Archive for October, 2013

Week Nine, Thursday Night

October 31st, 2013 Comments off

Once again, Thursday has crept up on me and left me unprepared to unintelligently discuss anything more than the game closest at hand. Here’s what not to expect tonight. More to come later.

Cincinnati (-3) at Miami
In the end, I’ve got next to nothing to say about this game that you don’t already know (unless you’re a Miami fan — and maybe even then). The Dolphins are done. They had their little moment early in the season and now it’s over. The Bengals are fighting for the AFC two seed, maybe even the one. That’s about the size of it. Oh, right, that and this game will be over before you blow out the candle in your jack-o-lantern. Cincinnati by 17.

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Week Eight Picks

October 27th, 2013 Comments off

I’ve been busy enough this week that I’m probably in worse shape for picking games than usual, which is a tough thing to do if you’re me. Then again, I managed to peg the exact margin of victory for the Panthers on Thursday night. Maybe knowing you don’t know anything is better than not knowing anything and thinking you know something. Let’s see how it goes. Here’s what not to expect.

Jacksonville (+15) vs. San Francisco at Wembley Stadium, London
Roger Goodell plans to play even more games in London going forward. After this, British fans may well ask him to send fewer. Niners by three or four touchdowns.

Dallas (+3) at Detroit
Last week’s results are fine and all, but I’m not buying the notion that the Cowboys have grown a defense until I see them succeed against at team with an actual NFL offense. For this week, what I see is a matchup between two teams with decent Os and lousy Ds. I’m taking the one that isn’t playing its second consecutive road game. Lions straight up. It’s a push with the points.

NY Giants (+5.5) at Philadelphia
Haven’t you heard? Having managed to beat a team with a starting quarterback who’d been around long enough to learn like half a dozen plays, the Giants are on their way to winning out and storming through the playoffs. Or, you know, quite possibly not. The Eagles are going nowhere, too, but at least they’re going nowhere at home in this game. So let’s figure Philly “wins” it by a field goal.

Cleveland (+7.5) at Kansas City
That’s right, Browns fans. That’s Jason Campbell lining up behind center. That’s gotta feel pretty good, huh? Chiefs by 13.

Buffalo (+11) at New Orleans
Yeah, the Bills have a solid defense. And, yeah, likely having to play without Jimmy Graham will make overcoming that D tougher for the Saints. But spending most of the game on the field will wear down that D eventually. Which means the Saints should be able to pull away late. New Orleans by 10.

Miami (+6) at New England
Six, oddly enough, also is the over/under on sacks of Ryan Tannehill in this game. OK, I made that up. But if it were real, I’d not only give the points but bet the over. Patriots by 10.

NY Jets (+5) at Cincinnati
The Jets have been feeling pretty good about themselves ever since the Patriots (not the refs, mind you, the Patriots) handed them a victory last weekend. That’s nice and all, but let’s keep in mind that they’re still the Jets. This game should clear up any lingering confusion on that point. Bengals by a touchdown.

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Oakland
The simple fact that you’ve won two straight (after losing your first four) paired with the notion that you should be better than you are simply because you’re usually better than you are, doesn’t mean you are better than you are. I’m talking about you, Pittsburgh. Raiders by two takeaways and six points.

Washington (+11.5) at Denver
Over/under on this game is nearly 60 points. Bet the over. Broncos get one more offensive possession than the Racists and take the game by seven.

Atlanta (+2.5) at Arizona
I’m one of those idiots who still believes the Falcons can’t really be that bad. So, yeah. Atlanta by a point.

Green Bay (-8.5) at Minnesota
You know what you have when it’s week eight and you’re starting a quarterback you’d previously benched (and who is exactly that good)? Well, two things, actually. One is a giant, ugly mess. The other is a long road to the off-season. Packers by two touchdowns.

Seattle (-11) at St. Louis
On Monday night, no less. People might actually choose to watch the baseball game being played a couple miles away over this bloodbath. Seahawks by 28.

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Week Eight, Thursday Night

October 24th, 2013 Comments off

I don’t even know up from down right now. That’s how busy I am. So I’ve got one really pointless pick to offer at the moment, and it’s really, really, really what not to expect.

Carolina (-6) at Tampa Bay
I don’t think you can even call this a home game for the Bucs right now. They’re unraveling. The fans in Tampa are fed up and looking for a change. It’s hard to imagine a stadium full of noisy Buccaneers fans unnerving the Panthers at this point, isn’t it? Meanwhile Carolina is surging a bit and the Panthers probably feel like they’ve still got a chance to battle their way into the postseason. They don’t, but that doesn’t matter. They’ll come out on top in this game, probably by significantly more than six. Maybe as much as three times that.

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Week Seven Picks

October 20th, 2013 Comments off

Here we go. Short and sour. What not to expect.

New England (-3.5) at NY Jets
The last time Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were on the field together in a game against the Jets was almost exactly a year ago, October 21, 2012. They connected for 78 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 29-26 Patriots win. By the way, New England didn’t have Aqib Talib in that game either. Patriots by 10.

San Diego (-7.5) at Jacksonville
A west coast team traveling across the country to play a 1 p.m. game on a short week is a recipe for a loss. You know, when they’re playing another NFL team. Even facing the Jaguars, the circumstances will probably take their toll on the Chargers. So let’s figure San Diego only wins this one by 12.

Houston (+6.5) at Kansas City
If Case Keenum can get through 60 minutes of football without throwing a pick six, he’ll be arguably the best quarterback to suit up for the Texans all season. So there’s that. Kansas City by 14.

Cincinnati (+2.5) at Detroit
These two squads are pretty evenly matched in many respects. But the Lions come out on top in takeaway/giveaway (+5 to the Bengals’ -2). And the Lions are at home. So I’m taking them. Detroit by a field goal.

Buffalo (+7.5) at Miami
Ryan Tannehill is on pace to break David Carr’s single-season record for sacks taken, 76. The Bills defense, which is currently fourth in the league in sacks with 21, should be in a good position to help Tannehill move closer to that mark. It won’t be enough to get the Bills an upset over the well rested Dolphins, but it should be enough to keep Miami’s margin of victory to something more like three or four.

Chicago (pick ’em) at Washington
Robert Griffin III goes into this game having thrown six touchdowns and five interceptions on the season. He’ll come out of it with seven of each. And as a result, the Bears will come out with a seven-point victory.

Dallas (+3) at Philadelphia
You could choose to view this game as a matchup of .500 teams. Or you could choose to look at it as a battle for first place in the NFC East. You say, “Ugh, yawn.” I say, “Yeah, no kidding.” The Eagles are at home and the Cowboys left their defense back in 2009. So I’m taking Philly. By a touchdown.

St. Louis (+7) at Carolina
The home team is also the team with a D. It’s really about that simple. Except that Carolina isn’t winning by a touchdown. More like four.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) at Atlanta
The Falcons’ season is over. But the Falcons don’t know it. The Buccaneers season is over, and the Buccaneers know it all too well. Atlanta halts their three-game skid and moves into the part of their season where they flirt continually with .500. That should prove satisfying a team that was the conference one seed a year ago (not to mention a fanbase that went into the year thinking Super Bowl). Atlanta by a touchdown.

San Francisco (-3.5) at Tennessee
The Titans have enough going on defensively to be able to keep this game close in their own stadium. But with Ryan Fitzpatrick lining up behind center, they don’t have an offense that can win it. Niners by three.

Cleveland (+9.5) at Green Bay
And the Browns continue to revert to a state of Browniness. Packers by 14.

Baltimore (+2.5) at Pittsburgh
Maybe after this game is over, I’ll understand completely why so many people thought the Steelers could win it. But I won’t understand before the game. The Ravens defense should have Ben Roethlisberger running for his life all day. He’ll escape a few times, but he’ll make a few awful mistakes, too. That’s the difference here. Baltimore by six.

Denver (-6.5) at Indianapolis
So here’s the thing, Jim Irsay: Recognizing that Tom Brady is a much better quarterback than Peyton Manning is smart. Talking about it the week before Manning comes back to play for another team in your building? Not so much. (Because, um, you don’t have Tom Brady. Or Bill Belichick. Just, you know, so you’re aware.) Broncos by 14.

Minnesota (+3.5) at NY GiantsReally? On Monday night? Ugh. Vikings by a point.

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Week Seven, Thursday Night

October 17th, 2013 Comments off

Yep. One of those weeks when I just don’t have time to be wrong about everything before Thursday night. So I’ll be wrong about tonight’s game now and the rest later. Fun, right? Here’s what not to expect.

Seattle (-5.5) at Arizona
The Cardinals have a pretty OK run defense. So, you know, it’s entirely possible that this game won’t be over by half time. End of the third quarter, maybe. Seahawks by 10.

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Week Six Picks

October 10th, 2013 Comments off

I’m not happy about this week’s slate of games. Not happy about what’s on the schedule. And not happy about how I figure most of them are going to turn out. So there’s that out of the way. Now, here’s what not to expect.

NY Giants (+7.5) at Chicago
The good news for the Giants is that this season, the Bears D isn’t all that great at getting to the quarterback. So New Jersey has an off chance of keeping Eli Manning upright for a change. The bad news for the Giants is that the Chicago D is pretty good at taking the ball away, so keeping Eli on his feet might just mean giving him extra chances to throw interceptions. (If he throws another three this week, he’ll be back on track to threaten George Blanda‘s 51-year-old single-season record. And, hey, you don’t snatch a record away from a Hall of Famer every season. So that would have to count as some weird kind of silver lining, right?) The worse news for the Giants is that their worst start in 34 years is about to become their worst start in 37. Bears by two touchdowns.

Oakland (+9) at Kansas City
There isn’t much the Raiders can say they’ve done consistently well this season, but they have done a pretty good job of holding onto the ball.  That goes out the window here. Kansas City by 10.

Philadelphia (-1.5) at Tampa Bay
I started thinking about this game by asking myself, “Which is worse, the Tampa Bay offense or the Philadelphia defense?” Unfortunately, the answer I came back with is both. That’s not helpful. Neither of these teams is going to win this game, but one of them is almost guaranteed to lose it. I’ll go with the one playing its third straight on the road. Buccaneers by a point.

Green Bay (-3) at Baltimore
Whichever team holds onto the ball wins. I’ll go with the home team. Ravens by a field goal.

Detroit (-2.5) at Cleveland
With Brandon Weeden back under center for the Browns and Calvin Johnson possibly missing yet another game for the Lions (and certainly not playing at full speed), I don’t have any idea what to make of this game. I guess I like Detroit’s chances of succeeding without Johnson slightly better than Cleveland’s chances of succeeding with Weeden. So, yeah, Lions by three.

Carolina (+2.5) at Minnesota
The Panthers are probably the better team, but they’re playing their second straight road game (the first of which was a ridiculous loss to a middling team) while the Vikings are playing at home on two weeks rest. So I’m taking Minnesota and expecting the Vikes to come out ahead by something like six.

St. Louis (+7.5) at Houston
Matt Schaub can’t possibly throw another pick six, can he? Can he? I’m going with no. (I mean this week, not ever.) Texans by 10.

Pittsburgh (+2.5) at NY Jets
The guy backing up Ben Roethlisberger for the Steelers this season is Bruce Gradkowski. I’m just pointing that out is all. I’m totally, totally certain that Roethlisberger is going to stay healthy through the whole season. I mean, you know, he’s a tough guy. He can take all those sacks and come out mostly OK. Right, Steelers fans? Right? New Jersey by a touchdown.

Cincinnati (-7) at Buffalo
The Bills are a quarterback away from being able to win this game. Of course, that’s a pretty big hole in your roster, isn’t it? Bengals by 11.

Tennessee (+13.5) at Seattle
If this game were being played in Nashville … the Titans still wouldn’t be able to keep up with the Seahawks. Seattle by 20.

Jacksonville (+27.5) at Denver
What can one conceivably have to say about this game that would be of any value? You can’t bet on this one, that’s for sure. Because, yes, the Broncos clearly are going to hammer the Jaguars. But are they going to just pour it on? Or are they maybe going to give themselves the chance to take it easy a little after last Sunday’s extravaganza in Dallas? And don’t tell me you know, because you don’t know. Not to the tune of four touchdowns, you don’t. I’m going to to take the Broncos and give the points here, because there’s no money involved, which makes it easy. You feel free to do whatever you like.

Arizona (+10.5) at San Francisco
Right now, the Cardinals are tied with the 49ers for second place in the NFC West. I said “right now.” Niners by 13.

New Orleans (+2.5) at New England
I’ve spent the last several days trying to come up with a reason to pick the Patriots in this one, just because I don’t want the home crowd to feel like I’ve betrayed them. Patriots don’t often lose two in a row. New England’s tough to beat at home. The Patriots have a stifling defense. Rob Gronkowski’s probably going to be back. All good stuff, and nice enough. But I don’t see any of it getting the job done. If New England can get healthier as the season moves on, the Patriots may be the better team come December and/or January. But right now, the Saints are simply the more balanced squad. I expect the New England to make it a game — and I’ll hardly be shocked if they find some way to win — but I can’t see any outcome other than New Orleans winning, by at least a field goal.

Washington (+5.5) at Dallas
Between last week’s game and this one, I suspect they’re gonna have to rename the city Allas. (You see what I did there? No D. Get it?) Cowboys, 38-34.

Indianapolis (-1.5) at San Diego
I present to you these takeaway/giveaway differentials: Indianapolis, +6 (10 takeaways, 4 giveaways); San Diego, -8 (10 giveaways, 2 takeaways). And with that, I conclude my thoughts on this game. Colts by seven.

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Week Five Picks

October 3rd, 2013 Comments off

I’ve got five underdogs winning straight up this week, four of them on the road. So you know what that means: Five underdogs will win straight up this week and four of them will do it on the road. Only, it will be a different five than the ones I picked. The Jaguars, maybe. And the Jets. Because, you know, that could happen. Here’s what not to expect.

Buffalo (+4.5) at Cleveland
Here, two weeks later, is where the Trent Richardson trade finally starts to bite the Browns in the ass. The way you lose to the Bills (notice I didn’t say, “the way the Bills beat you,” because they don’t; you lose to them) is by relying too heavily on the pass. As Joe Flacco learned on Sunday, when the Bills D knows you’re going to throw the ball, they’ll sit back and wait for you to put it in their DBs hands. Yes, Flacco’s five-interception day is what propelled the Bills to lead the league in interceptions at the quarter pole. But Buffalo had four picks going into last week’s game with the defending champs. If they hadn’t picked Flacco even once, they’d still be ahead of half the teams in the league. So here they go to face the Browns, who have been prospering by Brian Hoyer‘s arm for the past two weeks. Cleveland didn’t run much (17 rushes to 55 pass plays) against Minnesota two weeks ago and didn’t run effectively against Cincinnati last weekend. That worked out well enough for the Browns, who won both games. But there’s still the fact that Hoyer threw three interceptions to the Vikings, not to mention that what the Browns really did that day was fare slightly better than their opponents in a tournament of ineptitude. If Hoyer throws three picks in this game, or even just a pair, the outcome won’t be nearly so rosy. And that’s exactly what I expect to see him do. I like Hoyer and I’d love to believe that he has it in him to lead the Browns through some kind of romantic, dark horse season. But I don’t think that’s happening without real run support. The collapse starts here, in prime time. Buffalo by a field goal.

Kansas City (-2.5) at Tennessee
The Titans haven’t given the ball away once this season. Not a pick. Not a fumble. Not a mishandled punt. Nothing. They’re the best in the league at holding onto the ball, which is why they’re tied for first in takeaway/giveaway with a +9. That’s pretty damned impressive. And normally I’d tend to see that and home field as offsetting the fact that the Chiefs appear to be at least a slightly better team than the Titans. Thing is, though, he team Tennessee is tied with at the top of the takeaway/giveaway chart is Kansas City. The Chiefs have committed the third fewest giveaways (3) and are tied for the third most takeaways (12). There’s also this: The guy who’s done most of the not throwing picks for Tennessee t his season is Jake Locker, who won’t be available for this game. The guy replacing him is Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has thrown 81 interceptions in 68 NFL starts. Maybe Fitzpatrick picks up right where Locker left off. Or maybe he picks up right where he left off with Buffalo. Or maybe the law of averages was due to catch up with the Titans at some point. I don’t know, but I’m not counting on perfection. And all that leaves me with is the sense that Kansas City is the better team here. So I’m taking the Chiefs straight up, but I wouldn’t give more than a point. Kansas City, 24-23.

Baltimore (+3) at Miami
One of these teams is going to lose a second straight game. Smart money says it’s the squad playing its second straight road game. But the other smart money says it’s the team that can’t protect its quarterback worth a damn. Think I’ll ride with the tangible over the intangible. Ravens pull off the upset with a three-point win.

Jacksonville (+11.5) at St. Louis
Ben Roethlisberger says the Steelers are the worst team in the league and that’s just patently unfair to the Jaguars, who have clearly worked very hard to earn that distinction. I mean, man, you don’t reach a point where you’re getting double digits from the Rams without having achieved something truly special. St. Louis by two touchdowns.

New England (+2) at Cincinnati
Yeah, I’m thinking another upset. Because, really, other than the thing (which is a real thing) where it’s tough to play back-to-back road games in the NFL, I’m not sure what the Bengals have here. Maybe they can run to where Vince Wilfork isn’t. That would be the wise strategy. And it may work. Or maybe not. The Bengals haven’t got a whole lot out of their ground game so far this season. Their only real success came against Pittsburgh, and, well, the Steelers aren’t really the Steelers this season. The Bengals managed 3.7 yards per carry against the Steelers, which is, you know, OK — good enough over the long haul and certainly good enough on that day. But against Chicago, Green Bay and Cleveland, they were only able to pick up an average of 3.2. That’s not good enough on any day. And while those three teams all have been fairly stout vs. the run, only Cleveland can be said to have fared appreciatively better than the Patriots. There again, though, that may change in the absence of Wilfork, who hadn’t looked himself this season as he dealt with a foot injury but nonetheless remained a force to be reckoned with along the defensive front. His absence may give Cincinnati run blockers the opportunity to open up some nice holes. And if it does, the Patriots could be in trouble, not just in this game but over the remainder of the season. I suspect, though, that while there’s really no replacing a player like Wilfork, the Patriots can at least patch things together well enough to deal with the Bengals offense. It’s not like you have to spend a lot of time worrying about the Bengals passing attack; it’s just not good enough. Neither has the Cincinnati defense, for all the hype it got in the preseason, looked like a unit that has much chance of stopping New England from scoring — regardless of whom Tom Brady has to throw the ball to this week. So I’ll take the Pats and look for them to win it by a touchdown.

Seattle (-2.5) at Indianapolis
Another upset. But at least this time around, I’m riding with the home team. The Colts defense is better than you think. The Seahawks are playing a second straight road game (sometimes it really does matter). And Matt Schaub isn’t taking the snaps for Indy. So, yeah, Indianapolis by a point.

Detroit (+7) at Green Bay
I’m taking Green Bay here, but only because the Packers are at home, coming off a bye and playing with their backs up against the wall. A good team can certainly overcome a 1-2 start, but lose this one and the Packers are 1-3 with a home loss to a 4-1 division rival. That’s not a strong position. Thing is, to date the Lions have been playing better football than the Pack. They’re probably the better team. If this were being played in Detroit, I’d pick it the other way. But it isn’t. I’m not giving seven, but I will take the Packers straight up. Let’s say Green Bay by a field goal.

New Orleans (pick ’em) at Chicago
There’s only one reason I can come up with even to consider picking a Saints team that’s traveling on a short week, but it’s sort of a big one: Defense. The Bears D has very little ability to keep opponents from scoring. The Saints D has. Or sort of, anyhow, against a lineup of mostly offensively challenged opponents. But you have to work with what you’ve got. And what we’ve got is evidence that teams with good offenses can pile up the points on Chicago. And I’m uncomfortable with the thought of Jay Cutler playing catchup with Drew Brees. Strikes me as a formula for a costly mistake. So I’m taking New Orleans — and expecting to see the Saints go into the final two minutes looking to protect a one-point lead and come out of the game with an eight-point victory.

Philadelphia (+2) at NY Giants
Sooner or later, the Giants have to win a game, right? Might as well be this one. Then again, maybe not. As bad as the Eagles are, I suspect the Giants are slightly worse. Philadelphia by six.

Carolina (-2) at Arizona
For whatever reason, I can’t bear to spend a lot of time thinking about this game. The Panthers have the better defense, so I’m taking them. Carolina by a field goal.

Denver (-7.5) at Dallas
Going with an upset here, as well. OK, no I’m not. Even I’m not that stupid. Tony Romo goes into this game roughly three interceptions behind schedule on both his career TD/INT ratio and career interception percentage. The correction has to start someplace. (And, yes, it’s also true that Peyton Manning is currently in serious debt to his career interception stats. A correction will happen there as well, but not yet.) Denver by 17.

Houston (+6.5) at San Francisco
Whose turn is it to grab Matt Schaub‘s weekly pick six? 49ers by 10.

San Diego (-4.5) at Oakland
I’m tempted, with the time change on this game, to make a joke about the Raiders turning into pumpkins at midnight. Problem is, these Raiders have never been anything but pumpkins. Then again, the Chargers are just pumpkins in disguise. San Diego wins it, but not by more than three.

NY Jets (+9.5) at Atlanta
Three weeks into their mini tour of the AFC East, the Falcons finally get a team they can actually beat. Nice for them (if not for the rest of us) that it’s in prime time. Atlanta by 14.

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