Robinson catch them out of position, keeping him in front of them.

Robinson is the pace-setter and creative asset on play-selection for Jacksonville’s offense, and if Fewell’s unit allows him to get things going from the start, Jaguars’ rookie quarterback Blake Bortles will be able to operate effectively off the play-action to get the football to receivers Allen Hurns and Cecil Shorts III. New York’s offensive line is another area of concern – it’s been throughout most of the season, but with running back Rashad Jennings healthy, a back that’s used on swing passes out of the backfield, it helps Eli Manning get rid of the ball quickly – keeping him from taking shots in the pocket. That would be one of the few elements the Giants will use to negate Jacksonville’s respectable defensive line – plus Jacksonville’s defensive backs Demetrius McCray, Jeremy Harris, Josh Evans and Johnathan Cyprien will get to see a star in the making in Odell Beckham Jr. before their eyes, a receiver in this matchup that has a slew of opportunities to see lots of open spaces for Manning to play pitch and catch with.
Pick: N.Y. Giants 30, Jaguars 17

Cincinnati Bengals 7-3-1 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-9 – TV: CBS
Footballs craziness has a way of proving more than that “Any Given Sunday” truth of the deal. At 2-9, the Bucs have a shot at the division with both the Saints and Falcons leading the NFC South at 4-7. Hell, even Carolina at 3-7-1 has a shot. Clearly the Bengals have the better all-around team and we have some interesting matchups that look real sexy at the receiver position. I’ll get back to that in bit – as I’m going to defense first, and when it comes to defense for the Bengals, having linebacker Rey Maualuga back from injury has improved the Bengals’ defense. Their unit will be even better Vontaze Burfict’s knee can recovery soon for the team down the stretch in a tight division race in the AFC North. The return of Doug Martin at running back last week for the Bucs didn’t make much of a difference for an ongoing ineffective running game, and if head coach Lovie Smith’s team is going to defeat Cincinnati at Raymond James Stadium this Sunday – it’ll be Josh McCown airing it out to his tall order of receivers in Vincent Jackson and star-rookie receiver Mike Evans. Cincinnati’s group of veteran defensive backs Leon Hall, Terence Newman and Reggie Nelson have been fairly sound in pass coverage, but the athleticism of Tampa Bay’s dynamic receivers have been a mismatch for most backend of defenses to handle – so getting pressure on McCown and keeping the Bucs’ running game on the downside of things will disrupt any balance and efficiency from their opponent. The major difference of identity has the arrow pointing up for the Bengals in this game. Their running game has arguably the best mix of changing the pace – utilizing Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. Unless Gerald McCoy of the Bucs’ defensive line dominates on the interior to free up the outside rush, Andy Dalton will be able to dissect the zone of Tampa Bay’s secondary. The Bengals should be able to get their backs going early and since A.J. Green has put his toe-injury behind him, he’s had two straight over 100 yard receiving games and 24 catches. Dalton looks much better with his bread and butter target at his disposal.
Pick: Bengals 30, Buccaneers 20

Oakland Raiders 1-10 @ St. Louis Rams 4-7 – TV: CBS
The Rams’ defense has improved upfront on getting after the quarterback over their last six games – recording 21 sacks, after bringing quarterbacks to the ground only once in their first five. To add more ammo to their D-line to be a counterpart on the opposite side of Robert Quinn, Chris Long is expected to return on the outside-edge at defensive end from an ankle-injury he suffered in Week 1. Getting pressure on what looks to be a promising franchise quarterback for Oakland in Derek Carr will be the prime objective for Gregg Williams’ defense. Carr hasn’t been sacked much this season…In fact – he hasn’t been sacked in five of his eleven starts. And the Raiders’ offensive line has been protecting Carr well without any pluses coming from their running game — other than what they got out of Latavius Murray in their lone win on the season over the Chiefs last Thursday. Murray (concussion) failed to pass the protocol – leaving Darren McFadden, who hasn’t received more than 18 carries in a single game this season to be the prime ball-carrier.

Get it? The Raiders are an air it out first team, and that suites best for Williams’ unit to be geared up to send lots of pressure towards Carr. Charles Woodson is one of the best on playing up at the line of scrimmage at the safety position to help the Raiders’ defense on wrapping up running backs, and he’ll be a vital part for Oakland’s defense on keeping St. Louis’ running back Tre Mason in check. The Rams have a group of receivers that don’t stand out with the echelons of the league, but Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are better than what the numbers tell you. Mainly, St. Louis’ offensive production has been much better than Oakland’s in the red zone, and I’m favoring the Rams’ running game to be a step up on the Raiders to help Shaun Hill have a cleaner pocket than what the inept Raiders’ ground attack will give for Carr.
Pick: Rams 23, Raiders 16 

New Orleans Saints 4-7 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 7-4 – TV: FOX
New Orleans’ pass rush hasn’t been nearly as effective as it was in 2013, and to make matters worse, their run defense hasn’t been the aid for Rob Ryan’s unit, neither. Ryan’s defense has been torched on all accounts from their opponents, and next up on the docket for his group is the bona fide offensive weapons of the Steelers’ offense. Though Ryan’s unit hasn’t been able to gain any consistency from his down-lineman of New Orleans’ 4-3 base, he still possesses some talent that could use a proper strategy against a Steelers’ offensive line that’s made rush-men get to Ben Roethlisberger for 30 sacks this season. Look for Ryan to use some blitz-fronts and deploy his top rushers upfront in Cameron Jordan, Akiem Hicks and Junior Galette on stunts to get after Roethlisberger. Getting after Roethlisberger isn’t the only objective on Ryan’s menu – as the Steelers sport one the league’s top backs (Le’Veon Bell). Out of the shotgun formations – Bell is used on draws, screens and shovel passes as an every down back due to his receiving skills. Whenever Bell has his hands on the ball – his savviness and patience on waiting for an open lane allows him to use his cutback skills on getting into the second levels of defenses for positive gains. And it’s imperative for New Orleans safety Kenny Vaccaro and their linebackers to keep him from doing damage against their defense.

New Orleans needs to be able to establish some semblance of a ground game. Otherwise, a repeat of last Monday is a realistic scenario for the Saints. Pittsburgh’s defense is as talented as Baltimore’s, but they do have one of the brightest minds to ever run a defense in Dick LeBeau. Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas are a good-combo for New Orleans’ offense, but the more deciphering area for LeBeau’s defense will be limiting Drew Brees’ supremely talented tight end Jimmy Graham. Pittsburgh’s linebackers and defensive backs have struggled defending tight ends and have allowed a tight end to score in each of their last four games. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons and free safety Mike Mitchell will likely be assigned to minimizing Graham by getting physical with him to try to disrupt his routes as much as they can. You can’t really stop him, but if Pittsburgh’s defense can keep Brees from connecting with him in red zone – it would be a W for them. The physical approach will also need to be deployed on the other side of the fence for New Orleans’ defense. Saints’ cornerback Kennan Lewis may not have the speed to keep up with Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, but halting his routes by pressing him off the snap is the best suited strategy. The Saints have been a different team away from home in recent years, and I’d like to think they’d finally put forth a good performance, but until they do – my confidence in Sean Payton’s remains low.
Pick: Steelers 34, Saints 27

Carolina Panthers 3-7-1 @ Minnesota Vikings 4-7 – TV: FOX
Carolina’s offensive line has been a mess. Injuries haven’t helped the cause of bad pass-protection and the make-shifting has forced head coach Ron Rivera’s team to ride with a seventh different starting lineup this season. One of the principles of offensive coordinator Mike Shula’s offense is to get the zone-read working at its best level — and with the return of Mike Tolbert, a fullback/halfback from injury for short yardage purposes – it gives his offense the luxury to open up the playbook. Tolbert is a physical presence the Panthers have lacked in their backfield that helps in protection and as an option leaking out in the flats off the play-action – drawing a linebacker to spy on him when he’s in on passing downs. Minnesota has five key players in their back seven – safety Harrison Smith, linebacker Anthony Barr and cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn, Josh Robinson and Xavier Rhodes to determine the outcome against a Cam Newton led Carolina offense.

Surely, Minnesota’s D-line will look to take advantage of an ailing Panthers’ offensive line, but pass-coverage will be critical on technique. Kelvin Benjamin is a tall specimen on the perimeter that Newton has connected with on vertical attempts, and whether it’s Robinson, Munnerlyn or Rhodes defending Benjamin, funneling him to the inside will take away his deep-threatening ways. Barr will be responsible for not getting frozen off the play-fakes, and when Newton gets out to the edges off the option, he’ll need to keep him from taking over the game with his feet. Safety Harrison Smith will roll over the top on Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen can get behind Minnesota’s linebackers on seam-routes, and when the Panthers have red zone opportunities it will be important for Smith in coverage to limit Olsen from getting open. Minnesota’s top-back Jerick McKinnon will miss the game with a back-injury – placing the Vikings’ ground attack in a run-by-committee setting with Matt Asiata, Joe Banyard and potentially Ben Tate. Teddy Bridgewater is still in the learning process and needs to improve from the pocket before he can start generating more downfield completions. He may get the chance to have his best vertical-passing day against a non-quality Panthers’ secondary, but as far as the plan goes for him — look for offensive coordinator Norv Turner to draw up a game plan for the rookie to attack the weaknesses of Carolina’s cover 2 zone defense on check-downs to the backs and to his tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Chase Ford between Carolina’s linebackers. The underneath routes will be worked lots for both offenses, but in terms of harassing the pocket, the Vikings have the edge and talent to win their matchups against a struggling group of Panthers’ pass and run-blockers.
Pick: Vikings 17, Panthers 14  

4:05 PM ET             
Arizona Cardinals 9-2 @ Atlanta Falcons 4-7 – TV: FOX
It was all Russell Wilson’s improvising from the pocket with his nifty feet and speed, galloping through the swarm of rushers and blitzes from Todd Bowles’ defense to end the Cardinals’ six-game winning streak last Sunday at Seattle. Bowles’ unit continued to stop featured runners, holding Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch to just 39 yards rushing on 15 carries despite the loss. Nobody blitzes more than Arizona and Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan is your prototypical pocket passer.  On Arizona’s front of their defense, they have big bodies in Calais Campbell, Dan Williams and Frostee Rucker getting consistent pressure off the snap, winning their one-on-ones – while the rest behind them play towards the box, and the hybrid X-Factor of their defense is rookie safety/linebacker Deone Bucannon, who’s been dynamo against the run. Needless to say how talented Arizona’s top two corners (Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie) are, but how they lock up on the outside against Atlanta receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, Ryan’s top two pass-catchers will be crucial in this matchup.

Atlanta’s running game has been silent, but that doesn’t leave out the notion of making Steven Jackson, Devonta Freeman and Jacquizz Rodgers get their share of touches to keep Arizona’s defense honest. Still, Ryan is going to need some comfort to perform well and have time in the pocket against Arizona’s rush. Dirk Koetter, Atlanta’s offensive coordinator better find ways to get the screen game going, and when it comes to throwing the football – he needs to get the football to his playmakers on short and quick passing concepts – bubble-screens, slants, and on the outside – put trust in the extreme abilities of Julio Jones to out-muscle and jump either Cromartie or Peterson, who’ll be pressing him in coverage. I like the signing of Michael Bush to add some pop to Arizona’s backfield to accommodate with Andre Ellington. The Cardinals’ running game hasn’t been the bright spot of their offense, but Ellington has done lots of damage in the screen-game. What about coaching? Bruce Arians gets the nod over Mike Smith, and when it comes to trust here — trusting the Falcons’ offensive line to protect Ryan is on the downside from what I’ve been zooming in on.
Pick: Cardinals 24, Falcons 17 

4:25 PM ET             
New England Patriots 9-2 @ Green Bay Packers 8-3 – TV: CBS
The battle of the Elite number twelves between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady at historic Lambeau Field has me excited on breaking down this matchup. Here’s the deal: Don’t be expecting a slew of sacks from both defenses – Brady and Rodgers won’t be holding onto the football long – as both of them are dynamite on reading coverage’s before the snap. So…it comes down to which defense plays better in coverage, and watching New England take Detroit’s dynamic duo of Tate and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson from making plays last week – New England’s defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has the best defensive back tandem in the game. Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner gives New England’s defense the luxury of manning them up on the opposition’s best receivers – deploying their hands and disrupting them off the ball. Packers’ receiver Jordy Nelson is the best receiver in the game on running the double moves on the perimeter — while Randall Cobb is the more explosive option for Rodgers the Packers could use on motioning him around to potentially catch the backend prowess of New England’s secondary out of position.

The Patriots could mix things up in coverage with Revis, Browner and Kyle Arrington in coverage on Nelson and Cobb, but the keys for Green Bay’s passing game will be getting creative and lining Cobb up in multiple spots against them. The Patriots use Shane Vereen to create to take away the oppositions defenders from Brady’s main-reads, but the players I’m circling in on for Green Bay’s defense are Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett, who I’m expecting Packers’ defensive coordinator Dom Capers to try to contain the incomparable Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski. How they both fare against him will be one of the key factors on Brady having a big game against Green Bay’s defense. Hoe about the run game? Well, you never know who the Patriots are going to run at you, but whoever it is between Jonas Gray or LeGarrette Blount, New England will look to take advantage of Green Bay’s weakness of defending the run to keep Rodgers on the sidelines. The Packers should do the same on leaning behind power back Eddie Lacy, who’s been much more involved on the ground. Both offenses will look to control the clock to try to keep the oppositions offense off the field, but in the grand scheme of things – its comes down to passing and I like everything New England’s secondary is doing at the moment. The moves they made in the offseason to bolster their pass defense, helps them in matchups like this. In an exciting extravaganza, New England nips the Pack.
Pick: Patriots 34, Packers 30  

Sunday Night Football in America 8:30 PM ET – TV: NBC
Denver Broncos 8-3 @ Kansas City Chiefs 7-4
With Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman both out with injuries, C.J. Anderson has stepped up largely for Denver’s ground attack. Anderson ran for a career-high 167 yards against Miami, and the balance he’s brought to Denver’s offense will be part of their plans at the point of attack against a Chiefs’ defense that’s been weak against the run. And with Eric Berry (bless his heart on fighting cancer) out, defensive backs (Sean Smith, Jamell Fleming, Ron Parker and Husain Abdullah) won’t bring the same strengths of hovering over the top on trying to defend Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders for Kansas City’s pass defense.  Where the Chiefs do have hopes in slowing down Denver’s prolific offense is on the edges with outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, both combining for 18 sacks that could get after Peyton Manning. The Broncos have done some shuffling on the offensive line this season, and Louis Vasquez is now at right tackle. Ryan Clady will be protecting Manning’s blind side and Vasquez will have the more challenge task on trying to contain Houston, who leads the league with 13 sacks. On the interior where Manny Ramirez, Will Montgomery and Orlando Franklin stand – I’m expecting to see some double-teaming on Chiefs’ big and beefy defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

Poe can dismantle the execution of opposing offensive lines, and if he’s able to get into the backfield and get in Manning’s face, it’ll help Kansas City’s outside rush immensely. Manning has shown to be rattled when he’s hit often and pressured (take a look at the Rams win against him) and you’ll see the proper way of keeping him from doing what he does best. Jamaal Charles is the main man that rides the Chiefs’ offense within their methodical and physical principles of moving the football. And unlike Kansas City’s struggles on stopping the run, Jack Del Rio’s defense has fared much better. Charles isn’t just a factor on the ground and Alex Smith will look to get him the football on screen-based concepts out of the backfield in open space. Without any doubt, limiting DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller is an objective for Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid, and Charles and the Chiefs’ ground attack – along with using the underneath passing game can negate them. The two players that standout most to me for Denver’s defense in this matchup is linebacker Brandon Marshall and safety T.J. Ward. The Chiefs don’t attack defenses vertically, so Marshall and Ward need to be ball-hawks on stuffing the run — and Ward needs to keep tight end Travis Kelce from using his speed in the open field after the catch to move the chains. The Chiefs can keep Manning and company off the field by controlling the tempo on the ground, but losing Eric Berry is a significant loss. Unless Manning is hounded for four quarters, the Broncos’ offense should do more than Kansas City’s when in striking distance.
Pick: Broncos 27, Chiefs 20

Monday Night Football, December 1 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
Miami Dolphins 6-5 @ N.Y. Jets 2-9
Simply put, the Dolphins have a fearsome pass rush led by one of the games best edge-rushers in Cameron Wake, and the Jets’ offensive line has been in shambles when it comes to protecting the quarterback. Geno Smith back under center doesn’t bring any hope for the Jets’ sloppiness on offense to turn things around against Miami’s opportunistic defense. Offensively for Miami, they don’t need their running game to be superb against the Jets’ defense – Lamar Miller and his spell back Daniel Thomas just need to avoid negative plays and all that creativity before the snap in Bill Lazor’s system will come in handy. I don’t know if many really notice the growth and improvement Lazor has influenced on Ryan Tannehill. The emphasis of quick passes (swing passes, screens and crossing routes) to counter the Jets’ secondary should be enough for Tannehill to exploit what Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan has deployed in scheme. With vulnerable cornerbacks (Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen) playing off the ball, and safeties (Calvin Pryor and Dawan Landry) being putrid in coverage, Ryan better blitz often — especially without Muhammad Wilkerson (toe) to anchor their D-line. Unless Miami shoots themselves in the foot, there should be no reason why we won’t see Tannehill completing lots of passes to Mike Wallace, Jarvis Landry, Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews and Brandon Gibson. Yeah, Tannehill has more to work with than you think.
Pick: Dolphins 27, N.Y. Jets 13

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

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