Week Nine Picks
Let’s just get straight to it this week, shall we? Here’s what not to expect.
Kansas City (+7.5) at San Diego
Chiefs fans are convinced that Matt Cassel is the source of their team’s struggles. I’m don’t buy it. Cassel clearly is not one of the all time great QBs, but he’s played OK to well over most of his seasons in Kansas City. This year, not so much. Cassel’s completing close to 60 percent of his passes, as he usually does. He’s taking his share of sacks, but his sack percentage isn’t what you’d call scary. And despite that, he’s throwing picks like they’re going out of style. Ten interceptions on 206 attempts over five starts/six games. That’s an interception percentage of 4.9, and that’s just awful. Add in the fact that Cassel’s only thrown six TDs and it looks even worse. I don’t think Cassel can possibly be solely responsible for what’s happening with him any more than I think he’s solely responsible for what’s happening with the Chiefs. There have to be play-calling issues, and those rest with Brian Daboll. Of course, in the end it doesn’t much matter whose fault it is that the Chiefs are falling apart, because the fact remains that the Chiefs are, you know, falling apart. And a trip to San Diego to face a Chargers team fresh off a fiasco in Cleveland and desperate to revive the pretense that it remains a contender in the AFC West (or at least for a wild card berth) is rather unlikely to help Kansas City solve its problems. The Chiefs can’t score, can’t stop opponents from scoring, and can’t begin to hold onto the ball (their -18 giveaway/takeaway differential not only is the worst in the league, but is worse by seven turnovers than the next team on the list, the Dallas Cowboys). That’s nothing but a formula for losing. San Diego by 10.
Denver (-3.5) at Cincinnati
The Broncos have already played the only four tough opponents on their schedule in the first five weeks of the season. They’re now set to cruise to a 13-3 finish. Maybe they’ll slip to 12-4 if they let one get away from them somewhere. But that won’t be this one. The Bengals just aren’t good enough. Willis McGahee puts up 100-plus for the second straight week and the Broncos come out on top by at least a touchdown.
Arizona (+11) at Green Bay
The Cardinals managed to surrender yet another four sacks when they hosted the 49ers Monday night. That gets them up to 39 on the season, for a sack percentage of 11.2. That’s going to continue to pose a problem for Arizona until it gets fixed. “But, Sean,” you say, “Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 28 times on 299 attempts. That comes out to 12 percent. Isn’t that worse?” And I say, sure, it is. But the other thing about Rodgers is that he’s thrown 21 touchdowns to just four interceptions. John Skelton? One TD, four picks. And, the Cardinals are traveling on a short week. It all makes this one easy. Green Bay by 21.
Baltimore (-3.5) at Cleveland
The Browns have been scrappy this season. I’ll give them that. But scrappy wasn’t enough to make their last game against the Ravens as close as the final score made it appear. And it won’t be enough this time, either. Baltimore by a touchdown.
Buffalo (+10) at Houston
You know what you get when you put Arian Foster up against the NFL‘s worst run defense? A great, big pile of ugly. That’s what. The only thing that will hold Houston’s margin of victory in the 20s is that time ticks off the clock faster when you run on every down.
Chicago (-3.5) at Tennessee
I’m not buying into the notion of the Bears as legit NFC North contenders until they demonstrate an ability to beat a good team. You may correctly read that to mean that I won’t be buying into the Bears as legit contenders even after they take apart the Titans. Chicago by 10.
Tampa Bay (+1.5) at Oakland
OK, you know what? Don’t ask me why I’m not one of the folks who are all excited about the Raiders as a result of their two straight wins, which have come against Jacksonville and Kansas City (the first of which they needed overtime to win at home). Beating those teams doesn’t make you good; it makes you better than awful. The Bucs aren’t great, but they’re better than the Raiders and they’re going to win this game. Tampa by a field goal.
Minnesota (+5) at Seattle
I thought Christian Ponder would get his season back on track last weekend when the Vikings hosted the Buccaneers. He didn’t. And if you can’t get it done against the middling Tampa Bay defense in your own building, you’re sure as hell not gonna have much success taking on the excellent Seattle defense on the road. Of course, I’m not expecting much from the Seattle offense, either. I’ll go with Seahawks by four.
Pittsburgh (+3) at NY Giants
This is the game of the week for better or for worse. And, honestly, I think it’s for better. I think it turns out to be a hard-fought, very competitive. I think it will be either team’s to win until late in the fourth. And, of course, that’s when Eli Manning is at his best. Giants by three.
Dallas (+4) at Atlanta
Yet again I find myself looking at a spread and feeling insulted on behalf of the Falcons. Dallas couldn’t keep it this close to Atlanta if the game were in Texas. They’re sure as hell not going to keep it close in Georgia. I will be absolutely dumbfounded if this game isn’t over by halftime. Tony Romo will have another one of those games that makes everyone who isn’t Jason Garrett or Jerry Jones wonder how the hell he keeps his job, and the Falcons will come out on top by 20.