Archive for October, 2008

Week Nine Picks

October 31st, 2008 Comments off

This could be setting up as an upside-down week. Midseason doldrums setting in. Teams starting to feel like they know who they are and who their opponents are, and going into games feeling like they ought to win. Road teams giving way too many points. It all points to a distinct possibility that we’ll all be back to shaking our heads in bewilderment come Monday morning. Or possibly not. Here’s what you might possibly expect or not expect.

NY Jets (+5.5) at Buffalo
This game is way more evenly matched than the line suggests. And given the fact that the Bills are dealing with some key injuries, I won’t be at all surprised if the Jets steal a victory. But I can’t pick it that way. Not with the amazing interception machine that Brett Favre has become staring at a game that the Jets almost have to win. The Bills secondary has hardly led the league in picks this season, but I’m willing to bet they pluck at least two balls out of the air this weekend. And I’m guessing that makes the difference. Buffalo by a point.

Detroit (+12.5) at Chicago
You’ll know for sure that it’s upside-down week if the Lions manage a win here. If it’s rightside-up week, the Bears win by something along the lines of three touchdowns.

Jacksonville (-8) at Cincinnati
The Jaguars, who couldn’t find a way to beat Cleveland at home a week ago, are in the same boat as the Colts: finished in their division and needing to go no worse than 7-2 through the rest of the season to have any hope of securing a wild card berth. They certainly can’t afford to be the team against which the Bungles finally get off the schneid. And you have to expect they won’t be. That said, until they start showing a good bit more consistency, I’m not taking Jacksonville to beat anybody by eight points. Jags by three.

Baltimore (+1.5) at Cleveland
The Browns’ recent successes notwithstanding, I’m fairly confident that the Ravens are the better team in this game. But they’re not better by enough to overcome Joe Flacco’s habit of throwing the ball to opposing DBs. Not on the road, anyhow. Cleveland by one.

Tampa Bay (-9) at Kansas City
Quick, name a player you think could potentially come up big for Kansas City in this game. You see what I’m saying? Bucs by 13.

Houston (+4.5) at Minnesota
Two things the Houston Texans can’t do: Hold on to the ball and keep opposing running backs out of the end zone. Now, the Vikings aren’t so good with the turnovers, either, but that’s a problem they mostly have when they throw the ball, something they likely won’t have to do much of in this game. Minnesota by seven.

Arizona (-3) at St. Louis
Apparently Steven Jackson is just healthy enough to play. That means St. Louis should be able to keep this just close enough to make it a push against the spread.

Green Bay (+5) at Tennessee
I decided how I was picking this game while watching the Titans put the Colts away on Monday night. Yeah, Tennessee looked impressive in that game. The Titans defense should set them up to win most games — and they’ll probably do just that so long as their offense is able to focus on the run and wear opponents down (without putting Kerry Collins in a position to hurt them). But I don’t know how you play a game as intense both physically and emotionally as that one and recover in time to play effectively against a tough, non-conference opponent six days later. The Colts may not suffer a letdown (though they might) because of the fact that they’re hosting New England this week. The Titans, it seems to me, can hardly help it. Plus, they’ve got to lose sometime. So I’m taking the Packers even though I’m fairly certain the Titans are the better team. Green Bay by three.

Miami (+3.5) at Denver
Man, can the Broncos ever not stop the run. Denver gives up close to 155 yards a game and 5.4 a carry. That’s going to continue to hurt the team as the season wears on. It could, and probably should, hurt them pretty badly in this game. But I don’t know. The Broncos are at home. They’re coming off a bye. And they’re facing a defense that has no hope of slowing down their passing attack. I’ve gotta take Denver to win, though I don’t see them doing it by more than a field goal.

Dallas (+8.5) at NY Giants
I don’t know what to say about this game. The Cowboys are falling apart. The Giants aren’t. No one would ever have guessed four weeks ago that this would be the situation, but it is. New Jersey by 10.

Atlanta (-3) at Oakland
Can Oakland win this game? Sure. I mean, the Raiders are at home and all. Bring some pressure on the rookie QB, get him to make some key mistakes, and you’ve got a chance. Of course, I’ve seen no evidence that Oakland’s D can actually do those things, which could get in the way. And, you know, the bit about having no ability whatsoever to stop the run could pose a problem with Michael Turner in the game. But other than that, I think the Raiders’ only real problem in this game is the fact that they have no offense. So, yeah, the Raiders could win. If it’s upside-down week. Otherwise, it’s Atlanta by a touchdown.

Philadelphia (-6.5) at Seattle
You know, I sort of suspect the Eagles are gonna find a way to lose this game. But I can’t come up with a reason to believe myself. Philly is better than Seattle in every aspect of the game. And teams don’t lose as much traveling east to west as they do going the other way (for whatever reason — maybe it’s just easier to adjust to playing at 7 p.m. your time than at 10 a.m.) So I don’t have it in me to pick against the Eagles. At least not straight up. I’ll take Philadelphia to win and Seattle to cover.

New England (+6) at Indianapolis
This game isn’t about which team needs the win more. It’s not about whether the Patriots have been overachieving or whether the Colts have been underachieving. It’s not even about a weird encounter between two old rivals. It’s about one player: Peyton Manning, pure and simple. Because, look, the Colts defense, now with Bob Sanders but without Marlin Jackson ultimately isn’t healthier than it was six days ago, and now it’s playing on short rest. And while Matt Cassel still isn’t Tom Brady (nor is he going to be), he’s unquestionably growing as a quarterback and he’s certainly been playing better football than Kerry Collins. (And say what you will about the difference between New England’s and Tennessee’s run offenses, the difference is 15 yards per game and .1 yards per carry, which is to say statistically insignificant.) Of course, there’s no question but that New England’s defense doesn’t stack up with Tennessee’s. But the Patriots’ defensive front has played extremely well of late, bringing the kind of pressure it takes to make up for the unit’s weaknesses in the secondary. And with Indy’s problems on the O line, you can rest assured the Pats are gonna get after Manning. On the other hand, you can also rest assured that there are gonna be opportunities for Peyton, if he can get his quick release going, to find some open receivers. And there’s the central question: Will Manning play like the Peyton Manning of old, or like the guy who sat on the sideline looking like he’d seen his life flash before his eyes in the second half in Tennessee Monday night? If it’s the former, the Colts should be able to pull out a victory and keep their season alive. If it’s the latter, the Patriots have a very good shot of putting the last nail in Indy’s coffin. I’ve seen more of the latter than the former so far this season, and I can’t come up with any good reason that I should expect otherwise here. New England by three.

Pittsburgh (+2) at Washington
No. Sorry. I still haven’t bought in on the Pittsburgh thing. Of course, I haven’t bought in on Washington either, which kind of makes this game a giant headache for me. In the end, I’ve gotta take the balanced team over the one with the great defense and the lackluster offense, especially since the balanced squad is at home. Washington by three.

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Week Eight Picks

October 24th, 2008 Comments off

Yeah, OK, this all makes sense to me now. I mean, it must. I went 12-2 straight up last week. And one of the two games I picked wrong, I lost by way of a 57-yard field goal in overtime. (And the other one involved the Rams beating the Cowboys, which is something I wouldn’t even pick in retrospect. Like, literally, if you were to ask me today, “Do you think the Rams will have beaten the Cowboys last Sunday?” I’d probably say, “Shit, no. How stupid do you think I am?”) So, you know, I’m feeling good. That should last about another two days. Here’s what not to expect.

Oakland (+6.5) at Baltimore
Hey, Ravens D, can I make a request: How about you put this week’sbounty on Al Davis? Baltimore by 10.

Arizona (+4.5) at Carolina
I’m not sure which of these teams I’d pick on a neutral field. But they’re not playing on one. They’re playing in Charlotte. And last I checked, the Cardinals weren’t doing too well with the traveling to the Eastern Time Zone thing. Panthers by three.

Tampa Bay (+2.5) at Dallas
Man, the mighty NFC East suddenly isn’t looking so damned mighty, is it? It looks to me like the South might be a tougher division. And while I expect things to change once things settle down in Dallas (and once the Cowboys get healthy), the Bucs look like a tougher team to me at this point. Plus, I’m fairly confident that Jon Gruden knows Brad Johnson’s weaknesses. The key stat here, to my mind, is the gap between the Bucs’ +4 giveaway/takeaway differential and the Cowboys’ -6. That’s a pretty major difference, and one that I don’t think is gonna change much based on who’s calling the defensive plays for Dallas. Tampa by four.

Washington (-7.5) at Detroit
Yeah, Washington hasn’t looked all that impressive lately, but playing Detroit is usually a pretty reliable cure for that. Native Americans by 17.

Buffalo (-1.5) at Miami
You can sometimes get away with trickery for a game or two, but as was made manifest a week ago, running a college offense in the NFL doesn’t work over the long term. Banged up though they may be, the Bills still manage to win here by no less than a field goal.

St. Louis (+7.5) at New England
For a while, I was thinking this game might prove to be a test of Bill Belichick’s defensive philosophy, which is to take away what an opponent does best. New England’s run D has been a tad spotty so far this season (not bad, but not great) and if Jim Haslett has brought anything unique to the Rams, it’s been a realization that his team features perhaps the league’s best running back. But it appears Steven Jackson won’t be 100 percent for this game. And that spells trouble for the Rams, especially if their run D, which has been significantly worse than spotty, can’t stop the Patriots’ plan C running attack. New England by 13.

San Diego (-3) vs. New Orleans (at Wembley Stadium, London)
Obviously, not having Reggie Bush on the field is gonna hurt the Saints. Bush makes it difficult for New Orleans’ opponents to put effective defensive game plans in place. But, you know, I’ve seen San Diego fail to put effective defensive game plans in place for a lot of teams that didn’t include Reggie Bush this season and I’m not sure why I should believe that’s gonna change in a game that comes at the end of a very wide-ranging two-week road trip. I suspect Deuce McAllister will fare well enough against San Diego’s lackluster D to give Drew Brees the room he needs to keep the ball moving and put a bunch of points on the board. I’m taking the Saints to win this one straight up.

Kansas City (+12.5) at NY Jets
Larry Johnson isn’t the only Kansas City player who’s sorry. Jets by 14.

Atlanta (+8.5) at Philadelphia
I’ve got this nagging feeling in my gut that Atlanta is somehow gonna pull off an upset. Can’t find any data to support that feeling, though. In fact, pretty much everything I look at tells me this is Philadelphia’s game to lose. The biggest factor working against my gut is that while the Falcons offense gets most of the job done on the ground (Atlanta gets nearly half its yards and more than half its TDs with its run game) the Eagles D is hard to run against, and harder still to score rushing touchdowns against. So I’ve decided not to trust my gut on this one. I’m looking for the Falcons to cover, but I’m taking the Eagles straight up. I hope I don’t end up regretting it.

Cleveland (+6.5) at Jacksonville
And so the Browns season and Romeo Crennel’s head coaching career come to a close. I’m not even thinking much about this one. I’m just taking the Jags and giving the points.

Cincinnati (+10) at Houston
Sooner of later the Bengals are gonna fall ass-backward into a victory. But it’s not happening this week. Texans take it straight up. It’s a push with the points.

NY Giants (+2.5) at Pittsburgh
I haven’t done the research to back it up, but I’d be willing to wager that the vast majority of mid-season games billed as “Super Bowl previews” ultimately aren’t. This one probably won’t be, either. And if I had to predict which one of these teams won’t be on the field in Tampa February 1, I’d probably have to go with Pittsburgh. It’s just very hard for me to see a Steelers team that is already banged up surviving eight more weeks of attrition and continuing to win most of its games. It’s also very hard to me to believe that Ben Roethlisberger’s unique talent for making bad decisions won’t catch up to his team sooner or later. And this week is as good a time for that to begin as any. The Steelers have a great defense. But so to the Giants. And the fact is, the Giants are a much better offensive football team than the Steelers, while Pittsburgh is only slightly better on D than the Giants. I like New Jersey here. And I like them to win by a touchdown.

Seattle (+5) at San Francisco
At least Mike Singletary will always be able to say his first game as head coach was a win. And that’s something. Niners win. Seahawks cover.

Indianapolis (+3.5) at Tennessee
On one hand, it’s all but impossible for me to believe the Colts could be effectively eliminated in AFC South race at the end of week eight. On the other, it’s entirely impossible for me to believe Indy’s faltering offense will be effective against Tennessee’s stout D, or that the Colts’ D will have any luck slowing down the Titans’ running game. Indy’s only hope is to get out to a 14-point lead and force Kerry Collins to try to beat them with his arm. That’s something Peyton Manning’s team ought to be able to do. But thus far this season I’ve seen no evidence they can actually pull it off. Titans win a low-scoring game by four.

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Week Seven Picks

October 17th, 2008 Comments off

Normally, by week seven you can start to get a handle on the NFL. You know which teams are really good, which are really awful and, more important, you’ve started to get a sense of how the mass of teams in the middle are likely to stack up against each other one-on-one. Not this season. This season any team can be the best in the league in any given week. And any team can be the worst. And anyone who claims to know which is which is either seriously deluded or an abject liar. So why do I keep making predictions? I don’t know. Maybe I think I might get a bunch right one week and get to spend a day or two thinking I’m a genius. Maybe it’s some weird form of self-flagellation. (“You will pick. And you will be mostly wrong. And you will be frustrated. And you will know that you deserve it. And maybe next time you’ll think twice before you order the veal, you heartless bastard.”) Or it could just be that I’m in this shit up to my neck already, so I figure why not just go ahead and drown already. Let’s go with that and move on to this week’s litany of highly questionable pseudo-analyses.

San Diego (-1) at Buffalo
I’ll be honest: I haven’t been able to get a handle on this game. I mean, I think I understand why the Chargers are favored, but I’m not entirely sure the reasoning behind it holds up. The Bills, while they’ve done many things well this season, have had difficulty holding on to the ball. They come into this game with a giveaway/takeaway differential of -3. The Chargers are at +4. That’s a swing of seven turnovers in the Chargers’ favor. And we all know that if you turn the ball over against good teams, you tend to lose games. Beyond that, I suppose it only makes sense to give some weight to recent indications that that Chargers may not be as uneven as they looked in early going and that the Bills may not be quite as formidable as they appeared. But I’m not sure there’s enough evidence there to draw any solid conclusions. Ultimately, I see these two teams as fairly evenly matched. So the question becomes, do I like the West Coast team that’s traveled across three time zones for an early game or do I like the team that has a habit of coughing the ball up? The answer, unfortunately for me, is neither. I’m going with Buffalo, because they’re at home, but I know the mere fact that I’m picking them is probably a sure sign that the Bills are destined to lose.

New Orleans (+3) at Carolina
As stout as the Panthers’ defense is, I don’t believe it can effectively shut down the Saints’ high-powered offense. I do, however, believe Carolina can use its running game to control the ball and keep Drew Brees and company off the field, which is almost as good and just as effective. Panthers win it straight up. It’s a push with the points.

Minnesota (+3.5) at Chicago
Neither team should count on picking up a lot of yards on the ground in this game. But the Bears might not need to. Chicago should be able to accomplish just enough against Minnesota’s pass D to get the job done. Bears win. Vikings cover.

Pittsburgh (-10) at Cincinnati
I don’t know what I like less, the idea of picking a seriously banged up road team that’s giving double digits or the idea of taking the Cincinnati Bengals under any circumstances. My gut tells I’m screwed either way. My head tells me to hedge. Steelers win, Bengals cover.

Tennessee (-8) at Kansas City
Part of me thinks the Chiefs will be lucky to put up a field goal in this game. Part of me thinks the Chiefs will have a little luck. Tennessee, 24-3.

Baltimore (+2.5) at Miami
Yeah, you know what? I’m just not at the point yet where I’m willing to buy in to the idea that the Dolphins have become a good team. I might regret that. But at the moment, I’m looking at the Ravens’ D and thinking Baltimore wins 14-10.

San Francisco (+11) at NY Giants
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got this weird feeling that the Giants may have some frustrations that they’re looking to take out on someone. New Jersey by 17.

Dallas (-7) at St. Louis
Am I mistaken, or don’t the Cowboys run, in essence, the Norv Turner variation on the Air Coryell offense (which is largely a permutation of the Bill Walsh offense)? And didn’t Brad Johnson play under Norv Turner? Moreover, didn’t Johnson earn a ring as the starter for a team running another variation of the West Coast system? OK, so if I’m right about all that (and I’m pretty sure I am), I can’t help but wonder why the Cowboys, who face one of the worst teams in the league (regardless of what they accomplished a week ago the Rams are still terrible) are so much as considering starting Tony Romo who has a broken finger on his throwing hand. Because Romo wants to play? Because the fans want him to play? Because Jerry Jones wants him to play? Here’s a thought: Maybe forget about the peripheral nonsense and focus on doing what’s best for the team in the long term. Or is that just something the Cowboys don’t do anymore? It’s crazy. But not nearly as crazy as you’d have to be to put money on this game. The Cowboys win by seven if Johnson starts, three if it’s Romo.

Detroit (+9.5) at Houston
The Lions continue their march toward perfection. Don’t worry, though, Lions fans. Your team is certain to make the most of the picks it acquired in the Roy Williams trade, right? I mean, what team in football could possibly pick twice in the first round — and then again at the top of the second — and not improve dramatically? Oh, yeah. Uh, right. Sorry about that. Texans by 14.

Indianapolis (-1.5) at Green Bay
If this game were being played a week from now, I might have some remote hope of picking intelligently. One more game and I’ll have a sense of whether the Colts really are turning it around and getting their season on track. But this game isn’t being played a week from now. So that’s me guessing. Just pure guessing. And, as usual, when I have to guess, I guess in favor of the home team. (And this, folks, is just one of the many pieces of evidence you can glean from this blog to support the case that I am not a professional football expert. I’m like the experts in that I have no goddamned idea what I’m talking about. But I’m unlike them in that I admit it. So that’s exciting, isn’t it?)

NY Jets (-3) at Oakland
Man, firing Lane Kiffin sure did solve all the Raiders’ problems, didn’t it? (Certainly solved the problem of Oakland scoring all those pesky points, anyhow.) Jets by 10.

Cleveland (+7.5) at Washington
The Native Americans may be banged up, possibility at some key positions, and they may have had a rather poor showing against a pitiful team in a week that saw Cleveland post its first good game of the season, but I’m a) not convinced the Browns can really have righted their ship so dramatically so quickly, and b) fairly certain Washington won’t drop two in a row at home (though I would have said the same about Indianapolis a few weeks back, so take my opinion for what little it’s worth). Washington by four.

Seattle (+11) at Tampa Bay
The good news for the ailing Seahawks is that backup quarterback Seneca Wallace might not be hurt bad enough to miss another start. That’s right, I said that’s the good news. So what’s the bad news? Well, pretty much everything else. I’m taking the Bucs and giving the points.

Denver (+3) at New England
Seems to me, we’re gonna learn a lot about Matt Cassel in this game. Denver’s defense has shown no ability thus far this season to bring pressure up the middle. Assuming that trend continues, Cassel should have all the time he ought to need to go through his reads, find the open man and make the throw. And while Cassel’s still very inexperienced as an NFL starter, you have hope he’s at a point where he can perform at home under favorable defensive conditions. If he can, the Patriots are in this game. If he can’t, they’re toast. The Broncos are a 4-2 team for one reason: Their offense scores lots and lots of points. And while it only scores through the air about half the time, Denver’s offense sets up most of its scores by moving downfield quickly using the pass. And it’s pretty much a given at this point that the Patriots D is going to surrender scores to a pass-oriented offense. That may yet turn around, but it probably won’t be in this game. Nor should the Denver D’s habit of giving up lots of points change, though, so long as Cassel can do his job. I expect a high-scoring affair that’s still in contention as Tuesday morning approaches. I’m gonna look for New England to come out ahead, if only because the Pats are at home and very much in need of a win, but I don’t think they’ll do it by three. More like one, I’d guess, 31-30.

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Week Six Picks

October 10th, 2008 Comments off

Some of the easy games this week aren’t really as easy as they look. Here’s what not to expect.

Chicago (-2.5) at Atlanta
Look, we can talk all day about the Chicago defense picking on poor, inexperienced Matt Ryan. And it would make sense to do that. Hell, it’s what all the experts are focusing on, so there’s gotta be something to it. But what if the Bears don’t get the chance to make this about Ryan? What if the Falcons are able to settle into comfort zone with their running game and keep the pressure off the kid? And what if Chicago’s offense doesn’t help out by building a lead and forcing Atlanta to play catch-up? I ask these questions because I don’t see any of those situations as what ifs so much as inevitabilities. I see this game as competitive on the scoreboard through the first three quarters, but expect to see a growing disparity in time of possession — in Atlanta’s favor. And I anticipate Chicago’s D wearing down and Atlanta pulling away in the fourth quarter and winning by at least a touchdown. But as far as I know, no one’s ever accused me of knowing what I’m talking about.

Miami (+3) at Houston
At least one of these questions will have been answered by the time this game is over: Is Miami really better than anyone suspected? And is Houston somehow pathologically incapable of winning a football game? I’m guessing we end up with a no on the latter, and a continued “maybe, who knows?” on the former. Texans by a field goal.

Baltimore (+4.5) at Indianapolis
I’m taking the Colts straight up for one reason only. I simply can’t see Indy starting 0-3 at home. But that’s a lousy way to pick a football game. The fact of the matter is that the Indianapolis O line is gonna have a very, very difficult time keeping Baltimore’s pass rush away from Peyton Manning and the Indy defense is gonna have a very, very difficult time slowing down Baltimore’s ground game. Assuming Manning’s on his feet for the last two minutes, the Colts win by a point.

Detroit (+13) at Minnesota
The good news for Michael Crabtree (or maybe Jeremy Maclin) is that Matt Millen’s departure probably means the Lions won’t be drafting a wide receiver at the top of the first round this year. The bad news for Michael Oher (or maybe Curtis Painter) is that for all intents and purposes the Lions are on the clock. Vikings by 14.

Oakland (+7.5) at New Orleans
Teams have a way of over-performing in their first game under a new coach. That’s a given. And, reportedly, the Raiders are planning to let JaMarcus Russell air the ball out a good bit more. That could prove effective against a New Orleans defense that surrenders 245 yards per game through the air. So, you know, the Raiders could potentially make this a game. But they’re not gonna win it, because there’s no chance their D keeps the Saints out of the end zone. New Orleans by four.

Cincinnati (+6) at NY Jets
At what point, Mike, does continuing to employ a coach who is a) clearly incompetent and b) apparently happy to field a team of whiners and thugs, because you’re too cheap to cut him loose become an insult to the memory of your father? For whatever little it’s worth, I’d say it happened about two years ago. Jets by 13.

Carolina (+1.5) at Tampa Bay
This game’s a pure a coin toss as I’ve ever seen. Both teams have balanced offenses that can put up points. And while Carolina’s probably a bit stronger on D, no single measurable is compelling enough to call a sure difference maker. I’d be tempted to hang my hat on home field if it weren’t for the fact that Carolina has demonstrated an ability to win in Tampa. So I’m literally letting a coin decide it. And I’m going with the Panthers straight up.

St. Louis (+14) at Washington
It’s official. I’ve come around to believing the Redskins are for real. That means they’re certain to start losing games. But not until they face a real NFL team, which won’t happen until week nine at the earliest. Washington by 17.

Jacksonville (+3) at Denver
Let’s save some time. Let’s pretend I went through all the stuff we all already know and I’ll just get to the heart of the matter: At this point in the season, I think the odds that Denver’s offense will be able to keep it in high gear for one more game are better than the odds that Jacksonville’s defense will finally kick in. Denver by touchdown.

Dallas (-5) at Arizona
So now we know the Cardinals offense can indeed score like crazy with or without Anquan Boldin. Or at least we know they can pull it off if their opponents keep turning the ball over. And given Tony Romo’s uncanny ability to help opponents stay in games, I’m expecting the home team at least to be able to keep this one competitive. I’ll take the Cowboys straight up, but I wouldn’t give more than three.

Philadelphia (-5) at San Francisco
I have to believe the Eagles are better than their record. And I have to believe 2-3 in the NFC East is more impressive than 2-3 in the NFC West. Philadelphia by seven.

Green Bay (+2) at Seattle
I’m expecting Julius Jones to be a major producer for my fantasy team this week, which I guess means I’m expecting Jones to have a big day for his reality football team, too. Because the Packers simply have no ability to stop the run. Seahawks by four behind a big day for Julius.

New England (+6) at San Diego
Look, I’m willing to concede that the Chargers should be favored in this game. They’re at home. Their backs are up against the wall. They absolutely hate the Patriots. The Pats have been away from home for a week. And Tom Brady is recovering from surgery. But six points? Seriously? The Chargers are six points better than the Pats even though LT’s turf toe is clearly a much bigger problem than he and his team would like to admit? Six points even though the Chargers are looking more and more like a Norv Turner-coached team? Six points even though Randy Moss, Wes Welker et al will be going against a Chargers defense that has surrendered 266 yards a game and 10 passing TDs this season? (San Diego’s defense hasn’t exactly excelled against the run either, by the way. Attrition and sub-par coaching clearly are taking their toll in San Diego) I’m not buying it. In fact, I’m so not buying it that I’m not only taking the Pats to cover; I’m taking them to win it straight up.

NY Giants (-7.5) at Cleveland
Do the Browns need their season to be over before they make a move to Brady Quinn? And if the answer’s yes, then what constitutes over? Will 1-4 get it done. Or are we gonna have to wait until they’re 1-9 and facing Houston? Whatever. Giants by 14.

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Week Five Picks

October 3rd, 2008 Comments off

Tough week. I’m not even sure what else to say. Except that I think we’re gonna see some incredible football. Hard hits. Big strikes. Whatever it is you like about football, you’ll probably get it on the highlight reels. And that ain’t bad. Just don’t try to figure out which teams are gonna come out ahead, because it’s damned near impossible in most of these games.

Tennessee (-2) at Baltimore
You know why I’m excited about this game? Because I don’t care a whit about either of these teams. What I mean is, I don’t care if either of them makes the playoffs, won’t have a bet on this game and won’t be at all heartbroken if I pick it wrong. Most of all, though, what I mean is that while I hope no one sustains any kind of serious injury, I don’t care who gets hurt. And, trust me, players are gonna get hurt. Because this game is gonna be bru-fucking-tal. These teams don’t like each other one little bit. They both have phenomenal, physical defenses. And they’re both trying to maintain standing in tough divisional races — Tennessee working to stay ahead of the Jaguars and Colts, Baltimore looking not to lose any more ground on Pittsburgh after suffering a tough, overtime loss in the ‘Burgh on Monday night. In the end, I think it’s that Monday night game that makes the difference here. Because I just don’t think you can rebound from one highly physical game in time to survive a second in six days. Titans by three.

Kansas City (+10) at Carolina
I’m sorry. I’m sure there’s something interesting that could be said about this game, but I’d actually have to think about it to figure out what that is. And I simply refuse to spend any time thinking about anything that has to do with the Kansas City Chiefs. Panthers by 13.

Chicago (-3.5) at Detroit
You know how sometimes in a movie or a TV show a character will appear to wake up from a nightmare only to discover they’re in yet another nightmare? Yeah, well, congratulations, Lions, on finally getting rid of Matt Millen. Good luck with the whole still being owned by the Ford family thing. Bears by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+7) at Green Bay
All I’m gonna say is bet the over. Because it doesn’t appear to me that either defense is at all well suited to stop the other team’s offense. Packers win 31-27.

Indianapolis (-3) at Houston
The Texans don’t do anything spectacularly. But they’re good enough at running the football and at rushing the passer to make this a game. Colts win, but only by the three they’re giving.

San Diego (-6.5) at Miami
Do you think the Dolphins we saw shock New England two weeks ago are the real deal? Neither do I. Chargers by 10.

Seattle (+7.5) at NY Giants
Can the Giants perform at the same high level without Plaxico Burress on the field? Nope. But that shouldn’t cost them much against the Seahawks, who simply don’t win games on the East Coast. Giants by three.

Washington (+6) at Philadelphia
Don’t put money on this game. The NFC East is way too competitive for anyone to have any real ability to predict what’s gonna happen in a given game. And lingering uncertainty about Brian Westbrook only makes it tougher. I’m taking Philly straight up and expecting Washington to keep it close, but there’s no reason to believe I’ll be right.

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at Denver
Three things I believe: 1.) The Buccaneers aren’t as good as they looked last week. 2.) The Broncos are much, much better than they looked last week. 3.) Brian Griese only has so many good games in him in any given season, and he’s pretty much maxed out. Denver by six.

Buffalo (+1) at Arizona
This game is a nightmare to pick. Here’s the problem: Setting aside the virtual statistical equality between these teams outside the of the win-loss column, I’m fairly certain the Bills are the better team. What I’m not at all certain about is whether that matters here. I’ll explain why in a second. First, though, let’s look briefly at how the teams stack up against each other on paper. The Bills and Cardinals offenses both rack up a lot of yards and score a lot of points (27.3 and 26.5 per game respectively). Their defenses are both fairly stout in terms of yardage surrendered. And even though the Cardinals have allowed an average of 10 points per game more than the Bills, a lot of that disparity is attributable to last week’s fiasco in the Meadowlands. (It’s early enough in the season for one freaky game to skew the stats.) The Bills appear to have done a better job holding on to the ball than that Cards, too, but that stat is also thrown off by last week’s game, in which the Cards, who were plus-three in giveaway/takeaway, going in, committed seven turnovers to the Jets’ one. All that said, it’s hard for me to look past the fact that the Cardinals are 2-2 and have yet to beat a good team while the Bills are 4-0 and seem to have beaten at least one good team (and on the road at that). It’s also hard for me to ignore what I’ve seen with my own eyes, which is that Bills execute better than the Cards on both sides of the ball. So I’m picking the Bills, right? Well, not so fast. You know, there’s that whole thing about how when the matchup isn’t lopsided the team that needs to win more usually finds a way to come out ahead. And the Cardinals, who come in off a two-game East Coast road trip that did not go well at all, definitely need this win more than the Bills. Besides, the Cards are at home, which matters in the NFL. So I’m picking the Cards, right? Well, not so fast. I’d probably hold my breath and just pick Arizona if knew Anquan Boldin were going to play. But I don’t know. In fact, it appears Boldin may well miss the game as a result of his sinus fracture. That’s a big deal, because the Bills’ D is tough and the Cardinals will need all the help they can get on offense. So I’m picking the Bills, right? Not so fast. Because there’s also the fact that … oh, hell, you know what, I could do this all day. To hell with it. I’ll take my chances with what I think is the better team. Buffalo scores the deciding points in the closing seconds of the game.

Cincinnati (+17.5) at Dallas
OK, Ocho Yappo, here’s the deal. Your team is 0-4 and not in any danger of getting better any time soon. You’re getting most of three touchdowns from your opponent. And, trust me, you’re not impressing anyone. So please, please, please either let your play speak for you (which I strongly suspect you’re too distracted to actually pull off) or shut the hell up already. Cowboys by 24.

New England (-3) at San Francisco
This one’s all about New England’s secondary. J.T. O’Sullivan is gonna take some sacks, but he’s also gonna have some opportunities to unload downfield. If the Patriots’ DBs can break up the majority of those throws, the Pats win. If they can’t, the Niners win. I expect to see the former. I also expect to see Matt Cassel start to take some chances (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse) and to find Randy Moss a bit more often. Patriots by six.

Pittsburgh (+3.5) at Jacksonville
The way these teams give up sacks, I’ll be shocked if both starting quarterbacks are still standing at the end of the night. Shocked. Whichever team keeps it’s QB on his feet best wins. I’m gonna look for that to be the one that isn’t playing on six days rest. Jags by three.

Minnesota (+3) at New Orleans
If New Orleans can resist the urge to try running the ball and Minnesota can resist the urge to try throwing it, this game could get real interesting. The Vikings’ problem will be that if they fall behind, they’re probably not gonna be able to catch up. And, with a record of 1-3 coming, that may prove to be the case with Minnesota’s season as well as this game. Saints by a touchdown.

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