Week 10 NFL Picks: Good Guys & Villains

williams

You know I hate to be the one to say something positive about the NFL, but it seriously looks like we’ve got a nice little season going on here. Just consider:

  • Halfway through the year, we have 3 undefeated teams. Since none of them face each other, New England, Cincinnati and Carolina could all go undefeated (but none of them will, of course). Intrigue!
  • Through 9 weeks, 12 games have gone to overtime. That’s one more than in all of 2011. Excitement!
  • The NFC is 20-16 vs the AFC this year, and according to both Footballoutsiders.com and the ESPN Power Rankings, it’s an even split between AFC and NFC teams at the top of the league. Balance!
  • We can ignore the rapid downfall of the 2012 quarterback draft class (RG3, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill) because we have the QBs from the 2014 and 2015 drafts: Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Maybe the position isn’t completely fucked in 5 years. Hope!
  • Even though the refs seem to be getting worse at making calls in real time and they’re often screwing things up even with the assistance of video review, we’ve all grown tired of getting up in arms at the next “what the fuck is a catch” controversy. So the officiating isn’t really derailing the season after all. Apathy!
  • And hey, if all else fails, at least this has been a harmless, injury-free season for all the players.

My 7-6 record against the spread last week broke a string of four straight weeks with a losing record. Let’s build on that momentum and dive right into the week 10 picks:

Buffalo at NY Jets (-3)

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 31, NY Jets 17

The “good guy overcomes all to defeat the bad guy” ending would be the Jets, with the help of a Geno Smith appearance, triumphing over their evil former coach and bad boy linebacker IK Enemkpali. Someone was finally able to turn the Jets into “the good guy”. Add that to Rex Ryan’s resume.

I thought these two teams were almost identical in terms of talent and roster makeup before the season, and my opinion basically hasn’t changed. If you look at who they’ve played and the results through nine weeks (see below), you can see just how similar they are.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 10.43.25 AM

It just seems fitting that Buffalo would win this game to draw even with the Jets. And don’t sleep on the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick is scheduled for surgery immediately following this game & the Jets secondary might be in even worse shape injury-wise than their quarterbacks.

Detroit at Green Bay (-11.5)

The Pick: Detroit

The Score: Green Bay 30, Detroit 20

Effing Vegas, am I right? How do they make everything such an impossible choice. There are two major factors at work here:

  1. In Detroit’s Favor: Look at this ridiculous Green Bay schedule. They are coming off back-to-back road losses from two of the most physical teams in football, and then they have another road game—a HUGE division-swinging battle in Minnesota—in a week. This game against Detroit is your classic “we’re too beat up to be fancy/let’s just get the win and get out of here” game.
  2. In Green Bay’s Favor: The Lions owner semi-cleaned house by firing the team President and the GM during the bye week. It’s been hard enough for Jim Caldwell and company to put a competent, prepared football team on the field each week without the distractions. I highly doubt this is going to help them on Sunday.

I think the Packers are going to win by precisely 10 points. If the line was 10 or less, I was going big on Green Bay. But I’m forced to take Detroit and cringe for three straight hours. Stupid, stupid pick.

Dallas at Tampa Bay (-1.5)

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 23, Dallas 15

I’m not picking against Dallas because of their horrible quarterback situation. With a fully healthy team, the Cowboys could win this game despite a horrible quarterback situation. I’m picking against them because Sean Lee will miss this game, and because Dez Bryant isn’t fully healthy yet. They need everything working if they’re looking to overcome the Romo absence.

Carolina (-6) at Tennessee

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 34, Tennessee 22

This is one of those “don’t overthink it” games, at least for me. Five of Carolina’s eight wins have been by a touchdown or more. This will complete their sweep of the AFC South, not really an accomplishment, but a chore they had to check off the ol’ to-do list.

Chicago at St. Louis (-7)

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: St. Louis 24, Chicago 14

Ya know, I wanted to grab Chicago and the points, but the Rams recently beat the Browns by 18 (as 6-point favorites) and the 49ers by 21 (as 9-point favorites). This seems right up their alley.

Actually, this seems like a great time to check in on which team is making the best case to be crowned 2015 NFL Villain.

  • It was a no-brainer as far back as January that the Patriots would be more hated than the Yankees, Cowboys and Duke basketball all rolled up into one. But with them starting 8-0 and Tom Brady playing immaculate football, there isn’t much trash talking to do. It seems like everyone is simply resigned to the fact that New England is going to the Super Bowl.
  • The Cowboys are always a great backup so they gladly jumped into pole position for NFL Villain for a while. They’ve shown no remorse and even less self awareness as they went all-in on Greg Hardy. The “going out of their way to announce Hardy as a leader” was probably the breaking point for me. (bonus points for murdering some fantasy seasons between injuries to Dez Bryant and Romo)
  • But now the Rams are looming as a mini-Villain. They employ the guy most synonymous with Bountygate as their defensive coordinator. One of their defensive players ended Teddy Bridgewater’s day early last Sunday with a dirty hit to the quarterback’s head. And their home field would be the subject of a 24-hour special investigation on ESPN if it was the home field of the Patriots. We’ve had the random concrete slabs injure one of the game’s premier quarterbacks as well as a journeyman running back who is now suing the city of St. Louis. And let’s not forget about the field actually catching on fire earlier this season. A lot of people aren’t very happy with the Rams right now. I’m sure if they lay low just for a week or two, the Patriots will give everyone a reason to refocus their hate.

New Orleans (-1) at Washington

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 32, New Orleans 26

This line is preposterous if you’re thinking about it from a pure football standpoint. The Redskins are as good or better than the Saints. But Vegas must expect the public to give the Saints a little more respect than they deserve. I’m all over this. I think we might see more money roll in on the Saints and push this line higher. If I can get Washington at +3, it will easily be my favorite bet of the week.

Miami at Philadelphia (-7)

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 20, Philadelphia 17

I actually have no insight whatsoever for this game. I’m not sure what that says about these two teams, but I’ll just go with Philly not being nearly good enough to earn the 7-point favorite respect.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-5)

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 31, Cleveland 18

The Steelers were 4.5-point favorites against the Raiders last week. The Raiders are considerably better than the Browns. Of course, last week’s game had a healthy Ben Roethlisberger for Pittsburgh. But I think the Steeler offense is a little bit “QB proof” in that the talent of the receivers, the solid running game and the playcalling all setup for an easy day at the office for any competent quarterback. We know now that Michael Vick doesn’t qualify. But I think Landry Jones does.

The encouraging thing for the Steelers, even if the offense does stumble, is that they’ve been pretty decent on defense all year. They’re light years ahead of last season’s crappy D, and should hold up fine against the Browns.

Jacksonville at Baltimore (-6)

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 28, Jacksonville 20

This flies in the face of everything I stand for. Normally I’d be saying “the Ravens don’t deserve to be 6-point favorites over anyone.” But I’m giving them one last chance here. If ever there was a time for John Harbaugh and this team to gameplan their way to a convincing win, this would be it (coming off a bye, a non-threatening opponent coming to town). A good coach and a good QB would win this game by a touchdown, no problem.

Minnesota at Oakland (-3)

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: Oakland 26, Minnesota 18

I bet everyone thinks the hard part of Minnesota’s schedule begins with Green Bay next week (followed by @Atlanta, Seattle and @Arizona). But it actually starts this week in Oakland.

What a lot of people are going to find out on Sunday is that the Raiders are legitimately good. They’ll probably fall just short of the playoffs this year. Back-to-back games against Denver and Green Bay in December will probably be their undoing. But they’re a ton of fun to watch, and they’re still flying a tiny bit under the radar for gambling purposes.

New England (-7.5) at NY Giants

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 35, NY Giants 20

On top of having terrible, awful, unbearable memories clouding my judgment on this matchup, the Giants are just a complete mindfuck. The Eli Offense can explode at any time, but it’s entirely unpredictable when.

And while it’s nerve wracking to see JPP return to the lineup just a week before the Pats game, AND knowing a very valuable player in Dion Lewis is out for New England, I just think the Patriots are still better in so many areas. Quarterback, running back, tight end, secondary, linebackers & defensive line, coaching. I’m afraid the steamroller keeps rolling.

Kansas City at Denver (-7)

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Denver 24, Kansas City 20

The Broncos have won by more than seven points only twice in eight games this year. They’re good, but that offense limits any blowout potential. And this feels like one of those hard fought, down-to-the-wire division games. If the Chiefs protect the ball like their offense is designed to do, that means they’re not giving the Broncos any defensive scoring chances or short fields for the Denver offense to work. Can the Broncos really win by more than a touchdown if they have to slowly march down the full length of the field all day? We haven’t seen them have to do that too often.

Arizona at Seattle (-3)

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 31, Seattle 30

At this point in the season, you’d expect the Seahawks to have some statement wins at home we could point to as evidence that they’ll probably dismantle the Cardinals. But they don’t. In three home games, they’ve blown out Chicago 26-0, snuck by Detroit 13-10 on a controversial call and lost 27-23 to the Panthers. The interesting thing with Seattle this year is they’ve only been able to beat the cupcakes on their schedule. Their four wins have come against: Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco and Dallas. Their four losses have been to: St. Louis, Green Bay, Cincinnati and Carolina.

That’s night and day right there. I don’t think it’s any sort of coincidence, just that the Seahawks aren’t very good. If they continue to beat the easy teams and lose to the hard ones, they’re looking at a 9-7 record. That actually feels right for them in 2015.

Houston at Cincinnati (-10.5)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 36, Houston 16

For those of you still dreaming about an improbable AFC South division crown for the Texans, a loss in this game won’t be a huge deal. They’d be one game behind the Colts with one game to play against them still. At 3-6, Houston would still be in the driver’s seat. Simply incredible.

As for the Bengals, here’s what I’m excited to see: After they destroy the Texans to win their second consecutive Primetime game, they’re going to lose on the road in Arizona in Primetime next Sunday night. Then people will pounce on the tried & true Andy Dalton narrative. Then they’ll win a Primetime game at San Francisco in week 15, followed by a loss at Denver in Primetime the next week. Once again, we’ll hear all about Dalton melting under the Primetime pressure. Just remember that he went 3-2 in “spotlight games” this year when you automatically pick against him in the playoffs. I’m already looking forward to betting HUGE on the Bengals in round 1 of the playoffs.

By the way, just an awesome job by Monday Night Football following last week’s Chicago-San Diego “showdown” with this gem of a game. Brilliant scheduling.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 8 Favorites, 6 Underdogs
  • 1 Home Dog, 5 Road Dogs
  • 7 Home Teams, 7 Away Teams
  • Season Record: 65-61-6 (7-6 in week 9)

Enjoy week 10.

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NFL Week 10 Picks & Football’s Looming Disaster

luck

The NFL may be facing a significant problem within a few years. No, it has nothing to do with player safety and concussions. And it doesn’t involve the moral dilemma of its fans supporting a league that tries to brush its employees’ crimes under the rug.

Remember that the NFL is now a passing league, an offensive league, and most importantly, a quarterbacks league.

Here are the top 15 Quarterbacks in the NFL right now as ranked by FootballOutsiders.com. And next to each player’s name is his age:

  1. Peyton Manning (38)
  2. Andrew Luck (25)
  3. Ben Roethlisberger (32)
  4. Tom Brady (37)
  5. Philip Rivers (33 at the beginning of December)
  6. Aaron Rodgers (31 at the beginning of December)
  7. Drew Brees (35)
  8. Joe Flacco (29)
  9. Tony Romo (34)
  10. Matt Ryan (29)
  11. Alex Smith (30)
  12. Jay Cutler (31)
  13. Carson Palmer (34)
  14. Brian Hoyer (29)
  15. Eli Manning (33)

Here’s the major dilemma: Who the hell is going to be around in five years and still at the peak of his powers to battle Andrew Luck?

The other under-30’s on that list?

Brian Hoyer may not be a starter as soon as December of this year. Matt Ryan is an above average quarterback for sure, but with a multi-year track record of not being able to carry a team that has plenty of toys for him (Julio Jones, Roddy White), I don’t think he’s the next great QB. Joe Flacco? He’s a worse version of Matt Ryan on a better team.

Some of the guys on that list just barely on the wrong side of 30 don’t give you much hope either. Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer. No thanks.

You could make an argument for Philip Rivers, but you can’t truly feel confident in him playing at a high level for the next seven years, can you?

And while Roethlisberger is currently torching the entire league, let’s remember that he’s 32 but has the wear & tear of a 47-year-old.

So we’re left with one man. Mr. R-E-L-A-X himself. Aaron Rodgers. He’s only 31. He has less mileage on him than a lot of other 31-year-olds because he sat on the bench for the first three years he was in the league. And he’s already one of the best at his position.

There are only three potential problems I see with predicting a long Rodgers vs Luck rivalry:

  1. Potential for injury. We’ve already seen Rodgers miss significant time last year. He’s gotten nicked up this year (but hasn’t missed a game yet). And he seems to take plenty of hits because he scrambles a lot and has never had a great offensive line to protect him.
  2. Potential for head coach sabotage. This news about Mike McCarthy earlier this week may have been the worst thing to happen to Rodgers. It feels like I find an excuse to rip McCarthy every single week, and I’ll keep doing it. He’s horrible. There’s no good reason Aaron Rodgers has only made two NFC Championship game appearances in the seven years he’s been a starter.
  3. Finally, and this is the most important one, Rodgers and Luck don’t play in the same conference. If neither guy changes teams in the next 10 years (and it’s highly unlikely either will), the only shot we have at a genuine rivalry is if both of their teams are constantly making the Super Bowl. And we all know how hard it is to make the Super Bowl even once, let alone multiple appearances.

The most depressing part about the state of NFL quarterbacks is just two years ago we thought we had a QB boon on our hands! Remember the 2012 season? There were the three rookies taking the league by storm: Luck, RG3 and Russell Wilson. And then there was Colin Kaepernick, not a rookie technically, but it was his first season as a starter. All four of those guys made the playoffs that year and we were ecstatic about the future of quarterbacking in the NFL.

Currently RG3 is working his way back from another injury and seems like a lock for a short career as a starter. Kaepernick has gone from being “potentially the best quarterback in NFL history” to “the uneven QB who has thrown for more than 250 yards in exactly six of the last 24 games he’s played.” He ranks 20th on the FootballOutsiders.com QB list, by the way.

And then there’s Wilson, the best hope we have for a great young QB outside of Luck. He just won a Super Bowl, but we know the team surrounding him last year was historically amazing. He’s actually only had one more 250+ yard passing game in the last season-and-a-half than Kaepernick. I think it’s fair to say the jury’s still out on him.

A much shorter way to get my point across would be to write the following: If Andrew Luck stays healthy and the Colts do just an average job of getting talent around him, he will absolutely own the AFC until he gets tired of owning the AFC. And he might even own the entire NFL. If a handful of competent quarterbacks don’t emerge soon, maybe Luck rattles off seven, eight, nine AFC Championships in a row.

If there was a line in Vegas right now where I could wager on Luck making at least five Super Bowl appearances between 2018-2024, I would absolutely put some money on it.

Indianapolis fans, you should be pretty psyched for the next 10 years. Fans of the other 31 teams, we might be in crisis mode soon.

Now that I’ve voiced my paranoia to the masses, let’s dive into week 10.

First, our weekly check-in on the bye teams:

  • New England: Did you know the 2003 Patriots started the year 2-2, played the Broncos in week 9 and had their bye in week 10? Those are all things this year’s Patriots share with that year’s team. And after that 2-2 start, the Patriots rattled off 12 in a row to close the year at 14-2. They’d go on to win the Super Bowl. We could be seeing something similar developing here. Would anyone bet against New England cruising through the rest of their season and being the favorites to win the Super Bowl? Of course not, but the schedule gauntlet is right in front of them. Coming off the bye they go: @Indianapolis, vs Detroit, @Green Bay, @San Diego, vs Miami. Not an easy game in the group.
  • San Diego: Yikes. Just three weeks ago I was feeling like a genius for picking them to win the AFC West. I thought their two games against the Broncos would be extremely important. But now on a three-game losing streak, the Chargers have to focus on a wildcard spot and forget about the division. They still face Baltimore, New England, Denver, San Francisco and Kansas City. Particularly critical are those games against the Ravens and the Chiefs since those two teams are right in that wildcard mix.
  • Houston: No team’s season is going exactly how I expected more so than the Texans. Of course they were going to improve on their 2-14 disaster from 2013. But by committing to Ryan Fitzpatrick for at least the start of the year, they were limiting themselves. Luckily they’ve had one of the easiest schedules in the league, which was a major help in getting them to 4-5 at this point. Now they turn to Ryan Mallett to see if they’ll be dipping into the rookie QB pot in next year’s draft or not. They still have an easy schedule the rest of the way, but 8-8 is their absolute ceiling.
  • Indianapolis: In the words of Billy Madison, “Why don’t you just give them the damn trophy?” The Colts’ final seven games look like this: vs New England, vs Jacksonville, vs Washington, @Cleveland, vs Houston, @Dallas, @Tennessee. We’re talking about five more wins minimum. They’ll have a shot against New England since it’s a home game, and I don’t expect the Cowboys to be playing quite as well come week 16. A 13-3 record is totally in play for Indianapolis and future five-time AFC Champion Andrew Luck.
  • Washington: Did the PotatoSkins miss out on a huge opportunity last week or what? The top two teams in the NFC East lose their quarterbacks, the Cowboys and Giants both lose, and a win over Minnesota would have put Washington right in the mix (they would have been 2.5 games behind the Eagles). But they blew three different leads against the Vikings and now they’re definitely done. It’s time for them to see just what they have in Robert Griffin over the remainder of the year. Their schedule includes tough games like road trips to San Francisco and Indianapolis. They also play each member of their division one more time. They should use those games as measuring sticks to see just how far behind they are going into 2015.
  • Minnesota: Now about those Vikings…At 4-5, they’re technically still in playoff contention. But it doesn’t look as promising when you realize their four wins have come against St. Louis, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Washington. Even if they were to win their final four home games, they’d likely need at least one road win to have a shot at the NFC North title or a wildcard berth. Their road games are against Chicago, Detroit and Miami. So in all likelihood, their week 11 game in the Windy City is the make or break for them.

Next, the obligatory “games we can appreciate this weekend just for the sake of actual competition & football ramifications and not for our bets and picks”:

  • Cleveland @ Cincinnati: Pretty simple stuff. Whoever wins this game has temporary control over the AFC North.
  • Kansas City @ Buffalo: Two surprise 5-3 teams that want to prove they belong. The Chiefs are much healthier; the Bills are at home. This could be a great game.
  • Miami @ Detroit: The Lions need to win games like these to stay ahead of the Packers. The Dolphins need to win games like these to stay in the thick of the ultra competitive AFC wildcard race. This feels like the game with the biggest playoff implications in week 10.
  • San Francisco @ New Orleans: There’s much more pressure on the 49ers than the Saints right now. San Francisco still has two games against the Seahawks and matchups with Arizona and San Diego. A loss this weekend makes things very difficult for the 9ers to send Jim Harbaugh off with one final playoff appearance.

And finally, let’s jump into the picks.

Cleveland @ Cincinnati (-7)

  • The Pick: Cincinnati
  • The Score: Cincinnati 24, Cleveland 10

Of course I want to see a Browns win in this game. The AFC is so ridiculously boring at the top of every other division. Let’s keep rooting for the AFC North to repeatedly shuffle the deck so we might have a little intrigue in the conference through the end of the season.

But it’s not happening. I’m sorry to say that at 5-3, Cleveland just isn’t very good. Their schedule through nine weeks included Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay.

I was talking to one of my degenerate gambling buddies before week 9 and he thought I was crazy to pick Cincinnati favored by 11 against Jacksonville, citing the Bengals’ injuries as the reason. OK, fine, they only won by 10 points. Another unlucky pick by me that absolutely could have swung the other way.

I’m undeterred. Against inferior opponents in Cincinnati, the Bengals still roll. Sorry, but once again we’re getting a Thursday night game that’s really not worth watching.

Kansas City (-2) @ Buffalo

  • The Pick: Kansas City
  • The Score: Kansas City 27, Buffalo 17

Three different times this year I’ve assumed the Chiefs had no chance to make the playoffs. First, during the preseason I bought into what all the experts were saying and what I saw with my own eyes: The Chiefs were due for a major drop-off after last year’s incredible bounce back. Second, after they were handed a 26-10 loss AT HOME by the Titans in week 1. That one I don’t feel so bad about. If you lose at home to Tennessee, I say the NFL should bar you from the playoffs. And finally, when the Chiefs lost at San Francisco in week 5 to drop to 2-3 on the season. “Ahh, here it is,” I thought, “They got to 2-2 but now the nosedive is here.”

Wrong. Wrong. And Wrong.

It’s not just that the Chiefs are 5-3 and are riding a three-game win streak. It’s also about whom they’ve played and how they’ve played them. They demolished two other highly regarded AFC teams in back-to-back weeks. First it was a 34-15 win at Miami in week 3. They followed that with the famous 41-14 trouncing of the Patriots. That’s a 75-29 point differential against teams who are now a combined 12-5.

And one week before those games, the Chiefs played Denver extremely close on the road, losing by only a touchdown.

I thought all along it would be the Chargers challenging the Broncos for AFC West supremacy, but there’s a good chance the Chiefs/Broncos game in week 13 will determine the division. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

With the Chiefs playing this well and seemingly not bothered by going on the road, I had to pick them in this game. Sorry, Buffalo, you’re just not trustworthy enough and you might be facing the proverbial buzz saw this weekend.

(I wrote all of that on Tuesday night before Sammy Watkins got hurt during Wednesday’s practice. If his injury comes into play, then I love this pick even more.)

Miami @ Detroit (-3)

  • The Pick: Detroit
  • The Score: Detroit 20, Miami 15

The two best defensive teams in football! How about that! I’m torn on this one. If it comes down to which offense clicks better in such tough conditions, I’m going with the Dolphins. I just trust their creativity more, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I trust Ryan Tannehill more than Matthew Stafford.

But Detroit’s pass rush at home with a LOUD stadium behind them could totally disrupt Miami. Superb pass rushing teams are the only teams the Dolphins have struggled against this year. And their road wins came at Oakland, Chicago and Jacksonville. Not really any opponents in that group that compare to Detroit.

I’m going with Detroit, but I’ll probably flip back & forth on it 10 times between now and Sunday.

And if you remember my analysis on the teams I’m struggling to pick correctly this year, Miami & Detroit were at the very top of that list. If I could put negative confidence points on this pick, I would.

Dallas (-6.5) @ Jacksonville (In London)

  • The Pick: Jacksonville
  • The Score: Jacksonville 24, Dallas 17

As of Thursday morning it sounds like Tony Romo’s playing in this game. Fine. But that doesn’t ensure us that Romo finishes the game, or even plays a full half. What if he gets hit?

I gotta pick Jacksonville here because of the comical Brandon Weeden coming off the bench potential, and because the Jags may be able to run the ball on Dallas, keep DeMarco Murray off the field and take advantage of the fact that weird shit can happen when two teams fly to London to play football. I’m also picking the Jags to win outright because 8-8 is still alive for the Cowboys! We can do this!

San Francisco @ New Orleans (-5.5)

  • The Pick: New Orleans
  • The Score: New Orleans 34, San Francisco 24

I tried so hard to find a reason to take the 49ers. I really did. But there just isn’t any. Unless you want to base your pick on the old adage that “desperate times call for desperate measures,” you’ve gotta go with the Saints. They’re starting to play really well, regardless of whether they play at home or on the road. And upon closer review of the 49ers’ games so far this year, there’s really no reason to have any faith in them.

If San Francisco drops out of playoff contention, you gotta wonder just how far they might drop. They know their coach is likely gone next year. How hard will they be playing if they’re 5-7 and facing Seattle (twice), San Diego and Arizona to finish the year? We might see the bottom drop out on this team.

Tennessee @ Baltimore (-10)

  • The Pick: Tennessee
  • The Score: Baltimore 33, Tennessee 27

I flipped this pick only a minute before posting this column. The Ravens have destroyed some awful teams at home this year so you’d think it should happen again with them facing the Titans. But that Ravens secondary is beat up right now. A full strength Baltimore team would be hard to pick against here, but I think they’ll be treading water until Jimmy Smith gets back at the very least.

I’m thinking with a bye week to take more first team reps, Zach Mettenberger should be a bit better than his debut two weeks ago.

Pittsburgh (-6) @ NY Jets

  • The Pick: NY Jets
  • The Score: NY Jets 26, Pittsburgh 23

This is probably a game where most people betting or picking see that the Steelers are favored by less than a touchdown and automatically choose them to cover. That’s the main reason I’m picking the Jets. I could see 95% of all action going on Pittsburgh.

The Steelers just came off a nice 3-0 homestand where they looked unbeatable. They’ve been quite different on the road this year (2-2 record, even struggled to put away Jacksonville in one of those wins).

With Michael Vick and Percy Harvin, one thing the Jets have on their side is speed. The Steelers were already old & slow enough on defense before they suffered some significant losses last week.

I’m going out on a limb, but I think the Jets pull off a crazy upset.

Atlanta (-3) @ Tampa Bay

  • The Pick: Tampa Bay
  • The Score: Tampa Bay 17, Atlanta 7

Bill Simmons stole something I wanted to write when he said it first on his podcast earlier in the week. To paraphrase: “This is a rematch from a week 3 game where one team beat the other by 42 points. The team that lost is 1-7 this year. And somehow the team that won that first matchup is only giving 1.5 points?!?!”

(The line was still 1.5 until Thursday morning. Obviously it’s moved since then.)

And one thing Simmons didn’t know at the time of those comments was that Tampa would go back to Josh McCown for this upcoming game. McCown was the starter in that first matchup, and he went 5-for-12 for 58 yards before leaving with an injury.

Counterpoint to all that: Atlanta has lost every road game they’ve played this year by at least 10 points.

The Falcons should have fired Mike Smith during their bye week. They’ll regret that decision soon, maybe as soon as they lose to the 1-7 Bucs this weekend.

Denver (-11.5) @ Oakland

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: Denver 31, Oakland 23

Yeah, yeah, the Broncos are pissed off after getting owned by the Patriots last week, and the poor Raiders are going to be the ones they take it out on. I’ve heard that all week. But guess what? The Raiders continue to be frisky against good teams ever since they fired…uh…Allen…uh…whoever the hell was their coach to start the year.

And I haven’t yet picked enough underdogs this week. OK, I’ll admit it, that’s the sole reason for picking Oakland in this case.

St. Louis @ Arizona (-7)

  • The Pick: St. Louis
  • The Score: Arizona 24, St. Louis 20

And so we begin shorting the Cardinals for the rest of the year. In no way am I trying to discredit what Arizona’s done so far or say they’ve just been lucky, but if you dissect their seven wins, you’ll find THEY’VE BEEN REALLY LUCKY!

  • Week 9: Beat Dallas by 11 in a game where Brandon effing Weeden was the Cowboys’ starting QB.
  • Week 8: Beat Philly by four on a semi-miraculous deep pass to John Brown in the waning minutes of the 4th
  • Week 7: Beat Oakland by 11, but the Raiders shut down Arizona’s offense for much of that game.
  • Week 6: Beat Washington by 10, but Kirk Cousins had the ball and a chance to win with 29 seconds left before he threw a pick-six that gave the Cardinals a double-digit win.
  • Week 2: Beat the Giants by 11, but were losing in the 4th quarter until Ted Ginn Jr. returned a punt for a touchdown.
  • Week 1: Beat the Chargers by one, but were losing by 11 with 12 minutes left in the game.

Again, give them credit for winning those games (and making some monstrous 4th quarter comebacks). But it hasn’t been as easy as it’s sometimes looked.

Fingers crossed that two cross-country flights in two weeks doesn’t slow the Rams down.

NY Giants @ Seattle (-9)

  • The Pick: Seattle
  • The Score: Seattle 38, NY Giants 13

On Tuesday morning, I debated which version of my week 9 recap blog to run. The one I ran was a tirade about the lack of competitive football last weekend. The one I almost ran was a loooong rant about how pathetic the New York Giants are. Seriously, I was going to write at least 500 words on the pathetic display Eli & the boys gave us on Monday night.

Think about it: The Giants were coming off a bye week. Their opponent, Indianapolis, was coming off a game in which the Steelers abused them for 51 points. The Giants were hosting the Colts. And the Giants came out and put up 10 points during the competitive portion of the game. Pittsburgh put up six touchdowns on the Colts in 60 minutes. The Giants put up ONE touchdown in the first 46 minutes of their game. How bad can a team be?

Well, we know they’re bad enough to lose by double digits to the Seahawks in Seattle. It doesn’t matter that Seattle’s been struggling and hasn’t convincingly beat anyone in more than a month. This is easily my favorite pick of the week.

Chicago @ Green Bay (-7.5)

  • The Pick: Green Bay
  • The Score: Green Bay 34, Chicago 23

There’s just no way to look at what these two teams have done so far this year and not come to the conclusion that it’s far more likely Green Bay will win by at least eight than Chicago will lose by seven or less.

And that, my friends, is called in-depth analysis. Next.

Carolina @ Philadelphia (-6)

  • The Pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 26, Carolina 17

In the matter of Philly vs Carolina this weekend, I’m not at all concerned about the Eagles’ chances to win convincingly. After all, Carolina really does stink. With their 29th ranked run defense, Chip Kelly could throw me in at quarterback and I’m pretty sure we’d still win by a touchdown.

But more important for Philly is the final seven weeks of the season, likely to be played without Nick Foles. It’s been a strange week where people don’t seem to be panicking about Philly’s chances now that Mark Sanchez will be playing the role of season closer at QB. We really think Kelly is that much of a genius that Sanchez’s many deficiencies can be completely hidden? I’m not so confident in that. And trust me, the Vegas betting slip in my wallet from March that says the Eagles will win the Super Bowl is absolutely making me root for the Eagles to somehow thrive with their new offensive leader.

The biggest problem is that the Eagles have only one easy win the rest of the year, week 12 at home against Tennessee. They still play Dallas twice, host Seattle, have road games at Green Bay, Washington and Dallas. Good luck with that schedule, Mark Sanchez.

I realize I haven’t delivered on my promises of a big week recently, but we hit a major milestone last week…I actually finished above .500 with a 7-6 against the spread record. My season record now stands at 62-70-2. With eight weeks remaining I need to be at least two games over .500 each week to not feel like I simply wasted a bunch of internet space with these picks over the entire season.

Enjoy week 10.

Week 10 NFL Recap: Gambling Depression & Playoff Excitement

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And the season of frustration continues…

If you’ve been betting on the NFL games based on my weekly picks, then you know how bad it’s going for me. But even if you haven’t gone with my recommendations, you can probably sense this has been a rough season for me because I haven’t updated the blog with my against the spread record in about four weeks. My loyal readers will remember that last year while I was rolling to a 57% win rate for the season, I couldn’t give enough updates about my incredible record. Not so much this year.

But let’s quickly dig through the carnage:

  • Going into Monday night’s game, I’m 5-7-1 against the spread for week 10.
  • A particularly maddening week considering 3 losses (Detroit-Chicago, Carolina-San Francisco, Denver-San Diego) and the push (Houston-Arizona) hinged on one or two plays in terms of which team ultimately covered.
  • For the year, I’m now 62-79-5 against the spread, 17 games below .500, a 44% win rate.
  • In other words, now you know why I’m working three jobs. Income from two of them goes directly into the black hole known as my gambling account.
  • If I want to end the regular season with any sense of respectability, I pretty much need to hit on 62% of my picks each week for the final seven weeks.

Based on how the first 10 weeks have gone, I have very little faith in hitting that goal. But here’s the funny thing: Over the past seven weeks, I’ve actually made a profit on my football bets and I continue to nip at the heels of the people in 1st place in my Pick ‘Em leagues. How is this possible?

Because more than in any other year, I’ve been nailing my highest confidence picks. Yeah, a 5-8 week overall may look like shit, but if I’m putting huge bets on those five wins and only small bets on those eight losses, the net result is still profit.

In one of my Pick ‘Em leagues, we rank our top five confidence picks. You assign 7 points to the most confident pick, 5 to the next most confident, and then 3 points go to your third, fourth and fifth most confident picks for the week.

Since week 4, I am 21-14 on my confidence picks (a 60% win rate!), and I’ve gotten 6 of the 7 “most confident” picks correct.

In my 2013 reality where my cumulative picks absolutely suck, thank god I’m crushing the confidence picks. What this means for my readers is that when I do my weekly picks going forward, I will indicate which picks are my most confident. That way we can still win some money together. Deal?

We have a lot of random thoughts in the notebook today so let’s jump right in:

More Gambling Facts

  • The desperate gambler in me spent time on Sunday going through every NFL team’s against the spread record for the year, trying to find any possible edge for the season’s stretch run. Unfortunately 26 of the 32 teams have covered somewhere in the range of 40-60% of their games, not far enough away from a coin flip to confidently bet on or against them blindly.
  • The teams who have been the best against the spread this year? Dallas (7-3), San Francisco, Carolina, New Orleans, NY Jets, Kansas City, Oakland (all 6-3).
  • And the worst teams against the spread? Atlanta (2-7), Jacksonville (2-7), Houston (2-7), Tampa Bay (2-6), Chicago (2-6-1).

Fun With Playoffs

  • By my count, 12 NFC teams & 11 AFC teams are still technically in the playoff hunt.
  • That’s an incredible 72% of the entire league still thinking they might be playing football in January.
  • Six of the eight divisions have at least three teams fighting for playoff spots (only the NFC South and AFC South have less than three teams with playoff aspirations).
  • We always expect the wildcard spots to come down to the final couple weeks, but the incredible part about this season so far is that no team has come close to locking up its division yet.
  • Usually we get a couple divisions (I’m looking at you, AFC East) where some team has a four-game lead by now. But this year, no division leader has more than a 2.5-game lead. If you want to say Seattle probably has its division locked up, I won’t argue too hard against you. But that’s the only one.
  • Correction: You can also pencil the Colts in for the AFC South title. Forgot that Jake Locker was done for the season when I wrote that previous paragraph. Sorry, but a Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Titans team is not overcoming a two-game deficit to Indianapolis.

Greatest Roller Coaster Game Of The Year

  • Baltimore 20, Cincinnati 17
  • Any week 10 recap column really should start and end with the Dalton-to-Green (by way of Ihedigbo) hail mary.
  • Sunday’s early slate of games was looking like a giant letdown in terms of excitement (except for the Detroit-Chicago game)…the majority were blowouts or close games between two teams we weren’t interested in watching. And with the Ravens leading 17-0 at halftime, there was no reason to think this game would be any different. But then the Bengals slowly cut it to a one-score game (really slowly…it took them until midway through the 4th to get to the elusive double-digit mark in points scored).
  • But when Andy Dalton threw an interception to James Ihedigbo with 1:55 left, it was a fitting end to a boring game between two teams that don’t look like Super Bowl contenders. Dalton would be the goat, Ihedigbo to some extent would be the hero.
  • The Bengals would officially be delisted as a power in the AFC, and the Ravens would join the rest of its AFC North brethren as possible division winners.
  • Except a 3-and-out on the ensuing drive by Baltimore gave Cincy the ball back with 1:28 left at their own 40 yard line. Exactly 88 seconds later, Dalton heaved the ball 51 yards into the end zone where a group of Bengals and Ravens tipped the ball to Ihedigbo, who was standing a little bit behind the cluster of players, and he promptly tipped it high into the air as if he wanted to buy extra time in the hopes that someone would swoop in and catch it. A.J. Green did just that, grabbing the most inexplicable touchdown of the season to force overtime.
  • It was at that moment that the roller coaster did more roller coaster things. For the Bengals it meant a second chance to improve to 7-3 and re-establish itself as a player for a #2 seed in the conference. For the Ravens it was the potential end of their season. Dropping to 3-6 would pretty much render the rest of their schedule meaningless.
  • But the final twist of the roller coaster was in overtime…nothing dramatic. Just a Cincinnati drive that ended when Marvin Lewis chose not to kick a 50-yard field goal so instead Giovani Bernard lost 11 yards on a 4th down attempt. Then the Ravens kicked a game-winning field goal, quickly ripped the goat status off of Ihedigbo, and staved off playoff elimination for another week.
  • Not a very pretty game, but a wild roller coaster ride that just so happened to include the craziest play of the year.

Division Winner By Quarterback Attrition

  • So the Lions are in sole possession of 1st place in the NFC North. And they’ve certainly played well enough to be in that spot, but even Detroit fans have to admit that if the Lions go on to win the division, a big assist should be credited to the problems with the quarterbacks of the other three teams in the North.
  • The Vikings probably never had a chance this year, but the Ponder-Cassel-Freeman merry-go-round hasn’t helped.
  • The Bears looked like they had morphed into an offensive juggernaut just as recently as three weeks ago, but then Jay Cutler tore his groin, came back extremely early by playing on Sunday, and now has an ankle injury that forced him to exit his game early. No one knows if he’ll be able to play next week. Oh, and the Bears are two games behind Detroit now because the Lions swept the season series.
  • And then there’s Green Bay. Only one game behind the Lions and with the benefit of having beaten Detroit once already. But not only is Aaron Rodgers out for a few more weeks, the guy the Packers deemed as best suited to replace Rodgers is also out with an injury. So instead of Seneca Wallace, Green Bay will be starting Scott Tolzien next week.
  • Once again I’m not saying the Lions don’t deserve to be in the mix for the division title, but they probably don’t deserve to be the heavy favorite to win it either.

Football Makes No Sense (Week 10 Version)

  • If you had argued hard enough last week, you could have convinced me that Indianapolis isn’t quite as good as they’ve looked so far this year. You could even have convinced me that a Jeff Fisher-coached team would play hard no matter that their season is over and they’ve been forced to use their backup quarterback the rest of the year. Maybe you could have convinced me that the Colts wouldn’t totally dominate the Rams on Sunday.
  • But not even 100 of the best football minds and/or the best debaters could have made me think the 3-6 Rams would travel to 6-2 Indianapolis and cruise to a 38-8 win.
  • Football makes no sense.
  • Here’s how bad it was for the Colts on Sunday: I honestly thought they were going to set an unofficial record of their offense never once being shown on the Red Zone Channel. I’m not exaggerating when I say it took a few minutes into the 3rd quarter of that game before the RZC finally featured Andrew Luck and the Colts offense trying to put something together. No matter how horrific the game is (even some of the 9-6 final scores of years past), we always see every team’s offense in the red zone at least once during the first half of the games. Not Indy on Sunday.
  • One more note on this game: Jeff Fisher threw his challenge flag after the Colts finally scored a touchdown. Except as we all know by now (or at least we all should know), you can’t do that. Touchdowns are automatically reviewed. Coaches who throw the flag get penalized a timeout (or get assessed a 15-yard penalty if they are out of timeouts). Strangely enough, Fisher didn’t seem to know, the broadcasters never mentioned it, Andrew Siciliano, overseer of the Red Zone Channel, never mentioned it. Even the dozens of football writers, bloggers and analysts I follow on Twitter didn’t make much out of it. Am I the only one who still gets hot & bothered when coaches don’t remember this rule?

Fun With The Transitive Property

  • If Jacksonville just beat Tennessee by 2 points in week 10, and Tennessee beat St. Louis by 7 two weeks ago, and St. Louis destroyed Indianapolis by 30 yesterday, shouldn’t Jacksonville beat Indianapolis by about 39 or so when they play later this season?

The Opposite of Fun With the Incognito-Martin Situation

  • First of all, after reading THIS ARTICLE in which Terrelle Pryor shares his thoughts on locker room culture, I couldn’t help but think… Can we officially call Pryor the “Anti-JaMarcus Russell”? Russell was the 1st overall pick by Oakland who was supposed to be the team’s savior. Instead he sucked at football, got fat, had a substance abuse problem, was not a good locker room guy, and was out of the league within a couple years of being drafted, totally crushing the Raiders’ chances for the next few years. Then there’s Pryor…a guy who Oakland picked in a supplemental draft, was not supposed to be anyone’s savior, is making minimal money, was an afterthought because Matt Flynn was going to be the Raiders’ starting QB, and now he’s made football in Oakland fun again, seems to genuinely be a good leader and locker room guy, and looks like he’s actually cherishing his opportunity.
  • I heard Peter King report on “Football Night in America” that there was at least one contending team who would be interested in Richie Incognito if the Dolphins released him. I found myself repeatedly saying “Please don’t be the Patriots, please don’t be the Patriots.” And it’s not because I’ve formed an opinion where I think the guy is bad news. It’s just because the added distraction isn’t necessary. No need for another circus around the team during the stretch run (although a smaller part of me thinks, “If that’s what they need to solidify the O-line, giddy up!”).
  • I guess I’m throwing myself onto the “insensitive” side of the debate with this opinion: I personally think way too much media and public attention is being paid to this story. Remember when two Washington Wizards players actually brought guns into the locker room and threatened one another with them? We didn’t even spend half as much time and energy on that story as we have on this Dolphins story. Listen, I know this current situation is going to cost some people their jobs, and naughty words were said, and one guy is claiming to have a mental instability. But this is just way too much for a situation where no person was physically harmed. And the way in which the media decided to label the villains and victims of the story before having any real facts…it just bothers me that this is now going into week 3 of leading the news. Can we please focus on something interesting instead? Like maybe the amount of times Matt Flynn has been picked up and released over the past three months?

The Leftovers

  • It’s not going to happen, but if the Chiefs were to go 16-0, would that completely tarnish the accomplishments of the 2007 Patriots and 1972 Dolphins, the only two teams that have gone undefeated? It’s kind of a special accomplishment right now…only two teams have done it, both those teams capped off those seasons with Super Bowl appearances…
  • This Kansas City team doesn’t belong, and I’m sure we won’t have to worry about this much longer.
  • During the boredom of the early games on Sunday, I started wiping dog hair off my furniture. And I got to thinking: I use shed-control shampoo when I bathe my dog; I put fish oil in her food because it’s supposed to help with shedding; That food already includes “ingredients for a healthy shed-free coat; And I probably give her other things that help fight shedding. She still sheds a ton. If those products are all doing their jobs, does that mean my dog would have alopecia without them? If I stop using these products, will her entire coat spontaneously fall off?
  • Take it from someone who still gets flashbacks of the Pollard-to-Brady’s-knee hit from 2008, that hit Peyton Manning took on Sunday was almost identical, only Manning was turned slightly more away from the angle of the hit so his knee didn’t twist as much, and he also was lucky not to get his cleat stuck in the turf as he spun around. Otherwise it would have been goodbye to Denver’s season.
  • And hey, if you’re one of the five people out there who thinks Denver’s season could still be salvaged without Manning, then you must also admit that Manning is not the NFL’s MVP this year. You can’t have both.
  • THIS might have flown under your radar on Sunday. Worth noting the three football stadiums where throwing a football in the parking lot is a crime.
  • And finally, I’ll leave you with a peek behind the blogging curtain. Many times I get comments on the blog that are obvious SPAM. But every now and then I get a confusing comment that doesn’t look like SPAM but also doesn’t look like a real human wrote it. The one I got this morning was particularly…insane:

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Hope your week 10 was better than mine was. Week 11 picks coming on Thursday.

Week 10 NFL Picks: Suicide Pool Causing Suicide Thoughts, Luck for MVP, Two Elimination Games and More

The person who runs my suicide pool decided last year that traditional suicide rules weren’t sufficient, or didn’t make the league hard enough or something. So he implemented three “special” weeks designed to make sure a winner was crowned before the regular season ended. Week 10 is the first special week. The four people still alive (yes, I’m one of them) have to pick correctly against the spread this week. That’s a HUGE difference from just picking a winner. I guess the nice thing is I could potentially pick a team that loses and not be out of the pool as long as they cover the spread (assuming they’re an underdog). I emailed the league manager this morning and told him this situation has ruined my week. Ever since Monday morning I’ve been agonizing over this pick. I’m always confident I know which team will win a particular game, but there’s always an uncertainty around how much they’ll win by.

Keep in mind that there are nine teams at this point in the season I cannot pick because I’ve already used them. We’re talking about very limited attractive picks for week 10. Here are the ones I’ve been considering:

-New England (-11.5) home vs Buffalo

-Pittsburgh (-12.5) home vs Kansas City

-Seattle (-6.5) home vs NY Jets

-NY Giants (-4.5) at Cincinnati

Even as I write this, I’m still undecided. Seattle and Pittsburgh are the most attractive because I can make the case that neither the Jets nor the Chiefs are going to score a single point in those games. But New England has a great track record of blowing out the Bills at home…and they’re coming off a bye. So who am I sealing my fate with? You’ll have to read my picks to find out.

Let’s get on with it (home team underlined):

Indianapolis (-4) over Jacksonville: I’m supposed to be nervous about picking the Colts because of that extra point, right? Because winning by more than a field goal on the road, unless you’re an elite team, is exceptionally hard? Well I’m not falling for it. It might be just as much a result of the Jaguars being terrible as it is the Colts being good. A lot of people are throwing around the term “trap game” for this Thursday night matchup. Under normal circumstances, I’d be worried, but the circumstances surrounding the Colts are anything but normal. I think they continue to play hard for Chuck, take nothing for granted, and Andrew Luck doesn’t let this team fall into the trap.

OK, confession time: If I had to write an MVP rankings post right now, I’d probably put Andrew Luck second, just behind Matt Ryan. There’s an outside chance Luck will get this Colts team to eight more wins than last year’s total while taking them from first pick in the draft to playoff team. Every single intelligent football mind continues to be baffled by the Colts’ success because they’re supposed to be in rebuilding mode with a ton of rookies and no-names playing on a weekly basis. Eventually we’re just going to have to concede that Andrew Luck is already a better quarterback than Peyton Manning ever was…I’ll reluctantly agree to that if their magical season continues.

Tampa Bay(-3) over San Diego: I’m worried that Tampa played too good of a game last week in Minnesota, but I’m unwilling to take the Chargers on the road. I just can’t budge on that. Fun fact: this is one of two elimination games this week. Whichever team loses is out of the playoff picture. I’m rooting for the Bucs because they’re actually somewhat fun to watch—Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams make some amazing catches, and Doug Martin, well I’ll just say congrats to anyone who got him for cheap or in a late round of your fantasy draft if it was a keeper league.

Molly’s carrying a lofty 6-3 season record into her week 10 pick. If she gets this one right, I might just let her take over all my picks the rest of the season. I gave her Tennessee (+6) at Miami. Not the sexiest game, but one with definite playoff implications at least for the Dolphins. Let’s see what she decided:

You heard the dog…Miami (-6) is the pick.

New England(-11) over Buffalo: I should know better than to take the Patriots when they’re giving so many points, right? You could make the case that their big win over St. Louis in London was the outlier, and they’ll probably revert back to playing in close games because their defense can’t make stops. Except the calendar now says “November.” And the Patriots tend to play their best football in November and December. They’re at home, and they’re playing the Bills, a team they’ve beaten by 10 or more points in seven of their last 11 meetings. I also made the point last week that the Bills lose ugly—four of their five losses this season have been by 12 points or more. It all points to a 20-point win for New England.

Oakland (+9) over Baltimore: The Ravens won’t be getting any love from me for the rest of the year when they’re favored by more than a touchdown. This line really is two-and-a-half points too high. Baltimore’s the leading candidate for “team that’s most likely to overlook their opponent this weekend”…because Oakland sucks and the Ravens have a prime-time matchup at Pittsburgh the following week. This is the Ravens’ last easy game in 2012. Starting in week 11, they’ll be either on the road or facing a playoff team every week.

Carolina(+4) over Denver: I think I was a week early in predicting the Broncos to falter slightly on the road. Last week I said I didn’t trust Denver to win convincingly on the road yet, so I picked the Bengals. That didn’t work out, but I’m going back to the well and saying the Broncos will struggle in Carolina. They might still win, but I think it’s particularly close. Maybe we’ll get to see a throwback Peyton Manning two-minute drill to get the Broncos in position for a game-winning field goal.

NY Giants (-4) over Cincinnati: Hmm, I guessed this would be Giants by seven considering how bad the Bengals have looked during their four-game losing streak. The Giants’ bye week is looming, and so are some tough games towards the end of the season. I don’t think Tom Coughlin allows them to slip up or take this game lightly. As fun as it would be to see New York lose and open the door slightly for another NFC East team to contend for the division crown, it’s just not going to happen.

Detroit (-2) over Minnesota: Well I guessed Minnesota -3 on Tuesday. So I probably shouldn’t pretend to be an expert on this game. Actually when I think about it more, this line makes perfect sense. These two teams seem to be going in opposite directions. Detroit’s won three of their last four, and Minnesota’s lost three of their last four. The betting public is probably noticing this same thing. And the icing on the cake is that Percy Harvin is probably out this week. The Vikings lack playmakers without him. Unless Adrian Peterson can put this team on his back and win this game by himself, I don’t see any other way it works out for them. This is the other elimination game of week 10. The loser is pretty much out of the playoff picture. I’m picking the team that’s heading in the right direction.

New Orleans(+3) over Atlanta: Good Lord, what did the Saints do to deserve the death-by-distraction treatment this year? As the bounty noise settles down a little bit, suddenly they’re dealing with the news that Sean Payton’s a free agent after this season. I just think it’s a lost year for their whole organization, and focusing on each week’s opponent has been extremely challenging. BUT…I’m taking the Saints. I don’t think the Falcons are a 15-1 or 14-2 team, but that’s what they’re looking at if they win this game. They gotta lose a couple, and I’m officially calling the upset in this one. I’ll probably regret it, but hopefully the Saints treat this as their Super Bowl.

Seattle(-6) over NY Jets: In four home games this year, the Seahawks are giving up an average of 15 points per game. And the four offenses they’ve face are Dallas, Green Bay, New England and Minnesota. So into Seattle walks the New York Jets…convince me that they’re going to put up more than 10 points in this game. Meanwhile, the Seahawk offense revolves around a great running game…the area that the Jets have the most trouble defending. It all lines up for the Seahawks, and I’m officially putting my suicide pool life on the line with them. Wouldn’t it be poetic if the ‘Hawks decided to fuck me one final time this year?

Dallas (-1.5) over Philadelphia: I just heard the NFL Network mention this game in a promo, saying, “Who will prevail when the Cowboys face the Eagles in a critical showdown?” What’s critical about this “showdown” at this point? Anyway, this is one of the most fun games of the year to analyze. Both teams are 3-5. Both teams might be searching for a new head coach in the offseason. Both teams are currently realizing that their quarterback will never get them to the Super Bowl. And both teams make weekly headlines for coaching and game management blunders. So where do the oddsmakers get off making the Cowboys a road favorite? Doesn’t matter, I’m taking them anyway. I have that little faith in the Eagles.

St. Louis (+11) over San Francisco: This feels like too many points regardless of how badly St. Louis got beat by the Patriots two weeks ago. Both teams are coming off the bye so they should be fresh. Even though the Rams are out of any playoff consideration, I’d like to think Jeff Fisher will have them playing a division opponent tough. I’m not giving this many points unless it’s on a team with a top offense.

Houston (+1) over Chicago: Haven’t been this excited about a game since Green Bay at Houston in week 6. Let’s hope this one is a tad closer. It feels like the Bears need the win more because of the stiff NFC competition. Houston could lose this game and still be in good shape for a bye. Not the case with Chicago. However, I’m picking the Texans. Don’t expect Chicago to get any points off turnovers. So the question becomes, “Can Jay Cutler and the Bears’ offense keep up with Houston?” I say no.

Pittsburgh(-12) over Kansas City: Fine, Pitt, you roped me in. But I swear to god if you let the Chiefs make this a close game, I’m never picking you again. Don’t dick me over here. Do not overlook this game because a date with Baltimore is looming next week. You better run up the score on Todd Haley’s old team like the rumors are saying. No mercy, sweep the leg and put them in a body bag.

Weekly Picks Stats:

-Favorites: 9

-Underdogs: 5

-Home Teams: 7

-Road Teams: 7

-Home Underdogs: 2

-Road Underdogs: 3