The Sunday Night Football offering and Monday Night Football contest are certainly games of contrast. The Sunday night NFL game in Week 12 features two division-leading clubs, while the Monday game offers the final two clubs in the AFC North standings.
On Sunday night, the 10-0 New England Patriots visit the 8-2 Denver Broncos. The Pats are tops in the AFC East and the Broncos are first in the AFC West. On Monday night, the 3-7 Baltimore Ravens travel to play the 2-8 Cleveland Browns. The teams are, respectively, third and fourth in their division.
New England (10-0) at Denver (8-2)
New England comes into this game with a lot of injuries, but one player who is still standing is QB Tom Brady (66.3% COMP, 25 TDs, 4 INTs, 107.4 RAT). Brady continues to lead a team that, at times, blows teams out and, at other times, squeaks by an opponent for the win. The Patriots, who are third in the NFL in scoring points, include LeGarrette Blount (133 ATT. 4.3 AVG, 6 TDs) at running back and Rob Gronkowski (61 REC, 16.5 AVG, 8 TDs) at tight end.
On defense, the Patriots, who are allowing just 18.2 PPG, continue to play well. They have accumulated 32 sacks, 9 interceptions, and 13 forced fumbles. Chandler Jones, with 10.5 sacks, is a massive force on the team. Corners Malcolm Butler (11 PD, 1 INT) and Logan Ryan (8 PD, 4 INTs) are enforcers in the secondary.
There’s a solid argument for the Bronco defense in this game. If any D can stop Brady, it should be this group. They are allowing a mere 18.3 PPG. They have 34 sacks, 10 interceptions, and 15 forced fumbles. However, DeMarcus Ware, who leads the team with 6.5 sacks, may not play due to a knee injury. Still Von Miller, who has notched six sacks, looks healthy and ready to go. Corner Agib Talib leads the team with 9 PD and 3 INTs.
For Denver, QB Brock Osweiler takes over the offense from an ailing Peyton Manning. Osweiler has played fairly well this season. Denver will look to utilize Ronnie Hillman (124 ATT, 4.3 AVG, 5 TDs) and his adroit rushing skills. That is, if the injured Hillman is able to play.
The Patriots are averaging 32.3 PPG on offense while the Broncos are putting up 22.2 PPG. The Pats are listed at -2.5. We like them at under three and expect them to win by seven. The final of 21-14 puts the game under 43.5 points.
Baltimore (3-7) at Cleveland (2-8)
When these two teams met in the fifth week of the season the Browns won 33-30. That was the last time that Cleveland claimed a victory. Baltimore, which won last week against the Rams 16-13, has also beaten the Steelers 23-20 and Chargers 29-26. The Browns have also played the Rams and Steelers and lost to both.
Cleveland comes into this game after a week of controversy where quarterback Johnny Manziel saw himself demoted to the third string after, a few weeks prior, being elevated to the starting spot. Manziel lost the starting spot for lying to the team. That puts QB Josh McCowan (65% COMP, 11 TDs, 4 INTs) back in the starting spot. He’ll be looking to connect with receivers Travis Benjamin (48 REC, 15.3 AVG, 4 TDs) and Gary Barnidge (48 REC, 13.9 AVG. 7 TDs).
On offense for Baltimore, QB Joe Flacco (64.4% COMP, 14 TDs, 12 INTs) has proven to be a solid leader in tough times. Unfortunately, he’s out for the first time in almost 170 starts. That means either punter Sam Koch or backup QB Matt Schaub will start at quarterback. Whoever mans that spot, they will want to connect with the team’s top receiver, Steve Smith Sr. (46 REC, 14.6 AVG, 3 TDs) who has 13 catches of 20-plus yards. The loss of RB Justin Forsett, who broke his arm this past week, will greatly hamper Baltimore’s running game.
Baltimore does lead Cleveland in all major stats, including PF, PA, passing yards, and rushing yards. Their defense is more effective than Cleveland’s, especially against the run, and Baltimore brings a solid pass rush in a game when the opposing quarterback is vulnerable to the sack. The Brown defense excels at forcing and recovering fumbles. That may be a major factor in this game.
With Flacco and Forsett out and with other injuries to the Ravens, and with the reliable and steady McCowan at QB for the Browns, we are taking Cleveland at -2.5. With the over/under at 41.0, take the under.