Archive for November, 2013

Week Thirteen, Thanksgiving Day

November 28th, 2013 Comments off

Ah, yes, Thanksgiving football. A great American tradition. And today, the NFL celebrates by giving us a full slate of games that we can be thankful for in at least one regard: we won’t feel bad about missing the “action” while we stir the gravy, carve the bird and sleep off our full bellies. Thanks for a Thanksgiving slate loaded with painful mediocrity, NFL! Here’s what not to expect.

Green Bay (+6) at Detroit
If the Lions wanted to win their first division title in 20 years (and their first ever in the NFC North), they probably would have found a way to beat Pittsburgh and/or Tampa Bay over the last two weeks. If the Packers wanted to win their third straight NFC North title, they probably would have, in the off season, figured out a way to protect their franchise quarterback or brought in a capable backup. Of course, the Bears don’t seem to want the division crown, either. So maybe these teams know something we don’t. What I do know is that some team has to win the North. And one of these teams has to win this game. I’m going with the one that’s at home and that has a real starting QB. But I’m not giving any six points. Lions by a field goal.

Oakland (+9.5) at Dallas
Well, I suppose the Cowboys are in a battle for first place in the NFC East. And that would probably mean something if first place in the NFC East meant anything. Since it doesn’t, I’ll just have to fall back on the fact that the Raiders (shockingly) are awful. Dallas by six.

Pittsburgh (+3) at Baltimore
The winner of this game takes the inside track for the AFC six seed. What’s odd, is that I think the loser of this game will be in the final wild card slot when the regular season comes to an end four weeks from now. Pittsburgh makes the playoffs, but Baltimore wins tonight. Ravens by four.

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Week Twelve Picks

November 24th, 2013 Comments off

We’ve got to the point in the season where you can actually see how games could matter, even in instances where the teams playing them don’t. So that’s kind of exciting, right? Here’s what not to expect.

Tampa Bay (+8) at Detroit
The Buccaneers only need one thing to be able to truly competitive in games like this: An offense. Here’s one of those instances where the team that wins the turnover battle still loses the game, as Tampa comes out +1 in giveaway/takeaway and -7 on the scoreboard. That is, Lions by a touchdown.

Jacksonville (+10) at Houston
The Texans haven’t won a game since week two. The Jaguars are the Jaguars. Houston by nine.

Minnesota (+4.5) at Green Bay
The 5-5 Packers are holding on for dear life, hoping Aaron Rodgers can get back on the field before their post-season hopes are completely wiped out. And while the 2-8 Vikings are in a race for nothing but the first pick in the 2014 draft (they’re not “winning” that one, either), there’s no question that they’d be happy to play spoiler against their hated division rivals. If this game were in Minnesota, the Vikings would have a chance. But it isn’t. Green Bay should manage to get just enough done at home to steal a win and stay alive for another week. Or, you know, four days — until they get to Detroit on Thanksgiving. Packers by a field goal.

San Diego (+4) at Kansas City
Whether the Chiefs actually have something to prove after their week eleven loss at Denver (I don’t think they do) doesn’t matter. The Chiefs no doubt think they have something to prove. And the Chargers offer them a chance to prove it up and down the field. The Kansas City offense puts up 30-plus for the first time this season, and the defense adds a score as the Chiefs bring San Diego’s season to an ugly, early conclusion. Kansas City by 17.

Carolina (-4.5) at Miami
Bit of a change of pace for the Pass Interferences, who might actually manage a legitimate victory this week. Carolina by six.

Pittsburgh (+2) at Cleveland
If the Browns had a running game, they’d be able to effectively eliminate the Steelers from playoff contention while keeping their own hopes alive. And if I had a banana, I’d be a … well, I’d be a guy with a banana who doesn’t think the Browns can win this game. Pittsburgh by four.

Chicago (+1.5) at St. Louis
At some point, the Bears’ injury situation has to begin to catch up with them, doesn’t it? Rams by a field goal.

NY Jets (+3.5) at Baltimore
You could, and many are, look at this game as the match that decides the AFC six seed. But it isn’t. The Jets are headed for 8-8. The Ravens are headed for 7-9. Baltimore is going to have to settle for knowing that they were the better team head-to-head. Ravens by seven.

Tennessee (-1.5) at Oakland
This is what we wait all week for, isn’t it, football fans? I don’t know what to make of this game. I know what to make of these teams. They’re bad. Both of them. But I’m not sure which is worse. So I’m just going with the home team by three. Because that way I can stop thinking about it.

Indianapolis (+3) at Arizona
If the season ended today, the Colts would be the AFC two seed. The Cardinals would be one of a handful of teams to just miss the NFC six seed. But the Cards are going in the right direction while the Colts are trailing off. Arizona by four.

Dallas (+2.5) at NY Giants
Neither of these teams has any business being in contention for anything. And yet … NFC East. Ugh. So long as they can hold on to the ball, the Giants should win it by a touchdown.

Denver (-2.5) at New England
Remember when the Patriots used to beat Peyton Manning‘s Colts by controlling the ball, slowing down the game and keeping Manning’s offense on the sideline? I expect this game to look a lot like that. The Patriots (who will actually take the ball if they win the toss) will come out throwing short passes, then, once they’ve opened up running lanes, start pounding the ball up the middle. The New England D will get two turnovers, one fumble (against a Broncos team that leads the league in fumbles lost) and one pick. Aided by the cold and wind, the Pats will limit the Broncos to their lowest point total of the season, and they’ll come out ahead 27-24.

San Francisco (+5) at Washington
One of these teams is making a run at a repeat trip to the playoffs. The other is making a run at last place in the NFL’s worst division. I’m not sure what else needs to be said. 49ers by 13.

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Week Twelve, Thursday Night

November 21st, 2013 Comments off

Do I need to explain that Thursday crept up on me (again)? Or can I just get to the next to nothing that I have to say about tonight’s game? OK, thanks.

New Orleans (-9) at Atlanta
Here is a list of the things the 2-8 Falcons do well: Lose. The Saints, on the other hand, do most everything well. They’re not so good at taking the ball away, which I suppose can be a problem. But not in this game. Atlanta should be able to keep it close playing at home against a division rival, but probably only for a half, maybe three quarters. Sooner or later, New Orleans will break through. And the Saints will end up winning it by two touchdowns.

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Week Eleven Picks

November 17th, 2013 Comments off

And now, finally, the rest of what not to expect in week eleven.

Atlanta (-1.5) at Tampa Bay
The Falcons aren’t good at very much, except for maybe finding new ways to get thinner. They’ve also yet to win on the road this season. But it’s still difficult to pick against them here, by which I mean it’s difficult to embrace the notion that the Buccaneers, after losing eight in a row, have it in them to win two games in a span of six days. Still, I’ve got to pick one of these teams, so I’m going with the one that’s hosting, mostly because the fact that the Bucs are at playing at home is the only thing related to this game that feels in any way certain to me. Tampa Bay by a field goal.

NY Jets (+1) at Buffalo
It’s just really hard to succeed in football without wide receivers, you know? Jets by a touchdown.

Detroit (-2.5) at Pittsburgh
The thing that’s killing the Steelers this season (well, a few things are killing the Steelers this season, but this is the big one) is that they can’t stop turning the ball over. That continues here as Ben Roethlisberger throws a pair of picks and the Lions come out on top by six.

Washington (+3.5) at Philadelphia
Oh, boy. Bet the over. Eagles finally win a home game, but only by a field goal.

San Diego (-1.5) at Miami
These two teams may come into this game with the same record, 4-5, but their situations couldn’t be more different. The Chargers have a legit shot at the AFC six seed (though they may need some help from the Chiefs come week 17 to get it). The Dolphins are headed toward a last-place finish in the AFC East and a tumultuous off season. That difference will show on the field as San Diego picks Miami apart. Chargers by two touchdowns.

Baltimore (+3) at Chicago
The forecast in Chicago today calls for heavy rain and winds of up to 70 mph. In other words, a miserable day for everyone. Probably just slightly more miserable for the Ravens. Chicago wins 10-7.

Cleveland (+6) at Cincinnati
A Browns win (which would mean a sweep in the season series) would make the AFC North race a good bit more interesting. But it’s not going to happen. Though they win the turnover battle (+1), the Browns still manage to lose the game. Bengals by three.

Oakland (+7) at Houston
There is no winner in this matchup. But the Texans will be the team that puts up the most points. Houston by a touchdown.

Arizona (-7) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars got their win for the season last week. Now it’s time to revert to form. Cardinals by 20.

Minnesota (+12.5) at Seattle
I don’t know if Seahawks are the best team in the NFC, but they’re certainly one of the top two or three. I do know that the Vikings are among the worst teams in the NFL. Not sure what else needs saying at this point. Seahawks by 21.

San Francisco (+3) at New Orleans
The 49ers offense just doesn’t have the stuff to run with the Saints offense right now. It really is that simple. Saints by six.

Green Bay (+4) at NY Giants
Look at the Giants catching the Packers at exactly the right time. New Jersey keeps it’s ridiculous hopes in the ridiculous NFC East race alive for another week by beating up on a visiting squad without a quarterback. Giants by 10.

Kansas City (+8) at Denver
The regular season schedule has these two teams meeting twice in the course of three weeks. The anticipated playoff schedule has them meeting three times between now and the divisional round. Because one of these teams is going to land at the AFC one seed and the other is going to be the five. Assuming whichever ends up in the wild card slot beats the four seed (and that the six seed falls to the three, which seems a fairly safe bet right now), that means the Broncos and Chiefs play again in the second week of the post season. This game could determine where that playoff matchup takes place, but only if this round goes to the Chiefs. And if Kansas City wants to take a commanding lead in the race for the AFC West crown and the one seed, they’re going to have to do it by getting to gimpy Peyton Manning throughout the game. Contrary to popular opinion, that’s the way you beat the Broncos. You don’t try to match their offensive output; you take the only approach to limiting it, which is to disrupt Manning. I think the Kansas City pass rush has a pretty good chance to do that tonight. And I think the Chiefs will come very close to getting a win as a result. But in the end, I think they’ll come up just short. Broncos by a point.

New England (+2.5) at Carolina
I still don’t think the Panthers have proven a damned thing. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they really are that good. But I’ll take a rested, healing New England squad to beat a Carolina team that I suspect has been getting it done with smoke and mirrors. New England leads by a precarious seven late and ends up winning by 10.

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Week Eleven, Thursday Night

November 14th, 2013 Comments off

No time to get to all of this week’s games before kickoff tonight, and not a whole lot to say about the latest gripping installment of Thursday Night Football. Here’s what not to expect tonight.

Indianapolis (-3) at Tennessee
It’s starting to look like neither of these teams is going anywhere (though, you know, some team has to win the AFC South) but the Titans are going nowhere faster. Colts by nine.

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Week Ten Picks

November 7th, 2013 Comments off

For the first time in weeks, I’ve found a way to be wrong about everything in advance of the Thursday night game. How very exciting for everyone. Here’s what not to expect.

Washington (-2.5) at Minnesota
I can’t see anything that distinguishes one of these awful teams from the other in any meaningful way. So I’m taking the one that’s playing at home. I’m sure I’ll regret it (but not nearly so much as I’d regret actually tuning in to see for myself, which I promise you is not going to happen). Vikings by a field goal.

Jacksonville (+12) at Tennessee
Here’s my deep, thoughtful, well researched take on this game: The Jaguars stink like crazy. Titans by 20, minimum.

Philadelphia (+1) at Green Bay
I don’t care who their starting quarterback is, there’s no way the Packers are dropping a second straight home game. Certainly not to the uneven (I’m being really generous here) Eagles, who are playing their second straight on the road. Philly will keep it close, but Green Bay will find a way to come out on top, though I’m looking for a push with the point.

Buffalo (+3) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers this season may not be the Steelers we’ve come to expect, but they’re better than folks judging them on last weekend’s beatdown in Foxborough seem to think. If they can hold onto the ball for a change, they should be able to regain a bit of their lost pride with a narrow win over the Bills. This one, too, is push with the points.

Oakland (+7) at NY Giants
Note to Giants fans: When your team “rebounds” from an 0-6 start to land at 3-6 and your response is to thump your chests and start talking about the Super Bowl, do you know what you look like? Hint: They wear green and seriously believe this jackass was one of the all-time greats. Just, um, so you know. New Jersey edges out a four-point victory.

St. Louis (+9.5) at Indianapolis
It’s entirely possible that Chris Johnson will have another big day. And equally possible that it will actually matter less this week than it did last. Colts by two touchdowns.

Seattle (-6.5) at Atlanta
The Seahawks have spent the last two weeks chasing opportunities to lose to bad teams. It’s purely a hunch, but I think this week they find a way to make it happen. Falcons by a field goal.

Cincinnati (-1.5) at Baltimore
You know, there’s a part of me (I suspect it’s not a very smart part, which makes it kind of tough to pick out from the rest) that thinks the Ravens can win this game. They’re at home. They’re not that bad. And the Bengals are hurting. Of course, there’s another part of me that says it’s time for the Bengals to take control, and for the defending champs officially to join their usual rivals for the top spot in the NFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the battle for the divisional basement. I don’t know which part to listen to. I guess I’ll go with the part that likes the favorite (that’s supposed to be the “smart” part, as it were, anyhow). But I don’t feel good about it. Bengals by three.

Detroit (-1.5) at Chicago
The Bears are getting Jay Cutler back. That just about ought to do it. Chicago evens up the season series with Detroit and holds on to a piece of first place in the the NFC North with a six-point victory.

Carolina (+6) at San Francisco
The Panthers have had quite the little run over the past four weeks, beating up on the Vikings, Rams, Buccaneers and Falcons. Now, they return to NFL action. San Francisco by 10.

Houston (+3) at Arizona
I like Case Keenum enough that if this game were being played in Houston, I’d be sorely tempted to pick the Texans. But it isn’t. So the Cardinals win it by a touchdown.

Denver (-7) at San Diego
I’ve spent a good bit of time trying to convince myself that the Chargers could pull of an upset straight up. Didn’t take. If I were a betting man, I’d happily bet the over (58), because I don’t see either of these offenses having much trouble finding the end zone. But scoring a lot doesn’t always mean winning (just ask the Cowboys). This one’s another barn burner, and another Broncos win. And let’s figure they win it by three again, too.

Dallas (+6.5) at New Orleans
I’m gonna suggest betting the over in this one as well (line’s 54). Just a weird little hunch. Saints by 10.

Miami (-2.5) at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers were going to have to win a game eventually. Because the Jaguars may not, and there can’t be two winless teams in one season. Might as well come here, against the imploding Dolphins. Tampa by a field goal.

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Week Nine Picks

November 3rd, 2013 Comments off

Let’s see how much more I can get wrong this week. Here’s the rest of what not to expect.

Atlanta (+7.5) at Carolina
The 2-5 Falcons have one game they should win and two others they could win left on their 2013 schedule. This doesn’t fall into either category. Panthers by 10.

Minnesota (+9.5) at Dallas
The Cowboys are headed for 8-8 and an NFC East title (followed by a first-round exit from the post-season). The Vikings are headed for 2-12, maybe 3-13 and yet another new starting quarterback. That, I suppose, makes the Cowboys the least diseased organization in this matchup. So that’s gotta feel good. Dallas by 17.

New Orleans (-6.5) at NY Jets
Jets owner Woody Johnson says his team is “improving rapidly.” I’d tend to agree. I mean, look: Two weeks ago in a game against the division rival Patriots, the Jets found a way to come out on top. That was disappointing. Then last weekend, the Jets traveled to Cincinnati and got the snot beat out of them. Clearly, they did a much better job last weekend of remembering that they’re the Jets. That’s the kind of improvement I like to see. I assume that’s what Johnson is talking about. Right? Saints by nine.

Tennessee (-3) at St. Louis
There are probably people out there for whom Jeff Fisher vs. the Titans makes for an interesting story line. I’m not one of them. I’m one of those who looks at two mediocre teams squaring off with the winner probably getting the privilege of picking just behind the loser in the 2014 draft and thinks, “Yeah, that’s not an interesting story line either.” Titans by six.

Kansas City (-3.5) at Buffalo
If the Bills can avoid a fatal error, they have a solid chance to pull off a big upset here. It’s not that I think the Bills are that much better than advertised, or the Chiefs that much worse. It’s just that Kansas City is due for a loss and Buffalo has a way of beating better teams on their field under the right circumstances. Avoid turnovers (which they’re completely capable of doing) and the Bills will come out with a victory. Let’s go out on a limb and call it Buffalo by three.

San Diego (pick ’em) at Washington
The difference between a 4-3 team in the AFC West and a 2-5 team in the NFC East is considerably greater than records alone let on. The only thing likely to slow down the Chargers today is that they have to play an early game on the east coast. That probably helps keep the difference to something like seven. Chargers win.

Philadelphia (+2.5) at Oakland
Hey, look, it’s a Super Bowl XV rematch. Or, um, something like that. I wonder if Ron Jaworski could run Chip Kelly‘s offense. Raiders by a touchdown.

Tampa Bay (+15.5) at Seattle
I suspect that this game will be much more competitive than anyone thinks. I figure the Bucs keep it close right up through Seattle’s first offensive possession. After that, it’s a turkey shoot. Seahawks by 20.

Baltimore (-2) at Cleveland
The only reason I can come up with to think that the Browns could possibly beat the Ravens is that I can’t come up with a single reason to think that the Browns could possibly beat the Ravens. So I’m taking the home dogs. Cleveland by a field goal.

Pittsburgh (+6.5) at New England
Yeah, the Steelers are bad. And, yeah, they turn the ball over way too often, which is the kiss of death when you’re facing Bill Belichick‘s team. So of course I’m taking New England. But I’m not giving more than three points to any opponent of these increasingly banged up Patriots. Not now and probably not eight weeks from now. New England by a field goal.

Indianapolis (-2) at Houston
In which Case Keenum makes the starting quarterback position in Houston his for the remainder of the season. Texans win a fairly high scoring game by a field goal.

Chicago (+10.5) at Green Bay
One good thing to have when you’re trying to win games in the NFL is a quarterback. Green Bay by two touchdowns.

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