THE NFL regular season draws to a close this weekend. Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) brings his final week bets.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears | Sunday 18:00
Happy New Year to you all. The NFL enters the last week of the regular season and let’s hope this is the first part of a New Years treble. I have to start with almost my least favourite subject, apart from those damn Falcons, that is my own team Chicago.
Detroit are this weeks NAP and as much as they are a hugely improved team, this game really is about the fact that my Bears continue to be devastated by injury in the Wide Receiver position. Top Rookie Kevin White has not even appeared in 2015, Alshon Jeffrey is now added to a long list that means at best, the Bears are down to 5th choice for Cutler to throw to.
Somehow these Bears have won six times this season including a 26-21 win in Tampa last Sunday but these last few weeks have also seen losses to Minnesota, Green Bay and more surprisingly San Francisco.
Detroit have looked a different team since they fired half their coaching staff and most of the front office. Jim Bob Cooter has taken over the offence and few coaching changes have had such an obvious effect.
Rushing has improved by an enormous 50% and Matt Stafford suddenly has options all over the field. Five wins from seven is some return and only the longest Hail Mary in NFL history may have stopped them sneaking a place in the post season. Detroit to win this. It could well be embarrassing for Chicago.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals | Sunday 18:00
I thought the most impressive performance last week was Baltimore’s win over Pittsburgh. Impressive when you consider each teams record this season but more so when you take into account the huge number of injuries suffered by the Ravens in 2015.
Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Torrey Smith Snr, the entire spine of the offence and most of the excellent defensive unit as well. Nothing about Baltimore is what it seems this year.
Their first five losses were by a combined 12 points and there are a number of stats that may surprise you. The vaunted Bengals offence is rated 11th overall. The Ravens? 10th. That respected defence ranks 13th just one place above the injury devastated Baltimore Ravens.
I have never been a huge fan of big points spreads and I really believe this is one worth opposing. The Bengals with AJ McCarron under centre are a very different proposition from the one run by Andy Dalton.
They are unlikely to score heavily and are facing a motivated quarterback, the much maligned Ryan Mallet. After being tossed out of Houston for off field issues, his performance last week was a revelation. 274 Yards and a TD and ably backed up by rookie RB Javorius Allen with 77 yards and a score on the ground. I really like Baltimore to cover the 9.5 point spread here.
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs | Sunday 21:25 | Sky Sports 2
Who would have thought when the London bound Chiefs sat at 1-5, that by the last week of the regular season, they would be a game away from an 11-5 record. They could even win the division should Denver slip up at home to San Diego. Unlikely but what a story it would be.
What makes this story more astounding is the loss of Jamaal Charles in September. Charles was the KC Offence. Remember this is a unit that went an entire year without a touchdown from a single wide receiver.
Alex Smith has developed into the quarterback that San Francisco hoped he would be and the incredible decision by (ex) Eagles coach, Chip Kelly to let Jeremy Maclin go to the Chiefs is proving as stupid as it seems. Few tight ends have been as productive as Travis Kelcie and West and Ware have more than covered for Charles in the backfield.
Oakland have made a few of us look silly this season but it is on defence where they should lose this game. Ranked just 22nd overall and allowing 25 points per game they match-up badly against a team on a nine game winning streak with a whole lot to play for.
To add to Oaklands woes, Kansas fields the 8th ranked defence in a game that could shape the post season in the AFC. I think Kansas can win well and cover the spread. Something like 28-17 looks about right to me.