4 teams will enjoy a late season bye while they lick their wounds and prepare for the rest of the season. Let’s discuss & see if they are poised to cash in our NFL picks when they return Week 12.
Cleveland Browns (2-8 SU, 3-6-1 ATS)
Twenty-one teams passed on drafting Johnny Manziel for a variety of reasons before Cleveland finally pulled the trigger at pick No. 22 in the 2014 draft. His tenure with the beleaguered organization has been volatile and his transition to the professional game has not been easy both on and off the field. In October the former Texas A&M star was pulled over for suspicion of driving while intoxicated while his girlfriend, who was seated with him at the time, accused Manziel of beating her inside the car and banging her head against the glass. Not exactly a glowing report for a player who spend 10 weeks in a rehab facility in the offseason.
Fast forward to Tuesday November 17th and the league has refused to pursue disciplinary action after the authorities declined to press charges. Manziel is now starting for the Browns after former starter Josh McCown went down with a rib injury and has been named the permanent starter for the remainder of the 2015 campaign. Manziel has started the last two games for the Browns with a middling performance against the Bengals that saw his team lose 31-10 and then found his groove against Pittsburgh to toss for 372 yards with a 95.8 QB that did little to help the cause as Cleveland bowed 30-9 against the Steelers.
Manziel and the Browns will welcome a divisional foe as the lowly Baltimore Ravens travel to FirstEnergy Stadium upon their return. The time could be ripe to back the Browns in your NFL picks as they will have two weeks of rest under their collective belts and will be playing one of the worst the league has to offer.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4 SU, 5-3-2 ATS)
They say you can’t keep a good man down and Ben Roethlisberger proved just that as he was slated to Backup Landry Jones in Week 10 due to his midfoot sprain but trotted out during the third series of the game when Jones limped off with a foot injury of his own. It was not supposed to go like this but Big Ben took full advantage and set the league’s passing mark with 379 yards for a non-starter who came on in relief. When the dust settled the Steelers notched their fifth victory of the season courtesy of Roethlisberger’s courageous performance which led to the 30-9 triumph over the Browns. But to heap all the praise on Roethlisberger would be overlooking the stellar contributions of receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Brown has lived up to all the hype and then some after catching 27 passes over the last two games which places him fifth in NFL history for most receptions over a two-game span. Martavis Bryant had another big showing in his last outing with a TD reception and 178 receiving yards while Brown had a pair of trips into the endzone and collected 139 yards through the air.
The Steelers find themselves in a two-horse race with Cincinnati for the AFC North crown. The Bengals suffered their first loss of the season last week and dropped to 8-1 on the year. Now that the aura of invincibility has been sheared from Cincinnati it opens the door for Pittsburgh to compete for not just a wild card berth but a divisional championship. The Steelers have an opportunity in Week 14 to atone for their 16-10 loss to the Bengals earlier this season when they travel to Cincinnati in what could be a pivotal contest for both teams’ postseason aspirations.
The Steelers take on the Seahawks in Seattle when they return to action in week 12.
New Orleans Saints (4-6 SU, 4-5-1 ATS)
The Saints are singing the blues down on the Bayou after a shocking loss to the Redskins in Week 10. Maybe the word “shocking” is not appropriate considering that New Orleans isn’t exactly a top tier squad this season but losing by the score of 47-14 to a team of Washington’s ilk certainly qualifies. The fallout was swift as Rex Ryan’s twin brother Rob got his walking papers as defensive coordinator. That’s what happens when you direct the league’s most scored upon defense as well as the 30th ranked passing and 29th ranked rushing stop units.
Yet in that muddle of confusion that has been the Saints defensive unit, that has failed to hold any team to less than 20 points this season, has been the mercurial nature of the offense. Drew Brees looked like his old self in putting up otherworldly numbers over the two games preceding Week 10’s debacle. The future Hall-of-Fame quarterback launched for 892 passing yards and nine touchdowns strikes in a win over the Giants and a loss to the Titans. Yet New Orleans simply could not get the job done against the ‘Skins due in large part to their failure to convert on third downs. The Saints were 4-of-11 on those missed opportunities and led to a complete meltdown in DC.
"That's what keeps drives alive, and that's what will give us opportunities to gain points and keep our defense off the field, keep them somewhat rested and play complementary football," Brees said after the game. "We didn't do that well today. It's just not our standard."
The Saints will have two weeks to ponder their power outage in Washington and when they return it will be former Oakland Raiders’ head coach Dennis Allen assuming the role as defensive coordinator when they fly to Houston to take on the Texans.
New York Giants (5-5 SU, 6-3-1 ATS)
The NFL odds makers installed the Giants as touchdown home dogs to the visiting New England Patriots. But anyone who has even casually followed this rivalry understands that Tom Coughlin has as good a touch as any when it comes to game planning against Bill Belichick and his protégé Tom Terrific. It was a game that lived up to the lofty billing as the Giants took the lead in the waning minutes of the game. But Tom Brady did what he has done countless times before and directed a last gasp drive that culminated in a 54-yard bomb off the foot of kicker extraordinaire Stephen Gostkowski to send Big Blue’s fans home with tears in their eyes.
However, the news was not all bad if you’re a Giants fan who likes to put his money where his mouth is. A New York cover with the seven point head start was never in jeopardy and that 27-26 finish certainly assuaged any disappointment felt because of the loss. The irony in all this is that though the Gee Men fell to 5-5 it appears as though this season’s edition is for real as they gutted it out against the best in the business.
The team did lose Victor Cruz to season ending calf surgery but recently signed old friend Hakeem Nicks to join Eli and company. Nicks was a vital part of the Super Bowl winning Giants back in 2011-2012 and hauled in close to 1200 yards receiving during that championship campaign. The Giants are hoping he can recapture his mojo and provide them a spark for a late season surge.
New York will travel to Washington, DC to meet the Redskins when they return on November 29th.