Archive for November, 2016

Week Twelve Picks

November 23rd, 2016 Comments off

Well, I guess I’ve got something to be thankful for.

Straight up, anyhow, I had a decent go of it in week 11. Finished 11-3, which ain’t so bad. And, sure, I went 6-7-1 against the spread. But what can you do? Baby steps.

I now sit at 98-61-2 (.615) straight up, 72-86-3 (.457) against the spread.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Here’s what not to expect on the football field.

Minnesota (+2.5) at Detroit
You could probably set the over/under on total run plays in this game somewhere around 40. Which is to say that it may be Christmas before the damned thing’s over. The Lions come out ahead by a point.

Washington (+7) at Dallas
The Racists couldn’t handle the Cowboys in Washington back at a point in the season when Dak Prescott was just getting his pro football legs under him. Kind of hard to imagine, in that context, that Washington has much hope of making this game competitive. Dallas by 13.

Pittsburgh (-9) at Indianapolis
The Colts wouldn’t have won this game even with Andrew Luck. They’re certainly not winning it without him. Steelers by 10.

San Diego (+1.5) at Houston
I think the Chargers are, in many ways, the better team in this match. Except for that thing where they keep finding creative ways to lose. I think the story of San Diego’s season continues here. Chargers lead for most of the game, but the Texans end up on top by a field goal.

Tennessee (-5) at Chicago
Every time you think this season couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Bears, it does. Tennessee by nine.

Jacksonville (+7.5) at Buffalo
It’s not the reason to pick Buffalo in this game — because there is no the reason; it’s all of the reasons — but this really stands out, so I’ll note it: takeaway-giveaway differential, Bills +23. These teams are 10 games into the season. It really doesn’t get a whole lot uglier than that. Buffalo by a gazillion. Or 17 anyhow.

Cincinnati (+4.5) at Baltimore
The Ravens are a one-dimensional team whose season will be over soon enough. The Bengals now are officially a no-dimensional team whose season is over already. Ravens by a touchdown.

Arizona (+4) at Atlanta
I like the Falcons offense’s chances of overcoming the Cardinals defense better than the Arizona offense’s chances of exploiting the weak Atlanta D. But not by a lot. Falcons by a field goal.

San Francisco (+8) at Miami
One of these teams really isn’t that good. But the other one really is that bad. Dolphins by seven.

Los Angeles (+7) at New Orleans
Years from now this will be remembered as a game no one remembers at all. Saints by 12.

NY Giants (-7) at Cleveland
This game could easily feature more total turnovers (by both teams) than points scored by the home team. Giants by 14.

Seattle (-5.5) at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers may indeed be better than I’ve tended to think. But they’re not on the same level as the Seahawks. Seattle by seven.

Carolina (+3.5) at Oakland
What will work out to be a season-ending two-week West Coast swing for the Panthers starts with a what will likely be the less humiliating loss. Raiders by 10.

New England (-8) at NY Jets
There come these moments, not in every season, but certainly once in every three or four, when the sports media and Patriots fans decide that there’s something seriously amiss with New England. Often, the story goes that Bill Belichick the GM has hamstrung Bill Belichick the head coach. (Belichick’s failure as a GM is most often attributed either to cheapness or to an inability to assess talent accurately.) Sometimes the story is that Belichick has outsmarted himself, come to believe his own press, decided that his schemes, his genius, are so great that his team can win with any group of players. The players hate their coach. Belichick has lost the locker room. That kind of thing. Once, not so long ago, the story was that Tom Brady was in a steep decline. And that one will come back around at some point, but probably not this season. This season, it’s Belichick for sure. He traded Chandler Jones in the offseason. He traded Jamie Collins in the middle of the season. He demoted Jabaal Sheard to a role player, then a healthy scratch, for reasons he arrogantly refuses to reveal. He’s taken so many pieces away from his defense that they’re now giving up 18 points a game, which we know is a problem because only 29 teams in the entire league have allowed a higher average. I love these moments. I love them for the long term because they provide a nice bit of conflict (artificial, but not my artifice) that I can tap into when the comes time to build a narrative about the season. And I love them in the short term because they’re invariably followed by a series of games that make those who have been spinning tales of doom look like fools. And here, one suspects, we go again. Divisional games are always tough. Playing on the road for a second straight week is always tough. And it appears the Patriots run defense is going to have to overcome the absence of Alan Branch, which is going to make stopping Matt Forte any easier. Still and all, the reality is that the Jets are one of the league’s worst teams. Even in New Jersey, they shouldn’t pose much of an obstacle. Let’s look at the big three predictive stats: scoring differential, Patriots, +7.8; passer rating differential, Patriots +23.3; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +13. Those numbers point to a bloodbath. (They also potentially point to the Patriots finally getting a few takeaways, maybe even their first defensive touchdown of the season.) New England by three touchdowns.

Kansas City (+3.5) at Denver
Last week’s home loss to Tampa Bay established that the Chiefs are frauds. This week’s road loss at Denver will punctuate that point by ending any thought that Kansas City can contend for the division title. Broncos by four.

Green Bay (+3.5) at Philadelphia
A week ago, I was one of those people who had been left wondering what exactly was wrong with the Packers. Today, I don’t much care. I just know that they’re bad, and that’s more than enough. The Eagles aren’t good, mind you, but they’re good enough for this game. Philadelphia by six.

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Week Eleven Picks

November 17th, 2016 Comments off

Dear god, I just keep getting worse.

I wrapped up week ten with records of 8-6 straight up, 6-8 against the spread. Ugh. I guess it could have been a lot worse considering that the favorites went 6-6 straight up, 3-9 against the spread (with two games going off even). But still. Ugh.

I head into week eleven at 87-58-2 (.599) straight up, 66-79-2 (.449) against the spread. Are you impressed by those numbers? Because I’m not.

So, you know, here’s what you really, really shouldn’t expect this week.

New Orleans (+3.5) at Carolina
I don’t know. I guess in a short week I have to take the hideously unbalanced team that’s playing at home over the hideously unbalanced team playing on the road. Right? Carolina by three.

Tennessee (+3) at Indianapolis
If I were smart, I’d take the squad that already took game one of the season series on the road to close it out with a win at home. And that’s how you know I’m not smart. I just think the better team’s got to win one out of two. Titans by four.

Jacksonville (+6.5) at Detroit
One of these teams may accidentally mount a ground attack this week. And that team will be the Lions. Detroit by eight.

Tampa Bay (+7.5) at Kansas City
If the Chiefs are going to be taken seriously, they’re going to need to prove that they can put away aggressively mediocre teams like the Buccaneers. I think they’ll do just that. Kansas City by 10.

Chicago (+7.5) at NY Giants
The Giants aren’t a great team. But the Bears will make them look like one. New Jersey by 13.

Arizona (even) at Minnesota
I don’t think I can confidently pick either of these teams to win. So I’ll take the Vikings to find a way to lose. Again. Arizona by a point.

Buffalo (+2.5) at Cincinnati
I was going to say that neither of these teams is going anywhere, but that’s not really true. The Bills are going home to Buffalo. That should be a treat. But at least they’ll be going there with a win. Buffalo by a field goal.

Baltimore (+7) at Dallas
One suspects the Cowboys may have a tough time getting their running game going against the Baltimore defense. If that’s the case, it’ll be interesting to see how the Dallas offense responds. As long as they can put up 17-20 points, which I expect they will, it should be enough. Given that, you know, Baltimore doesn’t really have an offense. Cowboys by four.

Pittsburgh (-8) at Cleveland
How do you snap a four-game losing streak? Play a team that’s rocking an 11-game losing streak. It’s a pretty solid formula. Steelers by two touchdowns.

Miami (-1.5) at Los Angeles
Well, I suppose Jared Goff was going to have to start running for his life at some point. It’s tough to scheme against a QB without film to study, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dolphins gave up a few big passes early. But they’ll catch up by the second half. Miami by six.

New England (-13) at San Francisco
Assuming Tom Brady finishes his career with the Patriots (not that I’m arguing this is necessarily a safe assumption), this will be the only game he ever plays in his home town against the team he grew up rooting for. That might not mean a whole lot. It might matter more that the Patriots have to be angry at themselves over last weekend’s lackluster loss and looking for a chance to right the ship. And it certainly matters a lot that the 49ers are a hopelessly weak team. Oh, and look at the big three predictive stats: scoring differential, Patriots +9.6; passer rating differential, Patriots +23.0 (that’s completely insane); takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +1. Gronk or no Gronk, New England wins this one by 20-ish.

Philadelphia (+6.5) at Seattle
I don’t think for a second that the Eagles offense is going to be able to overcome the Seahawks D. Seattle wins 19-13.

Green Bay (+2.5) at Washington
I don’t have an ounce of faith in either of these teams. Racists are at home, so I’ll go with them. Washington by a point.

Houston (+5.5) vs. Oakland at Estadio Azteca, Mexico City
I hope the people of Mexico City enjoy offense. Because that’s likely to be all they get in this game. Oakland wins a high-scoring game by a touchdown.

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Week Ten Picks

November 10th, 2016 Comments off

It feels like I’d have to be pretty damned tone deaf to lead off with bashing myself over my performance picking football games in the immediate wake of the American electorate’s miserable failure picking a president. So I’ll just present the W-L numbers straight up. (There’s no electoral college to invert the results here, either, so I’ve got to live with the raw data.)

In week nine, I went 8-5 picking straight up, 6-6-1 against the spread. For the season, that gets me to 79-52-2 (.602) straight up, 60-71-2 (.451) against the spread.

Moving on to week 10, here’s what not to expect.

Cleveland (+10) at Baltimore
If you can beat a team by five points in their building, you ought to be able to beat them by 10 in your own, right? Let’s add a few for the traveling on a short week disadvantage and call it Ravens by 13.

Houston (-1.5) at Jacksonville
There are only two teams in the NFL that have worse giveaway-takeaway differentials than the Texans’ -7. One of them is the Jaguars, who sit at the bottom of the barrel at -12. This is not the stuff good fooball games are made of. These teams that are not nearly so different as you might imagine if all you know is that Houston is leading the AFC South at 5-3 while Jacksonville is in the tank at 2-6. If you’re forced to watch, you should expect to see a sloppy game that ends with one squad or the other falling backward into victory. I guess I’ll take the visitors, since their ineptitude has proven less damaging to this point in the season. Texans by one.

Kansas City (+3) at Carolina
The Chiefs defense leads the league in interceptions with 12. Cam Newton‘s rocking an unimpressive interception percentage of 2.5. Kansas City wins this game by four.

Denver (+1.5) at New Orleans
This makes the second straight week in which the Broncos are on the road facing one of the league’s most productive quarterbacks and one of the league’s highest scoring offenses. They wilted last week. I expect much of the same again, though the Saints D should allow the Broncos at least to keep it a bit more competitive. New Orleans by a field goal.

Los Angeles (+1.5) at NY Jets
Even the Jets aren’t bad enough to lose a home game to the Rams. Probably. I think. New Jersey by three.

Atlanta (even) at Philadelphia
Each of these teams are about as unbalanced  as they come. The Falcons are all offense. The Eagles are all D. That should probably even out as they go head-to-head. But here’s something else to consider: Unbalanced Atlanta has, by and large, overcome better opposition in its six wins than unbalanced Philadelphia has in its four. I think the difference shows in this game. Falcons by six.

Minnesota (+3) at Washington
I can’t jump off the Vikings bandwagon. That’s mostly because I was never on it to begin with. But I still think Minnesota gets off the schneid this week. Vikings by two.

Green Bay (-2.5) at Tennessee
I don’t have any better idea than anyone else of what’s really wrong with the Packers. I know it doesn’t appear to be their run defense. Except, you know, when they face teams with a strong ground game. Titans by a point.

Chicago (even) at Tampa Bay
Check out this expert analysis: It’s a near certainty that one of these teams is just bad enough to lose to the other. You can’t get it that good anywhere else, folks. Home team by three.

Miami (+4) at San Diego
Fresh off three straight wins in Miami (to round out a four-game home stand) the Dolphins get back to losing on the road. Chargers by a touchdown.

San Francisco (+13.5) at Arizona
Let’s see if I have anything interesting to say about this game. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. Nope. I’m empty. Cardinals by 17.

Dallas (+2.5) at Pittsburgh
I have absolutely no doubt that once Ben Roethlisberger is back to full health, the Steelers will be a dangerous team again. But the most recent evidence I have suggests that Roethlisberger isn’t quite there. Dallas by a field goal.

Seattle (+7.5) at New England
The Seahawks, who have managed one win over a good opponent all season (a week six nail-biter at home over Atlanta), travel across the country on six days rest to face the best team in the NFL. And, oh, yeah, the Patriots are coming off their bye. I’m not sure any of that bodes particularly well for Seattle. Neither do the big three predictive stats: Scoring differential, Patriots +3.6; passer rating differential, Patriots +9.8; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +1. I’m not comfortable with the idea of giving more than a touchdown to a team with a defense as strong as the Seahawks’, though, so let’s say New England by six.

Cincinnati (+2.5) at NY Giants
The home team is the better team. I don’t think much more needs to be said. Giants by four.

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Week Nine Picks

November 3rd, 2016 Comments off

Yeah, OK, I’m just not getting any better at this. I don’t have any excuses to offer. I’m just, you know, not making the grade.

Week eight wasn’t a complete disaster for me picking straight up. I came in at 8-4-1 (enough with the ties, already). That probably wouldn’t be good enough to have kept me in the running in your office pool. But I’m not in your office pool, am I? (The other point of good news for me there is that I don’t have to listen to Jeff from accounts receivable talk about his fantasy team. Ever.) That gets me to 71-47-2 (.600) on the season.

Picking against the spread in week eight, I got more evidence that an old college professor (I mean, he wasn’t old; not then, anyhow; he’d be old now, because I’m old and I was a student back then) was probably talking mostly to me when he said, repeatedly, “Gambling is losing.” But here again, my cheapness compensates for my stupidity, as no actual bets were placed to make me truly regret my 6-7 finish. And that brings me to a very impressive record of 54-65-1 (.454) for the season.

Let’s have a look at what not to expect in week nine, shall we?

Atlanta (-4) at Tampa Bay
Predicted kickoff to punt ratio in this game: 12/2. The scoreboard operator gets a workout and Atlanta comes out ahead by six.

Jacksonville (+7.5) at Kansas City
I’m not sure these teams belong in the same league, let alone the same stadium. A defensive touchdown transforms a strong Kansas City victory into a blowout. Chiefs by 23.

Detroit (+6) at Minnesota
Six is a lot to give in a divisional game. Two weeks ago, that might not have seemed like a huge factor to me. The Lions can’t stop the pass. And Detroit hasn’t won a road game since week one. But then the Vikings went and fell apart a little bit. So now here I am, thinking six points is a lot to give in a divisional game. Don’t get me wrong; the Vikings are winning this game. I just think maybe four points makes more sense than six.

Philadelphia (+2.5) at NY Giants
The Giants ought to win this game. They’re coming off a bye. They’re hosting a division rival that’s playing its second straight game on the road, the first of which was a tough loss in OT to another division foe. And if they’re going to stay alive in the wild card race (Dallas is winning the NFC East title), the Giants need to win games like this. Those factors should be enough for New Jersey to get the job done. But, you know, I just don’t see it. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I have to view the Giants as an incomplete team. Can’t run the ball. Can’t hold on to the ball. Can’t score. That combination’s a problem. Eagles by a field goal.

Dallas (-7) at Cleveland
I feel fairly confident predicting that this game will not go into extra innings. (Neither is either team likely to be up 3-1 at any point.) Dallas by 10.

NY Jets (+3.5) at Miami
The Dolphins may yet turn out to be the second best team in the AFC East. Not a close second, mind you. But second. Miami by three.

Pittsburgh (even) at Baltimore
The Ravens have yet to beat a good team this season. I don’t see that changing here, regardless of whether Ben Roethlisberger plays. Pittsburgh by four.

New Orleans (-3.5) at San Francisco
The over/under on this game is set at 52.5. I suspect that may be a tad low. Saints 38, 49ers 27.

Carolina (-3) at Los Angeles
I hope the Rams defense is nice to Cam Newton so he doesn’t have to tell the commissioner on them. Or maybe everyone could just play football. Panthers by six.

Indianapolis (+7.5) at Green Bay
Hey, Super Bowl preview right here. Oh, wait. You say the Colts are … what? Terrible? Barely capable of getting by bad teams? The Packers, on the other hand, have proven quite good at getting by bad teams. I’ll go with solidly mediocre (and possibly still capable of more) at home over solidly in the mix for a top 10 draft pick. Packers by nine.

Tennessee (+5) at San Diego
The Chargers aren’t great at anything. In fact, they aren’t even good at many things. But they do pretty OK with stopping the run. San Diego by a touchdown.

Denver (even) at Oakland
The Raiders are legitimately pretty damned good for a change. Or at least they’re pretty damned good on offense. But good enough to overcome the Broncos D? Not so much. And Oakland’s weak enough on the other side of the ball that you can expect Denver to put up some points. Oakland keeps it close, but Denver comes out with a win. By a field goal.

Buffalo (-7) at Seattle
As uneven a season as it’s been for them, the Seahawks have managed to overcome the Dolphins and Jets. One is inclined to anticipate they’ll achieve similar results as they round out their series against the three lesser AFC East teams. (Next week’s opponent may present rather more of a challenge.) Seahawks by six.

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