Week 10 NFL Picks

butler-patriots

If this week looks particularly tough when it comes to picks against the spread, regular bets or even teases, it’s because we have a ton of “even” matchups. Out of 14 games in week 10, three of them have a heavy favorite (spread of 7 or greater), and the other 11 don’t have a spread greater than FOUR!

That’s insane, right? While you may think it’s just luck of the draw in terms of getting this many close games, it’s actually because the league standings are bloated in the middle. Check out that link. There are 21 teams that have either five, four or three wins. There are only four teams worse than that and seven teams better.

So yeah, it makes sense that we keep getting these matchups. Maybe we’re not seeing a ton of high quality games, but the league as a whole remains intriguing with so many teams still within range of a playoff spot.

How about this? We have five divisions where at least three teams still have a chance to end the year in first place: AFC North, South & West…and NFC North & East (all four teams still in the playoff race).

So criticize the NFL all you want, but the playoff races are going to keep everyone tuning in.

Let’s dive into the week 10 picks.

Teams on Bye: Buffalo, Detroit, Indianapolis, Oakland

Cleveland at Baltimore (-9) | over/under 44

The Pick: Cleveland

The Score: Baltimore 23, Cleveland 15

The Bets: Baltimore (+1) in a 3-way tease / Under (55) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The home team has the worst offense in the league according to FootballOutsiders.com, and the other team is #24 on offense & traveling on a short week. So brace yourselves for a particularly boring and low-scoring Thursday night game. Just what the NFL needs as its post-election showcase to get the ratings back on track.

Side Note: This is the first time in four years that I forgot to make a preseason bet on “Will any team go 0-16?” I think they moved the odds from the standard 33/1 down to 25/1 this year and it scared me away. Really need Cleveland to win one game so I don’t regret it.

Houston at Jacksonville (-1.5) | over/under 42

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: Jacksonville 22, Houston 19

The Bets: Under (52) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Jacksonville (-1.5)

This line significantly moved between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. It was Houston -2 and then abruptly changed to the current line, where the Jags are a small favorite.

There are very few circumstances where picking Jacksonville makes sense. Brock Osweiler on the road is one of them. You know how everyone’s been killing Blake Bortles for how bad he obviously is at this point? Well Osweiler ranks five spots below Bortles in FootballOutsider’s QB rankings! Osweiler on the road is toxic.

If you’re picking Houston in this game, you are obviously thinking of a different installment of the Texans than what currently exists. And I’m warning you, you’re wrong.

Besides the Jaguars being one of my favorite picks, I’m also liking the under a lot here. Both teams have above average defenses and putrid offenses. Houston has scored 0, 13 and 9 points in their three road games this year.

Denver at New Orleans (-3) | over/under 49

The Pick: New Orleans

The Score: New Orleans 30, Denver 24

The Bets: Over (49) / Over (39) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with New Orleans (-3)

I’ve been saying the Saints’ offense at home is as explosive as the Falcons & Raiders. The Broncos just struggled at Oakland last week, and the Falcons were able to win in Denver earlier this year. So this feels like another Denver loss.

As usual when the Saints play at home, I’m into the over. And if the Broncos were healthy, I’d probably stay away from using the Saints in my SuperContest pick, but Aqib Talib and Derek Wolfe are probably out for this game. Can’t see Denver getting to the 28+ points they’ll need to knock off the Saints.

Los Angeles at NY Jets (-2) | over/under 39.5

The Pick: NY Jets

The Score: NY Jets 24, Los Angeles 17

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Here’s a really shitty game that doesn’t deserve our attention. If you wanted to bet the under here, I wouldn’t be mad at you. These are two of the worst offenses in the league. But to me it cries “stay away.” So I will.

Atlanta (-1.5) at Philadelphia | over/under 50.5

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 28, Philadelphia 24

The Bets: Over (40.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Atlanta (-1.5)

With the way Atlanta has played at Oakland, Denver and Seattle this year, I’m not at all worried about them performing away from home. And they got extra rest after pummeling Tampa Bay last Thursday.

I know the Eagles still have a good defense and they haven’t lost at home this year, but they feel like a very average team. Atlanta looks like one of the three or four best teams in football right now.

I like the over because Atlanta’s a scoring machine and the Eagles have actually looked good on offense at home this year.

Kansas City at Carolina (-3) | over/under 44

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 23, Carolina 21

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

I think Carolina is still tough to gauge so I don’t want to put too much confidence in this pick. But it seems to me that the Chiefs are really good and they’re getting some great news on the defensive side with the return of Justin Houston. That’s gotta scare the league a little bit.

Chicago (-1) at Tampa Bay | over/under 46

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 27, Chicago 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

I can’t for the life of me figure this game out. I thought the Bucs should have been favored by the standard three points at home so I figured grabbing Tampa +1 was an easy choice. But I keep hearing people talk about how much better the Bears are than the Bucs, and even the stats seem to make the case for Chicago. I dunno. I’ll just take the home team and cross my fingers.

Minnesota at Washington (-3) | over/under 42

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 23, Minnesota 19

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Both teams need this game desperately to keep pace in their respective divisions. I still don’t know if either team is good after nine weeks. So I’m not betting it, but I do think the Skins at home deserve the benefit of the doubt. At this point, the Vikings’ inability to score seems to be the biggest weakness of either team.

Green Bay (-3) at Tennessee | over/under 49.5

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: Tennessee 26, Green Bay 24

The Bets: Over (39.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

It’s still mind-boggling to me that Tennessee has a top 10 offense, and that they’ve averaged 31 points over their last five games. Meanwhile, the Packers are finally putting up points (28.3 points per game in the last three weeks), and the Titans rank a lot lower on defense than you probably think.

Teasing this over down to 39.5 is a slam dunk.

Not only do I think the Titans could win this game outright, but I’m rooting for it in a big way. For betting purposes, I wanna see the Titans & Lions in the playoffs. And a Tennessee win in week 10 would help both cases.

Miami at San Diego (-4) | over/under 48.5

The Pick: Miami

The Score: San Diego 26, Miami 24

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

The biggest problem with San Diego is that while their overall defense is much better than it’s been the last couple years, their run D is still somewhat suspect. And that’s all Miami knows how to do now is run the ball. This could be a sneaky entertaining game, but I’ve got no real read from a betting standpoint.

San Francisco at Arizona (-13.5) | over/under 48.5

The Pick: Arizona

The Score: Arizona 31, San Francisco 14

The Bets: Arizona (-3.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Sure, 13.5 seems insanely high for a point spread in the NFL. And even if you don’t think the Cardinals are the kind of team that should be getting that level of respect (you’d think only the Patriots, Cowboys or Falcons could get this type of spread right now), it’s a pretty good spot for them to blow out the Niners.

They already beat the 49ers by 12 this year up in San Francisco. And the Niners have lost road games this year by 19, 19 and 29 points.

In fact, here’s the point differential of each of the seven straight games that they’ve lost: 19, 19, 7, 12, 29, 17 and 18.

Add to that the fact that San Francisco’s near the bottom of the league in giveaways, and the Cardinals are top 5 in takeaways.

I didn’t even mention that the Cardinals’ win over SF earlier in the year was with Drew Stanton at quarterback. Say what you want about 2016 Carson Palmer, but he’s still better than Stanton.

This should be a blowout, but if you don’t like giving that many points, toss Arizona into a teaser.

Dallas at Pittsburgh (-2) | over/under 50

The Pick: Pittsburgh

The Score: Pittsburgh 31, Dallas 27

The Bets: Over (40) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Pittsburgh (-2)

First of all, this game should have a ton of points. Two good offenses, not so great defenses. Ben Roethlisberger should be a lot healthier this week.

I’m also pretty confident it’s the Cowboys’ turn to lose a game. They aren’t going 14-2 or better so they need to lose a couple more games. This is one of the prime opportunities for someone to hand them a loss. We still don’t know how good their secondary is and I think the Steelers will be able to exploit that just enough.

Seattle at New England (-7.5) | over/under 49

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 30, Seattle 20

The Bets: New England (-7.5) / New England (+2.5) in a 3-way tease / Over (39) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with New England (-7.5)

I’ll confidently take the Belichick-coached team that has had two full weeks to prepare over a West Coast team coming off an exhausting Monday night win, on short rest and traveling across the country. Do we really need any more analysis than that?

Add in the fact that New England is extremely healthy right now and the Seahawks will be missing at least Michael Bennett from their defense, and I think this has the makings of a big win for the Patriots.

They rarely lose at home, they’re rested and Seattle isn’t nearly as scary as it has been the last few years on offense or defense.

Cincinnati at NY Giants (-1) | over/under 47

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 26, NY Giants 22

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

I was originally confident in the Giants in this Monday night matchup, but then two things happened:

  1. I was reminded that Cincy’s scoring problems on the road (only 17.5 points per game on the road so far) were likely solved by Tyler Eifert’s return to the field.
  2. I realized that the Giants have won three in a row and this is exactly when their fans are starting to feel a little bit good. So of course this team has to lose a winnable home game.

My confidence is low on this pick though.

Here are the season-long stats I’m tracking:

  • Favorites are 55-71-7 against the spread through 9 weeks (including 6-5-2 in week 9)
  • The Point Total has landed on Over 72 times, Under 59 times, and Pushed 2 times
  • I’m 68-60-4 against the spread.

Enjoy week 10.

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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.

David Garrard’s Re-Birth, Campbell vs Kaepernick in Prime-Time, the Worst Pass in NFL History And the Rest of Week 10 in Review

[Editor’s Note: While my brother is off on a spiritual sojourn (that’s a synonym for visit) to Nepal, I decided my weekly NFL recap is the only legitimate way he can get caught up on everything football-related that he’ll miss. Realistically nothing is changing with the recaps except they will be in the format of me writing a letter to my brother. Enjoy.]

Dear Pueto,

While you’re away on your soul-searching, purpose-in-life-finding sabbatical in Nepal, I realize you’ll be missing out on two-and-a-half weeks of football. Wow. You must really have some finding-yourself to do.

And sure, when you get back, you could skim through all the game stories online to catch up on what you missed, but we both know you won’t do that. What if I told you that the Will-Blog-For-Food blog is your one-stop shop for catching up on the 31 games you’re missing? Pretty sweet, right?

Well let’s get started with the week 10 review:

-The most important thing you need to know, Pueto, about week 10 is that David Garrard’s agent put out a statement on Tuesday, November 13th, letting teams know Garrard has been cleared for football activities…and more than a couple teams probably made the phone call. That’s because in week 10 at least five starting quarterbacks left their games with injuries: Michael Vick (concussion that Andy Reid is calling “significant”), Alex Smith (concussion), Jay Cutler (concussion) Blaine Gabbert (shoulder) and Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder).

-Let’s not forget that Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are practically platooning for the Jets at this point so we’re talking about six teams out of the 28 that were playing in week 10 that had to shuffle through multiple QBs during their games.

-On a related note, ESPN executives are huddling up to figure out how to promote week 11’s Monday Night game without having to mention the likely-not-marketable QB matchup of Jason Campbell vs Colin Kaepernick. When you add in the likelihood that Byron Leftwich will be starting for the Steelers in the Sunday night prime-time game against Baltimore next week, you start to understand and appreciate the ridiculous rules that are in place to protect quarterbacks.

-Let’s move on from quarterbacking to coaching because I know you’re excited to see which head coach is the first fired this season, Pueto. Say what you want about all the mistakes and boneheaded decisions that Andy Reid, Norv Turner, Jason Garrett and countless others have made over the years, but at least none of them have ever purposely screwed their team just because they didn’t agree with a bad call. That’s what Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey did on Thursday night when he threw a legit tantrum (I’m talking throwing his clipboard and headset onto the field, chasing the refs and taking a giant dump on the 50-yard line) after a controversial touchdown call for Andrew Luck was upheld. Mularkey got called for an unsportsmanlike penalty. At least all those other coaches screw their teams inadvertently. If I was the Jaguars owner, I would immediately  fire someone who purposely screwed my team just because he decided to throw a hissy fit, especially when that person is supposed to be teaching the players how to play fundamental, mistake-free football.

-Sadly, Pueto, even after dysfunctional teams like Philadelphia and San Diego lost this week, we still haven’t seen the first coach of the year fired. My fear is that no owner will pull the trigger until the season ends.

-Speaking of San Diego, you’re going to want to check out what was possibly the worst pass attempt in NFL history. You can see it HERE. It was a bad pass because of the situation (the Chargers only needed a field goal to tie the game and it was the 4th quarter), and because it was the type of pass not even Brett Favre at his worst would have tried to complete. Congrats to Philip Rivers for causing me to write “a pass not even Brett Favre at his worst would have tried to complete.”

-You should probably know that in the Baltimore-Oakland game, the Ravens decided to run up the score on the Raiders for no apparent reason. You could tell they were purposely trying to embarrass Oakland when they decided to run a fake field goal on 4th & goal while already up 24 points. They scored on that play, and then got one more touchdown to win the game 55-20. Except it was strange, Pueto, because after the game John Harbaugh said that when he ran the fake field goal, there were still 20 minutes left and he wanted to make sure the Raiders wouldn’t have a chance to come back…and everyone pretty much accepted that explanation. No talk of running up the score or poor sportsmanship from all the analysts in the days following the game. So if you’re keeping score at home, it’s now been five years since the Patriots unfairly ran the score up on team after team, and apparently no other team has done it since.

-Now that we’re talking Patriots, Pueto, let’s get this bit of unpleasantness out of the way. Remember last week when I said I wasn’t panicking about them and would force myself to be happy as long as they make it to the playoffs? Well after another near-meltdown in the 4th quarter against Buffalo, I have to be realistic enough to admit that this team is the definition of sketchy. Until they go on a streak of super impressive performances (specifically the defense), it’s tough to have faith in them as a Super Bowl frontrunner. If I could amend my power rankings from last week, I’d certainly drop the Patriots below the Broncos and possibly below the Ravens and Steelers too.

-Ahh, Denver. I think I’ll stop picking against the Broncos on the road against clearly inferior teams. At this point I think they’ve answered my question as to whether or not they can play well on the road consistently.

-But enough about the Patriots and Broncos. We know they’re both going to the playoffs, and there are a lot of games to be played before we determine the seedings of those top AFC teams. But, Pueto, you’re probably curious about which teams in week 10 officially bowed out of playoff contention, and which teams strengthened their cases to be included in the playoffs.

-Miami, Detroit and San Diego all decided the playoffs are overrated so they dropped out. In fact, all three teams are so anti-playoffs that each lost its game by at least 10 points (or in the Dolphins’ case, at least 34 points).

-With both the Colts and Steelers winning in week 10, they now have a two-game lead on the next closest challengers for the two wildcard spots. So assuming both teams can just play .500 football the rest of the way, there will be no mystery or surprise when it comes to the six AFC playoff teams.

-Over in the NFC, none of the bubble teams other than Detroit decided they were ready to give up on the season just yet as Minnesota, Seattle and Tampa Bay all won their home games to keep pace with each other for the last wildcard spot. The real intrigue in the NFC is whether the Saints or Cowboys (both 4-5) can rise from the dead and become part of the playoff discussion. My guess is no.

-And finally, Pueto, I hope that you will continue to pray along with me and millions of other football fans for teams like Green Bay, Atlanta and New England to make deep playoff runs…because if we’re forced to watch a rematch of week 10’s Chicago vs Houston game on Super Bowl Sunday (or for that matter, any Super Bowl featuring the 49ers or Steelers), it might do irreparable damage to our love of the game.

-Oh, and since I know you look to me as a football gambling guru, Pueto, I thought I’d save the worst news for last: week 10 was another 7-7 record against the spread for me. That’s two weeks of averageness in a row to bring my season record to 81-60-5. Hopefully by the time you get back from your spiritual enlightenment, I’ll have this shit figured out. If not, I’m gonna need to borrow some money for Christmas presents.

-Shit, I almost forgot: Adrian Peterson asked me to send along the message to you and all football fans that Peyton Manning for Comeback Player of the Year is no longer a lock. As a matter of fact, this could be the first time in NFL history that the Comeback Award is a tougher choice to make than the MVP (though both Peterson and Manning may also be front and center for that award too).

Good luck with the rest of your trek, brother (assuming that you haven’t already been mauled to death by a pack of angry jaguars, of course).

Sincerely,

The Guy Who Will Probably Run Our Shared Fantasy Team into The Ground While You’re Gone

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