Archive for October, 2016

Week Eight Picks

October 27th, 2016 Comments off

If I had half a brain, I’d quit now before things get any uglier.

But I don’t.

Even in the face of a week seven finish of 8-6-1 straight up, 6-9 against the spread, I feel somehow compelled to soldier on. Because, you know, records of 63-43-1 (.593) straight up and 48-58-1 (.453) against the spread clearly are something one needs to build on.


Here’s what not to expect in week eight.

Jacksonville (+3.5) at Tennessee
The Titans defense goes into this game with six interceptions on the season. How much you want to bet they improve that total by 50 percent here? Tennessee by a touchdown.

Washington (+3) vs Cincinnati at Twickenham Stadium, London
Statistically speaking, these teams are virtually identical. (It’s a bit more nuanced than that, but it pretty much all comes out even.) Until you get to takeaway/giveaway differential, where the Bengals have a +5 advantage (Bengals +3, Racists -2). And since there’s no real home team in this game, I’ll hitch my wagon to that minor point of differentiation. Bengals by four.

Detroit (+2.5) at Houston
If the Lions had a ground game, they’d win this one easily. They don’t. So it’ll be a hard-fought victory. Detroit by two.

Seattle (-3) at New Orleans
The Seahawks offense hasn’t exactly been lighting it up. But the Saints D is about as sure a cure for that condition as you’ll find. And you can’t compensate for an awful D by putting up a ton of points in a game against Seattle. Seahawks by nine.

Arizona (+3) at Carolina
There’s no question but that the Cardinals are the better team in this match. And still … the Panthers are at home following a bye while the Cardinals are traveling across the country on the heels of a demoralizing slog of a five-quarter struggle for nothing. So I think I’ll look for the Panthers to win a close one. Carolina by a point.

New England (-6.5) at Buffalo
Revenge, blah, blah, blah. The Patriots don’t need a win here to avenge their only loss of the season, a game in which they barely participated. Tom Brady doesn’t need to pad his incredible stats here as part of some grand scheme to teach the league a lesson. Team and quarterback alike need a win here because the outcome of this game determines whether the Patriots organization can start designing its AFC East Champion T-shirts and caps while the coaches and players focus on capturing the one seed, or the Pats have to travel through the rest of the season with the Bills sitting just off their rear bumper. Regardless of motivation, I expect New England’s in for a tougher fight than many in Patriots Nation are counting on. The predictive stats (calculated based on four Pats games played without Brady), go like this: Scoring differential, Patriots +0.9; passer rating differential, Patriots +8.4; takeaway/giveaway differential, Bills +5. In Foxborough, that would point to a close Patriots win. In Buffalo, it points to a toss up. And still, with the Bills banged up, and Brady back in the mix, I expect New England to come out on top. It’ll be a game until very near the end, but it will end with the Patriots ahead by seven.

NY Jets (-3.5) at Cleveland
The Browns have to win a game at some point, right? Eh, maybe not. But what do I have to lose? I’m gonna be rooting for Cleveland anyhow. Browns by a field goal.

Oakland (+1) at Tampa Bay
No defense will be played in this game. Oakland by four.

Kansas City (-2.5) at Indianapolis
This would be a blowout in Missouri. But it’s not being played in Missouri. Chiefs by six.

San Diego (+5.5) at Denver
The Chargers managed to overcome a struggling Broncos squad in San Diego two weeks ago. I suspect Denver’s struggles are over, at least for the nonce. The Broncos turn the tables and even up the season series with an eight-point win.

Green Bay (+3) at Atlanta
Another game in which I don’t expect to see much by way of defense. When all the scoring is done, I think we’ll find the home team on top by four.

Philadelphia (+4.5) at Dallas
By the time the Eagles get to host a rematch in week 17, the Cowboys will have sewn up the NFC East. This game, however, should be a battle to the very end. Dallas by three.

Minnesota (-5.5) at Chicago
In which Jay Cutler resumes getting sacked all over the field. Well, maybe not all over the field. Just the Bears side of it. Vikings by 17.

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Week Seven Picks

October 20th, 2016 Comments off

It just keeps getting worse.

Actually, scratch that. The problem’s nothing to do with any it. The truth is, I keep getting worse.

I had my most miserable showing yet in week six, finishing the week a sorry 8-7 straight up, and a much sorrier still 6-8-1 against the spread. I’m not sure what to say other than ugh. For the season, that brings me to 55-37 (.598) straight up and, ulp, 42-49-1 (.462) against the spread.

And yet, I will continue to roll this same rock up this same hill ad infinitum. You can’t fix stupid.

So let’s waste no more time getting my drive for failure underway for the slate of games ahead.

Here’s what not to expect.

Chicago (+7.5) at Green Bay
I don’t believe for a second that Aaron Rodgers‘ ongoing struggles indicate that he’s in an irreversible decline. But neither do I believe Rodgers is likely to have an opportunity to address whatever issues are dogging him while quarterbacking a team with no real running game. None of what’s wrong with Rodgers or the rest of the offense should pose a real problem as the Packers host the Bears on a short week. But I’m sure as hell not giving a touchdown plus. Green Bay by four.

NY Giants (-3) vs Los Angeles at Twickenham Stadium, London
The Giants probably shouldn’t expect to win a lot of games in which they end up a -3 in giveaway/takeaway. I mean, obviously, it can happen. But it’s not something you want to let yourself feel too sure about. New Jersey by a point.

Minnesota (-2.5) at Philadelphia
And then, of course, there are the teams that know how to hold on to the ball. These two squads have three giveaways between them. On the season. That’s one lost fumble each, plus a pick for the Eagles. I’ve got a feeling the Eagles stop their two-game skid in this homecoming game. Philadelphia by a field goal.

New Orleans (+6.5) at Kansas City
I don’t like the idea of picking New Orleans on the road, but I just don’t know that Kansas City has the juice to win a shootout. Saints by two.

Washington (+1) at Detroit
I’m still not ready to buy into the Racists. But this week, against an opponent with no ground game, I’m on board. Washington by three.

Cleveland (+10) at Cincinnati
I wonder if anyone in Cleveland even cares that this game is being played. Bengals by a touchdown.

Buffalo (-3) at Miami
The Bills rush for 166 yards yards a game. The Dolphins allow 147 rushing yards per game. This game may be on the books by 2:30. Buffalo by 21.

Oakland (+1) at Jacksonville
Since neither team has a defense, I’m taking the one with the better offense. That’s the Raiders. Oakland by six.

Indianapolis (+2.5) at Tennessee
Good news for Andrew Luck: Given the state of the Colts run D, he’s unlikely to spend enough time on the field this week to take his customary four sacks. So that’s something. I think. Titans by four.

Baltimore (+1) at NY Jets
The Ravens close their two-week residency in the Meadowlands with a decisive victory over the weaker of the New Jersey teams. Baltimore by 10.

San Diego (+6.5) at Atlanta
Welcome to the air show. Falcons by five.

Tampa Bay (-2) at San Francisco
I don’t know which of these teams is less interested in winning football games. So I’m going with the favorite. Tampa by a field goal.

New England (-7) at Pittsburgh
Here’s are your big three predictive stats, all based on results achieved by the Patriots playing four of six games without Tom Brady and the Steelers playing all but one series of six games with Ben Roethlisberger: Scoring differential, Patriots +2.2; passer rating differential, Patriots +8.8; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +6. And, you know, it’s Brady and Landry Jones under center for their respective teams this weekend. New England by 13

Seattle (+1.5) at Arizona
The Seahawks’ home win against the Falcons last week is the only victory either of these teams has managed over a strong opponent this season. That’s nice for Seattle. But I have no reason to believe it travels. Cardinals by three.

Houston (+7.5) at Denver
The last time Brock Osweiler played a football game in Denver, he was the better choice over a broken down Peyton Manning. That wasn’t such a great accomplishment, as Osweiler’s performance with the Texans this season has made abundantly clear. The Texans are a very different 4-2 than the Broncos. That’ll show in this game. Denver by seven.

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Week Six Picks

October 13th, 2016 Comments off

Well, at least my season started on a positive note. And I’ll always have that, for whatever little it’s worth.

As for right now, I’m mired in mediocrity. I finished week five 9-5 straight up, 7-7 against the spread. Nothing to weep over (especially for someone who doesn’t actually gamble), but not exactly bragging material. So, here I stand, 47-30 (.610) straight up, 36-41 (.468) against the spread.

Let’s see if I can’t figure out a way to do even worse this week.

Here’s what not to expect.

Denver (-7) at San Diego
I don’t think the Chargers are likely to lose by way of a late-game collapse this week. And that would be a nice change of pace, one supposes, except for the likelihood that San Diego will lose in a much more conventional manner. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to give a touchdown to the home team in a division matchup on a short week, though. So let’s go with Denver by six.

Cincinnati (+9) at New England
I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but, um, Tom Brady‘s back. Got his season off to a nice little start last weekend, too. And that’s not such great news for the Bengals’ D, which has not fared well in games against strong opponents so far this season. Here’s what the big three predictive stats say: Scoring differential, Patriots +5.8; passer rating differential, Patriots, +10.3; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +2. (And let’s not forget that New England’s stats are calculated based on four out of five games played without Brady.) Add in that the Bengals are on the road for a second straight week, and consider that the Bengals are no better at stopping the run (4.4 yards per carry) than they are at stopping the pass, and I think you get a fairly comfortable win for the Patriots. New England by two touchdowns.

Baltimore (+3) at NY Giants
The Ravens open their two-week residency in the Meadowlands with a close loss to the better of the New Jersey teams. Giants by a point.

Carolina (-3) at New Orleans
The Panthers expect to have Cam Newton back on the field for this game. That should get the job done. Panthers by four.

Pittsburgh (-7.5) at Miami
The Steelers will be ahead two scores before the home fans have had a chance to catch up with the Dolphins’ shifting roster. Pittsburgh by 17.

Jacksonville (+2.5) at Chicago
That’s right. Brian Hoyer. Bears by a field goal.

San Francisco (+8) at Buffalo
I want Colin Kaepernick to succeed because I admire the political stance he’s taken. Trouble is, this is a football game, not a debate. And the truth about Kaepernick is that he’s just not that good at football. The other difficult truth facing the 49ers is that it doesn’t matter who you start at quarterback (or any offensive position) when your biggest problem is the complete inability of your D to stop the opposing team’s run game. I have hunch that might pose a bit of a problem for San Francisco here. Bills by 10.

Los Angeles (+3.5) at Detroit
When neither team has a defense, you go with the one that has an actual offense. Especially if that team is at home. Lions by six.

Cleveland (+7) at Tennessee
If the Browns can get through an entire game with the same guy taking snaps, that’ll be a kind of victory in itself. Titans by nine.

Philadelphia (-2) at Washington
I know it’s the Eagles’ second straight road game (and the first didn’t go so well) and that it’s a division match. But I just have a hard time seeing Philadelphia dropping this one, particularly given Washington’s ineffectiveness against the run. Eagles by a field goal.

Kansas City (+1) at Oakland
Maybe Kansas City will come back from its early bye week having sprouted a run defense. But, you know, probably not. Oakland by four.

Atlanta (+6.5) at Seattle
Back-to-back road games are tough no matter what. Traveling to face Denver’s D one week and Seattle’s the next is just plain murder. And with the Seahawks coming off their bye, to boot. Kinda makes you wonder what the Falcons did to offend the schedule makers. Atlanta was able to overcome the first part of the challenge (thanks in part to the fact that Denver was starting a rookie QB who clearly isn’t quite NFL ready). I have a hard time believing they’ll be able to repeat that performance. But neither am I inclined to think Atlanta gets routed. Seahawks by three.

Dallas (+4) at Green Bay
If you look just at the aggregate stats, it appears Dallas is playing better football than Green Bay right now. If you look at the level of competition each team has faced, I’m not sure that conclusion holds up. Packers by a field goal.

Indianapolis (+3) at Houston
I don’t know how to pick this game, because I’m just not sure which of these teams has a greater propensity for finding ways to lose. So I’ll take the home team. By a point.

NY Jets (+8) at Arizona
The Jets season officially comes to a very early end. Cardinals by 10.

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Week Five Picks

October 6th, 2016 Comments off

I had a bad feeling about week four. But I ignored it, because I pretty much always have a bad feeling about every week. And, really, what’s at risk?

The answer, I suppose, is my pride. As if I had any left. (Or maybe I never had any to begin with.) And, you know, maybe my ability to sell myself on the lie that I actually have any idea what I’m doing.

That’s all gone. At least for the nonce. I went 8-7 straight up in week four, which seems really bad until you look at my 5-10 finish against the spread. Now, that’s what you call awful. For the season, I’m now 38-25 (.603) straight up, 29-34 (.460) against the spread. Let’s see if I can’t make things even worse with this week’s picks, shall we?

Here’s what not to expect.

Arizona (-3.5) at San Francisco
One of these teams runs out of chances with a loss in this game. You’ve got to figure it won’t be the one that was expected to make a Super Bowl run at the start of the season. As long as Drew Stanton can avoid throwing a bunch of picks, I expect to see the Cardinals come away with a narrow victory. Arizona by a point.

Houston (+6.5) at Minnesota
The good news for the Texans is that even after they lose this game, they’ll still be in first place in the insanely weak AFC South. Vikings by nine.

Tennessee (+3.5) at Miami
Neither of these teams can hold on to the damned football. Then again, neither of them has demonstrated any ability to take the ball away from opponents either. One imagines something has to give here. But maybe not. Maybe it just comes down to Miami’s inability to stop Tennessee’s run game. Titans by a field goal.

New England (-10.5) at Cleveland
The fan narrative in New England has it that Tom Brady commences his “revenge tour” this weekend. And that may well happen. Brady surely is champing at the bit for the opportunity to take his Deflategate frustrations out on Patriots opponents. So things are likely to get ugly sooner than later. I’m not sure the revenge tour gets off to a smooth start, though. I expect Brady’s going to have some rust to shake off before he gets into a real groove. That may come in the second half here or it may take a game or two. (Or maybe I’m wrong and he gets going with the first offensive play in this game. If anyone can go from zero to 120 that quickly, it’s the Greatest Of All Time.) Here’s the thing, though. In terms of assessing this game, I’m not sure it matters all that much when the revenge tour officially commences. Because I don’t think this would have been much of a game with Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett starting behind center for New England. We’re a quarter of the way through the season, which is about the time you’ve got a significant enough sample for the predictive stats to start paining a picture. And here are the big three (all of them based on results the Patriots achieved with Garoppolo and then an injured Brissett at QB): Scoring differential, Patriots +7.7; passer rating differential, Patriots +15.1; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +4. That’s not a formula for a Cleveland win. And, you know, I may be stupid, but I kind of like the Pats’ chances with a rusty Brady better than their chances with a wounded Garoppolo or Brissett. The Patriots start slow, worrying the crap out of their fans, but ultimately come out on top by 13.

NY Jets (+7) at Pittsburgh
Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s interception percentage, 6.5, is the highest in the NFL by a full two points. (Fitz also leads the league in total interceptions. He’s thrown 10.) Ben Roethlisberger‘s touchdown percentage, 7.6, is second highest in the NFL. (Roethlisberger also is tied with Matt Ryan for most total TD passes, with 11.) In a quarterback-driven league, that’s about all I need to know. Steelers by 10.

Washington (+4) at Baltimore
I have a hunch the Racists’ lack of a defense may hurt them in this game. But, you know, it’s just a hunch. Ravens by six.

Philadelphia (-3) at Detroit
As far as I can tell, there isn’t a single area of the game in which the Eagles don’t have the edge here. Philadelphia by … I don’t know, a lot. Let’s say 20 just because it’s a nice round number (except for the pointy part).

Chicago (+4.5) at Indianapolis
It’s hard to pick a team that’s as bad as the Colts and attempting to play through jet lag. But, well, they’re hosting the Bears. Indy by two.

Atlanta (+5.5) at Denver
The Falcons have done well for a team with no defense. Here’s what happens, though, when a team like that runs up against an opponent with an outstanding D. Broncos by at least a touchdown.

Buffalo (+2.5) at Los Angeles
Fresh off their Super Bowl championship big win over a team starting a rookie third string quarterback with an injured throwing hand, the Bills seem to be feeling pretty good about themselves. They should enjoy it while they can. Los Angeles by three.

San Diego (+3.5) at Oakland
The Raiders lack of a defense is going to present a problem in this game. But it won’t be quite enough to cost the home team a win. In a very high scoring game, Oakland comes out on top by a point, maybe two.

Cincinnati (-1) at Dallas
Thus far this season, the Bengals have looked like one of those teams that beats bad teams and loses to good ones. So what happens when they go up against an opponent that’s probably a bit better than average? I think it depends on where the game is played. And since this one’s being played on the slightly better than average team’s home field, I’m going with them. Dallas by four.

NY Giants (+7.5) at Green Bay
I don’t know what Giants fans are saying about it, but I can tell you this: If the Patriots had been scheduled to play road games in Minnesota and Green Bay over the course of six days (with the Packers coming off a bye, no less), fans in New England would be certain the NFL had conspired against the team. Doesn’t seem exactly fair to New Jersey, either, if you ask me. But you play the schedule they give you, I guess. Packers by 10.

Tampa Bay (+7) at Carolina
Man, is the NFC South not a good division. Panthers by four.

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