Archive for December, 2017

Week Seventeen Picks

December 30th, 2017 Comments off

I don’t think I can mess up my straight-up picking record for the season too badly.

I don’t think.

With a 13-3 week 16 under my belt, I’m now at 166-74 (.692) on the season. That points to a pretty good finish even if I manage to totally Browns out (go 0-16) in the regular season’s final set of games.

Against the spread? Yeah, uh, different story there. I was a miserable 5-9-2 in week 16, which lands me at 116-111-13 (.510). I feel pretty good about my chances of landing at below 50% when all’s said and done.

Here’s what not to expect on the last Sunday of 2017.

Green Bay (+6.5) at Detroit
Let’s figure the Lions don’t want to end their season to a chorus of boos from the home fans. And let’s figure that gives one of these teams something resembling motivation to play sort of hard. Detroit by four.

NY Jets (+15.5) at New England
I can’t say for absolute certain, but I’ve got a hunch the Jets actually may not end up winning the Super Bowl this season. But no worries; I’m sure they’ll win it all sometime between March 14 and April 26. As usual. New England takes its foot off the gas in the fourth quarter and still comes out two touchdowns ahead.

Houston (+5) at Indianapolis
The Colts are less bad than the beat-up Texans, I suppose. And the Colts are at home and all. So, I guess let’s go with Indianapolis by a field goal.

Cleveland (+7) at Pittsburgh
I’ve got this feeling the Steelers could decide to give the whole damned team the day off and the Browns would still find a way to lose this game. Pittsburgh by six.

Washington (-3) at NY Giants
You know who actually cares a lot about this game? I mean, I’m actually asking, because I can’t name one person. If you can, ask them how they think it’s gonna come out. I’m just gonna say Washington. By four.

Chicago (+12) at Minnesota
With a win here, the Vikings wouldn’t just lock up the NFC two seed and a first-round bye. Given the extreme likelihood that the Eagles are going to bow in the the divisional round, Minnesota would also have a chance not only to host the conference championship, but to become the first team ever to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Minnesota by 17.

Dallas (-3) at Philadelphia
The Eagles, having wrapped up the top seeding in the NFC, have nothing to play for. And with abundant reason for Philadelphia to rest starters, it’s hard to imagine Dallas doesn’t find a way to win. Cowboys by five.

Cincinnati (+9.5) at Baltimore
I’m going to start out by cutting and pasting what I wrote about Baltimore last week (adding one link): “The Ravens will be riding a four-game win streak when they show up in Foxborough for the divisional round of the playoffs, having wrapped up their regular season with wins over the Browns in Cleveland, and the Colts and Bengals at home, then knocked off the Chiefs on wild card weekend. And certain Patriots fans are going to freak out, because they honestly believe the Ravens are possessed of some anti-Pats magic. Should be a fun week; I’m really looking forward to it.” And now for a little something new (well, not actually new, but not from my pick of last week’s Ravens game): The Bengals are really, really terrible. Baltimore by 20.

Buffalo (-2.5) at Miami
The Bills can still earn a playoff berth. They just need a win and a ton of help, most of which they’re incredibly unlikely to get. And, you know, I’m not even confident they can get the win. I’ll still pick Buffalo, mainly because all Miami would get out of a victory is a slightly lower spot in the draft order. But I’m not inclined to give more than a point.

Carolina (+3.5) at Atlanta
If I know the Saints aren’t losing to the Buccaneers and you know the Saints aren’t losing to the Buccaneers (and the Buccaneers know the Saints aren’t losing to the Buccaneers) what are the odds the Panthers don’t know the Saints aren’t losing to the Buccaneers? Carolina’s the five seed no matter what happens in this game. I expect them to ease up just enough for the Falcons to make it three NFC South teams in the tournament. Atlanta by three.

New Orleans (-7) at Tampa Bay
See Carolina at Atlanta immediately above. Saints by 19.

Jacksonville (+3) at Tennessee
The Jaguars are in a tough position. It’s probably in their best interest to lose this game in order to ensure that they get a rematch with the Titans back in Jacksonville next week rather than having to face the Chargers in the wild card round. It’s certainly in their best interest to show the Titans nothing of what they’re likely to see in a meaningful meeting next week. But at the same time, they probably don’t want to simply lie down and take a loss. What the Jags want next week is an overconfident Titans team, not an angry one. So I expect Jacksonville will figure out how to look like they’re trying and still end up losing by a touchdown.

Oakland (+8) at LA Chargers
The NFL should schedule a special Monday night game January 8 in which the Chargers and Seahawks battle for the title of best team to miss the playoffs. Los Angeles by 10.

Arizona (+9.5) at Seattle
See Oakland at LA Chargers immediately above. Seahawks by nine.

Kansas City (+3.5) at Denver
Locked into the four seed, the Chiefs have nothing to play for. The Broncos, on the other hand, just plain old have nothing. Denver by a point.

San Francisco (-3.5) at LA Rams
I don’t know. If I were the Rams, I think I’d rather catch the Falcons than the Panthers in the wild card round. But clearly the Rams don’t feel that way. 49ers by a touchdown.

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Week Sixteen Picks

December 23rd, 2017 Comments off

My week 15 started out rough (I was 1-2 both straight up and against the spread from Thursday through Saturday) but ended up OK.

I finished the weekend 14-2 straight up and 8-6-2 with the points. I can live with that.

I can also live with my results on the season so far: 153-71 (.683) straight up and 111-102-11 (.520) against the spread.

And that contentment can only mean that the pigskin Grinch is on his way to steal my last can of Who-hash.

Here’s what not to expect in week 16.

Indianapolis (+13.5) at Baltimore
The Ravens will be riding a four-game win streak when they show up in Foxborough for the divisional round of the playoffs, having wrapped up their regular season with wins over the Browns in Cleveland, and the Colts and Bengals at home, then knocked off the Chiefs on wild card weekend. And certain Patriots fans are going to freak out, because they honestly believe the Ravens are possessed of some anti-Pats magic. Should be a fun week; I’m really looking forward to it. Oh, yeah, and in the meantime, Baltimore airs its grievances against Indianapolis with a Festivus beatdown. Ravens by 21.

Minnesota (-9) at Green Bay
Shutting down Aaron Rodgers for the season once they’d been officially eliminated from postseason contention absolutely, unquestionably was the right move for the Packers. But at the same time, you can’t raise the white flag on Tuesday and expect your team to come out and fight for a win on Saturday. The Vikings would have won by four if the Packers had been trying. In this context, the margin moves to 10 or better.

Detroit (-4) at Cincinnati
I think there’s a pretty decent chance the Lions make the tournament as the NFC six seed. The Bengals, on the other hand, are well past done. Detroit by six.

LA Chargers (-7) at NY Jets
The Chargers next loss comes in Jacksonville two weeks from now. Los Angeles by six.

LA Rams (-6.5) at Tennessee
If the playoffs started today, both of these teams would be in. When the playoffs actually start two weeks from today, just one of these teams will be in. The one that belongs there. Rams by nine.

Cleveland (+6.5) at Chicago
There’s no real reason to believe the Browns can win this game. Just a nagging sense that 0-16 is incredibly hard to achieve. And still, I think 0-16 is in the cards. Chicago by four.

Tampa Bay (+10) at Carolina
The Panthers still have a shot at the division. The Bucs have a solid shot at a top 5 draft pick. Carolina by 13.

Atlanta (+5.5) at New Orleans
When these teams came together in Atlanta two weeks ago, the Falcons were able to leverage home field on a Thursday night and pull of a three-point victory. With no such advantage to be exploited here, Atlanta suffers the first of two straight losses that ultimately drop the Falcons out of the postseason. Saints by a field goal.

Denver (+3.5) at Washington
The Racists are at least marginally better than the Broncos. And they’re at home. So, sure, why not? Washington by six.

Miami (+10.5) at Kansas City
I don’t expect the Chiefs to have much success in the postseason, but they’ll be fine until the end of December. Kansas City by two touchdowns.

Buffalo (+12) at New England
The last meeting between these two teams came in the middle of a brutal stretch that saw New England playing five of six games on the road. This one comes as the Patriots settle into a home stand looking that they hope will run through the AFC playoffs. The Patriots make a big statement while the Bills take a big step toward the offseason. Patriots by 17.

Jacksonville (-4) at San Francisco
I’ve been as impressed as anyone with what Jimmy Garoppolo has been able to accomplish since taking over as the starter in San Francisco. But, um, let’s be realistic, OK? Jacksonville by 10.

NY Giants (+3.5) at Arizona
I just hope for the sake of all the wide-eyed little kids out there that Santa doesn’t get too caught up watching this game for the ages to start his route on time. Cardinals by three.

Seattle (+5) at Dallas
I’m not sure either of these teams is going to be playing two weeks from now. But a win here at least gives the Cowboys a solid chance, especially if the Eagles can lock up home field on Monday night, which would give them nothing to play for when Dallas travels to Philadelphia next weekend. I suspect Dallas gets the job done, though it would be very un-Seahawks-like for Seattle not to go down fighting. Cowboys by three.

Pittsburgh (-9.5) at Houston
The Steelers have shown signs this week that they’re having a hard time moving on from their heartbreaking loss to the Patriots on Sunday. I won’t be surprised if that gives way to a slow start for Pittsburgh in this game. But the Texans are so weak and in such disarray that I can’t believe it matters in the end. Pittsburgh by a touchdown.

Oakland (+9) at Philadelphia
I don’t expect anything to be settled for either of these teams on Saturday or Sunday. So I do expect the game to go to the more balanced team that’s also playing at home and playing for a result it can achieve all by itself. Philadelphia by six.

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Week Fifteen Sunday and Monday Picks

December 17th, 2017 Comments off

I’m not off to such a great start with week 15.

Three games in, I’m 1-2 both straight up and against the spread.

Let’s see how much worse it can get.

Here’s what not to expect in the remaining 13 games.

Philadelphia (-7.5) at NY Giants
I think there’s a decent chance the loss of Carson Wentz doesn’t catch up with the Eagles until mid-January. I’m confident it won’t catch up with them this week. The Giants run defense is so bad, I’m not sure Nick Foles will actually need to attempt a pass. Still, it’s a division game. So let’s say Philadelphia by just a touchdown.

Green Bay (+3) at Carolina
The return of Aaron Rodgers makes this one interesting. But even if Rodgers were completely healed, I’m not sure I’d see the point of bringing him back at this point in a season. I just don’t see a path to the playoffs for Green Bay. Or a path to a win here. Panthers by a field goal.

Cincinnati (+10.5) at Minnesota
The Vikings are two wins away from a first round bye, and perhaps three wins away from clinching home field advantage through the NFC playoffs. They should have no trouble getting one of those wins here. Minnesota by 17.

Miami (+3.5) at Buffalo
The Dolphins won their Super Bowl on Monday night when they caught the Patriots short handed and sleepwalking. The Bills are pushing for a spot in the actual postseason. I think it adds up to the Bills coming out ahead by a touchdown in a game they might otherwise have needed to dig deep to win by a point.

Houston (+11) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars started turning heads by stomping on the Texans in Houston way back in week one. I expect them to make it clear that they aren’t just kidding with yet another beatdown here. Jacksonville by 21.

NY Jets (+15.5) at New Orleans
YepThe only way the Jets are getting another win before September is if the Patriots end up locked into a seeding and give them a gift in week 17. They’re certainly not likely to compete with a Saints team that’s in a battle for the NFC South title and in the hunt for a first-round bye. New Orleans goes to the ground after building a comfortable lead and as a result wins by “only” 18.

Arizona (+4.5) at Washington
Bad news: If you care about this game or either of the teams involved in it, you’ve already lost. Racists by three.

Baltimore (-7) at Cleveland
The Browns have two more chances this season to avoid an 0-16 finish. They could conceivably pull off an organic win next week in Chicago. Or they could get a gift in week 17 when they visit the Steelers — if Pittsburgh is locked in to a postseason seeding by then and takes half the game off. One might note that I didn’t discuss the possibility of a Browns win here in their final home game of the 2017 campaign. That’s because there is no such possibility. The Ravens take the first of three easy steps toward a postseason berth with a win by a margin of at least 20.

LA Rams (+2.5) at Seattle
With a win here, the Rams can move on from contenders for most improved NFC team to serious contenders for the conference championship. I think Los Angeles logs a pair of key takeaways and makes the magic happen. Rams by two.

New England (-3) at Pittsburgh
Another huge game in which I think turnovers make the difference. That accords a slight advantage to the Patriots. New England by seven.

Tennessee (-3) at San Francisco
The Titans can prove nothing by winning this game. But they can disprove just about everything by losing it. Too bad for them. 49ers by six.

Dallas (-3) at Oakland
It’s the end of the road for the Raiders, who haven’t been able to get out of their own way all season. Cowboys by four.

Atlanta (-6) at Tampa Bay
The Falcons may well end up missing the tournament. They’re almost certainly not going to make it out of the wild card round. And they may actually get a bit of a scare here. But I don’t see them losing. Atlanta by three.

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Week Fifteen Saturday Picks

December 16th, 2017 Comments off

I guess I’m down to doing this week in chunks.

Hopefully today’s chunk works out better for me than Thursday night’s did.

Here’s what not to expect.

Chicago (+5) at Detroit
The 7-6 Lions don’t have an easy path to the postseason. In fact, they probably don’t have any realistic path. But they have at least some hope. And that, combined with the fact that the Lions are the better team in this match (though not by nearly so much as one might imagine), and the home team, points to a Detroit victory here. Let’s say by a touchdown.

LA Chargers (-1) at Kansas City
It’s not that this may be the AFC West championship. It’s that it is the AFC West championship. And more than that. Not only is the winner likely to end up hosting a first round game as the conference four seed; the loser stands an excellent chance of missing the postseason entirely. Both teams come in at 7-6. The Chiefs have the head-to-head advantage, having taken the first round of the season series in Los Angeles back in week three. But the Chargers have been surging while the Chiefs have been fading. Neither team has a particularly tough schedule over the last two weeks of the season, so it’s unlikely the loser here catches up. And it appears highly unlikely that the AFC West is going to send two teams to the playoffs. So here it is. Win or walk out the final two weeks and then go home. If the Chiefs can keep it close, focus on the run game, and come out ahead in the turnover battle, they should be able to pull off a narrow victory. But if the Chargers go up by more than a touchdown at any point in the game, it’s over. I think the latter scenario is more likely than the former. Chargers by nine.

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Week Fifteen Thursday Night

December 14th, 2017 Comments off

I decided since this is the last week of the season that starts with a Thursday night game, it would be wrong to pass up my final opportunity not to finish all of my picks on time.

I’m coming off a pretty terrible week 14. I went 8-8 straight up, 9-7 against the spread, all of which lands me at 139-69 (.668) straight up and 103-96-9 (.517) against the spread so far this season.

Here’s what not to expect out of tonight’s awful game.

Denver (-2.5) at Indianapolis
I suppose if the Broncos were able to beat up on the Jets on Sunday, they ought to be able beat up on the Colts tonight, right? I mean, right? But you know what, maybe not. Maybe not being able to hold on to the ball isn’t so bad at home against New Jersey, but it hurts you when you have to travel on short rest. That’s what I’m thinking anyhow. Colts by three.

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Week Fourteen Picks

December 7th, 2017 Comments off

My week thirteen results aren’t anything I’m likely to thump my chest about, but they were certainly respectable.

I pegged 12 out of 16 game winners straight up and went 9-6-1 against the spread. I can live with that.

The football gods, on the other hand, probably aren’t terribly thrilled. I’m sure they don’t care for seeing me feeling somewhat comfortable with myself at 131-61 (.682) straight up and 94-89-9 (.513) against the spread three quarters of the way through the season. Accordingly, I’m also sure they’ve got some awful fate in store for me.

Here then is what to expect the exact opposite of in week fourteen.

New Orleans (-1.5) at Atlanta
One can say, as many have, that they Falcons absolutely have to win this game if they want to keep pace with the other NFC teams jockeying for a postseason berth. And it’s certainly true. A loss here, among other things, would all but officially put the NFC South out of reach and reduce the Falcons’ hopes to landing the six seed, maybe the five. But I would posit that this game is considerably bigger than that. The Falcons have to know that if they can’t win with the Saints traveling to Atlanta on short rest, there’s little hope they’re going to reverse that outcome in New Orleans two weeks from now. And that’s to say that a loss here would put the Falcons on track for a 9-7 finish at best. With the Panthers and Seahawks both headed for 10-6, nine wins means an early start to the off-season. So Atlanta has home field on a Thursday night, which is big, plus whatever edge may actually come from needing the win more. Is that going to be enough? I don’t know. But if the Falcons are able to avoid committing turnovers in big spots (or maybe in any spots), I think it just might be. The Saints are the better team, but the Falcons find a way to win this game by three.

Detroit (-1) at Tampa Bay
Neither of these teams is very good. But the Lions are at least pretty average, and I sort of suspect that gives them the edge here. Detroit by four.

Chicago (+6) at Cincinnati
There’s at least an outside chance that these two teams spend the entire afternoon fumbling the ball back and forth to each other and the entire thing is played within 20 yards (on either side) of midfield. Truly compelling stuff. Unless it’s a 0-0 tie, the Bengals win it by a field goal.

Indianapolis (+4) at Buffalo
The Bills might yet make the playoffs at 9-7. But probably not. That has almost nothing to do with this game. But, you know, I want nothing to do with this game. So there. Buffalo by six.

Dallas (-4.5) at NY Giants
Oh, bloody hell. This week just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it? Cowboys by a touchdown.

Oakland (+4) at Kansas City
The Chiefs keep finding new ways to demonstrate that they’re way worse than I think — probably worse than anyone thinks. I guess, I’m ready to embrace that. Kansas City should win, so I anticipate they will lose. Raiders by a point.

Minnesota (-2.5) at Carolina
The could turn out to be the last game the Panthers lose. Or, you know, at least until wild card weekend when they get crushed by the Saints (again). Vikings by three.

Green Bay (-3.5) at Cleveland
No, this will not be the week when the Browns finally win a game. Stop saying, or even thinking, stupid stuff like that. You’re embarrassing yourself. Packers by a field goal.

San Francisco (+3) at Houston
Can I please ask you to do me a favor? Tune in to this game and let me know if you spot a defense anywhere on the field at any point. Texans by five.

Washington (+6) at LA Chargers
The AFC West belongs to the Chargers. Weird but true. And this game is just another, fairly easy, step on the Chargers’ path to the playoffs. Los Angeles by nine.

NY Jets (-1) at Denver
Getting a point. At home. Against a team that has turned heads only by virtue of its failure thus far to tank the season. That’s gotta feel good. Jets by a touchdown.

Tennessee (-3) at Arizona
I expect the Titans and Jaguars to continue to run neck and neck straight through to their week 17 meeting in Nashville, which will decide which team gets to host the Ravens and which has to travel to the Chargers for the first round of the playoffs. I’ve got the Titans at 10-5 going into that game. In the meantime, I’ve got them 9-4 coming out of this one. Tennessee by four.

Philadelphia (+2.5) at LA Rams
There’s very likely a first-round bye on the line in this game. Bye goes to the home team. Rams by one.

Seattle (+2.5) at Jacksonville
I think the Jaguars right now are the team the Seahawks would like to be. That’s not a bad position to be in. Jags by three.

Baltimore (+5.5) at Pittsburgh
The Ravens defense has picked off a league-best 20 balls this season. One has to wonder whether this is where the Steelers’ recent flirtations with disaster finally lead to a loss. And yet … home field and a chance to wrap up the AFC North championship … mmmmm … I still kinda feel like Pittsburgh finds a way to pull this one out. Steelers turn a 17-19 deficit into a 20-19 advantage as the final seconds tick off the clock.

New England (-11) at Miami
Division games are always tough. And the Patriots are not at full strength. But the Dolphins are just a terrible, terrible football team. And the AFC East title is on the line. New England by 14.

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