Archive for October, 2018

Week Eight Picks

October 25th, 2018 Comments off

I can live with last week’s results. I suppose.

I finished 10-4 straight up, 7-6-1 against the spread. And that’s on the right side of .500 — if only just.

On the season, I’m at 64-41-2 (.607) straight up, 48-53-6 (.477) against the spread.

I’m confident I’ve found several ways to get moving in the wrong direction again this week. Here’s what not to expect.

Miami (+7.5) at Houston
Not all 4-3 teams are alike. The Texans have followed an 0-3 start with a four-game winning streak. The Dolphins opened 3-0, and have gone 1-3 since. More important, Houston does pretty much everything better than Miami. Add to the mix the difficulties of traveling on short rest (after having the ball shoved down your throats at home, no less) and it’s hard to come away with an optimistic outlook for the Dolphins here. Texans by nine.

Philadelphia (-3) vs. Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium, London
Were it being played stateside, this game would be only slightly challenging to pick. Although both teams are pretty average, the Eagles at least have been consistently uneven, while the Jaguars appear to be in a full-on fade. The only complicating factor would have been home field, and I’m fairly certain Philly’s better by just enough to have overcome that. But I don’t think it’s wise to overlook the Jaguars’ familiarity with London games. Transatlantic travel is tough on a football team, and the more experience you have with it, the better suited you are to take on the challenges. I can’t quite bring myself to pick the Jaguars based on that one factor, but I also won’t be at all surprised if Jacksonville manages an upset here. Eagles by a point.

Cleveland (+8.5) at Pittsburgh
Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions when these teams met in Cleveland in week one and the Browns still only managed to a tie. Roethlisberger has thrown just three more picks in the Steelers’ subsequent five games. Meanwhile, the Browns are on the road for a second straight week while the Steelers are coming of their bye. I’m just not counting on things to break right for the Browns. Steelers by seven.

Denver (+10) at Kansas City
The Chiefs are focused on holding off the Chargers in the division and the Patriots in the contest for top seeding in the conference. The Broncos appear to be shifting their focus to preparing for 2019. One imagines the outcome of this game will illustrate the underlying wisdom of each team’s orientation. Kansas City by 12.

NY Jets (+7) at Chicago
Three games into their four-week tournament against the AFC East, the Bears finally encounter a team they can beat. Chicago by six.

Washington (-1) at NY Giants
The Giants have called it a season. Racists by a touchdown.

Seattle (+3) at Detroit
If I thought the Seahawks could protect Russell Wilson from the Lions’ pass rush, I might actually consider picking an upset here. But I don’t. So Detroit by a field goal sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Tampa Bay (+4.5) at Cincinnati
Bet. The. Over. Bengals by six.

Baltimore (-2) at Carolina
I very well might come away from this game with a completely different feeling about this, but right now it just looks to me like the Ravens are the better team. Baltimore by one.

Indianapolis (-3) at Oakland
The Raiders have been oriented toward next season (or probably more like 2020) since before this one began. So it’s hard to understand why anyone was shocked that they underscored the point this week. The Colts are still pretending they have something to play for right now. They don’t. But that’s OK. Indy by seven.

San Francisco (+1) at Arizona
You know what? I just really, really don’t care. Home team by three.

Green Bay (+9) at LA Rams
It’s just gonna be a long day for the Packers, isn’t it? Or a short one, I suppose, if they can’t stop the Rams’ ground attack, which I don’t think they can. Los Angeles by 13.

New Orleans (+1) at Minnesota
I’ve said this in this space before: When it looks like a shootout that’s likely to come down to which team has the ball last, you go with the hosts. Minnesota by three.

New England (-14) at Buffalo
There’s probably not a lot that needs to be said about this game. Fortunately for me, we’re deep enough into the season at this point that it makes sense to do this: Scoring differential, Patriots +9.2; passer rating differential, Patriots +29.2 (it doesn’t get much more brutal than that, folks); takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +5. So, yeah, go ahead and give the two TDs. New England by 20.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Week Seven Picks

October 18th, 2018 Comments off

I should be getting better at this by this point in the season. I usually do as the stats add up. But not so much so far this year.

I went 8-7 picking straight up in week six, 8-6-1 against the spread. For the season, that gets me to 54-37-2 (.591) straight up, 41-47-5 (.468) with the points.

Maybe this is my week. But it probably isn’t.

Here’s what not to expect.

Denver (-1.5) at Arizona
It’s entirely possible, as the teams with the worst run defenses in the league square off, that neither offense will need to call a pass play all night. And for the Broncos, that certainly would be one way for to limit Case Keenum‘s interceptions. It would also get the rest of us out from under this battle for 2019 draft position a bit earlier, which sounds good to me. The Cardinals are pretty awful, but I still like them to win this game by a field goal.

Tennessee (+6.5) vs. LA Chargers at Wembley Stadium, London
I expect to see Melvin Gordon carry the Chargers for a second straight week. Los Angeles by 13.

New England (-3.5) at Chicago
The Bears are an illusion. New England by 10.

Cleveland (+3) at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers are awful. The Browns are just garden variety bad (which, you know, is actually a step in the right direction for Cleveland). But I don’t think the difference is quite enough to overcome home field. Tampa Bay by a point.

Detroit (-3) at Miami
I wonder who’ll be the Dolphins’ starting quarterback next season. Lions by two.

Carolina (+4.5) at Philadelphia
I haven’t been particularly impressed with either of these teams. (Sorry. I know the narrative is that Philadelphia has started to turn it around, but I’m just not sure I’m ready to view stopping a two-game skid with a win over the Giants as season saving.) But the Eagles are playing at home on 10 days rest while the Panthers are playing a second straight game on the road. And, more important, I suspect Philadelphia will be able to limit Carolina’s production on the ground and render the Panthers offense one dimensional. I think that should prove just enough. Eagles by three.

Buffalo (+7.5) at Indianapolis
I’m sure Derek Anderson will be every bit as good as Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman at getting the snot knocked out of him. Colts by two touchdowns.

Minnesota (-3) at NY Jets
If the Jets can win the turnover battle, they may very well be able to make this a game. But can they win? Probably not. Vikings by six.

Houston (+4.5) at Jacksonville
If the Texans had an offensive line, I might actually be tempted to pick them. (Or maybe not. Maybe if the game were being played in Houston.) But they don’t. And I’m setting the over/under on the number of Texans QBs knocked out of this thing at two. Hope you’re ready to go, Joe Webb. Jaguars by three.

New Orleans (+2.5) at Baltimore
Balance. Baltimore. By four.

Dallas (+1.5) at Washington
Can I just predict a home-home split in the season series right now and avoid dealing with this showcase of mediocrity when it repeats in Dallas five weeks from now? Racists by three.

LA Rams (-10) at San Francisco
I’ll be shocked if this is still a game at the end of the first quarter. Or, rather, I’ll be shocked if I find out after the fact that this was still a game at the end of the first quarter. I know I won’t be paying attention in real time. Rams by 21.

Cincinnati (+6) at Kansas City
This week, it’s the Chiefs’ turn to win the Sunday night game 43-40.

NY Giants (+5.5) at Atlanta
The only thing likely to slow down either offense in this game is the Giants offense. Falcons by eight.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Week Six Picks

October 11th, 2018 Comments off

I’m not getting better at this. I should be getting better at this as the data sets on each team grow to meaningful levels. But I’m not.

In week five, I went 10-5 straight up for the second straight week. That’s not completely awful. But against the spread, I’m only getting much, much worse. I was a miserable 5-9-1 in week five. There’s nothing close to a positive spin you can put on outcome like that.

For the season, I currently stand at 46-30-2 (.603) straight up, 33-41-4 (.449) with the points.

And now I’m staring at a slate of week six games most of which I have no idea what to make of. That always points to great results, doesn’t it?

Here’s what not to expect.

Philadelphia (-3) at NY Giants
Think the NFC East couldn’t possibly be more of a mess? Think again. New Jersey by a field goal.

Arizona (+10) at Minnesota
If the Vikings can’t get their running game going against the Cardinals, it won’t matter whether — or by what margin — they win this game. The Vikes travel to New Jersey to face the Jets next week. That’s a game they should win. After that, though, their schedule turns difficult no matter what, brutal for a team with a one-dimensional offense. So if you want to know where the Vikings are headed, don’t look at the scoreboard late Sunday afternoon; look at the box score. I don’t know what you’ll see there. We’ll find out together. But I am fairly confident the scoreboard will show a nine-point Minnesota margin of victory.

LA Chargers (-1) at Cleveland
The Browns haven’t lost a game in Cleveland yet this season. I’m not sure that means very much. But it’s something. And, you know, reluctant as I am to buy into the Browns on any level, I have to think that if you can hold off the Ravens in your building one week, you ought to be able to hold off the Chargers in your building the next. Cleveland by three.

Chicago (-3) at Miami
Remember that time the Dolphins started 3-0 with home wins over the Titans and Raiders and a road victory over the Jets, and then all the Miami fans decided their team was running away with the AFC East? Wasn’t that hilarious? Now the Dolphins pretty much need to beat the well-rested Bears just to get their season back on track. The good news for Miami is that the Bears aren’t really as impressive as their 3-1 record might suggest. The bad news is that the Bears are still better than the Dolphins. Chicago by one.

Carolina (+1) at Washington
I don’t really know what I can believe about either of these teams at this point in the season. But I think the Racists are slightly more uneven than the Panthers. I think. Carolina by four.

Indianapolis (+2.5) at NY Jets
Neither of these teams has much going for it. But New Jersey at least is playing at home. Let’s call that the deciding factor. Jets by three.

Pittsburgh (+2.5) at Cincinnati
The Steelers absolutely cannot afford to lose this game. Not only do they trail the AFC North-leading Bengals by a game and a half, the Steelers are 0-1-1 in the division and 0-2-1 in the conference. It’s hard to imagine Pittsburgh climbing out of the hole they’d be in if they don’t find a way to get a win here. My gut says the Steelers find a way to keep things interesting for at least a little while longer. But my head says, “Shut up, gut. You’re stupid.” Bengals by two.

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at Atlanta
Which defense is worse? No, seriously, I’m asking. Because I really have no idea. Atlanta wins by three, quite possibly with an Arena Football League style score, say 63-60. (If you must bet, bet the over.)

Seattle (-3) vs. Oakland at Wembley Stadium, London
Jon Gruden can’t stop thinking about how during Live Aid, Phil Collins played in London and Philadelphia on the same day. Played a set. Hopped on the Concorde. Played another set. (And then another.) Except for how the music was awful, it was pretty impressive. At least that’s what I’m guessing’s been on Gruden’s mind. It would explain why the Raiders’ coach might figure there’s no reason his team can’t have a nice Saturday evening out in Oakland, catch a red-eye to London and be on the field ready to kick ass come 10 a.m. West Coast time Sunday. Or something like that. Maybe Gruden’s hoping the extra time in California will give him a chance to locate his defense. Barring that, I can’t begin to understand his strategy. Seahawks by 17.

Buffalo (+10) at Houston
If Josh Allen can manage to avoid giving the ball to the Texans defense, the Bills might not lose too badly. Houston by a touchdown.

LA Rams (-7) at Denver
I don’t care where it’s being played, or in what weather conditions, this game has ugly written all over it. Rams by 20.

Jacksonville (-3) at Dallas
Jaguars, 10-9.

Baltimore (-3) at Tennessee
You beat the Titans on the ground. Unless you’re the Ravens, in which case you lose to the Titans by not being able to mount a sustained running attack. Tennessee by a point.

Kansas City (+3.5) at New England
The Patriots defense has shown some positive signs over the last two weeks. That’s fairly typical. New England tends to grow into its D every season. I think the unit is still a few weeks away from really coming together, though. And even when it does, it might not be enough to slow down the powerhouse Chiefs offense. It’s possible there isn’t a D in the NFL this season that can do that. But at the same time, it doesn’t look to me like Kansas City’s D is ever going to be ready to stop any half decent offense. And the Patriots’ O is considerably better than half decent. I expect this game to go back and forth all night. And I expect that whichever team holds the ball last will come out on top. In a situation like that, I take the hosts. New England by three.

San Francisco (+9.5) at Green Bay
Major League Baseball couldn’t have scheduled game two of the ALCS against this dog? Green Bay by halftime. And 13 points.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Week Five Picks

October 4th, 2018 Comments off

There are lots of reasons I don’t gamble on football. One is that I don’t gamble on anything; it does nothing for me. Another one, though, is that I’m not good at it.

I went 10-5 last week picking straight up. That’s not terrible (though it’s certainly not great by any measure). Against the spread, though, I was 6-7-2. And that’s just plain awful. If I were putting actual money on these games and faring this poorly, I’d have to stop just to save myself from bankruptcy. But where the only cost is pride I never had to begin with, I can press on.

I head into week five with season records of 36-25-2 (.587) straight up and 28-32-3 (.468) against the spread.

I’m sure I can do worse.

Here’s what not to expect over the next five days.

Indianapolis (+10) at New England
This may not be news to you, but the last time the Colts visited Foxborough there was a, um, well, a bit of a thing. Seriously. It really has been that long. Seems crazy given that these teams used to have a rivalry, but it’s been better than three years since the last meeting in New England, and two weeks shy of three years since the Pats and Colts played at all. It’s also been nearly nine years since the Colts last beat the Patriots in any building, and most of 12 since Indianapolis last came out ahead in New England. And the Colts have never pulled off a win of the Patriots with Andrew Luck as their quarterback. None of that has a thing to do with this game, of course. Three years is forever in NFL time. So long that if it weren’t for recent off-field history, one might well conclude these teams were functionally strangers to each other. And, you know, had this game taken place in Indianapolis two or three weeks ago when the Patriots still had a lot to figure out, the Colts may have been able to pull off a win. Had it taken place in Foxborough a week ago, I might have expected a close game. Records notwithstanding, I don’t see a lot that separates the Colts from the Dolphins. Indy and Miami have played at effectively the same level, with many of the same strengths and weaknesses, against a slightly different set of opponents. Given that, given what we saw Sunday afternoon when the Patriots hosted the Dolphins, given the fact that the Colts are traveling on four days rest after playing through a full overtime in week four, and given that the Patriots just got an important weapon back, I have a hard time imagining the Colts are going to be able to keep up for 60 minutes. I expect to see a competitive first half, but I think the Indy starts to wear down after halftime, at which point it becomes the Sony Michel show. Even playing ball control for much of the second half, I think the Patriots come out on top by two touchdowns.

Baltimore (-3) at Cleveland
A year from now, this may well be a game. Right now, it isn’t. For the Browns to succeed, Carlos Hyde needs to succeed. And I’m not sure Hyde can have a big day against the Ravens’ D. Ravens by six.

Jacksonville (+3) at Kansas City
Unbalanced as these two teams may be, I can envision them meeting again in mid January with a lot on the line. And if that comes to pass, the outcome here may well determine the venue. That may be bad news for the Jaguars. Because even though the Jacksonville offense is slightly less unimpressive than the Kansas City defense, I don’t think it’s by enough to overcome home field advantage. Chiefs by a point.

Tennessee (-3.5) at Buffalo
It’s starting to look like the Titans might be for real. It’s abundantly clear that the Bills are not. Tennessee by a field goal.

NY Giants (+7) at Carolina
Pin the Giants’ problems on Eli Manning if you like. But if you do, you’re missing the point. Eli Manning is playing exactly like Eli Manning. And that kind of consistency is pretty much the best one can expect from a 37-year-old quarterback. Certainly, it would be foolish to expect Manning to suddenly start playing like Drew Brees, regardless of whether that’s what fans might want. It wouldn’t be foolish, on the other hand, to think the Giants would try to develop a run defense. This is something they haven’t quite managed to do. And I expect it’s going to bite them on the ass is a major way once again this weekend. Panthers by 16.

Denver (+1.5) at NY Jets
Neither of these teams is very good. Jets by three.

Atlanta (+3) at Pittsburgh
I know the over/under on this game is an insane 57.5, but if I were betting, I’d still bet the over. There’s simply no reason to believe either of these teams is suddenly going to discover defense. Home team by a point.

Green Bay (-1) at Detroit
The Lions this season clearly are going to be the team that always does the exact opposite of what I expect. Which means they’re destined to win this game. Packers by four.

Miami (+6.5) at Cincinnati
The Dolphins weren’t quite good enough to beat the Bengals in Cincinnati before they were exposed by the Patriots. It’s just that now everyone knows it. Cincinnati by nine.

Oakland (+5.5) at LA Chargers
The Chargers so far this season have been uneven. As time goes on, they’ll prove fatally flawed. The Raiders? They’re just bad. Chargers by four.

Arizona (+4) at San Francisco
You can’t not beat the Cardinals. San Francisco by three.

Minnesota (+3) at Philadelphia
It’s too early in the season for this literally to be true, but it feels like the Vikings need this game. They’re not getting it. The Eagles fire up the ground game, control the clock, and come out on top by a touchdown.

LA Rams (-7) at Seattle
I’m not disputing the Rams’ greatness, but it would be nice, sometime this season, to see them face a good opponent. That’s not happening this week. Los Angeles by 13.

Dallas (+3) at Houston
I suppose one of these teams has to win. Or at least, you know, I can’t really pick a tie. So let’s go with the home team. They seem to be slightly better anyhow. Maybe. Houston by two.

Washington (+6.5) at New Orleans
I think the well-rested Racists make this a game. Saints by three.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: