Super Bowl LIV Pick

February 2nd, 2020 Comments off

I’m 6-4 straight up, 4-6 against the spread so far this postseason. Not a lot to feel good about. But then again, nothing I’m gonna sweat.

Here’s what not to expect.

San Francisco (+1) vs. Kansas City
I don’t actually have a lot to say about this game that isn’t readily apparent from the spread, which has stood as Chiefs -1 since it opened two weeks ago. These two teams are fairly evenly matched. I think we’ve got an excellent chance of seeing a great game. And if it weren’t for the obnoxiousness of Kansas City fans and the racism expressed by those fans in their support of a distinctly racist team brand, I wouldn’t have a rooting interest. I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’ll repeat it here: balance wins championships. And the Niners are the more balanced team in this match. So I’m taking San Francisco to win it. By three. At the buzzer.

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Conference Championship Picks

January 19th, 2020 Comments off

Uh, yeah. I’ve got no idea what I’m talking about here.

Or at least not if we’re talking about margin of victory.

I went 0-4 picking against the spread in the divisional round. And, sure, I’d make some noise about the fact that I was 3-1 straight up. But that’s because three of the heavy favorite home teams won.

Overall, I stand at 5-3 straight up, 3-5 against the spread in the postseason. Not good no matter how you look at it.

Also, it’s late. So I’m not going to belabor any of this.

Here, in short, is what really, really not to expect in the conference championships

Tennessee (+7) at Kansas City
The Titans ought to win this game. They’ve looked so far like one of those teams that heats up down the stretch and stays hot through the Super Bowl. So far this season, they’ve beaten two teams that were better and more balanced than the one they face here. And they’ve done it by running the ball down the throats of defenses that were considerably better than the Chiefs’ run D. So please count on the Chiefs winning this game based on the fact that I’ve been wrong about most everything so far this postseason. Because I’m taking the Titans. By three.

Green Bay (+7) at San Francisco
Balance wins championships. San Francisco by 14.

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Divisional Round Picks

January 10th, 2020 Comments off

Maybe I should feel some kind of weird pride over having fared better against the spread than straight up in the wild card round.

But I don’t. Because all it means is that I knew the Patriots and Saints weren’t covering 5- and 7.5-point spreads even though I felt confident both would win.

So I landed at 3-1 with the points, whereas I only managed 2-2 straight up.

How exciting for me.

I expect to turn those results around this week. Because road teams by and large don’t win in the divisional round. So I should be able to back into at least three correct picks straight up unless something goes completely haywire. Against the spread, I’m doomed. They all look both too big and not quite big enough to me, which makes 0-4 a distinct possibility.

Here’s what not to expect.

Minnesota (+7) at San Francisco
I don’t think it’s completely crazy to believe the Vikings could pull off a second straight upset road win. The 49ers have been one of the best teams in the league all season, but they had a few rough games down the stretch, and it could happen again. And it’s reasonable to expect the Minnesota D will find a way to keep this one close enough to be decided by an unexpected bounce of the ball late. But I can’t pick that result. San Francisco’s had a couple of weeks to rest and prepare. They may get off to a slow start, but I think they get it together before halftime and hold on for the win. Niners by six.

Tennessee (+9.5) at Baltimore
I think we all know the Titans have overachieved this season. And, you know, every now and again you get one of those teams that just keeps on winning well past the point where it should stop. But the Ravens are just way too complete a team to give this one up. It might still be a game at the start of the second half, but it won’t be by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. Ravens by 17.

Houston (+9.5) at Kansas City
The Texans beat the Chiefs back in week six. And it wouldn’t exactly shock me if they found a way to repeat that success. In fact, if Houston can find a way to keep this game on on the ground, Kansas City could be in real trouble. In the end, though, it’s just really hard to overcome home field in this round. And I expect the Texans’ questionable pass D to be their undoing. Kansas City by four.

Seattle (+4.5) at Green Bay
The Packers would have annihilated the Saints. They’ll hold off the Seahawks. Green Bay by three.

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Wild Card Picks

January 3rd, 2020 Comments off

I managed to stumble into the end of the regular season. And maybe that isn’t so terrible given that it was virtually impossible to know heading into week 17 whether both teams would actually opt to participate in a solid third of the games.

And still, neither 10-6 straight up, nor 8-8 against the spread feel like anything anyone should be happy about. With those results, I hit the end of the season 168-87-1 (.658) picking straight up, and 128-122-6 (.512) picking with the points. Again, not awful, but not exactly glorious.

The good news is that I can’t possibly make more than four wrong picks in either format this weekend.

Here’s what I know about the wild card round: road teams win. Over the last 10 years, 19 of 40 wild card games have gone to the visitors. That’s pretty much half.

Let’s assume the average holds and two road teams are winning this weekend. Which two?

The Seahawks seem a pretty damned safe bet (which means they probably end up losing). And the Vikings are clearly the longest shot of the weekend (which means they probably end up winning.) So it’s simple to play the odds on Sunday. But in the AFC you have two road teams that are clearly capable of winning. And maybe things break right for both.

Chances are, if I try to pick two road teams to win, I’ll end up picking the wrong two. So I’m not gonna bother. I’m just picking the games the way I see them and figuring I’ll probably get them all wrong anyhow.

Here’s what not to expect.

Buffalo (+2.5) at Houston
In an attempt to keep myself from losing focus, I’m going to start with the big three predictives on all of this weekend’s games. Passer rating differential, Bills +3.2; scoring differential, Bills +2.0; takeaway-giveaway differential, Bills +4. In Buffalo, that points to a narrow win for the Bills. In Houston it might be enough to neutralize home field. Or it might not. The temptation is to figure the game comes down to quarterback play, in which case the Texans ought to come out on top. But there’s a solid chance the game is decided by run defense, which would mean the a slight advantage for the Bills (yet again). I think it’s a coin toss. And in that scenario, I can’t bring myself to pick against the home team. Texans by a point.

Tennessee (+5) at New England
As above. Passer rating differential, Patriots +3.8; scoring differential, Patriots +3.9; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +15. Without that last one, it’s a toss-up on any field. With the last one … maybe still a toss-up. The Titans are a good football team. But an inconsistently good one. If they have a good day, they pose a danger to all but the very top teams (and maybe even those if the ball bounces the right way). But I think it’s been a while since they played their best football. And I’m not certain they’d have made the cut if the Texans opened the door for them by taking week 17 off. The Patriots haven’t been turning their best games of late either. But they remain the better squad in this match. And I think when you combine that with postseason experience and home field, it should add up to a New England win. Patriots by a field goal.

Minnesota (+7.5) at New Orleans
The predictive stats say this one’s a good bit closer than the oddsmakers apparently think. Passer rating differential, Saints +2.1; scoring differential, Saints +0.4; takeaway-giveaway differential, Saints +4. And still I have a hard time believing the Vikings can go into New Orleans and keep it competitive. I’ll take the points, partly because the predictive stats tell me to and partly because I think Alvin Kamara is the guy who ends up winning it for the Saints and reliance on the run tends to produce lower scoring games. I won’t exactly be flabbergasted if its a blowout by the home team. But for the sake or registering a pick, I’ll say New Orleans by four.

Seattle (-1.5) at Philadelphia
Passer rating differential, Seahawks +9.2; scoring differential, Eagles +0.8; takeaway-giveaway differential, Seahawks +15. I don’t care where or when this game is played, the Eagles barely belong in the postseason. They’re not advancing past the first round. Seattle by a touchdown.

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Week Seventeen Picks

December 27th, 2019 Comments off

I’m finishing strong.

Or not.

I fell to 9-7 straight up in week sixteen, one game worse than my disappointing finishes in each of the preceding two weeks. I did stumble to a third straight week of 8-7-1 against the spread, though. So that’s … you know, weak.

I head into week seventeen with season records of 158-81-1 (.660) straight up, and 120-114-6 (.513) picking with the points. Let’s see what kind of damage I can do to those results in this final go-round.

Here’s what not to expect.

Cleveland (-2.5) at Cincinnati
Things are looking pretty good for professional football in Ohio, aren’t they? Browns by six.

Chicago (+1) at Minnesota
Neither team has any incentive to try to win this game. The Vikings will be doing everything they can to be healthy as they head into next week’s visit to — well, wherever it may be. The Bears are just plain old done. Let’s figure home team by a field goal.

Atlanta (+1) at Tampa Bay
There’s no figuring this game out. Or maybe there is, except it requires one to care. I’m just going with the seriously flawed, but easy notion that since the Buccaneers beat the Falcons in Atlanta, they ought to be able to beat them in Tampa, too. Bucs by four.

New Orleans (-13) at Carolina
It’s not worth parsing the various things that need to happen for the Saints to clinch the NFC one or two seed. All scenarios require a New Orleans win. That part shouldn’t pose much of challenge. Saints by 17.

NY Jets (+1.5) at Buffalo
If the Bills win, they’re the five seed. If they lose, they’re also the five seed. So unless Buffalo builds an insurmountable lead in the half of football they’re likely to play in order to tune up for next week’s trip to Houston (or maybe it’ll be Kansas City), I’m thinking the Jets come out on top by something like three.

Miami (+15.5) at New England
With a first-round bye on the line, Bill Belichick has told his players that this is a playoff game. The big three predictive stats look like this: passer rating differential, Patriots +26.2; scoring differential, Patriots +13; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +35. These are not factors that point to a close game. New England by 24.

Green Bay (-12.5) at Detroit
With a win, the Packers would earn a week off and at least one home game in the postseason. Green Bay by 10.

LA Chargers (+8.5) at Kansas City
The Chiefs can’t get a first round by without some help from the Dolphins. But they can shore up the three seed on their own. And that might actually matter. Kansas City by a touchdown.

Tennessee (-3.5) at Houston
If the Chiefs and Patriots both win, the Texans will go into this game with nothing to play for — and no shortage of incentives to rest up in preparation for their wild card round visit from the Bills. That would open the door for the Titans to grab the final spot in the AFC postseason field. And since I’m picking both the Chiefs and the Patriots, I guess I have to figure Houston gives this one away. Titans by four.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Jacksonville
I was going to say that no one outside of Indianapolis and Jacksonville could possibly care about this game. Then I remembered that the Raiders’ slim postseason hopes depend on a Colts win. And then I also remembered that probably no one in Jacksonville cares at this point. And who even knows about Indy? And maybe not Oakland. But maybe Las Vegas. Or no one anywhere. Colts by a field goal.

Washington (+11) at Dallas
If a football team gets a win just exactly when it no longer matters, does their coach get to keep his job? I’m thinking probably not. Dallas by 14.

Philadelphia (-4.5) at NY Giants
The Eagles get one more win before their inevitable evisceration in the wild card round. Philadelphia by a touchdown.

Pittsburgh (-2) at Baltimore
The Ravens have no reason to try. The Steelers can at least hope that a Titans loss will put them on the road to Kansas City. Pittsburgh by four.

Arizona (+3.5) at LA Rams
Their NFC title defense is long since over, but the Rams can still secure a winning record. Los Angeles by seven.

Oakland (+3.5) at Denver
The Raiders need way too much to have any real hope of qualifying for the postseason. The only thing they can take care of on their own is the need for a win here. They’ll fall at that hurdle. Broncos by six.

San Francisco (-3) at Seattle
This for all intents and purposes is where the 2019-20 playoffs begin. The winner is the NFC West champion. For the 49ers, that would mean home field through the playoffs. For the Seahawks, it probably means the three seed (unless the Packers and/or Saints manage to lose earlier in the day, opening up better possibilities). In any case, the winner gets at least a home game while the loser ships off of to Philadelphia (for a pretty easy road game). The Seahawks have developed just enough of a limp over the past several weeks to make me believe the Niners have the advantage. San Francisco by a point.

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Week Sixteen Picks

December 20th, 2019 Comments off

Consistency is overvalued.

Like, my picks have been consistently mediocre these last two week. I finished week fifteen with the same record as I achieved in week fourteen: 10-6 straight up, 8-7-1 against the spread. This is not an accomplishment.

And my records for the season — 149-74-1 (.665) straight up, 112-107-5 (.517) — well, they could be more impressive, too.

And still I persevere. Like a true champion. Or a giant, stupid loser. It’s one of those things. I’ll let you know if I figure out which.

For the moment, let’s stick with what not to expect in week sixteen

Houston (-1) at Tampa Bay
If the Buccaneers offense were at full strength, I might be inclined to look for an upset here. I’m not sure I’d pick it that way given that the Texans are a win away from clinching the AFC South title, but I’d certainly feel like I needed to give Tampa serious consideration. But the Bucs offense isn’t at anything resembling full strength. And the real problem I suspect that will present is that the Tampa Bay defense is going to end up spending too much time on the field. I won’t be surprised if this one is tight deep into the second half. But in the end, I think the Texans come out on top by at least three and probably more like seven.

Buffalo (+6.5) at New England
The Bills are making things interesting in the AFC East for the first time in a long time. The Buffalo D was impressive the last time these teams met. It’s been just as impressive throughout the season. And the Patriots are banged up enough that the Bills pose a real threat. The big three predictives say home team: passer rating differential, Patriots +10.8; scoring differential, Patriots +4.4; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +19. And it’s certainly the case that if the Patriots end up with an advantage in the turnover battle, New England could win this by a touchdown or more. But I’m not expecting that. I’m expecting fans of both teams to spend the evening on the edges of their seats, right up until the Patriots put up a late field goal to get the win. New England by three.

LA Rams (+6.5) at San Francisco
The 49ers are effectively out of mistakes they can recover from. They’re either winning out and going into the postseason as the conference one seed or they’re dropping to the five seed and embarking on a journey through the NFC playoffs that starts out relatively easy (at Dallas or Philadelphia) and then turns brutal. They have to be mindful of that. And my guess is it keeps them sharp enough to expose the Rams, who have appeared lately to be playing more like the defending NFC champs, but who are actually still just middle-of-the-pack pretenders. I think the Niners take control early and end up in front by something like 17.

Jacksonville (+1) at Atlanta
The Jaguars played their best football in the early part of the season. The Falcons have played their best late. I don’t see any reason to believe either of those trends is likely to change here. I’d like the Falcons more if they had a consistent ground game, but I like them just fine without one. Atlanta by three.

New Orleans (-1) at Tennessee
The Saints are the better team (though perhaps not by quite as great a margin as one might be tempted to think). The Titans are at home and in desperate need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. I’m not sure that’s enough. But I have to make a pick, so I’m pretending it is. Tennessee by two.

NY Giants (+3) at Washington
I’ve done some research and it turns out it’s still not possible for both teams to lose in an NFL game. I think the Giants probably should win. But I don’t think the Giants will win. Racists by a point.

Pittsburgh (-3) at NY Jets
It the Steelers win out, they’re in the playoffs. And if the Ravens beat the Browns this week, they’ll have no real reason to field a team when the Steelers come to visit in week 17. But that only matters if Pittsburgh wins here. That should keep the Steelers focused. Pittsburgh by six.

Cincinnati (+3) at Miami
The Bengals would sew up the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft with a loss here, while the Dolphins, with a win, would move down in the draft order. That’s just about the sum of what’s interesting about this matchup. Dolphins by a touchdown.

Carolina (+6.5) at Indianapolis
No one has anything to play for here. Colts by seven.

Baltimore (-7) at Cleveland
The Ravens aren’t about to let home field advantage through the AFC playoffs slip away. They won’t even let it remain a notion for very long. Baltimore by at least 20.

Detroit (+6.5) at Denver
Not a lot to see here. But the home team still sort of has a defense. Broncos by nine.

Oakland (+6.5) at LA Chargers
The temptation to say something about how nothing will be the same the next time these teams meet is largely (though clearly not entirely) quashed by the fact that nothing is the same with either of these teams right now. Los Angeles by four.

Dallas (-1) at Philadelphia
The loser of this game moves a step farther away from a humiliating defeat to San Francisco or Seattle (or possibly Minnesota) in the wild card round. Which I suppose is just another way of saying enjoy it while it lasts, Cowboys fans. Dallas by six.

Arizona (+9.5) at Seattle
I could totally see myself picking the Cardinals here. You know, like, if I were a complete idiot. Seahawks by 14.

Kansas City (-4) at Chicago
Well, I mean, the Chicago defense is pretty good. So you never know for sure. But you kind of know for sure. No matter what happens earlier in the weekend, the Chiefs will be in contention for a first round bye as long as they win this game. They’ll figure out a way to overcome the Bears D. Kansas City by a field goal.

Green Bay (+4.5) at Minnesota
The Vikings can’t take the NFC North with a win here. In reality, they probably can’t take the NFC North at all. But they can lose the division with a loss in this game. And there’s also the possibility that the outcome of this game determines the difference for the wild card round between a visit to Dallas or Philly or a visit to Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans or Green Bay. You really want the NFC East “champ.” The Packers won’t make it easy, but I think the Vikings come out on top. I’m thinking by four.

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Week Fifteen Picks

December 12th, 2019 Comments off

Ah, whatever. I can live with 10-6 straight up. And 8-7-1 against the spread? So it goes.

See how relaxed I am about this?

I’m also totally mellow about 139-68-1 (.668) straight up, 104-100-4 (.510) against the spread on the season.

So, yeah, let’s see how mellow I can be as I watch this weeks picks fizzle.

Here’s what not to expect.

NY Jets (+14.5) at Baltimore
I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel like Lamar Jackson could play this game in a full body cast and the Ravens would still clobber the Jets. I do think the Ravens are likely to pull their slightly hobbled QB once the game is in hand, as a result of which I think they might only win by 24 or so.

Tampa Bay (-3.5) at Detroit
I don’t know what to do with this game. Recent success aside, the Bucs really aren’t a good football team. But neither are the Lions. And at least Tampa seems to be trying (a bit too hard sometimes). If the game were being played in Florida, I think I’d give twice the spread. In Detroit, I’m just not so sure. Let’s say Bucs by a field goal.

New England (-9.5) at Cincinnati
You know what? I’m gonna hit you with the big three predictive stats even though I’m confident they barely matter. Passer rating differential, Patriots +23.8; scoring differential, Patriots +11.5; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +30. It almost seems like I have to be making that last one up, right? I mean +30? Turnovers? But, yeah. New England leads the league in takeaway-giveaway (by no small margin) at +19. Cincinnati is the league’s third worst at -11. That’s a tough pairing on any field at any point in time. Add a need for the Patriots to get right after a couple of tough losses (including a home game the officials stole from them) and a bit of a “snitches get stitches” factor, and I think you have a formula for a blowout. Patriots by 30.

Philadelphia (-4.5) at Washington
The Eagles may yet be the team that fails to lose the NFC East title. And from there … well, you know, they get to lose to suffer a humiliating loss to the five seed. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Philly by three.

Chicago (+4.5) at Green Bay
Even if they weren’t on an apparent mission to prove something late in the season (if perhaps only to themselves) the Bears aren’t likely to have made things easy for the Packers. Still and all … Green Bay by two.

Houston (+3) at Tennessee
The Texans and Titans meet twice over the final three weeks of the season, and possibly a third time in the first weekend of the postseason. I think it’s heading for a home-home split, which means next week’s games against the Bucs and Saints will probably end up deciding the division. Titans by four.

Seattle (-6) at Carolina
To ensure that their week 17 home game with the 49ers decides the NFC West, the Seahawks need to take care of the Panthers this week and the Cardinals next. Step one in that process shouldn’t prove much of a challenge. Seattle by 10.

Denver (+10.5) at Kansas City
The Chiefs probably won’t need the refs to hand them this one. Kansas City by a mostly legit 14.

Miami (+3.5) at NY Giants
This is a much more interesting game than the competitors’ positions at the bottom of the standings suggests. Neither offense can score. But neither defense can stop opponents from scoring. You almost have to watch just to see if the two squads somehow manage to disappear into some kind of tear in the space-time continuum. Barring that, the Giants win by six.

Jacksonville (+6.5) at Oakland
I don’t know. Home team by four, I guess.

Cleveland (-2.5) at Arizona
Something, something, something. Baker Mayfield’s revenge. For something. I don’t care. The Browns are less awful than the Cardinals. I think. Probably. But maybe not that much better. Cleveland by a point.

Atlanta (+11) at San Francisco
The Niners have something to play for. A big something. San Francisco by 17.

LA Rams (-1) at Dallas
The 6-7 Cowboys might yet “win” the NFC East. The 8-5 Rams have no chance of making the playoffs. That’s got to burn. Rams by three.

Minnesota (-2.5) at LA Chargers
If the Vikings want next week’s home game against the Packers to matter, they’ve got to take care of business in L.A. I expect they’ll do that. Vikings by seven.

Buffalo (+2) at Pittsburgh
The Bills are unquestionably the better team here. Which may be some consolation to them when it’s done. Or maybe not. Steelers by three.

Indianapolis (+9) at New Orleans
The Colts are done. Saints by 13.

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Week Fourteen Picks

December 5th, 2019 Comments off

I came so close.

To not making a fool of myself, I mean.

As I worked through last week’s slate of games, I kept thinking about all the road teams giving points. In all, eight road teams were favored. That’s a lot, and it should have raised a red flag. But it didn’t.

But I just pushed on through. Because it wan’t like the Dolphins were gonna give the Eagles are game or anything.

And then came upset week. Ten of the underdogs covered. Nine won outright. And, sure, five of those victorious dogs were among the eight teams that were getting points at home. But the other four (along with the one that covered but didn’t win) got it done on the road.

There’s no picking that. Or, I don’t know, maybe there is for someone. I’m not that someone.

So I ended up 9-7 picking straight up (which at least means I did better than the favorites) and 6-10 picking against the spread. That’s not a good week. And it brings my running records to 129-62-1 (.674) straight up, 96-93-3 (.508) against the spread. Rough week.

Let’s see how much worse it can get. Here’s what not to expect in week 14.

Dallas (-3) at Chicago
If the Bears had a ground game — or, you know, any kind of offense — the Cowboys would probably be staring down a third straight loss. But the Bears have no offense. The Cowboys might not have one anymore, either. Or they might just have caught a couple of elite defenses in a row. Chicago’s D might keep close to that pace. But I don’t see the home team having the ability to outscore the visitors. Cowboys by a point.

Baltimore (-5.5) at Buffalo
In Buffalo? Yeah, I could see the Bills giving the Ravens a game. But I don’t see them winning. Baltimore by a field goal.

Washington (+13) at Green Bay
Don’t look now, but the Racists have won two straight. Impressive streak, right? It ends in Green Bay. Packers by 14.

Denver (+9.5) at Houston
If you can hang 28 on the Patriots, you should probably be good for about 32 against the Broncos. And that’s at least double what the Broncos are capable of scoring. So I’ll go with Texans by 16.

San Francisco (+3) at New Orleans
A loss here and the 49ers will have dropped from the presumptive NFC one seed a presumptive wild card team (five seed) in a matter of two weeks. But I don’t think the Niners are losing here. I think they’re the better team overall, and I think they’ve got a D that can frustrate the hell out of the Saints. San Francisco by three.

Cincinnati (+8.5) at Cleveland
Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that the Browns were completely awful while the Bengals were only mostly awful? Man, oh, man how the tables have turned. I hope the fans in Cleveland enjoy it while it lasts. Browns by 14.

Carolina (+2.5) at Atlanta
You know that thing where a team sometimes steps up and turns in a great performance in the first game after their coach gets fired? I could totally see that happening here. Or not happening. That’s the other possibility. Either way, I like the Panthers. Carolina by a field goal.

Detroit (+14) at Minnesota
As long as the Vikings win the games they should win, the worst they’ll do is the six seed and a wild card round visit with their old pals the Packers. This is one of the games they should win. And since the Lions have just about nothing to play for, it seems reasonable to anticipate that this is one the Vikings will win. Minnesota by 10.

Miami (+5.5) at NY Jets
I don’t know. Whatever. Jets. Maybe. I guess. But not by five and a half. Three. Maybe four.

Indianapolis (+3) at Tampa Bay
In a fairly even matchup of terribly uneven teams, I’ll mostly do the same thing as the oddsmakers default to the home team. But I’ll look for the Bucs to win by something more like six.

LA Chargers (-3) at Jacksonville
The winner retains the potential to achieve a .500 season. That’s pretty cool. Jaguars by a point.

Kansas City (+3) at New England
Something was amiss last Sunday in Houston. I’m not sure what it was (though the illness that swept through the New England locker room last week does come immediately to mind), but it was something. That’s not an excuse. Just a way of expressing that I don’t expect to see the same type of inadequate performance from the Patriots at home this weekend. Here are your big three predictives: scoring differential, Patriots +3.9; passer rating differentials, Patriots, +5.5; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +10. That indicates a narrow New England victory. I’d say Patriots by a field goal, but that implies they’re going to have someone on hand to kick field goals. So I’ll go Patriots by four.

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Arizona
The Steelers might yet steal the AFC six seed. That could prove interesting. Pittsburgh wins this one by seven.

Tennessee (-2.5) at Oakland
The Titans need to win this game to make their two upcoming matches with the AFC South-leading Texans matter. And if they can’t win this game, they don’t deserve a shot at the division. Titans by six.

Seattle (-2.5) at LA Rams
The Seahawks are in a battle not only for the NFC West title but for the conference one seed and home field through the playoffs. The defending champions are battling to keep their dim postseason hopes alive — and tracking an 8-8 finish. I won’t be surprised if this one’s every bit as close as their last meeting. And I expect a similar result. Seattle by a point.

NY Giants (+8.5) at Philadelphia
Maybe on Monday someone will let me know how this game turned out. I’ll be particularly interested to learn whether there were more points scored than turnovers committed. Eagles by a touchdown (or some collection of points resembling the same).

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Week Thirteen Picks

November 27th, 2019 Comments off

I guess I can live with 10-4 straight up and 7-6-1 against the spread in week twelve. That was a tough slate of games.

And 120-55-1 (.685) straight up, 90-83-3 (.520) with the points for the season to date feels at least OK-ish.

And all of this means I’m on the verge of taking an outright beating over the last five weeks of the season.

Here’s what not to expect over the next five days.

Chicago (-2.5) at Detroit
You know what’s way more interesting than this game? Well, kinda everything. But especially turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and squash and cranberry sauce and gravy and … . Bears by a point. Something along the lines of 17-16 probably.

Buffalo (+7) at Dallas
This is the game of the day. The Bills are the better team. But I’m not sure they’re better by enough to overcome the difficulties of traveling on a short week. I expect an exciting game that ends in a narrow Cowboys victory. Dallas by three.

New Orleans (-7) at Atlanta
This should be a fun game to watch — if you’re a Saints fan. And a safe game to nap through for the rest of us. New Orleans clinches the NFC South title with a decisive road win. Saints by 21.

Green Bay (-6.5) at NY Giants
It looks like the difference between winning the NFC North title and falling to the conference six seed this season is going to be that the division champ gets to host the wild card team in the first round of the playoffs. That might not ultimately prove the difference between a one-and-done appearance and a second-round visit to New Orleans. But you definitely don’t want that game in Louisiana to be your second straight on the road. What does any of this have to do with this week 13 match? Just this: If the Packers win all of the games they should win over the last five weeks of the season, they can probably lose to the Vikings in Minnesota in week 16, which would mean splitting the season series, and still get to host the rubber match. I’m confident the Packers aren’t looking at this game in quite that context. But just the same, this is still one of those games they should win. And I suspect that’s just what they’ll do. Green Bay by six.

Washington (+10) at Carolina
The Panthers lose games because they don’t have a defense. But that type of weakness becomes a bit easier to manage when you host at team that doesn’t have an offense. Carolina by 13.

San Francisco (+6) at Baltimore
The NFL has to love the fact that the game of the week is crammed, apparently inextricably, into the mass of 1 p.m. Sunday games. The Ravens made a statement when they hosted the Patriots four weeks ago. Can they take down another top contender here? Probably. Though given that the 49ers are a good bit closer to full strength here than the Pats were in early November, it might prove a tougher statement to make. Ravens by three.

Tennessee (+2.5) at Indianapolis
It’s gonna be difficult for the team that loses this game to fight its way back into the race for the AFC six seed, let alone a division title. The winner, on the other hand, not only strengthens its spot in the wild card race, but can move back into a tie for the AFC South title if the Texans lose to the Patriots in the Sunday night game. The Titans are playing better football than the Colts right now, so I’m going with them. Tennessee by three.

Philadelphia (-9) at Miami
The number of games the Eagles can afford to lose over the final five weeks of this season is zero. The number of games the Eagles are going to lose over the final five weeks of this season is one. But it’s not this one. Not by a long shot. Philadelphia by 17.

Tampa Bay (+1) at Jacksonville
These are some seriously uneven football teams. I think the home team’s relative weaknesses line up comparatively well against the visiting team’s relative weaknesses. Jacksonville by four.

NY Jets (-3.5) at Cincinnati
The Jets may be riding a three-game winning streak, but that doesn’t make them a good football team. Fortunately for the Jets, you don’t have to be good to beat the Bengals. New Jersey by three.

Oakland (+9.5) at Kansas City
Nine and a half feels excessive in a game between division rivals. Plus, I think the Chiefs’ vulnerability to the run gives the Raiders an opportunity to make this an actual game. At least for a while. Kansas City by a touchdown.

LA Rams (-3) at Arizona
The Rams are done. The Cardinals are doner. Los Angeles by one.

LA Chargers (-2.5) at Denver
The Chargers are done. The Broncos are doner. But Denver’s taking this one just the same. Broncos by two.

Cleveland (-2) at Pittsburgh
The Browns are done. The Steelers are doner than they realize. But still not as done as the Browns. Pittsburgh by a field goal.

New England (-3) at Houston
I’m tempted to say I won’t know how to assess this matchup until I know which receivers the Patriots will have available to start. That’s mostly, you know, because it’s true. But it’s also true that the Patriots are winning with their defense this season. And it’s true that these are the big three predictive stats: passer rating differential, Patriots +18.6; scoring differential, Patriots +7.6; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +19. I’m taking New England to win and cover no matter who lines up at WR. If they’re down a few receivers, the Patriots maybe only win by four. If they’re at full strength (or what qualifies for it right now), they win by 10.

Minnesota (+3) at Seattle
You know what’s odd? I actually think the Vikings have a decent chance of coming out of this game with a win and the advantage in the race for the five seed. Yes, the Vikings can still win the NFC North. And I’m not writing them off there. It’s just that a win here keeps them in the division race, but puts them squarely in front of the Seahawks for the top wild card spot. And it matters. The six seed is going to travel to Green Bay (or Minnesota) in the wild card round. The five travels to Dallas or Philadelphia. And you have to believe the wild card team that gets to take on the NFC Least champion has the better chance of advancing. All that said, I’m picking the Seahawks. By a point.

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Week 12, Post Thursday Night

November 24th, 2019 Comments off

Well, I went 12-2 picking straight up in week 11. That’s something, right?

I hope so, because I know the only thing my 5-9 finish against the spread last week qualifies as is embarrassing.

Not counting Thursday night’s game (which I somehow managed to get right both straight up and with the points) I’m now I’m 110-51-1 (.682) this season picking straight up, 83-77-2 (.519) against the spread.

Let’s see if I can’t get my record picking the hard way down below .500 this week.

Here’s what not to expect.

Miami (+10.5) at Cleveland
There isn’t a lot of doubt about the outcome of the game. Let’s just hope nobody’s skull gets caved in along the way. Browns by 12.

Denver (+4) at Buffalo
It’s a second straight road game for the Broncos, the first since their collapse against the Vikings. Maybe the Denver D will remember to play all four quarters this time around. I’m going to assume that’s the case and figure Buffalo only comes out on top by three.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Cincinnati
The Steelers’ last chance of recovering their season and qualifying for the playoffs died last Thursday night in Cleveland. (No, Pittsburgh hasn’t been officially eliminated. But let’s be realistic.) The Bengals chances of securing (and then wasting) the first overall pick in the 2020 draft are still very much alive. Pittsburgh by 10.

NY Giants (+6) at Chicago
One of these teams has to win this game. Makes sense that it would be the home team. Bears by four.

Oakland (-3) at NY Jets
The Raiders have a pretend shot at the AFC West title and a very real shot at the conference six seed (which will likely earn them an extra visit to Kansas City). The Jets are an outright lock to continuing being the Jets. Oakland by six.

Carolina (+9.5) at New Orleans
Here’s where the Saints, for all practical purposes, wrap up the NFC South. And still, even though the home team is considerably better than the visitors and ought to win by double digits, I’m reluctant to give close to 10 points in a division matchup. New Orleans by eight.

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at Atlanta
These are not good football teams. (How’s that for insight?) Falcons by three.

Detroit (-3.5) at Washington
The Racists actually have one thing over the Lions. It’s that no one can call Washington “disappointing.” They’re exactly as good as they ought to be. Detroit by a touchdown.

Seattle (-1) at Philadelphia
Sometimes the better team doesn’t win. Eagles by a field goal.

Jacksonville (+3.5) at Tennessee
It was always the case that each game in this season series was going to the home team. Titans by a point.

Dallas (+6) at New England
If the Patriots’ receiving corps were at full strength, this wouldn’t be a challenging game to pick. Here are your big three predictives: passer rating differential, Patriots +13.9; scoring differential, Patriots +4.5; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +19. Those numbers don’t point to a good day for the visitors. But the thing is, the New England receiving corps is not at full strength. And that has to at least give Dallas some hope, even if the home team gets a boost to its ground game. Is that hope enough? Probably not. The Patriots’ outstanding defense carried the team to a win in Philadelphia a week ago. You have to figure it can do much the same at home this week. If it has to. New England by a touchdown.

Green Bay (+3) at San Francisco
The 49ers can effectively seal a first round bye with a win here. I don’t think there’s anything the Packers can do to prevent it. San Francisco by six.

Baltimore (-3) at LA Rams
I suppose it’s possible the Rams hold off functional elimination by rising up and beating the surging Ravens. Lots of things are possible, including a great number of things that never come to pass. Baltimore by seven.

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