Archive for December, 2019

Week Seventeen Picks

December 27th, 2019 Comments off

I’m finishing strong.

Or not.

I fell to 9-7 straight up in week sixteen, one game worse than my disappointing finishes in each of the preceding two weeks. I did stumble to a third straight week of 8-7-1 against the spread, though. So that’s … you know, weak.

I head into week seventeen with season records of 158-81-1 (.660) straight up, and 120-114-6 (.513) picking with the points. Let’s see what kind of damage I can do to those results in this final go-round.

Here’s what not to expect.

Cleveland (-2.5) at Cincinnati
Things are looking pretty good for professional football in Ohio, aren’t they? Browns by six.

Chicago (+1) at Minnesota
Neither team has any incentive to try to win this game. The Vikings will be doing everything they can to be healthy as they head into next week’s visit to — well, wherever it may be. The Bears are just plain old done. Let’s figure home team by a field goal.

Atlanta (+1) at Tampa Bay
There’s no figuring this game out. Or maybe there is, except it requires one to care. I’m just going with the seriously flawed, but easy notion that since the Buccaneers beat the Falcons in Atlanta, they ought to be able to beat them in Tampa, too. Bucs by four.

New Orleans (-13) at Carolina
It’s not worth parsing the various things that need to happen for the Saints to clinch the NFC one or two seed. All scenarios require a New Orleans win. That part shouldn’t pose much of challenge. Saints by 17.

NY Jets (+1.5) at Buffalo
If the Bills win, they’re the five seed. If they lose, they’re also the five seed. So unless Buffalo builds an insurmountable lead in the half of football they’re likely to play in order to tune up for next week’s trip to Houston (or maybe it’ll be Kansas City), I’m thinking the Jets come out on top by something like three.

Miami (+15.5) at New England
With a first-round bye on the line, Bill Belichick has told his players that this is a playoff game. The big three predictive stats look like this: passer rating differential, Patriots +26.2; scoring differential, Patriots +13; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +35. These are not factors that point to a close game. New England by 24.

Green Bay (-12.5) at Detroit
With a win, the Packers would earn a week off and at least one home game in the postseason. Green Bay by 10.

LA Chargers (+8.5) at Kansas City
The Chiefs can’t get a first round by without some help from the Dolphins. But they can shore up the three seed on their own. And that might actually matter. Kansas City by a touchdown.

Tennessee (-3.5) at Houston
If the Chiefs and Patriots both win, the Texans will go into this game with nothing to play for — and no shortage of incentives to rest up in preparation for their wild card round visit from the Bills. That would open the door for the Titans to grab the final spot in the AFC postseason field. And since I’m picking both the Chiefs and the Patriots, I guess I have to figure Houston gives this one away. Titans by four.

Indianapolis (-3.5) at Jacksonville
I was going to say that no one outside of Indianapolis and Jacksonville could possibly care about this game. Then I remembered that the Raiders’ slim postseason hopes depend on a Colts win. And then I also remembered that probably no one in Jacksonville cares at this point. And who even knows about Indy? And maybe not Oakland. But maybe Las Vegas. Or no one anywhere. Colts by a field goal.

Washington (+11) at Dallas
If a football team gets a win just exactly when it no longer matters, does their coach get to keep his job? I’m thinking probably not. Dallas by 14.

Philadelphia (-4.5) at NY Giants
The Eagles get one more win before their inevitable evisceration in the wild card round. Philadelphia by a touchdown.

Pittsburgh (-2) at Baltimore
The Ravens have no reason to try. The Steelers can at least hope that a Titans loss will put them on the road to Kansas City. Pittsburgh by four.

Arizona (+3.5) at LA Rams
Their NFC title defense is long since over, but the Rams can still secure a winning record. Los Angeles by seven.

Oakland (+3.5) at Denver
The Raiders need way too much to have any real hope of qualifying for the postseason. The only thing they can take care of on their own is the need for a win here. They’ll fall at that hurdle. Broncos by six.

San Francisco (-3) at Seattle
This for all intents and purposes is where the 2019-20 playoffs begin. The winner is the NFC West champion. For the 49ers, that would mean home field through the playoffs. For the Seahawks, it probably means the three seed (unless the Packers and/or Saints manage to lose earlier in the day, opening up better possibilities). In any case, the winner gets at least a home game while the loser ships off of to Philadelphia (for a pretty easy road game). The Seahawks have developed just enough of a limp over the past several weeks to make me believe the Niners have the advantage. San Francisco by a point.

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Week Sixteen Picks

December 20th, 2019 Comments off

Consistency is overvalued.

Like, my picks have been consistently mediocre these last two week. I finished week fifteen with the same record as I achieved in week fourteen: 10-6 straight up, 8-7-1 against the spread. This is not an accomplishment.

And my records for the season — 149-74-1 (.665) straight up, 112-107-5 (.517) — well, they could be more impressive, too.

And still I persevere. Like a true champion. Or a giant, stupid loser. It’s one of those things. I’ll let you know if I figure out which.

For the moment, let’s stick with what not to expect in week sixteen

Houston (-1) at Tampa Bay
If the Buccaneers offense were at full strength, I might be inclined to look for an upset here. I’m not sure I’d pick it that way given that the Texans are a win away from clinching the AFC South title, but I’d certainly feel like I needed to give Tampa serious consideration. But the Bucs offense isn’t at anything resembling full strength. And the real problem I suspect that will present is that the Tampa Bay defense is going to end up spending too much time on the field. I won’t be surprised if this one is tight deep into the second half. But in the end, I think the Texans come out on top by at least three and probably more like seven.

Buffalo (+6.5) at New England
The Bills are making things interesting in the AFC East for the first time in a long time. The Buffalo D was impressive the last time these teams met. It’s been just as impressive throughout the season. And the Patriots are banged up enough that the Bills pose a real threat. The big three predictives say home team: passer rating differential, Patriots +10.8; scoring differential, Patriots +4.4; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +19. And it’s certainly the case that if the Patriots end up with an advantage in the turnover battle, New England could win this by a touchdown or more. But I’m not expecting that. I’m expecting fans of both teams to spend the evening on the edges of their seats, right up until the Patriots put up a late field goal to get the win. New England by three.

LA Rams (+6.5) at San Francisco
The 49ers are effectively out of mistakes they can recover from. They’re either winning out and going into the postseason as the conference one seed or they’re dropping to the five seed and embarking on a journey through the NFC playoffs that starts out relatively easy (at Dallas or Philadelphia) and then turns brutal. They have to be mindful of that. And my guess is it keeps them sharp enough to expose the Rams, who have appeared lately to be playing more like the defending NFC champs, but who are actually still just middle-of-the-pack pretenders. I think the Niners take control early and end up in front by something like 17.

Jacksonville (+1) at Atlanta
The Jaguars played their best football in the early part of the season. The Falcons have played their best late. I don’t see any reason to believe either of those trends is likely to change here. I’d like the Falcons more if they had a consistent ground game, but I like them just fine without one. Atlanta by three.

New Orleans (-1) at Tennessee
The Saints are the better team (though perhaps not by quite as great a margin as one might be tempted to think). The Titans are at home and in desperate need of a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. I’m not sure that’s enough. But I have to make a pick, so I’m pretending it is. Tennessee by two.

NY Giants (+3) at Washington
I’ve done some research and it turns out it’s still not possible for both teams to lose in an NFL game. I think the Giants probably should win. But I don’t think the Giants will win. Racists by a point.

Pittsburgh (-3) at NY Jets
It the Steelers win out, they’re in the playoffs. And if the Ravens beat the Browns this week, they’ll have no real reason to field a team when the Steelers come to visit in week 17. But that only matters if Pittsburgh wins here. That should keep the Steelers focused. Pittsburgh by six.

Cincinnati (+3) at Miami
The Bengals would sew up the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft with a loss here, while the Dolphins, with a win, would move down in the draft order. That’s just about the sum of what’s interesting about this matchup. Dolphins by a touchdown.

Carolina (+6.5) at Indianapolis
No one has anything to play for here. Colts by seven.

Baltimore (-7) at Cleveland
The Ravens aren’t about to let home field advantage through the AFC playoffs slip away. They won’t even let it remain a notion for very long. Baltimore by at least 20.

Detroit (+6.5) at Denver
Not a lot to see here. But the home team still sort of has a defense. Broncos by nine.

Oakland (+6.5) at LA Chargers
The temptation to say something about how nothing will be the same the next time these teams meet is largely (though clearly not entirely) quashed by the fact that nothing is the same with either of these teams right now. Los Angeles by four.

Dallas (-1) at Philadelphia
The loser of this game moves a step farther away from a humiliating defeat to San Francisco or Seattle (or possibly Minnesota) in the wild card round. Which I suppose is just another way of saying enjoy it while it lasts, Cowboys fans. Dallas by six.

Arizona (+9.5) at Seattle
I could totally see myself picking the Cardinals here. You know, like, if I were a complete idiot. Seahawks by 14.

Kansas City (-4) at Chicago
Well, I mean, the Chicago defense is pretty good. So you never know for sure. But you kind of know for sure. No matter what happens earlier in the weekend, the Chiefs will be in contention for a first round bye as long as they win this game. They’ll figure out a way to overcome the Bears D. Kansas City by a field goal.

Green Bay (+4.5) at Minnesota
The Vikings can’t take the NFC North with a win here. In reality, they probably can’t take the NFC North at all. But they can lose the division with a loss in this game. And there’s also the possibility that the outcome of this game determines the difference for the wild card round between a visit to Dallas or Philly or a visit to Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans or Green Bay. You really want the NFC East “champ.” The Packers won’t make it easy, but I think the Vikings come out on top. I’m thinking by four.

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Week Fifteen Picks

December 12th, 2019 Comments off

Ah, whatever. I can live with 10-6 straight up. And 8-7-1 against the spread? So it goes.

See how relaxed I am about this?

I’m also totally mellow about 139-68-1 (.668) straight up, 104-100-4 (.510) against the spread on the season.

So, yeah, let’s see how mellow I can be as I watch this weeks picks fizzle.

Here’s what not to expect.

NY Jets (+14.5) at Baltimore
I don’t know about you, but I kind of feel like Lamar Jackson could play this game in a full body cast and the Ravens would still clobber the Jets. I do think the Ravens are likely to pull their slightly hobbled QB once the game is in hand, as a result of which I think they might only win by 24 or so.

Tampa Bay (-3.5) at Detroit
I don’t know what to do with this game. Recent success aside, the Bucs really aren’t a good football team. But neither are the Lions. And at least Tampa seems to be trying (a bit too hard sometimes). If the game were being played in Florida, I think I’d give twice the spread. In Detroit, I’m just not so sure. Let’s say Bucs by a field goal.

New England (-9.5) at Cincinnati
You know what? I’m gonna hit you with the big three predictive stats even though I’m confident they barely matter. Passer rating differential, Patriots +23.8; scoring differential, Patriots +11.5; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +30. It almost seems like I have to be making that last one up, right? I mean +30? Turnovers? But, yeah. New England leads the league in takeaway-giveaway (by no small margin) at +19. Cincinnati is the league’s third worst at -11. That’s a tough pairing on any field at any point in time. Add a need for the Patriots to get right after a couple of tough losses (including a home game the officials stole from them) and a bit of a “snitches get stitches” factor, and I think you have a formula for a blowout. Patriots by 30.

Philadelphia (-4.5) at Washington
The Eagles may yet be the team that fails to lose the NFC East title. And from there … well, you know, they get to lose to suffer a humiliating loss to the five seed. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Philly by three.

Chicago (+4.5) at Green Bay
Even if they weren’t on an apparent mission to prove something late in the season (if perhaps only to themselves) the Bears aren’t likely to have made things easy for the Packers. Still and all … Green Bay by two.

Houston (+3) at Tennessee
The Texans and Titans meet twice over the final three weeks of the season, and possibly a third time in the first weekend of the postseason. I think it’s heading for a home-home split, which means next week’s games against the Bucs and Saints will probably end up deciding the division. Titans by four.

Seattle (-6) at Carolina
To ensure that their week 17 home game with the 49ers decides the NFC West, the Seahawks need to take care of the Panthers this week and the Cardinals next. Step one in that process shouldn’t prove much of a challenge. Seattle by 10.

Denver (+10.5) at Kansas City
The Chiefs probably won’t need the refs to hand them this one. Kansas City by a mostly legit 14.

Miami (+3.5) at NY Giants
This is a much more interesting game than the competitors’ positions at the bottom of the standings suggests. Neither offense can score. But neither defense can stop opponents from scoring. You almost have to watch just to see if the two squads somehow manage to disappear into some kind of tear in the space-time continuum. Barring that, the Giants win by six.

Jacksonville (+6.5) at Oakland
I don’t know. Home team by four, I guess.

Cleveland (-2.5) at Arizona
Something, something, something. Baker Mayfield’s revenge. For something. I don’t care. The Browns are less awful than the Cardinals. I think. Probably. But maybe not that much better. Cleveland by a point.

Atlanta (+11) at San Francisco
The Niners have something to play for. A big something. San Francisco by 17.

LA Rams (-1) at Dallas
The 6-7 Cowboys might yet “win” the NFC East. The 8-5 Rams have no chance of making the playoffs. That’s got to burn. Rams by three.

Minnesota (-2.5) at LA Chargers
If the Vikings want next week’s home game against the Packers to matter, they’ve got to take care of business in L.A. I expect they’ll do that. Vikings by seven.

Buffalo (+2) at Pittsburgh
The Bills are unquestionably the better team here. Which may be some consolation to them when it’s done. Or maybe not. Steelers by three.

Indianapolis (+9) at New Orleans
The Colts are done. Saints by 13.

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Week Fourteen Picks

December 5th, 2019 Comments off

I came so close.

To not making a fool of myself, I mean.

As I worked through last week’s slate of games, I kept thinking about all the road teams giving points. In all, eight road teams were favored. That’s a lot, and it should have raised a red flag. But it didn’t.

But I just pushed on through. Because it wan’t like the Dolphins were gonna give the Eagles are game or anything.

And then came upset week. Ten of the underdogs covered. Nine won outright. And, sure, five of those victorious dogs were among the eight teams that were getting points at home. But the other four (along with the one that covered but didn’t win) got it done on the road.

There’s no picking that. Or, I don’t know, maybe there is for someone. I’m not that someone.

So I ended up 9-7 picking straight up (which at least means I did better than the favorites) and 6-10 picking against the spread. That’s not a good week. And it brings my running records to 129-62-1 (.674) straight up, 96-93-3 (.508) against the spread. Rough week.

Let’s see how much worse it can get. Here’s what not to expect in week 14.

Dallas (-3) at Chicago
If the Bears had a ground game — or, you know, any kind of offense — the Cowboys would probably be staring down a third straight loss. But the Bears have no offense. The Cowboys might not have one anymore, either. Or they might just have caught a couple of elite defenses in a row. Chicago’s D might keep close to that pace. But I don’t see the home team having the ability to outscore the visitors. Cowboys by a point.

Baltimore (-5.5) at Buffalo
In Buffalo? Yeah, I could see the Bills giving the Ravens a game. But I don’t see them winning. Baltimore by a field goal.

Washington (+13) at Green Bay
Don’t look now, but the Racists have won two straight. Impressive streak, right? It ends in Green Bay. Packers by 14.

Denver (+9.5) at Houston
If you can hang 28 on the Patriots, you should probably be good for about 32 against the Broncos. And that’s at least double what the Broncos are capable of scoring. So I’ll go with Texans by 16.

San Francisco (+3) at New Orleans
A loss here and the 49ers will have dropped from the presumptive NFC one seed a presumptive wild card team (five seed) in a matter of two weeks. But I don’t think the Niners are losing here. I think they’re the better team overall, and I think they’ve got a D that can frustrate the hell out of the Saints. San Francisco by three.

Cincinnati (+8.5) at Cleveland
Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that the Browns were completely awful while the Bengals were only mostly awful? Man, oh, man how the tables have turned. I hope the fans in Cleveland enjoy it while it lasts. Browns by 14.

Carolina (+2.5) at Atlanta
You know that thing where a team sometimes steps up and turns in a great performance in the first game after their coach gets fired? I could totally see that happening here. Or not happening. That’s the other possibility. Either way, I like the Panthers. Carolina by a field goal.

Detroit (+14) at Minnesota
As long as the Vikings win the games they should win, the worst they’ll do is the six seed and a wild card round visit with their old pals the Packers. This is one of the games they should win. And since the Lions have just about nothing to play for, it seems reasonable to anticipate that this is one the Vikings will win. Minnesota by 10.

Miami (+5.5) at NY Jets
I don’t know. Whatever. Jets. Maybe. I guess. But not by five and a half. Three. Maybe four.

Indianapolis (+3) at Tampa Bay
In a fairly even matchup of terribly uneven teams, I’ll mostly do the same thing as the oddsmakers default to the home team. But I’ll look for the Bucs to win by something more like six.

LA Chargers (-3) at Jacksonville
The winner retains the potential to achieve a .500 season. That’s pretty cool. Jaguars by a point.

Kansas City (+3) at New England
Something was amiss last Sunday in Houston. I’m not sure what it was (though the illness that swept through the New England locker room last week does come immediately to mind), but it was something. That’s not an excuse. Just a way of expressing that I don’t expect to see the same type of inadequate performance from the Patriots at home this weekend. Here are your big three predictives: scoring differential, Patriots +3.9; passer rating differentials, Patriots, +5.5; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +10. That indicates a narrow New England victory. I’d say Patriots by a field goal, but that implies they’re going to have someone on hand to kick field goals. So I’ll go Patriots by four.

Pittsburgh (-2.5) at Arizona
The Steelers might yet steal the AFC six seed. That could prove interesting. Pittsburgh wins this one by seven.

Tennessee (-2.5) at Oakland
The Titans need to win this game to make their two upcoming matches with the AFC South-leading Texans matter. And if they can’t win this game, they don’t deserve a shot at the division. Titans by six.

Seattle (-2.5) at LA Rams
The Seahawks are in a battle not only for the NFC West title but for the conference one seed and home field through the playoffs. The defending champions are battling to keep their dim postseason hopes alive — and tracking an 8-8 finish. I won’t be surprised if this one’s every bit as close as their last meeting. And I expect a similar result. Seattle by a point.

NY Giants (+8.5) at Philadelphia
Maybe on Monday someone will let me know how this game turned out. I’ll be particularly interested to learn whether there were more points scored than turnovers committed. Eagles by a touchdown (or some collection of points resembling the same).

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