Last week I made the same mistake that I’ve made so many times in my years of football gambling. I took 10 favorites out of 14 games. Even worse, seven of those 10 favorites were “big favorites,” which to me means six points or greater. How could a football guru like myself fall into that trap? Really? All seven overwhelming favorites are gonna do exactly what the majority of people thinks they’re gonna do? Not possible. It wouldn’t be an NFL Sunday if some wacky shit didn’t go down in multiple games. But with seven games in question, how the hell was I supposed to know which ones wouldn’t follow the plan? Green Bay being up 21-3 at halftime in Indianapolis and somehow blowing it? Baltimore, averaging 30 points per game prior to last Sunday, going to Kansas City and facing a Chiefs team that was allowing 34 points per game, and somehow the Ravens only squeeze out nine points? Ridiculous.
Lucky for you, I’ve re-calibrated. Unlike in past seasons, I’m not gonna let last week send me into a tailspin of bad picking. And compared to last week, this week’s lines are much closer—only three “big favorites” and six games that have a 3.5 point or smaller spread. Does that mean I’m automatically gonna make better picks? Well, you be the judge (home teams underlined):
Tennessee (+6.5) over Pittsburgh: Here are some stats for you regarding the Thursday night (and one Wednesday night) games through five weeks: My picks are 2-3 against the spread; Road teams are 3-2; Underdogs are 4-1. So does that mean we should blindly select the underdog for these Thursday games? Maybe. Maybe the short week is a bit of an equalizer where the favorites have less time to prepare as well as they usually do. I don’t know. I’m grasping at straws here. As painful as it is to pick what is likely a bottom-five team, I just don’t know about this Steelers team still. Troy Polamalu is out again. Larmarr Woodley’s the newest “Steeler who’s too injured to play.” A team that’s just barely starting to get healthy has to go on the road with a three-day turnaround? I don’t like it. My final hope is that maybe Tennessee plays some inspired football because they’re on national TV and this is their Super Bowl?
Tampa Bay (-4) over Kansas City: I just love spending 20 minutes of my day trying to decide on a game between two teams whose combined record is 2-7. Obviously this line reflects the fact that Brady Quinn is now starting for KC instead of Matt Cassel. It also reflects the fact that no one thinks much of Cassel since this line would have been the same with him starting. Hmm, Brady Quinn on the road. A couple of things about Quinn you may not have known: 1). His first name is Brayden. Why does he go by Brady and not Brayd? 2). This is his 6th season in the NFL and he’s played in exactly 13 football games. 3). The last time he played in a regular season game was December 20, 2009 (that’s nearly three years for you math-challenged people). 4). Over these six years in the NFL, he’s lost QB competitions to the likes of Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. A murderer’s row of future hall-of-famers clearly. Do you even need to know anything about the Tampa Bay Bucs to bet against the Chiefs this weekend? Fine. They have a run defense that could neutralize Jamaal Charles. Boom, done, take Tampa.
NY Jets (-3) over Indianapolis: It’s too convenient and predictable to expect the Jets to free fall from here. Sure, we’d all love to see them finish the season 2-14, and they certainly seem like they’re heading in that direction. But what’s more likely is that they’ll hover around .500, but never come close to looking like even an average team. They’ll win some games with defense and fluky plays, and that’ll keep them from getting a top five draft pick. Home against Indy (still a weak team no matter how badly you wanna believe in them after that inspired comeback last week), they can handle. Painful but the pick is New York.
Cleveland (+3) over Cincinnati: Ehh, whatever. I don’t have much of an opinion on this one so I’m taking Cleveland with the points. My hope is that Joe Haden’s return to the Cleveland secondary (primarily covering A.J. Green), and the Bengals’ loss of Bernard Scott gives the Browns the edge in this divisional “showdown.” Cincy’s unreliable at best. I wish this was a four-point spread, but I’ll still take the Cleve.
Detroit (+4) over Philadelphia: Welcome to Michael Vick’s final game of the 2012 season! No, not because he’s going to turn the ball over six times and get benched…although that’s a possibility. But because this is a matchup between the QB who gets hit most often without getting the benefit of the referees’ yellow flags and the biggest collection of dirty players on any defense. I’m predicting a season-ending injury to Vick administered by Ndamukong Suh or one of his fellow thug teammates, and, no, the refs won’t throw a flag on the play. But if the injury comes after Vick fumbles two more times, will anyone in Philly mind? Doubt it. Anyway, I’m picking Detroit for two reasons: Philly doesn’t play in games decided by more than two points, and Detroit’s had two weeks to prepare for this game.
Atlanta (-9) over Oakland: When the Falcons beat the Raiders on Sunday, they’ll head into their bye week with a spotless 6-0 record. They’ll feel awesome about that, as they should. You figure if they just go 6-4 the rest of the way, they’d still have a good shot at the #1 seed in the NFC. So you really gotta be a chronic rain-on-others’-parader to say negative things about this team right now. Turns out raining on parades is one of my favorite things…right up there with eating raw cookie dough and picking my nose. How easily could this Falcons team be 3-2 right now? Well, they narrowly escaped a loss at home to Carolina in week 4, and then they held off a RGIII-less Redskins team in the second half of week 5 to win by a touchdown. If Cam Newton doesn’t fumble in week 4 and RGIII doesn’t try to stay inbounds in week 5, I think we’re discussing all the problems that have come up for Atlanta during their two-game losing streak. Just saying. But Oakland’s terrible. Their biggest weakness is their pass defense, which plays right into Atlanta’s offensive strength. I don’t think this one is close, and I’m picking the Falcons in my suicide pool. But for future reference against good teams, it would be wise to consider Atlanta more of a one-loss or two-loss team than an undefeated team.
Even though Molly is totally fucking me with her weekly picks, I decided to give her another shot. I can’t continue to accept a below-average output from my dog picking NFL games. Sure, this is the first NFL season she’s been alive for, and I doubt she can even make sense of the images on a TV screen, but I expect her to be at least a couple games above .500 by the end of the season. But she’s gotta show me something this week. I gave her St. Louis (+3.5) at Miami for her pick. Let’s see what she came up with:
You heard the overeating puppy: St. Louis (+3.5) is the pick.
Baltimore (-4) over Dallas: You’re probably reading a lot about how this Dallas defense could potentially shut down the Ravens’ offense, especially with that poor excuse of an offense we saw out of Baltimore in Kansas City last weekend. Don’t buy it. Baltimore at home seems about as safe of a bet as we can have this year. Four points is nothing, especially when you consider how epically Tony Romo usually fails at the end of games. Can’t you see a three-point Baltimore lead turning into a 10-point win when Romo gets strip-sacked in the final minute and a Ravens player returns it for a touchdown? Or even if it’s a tie game at the end, Romo will be driving the Cowboys down field and DEFINITELY throw a Pick-6. Easy money.
Arizona (-5) over Buffalo: My disdain towards the people who overrated the Cardinals has been well-documnted on this blog, and perhaps no one was happier when they finally lost at St. Louis last Thursday than me. Now they’ve had 10 days to prepare for Buffalo. Everyone puts up points on Buffalo so there’s no reason to expect the Arizona offense to play like the Arizona offense in this one. The Cardinals can cover five at home easily, especially when you factor in the 4-7 Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions.
New England (-4) over Seattle: The Patriots aren’t winning a tight game in Seattle. You know why? Because the Patriots aren’t good at winning those close games anymore. If they don’t have at least a nine-point lead in the final five minutes, I think they lose. So don’t pick Seattle thinking they’re gonna lose a close one. They either win this outright or get smoked. My biggest concern for the Patriots? Their new super-fast hurry-up offense that operates with just a couple words barked out by Brady might not work so well in what’s usually considered the loudest outdoor stadium in football. If the Pats have to use a lot more huddling on offense, can they still produce the high scores we’re used to? We’ll see. Oh, and yeah I’m taking the Pats. Don’t think I’ve picked against them yet this year.
NY Giants (+6.5) over San Francisco: There’s only one set of data I need to look at for my research on this game: Is Kyle Williams still returning punts and kickoffs for the 49ers? Because if he is, there’s no way he doesn’t botch a huge special teams play to swing the game. And, yes, he is retuning kickoffs regularly…punts, not so much. Let’s just hope for the Williams family’s sake that “Kyle Williams Suicide Watch” isn’t trending on Twitter on Sunday night. In reality I’ve gotta pick the Giants just because a touchdown seems like a lot of points to be giving to one of the other good teams in the NFC. I’m starting to think the Falcons, 49ers and Giants are all pretty equal. Even if the Giants are a little worse than the other two, they’re not a touchdown worse. And even if New York’s down 10-14 points in the 4th quarter, you know Eli has some satanic magic in his back pocket. I hate picking the Giants, but it’s the right move. (Picking both New York teams might be the lowlight of the 2012 NFL season for me.)
Washington (-1.5) over Minnesota: The second-year phenom vs the rookie phenom. Wholesome midwest vs dirty east coast. Purple people eaters vs the Hogettes. 4-1 upstart vs 2-3 upstart. Chrispon vs RGIII. Where am I going with this? I have no idea. But I do know I’m taking the Redskins. The Vikings are a great surprise and all, but they gotta lose a winnable game sooner or later. What better timing than on the road against a frisky Washington team? I just wish I had assurances from the Washington fans that if the Nationals make the NLCS, which starts on Sunday, they’ll still show up to FedEx Field for this game.
Houston (-4) over Green Bay: Even when the Packers lose to Houston this week—falling to 2-4—they still have a great shot at getting to 10 wins. The only truly difficult games after Houston are at the Giants and at Chicago. They could win the other eight games. I love the idea of Green Bay falling right into that 9 or 10 win range because that’s borderline playoffs, meaning the replacement ref debacle will be unleashed on us again. Can’t wait. But back to this game…seems like Houston would be smart to just play a ball control game where they run it upwards of 45 times to keep the Packer offense off the field. I just can’t see how the Packers could slow down the Houston offense enough to pull off the mini upset.
Denver (+1.5) over San Diego: One of those games where I wish I would have bet on it earlier in the week, when Denver was getting three points. I like Denver in this one still as I see it being a one-point game regardless of who wins. I still think the AFC West is a crapshoot with Denver and San Diego pretty evenly matched, so it wouldn’t make sense for the Chargers to win on Monday and take a two-game lead in the division. It feels right that both teams are 3-3 coming out of this one. Go Peyton!
(That’s the first and last time you’ll see me write “Go Peyton” in a blog.)