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NFL 2021 Week Two Picks

September 19th, 2021 No comments

Cincinnati (+2.5) at Chicago
The Bengals figured out that Andy Dalton isn’t an NFL QB. You have to imagine the Bears will get there, too, sooner than later. But not soon enough. Cincinnati by a touchdown.

Houston (+13) at Cleveland
The Browns can’t let another game slip away. The Texans should make achieving that goal fairly simple. Cleveland by 17.

LA Rams (-3.5) at Indianapolis
I don’t know. I think the Colts can keep this one competitive. For a quarter. Maybe a half. Rams by 10.

Buffalo (-3.5) at Miami
The Bills aren’t likely to commit the types of mental errors that cost the Patriots a win over the Dolphins in week one. Then again, division rivals, Miami in the heat of what is still the summer … . Dolphins by a point.

New England (-6) at NY Jets
The Patriots aren’t likely to give away a second straight game, particularly not to a team that’s considerably weaker than the one they lost to a week ago. But six seems like a lot to give in a divisional road game. I’m thinking New England by four.

San Francisco (-3) at Philadelphia
The Niners are probably the better team. But maybe not by enough to overcome the challenges that come with traveling across the country to play an early game. Eagles by a point.

Las Vegas (+6.5) at Pittsburgh
In Vegas, this game goes to the Raiders. In Pittsburgh, probably not. Steelers by three.

New Orleans (-3) at Carolina
When do we start having conversations about whether Drew Brees really was all that good? Asking for a bunch of friends in New England and Tampa. Saints by seven.

Denver (-6) at Jacksonville
Maybe the Jaguars will win a game or two late in the season. Maybe. Broncos by 14.

Minnesota (+3.5) at Arizona
I didn’t see anything from the Vikings last week to make me think they can keep this game as close as three and a half. Cardinals by 10.

Atlanta (+12.5) at Tampa Bay
This sure looks like the mismatch of the week to me. Buccaneers by 21.

Dallas (-3) at LA Chargers
The Cowboys didn’t impress me in the season opener. But I’m also not sold on the Chargers. Dallas by a point.

Tennessee (+6.5) at Seattle
Probably more like 9, I think. Seahawks.

Kansas City (-3.5) at Baltimore
By the time this game is over, the media will be ready to hand the Lombardi to Kansas City. Visitors by seven.

Detroit (+11.5) at Green Bay
One of these teams has frustrations to work out, demons to exorcise … whatever. The other is in serious trouble. Packers by 17.

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NFL 2021 Week Two, Thursday Night

September 16th, 2021 No comments

NY Giants (+3.5) at Washington
There’s still an outside chance Brand X turns out to be a sort of decent football team. So let’s look for them to get the win. Washington by 3.

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NFL Week 0ne 2021 Picks (post opener)

September 12th, 2021 No comments

Here’s the deal. It’s week one. I don’t know anything. You don’t know anything. No one really knows anything. Not anything real, I mean. We think we know stuff, because of last season and the preseason and all of that. But we don’t. We never do.

So here’s what not to expect. Or maybe it’s what to expect. Or something in between. I don’t know.

Philadelphia (+3) at Atlanta
At least from the outside, the 2021 Falcons look pretty similar to the slightly less than mediocre 2020 Falcons. Then again, while the Eagles look better this year than last, they could hardly look otherwise. I suspect the home team with no defense starts out with a win against a visiting team with no offense. But I’ll hedge and take Philly to keep it close. Falcons by a point.

Pittsburgh (+6.5) at Buffalo
The Steelers are probably just good enough to keep the AFC North competitive. Which should mean they’re just good enough to keep this game competitive. But they’re probably not good enough to win their division or their opening game. Bills by four.

Minnesota (-3) at Cincinnati
The Vikings may have improved some since last year. The Bengals, it appears, have not. Minnesota by six.

San Francisco (-8.5) at Detroit
The Lions are still the Lions. San Fran by seven.

Arizona (+3) at Tennessee
One or both of these teams may see its defense round into form as the season progresses. But almost no NFL defense ever starts the season fully ready to play its best football. Bet the over. Home team by six.

Seattle (-3) at Indianapolis
The Colts look like one of those teams that gets just enough right to make its struggles all the more painful. Seattle by a touchdown.

LA Chargers (+1.5) at Washington
The Chargers are probably (certainly?) the better team in this matchup. But not by enough to win in an opening weekend visit to a decent east coast team. Brand X by a field goal.

NY Jets (+3.5) at Carolina
This is a good matchup to get out of the way early. Home team by five.

Jacksonville (-3) at Houston
One of these teams has to not lose. I don’t know which it will be. But I know the Texans look extra awful. So I’ll guess Jacksonville ends up the non-loser. Let’s say by a point.

Cleveland (+5.5) at Kansas City
The consensus is that the Browns are good, but not quite good enough to keep up with a team like the C-suites. And that’s probably true on opening weekend. But I think it’s closer than most imagine. Kansas City by three.

Miami (+3) at New England
Watching the Dolphins-Patriots series bookend the teams’ seasons should be interesting. Come week 18, the emphasis may well have shifted to defense. But I’ll take the team with the stronger offense to win the opener. Patriots by six.

Green Bay (-3.5) vs. New Orleans at Jacksonville
It doesn’t really matter where this game is being played. The Saints have too much work to do. Green Bay by nine. (The media will be talking about the inevitability of a Packers Super Bowl championship by the time the day is out.)

Denver (-3) at NY Giants
The Giants may not be a great team, but this looks like one of those seasons when they turn out to be better than anyone expected. New Jersey by three.

Chicago (+8) at LA Rams
I’ve never been terribly impressed with Andy Dalton. I don’t expect that to change now. Rams by 14.

Baltimore (-4) at Las Vegas
The Ravens are clearly the better team here. Maybe it’s close through the first half. But it won’t be close down the stretch. Baltimore by 12.

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2021 NFL Opener Pick

September 9th, 2021 Comments off

Dallas (+9) at Tampa Bay
I have no excuse for not being ready to make my week one picks. I’ve had the entire offseason to prepare. And still … nope. Just not ready. Which makes me a lot like the Dallas Cowboys, who aren’t ready to take on the defending champs. The big difference is that I may still be ready to make the rest of my week one picks by Sunday, whereas the Cowboys might not be ready to for much of anything until the middle of the season. Oh, also, my lack of preparedness isn’t likely to hurt quite so much. Bucs by 12. (See what I did there?)

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Super Bowl LV Pick

February 7th, 2021 Comments off

OK, lets’ just get this over with.

Or, actually, first I’ll just say that I don’t think I’ve ever felt less excited about a Super Bowl. It’s nothing to do with the teams. Or the players. It’s not that I think we’re in for a bad game.

It’s just context. The world was spinning in the wrong direction when this season started, and it’s still spinning in the wrong direction as this season ends. I’ve found it almost impossible to care about football since September. And if I’m to be honest now, I have to admit that a big part of me just wants to get to the other side of this game so I can start looking forward (and counting down) to what I hope will be a season I can focus on starting in the fall

But for the nonce … in for a penny, in for a pound, I suppose. Here’s what not to expect.

Kansas City (-3) vs. Tampa Bay
If this game turns out to be shootout everyone’s expecting, the Chiefs should repeat as champions. The Bucs can put up some points. There’s no question about that. But if Tampa can’t find a way to slow the Kansas City passing attack, and if the Bucs offense becomes one dimensional in an attempt to keep up, then you can expect the O line issues that Tom Brady has been disguising down the stretch are going to show up as the game wears on. And that would spell dome for the Buccaneers.

Conventional wisdom says that for the Bucs to succeed, their secondary has to come up big. Or at the very least, the Tampa DBs need to play well enough to give their pass rushers time to chase down Patrick Mahomes. And, sure, if those things happen, the Bucs D can succeed by forcing Mahomes to make some difficult choices, and to make mistakes down the stretch.

But I really think this game is about ball control. I think Tampa’s objective needs to be to take advantage of Kansas City’s questionable run D, mix in a good bit of those short, high-percentage passes Brady made such good use of in New England, and grind clock. And if they finish drives, the Bucs can beat Mahomes’ Chiefs the way the Patriots used to beat Manning’s Colts, by limiting the QB’s opportunities to hurt you and forcing him into believing he’s got to win the game on his own. It’s under those conditions that gunslingers make fatal mistakes.

I don’t know if it’ll happen. And I don’t much care whether it does. But if I’m looking at anything at all from this game, it’s that. The Chiefs get the ball right around the two minute warning with a chance to win it with a touchdown at the end of regulation. And Mahomes throws the pick that decides the game.

Buccaneers by four.

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NFL Conference Championship Picks

January 23rd, 2021 Comments off

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at Green Bay
Tampa’s biggest obstacle in this game isn’t their opponent — the Bucs are a more complete football team than the Packers — or the cold (Tampa’s most important player has been in some big cold weather games and done just fine). It’s that this is their third straight road game. That’s never easy in the NFL. And it’s one of the reasons wild card teams only very rarely make it to the Super Bowl. But the Bucs aren’t afraid of playing in Green Bay. And they have the advantage of facing a pass D that has been inconsistent this season. The Packers’ pass D looks OK on paper, but only in aggregate. If you take a close look at the stats or watch the games, what you see is a unit that runs hot and cold depending on the quality of the opposition and whether their O is able to build a big lead and get the opponent to abandon the run. And that’s the thing all around. I think this game goes to the team that takes the run away from the others. For the Bucs, taking away the run means clamping down on D. If they can make the Packers’ offense one-dimensional, they’ll get Aaron Rodgers to make mistakes the way they got Drew Brees to make mistakes. For the Packers, taking away the run probably requires building a two-score lead. If they do that, Tom Brady loses play-action and has to try to buy time for his receivers to get open in the flat or downfield. That’s when the Buccaneers’ questionable offensive line becomes a problem. But if the Bucs can keep it close — and I expect they will — I’m confident Brady will find a way to get them to the Super Bowl. Tampa by three.

Buffalo (+3) at Kansas City
We all know (right?) that there isn’t really a question about whether Patrick Mahomes will make a miraculous recovery from his concussion and be cleared to play in this game. That’s happening. But whether Mahomes will play is less important than whether he should play. I think that’s the factor that makes the difference here, and we won’t really know what’s up until we see what happens on the field. The reality of this game is that the Bills have been playing better football than the Chiefs down the stretch — but not better by enough that we should expect Buffalo to be able to top a healthy Kansas City team in Arrowhead. But what if the Chiefs are playing with QB who isn’t as sharp as he ought to be. What makes Mahomes dangerous is that if he has the ball in his hands and he’s behind the line of scrimmage, all possibilities remain open. He can pivot on the head of a pin. The guy throws blind passes across his body and finds his receivers. That means you can chase him all the way to the right sideline and he still has two thirds of the field open to him. But if he’s out there in a fog trying to play like that, Mahomes is going to make critical mistakes. And that’s not about him. It’s about every player at his level. When a guy who thinks he’s a god is forced to play as a human, bad things can happen. I think the Bills D will keep this game close no matter what. And if Mahomes is operating at 75 or 80 percent, the Buffalo defense might find a way to win this game. If Mahomes is in better shape than that, the Bills offense is going to show that it can function in a big away game. I won’t be surprised at any outcome that isn’t a blowout one way or the other. But since I have to pick, I’ll look for Kansas City to find a way to come out on top. Chiefs by a point.

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NFL Divisional Round Picks

January 16th, 2021 Comments off

LA Rams (+6.5) at Green Bay
I’m not sure this game is the cakewalk for Green Bay that it’s widely perceived to be. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll be surprised if the Rams actually pull off an upset — though definitely not shocked. And if the Rams were healthy at QB, I’d probably think they had a real chance. As it stands, the Los Angeles offense needs to be both productive and consistent on the round for the Rams to have a chance. If the Rams fall behind by more than 10 points at any time, I think the game’s over. In the Rams favor is that they have the ability on defense to disrupt and make the Packers’ O one-dimensional. And that’s how you beat Green Bay. Because Aaron Rodgers, in the great tradition of gunslinger QBs, will make fatal mistakes if you can get him into a mindset where he believes he has to carry the team. So if the Rams can generate enough offense to keep it close, and take the run away from the Packers, they can win. But it’s hard to see everything going right for the Rams in a road game against a talented and well rested opponent. Packers by six.

Baltimore (+3) at Buffalo
I think the Ravens might be the best equipped team in the AFC to beat the Bills. I know. I know. The Chiefs are a team of destiny and all that. Fine. And we can talk about whether the Bills match up well against the Chiefs next week if that’s the AFC Championship we get. Because the Bills have to get by the Ravens first. And the outcome will depend on how well Buffalo handles the pressure of this game. The Bills are going to need to be disciplined enough to stick with the run no matter what happens here. Because if they start trying to sling the ball all over the field, the Ravens pass D will destroy them. And in order to stick with the run on offense the Bills are going to have to limit the run on D. Force Lamar Jackson to use his arm rather than (or perhaps it’s just as much as) his legs and Buffalo should be able to handle Baltimore. I think we’re going to get a hell of a game. And in the end, I expect the Buffalo D to make the big play that determines the outcome. Bills by a point.

Cleveland (+9.5) at Kansas City
This is the one game this weekend that I expect to disappoint everyone except Kansas City fans (assuming everyone else is rooting either for the Browns or for a good game). It’s really hard to envision a path to victory for Cleveland. Defensively, the Chiefs and Browns are pretty much identical. And Kansas City just has more and better options on O. I think it’s really that simple, and I expect this game to be over not long into the third quarter. Chiefs by 14.

Tampa Bay (+3) at New Orleans
The thing where it’s supposed to be hard to beat a team three times in a season is nonsense. Not because it isn’t true. There aren’t many opportunities for a three-game sweep given the structure of the NFL season and postseason. But when those opportunities arise, the sweep is completed more than half of the time. That doesn’t make the sweep an easy thing. Good teams are hard to beat. Every time. Harder when they’re in your division and know you well. And the only thing that ever really matters, regardless of what happened during the regular season, is what happens in that third game. What’s happening in this third game? The Bucs have improved over the course of the season as their offense has come together. The Saints at best, are they team they’ve been since week one. And they’re probably not quite even that. This game is going to come down to the wire. And the outcome is going to turn on whether Tampa’s mediocre coaching or outstanding quarterback play ends up making the difference. My money in that situation is on the guy with the ball in his hands. Buccaneers by three.

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NFL Wild Card Round Picks

January 8th, 2021 Comments off

Indianapolis (+6) at Buffalo
The Colts’ defense is stout enough that if I thought Philip Rivers could play effectively in a cold weather game, I’d be sorely tempted to pick an upset here. Bills by four.

LA Rams (+3) at Seattle
I’m not sure it matters who starts at quarterback for the Rams. In L.A.? Sure. But not in Seattle. Seahawks by a touchdown.

Tampa Bay (-8) at Washington
Brand X has a pass rush. And the Bucs have a questionable O line. That makes this a much tougher match than fans seem to think. But old #12 still has a few tricks up his sleeve. So I like the visitors here. Tampa by three.

Baltimore (-3) at Tennessee
I won’t be shocked if the Titans win this game. They figured out how to beat the Ravens the last time these teams faced off in Nashville a short seven weeks ago. But Baltimore is playing better football now than they were then. If they can get their ground game going this time (against an uneven Titans D), the Ravens ought to be able to take this one. Baltimore by a point.

Chicago (+10) at New Orleans
Conventional wisdom around Washington aside, I sort of think the Bears are the team that least belongs in the tournament this year. Saints by 14.

Cleveland (+6) at Pittsburgh
It’s nice for the Browns that they made the playoffs this year. Steelers by nine.

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NFL Week Seventeen Picks

January 3rd, 2021 Comments off

Just like everything else in 2020, somewhere along the line, my accounting of wins and losses for the season went haywire.

Maybe I’ll go back and fix it some time. Or maybe not.

Right now, I know I went 9-7 straight up and 8-8 against the spread in week 16. And I’m pretty sure I can do even worse picking the final 16 games of this absurd season.

So here’s what not to expect.

Miami (+1) at Buffalo
Even though the difference between the two and three seeds has been minimized by the expanded postseason format, I still expect the Bills to play to win. Buffalo by a field goal.

Baltimore (-14) at Cincinnati
The Ravens are in with a win. The Bengals are the Bengals. Baltimore by 13.

Pittsburgh (+9) at Cleveland
The visitors are grabbing a sort of bye week where they can. The hosts are playing for a postseason berth. The Browns ought to have this one sewn up by halftime. I bet they won’t. But I bet the pull it together just in time, and come out on top by 10.

Minnesota (-4) at Detroit
I never know how to pick a game like this. Neither team has anything to play for. And the Vikings are the “better” team, but the Lions are the home team. Ugh. Detroit by three.

NY Jets (+3) at New England
Somebody once said “you can’t not beat the Jets.” I don’t know if that’s still true. But it ought to be. Patriots by a touchdown.

Dallas (-1.5) at NY Giants
Either the 6-9 visitors or the 5-10 home team will out of this game with a shot at taking the NFC East title. Because 2020 isn’t really over yet. New Jersey by three.

Atlanta (+7) at Tampa Bay
A home win earns the Bucs a wild card round visit to the NFC East champion. That’s a nice little incentive. Tampa by 10.

Green Bay (-4) at Chicago
A win here and the Packers get a week off and home field through the NFC playoffs. That should do it. Green Bay by three.

Las Vegas (-2.5) at Denver
I’m not sure why the Raiders are giving points to any team in a road game. The Broncos are terrible, sure, but are they really that terrible? Denver by four.

Jacksonville (+14) at Indianapolis
There are numerous postseason possibilities for the Colts. But none of them mean anything if the team doesn’t win. They’ll wrap this one up early. Indy by 20.

LA Chargers (-5) at Kansas City
With home field through the AFC playoffs already secured, the Chiefs are taking week 17 off. The Chargers will take advantage of the opportunity to end their season with a four-game win streak. Los Angeles by seven.

Arizona (-3) at LA Rams
Effectively a play-in game, which arguably is not the ideal time to be without your starting quarterback. Cardinals by a point.

Seattle (-6.5) at San Francisco
The Seahawks don’t really have a shot at the NFC one seed. They’ll play like they do just the same. Seattle by a touchdown.

New Orleans (-6) at Carolina
The Saints are in mostly the same position as the Seahawks. Only they’re playing at home. New Orleans by 10.

Tennessee (-7) at Houston
The Titans have something to play for. Tennessee by nine.

Washington (-4) at Philadelphia
Brand X should probably win this one and capture the division. Which means they won’t. Eagles by six.

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NFL Week Sixteen Picks

December 26th, 2020 Comments off

OK, let’s just get this over with, shall we?

I went 10-6 straight up, 7-8-1 against the spread in week fifteen, which lands me at 133-73-1 (.643) and 99-228-6 (.457) respectively for the season.

None of that is particularly good. But I’m off to a 1-0 start both ways in week sixteen. So there’s a Christmas miracle for you.

Let’s see how I manage to mess it up. Here’s what not to expect.

Tampa Bay (-10) at Detroit
If you land as the five seen in the NFC this season, your prize is a wild card round game against the NFC East “champions.” If that’s not an incentive for the Bucs to take care of business this weekend, I’m not sure what would be. Tampa by nine.

San Francisco (+5.5) at Arizona
The Cardinals are still in the hunt. The Niners are not. There are good reasons for that. Arizona by a field goal.

Miami (-3) at Las Vegas
I’m not sure what’s gone wrong with the Raiders. Or what’s gone right with the Dolphins. But here we are. Miami by three.

Atlanta (+10.5) at Kansas City
The Chiefs just need to win one of their final two home games of the season to sew up home field in the AFC playoffs. I don’t think they’ll opt to wait a week. Kansas City by 17.

Cleveland (-9.5) at NY Jets
The Jets got their win for this season last week. Browns by seven.

Indianapolis (-2) at Pittsburgh
The Schedule was always going to catch up with the Steelers. And now it has. Colts by six.

Chicago (-7.5) at Jacksonville
I think we can just go ahead and say that the Jaguars are on the clock. Bears by nine.

NY Giants (+10.5) at Baltimore
The Giants (sort of) look like they’re playing for something. The Ravens actually art playing for something. Baltimore by 13.

Cincinnati (-7.5) at Houston
The Texans should at least be “good” enough to beat the Bengals at home. I think. Houston by four.

Denver (+3) at LA Chargers
Sometimes you have to play a game even if it doesn’t matter and no one cares. Chargers by six.

Carolina (+1) at Washington
There’s still a solid chance Brand X “wins” the NFC East title with a losing record. But I think we’re going to have to wait a week. Washington by three.

Philadelphia (-3) at Dallas
Uh, yeah, sure. Eagles by a point.

LA Rams (+1.5) at Seattle
With a win here, the Seahawks can clinch the NFC West and the conference three seed. They may need all 60 minutes to get it done, but they’ll get it done. Seattle by three.

Tennessee (+3) at Green Bay
Both teams need a win. Either can get a win. One is at home. Packers by a point.

Buffalo (-7) at New England
The battle is over, but I’m not sure the Patriots are done fighting it. They’ll make the postseason just a bit tougher for the division champs. New England by three.

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