Archive for November, 2015

Week Twelve Picks

November 25th, 2015 Comments off

You know what I’m not thankful for? Stupidity. Specifically, my own. Which is about all I have to blame for my week 11 finish. Yeah, it wasn’t an easy week to pick. But, really, 7-7 straight up, 6-7-1 against the spread? Ugh. And the thing is, this stuff is supposed to get easier as the season wears and the stats and trends begin to point to results more and more reliably.

Maybe it’ll turn around this week and I can start to improve on my disappointing season. I’m now 96-64 (.600) straight up, 71-85-4 (.456) against the spread. That’s pretty sad all around.

Sadder still for me is the likelihood that my picking will continue to trend in the wrong direction.

Here’s what not to expect in week twelve.

Philadelphia (even) at Detroit
No one knows who’ll be starting at quarterback for the Eagles in this game. And no one cares. Lions by six.

Carolina (-1) at Dallas
I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but with Tony Romo back on the field the Cowboys have officially become a factor in the NFC postseason race again. Or, you know, they’re a factor as long as they’re playing powerhouse opponents like the Dolphins. Will they continue to be a factor when an actual NFL team rolls into Dallas? Probably not. But they had a moment there. And no one can take that away from them. Panthers by 10.

Chicago (+9) at Green Bay
Beating the Bears is a lot simpler if you’re a team with a really strong running game. But it’s not like it’s horribly complicated otherwise. Which is good news for Green Bay. Packers by 14.

New Orleans (+3) at Houston
My preseason pick of the Texans to win the AFC South title isn’t looking so stupid now that Houston has won three straight and, um, got back to .500, now, is it? OK, sure. But the Saints still don’t have a defense. So let’s make it four in a row. Houston by a touchdown.

Minnesota (+2) at Atlanta
The Falcons should be thankful for the fact that they’re hosting this game. Because they’d totally lose if it were in Minnesota. Atlanta by a field goal.

St. Louis (+9) at Cincinnati
I’m not sure the Bengals’ two-game skid is a huge deal. But that might be because it’s struck me as mostly a correction for a team that had been overachieving for most of the season. Either way, it ends Sunday when the Bengals get a visit from a team that has legitimately fallen apart over the past three weeks. Cincinnati by 13.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Indianapolis
Have the Colts figured out a way to stop the run? No? OK, then. Buccaneers by four.

NY Giants (-2.5) at Washington
If the Giants could run the ball, this one would be a breeze. But they can’t. So it’ll be a grind. New Jersey by a point.

Oakland (-2) at Tennessee
Neither of these teams has a defense. But one of them can at least be thankful for its offense. That’s the visiting squad. Oakland by four.

Buffalo (+5.5) at Kansas City
Traveling to Kansas City to face the red hot Chiefs on a short week probably wouldn’t have worked out well for the Bills even if they hadn’t just been roughed up in a loss at New England. Adding the usual post-Patriots hangover to the mix probably won’t help. Chiefs by nine.

Miami (+3.5) at NY Jets
The Jets aren’t all that hard to figure. They’re a solidly mediocre team. And they perform as such. They consistently lose to good teams. They split with other mediocre teams. And they beat bad teams. The Dolphins are a bad team. Jets by six.

San Diego (+4) at Jacksonville
Oh, boy, are these two teams awful. I supposed I’ll go with awful home team over awful road team. But probably only by three.

Arizona (-10.5) at San Francisco
Let’s figure that with the game being played in San Francisco, and with Colin Kaepernick not available to throw TD passes to Arizona’s defensive backs, the Cardinals only win by 20 this time around.

Pittsburgh (+4) at Seattle
This is one of the toughest picks of the week. The teams are fairly evenly matched, though the visitor is probably ever so slightly stronger than the home team. Both are playing for spots in the postseason. And neither team is hot enough, or cold enough, to make you feel like there’s a safe bet here. I suspect home field will get the job done for Seattle, though I certainly don’t think it makes sense to give four points. Seahawks by two.

New England (-3) at Denver
If, like me, you’re inclined to think there’s no way the Patriots get through the regular season undefeated, you’ve got to look at this game as a likely loss. The Patriots limp into Denver with a depleted offense to face one of the best Ds in football. And while they bring their own increasingly impressive defense with them to take on an inexperienced quarterback, the Patriots do so while traveling on a short week. This is not the stuff that confidence is made of. Still, New England is the better team in this tilt. And for that reason, I can’t bring myself to pick against them. Patriots by a field goal.


Baltimore (+2.5) at Cleveland
Man, I sure wish there were a football game on Monday night. I don’t even know what to do with these organizations. Since the Ravens don’t have a quarterback and the Browns sort of do even if it’s only by accident, let’s say Cleveland by three.

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Week Eleven Picks

November 19th, 2015 Comments off

My excuse, and I think it’s a good one, is that week 10 was upset week. The favorites finished 3-11 straight up. So how was I supposed to operate under those conditions? Exactly. In that context, I think my record of 5-9 straight up and 6-8 against the spread looks pretty good. Or, you know, maybe less awful. Doesn’t it?

I came away from that disaster 89-57 (.610) straight up, 65-78-3 (.455) against the spread.

But wait. I think things may be about to get worse. Because here’s the deal. I’ve got a job. Like, one that pays me money. This blog does not. (Shocking, right?) Plus it’s a job I like. And a job that keeps me busy. Thus, normally I do my picks writing in the evenings. But not this week. Because this week, I’ve had an obligation every evening. So this week, the time I’ve had for writing has come between 4 and 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Now, I’m always up at this time, but I wouldn’t say my brain is fully operational. So take that into account as you consider whatever nonsense I put forth below.

Here’s really, really, really what not to expect.

Tennessee (+3) at Jacksonville
It’s hard to imagine a more fascinating way to spend a Thursday night than watching part one of the struggle to determine which is the worst team in the NFL’s worst division. Since these two teams don’t have a complete run offense between them, I’ve got to figure this one goes to the squad that’s least awful in the passing game. Taking both sides of the ball into account, that’s Tennessee. So let’s say Titans by a point.

Washington (+7) at Carolina
When a 9-0 team with one of the NFL’s best run offenses hosts a 4-5 team with one of the league’s worst run Ds, I figure I can limit the amount of time I spend thinking about matchups. Right? Panthers by 10.

Oakland (-2) at Detroit
I know the Lions are coming off a big, emotional win at Green Bay. And maybe it would be wise to expect that to carry Detroit in a game against a visiting team that doesn’t bring much to the field by way of a defense. But I still look at the Lions and see a team that can’t hold on to the ball. I think that becomes more of a problem than usual when you’re trying to keep up with an offense that can pile on the points. The home team will keep it fairly tight, but the visiting Raiders come out ahead by six.

Dallas (even) at Miami
The Cowpies get Tony Romo back. So I guess that’s exciting. I mean, to the extent anyone can get excited about a 2-7 team that has much bigger problems than quarterback play. Dolphins by a field goal.

Indianapolis (+6) at Atlanta
The win over the ghost of Peyton Manning and the Broncos right before the bye week will certainly be remembered as a high point in this season for the Colts. It may also end up being remembered as the last time during the 2015 season when the Colts and their fans had anything they could truly feel good about. Falcons by nine.

St. Louis (+2) at Baltimore
You know, I’m just not sure Case Keenum is going to save the Rams. But I suspect the St. Louis defense might make Keenum look good by carrying the team in this game. Rams by a field goal.

NY Jets (-2) at Houston
Four weeks ago, the Texans defense allowed five touchdowns in the first half of blowout loss on the road in Miami. They haven’t allowed a single TD in the 10 quarters of football they’ve played since. And on Monday night in Cincinnati, they made the previously undefeated Bengals look pedestrian. If Brian Hoyer were playing, I’d hitch my wagon to that and pick the Texans. But he isn’t. And I just don’t believe the Texans will be able to muster much offense behind T.J. Yates. I like the Jets to win a very low scoring game by a single point.

Green Bay (even) at Minnesota
A month ago, you could make the argument that Green Bay had the best team in the NFL. And even after they suffered back-to-back road losses to the Broncos and Panthers, it seemed reasonable to assume the Packers would turn it around and assert their usual position as one of the NFC’s elite teams. Following last week’s collapse at home against the Lions, however, it’s become hard to envision the Packers as a serious wild card contender. Maybe this is where that changes. Maybe this is where Green Bay seizes control of the NFC North and begins a push to the Super Bowl. Or maybe it’s where the Vikings, with their powerful run offense and stout pass D, send a definitive message that the old order of the division has changed. Minnesota by three.

Tampa Bay (+5.5) at Philadelphia
You know, on one hand I look at a matchup between two insanely up-and-down teams and figure Philadelphia is on schedule for a win and Tampa Bay is on schedule for a loss — and that should be the story. On the other hand, Mark Sanchez. Buccaneers by a point.

Denver (+1) at Chicago
Weird to say, but this game would be easier to pick if Fadin’ Manning were starting for Denver. In that case, I’d feel I could confidently take Chicago. With Brock Osweiler under center for the Broncos, on the other hand, I’m not so sure. Because if the Denver D could carry the team to seven victories with Manning disintegrating in front of our eyes, shouldn’t the key for Osweiler be simply not to throw an interception every fifth time he drops back? With all due respect to a Chicago team that I’m supposed to be excited about because they’ve won two straight, I think Osweiler gets his career as a starter going with a win. Broncos by four.

Cincinnati (+4) at Arizona
Carson Palmer’s revenge? Nah. Just the better team winning. Cardinals by six.

Kansas City (-3) at San Diego
The Chiefs have looked good in winning their last three games, but I’ll still be shocked if it turns out they can consistently beat good teams. Of course, this week Kansas City only needs to beat a bad team. I know they can handle that. Chiefs by eight.

San Francisco (+12.5) at Seattle
The Seahawks may be going nowhere fast, but when they arrive they’ll find the 49ers have been there for weeks. Seattle by 20.

Buffalo (+7) at New England
Even after that incredible comeback victory in New Jersey on Sunday, I still don’t believe the Patriots have any real hope of running the table. That’s not because of injuries. It’s just because I know some week some opponent is going to come up big. But not this week. Not this opponent. Passer rating differential: Patriots +5.8. Scoring differential: Patriots +6.2. Turnover differential: Patriots +1. New England by 10.


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Week Ten Picks

November 12th, 2015 Comments off

This happens every year. Typing the words “week ten picks” just now, I thought, “Week ten? How the hell did it get to be week ten?” I think one of the best things about football season is that it doesn’t plod along the way other major pro sports seasons do. But, you know, that’s also the worst thing about football season. Soon enough, I’ll be counting down to the start of the 2016 season and trying to figure out how it got to be mid-February so quickly.

And that, friends, may be my one accurate prediction of the week.

My week nine results were mixed. I finished 8-5 straight up, which is disappointing, and 8-5 against the spread, which, when you don’t actually gamble, feels pretty good. That gets me to 84-48 (.636) and 59-70-3 (.458) for the season.

And that leaves us only with what not to expect in, yup, week ten.

Buffalo (+2.5) at NY Jets
The first of two games during the latter half of the season in which the Jets and Bills get in each others way in the AFC wild card race. I expect I’ll be picking the home team in both. I know for certain that I’m taking New Jersey to come away with a narrow victory this time around. (See how I totally ignored the whole Rex Ryan homecoming/revenge business there? Doh!) Jets by a field goal.

Detroit (+11.5) at Green Bay
Even good Lions teams haven’t been able to find a way to win in Green Bay. A bad Lions team coming in to face a frustrated Packers squad? If there’s a recipe for a blowout, that’s pretty much it. Packers by no less than three touchdowns (at least one of them defensive).

Dallas (-1) at Tampa Bay
First things first: In consideration of the axiom about judging persons by the company they keep, I will be referring to the Dallas team as the Cowpies until such time as they part ways with football’s biggest lump of solid waste, Greg Hardy. As for the game, the Buccaneers are at least marginally better than the Cowpies. And they’re at home. So what is there to do but pick Tampa. The Bucs win it by four.

Carolina (-5.5) at Tennessee
I don’t mean to reduce the differences between the 8-0 Panthers and the 4-5 Saints to a single factor. It’s not that simple. But for the sake of discussing whether the 2-6 Titans have it in them to upset Carolina this week much as they upset New Orleans a week ago, let’s pretend it is that simple. Here’s that single factor: The Panthers, unlike the Saints, have a defense. A good one. If you feel a need to go deeper on this game, by all means pick it apart. But that’s pretty much all I need. Carolina by a touchdown.

Chicago (+7.5) at St. Louis
I keep hearing about how the Bears offense came to life on Monday night. This, apparently, from folks who don’t know how bad the Chargers defense has been this season. Putting up 22 points against the Chargers isn’t a success; it’s a failure. Seriously. San Diego has faced eight other opponents this season. Know how many of them scored fewer points than the Bears? None. Meanwhile, the Rams have given up more than 21 points in a game just three times this season. They haven’t allowed a touchdown in St. Louis since September. And on the other side of the ball, this game will find a Chicago D that allows 4.6 yards per carry trying to stop Todd Gurley. I think I’ve got a pretty good guess about how that’s likely to turn out. Rams by seven.

New Orleans (-1) at Washington
Neither of these teams is worth a damn. But I suspect the Saints have enough offense to squeak by the Racists and get back to .500. Not that it will ultimately do them much good. New Orleans by four.

Miami (+6.5) at Philadelphia
So that initial “surge” for the Dolphins under Dan Campbell turned out to be a bit of a mirage, huh?

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Who’da thunk it? Well, you know, I’m sure a third straight road game will solve that problem. It usually does. Eagles by nine.

Cleveland (+4.5) at Pittsburgh
Here’s a little secret (I may have shared this one before): When your opponent is the Cleveland Browns, it doesn’t really matter who you’ve got playing quarterback. All that matters is whether you can run the ball. I think the Steelers might be OK. Pittsburgh by seven.

Jacksonville (+5.5) at Baltimore
There’s a pretty solid chance this game will feature more turnovers than punts. The Ravens come out ahead by one turnover and three points.

Minnesota (+3) at Oakland
The Vikings are coming off a fairly impressive road win over the Rams. The Raiders are coming off a very tough road loss at Pittsburgh. I think this game turns the equation around. The Raiders offense takes command and Oakland wins it by six.

Kansas City (+6.5) at Denver
The Broncos log the first of two wins that will get their fans feeling good again just before the team’s season unravels down the stretch. The Broncos won a wild game by seven when they visited Kansas City in week two. I don’t think this one will be as dramatic. Or as close. Denver by 10.

New England (-7) at NY Giants
If the Patriots lose this game, it won’t be because the Giants are in their heads. Or because New Jersey “has their number.” Or because Tom Coughlin isn’t afraid of big, bad Bill Belichick like all the other professional football coaches are (according to media and fan fantasy). The Giants aren’t winning this game with a great pass rush that they don’t have. Neither are they likely winning it with circus catches against a Patriots defense that is one of the best in the league. If the Giants win, if the Patriots lose, the determining factor will be turnovers. That’s it. The Giants live by the takeaway. New Jersey leads the NFL in takeaways, 21, and is tied with Carolina and Arizona for most interceptions, 13. They’re at the top of the list in turnover differential with a +12. And if they end up at +2 in this game, they probably come away with a win. But that’s not going to be easy. Because the Patriots, who are tied with the Jets for second in turnover differential at +7, also are the team with the fewest giveaways on the season, having surrendered just two interceptions and three lost fumbles. So we’ll see. Oh, and by the way: Scoring differential, Patriots +7.1; passer rating differential, Patriots +12.0. I’m riding with those numbers. And looking for this one: New England by 17.


Arizona (+3) at Seattle
I don’t think either of these teams has beat an elite opponent yet this season.

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That said, I also don’t think the Cardinals are facing an elite opponent this week. Home field helps the Seahawks, but I still like Arizona by a point.

Houston (+10.5) at Cincinnati
Yeah, this should be ugly. Bengals by 16.

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Week Nine Picks

November 5th, 2015 Comments off

I think I need to stop guessing at when the Bengals’ inevitable collapse will come. I’m still as sure as anyone that it’s gonna happen. But it’s starting to seem like maybe not until January. And in the meantime, I’m doing myself no favors picking against Cincinnati simply because I think they shouldn’t be playing as well as they are.

That said, picking Cincy to beat Pittsburgh is about the only thing I’d fix from week eight. With the other three straight-up picks I got wrong, I can at least say take comfort in the fact that they were based on rational (if errant) analysis rather than pure gut. And in the end, 10-4 straight up feels pretty good. Can’t really say the same for my 6-7-1 week picking against the spread. But so it goes. As usual, it only underscores the greater wisdom of my refusal to gamble on football.

On the season, I’m now 76-43 (.639) straight up, 51-65-3 (.411) against the spread.

Let’s see how I can mess things up in week nine. Here’s what not to expect.

Cleveland (+11) at Cincinnati
I suspect it will be everything the Browns can do to keep Johnny Manziel sober past 8:30 on a Thursday night. Bengals by halftime. Uh, I mean Bengals by … oh, let’s go with 17.

Oakland (+4.5) at Pittsburgh
Derek Carr and the Oakland offense are for real. But the Oakland D is still a work in progress. And even without Le’Veon Bell, I suspect the Steelers will be able to manage enough offense to finish just ahead of the visitors. Pittsburgh by a field goal.

Jacksonville (+6) at NY Jets
For a team that needs desperately to get off the schneid, there’s really nothing better than a visit from the Jaguars. But since the Jets apparently will be starting a quarterback with half the usual number of functional hands, I’m only willing to give half the spread. New Jersey by three.

St. Louis (+2.5) at Minnesota
This game comes down to which team does a better job of taking away it’s opponent’s run game. And I think that’s likely to be the Rams. St. Louis wins a tough, defensive battle by a point.

Miami (+3) at Buffalo
The Dolphins aren’t losing this game because of a hangover from their Thursday night beatdown at the hands of the Patriots. They’re losing it because they’re a worse team than the Bills. And because they can’t stop the run. Buffalo by six.

Tennessee (+8) at New Orleans
Um, I think it’s safe to say that the Titans and Saints are headed in very different directions. Don’t you? New Orleans by 14.

Washington (+14) at New England
Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Racists get DeSean Jackson back. That’s nice and all, but it’s hardly going to solve all of Washington’s problems. Certainly one player doesn’t fix the enormous imbalance between these two teams. Scoring differential: New England, +9.7. Passer rating differential: New England, +21.8 (this is a huge number). Turnover differential: New England, +9.

And, you know:



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I guess what I’m trying to say is, Patriots by 24.

Green Bay (-2.5) at Carolina
Having watched, on successive evenings in week eight, the Packers put up very little fight in a crushing loss to a Broncos team that I still consider suspect, and the Panthers narrowly escape in overtime after blowing a 17-point fourth quarter lead to a Colts squad that hasn’t been able to get out of its own way all season, I find myself at almost a complete loss to assess this matchup. In the end, I think a second straight road game paired with an inability to stop the run dooms Green Bay to a second straight loss. But I’m not exactly going to be floored if it turns out I got it wrong. Carolina by four.

Atlanta (-7) at San Francisco
If the 49ers think Blaine Gabbert is the answer, I’m guessing the question must have been, “Could we possibly start a quarterback who could make Colin Kaepernick look good by comparison?” The Falcons may be frauds, but fake contenders still beat authentic garbage. Atlanta by 10.

NY Giants (-2.5) at Tampa Bay
I suspect it’s going to take the Giants a few weeks to recover completely from last week’s loss in the epic battle of New Orleans. (They fired Eli’s cannon, and the Saints kept a-comin’.) Playing a second straight road game isn’t going to speed up that process any, either. Accordingly, I think maybe New Jersey only wins this game by a point or two.

Denver (-4.5) at Indianapolis
In which even the reanimated corpse of their former quarterback proves to be more than the Colts can handle. Broncos by nine.

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Philadelphia (-2.5) at Dallas
The only real difference between these two teams is that … well, it’s that the Cowboys are in worse shape than the Eagles, isn’t it? Philly by six.

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Chicago (+4) at San Diego
Many teams in the NFL choose to field defenses. Neither the Bears nor the Chargers are among them. San Diego by three.

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