Archive for September, 2012

Week Four Picks

September 27th, 2012 Comments off

So I had this whole thing written about the scab refs and how they were ruining the game, and then the NFL had to go and get a deal done with the real officials. Thanks, guys. I appreciate it. No, really. Aw, hell, here’s what not to expect in week four.

Cleveland (+12) at Baltimore
Brandon Weeden may someday become the quarterback the Browns think he can be. Right now, he’s the 30th best QB in the NFL. That’s not gonna cut it in Baltimore. I can’t put it any more simply than that. Ravens by 17.

New England (-4) at Buffalo
It’s too simple to say that the Patriots simply cannot afford a third straight loss. It’s true (although it’s not like New England couldn’t possibly recover from a 1-3 start; they’ve done it before), but needing a win doesn’t actually get you to a win. And the Buffalo Bills, week one results notwithstanding, aren’t the kind of team you can count on simply to roll over. The Bills pass defense has been stout. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for eight TDs, which is twice as many as Tom Brady and ties Fitzpatrick with Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger for most in the league. The Bills also have been running the ball as well as any team in the league (though there’s some possibility that a pair of nagging injuries may slow them down a bit). If you were simply to look at a stat sheet, in fact, you could come away with the idea that the Bills were the better team. But that would leave out the fact that Buffalo hasn’t played much of anyone yet, while New England over the past two weeks has faced two of the better teams in the league. The Patriots lost both of those games, of course, but not by much (and not, in the most recent instance, without the influence of the scab referees). NFL schedules have a way of correcting skewed statistics, and I’m confident that for both the Patriots and the Bills, the correction process will begin to kick in here. Brady starts throwing touchdowns and New England comes out ahead by at least a touchdown.

Minnesota (+4.5) at Detroit
The Vikings caught the 49ers off guard last weekend. They’re not gonna be able to surprise Detroit. But the Lions allow opponents to find the end zone far too often to be favored by four and a half. I’ll take Detroit straight up, Minnesota with the points.

Carolina (+7) at Atlanta
By the time they take the field for this game, the Panthers will have had 10 days either to recover from or stew over their week three prime time humiliation at the hands of the New Jersey Giants. Maybe they’ll have learned something (by which I mean something somewhat less obvious than, if your quarterback throws three stupid picks, you generally lose the game). And maybe that something will help them. Eventually. Not in this game. Because almost nothing is going to help the Panthers in this game. Not against an Atlanta squad that’s outscoring most of the league on offense, giving up fewer points than most of the league on D, picking off balls left and right, and apparently streaking toward having the NFC South title sewn up by mid-season. And not against a quarterback who’s not simply finally playing up to his potential, but outplaying every other passer in the NFL. Ryan has thrown eight TDs to just a single interception this season. That’s just below record pace. And while it’s unlikely to hold up over 16 games, I feel fairly confident that it will hold up in this one, in which he faces a Carolina defense that has allowed opposing QBs to complete better than 68 percent of their passes so far this season. Atlanta takes this one by no fewer than 10.

San Francisco (-4) at NY Jets
The 49ers indubitably are the better team in this match. But they’re also a team playing their second consecutive road game (the first of which didn’t work out too well), and a west coast team playing an early game on the east coast. Neither of those factors promises to be kind to San Francisco. In fact, if it weren’t for the season-ending injury suffered last weekend by the best cornerback in the game, I might actually have been tempted to pick New Jersey. But they Jets don’t have their best DB, and the dropoff to their second best, and from their second to their third, is steep. The Jets also don’t have any ability to stop the run, which is a problem when you face the Niners. I still think the travel takes its toll, so I’m not giving four. But I like San Francisco to win it, let’s say by a field goal.

San Diego (+1) at Kansas City
Kansas City’s giveaway-takeaway differential is a league-worst -8. They’re going nowhere until they solve that problem. The Chiefs also need to learn how to finish drives. And to defend against the run. The Chargers aren’t a great football team, but they’re good enough to squeak by a Chiefs squad that hasn’t quite figured out that the regular season is well underway. San Diego by three.

Tennessee (+12) at Houston
The Texans might be the best team in football (or they might not be, but they’re certainly no worse than top three, at least for the nonce). The Titans are, um, you know, not. Here’s something odd — and probably only interesting to me, because I’m weird like this: Houston’s net points through week three are a league-best (tied, actually with Atlanta) +46; Tennessee’s net points are a league-worst -46. Spooky, right? Or not. Anyway, that’s a 92-point differential. Divide that by three and you get pretty close to 31. So considering that, I’m gonna go ahead and say, sure, the Texans should take this one by better than 12. Maybe more like 20.

Seattle (-2.5) at St. Louis
OK, so we all know that the Seahawks are a 1-2 team masquerading as a 2-1 team. (Thanks, scab refs.) But here’s the thing: the Rams are a 1-2 team that isn’t even masquerading as a promising 1-2 team. Neither of these squads has much of anything to offer by way of offense. But Seattle at least has a D. That should be enough to get the job done. Seahawks win one for real this time, probably by a field goal.

Miami (+6.5) at Arizona
Really? Six and a half? The 3-0 team that has in the last two weeks beaten New England on the road and trounced Philadelphia at home is hosting the 1-2 team that last week blew a seven-point fourth quarter lead to the New Jersey Jets in its own building, and, the one time this season its traveled to face a good team, was absolutely destroyed — and they’re only giving six and a half? I’ll give double that and then some. Cardinals by two touchdowns.

Oakland (+6.5) at Denver
One of these teams is gonna come out of this game 2-2. And since the one that’s playing at home is also the one that has been able to score at least some of the time and prevent its opponents from scoring at least some of the time, my inclination is to shrug slightly and pick that one. The Raiders win the first half 13-3, but the Broncos bring it back around in the second and come out ahead 27-23.

Cincinnati (-2.5) at Jacksonville
The Bengals probably aren’t as good as their 2-1 record implies. But the Jaguars almost certainly aren’t as good as their 1-2. In a game that takes place almost entirely on the ground, and takes all of about two and a half hours to play, the Bengals come out ahead by four.

New Orleans (+7.5) at Green Bay
When the 2012 schedule was released back in April, this looked like one of those games early in the season that might have major implications for the post-season. Not so much. The Saints arguably aren’t even looking to salvage their season any more. They’re 0-3, looking up at the 3-0 Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South and quite simply one of those teams that would probably be better served thinking about the draft than the playoffs. The Packers are 1-2, even if they should be 2-1. They’re angry about what happened in Seattle Monday night and no doubt ready to take it out on this week’s opponents. I fully expect the result to reflect that. But that doesn’t mean I expect the Packers to have a perfect game. There’s something amiss in Green Bay, something that I expect will slow down the Packers offense in this game and that bodes ill for the team’s long-term prospects. It’s this: Aaron Rodgers is currently the most sacked quarterback in the NFL. He’s taken 16 sacks in three games. And while eight of those came on Monday night, it remains the case that pass rushers are getting to Rodgers far too often. Look at Monday night as a statistical anomaly, and you still have Rodgers going down four times a game. Factor in the Seattle game and it shoots up to 5.3. That puts him on pace for somewhere between 64 and a record 85 sacks this season. It points to why a guy with a career passer rating of 103.2, and who finished last season with a record 122.5, is currently looking at an 87.0. The Packers need to figure out a way to protect their franchise or they’re going nowhere this season. But that isn’t a worry this week. Rodgers may take a sack or two, but the Saints just aren’t equipped to do any real damage on D. The Packers are. And that should be the difference. Green Bay by 10.

Washington (+3) at Tampa Bay
Clearly the Native Americans are a much different team now that they don’t have a defense. I don’t see how that stops biting them on their asses, even when the level of competition is just the Buccaneers. Still, I’m not giving a field goal. Tampa by one.

NY Giants (+2) at Philadelphia
This is another one of those games with a mystery spread. I get that these teams are both 2-1. I get that the Giants are on the road. I get that it’s an important division game. But come on, already. The Eagles are -6 in giveaway/takeaway differential. That’s worst in the conference, second worst in the league. Their coach has said he’ll evaluate his quarterback options as he goes. Why? Because he’s got a starter who can’t stop taking sacks and giving the ball away. Michael Vick has thrown six interceptions to just three touchdowns so far this season. He’s a 55 percent passer with a 66.2 passer rating. Those are awful numbers. You can’t win with a guy who continues to perform like that. And this week, Vick gets to face a Giants defense that has recorded two sacks and two interceptions per game — while playing against quarterbacks that don’t consistently take sacks and throw picks. I mean, how do you think this is likely to turn out? Me, I’m taking the Giants straight up. I’d give six if I had to.

Chicago (+3.5) at Dallas
Speaking of quarterbacks that take too many sacks and throws too many picks, can we just call it a career for Jay Cutler? Because it’s getting really, really, really hard to watch him fail to play football. Dallas by a touchdown.

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Week Three Picks

September 20th, 2012 Comments off

I’d like to tell you that after two weeks of football things have started to make sense to me. But they haven’t. There’s a strong possibility that they never will. And it might just be that I’m stupid. (Do you ever worry that you’re stupid, but no one wants to tell you? I do sometimes. And then I think about how people are always telling me I’m stupid, which kind of negates that concern. Then I start to worry that maybe those people are right. Then I see something shiny and I forget all about the whole thing.) Anyway, here’s what not to expect in week three. (Ooh, there’s something shiny. See ya.)

NY Giants (+2.5) at Carolina
It’s a bit of a relief — for picking purposes, I mean — that the Giants are coming in so badly banged up. Because, well, here’s the deal. If it weren’t for those critical injuries, I might be forced to spend time trying to figure out whether it’s safe to read anything into last weekend’s results in Charlotte. And that would be tough to do without knowing just how much of a tailspin the coachless Saints are in. For instance, one might look at a box score from that contest and conclude that the Panthers’ found their run game. A 219-yard effort on the ground (even when 71 of those yards come from your quarterback) will tend to lead you to that kind of thinking. But the Saints also gave up 153 rushing yards to Washington in week one. So was it Carolina’s ground game coming to life or the New Orleans run D laying yet another egg? And even if you knew the answer, what application would it have this week? The Giants’ run defense has been nothing but uneven so far this season. Awful against the Cowboys, stout against the Buccaneers. And the Giants haven’t yet played away from the Meadowlands. So who are they, really? And on that note, I’m also not certain what to make of the fact that that the second quarter of last weekend’s game featured Eli Manning throwing picks like it was 2010. Maybe that was a fluke. Or maybe it points to the reemergence of an issue that has plagued Eli throughout his pro career (his touchdown/interception ratio is a distinctly non-elite 1.4/1). Only time and additional games will tell, though I can’t think of many quarterbacks who have been helped by losing most of their receiving corps. Fortunately, I don’t have to dwell on the uncertain/speculative stuff. Because I know for a fact that the Giants have some really serious injury issues. I also know that they’re traveling on a short week. That’s a terrible combination of factors. And that’s why I feel like I’ve gotta take Carolina. I think the Panthers win it by something like four, though I’d add three points to that for any/every Giants turnover.

St. Louis (+7.5) at Chicago
The St. Louis Rams aren’t a great football team, but do you know what they’ve been doing pretty well this season? Picking off passes. And do you know who comes into this game having thrown the second most interceptions in the league (five)? That’s right, this guy. And, OK, sure, four of those picks came in one really awful game that will be a good 10 days in the rearview by the time these teams take the field. So one doesn’t want to read too much into that one bit of information. But then, you know, you add in a bit of gimpiness for Matt Forte and things start to look at bit more even. I’m not sure the Rams can actually pull off an upset on the road, but I’m sure as hell not taking the Bears to win by better than a touchdown. Or even better than a field goal. More like a point, I think.

Tampa Bay (+8) at Dallas
Nine NFL teams, including the Giants, Patriots, Packers and Saints, have lost their home openers this season. As the last team in the league to host a game, the Cowboys have an opportunity to make it an even 10. Will they? No, probably not. Dallas by nine.

San Francisco (-6.5) at Minnesota
Some look at the fact that Christian Ponder currently leads the NFL with an unreal completion percentage of 75.8 as an indication that Ponder is headed for a breakout season. I look at that number, from a guy who completed just 54.3 percent of his throws a year ago, and think there’s a major correction on the way. This game may not bring Ponder all the way back down to earth — the Niners D has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete nearly 65 percent of their passes so far this season — but it will start the process. San Francisco by six.

Detroit (-3.5) at Tennessee
Man, 0-3 (and 0-2 at home) is a rough way to start a season. Lions by a touchdown.

Cincinnati (+3) at Washington
Going into the season, I was pretty sure the Bengals D would be at least solid, possibly excellent. I also thought RGIII‘s career would get off to a slow start. That’s a whole lot of wrong right there, isn’t it? Native Americans by 10.

NY Jets (-2.5) at Miami
The Jets may be playing their second consecutive road game, but I’m not sure that matters here. I kind of think, in fact, that you pretty much have to be outright jetlagged to lose to the Dolphins. Assuming their “quarterback” doesn’t find a way to give this one away, New Jersey should come out ahead by at least six.

Kansas City (+9) at New Orleans
The Chiefs, too, are on the road for the second straight week. Only with them, I think it makes a difference. That and, you know, the fact that Drew Brees has to start playing like Drew Brees sooner or later. This seems like a pretty good opportunity to me. Saints by 14.

Buffalo (-3) at Cleveland
This is a poser. I have no idea what to make of either of these teams. And there are two usual solutions to that problem. One is pick the home team. The other is pick the team that isn’t the Browns. Which brings us right back to square one. Aw, hell, I’m picking the not-Browns. Buffalo by a field goal.

Jacksonville (+3) at Indianapolis
Did you know that the Jaguars are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t allowed a passing touchdown yet this season? Of course, they’ve also surrendered more rushing TDs than any team other than the Saints. So you take the bad with the good, I suppose. And if this game were being played in Jacksonville, I’d look at the fact that the Colts don’t run the ball particularly well and figure the Jags could grab a win here. But it isn’t. And the thing is that preventing your opponent from scoring a lot of points is only part of the equation. You also have to be able to put some points on the board yourself. The Jaguars haven’t done much of that yet, and I’m not expecting that trend to reverse itself in a road game against a division rival. Colts win 13-10.

Philadelphia (-3.5) at Arizona
Quick: Who’s the most intercepted quarterback in football so far this season? That’s right, folks, he may having given up killing dogs, but Michael Vick just can’t quit killing drives. And the thing of it all is that the Cardinals don’t even need to pick you off to shut you down. I’d be willing to give three and half in this game, but not to Arizona. Cardinals by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+3) at San Diego
Yeah, OK, both of these teams come in at 2-0. But not all 2-0 records are created equal. I guess that’s my way of saying that I believe in the Falcons, but not the Chargers. And if they weren’t traveling on a short week, I’d believe in the Falcons in a major way. But they are. That’s why I’m only looking for Atlanta to win this game by three.

Houston (-2) at Denver
The Texans are the better team here. Probably by a good bit. But I’ve said before that I think the Broncos are going to be a very tough team to beat in their building (as usual) this season. And I’m sticking with that. Broncos by one.

Pittsburgh (-4) at Oakland
In an absolutely shocking development, the Raiders stink. Can’t score. Can’t stop their opponents from scoring. Can’t get out of their owned damned way. Stink. Steelers by 10.

New England (+3) at Baltimore
The Patriots inability to execute on offense against Arizona on Sunday was shocking and a bit scary. But the New England D looked great once again. And, as my Twitter (@SeanGlennon) acquaintance The Quant Coach pointed out to me earlier this week, they’re actually better than the Baltimore D. So considering that (and, in particular, the fact that the Ravens don’t seem able to stop the run), and given that I don’t see execution issues being a regular thing for the Patriots O, I’m gonna take New England to pull off the upset. I won’t be floored if it goes the other way, but I like the Pats to end up in another nail-biter, but this time to come out on top by a point.

Green Bay (-3) at Seattle
I know it looks like the Seahawks can beat the Packers. I just have a hard time imagining that they will beat the Packers. Mostly that’s because I’m entirely certain that Aaron Rodgers is a much better quarterback than his stats so far this season imply. Green Bay by seven.

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Week Two Picks

September 13th, 2012 Comments off

You’d almost think than by week two one might have some sense of where things were going in the NFL. You’d be wrong. Or at least you would if you were thinking about me. I think I know less going into this week than I “knew” going into last. So that should make for some excellent picks, right? Here’s what not to expect.

Chicago  (+5.5) at Green Bay
I’m not giving five and a half here. OK, sure, I get it. The Bears aren’t the 49ers. The Packers most certainly aren’t the Colts. There’s precious little chance that Green Bay will allow itself not only to fall 0-2 (and what’s worse, 0-2 at home) but to do it with a loss to a division rival. And, setting aside what appear to be lingering issues on the defensive side of the ball, the Packers remain a team that put up 35 points per game last season (and 40 points per game at home). The Packers aren’t losing this game. But the Bears do bring in a fast, mean defense that may give the Packers O fits if Mike McCarthy and Tom Clements don’t figure out how to get their running game going. I can’t see Aaron Rodgers struggling two weeks in a row, so I have to believe the Packers are going to pull out a win. But I think the Bears will figure out how to hold the difference to three or  four.

Tampa Bay (+7.5) at NY Giants
Here’s another case of a team that’s simply not going to allow itself to drop two straight at home to start the season. The Giants have had 10 days to rest up from and stew over their opening night loss to the hated Dallas Cowboys. And, yeah, the Buccaneers at least appear to have an impressive defense, but I’m not sure playing the Giants in East Rutherford equates in any way to hosting the fairly one-dimensional Carolina Panthers. New Jersey should be able to get it together and pull off a win here, though I expect it will be by just slightly less than the seven and a half the Giants are giving. Let’s say six.

Arizona (+13.5) at New England
It’s way too early in the season to know anything for sure, but it certainly appeared last week that the Patriots had done much of the work needed to repair their soft defense of a season ago. It also looked like New England had figured out how to use the run game to take some of the pressure off Tom Brady. Most important, it appeared that the Cardinals were once again on the road to a second- or third-place finish in the weak NFC west. That’s not going to cut it when you face New England, particularly when you have to travel across the country to do it. And that’s the case no matter who you have taking snaps. I don’t like spreads this big, so I would never put real money on this, but I have to figure that if the Patriots can beat the Titans by 21 on the road, they can do at least two thirds as well against the Cardinals at home. I’ll take New England and give the points.

Minnesota (-1.5) at Indianapolis
Clearly there’s not as much of a difference between the Colts and the Jaguars this season as there has been for most of the past decade, but I’m still not taking a Minnesota squad that that barely held off Jacksonville in its own building to travel anywhere and beat anyone. Not even by a lousy point and a half. Andrew Luck has a much better outing than he had last week (he could scarcely do worse) and the Colts win by four.

New Orleans (-2.5) at Carolina
I can’t tell you whether Cam Newton‘s looking at a sophomore slump. I’m gonna need a few weeks on that. (Also, while I’m not going to assert that Newton had a great day against the Buccaneers last weekend, considering the fact that he got zero protection I’m certainly not about to say he was awful.) But here’s something I can tell you: No matter who’s coaching the Saints, there aren’t going to be a whole lot of games in which Drew Brees completes just 46 percent of his passes and throws  pair of picks. Certainly not two in a row. And if you can’t hold off the Bucs offense, you’re sure as hell not gonna hold off the Saints. New Orleans by a touchdown.

Kansas City (+3) at Buffalo
One of these teams is gonna take out a huge pile of week one disappointments on the other. I honestly don’t know which it will be, but I’m inclined to favor the one that didn’t let Mark Sanchez, a guy with a career passer rating of 74.2 and a career completion percentage of 56, get to 123.4 and 70, while allowing the Jets to hang 48 points on its supposedly formidable defense. But, hey, that’s just me. Chiefs by a field goal.

Baltimore (+2.5) at Philadelphia
You know, I understand that the Eagles were on the road and everything, but I still can’t stop thinking about how they struggled to beat the Browns last weekend. And I know it was just against the Bengals, but the Ravens looked really good on Monday night. So if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll go with Baltimore straight up in this game. Short week for the Ravens, though, so maybe they only win by a point.

Oakland (-2.5) at Miami
No team could possibly be as bad as the Raiders looked on Monday, right? Well, except maybe for the Dolphins. They could potentially be even worse. But, you know, the crazy thing is, the Raiders are traveling across the country on a short week to play an early game. There’s nothing easy about that. Oakland’s also pretty banged up. And the Raiders will be wearing their black shirts in the midday sun with a projected high temperature of 86. Dolphins by three.

Cleveland  (+7) at Cincinnati
I was struggling to come up with something interesting about this game until I realized that there just isn’t anything interesting about this game. Bengals by 10.

Houston (-7.5) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars may or may not be worse than the Dolphins. Either way, it’s close. And I don’t care where this game’s being played, that’s gotta be good for more than seven and a half. Texans by 17.

Dallas (-3) at Seattle
The Cowboys are playing on extra rest. The Seahawks are … well, they’re the Seahawks, aren’t they? I mean, OK, I keep hearing that Seattle has a good team, but I’m not buying into that until I see it. Assuming Tony Romo can figure out a way to take snaps without incident, Dallas should roll. (Which will be totally awesome, because then we’ll get at least a solid week of talk about the Cowboys being Super Bowl bound.) Cowboys by nine.

Washington (-3) at St. Louis
Two huge road wins to open the season should really fire up the talk about Robert Griffin III turning the Native Americans into a championship team in his rookie season. And who knows, maybe he will. Maybe he really will change the game, too.  It’s been done once before. For now, though, I’m just gonna go with Washington by 10.

NY Jets (+6) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers don’t lose home openers. And Mark Sanchez isn’t having two straight career days. Pittsburgh by a touchdown.

Tennessee (+6) at San Diego
I can’t begin to guess whether what I saw on Monday night was about the Chargers being better than I expected or the Raiders being downright awful. But I have to believe that a defense that can contain Darren McFadden (on the ground, anyhow) can at least slow down Chris Johnson. And that’s what it takes to beat the Titans. San Diego wins straight up. It’s a push with the points.

Detroit (+6.5) at San Francisco
Just a couple of years ago, this would have been a game to dread. Now, it’s a great choice for prime time. Seems like a team that can take apart the Packers in Green Bay ought to be able to hold off the Lions at home. Especially if Calvin Johnson isn’t 100 percent. Right? San Francisco by a touchdown.

Denver (+3) at Atlanta
I said going into last weekend that I thought the Broncos would be a tough team to play at home (as usual) this season. If Peyton Manning can keep playing as well as he did against Pittsburgh, he may actually make Denver competitive on the road as well. But not enough to edge a team that brings as much to the field as the Falcons. Not yet, anyhow. Atlanta by six.

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Week One Picks

September 5th, 2012 Comments off

At last, the 2012 NFL season is here. I’ve waited an awful long time for the chance to be embarrassingly wrong about a whole big bunch of football games again. So let’s get to it. Here’s what not to expect.

Dallas (+3.5) at NY Giants
No one will be saying this tomorrow or next week — the talk will all be about how the defending champs just don’t lose the season opener — but sometime between eight and 17 weeks from now, folks are going to look back and opine that this is where it all started to unravel for the 2012 Cowboys. I don’t know if Amani Toomer’s claim that Tony Romo is a better QB than Eli Manning is correct (Romo certainly has better passing stats than Manning, but Eli does have those two rings) but what I do know is that Manning plays for a much better team. Most important for this game, and this season, Manning plays for a team with a mean pass rush, while Romo plays for a team with a highly suspect (this is putting it nicely) offensive line. That means sacks. With a quarterback who’s consistently exhibited poor decision making, it also most likely means picks. And those add up to a whole lot of ugly. I think the Cowboys are in for a long, ugly season, and I think it starts here with a blowout loss to the defending champs. Giants by 17.

Indianapolis (+9.5) at Chicago
It’s often said that the biggest challenge an NFL rookie faces is adjusting to the speed of the game. Just wait till young Andrew Luck gets a load of the fast, even by NFL standards, Chicago pass rush. That’s gonna be a baptism of fire. I still don’t have much faith in the Chicago offense, but even so, I think its reasonable to anticipate a 10-point Bears victory.

Philadelphia (-8.5) at Cleveland
The Browns may or may not be the worst team in the league. But they most certainly are the worst team in this game. By an awful lot. Like 14 points, maybe more.

Buffalo (+3) at NY Jets
Home field is only an advantage when the crowd’s on your side. New Jersey fans should have the Tebow chant going by halftime. Bills, 7-3.

Washington (+7) at New Orleans
RGIII will have his day (and soon enough) but it’s not gonna be this one. The Saints just have way too much to prove to let this game slip away. New Orleans by two touchdowns.

New England (-5.5) at Tennessee
The Patriots have one guy to stop in this game. I suppose you could say the same thing about the Titans. But it’s different. Different kind of guy. New England by nine.

Jacksonville (+3.5) at Minnesota
No, you’re wrong. There is someone who cares about this game. His name is Matt Barkley.

Miami (+12.5) at Houston
The only way the Texans win this game by fewer than 30 points is if they take their foot off the gas.

St. Louis (+7) at Detroit
I was just getting ready to write, “The Lions can’t lose this game and call themselves contenders,” when I realized that the last four words of that sentence are entirely unnecessary. Detroit by 13.

Atlanta (-3) at Kansas City
Forget the preseason, Romeo Crennel‘s gonna have his team ready to go. And the Falcons aren’t as good as you think they are. Chiefs by a field goal.

San Francisco (+5) at Green Bay
These two teams could very well meet again on January 20 with a trip to Super Bowl XLVII on the line. And if they do, there’s at least an even chance that the winner of this game will be the host on that day. So that’s not too much pressure for a season opener, is it? Here’s the deal: Green Bay’s offense is as good as it was last year; its defense is better. San Francisco’s defense is as good as it was last year; its offense looks like it’s better. This game is going to turn on one key mistake. And I just have to feel like the visiting squad will be the one to make it. Packers by three.

Carolina (-2.5) at Tampa Bay
Next week, you’ll hear folks talking about the result of this game and holding it up as evidence that Cam Newton and the Panthers are going to contend for a playoff spot. When that happens, try to keep in mind that the Panthers’ opponents were the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Carolina by six.

Seattle (-2.5) at Arizona
It could be worse. You could have to watch this game. Seahawks by a point.

Pittsburgh (+1.5) at Denver
The Steelers are probably the better team, but they’re not coming out ahead in this game. The Broncos are going to be a tough team to play in Denver all season. And Peyton Manning has something to prove in the home opener. Denver by three.

Cincinnati (+6) at Baltimore
If this game were in Cincinnati, I’d be tempted to pick the Bengals. No, really. I would. The Bengals may actually have the better defense in this match. And their offense is good enough to keep pace with a Ravens O that I expect to get off to a slow start. But the game isn’t in Cincinnati. So I’m not taking the Bengals. I’m taking the home team, though I expect them to win by just three or four.

San Diego (+1) at Oakland
I was going to predict an upset in this game right up until I discovered that the Raiders were favored. A long, difficult season for Philip Rivers begins with a long, difficult night in Oakland. Raiders, 17-9.

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2012 Season Predictions

September 4th, 2012 Comments off

So here we go. The most pointless post of any given season on a blog wholly devoted to pointless posts. How’s that for a tease, huh?

Seriously, as I point out every single year, it’s pretty damned close to impossible to predict what’s likely to transpire in the NFL in a given week. Take the whole of a 17-week season, add a post-season that’s as unpredictable from week to week as any in professional sports (and that’s four months away), and the only thing trying to make predictions can possibly get you is outright humiliation. But I’m making my picks just the same. Just like I do every season. Because … I don’t know. Because it’s a thing that you do. Because it’s exciting to stand on the eve of a new football season, and that energy has to go somewhere. And because five months from today, when it’s the day after Super Bowl XLVII and I begin my countdown of the 213 days until the 2013 NFL season begins, either I’ll have got something right and I’ll feel pretty good about it or I’ll have been wrong and I’ll have forgotten about it. So, really, there’s nothing on the line here except your time. And I’m shockingly cavalier in my approach to that.

OK, then, let’s do this.

Regular Season Records
Even I’m not foolish enough to think I predict a team’s final record. Plus, really, it’s a lot of time looking over schedules ticking off wins and losses — all to be wrong. So I don’t. Instead, I will once again give an estimated range of how many games I think each team is likely to win. Even then, I’m going to be wrong about many, dreadfully wrong about a few. I can live with that.

AFC East

New England Patriots, 12-15
This is the same range of wins I predicted for the Pats last year. I should have been wrong then. A team with the 2011 New England D shouldn’t be good for more than 10 or 11 wins. But the Patriots had Tom Brady (the greatest quarterback in NFL history) to carry them on his shoulders. This year, Brady has more weapons on offense, and the Patriots appear to have a greatly improved defense. If the O line holds up (there are questions, but I suspect the line will be good enough) and Brady can stay healthy (these two things, obviously, are connected), the 2012 Patriots should be a better team than the one that went 13-3 and was a play away from winning Super Bowl XLVI in spite of its defensive deficiencies.

Buffalo Bills, 8-11
OK, I’m in, but not all the way. The Bills should be better on defense (especially up front where it matters most) and at least for the moment they’re healthier on offense. They’re also more experienced. That’s gotta be good for at least two more wins than they managed last year. And if everything goes right, they could come close to doubling their 2011 win total. That would probably be enough to earn them a spot in the post-season, maybe even the conference five seed. Which ain’t bad.

New York Jets, 4-7
Rex Ryan‘s been doing a lot of talking (really? Rex shooting his mouth off?) about how great his defense is going to be this season. He’d best be right, because his offense is going go be downright atrocious.

Miami Dolphins, 1-3
You know what’s a good thing to have in the age of the quarterback? Someone to catch the damned passes. Maybe next year, when Robert Woods is on the team.

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers, 9-12
The Steelers tried to fix their offensive line in the off-season. Unfortunately for them, some important fixes didn’t quite take. That might not kill them. Pittsburgh, as always, brings a bruising defense into the season. And the Steelers say they’re recommitted to the run, which should take some of the pressure off not only the line but Ben Roethlisberger. In the end, I think they take the division more because of what the other teams in the AFC North are missing than what the Steelers have to offer. But that’s OK. It’s just about getting into the tournament. After that, anything can happen.

Baltimore Ravens, 8-10
I agree (with Joe Flacco) that Joe Flacco is a better quarterback than he’s generally given credit for being. And, you know, that’s nice and all. We might even see the evidence of it if the Ravens’ O line can hold up (I suspect it will, at least most of the time). But when you’re built to win with defense and your defense has an off year, things have a way of going south in a hurry. The Ravens can challenge for the six seed, but I don’t see them playing too deep into January even if they make it.

Cincinnati Bengals, 7-10
The Bengals appear to have a hell of a defense. On offense, they could be slightly better than last year, or they could be slightly worse (depending on whether there’s a sophomore slump in store for Andy Dalton and/or A.J. Green). And that will be the difference between a push for the playoffs or a frustrating finish.

Cleveland Browns, 2-5
The Browns appear to have done a nice job of improving their offense in this year’s draft. Next year, maybe they can focus on D. This season should illustrate why a defense is a nice thing to have.

AFC South

Houston Texans, 12-14
The Texans were the best team in the AFC last season, right up until they weren’t. They’re probably better on both sides of the ball going into 2012 than they were this time a year ago. If that weren’t also true of New England, Houston might just have been in a position to run away with the conference. And who knows? They could do it anyhow.

Tennessee Titans, 6-8
The Titans are probably the second best team in the AFC South. So that’s, um, you know, nice. I suppose.

Indianapolis Colts, 5-7
The post-Peyton Colts appear to be headed in the right direction. But it’s a long road. And a young NFL team isn’t an easy thing to be.

Jacksonville Jaguars, 3-5
Maurice Jones-Drew is finally back with the team. That may very well prove to be the last thing the Jaguars or their fans have to get excited about until the 2013 draft.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs, 8-11
I think the Chiefs are headed for the three or four seed (and a first-round exit from the playoffs, but that’s another story) in spite of what looks like a questionable defensive line. They’ve got enough offense that they should be able to put up points and overcome a certain amount of inconsistent play on D. They also have a secondary that should be able to help them cover up some of their issues up front (their linebackers also should help). Their deficiencies will catch up with them, of course, but not right away. Not in this division.

Denver Broncos, 7-10
Sure, Peyton Manning makes the offense instantly better. Maybe even good enough to steal the division title if the Broncos can catch the Chiefs napping. But a team without a pass rush is still a team that’s going to struggle. How much they’ll struggle really depends on whether Manning can stay healthy and whether the offense under his leadership can put up a lot of points.

San Diego Chargers, 5-7
The Chargers have some talented players, that’s for sure. But there aren’t enough of them, and the ones they have won’t be functioning in complete units on either side of the ball. That makes for sloppy football. And sloppy doesn’t succeed.

Oakland Raiders, 3-6
Like last year’s team, the 2012 Raiders may well realize some success within their relatively weak division. But you can only get so far on minor points of pride.

NFC East

New York Giants, 9-12
I don’t think the Giants are any better right now than they were a year ago. But neither are they any worse. And they’re at least somewhat healthier. Plus, they were good enough last season to, you know, win the damned league championship. If they suffer any kind of a hangover, the Giants will open a window for the Eagles to step up and take the division. If they hold it together, they’ve at least got a chance to win it all once again.

Philadelphia Eagles, 9-12
The Eagles ought to be the favorite to win this division. They’ve got plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. They’ve got what looks like an outstanding pass rush. They’re out from under the whole Dream Team nonsense that appeared to make 2011 too big for them. And yet … I’m not sure. It seems more and more like Michael Vick is one of those guys who’s just never gonna get all the way over the hump. (Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, right?) And that’s a problem. Still, the Eagles should make the playoffs either as division champs (if the Giants let them take it) or as a wild card team. And maybe, just maybe, if they can get there, everything will break right.

Washington Native Americans, 5-8
Seventy-five years ago this season, playing their first season in DC, the former Boston Braves started a rookie passer who would change the course of NFL history. This season, the Native Americans start a rookie QB who will light up the highlight reels more than once. And by the end of the season, he’ll have us talking about Washington as strong contenders for 2013. But they’re not winning a championship in 2012.

Dallas Cowboys, 3-5
No D line. No O line. No dice.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers, 12-15
The Packers were probably the best team in the NFL last season (during the regular season, anyhow). They’re probably the best team in the NFL right now. And, barring catastrophic injury, probably the worst you’ll be able to say about them this year is that they don’t really run the ball all that well. Big deal. Let’s see if they can carry through January this time around.

Detroit Lions, 10-13
If the Lions were in the NFC South or West, they’d have a shot at a division championship and the conference two seed. But they’re not. So they’ll have to settle for the five seed. They should win their wild card round matchup easily. And they could prove dangerous in the divisional round. Honestly, I won’t be at all shocked if the Lions sneak into the Super Bowl.

Chicago Bears, 5-7
There are plenty of folks out there who think the Bears are poised to make a run at a wild card berth this year. I’m not one of them. I won’t be until the Chicago figures out how to field an offensive line.

Minnesota Vikings, 2-4
No one (or no one outside of Minnesota, anyhow) is expecting the Vikings to make a run at anything other than a top five draft pick. It’s hard to overcome an 0-6 record in your division. (OK, maybe they beat Chicago at home and get to 1-5. But you get the point.)

NFC South

New Orleans Saints, 10-12
Yeah, I get it. Bountygate and its fallout and blah, blah, blah. That’ll cost the Saints some wins. It’ll prevent them from getting the one seed and might even keep them from earning a first-round bye. But that’s about it. This team has way too much talent and way too big a chip on its shoulder to fall apart.

Atlanta Falcons, 9-11
I’m not sure anyone would be picking the Falcons to win the NFC South title if the Saints weren’t in such a state of turmoil (which is to say, I’m pretty sure no one would be picking the Falcons to win the division if the Saints weren’t in such a state of turmoil). But the Saints are in a state of turmoil. So that changes everything, right? Well, everything except the fact that the Falcons have issues on both lines. That doesn’t lead to success on the football field. Not over the long term, anyhow.

Carolina Panthers, 8-10
If the Falcons stumble (or, I suppose, if the Saints stumble) look for the Panthers to take advantage and fight their way into contention. They’ve certainly got enough talent to make a run. But I still feel like they’re a year away.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2-5
You’ve got to think this is the end of the road for Josh Freeman. The only question, to my mind, is whether the Bucs will fare poorly enough to be able to replace him with Matt Barkley.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers, 10-13
The 49ers may be a bit better than they were last season. Or they may be a bit worse. It all depends on what they get out of their new wide receivers (or, put another way, whether Alex Smith is able to get the ball to Randy Moss and Mario Manningham on a consistent basis), and whether Moss can hold off becoming a distraction for a full season. Either way, the Niners are taking no one by surprise this season. Which only means that they may not get the two seed and a bye. They’re winning the division. Because, let’s face it, it’s a one-team division to begin with.

Seattle Seahawks, 4-7
Some team is going to finish a meaningless second in this division. Might as well be the Seahawks, right?

Arizona Cardinals, 4-7
Or maybe it will be the Cardinals.

St. Louis Rams, 3-6
But it almost certainly won’t be the Rams.


Sure, why not? Because, you know, I totally predict now who’s gonna be playing well in January. Can’t everyone?

1. New England
2. Houston
3. Pittsburgh
4. Kansas City
5. Baltimore
6. Buffalo

1. Green Bay
2. NY Giants
3. San Francisco
4. New Orleans
5. Detroit
6. Philadelphia

Wild Card Playoffs

Baltimore defeats Kansas City
Pittsburgh defeats Buffalo

Detroit defeats New Orleans
San Francisco defeats Philadelphia

Divisional Playoffs

Pittsburgh defeats Houston
New England defeats Baltimore

NY Giants defeat San Francisco
Green Bay defeats Detroit

Conference Championships

New England defeats Pittsburgh

Green Bay defeats NY Giants

Super Bowl XLVII
New England defeats Green Bay, 31-28

And that’s exactly how it won’t ever happen in the 2012 NFL season.

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