Archive for October, 2019

Week Nine Thursday Night

October 31st, 2019 Comments off

The bad news is, I’m not getting all of my picks done before the Thursday night game this week.

The good news is that there’s no reason for you to actually care.

San Francisco (-10) at Arizona
The Cardinals have won the last eight meetings between these teams. The 49ers have won their last seven games against — well, every team they’ve played this season. I’m not inclined to give 10 points to a home team in a Thursday night game, particularly not in a divisional match. But a touchdown seems like a safe bet. Niners by seven.

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Week Eight Picks

October 24th, 2019 Comments off

I’ll take the 11-3 picking straight up in week seven. That feels pretty OK. The 7-7 vs. the spread? Meh.

I’m at 71-34-1 (.675) straight up so far this season, 53-52-1 (.505) with the points.

A correction to that slightly better than average straight up record no doubt is just around the corner.

Here’s what not to expect in week eight

Washington (+16.5) at Minnesota
Not much to stay up for here, I’m afraid. Unless you’re a Vikings fan. In which case, enjoy. The good news for the rest of us is that given the Racists’ complete inability to so much as slow down the run and the run-first offensive philosophy of the Vikings, we can probably expect the ball to stay on the ground and the game clock to keep ticking. Minnesota by 21.

Denver (+5.5) at Indianapolis
I don’t think I’ll know what I really think of the Colts until at least week 12. Fortunately, I already know what I think of the Broncos. The Denver D might yet have some pride, though. Colts by a field goal.

NY Giants (+7) at Detroit
The Lions might not be able to find a way to disappoint themselves and their fans this week. That could be at least one semi-interesting thing about this came. Or not. I don’t know. Detroit by four.

Tampa Bay (+2.5) at Tennessee
This is … well, it’s a game that’s probably going to happen. I mean, I’m not sure there’s anything anyone can do to stop it. I guess Tennessee sort of has a defense. Titans by three.

LA Chargers (+4) at Chicago
One of these teams is going to have to get out of its own way this week. Since the home team is probably the better team (though not by much), I gonna guess it’s them. Bears by a point.

Seattle (-6.5) at Atlanta
The Seahawks have enough offense to win the NFC West if they can figure out how to play D. The Falcons have a draft to prepare for. Seattle by nine.

NY Jets (+6) at Jacksonville
The fiasco on Monday night felt like the kind of game that ends up putting a team on its heels for weeks. The Jaguars aren’t the Patriots. But right now it seems like Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde could probably get the job done against Pac-Sam Darnold. Jacksonville by seven.

Philadelphia (+1.5) at Buffalo
This seems like everyone’s pet upset pick of the week. Like maybe everyone saw the Bills get off to a slow start against the Dolphins last week and concluded Buffalo maybe isn’t that good. And maybe they’re not. But I think they’re better than the Eagles. Bills by a field goal.

Cincinnati (+13) vs. LA Rams at Wembley Stadium, London
No one needs me to tell them the Bengals are awful, right? Rams by 17.

Arizona (+10.5) at New Orleans
For the last three weeks, the Cardinals slipped past weak opponents. Now they return to NFL play. Saints by 14.

Carolina (+5.5) at San Francisco
There’s a chance the 49ers give this one away by committing turnovers at exactly the wrong times. But it’s only an outside chance. I’m not picking based on maybes. San Francisco by nine.

Oakland (+6.5) at Houston
A second straight road game, and a second straight road loss, for the Raiders. Texans by four.

Cleveland (+13) at New England
Thirteen, huh? Seems reasonable. I mean, look, here are your big three predictive stats: Passer rating differential, Patriots +47.2; scoring differential, Patriots +15.4; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +20. In Cleveland, maybe that points to a margin of victory of less than two TDs. Maybe. In Foxborough, it points to a massacre. And that’s even before you drill down a bit and get to this detail.

There’s not a whole lot of room for hope here if you’re a Browns fan. Patriots by 27

Green Bay (-4) at Kansas City
When you’re all offense and suddenly you’ve got maybe two thirds of a quarterback, you’ve got yourself a problem. Packers by six.

Miami (+14) at Pittsburgh
Somebody at some point thought this game belonged in prime time. That’s curious. Steelers by 20.

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Week Seven Picks

October 17th, 2019 Comments off

I don’t know.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain about 9-5. Picking straight up, I mean. My 9-5 record picking against the spread in week six feels pretty good (as it can when you have no actual money at risk — gambling is losing, kids). But 9-5 straight up? That’s not gonna cut it.

Through the first six weeks of the season, I stand at 60-31-1 (.658) straight up, 46-45-1 (.505) with the points.

And now that I’ve bellyached about 9-5, I’m probably heading for something like 4-10 in week seven.


Here’s what not to expect

Kansas City (-3) at Denver
Ugh. Taking the road team on a Thursday night is always problematic. But taking the Chiefs to drop a third straight game against a Broncos team that probably shouldn’t be in a position to try to win a third straight is problematic, too. I’m going to say Kansas City by a point, which at least makes it really hard for me to get this one wrong across the board.

Arizona (+3) at NY Giants
I suspect there’s going to be a lot of folks picking the underdog here. I won’t be one of those. We know that neither of these teams can beat a good opponent. I’m not sure the Cardinals can handle even a mediocre one. New Jersey by four.

Houston (+1) at Indianapolis
The Texans are the better team in this match. The Texans are going to win the AFC South title. But the Texans aren’t better than the Colts by all that significant a margin. And Houston is on the road for the second straight week and coming off a hard-fought victory in Kansas City while Indianapolis has had two weeks to rest up following their big win in KC. I think this one just lines up right for Indy. Colts by a field goal.

Miami (+17) at Buffalo
Every time I think I’ve got a handle on just how bad the Dolphins are, I find out they’re worse still. Bills by 20.

Minnesota (-1) at Detroit
Two things I think I’m done with: thinking the Lions will win games just because they should win them; thinking the Vikings will lose games just because they should lose them. Minnesota by six.

Oakland (+5.5) at Green Bay
Sooner or later, the balls are going to stop bouncing Green Bay’s way, and then things are going to get ugly. But not this weekend. Packers by a touchdown.

Jacksonville (-4) at Cincinnati
The Jaguars appear to have started thinking about next year. I have no idea what the Bengals are thinking about, and I suspect neither do they. Jaguars by nine.

LA Rams (-3) at Atlanta
Will Jalen Ramsey make his Rams debut this weekend? Do you think it matters? (Well, OK, maybe it matters a little bit. But not much.) Los Angeles by six.

San Francisco (-9.5) at Washington
The Racists sort of beat the Dolphins last week. So that’s, you know, sort of nice for them. Niners by 21.

LA Chargers (+2) at Tennessee
I’m not sure the Titans are bad enough to lose to the Chargers. Tennessee by a point.

New Orleans (+3) at Chicago
The Bears defense should be able to bring this one in. Chicago by four.

Baltimore (+3.5) at Seattle
The Ravens really excel at beating the snot out of bad teams. The Seahawks excel at slugging it out and finding ways to win against any team the schedule puts across the line of scrimmage from them. Seattle by two.

Philadelphia (+3) at Dallas
Which slightly better than average team will take the lead in the NFC East race? If they can manage to hold on to the ball, it should be the one playing at home. Cowboys by three.

New England (-9.5) at NY Jets
The predictive stats may not tell as definitive a story as usual given that the Jets have Sam Darnold back. But let’s have a look just the same: Passer rating differential, Patriots +30; scoring differential, Patriots +17.9; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +8. How much of that does Darnold change? I’m not sure. Some. But let’s say instead of the Jets team passer rating, we looked at Darnold’s. And since the 2019 sample size is rather small, let’s split the difference between his 2019 passer rating and his career passing rating. That alone gives us to Patriots +27. Not much of a help, I’m afraid. He should affect scoring. And he might affect some aspects of defensive performance (like, if he can keep the offense on the field). But it’s not going to help that much. Shall we assume that might pull the differential down to Patriots +14? And even if you halve the takeaway-giveaway (which would be a crazy thing to do), you still land at Patriots +4. None of that screams Jets victory. And neither does the fact that the Patriots will be playing on 10 days rest. So, yeah, let’s be conservative and say Patriots by 13.

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Week Six Picks

October 10th, 2019 Comments off

Now, that’s more like it.

I got my ass kicked in week five. It wasn’t so bad picking straight up. I finished the week 9-6, which no one could argue is a successful outcome, regardless of whether it’s on the right side of .500. Against the spread? Brutal. 5-10. That’s just embarrassing.

That awful week picking with the points gets me below .500 for the season, too. I currently stand at 37-40-1 (.481). I’m still OK straight up, 51-26-1 (.660), but I’m sure I’ll find my way into the tank with the “easy” picks soon enough.

Here’s what not to expect in week six

NY Giants (+17) at New England
If the Giants were bringing their offense with them to this game, it would probably be meaningful to cite the bit three predictive stats. And that would go like this: passer rating differential, Patriots +38.7; scoring differential, Patriots +14.9; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +12. Then it might make sense to point out that the critically outmatched Giants are traveling on short rest. And then it would only follow to observe that all indicators point to a blowout. But the thing is, New Jersey isn’t bringing an offense into this game. That seems sort of problematic all by itself, doesn’t it? Patriots by three touchdowns (maybe they make the extra points; maybe they don’t).

Carolina (-2.5) vs. Tampa Bay at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
The Panthers have been benefiting lately from much better quarterback play than they had when these teams met in Charlotte four weeks ago. Is that enough? Maybe just. Carolina by a point.

Cincinnati (+11.5) at Baltimore
The best you can say about the Ravens is that they’re uneven. But the best you can say about the Bengals is that their season will be officially over after just another 11 weeks. Baltimore by 13.

Seattle (-1.5) at Cleveland
Picking against the spread gets a lot easier when you have a favorite that’s consistently underestimated and an underdog that’s consistently overestimated. Seahawks by seven.

Houston (+4.5) at Kansas City
YepThese teams are virtually identical on paper. Or close enough to merit a look at the predictive stats, anyhow. Passer rating differential, Chiefs +6.9; scoring differential, Chiefs +1.4; takeaway/giveaway differential, even. That sure appears to point to a victory by the home team, though the uncertain condition of Patrick Mahomes’ ankle throws a bit of a wrench into the works. Let’s go with Kansas City by three.

New Orleans (+1) at Jacksonville
The Jaguars are pretty tough when the competition isn’t. Saints by six.

Philadelphia (+3) at Minnesota
If you can limit Dalvin Cook, you can beat the Vikings. I think the Eagles can limit Cook. Philadelphia by a field goal.

Washington (-3.5) at Miami
If the Crimson Tide are trying to persuade Tua Tagovailoa to stick around for his senior year, they should make him watch this game. Washington by virtue of some kind of accidental touchdown.

San Francisco (+3) at LA Rams
Someone needs to tell the Rams that you don’t get an automatic bid to return to the Super Bowl just because you think you should have won the last one. Or don’t. I don’t really care. Anyhow, it might already be too late. Niners by a touchdown.

Atlanta (-2.5) at Arizona
Everyone knows that neither of these teams has a defense. I’m also not convinced either has an offense. Maybe the Cardinals are developing one. But I don’t know. I’d like to see them beat a tough opponent before I get too excite. That’s not happening this week no matter what. And frankly, I don’t think they’re quite ready to beat the Falcons anyhow. Atlanta by a point.

Dallas (-7) at NY Jets
I keep trying to tell you the Cowboys aren’t all that good, and you keep refusing to listen. But “not all that good” only goes so far. And it stops quite a ways before you get to “might lose to the Jets.” Dallas by 10.

Tennessee (+2) at Denver
I want to put my faith in the Tennessee defense. But I can’t. Not in Denver. Not right now. Broncos by three.

Pittsburgh (+7) at LA Chargers
I don’t know where seven comes from. I mean, yeah, the Chargers are winning this game. (Do the Steelers even have a quarterback right now?) But I don’t know how you look at this Los Angeles team and conclude they should be giving a touchdown to anyone. Except maybe Miami. And they already played that game. Chargers by four.

Detroit (+4) at Green Bay
There isn’t nearly so much separating these teams as one might be tempted to imagine. But there’s at least enough to make home field matter. Packers by three.

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Week Five Picks

October 6th, 2019 Comments off

I sort of saw week four coming. That is, I knew I was scheduled to take a beating with my picks. I didn’t know it was going to happen by way of an early upset week. But that’s what we got.

It’s hard to perform well picking straight up in any week when more than half of the games are won outright by the underdogs. It’s harder still when seven of those dogs are playing on the road.

So I’ll take my 8-7 finish straight up and against the spread in that context. And hope for better moving forward.

Overall, if you don’t count the Thursday night game (which I got straight up and missed with the points thanks to an unsuccessful two-point try), I currently stand at 42-20-1 (.674) on my straight picks and 32-30-1 (.516) picking against the spread.

Let’s see how much worse I can get. Here’s what not to expect in week five.

Baltimore (-3.5) at Pittsburgh
I’m not sure anyone knows at this point where either of these teams is headed. For the moment, they look like a couple of fairly typical second- or third-tier teams. If I thought the Steelers could stop the Ravens’ ground game, I’d be sorely tempted to take Pittsburgh straight up. But I don’t. So I’m expecting the road team to win and the home team to make it a game. Ravens by a point

Chicago (-5.5) vs. Oakland at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
Blah, blah, blah, Khalil Mack … . I mean, look, all that stuff everyone else has said or written about Mack making his former team look silly in this game probably turns out to be accurate. But that’s the case regardless of whether I repeat it. Chicago by 13.

Arizona (+3) at Cincinnati
One of these teams is going to turn out to be worse than the other. Probably. I think it works out to be the Bengals. Arizona by four.

Jacksonville (+3.5) at Carolina
My gut says the Jaguars win this game. My head counters with, “How?” And my gut shrugs and say, “Rush offense?” Gut may be right, but head controls the writing. So … Carolina by a field goal.

Minnesota (+5) at NY Giants
I’m not sure this game is so uneven that the home team should be getting five points. I think Minnesota comes out on top, but I think they do it with D while their offense continues to sputter. Vikings by three.

New England (-15.5) at Washington
I’m pretty sure no one needs me to do this, but I’m gonna do it just the same: Passer rating differential, Patriots +41.7; scoring differential, Patriots +18.4; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +9. Another view of the same variables: The Racists have allowed more points per game on average (29.5), and more actual points in three out of four games, than the Patriots have given up so far this season (27). The only way this game is competitive is if New England falls asleep. Patriots by 24.

NY Jets (+14.5) at Philadelphia
The Jets are a disaster. But the Eagles haven’t shown themselves to be a team you pick to blow out opponents. Philly by nine.

Tampa Bay (+3) at New Orleans
You know what? I think right now, just for this brief moment in time, the Bucs might be a better team than the Saints. Tampa pulls out another impressive road win. This time the margin is a single point.

Atlanta (+4.5) at Houston
The Texans are a tick above average. The Falcons are at least a tick, maybe two, below. Houston by a touchdown.

Buffalo (+3) at Tennessee
I hope you like defense. Titans 10-6

Denver (+6.5) at LA Chargers
The Chargers have yet this season to beat a good team. That trend continues. Los Angeles by 10.

Green Bay (+3.5) at Dallas
My generally unfavorable opinion of the Cowboys hasn’t shifted any. But, man, you’re not beating Dallas if you can’t stop the run. Cowboys by six.

Indianapolis (+11) at Kansas City
The Colts have neither a defense that can keep the Chiefs out of the end zone nor an offense that can take advantage of the Chiefs’ D. Kansas City by 14.

Cleveland (+4) at San Francisco
Following a brief pause, the Browns go back to being the Browns. As long as they can hold on to the ball, the well rested 49ers should beat a Browns team that’s traveling for a second straight week by at least six.

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Week Five Thursday Night Pick

October 3rd, 2019 Comments off

Well, it’s happened again. Or, you know, for the first time this year.

Thursday evening has arrived and I’ve failed to work through all of this week’s games.

So here’s what almost certainly won’t happen tonight. I’ll get to the rest sometime before Sunday.

LA Rams (+1.5) at Seattle
I don’t trust either of these teams. Either or both of them may be championship material. And either or both could be one or two bounces away from a sub-.500 season. As far as I know right now, though, this is a fairly even match. And it’s a short week. So I’ll go with the home team. Seahawks by a field goal.

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