Archive for October, 2014

Week Nine Picks

October 30th, 2014 Comments off

I can live with my week eight results. Well, on the straight up picks, anyhow. I came in at 10-5 on the week, which puts me at 79-42 for the season. That ain’t terrible. Against the spread, well, once again I got concrete evidence of why gambling is a terrible idea. I went 7-8 for the week, which brings me to 54-65-2 on the season. Ugh. But, you know, things could always be worse. And I’m sure they soon will be. Here’s what not to expect in week nine.

New Orleans (-3) at Carolina
This is the state of the NFC South: It’s week nine and two teams with losing records are squaring off for control of the division, with 2-6 Atlanta looming not far behind. If the Saints can hold on to the ball, they should be able to win this game handily. But I’m not convinced they can do that. I’m taking Carolina to win a tight contest, if only by a point.

San Diego (+1.5) at Miami
The Dolphins defense is among the best in the league at causing and recovering fumbles. The Chargers offense is one of just two that has yet to lose a fumble this season (though they’ve pulled it off in part by having the ball bounce their way on those occasions when it has popped out). One of those trends has to give. I’m going to go with the home team finding a way to snatch one. But, once again, I’m not looking for the win to come by more than a point. Miami, 24-23.

Jacksonville (+11) at Cincinnati
You know, one of these days the Jaguars are bound to surprise some team. And if you ask me …  nah, I’m just kidding. Bengals by 21.

Tampa Bay (+6.5) at Cleveland
I simply can’t come up with anything that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the Buccaneers have a chance to so much as compete in this game. Browns by 10.

Washington (pick ’em) at Minnesota
The Racists have actually managed to string together a pair of wins, which is fairly astounding. I just can’t see them stretching it to three, regardless of who gets the start behind center. Vikings by a field goal.

Philadelphia (-2) at Houston
Last week, I predicted that the Eagles turnover troubles were due to get bit in the ass by their turnover troubles. And I was right. I don’t see Philly solving the problem this week. But I also don’t see the the Texans as a team that can make the most of the opportunities the Eagles invariably present to their opponents. So I like Philadelphia. Let’s say they win by three.

NY Jets (+9.5) at Kansas City
I don’t know if Geno Smith is going to turn out to be a better quarterback than Michael Vick when all is said and done (though I strongly doubt it), but I do feel fairly confident that Vick is the better choice right now. I mean, well, Vick’s the better choice for the time being if you assume the Jets’ goal is not to lose so bad. I guess that’s an understandable goal. Right? So let’s figure that with Smith behind center, the Jets could have expected to lose this one by 14. Maybe with Vick at QB, they cut the margin down to as little as seven. So, you know, sure. I’ll go with that. Chiefs by a touchdown.

Arizona (+3) at Dallas
If the Cardinals were favored in this game, as they should be, it might actually matter whether Tony Romo were going to start. Because it might potentially influence the Cowboy’s ability to keep it close. But Dallas isn’t winning this game with or without Romo. Why? Because the Cowboys don’t win behind Romo; they win behind DeMarco Murray. And while I expect Murray will be more successful than most, no one runs the ball well against the Arizona D. That’s the difference here. Cardinals by six.

St. Louis (+10) at San Francisco
Big spreads in divisional games are trouble. And the 49ers just aren’t that good. So, yeah, San Francisco by four.

Denver (-3) at New England
The only thing that bugs me about the weather forecast for Sunday — cold and windy — is that I’m certain we’ll hear after the game about how the Patriots lucked out by getting conditions that made it tough for football god Peyton Manning to pull off his football god routine. As if that were some kind of legitimate excuse. Patriots by a touchdown.

Oakland (+15) at Seattle
What could I possibly say about this game that you don’t know just by looking at the teams and the location? Seahawks by 10,000 points.

Baltimore (pick ’em) at Pittsburgh
Man, is this AFC North race fun to watch. I expect to be on the edge of my couch from start to finish Sunday night. And I really have no idea how it’s going to turn out. But my gut says the home team evens up the season series, scoring the winning points on its final possession. Steelers, 23-21.

Indianapolis (-3) at NY Giants
I’m sure the Colts are looking to take out their frustration on someone, but I think the well-rested Giants make that a tougher task than it might otherwise be. I think this one is close into the fourth quarter, but in the end, the Colts come out ahead by something like a touchdown.

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Week Eight Picks

October 23rd, 2014 Comments off

OK, so I knew I was coming back to earth at some point. And, all-in-all, week seven wasn’t that bad. I went an almost respectable 9-6 straight up, if a pitiful 5-10 against the spread. For the season, that makes me 69-37 straight up, 47-57-2 against the spread. Let’s see how much worse things can get. Here’s what not to expect.

San Diego (+9) at Denver
I kind of feel like the best way to beat the Chargers isn’t through the air but on the ground. And I’m not sure the Broncos are the team best suited to pull that off. So if the game were in San Diego, I’d take the Chargers. But it isn’t. So I’m taking the Broncos. But I’m sure as hell not giving nine points. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the margin ended up being just one.

Detroit (-3.5) vs. Atlanta at Wembley Stadium, London
Poor, poor Matt Ryan. He takes about half a dozen sacks in this game. And the Lions come out on top by a touchdown.

Minnesota (+2.5) at Tampa Bay
Teddy Bridgewater has finally found an end to his sack woes. It’s called the Tampa Bay pass rush and it couldn’t find an opposing quarterback with a map and a magnifying glass. Let’s see if that doesn’t also help cut down on Bridgewater’s picks. I’ve got a hunch it does. Vikings by a field goal.

Chicago (+6) at New England
Turmoil shmurmoil. I don’t much care what’s going on in Chicago’s locker room. The Bears have been losing games because they can’t stop the pass and they can’t hold on to the ball. Those things aren’t getting solved in this game. Patriots by 10.

St. Louis (+7) at Kansas City
Forget about letdown games. The Rams surely won’t be able to maintain the momentum of their upset victory over the Seahawks last week. But that’s not why they’re losing this game. The Rams are losing this game because the Chiefs are a better team. The Chiefs D can stop the Rams O. Doesn’t work the other way around. It’s really that simple. Kansas City by 13.

Seattle (-5) at Carolina
The Seahawks aren’t losing three in a row. Or at the very least, they’re not losing their third straight to a team without a defense. Seattle by a touchdown.

Buffalo (+3) at NY Jets
Watch as Percy Harvin is celebrated as the savior of Jets football after New Jersey pulls of a win an a game they would have won with or without him. This is going to be great. Jets by six.

Miami (-6) at Jacksonville
And the muddle in the middle of the AFC East becomes even more muddled, though no less middling. Dolphins by a touchdown.

Houston (-2) at Tennessee
In which the Texans beat up on their division rivals and pull back to .500. Houston by four.

Baltimore (pick ’em) at Cincinnati
The Ravens complete the comeback they started to mount in the second half of their week one loss to the Bengals. Baltimore by three.

Philadelphia (+2.5) at Arizona
The Eagles turnover troubles finally catch up with them. Arizona by three.

Indianapolis (-3) at Pittsburgh
Bet the over. Indianapolis, 38-31.

Oakland (+7) at Cleveland
Well, this should buy Brian Hoyer some peace of mind. Browns by two touchdowns.

Green Bay (+1.5) at New Orleans
Don’t talk to me about where this game is being played. Give me one concrete reason for believing the Saints can compete with the Packers, let alone beat them. You can’t, right? Because there isn’t one. Green Bay by nine.

Washington (+9.5) at Dallas
I’m not sold on the Cowboys. Not yet. But I’m certain their good enough to clobber an awful Racists squad. Dallas by seventeen (and half of America in bed by halftime).

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Week Seven Picks

October 16th, 2014 Comments off

Yet another decent finish for me in week six. I went 12-3 straight up, 8-7 against the spread. For the season, that makes me 60-31 and 42-47-2. I like the straight up numbers better, obviously. But since I don’t put real money on these game, I’ll survive being sub-.500 against the spread. All that said, I have to be in line to take a beating this week. Here’s what not to expect.

NY Jets (+9.5) at New England
If you go by Thursday night blowout standard, you kind of have to give the points in this one. Right? Because, seriously, the Jets may be better than we realize. The Jets may be due for a win. And the Jets do have a habit of playing the Patriots tough (particularly in their first meeting of a given season). But the Jets aren’t a team that’s going to end up on the right side of many blowouts. Being one-dimensional on both sides of the ball and committing turnovers at a rate of nearly two per game doesn’t position you to blow out opponents. In fact, what it positions you for is a season in which a 1-5 start turns out to be the least of your worries. But I wasn’t sure it made sense to expect a blowout every Thursday night even before Colts-Texans a week ago. And even if I were inclined to gamble (which I’m not), I hope I’d be smarter than to risk my money on an inherently unsustainable trend. Does that mean I expect this game not to be a blowout? Hardly. Assuming the weather doesn’t get in the way, a 38-10 result wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Two fundamental reasons for that. First, the Jets offense is … well, the thing about the Jets is that they don’t really seem to have an offense. They score 16 points a game, which is less than all but the winless Raiders and Jaguars. Their pass offense is the least productive in the league. And their rushing offense, while better, is middle of the pack. With that kind of output, a team needs its defense to keep it in games. Thing is, for all of the Jets’ reputed ability to get to the quarterback (a relatively simple reputation to achieve when you blitz all the time, even if it doesn’t amount to much more than a shell game), their defensive passer rating is 109.2, third worst in the league. A high sack total (the Jets have 19 sacks on the season, which ties them with, ahem, the Bills for second in the league) paired with a crazy high defensive passer rating points to a unit that’s gambling — and gambling is a desperate tactic that mostly results in losing. Worse still for New Jersey is that the guy on the other side of the line is Tom Brady, who has a knack for turning any weakness on the part of your pass D into a major problem. I don’t think the Jets can slow down the Patriots offense — at least not for very long. And that means the Jets are going to find themselves at some point in a situation where they have to rely on Geno Smith to make things happen against a New England pass D that’s considerably better than many realize (84.3 defensive passer rating, ninth in the league; 15 sacks, tied for seventh; seven interceptions, tied for fifth … ). That pits a guy whose picks total, seven, is tied for second worst in the league against a defense that’s tied for fifth most with, oddly enough, seven. Not hard to predict how that turns out, is it? And that, not Thursday night magic, is what leads to a blowout. I like the Jets to come out fired up and keep things close into the second quarter. After that, though, it gets ugly. And the Patriots come out on top by no less than 17.

Cincinnati (+3) at Indianapolis
Forget Andrew Luck (I mean, not all together, just for the moment); this game’s about Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw. It’s also about a six-point Colts victory.

Tennessee (+5.5) at Washington
The Racists are probably a slightly better team than the Titans, but not by enough. Not for me, anyhow. Until they figure out how to hold on to the ball, I’m picking against Washington every week. Kirk Cousins throws a pair of picks and Tennessee comes out ahead by a field goal.

Miami (+3.5) at Chicago
For a second straight week, the Dolphins are good enough to pose a threat to an NFC North opponent, but not quite good enough to pull off the upset. Bears by a field goal.

Cleveland (-5) at Jacksonville
Yes, I believe something real is happening in Cleveland. Yes, I believe the Browns have a legitimate shot at the playoffs, and maybe even an AFC North title. But, no, I don’t believe that matters much this week. Because with the Buccaneers on a bye, the title of best team in the NFL slides to whoever is playing the Jaguars. Browns by 20.

Seattle (-7) at St. Louis
I don’t think it would be wise to predict a two-game slide for the defending champs even if they were playing a good team. And they’re not. Seahawks by two touchdowns.

Carolina (+7) at Green Bay
I keep wondering if any team is going to step up and play like they want to win the NFC South. It’s not going to be the Panthers. Not this week anyhow. In a shootout, the Packers come out ahead by six.

Atlanta (+7) at Baltimore
I keep wondering if any team is going to step up and play like they want to win the NFC South. It’s not going to be the Falcons. Not this week anyhow. Both of these teams have plenty of offense. Only one of them has a defense. That’s the difference. Ravens by 10.

New Orleans (+2.5) at Detroit
I keep wondering if any team is going to step up and play like they want to win the NFC South. It might yet end up being the Saints. But not this week. The Lions win the turnover battle to the tune of +3 and the game to the tune of a touchdown.

Minnesota (+5.5) at Buffalo
Teddy Bridgewater took eight sacks and three three picks last week against the Lions. The good news for Bridgewater and the Vikings, I suppose, is that nothing that happens this week could possibly be as bad as that. I mean, right? Right? Bills by 13.

Kansas City (+4) at San Diego
The Chargers appear to be on the road to Glendale. They may not get there, but it won’t be for taking their foot off the gas. Not in the first of a pair of critical divisional games, anyhow. Chargers by six.

NY Giants (+6.5) at Dallas
The Giants are winning this game. I guarantee it. Why? Because there’s absolutely no reason to expect that the Giants can win, or that the Cowboys should lose. And that’s how it goes with both of these teams. Not that you can hang your hat on that kind of nonsense, of course. So I’ll predict what I think should happen rather than what my gut tells me will happen. And what should happen is a Dallas victory, probably by something like four.

Arizona (-3.5) at Oakland
Are the Raiders getting better under Tony Sparano? Who knows? I mean, it’s not like they were likely to get any worse. Cardinals by at least a touchdown.

San Francisco (+6.5) at Denver
I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but Peyton Manning is closing in on a big career moment. Manning, the career leader among active players, needs to throw just four more interceptions to tie his boss, John Elway, for fourteenth most all time. Not sure he’ll get there in this game, though. Broncos by a field goal.

Houston (+3.5) at Pittsburgh
Make it two straight losses for the Steelers. Texans pound out a win, 17-13.

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Week Six Picks

October 9th, 2014 Comments off

I’m due for a down week. I think. I mean, it’s not like I crushed it in week five, but I did a whole lot better than I had in week four. So history suggests … . I went 10-5 straight up, 8-7 against the spread last week. On the season, I’m 48-28 straight up and 34-40-2 against the spread so far this season. Let’s see what I can do to pull the rug out from under myself. Here’s what not to expect.

Indianapolis (-3) at Houston
In which the Colts officially put their slow start in the rearview by taking control of the AFC South. I’m hopeful we won’t see yet another complete mess of a Thursday night game. Seems like Houston should be able to slow the game down enough to keep the Indy offense from completely running away with it. But the Colts are going to get the ball and when they do, they’re going to find ways to score. Indianapolis should have things under control by late in the third quarter. Colts by nine.

Denver (-9.5) at NY Jets
You think the Jets defense’s inability to stop the pass might be a problem in this game? What about the Jets’ anemic offense? Yeah, so do I. Denver by 20.

Pittsburgh (+2) at Cleveland
The Browns aren’t a great football team. But they’re a good one. They know how to win. And, most important, they take great care of the ball. That should be enough. Browns by a field goal.

Jacksonville (+5.5) at Tennessee
The Titans have to be smarting — and preparing to play a full 60 minutes this week. I mean, right? Tennessee by three interceptions, but still somehow only six points.

Chicago (+3) at Atlanta
Both of these perplexing teams come into this game riding a two-game losing streak. Each has at least one loss this season that should have been a win. It’s possible one of them wakes up as the season moves on but for the moment, both appear to have settled into mediocrity. So which one to you pick? Well, the Falcons are back at home after a pair of tough road games while the Bears are on the road for a second straight week. So I’m going to hang my hat on that. Atlanta by four.

Green Bay (-3.5) at Miami
The Dolphins haven’t beaten a good team since week one, which is to say they haven’t beaten a good team playing good football yet this season. I don’t see any reason to expect a reversal of that trend this week. Packers by a touchdown.

Detroit (-1.5) at Minnesota
The Vikings allowed just six points to the Rams in week one. Since then, they’ve given up an average of 30 points a game. And still, I recommend betting the under. The Lions come out ahead by a single point in a painfully low scoring affair.

Carolina (+7) at Cincinnati
Cincinnati does to Carolina what New England did to Cincinnati. Bengals by 17.

New England (-3) at Buffalo
It’ll be interesting to see how New England approaches this game offensively. The Bills are pretty stout against the run, but with the offensive line still not fully stabilized, the Patriots can’t afford to rely solely on Tom Brady‘s arm. I suspect we’ll see the Patriots lean heavily on Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright for a second straight week, forcing the Bills linebackers into coverage, which in turn will open up running lanes. (It will also have the bonus effect of exposing loudmouth ex-Pat Brandon Spikes for the one-dimensional fraud he has always been.) Whatever the game plan, assuming they don’t kill themselves with penalties, the Patriots should be able to come out of this game with a second straight win. Let’s say by a touchdown.

Baltimore (-3) at Tampa Bay
I don’t see Baltimore giving away a game to Tampa Bay like Pittsburgh did. Neither do I see the Ravens allowing the Buccaneers to give them the kind of scare the Bucs gave the Saints. I think the Ravens ruin the Bucs’ homecoming by making them look like the last place team they are. Baltimore by 14.

San Diego (-7) at Oakland
Burying a football is a nice symbolic gesture and all. Doesn’t quite compare, though, with burying a divisional opponent, which is what the Chargers are about to do. San Diego by 20.

Dallas (+8) at Seattle
This week, for a change, I actually don’t think Tony Romo will find a way to lose a game for the Cowboys. Mostly because I don’t think he’ll have to. Dallas is completely outclassed. Seattle by two touchdowns.

Washington (+3.5) at Arizona
The Racists are not the Broncos. Arizona by seven.

NY Giants (+2.5) at Philadelphia
Part of me truly believes that this is where the Eagles’ endless flirtation with disaster catches up with them. But another part of me just isn’t sold on the Giants. If New Jersey can pull of a road upset here then I’ll believe. Until that happens, I’m taking the home team to win by the default three.

San Francisco (-3.5) at St. Louis
If the Rams could hold on to the ball, they might be able to present a challenge to the 49ers. But they can’t. San Francisco by 10.

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Week Five Picks

October 2nd, 2014 Comments off

I continue to run hot and cold picking straight up, cold and really, really cold against the spread. Big shock there. In week four, I was cold and colder, which I’m attributing to the fact that in thirteen games, six underdogs came out on top straight up. That includes outright wins by a pair of teams that were getting six or more points. So, you know, there’s my excuse of the week. I finished 7-6 straight up, 5-8 against the spread. That brings me to 38-23 straight up and 26-33-2 against the spread so far this season. Let’s see if I can get any colder this week. Here’s what not to expect.

Minnesota (+8.5) at Green Bay
I don’t think it matters much whether Minnesota’s starting quarterback is the rookie who’s barely practiced during a short week or the former starter who had fallen to third on the depth chart before injuries started to take their toll. The Vikings don’t have anything resembling the defense it would take to go into Green Bay and slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers O. If the Vikings were playing at home and had a good option at QB, I might take them to win a shootout. Playing on the road without one, I think Minnesota loses by at least 10.

Chicago (+2.5) at Carolina
Big day for Matt Forte. Chicago by six.

Cleveland (+2) at Tennessee
One of these teams is going to take advantage of the others lackluster defense. Smart money says it’s the one that can produce some offense and that doesn’t turn the ball over (zero giveaways on the season by the Browns). Cleveland by four.

St. Louis (+7) at Philadelphia
You know all that stuff I’ve been saying about how the habit of allowing opponents to build leads early was bound to bite the Eagles in the ass eventually? I take it all back. Apparently, for Philadelphia the opposite of allowing opponents to build leads early isn’t controlling a game; it’s allowing opponents to take the lead late. That’s worse. So I guess this week, I’ll look for the Rams to get out to a 10-0 lead only to end up losing 31-10.

Atlanta (+4) at NY Giants
The Falcons are on the road for the second straight week. And they’re playing a team that, as it turns out, isn’t actually bad. Giants by a field goal.

Tampa Bay (+10) at New Orleans
I think we all know the Buccaneers aren’t nearly as good as the Steelers made them look last week. And, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, I haven’t quite come around to believing that the Saints are as bad as the Cowboys made them look on Sunday night. New Orleans by 13.

Houston (+6) at Dallas
The smart pick here is the home team. I guess. But something tells me the Texans keep it close and Tony Romo finds a way to lose in the fourth quarter. Houston by a point.

Buffalo (+7) at Detroit
The Bills are sinking. And playing a second straight on the road. Lions by four.

Baltimore (+3.5) at Indianapolis
If this game were being played in Baltimore, I’d take the Ravens, who would be favored, to win and the Colts to barely cover. But it isn’t. So I’ll go exactly the other way. Colts by a field goal.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Jacksonville
Poor Jaguars. They couldn’t beat the Steelers if the Steelers weren’t angry. And the Steelers are angry. Pittsburgh by … I don’t know a lot. More than six and a half, that’s for sure.

Arizona (+7) at Denver
This is a better matchup than the line makes it appear, and I won’t be surprised at all if the Cardinals find a way to make life difficult on Peyton Manning and give the Broncos a scare. What Arizona won’t give Denver, however, is a loss. Broncos by four.

Kansas City (+6) at San Francisco
Andy Reid’s current team isn’t going to make the kinds of stupid mistakes in San Francisco that his former team made last weekend. That’s the difference. Kansas City pulls off the upset with a three-point win.

NY Jets (+6.5) at San Diego
The Chargers have been playing like a team on its way to the postseason. The Jets have been playing like a team on its way to a coaching change. San Diego by 17.

Cincinnati (-1) at New England
The Bengals may or may not be the best team in the AFC. They’re certainly a team that has been playing flawless football thus far in 2014. The Patriots may yet emerge as the best team in the AFC East. But what they’ve been to date is a team playing the most heavily flawed football New England fans have seen in roughly 20 years. That doesn’t add up to great odds for the home team in week five. Bengals by a touchdown.

Seattle (-7) at Washington
A second straight Monday night blowout. How exciting. Seahawks by 21 minimum.

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