Can we just focus on my straight-up record last week? Please. Because, you know, there I wasn’t so bad. Not great. But not bad. I finished week eleven 9-5 straight up, which puts me at a very respectable 107-54 on the season. That’s .665. I can live with it. (Wish I’d picked the Texans and the Chiefs, but I can live with it.) Against the spread? Well, this is why I don’t place bets: 5-9 for a season record of 76-83-2. So yeah. Let’s see how wrong I can be this time out. Here’s what not to expect.
Tennessee (+11) at Philadelphia
How do you keep Mark Sanchez from killing your postseason hopes? (I mean, other than, you know, not starting him.) Well, one short-term method would be to host the Titans, whose defense has allowed 143.5 rushing yards per game (second worst in the league), 4.4 yards per carry, and 11 rushing TDs this season. And you just let LeSean McCoy win the damned game for you. Should work for a week, anyhow. Eagles by nine.
Detroit (+7) at New England
It’s tempting — hell, from what I’ve seen and heard this week, it’s damned near irresistible — to focus on whether or to what extent New England’s high-powered offense can overcome Detroit’s stifling defense. I get it. But no matter how you break down the matchups, what you settle on is an expectation that the Patriots will score somewhat less than their average of 32.3 points per game and the Lions give up something more than their average of 15.6. So what about the battle between the Lions’ rather less than spectacular offense and the Patriots decreasingly underrated D? Is the big question there whether the Patriots secondary can handle Megatron? Maybe. But I don’t think so. I think this comes down to the Detroit O line’s inability to protect Matthew Stafford and the corresponding success opposing defenses are having getting to the quarterback without committing extra personnel to the pass rush. The Patriots pose a significant problem for Stafford in that regard, because if they can get to you with three or four guys, they retain the ability to throw some confusing looks at you before the snap — and Stafford is a guy who you can count on to throw a pick or two under those conditions. I think that’s the difference in this game. And I think short fields and/or defensive scores are the reason the Patriots ultimately cover the seven-point spread. Patriots by 17.
Tampa Bay (+5.5) at Chicago
These teams are considerably more evenly matched than one might thing. They’re certainly more evenly matched than they ought to be. The decision goes to the home team. Chicago by three.
Arizona (+6.5) at Seattle
This game has nothing to do with the NFC West title. Sure, a loss would effectively end Seattle’s chances of taking the division. But the reality is that Seattle already has little to no chance of taking the division. This game has to do with Arizona’s bid to secure home field through the playoffs. It has to do with Seattle’s hopes of securing a wild card spot (and avoiding a Super Bowl hangover). And it has to do with a division rivalry. The Cardinals are the better team. And, more important, the Cardinals bring a run defense that’s stout enough to limit Marshawn Lynch, which at this point translates to limiting the Seahawks offense. I expect a hard-fought, low-scoring game, and I think the Cardinals come out on top by a point or two.
St. Louis (+5) at San Diego
I honestly don’t know what to make of either of these teams. The 6-4 Chargers have managed to beat exactly one good team so far this season. And that win came against the Seahawks (who, as it turns out, may not be all that good) way back in week two. The 4-6 Rams, on the other hand, have developed a weird habit of beating good teams, the latest manifestation of which was a decisive win over the Broncos last weekend. I guess since I’m not sure there’s an actual good team in this game, my best bet is to take the Chargers to win another game against a — not sure, let’s go with mediocre — opponent. But I’ll hedge and take the Rams to cover. San Diego by four.
Washington (+9) at San Francisco
The 49ers are a middling team with a better than average chance of wrapping up their season December 28. But he Racists are in a full-on tailspin. San Francisco by 12.
Dallas (-3.5) at NY Giants
There’s no reason to anticipate the Giants can win this game. No reason, that is, except spite. If you want to make the smart pick, go with talent and momentum (which is to say, pick Dallas). If you’re like me and you’ve got nothing meaningful on the line, you can occasionally pick a team to win for ridiculous reasons. Like spite. Giants by a field goal.