Thursday, December 20, 2007

Week 16 NFL Picks

Pittsburgh at St. Louis (-7.5) - Superficially, this one's a no-brainer. But there's more here to consider than meets the eye. The Steelers look a bit of a fraud. They've played poorly on the road, the only win over a good team having come back in week 1 against a Cleveland team playing Charlie Frye at QB. (How many snaps has he taken since that game? ZERO.) Their other road win was over a Cincinnati team that lost to San Francisco last week. They lost at Arizona. They lost at the Jets. They're paper tigers. The big question is this - are the Rams capable of playing a competent game? As I've been writing this, I've convinced myself that St. Louis not only covers, they win outright.

Updated with weekend picks (after watching absolutely gutless coaching, and totally inept defense, cost the Rams any chance of making Thursday's pick look any less of a disaster):


Pittsburgh at St. Louis (-7.5) - Superficially, this one's a no-brainer. But there's more here to consider than meets the eye. The Steelers look a bit of a fraud. They've played poorly on the road, the only win over a good team having come back in week 1 against a Cleveland team playing Charlie Frye at QB. (How many snaps has he taken since that game? ZERO.) Their other road win was over a Cincinnati team that lost to San Francisco last week. They lost at Arizona. They lost at the Jets. They're paper tigers. The big question is this - are the Rams capable of playing a competent game? As I've been writing this, I've convinced myself that St. Louis not only covers, they win outright.

Dallas (-10.5) at Carolina - As long as Tony Romo's thumb is physically connected to his hand, even if only by duct tape or staples, the Cowboys win this one going away.

Cleveland (-3) at Cincinnati - This line scares me, as I have no idea why it isn't 10. Vegas knows something that I don't know. In my ignorance, I'll tell you that Cleveland wins easily anyway.

Green Bay (-9) at Chicago - The Cowboys loss to Philadelphia gives hope to the Packers that the NFCCG may be played at Lambeau. That keeps them playing.

Houston at Indianapolis (-7) - It's a nice thought, Texans, but I don't think so.

Kansas City at Detroit (-5) - Two teams on a roll. The Chiefs have got a streak of 7, the Lions have a streak of 6. I'm sure that everyone involved would be happier if they were streaks of wins instead of losses, but you can't have everything. At home, in the dome, on the turf, I'm going to go with the "hotter" team to win by a touchdown.

N.Y. Giants at Buffalo (+3) - The Buffalo Bills were eliminated from playoff contention last week. The Giants can clinch a playoff spot with a win. I'm going with Buffalo anyway, as I think that they're a tougher team, physically and mentally, than the Giants are, and I don't expected them to quit.

Oakland at Jacksonville (-13) - If the Jaguars are for real, they'll validate last week's win in Pittsburgh by winning this comfortably, not letting the Raiders stay close. I think that they're for real.

Philadelphia at New Orleans (-3) - The Saints were a bad team when the season started, but they aren't anymore. They're 7-3 in their last 10, and have ouscored the opposition by 8 points per game. And yes, they've played a weak schedule, but they've also beaten Seattle and Jacksonville. The Eagles played a tough, emotional division game last week, came out with a win that salvaged at least some of their season, and are now going on the road with nothing to play for against a team that's still got a playoff shot. Saints by a touchdown or more.

Atlanta at Arizona (-10) - The Pete Axthelm "broken windshield" special of the week. Don't lock your car with tickets to this game on the dashboard - when you come back, you'll discover that someone's smashed the windshield and left two more. (Yes, I've used it before, but it seemed somehow inappropriate to call it the "dog of the week" with the Falcons involved - why should dogs take any more abuse from Atlanta?)

Tampa Bay (-7) at San Francisco - I still can't believe that the 49ers won last week.

Miami at New England (+22) - In the early 80s (and probably still today), the bookstore at Iowa State would post big signs before football games, encouraging the team to "kill Kansas" or "obliterate Oklahoma" or some such. When they faced Nebraska in 1983, the take was a little bit different. "Maintain Dignity Against Nebraska." Which they did, sort of. No one else had scored more than 25 against the Cornhuskers, and 3 teams had lost by larger margins than the 43 that Iowa State's did in their 72-29 loss. I mention that, because that should be Miami's motto for the week. "Maintain Dignity Against New England." They didn't, earlier this year, as people were whining about the Patriots running up the score - in the first half. Barring a significant weather event, we'll hear the running up the score whining again following this game.

Baltimore at Seattle (-7) - Have the Ravens been embarrassed enough to come up with another big performance? Have they quit on coach Brian Billick? The latter is more likely than the former. And the Seahawks were themselves embarrassed by losing to a rotten Panther team last weekend, so Baltimore's not coming in to a complacent division winner. Seattle, fairly easily.

N.Y. Jets (+8.5) at Tennessee - I'm not convinced that the Jets are as bad as their record. In the last 6 games, they've got a blowout loss to a much better team (in Dallas on Thanksgiving), a closer-than-expected loss to a much, much better team (New England), close losses to 2 decent teams (Washington, Cleveland), a win over a better team (Pittsburgh) and a blowout win over a bad team (Miami). I don't think that Tennessee blows them out. Do the Titans win? Probably. Yeah, I guess so. But it's close, and the Jets are still in it late.

Washington at Minnesota (-6.5) - The Vikings have got a better record, they've got a much better point differential, they've won five straight, they're on the verge of the playoffs and they're playing at home. The Redskins have got a quarterback who's thrown 72 passes in the last 10 seasons. So why isn't the spread 16.5 or 26.5? Because the Vikings have a quarterback that keeps both teams in the game. There's still just too much on the Vikings side of the scale to take Washington.

Denver at San Diego (-8.5) - How can you tell? The Chargers blew the Broncos out in Denver earlier this year, suggesting that a home rematch won't be close. But which Broncos team shows up, the one that beat Pittsburgh and Tennessee, or the one that lost to Oakland and Houston? I think we've reached the point where it doesn't matter - San Diego beats either of them by 10+.

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