Archive for December, 2015

Week Sixteen Picks

December 24th, 2015 Comments off

Week fifteen turned out pretty OK for me. I finished 12-4 straight up, 10-5-1 against the spread. That lifts me to 139-85 (.621) straight up and 108-111-5 (.493) against the spread on the season. In all cases, I’ll take it.

Here’s what not to expect in week sixteen.

San Diego (+6) at Oakland
I get that there’s a lot of emotion associated with the fact this will be Charles Woodson’s last game Oakland. I know I’ll be rooting for Woodson to go out with a big game. But I don’t think Woodson’s sendoff is a reason to pick the Raiders. I think the fact that the Raiders are the better team is a reason to pick them. And I think the fact that they’re playing at home on a Thursday night is a reason to pick them to win by more than six. Oakland by a touchdown.

Washington (+3) at Philadelphia
The prize in the riveting battle for the 2015 NFC East title will be a first-class ass-kicking by the Seahawks in the Wild Card round. Who wouldn’t want that? Racists by two.

Chicago (+3) at Tampa Bay
Both of these teams are headed nowhere in 2015. But the Bears appear determined to get there faster. Bucs by a field goal.

Carolina (-7) at Atlanta
The Panthers still have something on the line. Not sure anyone needs to know much more about this game. Carolina by 20.

Dallas (+6) at Buffalo
This game’s got memorable written all over it, doesn’t it? Bills by 10.

San Francisco (+9.5) at Detroit
Ugh. This one, too. Prediction? Here’s a prediction: I won’t care any more about this game while it’s being played or after it’s been played than I do right now. Lions by a touchdown.

Cleveland (+12.5) at Kansas City
It will be absolutely shocking if this is still a game at the end of the first quarter. Chiefs by 21, minimum.

Indianapolis (+1.5) at Miami
Is this really how the Colts’ season ends? Yes. Yes, it is. Dolphins by four.

New England (-3) at NY Jets
Yeah, the Patriots need to win this game in order to clinch the AFC one seed. Or they could always do it next week in Miami. And most important of all for New England is getting healthy for the postseason. So I expect the Patriots to go at about 75 percent strength, which means I only expect them to beat New Jersey by four.


Pittsburgh (-10) at Baltimore
I haven’t bought into the hype around Pittsburgh quite yet. Not sure I will. But the Ravens have been done for weeks, and they haven’t really been anything to worry about all season. Steelers by 20.

Houston (+4.5) at Tennessee
Wait the Texans are getting points in this game? Really? Sign me up. Houston by a field goal.

Jacksonville (+3.5) at New Orleans
I’m not sure how or when I arrived in a world where the Jaguars could conceivably go into New Orleans and beat the Saints, but here I am. Here we all are. Only maybe don’t take your shoes off, because I’m not sure we’ll be staying long. New Orleans by a touchdown.

Green Bay (+4.5) at Arizona
The Cardinals might not be better than the Packers by all that much. But they’re probably better by enough to be able to win at home and sew up the NFC two seed. Arizona by a field goal.

St. Louis (+13.5) at Seattle
A win here and the Seahawks probably don’t need to put much effort into their week 17 matchup with the Cardinals. They’ll have the five seed, which means an easy Wild Card round trip to the NFC East “champion.” Seattle by 16.

NY Giants (+5.5) at Minnesota
The Vikings move one step closer to the back-to-back losses in Green Bay that will end their season and their postseason. Fun. Minnesota by seven.

Cincinnati (+3.5) at Denver
In which the Broncos defense secures the two seed, ensuring at least three more weeks of talk about the Broncos quarterback situation. Denver by six.

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Week Fifteen Picks

December 17th, 2015 Comments off

I’m not sure how to feel about my week fourteen results. I went 10-6 straight up, which isn’t embarrassing, but also isn’t something you want to thump your chest about. But I also went 10-6 against the spread, which feels pretty damned impressive to me. Of course, there’s the whole thing where I don’t bet. (And even if I did, I’d surely have had my money on some of the six games I got wrong. Which is why I don’t bet.) So, you know, it’s still just 10-6.

For the season, I’m now looking at 127-81 (.611) straight up, 98-106-4 (.481) against the spread. Respectable, but unimpressive.

Let’s see if I can’t erase that respectability this week. Here’s what not to expect.

Tampa Bay (+1.5) at St. Louis
I wonder how many regret-inducing, drunken office holiday party make-out sessions were preserved by the NFL’s decision to schedule this clunker as the Thursday night game the week before Christmas. Seriously. Perhaps there’s some list of things you wouldn’t rather do than watch this thing, but I’m guessing scarfing seven-layer dip and pigs in blankets while pretending to care about Will from accounting’s travel plans doesn’t even come close to making it. I mean, in fairness, I suppose I should point out that neither of these teams has been officially eliminated from postseason contention yet. But since neither is part of the NFC East, that distinction is largely technical/numerical. Which is to say that both will be in a position to start focusing on the draft soon enough. And by soon enough I mean tomorrow for St. Louis, Monday for Tampa Bay. Bucs by a field goal.

NY Jets (-3) at Dallas
The way things are shaping up in the AFC playoff race, the Jets probably need to win out in order to hold on to the six seed. That’s not gonna happen. In fact, I won’t be surprised if the Jets drop two of their last three. But this match against one the worst teams in football shouldn’t pose much of a problem. New Jersey by nine.

Chicago (+5.5) at Minnesota
If the Vikings want their week 17 trip to Green Bay to be about more than holding on to the NFC six seed (that is, if they want a shot an NFC North championship and the right to host their third meeting with the Packers rather than starting, and ending, January playing two straight games in Wisconsin) they need to win this game and next week’s contest with the Giants. I don’t know if they’ll pull it off, but I expect them to come out of this week with their hopes still intact. Minnesota by four.

Atlanta (+3.5) at Jacksonville
It’s fitting, I think, that the Falcons and Jaguars meet at this point in both of their seasons. Atlanta is 6-7 and moving rapidly in the wrong direction. Jacksonville is 5-7 and moving in fits and starts in the right direction. The Falcons should look at this game as a chance to halt their six-game skid. But I don’t think they have the will to do it. I expect both teams to emerge from this game at 6-8 — and one of them to be happy about that. Jacksonville by three.

Houston (+2) at Indianapolis
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect illustration of the mess that is the AFC South than the fact that a game that could determine the division title is going to be played without either team’s starting quarterback on the field. I guess I have to go with Houston to win it, since the Texans occasionally field a defense and have at least some chance of mounting a ground game. I think. Maybe. Texans by a point.

Kansas City (-7.5) at Baltimore
The red hot Chiefs have to be looking at the way the Broncos stumbled last weekend against the Raiders and thinking they may be presented with an opportunity to steal the AFC West championship. It only happens, though, if they’re able to remain focused on winning the games they have in front of them. This one should be a breeze. Kansas City by 13.

Buffalo (-1) at Washington
The outcome of this game determines whether the NFC East “champion” will have a record of 7-9 or 8-8. (To be clear, that’s not numerically a done deal. I’m speculating.) And, uh, I think it’s gonna be 7-9. Bills by three.

Tennessee (+14) at New England
The last time the Titans traveled to Foxborough it was … um, well, it was not pretty. It’s hard to imagine this one goes anywhere near that poorly for Tennessee, particularly in light of New England’s continued struggles with injuries. But the predictive stats tend toward the lopsided. Passer rating differential: Patriots +17.0. Scoring differential: Patriots +8.5. Takeaway/giveaway differential: Patriots +14. So I’m still looking for a fairly fluid New England win. I’ll say Patriots by 17.


Carolina (-5) at NY Giants
The Panthers have to drop a game eventually. And we all know the Giants have a history of disrupting undefeated seasons. So it only stands to reason that I’m picking Carolina here. Mostly because of that thing where they’re the better team. Panthers by seven.

Cleveland (+14.5) at Seattle
The Browns are in a three-way race to secure the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. I kind of hope they get it, mainly because I think it will be fascinating to see how they squander it. Seahawks by 28.

Green Bay (-3) at Oakland
Turns out I was wrong about the Raiders not having a defense. Or maybe last Sunday’s upset victory was really about the Broncos not having an offense. In any case, the Raiders have to be feeling pretty good about having taken some of the air out of their postseason-bound division rivals’ sails. And, hopefully, feeling good for a week has been good enough for them (and Bobby McGee). Because I’ve got a hunch that somewhere near Salinas (well, not that near) they’re about to let it slip away. What I mean is, I don’t think Oakland’s quite ready to upend a balanced team like Green Bay. Packers by six.

Miami (+1.5) at San Diego
When two teams are functionally identical, which is the case here, you take the one playing at home. Chargers by three.

Denver (+6) at Pittsburgh
Like I’ve been saying, it was only a matter of time before opposing coaches had enough film on Brock Osweiler to be able to scheme against him effectively. Last week’s result wasn’t encouraging for Denver’s “next great quarterback.” This week’s result, I suspect, will render any lingering questions about Peyton Manning‘s return to the starting lineup academic. Steelers by 10.

Cincinnati (-4.5) at San Francisco
It’s one thing to conclude that the Bengals are going nowhere in the playoffs unless Andy Dalton’s thumb heals quickly. It would be quite another to think Cincinnati is likely to struggle against San Francisco in Dalton’s absence. Almost no one struggles against the Niners. Bengals by a touchdown.

Arizona (-3.5) at Philadelphia
It’s undeniably true that both of these teams are in contention for their respective divisions’ titles. But that’s about where the similarities end. The Eagles are hoping to back into a spot in the postseason by “winning” the second worst division in the NFL. The Cardinals are driving to shore up the NFC two seed. There is simply nothing about the Eagles that would lead any reasonable person to conclude that they can compete with the Cardinals. On any field. Arizona by eight.

Detroit (+3) at New Orleans
One of these teams has to win. Right? Saints come out on top, but it’s a push with the points.

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Week Fourteen Picks

December 10th, 2015 Comments off

I finally had a respectable finish in week thirteen. I went 12-4 straight up, 8-8 against the spread for the week. I can live with that. My numbers for the season? Meh. I’m 117-75 (.609) straight up, 88-100-4 (.469) against the spread.

Maybe I can power through a few more good weeks and get those averages up. Or maybe I’ll fall flat on my face.

Here’s what not to expect.

Minnesota (+11) at Arizona
I could write about the difficultly of traveling to play on a Thursday night. I could write about the fact that although the Vikings have a good record, the closest they’ve come to beating a good team was a narrow home victory over the then-reeling Chiefs way back in week six. I could write about how the Vikings have a one-dimensional offense that doesn’t match up well against the Cardinals D. But why bother? The simple fact is that the Vikings don’t belong on the same field as the Cardinals. That’s all I ever really needed to write about this game. Well, actually, that and Arizona by 35.

Pittsburgh (+3) at Cincinnati
The default line of home team -3 makes perfect sense to me. Because as far as I can see, these teams are effectively the same. Of course, that only makes picking this thing all the more difficult. So excuse me if I take the coward’s way out and hedge: Bengals by a point.

Buffalo (-1.5) at Philadelphia
If all of Philadelphia’s remaining opponents helpfully self-destruct, the Eagles can totally carry the NFC East. But I’m not sure that’s something you can count on. I think I’ll stick with the whole “better team usually wins” thing for now, even in games where the better team isn’t ultimately all that much better. Bills by four.

Atlanta (+7.5) at Carolina
Can the Falcons snap a five-game losing streak and end their division rivals’ quest for an undefeated season? Well, as the Eagles demonstrated last weekend, anything can happen in the NFL. But it usually doesn’t. Panthers by ten.

San Francisco (+1.5) at Cleveland
One of these teams is going to find a novel and entertaining way to lose this game. Which will it be? I have no idea. They’re clearly equally capable. Let’s just say home team wins by a fluky three points.

Washington (+3) at Chicago
Seventy-five years ago this week, these two teams squared off in an NFL Championship game still remembered for the 73-0 beatdown Sid Luckman’s bears put on Slingin’ Sammy Baugh’s Racists. This Sunday, it’s just a matchup of two 5-7 teams. Well, except that Chicago is all but eliminated from postseason contention while Washington is currently in first place in the NFC East. I keep reading and hearing about how Chicago is much better than Washington. I don’t see it. But I don’t have it in me to look all that hard. Still, the Bears are at home. So, whatevs. Just for fun, I’ll say Chicago by 73.

Detroit (-2.5) at St. Louis
I know the Lions are supposed  to be the better team. I just don’t really understand why. I’m looking for the home team to win it by a field goal.

San Diego (+10) at Kansas City
The Chiefs continue their push for the playoffs while the Chargers continue their push for first overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Kansas City by 17.

New Orleans (+3.5) at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers, who toppled the Saints in New Orleans back in week two, last swept this season series in 2007. The Saints swept the Bucs in each of three seasons prior to this one. That’s not terribly interesting, is it? And still, somehow, it’s more interesting to me than actually talking about this game. Bucs by six.

Indianapolis (+1) at Jacksonville
The Colts ultimately are going to surrender the AFC South title to the Texans. But it’s going to happen with a loss to Houston next week, not a loss to Jacksonville here. Indy by three.

Tennessee (+7) at NY Jets
The Jets win with takeaways. The Titans can’t hold on to the ball. That makes picking this game pretty easy, don’t you think? New Jersey by nine.

Seattle (-9) at Baltimore
The Ravens couldn’t have won this game even if they had a quarterback. Which they don’t. Seattle by 20.

Oakland (+7.5) at Denver
If the Raiders can avoid big mistakes, I think they can make this a game. But they still can’t win it. Because the Broncos take the unconventional approach of fielding a defense. The Raiders might want to take note of that. Denver by six.

Dallas (+7) at Green Bay
Green Bay retakes control of the NFC North with a big win over an awful Dallas squad. Packers by 16.

New England (-3) at Houston
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the sky is falling in New England. The Patriots went out last Sunday, made five horrifically bad, thoroughly unforced, and entirely uncharacteristic errors, and, as a result, lost to the 9-point underdog Philadelphia Eagles. This, according to much talk in New England and some in the national media, proves that the Patriots cannot win without Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski on the field. (This despite the fact that the Patriots put up 28 points, which is more than the scoring average of all but three teams in the league, one of which is New England. And despite the fact that the New England defense only allowed 14; with another 14 of Philly’s points scored on special teams plays and seven scored via a 100-yard pick six.) And this, of course, makes the Patriots the worst 10-2 team ever. I mean, it’s either that or — as I said for weeks earlier in the season, mostly to New England fans who were talking about 16-o — the Patriots were always going to drop two games, and it was always the case that one of them would be a loss no one would see coming. And now the Pats are done losing for the rest of the season (unless by some chance their week 17 game in Miami turns out to be meaningless). The Texans are a good team, of course. And they’re hosting. So anything can happen. But here are the predictive stats (come out ahead in two out of three of these and you’re in line for a win): Scoring differential, Patriots +5.8; passer rating differential, Patriots +9.9; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +6. It’ll be a late night for New England fans as the Texans keep it close, but the Patriots win this one by a touchdown.


NY Giants (-1) at Miami
The Giants have three winnable games on their schedule over the next four weeks. They need to come out on top in at least two of those to take the NFC East title. This should get them off to a good start. New Jersey by three.

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Week Thirteen Picks

December 6th, 2015 Comments off

Finally getting these on record, and I don’t expect it to be pretty. I don’t offer this as an excuse, but my work life recently has got busier and busier. That means I get home exhausted. And that means I’m not in much of a position to spend my evenings obsessively tracking football stats and trends. Not that I haven’t been doing it at all, mind you. It’s just that time and attention span aren’t what I’d like them to be.

And that means I’m not expecting the kind of brilliant football insights that got me all the way to 9-7 straight up during Thanksgiving week. So that’s gonna be a problem. Though I’ll note that I did manage a 9-7 finish against the spread, which ain’t half bad when there’s no actual money involved. Maybe not thinking too hard is helpful there. For the season, my record stands at 105-71 (.597) straight up, 80-92-4 (.466) against the spread. (This doesn’t factor in that I’m 1-0 straight up, 0-1 against the spread so far this week.)

Let’s move on then. What not to expect.

San Francisco (+7) at Chicago
I haven’t quite bought in on the whole Bears turnaround thing. But I can’t see how anyone could not be on board with the 49ers disaster thing. Chicago by 14.

Cincinnati (-9) at Cleveland
And speaking of disasters … . Bengals by 5,000 points. Or actually, 5,000 isn’t divisible by seven. So let’s go with something that is. Say, 28.

Jacksonville (+2.5) at Tennessee
Two meetings between these two powerhouse teams over the course of three weeks. Will the AFC South excitement never end? The Jaguars took their home game. Now the Titans take theirs. Tennessee by a field goal.

Houston (+3.5) at Buffalo
If the Bills are to have any chance of qualifying for a wild card spot, they absolutely have to take this game. Ultimately, Buffalo won’t make the playoffs. But the Bills will nudge their way past the Texans here on the strength of their ground game. Buffalo by a point.

Baltimore (+3.5) at Miami
And now we start to see some of these terrific matchups in which the winner’s prize is to move behind the loser in the draft order. Congratulations, Dolphins. Miami by three.

Seattle (-1.5) at Minnesota
You’re trying to tell me that the Vikings are playing to hold on to the lead in their division and a shot at the NFC two seed, while the Seahawks are trying to hold on to the last wild card spot? That can’t be true. Can it? If one of these teams were better equipped to slow down the other’s rushing attack and the other were better equipped to move the ball through the air, I’d have a tough time picking this one. But since Seattle comes out ahead in both of those areas, I’ve got to go with the Seahawks. Seattle by a field goal.

Arizona (-4.5) at St. Louis
One suspects the Cardinals may be going into this game feeling like they have something to prove — if only to themselves. Arizona by a touchdown.

Atlanta (+1) at Tampa Bay
The Falcons opened their season with five straight wins. Here’s a fifth straight loss to balance things out. Buccaneers by four.

NY Jets (-2) at NY Giants
The Jets really ought to be able to pull out a win in the middling New Jersey football team championship. Which is how you know the Giants are coming out on top. Giants by three.

Denver (-4) at San Diego
If won’t be long before opposing coaches have enough film on Brock Osweiler to take advantage of some of his weaknesses. But even if we were already there, the Chargers don’t have the defensive weapons to get it done. Denver by six.

Kansas City (-3) at Oakland
The Raiders have the offense to make this a spectacular and exciting game. But they don’t have enough defense to carry the day. Chiefs by a point.

Carolina (-6.5) at New Orleans
Sooner or later, the Panthers are going to drop a game. And a visit to a divisional rival, no matter how weak, is a solid candidate for that eventuality. Which is to say that anything can happen. But still, the disparity between these two teams is far too significant for me to be willing to predict anything other than a decisive win by the Panthers. Carolina by two TDs.

Philadelphia (+9) at New England
You can talk all day about the Patriots injury-depleted receiving corps. And, yeah, it’s a problem. But it didn’t stop New England a week ago from forcing overtime on the road against the Broncos, a team with one of the NFL’s best defenses. And it seems unlikely to pose a significant challenge this week as the Patriots host an Eagles squad with one of the league’s worst Ds and a struggling offense. Patriots by 21.


Indianapolis (+7) at Pittsburgh
The Colts still can’t stop the run. Steelers by 10.

Dallas (+4) at Washington
Boy, oh, boy, is the NFC East awful. I’ll find out how this game came out on Tuesday morning, because you couldn’t pay me to watch this dog. Racists by six.

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Week Thirteen Thursday Night

December 3rd, 2015 Comments off

Haven’t done this at all this season, but I’m not going to get to the full slate in time for tonight’s exciting matchup. So let’s start with getting on the record on this one.

Green Bay (-3) at Detroit
If the Lions could beat the Packers in Green Bay, they ought to be able to beat them in Detroit, right? Um, maybe. I mean, there’s clearly something very wrong with the Packers. And no one picks on a weakness better than a division rival. But, you know, I’m just having a hard time believing the Lions can achieve a season sweep over what on paper remains the better team. So I’m gonna hold my breath a bit and look for the Green Bay defense to get it done by forcing turnovers in key spots. Packers by a point.

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