Archive for November, 2019

Week Thirteen Picks

November 27th, 2019 Comments off

I guess I can live with 10-4 straight up and 7-6-1 against the spread in week twelve. That was a tough slate of games.

And 120-55-1 (.685) straight up, 90-83-3 (.520) with the points for the season to date feels at least OK-ish.

And all of this means I’m on the verge of taking an outright beating over the last five weeks of the season.

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

Chicago (-2.5) at Detroit
You know what’s way more interesting than this game? Well, kinda everything. But especially turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and squash and cranberry sauce and gravy and … . Bears by a point. Something along the lines of 17-16 probably.

Buffalo (+7) at Dallas
This is the game of the day. The Bills are the better team. But I’m not sure they’re better by enough to overcome the difficulties of traveling on a short week. I expect an exciting game that ends in a narrow Cowboys victory. Dallas by three.

New Orleans (-7) at Atlanta
This should be a fun game to watch — if you’re a Saints fan. And a safe game to nap through for the rest of us. New Orleans clinches the NFC South title with a decisive road win. Saints by 21.

Green Bay (-6.5) at NY Giants
It looks like the difference between winning the NFC North title and falling to the conference six seed this season is going to be that the division champ gets to host the wild card team in the first round of the playoffs. That might not ultimately prove the difference between a one-and-done appearance and a second-round visit to New Orleans. But you definitely don’t want that game in Louisiana to be your second straight on the road. What does any of this have to do with this week 13 match? Just this: If the Packers win all of the games they should win over the last five weeks of the season, they can probably lose to the Vikings in Minnesota in week 16, which would mean splitting the season series, and still get to host the rubber match. I’m confident the Packers aren’t looking at this game in quite that context. But just the same, this is still one of those games they should win. And I suspect that’s just what they’ll do. Green Bay by six.

Washington (+10) at Carolina
The Panthers lose games because they don’t have a defense. But that type of weakness becomes a bit easier to manage when you host at team that doesn’t have an offense. Carolina by 13.

San Francisco (+6) at Baltimore
The NFL has to love the fact that the game of the week is crammed, apparently inextricably, into the mass of 1 p.m. Sunday games. The Ravens made a statement when they hosted the Patriots four weeks ago. Can they take down another top contender here? Probably. Though given that the 49ers are a good bit closer to full strength here than the Pats were in early November, it might prove a tougher statement to make. Ravens by three.

Tennessee (+2.5) at Indianapolis
It’s gonna be difficult for the team that loses this game to fight its way back into the race for the AFC six seed, let alone a division title. The winner, on the other hand, not only strengthens its spot in the wild card race, but can move back into a tie for the AFC South title if the Texans lose to the Patriots in the Sunday night game. The Titans are playing better football than the Colts right now, so I’m going with them. Tennessee by three.

Philadelphia (-9) at Miami
The number of games the Eagles can afford to lose over the final five weeks of this season is zero. The number of games the Eagles are going to lose over the final five weeks of this season is one. But it’s not this one. Not by a long shot. Philadelphia by 17.

Tampa Bay (+1) at Jacksonville
These are some seriously uneven football teams. I think the home team’s relative weaknesses line up comparatively well against the visiting team’s relative weaknesses. Jacksonville by four.

NY Jets (-3.5) at Cincinnati
The Jets may be riding a three-game winning streak, but that doesn’t make them a good football team. Fortunately for the Jets, you don’t have to be good to beat the Bengals. New Jersey by three.

Oakland (+9.5) at Kansas City
Nine and a half feels excessive in a game between division rivals. Plus, I think the Chiefs’ vulnerability to the run gives the Raiders an opportunity to make this an actual game. At least for a while. Kansas City by a touchdown.

LA Rams (-3) at Arizona
The Rams are done. The Cardinals are doner. Los Angeles by one.

LA Chargers (-2.5) at Denver
The Chargers are done. The Broncos are doner. But Denver’s taking this one just the same. Broncos by two.

Cleveland (-2) at Pittsburgh
The Browns are done. The Steelers are doner than they realize. But still not as done as the Browns. Pittsburgh by a field goal.

New England (-3) at Houston
I’m tempted to say I won’t know how to assess this matchup until I know which receivers the Patriots will have available to start. That’s mostly, you know, because it’s true. But it’s also true that the Patriots are winning with their defense this season. And it’s true that these are the big three predictive stats: passer rating differential, Patriots +18.6; scoring differential, Patriots +7.6; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +19. I’m taking New England to win and cover no matter who lines up at WR. If they’re down a few receivers, the Patriots maybe only win by four. If they’re at full strength (or what qualifies for it right now), they win by 10.

Minnesota (+3) at Seattle
You know what’s odd? I actually think the Vikings have a decent chance of coming out of this game with a win and the advantage in the race for the five seed. Yes, the Vikings can still win the NFC North. And I’m not writing them off there. It’s just that a win here keeps them in the division race, but puts them squarely in front of the Seahawks for the top wild card spot. And it matters. The six seed is going to travel to Green Bay (or Minnesota) in the wild card round. The five travels to Dallas or Philadelphia. And you have to believe the wild card team that gets to take on the NFC Least champion has the better chance of advancing. All that said, I’m picking the Seahawks. By a point.

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Week 12, Post Thursday Night

November 24th, 2019 Comments off

Well, I went 12-2 picking straight up in week 11. That’s something, right?

I hope so, because I know the only thing my 5-9 finish against the spread last week qualifies as is embarrassing.

Not counting Thursday night’s game (which I somehow managed to get right both straight up and with the points) I’m now I’m 110-51-1 (.682) this season picking straight up, 83-77-2 (.519) against the spread.

Let’s see if I can’t get my record picking the hard way down below .500 this week.

Here’s what not to expect.

Miami (+10.5) at Cleveland
There isn’t a lot of doubt about the outcome of the game. Let’s just hope nobody’s skull gets caved in along the way. Browns by 12.

Denver (+4) at Buffalo
It’s a second straight road game for the Broncos, the first since their collapse against the Vikings. Maybe the Denver D will remember to play all four quarters this time around. I’m going to assume that’s the case and figure Buffalo only comes out on top by three.

Pittsburgh (-6.5) at Cincinnati
The Steelers’ last chance of recovering their season and qualifying for the playoffs died last Thursday night in Cleveland. (No, Pittsburgh hasn’t been officially eliminated. But let’s be realistic.) The Bengals chances of securing (and then wasting) the first overall pick in the 2020 draft are still very much alive. Pittsburgh by 10.

NY Giants (+6) at Chicago
One of these teams has to win this game. Makes sense that it would be the home team. Bears by four.

Oakland (-3) at NY Jets
The Raiders have a pretend shot at the AFC West title and a very real shot at the conference six seed (which will likely earn them an extra visit to Kansas City). The Jets are an outright lock to continuing being the Jets. Oakland by six.

Carolina (+9.5) at New Orleans
Here’s where the Saints, for all practical purposes, wrap up the NFC South. And still, even though the home team is considerably better than the visitors and ought to win by double digits, I’m reluctant to give close to 10 points in a division matchup. New Orleans by eight.

Tampa Bay (+3.5) at Atlanta
These are not good football teams. (How’s that for insight?) Falcons by three.

Detroit (-3.5) at Washington
The Racists actually have one thing over the Lions. It’s that no one can call Washington “disappointing.” They’re exactly as good as they ought to be. Detroit by a touchdown.

Seattle (-1) at Philadelphia
Sometimes the better team doesn’t win. Eagles by a field goal.

Jacksonville (+3.5) at Tennessee
It was always the case that each game in this season series was going to the home team. Titans by a point.

Dallas (+6) at New England
If the Patriots’ receiving corps were at full strength, this wouldn’t be a challenging game to pick. Here are your big three predictives: passer rating differential, Patriots +13.9; scoring differential, Patriots +4.5; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +19. Those numbers don’t point to a good day for the visitors. But the thing is, the New England receiving corps is not at full strength. And that has to at least give Dallas some hope, even if the home team gets a boost to its ground game. Is that hope enough? Probably not. The Patriots’ outstanding defense carried the team to a win in Philadelphia a week ago. You have to figure it can do much the same at home this week. If it has to. New England by a touchdown.

Green Bay (+3) at San Francisco
The 49ers can effectively seal a first round bye with a win here. I don’t think there’s anything the Packers can do to prevent it. San Francisco by six.

Baltimore (-3) at LA Rams
I suppose it’s possible the Rams hold off functional elimination by rising up and beating the surging Ravens. Lots of things are possible, including a great number of things that never come to pass. Baltimore by seven.

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Week Twelve, Thursday Night

November 21st, 2019 Comments off

Thursday has snuck up on me again, which means all I have time to do right now is tell you what won’t happen tonight. I’ll save the rest of my inaccurate predictions for tomorrow or Saturday.

Indianapolis (+3.5) at Houston
I don’t know which is the better of these teams. Actually, I’m not sure either of them is. This is about as even a match as you’re likely to see. Neither am I confident I know which team needs the win more. It’s probably the Texans given that the Colts took the first game in the season series. But the reality is that these teams aren’t only in competition with each other. The Titans (and even the Jaguars) aren’t so far back that they can’t catch up and complicate the AFC South race. And the field of AFC wild card contenders is deep and varied as well. The losing team here is going to have its work cut out for it. Me, I’m just going to fall back on the strategy of taking the home team in a Thursday night game unless there’s a compelling reason to do otherwise. Texans by a field goal.

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Week Eleven Picks

November 14th, 2019 Comments off

Oof! I should have seen that coming.

Or, you know, I guess I did see it coming. I’ve been waiting all season for my luck to run out. And that’s just what happened in week ten. I manged to go 6-7 straight up, which is half a game better than my 5-7-1 picking against the spread. Not a good week.

I’m still looking OK for the season. I guess. I’m 98-49-1 (.666 — pentagram! heavy metal horns!) straight up and 78-68-2 (.534) with the points. Let’s see how much chipping away at those winning records I can this weekend.

Here’s what not to expect.

Pittsburgh (+2.5) at Cleveland
I don’t like taking the road team in a Thursday night game. But, oddsmakers’ opinions notwithstanding, the Steelers are just a much better team than the Browns. Pittsburgh by six.

Dallas (-4.5) at Detroit
The Cowboys are going as far as 10-6 will take them. That might be an NFC East title and a first round home loss to the Seahawks. Or it might be eliminated from the postseason entirely. The Lions? They’re going nowhere at all. Cowboys by a touchdown.

New Orleans (-5.5) at Tampa Bay
The Bucs may make this a game, at least for a while. But it won’t hold. Saints by nine.

Atlanta (+5.5) at Carolina
You can beat the Panthers if your ground game is strong on both sides of the ball. The Falcons are strong on neither. Panthers by 10.

Jacksonville (+3) at Indianapolis
In an evenly matched division game, you take the home team. So I’ll probably be picking the Jaguars in week 17. This week, I’m thinking Colts by a point.

Denver (+10.5) at Minnesota
The Broncos are outmatched. By Dalvin Cook. Vikings by 14.

NY Jets (+1.5) at Washington
I don’t know which of these teams is terribler. That’s not a real word. Then again, these aren’t real football teams. Jets? I guess I’ll take the Jets. For no real reason. By three.

Buffalo (-6) at Miami
It turns out the Bills maybe aren’t all that great. But they’ve got to be at least good enough to put a hurt on the Dolphins. Buffalo by 10.

Houston (-4) at Baltimore
The Texans have enough of a defense to make this a game. But the Ravens have home field. Baltimore by three.

Arizona (+10.5) at San Francisco
As long as they can overcome what has to be a mighty hangover, the 49ers shouldn’t have much trouble with the Cardinals. I suspect the Niners will come out sluggish only to pick it up in the second half. San Fran by twelve.

New England (-3.5) at Philadelphia
Here are your big three predictives: Passer rating differential, Patriots +23.1; scoring differential, Patriots +9.0; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +18. Also, you know, the Eagles are kind of an uneven team. If the Patriots can stop the run, they should win big. If they can’t, they’ll win a close one. New England by a touchdown.

Cincinnati (+10.5) at Oakland
The Raiders continue to be solidly average. The Bengals continue to be reliably awful. Oakland by 13.

Chicago (+6.5) at LA Rams
This is what the middle of the pack looks like. Rams by four.

Kansas City (-3.5) vs. LA Chargers at Estadio Azteca, Mexico City
I’d love to think the Chargers could make this a game. But I don’t. Because they can’t. Chiefs by a touchdown.

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Week Ten Picks

November 7th, 2019 Comments off

Sometimes you’re up. Sometimes you’re down. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

I’m calling my twin 8-6 finishes straight up and against the spread in week nine down. Because I’ve fared better this season, both overall and in the previous week. But a week from now, 8 wins may well look great to me.

So far on the season, I’m 92-42-1 (.685) straight up and 73-61-1 (.544). Let’s see what kind of damage I can do to those respectable records over this week’s abbreviated schedule of (13) games.

Here’s what not to expect.

LA Chargers (-1.5) at Oakland
There will actually be a complete football team on the field for this game. It’ll be split between the two squads. But still. I see little reason to expect anything other than a home-home split in the season series between these two uneven division rivals. Raiders by three.

Kansas City (-5.5) at Tennessee
I suspect the Titans defense will be able to keep them in this game. But Tennessee just doesn’t have enough offense to take advantage of Kansas City’s weak D. Chiefs by four.

Buffalo (+3) at Cleveland
So we’re all just gonna go on pretending the Browns are a good football team? Is that the plan, everybody? I’ll take the (way) better squad getting points in any building on any day. Bills by a touchdown.

Arizona (+4.5) at Tampa Bay
Set the over/under on punts in this game at three and figure that barring a one or more disastrous turnovers, the last team to possess the ball comes out on top. Let’s figure that’s the home team. Bucs by a field goal.

NY Giants (-2.5) at NY Jets
Maybe they’ll get the cat to come back. That at least would be kind of entertaining. Giants by three field goals.

Atlanta (+13) at New Orleans
Thirteen? That’s it? For real? Saints by twice that.

Baltimore (-10) at Cincinnati
One of these teams has the NFL’s most productive rushing offense. The other one has the NFL’s worst rush defense. This is not a promising combination for the second team. Ravens by 21.

Detroit (+2.5) at Chicago
I’m going to figure the not particularly good home team edges the not particularly good visiting team. But maybe by just a point.

Miami (+10.5) at Indianapolis
I don’t know. Colts by some large number of points. Probably at least 12.

Carolina (+5.5) at Green Bay
The Green Bay (at least somewhat) Back-On-Trackers. By a field goal.

LA Rams (-3.5) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers can win this game. The Steelers probably should win this game. Are the Steelers going to win this game? I don’t know. But I kinda think so. Pittsburgh by three.

Minnesota (+3) at Dallas
This is the home team’s game to lose. And the way they can lose it is by committing costly turnovers. Barring that (and since I don’t have any way to account for it), Cowboys by four.

Seattle (+6) at San Francisco
Nice way to end a week. Bravo, schedule makers. This could very well turn out to be the first of three meetings between these teams between now and late January. And the Seahawks may well win at least one of those — if they can grow a defense. Right now, though, you have to like the home team to remain undefeated for another week. Niners by three.

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Week Nine, Post Thursday Night

November 1st, 2019 Comments off

Every now and then, I manage to back into a set of football picks that creates the illusion I know something. Week eight was one of those.

I went 13-2 picking straight up last week, 12-3 against the spread. Which means I should just quit right now, because I’m not going to perform anywhere close to that well again this season.

But I’m not smart enough to quit.

Nearly halfway through the season, I currently stand at 84-36-1 (.698) straight up and 65-55-1 (.541) with the spreads. (This not counting the Thursday night game for week nine, which I got right both straight up and against the spread.)

Time to destroy everything I’ve built. Here’s what not to expect during the weekend ahead.

Houston (-1.5) vs. Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium, London
The Jaguars don’t actually have to win this game in order to stay alive in the AFC South. But they kind of have to win this game to stay alive in the AFC South. A loss here would put them two and a half games (by virtue of the season sweep) behind the Texans, and more likely than not two behind the Colts. That’s probably more than they could hope to make up over the final seven weeks of the season (barring a sweep of Indy, which is unlikely). In Jacksonville, I’d probably take the Jaguars. Home field in a division match and all that. On a neutral field, though, I think this one goes to the better team. That’s Houston (if not necessarily by much). Texans by a field goal.

Washington (+9.5) at Buffalo
As long as the Bills win the games they should win, they’ll land at 10-6 or 11-5, which ought to be enough to secure the AFC five seed. This is one of the games the Bills should win. And they should win it handily. I think there’s very little chance they squander the opportunity. Buffalo by 14.

Tennessee (+3.5) at Carolina
This game’s a bit of a coin toss, frankly. I think I like the Tennessee defense to carry the day. Titans by a point.

Chicago (+5) at Philadelphia
The Bears defense may be able to keep Chicago in this game into the fourth quarter. Or the Eagles defense might keep Chicago in this game into the fourth quarter. Either way, it comes out Philadelphia by three.

Minnesota (+1.5) at Kansas City
The Vikings ought to be good enough to win this game. On paper, it sort of looks like the Vikings might be good enough to win this game. But I just don’t believe the Vikings really are good enough to win this game. Chiefs by four.

NY Jets (-3) at Miami
With a loss here, the Dolphins would be the first team officially eliminated from contention in their division in 2019. That’s a distinction of sorts, right? New Jersey by one.

Indianapolis (-1) at Pittsburgh
The Colts are a better team than they get credit for being. The Steelers get credit for being a better team than they are. Indy by six.

Detroit (+2) at Oakland
It’s not so much that I think the Lions are better than the Raiders. It’s more that I think the Raiders are worse than the Lions. Detroit by three.

Tampa Bay (+5.5) at Seattle
I can think of only two things that can make this a game. There’s the possibility that the Seahawks are looking past a weak opponent to next week’s critical meeting with the 49ers. And there’s the chance Seattle fails to take advantage of any of the multiple interception opportunities Jameis Winston offers them. That first thing could happen, maybe. But even then, Seahawks by nine.

Cleveland (-3.5) at Denver
I know the prevailing opinion is that the Broncos had quit on the season even before they lost their starting quarterback. And that the Browns somehow must be better than their record indicates. I’m just not sure either of those things is true. The Denver D still plays like they mean it. And things in Cleveland appear to be unraveling fast. The Browns also are playing a second straight road game. And there’s that thing where a loss to the Patriots (though it’s one of the most predictable results in football) seems to do weird things to some players’ heads. I think Cleveland finds a way to drop this one. Denver by three.

Green Bay (-3.5) at LA Chargers
I’ve been trying to envision a path to victory for the Chargers. I don’t think there is one. Packers by 10.

New England (-3) at Baltimore
The big three predictives say this is New England’s game to lose. Passer rating differential, Patriots +19.8; scoring differential, Patriots +7.7; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +15. The eyeball test says this is a challenge for the New England defense. I don’t know what kind of career Lamar Jackson is going to have, but I do know that Jackson is an exceptionally talented athlete who’s playing great football this season. I suspect New England will have an answer or two for Jackson and the Baltimore offense. And my guess is it will involve unusual packages that disguise coverage and emphasize speed. If that works, and if the Patriots offense can take advantage of a weak Ravens D — with long, time-consuming scoring drives — New England should be able to advance to 9-0. Patriots by a touchdown.

Dallas (-7) at NY Giants
If there’s a reason to believe the Giants can compete, it hasn’t been revealed to me. Cowboys by two touchdowns.

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