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Week Eleven Picks

November 14th, 2019 No comments

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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