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Week Fourteen Picks

December 10th, 2015

I finally had a respectable finish in week thirteen. I went 12-4 straight up, 8-8 against the spread for the week. I can live with that. My numbers for the season? Meh. I’m 117-75 (.609) straight up, 88-100-4 (.469) against the spread.

Maybe I can power through a few more good weeks and get those averages up. Or maybe I’ll fall flat on my face.

Here’s what not to expect.

Minnesota (+11) at Arizona
I could write about the difficultly of traveling to play on a Thursday night. I could write about the fact that although the Vikings have a good record, the closest they’ve come to beating a good team was a narrow home victory over the then-reeling Chiefs way back in week six. I could write about how the Vikings have a one-dimensional offense that doesn’t match up well against the Cardinals D. But why bother? The simple fact is that the Vikings don’t belong on the same field as the Cardinals. That’s all I ever really needed to write about this game. Well, actually, that and Arizona by 35.

Pittsburgh (+3) at Cincinnati
The default line of home team -3 makes perfect sense to me. Because as far as I can see, these teams are effectively the same. Of course, that only makes picking this thing all the more difficult. So excuse me if I take the coward’s way out and hedge: Bengals by a point.

Buffalo (-1.5) at Philadelphia
If all of Philadelphia’s remaining opponents helpfully self-destruct, the Eagles can totally carry the NFC East. But I’m not sure that’s something you can count on. I think I’ll stick with the whole “better team usually wins” thing for now, even in games where the better team isn’t ultimately all that much better. Bills by four.

Atlanta (+7.5) at Carolina
Can the Falcons snap a five-game losing streak and end their division rivals’ quest for an undefeated season? Well, as the Eagles demonstrated last weekend, anything can happen in the NFL. But it usually doesn’t. Panthers by ten.

San Francisco (+1.5) at Cleveland
One of these teams is going to find a novel and entertaining way to lose this game. Which will it be? I have no idea. They’re clearly equally capable. Let’s just say home team wins by a fluky three points.

Washington (+3) at Chicago
Seventy-five years ago this week, these two teams squared off in an NFL Championship game still remembered for the 73-0 beatdown Sid Luckman’s bears put on Slingin’ Sammy Baugh’s Racists. This Sunday, it’s just a matchup of two 5-7 teams. Well, except that Chicago is all but eliminated from postseason contention while Washington is currently in first place in the NFC East. I keep reading and hearing about how Chicago is much better than Washington. I don’t see it. But I don’t have it in me to look all that hard. Still, the Bears are at home. So, whatevs. Just for fun, I’ll say Chicago by 73.

Detroit (-2.5) at St. Louis
I know the Lions are supposed  to be the better team. I just don’t really understand why. I’m looking for the home team to win it by a field goal.

San Diego (+10) at Kansas City
The Chiefs continue their push for the playoffs while the Chargers continue their push for first overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Kansas City by 17.

New Orleans (+3.5) at Tampa Bay
The Buccaneers, who toppled the Saints in New Orleans back in week two, last swept this season series in 2007. The Saints swept the Bucs in each of three seasons prior to this one. That’s not terribly interesting, is it? And still, somehow, it’s more interesting to me than actually talking about this game. Bucs by six.

Indianapolis (+1) at Jacksonville
The Colts ultimately are going to surrender the AFC South title to the Texans. But it’s going to happen with a loss to Houston next week, not a loss to Jacksonville here. Indy by three.

Tennessee (+7) at NY Jets
The Jets win with takeaways. The Titans can’t hold on to the ball. That makes picking this game pretty easy, don’t you think? New Jersey by nine.

Seattle (-9) at Baltimore
The Ravens couldn’t have won this game even if they had a quarterback. Which they don’t. Seattle by 20.

Oakland (+7.5) at Denver
If the Raiders can avoid big mistakes, I think they can make this a game. But they still can’t win it. Because the Broncos take the unconventional approach of fielding a defense. The Raiders might want to take note of that. Denver by six.

Dallas (+7) at Green Bay
Green Bay retakes control of the NFC North with a big win over an awful Dallas squad. Packers by 16.

New England (-3) at Houston
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the sky is falling in New England. The Patriots went out last Sunday, made five horrifically bad, thoroughly unforced, and entirely uncharacteristic errors, and, as a result, lost to the 9-point underdog Philadelphia Eagles. This, according to much talk in New England and some in the national media, proves that the Patriots cannot win without Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski on the field. (This despite the fact that the Patriots put up 28 points, which is more than the scoring average of all but three teams in the league, one of which is New England. And despite the fact that the New England defense only allowed 14; with another 14 of Philly’s points scored on special teams plays and seven scored via a 100-yard pick six.) And this, of course, makes the Patriots the worst 10-2 team ever. I mean, it’s either that or — as I said for weeks earlier in the season, mostly to New England fans who were talking about 16-o — the Patriots were always going to drop two games, and it was always the case that one of them would be a loss no one would see coming. And now the Pats are done losing for the rest of the season (unless by some chance their week 17 game in Miami turns out to be meaningless). The Texans are a good team, of course. And they’re hosting. So anything can happen. But here are the predictive stats (come out ahead in two out of three of these and you’re in line for a win): Scoring differential, Patriots +5.8; passer rating differential, Patriots +9.9; takeaway/giveaway differential, Patriots +6. It’ll be a late night for New England fans as the Texans keep it close, but the Patriots win this one by a touchdown.


NY Giants (-1) at Miami
The Giants have three winnable games on their schedule over the next four weeks. They need to come out on top in at least two of those to take the NFC East title. This should get them off to a good start. New Jersey by three.

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