Archive for October, 2017

Week Eight Picks

October 26th, 2017 Comments off

Week seven’s results were the very definition of a mixed back for me. I went 12-3 picking straight up, 5-8-2 against the spread.

Even with exactly zero dollars wagered, that ATS result is pretty painful.

Of course, I’m going to keep on trying, because … well, mostly because I wager exactly zero dollars and I really have no pride left to lose. But at some point, I think I’m really going to have to figure out what I think about these games with the points and then pick the exact opposite.

For the nonce, I stand at 63-43 (.594) straight up and 48-54-4 (.472) against the spread through the first seven weeks of the season. I’m eager to see what I can do to move farther in the wrong direction.

Here’s what not to expect in week eight.

Miami (+3) at Baltimore
Neither of these teams is very good. But only one of them is not very good and playing on the road on short rest. As long as the Ravens manage to hold on to the ball, they should be able to come out on top by at least four.

Minnesota (-9.5) vs. Cleveland at Twickenham Stadium, London
The Browns score fewer than 15 points a game and allow 24. The Vikings give up 17 and score 20. Adjusting for the time difference and allowing for the continued devaluation of the pound, I’ve got the Vikings winning 27-0.

Chicago (+9) at New Orleans
I hope the folks in charge of music at the Superdome will be paying tribute to Fats Domino on Sunday. That, at least, would keep things interesting, which is something I can’t imagine the Bears are capable of pulling off.  Saints by three turnovers and at least 14 points.

Atlanta (-4.5) at NY Jets
With this game, the Falcons wrap up four straight against AFC East opponents. They’re 0-3 going in. I suspect they’ll come out at 1-3. But I don’t expect them to have an easy time getting there. Atlanta by a point.

Carolina (+2) at Tampa Bay
Yeah, the Panthers are inconsistent. But the Bucs have yet this season to beat even an average team. And I don’t see anything in this matchup that leads me to believe Tampa will beat an average team here, either. Carolina by three.

San Francisco (+13) at Philadelphia
Trap game my ass. Eagles by 20.

Oakland (+2.5) at Buffalo
I’m not ready to buy into the “Bills to the postseason” narrative. Not yet. Maybe I will be if Buffalo can win this game by a margin greater than the three or four points I’m expecting.

Indianapolis (+10.5) at Cincinnati
I don’t know which of these teams is more awful. But the Bengals are at home. And they at least manage to pretend to have a defense from time to time. So, sure, Cincinnati by eight.

LA Chargers (+7) at New England
The Patriots defense may be able to adjust to playing without Dont’a Hightower, but that adjustment isn’t going to happen quickly. New England is off in week nine, which should at least give the Patriots a chance to adjust their strategy and personnel. And heading into the bye with a home game against an overrated, one-dimensional opponent should help. Look for New England to come out firing, build an early lead, then control the tempo of the game (and keep their defense off the field) with the run. Patriots by 10.

Houston (+5.5) at Seattle
The Texans might be able to keep it close. Or they might not. Considering they’re playing in Seattle a rookie quarterback, I’m leaning toward not. Seahawks by nine.

Dallas (-2) at Washington
With the NFC East having been effectively settled on Monday night, this game is about which team gets to hold onto the hope of capturing a wild card berth. The short week for the Racists negates home field and opens the door for the Cowboys to win a close one. Dallas by a point.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Detroit
If Ben Roethlisberger throws two (or more) interceptions, this game belongs to the Lions. But I don’t see that happening. Pittsburgh by a field goal.

Denver (+7) at Kansas City
The Broncos are in the middle of a brutal stretch. This is the second of three straight road games. They started the trip with a devastating loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles. They finish their tour next week in Philadelphia. And then they get to host the Patriots, who will be rested from their bye week. (And, of course, the Broncos went into the whole thing fresh off a loss to the Giants suffered at home while Denver was coming off their bye week.) If Denver can’t find a way to win this game, they’re very likely cooked. I think they’re cooked. Kansas City by 10.

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Week Seven Picks

October 21st, 2017 Comments off

Well, I underestimated the Raiders — overestimated the Chiefs? both? — and now I find myself starting week seven in an 0-1 hole both straight up and against the spread.

That bodes well, doesn’t it?

Here’s what not to expect on Sunday and Monday.

Tennessee (-6) at Cleveland
One might think a team that went 1-15 in 2016 had bottomed out. The Browns seem determined to belie that notion. Tennessee by 10.

Jacksonville (-3.5) at Indianapolis
The Colts can’t score and can’t stop opponents from scoring. I’m pretty sure that’s a bad combination. Add in an inability to hold on to the ball and you’ve got real problems when you have to face the Jaguars. Jacksonville by six.

Cincinnati (+5.5) at Pittsburgh
Even when the Bengals are playing well, they have trouble with the Steelers. And the Bengals are not playing well this season. Pittsburgh by a touchdown.

Baltimore (+5.5) at Minnesota
The Ravens have been undone this season by their defense’s inability to stop the run and their quarterback’s poor play. Those factors killed the Ravens in their own building against the Bears a week ago. I can’t see how they don’t take a similar toll in Minnesota this weekend. Vikings by 10.

NY Jets (+3) at Miami
Remember how last week people were talking about how the Jets were playing the Patriots for first place in the AFC East? That’s pretty funny, huh? This week, the Jets get to solidify their position at the bottom of the AFC East standings with a narrow loss to the Dolphins. Miami by a point.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Buffalo
The Bills are rested. The Bucs are hurt. Buffalo by four.

Carolina (-3) at Chicago
Can the Bears pull off an upset victory for a second straight week? Only if the Panthers leave their run defense in Charlotte. Carolina by six.

New Orleans (-4.5) at Green Bay
I’m certain that Brett Hundley‘s going to be able to do enough in the Packers offense to win his fair share of games. But winning this one would take a contribution from the Green Bay defense that I have no reason to believe is a real possibility. New Orleans by seven.

Arizona (+3.5) vs. LA Rams at Twickenham Stadium, London
It started to look last week like the Cardinals had solved their offensive line troubles. If that’s the case, this is a tougher game for the Rams than one might think. I’m still not certain the Arizona offense can keep up, though. So I’ll take Los Angeles. But I probably wouldn’t give more than a point and I certainly wouldn’t give as much as three and a half.

Dallas (-6) at San Francisco
I don’t see the Cowboys pulling themselves out of the middle of the pack this season. But neither do I see the 49ers pulling themselves off the bottom. Dallas by four.

Seattle (-5) at NY Giants
Home field gives New Jersey a chance to make this game competitive. But I suspect Seattle still finds a way to come out on top. Seahawks by a field goal.

Denver (+1) at LA Chargers
The first of three straight road games for the Broncos is the most winnable of the lot. If Denver keeps the ball on the ground, I think they come out ahead. Broncos by a point.

Atlanta (+3.5) at New England
One gets the feeling that if the Falcons can’t find a way to win this game, their season is likely to spiral out of control quickly. Atlanta comes in on the heels of two consecutive home losses to lesser AFC East opponents (Buffalo and Miami), the latter of which saw them blow a 17-point halftime lead even after having had an extra week to prepare. If they make it three straight while simultaneously failing to exorcise the demons that have lingered since their collapse in Super Bowl LI, the Falcons could end up in a situation where there’s no way for them to regain their confidence. The good news for Atlanta is that New England is beatable. The Patriots already have lost two home games this season. And while the New England defense has looked less horrifyingly bad over the team’s last two games than it did over its first four, it hasn’t exactly turned into a shutdown unit. This game looks like another shootout in the making for the Patriots. And while I expect the Patriots to be able to do just enough to win, yet again, against the Falcons highly suspect D, I’m not foolish enough to believe that the Pats are likely to log a victory that’s either comfortable or convincing. New England by a point.

Washington (-4.5) at Philadelphia
With a win here, the Eagles effectively wrap up the NFC East title. Philadelphia by seven.

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Week Seven Thursday Night Pick

October 19th, 2017 Comments off

Another week, another instance of me not being able to finish my picks before the Thursday night game kicks off.

And, you know, it’s not like the extra time’s helping any. I went 7-7 both straight up and against the spread in week six. I’d say it doesn’t get much worse than that, but then it would. Gets me to 51-40 (.560) straight up, 43-46-2 (.484) against the spread for the season.

With that in mind, you might actually think I would start thinking about these games a lot less. I could probably do better just straight up guessing. But that wouldn’t be much fun for me. Think I’ll stick with my hopelessly misguided “thoughts.”

Here’s what not to expect tonight.

Kansas City (-3) at Oakland
Coming in to this game 2-4 overall and 0-2 in division play, the Raiders simply cannot afford to suffer a home loss to the AFC West-leading Chiefs. One might not go so far as to say losing here would end Oakland’s season, but it certainly would eliminate them from realistic contention for a division title. Unfortunately for the Raiders, who haven’t beaten the Chiefs since 2014, Oakland simply isn’t in a position to pull off the upset even with the advantage of playing at home on a short week. I think it’s a competitive game through at least three quarters, but I expect Kansas City to come out ahead by a touchdown.

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Week Six Picks (post Thursday night)

October 14th, 2017 Comments off

I suppose I should be feeling pretty confident right now. You know, considering that I correctly predicted not only that there would be an upset on Thursday night, but how the upset would happen.

Thing is, I know what really happened is that I fell as backward, as I do from time to time, into creating the illusion that I know what I’m talking about.

Now here come 13 games guaranteed to bring the truth back to light.

That is to say, here’s what not to expect in the rest of week six.

Cleveland (+9.5) at Houston
The Texans are almost certainly too banged up to have any real hope of salvaging their season. But no team is banged up enough to lose to the Browns. Houston by 14.

New England (-9.5) at NY Jets
There’s no reason the Patriots shouldn’t win this game. New Jersey’s offense is completely inept. So even with the advantage of facing the New England D, they should only be able to rise to the level of average. And the Jets have no run defense, which should give the Patriots an opportunity to protect Tom Brady (for a change) by not forcing him to carry the offense. So, yeah, the Patriots, who come in on 10 days rest, not only should win this game, but should win it handily. But winning handily doesn’t seem to interest New England this season. And division games are always closer than they ought to be. So I’m thinking Patriots by seven (and expecting the Jets to have the ball with a chance to force overtime in the closing minutes only to fall just short).

Miami (+12.5) at Atlanta
I’ve got a hunch the Dolphins complete lack of an offense might present a problem here. Atlanta by 17.

Detroit (+4) at New Orleans
I’m taking the Saints because they’re at home. But I think the only safe bet on this game is the over (somehow the line is only 50). New Orleans by a field goal.

Green Bay (-3) at Minnesota
The line feels about right to me on this one. The Packers are the better team, certainly. But playing at home with their ability to stay competitive within the division on the line, I think the Vikings should be able to make it interesting. Packers win it straight up. It’s a push with the points.

Chicago (+6.5) at Baltimore
The Ravens still have some stuff to figure out. But not nearly as much as the Bears. Baltimore by 10.

San Francisco (+11) at Washington
Everything the Niners still need to figure out they need to figure out for next season. Washington by nine.

LA Rams (+2.5) at Jacksonville
Like pretty much everyone else, I have almost no idea what to make of either of these teams. And that means I have no idea what to make of this game. For the moment, I’m thinking the Jags control the game on the ground and come away with a narrow victory. Jacksonville by a point.

Tampa Bay (-1.5) at Arizona
If the Cardinals pull off a win here, it won’t have anything to do with trading for an overconfident retread running back. It’ll have to do with getting healthier along their O line. Arizona by three.

Pittsburgh (+4.5) at Kansas City
Even if he’s going to have a career season (and it looks for all the world like that’s inevitable), I continue to believe that Alex Smith at some point is going to tick down a bit from the dazzling stats he’s put up so far this season. And even if Ben Roethlisberger is going to have one of the worst seasons of his career (I’m not at all sure that’s a given quite yet), odds are he’ll eventually pull himself up a bit from where he’s been to date. The former may start to happen this week. The latter likely will not. Chiefs by six.

LA Chargers (+5.5) at Oakland
The Raiders have Derek Carr back. That should probably be enough. For this week. Oakland by a field goal.

NY Giants (+12) at Denver
Do the Giants even have enough semi-healthy bodies to field a team? Broncos by 20.

Indianapolis (+5.5) at Tennessee
Two teams without a starting quarterback or a defense between them. This could be … um, let’s say intriguing. Titans by a point.

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Week Six Thursday Night Pick

October 12th, 2017 Comments off

For the second straight week, I need to isolate my pick on the Thursday night game, because there’s just no way I’m finishing the rest before kickoff.

Of course, I might ask myself why I even bother. Last week’s results suggest I might be better off flipping a damned coin. I finished a horrible 6-8 straight up in week five. I was slightly better picking with the points, but 7-5-2 isn’t exactly the kind of thing one wants to be seen thumping ones chest about.

For the season, I’m now 44-33 (.571) straight up, 36-39-2 (.468) against the spread.

Let’s see if I can’t start making things worse right away this week. Here’s what not to expect in Charlotte.

Philadelphia (+3) at Carolina
No one ever plays well on Thursday night. And in a fairly evenly matched game with the prospect of sloppy play running high, the smart thing to do is to take the team that didn’t have to travel on short rest. But, you know, I look at these teams and I like the Philly defense, particularly their ability to create turnovers. So I’m looking for the upset here. Eagles by three.

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Week Five Picks (post Thursday night)

October 6th, 2017 Comments off

Well, so far so average.

I managed to peg the winner of the Thursday night game straight up. And outcome was a push with the five points Tampa Bay was getting. So, you know, there was no getting that one wrong (or right).

I guess I’ll take it.

Here’s what not to expect from this week’s remaining games.

LA Chargers (+3.5) at NY Giants
These two teams are pretty much identical, right down to their 0-4 records. In this type of situation you look for the home team not to lose. Giants by three.

Buffalo (+3) at Cincinnati
The Bills may or may not turn out to be for real. But until I see clear evidence to the contrary, I’m going to be of the opinion that Buffalo’s a lot closer to real than Cincinnati. Bills by six.

NY Jets (+1) at Cleveland
Um … um … um … . Hmmm. Yeah, I’ve got nothing. Jets, I guess. Maybe by a field goal?

Jacksonville (+8.5) at Pittsburgh
You can’t lose to the Jets in New Jersey one week, then turn around and beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh the next. I don’t think you can, anyhow. I mean, right? Except, you know, the Jaguars probably will. But I’m not picking that. Steelers by a touchdown.

Tennessee (-3) at Miami
Know what the Dolphins do well? Nothing, really. Titans by four.

San Francisco (+1.5) at Indianapolis
It’s fairly easy to take advantage of the Colts’ horrendous defense. If you have an offense. Too bad for the Niners. Indy by three.

Arizona (+6.5) at Philadelphia
I don’t know how long the Eagles are going to be able to maintain the success they’ve had over the first quarter of the season. But I don’t think a one-dimensional squad like the Cardinals poses much of a threat. Philadelphia by nine.

Carolina (+2.5) at Detroit
A second straight road game and an opponent with an actual defense is not a formula for a Carolina win. Lions by six.

Seattle (+1) at LA Rams
It just doesn’t seem like this is the Seahawks’ year, does it? Of course, it won’t ultimately be the Rams’ year either unless they grow a defense. But that’s a matter for another day. Los Angeles by seven.

Baltimore (+2.5) at Oakland
The Raiders might still be an average-ish football team even without Derek Carr behind center. And average-ish seems to be all it takes to handle the sputtering Ravens this season. Raiders by one takeaway and one point.

Green Bay (+2.5) at Dallas
The Packers haven’t been so great at stopping the run this season. That could potentially be a problem in this game. But I don’t think it’ll be enough of a problem to cost Green Bay a win. Packers by three.

Kansas City (-1) at Houston
Traveling on a short week after a hard-fought win in Washington Monday night could make this matchup a difficult one for the Chiefs. I’m reluctant to pick against Kansas City, a team that has earned its status as the NFL’s last undefeated team. But I think I’m going to take a chance here. Texans by a point.

Minnesota (-3) at Chicago
I’m sure Mitchell Trubisky‘s going to do just fine. Eventually. Vikings by a touchdown.

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Week Five Thursday Night Pick

October 5th, 2017 Comments off

First time I’ve had to do this in 2017.

I’m not wrapping up my picks before the Thursday night kickoff. It’s just been that kind of week.

I had my usual glorious outing in week four, finishing 11-5 straight up (not thoroughly awful, I suppose), 7-9 against the spread (pretty thoroughly awful there). For the young season, that gets me to 38-25 (.603) straight up, 29-34 (.460) against the spread.

Let’s if I can avoid making things worse for at least one night.

New England (-5) at Tampa Bay
This game features the two best quarterbacks in the NFL: Tom Brady and whoever’s facing the New England defense. It really is that bad right now. Not only have the Patriots allowed 32 points on average through their first four games, but their defensive passer rating is a league-worst 116.5. Given those facts, it’s pretty astonishing — and, really, a tribute to Brady, who is playing perhaps the best football of his career — that the team sits at 2-2 right now. You shouldn’t be able to win games playing defense that poorly. You also shouldn’t be able to win games when your O line consistently allows defenders into the backfield. What Brady has accomplished so far this season becomes even more astonishing when you consider that he’s been sacked 13 times on 116 drops back (7.7%), and hurried or hit a good bit more still. None of the Patriots success is sustainable without something changing. And it’s incredibly unlikely that the team has been able to solve its defensive and O line problems (or, you know, the continuing issues with special teams) in the four days since they fell to the mighty Carolina Panthers in Foxborough, their second home loss of the season. So, yeah, giving five seems like a bit of stretch, doesn’t it? I mean, depending on where you’re sitting, a straight-up win by a struggling squad traveling on short rest might seem like a bit of a stretch. I think if you’re rooting for the Pats, you have to look at the fact that the Buccaneers defense through its first three games managed just a single sack on 128 drops back by opposing quarterbacks. If they can’t improve on that, Brady and company might be able to put up 42. And that might make keeping up too much even for the second best quarterback in football, Jameis Winston. I’m taking New England, but I’m not sure I’d give three, let alone five.

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