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Week Nine Picks

November 2nd, 2007

What a week. The good meet the good, the bad meet the bad, and the mediocre cast awkward glances at each other at midfield. Makes for easy picking, doesn’t it? Want some betting advice: Throw a dart. Every bet’s as good as the next this week. And that’s not very. Here’s a look at what probably won’t happen.

San Francisco (+3) at Atlanta
Oh, goody, it’s a stink off. Neither defense can stop anything. And neither offense has anything that actually requires stopping. The home team does have a giveaway/takeaway ratio of plus five to the visitors minus three, however, so I guess I’ll hang my hat on that. Atlanta by four.

Cincinnati (-1) at Buffalo
Nope. Sorry. Not buying it. Cincinnati’s probably a better team on paper (somehow, in spite of how poorly they’ve played), but Buffalo’s the team with all the heart out on the field. I don’t care who’s starting under center for Buffalo, because even if I weren’t inclined to pick the Bills to win (which I’m doing), I’d pick the Bengals to lose. The difference is a field goal.

Denver (+3) at Detroit
I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent going over this game in my head trying to figure out a reason to pick Denver. Why? Because as well as they’ve been playing, I still have an incredibly hard time believing the Lions are for real. Crazy, right? Crazier still, all that time has been a complete loss, because Denver isn’t beating Detroit this weekend. Because, here’s the thing: neither defense can stop a damned thing, but somehow, some way Detroit’s offense actually has more to not stop. So, whatever, I’ll take the Lions, give the points and hold my breath.

Green Bay (+2) at Kansas City
Pass. No, I don’t mean the quarterbacks. I mean me. I’d like to pass on making a pick here. Is that OK? No. Fine. I’ll go with the team with that knows where to find the end zone. Green Bay pulls off the upset.

San Diego (-7) at Minnesota
I can think of exactly one way that next big thing Adrian Peterson is like every other running back in the NFL: Even he can’t pick up yards if the running lanes aren’t there. San Diego by 13.

Jacksonville (+3.5) at New Orleans
When it comes right down to it, there’s only one reason I’m pick the home team in this game. His inarguably adequate performance last weekend aside, I still don’t believe in Quinn Gray. So I’m taking the home squad straight up even though I halfway believe turnovers are going to kill them. Saints by three.

Washington (-3.5) at NY Jets
I know the Patriots are famous for their focus on the game at hand, but has anyone else wondered if Bill Belichick had Washington’s schedule in mind as his team went about humiliating one of the league’s best defenses a week ago? Wouldn’t it just be awful if the Skins D decided to take out all that anger on the Jets? Washington by 10.

Arizona (+3.5) at Tampa Bay
Yet another game I just really don’t wanna pick. Still like that Jeff Garcia, though. And I’m OK with Tampa Bay’s D. So I’ll go ahead and take the home team to come out ahead by three.

Carolina (+4.5) at Tennessee
If David Carr can sometimes up against competent when his health is at 100 percent, what exactly can one expect from him at 80 percent? Kinda scary to think about, isn’t it, Panthers fans? Tennessee by a touchdown.

Seattle (+2) at Cleveland
I see this game coming down to quarterback and running back play. And what’s insane is the way I see it going. The Browns can’t bring enough pressure on Tim Hassselbeck to shut down the Seahawks’ passing game. And even though it’s pretty clear Shaun Alexander can’t get it done without great run blocking (which Seattle no longer has), he still doesn’t go down unless you hit him, which means the Browns D is going to have to at least account for the run, which means Cleveland can’t drop extra players in coverage, or at least not on first and second down. So my guess is that the Seahawks are gonna be able to score more in this game than the 14 points they’ve been averaging on the road thus far this season. Lot of good it’ll do ’em. I look for Derek Anderson and Jamal Lewis both to be able to do some damage against Seattle’s suspect D. Probably just enough for the Browns to squeeze by the Seahawks. I’m looking for a one-point victory by Cleveland.

New England (-4.5) at Indianapolis
Here’s an idea. Let’s pretend there’s a way to discuss this highly anticipated game without getting bogged down in nonsensical debates (I can’t have an opinion on whether the Patriots have been running up the score on opponents, because there’s no such thing as running up the score in professional sports), idiotic and poorly considered pseudo-moralizing (can one more unimaginative and uniformed dolt passing for a football expert write about Colts-Pats as a contest between good and evil, please?), or the psychology behind the issuance, or veiled issuance, of unconscionable suggestions (from sources that include supposedly respectable journalists) that someone take out a hit on the best quarterback in the game (apparently, since it’s the only way to stop the Patriots, it’s OK — I’d love see the gasping, horrified reaction of the national press were someone to make the same suggestion regarding the second best QB in the game, their saintly darling boy, naked butt and rectum and all). You know what I’m saying? Let’s just set all that stuff aside for a minute and maybe talk about football a little. How’s that sound? Not good to the national press. Know why? Because when you start looking at the football aspects of this matchup (as opposed to the pure hype bullshit), it starts to look a lot less even than the press wants it to be. This is a blowout in the making, folks, regardless of what you may have been led to believe, and regardless of the fact that the Colts are an excellent football team, a team that at least 26 teams in the league couldn’t hope to beat. But as good as the defending champs are, the Pats are better. The fact of the matter, and this is where the growing hatred of the Patriots truly comes from, is that a the Pats are a team that 31 teams in the league can’t hope to beat. Look, I agree that the Colts defense this season is better than it was last season. That’s very nice. But the Indy D hasn’t improved nearly so much as the New England offense. Nor has the Indy D changed significantly in the way it’s structured. The Colts defense simply doesn’t match up at all well against the reconfigured Patriots offense. Indy doesn’t put pressure on the passer (which is why the Colts have fewer sacks than all but eight teams, six of which have losing records). That’s a problem when you’re facing a quarterback who already has more time in the pocket than any other in the league. Brady should be able to relax and wait for one of his considerably talented targets to break free. Moreover, the Colts zone defense is gonna struggle to slow down guys like Wes Welker and Donte’ Stallworth, the latter of whom is murder to stop once he has the ball in his hands. If the Colts attempt to adjust by dropping additional bodies into coverage, or by going totally against character and blitzing, it’s going open up lanes for Laurence Maroney. The Colts simply are not going to be able to keep the Patriots from scoring. Fine, you say, but do I really believe the Pats D can keep the Colts offense from putting up points? Not entirely, no. But I think New England’s D as currently configured poses significant enough problems for Indy that it’s going to make it very tough for the Colts to move the ball. Specifically, I don’t think Manning can account for #96. Certainly not in the early going. Linebackers like Thomas, who can show up anywhere on the field on any given play, give Peyton fits. If the Colts come into this game planning to get big production in the short passing game, particularly with Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai leading the way, Peyton’s gonna end up putting the ball in Thomas’ hands once or twice. And when Manning attempts to adjust his game to account for #96, he’s going to start having difficulty with #50, #59, #93 and #75, which will lead to unpleasant (for Peyton) experiences with #22 and his old friend #27. I simply don’t see a way out of trouble for Manning, particularly if he’s attempting to keep up with the New England scoring machine (which is averaging nearly 10 more points a game than Indianapolis). I expect to see Manning make some very good plays, but also some costly mistakes. And in the end, I expect the scoreboard to read something along the lines of New England, 42, Indianapolis, 17.

Houston (+3) at Oakland
The Texans are giving up way too many yards on the ground (nearly 121 a game and 4.6 per carry) to feel good about going up a team that cranks out 138 rushing yards a game and 4.3 a carry. I just don’t see Houston’s defense being able to get off the field in this game, which spells an Oakland victory, if only by about the field goal the Raiders are giving.

Dallas (-3) at Philadelphia
There’s this thing in my gut telling me the Eagles are gonna find a way to pull off the upset here. It think it’s that stupid free taco. (Thanks a lot, Jacoby.) But then there’s this thing in my head (which I really don’t use nearly enough) saying, “No fucking way.” I mean, OK, the Eagles D has an outside chance of slowing down the Cowboys’ run game. And Philly’s offense can probably score a few TDs. So maybe that puts some pressure on Mr. Moneybags and causes him to make one or two stupid mistakes (he’s certainly no stranger to those). But overall, the Eagles don’t match up well against the ‘Boys. I expect Philadelphia’s secondary to get torched on a few key plays. And that should make the difference. To the tune of something like a seven-point Cowboys victory, I think.

Baltimore (+8.5) at Pittsburgh
The Ravens are getting healthier in some key areas. The Ravens really, really need to win this game. And the Ravens ought to be able to beat the Steelers. But I don’t think Willie Parker cares about any of that stuff. My respect for Baltimore’s formidable run D notwithstanding, Parker carries his team to a four-point win.

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