Week Ten Picks
Now that the election is over, I can finally focus my attention on football. Oh, wait, I was already doing that. And it hasn’t been working. Quick, somebody find a way to distract me. Here’s what not to expect this week.
Indianapolis (-3) at Jacksonville
I don’t know if the 5-3 Colts are serious contenders for an AFC wild card slot (and I’m quite certain, though I think he’s going to have an incredible career, that talk of Andrew Luck as a Rookie of the Year candidate is pure nonsense), but I do know that the Jaguars are serious contenders for first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. And there’s a reason for that. But traveling on a short week is tough for a young team, so the Colts only win this one by a touchdown.
Buffalo (+11) at New England
The Brady–Belichick era Patriots are 19-2 overall against the Bills, 10-0 in Foxborough. Brady’s thrown for 300-plus yards in each of the teams’ last three meetings and seven of the last 12. And in their three meetings in New England since Brady returned from his 2008 injury season, the Pats QB has gone 83 of 115 (72 percent) for 968 yards (8.4 yards per attempt), eight touchdowns and two interceptions, for a passer rating of 113.2. I don’t see any reason to expect a major reversal in any of those trends. Nor in the scoring trend; New England has outscored Buffalo by close to 16 points a game in Foxborough over Brady’s career, 12 points per game in the last three years. Patriots by two touchdowns.
NY Giants (-4) at Cincinnati
Eli Manning hasn’t played his best football over the last couple of weeks. And the Giants have a history of struggling through November. But let’s be honest here. These are the Bengals. If New Jersey so much as gets off to a slow start, it will be the Giants own doing. And even then, they’ll recover quickly enough. Giants by 10.
San Diego (+3) at Tampa Bay
It would be easy enough to look at this as a matchup of two 4-4 teams headed in completely different directions. And maybe that’s the smart thing to do. The Buccaneers are getting it done with Doug Martin, who makes two key contributions to the offense: First and foremost is 5.2 yards per carry and seven TDs; second, though, is the fact that Martin’s presence has opened things up for Josh Freeman, who looks to be having his best season as a pro. The Chargers, meanwhile, haven’t beaten a team with a winning record yet this season; their four wins include two over the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that barely qualifies as professional at this point. So, yeah, these teams are going in entirely different directions. Still, if this game were in San Diego, I’d still be tempted to pick the Chargers, because I think they have a chance to slow down Martin and make Freeman earn a win. I’m not sure he’s ready to do that on the road. But I’m confident he can do it in Tampa. Buccaneers by a field goal.
Denver (-3.5) at Carolina
Another week, another weak opponent for Denver, another opportunity for the national media to fawn over Peyton Manning‘s “incredible” comeback season. (Whatever will they say after the Broncos are eliminated after just one playoff game?) Denver by six.
Tennessee (+6) at Miami
I’m nobody’s idea of a football genius, Bud, but if you’re looking at “alternatives,” may I be so bold as to suggest defensive players who can tackle and offensive players who can hold on to the ball? I mean, I really think those things would help. But maybe it’s just me. Dolphins by four.
Oakland (+7.5) at Baltimore
A week ago, I told you I wasn’t buying into the notion that the Raiders were a good team, because they hadn’t beaten anyone good. I said they’d falter against the Buccaneers. And I was right. So what do you think I’m going to say as the Raiders head off to face a serious contender? Exactly. Ravens by 17.
Atlanta (-2.5) at New Orleans
I’m sitting in the Hyatt Regency New Orleans looking out at the Superdome as I write this. It’s an impressive building. Should be a lovely place for the Falcons to take their first loss of the season. Matt Ryan has an off day and the Saints pull off the upset, winning by six.
Detroit (-2) at Minnesota
I hate this game. The Vikings are fading. The Lions are (kind of) surging. The Vikings beat the Lions in Detroit back in week four with smoke and mirrors. The Lions should be able to win. And if it were in Detroit, I’d feel pretty good picking it that way. But it isn’t. And, right or wrong … I … just … can’t. Vikings by a field goal.
NY Jets (+6.5) at Seattle
Never mind the silly guarantees. The 2012 Jets are all done. And this game, in which they’ll be lucky to score three points, should illustrate that reality perfectly. Seahawks by 10.
Dallas (-1) at Philadelphia
It’s virtually unavoidable that one of these teams will somehow fail to lose this game. And when you can say that, you know you’re in for some great football. I’m gonna take my chances on Tony Romo to be ever so slightly less of a knucklehead than Michael Vick. Isn’t that a hell of a thing to hang your hat on? Cowboys win straight up. It’s a push with the point.
St. Louis (-11.5) at San Francisco
the 49ers are only a game ahead of the Seahawks in the win column (two in the loss column), but their lead in the NFC West is functionally two games because San Fran is guaranteed at least a split with Seattle and the Seahawks are 0-3 in the division. The Niners have two games against the lowly Rams over the last half of the season; if they win both, their lead in the division becomes effectively insurmountable. That should be simple enough. San Francisco by 14.
Houston (+1) at Chicago
I’ve been saying I’ll buy into the Bears when they beat a good team. I mean it. They win this game, I’ll accept that they’re for real. Until they do that, I remain skeptical. The Bears live by the takeaway. That’s fine, I suppose. But you can’t scheme for it. You can coach it, but that’s a different thing. You still have to rely on your opponents to present opportunities for your guys to take advantage of. The Texans don’t present many of those opportunities (indeed, almost none). And that’s the difference here. Houston by six.
Kansas City (+12.5) at Pittsburgh
Dying by turnovers is different from living by them. No one has to come up with ways to get you to give them the ball. If it’s what you do, it’s what you do. Either you correct it or you keep on getting bit in the ass by it. The Chiefs, who have 29 giveaways and a giveaway/takeaway differential of -20 (nearly double the league’s second worst mark, Dallas’ -11), have shown no evidence that they have any ability to correct their problem. The Steelers devour teams that consistently make mistakes. Pittsburgh by 14 (actually, considerably more than 14, but it will be 14 at halftime, which is when everyone outside of western Pennsylvania will turn off the TV and go to bed).