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Week Ten Picks

November 12th, 2015

This happens every year. Typing the words “week ten picks” just now, I thought, “Week ten? How the hell did it get to be week ten?” I think one of the best things about football season is that it doesn’t plod along the way other major pro sports seasons do. But, you know, that’s also the worst thing about football season. Soon enough, I’ll be counting down to the start of the 2016 season and trying to figure out how it got to be mid-February so quickly.

And that, friends, may be my one accurate prediction of the week.

My week nine results were mixed. I finished 8-5 straight up, which is disappointing, and 8-5 against the spread, which, when you don’t actually gamble, feels pretty good. That gets me to 84-48 (.636) and 59-70-3 (.458) for the season.

And that leaves us only with what not to expect in, yup, week ten.

Buffalo (+2.5) at NY Jets
The first of two games during the latter half of the season in which the Jets and Bills get in each others way in the AFC wild card race. I expect I’ll be picking the home team in both. I know for certain that I’m taking New Jersey to come away with a narrow victory this time around. (See how I totally ignored the whole Rex Ryan homecoming/revenge business there? Doh!) Jets by a field goal.

Detroit (+11.5) at Green Bay
Even good Lions teams haven’t been able to find a way to win in Green Bay. A bad Lions team coming in to face a frustrated Packers squad? If there’s a recipe for a blowout, that’s pretty much it. Packers by no less than three touchdowns (at least one of them defensive).

Dallas (-1) at Tampa Bay
First things first: In consideration of the axiom about judging persons by the company they keep, I will be referring to the Dallas team as the Cowpies until such time as they part ways with football’s biggest lump of solid waste, Greg Hardy. As for the game, the Buccaneers are at least marginally better than the Cowpies. And they’re at home. So what is there to do but pick Tampa. The Bucs win it by four.

Carolina (-5.5) at Tennessee
I don’t mean to reduce the differences between the 8-0 Panthers and the 4-5 Saints to a single factor. It’s not that simple. But for the sake of discussing whether the 2-6 Titans have it in them to upset Carolina this week much as they upset New Orleans a week ago, let’s pretend it is that simple. Here’s that single factor: The Panthers, unlike the Saints, have a defense. A good one. If you feel a need to go deeper on this game, by all means pick it apart. But that’s pretty much all I need. Carolina by a touchdown.

Chicago (+7.5) at St. Louis
I keep hearing about how the Bears offense came to life on Monday night. This, apparently, from folks who don’t know how bad the Chargers defense has been this season. Putting up 22 points against the Chargers isn’t a success; it’s a failure. Seriously. San Diego has faced eight other opponents this season. Know how many of them scored fewer points than the Bears? None. Meanwhile, the Rams have given up more than 21 points in a game just three times this season. They haven’t allowed a touchdown in St. Louis since September. And on the other side of the ball, this game will find a Chicago D that allows 4.6 yards per carry trying to stop Todd Gurley. I think I’ve got a pretty good guess about how that’s likely to turn out. Rams by seven.

New Orleans (-1) at Washington
Neither of these teams is worth a damn. But I suspect the Saints have enough offense to squeak by the Racists and get back to .500. Not that it will ultimately do them much good. New Orleans by four.

Miami (+6.5) at Philadelphia
So that initial “surge” for the Dolphins under Dan Campbell turned out to be a bit of a mirage, huh?

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Who’da thunk it? Well, you know, I’m sure a third straight road game will solve that problem. It usually does. Eagles by nine.

Cleveland (+4.5) at Pittsburgh
Here’s a little secret (I may have shared this one before): When your opponent is the Cleveland Browns, it doesn’t really matter who you’ve got playing quarterback. All that matters is whether you can run the ball. I think the Steelers might be OK. Pittsburgh by seven.

Jacksonville (+5.5) at Baltimore
There’s a pretty solid chance this game will feature more turnovers than punts. The Ravens come out ahead by one turnover and three points.

Minnesota (+3) at Oakland
The Vikings are coming off a fairly impressive road win over the Rams. The Raiders are coming off a very tough road loss at Pittsburgh. I think this game turns the equation around. The Raiders offense takes command and Oakland wins it by six.

Kansas City (+6.5) at Denver
The Broncos log the first of two wins that will get their fans feeling good again just before the team’s season unravels down the stretch. The Broncos won a wild game by seven when they visited Kansas City in week two. I don’t think this one will be as dramatic. Or as close. Denver by 10.

New England (-7) at NY Giants
If the Patriots lose this game, it won’t be because the Giants are in their heads. Or because New Jersey “has their number.” Or because Tom Coughlin isn’t afraid of big, bad Bill Belichick like all the other professional football coaches are (according to media and fan fantasy). The Giants aren’t winning this game with a great pass rush that they don’t have. Neither are they likely winning it with circus catches against a Patriots defense that is one of the best in the league. If the Giants win, if the Patriots lose, the determining factor will be turnovers. That’s it. The Giants live by the takeaway. New Jersey leads the NFL in takeaways, 21, and is tied with Carolina and Arizona for most interceptions, 13. They’re at the top of the list in turnover differential with a +12. And if they end up at +2 in this game, they probably come away with a win. But that’s not going to be easy. Because the Patriots, who are tied with the Jets for second in turnover differential at +7, also are the team with the fewest giveaways on the season, having surrendered just two interceptions and three lost fumbles. So we’ll see. Oh, and by the way: Scoring differential, Patriots +7.1; passer rating differential, Patriots +12.0. I’m riding with those numbers. And looking for this one: New England by 17.


Arizona (+3) at Seattle
I don’t think either of these teams has beat an elite opponent yet this season.

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That said, I also don’t think the Cardinals are facing an elite opponent this week. Home field helps the Seahawks, but I still like Arizona by a point.

Houston (+10.5) at Cincinnati
Yeah, this should be ugly. Bengals by 16.

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