Archive for October, 2009

Week Seven Picks

October 23rd, 2009 Comments off

Awful lot of road teams giving an awful lot of points. I don’t like it one damned bit. Spells upsets. Only, I can see hardly any coming. In fact, I like a few of the road teams that are getting a healthy number of points to win their games straight up. So you know where that’s headed. Disaster (for me). That’s where. Here’s what you definitely shouldn’t expect.

Minnesota (+4) at Pittsburgh
You can talk all day about every aspect of this game, but in the end it comes down to the Vikings defense and how well it can perform if it has to go without Antoine Winfield. Things didn’t go so well for Minnesota last week after Winfield left the game injured (or, OK, they went less well than the Vikings would have liked, even if it wasn’t a complete disaster). With a week to prepare for playing without their star cornerback, Minnesota could potentially fare better. Or they could face a Pittsburgh squad that’s had a week to prepare to exploit the hole in their secondary. It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out. I’m gonna assume that the Vikings D is about more than one guy. And I’m gonna assume that even if they have to go without Winfield, Minnesota can continue to be a team that knows how to take the ball away from opponents. That’s huge. Because Pittsburgh’s offense has shown no ability this season to hold onto the football. And with teams as closely matched as these two are (on Pittsburgh’s home turf, anyhow), turnover differential has a way of making the difference. I’m going with the underdog Vikings to win it outright.

San Francisco (+3) at Houston
I can’t see as I see this game one bit differently than the oddsmakers do. I see two hideously unbalanced, middle-of-the-road teams. Houston has an admirable offense and no D. San Fran has a solid D and an O that can’t find its way from one end of the field to the other. So what does that give you? A long and unspectacular game in which the home team comes out ahead by the default three points. So I’ll take the Texans straight up and expect a push with the points.

San Diego (-4.5) at Kansas City
The Chiefs have been rebuilding since the off-season. The Chargers were sent a message Monday night that they’re gonna need to start rebuilding soon themselves. But they haven’t got it yet. And they’re not gonna get it this week. San Diego by three.

Green Bay (-7) at Cleveland
The Browns got the flu. Got that? The whole team got the flu. So I made this ridiculous pick for you. Assuming Cleveland is able to field something resembling a team, Green Bay wins and easily covers.

Indianapolis (-13) at St. Louis
OK, let me start by saying that, yes, I think the Colts, as usual, are one of the best teams in the NFL. And now that we’ve got that out of the way, I feel I should be able to say without raising any hackles anywhere that if I hear or read anyone state, hint or imply that the beatdown the Colts are going to put on the hapless Rams this weekend goes so much as half an ant shit (do ants shit?) toward proving Indy’s greatness, I’m going to find them and vomit directly in their stupid, ugly face. Understood? Wonderful. Colts win and cover.

New England (-14.5) vs. Tampa Bay (at Wembley Stadium, London)
Do I need to go any farther than to point out that the Buccaneers allow more yards per passing attempt (8.5) than any team in the league and have allowed more passing touchdowns (13) than all except Detroit and the Patriots’ last victims? I should think not. Jetlag be damned. New England by 28.

Buffalo (+7) at Carolina
Every week there’s one game I can hardly stand to so much as think about. This week, it’s this one. So here’s what I’ve got off the top of my head: The Bills are coming off what has to have been a huge, emotional victory (though I don’t remember anyone calling it Buffalo’s Super Bowl), and heading off on a second consecutive road trip to face an NFC team that almost certainly has more over the Bills than the meager difference in their records (2-3 vs. 2-4) lets on. If that ain’t a formula for a Carolina win, I’m not sure what is. I wouldn’t give a touchdown in either direction with these two teams, so I’ll take the Panthers to win straight up, Bills to cover.

NY Jets (-6) at Oakland
Richard Seymour says the Raiders are gonna make the playoffs. I’d be happy enough if they could just win this game. But, honestly, I sorta suspect Richard and I both are in for a bit of disappointment. Jets by four.

Atlanta (+4) at Dallas
Jerry Jones is looking at this game as an opportunity for his team to make a statement and establish “real credibility.” I’ve gotta tell you, I’m not feeling it. This game appears to be fairly even on paper. If the Cowboys were healthy at running back, they’d have a shot at exploiting Atlanta’s still relatively weak run defense. But they ain’t. So they don’t. That means this game comes down either to home field or turnovers. We all know which team’s at home. Do you know which one has a plus-five giveaway/takeaway ratio? Or which has a minus-four? Here’s a hint: I’m taking the Falcons to win this one straight up, and I’m expecting a classically ill-timed Tony Romo pick to make the difference.

Chicago (+1.5) at Cincinnati
Everyone’s waiting to see if Ced Benson will visit some payback upon the Bears. That’s fine. And, honestly, I’d kinda like to see it happen. But I think it’ll be Cincinnati’s pass offense that ultimately does Chicago in this week. We’ll see. Bengals by four.

New Orleans (-6) at Miami
There’s an idea out there that Miami might be the team to end New Orleans’ winning streak. Unpredictable Dolphins offense. Saints coming off a big conference win to take on a weak, non-conference opponent. Pride goeth … and all that wishful thinking sort of stuff. It’s not gonna happen. I’m taking the Saints and giving the points.

Arizona (+7) at NY Giants
Well, the thinking goes, if the Giants could get torched by the Saints’ pass offense, they can probably get … . Huh? Is that really how we’re thinking now? Really? Because, you know this right? That it’s a lot easier to defend the pass when you’re opponent has no running game. Like, a lot. Giants by seven.

Philadelphia (-7) at Washington
The Redskins have vowed not to fire Jim Zorn during the season. I’m sure the coach is absolutely thrilled. The enormous boost of confidence the Native Americans are certain to get from that vote of confidence notwithstanding, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles taking it on the chin from yet another wreck of a football team. Eagles win, but only by six (it is a division game and Philly is on the road for a second straight week after all).

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Week Six Picks

October 16th, 2009 Comments off

It’s all starting to make sense to me. Or so I think. Five weeks by the boards. The stats start to even out (that is self-correct for oddball performances and overstrong/overweak matchups). And I start to feel like I know what’s going on in the NFL. That’s about as dangerous as it gets. Here’s a bunch of stuff that I shouldn’t be nearly so shocked as I will be to see not come to pass:

Houston (+4.5) at Cincinnati
Do we get the Texans D that gave up 197 yards to Chris Johnson in week two or the one that’s hemmed in the (ahem) Raiders and Cardinals the last two weeks? I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess Houston is about to get a lesson in the differences between Ced Benson and Beanie Wells. Bengals by a touchdown.

Detroit (+13) at Green Bay
Let me take a second or two to think about whether I have anything approaching a meaningful insight on this game to offer. Ummmmmm … nope. I’ve got nothing. I think I’ll just take the Packers and give the points.

St. Louis (+10) at Jacksonville
You know, until it became clear that the Lions were actually gonna pull it off last season, I was fairly confident that no NFL team would ever go 0-16. This season, I think there are two teams that can duplicate the achievement. The Rams are one of them. Jacksonville by 13.

Baltimore (+2.5) at Minnesota
The Ravens need a win badly to stop their two-game slide; and they’re gonna need their defense to get them there. Specifically, they’re gonna need their vaunted run D to bounce back quickly from a week five matchup that saw Ced Benson put up 120 yards (and a touchdown) against them. If the Ravens can somehow figure out a way to limit Adrian Peterson‘s output, they might be able to force Brett Favre into making the two or three bad decisions that can kill you when you face a team like Baltimore. If they can’t, they’re dead. Because while you might be able to outgun some teams with run-oriented offenses, that’s not something you can hope to do when your offense is squaring off against Minnesota’s D, particularly not in the Vikings’ stadium. The Ravens may be up to the task (and if they’re not, I can’t tell you who is). But I’m not willing to count on it. Not after last week. Vikings by a point.

NY Giants (+3.5) at New Orleans
The good news for me is, this is the only week all season when I have to pick against at least one of these teams. The bad news is, I’ve got a pretty good feeling I’m gonna get screwed either way on this one. I’ve looked this game over, under and sideways interminably and I’m drawing blank. These teams are so evenly matched it’s scary. And what I usually do in a situation like this is look at giveaway/takeaway differential, but that’s no help here either. The Saints are at plus-seven; the Giants are at plus-six. That leaves me with the fallback: When all else is equal, you take the home team. Saints by a field goal.

Cleveland (+14) at Pittsburgh
For the record, you’re not gonna win a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers if your starting quarterback can’t manage to do better than 2 of 17 for 23 yards. Just, you know, in case anyone was unsure on that point. Steelers go out front by about 30, lose focus in the second half and still end up covering, if just barely.

Carolina (-3.5) at Tampa Bay
The Panthers main problem this season has been their inability to hold on to the ball. That shouldn’t pose much of a problem against a team that wouldn’t know what to do with the damned thing if you handed it to them a foot and a half away from your goal line. Carolina by 10.

Kansas City (+6.5) at Washington
I’d love to take the Chiefs here. And, hell, Washington’s bad enough that I could probably find some way to rationalize picking against the Native Americans despite the fact that the rebuilding Chiefs clearly have a lot of work to do. But the thing is, the Chiefs clearly have a lot of work to do. So I’ll take Washington, though there’s no way in hell I’m giving six and half.

Philadelphia (-14) at Oakland
Really, Greg? Ya think? Eagles minus however many points I have to give.

Arizona (+2.5) at Seattle
This is kinda like New Jersey-New Orleans in reverse. On this one, the good news for me is that while both of these teams will screw me this week just like they’ve done every week this season, it’ll only cost me once. So there’s that. Look, the part of me that says “the Cardinals were in the stinkin’ Super Bowl, like eight months ago” figures Arizona has to be better than Seattle. So does the part of me that has absolutely no use or faith in the Seahawks. But then the part of me that looks at the stats and the trends says Seattle’s been a marginally better team. On both sides of the ball. Seattle can’t stop the run worth a damn. But Arizona can’t run worth half a damn. Plus the Seahawks are at home. So what can I do? Seattle by a field goal.

Tennessee (+9) at New England
Two observations about this game, neither of them earth shattering. One: Things ain’t getting any easier for the Titans, who clearly are in for a very long season. Two: The thing about last week that’s been lost in all the “what’s wrong with New England” chatter is that the Broncos are simply a better team than a lot of people still give them credit for being. The only thing wrong with the Patriots is that they haven’t hit their stride yet, which makes it hard to beat good teams on the road. Two gimmes leading into the week eight bye should help them tune it up and get ready for the second half of the season. Patriots by 14.

Buffalo (+9.5) at NY Jets
It’s as simple as this: If you can’t manage more than three points at home against Cleveland, you’re not gonna go into the Meadowlands and compete with the Jets. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got to say. New Jersey wins and covers.

Chicago (+3.5) at Atlanta
The Falcons can’t stop the run. The Bears can’t stop the pass. That adds up an early night (i.e. a fast game). It also adds up to the home team winning, no matter where this game is played. That’s Atlanta, so it’s the Falcons. Let’s say by four.

Denver (+4) at San Diego
I may have mentioned this somewhere before, but just in case: It’s my opinion that the Broncos are a better team than a lot of people still give them credit for being. (And, look, that went for me, too, a week ago. Because while I’ve been saying this team was better than people realized since the off-season, I admit I didn’t know how much better.) Also, the Chargers are a much worse team than many observers have yet realized. Thence the absurd backward spread on this game. Broncos by six.

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Week Five Picks

October 11th, 2009 Comments off

Too many big spreads. Too many home teams getting points. That’s what I see this week. And I don’t like any of it one little bit. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be upset week, which could happen, I’m thinking a handful of these games are guaranteed to bite someone on the ass. That someone might as well be me. Here’s what not to expect.

Cincinnati (+8.5) at Baltimore
Yeah, I’m not giving eight and a half points here. Partly because close games are Cincinnati’s thing this season (the average margin of victory in Bengals games has been four and a half points). It’s also because I think Cincy is a better team, particularly on defense, than they’re getting credit for being. The Bengals don’t have great stats, but they do have an ability to bring pressure on D. That ultimately won’t be enough to stop Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense, but it should be enough to make the Bengals competitive until very close to the end of yet another game. I’m taking Baltimore straight up (because I’m not a complete idiot), but I like Cincy to keep the difference to more like three or four.

Cleveland (+6) at Buffalo
I’ve got this weird feeling that Cleveland is gonna manage to win this game. I’m not picking it that way, because it’s just an odd hunch. And it’s mostly based on the dread that I might have to endure a week of media speculation that the Braylon Edwards trade< might somehow amount to "addition by subtraction" for the Browns. That ain't the kind of thing I'm ever gonna base a pick on, though. So while I do like Cleveland to keep it closer than six, I'm taking the home team straight up. Pittsburgh (-10.5) at Detroit
The Lions couldn’t have won this game with Matt Stafford under center. For once, the Steelers not only build an early lead, but hold it. Pittsburgh by 14 anyway, and very likely more.

Washington (+4) at Carolina
OK, I’ll admit that I’m one of those nutjobs still holding on to the belief that the Panthers somehow have to be better than their 0-3 start. But even if I weren’t, I’d still probably pick them to win here, because there’s nothing remotely nutty about believing the Native Americans are was worse than their 2-2 record. Carolina straight up; Washington with the points.

Dallas (-8) at Kansas City
A second straight road game for the Cowboys, who will be without two key offensive contributors. Perhaps worse still for Dallas, Tony Romo will still be taking the snaps. Although I’m picking the Cowboys straight up over the still-rebuilding Chiefs, I’m not giving eight points. And I won’t be shocked (surprised, yes; shocked, no) if there’s an outright upset.

Tampa Bay (+15) at Philadelphia
The Eagles are getting some key players back on the field with this game. That’s nice. But it’s mostly nice in a long-term sense. It’s immaterial here. Because this game isn’t going to be won by skill players. It’s gonna be won in the trenches. And when it comes to line play, on both sides of the ball, Philly is so vastly superior to Tampa Bay it’s kind of a joke. I’m taking the Eagles and, while I’d never give this much with actual money on the line, giving the stinkin’ 15.

Minnesota (-10) at St. Louis
The Rams don’t have the league’s worst run defense, but it’s pretty far down on the list. And when you’re giving up 135 yards per game and 4.1 per carry and you’re preparing for a visit from Adrian Peterson, you’re not looking at a good day. I’m taking the Vikings and giving the points.

Oakland (+15.5) at NY Giants
I swear, if I have to read or hear one more goddamned word about how much talent the Raiders have, I’m gonna puke. OK, so there are some talented players in Oakland. Great. There’s also one gigantic bust of a first overall draft pick lining up under center. You can’t win in the NFL when you’ve got that much invested in a guy who clearly has no interest in behaving like a professional. It only gets worse when the one player you might actually hope could carry your offense isn’t gonna be on the field. So while I still believe the ever-worsening injury situation in New Jersey is gonna become a serious problem sooner or later, it won’t be this week. Giants by 17.

Atlanta (+2.5) at San Francisco
I still don’t believe in San Francisco. But the stats, which have started to paint a picture, tell me the Niners are slightly better than the Falcons on both sides of the ball. And I know, even without the stats, that Atlanta still can’t stop the run. Add in a slightly better giveaway/takeaway differential and home field advantage and you’ve got yourself a San Francisco win. I’m gonna guess by about three.

Houston (+5.5) at Arizona
I’ll be honest: I started to think about this game only to discover that I really, really didn’t want to. I got far enough to realize I’m not sure that either offense is particularly well suited to exploit the weaknesses in the other team’s defense. And to wonder if an Arizona offense that’s had trouble protecting the ball can reasonably be expected to win, even at home, by more than a field goal. So I’m taking Arizona to win, Houston to cover. But that’s not really based on anything other than what I think I know (which is worth exactly nothing).

New England (-3.5) at Denver
I don’t have anything to say about the coaching matchup. It’s been done to death. So I’ll just focus on the teams. And I’ll start by pointing out that I’ve been impressed enough with Denver thus far this season to conclude that the Broncos are gonna win the AFC West. But they’re gonna do it with a record of 10-6 or 11-5, not 14-2. That’s my way of saying the Broncos are due to lose a game or two. Also, the Denver D is never going to be able to sustain the ridiculously low points-allowed average of 6.5 per game it’s posted so far this season. That’s not about Denver; it’s about the law of averages. As for the Patriots, well, it seemed like the offense was starting to click for real last week. I expect it to click some more here. And I expect the Pats to bring the Broncos back down to eart in the process. As long as New England can hold onto the ball (Denver has an impressive giveaway takeaway differential of 7, that vs. New England’s +2), the Patriots should be able to put this game away by the end of the third quarter. Patriots by a touchdown.

Jacksonville (-1) at Seattle
On one hand, I’m not buying the notion that wins over eternally inept Houston and mysteriously struggling (but struggling just the same) Tennessee somehow add up to Jacksonville being a better team than they appeared to be through the first two weeks of the season. On the other, I’m not buying anything the Seahawks are selling. I’ll take the Jaguars and give the point.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Tennessee
If Tennessee slips to 0-5 while Indianapolis reaches 5-0, the Titans become the first team to officially start looking forward to 2010. Good luck with the off-season, Tennessee. Indy by a touchdown.

NY Jets (-1.5) at Miami
Sure, Miami can win this game. As long as Chad Henne can hold up under intense pressure. Something tells me new addition Braylon Edwards won’t be the only New Jersey player to punch someone in the face this week. Jets by four.

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Week Four Picks

October 2nd, 2009 Comments off

Look at this. Picks on a Friday, even. That doesn’t make them any more accurate, mind you. Just earlier. Do I get points for that? Here’s what not to expect:

Detroit (+10) at Chicago
Boy, it was awfully nice that Washington managed to be bad enough for Detroit to break its 19-game losing streak last weekend. I wonder how long the losing streak that starts here will last. Bears by a touchdown.

Seattle (+10.5) at Indianapolis
The Seahawks are getting a bit healthier. So that’s good news for Seattle fans, I suppose. Unfortunately, it’s about the extent of the good news they’re likely to get this week. Colts by at least 13.

Tennessee (-3) at Jacksonville
Sooner or later, the Titans are gonna win a game. But if it isn’t here, it might not be until mid-November. I suspect it’ll be here. Tennessee by a field goal.

NY Giants (-8.5) at Kansas City
I’m not comfortable with the spread on this game. New Jersey’s gonna win. There’s little question about that. But the Giants, who remain banged up, opened with a pair of tough divisional battles then got the gift of a cakewalk home game against one of the weakest teams in the league. I just sort of wonder if they might not come out flat in this non-conference, throwaway game. The Chiefs, hungry though they may be, don’t have the guns to pull off this big an upset, even in their home stadium. But they may catch the Giants napping early, build up a lead and only lose by four to seven points.

Tampa Bay (+7) at Washington
In week three, Washington managed to answer the seemingly unanswerable question, “How can anyone lose to Detroit?” Perhaps this week they’ll figure out how to lose to Tampa Bay. I rather doubt it, considering that the Bucs can neither score nor stop opponents from scoring (not a good combination). Still, considering the fact that Washington’s offense has demonstrated an inability to locate the end zone (four touchdowns in three games), I’m not giving seven to any opponent, no matter how bad. Native Americans by three.

Baltimore (+2) at New England
There’s very little reason to believe New England will win this game. OK, yeah, the Patriots are at home. There’s that. And New England’s defense has been better than advertised, despite having suffered somekey injuries. That’s another thing. Plus, the best quarterback in football (when he’s 100 percent) appears to be shaking off the rust, which, you know, is pretty great for the Patriots. Thing is, though, the Ravens have been playing better football than that Pats thus far this season. They’re executing exceptionally well in every area except pass defense (and even then, they’re no worse than middle of the pack). They score on the ground. They score through the air. They hold onto the ball. And they stop the run better than any other team in the league. Normally, you’d expect the Patriots to find a way to exploit the Ravens’ one weakness. But that’s a tough thing to do when neither your QB nor your receiving corps is fully healthy. So, ultimately, you have to like the Ravens in this game. But it remains the case that it’s always safer to pick with New England (especially at home) than against them. So I’m taking the Patriots. To win by a point. At the last second.

Oakland (+9) at Houston
I still have no idea what to make of the Texans this season. Fortunately, I know exactly what to make of the Raiders. Houston by a margin that will be more than three but less than nine.

Cincinnati (-5.5) at Cleveland
The Browns are gonna start Derek Anderson. OK, sure. That should solve pretty much all of their problems. I’m taking the Bengals and giving the points.

Buffalo (-2) at Miami
Yeah, you know what? I don’t care who starts under center for Miami. Don’t care if much of the Dolphins offense is based on a single gimmick, either. The Bills are too injured and in too much trouble to win a division game on the road. So they won’t. Miami by a field goal.

NY Jets (+7) at New Orleans
No one’s gonna think any less of the Jets if they get torched by the Saints. That’s good news for the Jets. New Orleans by 10.

Dallas (-3) at Denver
OK so let me make sure I understand how this works. Mr. Stupid Interception heads out on a short week to face a defense that has picked off five balls in three games (and that gives up a league-best five points a game), at a time when the running game that has sustained his team is has been seriously hobbled, and somehow his squad is favored to beat the 3-0 home squad. Is that right? Does that sound right? Because it doesn’t to me. Denver by four.

St. Louis (+9.5) at San Francisco
The exciting news for the 49ers is that they’re in first place in their division. The sobering news is that their division is still the NFC West. The long-term upside to that is that the Niners are probably headed for the playoffs (the first round of the playoffs, that is). The short-term upside is that they get games like this one that they can pretty much record as a win going into the weekend. I’m taking San Francisco and giving the points.

San Diego (+6.5) at Pittsburgh
Injuries have rendered both of these teams not as good as they ought to be, and significantly less good than their fans’ believe them to be. But, at least in the short term, the Steelers are in less trouble than the Chargers. Pittsburgh is playing better defense than San Diego. They’re stopping the run well. If the Steelers can manage to hold on to the ball on offense (something they haven’t been doing this season), they should be able to handle the recovering, but still fairly banged-up Chargers. Pittsburgh straight up; San Diego with the points.

Green Bay (+3.5) at Minnesota
Man, you know, nothing against the Vikings, who have been playing great football and have been fun to watch), but I would love, love, love to see the Packers win this game. And if they had any hope of slowing down Adrian Peterson, they might have been able to pull it off. Green Bay’s defense is tied with the New Orleans D for the league lead in interceptions (at seven each). And no one knows better than the Packers just how prone to picks the Vikings’ starting quarterback can be. But even Brett Favre can’t throw the ball away if he isn’t throwing the ball. And he hasn’t been throwing the ball much thanks to the fact his team features the best running back in the league. That formula has worked well for the Vikes so far this season. And with a Green Bay run D that’s been less than stellar so far coming into their stadium, Minnesota can fairly safely count on more of the same this weekend. I’ll take the Vikings and give the points.

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