Saturday, December 27, 2008

NFL Picks, Week 17

St. Louis at Atlanta (-14) - Yeah, it's a lot of points. But how can you pick the Rams, regardless of the spread?

New England (-6) at Buffalo - While they need help, it won't matter what anyone else does if the Patriots lose this game. Therefore, they won't lose this game.

Kansas City at Cincinnati (-3) - Or not. Even fans in Cincinnati and Kansas City have better things to do with their time than watch this dog.

Detroit (+10.5) at Green Bay - Well, the streak ends this week or endures into posterity. I pick the Lions again, albeit without much confidence.

Chicago (+2.5) at Houston - On the road, the Bears manage to keep their playoff hopes alive until the late games.

Tennessee at Indianapolis (+3) - Jim Sorgi vs. Vince Young, in a game that means even less than the Chiefs-Bengals game, as the latter at least has draft implications.

N.Y. Giants (+7) at Minnesota - The Giants have clinched everything, the Vikings nothing, and, therefore, the game means much more to the Vikings. I'm going with the Giants anyway.

Carolina (-2.5) at New Orleans - Do the Panthers need this to wrap up a bye? Maybe. It depends on what the Falcons do. Since the Falcons are hosting the Rams, I think it's safe to say that yes, the Panthers need this to wrap up a bye.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-11) - The Steelers are playing for nothing. The Browns are playing for nothing. Look for both teams to snap the ball with the play clock at 1 and keep the ball on the ground.

Oakland at Tampa Bay (-12.5) - The Bucs need the game. The Raiders need a new owner, personnel department, coaching staff and new players. Advantage: Tampa.

Jacksonville at Baltimore (-12.5) - This one could be the game that puts the Patriots into the playoffs. So I'll be rooting (with futility) for the Jaguars.

Miami at N.Y. Jets (-2.5) - Three weeks ago, I predicted that the Jets would beat the Bills, lose to the Seahawks, and beat the Dolphins, and that the Dolphins would beat the 49ers and Chiefs and lose to the Jets. There's been a lot of attention focused on how poorly the Jets have played for the past couple of weeks, but the Dolphins haven't really been any better. I still think that the Jets, in New York, are a better bet to win this, but depending on them and Brett Favre for the Patriots to get a playoff game makes me decidedly queasy.

Dallas (+1.5) at Philadelphia - Since they can't both lose.

Seattle at Arizona (-6.5) - No way can the Seahawks go to Arizona and beat the Cardinals coming off of a bye week. "What's that? They aren't coming off a bye? Of course they are! That wasn't a real NFL team that flew to New England last week, now way..."

Washington at San Francisco (-3) - You're a Washington Redskin. Your season is about to end, a five-hour plan flight away from where you need to be to clean out your locker on Monday morning. Do you have any overriding concern on the field other than to stay healthy and get on the plane as quickly as possible?

Denver at San Diego (-8) - The Broncos are a game ahead of the Chargers, and won a Hochuli-aided head-to-head battle in week 2. That said, it really is hard to imagine them going down to San Diego and winning. In all likelihood, the 8-8 Chargers are going to the playoffs while the AFC East has two 10-6 teams (or an 11-5 and a 9-7 team) going home.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

NFL Picks, Week 16

Indianapolis (-6.5) at Jacksonville - A win by the Jaguars would open up another potential avenue to the playoffs for the Patriots, so I'll be rooting for Jacksonville. That said, I do not see any realistic scenario by which the Colts lose this game.

Baltimore at Dallas (-4) - I hate the Cowboys. Tonight, I'm doing something that I almost never do - rooting for Dallas. (Seriously. I don't remember the last time I might have done it.) Circumstances compel it tonight, though. And, frankly, I expect them to win. Joe Flacco looks to be turning into a pumpkin, and the Cowboys are going through their annual "look like we're a legitimate Super Bowl contender" stretch.

Cincinnati at Cleveland (-3) - 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. (I'm trying to limit myself to one usage per season. As Kansas City isn't playing Detroit, this seemed appropriate.)

New Orleans at Detroit (+7) - Our long national nightmare ends. No one goes 0-16, not no one, not no how.

Miami (-4) at Kansas City - I want to pick the Chiefs here. I really do. And I'll certainly be rooting for them. I just don't see it.

Arizona at New England (-8) - That's really a lot of points for an injury-decimated team struggling to reach the playoffs to give against a division champ. But. The division is the NFC West. The Cardinals have come to the east coast 3 times and lost each time, allowing an average of 37 points per game. The Cardinals are a dome desert team about to play in a snowstorm. The Cardinals do not need the game, the Patriots do. There's a lot to fear here for a Patriots fan, as the Cardinals throw the ball very well, and the Patriots don't defend the pass well. But there's enough going the Patriots' way to think that they'll win this and keep the playoff hopes alive for another week.

San Francisco (-5.5) at St. Louis - One of the teams in this game is the Rams. No further commentary necessary.

Pittsburgh (-2) at Tennessee - There are a couple of games that look fantastic on paper, and this is certainly one of them. If the Titans are what they looked like they might be earlier, they'll win this one at home and lock up home field throughout the AFC playoffs. I think that they don't.

San Diego (+3.5) at Tampa Bay - I got nothing. Nothing funny, nothing amusing, nothing insightful. Nothing. Chargers, I don't know why, win a game that means nothing.

Buffalo at Denver (-7) - There are two potential scenarios for this game. In one, the Broncos blow out the Bills. In the other, it's a close game throughout, and the Bills have a lead with under five minutes to go, and the Broncos come back to win on a bad turnover by the Bills and a bad call by an official. Either way, the Broncos definitely win and probably cover.

Houston (-7) at Oakland - At this point, it's kind of like picking Rams games. "OK, team A is an NFL team, team B is the Raiders. Team A covers."

N.Y. Jets at Seattle (+4.5) - This will be the Jets fourth trip west. They're 0-3 on the first three, including losses in San Francisco and Oakland. This will be Mike Holmgren's last game on the sidelines in Seattle, coaching a Seahawk team that hasn't given up, and gave the Patriots everything they could handle two weeks ago. I think that Seattle not only beats the spread, they win the game outright, preserving New England's division hopes.

Atlanta at Minnesota (-3) - Minnesota looked like a monster a week ago. I doubt that they'll look that good again this week. Have the Falcons hit the wall? This should be a good game, but it's easier to imagine the Vikings winning than the Falcons.

Philadelphia (-5) at Washington - It really is interesting to see the ups and downs of the NFL season. In a baseball season, 16 games means very little - in the NFL season, it's the whole kit and kaboodle. A month and a half ago, the Redskins were clearly, no doubt, a much better team than the Eagles. Today, the opposite is true.

Carolina at N.Y. Giants (-3) - Like the Titans-Steelers, this game is for home field through the conference championship game. Unlike the Titans-Steelers, the home team is the better team. The Giants, who have struggled the last couple of weeks, pick it back up and clinch the home field advantage.

Green Bay at Chicago (-4) - There are, I'm sure, some Favre apologists who blame Green Bay's disintegration on their failure to bring back Brett. And they have scored 23 fewer points through 14 games than they did in 2007. Of course, they've allowed 96 more, so I don't think that the QB change really accounts for it.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

NFL Picks, Week 15

New Orleans at Chicago (-3) - I've spoken before about the NFL's vast middle, where the teams live that can beat anybody or lose to anybody. These two teams are both 7-6, and if there's a compelling reason to think that this game is anything other than a crapshoot, I don't know what it is. The Saints have a better offense, the Bears a better defense. In the absence of anything approaching a good reason, I'll go with the home team here.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta (-3) - Is the home field a good enough reason to take the Falcons? It's going to have to be. There's a fear, however, that the clock's about to strike midnight for Matt Ryan and Atlanta. In which case, this pick will turn back into a pumpkin, too.

Washington (-7) at Cincinnati - The AFC North features two strong teams, and two that have thrown in the towel. The Bengals are part of the latter pair.

Tennessee (-3) at Houston - IFF the Titans decide to rest all of their starters after the first quarter, this could be a three point game. I don't expect that to happen.

Detroit at Indianapolis (-17) - So I said that the Lions were going to win one. And I said that I'd keep picking them until they did. So I lied. It's custom and cliche to say that "anything can happen." But there is approximately zero (0) chance that the Lions come out of Indianapolis with a win.

Green Bay at Jacksonville (+1.5) - A vote of no-confidence for the Pack.

San Diego (-5.5) at Kansas City - I've not been a big Charger guy, but I'm still shocked that the Broncos have run away with the West. San Diego has to be one of the bigger disappointments of the season. But the Chiefs are still the Chiefs, and any time they don't lose by a touchdown, it's a fluke.

San Francisco (+6.5) at Miami - I'm trying to decide whether I can legitimately pick the 49ers to win. Since the coaching change, they're 3-2, and one play against the division Champion Cardinals on the road from being 4-1. They've beaten Buffalo and the Jets in the last two weeks. Can they beat the Dolphins? Well, it would not qualify as one of the season's great upsets. But I suspect that picking them to win would fall into the category of "wishful thinking." I suspect that Miami walks away with one more close win.

Buffalo at N.Y. Jets (-7.5) - This pick says more about Buffalo than New York.

Seattle (-3) at St. Louis - Here's everything that you need to know about St. Louis' season: 2-11 Seattle is a 3-point favorite. On the road. And it doesn't seem like enough.

Minnesota at Arizona (-3) - This one's more important for the Vikings, locked in a tight division race with the Bears, than the Cardinals, who've locked up their division and a home playoff game. But the Cardinals are 5-1 at home while the Vikings are only 3-4 on the road (and one of the wins was in Detroit).

Pittsburgh (+2.5) at Baltimore - I may be wrong, but I believe that the Ravens have played over their heads this year. They're 4-0 against Cleveland and Cincinnati, and 5-4 against everyone else. A Pittsburgh win wouldn't prove that I'm right, of course, but it would be another piece of evidence.

Denver at Carolina (-7.5) - The Denver Broncos have, this season, lost to the Chiefs (by 14) and the Raiders (by 21). They lost by 34 to the Patriots. And they've virtually sewn up a terrible division. That doesn't make them a good team. Certainly not as good as the Panthers.

New England (-7) at Oakland - Oakland's offense is so bad that even the Patriots defense should be able to keep them under 20.

N.Y. Giants (+3) at Dallas - The Giants don't like the Cowboys, and won't play dead two weeks in a row.

Cleveland (+14) at Philadelphia - Too many points. Of course, Romeo's a dead man walking, and the Browns have conceded, so it might not be. The Eagles will certainly win, but I don't ever trust them not to play down to the competition, so I'll take the Browns to beat the spread.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

NFL Picks, Week 14

Oakland (+9.5) at San Diego - How bad has the AFC West been? This game, the 3-9 Raiders at the 4-8 Chargers, is the match-up of the 2nd and 3rd place teams in the division. That said, there really isn't any reason that I can see not to think that the Chargers are a significantly better team.

Jacksonville at Chicago (-6.5) - Just so there's no misunderstanding, let me make it clear - I'm not picking for Chicago. I'm picking against Jacksonville.

Minnesota at Detroit (+14) - The upset of the week. Detroit registers one in the win column.

Houston at Green Bay (-5.5) - I find it very hard to believe that these two teams have the same record. What happened to the Packers?

Cincinnati (+13.5) at Indianapolis - I have very little confidence in this pick, as the Bengals have obviously packed it in. But the Colts have tended to keep opponents in games until late, and 13 1/2 is a big spread. The Colts will win, but probably not cover. (Or they'll win by 40.)

Atlanta (+3) at New Orleans - I thought Matt Ryan could play at this level, but this well and this soon has surprised me.

Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants (-7) - There's been a fair amount of hype for this game. Misplaced. These two teams are not on the same level, and this one looks to be not very interesting.

Cleveland (+14) at Tennessee - Too many points.

Miami (+0) at Buffalo - The luckiest scheduling quirk in the NFL sees the Dolphins leaving they're warm home and flying to meet the Bills, not in snowy, cold Buffalo, but in the climate controlled Skydome in Toronto. Talk about throwing away any home field advantage...

Kansas City at Denver (-9) - The Chiefs took their first win at the expense of the Broncos back in September, in a shocking upset. A repeat would be far more shocking.

N.Y. Jets (-4) at San Francisco - This could be competitive. But it's hard to imagine it not ending in a Jets win.

New England (-4.5) at Seattle - The Patriots loss to Pittsburgh last week looked horrible on the scoreboard, but the game was much closer than it looked. Randy Moss dropped a touchdown pass that would have had New England up by 7 at halftime, which would have changed the complexion of the second half. The other thing is this - when the ball is fumbled, no matter who fumbles it, the recovery is essentially random, 50/50. The ball was on the ground four times during that game (three Patriots fumbles, one Steeler fumble) and the Steelers recovered all four. They won't turn the ball over five times this week, and this one won't be close after halftime.

St. Louis at Arizona (-14) - How fluky do those back-to-back Rams wins over the Cowboys and Redskins look now?

Dallas at Pittsburgh (-2.5) - Unless the Cowboys are better than I think they are.

Washington at Baltimore (-5.5) - If the NFC is really better than the AFC, the NFC East teams in these two games beat the AFC North teams. I don't think so.

Tampa Bay (+3) at Carolina - By record, these two teams are tied as the second-best team in the NFC. I'll say it again - it's tough to picture the NY Giants not being the NFC representative in the Super Bowl.

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