How’s everyone doing after week 10? Still hanging in there? Still alive? Alive but spent the past five days selling off most of your possessions to pay your gambling debts? If you took a bath on bets or picks last week, don’t be too hard on yourself. Here’s what happened in a nutshell:
That probably won’t be happening again so feel free to go back to your tried & true method of picking all the favorites.
One other tweet popped up on my feed earlier today that seems relevant to share with the world:
And when the Bills lose to New England on Monday night, it’ll be down to 10 teams with a winning record.
That stat is amazing and it tells you two important things about the season so far:
- We have been watching a lot of bad football games played between a lot of below average teams. We weren’t just imagining that.
- At this moment, 23 of 32 teams still believe they have a shot to make the playoffs. That means 72% of the league thinks they’ll be part of the 38% that plays meaningful January football. If you disagree with that number, just check out ESPN.com’s NFL standings page and try to tell me which teams don’t have a shot besides these ones: Cleveland, San Diego, Baltimore, Detroit, Dallas, San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago, Tampa Bay.
In theory this should make for exciting football over these final seven weeks of the regular season, but in reality, it means we have “playoff implication matchups” like tonight’s game featuring the Titans, who could be just one game out of 1st place at 3-7 if they win, and the Jaguars, who will probably be tied for 1st place if they win. So yeah, tonight’s “big game” represents the state of football in 2015 extremely well.
Ready for the week 11 picks? OK, fine, one more tweet from the last few days that excited me:
And Andrew Siciliano is actually wrong by one because sometime after that tweet, Houston announced that T.J. Yates would be starting in place of the concussed Brian Hoyer. So we have 48 different starting QBs through 11 weeks of football! Another reason why there’s a historic clusterfuck in the standings.
Let’s make some picks.
Tennessee at Jacksonville (-3)
The Pick: Tennessee
The Score: Tennessee 20, Jacksonville 9
The Jaguars haven’t won two games in a row during the Blake Bortles era (including preseason!). Are we to believe that the time is now for that miniscule accomplishment? Something makes me extremely nervous backing Jacksonville on short rest coming off such an emotional (discredited) win in Baltimore.
Even though the score doesn’t reflect it, the Titans actually hung with the Panthers for about 3 ½ quarters last week. Call me crazy, but I think the Titans end any talk about the Jaguars making the playoffs before it really even gets started.
Oakland (-1.5) at Detroit
The Pick: Detroit
The Score: Detroit 27, Oakland 20
What normally happens with a team like the Raiders is this: Everyone sees a potential Wildcard team and starts to look at the rest of their schedule to see how they might get to 9 or 10 wins. You’ll see things written about how Oakland’s home game against Kansas City on December 6th followed by a road game at Denver on December 13th is the key two-game stretch that’ll make or break their season. But then they go out and lose back-to-back road games to the lowly Lions and Titans. It’s just the way it works.
Indianapolis at Atlanta (-6)
The Pick: Indianapolis
The Score: Atlanta 26, Indianapolis 23
In case you’re wondering why I still mention my Survivor Pool pick every now and then, it’s because I am indeed still standing after 10 crazy weeks. There are four of us still playing.*
All week long I’ve been eyeing the Falcons because I’m down to very few attractive options. I even started polling some of the people whose opinion I’m most confident in when it comes to this stuff. I gave them three options: Atlanta, Kansas City or Denver. And all but one person said they’d go with Atlanta first, then Kansas City and then Denver. The person who disagreed with that line of thinking had the Chiefs first and then the Falcons.
But I just can’t do it. I’m not putting my fate in the very shaky hands of Dan Quinn and the Falcons. In a best case scenario, they’d make me sweat it out and possibly win by three. I don’t need that aggravation. You’ll see who I chose later on in this column.
*I feel like I need to tell you that all 18 entrants into my Survivor Pool picked incorrectly in week 2. That means we were all allowed to advance to week 3 since there was no winner. So even if I somehow win this pool, don’t ever let me brag too much about surviving for 11+ weeks. I didn’t actually get through it unscathed.
St. Louis at Baltimore (-3)
The Pick: Baltimore
The Score: Baltimore 24, St. Louis 14
You know what I discovered when I looked closely at the Rams? They’re a pretty mediocre team that is getting A TON of mileage and goodwill from their early season wins vs Seattle and Arizona. But since then, their only wins are home games against Cleveland and San Francisco, quite simply the two worst teams in football.
Regarding last week’s Ravens game:
- If this was any other team in the NFL (except for the Colts), I’d be feeling a little bit bad for Baltimore and its fans. Just when you think the late-game luck couldn’t get any worse, they lose yet another game at the last second to the lowly Jaguars, and this time it was a complete screwjob by the refs. The NFL confirmed what anyone who saw the second-to-last play of the game should have already known: Jacksonville never got set before snapping the ball with time running out. The Ravens actually won the game.
- But here’s the thing. Ravens fans probably didn’t want their team to win this game. At 2-7 Baltimore is tied with five other teams for the fewest wins in the league. Who would have thought Baltimore at Cleveland in two Mondays could be such a big game? It might end up deciding the 1st overall pick in the 2016 Draft!
I actually don’t think the Ravens will be involved in the top of the draft because they’ve really been unlucky all year and will probably win a couple games down the stretch. But I bet Baltimore fans are daydreaming about Ozzie Newsome flipping the 1st overall pick to a desperate team for a king’s ransom.
Oh, and Baltimore wins this game because they are a million times better than everyone thinks and the Rams are probably worse than most people think.
Tampa Bay at Philadelphia (-6)
The Pick: Tampa Bay
The Score: Philadelphia 16, Tampa Bay 13
Damn, Vegas, make it easier on me why don’t you! What we’re going to see in this game, most likely, is a bit of a defensive battle. Traditionally, those don’t end up with one team winning by a touchdown or more.
At a quick glance, these two teams seem identical, right down to their matching 4-5 records. The Eagles definitely have a big edge on defense (I still can’t understand how they rate out at #2 in the league according to FootballOutsiders.com’s efficiency metrics), but the Bucs are starting to look like a decent 7-9 or 8-8 team.
Denver at Chicago (-1.5)
The Pick: Denver
The Score: Denver 27, Chicago 17
So this line opened at Denver -3 and has swung all the way to the Bears being 1.5-point favorites. This must be because Brock Osweiler is starting in place of Peyton Manning. But I don’t get that at all. Why would a healthy Osweiler inspire less confidence than a rotting corpse version of the best regular season quarterback in NFL history? Maybe Osweiler isn’t a future Pro Bowler, but just the fact that teams have to assume he can throw the ball farther than 7 yards down field and faster than 20MPH makes the Broncos offense immediately more dangerous.
If you think about this matchup for a couple seconds—I mean really think about it—then there’s no other conclusion except that the Broncos win. They won seven in a row to start the year DESPITE PEYTON MANNING’S OFFENSE BEING THE STATISTICALLY WORST UNIT IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE! That defense hasn’t changed. The coaching hasn’t changed. The receivers are all the same. And the quarterback position HAS IMPROVED. C’mon. Give me something challenging for once.
And yes, I am riding with Denver as my Survivor Pool pick. I’m shunning the opportunity to take the 6-3 Falcons at home or the Chiefs going up against the 2-7 Chargers. I believe this Denver/Chicago line is one of the craziest, most nonsensical things I have ever seen in my gambling career.
NY Jets (-2.5) at Houston
The Pick: NY Jets
The Score: NY Jets 20, Houston 3
This feels a little bit like a “get back on track” game for the Jets. They’ve lost three out of four, with their only win since October 18th coming at home by five points over Jacksonville. Ryan Fitzpatrick had that minor thumb surgery last week and should be good to go for this game. They’re still 5-4 and in position to make a Wildcard push. This is a very winnable game against a Houston team that surprised us all with a win in Monday night’s 10-6 “thriller” in Cincinnati. Even in their wins, the Texans look pretty bad. As long as Darrelle Revis can keep DeAndre Hopkins from having a huge day, the Jets should be good. I know Revis is no Malcolm Butler, but he should be able to get the job done.
Washington at Carolina (-7.5)
The Pick: Washington
The Score: Carolina 27, Washington 21
Whenever a division is in shambles and it looks like an 8-8 record might take the title, I always root for the most surprising team to win. For example, GO TITANS!
In the NFC East, that would be the Redskins. If Washington wins while the Giants are on their bye, both teams would be 5-5 going into their head-to-head matchup in D.C. in week 12 (Philly would also be 5-5 if they win this week).
But that’s probably not going to happen because the Panthers are undefeated, playing at home and are just about as good as we think they are. To me that means they will beat Washington, but not by more than a touchdown. I feel like I’m on repeat here regarding the Panthers, but they simply aren’t a team that blows out any decent competition.
Dallas (-1) at Miami
The Pick: Miami
The Score: Miami 31, Dallas 23
If you’re looking for the Stayaway Game Of The Week, this is it. The Cowboys have been atrocious the entire season, but of course their most important player, Tony Romo, has been missing during their current seven game losing streak. The consensus is that Romo should be seen as even more of a valuable player than he has been in the past because look how bad the Cowboys do without him. But that’s just a weak excuse for a team that’s underperformed across the board. Plenty of teams have won plenty of games when their MVP-caliber QB has been hit with an injury. So I’ve come around from my earlier thoughts that Dallas is just unlucky and still very talented. I think they’re somehow still overrated at 2-7!
So give me the Dolphins with very, very little confidence.
Kansas City (-3) at San Diego
The Pick: San Diego
The Score: Kansas City 33, San Diego 31
This seems pretty simple. The Chargers are really awful, and most people agree they don’t even have a home field advantage. Meanwhile, the Chiefs look like they’re rounding into playoff form at the right time.
But let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. Regarding Kansas City’s “resurgence,” their current three game winning streak was: Home against the Landry Jones version of the Steelers, in London against the Lions and at Denver last week, when Peyton Manning’s corpse was finally benched. Not exactly a who’s who of opponents playing at a high caliber.
And on the San Diego side…look, if I’m going to state each and every week that the Ravens have been unlucky, I have to do the same with the Chargers. Six of their seven losses have been by eight points or less! They’re the West Coast Ravens. The way San Diego conducts business is they get into these crazy shootouts with the opponent and always come up just short. Let’s hope they have another one of those in them this week…a two-point loss seems appropriate.
Green Bay at Minnesota (PICK)
The Pick: Minnesota
The Score: Minnesota 21, Green Bay 20
I’m just going to leave this article about Adrian Peterson, which includes some info on how he has torn up the Packers in the past, right HERE.
And I’m also just going to leave this article about Aaron Rodgers hitting the injury report this week right HERE.
San Francisco at Seattle (-13)
The Pick: San Francisco
The Score: Seattle 12, San Francisco 0
No. Just…no, OK? Why would I even consider laying 13 points with the 4-5 Seahawks? Because Blaine Gabbert and the terrible 49ers are coming to town? Newsflash, the Seahawks are a mediocre team…at best! Sure, you can almost guarantee they’ll win this game, but by two touchdowns? Gross. No thanks. I’m not buying it.
Cincinnati at Arizona (-5)
The Pick: Cincinnati
The Score: Cincinnati 25, Arizona 23
Let’s look at where Footballoutsiders.com has these two teams ranked in a few categories:
- Offensive Efficiency: Cincinnati 2nd, Arizona 3rd
- Defensive Efficiency: Cincinnati 8th, Arizona 6th
- Special Teams Efficiency: Cincinnati 10th, Arizona 14th
- Overall Efficiency: Cincinnati 3rd, Arizona 2nd
Pretty similar, right?
How about the four common opponents that these two teams have faced so far in 2015:
- Baltimore: Cincinnati won 28-24, Arizona won 26-18
- Seattle: Cincinnati won 27-24 in OT, Arizona won 39-32
- Pittsburgh: Cincinnati won 16-10, Arizona lost 25-13
- Cleveland: Cincinnati won 31-10, Arizona won 34-20
Outside of that slip-up by the Cardinals in Pittsburgh, again, we’re talking about two very similar teams.
So why is it a five-point spread and not the standard three points when the matchup is so even like this? Because the Bengals are coming off a very attention-grabbing loss on Monday Night Football at home against the Texans. And because there are now a bunch of idiots out there who think this means Andy Dalton is back to not being able to win in Primetime. Vegas knows they can still get a ton of action on Arizona at the current spread because of that perception.
As a smart bettor, my only choice is to take the Bengals. It should be your only choice too. You’re getting two free points out of it. And all we can do from here is hope the Red Ryder BB Gun doesn’t shit himself in the desert on Sunday night.
Buffalo at New England (-7.5)
The Pick: New England
The Score: New England 34, Buffalo 17
This line should be Patriots by 9.5 or 10 points. Yes, even with a lineup that’s missing Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman and possibly Jamie Collins. The Patriots should be favored by double digits.
In their week 2 matchup, Tom Brady threw for over 450 yards on Buffalo’s defense. The Patriots only rushed for 56 yards. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the New England offense flips that gameplan on its head. We’ll see over 200 rushing yards and a much more conservative passing attack. But even if this weakened offense can’t march down the field as surgically as before, the defense is playing at a high enough level to really slow the Bills down. Maybe my prediction for 34 points will be way too high, but winning by more than a touchdown still seems easy in this case.
Ummmmmm, remember when I said at the beginning of this article that underdogs covering at a historic rate probably isn’t happening again? I probably need to be really, REALLY wrong about that if I’m going to have any success in week 11. Check out the weekly tally:
- 3 Favorites, 10 Underdogs, 1 PICK
- 3 Home Dogs, 7 Road Dogs
- 6 Home Teams, 8 Road Teams
- Season Record: 74-66-6 (9-5 in week 10)
Enjoy week 11.