Archive for October, 2010

Week Eight Picks

October 31st, 2010 Comments off

Coming in late this week, I know. The good news is, I’m just as good at being wrong on a Sunday morning as I am the rest of the week. So that’s something. Here’s what not to expect.

Buffalo (+8) at Kansas City
You can forget about how the Bills looked like they might upset the Ravens in Baltimore a week ago. It would be meaningless with regard to this game even if they’d pulled if off – and they didn’t. What’s meaningful is that the Bills, who are playing their second straight road game, have the league’s worst pass defense. This Halloween, I expect to see Matt Cassel break his old Tom Brady costume out of the closet for the first time in a couple years. Kansas City by 14.

Green Bay (+5.5) at NY Jets
The Frat Boys are at home and coming off a bye. The Packers are on the road, apparently running on fumes and coming off a home game in which they barely squeaked by a division opponent that they should have beaten handily. So, yeah, I’m taking New Jersey and giving the five and a half.

Denver (pick ’em) vs. San Francisco (Wembley Stadium, London)
Enjoy the show, London. (Man, we really do send our best over there, don’t we?) This contest between disappointing squads is as pure a coin flip as I’ve seen. On a neutral field in the United States, I’d probably go with Denver. But given the fact that the Broncos chose to wait until the last minute to fly to the UK (because apparently the organization is unfamiliar with the concept of jetlag), I’m gonna take the 49ers to win, probably by a field goal.

Jacksonville (+6.5) at Dallas
Do you think if the Cowboys win a few games with Jon Kitna starting at quarterback, they’ll start to edge toward realizing the fact that Tony Romo is hideously overrated? Neither do I. Just had to ask. The Jaguars are probably a better team than the Cowboys, but they really, really, really don’t travel well. Dallas by four.

Carolina (+3) at St. Louis
If the Rams can figure out a way to keep Sam Bradford on his feet, they should have little trouble holding off the offense-free Panthers. St. Louis by a touchdown.

Miami (+2.5) at Cincinnati
These two teams appear to be out of contention in their divisions. The loser will be all-but-officially out of the running for a wild card spot. That probably doesn’t matter much from a big picture perspective, since neither of these teams is making it to the post-season, but it will at least appear to mean something to the guys on the field this weekend. I’m taking the Bengals, because they’re at home, but I’m not giving the points. Cincinnati by one.

Washington (+2.5) at Detroit
The Racial Slurs are on the road for the second consecutive week, which means I probably should take the Lions. But that would mean picking the Lions. I can’t do that. So, yeah, OK, I’ll take Washington to win it outright. Whatever.

Tennessee (+3.5) at San Diego
The Chargers are about at sloppy and undisciplined a professional football team as I’ve ever seen. The Titans are a solid squad that comes in knowing that a win will put some distance between itself and one of the other teams in contention for the AFC South title. And still I’m taking San Diego. Just can’t see the Chargers surrendering a home loss two weeks in a row. I kind of hope I’m wrong, though, and I’m certainly not giving three and a half.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Arizona
Not only are the Bucs not “the best team in the NFC,” they’re not even the best team in the NFC South. But they’re better than the Cardinals. So they’ve got that going for them, which is nice. Bucs by a field goal.

Minnesota (+5) at New England
For the second straight week, the Patriots face an opponent that’s supposed to be better than its record. That’s still a description I can’t buy into, but this week, it at least includes a hint of truth. So far as I can tell the only thing separating the Vikings from success is the fact that they’ve got the wrong guy starting at quarterback . And while it’s abundantly obvious that Minnesota’s not gonna figure that out (or maybe it’s just that there’s no way they can admit it — it hardly matters which, since the result is the same), there’s pretty decent chance they won’t have to. I can’t imagine Brett Favre missing a start, but neither can I imagine that he’s gonna finish this game. (I put zero stock in this kind of thing, so don’t read this as anything more than a point of curiosity, but I awoke in the wee hours Saturday with this thought running through my head: “Gerard Warren is gonna go down in NFL history as the guy who ended Brett Favre’s career.”) And while it’s easy, and not unreasonable, to say you’re not afraid of Tarvaris Jackson, it remains the fact that the Vikings have been competitive enough with old, gimpy and seemingly addled Favre running the offense that one has at least to consider the possibility that they might be dangerous with a QB who can actually play. It’s also never easy to face two quarterbacks, let alone two QBs with such disparate playing styles, in a single game. This, of course, is all just a long way of saying that I think this has the potential to be a tougher matchup for New England than a home game against a 2-4 opponent ought to be. Still and all, the Pats don’t lose at home, and they’ve definitely got something to prove after last week’s sloppy win and someone to make a bigger point to. So my guess is that while it may be tough through at least three quarters, New England will make it look less so in the end. Pats by 10.

Seattle (+2.5) at Oakland
Is it even possible to follow a record-setting road victory over a bitter division rival with a home loss to an uneven team from the other conference? Of course it is. These are the Oakland Raiders. Seattle by four.

Pittsburgh (-1) at New Orleans
You know, I’d love to see the Saints find a way to win this game. I just can’t, try as I might, find a reason to believe that they will. Steelers by three.

Houston (+5.5) at Indianapolis
OK, Texans, here you go. The Colts are seriously banged up and probably in trouble. You opened the season by beating them in your building. Completing the sweep on a Monday night at their place would confirm your place as a legitimate contender in the AFC. Can you manage a big win at a big moment? Probably not, huh? Colts by three.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Week Seven Picks

October 23rd, 2010 Comments off

I knew last week that I was overthinking things. Didn’t stop me from pushing ahead, of course, but it did convince me to try to take a simpler approach to looking at this week’s games. And now I’m sure that will bite me in the patoot. Here’s what not to expect.

Cleveland (+13.5) at New Orleans
Looks like Josh Cribbs is will be back on the field for the Browns. So, you know, that should help. Maybe the Saints will only win by two touchdowns.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Miami
You can’t expect Ben Douchelisbagger to have the kind of success against the Dolphins that he had last week against the Browns. But he really doesn’t need to. Chad Henne throws too many picks. And the Steelers DBs are very good at intercepting balls. The Pittsburgh D’s got this one. Steelers by a point.

Washington (+3) at Chicago
Neither of these teams has a reliable offense. But the home team, at least, has a semi-reliable defense (the visitors couldn’t defend a Larry Dallas pass). Bears by six.

Cincinnati (+3.5) at Atlanta
There are folks out there who think Matt Ryan is gonna pick the Bengals’ secondary apart. I’m not one of them. Cincinnati may not be a great team, but the have s solid pass defense. And they’re coming off a bye. I still like the Falcons to win, but I don’t think it’ll be by much. Let’s say two points.

Philadelphia (+3) at Tennessee
Vince Young or no Vince Young, and regardless of what the Eagles do at quarterback, the one’s a coin toss. The teams appear to me to be fairly evenly matched. And while the Titans are playing on short rest, at least they’re playing at home. I’m gonna take the Titans straight up, but I’ll look for the Eagles to keep it closer than three.

San Francisco (-3) at Carolina
We may look back on this game several months from now as the reason the Niners are picking ahead of the Panthers in the NFL draft. If either of these teams manages to hold on to the ball long enough to score, it’ll be a miracle. Still, somebody’s gotta win this thing. So I’ll figure it’s the Panthers. Let’s guess by a field goal.

St. Louis (+3) at Tampa Bay
Stephen Jackson needs just 32 yards to become the Rams all-time leading rusher. The Bucs, who give up 157 yards a game on the ground, should prove obliging. Tampa Bay still wins the game, however, probably by slightly more than three.

Buffalo (+13) at Baltimore
It would appear that the Ravens, in fact, are not the league’s best team. Still, they’re up there. And it remains a possibility that the Bills are the worst. Ray Rice should be good for at least 120 yards in this game. Baltimore by 20.

Jacksonville (+9) at Kansas City
You know you’re in trouble when you’re coming off a public beatdown in your own stadium and you’re reduced to starting a quarterback you cut three weeks ago. I don’t think the Chiefs have enough offense to beat the Jags as badly as the Titans did, but I’m pretty confident they can do a bit better than a third of the 27-point Monday night margin. So, yeah, I’m giving the points.

Arizona (+6) at Seattle
It’s possible, if not likely, that one of the four NFC West teams will actually finish the season with a winning record. And it it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna need to happen to one of these teams. So there’s that. Seahawks by a touchdown.

Oakland (+8.5) at Denver
The Raiders, it appears, will have something on the order of 70 percent of a semi-talented quarterback going for them in this game. Which I’m sure matters to someone. Like, you know, maybe Jason’s mom or something. Broncos by six.

New England (+2.5) at San Diego
Every season in the NFL there’s a team that’s held up as “better than its record.” And every season it turns out that, in fact, that team is exactly as good as its record. Just like the other 31 teams. That’s how the whole win-loss record thing works. The Patriots go to 5-1 with a second straight road victory (and all the experts talk about how this doesn’t really indicate that the Pats are a contender, because the Chargers were too banged up to compete).

Minnesota (+2.5) at Green Bay
I haven’t given up on the Packers yet. I’m getting close, but I’m not quite there. And with a Green Bay defense that’s tied for second in the league with 21 sacks facing creaky old Sexty Sextinson I’m certainly not giving up on the Pack this week. (I mean, not before the game, anyhow.) Green Bay by a field goal.

NY Giants (+3) at Dallas
As last week’s Monday night quarterback showcase grew increasingly tiresome, my mind started to wander. I mused about whether this week, the MNF audience would witness the final chapter in Wade Phillips’ coaching career. I’m not sure now if it’ll be quite the end for Wade, but I’m fairly certain he’s not gonna pull back from the brink any here. The Cowboys have a horrible O line. The Giants have a formidable pass rush. If you’re Wade (or, you know Tony Romo) that’s not something you can feel very good about. Giants by a touchdown.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Week Six Picks

October 16th, 2010 Comments off

I’ve actually spent a lot more time thinking about this week’s games than I’ve had to spend writing about them. That’s probably bad news. Because the more I think, the more likely it becomes that my stupidity will trip me up. Here’s the short version of what not to expect.

Atlanta (+2.5) at Philadelphia
The Eagles will be starting King Dunlap at left tackle this week. And that, as you know if you saw Dunlap in action after Jason Peters went down on Sunday night, is great news for John Abraham and lousy news for Kevin Kolb. You think Mike Kafka’s ready for NFL action? I don’t. Falcons by four.

Kansas City (+4) at Houston
The Chiefs have been winning with strong defense and a run-first offense so far this season. But as those of us in New England are well aware, they have a quarterback who’s a very capable passer. Matt Cassel should have little difficulty moving the ball against the league’s worst pass D. Even playing a second straight road game, the Chiefs should come out ahead by a field goal.

Cleveland (+13.5) at Pittsburgh
You know, I’ve seen Eric Mangini make some truly dumbass moves as a head coach, but throwing his rookie quarterback to the wolves might take the cake. Steelers win 20-0, with their defense accounting for 14 of their points.

Seattle (+6.5) at Chicago
It’s hard for your huge offensive line issues to hurt you when your opponent has no pass rush (and not much of anything else going for it either), so I’m taking Chicago and giving the points.

Detroit (+10) at NY Giants
The Giants continue to benefit from an incredibly soft schedule, winning by no fewer than two touchdowns.

Baltimore (+3) at New England
So this is the game where we learn whether the Randy Moss trade was a good move, right? Not so much. With or without Moss, the Patriots offense was going to have to dink and dunk all day for the team to have a chance to best what appears to be one of the NFL’s best teams. Can they do that against the Ravens D? Probably not with a lot of success. But given that the Ravens offense tends to struggle significantly in road games, and that Baltimore’s best offensive weapon is operating at less than 100 percent, a little bit of success might be enough. I’ll take the league’s top rated passer to get it done at home. Patriots by three.

San Diego (-8) at St. Louis
No matter how poorly you’re playing, you can always count on the Rams to make you look good. Chargers by 10.

Miami (+3.5) at Green Bay
It’s staring to appear as though neither of these teams is gonna live up to its potential. But someone’s gotta win this game. I’m taking the home team and thinking they win by six.

New Orleans (-4) at Tampa Bay
The way you beat the Buccaneers, who have a stout pass defense, is to pound away at the running game. That’s gonna be tough for a team without a healthy running back. Bucs by a field goal.

NY Jets (-3) at Denver
I think the thin air at mile high is gonna pose a real problem for the … aw, hell, who am I kidding? Frat Boys by a touchdown.

Oakland (+6.5) at San Francisco
The Niners are enough of a mess, that you’d almost suspect the Raiders could manage the upset here even with Jason Campbell starting under center. But you’d be wrong. Both of these teams stink, but the Raiders without Bruce Gradkowski stink ever so slightly more. I’m taking San Francisco straight up, Oakland with the points.

Dallas (+1.5) at Minnesota
Dr. Strangejunk is done. And it’s not really about his elbow tendonitis. It’s about the fact that he’s officially come back for one too many seasons. Favre looked like a deer in the headlights for most of Monday night’s game. Thing is, I think the question of who starts at quarterback for the Vikings this week isn’t much more than a distraction for the media. The Cowboys D couldn’t stop me from putting up 300 passing yards. And the Vikes pass defense is likely gonna be more than what passes for an offensive line in Dallas can handle. Minnesota by six.

Indianapolis (-3) at Washington
Get ready for a whole bunch of stories about how the Colts are turning their season around and starting to take over the race for the AFC South title. May or may not be true, but this game won’t be the evidence of it. The real story is that it’s time for Washington’s season to go in the tank. Indy by a touchdown.

Tennessee (-3) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars are home, but the Titans are simply the better balanced team. And, you know, they’ve got Chris Johnson. Titans by four.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Week Five Picks

October 9th, 2010 Comments off

Got a weird feeling that we’ve got a weird weekend ahead. Too many games look way too straightforward and simple. And that probably means that the football gods are poised to start making some changes, or at least to take some of what’s been turned the wrong way around and set it back to right. Or maybe not. Maybe it all just plays out the way it’s supposed to in week five. Here’s my weekly look at what not to expect.

Jacksonville (pick ’em) at Buffalo
The Jags could be in for a letdown game after their rather unlikely win last week. But the Bills appear to be angling for the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, and it’s hard to believe they’re gonna lose focus on that goal. I’ll take the visitors.

Denver (+7) at Baltimore
Look, I’m a believer in stats. Not an absolute believer, though. Because every now and again, you run into a stat that illustrates the truth behind Disraeli’s line about “lies, damned lies and statistics.” Here’s one of those: Through the first four weeks of the season, Kyle Orton not only is the league’s leading passer, but is on pace to shatter records. Seriously. Orton’s thrown for 1,419 yards. That’s 54 more than Peyton Manning, who’s second on the list of passing leaders. It puts Orton on pace to throw for 5,664, 580 more than Dan Marino’s single season record. And, hey, I like Orton. But do you think this pace is gonna keep up? Of course it isn’t. And Baltimore’s defense is one of the things that will effect a correction. If Orton throws for 150 yards this week, it’ll be a small miracle. Ravens by six.

Kansas City (+7.5) at Indianapolis
Insert your own funny observation about which of these teams is the last unbeaten squad in the NFL this season here. Yes, the loss of Melvin Bullitt is going to hurt the Colts this season. This week, however, I’ve got to believe that Indy, even if its D gives up some points, will find a way to outgun Kansas City. I won’t be sad if the Chiefs pull off an upset win, but I will be surprised. Colts by 10.

Green Bay (-2.5) at Washington
Here’s the key to a Green Bay win: Not committing 18 goddamned penalties. I feel pretty confident predicting they’ll be able to pull it off. Packers by four.

St. Louis (+3) at Detroit
One of these teams is actually worse than the other. That’s a hell of an accomplishment. Lions by a point.

Chicago (-3) at Carolina
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a poorer performance by an offensive line than the one I saw from the Bears on Sunday night. Chicago’s already (temporarily) lost a quarterback thanks to that ineptitude. I can’t help but wonder what horrors await poor Todd Collins. And, look, the Panthers may not be the Ravens, but their defensive front isn’t exactly terrible. Of course, it’s not like you can expect a whole lot of production out of Carolina’s hobbled offense. And that leaves me at a loss for what to do here. I guess I’ll go with my gut sense that Sunday night may have sent the Bears into a tailspin and take my chances with the home team to pull off the upset. But that’s just here where it’s free and easy and the only think at risk is my pride (and, you know, that ain’t much). I’d never put actual money on it.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) at Cincinnati
It’s hard for me to see Tampa Bay’s defense giving up enough points for Cincinnati to cover. The Bengals are the more balanced team (which is to say that unlike the Bucs, they actually have an offense) and they’ll win. But probably by more like a field goal.

Atlanta (-3) at Cleveland
Let’s set aside the fact that the Falcons are balanced and better than the Browns on both sides of the ball. And let’s just consider this: Jake Delhomme is expected to start for Cleveland. That’s the same Jake Delhomme who in recent seasons has developed a serious knack for throwing to opposing DBs, and who threw two picks in his only start so far this season. And he’s returning to face a defense that leads the league in interceptions. Is it me, or does that have disaster written all over it? Falcons by 14.

NY Giants (+3) at Houston
This should be interesting. What’s worse, the Giants’ pass protection or the Texans’ pass defense? Overall, I think it’s too early to tell. But for the purposes of this game, I’ll say it’s the unit that has to travel. Houston straight up; it’s a push with the points.

New Orleans (-6.5) at Arizona
Like pretty much everyone else, I keep thinking the high-powered offense that carried the Saints all the way to the championship last season has to kick in at some point. But it keeps not happening. Maybe a matchup with the Cardinals’ simply awful D will change that. Saints by 10.

Tennessee (+6.5) at Dallas
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’ll believe the Cowboys are a good team when I see it. And given Dallas’ O-line issues and Tennessee’s pas rush, I’m really not expecting to see it this weekend. Titans by a field goal.

San Diego (-6) at Oakland
Yeah, yeah, yeah. The Raiders have “been in” every game except the week one blowout at the hands of the Titans. So what? They still lost to everyone but the Rams. They’ll find another way to lose this weekend. San Diego by three.

Philadelphia (+3) at San Francisco
There are two big questions in play here: Can the Eagles manage to keep a quarterback healthy over the long term? And will the Niners ever manage to live up to their pre-season potential? We can’t get an answer to the first this weekend. And I’m pretty sure we’re not gonna get an affirmative response to the second. San Francisco gives up way too many yards through the air, and way too many points, for me to believe they can be competitive. Eagles by four.

Minnesota (+4) at NY Jets
Randy Moss is “back home” just in time to help his old new team in their bid to help his new old one. I’m not sure it matters much. Not this week. Yeah, sure, depending on how much of the Vikings’ offense Moss can absorb quickly, we might get to see what the league’s best wideout can do against the Frat Boys secondary when he’s got a point or two to prove. But we might not. Because Moss is gonna need someone to get him the ball. And it doesn’t seem likely to me that Once A Jet, Always A Jet Brett (and his amazing Technicolor junk) is gonna have much opportunity to do that in the face of the New Jersey pass rush. Of course, Minnesota doesn’t have such a bad D either; and it’s that unit, not Favre and Moss, that I expect to keep this game close. I’ll take the Frat Boys straight up, sure, but I’m thinking they win by a point, three tops.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Week Four Picks

October 1st, 2010 Comments off

This week’s games fall into two categories: Not even worth thinking about and absolute murder. Or so it seems to me. Which probably means the ones that seem easy are going the other way and the ones that seem hard are … um, probably going the other way (but at least I won’t be shocked by my failures in those cases). Here’s what not to expect.

NY Jets (-5) at Buffalo
I typically look at a second-straight road game as a tough one for a team to win (particularly when it follows a tough divisional game.) And it’s only more difficult when that second road game is against a divisional opponent. But let’s be honest here: The Bills aren’t beating anybody. Frat Boys by a touchdown.

Denver (+6.5) at Tennessee
The Broncos appear to be even more of a mess than I previously thought. In fact, maybe the only positive thing you can say about Denver to date is that it appears their run defense isn’t awful. The agent of change awaits in Tennessee. Titans by nine.

Cincinnati (-3) at Cleveland
Ooh, this game is just full of intrigue. I mean, do you think it will be Jake Delhomme or Seneca Wallace who throws three picks? Bengals by 14.

Carolina (+13.5) at New Orleans
Yes, I’m quite sure that what Jimmy Clausen needs to get over his rough debut outing is a matchup with the angry defending champions. That should work out well. Saints by 17.

Baltimore (+1.5) at Pittsburgh
I may be a fool, but I’m just not buying into the Charlie Batch-led Steelers against the kind of D the Ravens bring to the field. Because I just can’t. Ravens by a point.

San Francisco (+6.5) at Atlanta
The only way the Niners have a chance here is if the Falcons, fresh off a huge divisional win, have a letdown game. It’s not like it never happens, so, sure, it’s possible. But I’m not betting on it. Atlanta may stumble a bit, but they’ll come out ahead by three or four.

Seattle (-1) at St. Louis
Good God, do I not even want to think about this game. Neither of these teams seems particularly likely to win. But I suppose one of them has to lose. Since the Rams are at home, and since the Seahawks are coming off a somewhat unlikely victory (which to my mind points the Seattle rollercoaster downward), I’ll go with St. Louis. Let’s say they win it by three.

Detroit (+14.5) at Green Bay
What more Green Bay ask in a short week coming off an embarrassing loss than this little gift of a divisional matchup? Packers by 20.

Houston (-3.5) at Oakland
What’s the over/under on field goals missed by Sebastian Janikowski? The Texans have a deplorable pass defense. And they may not have their best wideout. But they should still have enough offense to overcome the Raiders. Houston by a field goal (made or missed).

Indianapolis (-7.5) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars have no offense and one of the league’s worst pass Ds. How do you figure that’s working out for them here? Me, I’m figuring they get a bit of a break with the Colts playing on the road for a second straight week. So, you know, let’s say Indy by a mere 10 points.

Washington (+6) at Philadelphia
I’d love to see Donovan McNabb go into Philadelphia and make the Eagles regret trading him to a division rival. But for that to happen, he’d need to have someone to throw the ball to. Eagles by a touchdown.

Arizona (+8) at San Diego
The Chargers continue to look pretty bad, it’s true. But they can’t be as sloppy as the Raiders, can they? I don’t think so. No quite, anyhow. San Diego by four.

Chicago (+4) at NY Giants
I don’t believe for a second that the Bears are as good as their record. Trouble is, I’m starting to feel pretty sure that the Giants are as bad as theirs. Here’s what I see: Two teams with serious pass protection issues on offense and decent pass D’s. The big difference is that it’s very, very hard to run against the Bears, which means the Giants are gonna have more need to move the ball through the air. I’m not sure that’s happening. So I’m taking Chicago straight up.

New England (-1) at Miami
The Patriots appear to have no ability whatsoever to rush the passer. That’s not good news. It bodes ill for the season and it bodes ill for this game. Because if Chad Henne could have a decent outing in the face of a blistering pass rush last Sunday night, how do you think he’s likely to perform when he has all day to throw the ball? The way I see it, the only way New England wins this game is if the offense scores every time it gets the ball. And not just in the first half. I’m telling you right now, if you see Zoltan Mesko trotting out onto the field any time in the first three quarters, you might as well go to bed, because the Dolphins will have the game in hand. So the question you’ve got to ask yourself is, can the Pats O get it done against a good D? They have the talent, that’s for sure. It’s all about play calling and execution. If those are there, New England has a chance to win this game and to have a decent season. If not … well, they’ve got two first round picks in the 2011 draft. So there’s that. I’m holding out hope, at least for the nonce, and taking the Patriots to win it. Straight up. By exactly the one point.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: