Big Ben loads up to throw in the face of pressure from the Ravens

Gene J. Puskar | Credit: AP

It wasn't exactly a banner week around here for the Picks, Parlays, and Props crew, but it could have been so much worse.

Week 12 Vibe Check (1-1-2)

First, Kareem Hunt, who saw only two targets, which would've been enough for us to scrape by on that over, ended the game with no catches. Then the Cardinals, even with a 10-0 lead, never quite looked in control and Kyler Murray never looked like himself. You can always count on Belichick to bamboozle a young QB by bluffing a blitz. Turns out that's exactly what baited the rising superstar into tossing a pick, leading to the go-ahead score for New England.

I'm still not quite sure how the Bucs clawed their way back into that Chiefs game. Tyreek Hill essentially called for a time of death in the first quarter. The Chiefs blew a couple more chances to truly blow their opponent off the field, and Brady putting up 14 in the final quarter just to force the push is classic. Of course, once KC went into kill-the-clock mode with about four minutes left, it was all over for us cashing an easy ticket.

Lastly, we missed out on an all-time bad beat with Seattle -5. It almost hurts to talk about, knowing how many others out there just got absolutely murdered by a truly truly truly pointless two point conversion. I snagged the 'Hawks early in the week when the line was a little lower and it's the only thing keeping me from going on a scorched earth mission to burn down Lumen Field (it's not CenturyLink anymore). I feel your pain, and this is a valuable lesson about how Pete Carroll only wants to win in the worst ways possible.

Washington +7 over Pittsburgh

The Football Team is fresh off feasting upon the lifeless Cowboys on Thanksgiving, and the Steelers are extra-fresh off playing the league's first ever midseason Wednesday game, meaning when these two face each other as the first half of a Monday double header that one will have 10 days of rest and game planning and the other will have four.

Washington's D, specifically against the pass, has morphed into a dominant unit. It's even more impressive considering last year's incompetence. Chase Young has brought an extra spark to an already star-studded unit. He leads rookie defenders in PFF grades, sacks, and brings a level of awareness to stopping runs and screens that most first year players simply do not possess.

If you want to stop the Steelers, you have to stop/slow down the passing game, which should be easier since the team will be without it's starting center, right tackle, and running back. Meanwhile, Alex Smith just needs to keep this one close for us, which should also be easier since Pittsburgh will be missing a starting outside linebacker, defensive end, and cornerback.

Tennessee -5.5 over Cleveland/Derrick Henry over 100.5 Yards vs Cleveland

Looking at the Browns schedule, it's hard to find an impressive win. Sure, they have eight to choose from, but how many did they seem to control the game against an opponent in the top half of the league? The Indianapolis game is the closest to qualifying, even if they replayed that same game this week, I think the Colts would be favored.

The rest are squeakers against the Bengals x 2, Eagles, Jaguars, and Texans or bigger wins against a Dak-less Cowboys or the Haskins-led Football Team. Don't even get me started on the losses. Yikes. Shellacking's by the Steelers and Ravens. The Titans D has seemingly coalesced at the right time, while the offensive has been equally efficient and dominant as they were last season. 5.5 points seem a little steep, but Tennessee has the ultimate weapon sitting in their stable...

Derrick Henry stiff arms a Colts defender in the open field. Derrick Henry swats away a smaller Colts player, like he's nothing more than a pesky fly.Michael Hickey | Credit: Getty Images

King Henry has only gone under 100.5 yards on four occasions this season, doubling that amount in games he went over the century mark. The Cleveland run D has been solid this season, ranking in the top 10 and allowing an average of 108.2 per game. However, that numbers have been creeping up recently and they just allowed the quietly-winning-fantasy-games James Robinson to put up 128 on them last week. If Henry racks up the yards, I'm very comfortable saying the Titans cruise to a cover.

Deebo Samuel over 5 Receptions

I've recommended a 49er receiver going over receptions before and I'm going to make a similar argument this time around. Instead of Brandon Aiyuk, it's Deebo Samuel, who was the focal point of last week's game in which he caught 11 balls for 133 yards. He's currently leading the league with 12.9 YAC (yards after catch), and is the only WR in the top five, demonstrating how the Niners deploy him. Lots of quick, short passes near the line of scrimmage, essentially an extension of the rushing attack, which happens to be Buffalo's biggest weakness. Little tap passes on end around's are still receptions and for that reason alone, this feels like a lock.

Paul George grabbing a rebound in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals

Barry Gossage/Getty Images

In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.

After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.

The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.

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Ben Simmons disappointed in the playoffs this season

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Following a Game 7 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers and coach, Doc Rivers, are questioning if Ben Simmons is the right guy to be running their offense through moving forward.

Offense being the key word here.

Simmons is an all-world defender possessing the ability to guard virtually any opponent on the court from the perimeter to the rim. But it was his lack of offensive help throughout this playoff season that stood out beyond any accomplishments this year. Simmons joined Rudy Gobert as unanimous selections for the NBA's All-Defensive First Team this year and also finished fifth in the NBA in assists per game with 8.8 per contest.

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The Lakers looked lost in the Valley

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns are just a win away from sending LeBron James home in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in the King's illustrious career.

After stating that "These shoulders were built for a reason," James referring to facing the challenge of taking on added responsibilities after Anthony Davis was ruled out for Game 5, the Lakers and LeBron disappointed in a big way Tuesday night. L.A. started off hot jumping out to a 10-5 lead behind a couple shots from James and a three from Davis' replacement Markieff Morris. But it didn't take long for the wheels to completely fall off for the defending champion Lakers as they spent most of the first half trying to remember how basketball works.

LeBron James LeBron looking on during Game 5Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two numbers stick out in the Game 5 loss for the Lakers and those are 34.5 and 12. Los Angeles shot 34.5% from the field on Tuesday night and were minus 12 in turnover ratio. No matter who's on your team, if you can't shoot and you can't protect the ball, the outcome is already determined.

The Suns weren't simply beneficiaries of a poor performance however as the Suns put it on the Lakers early and often and they never let their foot off the pedal for 48 minutes. Phoenix ended with 15 more assists, had seven more combined steals and blocks, and outscored L.A. in the paint by 12 points. Devin Booker and Cameron Payne were spectacular and they seemed to hit big shots every time the Lakers appeared to threaten a comeback. Mikal Bridges was effective on both sides of the ball adding three steals and two blocks to help electrify his team with the defensive effort.

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