Week 13 NFL Picks – brought to you by the hottest gambler alive

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Everything I touched last week turned to gold. A ridiculous string of winning bets. A 10-5-1 record against the spread in my picks (bringing my season record to a 55% win rate, which is as good as the pro’s). Going something like 15-2 in my bet recommendations. And did I mention a ridiculous amount of winning bets?

Week 12 was a blast. But when the dust settled on Sunday night, the oddsmakers were already hard at work making sure week 13 isn’t nearly as fun. I’m nervous. It doesn’t feel quite as easy this week.

So be careful out there this week, and don’t get overconfident (like I’m almost definitely going to do).

Here are the week 13 picks.

Teams on Bye: Cleveland, Tennessee

Dallas (-4) at Minnesota | over/under 44

The Pick: Minnesota

The Score: Minnesota 23, Dallas 21

The Bets: Under (54) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

So I was already feeling suspicious of the obvious Dallas bet in this game. They’re coming off a gigantic home division win on Thanksgiving over Washington, and next week they play at the Giants, another gigantic division game. Tell me this doesn’t feel like the ultimate letdown or “everything goes wrong” game for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys really should realize that if they beat Minnesota, the Giants game is almost irrelevant. But I think they’ll succumb to thinking about how New York is suddenly nipping at their heels.

Statistically and logically speaking, Dallas should win and probably cover. But this is the time of year where weird shit happens.

And as you’re watching them look more like the 2015 Brandon Weeden Cowboys than this current installment, just remember that I tried to warn you, and even reminded you that Minnesota hasn’t lost a home game in regulation this year.

(Wrote all of that way before Dallas squeaked out a 17-15 win on Thursday night. Taking Minnesota with the points was the ultimate Sharp move. Feels like a good omen for the rest of the weekend.)


Kansas City at Atlanta (-4.5) | over/under 49

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Atlanta 26, Kansas City 23 (in OT)

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

Atlanta has come through for me time after time this season, but I don’t see them doing it again in week 13. At best, they should be 3 point favorites because that’s the standard spread for two teams at a similar level of success/talent.

The fact that the KC offense hasn’t put up more than 20 points in over a month is alarming (last week’s Denver game saw a safety, a safety kick return and a FG in overtime that they were handed by Denver).

I think this game is going to overtime and I trust the Falcons offense just a bit more than the Chiefs defense in terms of pulling out a late win. But can’t pick Atlanta to cover.


Detroit at New Orleans (-5.5) | over/under 53.5

The Pick: New Orleans

The Score: New Orleans 34, Detroit 27

The Bets:Over (54) / Over (44) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

I initially thought this was a dumb line because Detroit is 7-4 and possibly playoff bound while the 5-6 Saints are a longshot to be playing meaningful football in January.

But it turns out the Lions still don’t rate out very well in the overall advanced stats. Considering Detroit has the 32nd ranked pass defense and the Saints are slightly better at #25, I think the over is pretty damn safe in this one.

Four of the Saints six home games this season have exceeded 68 total points, and the two that fell below that number were against defensive stalwarts Seattle (5th in defense) and Denver (2nd in defense).

I’m reluctant to touch either team with the point spread because the Lions have been doing a great job making sure every game is decided by 7 points or less, but if ever there was a game for them to lose by double digits, this might be it.


Los Angeles at New England (-13.5) | over/under 44.5

The Pick: Los Angeles

The Score: New England 28, Los Angeles 19

The Bets: New England (-3.5) in a 3-way tease / Over 34.5 in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

It’s probably safe to get the Patriots into a 3-way tease where you adjust the lines by 10 points. Even though it would be nice to not have someone favored by more than 3 when you’re risking so much in a teaser, I don’t think you have to worry about Jared Goff and the Rams pulling off any kind of backdoor (teaser) cover.

I also think teasing the over is super safe. Even with the Patriots rolling out a (permanently) Gronk-less offense, they’ll wander their way to 24 points at least. And since everyone should know by now that the Pats defense regularly gives QBs a career day, I think we can count on the Rams to put up a couple touchdowns.

I would put low confidence on picking LA to cover, but it feels more likely than the Pats rolling to an easy win against a solid defense in December football.


Denver (-4) at Jacksonville | Over/Under 40

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 21, Jacksonville 14

The Bets: Under (50) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The Jaguars have scored more than 23 points exactly one time through 11 games this year. Do you really expect them to excel against the Broncos? No, they’re going to struggle mightily.

Keep in mind this is a pissed off, suddenly-outside-the-playoff-picture Denver team (ranked 2nd in defense) facing a full-on Jacksonville dumpster fire.

Denver games have gone over the teased total of 50 just once this season in regulation. The Broncos offense is even less effective on the road than at home. And the Jags putting up 14 points might be a generous estimate.

Crush the under in this one.


Houston at Green Bay (-7) | Over/Under 45

The Pick: Green Bay

The Score: Green Bay 28, Houston 18

The Bets: Green Bay (+3) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Green Bay (-7)

So I was originally looking at lines during the Monday night game and the Packers were favored by 3.5 in this game…that woulda been awesome. Too bad they looked so decent in Philly and ruined everything. Imagine teasing them to +6.5 in this game? That train has sailed, but don’t be afraid to still tease the Packers down. They’re winning this game.

Rodgers is on an absolute roll and I think the Packers figured out that he needs to have the ball in his hands and give up on a real running game. Also, Jordy Nelson has 7+ catches in 3 of his last 4 games while having zero 7+ catch games in his first 7 games this year. Same with yards. Nelson has had 90+ in 4 of his last 5, but only had 1 such game in his first 7 games.

Houston on the road is 1-4, with their one win being a 24-21 nailbiter at the Jaguars.

The Packers are a favorite this week.


Philadelphia at Cincinnati (-1) | Over/Under 42

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 24, Philadelphia 21 (in OT)

The Bets: Cincinnati (+9) in a 3-way tease / Under (52) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The Eagles are 1-5 on the road, where their road win was at Chicago. Think about that. This game feels very even.

Before I knew the lines, I pegged this game as a “don’t even look at the total…automatically bet the under,” and I stand by that.


Miami at Baltimore (-3.5) | Over/Under 40.5

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Baltimore 17, Miami 14

The Bets: Under (50.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

This is a pretty easy under. Yeah, the Dolphins are decent on offense, almost entirely due to the running game, but the Ravens have a top 5 defense, are awesome defending the run, and have given up more than 16 points only once in their six home games this year.

-Listen, if the Dolphins don’t slip up here, they could easily be 10-4 heading into week 16. They’ve gotta lose this game, but it feels like a close one.


San Francisco at Chicago (-1) | Over/Under 43.5

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: San Francisco 22, Chicago 21

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

These two teams have scored a combined 406 points this year. By comparison, the Falcons alone have scored 358 points (just 48 fewer points).

And with that, we’ll spend no further time on this game. Both teams are too volatile to rely on.


Buffalo at Oakland (-3.5) | Over/Under 49

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Oakland 30, Buffalo 27

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

SuperContest: No

Oakland puts up 30 points on just about everyone and they give up almost as many. This game pits the 4th ranked offense (Oakland) against the 7th ranked offense (Buffalo). This is such an obvious over game.


NY Giants at Pittsburgh (-6) | Over/Under 48

The Pick: NY Giants

The Score: Pittsburgh 25, NY Giants 20

The Bets: Giants (+16) in a 3-way tease / Under (58) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Giants (+6)

The Giants are on a 6-game win streak, but the last five have come against teams that are now under .500, and other than last week in Cleveland, they haven’t been able to beat anyone by more than a touchdown.

The Steelers look like a group who can beat non-playoff contenders (at Cleveland and Indianapolis in the last two weeks), but can’t beat contenders (4 game losing streak starting in week 6 against Miami, New England, Baltimore and Dallas).

I think this will be a close game because neither team is as good as we think they are. If anything, the Giants’ defense is the difference-maker.


Washington at Arizona (-2.5) | Over/Under 49

The Pick: Washington

The Score: Washington 24, Arizona 21

The Bets: None

SuperContest: Washington (+2.5)

I could see a way where the Cardinals win by one or two, but it’s far more likely that the Redskins offense does just enough to get the late win. I really don’t have a feel for any bets because the Skins are definitely worse on the road, but the Cardinals have only won four games all year, and two of those wins came against the 49ers.


Tampa Bay at San Diego (-3.5) | Over/Under 47.5

The Pick: San Diego

The Score: San Diego 28, Tampa Bay 18

The Bets: San Diego (+6.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with San Diego (-3.5)

I realize this should be a close game and that a lot of people will probably bet the Bucs just because they’re getting an extra half point. But something about this game screams Chargers to me. Either they win somewhat easily, or a sloppy, turnover-filled game looks more like a blowout with the final score than what really transpired.


Carolina at Seattle (-7) | Over/Under 44.5

The Pick: Seattle

The Score: Seattle 27, Carolina 17

The Bets: Seattle (-1 or +3) in a 2-way or 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Seattle (-7)

Seattle’s back to their old ways of being unbeatable at home.

Meanwhile, on the road, the Panthers are 1-4 with their one win coming in Los Angeles.

The Panthers won’t put up much of a fight. Maybe they play decent defense for a while, but their offense will be almost no threat and eventually the Seahawks will break through.

I think people are forgetting that if the season ended today, the Panthers would get either the 7th or 8th pick in next year’s Draft. They are REALLY bad.


Indianapolis (-2.5) at NY Jets | Over/Under 49

The Pick: Indianapolis

The Score: Indianapolis 27, NY Jets 24

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

This is a perfect 14 seconds that captures my exact thoughts about this game.

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

  • Favorites are 73-95-9 against the spread through 12 weeks (including 7-8-1 in week 12)
  • The Point Total has landed on Over 89 times, Under 85 times, and Pushed 3 times
  • I’m 94-77-6 against the spread.

Enjoy week 13.

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Week 13 NFL Picks: Thanksgiving Uncertainty

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Well that wasn’t so bad, was it? An 8-6 record against the spread in week 12!! Sure, it’s not nearly good enough to get me back above .500 by season’s end if I keep going at this rate, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. Unfortunately this week’s slate of games seems very tough to pick. There are almost no home underdogs that we can blindly back (13 of 16 games feature the home team as the favorite). Injuries to guys like Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler make it difficult to know what you’re getting out of certain teams. Teams that we were betting against with great success early in the year (Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, the Giants) have suddenly found their winning groove…but we’re still leery of when they’ll do yet another 180 and start to suck again. Even the newly announced suspensions in Seattle throw some doubt on the Seahawks’ chances to keep that home winning streak alive. I would just say that if you normally bet $100 on each of my picks, maybe drop it down to $50 per pick this week. Just to be safe.

Since last week’s “don’t think, just pick” strategy worked pretty well, I decided to take it one step further. I made all of the following picks while flying from Los Angeles to Boston on Tuesday night. That means even if I wanted to look up some key info about a matchup, I didn’t have a chance. It’s all instinct and the knowledge I’ve collected from the first 12 weeks that are driving these week 13 picks.

From a scheduling standpoint, you should have very low expectations of any week 13 recap that might come on Monday or Tuesday of next week. Thursday through Sunday of this week are shaping up to be the “rage a lot, sleep a little” kind of days that I’m now used to when I return to Massachusetts. Monday and Tuesday will likely be recovery days. And then there’s the little matter of me scheduling my flight back to LA to interrupt the afternoon games on Sunday. My actual focus on the games this weekend will probably be at an all-time low.

But that’s the price I pay for my family demanding me and my hilarious hijinks make an appearance for Thanksgiving.

Let’s go to the week 13 picks:

Green Bay @ Detroit (-6.5)

Incredible that we’ve come full circle on the Matt Flynn career. It was a game against Detroit almost two years ago where he went off for 480 yards and six touchdowns, which set events in motion for Seattle, then Oakland, to pay him big bucks to be their starter. So is Flynn poised to parlay another start against Detroit into yet another chance to be some desperate team’s starter next year? In a word….no. I just don’t see the short turnaround from playing Sunday to being ready for a Thursday afternoon game being a good thing for a guy like Flynn. As down as we all are on Detroit, I think they cover this line. The Lions get Thanksgiving started with a 34-24 win.

Oakland @ Dallas (-9)

One thing to keep in mind is that these are still Thursday games, even if it’s a special Thursday. That doesn’t change the fact that most Thursday games seem to be ugly, closely-contested, unpredictable affairs. I can’t take the Cowboys to win by this many points. Give me Oakland to cover while Dallas takes the four-point win, 27-23.

Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-3)

Cleveland finally ruined our ability to blindly pick the home team to win in these AFC North matchups by losing to Pittsburgh last week. But that’s because the Browns have now rounded into “let’s get the best possible draft pick since the playoffs are out of reach” mode. For this classic Steelers-Ravens matchup, I’m falling back on the home team wins model. And everyone’s saying that the winner of this game will have the inside track for the #6 seed in the AFC. That’ll be momentarily true, of course, but with the way the season has gone for all these 5-6 teams, couldn’t you see the team occupying that final AFC spot changing 56 more times between now and week 17? What’s going to be comical is when all the media types start telling us not to take whoever gets the #6 seed lightly because “as we’ve seen so many times in the past, it’s often an overlooked team who gets hot right as the playoffs start that goes on to win the Super Bowl.” And while that’s true, I think we already have that team and they’re in the NFC (San Francisco). Anyway, Baltimore covers and wins, 30-20.

Tennessee @ Indianapolis (-4)

This is the stay away game of all stay away games. I could see the Colts winning by 20. I could see the Colts losing by 20. I could see the Colts winning by three. I could see the Colts losing by three. I could see a tie. I could see Ryan Fitzpatrick leading Tennessee to an improbable win that pulls them to within one game of the AFC South lead. I could see Fitzy throwing up all over himself while throwing 5 interceptions. You just don’t know with these two teams. Tennessee started the season 3-1, then lost Jake Locker right as they entered the rough part of their schedule (Seattle, San Francisco), got him back temporarily, lost him again, and have clawed their way to 5-6. Indianapolis started the season looking sketchy as fuck, then rattled off wins against Seattle, San Francisco and Denver, and then proceeded to fall behind by at least two touchdowns in each of their next five games. Who are they? What I’m trying to say is…flip a coin. My coin flip resulted in a Tennessee cover. I think the Colts win by only three, 23-20.

Jacksonville @ Cleveland (-7)

Does Vegas set the line for this game thinking millions of people are still blindly betting against the Jaguars? Like we haven’t seen them win two road games in a row? That’s the only reason I can think for Cleveland giving so many points. If these teams played each other 100 times on a neutral field, I’m not even sure the Browns would come away with a 50/50 split. They’re bad. Is the line as high as it is because the Jags are from Florida and Cleveland in November is probably cold? Doesn’t matter to me. No way you can back the Browns giving a touchdown. Let’s take the Jaguars to get their third consecutive road victory with a 33-27 win.

Tampa Bay @ Carolina (-9)

I miss the good old days of five weeks ago when a game like this would have seen Carolina favored by only six or so. I made so much money off them during those glory weeks. But now the public is all over the Panthers, which means this line is inflated by at least a couple points. I’m taking the Bucs and the points…and you know what? I’m taking the Bucs to win outright, 28-23.

Chicago @ Minnesota (-1)

The Vikings just allowed Matt Flynn to rally the Packers back from a double-digit hole in the second half last week, right? But the Bears got killed by St. Louis while giving up a ton of rushing yards yet again. Which of these terrible teams will rise to the occasion? I don’t have a god damn clue. While the Bears may soon find themselves officially out of the playoff race, the Vikings are actually playing for something: They still have a great shot at getting the 1st pick in the 2014 draft (at which point they can boggle everyone’s minds by not taking a quarterback). I like the Vikings to tank…Bears win 29-17.

Arizona @ Philadelphia (-3)

I’m frustrated because Dallas and Philly could both be improving to two games over .500, and we were promised an NFC East that would never have a single team doing that well all year. The half point is roping me into taking the Cardinals on the road. I already went against them on the road when they were at Jacksonville a few weeks ago, and they made me look stupid. I don’t know that they can win this road game, but I know they can keep it close. Arizona covers, but Philly wins 30-27.

UPDATE: I wrote that paragraph when the line was Philly -3.5. Now that it’s come down a half point…I’m stumped. Let’s change it up: Philly covers with a 31-27 win.

Miami @ NY Jets (-1) (CONFIDENCE PICK)

This should be a three-point line. The Jets have only really gotten embarrassed on the road this year. They’re decent at home, and Miami is no better than decent whether they’re home or on the road. The Jets D going after that Miami offensive line should negate any awfulness from Geno Smith (I doubt Matt Simms is really going to get a start for the Jets). The Jets win 23-15.

New England (-9) @ Houston (CONFIDENCE PICK)

From a Patriots fan’s perspective, you couldn’t make this line high enough. After that Sunday night comeback over Denver, I’m ready to bet my life savings (currently $43.26) on the Pats to win out…and blowout a lot of the shitty teams left on the schedule. The Patriots will have the opposite of a letdown game this weekend…that’s just how they operate. Big big win for New England, 38-10.

Atlanta @ Buffalo (-3.5) (CONFIDENCE PICK)

If I was Arthur Blank (that’s the Falcons’ owner, for all your jerks who don’t take the time to learn every owner’s name), I would tell Mike Smith that this specific game will determine whether he keeps his job or not. This is the type of game that you don’t show up for if you’ve quit on your coach…in Canada, in the likely freezing weather, against a team that’s also not fighting for a playoff spot…just nothing to “get up” for in this one for Atlanta. If they play a good game, he keeps his job next year. If not, he’s free to seek employment from whichever team wants an ultra-conservative coach who looks like Ari Gold’s nemesis agent colleague from Entourage. I say he’s gone. Buffalo wins 30-10.

St. Louis @ San Francisco (-8.5) (CONFIDENCE PICK)

It’s very tough to gauge this 49ers team off of last game because the Redskins are really really terrible. I mentioned above that San Francisco may very well be that team this year who we don’t ever consider as a Super Bowl contender because they had a rough middle of the season and they’re being overshadowed by some other noteworthy teams in their conference (Seattle, New Orleans, Carolina). The defense is healthy, the offense got a healthy Vernon Davis back recently and it sounds like Michael Crabtree is playing in this game. The weapons are back, this game is at home and don’t forget it’s Kellen Clemens playing QB for St. Louis. Let’s take San Francisco to cover with a 32-20 win.

Denver (-5) @ Kansas City

The Patriots fan in me wants to create so many reasons why the Broncos will lose this game. The truth is neither of these teams is nearly as good as we thought in the first two months of the season. But the Chiefs are due for a bigger fall than the Broncos. The sudden injuries on defense hurt badly since getting pressure on Peyton Manning seems to be the only way to slow him down (other than the combination of epic winds and a god-like coaching performance from Bill Belichick). I’m taking Denver to cover, pretty much sealing up the AFC West title with a 31-17 win.

Cincinnati @ San Diego (-1.5)

It seems like the Bengals haven’t really felt the impact of losing Leon Hall and Geno Atkins yet. I’m sure they’ve lost at least one game since those guys went down (I’d look, but you know, plane), but I’m waiting for a big meltdown from this team. On the road against a potent offense seems like a good time. Or…is this typical San Diego setting me up. They stun everyone by winning a huge road game against the Chiefs. We base their next game off of that performance. But instead they revert to that crappy team we should have remembered all along. I’m torn. I’m leaning towards the team with the above average quarterback. San Diego wins 30-21.

NY Giants (-1) @ Washington

We’re at the point of the season where it’s tough to care about certain matchups. A game featuring two teams essentially eliminated from playoff contention like this would be one of those matchups. You may think that Atlanta is the NFC team that most closely resembles the Houston Texans this year, but I’d contest that it’s the Redskins. I don’t feel like Atlanta fans are waiting to pounce on their team’s poor performance with boos and vitriol. But Washington fans have entered that zone…where if anything goes poorly during a home game, they jump all over it and send expletive-laden jeers down at their team. That’s a tough position for any team to be in because you just can’t ignore that. You go into a game knowing, for instance, that if RGIII throws a pick in the 1st quarter, the fans are going to go nuts (and maybe even chant for Kirk Cousins…yes, we’ve entered that zone with Washington). That’s why I’m picking the Giants to cover. Because the ‘Skins need to play almost perfect football to get the support of their fans. I’m not even a fan, and I’m still disappointed at how bad things have gotten in D.C. The Giants win 37-24.

New Orleans @ Seattle (-6) (CONFIDENCE PICK)

Why is this line so high? Whenever there’s a game featuring two teams that would be pretty evenly-matched on a neutral field, the line is always -3 in favor of the home team. Well I feel pretty positive the Saints and Seahawks would be pretty much a PICK on a neutral field. So why the extra three points? No idea. And now that Brandon Browner is out, this secondary is thin. They’ll only be able to take away one weapon on the New Orleans offense. I think the Saints have lots of weapons to throw out there. The logical thing is to take the points but expect Seattle to win. But I hate the Seahawks so let’s go ahead and hand them their first home loss since the Truman administration. New Orleans wins 28-24.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 13 I’m taking:

  • 10 Favorites & 6 Underdogs
  • And all 6 of those happen to be Road Dogs

Good luck in week 13. I hope the Magical Thanksgiving Turkey brings you something awesome (for me, that would be a 13-3 or better week against the spread).

Playoff Picture Coming into Focus, Peterson’s MVP Stock Rising And the Rest of the NFL’s Week 13 in Review

So here we are, exactly three-fourths of the way through the NFL season. My record against the spread is a sparkling 109-78-5, I’m in first place in both of my season-long Pick ‘Em leagues, I’m heading to the playoffs in one of my two fantasy leagues….and yet, I feel like I know nothing about the NFL. Or more accurately, I feel like I know nothing about what’s to come during the rest of the NFL regular season and playoffs. At different times throughout the season, we’ve heard that true NFL parity has finally arrived even while our eyes have told us that there are a handful of elite teams that are light years ahead of the rest of the league. On February 3rd are we going to see a Super Bowl Champ that barely made it to the playoffs—a 9-7 or 10-6 team that seems like an afterthought in early January? (like the 2011 and 2007 Giants or the 2010 Packers) Or are we more likely to see a team that’s basically been one of the best from the start of the season hoisting the Lombardi Trophy? (shades of the 2009 Saints, the 2008 Steelers or the 2004 Patriots)

But I’m getting too far ahead of myself talking about which Patriot team will be holding the Lombardi Trophy in February. Even though four teams have effectively locked up their division titles already, there’s still a ton to be decided in the final quarter of the season. By my count, in the NFC there are still three divisions up for grabs and seven teams fighting for the two wildcard spots. In the less-climactic AFC, there is still one undecided division and three teams vying for the two wildcard spots.

(By the way, you know how all season I’ve been clarifying what Seattle’s record should be every time I list their actual record? You know, because of the replacement ref debacle in week 3? Well that game is currently giving Seattle the tiebreaker over Washington for the 6th seed in the NFC. A lot of games to be played, but I’d be stunned if the Seahawks’ fake win over the Packers didn’t factor significantly into the final playoff picture.)

You can expect in these final four weeks I will be prioritizing my analysis to focus on playoff-contention teams more than the trash of the NFL. All that means is you’ll have to wait until the bottom of my posts to read all the fun jokes about the Jets, Ryan Lindley and Jim Schwartz’s brilliant coaching decisions.

By the way, if you’re looking to read a concise article about all the teams in the playoff hunt and what their finishing schedules look like, I find Grantland.com’s Bill Barnwell to be a pro at giving only the necessary information. You can read his playoff article from Monday HERE.

Let’s blast through the week 13 review so I can get back to surprising my girlfriend by taking down all of our Christmas decorations while she’s at work:

-Do you remember when the Falcons began the season 8-0 and players like Asante Samuel were fussing about the team not getting enough national respect? And then they went out in week 10 and promptly lost to the Saints? They followed that loss with three unconvincing wins: by four points at home against Arizona, by one point at Tampa Bay, and this past Thursday night by 10 points against those same Saints. How is a 10-point win against a division rival not convincing? When the quarterback of that division rival decides to throw five interceptions and you only score six points off of those turnovers. Yes, the final score is definitive, but anyone who watched that game knows that Atlanta played pretty bad after the first quarter.

-So Atlanta probably goes 13-3 at worst and gets the #1 seed in the NFC. But you know who this team looks exactly like? The 2003 Kansas City Chiefs. It’s OK if you don’t remember a thing about them; I’ll remind you. The ’03 Chiefs began the season 9-0, had a top-five offense, a below average defense and had absolutely no one expecting them to win a single playoff game even though they got a 1st round bye before hosting the Colts in the divisional round. Sound familiar? I know we’re still six weeks away from that divisional round, but would it surprise anyone if the Falcons were home underdogs if someone like Green Bay, Washington or the Giants were visiting Atlanta for that game? So, Atlanta, I’d say you’re getting exactly the amount of national respect that you deserve.

-Speaking of Drew Brees’ season-ruining game on Thursday, I’m glad I didn’t release my MVP standings last week because Brees would have no doubt been in the top 7. Now that he leads the league in interceptions, has only the 10th-best passer rating, and one could argue he singlehandedly ended the Saints’ season, I’d have to drop him out of the top 10 probably.

-Remember when I decided something was wrong with Green Bay’s offense? Let me quote from my Week 2 review post from way back on September 18th: Let me be the first to wonder if Green Bay’s offense is in a little bit of trouble through 1/8th of the regular season. They’re averaging 22.5 points so far, and I know it’s a tiny sample size, but we’re talking about a team in 2011 that went 15-1 while averaging 35 points per game…Just something to keep an eye on because if that offense takes a step back, their defense will have to play as good as it did against Chicago almost every week.” So they’ve raised their points per game from 22.5 to 24.7 over their past 10 games. That number puts them at 16th in the NFL in scoring, a few spots behind the Raiders and the Eagles. When I was watching the game on Sunday and saw Jordy Nelson leave in the 2nd quarter because of an injury, I decided that Green Bay has simply suffered too many injuries this year. It’s a good excuse for why they might be no better than a 5-seed in the playoffs, and it’s a good excuse for why Aaron Rodgers is having a slightly off year (except I know a certain quarterback whose best receivers from 2004-2006 were Troy Brown and Deion Branch, and his offense ranked in the top 10 in those years…just saying).

-The point I’m trying to make about Green Bay is two-fold: 1). Because of the injuries and the offense’s inability to fully click, they really shouldn’t be more than a three-point favorite against any team for the rest of the year. But because they are such a publicly-bet team every week, Vegas will continue to set the lines on their games accordingly. Expect them to be favored by about two or three points too many the rest of the way. 2). Aaron Rodgers will have to put together the greatest four-game stretch in football history to win the MVP Award.

-Sticking with the MVP topic for a minute, Minnesota’s opening drive of the 2nd half of their game against Green Bay was a prime example of why Adrian Peterson might be the NFL MVP. Here is the three-play sequence as described on espn.com’s play-by-play page for this game:

  • A.Peterson left end pushed ob at GB 12 for 48 yards
  • A.Peterson up the middle to GB 8 for 4 yards
  • C.Ponder pass short right intended for M.Jenkins INTERCEPTED by M.Burnett at GB -7. Touchback.

Sure, I might want to mention his 82-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter or the fact that he ran for 210 total yards in this game when trying to argue for his MVP worth, but I think the juxtaposition between Peterson’s successes and Christian Ponder’s failures is even more telling. If the 6-6 Vikings somehow make the playoffs, Peterson is the MVP winner. I’m not saying he shouldn’t win it if they fall short of the playoffs, but the suspense would be gone if they can sneak in (which they won’t…still have games against Chicago, Houston and Green Bay).

-One more piece of supporting evidence for Mr. Peterson: With 9:39 left in the 3rd quarter, the Vikings had 273 total yards of offense. AP had 210 rushing yards at that point. Ponder was 5-of-13 for 36 yards and two interceptions at that point. The Vikings were only down by one. Case closed.

-Congrats to the Bears. You joined Carolina as the only teams to allow Seattle to win on the road this year. The Seahawks are the classic “nearly unbeatable at home, totally beatable on the road” team. The Bears might regret this loss not only because bloggers like me can justifiably lump them in with a team like the Panthers, but also because this could be the game that decides who gets a wildcard spot and who doesn’t…and now the Bears lose a tiebreaker with Seattle. This Chicago team was 7-1 just four weeks ago, and now they’re looking at the possibility of being 8-6 with two games to play. Classic Bears.

-So Tampa Bay did exactly what I thought they’d do…lose to a good team. I mentioned last week when picking Denver (-7) over the Bucs that Tampa hasn’t beaten a good team all year. At 6-6, they’ve given us such a precise blueprint for winnable games vs non-winnable games that I think we can look at their final four matchups and know with 100% certainty whether they’re making the playoffs or not. Let’s play this out: Week 14 home vs Philadelphia = WIN, Week 15 at New Orleans = WIN, Week 16 home vs St. Louis = WIN, Week 17 at Atlanta = LOSE if Atlanta is still trying, WIN if Atlanta has #1 seed locked up. So there you have it. Tampa can go 10-6 if they get some help from Atlanta in week 17. Unfortunately Tampa loses tiebreakers to Washington and Dallas (two other 6-6 teams) so even if they win their final four games, they don’t necessarily control their own destiny. I’ve solved absolutely nothing with this paragraph.

-If the payoff for having to endure the Ravens’ four-game winning streak while Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb were out is watching them lose to Charlie Batch, I’ll take it. Finally the NFL’s luckiest team got only an average amount of luck and they lost to a 37-year-old quarterback who has no right being employed in the NFL. And finally the door is open for New England and Denver to leap over Baltimore in the AFC playoff seedings. If Atlanta is the NFC’s least-scary playoff team, then Baltimore might be the AFC’s. And if the Ravens fall to the 3rd or 4th spot in the AFC and have to play on the road after the wildcard round, their season is pretty much over.

-And, listen, I’m willing to give the Ravens credit for going 4-1 so far without Lewis and Webb, but only if the media stops acting like Lewis is a valuable asset to the Raven defense. You can’t have it both ways. In fact, why does Baltimore even want Lewis back for the playoffs? They’ve done just fine (or better) without him.

-Even though Pittsburgh and Cincinnati gained ground on Baltimore in the AFC North, it still appears the Ravens will win the division. That leaves the Steelers, the Bengals and the Colts battling for two wildcard spots. I’m predicting the Steelers and Colts will get to 10-6 and the Bengals will fall just short at 9-7.

-For Indianapolis, suddenly their week 16 game at Kansas City looms large. If they beat Tennessee at home in week 14 and lose their two games against Houston, the difference between 10 wins and a playoff spot and 9 wins and no playoffs is that game against the Chiefs. On paper that looks easy…the Chiefs are 2-10. But that’s absolutely a game that a young team with an inexperienced quarterback (who’s throwing way too many interceptions, by the way) could lose.

-By the way, I’m not at all concerned that the Patriots had to “sweat out” their win in Miami on Sunday. I’m now willing to admit that something about playing in Miami is difficult for the Patriots. We saw Tom Brady missing easy throws and forcing a pass that got intercepted; Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez dropping multiple balls; Stephen Gostkowski missing a makable field goal…But they still won by 10.

-Wait, I meant to say “they should have won by 10.” Depending on when you bet the Patriots last week, you got them anywhere between a 7.5-point favorite and a 9-point favorite. So I don’t have to tell you that the field goal Miami decided to kick on 2nd down with 31 seconds left in the game that took the score from 23-13 to 23-16 really fucked me over. And that’s the difficulty with picking a large-point favorite. You just can’t plan for that. The Patriots had a 16-play drive just before the field goal in question, and they had absolutely no motivation to score a touchdown. They played for their own field goal. And since the Dolphins needed both a field goal and a touchdown, it made sense for them to kick it first and try to recover an onsides kick. Such a wildcard at that point in the game. It seriously ruined my day.

-One more note on the Patriots/Dolphins game: Who was primarily covering Brandon Lloyd all day? Shouldn’t the Dolphins immediately give that guy a giant contract? He has to be the best cornerback in the NFL, right? Because no quarterback forces passes to a wide receiver quite like Brady does to Lloyd. All year long, that’s been the thing between those two guys. No matter how tightly Lloyd is covered, Brady always tries to jam at least a handful of passes in there. And yet in this game, Lloyd’s name wasn’t even mentioned until there was 12:29 left in the game and it was only because one of the announcers said, “Let’s see if they finally try to get Lloyd involved.” Don’t know who was covering him, don’t care, he’s the new Revis.

-Oops, last note on the Patriots (I mean it this time): I’m worried about Brandon Spikes…worried that he’s gonna turn into one of my least favorite players and then I’ll have to awkwardly cheer for him but secretly hate him. He already got suspended in 2010 for failing a PED test. And this season he’s been accused of being a dirty player by his opponents on a couple occasions. And now he’s on the verge of over-celebrating after meaningless pass defenses and tackles, like I saw him do when he broke up a 2nd down pass attempt by the Dolphins early in the 3rd quarter. He’s teetering on the edge of being a guy I’d absolutely hate if he was on any other team. Don’t go over the edge, Brandon.

Now for the quick notes on all the things that had no playoff implications:

-As brutal as the Dolphins’ backdoor cover was against the Patriots, Philly’s backdoor action on Sunday night in Dallas was even worse. Again, depending on when you made the bet, you got Dallas favored by anywhere from 8 to 10 points. So with the Cowboys clinging to a 4-point lead with about six minutes left, you were obviously as ecstatic as me to see Bryce Brown fumble and Morris Claiborne return it for a game-sealing Dallas touchdown. Cowboys up 11, game over, money in the bank. Until with 53 seconds left the Eagles decided to return a punt for a touchdown and ruin my life. Just some gut-wrenching gambling losses this week.

-Speaking of gut-wrenching, how would you like to have been a football fan who attended the Cardinals/Jets game on Sunday. Throughout the morning, I found myself constantly making notes about this game while giggling with a weird sense of pleasure. After all, the Jets are my most-hated non-Seattle-based team, and the Cardinals are one of the few teams to beat the Patriots this year. So imagine my delight when I saw the following things transpire in that game:

  • Mark Sanchez had been picked off three times by the beginning of the 2nd quarter, and yet, the score was still 0-0. That’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Arizona, right?
  • With nine minutes left in the 2nd quarter, Sanchez and Ryan Lindley had combined for 8 completions to their actual teammates and 4 completions to the other team’s defense.
  • At halftime, the Cardinals led 3-0. Any time you can see a half of football where the QBs are a combined 15-for-36 for 143 yards, you gotta be psyched about that.
  • Sanchez finally gets pulled for Greg McElroy with about four minutes left in the 3rd quarter. [Insert joke about what Sanchez was writing on his clipboard when McElroy threw the go-ahead touchdown…My joke would be something about Sanchez drawing a picture of his cock squirting semen all over Rex Ryan and McElroy, but I’m sure there’s been better jokes out there on the web.]
  • I made a note that Arizona was “entering Steelers in week 12 territory” by recovering four turnovers and only having six points to show for it.
  • And then we get these final stats: Ryan Lindley finishes 10-for-31 for 72 yards and 1 interception (an average of 2.3 yards per completion)…and somehow he wasn’t the quarterback who got benched.
  • Sanchez and Lindley’s combined stats for the game: 20-for-52, 169 yards, 4 interceptions, 0 touchdowns

-You can read plenty of articles breaking down the fight for the top seeds and playoff spots in both conferences, but what about the “fight” for the first overall pick in the 2013 draft? Right now Kansas City and Jacksonville are tied with 2-10 records. But don’t sleep on the three teams with 3-9 records either: Philadelphia, Carolina and Oakland. I think Carolina’s out of this race because they have too many winnable games left on their schedule ( San Diego, Oakland, New Orleans). Getting a fourth win would eliminate them. Oakland has a home game against the Chiefs and a road game against the Chargers, and I think they’ll win one of those, so they’re out too. That leaves three teams that I believe can all finish the season at 3-13. If someone wants to email me the info on how the tie is broken for who gets the top pick in that situation, I’d appreciate it. I just won’t spend the time researching it myself.

-I saw Silver Linings Playbook on Saturday night, and the biggest problem I had was the scenes outside of Lincoln Financial Field, where a way-too-happy Eagles crowd was tailgating before the games. I picture much more of a funeral-like atmosphere outside the stadium these days.

-When we were watching TV on Saturday night, that Clay Matthews Fathead commercial came on (the one where he shows us all the different Clay Matthews Fatheads he has in his house). When the commercial ended, Julie asked me in all seriousness, “Is that guy’s name Fat Head?” I told her not only is that not his actual name, but it’s not even his nickname…Except now it is.

-I started following Andrew Siciliano on Twitter this weekend. For those of you who don’t have DirecTV, he’s the guy who runs the Red Zone Channel anchor’s desk all Sunday long (DirecTV’s version of Scott Hanson, if you will). I noticed A-Sic was tweeting pretty consistently all morning and afternoon. How is he possibly doing that with eight football games all on at the same time? Is someone tweeting for him? Is he a genius robot? I live so close to the studio where he broadcasts from that I feel like I should be allowed to visit and watch him for a whole day to see how he does it. What a gifted individual.

-And finally, if you need statistical evidence to support just exciting, fascinating and incredible this NFL season has been, chew on this: There have been only 3 weeks out of 13 without at least one overtime game (Weeks 2, 5 and 9). There have been multiple overtime games in 7 of the 13 weeks. And there have been a total of 19 overtime games so far this season. (If you’re expecting me to say these are NFL records, I’m sorry disappoint you. I don’t have a clue if that’s the case or not.)