Week 9 NFL Picks & Trying to Find the Good Bets

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Welcome to week 9, where the toll of a half season of games isn’t only being felt on the fantasy front. Betting options are looking more & more limited every week, and injuries are playing a major role.

For example, here are the teams who would normally be in reliable betting/teasing situations in week 9 but aren’t:

  • Kansas City: Hosting the horrible Jaguars but playing without Alex Smith and possibly Spencer Ware
  • Pittsburgh: Facing the Ravens in Baltimore but either without Ben Roethlisberger or a “first game back from injury” version of the Steelers quarterback
  • Atlanta: On the road against the Bucs but playing on Thursday and dealing with a banged up Julio Jones
  • Dallas: Big favorite at Cleveland but suffered two major injuries in their secondary last Sunday night
  • Minnesota: Playing the Lions at home but dealing with the Norv Turner resignation (and let’s face it, the Vikings are just sketchy right now)

With the Patriots on a bye, the Broncos going on the road against the formidable Raiders, and the Seahawks & Packers being completely untrustworthy, where the hell are we supposed to put our money in week 9? (Don’t worry. I’ll find plenty of ways to talk myself into lots of bets by the end of this post.)

Before we dive into the games, I just assume everyone wants to know my initial reaction and overall thoughts on the Jamie Collins trade. So here you go:

  • I found out about the Collins trade in real time as I had just refreshed twitter and saw Adam Schefter’s original tweet about it. My first serious thought was: I’m so out of the loop. We’re doing April Fool’s jokes on Halloween now. That’s a thing?
  • I’ll continue to subscribe to “In Belichick We Trust” as my overall motto for living, but even the biggest Belichick backer has to admit this was a particularly weird trade, what with the timing of it, the fact that they’re not getting a significantly better asset in return than if they had just let him walk in free agency at the end of the year, the overall mediocrity of the defense through eight games…just weird.
  • Gotta feel a little bad for Elandon Roberts, the previously unknown Patriots linebacker who will now be constantly scrutinized by the same fanbase that just spent 18 months learning the minutiae of the ideal gas law. They’re gonna pick him apart when the defense isn’t perfect.
  • Considering this team went 3-1 without Brady, I can’t imagine we’ll see a noticeable dip in the Patriots’ overall performance and record for the rest of the regular season. But all the articles blaming Belichick will be queued up in January, ready to be published if the Pats lose in the postseason.

And with that, let’s dive into the week 9 picks.

Teams on Bye: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington

Atlanta (-4) at Tampa Bay | over/under 51

The Pick: Atlanta

The Score: Atlanta 29, Tampa Bay 23

The Bets: Atlanta (+6) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Atlanta (-4)

My normal number crunching process has this as a relatively close game, with the Falcons just barely covering. If the Thursday night ugliness factor comes into play, it’ll almost certainly be in the form of the Bucs getting destroyed.

Why? Well first of all, they’re not a very good team. But more importantly, the Bucs just played an extra quarter of football on Sunday, losing to the Raiders in OT. We saw the effects of a long OT when Seattle & Arizona both struggled on the road in week 8. Now Tampa has to play on Thursday and should be significantly more tired than the Falcons.

Detroit at Minnesota (-6) | over/under 41

The Pick: Minnesota

The Score: Minnesota 27, Detroit 15

The Bets: Minnesota (pick or +4) in a 2-way or 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

I’m hoping we’re going to see a pissed off Minnesota team with a delirious home crowd that knows an 8-0 home record is possible and could be needed to get this team into the playoffs. Despite the offensive line struggles that the Vikings have dealt with the past two weeks, I think this is simply a case of the Vikings being a great home team and only a mediocre road team.

And if any defense is going to be just what the doctor ordered for Sam Bradford and this Vikings offense, it’s Detroit’s 32nd ranked pass defense.

Philadelphia at NY Giants (-3) | over/under 43

The Pick: Philadelphia

The Score: NY Giants 21, Philadelphia 20

The Bets: Under (53) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

With the Giants, Eagles and Redskins having practically identical records (4-3 for all of them, but with a tie added on for Washington), I think the only thing that’s certain is that the Giants are the worst of those three teams. But they are pretty tightly bunched together.

If the Eagles play like they did in Dallas on Sunday night, they should either win this game or make it extremely close. I’m definitely concerned that they’re on the back end of two straight divisional road games and are facing a rested Giants team.

I love teasing the under in this game because you have the #1 defense in football (Philly) facing the #10 defense (Giants), and only once in all the games these teams have played this year has the total gone over 53. This will be low scoring. Guarantee it.

NY Jets at Miami (-3.5) | over/under 44

The Pick: Miami

The Score: Miami 27, NY Jets 21

The Bets: Over (34) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

I actually think Miami wins this game by a touchdown. The Dolphins are 3-1 at home and put up almost 30 points in back to back weeks on Pittsburgh & Buffalo. The Jets defense is worse than those teams.

Did you know Miami home games are averaging about 50 points per game this year? And the total is only 44 this week? Yes, I’m into the teased over. And remember, this Jets defense is really really bad.

Jacksonville at Kansas City (-7.5) | over/under 44

The Pick: Kansas City

The Score: Kansas City 26, Jacksonville 16

The Bets: Kansas City (+2.5) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

The Jaguars are a barely breathing corpse at this point. And the Chiefs are looking like one of the best teams in the AFC, if not all of football. So of course this was setting up as an awesome play on the Chiefs…and then Alex Smith got concussed…or not concussed…or kinda concussed. Either way, he’s out for this game. Nick Foles takes over at QB, and he’ll probably be missing Spence Ware, easily the most valuable player on KC’s offense through eight weeks.

I’m still picking the Chiefs because my Teasy Money Podcast co-host reminded me 100 times this week, “Blake Bortles on the road. Blake Bortles on the road. Blake Bortles on the road.”

But I’m not putting a ton of confidence in them to cover.

Dallas (-7.5) at Cleveland | over/under 48.5

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 30, Cleveland 17

The Bets: Dallas (-1.5 or +2.5) in a 2-way or 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Dallas (-7.5)

I think the Cowboys win this game by about 20. They’re 3-0 on the road this year, and they’re always good on the road. The numbers say Cleveland should put up 17-20 points, but I think that’s a best case scenario. I could see the Cowboys dominating every aspect of this game and minimizing the possessions the Browns get. I always want to proceed with caution when it comes to heavy road favorites, but this is just a game I couldn’t pass up. I’m all in on Dallas.

Pittsburgh (-1.5) at Baltimore | over/under 43

The Pick: Baltimore

The Score: Baltimore 23, Pittsburgh 21

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

I’m staying away from any bets on this game for the obvious reason that Ben Roethlisberger is likely to be back in the starting lineup, but we just don’t know how effective he’ll be. Independent of his status, don’t forget that the Steelers are a much worse team on the road than at home (they got smoked earlier this year at Philly and at Miami with a healthy Roethlisberger).

I think this game will be a throwback to the low scoring ugly affairs we’re used to between these AFC North rivals. And if the Ravens can somehow win, they’ll be in sole possession of 1st place in the division.

New Orleans (-4.5) at San Francisco | over/under 53

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: New Orleans 28, San Francisco 26

The Bets: Over (43) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with San Francisco (+4.5)

This line opened with the Saints a 3-point favorite, and I’m glad to see everyone’s betting on them because I’ve liked the Niners from the moment I first looked at this matchup.

Basically, I expect us to see absolutely no defense in this game and both offenses just marching up & down the field trying to match points. So yes, I love the over in this game more than just about anything in week 9. But I think the Niners are getting 1.5 free points on the spread and I’ll gladly take advantage of that.

Carolina (-3) at Los Angeles | over/under 44.

The Pick: Carolina

The Score: Carolina 24, Los Angeles 20

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

I stared at this line with confusion for a while because initially I thought LA would be about a 1-point favorite. I assumed these teams were pretty equal. But my research leads me to believe the Panthers should probably win by 3 or 4, which makes it a stayaway.

Even Carolina being 0-3 on the road doesn’t help me pick LA because it’s cancelled out by the fact that Cam Newton is likely to get a couple extra calls in his favor this week (after making a huge deal out of getting hit too often in the head and knees).

Indianapolis at Green Bay (-7.5) | over/under 54

The Pick: Green Bay

The Score: Green Bay 31, Indianapolis 23

The Bets: Green Bay (+2.5) in a 3-way tease / Over (44) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: No

Green Bay’s loss at Atlanta last week kept the attention on their mediocre record, but the Packers have quietly put up 59 points in their last two games, both against teams with at least marginally better defenses than Indy’s. I’m trying to look at the process for the Packers rather than just the results. And it seems like they’re just about back on track.

It should be easy to choose the Packers in a tease, but there’s slight hesitation because of the Andrew Luck late game heroics potential. I probably won’t be putting any confidence behind the Packers pick, but the teased over seems like a must-bet.

Tennessee at San Diego (-5) | over/under 47

The Pick: Tennessee

The Score: San Diego 27, Tennessee 24

The Bets: None

SuperContest: No

How backwards are these teams? Tennessee has the better ranked offense (9th in DVOA compared to San Diego at 16th), and the Chargers have the better defense (7th vs 22nd for the Titans).

In fact, the Titans are averaging 28 points per game in their last 5 games, which include 2 road games. They’re also 2-1 on the road this year. I gotta go Titans to keep it close with the upside being that they could pull off the upset. Remember, the Chargers will either be up big and let the lead slip away, or they’ll fall behind early and have to rally. But this game will be close either way.

Denver at Oakland (pick) | over/under 44

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 24, Oakland 23

The Bets: Over (34) in a 3-way tease

SuperContest: Yes with Denver (pick)

I think I nailed this game.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Broncos are only projected for 22 points. At home, the Raiders have given up 35, 31 and 26 points. And the Broncos aren’t a terrible offensive team. They should get plenty of scoring opportunities.

And since the Raiders are so solid on offense, I think Denver can put up a good defensive showing and still give up three touchdowns. So yes, I love the over, especially teased of course.

I’m expecting we’ll see in this game that Oakland has indeed gotten a little lucky with it’s 6-2 start and constant winning of close games.

Buffalo at Seattle (-7) | over/under 44

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Seattle 23, Buffalo 21

The Bets: None

SuperContest: Yes with Buffalo (+7)

Seattle is a somewhat obvious tease here, but….they are so sketchy right now. I have no idea why the Seahawks are such heavy favorites in this game. If you give them four points for their home field advantage, we’re saying they’re three points better than the Bills on a neutral field? I think it’s closer to a pick.

Mostly I think you should continue to stay away from any bet involving the Seahawks until we have a better understanding of what kind of team they’ll be the rest of the year.

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

  • Favorites are 49-66-5 against the spread through 8 weeks (including a 7-4-2 record in week 8)
  • The point total has landed on Over 64 times, Under 54 times, and Pushed 2 times
  • I’m 63-53-3 against the spread

Enjoy week 9.

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Week 9 NFL Picks: The Stress of Surviving 8 Weeks

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Another week, another round of shakeups on the quarterback and coaching fronts. For those keeping score at home, here were the major moves:

  • San Francisco: Colin Kaepernick, undoubtedly the worst starting QB in the NFL through eight weeks, was benched for Blaine Gabbert, undoubtedly the worst starting QB in the NFL through the last five years.
  • Cleveland: Josh McCown is out with a concussion and Johnny Manziel will get his 2nd start of the season tonight against the undefeated Bengals in Cincinnati.
  • Tennessee: Ken Whisenhunt, who probably has the worst win-loss record of any head coach in history with at least 100 games at the helm, was fired. Mike Mularkey, career head coaching record of 16-32, was named interim head coach for the Titans.
  • Indianapolis: Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton was relieved of his duties after the Colts lost their 3rd straight game and fell to 3-5 on the season. He was replaced by Rob Chudzinski.

At least these terrible teams (collective record among the four of them: 8-23) went ahead with some major changes. The problem is they probably replaced those underperforming players/coaches with guys who are equally bad or worse. You can imagine that a few of these teams will be in the mix for the first overall pick in the 2016 Draft.

In looking at the current NFL standings, you can make the case that the AFC is going to be a bit boring for the remainder of the year. Three of the four division titles are locked up while the one that is still being contested is too much of a travesty to want to pay attention to.

Over in the NFC, I think the two most important teams this week are Atlanta and Minnesota. They are in second place in their respective divisions, and losses by each of them while the 1st place team wins, would pretty much lock up two more divisions (Carolina over Atlanta in the South, Green Bay over Minnesota in the North). So if you want as many divisions as possible to come down to the wire, you’re definitely rooting for the Falcons and Vikings in week 9.

Let’s get into the picks.

Cleveland at Cincinnati (-11.5)

The Pick: Cincinnati

The Score: Cincinnati 33, Cleveland 14

For people who think the Bengals win or lose purely on the arm of Andy Dalton, we’ve reached that critical point in the team’s 2015 schedule. Five of Cincinnati’s next eight games are in Primetime. The Bengals are 7-0, have won nine or more games in each of Dalton’s four seasons as the starting quarterback, and have gone to the playoffs in every year of his career. But it’s the 3-7 Primetime record and four straight one-and-dones in the playoffs that everyone uses as proof that he’s no good.

So here you go, Andy. This week starts three games in a row under the bright lights. At least the Bengals get to ease into this portion of the schedule with home games against the Browns and Texans before heading to Arizona in week 11 for Sunday Night Football.

Going into week 9, I’m one of eight people remaining in my Survivor Pool. My only decent choices this week are: Cincinnati, New Orleans, Denver and Atlanta. I probably haven’t stressed about anything this much in 10 years. Seriously. After careful examination of all factors, I have to go with the Bengals. But there’s a lot of hesitation in this choice because of the following: Dalton’s history in Primetime + Thursday night game weirdness + Johnny Manziel x-factor + my ridiculous inability to pick the Thursday games this year (0-7-1 against the spread on the season).

Just win, Cincy. Even by one point. Just win.

Green Bay (-3) at Carolina

The Pick: Green Bay

The Score: Green Bay 23, Carolina 20

The Packers just lost on the road to an undefeated team with an awesome defense in a game where Aaron Rodgers threw for 77 yards. They are once again on the road against an undefeated team with a great defense. It says a lot about us public bettors that Vegas has Green Bay as a three-point favorite. What might it say exactly? That we’re suckers, I guess.

If Cincinnati had gone to Denver last week and come away with a similar result, there’s not a chance in hell they’d be favored at Carolina a week later. But our love of the Packers and Rodgers knows no bounds, apparently.

I fully expect a push in this game, but I’ll lean towards the Packers because 1) Denver seems like a more legit 7-0 team than Carolina does, 2) It’s tough to picture Rodgers and company losing two in a row, and 3) We really need to keep whittling down the undefeated teams because this is absurd to still have four of them at this point in the season.

These reasons suck, but you tell me how to figure this game out, OK?

Washington at New England (-14)

The Pick: New England

The Score: New England 40, Washington 20

Washington’s not winning this game. They’re 0-3 on the road and playing a team that is about 500 times more talented. So how much will they lose by? Exactly 20 points.

Tennessee at New Orleans (-8)

The Pick: New Orleans

The Score: New Orleans 37, Tennessee 13

Talk about nailing the intro to last week’s picks column! I predicted all four AFC South head coaches will be fired by season’s end, and we’re already 1/4th of the way there! I mentioned that Whisenhunt was relieved of his duties after probably solidifying his status as the worst coach of the last 20 years. Chuck Pagano is only still alive because he killed Pep Hamilton (figuratively speaking). It seems like the AFC South teams’ owners are finally coming around on what we’ve all known for a while: THEY ALL STINK.

And no team stinks more than the Titans. It doesn’t matter if Marcus Mariota or Zach Mettenberger is the starter. Tennessee has put up 36 points since September 27th, total. The Saints’ week 8 performance would have beaten the last four weeks of Titans output by 16 points!

Miami at Buffalo (-3)

The Pick: Buffalo

The Score: Buffalo 16, Miami 12

Here’s a fun way to determine which of these teams is better: Pretend their wins against the putrid AFC South don’t count, and then see what their overall records are. So for Miami, they’d be 1-4 (taking out two wins: at Tennessee and home for Houston). Buffalo…would also be 1-4 (taking out a home win against Indy and a road win at Tennessee). DAMNIT! That did nothing.

But Buffalo already won in Miami earlier this year. Now they’re in upstate New York and it’s the time of year where the weather is getting bad. Oh, also, the Bills just had a bye and got Tyrod Taylor and other contributors back to full health. Sure, fine, there’s some reasons to pick the Bills.

St. Louis at Minnesota (-2)

The Pick: St. Louis

The Score: St. Louis 24, Minnesota 20

Hey, look, it’s everyone’s preseason darlings! Yes, both of these teams were being targeted as “2015 playoff sleepers” as early as last December, and to this point, neither team has disappointed. The Vikings are 5-2 and the Rams are 4-3. But not all wins and losses are created equally. The Vikings have faced one team with a winning record, the Broncos, and lost that game. Their other opponents: San Francisco, Detroit, San Diego, Kansas City, Detroit again and Chicago. Not exactly a murderers’ row.

At least the Rams have had to face multiple contenders through the first two months (they beat Seattle and Arizona and lost to Pittsburgh and Green Bay). I think the Rams do a couple things really great, specifically rush the passer and run the ball. I don’t think the Vikings do anything as good as the Rams do those two things. Give me St. Louis as Todd Gurley comes even closer to locking up Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Jacksonville at NY Jets (-7.5)

The Pick: Jacksonville

The Score: NY Jets 18, Jacksonville 15

Is this line Jets -7.5 or Jets -2.5? I honestly can’t figure it out. After the Jets announced on Wednesday that Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the starter on Sunday, one sportsbook moved the Jets to -7 and a couple others kept them at -2.5. So I’m using the one that benefits me the most.

The Jets might not be as decent as we first thought, and therefore I don’t like them against anyone at the going point spread.

Oakland at Pittsburgh (-4.5)

The Pick: Oakland

The Score: Oakland 31, Pittsburgh 17

You know what’s pretty awesome through eight weeks? Two of the three teams that are rumored to be moving to LA in the offseason are 4-3 and contending for a playoff spot (St. Louis and Oakland). I’m in favor of anything that might even slightly embarrass the NFL so I’d love to see the Raiders and Rams play January football.

Of the Raiders’ three losses, one was by two points at Chicago and the other was by six against Denver. Imagine if they had won either of those, or both of them!! This team is fun, semi-legit, and will definitely be America’s favorite underdog if they can continue to hover around .500.

NY Giants (-3) at Tampa Bay

The Pick: Tampa Bay

The Score: Tampa Bay 27, NY Giants 26

Giants on the road? No thank you.

Besides, they have to look kind of bad in this game so we can all bet huge on the Patriots in New York next week only to have the Giants play inspired, maybe even amazing, football. We will all lose money if we bet the Patriots in week 10. Mark my words.

Atlanta (-7) at San Francisco

The Pick: San Francisco

The Score: Atlanta 23, San Francisco 20

Atlanta by a touchdown on the road? No fuckinggggggggggggggg way.

Denver (-5) at Indianapolis

The Pick: Denver

The Score: Denver 28, Indianapolis 20

You know what Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos have that the Colts lack?

Intelligence.

I don’t care if Manning is back to worst-quarterback-in-the-league status on Sunday. Their defense and their ability to outsmart an idiot organization like Indy will get them a win by a touchdown or more. Easy decision.

Philadelphia (-3) at Dallas

The Pick: Dallas

The Score: Dallas 25, Philadelphia 20

This was one of my toughest decisions of the week, and I’m probably going to regret siding with Matt Cassel, but I think Dallas has enough talent at the non-QB positions to keep up with the Eagles. I know collectively we all love to watch the Cowboys struggle, and them falling to 0-6 without Tony Romo would certainly be fun to see, but I gotta think they win one at some point. I wasn’t sold on Philly from the beginning of the preseason and nothing they’ve done through eight weeks has changed my mind. Is Sam Bradford even better than Cassel? Is Philly’s defense really as good as it’s currently ranked? I think the answer is no to both questions. Go Cowboys.

Chicago at San Diego (-4)

The Pick: Chicago

The Score: San Diego 33, Chicago 30

This is so easy for me because I promised myself several weeks ago I will never pick the Chargers if they are favored by more than three, regardless of where they’re playing and who they’re facing. Done and done.

The weekly tally looks like this:

  • 6 Favorites, 7 Underdogs
  • 3 Home Dogs, 4 Road Dogs
  • 7 Home Teams, 6 Away Teams
  • Season Record: 58-55-6 (5-7-2 in week 8)

Enjoy week 9.

NFL Week 9 Picks: Welcome To Rivalry Week

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I just spent the better part of two hours digging through all my picks over the first eight weeks of the season. I’m trying to make sense of those picks for three reasons:

  1. I’m losing money more often than I’m winning money.
  2. I promised you a great set of picks last week and I delivered a 6-9 against the spread DUD.
  3. At 55-64-2 against the spread for the year, I’m inching my way towards last season’s unmitigated disaster. It’s not too late that I can’t recover. But it’s not so early that I shouldn’t be concerned.

I discovered that out of my 64 incorrect picks, 38 of them were in games where the result really could have swung either way. I’m talking about games where the team I picked was either one touchdown or field goal away from covering, or that team kept it close the entire time before ultimately faltering.

An example would be my pick of Tampa Bay (-3) over Minnesota last week. The game went to overtime and the Bucs had the ball before one of their receivers fumbled, handing the win to the Vikings.

Another example, also from last week, was me picking the Eagles as a three-point underdog only to see them lose by four in Arizona (when Carson Palmer connected on an extremely long, low-percentage pass to John Brown in the final few minutes).

Since 60% of my incorrect picks are of that variety, I’m confident my process is working and my bad luck is bound to correct itself. But in the meantime I can also look into fixing the other 40% of my bad picks.

That’s the chunk of games where my picks were never even close to being correct. Some good examples from last week:

  • I picked St. Louis (+7) over Kansas City. The Rams lost by 27.
  • I picked Chicago (+7) over New England. The Bears lost by 28.
  • I picked the Jets (-3) over Buffalo. The Jets lost by 20.

Over eight weeks, I’ve had 26 misses of that never-had-a-chance variety. Interestingly enough, eight teams repeatedly popped up in those 26 games when I ran the numbers. Here are the teams and the number of my “bad misses” they’ve been involved in:

  • Miami (5)
  • Detroit (4)
  • New England (3)
  • Buffalo (3)
  • Baltimore (3)
  • Kansas City (3)
  • Dallas (3)
  • Carolina (3)

This doesn’t indicate that I’m either always picking for those teams or against those teams, but rather that I have absolutely no pulse on their week-to-week performances.

Based on the results of this very vague study, my plan is to look at these eight teams with a more skeptical eye. Questioning my logic and thought process with each of these teams can’t hurt. And if all else fails, I’ll eventually start flipping a coin to determine any games those teams are participating in.

The one other thing I went back and calculated was against the spread records for favorites and underdogs. Based on the lines that I took each game at, the favorites are 60-59-2 against the spread this year.

It’s an even split of four weeks where the favorites covered more than the underdogs, and four weeks where it was the other way around.

The lesson learned here is simple: Don’t be crazy and end up with favorites or underdogs suddenly covering a large majority of games in any given week. Aim for as close to an even split as you can. Got it?

Let’s quickly give thanks for the following matchups this weekend. Remember, we’re supposed to be finding reasons to love football without the gambling, picks and fantasy aspects. Here they are:

Philadelphia @ Houston

San Diego @ Miami

  • Not quite battles between two heavyweights, but certainly intriguing games. The Eagles & Chargers both look like they could become this year’s teams that got off to a hot start, but did it with mostly smoke & mirrors, and now they’re coming back down to earth. And the Texans and Dolphins need to capitalize on every winnable game if they’re going to stay in the playoff hunt.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh

  • Both teams are 5-3. Both teams trail the Bengals in the AFC North. This is a truly classic rivalry and it would be stunning if it wasn’t a close game.

Arizona @ Dallas

Denver @ New England

  • The heavyweights! Six-win teams from each conference going head-to-head. Just HUGE implications across the board here. A little bit of the luster is off the NFC matchup because of the possible Tony Romo unhealthiness, but it’s too early to guarantee the Cowboys are on their way down in the standings. And of course, nothing beats Broncos/Patriots when both future Hall of Fame quarterbacks are playing as well as they are right now.

Sunday should be a lot of fun.

Let’s dive into week 9.

First, the obligatory catch-up with each of the six teams on a bye this week:

  • Atlanta: Incredibly, at 2-6 and in the midst of a five-game losing streak, the Falcons are only 1.5 games out of first place in the NFC South. They’re actually 2-0 in the division, including a win over New Orleans that could come into play as a tiebreaker. With four division games still to play, the Falcons are totally in the mix, but their four non-division games are all against teams with winning records. Many jokes were made about Mike Smith being fired during this bye week, but in all seriousness, if they finish with only a handful of wins for the second consecutive year, he’s gotta go, right? You can’t blame injuries every year. We gave that to him last year.
  • Buffalo: If the season ended today, the Bills would be in the playoffs. If nothing more, at least they can always say 2014 was the first year in the past decade where they were still considered a playoff contender by the halfway point of the season. With a soft four games coming out of the break, we may very well see this team at 8-4 before they close with Denver, Green Bay, Oakland and New England. That Raiders game may be the difference between 8-8 and 9-7 (and possibly the playoffs).
  • Chicago: Never in my wildest dreams did I think the Bears would be tied for the third worst record in the NFC after eight weeks (they also have the third worst point differential in the conference). What a mess. Looking at the schedule, there’s a realistic chance that Chicago’s first home win doesn’t come until November 23rd when they host Tampa Bay. This doesn’t feel like one of those situations where it’s a good team that’s going to rip off seven straight wins and go into the playoffs hot. At least Chicago fans have competitive teams in those two lesser winter sports to focus on. Go Bulls?
  • Detroit: Your #2 seed in the NFC! In some ways, their season is legit. They haven’t let up more than 24 points to an opponent this year. Pretty incredible. But in other ways, it feels like they’re due for some losses. They have a bad coach, a quarterback who makes mistakes and a harder schedule in the second half of the season. Keep in mind their last five games were against the Jets, Buffalo, Minnesota, New Orleans and Atlanta. Good for them for winning most of those games, but they really haven’t been tested aside from the Green Bay game in week 3.
  • Green Bay: Speaking of the Packers, it’s not crazy to assume they’ll win the North even if they are a game behind Detroit. Their second half looks a lot like Detroit’s first half, with upcoming games against Chicago, Minnesota, Atlanta, Buffalo and Tampa Bay. I know it won’t happen, but if this team fails to win 10 games (assuming Aaron Rodgers returns from the bye with healthy legs), Mike McCarthy should get canned. It’s time to stop wasting Rodgers’ prime.
  • Tennessee: Like several other teams, the Titans should spend the rest of the year evaluating whether or not they need to go find a quarterback in next year’s draft or free agency. Jake Locker is done in Tennessee, but is Zach Mettenberger the answer? At 2-6 and with a best-case scenario of finishing 6-10, player evaluation is about all the Titans should be thinking of now.

And now it’s time to crush some picks this week and start that slow climb to mediocrity!

New Orleans (-3) @ Carolina

  • The Pick: Carolina
  • The Score: Carolina 28, New Orleans 20

What? The Saints are the three-point favorite? Not the Panthers? Are we sure?

Don’t worry if you had the urge to take the Saints in this game. I had those same uncomfortable feelings. But I’m not getting cute with this one. The Saints have to prove they can win on the road before I pick them to win on the road. It’s also a Thursday night matchup. We’ve seen the road team in five of eight Thursday games get demolished so far this year. Neither team should have trouble getting up for this one because the winner improves their record to .500 and takes hold of FIRST PLACE in that pathetic division! Let’s keep that 7-9 division-winning dream alive!

But seriously, I’m stunned the Saints are giving three points. They’ve shown nothing on the road this year, and barely enough at home, to make me think they’re even an average team.

Tampa Bay @ Cleveland (-7)

  • The Pick: Cleveland
  • The Score: Cleveland 23, Tampa 4

I went back and forth on this one for a bit. What ultimately decided it for me was when I realized the Browns just played this game one week ago. The Raiders and Bucs are almost exact replicas of each other, right down to the decent run defense and nonexistent pass defense. The Browns struggled against Oakland and still won by 10. I can’t condone a Tampa pick in this case unless you feel really strongly about them for some strange reason.

Jacksonville @ Cincinnati (-11)

  • The Pick: Cincinnati
  • The Score: Cincinnati 33, Jacksonville 9

The Bengals haven’t blown anyone out in 29 days. That’s too long for a team that plays so well at home. The two teams they demolished at home this year are Atlanta and Tennessee. Jacksonville belongs in that group. Add in a return to health for A.J. Green, and this might be a long day for the Jaguars. The only question for me is whether Blake Bortles stays on his record-setting turnover pace or not.

Arizona @ Dallas (-4)

  • The Pick: Arizona
  • The Score: Arizona 26, Dallas 21

We all know that the Cowboys are on short rest after playing a physical game on Monday night that extended into overtime. And Tony Romo’s health is a bit of a mystery right now. Arizona has the 6th best run defense in the league so I wouldn’t be counting on DeMarco Murray to carry the offense in this game.

The only thing I’m bummed about is that the betting site that I use doesn’t have a line posted for this game yet. If I could bet this at the current line these other sites are showing, I’d go big with a four-point line. But by the time it’s posted on my site, I’m guessing it’ll be Dallas -3 or even Dallas -2. I could see the Cowboys pulling out the win by a field goal if all goes right for them, but not by more.

Philadelphia (-2) @ Houston

  • The Pick: Philadelphia
  • The Score: Philadelphia 24, Houston 20

When I reviewed all my bad picks for the year, one thing I noticed is that I picked against Houston too often with the reason being “Ryan Fitzpatrick.” What I decided is that in future weeks when it appears Arian Foster has a good matchup, I won’t be so quick to discount the Texans’ chances. This is not one of those weeks because the Eagles have been good against the run.

Absolutely a tough game to pick because neither team has really beaten a great opponent yet. It feels like we don’t know where either team fits into the hierarchy of the NFL even after eight weeks. The Eagles could be one of the NFC’s best teams, or just an average team that got some luck in their first six games. The Texans’ bounce back could really take them all the way to the playoffs, or it’s just their ridiculously easy schedule that’s made them look OK so far.

NY Jets @ Kansas City (-10)

  • The Pick: Kansas City
  • The Score: Kansas City 31, NY Jets 11

I have a new gambling rule: DO NOT PICK THE JETS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES NO MATTER HOW BIG THE SPREAD IS UNLESS THEY ARE FACING JACKSONVILLE, OAKLAND, TENNESSEE OR TAMPA BAY, AND EVEN THEN, PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

San Diego @ Miami (-1)

  • The Pick: Miami
  • The Score: Miami 27, San Diego 17

As I noted in that list of teams who have been screwing me at the beginning of this article, Miami has been my biggest nemesis in 2014. My instinct was to pick against them in this game. San Diego is the sexier team because they have Philip Rivers and they started the season looking like a Super Bowl contender.

But here’s the reality: The Chargers are beat up and desperately need that bye that comes after this game in Miami. The Chargers have been a nice story, but their only great win on the season was against Seattle, which doesn’t look quite as great anymore. The Dolphins have been an enigma for the most part, but it seems like they only struggle against teams with good pass rushes and a strong defensive line. The Chargers don’t have those things right now.

This might be my favorite pick of the week.

Washington @ Minnesota (-1)

  • The Pick: Washington
  • The Score: Washington 27, Minnesota 23

Wait a sec…Is Washington sure they want to start Robert Griffin in this game? Do they have anyone in that entire organization who’s looked at the upcoming schedule? Because if they did, they’d know they have a bye after this game. Doesn’t it seem like it might be a tad beneficial to give RG3 two more weeks to get healthy since it would mean only missing one more game?

Do PotatoSkins fans even want RG3 to come back? I’d like to know if the consensus among that fan base is that they can’t wait for a healthy RG3 to return or that they want to roll with Colt McCoy and see if the hot hand can take them back to the playoff mix?

I’m taking Washington for one reason only: I badly want the NFC East to turn back into what it’s supposed to be: four not-so-great teams fighting just to get to eight wins.

St. Louis @ San Francisco (-10)

  • The Pick: San Francisco
  • The Score: San Francisco 30, St. Louis 16

I’m definitely concerned about picking the favorite in a divisional game with this large of a point spread, especially when that underdog has played the favorite pretty tough for a few years straight. But the 49ers are rested, and more importantly, the Rams got crushed with a couple big injuries in week 8.

Even when teams are able to adjust & compensate for major losses like those ones, I think it could take a week or two. And it’s not like St. Louis is going up against an easy opponent.

The most important question for me in this game is whether or not Jeff Fisher goes one step further than last week and comes out for the second half wearing only a tank top if the Rams are getting smoked again.

Denver (-3.5) @ New England

  • The Pick: New England
  • The Score: Denver 33, New England 30

I’m buying into this game going exactly as everyone thinks. Lots of points, tight the whole way, whoever executes better in the last 10 minutes wins. I absolutely see the Patriots sticking with Denver the whole time only for Peyton Manning to have the ball last and getting the Broncos into field goal range.

It’s that half point that I love about this line. If it drops to an even three for Denver (or less), I’m betting Denver.

Oakland @ Seattle (-15)

  • The Pick: Oakland
  • The Score: Seattle 30, Oakland 17

This pick is purely out of obligation. You will never see me back a team giving more than two touchdowns. I’m not saying the Seahawks can’t cover. But I’m certainly not going to be the guy picking that when we already know THE NFL IS FUCKING NUTS.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (PICK)

  • The Pick: Pittsburgh
  • The Score: Pittsburgh 29, Baltimore 26

The safest thing you can do with these two teams (and the AFC North matchups in general) is to pick the home team to win by three. I might have been willing to give Baltimore the nod a few weeks back, but two things have happened to change my mind: 1) The Steelers finally seem to be clicking, at least offensively. 2) The Ravens lost their best cornerback, Jimmy Smith, for the next couple weeks. I don’t like the sound of that when they’re up against a team that just dropped 51 on Indy last week and happens to have Antonio Brown (aka The Best Receiver in Football).

Indianapolis (-3.5) @ NY Giants

  • The Pick: NY Giants
  • The Score: NY Giants 31, Indianapolis 27

The Colts certainly aren’t the same team on the road as they are at home. I don’t think the X-rated things Pittsburgh did to them last week was anything more than an awful day by the entire Indy team, but the Giants are coming off a bye and I think they’re at least an average team. This is a huge game for the Colts because if they lose and Houston wins, they’re tied atop the division. I’m at least counting on the Giants keeping it close.

OK, guys, I don’t want to risk becoming the football picks version of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, but I really think I nailed it this week. Thirteen games, I’m guessing 9-4 against the spread at worst for me. I’m pushing all my money on my gambling site into these bets. Who’s with me?

Week 9 NFL Picks (And My Search For Gainful Employment)

old-man-crystal-ball

This is shaping up to be a shorter-than-usual picks column. I’ll pause while you scream with joy.

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Done?

Awesome.

Typically I spend most of my Tuesday and Wednesday combing through NFL results, stats, analysis…anything to distract me from my pursuit of writing.

But this week I’m learning a tough lesson. And that lesson is this: Restaurant jobs are a young man’s game.

Deciding after 18 months of semi-retirement that getting some income might not be the worst idea, I spent the last few weeks debating what type of work I wanted to dabble in. The key is for that work not to take away too much time from my writing.

I have experience in only two professions…selling software and waiting tables.

Oh, make that three professions actually. Sunglass sales too.

OK fine, four professions. Library security guarding would be the fourth.

I’ve been out of the sunglass game so long I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And I haven’t seen the inside of a library in 10 years. Do they exist anymore? Didn’t the internet + Kindle + iPad + the world moving towards an uneducated majority put libraries out of business?

So that leaves two options. And I came to the realization long ago that the reason I become voluntarily unemployed for a few months every couple years is because I hate software sales so very much.

The pattern is: work at 70% effort level for three years, save money, don’t put money towards the things adults eventually need money for (house, wedding, kids, timeshare in Aruba), instead drain all that money by “taking a break from the sales career,” decide during that break that I’m never going back to sales, beg my way back into sales when the money runs dry.

Long story long, I started a job at a fancy Mexican restaurant this past Tuesday. Even though I interviewed to be a server, they start everyone off as a busser for training purposes. When I first worked in a restaurant 10 years ago, it was the same thing. But back then I had a young man’s body and energy. Back then it was a bunch of college kids socializing and flirting throughout our shifts. Back then I spent more time figuring out which waitress I was going to bend over a barrel and show the 50 states to later that night.

These past two days I’ve come home from three-hour shifts and felt like I needed to soak in one of those ice baths for 30 minutes. I can hardly walk. I dislike the thin layer of sweat, cooking oil and salsa that covers my entire body. It doesn’t feel like a bunch of college kids hanging out and planning the after-work party. It feels like adults who are actually trying to make a living. I almost threw out my back hauling a full trash barrel to the dumpster on Wednesday.

Part time restaurant jobs do not typically include benefits. Therefore if I do throw out my back, it’s going to take somewhere in the range of 15-20 shifts to make enough money to cover the costs of a chiropractor.

This is not good.

In conclusion, it turns out I don’t hate software sales that much after all.

In further conclusion, my football research time this week was spent trying to play a young man’s game. And I lost.

 

Here are the week 9 picks:

Cincinnati (-3) @ Miami

When I did my line guessing on Monday night, I had Cincinnati as a 6.5-point favorite. So you can probably guess which way I’m going in this game. Now that the Dolphins have lost four in a row to fall to 3-4 on the season, the only result that’s confusing through their first seven games is their win at Indianapolis. Don’t know how to explain that one. But wins over Cleveland and Atlanta don’t seem that good at this point, and they’ve lost home games to Baltimore (3-4) and Buffalo (3-5). They aren’t good and they’re also down an important receiver in Brandon Gibson. What am I missing? The Bengals roll, 27-16. 

Side Note: Another strike against the Dolphins’ chances on Thursday is THISIf the prank was anything other than the rest of the O-line showing him pictures of them gang-banging his wife/girlfriend, he’s a friggen wimp and should be cut.

Atlanta @ Carolina (-7.5)

I would have loved to see Vegas still refusing to give the Panthers the respect they deserve. But alas, the Falcons have been so bad the line makers had no choice but to stretch this to more than a touchdown. I’ve placed my biggest bet of the week each of the past three weeks on a Carolina cover, and they’ve come through each time. I know my luck is going to run out sooner than later, but I just don’t want to bet against them until they face a team that actually has a chance to win. I think Cam Newton can tear up this atrocious Falcons defense. I say Carolina wins by 10….30-20 final score.

Minnesota @ Dallas (-10.5)

I’m making this pick before we even know which terrible option the Vikings are going with at quarterback on Sunday. And before we even know if Minnesota’s going to make the trip to Dallas or just forfeit the game. And I’m still picking the Vikings to cover. This Cowboys team doesn’t deserve to be this big of a favorite against anyone not named Jacksonville. And coming off that loss in Detroit…the Cowboys being the most mentally weak team I’ve ever seen. No way they cover. If Minnesota was starting someone at QB that was at least the caliber of Tim Tebow or Brady Quinn, I’d be picking them to win outright. Instead I’ll go with a Cowboys win, 24-20.

New Orleans (-6) @ NY Jets

I was hoping this line was a little bit higher so I could feel even more sure about the Jets covering. Yes, the Saints were one play away in that Patriots game from still being undefeated. And no team has lost a game by more points in 2013 than the Jets’ no-show at Cincinnati last week. I feel like people would bet on the Saints even if the line was closer to 10. But not me. I love the Jets in this game. I dare you to look at who the Saints have played so far this year and still feel like they’re a sure-thing Super Bowl contender (the combined record of the six teams the Saints have beaten this year? 16-28). On the road against a good defense (I know, I know, that “good D” just got torched for 35 points)…and don’t forget the Saints have the uglier Ryan twin. And looks are extremely important for determining who’s better just as much in football as they are in all parts of life. Give me a Jets cover, but a Saints win, 31-27.

Side Note: As I mentioned in my week 8 recap column, this Jets team might be really difficult to pin down for the rest of the year. Win one, lose one. Keep a game close, get blown out. It seems like as Geno Smith goes, so go the Jets. And rookies tend to be pretty unpredictable. A pick for or against the Jets will almost never be a confident one from me.

Tennessee (-3) @ St. Louis

This is one of those games that leaves you feeling clueless about football. Should the Titans really be favored against anyone on the road? Should the Rams be even more of an underdog because Kellen Clemens is their best option at quarterback? It’s a waste of time to try to pick this game based off of statistics and research. I’m going to say that since the Rams were able to keep their game against Seattle on Monday to a five-point loss, they will also play Tennessee close. I’m taking the Rams to cover with a 21-18 win (I’d really like to call a push here and say the Titans win in overtime, but that seems like a very specific prediction).

Kansas City (-3) @ Buffalo

This line makes no sense. The 8-0 Chiefs against the 3-5 Bills. Of course it seems like this should be a 7-point spread regardless of Kansas City being on the road. But it looks like Vegas won’t let me outsmart them this time. I’ve been picking against the Chiefs the last two weeks and even promised to keep picking against them as recently as two days ago. I was just waiting for them to be a heavy favorite so I could roll over my World Series profit on the Bills (I did actually take the Sox to win it all back in April at 30/1 odds. Hurray for me!). You know what? Screw it. I’m still taking Buffalo to cover. Here comes KC’s first loss of the season. The Bills win 27-23.

Side Note: You know dynamic runner/receiver Jamaal Charles? The guy with all the speed who you think should be able to carry the load for the Chiefs in this game? Well keep in mind Darren Sproles had 0 rushing attempts and only 4 receptions (for 0 total yards) against the Bills last week. Not saying they’re the same player, but this Bills D might be really good against guys like that.

San Diego (-1) @ Washington

This is already the fourth game of the week where we have a road team favored by three points or less. These are frustrating games to pick. In the Norv Turner era, I would have quickly taken the Redskins and moved on, mostly because I would have felt like the Chargers would be looking ahead to week 10 where they’ll be facing Denver for the first time this year. But this is not the Norv era anymore, and the Chargers have had two weeks to prepare for RGIII. And don’t forget that while San Diego was relaxing on the beach last weekend, the Skins were getting beat up against the Broncos. Let’s dub this game “The One That Caused Obnoxious Media Personalities To Start Screaming For Kirk Cousins To Be Named The Starter So RGIII Can Get Healthy For Next Year.”

San Diego wins 31-24.

Philadelphia @ Oakland (-2.5)

On Monday I saw some websites that had the Eagles actually favored by the 2.5 points. Unfortunately my gambling website hasn’t posted a line for this game all week. Probably waiting on more certainty around the Eagles’ starting QB. But if Bovada had listed the Eagles as any kind of favorite at any point this week, I would have bet so hard on Oakland. You already know that I’m sneaky in love with the Raiders so the change to them being favored in this game does nothing to my pick. I’m taking the Raiders to cover and improve that sterling record to 4-4 with a 26-21 win over the Eagles.

Tampa Bay @ Seattle (-17)

Ahh, the final game on Greg Schiano’s season-long farewell tour. It’s the polar opposite of the Mariano Rivera farewell tour. Listen, I’ve been on a team where everyone hates the guy in charge (mine was a sales team, but still). It’s a toxic atmosphere. Guys stop doing their work and instead spend most of their time trash-talking the boss. They stop paying attention to details because subconsciously they want to sabotage the entire operation. Sometimes, like in almost every season of Survivor, a team wants someone gone bad enough that they consciously throw a game/challenge/whatever to further justify that person’s ousting. The Bucs will not compete in this game. And don’t forget that the Seahawks are coming off their version of a loss…a close road win that feels like a loss but still ends up in the win column. Seattle rolls to a 38-9 win.

Baltimore (-3) @ Cleveland

I’m not taking the bait on this one. I get it, you want me to take the Browns. Lots of people are going to be taking the Browns. After all, the Ravens have already lost road games to Buffalo and Pittsburgh, both by three points. And Cleveland played the Ravens very tough at Baltimore in week 2. And Jason Campbell didn’t look “that bad” against the Chiefs last week. And both teams are under .500 so why does it make sense that the road team would be favored? But my counter is this: It’s the NFL. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you don’t. Oh, and Baltimore’s had two weeks to get ready for a divisional matchup that they’re very motivated to win. These next two weeks are pretty much the season for Baltimore (they host Cincinnati in week 10). I’m picking the Ravens to cover with a 23-15 win.

Pittsburgh @ New England (-7)

I got incredibly lucky picking the Patriots last week. If New England doesn’t block that field goal late in the game, it’s a push. And if the Dolphins don’t screw up another field goal early in the 2nd half, where the ball hit the upright, the Dolphins easily cover. So I should say thank you to the football gods and not take my chances on another Patriots seven-point cover until they prove to be worthy of it. New England’s injury report is still alarmingly littered with important players. Gronk got added this week with a hamstring injury. Amendola, Bolden, Edelman and Marcus Cannon were already on there for the offense. And Aqib Talib’s status remains a mystery. Even if New England plays its best game of the year, this is ripe for a backdoor cover by the Steelers. I see the Patriots winning, but only by four. 27-23 is the call.

Indianapolis (-2.5) @ Houston

Ummmmmm….only 2.5? Is that real? And why isn’t it available on my gambling site so I can bet all of last week’s winnings + the Red Sox money + the cash advance I’m going to add to my balance later today? You want to tell me Reggie Wayne’s absence is going to hurt the Colts? Fine, but what about the fact that both Arian Foster and Ben Tate might miss this game? This Houston team is nothing without its running game. And Gary Kubiak’s worried enough about his running back tandem that he signed three free agent RBs this week just in case. This is not a trap game for the Colts as they literally have no difficult competition on the horizon (next 4 games: St. Louis, Tennessee, Arizona, Tennessee). And Indy’s already proved they can win on the road when they handled San Francisco earlier this year. Please let this game show up on Bovada with the current spread that I’m seeing on other sites. I could forego all restaurant and sales jobs if I can just get money down on this line now. I’m clearly taking Indianapolis by a score of 31-20.

Chicago @ Green Bay (-11)

I spent a solid 20 minutes looking for some logical reason to pick the Bears in this game. I’ve already picked enough favorites this week, including one double-digit favorite in Seattle. I want to go underdog here, but there’s just no statistical evidence that Chicago will put up a fight. Even with Jay Cutler the Packers have pretty much owned Chicago in Green Bay over the past five years. And you may have heard that they won’t have Cutler this time around. My only concern is the backdoor cover, but just like Aaron Rodgers was motivated last week to put up an extra score or two because of the Greg Jennings trash talk and playing a divisional rival, so too will he be motivated against their biggest rival in the Bears. Let’s ignore the backdoor potential and say Green Bay covers with a 36-20 win.

 

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 9 I’m taking:

  • 8 Favorites & 5 Underdogs
  • Of those 5 Underdogs, 3 are Home Dogs & 2 are Road Dogs

Now if you’ll excuse me, day three of the great restaurant experiment is calling.

Enjoy week 9.