The first thing I do every Tuesday morning is guess the line on each of the coming week’s games. And then I compare my guesses to the actual lines of the games. I get no compensation of any kind for doing well, and it’s not for any fantasy-like league with my friends so bragging rights don’t even come into play. But it’s one of my favorite football-related activities for the week. Being a smart, successful gambler is one thing, but being the guy who sets the lines is on a whole other level of badass.
Usually I’m happy just to correctly pick which team is the favorite. That’s hard enough with some of these games (see “Atlanta @ Philadelphia”). But for week 8 I thought I’d give you the news well in advance of Sunday morning’s kickoffs: I’m locked in. This Tuesday I guessed nine of the 14 lines within 1.5 points of the actual line. I got four of them dead on. Maybe it’s not that incredible, but I’ve just never done that before. Anyway, do what you will with that information. By the end of Sunday, I’m expecting to be able to pay off the rest of my college loans and secure a down payment for a future house in Malibu. No, I’m not really setting my expectations that high…just assuming this is the week of 14-0.
So let’s get on with it (home team underlined):
Tampa Bay (+7) over Minnesota: [Editor’s Note: This entire paragraph was written before Thursday night’s game.] Uh oh, be careful with this game. The underdog is now 6-1 on Thursday nights. And we’ve all seen the rapid regression of Christian Ponder the last three weeks, meaning running is Minnesota’s only offense…problem is Tampa has one of the best run defenses in football. I’d be a little stunned if the Bucs win outright, but I certainly see this being a touchdown or less. Even though I have no evidence to back this up, I think Minnesota is slightly worse than they’ve played through seven weeks and Tampa is slightly better than they’ve played.
NY Jets (-1) over Miami: One of my favorite things about football season is how every TV and radio analyst picks each game as if there’s a 1-point spread on it. All the pregame shows have their personalities compete with one another for the best record picking the games all year. And they spend so much time thinking about and discussing their pick, like it’s a tough choice. Try doing it each week according to the actual handicapping the oddsmakers have settled on. Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, the NFL is using pink penalty flags in this game. So that’s happening. I love that a random 11-year-0ld boy can send a request to Roger Goodell for something like using pink flags, and the NFL acts on it immediately. Yet when the majority of NFL players and the entire football fan base is calling for an end to the replacement referees, the NFL just sits there for weeks doing nothing. Good to know the type of shit that gets to the top of the priority list. Oh, and the Jets will win this football game.
Cleveland (+3) over San Diego: I hate betting on or against the Chargers. Is there a team in the NFL with less of an identity than these guys? They’re not really good at anything, and they’re not really terrible at anything. I have no read on whether they’re an OK 8-8 team or a pretty bad 6-10 team. I’m taking the Browns because it feels like they’re knocking on the door of mediocrity. They’re about to burst out of the basement of putridity and into the ground level of averageness. And what better team to do it against than the Chargers? San Diego’s had two weeks to prepare for this game, but if I know Norv and Philip like I think I do, they’re just dying to come out disorganized and confused on Sunday.
Indianapolis (+3.5) over Tennessee: The Titans haven’t earned the right to be favored by more than a field goal yet. After this week, the Colts have six winnable games in their final nine. It seems like they have an outside shot at a playoff spot, and I’m thinking the dream scenario is a wildcard game between Andrew Luck’s Colts and Peyton Manning’s Broncos. But first they gotta start with a minor upset in Tennessee.
I can’t continue to blindly pick the Patriots, especially when they’re constantly a touchdown-or-greater favorite. So what I’ve decided to do is let Molly blindly pick between the Patriots (-7) and the St. Louis Rams. Big responsibility for Molly considering it’s the Patriots, it’s in London, and she’s putting her 4-3 record at stake. Let’s see what she decided:
Green Bay (-15) over Jacksonville: I’m so terrified of double-digit lines at this point that I’m tempted to pick Jacksonville. After all, they did just play an inspired overtime game in Oakland last week after losing both Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert. Except the Raiders might just be the worst team in football at season’s end. A quick look at Jacksonville’s stats shows that they’re last in the NFL in passing offense, 25th in rushing offense, 24th in passing defense and 29th in rushing defense. Why am I even dedicating a whole paragraph to this game? Only a jerk would pick the Jaguars. The Packers are my suicide pick for the week too.
Atlanta (+3) over Philadelphia: Here’s a game where you can feel good that a push is your worst case scenario. That’s because Philly doesn’t win games by more than three. It’s a rule. For me, this was the surprise of the week. The last undefeated team is an underdog against the extremely lucky 3-3 Eagles? Doesn’t make much sense, does it? The only semi-logical reason I can think of for why this line is favoring the Eagles is that it’s become very popular to reference Andy Reid’s record after a bye week. I bet almost everyone reading this has heard that Reid’s teams are 13-0 in the game following a bye. Does Vegas expect a lot of the public to take Philly simply because of that statistical anomaly? Honestly, I can’t come up with a better reason for this line. I’m picking Atlanta, but what I’m most excited for is to see the Philly fans react when the Eagles are down 17-3 in the 2nd quarter. It’s probably wise for Michael Vick to continue wearing his kevlar vest during home games.
Washington (+4.5) over Pittsburgh: Redskins fans are having so much fun right now. The team could lose the rest of their games this season, but as long as Black Jesus stays healthy and they continue to play in close, exciting games the fans would still be psyched. Can you blame them? I was talking to one of my buddies from D.C. today (by the way, he’s terrified of Roethlisberger throwing to Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown against the Skins’ secondary, but thinks they’ll still keep it close), and we agreed that the Redskins’ two biggest moments of the last 10 years were the 2006 wildcard playoff win over Tampa Bay and their 2003 regular season win over the Patriots. It’s been a rough 10-years for these guys. I’m picking the Skins to keep it close, but I have no clue whether they can win or not.
Detroit (-1) over Seattle: Love the Lions in this game and I don’t even know why (Oh, because the Seahawks are my nemesis. Now I remember). While researching this game (yes, I actually research the teams before I make up random shit about them), I was shocked to see that Detroit is 2nd in the NFL in passing yards. To the naked eye, doesn’t it seem like Matty Stafford and Calvy Johnson are having terrible years? Well, from a touchdown standpoint they sure are: Stafford has thrown only five in six games while Johnson has only one. But Megatron’s still on pace for nearly 1,600 yards this year. Long story short, they can’t put the ball in the end zone. Sure, there’s no logical reason why that would change the week they’re playing one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses, but I like them at home against an awful rookie quarterback.
Chicago (-9) over Carolina: It would be great for this game to be an ugly 3-3 tie where every unit for both teams is completely inept. It would be so much fun to watch Jay Cutler and Cam Newton one-upping each other for who can throw their teammates under the bus quicker and more often…both during the game and at the press conference. A battle for the ages. You can’t possibly pick the Panthers in this game unless you’re a complete psycho.
Kansas City (-1) over Oakland: Home or not, it’s amazing that the Chiefs are favored in any game for the rest of the year. What does it say about the Raiders that Jacksonville lost MoJo and Gabbert and it still took overtime before Oakland finally won? Its says the Raiders should be positioning themselves in the draft for a quarterback because this year is already over. Brady Quinn will get his first win in nearly 12 years if the Chiefs pull this off.
NY Giants (-2) over Dallas: What do we root for in this game? A tie? A bomb to explode in Cowboys Stadium? The Giants to be crushing the Cowboys so badly that Jerry Jones fires Jason Garrett at halftime? I guess we just hope for both teams to look terrible and for those of us smart enough to bet on the Redskins to win the NFC East, we root for a Cowboys win. But I’m taking the Giants. Can’t see this Dallas team beating New York for the second time this year.
Denver (-6) over New Orleans: My instincts are saying to take New Orleans with the points. After all, they’re not really scoring less than 28 against any opponent these days. So to take Denver, you’d have to think they’ll drop at least 35 on the Saints. And this is also another must-win game for the Saints. At 2-4, they can only afford to lose two more games and they still have Atlanta (twice), San Francisco and the Giants. But I’m taking Denver because I think they’ll finally put together a full 60 minutes, and winning by a touchdown isn’t that hard. If this line was 7 or 7.5, I’d probably be taking New Orleans.
San Francisco (-7 ) over Arizona: Insert joke here about Jim Harbaugh declining another safety this coming Monday that causes the 49ers to win by six instead of eight. HAHA, very funny, guys. What can I say about Arizona that I haven’t already said? They’re terrible. Anyone still lumping them in with Seattle in terms of their identity clearly hasn’t watched a minute of football this season. On a side note, do you think this game will be the least-watched 9ers game by their fans since the good old days of Mike Singletary? After all, it’s pretty likely the baseball Giants will be playing in game 5 of the World Series at the same time on Monday. I don’t know what the Bay Area did to deserve all of this good sports fortune. Considering most of the people there became baseball fans in September of 2010, it’s hard to say they were a long-suffering fan base. If the Red Sox could have just snuck into the playoffs, I’m certain they could have handled the Giants. Just barely missed it, too.
Here’s the breakdown of my picks this week:
Home teams: 7
Road teams: 6
Neutral site: 1 (Patriots in London)
Home underdogs: 1
Road underdogs: 4