Archive for November, 2014

Week Thirteen Picks

November 27th, 2014 Comments off

What am I thankful for? Well, lots. But for the purposes of this silly blog, let’s stick to the subject of picking football games. I’m grateful for having had yet another decent showing straight up in week twelve. I finished 11-4 on the week, which makes me 118-58 (.670) for the season. I’m also grateful for the wisdom not to gamble on football (or anything). Against the spread last week, I was sub-.500 yet again, 7-8, which gets me to 83-91-2 (.477) for the season. And now I’m grateful that we’re back to full, 16-game slates through the next five weeks. Here’s what not to expect in week thirteen.

Chicago (+7) at Detroit
I’m sure the Lions are thankful for the fact that after taking a pair of beatings at Arizona and New England — over the course of which Detroit scored a total of zero touchdowns — they get to return home to host the hapless Bears. Chicago’s defense may actually make it look like Detroit has an offense. Lions by nine.

Philadelphia (+3) at Dallas
With first place in the NFC East on the line, you can bet the Cowboys are thankful for the Eagles’ glaring deficiency at quarterback. Sanchez throws his customary two picks and the Cowboys capitalize, if just barely, to win by a point.

Seattle (+1) at San Francisco
The 49ers should be thankful to the schedule makers for giving them a chance to host the first of two games between these two wild card contenders over the course of 17 days. Because home field on the short week is what makes the difference here. San Francisco by a field goal.

Washington (+9.5) at Indianapolis
I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch racist douche Daniel Snyder‘s team crash and burn. Again. Colts by two touchdowns.

Tennessee (+6.5) at Houston
Considering their difficulties at quarterback, the Texans no doubt have to be thankful for the Titans’ complete lack of anything resembling a run defense. Houston by 10.

Cleveland (+2.5) at Buffalo
After a “home” game played on the road, the Bills must be thankful to be back in Buffalo, where they’ll get the win they need to keep their fantasy of snagging a wild card spot alive, even if it’s only for a week. Bills by a field goal.

San Diego (+5.5) at Baltimore
The Chargers should probably be thankful for having got the opportunity to win a pair of easy home games over the past two weeks. They put a little break between the midseason three-game skid that ended San Diego’s playoff hopes and the five-game losing streak that will bring their 2014 to a close. Ravens by a touchdown.

NY Giants (-2.5) at Jacksonville
The Giants have spent the last week feeling thankful for having drafted Odell Beckham. They’ll spend the next week feeling thankful for having, you know, actually won a game. New Jersey by 13.

Cincinnati (-4) at Tampa Bay
The Bengals ought to be thankful for the fact that this week pits them against a truly terrible opponent. As a result, they get to hang on to their illusion of a half-game lead in the AFC North for another week. Cincinnati by six.

Oakland (+7) at St. Louis
The Raiders ought to be thankful that they won’t finish the season 0-16. That said, 1-15 remains a distinct possibility. Rams by a field goal.

New Orleans (+3.5) at Pittsburgh
I suppose the Saints could possibly feel thankful for the fact that they’re in division no one wants to win. Because that’s the kind of thing you want to have going for you. Steelers by seven.

Carolina (+3) at Minnesota
The Saints and Falcons should be thankful for the fact that the Panthers can’t actually take advantage of the opportunity they’ve been presented with. Vikings by four.

Arizona (-2.5) at Atlanta
One has to imagine the Cardinals are thankful for the opportunity to add a game to the win column at the expense of the NFC South leading Falcons three days after one of their rivals for the NFC West title will have handed a loss to the other. Cardinals by six.

New England (+3) at Green Bay
I suspect that by the time all is said and done, the Patriots will be more thankful than ever to have developed a Hydra-style ground attack. Because for all the talk of #12 vs. #12, New England’s best chance to win this very tough road game is to exploit the Packers’ weak run D to pile up points while keeping the Green Bay offense on the sideline. The reality is that we should expect the Packers to win this game on their field, but I’m picking the Patriots every week from now through next September (and quite likely beyond) until they give me a reason not to. New England by a field goal.

Denver (-1) at Kansas City
If the Chiefs are going to even up the season series and emerge from this game with a chance to capture the AFC West title (it’s ultimately not going to work out given these two team’s remaining schedules, but hope is hope), they’re going to have to come away thankful to Jamaal Charles for putting the team on his back. I think that’s what we see here. Charles has a big night and the Chiefs finally get a win over the Peyton Manning-led Broncos. Kansas City by three.

Miami (-5.5) at NY Jets
I suppose I ought to be thankful for the opportunity to make it an early night. Dolphins by 17. Game over by halftime.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Week Twelve Picks

November 20th, 2014 Comments off

Can we just focus on my straight-up record last week? Please. Because, you know, there I wasn’t so bad. Not great. But not bad. I finished week eleven 9-5 straight up, which puts me at a very respectable 107-54 on the season. That’s .665. I can live with it. (Wish I’d picked the Texans and the Chiefs, but I can live with it.) Against the spread? Well, this is why I don’t place bets: 5-9 for a season record of 76-83-2. So yeah. Let’s see how wrong I can be this time out. Here’s what not to expect.

Kansas City (-7) at Oakland
Sooner or later, the Raiders have to win a game, right? I mean, like, eventually. Like, maybe next season. Chiefs by 10.

Cleveland (+3) at Atlanta
You don’t beat the Browns through the air. You beat them on the ground. And I don’t think the Falcons have the horses to make it happen. Cleveland by a touchdown.

Tennessee (+11) at Philadelphia
How do you keep Mark Sanchez from killing your postseason hopes? (I mean, other than, you know, not starting him.) Well, one short-term method would be to host the Titans, whose defense has allowed 143.5 rushing yards per game (second worst in the league), 4.4 yards per carry, and 11 rushing TDs this season. And you just let LeSean McCoy win the damned game for you. Should work for a week, anyhow. Eagles by nine.

Detroit (+7) at New England
It’s tempting — hell, from what I’ve seen and heard this week, it’s damned near irresistible — to focus on whether or to what extent New England’s high-powered offense can overcome Detroit’s stifling defense. I get it. But no matter how you break down the matchups, what you settle on is an expectation that the Patriots will score somewhat less than their average of 32.3 points per game and the Lions give up something more than their average of 15.6. So what about the battle between the Lions’ rather less than spectacular offense and the Patriots decreasingly underrated D? Is the big question there whether the Patriots secondary can handle Megatron? Maybe. But I don’t think so. I think this comes down to the Detroit O line’s inability to protect Matthew Stafford and the corresponding success opposing defenses are having getting to the quarterback without committing extra personnel to the pass rush. The Patriots pose a significant problem for Stafford in that regard, because if they can get to you with three or four guys, they retain the ability to throw some confusing looks at you before the snap — and Stafford is a guy who you can count on to throw a pick or two under those conditions. I think that’s the difference in this game. And I think short fields and/or defensive scores are the reason the Patriots ultimately cover the seven-point spread. Patriots by 17.

Green Bay (-9.5) at Minnesota
Teddy Bridgewater throws three picks and the Packers win by three touchdowns.

Jacksonville (+14) at Indianapolis
Sometimes (and I’m not saying this is OK; I’m just acknowledging that it happens) after a guy gets beat up, he turns around and kicks his dog. Colts by 35.

Cincinnati (+2) at Houston
A second straight road game for Cincinnati. A second straight big outing for Alfred Blue. And yet another shakeup at the top of the AFC North standings. Houston by a field goal.

NY Jets (+4.5) at Buffalo
Assuming they actually manage to play this game at some point, I’ll take the Bills to win the turnover battle by +2 and the game by a corresponding pair of field goals.

Tampa Bay (+5.5) at Chicago
These teams are considerably more evenly matched than one might thing. They’re certainly more evenly matched than they ought to be. The decision goes to the home team. Chicago by three.

Arizona (+6.5) at Seattle
This game has nothing to do with the NFC West title. Sure, a loss would effectively end Seattle’s chances of taking the division. But the reality is that Seattle already has little to no chance of taking the division. This game has to do with Arizona’s bid to secure home field through the playoffs. It has to do with Seattle’s hopes of securing a wild card spot (and avoiding a Super Bowl hangover). And it has to do with a division rivalry. The Cardinals are the better team. And, more important, the Cardinals bring a run defense that’s stout enough to limit Marshawn Lynch, which at this point translates to limiting the Seahawks offense. I expect a hard-fought, low-scoring game, and I think the Cardinals come out on top by a point or two.

St. Louis (+5) at San Diego
I honestly don’t know what to make of either of these teams. The 6-4 Chargers have managed to beat exactly one good team so far this season. And that win came against the Seahawks (who, as it turns out, may not be all that good) way back in week two. The 4-6 Rams, on the other hand, have developed a weird habit of beating good teams, the latest manifestation of which was a decisive win over the Broncos last weekend. I guess since I’m not sure there’s an actual good team in this game, my best bet is to take the Chargers to win another game against a — not sure, let’s go with mediocre — opponent. But I’ll hedge and take the Rams to cover. San Diego by four.

Miami (+7) at Denver
The Dolphins D needs opponents to put the ball on the ground, something the Broncos simply don’t do. Denver by 10.

Washington (+9) at San Francisco
The 49ers are a middling team with a better than average chance of wrapping up their season December 28. But he Racists are in a full-on tailspin. San Francisco by 12.

Dallas (-3.5) at NY Giants
There’s no reason to anticipate the Giants can win this game. No reason, that is, except spite. If you want to make the smart pick, go with talent and momentum (which is to say, pick Dallas). If you’re like me and you’ve got nothing meaningful on the line, you can occasionally pick a team to win for ridiculous reasons. Like spite. Giants by a field goal.

Baltimore (+3.5) at New Orleans
There’s no way the Saints lose a third straight home game, right? I mean, right? Except, you know what? I think there kinda is. Ravens by a touchdown.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Week Eleven Picks

November 13th, 2014 Comments off

And there goes my run of luck. Finished week 10 with an 8-5 record straight up, 9-4 against the spread (which actually isn’t half bad). For the season, I’m 98-49 straight up, 71-74-2 against the spread. Things can only get worse. Here’s what not to expect in week eleven.

Buffalo (+5.5) at Miami
When you’ve got the better team (even if it isn’t by much) playing at home on a short week … well, that’s about all you need to know. Except that it’s never a great idea to give more than a field goal in a fairly evenly matched divisional game. I like Miami to win, but not by more than three.

Houston (+3) at Cleveland
I don’t want to point out that this game features two former Tom Brady backups as its starting quarterbacks. But I’m doing it anyhow because I think if I don’t, it could look like I’m the only football fan in America who doesn’t know it. But the thing is, this game isn’t really about Ryan Mallett vs. Brian Hoyer. Or at least I don’t think it is. I have this notion that it’s about a Texans squad that’s trying to figure out how to map a path forward (by which I mean they’re preparing for next season) visiting a Browns squad that knows where it’s trying to go (hell, it’s halfway there), and that appears, for a change, to have a clear vision for how to get there. This is probably a tighter matchup than it ought to be under those circumstances. But it’s also the kind of game the Browns have to win if they’re going to stay in the four-way race for the AFC North title. That should keep Cleveland focused. Home field will do the rest. Browns by four.

Minnesota (+3) at Chicago
I don’t have any kind of stake in this game, but I’m kind of rooting for the Vikings, mostly in the spirit of Flounder scattering 10,000 marbles across the parade route. I just think it could be fun to watch the resulting chaos. Not sure I’m going to realize my perverse pleasure, though. It’s just hard to imagine the Bears failing to bounce back and grab a largely meaningless win here. But let’s figure the difference is a single point.

Seattle (+1.5) at Kansas City
I could come up with plenty of reasons for picking either of these 6-3 teams. In the end, though, I think this comes down to which defense can more effectively stop the opposing offense’s running game. And I think that D is Seattle’s. So I’m taking the Seahawks. By three.

Atlanta (+1.5) at Carolina
I started trying to figure out which of these teams is worse. Turns out it’s both of them. So just give my the home team by a field goal. Is that OK?

Cincinnati (+7) at New Orleans
Who dat? Who dey? Tippi Tippi Dayday. There’s no way the Saints lose a second straight home game, right? I mean, right? Except, you know what? I think there kinda is. Bengals by three.

Tampa Bay (+7) at Washington
There might be three teams in the NFL right now that  I think could conceivably lose to the Racists. And here comes one of ’em. Washington by 10.

Denver (-9.5) at St. Louis
Yes, I’m sure starting Shaun Hill will make all the difference in the world for the Rams. Like, where St. Louis was probably going to lose by 17 with Austin Davis taking snaps, now they’ll probably only lose by like … what? Let’s say, I don’t know, 17?

San Francisco (-4) at NY Giants
I’m not sure that an overtime victory over the floundering Saints qualifies the 49ers as a great team, or a postseason-bound team, or whatever it may be. But neither do I have any reason to believe that it requires a great (or whatever) team to notch a victory over the foundering Giants. San Francisco by a touchdown.

Oakland (+10) at San Diego
The Chargers have lost three in a row and are desperate to get off the schneid. The Raiders have lost 16 in a row (nine this season, seven last) and are football’s embodiment of despair. San Diego by 37.

Detroit (+2) at Arizona
This isn’t about Drew Stanton. Really, it isn’t. The Cardinals were OK with Stanton starting behind center earlier in the season. I’m sure they’ll be OK now. For the rest of the regular season, anyhow. After that, mmmmmm, maybe not so much. This is about whether the Lions can hold onto the ball against a Cardinals D that leads the league in interceptions. And while Matthew Stafford isn’t the most pick-prone quarterback in the NFL, he throws the ball away often enough for me to feel fairly confident he’ll commit a costly error in Glendale. Cardinals by a field goal.

Philadelphia (+5.5) at Green Bay
The over/under on punts in this game is one, and I’m betting the under. OK, I totally made that up, but you get the point. Not much defense being played in this one. Except by the one or two Green Bay defensive backs who’ll haul in interceptions of passes Mark Sanchez plants right in their chests. Otherwise, everyone scores on every possession. And, as a result, turnovers decide the outcome. Packers by a touchdown.

New England (+3) at Indianapolis
I keep hearing about how these teams are evenly matched. And that appears to be the case. Certainly it is if you look at points scored and points allowed. The Colts put up a point a game more than the Patriots; and the Colts allow a point and a half a game more than the Patriots. It all comes out looking pretty even. And even when you start to pull things apart a bit, you still mostly land at even. The Patriots are maybe a bit more balanced than the Colts on offense, but not by enough that it’s worth looking at closely. (You could start to draw a line between New England’s first four and last five games if you wanted, but then you’d have to get into the fact that Indianapolis also started slow. Might reveal something, but you’d have to sort through an awful mess to find it.) The Colts offense relies more on the pass than the Patriots offense does, which maybe means the fact that the Patriots have the stronger pass D (New England comes out +5.3 in passer rating differential) is a big advantage. But that leaves out the fact that Indy’s more than capable of running the ball, and New England hasn’t been great at stopping the run. So where’s the point of differentiation? Well, maybe it comes from the fact that a Colts pass D that doesn’t hold up so well in the middle of the field has to figure out how to deal with the best tight end in football. That could be something. Or not. Indy’s a good team, and well coached. They may have solved that matchup issue. What I don’t think the Colts can solve, because I’m not sure it’s solvable, is their quarterback’s penchant for throwing picks. Andrew Luck comes into this game with nine interceptions on the season. That’s tied for sixth most in the NFL (though it’s also just one behind second). The Patriots D has 10 picks so far this season, which is tied for seventh most in the league. Those aren’t a great combination of factors for the Colts, particularly given that the Patriots offense tends to score enough to force opponents to the air. And that, rather than the tight end factor, is where I’m going to hang my hat. I think this game comes down to turnovers (as games between relatively evenly matched teams) and I think New England wins that battle and the game. Patriots by a touchdown.

Pittsburgh (-6) at Tennessee
I think the Steelers are just way too uneven a team to be considered a real playoff contender. This week. Which means that by this time next week, I’ll have them figured as the most dangerous team in the NFL. Pittsburgh by 14.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Week Ten Picks

November 6th, 2014 Comments off

Week nine was easy. Relatively easy, anyhow. I mean, it must have been. I went 11-2 straight up, 8-5 against the spread. Not bad. On the season, that gets me to 90-44, and 62-70-2. Week ten should be easy, too. It sure looks easy, anyhow. But I’ve got this weird feeling that it isn’t. I don’t know why — could be that there are a lot of big spreads; could be that there are a lot of big spreads that actually seem reasonable — but I’ve got this sense that we’re going to see at least three or four completely crazy results. Then again, my gut has a habit of being wrong, so probably not. I’m certainly not predicting anything specific (unless you count taking Miami to win at Detroit, which is probably crazier than I think). Here’s what not to expect — maybe by a lot.

Cleveland (+6) at Cincinnati
Six is excessive. These teams could not conceivably be more evenly matched. And while I don’t think either of them is going much of anywhere in the tough battle for the AFC North — I think Cincinnati potentially lands as a wild card team by virtue of their season sweep over Baltimore, but I don’t see them playing past January 4 — they’re both very much alive right now, which means they both have a reason beyond their traditional rivalry to play their best football this week. To my mind, when you have division rivals playing a meaningful game on a short week, you don’t get a lopsided victory. You get a tight game that shakes out in one of two ways: either it goes to the winner of the turnover battle or it goes to the home team. The Browns do a slightly better job than the Bengals of holding onto the ball, but not by enough that I’m willing to project that it makes the difference here. So I’m taking the home team. But I’m not giving six. In fact, I’d be reluctant to give more than a point, maybe two.

Dallas (-6.5) vs Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium, London
Count me among those who are baffled by the Cowboys’ decision to fly Tony Romo with his ailing back to England to play in this game. I mean, I know Dallas has had a rough couple of weeks, but their losses have come against a division rival (in the game in which Romo suffered his injury) and against the Cardinals, the best team in the NFC. Can the Cowboys really be worried about their ability to beat the Jaguars without Romo? The same Jaguars who score the fewest points per game (15.7) of any team in the NFL, give up the third most (27.9), and turn the ball over more often than any team other than the Eagles (19 turnovers on the season for a giveaway/takeaway differential of -9)? Seems to me that with a pair of divisional games on the other side of the bye and three out of their last six games against teams currently leading their divisions (including the complete season series with Philadelphia, which is kind of critical), Dallas has bigger fish to fry. But that’s just me. And none of it, of course, has a ton to do with this game, which the Dallas defense will control and the Cowboys will win handily regardless of who starts at quarterback. Dallas by 10.

Miami (+3) at Detroit
There are two ways to look at the pair of surprising victories the Dolphins have managed this season on their way to 5-3. (There are probably more than two, but I’m focusing on two. You can write about the other ones on your blog if you like.) One is to focus on the fact that both the week one win over New England and the week nine blowout of San Diego took place in Miami, where the Dolphins also came within a play or two of upending Green Bay in week six. The other would be to consider that the Dolphins appear to have a fairly stout pass defense, which positions them nicely to take on teams like the Patriots, Chargers, Packers and, um, Lions. And while Detroit isn’t exactly lacking on defense either, I think this week Miami takes its surprising show on the road. Dolphins by a field goal.

Kansas City (-2) at Buffalo
Kansas City is certainly the more balanced team in this match, the outcome of which may ultimately determine which of these two teams plays past December 28. And Kansas City is probably the better team, as well. But Buffalo is the home team. Buffalo’s also a team that does an impressive job of wresting the ball from opponents. The Chiefs don’t commit many turnovers, but I think they cough one up here, and it makes the difference in the game. Bills by four.

San Francisco (+5) at New Orleans
The Saints are beatable on the road. But not at home. New Orleans by two touchdowns.

Tennessee (+9.5) at Baltimore
Something tells me the Ravens may be looking to make a statement and maybe exorcise a few demons. Baltimore by 20.

Pittsburgh (-5) at NY Jets
It’s hard to imagine Ben Roethlisberger throwing six touchdown passes in a third straight game. It’s impossible to imagine the Steelers needing him to throw half that many. Pittsburgh slows down a bit (not that New Jersey will have anything to do with that) and wins it by a mere 17.

Atlanta (-1.5) at Tampa Bay
A whole lot has changed since these teams last met back in week three. But the Buccaneers are still the Buccaneers. Falcons by no less than a touchdown.

Denver (-11.5) at Oakland
Gee, I wonder how this thing is gonna turn out. I’m typically not comfortable with big spreads in division games, but let’s be serious. Broncos by 35.

St. Louis (+7) at Arizona
The Cardinals have taken control of the NFC West for a variety of reasons. One of them is that unlike the Seahawks and 49ers, the Cardinals don’t give away games. Watch and learn. Cardinals by 14.

NY Giants (+9) at Seattle
Contrary to popular belief, the Giants struggles are not the fault of Eli Manning. Eli has played pretty well under difficult circumstances this season. Unfortunately for New Jersey, the real sources of the team’s struggles — which include injuries, lack of depth, and in some areas plain old lack of talent — aren’t things that can be fixed within a season. Seahawks by 10.

Chicago (+7.5) at Green Bay
I have no reason to believe this meeting in Green Bay will be any less ugly than the one in Chicago six weeks ago, and many reasons to wonder if it might get even uglier. For score predicting purposes, I’ll go with an even degree of ugliness, which is to say Packers by 21.

Carolina (+6) at Philadelphia
Mark Sanchez isn’t magically going to become a player who doesn’t commit a ton of turnovers. But the Eagles have a weird ability to mask that kind of problem. At least in the short term. At least when facing middling opposition. Philadelphia by a touchdown.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: