Archive for November, 2011

Week Twelve Picks

November 23rd, 2011 Comments off

It’s the semi-annual (which is to say I can’t remember if I do it every year and I’m too damned lazy to check) “things to be thankful for” installment of my notoriously inaccurate NFL picks. Hooray. Here’s what not to expect.

Green Bay (-6.5) at Detroit
I’m thankful that I don’t have anything more than my pride at stake with these picks (and that I don’t have a whole lot of pride to begin with). Because that allows me to engage in this kind of ridiculous reasoning: Green Bay’s gonna drop a game eventually. The reason perfect seasons come along so infrequently is that it’s hard, given the level of competition in the NFL, to play well enough week in and week out over the course of a season to come out on top every week. The Packers have shown some defensive vulnerability of late. The Lions have enough offense to keep up with the Pack, and a pass rush that has at least a chance of making Aaron Rodgers look semi-mortal. And there’s almost always at least one upset on Thanksgiving. The consensus of the experts (and me) is that there’s an upset on the way in Baltimore, which means the favored Ravens will probably win. It’s not like Dallas can’t lose, but it’s hard to imagine Miami going on the road and extending their winning streak to four games. That leaves this game, a tough, division contest featuring a team that has all but sewn up the NFC one seed traveling on a short week to face a team that’s fighting to earn its first post-season berth this century (literally). Call me crazy (you’re probably right), but I’m taking the Lions to win by three.

Miami (+7) at Dallas
I’m thankful that I’m under no obligation to declare (or even decide) whether I’m less impressed by the fact that the Dolphins have stumbled into three straight wins (after having bumbled their way to seven straight losses to start the season) or that Tony Romo has actually managed to go three games in a row without finding a way to cost his team a victory. The game is the dog of the day. Dallas by 10.

San Francisco (+3) at Baltimore
I’m incredibly thankful for that fact that there’s an exciting football game to watch on Thanksgiving night. Can’t wait to sit down with a turkey sandwich and a big pile of leftover mashed potatoes and watch a battle between teams that consistently execute solid football fundamentals. Thanks, Harbaugh brothers. I’m decidedly less thankful for the fact that I need to pick a winner. I think the 49ers are the better team here. Their play on both sides of the ball is more consistent; they’re stronger in the trenches; their offense is more balanced; and their +17 is by far the best giveaway-takeaway differential in the league (the Packers clock in at second with a +12; the Ravens’ +3 is ninth best). But the game is in Baltimore, and West Coast teams typically struggle in East Coast games. Plus, it’s not like San Francisco is better than Baltimore by all that much. And let’s be honest: Baltimore plays in a much tougher division than San Francisco; the Ravens have had to work harder to earn their stats and their division lead. So what’s a fellow to do? In the end, I’m taking Niners, mostly because I believe in the power of turnovers to decide game outcomes. But as long as we get the game I think we’re going to get, I’ll be happy regardless of the outcome. San Francisco by a point.

Minnesota (+9.5) at Atlanta
I’m thankful for the fact that I don’t live in a state where elected officials appear ready to commit hundreds of millions of public dollars to keeping any sports team from moving away. More thankful indeed that my tax dollars won’t be used to underwrite a squad a bad as the Minnesota Vikings. Falcons by two touchdowns.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Tennessee
I suppose if I had to watch it (I don’t), I’d be thankful for how short this game is likely to be. Neither defense can stop the run, so I expect the ball to stay on the ground and the clock to keep running. The Titans are slightly better at keeping running backs out of their end zone. The Tennessee offense is a good bit better at holding onto the ball. And the Titans are at home. So I’m taking Tennessee straight up. It’s a push with the points.

Arizona (+3) at St. Louis
I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I’m not poor Sam Bradford trying to play quarterback behind an O line that’s down to using practice bodies to protect my blind side. That’s gotta hurt. That said, I’m sure Bradford is thankful to be facing a Cardinals team that’s playing on the road for a third straight week, and that isn’t very good to begin with. So there’s that. Rams by a point.

Carolina (-3.5) at Indianapolis
If I were a Colts fan, I suppose I’d be thankful that for the price of a miserable season, I’d probably be looking at my team drafting its next great quarterback in April. That’s gotta be worth something. Panthers by a touchdown.

Cleveland (+7.5) at Cincinnati
I’m going to guess that the Cincinnati Bengals are thankful to be catching the Cleveland Browns at the exact moment when they need to stop a two-game skid and get back on the path to the post-season. Who wouldn’t be? Ced Benson has a big day and the Bengals come out ahead by a touchdown.

Houston (-3) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars no doubt are thankful that they get to face Matt Leinart, who hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2009, instead of the injured Matt Schaub. I’m sure they’re less thankful about Andre Johnson’s return to good health. Assuming Leinart isn’t completely unprepared (and, you know, he’s had two weeks), Houston should come out ahead, though I can’t see giving more than a point.

Buffalo (+8) at NY Jets
The Frat Boys should be thankful that the Bills are a bit farther along the road to done than they are. That feeling won’t last, but I’m sure it’ll do for this weekend. New Jersey by 10.

Washington (+4) at Seattle
Maybe the Seahawks are thankful to face a team that sucks even more than they do. I don’t know. Don’t care. Seattle by six.

Chicago (+5) at Oakland
The Raiders should be thankful for the fact that they play in the weakest division in the NFL. And for the fact that they don’t have to face the Bears at full strength. Oakland may still struggle early, but as the game wears on and the Bears D, which should be on the field quite a bit, wears down, the Raiders will break away. Oakland by a touchdown.

New England (-3) at Philadelphia
I’ll be thankful if the Patriots, who appear to have discovered a pass rush, can keep it up and finally put the “Dream Team” out of my misery. New England by 10.

Denver (+6.5) at San Diego
The Chargers, whose post-season hopes are fading fast, should be thankful to face a team without a real quarterback. San Diego by four.

Pittsburgh (-10.5) at Kansas City
I think we should all be thankful that we get to watch Tyler Palko lead the Chiefs against an AFC post-season contender for the second straight week. Because, you know, that Monday night game in New England was so close (I mean, it really was — until halftime). Three more picks from Palko and the Steelers win it by 17.

NY Giants (+7) at New Orleans
The Giants ought to be thankful they started 6-4, because with their remaining schedule, 9-7 is a distinct possibility. Thing is, the way it’s going, that may be enough for them to take the NFC East title. I don’t think New Jersey’s defense can slow down the New Orleans offense, or that the Giant’s unbalanced offensive attack can succeed against the Saints’ D. So unless the Giants can force a bunch of turnovers (which is a possibility), I can’t see them winning. New Orleans by a field goal.

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The Rest of Week Eleven

November 20th, 2011 Comments off

OK, so the Jets are even worse than I thought. I can live with that. And, you know, I’ve got a whole lot of other opportunities to be wrong still ahead of me. Here’s the rest of what not to expect in week eleven.

Carolina (+7) at Detroit
If there’s a reason, beyond the general sense that Detroit is starting to drift downward in the NFC North standings, to believe that Carolina has any chance of keeping this close, I can’t think of what it might be. Cam Newton? Nah. One player just ain’t enough. Lions by 10.

Oakland (+1) at Minnesota
OK, I’ve been nothing if not up front about how unimpressed I am with the Chargers. I can’t claim otherwise. And still, San Diego is a much better team than Minnesota. The Chargers have an overrated defense; the Vikings have no defense. The Chargers have an iffy O line; the Vikings have an awful O line. The Chargers are ostensibly in the playoff hunt; the Vikings are starting to prepare for the draft. So if you can go into San Diego and beat the Chargers with your best offensive player on the bench, you ought to be able to go into Minnesota and do the same to the Vikings, right? That’s where my head’s at, anyway. Oakland by four.

Dallas (-7) at Washington
Native Americans quarterbacks have thrown a combined 15 picks this season. That’s a mark topped so far only by Phillip Rivers. Rex Grossman has been responsible for 11 of those interceptions, while managing just six TD passes. Even Tony Romo isn’t that bad. Dallas by 10.

Buffalo (+3) at Miami
The Bills are fading. They’ve lost three of their last four games and took an absolute beating last weekend in Dallas. And while you wouldn’t exactly say the Dolphins are on the ascent, they have managed two straight wins. That’s something. But you know what? The Bills are still the better team in this matchup. And my gut tells me they have a bit of life left in them yet. I think they dig deep and find a way to pull off the road upset here. Buffalo by a point.

Jacksonville (+1) at Cleveland
I’m not sure how the Browns are favored by one here. I mean, last I checked, even a safety is worth two points. And since it’ll be a small miracle if there’s more than one scoring play in this entire game, I’m thinking whichever team wins has to come out ahead by at least two. The Browns are at home, so I’ll take them. Cleveland by two.

Cincinnati (+7) at Baltimore
The Bengals had a chance to establish themselves as serious AFC North contenders in a home game against the Steelers last weekend. They came up short, thanks mostly to Andy Dalton‘s two fourth quarter picks (killer for a team that has succeeded in large part because they almost never turn the ball over). They have a chance to turn it around this weekend by beating the amazingly hot-and-cold Ravens on the road. It’s hard for me to imagine that happening, but I think the Bengals will be able to keep it closer than a touchdown. Baltimore by three.

Tampa Bay (+14) at Green Bay
And the beat goes on. Packers by 20.

Seattle (+3) at St. Louis
Ah, the NFC West. The only reason to suspect either offense will be able to complete a drive is that neither defense can stop anything. I’ll take the home team straight up, but I’m looking for a push with the points.

Arizona (+3) at San Francisco
The 49ers can’t mathematically clinch the NFC West title this weekend. They’ll have to wait until their Thanksgiving night matchup with Baltimore for that opportunity. San Francisco by a touchdown.

Tennessee (+6.5) at Atlanta
Rumor has it, the Falcons spent the whole week adding a revolutionary new play into their offensive repertoire. It’s called the goddamn quarterback sneak. Unless abject stupidity finds a way to prevail for two consecutive weeks, Atlanta wins this one by a field goal.

San Diego (+3.5) at Chicago
Do you think once the Chargers fall to 4-6, “experts” will stop claiming they’re still the top contender for the AFC West title? I certainly do hope so. Chicago by 10.

Philadelphia (+5.5) at NY Giants
Honestly, I think you can set Philadelphia’s quarterback issues aside. At least if you’re looking at who’s gonna win straight up. Because the fact of the matter is, even when the Eagles are healthy, they have an incredible knack for blowing leads in the fourth quarter. And no team in football this season has been better at comeback wins than the Giants. Of course, the question of Eagles quarterback does come into play when you’re looking at this thing with the points. And the answer there is New Jersey by nine.

Kansas City (+15) at New England
I don’t know if the Patriots D, banged up as it is, started rounding into form in New Jersey Sunday night, or if the Frat Boys simply played like the mediocre team they are. I don’t think it matters for this game. I think what matters here, for the most part is this: Tyler Palko. New England by 21.

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Week Eleven, Thursday Night

November 17th, 2011 Comments off

I’m having a crazy busy week and it’s looking like I’m not gonna be able to get all of my foolish football picks done before New Jersey-Denver kicks off. So here’s what not to expect this evening.

NY Jets (-6) at Denver
If this game were being played on Sunday or in New Jersey, it wouldn’t be close. And it shouldn’t be close tonight. Not even with the Frat Boys having to travel on a short week. Not even with New Jersey coming off a tough, emotional loss to New England on Sunday night. Not even with LaDainian Tomlinson out with a knee. Because the Broncos are short on running backs, too. They’re also short on NFL quarterbacks, which is to say, their starter isn’t one. But I suspect it will be close. The Frat Boys still win, but not by six. I wouldn’t give more than a point.

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Week Ten Picks

November 10th, 2011 Comments off

Halfway through the season, and I still can’t make heads nor tails of anything. Here, once again, is your rundown of what not to expect.

Oakland (+7) at San Diego
You know what? If it were just a matter of whether I think Carson Palmer is up to speed or, you know, still has it, I might pick the Raiders here. But it isn’t. In fact, I would suggest that neither Palmer’s abilities nor his familiarity with the Oakland offense matters one little bit. Because as long as Darren McFadden is unavailable, the Raiders have next to no chance of winning no matter who plays quarterback or how well. San Diego by 10.

Arizona (+14) at Philadelphia
Which of these teams is the greatest … disappointment? I’m not qualified to say, since I can’t begin to care about either of them. But if I had to pick one, I’d go with the Eagles. Philadelphia by a scant six.

Tennessee (+3) at Carolina
One of these two teams has an offense. The other sometimes pretends to have a defense. I’m going with the one that’s at home and that knows how to put up points. Carolina by a field goal.

Houston (-3) at Tampa Bay
Josh Freeman is more right than he realizes. It’s not just in the NFC South that not scoring touchdowns will kill you; it’s an NFL-wide thing. Also, Josh, just so you know, throwing more picks than TDs has a tendency to cut into your winning percentage. The Bucs fall to 4-5 with a two-touchdown loss to the far superior Texans.

Washington (+3.5) at Miami
Can the Dolphins possibly win two games in a row? Sure. I mean, looks who’s visiting. Miami by four.

St. Louis (+3) at Cleveland
The Browns at least have a defense. That’s gotta be worth something, right? I mean, you know, at home. Browns by a point.

Buffalo (+5.5) at Dallas
I don’t know that it’s quite time to call the Bills officially done, but it sure did look that way last Sunday. Cowboys by a touchdown.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Cincinnati
That’s right, these Steelers. Sorry, but this just isn’t a team that can afford to be giving points when they’re on the road. I don’t expect Andy Dalton to have some kind of career day (though, you know, it’s been a pretty short career so far) against the Pittsburgh defense. But I’m pretty sure he won’t need to. Because I do expect the Cincinnati D to have a good bit of success keeping Pittsburgh off the scoreboard. Bengals by four.

Jacksonville (-3) at Indianapolis
Once again, the Colts see their bid for a perfect season come to a crashing halt in week ten. This is the weekend when Indianapolis finally wins a game. Let’s say by three.

Denver (+3) at Kansas City
Oh, sure. Gimmick offenses work great in the NFL. Or, you know, they work great right up until you face a team that knows what you’re going to pull. And then things get ugly. Tim Tebow takes a beating and the Chiefs stay even with San Diego. Kansas City by six.

New Orleans (pick ’em) at Atlanta
The Saints don’t travel well. The Falcons absolutely need to win this game. And the Falcons pick off a good number of balls. Atlanta by four.

Baltimore (-7) at Seattle
Unless seven is the over-under on Seahawks turnovers, this is about the safest bet of the weekend. Baltimore by 13.

Detroit (+2.5) at Chicago
I’m torn. The Bears certainly ought to be able to handle the Lions at home. This isn’t, after all, the same Chicago squad that got stomped in Detroit five weeks back. Still, the Bears are playing on a short week, and coming off a hard-won victory in Philadelphia. You have to wonder whether they have enough left in the tank. It’s a coin toss. I’m gonna go with the home team to be safe, but I’ll hedge by picking the Bears to win but not cover. Chicago by a point.

NY Giants (+3.5) at San Francisco
You don’t beat tough opponents on the road two weeks running. You just don’t. San Francisco by six.

New England (+1.5) at NY Jets
The Frat Boys are an average team playing their best football. The Patriots are a better than average team playing their worst football. That’s all it takes. Unless New England finds a way to break out of the slump it’s been in for three games now (though the Patriots only lost two of those), there’s no way they overcome their division rivals in New Jersey. Frat Boys by a field goal.

Minnesota (+13.5) at Green Bay
I’ve got nothing — not a blessed thing — against the Packers. And if anyone in the NFL has earned his success, it’s Aaron Rodgers. But please, please, please can we at least wait until Green Bay gets to 14-0 before we start talking about whether they can achieve 19-0? Would that be possible? Green Bay by halftime. (And also by 20.)

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Week Nine Picks

November 6th, 2011 Comments off

Wait, how did we get to the middle of the season so quickly? And why don’t I know anything more than I knew eight weeks ago? Ugh. Here’s what not to expect in week nine.

Miami (+4) at Kansas City
There’s a perception that the Dolphins, though they always find a way to lose, manage to keep it close on the scoreboard. And that’s been true — in three of Miami’s seven games. In the other four, they’ve lost by double digits. So, you know, there’s that. Kansas City by 10.

Tampa Bay (+8) at New Orleans
I don’t know if the fact that the Saints can’t afford to lose this game really counts for all that much. I mean, it counts in the standings; I get that. The Bucs are up a game in the season series. A loss here would mean the Saints will need help to capture the NFC South title. So, yeah, that counts. What I’m saying, though, is that I’m not sure that’s enough. New Orleans ought to be able to beat Tampa Bay. They’re at home. They have an actual offense that shows up almost every week — unlike the Bucs’ occasional offense. And while the Saints don’t have much of a defense to speak of, neither do the Bucs. But the fact of the matter is, the Saints under Sean Payton have struggled against the Buccaneers. They’ve managed to lose some games to Tampa Bay even when the Bucs were a bad team. The Bucs this season may not be an elite squad, but they’re certainly not bad. My gut says the Saints will find a way to come out of this one with a win, but I’m not giving anything close to eight points. New Orleans by one.

Cleveland (+11) at Houston
Of all the Cleveland Browns in the world, this team is the Cleveland Browniest. Texans by 14.

Atlanta (-7) at Indianapolis
The Falcons have a winning record despite the fact that they’ve given up five more points than they’ve scored over their first seven games. The Colts have 0-7 record on account of having given up a league-worst 131 more points than they’ve scored. I don’t care what stadium this game’s being played in, I’m taking Atlanta, and I’d give as many as 10.

NY Jets (+1.5) at Buffalo
This is where the Frat Boys not actually being very good starts to catch up with them. Just as their inability to run the ball or stop the run hurt them a few weeks back in Foxborough, I think it kills them this weekend in Buffalo. Mark Sanchez throws three picks and the Bills win by nine.

San Francisco (-3.5) at Washington
So after three straight losses, we’re done talking about Washington as potential NFC East contenders, right? The truth of the Native Americans is that they can’t pass, can’t run, can’t score, can’t stop and run, quite possibly can’t stop the pass (the stats make it look like they can maybe stop the pass but that might just be because opponents haven’t needed to pass the ball to beat them), can’t hold onto the ball and, except for a surprising, in retrospect, week one victory over the Giants, can’t beat good opponents. The Niners, in case you hadn’t noticed, are 6-1 and about two weeks away from clinching the NFC West. San Francisco by a touchdown.

Seattle (+11.5) at Dallas
Boy, oh, boy am I glad I don’t have to watch this game. I don’t really even want to think about this game. So I won’t. I don’t think the Cowboys are good enough to outscore anyone by eleven and a half, so I’ll take Seattle to cover. But, yeah, Dallas wins (and the national media spends the next week talking about how the Cowboys look like they may be contenders in the NFC North again — even though they’re clearly not).

Cincinnati (+3) at Tennessee
Even teams that have a running offense have trouble running the ball against the Bengals. And the Titans enter that equation at a distinct disadvantage. And since one dimensionality doesn’t win football games against strong opponents (that’s right, I just used the word strong to describe the Bengals) I’m taking Cincy to pull off the upset here. Bengals by a field goal.

Denver (+8) at Oakland
The Raiders are going to be in serious trouble if they don’t get Darren McFadden (AKA the Oakand offense) back on the field soon. But not this week, because this week’s opponent sucks. Oakland by a touchdown.

NY Giants (+8.5) at New England
Eight and a half seems rather excessive to me. Because, yeah, the Patriots don’t lose at home. And, yeah, the Giants are dealing with some offensive injury issues. And, no, Eli Manning is not now, never has been and never will be an elite quarterback. All that said, the Giants have something the Patriots don’t: a pass rush. New Jersey has the ability to get to Tom Brady in spite of New England’s stout offensive line. And while I don’t think the Giants can get after the Patriots’ receivers and disrupt the rhythm of the passing game the way the Steelers did last Sunday, it seems likely that Manning’s going to have an easier afternoon than Brady. I think Brady and the New England offense will find a way to get the job done, but not to the tune of eight and a half points. Patriots by three.

St. Louis (+3.5) at Arizona
Really? I’m supposed to say something about this battle of the backup quarterbacks? I’m not sure what that could possibly be. I’ll just take the Rams to pull off the upset (pure gut) and call it a day. St. Louis by a point.

Green Bay (-5.5) at San Diego
Here’s some fairly simple reasoning: If the Chargers can’t beat good teams, and the Packers are probably the best team in the NFL, then the Chargers (that’s right) can’t beat the Packers. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Green Bay by two touchdowns.

Baltimore (+3) at Pittsburgh
The question I keep hearing in regard to this game is, can the Steelers DBs use the same press man approach they employed to disrupt the Patriots offense last week to disrupt the Ravens offense in this game? The answer is, sure, probably. The follow-up question I keep asking though, is, does it matter? The Ravens aren’t the Patriots. The don’t have New England’s offense. The also don’t rely on offense the way New England does. More important, the Ravens, unlike the Patriots, have an actual defense. In fact, defense is how the Ravens win. And I don’t believe for one minute that the Pittsburgh O line can stand up to the Baltimore defensive front. I don’t expect to see the kind of destruction the Ravens visited upon the Steelers back in week one, but I don expect to see Baltimore complete the season sweep and position themselves to take the NFC North title. Baltimore by six.

Chicago (+8) at Philadelphia
I’d love to be one of those people who believe that Chicago is gonna keep this one close. But I’m not. Eagles by 13.

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